Stevie J not contacting old Cat AFL mates

Former Geelong hero Steve Johnson isn’t yet playing a major role in plotting his old club’s downfall and has consciously avoided any contact before his first match against them.

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The veteran forward, who played 253 games in 14 seasons and won three premierships with the Cats, says it will be a little different and possibly strange to line up against them for GWS in Canberra on Sunday.

“I’m sort of conscious of not making contact because I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable about me trying to extract some information or anything like that and probably vice-versa,” Johnson said on Thursday.

He didn’t expect more than the usual amount of on-field banter and said he would deal with any emotions as they surfaced.

“I’ve played in some big games in the past and I guess the advice I’ve always been given is not to play the game in your head before it’s actually happened,” Johnson said.

“I guess if you look too far ahead in this caper it can bite you on the bum.”

Johnson was sure the Giants coaches would run things about Geelong past him but he hasn’t felt the need to volunteer lots of inside information.

“Our coaches are smart enough to review the opposition and have a good grasp of the way they want to play the game,” Johnson said.

“I’m sure there’s bits and pieces I might be able to tell them about some of the things Geelong do and have done really well and probably still do.”

He was impressed by Geelong’s form in their season-opening win over Hawthorn.

“I thought they were fantastic, they’ve made some great additions to their side over the summer,” Johnson said.

“There’s a lot of people saying they’re a genuine premiership contender and looking on Monday, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be.”

Johnson and coach Leon Cameron brushed aside some public criticism that the Giants’ star recruit had been selfish on his debut in last weekend’s two-point loss to Melbourne.

“When you kick as inaccurately as we did, you open yourself up for criticism,” said Johnson, who kicked 2.2

“From my point of view, I just wouldn’t want to be judged on one week.

“If it’s a thing that continues to be a trend, well, then I think you guys (the media) can go as hard as you want.”

Cameron agreed with Johnson’s assessment of his 23-possession, two-goal GWS debut as serviceable, complimenting him on his honest appraisal.

“People are not going to understand what Steve has brought to our footy club already in his short period of time and that’s the leadership on field,” Cameron said.

Cameron cheekily suggested Johnson might get the job of marking star Cats’ recruit Patty Dangerfield.

“I’ve got the pace, I’ll go with him Leon, let me at him,” Johnson joked.

Coral bleaching spread more than feared

The worst Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching event on record extends further south than first thought, a marine expert says.

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Professor Terry Hughes, convenor of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, is doing an aerial survey of the reef and says the most recent images show damage up to Townsville.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat this … the pictures don’t lie,” he told AAP.

“We were hoping to find a southern boundary somewhere between Townsville and Cairns. We now know that boundary is further south.”

Each of the 74 reefs surveyed between the two cities was on average bleached by 25-30 per cent.

On Tuesday, Prof Hughes described the most pristine parts of the reef, those at the north, as being “fried”.

Hughes’ team has surveyed nearly 600 reefs between Papua New Guinea and Townsville, and only four have escaped the destructive effects of bleaching.

The damage in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef far surpasses the previous worst bleaching event, in 2002, when 18 per cent of reefs were ranked in the two most severe categories.

Prof Hughes says the survey is unequivocal proof the warming waters due to climate change are responsible for potentially irreversible damage.

“The northern Barrier Reef is where overfishing and runoff aren’t issues – (but) despite being most pristine part, it is suffering from global warming,” Prof Hughes said.

“We’ve been warning the government that global warming is impacting on reefs. This is the third time it has happened.”

He says more mass bleaching events are likely to occur in the next 10 years, more frequently than the time it takes the reef to recover.

The aerial survey will continue south from Townsville in coming days.

“We know that the southern tip is not bleached. (The) only way to get a full-scale picture is to do an aerial survey like this,” Prof Hughes said.

Stanford to face trial over teacher death

The man accused of raping and murdering popular Leeton school teacher Stephanie Scott has been committed to stand trial in the NSW Supreme Court.

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Vincent Stanford, 25, appeared via video-link in Griffith Local Court on Thursday charged with the rape and murder of the 26-year-old drama and English teacher on Easter Sunday last year.

His twin brother Marcus Stanford also appeared in the Griffith court on Thursday and pleaded guilty to a charge of accessory to murder after the fact.

The brief of evidence in the case includes intercepted telephone calls made by Vincent Stanford from behind bars, a list of books he borrowed from Leeton library and a series of emails relating to adult dating sites and the purchase of items including a knife, flexicuffs, a “training sword”, cleaning products, Viagra and sex toys.

