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Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has declared her intention to run for president, calling for all of the country’s people to share the fruits of its dramatic reforms.

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Addressing the World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia in the capital Naypyidaw, the Nobel Peace laureate appealed for the amendment of the military-drafted constitution which prevents her from leading the country.

“I want to run for president and I’m quite frank about it,” the veteran democracy activist told delegates, as she sets her sights on elections due to be held in 2015.

“If I pretended that I didn’t want to be president I wouldn’t be honest,” she added.

The current constitution blocks anyone whose spouses or children are overseas citizens from being appointed by parliament for the top job.

Suu Kyi’s two sons with her late husband Michael Aris are British and the clause is widely believed to be targeted at the Nobel laureate.

Changing certain parts of the text requires the support of more than 75 percent of the members of the fledgling parliament, one quarter of whom are unelected military officials, she noted.

“This constitution is said by experts to be the most difficult constitution in the world to amend. So we must start by amending the requirements for amendments,” Suu Kyi said.

President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government has surprised the world since coming to power two years ago with dramatic political and economic changes that have led to the lifting of most Western sanctions.

Hundreds of political prisoners have been freed, democracy champion Suu Kyi has been welcomed into a new parliament and tentative ceasefires have been reached in the country’s multiple ethnic civil wars.

Suu Kyi, who was herself locked up by the former junta for a total of 15 years, remains hugely popular in Myanmar and her National League for Democracy party is widely expected to win the elections if they are free and fair.

The opposition leader called for all of the Myanmar people to be included in the reform process, warning that otherwise the changes could be jeopardised.

“If the people feel that they’re included in this reform process then it will not be reversible — or at least it will not be easily reversible,” she said.

“But if there are too many people who feel excluded then the dangers of a reversal of the situation would be very great,” Suu Kyi added.

Some 900 delegates from more than 50 countries are gathered in the capital Naypyidaw for the three-day WEF on East Asia — a regional edition of the annual gathering of business and political luminaries in the Swiss resort of Davos.

Foreign firms are queuing up to enter the country formerly known as Burma, tantalised by the prospect of a largely untapped market with a potential 60 million new consumers in addition to Myanmar’s pool of cheap labour.

But experts say businesses entering Myanmar face major hurdles, including an opaque legal framework as well as a lack of basic infrastructure and government and private-sector expertise.

“Look at the poverty in the country,” said Martin Sorrell, chief executive of British advertising giant WPP.

“As you land you look at this capital and you see oxen and ploughs. And getting the balance right I think in terms of expectation is critically important because it’s going to build expectations to a level… which I think will be unrealistic,” he said.

The forum is a huge logistical challenge for Myanmar’s government, which is more used to hosting smaller business and diplomatic delegations as well as the occasional influx of Chinese visitors for jade emporiums.

For many of the delegates, it is also their first glimpse of the sprawling capital built in secret by the former military rulers, who surprised the world in 2005 by suddenly shifting the seat of government from Yangon.

Home to luxury hotels, broad roads and even a 20-lane boulevard leading to the new parliament, the city’s lack of nightlife, restaurants and cafes has not gone unnoticed by delegates.

“Traffic conditions is very nice,” one Korean delegate said of the city’s near empty multi-lane highways. “Here no traffic — but nowhere to go.”

Bloomberg, 70, is among America’s richest people.

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He frequently finances pet causes and, with his final term at the helm of the biggest US city over next year, he is looking for something into which he can pour his clout and cash.

Known in the Big Apple for presiding over a falling murder rate and numerous health initiatives, including restrictions on super-sized soda sales, Bloomberg has long made the national issue of gun controls a priority.

At every shooting massacre, Bloomberg quickly appears on television, Twitter, or podiums to denounce what he sees as an out-of-control gun culture.

But now, his consistently tough line is in tune with a burst of outrage — and a pledge by President Barack Obama to back a law that would ban assault rifles.

The Newtown killings of 20 children and six staff at an elementary school last Friday were “a tipping point,” Bloomberg said. “What kind of craziness is this?” he asked on CBS television.

On Tuesday, he and mayors of several other large cities, including Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel and Los Angeles’ Antonio Villaraigosa, sent an open letter to Congress and to Obama, demanding changes to restrict weapons access.

