Hatton holds on as Fisher hits record 61

Tyrrell Hatton has retained his title at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship after a final round at St Andrews in which Ross Fisher shot a course-record 61 at the home of golf.

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On a calm day on the storied Old Course, even a bogey-free round by Fisher containing 11 birdies could not reel in overnight leader Hatton, who shot 66 for a three-stroke victory over his fellow Englishman.

Hatton became the first player in the 17-year history of the Dunhill Links to successfully defend the title in a tournament played over three Scottish courses – the Old Course, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. His aggregate score of 24-under 264 was a tournament record, after rounds of 68-65-65-66.

Both of Hatton’s career titles have come at the Dunhill Links.

Fisher was runner-up for the second straight year. He had a putt for eagle from the Valley of Sin on No. 18, which would have sealed the first round of 59 in the history of the European Tour. It fell two feet short and he missed the birdie putt back, though still broke the course record – held jointly by six players – by a stroke.

Rory McIlroy shot even-par 72 to finish tied for 63rd at four-under-par, meaning he ended a season without a victory for only the second time in his professional career.

“It summed up my whole of 2017: Not much happening,” McIlroy said. “Couldn’t get out of neutral.

“I feel I’m a much better player than I was in 2011 and 2012, when I was able to win a couple of majors.

“I feel I can do better than that in the next 10 years and that’s why these next three months are very important for me to put some really good things in place, step away and just reassess where I’m at and where I need to be.”

Rhein Gibson was the best-placed Australian at 10-under for a share of 25th. Jason Scrivener was one of a group two shots back while Matthew Giles finished 66th after a three-over final round of 75 dropped his tournament total to three-under.

Bassett shines as Diamonds head home

Australia’s eight-goal Constellation Cup netball victory over New Zealand in Christchurch has left skipper Caitlin Bassett wondering whether it’s time to chance her arm in another position.

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The Diamonds goal shooter was in outstanding form on Sunday as Australia wrapped up a clinical 60-52 win over the Silver Ferns, their second victory in three days against the Kiwis.

Bassett shot 40 goals from 44 attempts at 91 per cent accuracy as the Diamonds all but wrapped up their trophy defence after edging New Zealand 57-54 in Thursday’s first Test in Auckland.

But it was her fourth-quarter intercept – a relative rarity for a goal shooter – which left coach Lisa Alexander impressed and Bassett contemplating the wisdom of launching a mid-career position switch.

“Watch out, goalkeepers, I’m coming,” she warned.

The 1.93m tall shooter has played for Australia in the defensive circle previously, although Alexander is willing only to admit that she’d done “a reasonable job”.

Bassett’s value to the Diamonds as a shooter has always been obvious, and now she’s making her mark as captain, Alexander said.

“C-Bass leads from the front – it’s something we’ve talked about for a while, exploiting her height, and for her to get an intercept was wonderful.

“It was great to see that desire, and when your leaders are doing those little things that really count, then everyone lifts a little higher because of it.”

Bassett, 29, made her Australian debut in 2008 and on Sunday broke through the 2000-goal mark for the Diamonds, sinking 2038 of 2268 attempts at 90 per cent accuracy.

She said the most pleasing part of Sunday’s win had been seeing the way the team had grown over the last month since New Zealand’s 57-47 Quad Series upset in Invercargill.

It’s an improvement she expects to continue for the final two Constellation Cup matches in Adelaide and Sydney next week.

“For the whole team, from Invercargill till now, I think it’s just that development every time we step back out on court, growing those connections,” she said.

“We saw them tighter again today, and I’m really excited about what it’s going to be like in Adelaide.”

Massive rally against Catalan independence

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Catalonia’s capital Barcelona to express their opposition to declaring independence from Spain, showing how divided the region is on the issue.

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A crowd estimated by local police to number 350,000 waved Spanish and Catalan flags and carried banners saying “Catalonia is Spain” and “Together we are stronger”.