Ms Scott’s body was discovered in a burned patch of scrub in the Cocoparra National Park on April 10, 2015 – the day before she had planned to walk down the aisle with her childhood sweetheart Aaron Leeson-Woolley.

Vincent Stanford, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, had been accused of committing aggravated sexual intercourse without consent occasioning actual bodily harm, but that charge has been withdrawn.

He is now expected to be arraigned in the Supreme Court in Sydney on charges of murder and aggravated sexual assault in circumstances that allegedly involved holding Ms Scott captive for a period of time prior to the assault.

His arraignment on those offences is listed for May 6.

Court documents reveal investigators took statements from more than 100 witnesses as they built their case against him.

A police charge sheet alleges that Marcus Stanford knew his twin had murdered Ms Scott and that he assisted his brother between April 8 and May 31 last year.

His case has been sent to the District Court for sentence and he will remain behind bars until his case returns to court in May.

Business confidence grows

Those “animal spirits” in the business world often sought by Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens appear to be slowly returning.

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In a further sign that the economy is successfully transitioning to broader-based growth, annual credit growth among businesses stands close to its highest level since the 2008-09 global financial crisis.

Other figures on Thursday showing job vacancies at their highest in three-and-a-half years also confirms the positive trends in business surveys and labour force numbers.

The central bank’s monthly credit figures showed business credit expanded by 0.7 per cent in February, lifting the annual rate to 6.5 per cent and just shy of the 6.7 per cent peak seen only briefly late last year.

“Annual growth is gradually rising which could indicate a greater willingness to borrow and invest by corporates,” Commonwealth Bank of Australia senior economist Michael Workman says.

Job vacancies also rose by 3.1 per cent in the three months to February – the sixth straight quarterly gain – to be 13.4 per cent over the year.

Commonwealth Securities chief economist Craig James said the improving health of the jobs market should support retail spending and housing activity.

“But it also means that there are even fewer reasons for the Reserve Bank to even be thinking about cutting interest rates,” Mr James said.

The Reserve Bank holds its monthly board meeting next Tuesday.

However, business is less chirpy about the Turnbull government’s promised wide-ranging tax reform package, fearing it will be nothing more than tinkering at the edges.

Consultants BDO’s annual tax reform survey attracted more than 500 respondents, double the number of respondents seen in 2015.

BDO national tax director Lance Cunningham said this was a clear sign that the business community still sees tax reform as an urgent priority even if the government does not.

“(Many) are fearful the federal budget will present only piecemeal measures and a vague commitment to look closer at tax reform after the next election,” Mr Cunningham said.

Although the government shelved changes to the GST on the premise it would do little to lift economic growth, over 80 per cent of respondents believe reforming the impost is essential to any tax package.

Almost two-thirds of those surveyed said GST exemptions should be abolished.

“Reform of GST to allow the removal of inefficient state taxes have been identified as much more pressing than company tax rate cuts,” Mr Cunningham said.

Treasurer Scott Morrison will hand down the tax package with his first budget on May 3.

Apple celebrates 40th birthday

Apple celebrates its 40th birthday having risen from a three-man project in a California garage to the most valuable company in the world, estimated to be worth more than $US700 billion ($A911.

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93 billion).

Founders Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne created the company on April 1, 1976 as they set about selling computer kits to hobbyists, each of which was hand-built by Wozniak.

In contrast, today the company has more than 480 retail stores in 18 countries worldwide and reported income of more than $US18 billion for the first quarter of this year.

The company also recently revealed that there are now more than one billion active Apple devices being used around the world.

Chief executive Tim Cook described the figure as one “no one could have imagined”, adding that it was an “indicator of how much impact Apple has on people around the world”.

The company’s journey to the summit of the technology industry has been a rocky one, having seen Jobs leave the firm in the mid-1980s after his pet project, the first Macintosh computer, struggled and he attempted to oust then chief executive John Sculley.

However, he returned in 1997 when the company was in financial crisis and launched the iMac the following year, the first of a string of hardware products that also includes the iPod, iPhone and iPad, as well as the iTunes Store that cemented Apple’s place as an industry leader, before his death from cancer in 2011.

Since then the firm has also launched its first wearable, the Apple Watch, and continued to see an increase in sales in its MacBook line of computers despite a global drop in PC sales.

The Apple Music streaming service was also launched in 2015, gaining more than 10 million paying users since then.

However, Apple has also recently been at the centre of a battle with the US government and intelligence agencies over data encryption, with the technology firm refusing to help the FBI unlock an iPhone belonging to a terror suspect, claiming it violated user privacy and the process would make all iPhones more vulnerable.

