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Claim of solar plane distance record

Solar Impulse 2 has broken a distance record for solar-powered planes as part of its bid to be the first to circumnavigate the globe powered solely by the sun.

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By the time it arrived in Ahmedabad, in western India on Tuesday, the plane had flown 1468 kilometres, the flight’s organisers said on Wednesday.

Solar Impulse project chairman and co-pilot Bertrand Piccard was at the controls.

The plane’s backers say it was the longest point-to-point distance flown by a solar-powered plane, but the record must be confirmed by air sports governing body Federation Aeronautique International.

Solar Impulse’s CEO and co-founder Andre Borschberg set the previous record in Solar Impulse 1 when he flew 1386 kilometres across the United States.

The aircraft touched down Tuesday in the western state of Gujarat after a trip from the Omani capital Muscat in little less than 16 hours.

In longest single leg of the planned circumnavigation, one of the pilots will fly solo non-stop for five days and nights across the Pacific from Nanjing, China to Hawaii, a distance of 8500 kilometres – again smashing the record.

Solar Impulse 2 is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells built into wings that, at 72 metres, are longer than those of a Boeing 747 and approaching those of an Airbus A380 superjumbo.

In total, the plane is to travel 35,000 kilometres and will cross two oceans.

The circumnavigation, which is to take place in 12 steps, requires 25 days worth of flight time spread over five months.

The team hope to promote green energy with their round-the-world attempt, which was ridiculed by the aviation industry when it was first unveiled.

NZ OCR kept level as inflation stays low

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s latest attempt to talk down the kiwi dollar has had the reverse effect.

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Governor Graeme Wheeler kept the official cash rate at 3.5 per cent on Thursday, as expected, saying inflation is expected to stay low in 2015 before gradually returning to the two per cent midpoint of the central bank’s one per cent-to-three per cent target band.

“The fall in oil prices is a net positive for global economic growth, but will further reduce inflation in the near term, at a time when global inflation is already very low,” Mr Wheeler said in the quarterly monetary policy statement.

“Future interest rate adjustments, either up or down, will depend on the emerging flow of economic data.”

The New Zealand dollar jumped as high as US73.05 cents after the statement from US71.84c immediately before, with traders saying his repeated reference to the possibility of rates moving up had sparked the kiwi’s spike.

The OCR has been unchanged since July so the bank can assess the impact of four earlier increases.

Since then, various central banks around the world have been cutting their benchmark rates as plunging global oil prices took the wind out of any inflationary pressures.

The Reserve Bank slashed its expectations for annual inflation, which it sees staying below one per cent until March next year, before rising to 1.7 per cent by early 2017. That was due largely to the slump in oil prices in 2014.

Mr Wheeler said the bank was closely monitoring the impact of weak inflation expectations on wage and price setting behaviour, particularly in the non-tradeable sector.

Mr Wheeler said the fall in oil prices had increased households’ purchasing power and lowered the cost of doing business, while employment and building activity remain strong, inbound migration is high and the housing market is picking up.

The currency is still a concern for the Reserve Bank, which Mr Wheeler again said was “unjustifiably high and unsustainable”.

British parliament backs plain packaging

Britain is to follow Australia’s lead and introduce plain packaging in mid-2016 with public health advocates suggesting the majority of Europe could likewise ban tobacco branding within five years.

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The British parliament’s lower house on Wednesday passed regulations mirroring Australia’s world-leading legislation which came into effect in late 2012.

Prime Minister David Cameron voted in favour of the change putting to bed an issue which has dogged him for two years.

The Tories were savaged for shelving plain packaging in mid-2013 after hiring Australian election strategist Lynton Crosby whose consultancy firm had previously worked for tobacco giant Philip Morris.

It was only after months of criticism that the government backflipped by re-committing to its initial plan.

A spokesman for Mr Cameron on Wednesday said: “The prime minister voted in favour of this change. He is pleased that it has gone through.”

The regulations were passed by a majority of 254 votes after being backed by 367 MPs in the House of Commons.

In a conscience vote, more than 100 Conservative MPs voted against plain packaging along with three members of the Labour Party, two Liberal Democrats, both Ukip MPs and two members of the Democratic Unionist Party.

The British Heart Foundation described Wednesday’s win as a “landmark victory that will save thousands of lives”.

“Evidence shows that standardised packs are working in Australia to make smoking less attractive and we are delighted it will now be implemented here,” chief executive Simon Gillespie said in a statement.

“This is a significant step forward on the path to a smoke-free UK.”

The legislation allowing the regulations was passed in early 2014 after the government – rather than suffer a potential defeat – adopted a cross-party amendment in the House of Lords.

Action on Smoking and Health chief executive Deborah Arnott says there’s “no doubt” plain packaging will now pass the upper house early next week.

Ireland earlier this month became the first country in Europe to ban brands and France is in the process of passing its own laws too.

Along with the UK they’ll introduce plain packaging from May 20 next year to coincide with the deadline for European Union member states to introduce large health warnings on all cigarette packs.