They poured into the city centre on Sunday after politicians on both sides hardened their positions in the country’s worst political crisis for decades.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday he would not rule out removing Catalonia’s government and calling a fresh local election if it claimed independence, as well as suspending the wealthy region’s existing autonomous status.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is expected to address the region’s parliament on Tuesday, when he could unilaterally declare independence.

Catalonia, which has its own language and culture and is led by a pro-independence regional government, held a referendum on October 1 over secession, in defiance of Spain’s constitutional court which had declared the vote illegal.

The Catalan authorities say the referendum showed voters overwhelmingly support independence.

More than 90 per cent of those who voted backed secession, but opinion polls on the issue suggest the region is more closely divided.

Turn-out for the referendum was just 43 per cent, with most residents who wish to remain in Spain staying home.

The anti-independence demonstration, which included Catalans and people from other parts of Spain, underlined how the dispute has riven the region itself. A month ago, a million people rallied in the city to support independence.

“We feel both Catalan and Spanish,” Araceli Ponze, 72, said during Sunday’s rally.

“We will see what happens this week but we have to speak out very loudly so they know what we want.”

Puigdemont said that a law passed by the Catalan parliament preparing the way for the October 1 referendum requires a declaration of independence in the event of a “yes” vote.

“We will apply what the law says,” he said, according to advance excerpts of the interview released by TV3 on Sunday.

Puigdemont said he had not been in contact with the Madrid government for some time because Spain refused to discuss independence.

“What is happening in Catalonia is real, whether they like it or not. Millions of people have voted, who want to decide. We have to talk about this,” he said.

Rajoy has said repeatedly he will not talk to the Catalan leaders unless they drop their plans to declare independence.

The Spanish government sent thousands of national police to the region to prevent the vote.

About 900 people were injured when officers fired rubber bullets and charged crowds with truncheons in scenes that shocked Spain and the world, and dramatically escalated the dispute.

The political stand-off has pushed banks and companies to move their headquarters outside Catalonia.

Concern is growing in EU capitals about the impact of the crisis on the Spanish economy, the fourth largest in the euro zone, and on possible spillovers to other economies.

Some European officials are also worried that any softening in Spain’s stance towards Catalan independence could fuel secessionist feelings among other groups in Europe such as Belgium’s Flemings and Italy’s Lombards.

Sunday’s demonstration in Barcelona was organised by the anti-independence group Catalan Civil Society to mobilise what it believes is a “silent majority” that opposes independence.

“The people who have come to demonstrate don’t feel Catalan so much as Spanish,” said 40-year-old engineer Raul Briones.

“We like how things have been up until now and want to go on like this.”

The rally was addressed by Nobel prize-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who has dual Spanish and Peruvian nationality.

He told reporters it showed many Catalans “don’t want the coup d’etat the Catalan government is fostering”.

Clock ticking on energy problem: minister

The federal energy minister is acutely aware the clock is ticking for finding a solution to rising electricity prices and dropping reliability.

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And Josh Frydenberg is determined it will take a lot less time than it took to create the problem – more than a decade – to fix the system so it’s working for Australian households and businesses once again.

However, in a speech he will deliver to an energy summit in Sydney on Monday, he acknowledges that doing so and cutting the nation’s emissions is likely to come at a financial cost.

Mr Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have flagged their intention to develop by year’s end a version of the clean energy target recommended by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.

The minister will say on Monday their considerations are framed against a backdrop of falling costs for renewables and storage, greater efficiencies that can be found in thermal generation and the need for sufficient dispatchable power in the system.

The government’s approach will continue to be seeking and heeding the best advice from experts and market bodies.

“It is challenging but possible to simultaneously put downward pressure on prices and enhance the reliability of the system, while meeting our international emissions reduction targets,” he will tell the AFR’s national energy summit.

“Should reliability and affordability be compromised, public support for tackling climate change will quickly diminish and previous gains lost. This is in nobody’s interest.”