The firm received backing from the wider tech community before the FBI gained third-party help to access the phone and ended court proceedings.

The company’s 40th birthday is marked by the launch of the iPhone SE and new smaller iPad Pro, with the smartphone believed to be aimed at emerging markets such as China and India, not traditional targets for Apple, as the next phase of the firm’s history begins.

Holdens eye Symmons success

The Holdens in the V8 Supercars field at Symmons Plains this weekend are eying a major landmark.

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The 14 Commodores have the chance to claim the dominant manufacturer’s 500th Supercars race win and its expected to spark a major scramble among the Holdens for a slice of history.

Factory-backed outfit Holden Racing Team duo James Courtney and Garth Tander are among the drivers most eager to leave Tasmania with a champagne-soaked race suit.

On top of the record, the pair both have monkeys to throw off their backs.

For all of his success, Courtney doesn’t have a race win on the Apple Isle.

And Tander is eager to break one of the longest dry spells of his career, with a last win coming at Townsville in 2014.

Tander said on Thursday the milestone landmark had the strong field of Holdens ready to hit the road.

“Every Holden driver in pit lane is pretty keen for Saturday afternoon’s race because they think they can grab it,” he said.

“When you’ve finished driving and are sitting on the couch trying to tell your kids how awesome you were `look, I got Holdens 500th race win’ would be a really nice stat to have.”

The 2007 championship winner said he was not phased by his 21-month streak without a win.

“It’s been a little while between drinks,” he said.

“But the car’s heading in the right direction and we’re starting to get a bit of momentum going.”

Courtney, who has entered his 10th season as a full-time driver but is still to take a win in Tasmania, says his sharp form makes a breakthrough success as likely as ever.

“First and second at Clipsal. On the Sunday (I) went out while leading and then finished fourth at the Grand Prix,” he said.

“I’ve had a couple of great races with Jamie this year.

“I don’t mind this little place. On paper it looks pretty boring but to actually drive around here, it’s got a lot of tricky little parts.”

Courtney said the racing would improve on 2015, when Craig Lowndes and the Red Bull Racing team dominated, due to format changes.

The unpopular two 60km races have been replaced this year by a single 120km event Courtney says will throw up better racing and more unpredictable results.

“I’s much better,” he said.

“The format clearly didn’t work last year and good on Supercars for noticing that and listening to what the public wanted.

“We’re going to have to come in and stop. There’s going to be more strategy involved … (with more) chances for things to go right or wrong in pit stops and chance to make up times.”

Apple chief Tim Cook forges own legacy

Having stepped into the role at the top of Apple in tragic circumstances following the resignation and death of Steve Jobs, Tim Cook has already begun to forge his own legacy at the top of the technology giant.

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In 2014, Cook became the first head of a Fortune 500 company to come out as gay, has pushed to widen Apple’s green and environmental policies, and has taken on the US government and FBI in recent weeks over data encryption and user privacy.

The Alabama-born executive joined Apple in 1998 as senior vice-president of worldwide operations, where he oversaw the company’s factories and warehouses.

It was in this role that Cook also placed greater emphasis on flash memory components, which would become vital to Apple following the launch of the iPod Nano, iPhone and iPad.

In 2007, Cook was promoted to lead operations and then in 2009 served as chief executive during Jobs’ first leave of absence.

During the Apple co-founder’s final leave of absence in 2011 he again assumed control of day-to-day operations at the company, though Jobs still had the final say on most major decisions.

In August of that year Jobs was forced to resign as chief executive as his health continued to fail, and Cook was named his successor.

The two had formed a strong partnership, with many analysts reporting that it was the combined efforts of the two that had seen Apple return to profitability in their years together at the firm.

Some top-level reshuffling took place following Cook’s appointment, as long-standing head of iOS Scott Forstall left in 2013, while newsi financei cfinancei sfinancei cnewsi nz fdx net was made the company’s first chief design officer.

Cook’s strong stance on the environment was also showcased when, in 2014, he told shareholders who did not back company policy on sustainability and climate change to “get out of the stock”.

In October of that year, Cook used an editorial for Bloomberg Business to come out as gay, writing: “I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

He became the first chief executive of a major corporation to do so, also speaking out against his home state Alabama’s record on LGBT rights when being inducted into the state’s Academy of Honour during the same month.

His stance against the FBI in early 2016 was also commended, with Cook stating that Apple would not risk user security by aiding the FBI to unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack.

He called the request a “breach of privacy” that could have “chilling” consequences in an open letter on Apple’s website.

In March he was placed at number one on Fortune’s list of “World’s Greatest Leaders”.

