9 Spokes after support for ASX listing

New Zealand-based cloud app integrator 9 Spokes is launching a roadshow in Melbourne and Sydney this week to drum up support for a $A25 million listing on the ASX.

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9 Spokes’ platform allows small businesses to aggregate their various cloud computing applications on a single dashboard, helping them track and peer-review their performance more cheaply than a corporate ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. They also get a single bill that covers all subscriptions to apps transferred in, or purchased, through 9 Spokes.

It recently built Deloitte Private’s Connect cloud application platform.

Rumours of the planned IPO first surfaced in Australian media in late 2015 when the company was holding investor meetings in a $A4 million pre-IPO fundraising.

The company, founded in 2011 by Adrian Grant and current chief executive Mark Estall, wants to raise up to $A25 million at 20 Australian cents a share, valuing the business at $A80 million.

The pre-IPO fundraising was priced at a 25 per cent discount to the current offering.

Australian-based Foster Stockbroking, lead manager of the listing, said the company hopes to be trading on the ASX by May or June. A spokesman said they were unconcerned about high share prices for tech stocks being revalued downwards in recent months saying “markets ebb and flow and that’s out of our control”.

The money raised will help fund the company’s international expansion plans.

9 Spokes has a number of international directors including former Telecom New Zealand chief executive Paul Reynolds, who holds a small stake in the company, and former Walt Disney and Ticketmaster executive Wendy Webb, who is also an independent director of cloud-based software-as-a-service TV content provider TiVo.

The company plans to take its roadshow to New Zealand and Asia next week.

Columbine 10 years on: Scars remain

After their son was shot dead at Columbine High School 10 years ago, Michael and Vonda Shoels filed lawsuits against the police, teachers, and killers’ parents.

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They participated in a gun buyback program in Atlanta, and rallied against racism and violence in Brooklyn. Michael Shoels travelled to the site of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.

For the Shoels, every day is April 20, 1999.

“I remember it like yesterday,” Michael Shoels said from Houston, Texas, where he now lives. “All these anniversaries don’t make any sense because it’s in my head everyday.”

Columbine’s 10th anniversary hits on Monday. But it has never left the rest of the world either.

The shootings at the school in the Denver suburb of Littleton have become shorthand not only for school violence, but a variety of social and psychological issues, from policing to troubled children.

The Shoels were among the loudest critics of how the shootings were handled. They were also among the most criticized. But their path has similarities with families of other victims.

Isaiah Shoels, one of the few black students at Columbine, was among the 12 students and a teacher killed at the school.

The shootings were random but the killers taunted 18-year-old Isaiah because of his skin colour once they happened upon him.

Gunmen Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, shot themselves dead at the end of the rampage.

Parents against violence and gun laws

The Shoels story actually began three days before the shootings. They were travelling in the family van when Isaiah asked: “What would you do if someone shot down all your children?”

Michael and Vonda were taken aback.

“I mean you know, no kid (is) supposed to be asking their parents a question like that for no reason at all,” Michael says.

The Shoels said they would speak out against violence. But they would not seek revenge.

Other victim families have recounted similar premonitions from their children before Columbine. And they have similarly become activists.

Tom Mauser, whose son Daniel was killed, has advocated for gun control, even getting arrested for the cause. He said two weeks before the shootings, his son asked about loopholes in the Brady gun bill.

Brian Rohrbough, whose son Dan was also killed, has probably become the most high-profile critic of the sheriff’s investigation.

He also ran on the vice-presidential ticket for the small, conservative America’s Independent Party in the last election.

Ten years later, a common thread the Shoels seem to share with a sampling of others close to the tragedy is that the pain never goes away. And neither, it appears, does the activism.

Michael Shoels is now 52 and owner of Myvons BBQ and catering.

Five years ago Michael, who is also an ordained minister, founded Worldwide Impact Records and Ministries.

He says he has distributed about 1,000 CDs, mostly in Texas, that have a mixture of gospel and rap. He is looking to connect with a major label but in the meantime says Worldwide has converted about a dozen young men who were “gangsters and rappers.”

“They’re rapping about goodness and they’re telling other kids where they shouldn’t go,” Shoels added.