Competition and consumer watchdog Rod Sims – one of the experts the government is taking advice from – warned last month that energy reliability, affordability and cutting emissions were three separate problems that would likely require three distinct solutions.

Mr Frydenberg will remind the summit of actions the government has already taken, including reaching a deal with gas producers to supply more to Australian businesses and energy generators in coming years, and requiring electricity retailers to help customers find the best priced deals.

He will highlight the need for more demand-side response – electricity consumers, often big industrial plants, agreeing to cut their usage during times of peak demand – and the important role of storage, equating the “hidden” costs of pollution from thermal generators with the burden of renewables without back-up.

Show more understanding about transparency, Fifield tells ABC

The communications minister believes the ABC should show a greater understanding of the challenges faced by its commercial counterparts who aren’t taxpayer funded.

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Senator Mitch Fifield on Monday was hitting out at critics of greater transparency changes at the ABC insisting reforms are timely “housekeeping”.

In August the minister struck an agreement with One Nation in exchange for Pauline Hanson’s support for his wider media reforms.

The deal includes requiring the ABC and SBS to disclose the salaries of its highest paid staff, a proposal to include the words “fair” and “balanced” in the ABC’s Act and a competitive neutrality inquiry.

Senator Fifield said reactions to the measures have ranged from the hysterical to the slightly unhinged.

“With so much journalistic and opposition hyperventilating, you could be forgiven for thinking the government had announced the privatisation of B1 and B2,” he writes in The Australian.

The minister said the inspiration for disclosing salaries comes from the actions of “that right-wing haven the BBC”.

Already the salaries of ministers, MPs, judges and senior civil servants are all public.

“It is in keeping with the temper of the times to expect similar transparency from the national broadcasters,” he said.

Senator Fifield believes the competitive neutrality inquiry will examine whether the ABC and SBS are using their status as taxpayer-funded entities to unfairly compete with commercial media.

“It would reflect better on the ABC, secure in its more than $1bn of annual funding, if it showed a greater understanding of the challenges faced by its commercial counterparts who earn their revenue rather than receive it from the Treasury.”

Labor has been critical of the deal, warning the inquiry threatens to reduce the ABC and SBS to market failure broadcasters.

Merkel, allies reach deal on migrants

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) have reached a deal on migrant policy with her conservative Bavarian allies, removing a major obstacle to pursuing talks on a coalition with other parties.

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The agreement, under which Germany would accept around 200,000 people a year on humanitarian grounds but not refer to it as an “upper limit” on refugees, came after around seven hours of talks on Sunday between leading members of the CDU and Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU).

Merkel won a fourth term as chancellor in a September 24 election but was weakened by heavy losses to the far-right.

She wants to build a coalition between her conservative bloc and two other parties, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, who are far apart on issues from tax and energy to Europe.

First, however, she has to get her own house in order and overcome some major differences between her CDU and the CSU, its sister party in Bavaria, a state that accounts for 15 per cent of Germany’s population.

The two parties have formed a parliamentary bloc together for decades, but have diverged over migrant policy since Merkel left the border open to a huge wave of migrants in 2015, most of whom entered the country through Bavaria.

The CSU has demanded a cap on refugees, but Merkel has resisted this, arguing it would breach Germany’s constitution which guarantees the right of asylum to anyone facing political persecution.

Under the face-saving compromise brokered on Sunday, sources told Reuters Germany would accept around 200,000 people a year on humanitarian grounds, including families of refugees already in Germany.

However, authorities will not turn people away at the border and the word “upper limit” will not be used.

That target looks achievable, given that the number of people arriving in Germany fell from 890,000 in 2015 to about 280,000 last year. A further drop is expected this year.

In addition, the two parties agreed to push for an immigration law that would prioritise migrants with skills to plug gaps in the labour market. There is broad support for this from the FDP and Greens.

Talks are continuing on other policies, including pensions and Europe, but the migrant issue was the biggest problem.