Hodgson confidence carved in Stones despite England slip

Hodgson, however, played down the incident as nothing more than a blip in an fine performance from the Everton defender.

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“I think (John) Stones, who has not played many games recently, showed a lot of assurance and showed signs of the type of player he can be,” Hodgson told British media.

“Sometimes people have had careers ruined by being unlucky. I would definitely put that slip down to misfortune. If I was to analyse his… performance, I don’t think I would criticise him too heavily over the course of the 90 minutes.”

With England conceding four goals in their last two games, concerns were raised about their defensive solidity and calls to coax Chelsea skipper John Terry out of retirement gathered momentum, in order to shore up their leaky backline.

Hodgson acknowledged the need to improve but ruled out the possibility of selecting Terry, who retired in 2012, for the Euro 2016 in France.

“Your point that we haven’t got the left-sided one is quite right but there is nothing I can do about that unless suddenly in the next five weeks some brilliant English left-sided centre-back appears on the scene and I don’t anticipate that,” he said.

“John Terry, who retired so long ago, doesn’t feature in my thinking very often but I can’t deny that is a valid point. He is a left-sided centre-half, although not a left-sided player. He’s a right-footer. He retired four years ago.”

England face Russia, Slovakia and Wales in Group B of the 24-team European Championships, which starts on June 10.

(Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by John O’Brien)

Fiat Chrysler considering collaborations

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is talking with many players outside the car sector about possible collaboration, Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne says.

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Car technology has become a prime area of interest for Silicon Valley companies including Alphabet Inc’s Google, which has built a prototype self-driving car, and Apple Inc, which Marchionne said earlier this month should collaborate with carmakers to make a vehicle rather than trying to go it alone.

The growing use of computing power in vehicles is providing technology companies and vehicle manufacturers with new business opportunities – and increasingly making them rivals.

“We have parallel conversations with many players who are outside the auto sector at the moment,” Marchionne said at an impromptu press conference after an industry event here.

“We can’t go into these discussions with a precise idea of what FCA wants. We’re learning, just as they are learning,” he said. “And the solution will be a shared solution and developed together with them, not developed by us alone.”

Marchionne, who has long-touted the need for further consolidation in the traditional auto sector, reiterated reasons for not linking up with French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen , which has said it is open to strategic opportunities.

“We … realised that even though there was a certain advantage in an association with PSA, it was an advantage that was too little and that in effect would limit the choices open to FCA going forward,” he said on Wednesday.

Marchionne indicated that any partner for FCA would have to be strong where FCA is weakest, in China, the world’s biggest auto market.

“The great advantage of FCA as potential partner”, said Marchionne, is that the company has a strong presence in Latin America where the market is weak at the moment, and in North America and Europe, but added, “we’re much weaker than the others in China. That’s something we are trying to ameliorate”

He, however, added that Latin America also continued to be a problem for FCA and its competitors, pointing to current political upheaval in Brazil. And while he welcomed the big changes being made by Argentina’s new president, Mauricio Macri, he added that any gains in Argentina will not overcome weakness in Brazil, which is a much larger market.

Apple products lead the way

PRODUCTS THAT MADE APPLE A WORLD LEADER IN TECHNOLOGY:

* Apple I (1976) – first product was little more than a circuit board

* Apple II (1977) – complete with keyboard and screen, Apple II arguably first example of a modern personal computer, with everything housed in one place

* Apple Lisa (1983) – first Apple computer to offer graphical user interface comprising of windows and icons that would become universal standard for every device that followed

* Macintosh (1984) – the computer designed to bring technology to the masses for the first time; began a range that is still in existence today

* Newton MessagePad (1993) – still stands as the best example of getting it wrong, the Newton was Apple’s first attempt at a personal digital assistant; software was infamously unreliable and the Newton was discontinued in 1998

* iMac (1998) – A watershed moment because it announced Jobs’ return to Apple, as well as the beginning of Jony Ive’s design influence and bold colours, new for the computer industry

* iPod (2001) – Apple switched to music, taking on Sony’s Walkman and other portable music players by launching the iPod, which could hold up to 1000 songs, substantially more than rival devices

* iPhone (2007) – The device that helped make Apple the most valuable company in the world combined a phone, the internet and a music player; essentially created modern smartphone market – more than 700 million have now been sold

* iPad (2010) – The tablet market already existed when the iPad was announced, but it was the iPad that made it relevant to everyday consumers; though the market is shrinking, Apple still leads it

* Apple Watch (2015) – Smartwatches are still to catch on the way smartphones and tablets have, but the Apple Watch looks the most likely to make that happen