Bannon appeals to conservatives

Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has appealed to conservatives to unite behind the Republican president as he presses his agenda.

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Bannon took to the stage along with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus at the four-day Conservative Political Action Conference, telling the gathering, “We want you to have our back” in upcoming battles, and denouncing media criticism of Trump.

The early days of the administration have been marked by deep post-election divisions between Trump backers and liberals over the new president’s travel ban on refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as moves to increase deportations of illegal immigrants and to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

While conservatives are celebrating Trump’s role in delivering them a victory in November’s election, his agenda veers from traditional right-wing principles like limited government and open trade.

Republicans who control the White House and Congress also are arguing over how to dismantle and replace President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare law.

Bannon and Priebus both sought to dispel a sense of disorder in the White House portrayed in media accounts.

Referring to media criticism of Trump and echoing the president’s attacks on the media, Bannon warned, “It’s going to get worse every day” as Trump presses forward with his 2016 campaign promises.

“If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight you are sadly mistaken,” said Bannon, who formerly ran the confrontational right-wing website Breitbart News. He blamed the “corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda” under Trump.

The CPAC conference, once a fringe event but is now decidedly in the Republican mainstream, is being held in suburban Maryland, attended by an estimated 10,000 activists.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway credited Trump with revitalising the Republican Party’s right wing.

“Every great movement ends up being a little bit sclerotic and dusty after a time, and I think they (conservatives) need an infusion of energy,” Conway said.

Referring to Trump’s expected attendance at the conference on Friday, she said, “I think by tomorrow this will be TPAC, this year. No doubt.”

Global warming shrinking river used by 40m

Global warming is already shrinking the Colorado River, the most important waterway in the American southwest, and it could reduce the flow by more than a third by the end of the century, two scientists say.

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The river’s volume has dropped more than 19 per cent during a drought gripping the region since 2000, and a shortage of rain and snow can account for only about two-thirds of that decline, according to hydrology researchers Brad Udall of Colorado State University and Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona.

In a study published last week in the journal Water Resources Research, they concluded that the rest of the decline is due to a warming atmosphere induced by climate change, which is drawing more moisture out of the Colorado River Basin’s waterways, snowbanks, plants and soil by evaporation and other means.

Their projections could signal big problems for cities and farms which span across seven states and Mexico. The river supplies water to about 40 million people and 16,317sq/km of farmland.

“Fifteen years into the 21st century, the emerging reality is that climate change is already depleting the Colorado River water supplies at the upper end of the range suggested by previously published projections,” the researchers wrote.

Using existing climate models, the researchers said that much of the decline in precipitation should have produced a reduction of about 11.4 per cent in the river flow, not the 19.3 per cent that occurred.

They concluded that the rest was due to higher temperatures, which increased evaporation from water and soil, sucked more moisture from snow and sent more water from plant leaves into the atmosphere.

Wilders halts public activities after security scare

“Very disturbing news.

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The Freedom Party is suspending all public activities until all facts in connection with the investigation are known,” Wilders said on Twitter, as Dutch political parties gear up for a crunch election on March 15.

The firebrand MP, who has courted controversy with his hardline anti-Islam, anti-immigrant stance and his incendiary insults against Moroccans and Turks, has long been under 24-hour police protection.

Tensions are escalating ahead of the election in which the Freedom Party is running neck-and-neck with the Liberals of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

On Saturday, Wilders upped the tone at the launch of his official campaign, denouncing “a lot of Moroccan scum who make the streets unsafe”.

The highly-respected NRC daily newspaper reported Wednesday that the agent was arrested for allegedly passing on information about Wilders to a Moroccan crime gang.

Dutch police chief Erik Akkerboom confirmed an investigation had been opened but that Wilders’ safety “was never in question”.

However the matter was deemed so serious that Rutte, who is now campaigning for his own Liberal VVD party met Wilders to discuss the issue.

The suspected agent was released on Thursday pending the investigation, Dutch news agency ANP said.

Netherlands is no stranger to political violence, even though the small country of just 17 million people has largely gained a reputation for tolerance.

Flamboyant far-right leader Pim Fortuyn was assassinated just nine days before Dutch elections in 2002, shocking the country to the core.

Just two years later in November 2004, filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim radical.

Wilders, 53, has vowed in his party’s one-page manifesto that if elected he would ban the sale of Korans, close mosques and Islamic schools, shut Dutch borders and ban Muslim migrants.