He said on NBC that guns, which are linked to 31,000 deaths in the country a year, should be Obama’s “number one agenda.”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which Bloomberg co-founded in 2006 and now has more than 725 mayors taking part, is running a petition to ask Washington to “pass gun laws that will keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”

Otherwise, the organization notes, more than 48,000 Americans are on track to be killed in shootings, not counting even greater numbers of gun suicides, between now and the end of Obama’s second term.

Newtown gave impetus to this campaign. Within hours, Bloomberg was on Twitter, saying Obama “rightly sent his condolences to families. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress.”

“It’s time for the president to stand up and lead,” he said.

Bloomberg’s nemesis is the National Rifle Association, a lobby which fights any restrictions of gun ownership on the grounds that this would violate the US constitutional guarantee of the right for private citizens to bear arms.

Bloomberg said the NRA was not as politically powerful as many believe.

“To show you how powerless they really are, their number one objective in this last election was to defeat Barack Obama for a second term,” he said.

“Last time I checked, he won. And the NRA has created this myth that you can’t fight them.”

At the November Congressional and presidential elections, Bloomberg gave millions from his media fortune to candidates he approved of.

Among them were five candidates — four running for the House and one for the Senate — against NRA-backed opponents. In four of the five cases, his candidates won, he says.

“Next time I certainly will do more,” he said.

Benji Marshall is hoping he can round off his glittering rugby league career with a second World Cup triumph for New Zealand, if given the green light to take part in the tournament in the United Kingdom later this year.

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The 28-year-old, who played a starring role in the Kiwis’ stunning win over Australia in the 2008 World Cup final in Brisbane, is set to leave the Wests Tigers at the end of the NRL season to take up a career in rugby union.

Although he’s yet to agree terms with a Super Rugby team, Marshall will walk away from the joint-venture after requesting an early release from his contract following a dispute over an upgraded agreement he’d hoped would net him $1m a season.

However, Marshall said on Thursday the opportunity to play in one last rugby league tournament for the Kiwis would be something he couldn’t to turn down if coach Stephen Kearney came knocking.

But he acknowledged there could be an issue as he’ll be without a rugby league club contract, despite his picture adorning advertising posters for the World Cup in the UK.

“I am not too sure what the situation is regarding that and need to speak to Steve to find out if I am entitled to play or not,” Marshall said.

“I am proud Kiwi and won the last World Cup and would love to do it again.

“I am probably not playing well enough at the moment to get in the team, but if I can find form over the next few games, and the rules permit then hopefully I am allowed to play.”

It’s believed the Rugby League International Federation would rule on the World Cup eligibility of any player without a club deal – something that could also affect fellow Kiwi star Sonny Bill Williams if he has not done a new deal with the Sydney Roosters.

Marshall said he’s no closer to deciding where he rugby union future lies, and has had no further discussions with Auckland Blues coach John Kirwan.

The NSW Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels have also expressed lukewarm interest in the 2005 NRL premiership winner, but Marshall insists he unconcerned about what the future has in store.

“It’s always good to have options, but I have six weeks left here and that is my priority at the moment,” he said.

“I am not too worried about finding a contract because that will happen.

“I spoke to John Kirwan on the phone a few weeks back, but until I make a decision on what I want to do, there is not much to say.”

A terrifying stampede at a railway station left at least 36 people dead after the main day of India’s Kumbh Mela religious festival, which drew record crowds of 30 million, officials said Monday.

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Dozens more were injured in the crush on Sunday evening at Allahabad, marking a tragic end to the most auspicious day of the 55-day Hindu festival in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the world’s largest gathering of humanity.

Local officials said the railings on a bridge at the station had given way under the pressure of the mass of people, while witnesses said that police had baton-charged the crowd, triggering panic.

Injured people were stretchered away on ambulances from Allahabad station, but relatives said emergency services took hours to reach the scene. At least 10 corpses wrapped in white sheets could be seen on a platform several hours later.

Among the victims was an eight-year-old girl called Muskaan whose distraught parents said she had died while waiting for help for nearly two hours.

“Our daughter still had a pulse. Had the doctors reached in time she would have been saved, but she died before our eyes,” Bedi Lal, the child’s father, told the NDTV news channel.

Amit Malviya, a spokesman for the northern and central railway, told AFP on Monday that 20 bodies had been identified and authorities were waiting for relatives to come forward to claim another 16.