Fearing heavy losses to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in a state election next year, the CSU has dug in its heels on the issue of a cap to the number of migrants.

The stakes are high for the CSU’s combative leader Horst Seehofer, who is fighting for his political survival after a poor election performance.

Once the CDU and CSU have agreed on all their policies, they can start exploratory talks with the FDP and Greens.

It could still take months to get a full coalition deal and investors are concerned about the prospect of a policy standstill in Europe’s biggest economy.

If no deal is reached, the prospect looms of either a minority government or new elections.

Nate weakens to tropical storm over US

Hurricane Nate has weakened to a tropical depression after coming ashore in Mississippi as the fourth hurricane to hit the US this year, flooding roads and buildings but sparing the state from catastrophic damages.

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As the storm moved northeast into Alabama, Nate’s maximum sustained winds dropped to 55km/h, prompting the National Hurricane Center to end its tropical storm warnings for the region.

The storm made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest designation by the centre. Only a few hours earlier, its winds had been blowing at 70 mph but appeared to lack the devastating punch of its recent predecessors.

“We are very fortunate this morning and have been blessed,” Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant told reporters, saying there had been no deaths or reports of catastrophic damage.

The fourth major storm to strike the US in less than two months, Nate killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the US South. It has also shut down most oil and gas production in the Gulf.

Nate follows hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which have devastated areas of the Caribbean and southern US.

The tropical depression’s centre will move up through Alabama into Tennessee and Kentucky through Monday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Heavy rainfall and storm surge flooding remained a danger across the region, and the centre said Florida’s Panhandle and parts of Alabama and Georgia might feel tropical storm-force wind gusts.

Nate made its first US landfall on Saturday evening near the mouth of the Mississippi River and then made a second one early on Sunday near Biloxi, Mississippi.

Floodwaters swept over streets in communities across Alabama and Mississippi, including over Highway 90 and to oceanside casinos in Biloxi, according to reports on social media.

In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey urged residents in areas facing heavy winds and storm surges to take precautions. US President Donald Trump declared federal emergencies in Alabama and Florida on Sunday, which provides additional funding for disaster relief.

About 47,000 customers were without power in Mississippi, while more than 1000 people had arrived at shelters, the state Emergency Management Agency said.

Utility Alabama Power said about 82,000 customers were without electricity.

Rainfall of 8 to 15cm were expected east of the Mississippi River in Alabama and Tennessee, the NHC said.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu lifted a curfew on Saturday evening that was originally scheduled to last until Sunday morning. He said in a statement on social media however, that there was still a serious threat of storm surge outside levee areas.

The ports of New Orleans in Louisiana and Mobile in Alabama remained closed, and refineries and port authorities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were reviewing when they could reopen.

Nate downgraded to a tropical storm

Tropical Storm Nate has slammed into the Mississippi coast with powerful winds and torrential rains that flooded streets and highways throughout the region as the fast-moving former hurricane was expected to rapidly weaken as it moved inland.

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The fourth major storm to strike the United States in less than two months, Nate killed at least 30 people in Central America before entering the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the US South. It has also shut down most oil and gas production in the Gulf.

Nate comes on the heels of three other major storms, Harvey, Irma and Maria, which devastated Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, respectively. However, with winds of 135km/h, which make it a Category 1 storm, the weakest in the five-category ranking used by meteorologists, Nate appeared to lack the devastating punch of its predecessors.

Nate was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm early on Sunday and was expected to weaken as it moved further inland, the National Hurricane Centre said.

The storm’s centre will move inland over Mississippi and across the deep south, Tennessee Valley and Central Appalachian Mountains through Monday, the National Hurricane Centre said.

Nate made its initial landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi river on Saturday evening and then made a second landfall early on Sunday near Boloxi, Mississippi, where its 46,000 residents were warned that the highest storm surge could reach up to four metres.

The storm surge brought floodwaters over Highway 90 and up to oceanside casinos in Biloxi, while flood waters swept over streets in communities across Mississippi and Alabama, according to reports on social media.