Rapana wants to be ruthless for Raiders

They scored 34 tries between them in 2016, but Jordan Rapana has vowed to make his combination with Joey Leilua even better at Canberra this year.

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Rapana and Leilua shot the Raiders to within one week of the NRL grand final last season, as they terrorised opposition left-edge defences.

They were also the sixth best right-edge defensive pairing in the league according to Fox Sports Stats, allowing just 16 tries to originate on their far side of the field last year.

But that figure isn’t good enough for the 28-year-old Rapana, who wants to step it up another notch in 2017.

“I want to be a ruthless defender,” Rapana told AAP.

“A player people come up against and kind of fear.”

“We scored tries last year we also leaked quite a few points on our edge. It’s something that we’ve done a lot of work on in the pre-season.”

Rough diamonds at the start of last season, the two stars were revitalised by the Raiders and became one of the talking points of the 2016 season.

Aside from their point-scoring feats, Rapana led the league for linebreaks while the pair were both ranked in the top-five for tackle busts.

It saw Rapana rewarded with New Zealand selection at last year’s Four Nations, but the 27-year-old knows the hunters will soon enough become the hunted.

“That was a goal of mine last year to make the end-of-season tour and I have another one this year to make the World Cup,” Rapana said.

“But I know teams are going to be coming down a lot harder on myself and Joey.”

Rapana is off-contract at the end of the year, but he is confident only the formalities are stopping him from penning a long-term deal in the nation’s capital.

“It’s meant to be just around the corner,” Rapana said.

After making his debut at the Gold Coast in 2008, he left the NRL to become a Mormon missionary before ending up with the Brumbies in Super Rugby.

He then worked part-time in bars and as a barber before getting his lifeline from the Raiders which he has grabbed with both hands.

UN to vote on Syria sanctions

The United Nations Security Council will likely vote on a resolution to blacklist 11 Syrian military commanders and officials over chemical weapons attacks as early as next week, a diplomat says.

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The draft resolution also seeks to ban the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian government and to blacklist 10 government and related entities involved in the development and production of chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

It calls for an asset freeze and travel ban for the individuals and entities across all UN member states.

A joint inquiry by the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found that Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks and that Islamic State militants had used mustard gas, according to reports seen by Reuters in August and October.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has denied its forces have used chemical weapons.

Chlorine’s use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013. If inhaled, chlorine gas turns into hydrochloric acid in the lungs and can kill by burning lungs and drowning victims in the resulting body fluids.

The UN vote could coincide with talks between representatives of Assad’s government and his opponents with UN mediator Staffan de Mistura, which started on Thursday in Geneva.

The Security Council diplomat said the draft resolution would be brought to a vote next week unless a “really compelling argument” against it emerged from the talks.

The draft resolution, a French and British initiative, would also be supported by the United States, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity, and likely vetoed by Russia, the main foreign backer of Assad’s government.

The nearly six-year-long conflict in Syria has killed at least 300,000 people and displaced millions, according to groups that monitor the war.

Didn’t want to let the team down: Renshaw

When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.

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Matt Renshaw’s ill-timed bathroom break infuriated former Australia captain Allan Border and temporarily Steve Smith, but the opener made it up to his skipper on Thursday.

Renshaw followed up his maiden Test century at the SCG with a knock of far greater significance in Pune, top-scoring with 68 as Australia reached 9-256 at stumps on day one of the first Test against India.

The tourists will resume with the game, played on a spin-friendly surface that Shane Warne likened to “the surface of Mars”, in the balance.

Mitchell Starc is 57 not out, having teed off with great success after Australia slipped to 9-205.

Renshaw adopted a far more measured approach, soaking up 156 balls as he knuckled down against Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

Renshaw’s innings was interrupted when he retired hurt some 15 minutes before lunch because of a stomach bug. David Warner had just been dismissed, with Smith stunned to see the 20-year-old rushing past him

“He wasn’t too thrilled about it,” Renshaw said.

“He didn’t really understand what was going on at the start, I sort of just ran past him .. he called me back and he wanted to have a discussion with me but I just told him I had to go off.

“But we’ve had a chat now, we’re all good.

“He understands that when you need to go to the toilet, you need to go to the toilet.”

Renshaw felt sick for a couple of hours but strapped on the pads and walked out to bat following the dismissal of Smith, adding 32 runs to his score.