Apart from Muskaan, the victims included 26 women and nine men. The oldest was a 75-year-old man, Malviya said.

Hindus believe a dip in the sacred waters of the river Ganges cleanses them of their sins. This year’s Mela is enormous even by previous standards, with astrologers saying a planetary alignment seen once every 147 years made it particularly auspicious.

Police had been stretched in controlling the vast crowds as they reached their peak on Sunday, with officials saying the numbers had passed the 30 million mark by the evening.

After the stampede, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement saying he was “deeply shocked” while the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav ordered an inquiry.

A spokesman for the state government said the crush began after joints broke on railings attached to the bridge.

“People were taking a rest on these railings and the railings could not take the load,” Ashok Sharma, told AFP.

But Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who headed to Allahabad after the accident, attributed the crush to sheer weight of number.

“No footover bridge collapsed, no railings collapsed,” Bansal told reporters.

“We had provided for colour-coded enclosures to help people travelling in different directions.

“We got to know that there was huge crowd and those (enclosures) were broken down. Many thousands of people climbed the footover bridge. And as you know the consequences when stampedes happen.”

The Kumbh Mela, which began last month and ends in March, takes place every 12 years in Allahabad while smaller events are held every three years in other locations around India.

In 2003, 45 people died in a stampede during the festival in the western Indian town of Nasik.

Crushes are a constant menace at religious events in India, where policing and crowd control are often inadequate.

The worst recent incident was in October 2008 when around 220 people died near a temple inside a famous fort in the northern city of Jodhpur.

At the Kumbh Mela on Sunday, 30,000 volunteers and 7,000 police were on duty, urging pilgrims to take one short bath and then leave the waters to make space for the flow of humanity that stretched for kilometres (miles).

The event has its origins in Hindu mythology, which describes how a few drops of the nectar of immortality fell on the four places that host the festival — Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar.

The Brumbies are eyeing off the Bulls’ revamped lineout as a potential pressure point ahead of Sunday’s (AEST) knock-out Super Rugby semi-final.

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Territory will always be a focal point in a game featuring four of Super Rugby’s top 15 kickers – even more so at the high altitude arena of Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria.

And Brumbies coach Jake White has noticed the Bulls’ lineout has performed below its stellar best since main jumper Juandre Kruger left for French rugby at the end of June.

The 199cm-tall lock had taken the second most lineouts (63) in the competition up until his departure – just one behind Brumbies captain and lineout thief Ben Mowen.

“(Kruger) was a great lineout guy and you can see that in the last couple of games they haven’t been as accurate as they probably would have liked,” White said.

“It is a loss because Juandre was obviously the key sort of player in all their lineouts going into this campaign.”

Ever the mind-games enthusiast, White was quick to suggest Bulls forwards coach and former Springboks captain Victor Matfield would have been working to fix the issue.

“Victor is well known around the world as a great lineout coach, he was a great exponent himself, so I’m sure he’ll work out ways,” White said.

The Bulls will have likely also worked on their scrummaging throughout the week.

The Brumbies not only dominated the Cheetahs’ scrum last weekend, but earned six scrum penalties on their way to posting a 23-20 victory when they last played the Bulls in Canberra back in March.

Yet the underdog Brumbies are under no illusions they will have their work cut out for them.

The Bulls have won 22 of their past 24 home matches against Trans-Tasman teams and all five of their home finals matches.

Captain Ben Mowen insists his side has learnt their lesson from their last visit to Pretoria in 2012, where they lost 36-34 despite outscoring the Bulls five tries to two.

“We had a pretty ordinary start against the Bulls last time and they skipped ahead,” Mowen said.

“You’ve just got to make sure you take your shots early.”

Qantas Unions have suffered a setback in their long running industrial dispute with Fair Work rejecting the unions’ bid to limit outsourcing.

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At the same time in a Sydney speech, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has revealed that a total of 2,800 full time jobs will be lost under the company’s previously announced restructuring plans.

QANTAS ‘TAKING TIME’ ON ALLIANCE DECISION

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says the airline is taking its time to form an alliance with a major overseas carrier.

Speculation has been rife in recent months that Qantas was close to sealing a partnership with Dubai-based Emirates as part of its five-year strategy to improve its international operations.

Mr Joyce told a business lunch in Sydney on Wednesday an alliance was an important part of the airline’s plans.