But Ms Arnott thinks there’s now momentum for many more countries to ban brands altogether.

“Once you’ve got the UK and France you’ve two of the largest and most powerful members of the EU going ahead so others will follow,” she told AAP.

“Norway is talking about doing it as well and it’s under discussion in Turkey.”

The public health advocate suggested that within five years “you could see the majority of the population of Europe having plain packaging”.

Philip Morris spokesman James Barge on Wednesday said the tobacco giant would seek compensation for the “irrational and unnecessary attack on private property that vilifies products that well-informed adults choose to buy”.

But cigarette companies, including Philip Morris, failed in their numerous legal challenges against Australia’s plain packaging laws.

The UK government pledged in late 2013 to follow Canberra’s lead but only after examining how the change had affected smoking rates Down Under.

Leading pediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler visited Australia in early 2014 to study how banning brands had changed smoking habits and concluded “branded packaging contributes to increased tobacco consumption”.

Bayern humiliate 10-man Shakhtar 7-0 to equal record

After a goalless first leg it was expected to be a close game but it turned into a stroll for the five-times European champions thanks to the early dismissal of Oleksandr Kucher.

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Bayern have now won all four home games in Europe this season, scoring 13 goals and conceding none as they set their sights on a sixth European crown.

“I always had faith with my players and I am very happy with their game tonight,” Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, whose team equalled their 7-0 win over Basel in 2012, told reporters.

“People said it may be a tricky game but my players are there for the big moments.

“Obviously the red card changed things but my players perfectly executed our game plan. Sometimes it is not that easy against 10.”

Bayern needed only four minutes to open their account after Mario Goetze was brought down by Kucher and Thomas Mueller converted the spot-kick.

It was the fastest red card in Champions League history from the start of a game and Mueller’s fourth goal this season, all from penalties.

The setback forced a complete change of plan for Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu but Bayern were relentless with Arjen Robben missing a huge chance after narrowly failing to connect with a Robert Lewandowski cutback in front of an empty goal.

The Dutchman’s thundering drive then sailed over the bar before he went off with a thigh injury after 19 minutes with a thigh injury.

The substitution did nothing to take the pace out of the Germans’ attacks, with the hosts hitting the post from a Robert Lewandowski header.

Jerome Boateng did better in the 34th, tapping in on the rebound after a Lewandowski shot was temporarily cleared with Shakhtar’s defence in complete disarray.

The Bavarians picked up after the break where they left off with two quick goals from Franck Ribery, who also went off injured, and Mueller.

The Germany international joined Mario Gomez on 26 goals as the top all-time German scorers in the competition.

Badstuber scored his first goal since coming back from injuries that ruled him out for two years before Poland striker Lewandowski also got on to the scoresheet.

Goetze made sure of a mention in the record books with the seventh goal of the evening.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)

Pharrell, Robin Thicke ordered to pay Marvin Gaye heirs over ‘Blurred Lines’

A US jury has ordered pop stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay more than $US7 million ($A9.

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19 million) in damages to Marvin Gaye’s family, ruling the pair copied his music in writing their 2013 mega-hit Blurred Lines.

The eight-member California panel, which had been deliberating since last week, found that the pop stars lifted parts of Gaye’s 1977 hit Got to Give It Up.

“I’m so filled with emotion that it’s hard to get the words out,” said Gaye’s daughter Nona, hailing the “miracle” verdict.

The family took legal action “because he (Marvin) can’t do it for himself”, she added.

Gaye family lawyer Richard Busch said he plans to seek an injunction blocking future sales of Blurred Lines, which was a worldwide hit.

Neither Williams nor Thicke, who had both testified during the trial, were in court to hear the verdict.

But a spokeswoman for Williams said: “While we respect the judicial process, we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward.

“Pharrell created Blurred Lines from his heart, mind and soul, and the song was not taken from anyone or anywhere else. We are reviewing the decision and considering our options,” she added in a statement.

The Gaye heirs had sought a portion of the nearly $US16.5 million in profits that the hit party song has reaped since its release two years ago.

The jury awarded about $US4 million in damages, plus roughly $US3.4 million in profits.

Evidence presented in court suggested that Thicke and Williams each earned more than $US5 million from the success of the record.

Blurred Lines was the biggest-selling song of 2013 in the United States, selling a total of 6.5 million copies, according to Billboard.

During the two-week trial, Williams said he understood why fans connected the two songs, but explained: “Soul music sounds like soul music … I must’ve been channelling that late ’70s feeling.”

The Gaye estate said that Blurred Lines copied elements of the 1970s track. The two sides brought in music experts who dissected the structures of the two songs to debate the merits of the claim.

The Gaye family alleged that Thicke’s fascination with the soul icon led to the misappropriation of his work in Blurred Lines and in the title track of Thicke’s 2011 album Love After War.

Gaye was shot and killed by his father on the eve of his 45th birthday in 1984, leaving behind a remarkable string of hits – led by Let’s Get It On, I Heard It Through the Grapevine and Sexual Healing – that remain pop, funk and soul classics.