“I felt quite bad, knowing that I could be letting the team down. That’s why I went back out there,” he said.

“That was the most challenging bit, waiting to bat … because as an opener you just go straight out there and bat.”

Border was highly critical of Renshaw, saying he hopes the opener is “lying on the table in there half dead”.

“Otherwise as captain, I would not be happy,” Border said on Fox Sports.

Renshaw shouldered arms in response.

“That’s just something I guess he grew up with, and that was his sort of mentality,” Renshaw said

Mitchell Starc will resume on 57 on Friday, having swung momentum for the nth time in a topsy-turvy start to the four-Test series.

Starc and Josh Hazlewood’s unbeaten final-wicket stand is already worth 51 runs, with the latter scoring just one of them.

“We were all sitting sort of in our whites ready to go … it was a really entertaining innings and it helped us massively,” Renshaw said of Starc’s innings.

“We had a great day.”

Trump jobs plan to CEOs light on details

President Donald Trump has told chief executives of major US companies he plans to bring millions of jobs back to the United States, but offered no specific plan on how to reverse a decades-long decline in factory jobs.

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In his first month in office, Trump has pressured a number of US companies to hire in the US but he has yet to publicly propose legislation tackling the big economic issues he campaigned on in 2016, including a job-boosting tax or infrastructure program. He will address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

In a meeting with some two dozen CEOs at the White House, Trump said the US had lost about one-third of manufacturing jobs since it joined the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 and asserted about 70,000 factories have closed since China joined the World Trade Organisation 16 years ago.

But the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of private sector manufacturing facilities in the United States has fallen less than that, from nearly 400,000 in 2001 to 344,000 last year.

Lower wages, automation, foreign competition and other factors account for the steep decline in manufacturing jobs, experts say.

Trump has promised to roll out proposals that he says could have favourable ramifications for companies, including a plan to overhaul the tax code and an infrastructure package that was part of his presidential campaign promises to create millions of jobs. He has declined to specify what he had in mind.

Several of the CEOs who met Trump are part of a coalition that supports a so-called border adjustment tax, which would impose a 20 per cent tax on goods that are imported into the country while providing write-offs for goods that are exported.

Sharks should overcome key losses: Gallen

No team has won back-to-back NRL premierships for 24 years, but Cronulla captain Paul Gallen won’t accept any excuses from his Sharks on why they can’t buck the trend.

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Cronulla have lost half of their title-winning spine over the off-season, with hooker Michael Ennis retiring and Ben Barba headed to French rugby after he was handed a 12-week ban for testing positive to cocaine.

But with the discovery of young hooker Jayden Brailey and the likely shift of Valentine Holmes to fullback, Gallen said his club had had enough of a chance to prepare for life after the pair.

“Mick is a loss, no doubt about it,” Gallen said.

“We’ve known since midway through last year that Mick wasn’t going to be here and we’re really got no excuses on that front.”

“Someone has to replace him, someone will replace him and I’m sure it will be Jayden to start the year along with some help from (Daniel) Mortimer and Nu Brown.”

Gallen believes Holmes’ shift to the No.1 jersey could be a revelation for Cronulla, after he scored 18 tries for the Sharks last year.

“He could be anything, Valentine Holmes,” Gallen said.

“He’s probably one of the best wingers I’ve ever seen. There’s not many wingers who can just score tries if you give them half a chance and he’s one of them.

“But he wants to be a fullback and he’s got the potential to be there.”

Cronulla are in uncharted territory when it comes to defending a title.

While it is renowned as one of the hardest feats to achieve in the modern game, Gallen believes the Sharks are at an advantage with most of their players having never attempted to defend a premiership before.

“I think that makes it easier for us,” Gallen said.

“It’s just about doing what we do well every week, playing to our potential every week and if we can do that, we’ll win the majority of our games once again.”

McCrone suits my halves style: Widdop

St George Illawarra captain Gareth Widdop has embraced the challenge of becoming the main man to transform his team’s lacklustre attack this upcoming NRL season.

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After the dramatic exit of popular clubman Benji Marshall over the summer, Widdop has assumed the role of chief playmaker as the Dragons attempt to break the shackles in 2017.

And he will do it without an established halfback heading into round one, with either veteran Josh McCrone or rookie Jai Field fighting it out for the No.7 jumper.