“But we only enter partnerships when we have the right arrangement for the long term,” he said.

“In the current economic environment, taking our time with this part of our agenda will clearly not undermine our broader transformation plan.”

JOYCE DEFENDS JOBS CUTS

Mr Joyce also defended his strategy for the airline, which will result in mass job losses.

“What you have seen in media headlines may have left you with the impression that our response to the challenges before Qantas is to retreat, or just cut back,” Mr Joyce said.

“That’s not the case.

“We are undertaking a wholesale transformation of Qantas to make it better and stronger, the premium Australian airline for our times.”

About 2,800 full time jobs are expected to be cut from the airline as a result of its transformation, which would also result in $300 million in savings each year, Mr Joyce said.

Teenage US swimming star Missy Franklin has claimed her second gold at the swimming world championships in Barcelona with victory in the women’s 100m backstroke.

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In a commanding performance, Franklin clocked 58.42secs in the final, just missing out on the four-year-old world record, with Australia’s Emily Seebohm 0.64sec adrift and Japan’s Aya Terekawa touching the wall 0.81sec behind.

Minutes after receiving her backstroke gold, 18-year-old Franklin finished second fastest in the 200m freestyle semi-finals to qualify for Wednesday’s final.

After victory with the USA team in Sunday’s 4x100m freestyle relay final, this was Franklin’s second gold medal of the eight world titles she is bidding for at the eight-day world championships, which finish on Sunday.

The backstroke medal placings in Barcelona were an exact repeat of those at the 2012 London Olympic final, something not lost on Franklin.

“It feels awesome. Emily, Aya and I were on the podium together last year so to be on the podium again is great,” said Franklin.

“I was really happy with my start.

“It felt as hard as it always does at the end, but I just kept pushing, I knew it was going to be tough and it was right near my best time so I’m really happy.”

Seebohm collected her second silver at Barcelona, after second in Sunday’s freestyle relay, admitted she had wanted to go faster.

“I would like to have gone sub 59 secs but it was not what I got and it is obviously going to motivate me to train harder,” said the 21-year-old.

“I know what I want and I have just got to keep improving bit by bit.”

The NRL has been forced into an embarrassing re-scheduling of its fixture list after being bumped from an ANZ Stadium date in favour of the AFL final-round blockbuster between Sydney and Hawthorn.

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Canterbury were slated to play their western Sydney derby against Penrith at the stadium on Friday, August 30 but the AFL announced on Tuesday, on releasing its final-round fixture list, that the Swans-Hawks grand final rematch would go ahead there on that day.

“We are in a situation where, despite the best of intentions on all sides, a clash has occurred and we are looking at rescheduling the order of our games,” said NRL director of marketing and commercial, Paul Kind.

Canterbury are privately fuming to have lost the chance to play at their home ground with tickets for the fixture being on sale for almost a month.

“We are working with all parties on achieving the best possible resolution that takes into consideration the requirements of our football department, members, fans, corporate partners and the broadcasters,” said new Canterbury CEO Raelene Castle, who took over from Todd Greenberg on Monday.

But a spokesperson for the AFL claimed they’d been told by ANZ Stadium officials for some time that they could have the venue that night if they wanted it.

“They told us all the way through when we discussed our fixtures that if we wanted to play on the Friday night, that was available,” the spokesperson told AAP.

The NRL game, which was expected to have a crowd of around 25,000, is the Bulldogs’ final home game of the season and was due to be shown live on the Nine Network.

One avenue being explored by the NRL is to play the match a day earlier, on the Thursday, with the Bulldogs desperate not to play on the Saturday with a trip to Brisbane to face the Broncos just five days later.

Des Hasler’s side potentially might have to win that game to secure a vital top-four spot on the ladder going into the finals.

The Swans have an agreement in place with ANZ Stadium to play three of their home fixtures there in addition to their finals matches.

So far, they have used it once this season and will play Collingwood there this weekend.

US President Barack Obama accelerated cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program and expanded the assault even after the Stuxnet virus accidentally escaped in 2010, the New York Times has reported.

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The operation, begun under president George W. Bush and codenamed “Olympic Games,” is the first known sustained US cyberattack ever launched on another country, and used malicious code developed with Israel, the Times said.

The Times said the article was based on 18 months of interviews with current and former US, European and Israeli officials, and was adapted from the book “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,” by David Sanger, set to be published next week.