“We have a restaurant and one of our main bars open so they have been OK so far,” said Chett Harrison, the general manager at the Golden Nugget hotel and casino in Biloxi where 300 guests were hunkered down.

“No one has tried to leave, thank goodness, because everything is flooded around us,” he told a local CBS TV affiliate.

In Hancock County, Mississippi, northeast of New Orleans, rain and wind were gaining intensity and many streets were washing over. Conditions were likely to worsen in the next few hours, said Brian Adam, director of emergency management for the county.

The county evacuated people from low-lying areas and imposed a curfew.

On Saturday states of emergency were declared in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, as well as in more than two dozen Florida counties.

In Alabama Governor Kay Ivey urged residents in areas facing heavy winds and storm surges to take precautions.

Some 5000 people in southern Alabama were without power due to Nate, Alabama Power said.

Chelsea Manning ‘afraid’ since release, but doesn’t plan to lay low

“I’m afraid.

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But I’m out here because I’m afraid,” the ex-analyst told an audience at The New Yorker Festival in New York.

“I’ve had people telling me, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t be so vocal.’ And that’s the reason why I’m out here,” she said, explaining that she “can’t imagine doing anything else right now.”

Sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 for leaking over 700,000 classified documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Manning served seven and was freed in May after Barack Obama commuted her sentence days before he left office.

“I had this image of going (back) to a life that I had before. And that’s not possible. And I realise now that that’s OK,” she said.

“Things are really scary right now and I don’t want to be retiring right now.”

Seven years after embarrassing Washington with the leak, which included over 250,000 diplomatic cables, Manning also expressed her belief that  governments are too secretive.

“Why do we have governments to keep secrets? They keep secret from the public mostly. There’s this excuse that governments use — ‘it protects this’ — that’s being used as a blanket,” she said.

“Where I think the line should be? I think we need to decide, not the government.”

Manning also urged the general public to be cognizant of personal data protection online.

“I think we do understand it,” she said, referring to the uncontrollable circulation of personal data on the internet, adding the problem is “hoping that someone is going to fix it for us.” 

“They’re not going to fix it for us,” she insisted.

New guidelines to spot atypical melanomas

Not all melanomas have the typical features doctors and specialists have traditionally looked for and there are other suspicious characteristics that need greater attention, say Australian experts.

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Any elevated, firm and growing (EFG) spots or lesions should be suspected of melanoma, recommend experts from the Victorian Melanoma Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the Melanoma Institute Australia and the University of Sydney.

Looking for these features would improve early detection and ultimately save more lives, they write in a paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

“While there have been many recent improvements in treatment options for metastatic melanoma, early diagnosis remains critical to reducing mortality from the disease. Improved awareness of the atypical presentations of this common malignancy is required to achieve this,” they write.

Atypical melanomas may lack the more classical ABCD (asymmetry, border irregularity, colour variegation, diameter greater than 6mm) features of melanoma.

Because of this the authors advise that any lesion that continues to grow or change in size, shape, colour or elevation over a period of more than one month should have a biopsy taken or referred for expert opinion.

“Suspicious raised lesions should be excised (cut out) rather than monitored,” they write.

The recommendations are included in updated clinical guidelines for the detection and management of the deadly skin disease being written up with support from Cancer Council Australia and Melanoma Institute Australia.

Cancer Council CEO, Professor Sanchia Aranda says its important these three additional features become well known among the wider population not just clinicians.

“With the common melanoma what you see on the surface is flat spreading and they go deeper, whereas these ones rise up more,” Prof Aranda explained.

The cancer expert says it would be dangerous to let these lesions go unchecked.

“What this paper is really saying is early excision and pathological analysis is warranted rather than waiting and seeing,” Prof Aranda said.

“We need to add the elevated, firm and growing elements to the types of changes people should be looking out for. The critical thing for anyone who’s got something on their skin is change; anything that’s changing needs to be reported to your doctor,” she said.