McCrone is slightly favoured to get first crack at the gig, with Widdop believing that the former Canberra halfback complements his style more than the promising youngster.

“It’s changed a hell of a lot since last year. Josh is a bit more like halfback, which will probably suit me, play my natural game a little bit more,” Widdop said.

“Obviously being one of the most experienced players in the team now, I guess it just comes with being skipper as well. I’m looking forward to the year now.”

The 27-year-old admitted that life in Wollongong has been different without the dominant voice of Marshall after the Dragons chose not to hand the playmaker another contract following the club’s poor season.

The former Kiwis captain, who bore much of the criticism levelled at the Dragons last year, moved to Brisbane over the off-season.

“Benji’s obviously the life of the party. The club’s a lot different to what it has been, just for the fact that our staff and turnover we’ve had,” Widdop said.

“Obviously he’s a big character, a big personality. I certainly miss having him around, but it’s opened up opportunities for Josh McCrone, Shaun Nona and Jai.”

Widdop said he is determined to get back to his best.

“As a team we didn’t succeed (last year) and individually, certainly inconsistent if you like. This year, I need to get back to what I do best and what’s going to help the team,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of new coaches. We struggled a bit last year, so yeah, we’ve changed it up. Obviously the more we play, the better and more comfortable we’ll get in our role and our job.”

The Dragons open their season against Penrith on March 4.

Chronic stress could be making you fat

Sarah Jackson, UCL

The world is getting fatter and it’s making us sicker.

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But could rising stress levels be playing an important role in our growing waistlines?

Obesity is now one of the leading causes of death worldwide and is associated with increased risk of developing a host of chronic health conditions. There is great public interest in the reasons some people struggle with their weight while others find it easy to stay slim, with blame often attributed to genes or health conditions, such as thyroid problems.

Stress is another potential risk factor that has attracted research attention. People tend to report overeating and “comfort eating” foods that are high in sugar, fat and calories when stressed. And because the stress hormone cortisol plays a role in metabolism and fat storage, there are plausible biological mechanisms behind a possible link between stress and putting on weight.

In research published in Obesity this week we found that chronic stress was consistently linked with people being more heavily, and more persistently, overweight.

Our data were collected over a four-year period as part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a study that follows a large group of people aged 50 and older. We found that people who had higher levels of cortisol in their hair tended to have a larger waist circumference, were heavier, and had a higher body-mass index (BMI). People classified as obese on the basis of their BMI (≥30) or waist circumference (≥102cm in men, ≥88cm in women) had particularly high levels of cortisol in their hair.

When we looked back at people’s weight over a period of four years, we saw that those who had more persistent obesity had higher hair cortisol measurements than those whose weight had fluctuated or who had consistently been a healthy weight.

Lisa S/Shutterstock长沙桑拿按摩论坛,

Measuring long-term stress

Why did we use hair to measure cortisol levels? Previous studies looking at the link between cortisol and obesity have relied mainly on measurements of the hormone in blood, saliva or urine which may vary according to the time of day and other “situational factors”, such as diet or illness. Because these methods give a very short-term picture of a person’s stress levels, these studies were not able to evaluate the relationship between obesity and longer-term stress. The distinction between acute (short-term) and chronic (longer-term) stress is important because the former is thought to serve as a protective fight or flight response whereas the latter can have a damaging effect on the body.

Hair is a reliable way to measure long-term exposure to stress hormones. Catalin Petolea/Shutterstock长沙桑拿按摩论坛,

Over the last decade, a new method for measuring cortisol levels in hair has been developed, and has been shown to be a reliable way of assessing chronic stress exposure.

For our research, a lock of hair 2cm long was taken from each participant, cut as closely as possible to the person’s scalp. Hair grows at an average rate of 1cm per month, so our samples represented approximately two months’ hair growth with associated accumulated levels of cortisol.

We measured people’s weight, height and waist circumference, and we used these measures to assess the relationship between levels of hair cortisol and adiposity (fatness).

A new target for treating obesity?

We cannot be sure from our research that stress is causing people to become obese, but if causation can be proved through further investigation, the link between chronic stress and obesity offers a potential target for interventions aimed at preventing and treating obesity. Tried and tested stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation and yoga are cheap, widely accessible options that could help people reduce their risk of developing obesity. It may also be possible to use drugs that reduce cortisol levels to treat obesity in more severe cases.

Sarah Jackson receives funding from Cancer Research UK.