The cyberattack, aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and keeping Israel from launching a preventive military strike, sowed widespread confusion in Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant, the Times said.

However, top administration officials considered suspending it after Stuxnet — a complex virus developed jointly with Israel — “escaped” the facility and began appearing in computer systems in several countries, the Times said.

Obama eventually ordered the attacks to continue, and within a week of Stuxnet’s escape a newer version of the bug temporarily brought down 1,000 of Iran’s 5,000 nuclear centrifuges spinning at the time, the Times said.

Experts have long suspected that Stuxnet, which targeted computer control systems made by German industrial giant Siemens, was of US and Israeli origin, but neither country has admitted to having a hand in it.

A Pentagon spokesman, Captain John Kirby, declined to comment in detail on the article but said that Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have put a priority on the cyber realm.

“As we’ve said many times and the president and secretary made clear, cyber domain is a domain that we need to constantly evaluate and constantly assess and try to improve the range of capabilities that we have in cyberspace,” Kirby told reporters.

The United States and Israel have long accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons in the guise of a civilian program, charges denied by Tehran, which insists its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

The Times article comes days after experts at Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, a top anti-virus software firm, discovered “Flame,” a sophisticated virus several times larger than Stuxnet that also seems to have been aimed at Iran.

By Chris Forbes-Ewan, Defence Science and Technology Organisation

The obesity epidemic sweeping across the world is being closely followed by another, more insidious epidemic – an ever-increasing number of books on how to lose weight.

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No two of these books advocate the same approach, but all promise that their method – and only their method – will result in the desired weight loss. Another common, and significant, characteristic of most of these books is that they are written by people with no relevant qualifications or professional experience, and no publications in the peer-reviewed literature.

One of the latest in this long line of books is Six Weeks to OMG, subtitled Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends, by Venice A. Fulton (whose real name is Paul Khanna). According to the (UK) Daily Mail “Six Weeks To OMG … has knocked the Dukan Diet from the top of the bestseller list and secured its author a seven-figure book deal in the US.”

The title is derived from the expression Fulton claims will be used by admiring friends who haven’t seen you since you began following his advice. According to Fulton, within six weeks you will have lost so much weight and become so much healthier-looking that you will be greeted with exclamations of “oh my god!”

The Amazon.com site where you can buy this book says, “For over 10 years, Venice A Fulton has been … using a mix of biology, chemistry, physics, genetics and psychology … to produce outstanding results.”

Weight-loss books claim only their method works. Rafael Peñaloza

So how deep is Fulton’s understanding of the science he claims to have used to devise his unique approach to weight loss and better health?

A good indication is his opinion about the relevance to human metabolism of the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy may be neither created nor destroyed, only changed from one form to another. Fulton dismisses the First Law as merely “physics”. He claims that “this could be true if our body only paid attention to physics. But it doesn’t. We obey other subjects like biology, chemistry and biochemistry.” Denying that human metabolism necessarily obeys one of the fundamental laws of science is just one of many gross errors Fulton makes in this poorly”‘researched book.

Six Weeks to OMG is also replete with contradictions. For example, after pointing out that if your body fat “ever gets below 3%, you’ll probably never get out of bed again”, Fulton states that “there’s no limit on how much fat you can lose.”

As might be predicted from his lack of understanding of basic science (and even simple logic), Fulton’s recommendations on how to achieve weight loss constitute a mixed bag, with some worthwhile advice overshadowed by many inappropriate recommendations, and even potentially dangerous advice.

According to Fulton, you should determine how much weight you need to lose by looking in the mirror and deciding for yourself how much extra body fat you are carrying. Unfortunately, most people are not good judges of their body shape and likely body fat levels. This applies especially his intended readership (Fulton’s book is clearly targeted at female adolescents and young women). Many young females compare their image in the mirror with the airbrushed photos of the very slim models who dominate women’s magazines.

At the extreme level, an adolescent female with anorexia nervosa may still “see” an obese image in the mirror even when her body fat percentage is life”‘threateningly low. What’s more, anorexia nervosa is no longer the preserve of females; it also occurs in males and its incidence is apparently increasing. Telling adolescents – many of whom have distorted body images – that only they can accurately judge their body shape, and that there’s no limit to the amount of fat they can lose, is fraught with danger.

Skipping breakfast can lead to weight gain. urbanfoodie33/Flickr

Fulton advises that you should never eat breakfast. Not only is this advice unlikely to be effective, it will probably lead to inadequate nutrition, poorer cognitive performance, and may even result in increased body weight. And his recommendation to take a cool bath each morning is very unlikely to lead to the claimed “12–15 hours” increase in metabolic rate.

Fulton (appropriately) discusses the importance of eating a wide variety of nutritious foods, and not “just a few foods” as recommended in some diet books, but he inappropriately stresses a high protein/low-carbohydrate intake. In fact, his recommended intake of carbohydrate is less than the minimum recommended for good health by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Fulton also advises drinking a couple of cups of unsweetened black coffee each day. The reason he gives – that caffeine will boost metabolic rate – does have some support from the scientific literature, but his claim of a substantial and sustained increase is not based on sound scientific evidence. The increase is likely to be less than 10%, and to last for only a few hours.

There is some worthwhile advice scattered seemingly at random among the dross. Fulton points out that “movement” (physical activity) is very important for both weight loss and general health, and he notes that excessive physical activity is potentially harmful. But he claims that you need to take part in resistance exercise (e.g. weight training) only three times a month to obtain desired benefits. This is inconsistent with the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine, which include the advice that “Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.”

Six Weeks to OMG has the capacity to do very little good, and the potential to cause much harm to many vulnerable people. I would not recommend this book to anyone.

In 2006 Chris Forbes-Ewan received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council for his contribution towards the development of Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. His contribution was in the area of Estimated Energy Requirements.

Facebook has surprised Wall Street with stronger-than-expected earnings for the second quarter on a sharp rise in mobile ad revenues, sparking a surge in its share price in after-hours trade.

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“The work we’ve done to make mobile the best Facebook experience is showing good results and provides us with a solid foundation for the future,” said Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg as the social network reported a profit of $US331 million ($A358 million) for shareholders.

Revenue for the quarter that ended June 30 climbed to $US1.81 billion, up 53 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

The profit of $US331 million compared with a loss of $US157 million the California-based company posted in the same quarter last year.

Facebook said 41 per cent of its ad revenues came from mobile, compared with 30 per cent in the prior quarter and virtually nothing a year ago.

“We’ve made good progress growing our community, deepening engagement and delivering strong financial results, especially on mobile,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook shares leapt more than 19 per cent to $US31.75 after the earnings figures were released.

Facebook is expected to increase its share of the $US116.82 billion global digital ad market to 5.04 per cent this year, according to industry tracker eMarketer.

The leading social network’s portion of the mobile ad market will more than triple to more than $US2 billion this year, eMarketer forecast.

Forrester analyst Nate Elliott expressed fear that Facebook may be “pulling the mobile ad lever too hard” and be hitting users with too many marketing messages in an effort to prove itself.

Facebook’s stock took a beating after the company’s initial public offering, largely because of criticism that the social network wasn’t making money from mobile users.

Koroma swept to a second term with 58 percent of votes in a poll that observers praised as peaceful and transparent, triumphing over his main rival Julius Maada Bio who trailed with 37.

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4 percent of votes.

By scoring more than 55 percent of the vote the incumbent managed to avoid a second round of voting.

Koroma was sworn-in immediately the results were announced. He called on all Sierra Leoneans, including Bio’s opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), to unite in moving the country forward.

“The job at hand requires the goodwill and positive energy of the membership of all political parties,” he said.

“We will focus on creating jobs for the youths, and on training our youths to seize the immense employment opportunities we are creating in the construction, mining, agriculture and other sectors,” Koroma said.

“We will continue with our infrastructural development programmes; we will continue to attract investment; we will continue to fight corruption,” said Koroma.

During his campaign he was heavily criticised for his failure to crack down on graft.

The crucial test for the west African nation will be whether the ex-military leader Bio accepts the outcome. During the counting of the votes, he alleged fraud and vowed that he would not let his supporters be cheated.

Announcing the result Friday evening, Thorpe said: “Any citizen of Sierra Leone may challenge the validity of the election of the president by petition to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone, within seven days after the declaration of the presidential results.”

The country still bears the scars of a brutal 11-year civil conflict during which rebels hacked off the limbs of civilians during a campaign of terror. They bankrolled their army with the sale of so-called “blood diamonds”.

Now accustomed to peace, Sierra Leoneans who are still amongst the world’s poorest people, voted for greater development as the country expects a lucrative windfall from its rich mineral resources.

Koroma’s government will have the stewardship of a booming mining industry, notably iron-ore, and possible oil production.

Sierra Leone is rich in mineral resources and massive iron-ore stores are expected to add 21 percent growth this year to its $2.2-billion (1.7-billion-euro) gross domestic product, the International Monetary Fund estimates.

If well-managed, these resources could change the fortunes of a nation which has one of Africa’s lowest life expectancies at 47 years, according to the World Bank, and highest rates of maternal mortality. Youth unemployment levels hover at 60 percent.

“We will construct roads in every region, continue to bring electricity to every district; develop agriculture in every chiefdom and provide free healthcare for the mothers and children of every village,” Koroma said Friday.

National Elections Commission chief Christiana Thorpe said Koroma had won 1,314,881 votes to Bio’s 837,517 in an election which had a massive 87.3 percent voter turnout.

In third place was Charles Margai of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC), who won only 1.3 percent of the vote.

Sierra Leone’s third election since the war ended in 2002 was widely praised as peaceful, transparent and well-conducted by observers, who wanted to see if the country had cemented its status as a stable democracy.

Koroma was first elected in 2007 in an election that saw pockets of violence, but eventually led to a peaceful transfer of power from the opposition SLPP to his All People’s Congress (APC).

No results were announced for parliamentary and local elections, which were held simultaneously, the first polls wholly organised by government since the end of the conflict.

The performance-depleting effect appears to have finally kicked in for Essendon.

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After showing fierce AFL on-field resolve through six months of an anti-doping investigation, the cracks are showing just as they’re learning its findings.

The Bombers were belted 20.13 (133) to 7.12 (54) by a fired-up Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday, the same day they took possession of ASADA’s interim report into last year’s supplements saga.

The 79-point loss was their biggest of the season, surpassing last weekend’s 56-point whipping from top-placed Hawthorn.

Those defeats, which followed just three in the Bombers’ first 16 games, suggest the dam might have burst.

The AFL could yet eliminate Essendon from the upcoming finals series by stripping them of premiership points, depending on what’s in the ASADA report.

But, on current form, Essendon won’t last long regardless.

They conceded the first six goals, were never competitive and have slipped to fifth spot.

Collingwood, who climbed to sixth, a fraction of a percentage point above Richmond, have just about locked in a finals berth.

Essendon coach James Hird denied his players were starting to weaken under the enormous strain of the doping saga.

“Obviously there’ll be suggestions of that but we are very confident our boys are in a pretty good head space and they’ll keep playing good football,” Hird said.

Eighth-placed Port Adelaide greatly enhanced their chances, moving two wins clear of Carlton (ninth) with their thrilling 17.5 (107) to 15.13 (103) triumph over Adelaide at AAMI Stadium.

The Power came from 20 points down in time-on in the last term, young gun Chad Wingard clinching victory with his fifth goal 30 seconds from fulltime.

Sydney climbed to second spot, two premiership points behind Hawthorn, with a hard-fought 21.8 (134) to 15.9 (99) defeat of the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.

Ex-Crow Kurt Tippett kicked six goals, his best return in Swans colours.

North Melbourne finally claimed the big scalp they’ve been threatening to all season, upsetting Geelong 15.6 (96) to 13.8 (86) on Friday night.

Richmond belted top-placed Hawthorn 16.11 (107) to 9.12 (66) at the MCG on Saturday, keeping the Hawks to their lowest score this season as the Tigers all but confirmed their first finals appearance in 12 years.

Greater Western Sydney posted their first win of the season, a 19.10 (124) to 12.15 (87) victory over hapless Melbourne.

West Coast’s Josh Kennedy kicked five goals to lead the AFL season tally by that number and help the Eagles down Gold Coast 20.10 (130) to 17.11 (113) on Saturday night.

Brisbane beat St Kilda 16.12 (108) to 11.11 (77) at the Gabba but lost captain Jonathan Brown to a foot injury which is likely to end his season and perhaps his career.

Fremantle beat Carlton 17.14 (116) to 12.8 (80) at Etihad Stadium replace the Bombers in the four and to badly dent the Blues’ finals aspirations.