“Respect”

If Shoels’s message could be boiled down into one word it is “respect.” If there was more of that, he says,” the world would be a better place. It don’t hurt to say ‘good morning’ to someone.”

He also believes putting prayer in school would help, although he says it does not have to be Christian prayer.

Shoels says his message could play across the country where mass shootings have recently occurred in the states of Alabama, North Carolina and New York.

He does not believe in gun control, but argues that people should not be able to buy guns until they are 21 rather than 18.

“That’s when you really come in to your own,” Shoels says. “You shouldn’t have no reason to have a gun before that.”

He would make exceptions for those under 21 who are in the military or law enforcement because of their specialized training.

Shoels plans to stay in Texas on the 10-year anniversary. He is not sure what he will do that day, but knows that church has helped get him through the past decade.

“The word of God,” he says. “Knowin’ that it’s going to be alright tomorrow. And a whole lot of prayer and cryin’.”

Primary Health sells Medical Director unit

Primary Health Care has agreed to sell its Medical Director business to Affinity Equity Partners for $155 million as part of the group’s strategic review.

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Medical Director – formerly known as Health Communication Network or HCN – provides clinical and business software to general practitioners, medical specialists and other health professionals. It captures more than 60 million patient consultations annually.

“The successful sale of Medical Director, at an attractive multiple, delivers on one of the key capital recycling initiatives from the strategic review,” managing director Peter Gregg said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Through the progressive execution of these initiatives, we are creating the flexibility to strengthen our balance sheet and to fund future growth from the existing capital base,” he said.

Primary will continue its partnership with Medical Director, as a long-term customer utilising its existing products and services.

“Importantly, Primary has also secured in-principle agreement with Medical Director for the development of, and access to, next generation clinical and practice management software solutions,” Mr Gregg said.

Sam Johnson, managing director of Australia and New Zealand at Affinity, was upbeat about Medical Director’s future, given the growth in the global healthcare technology industry.

The sale – which remains subject to some conditions, including approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board and third party consents – is expected to be completed before the end of fiscal 2016.

Proceeds from the sale, together with the proceeds from the Barangaroo property, cuts Primary’s net debt to approximately $900 million.

Primary Health shares were down 1.5 cents at $3.785 in a lower Australian market at 1038 AEDT.

Journalists partly to blame for presidential race tone: Obama

In a speech to a journalism awards dinner, Obama urged journalists to ask tougher questions of the candidates vying to be president.

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He voiced dismay over the vulgar rhetoric, violence at rallies and unrealistic campaign pledges that have continually grabbed headlines, in a thinly veiled reference to Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

“The number one question I’m getting as I travel around the world or talk to world leaders right now is, ‘What is happening in America?’ about our politics,” Obama said, describing international alarm over whether the United States will continue to function effectively.

“It’s not because around the world people have not seen crazy politics. It is that they understand America is the place where you can’t afford completely crazy politics,” he said.

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“When our elected officials and our political campaigns become entirely untethered to reason and facts and analysis, when it doesn’t matter what’s true and what’s not, that makes it all but impossible for us to make good decisions on behalf of future generations,” Obama said.

He said the media landscape has changed since his first presidential campaign in 2008, when “there was a price if you said one thing and then did something completely different.

“The question is, in the current media environment, is that still true? Does that still hold?” he said.

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He said news organizations have a responsibility to dig deeper despite the faster pace of “this smartphone age” and steep financial pressures in the news business.

Voters “would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep,” Obama said.

The New York Times earlier this month reported that Trump has so far earned almost $1.9 billion worth of media coverage, compared with $313 million for the next closest Republican challenger, US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and $746 million for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

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Body image link to breastfeeding rates

Obese mothers are more likely to stop breastfeeding before smaller women and it appears poor body image is to blame, a Queensland study has found.

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Half of the obese women involved in the study of first-time mothers stopped breastfeeding their newborns within six months, compared to 18 per cent of women with low body fat.

The research also found one-in-four larger pregnant women believed they would feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of a close female friend, compared to 10 per cent of other expectant mums.

That is despite nearly all of the women planning to exclusively breastfeed until their babies were at least six-months of age.

“The (breastfeeding) attrition rate for the larger women was so surprising,” University of the Sunshine Coast researcher Dr Ruth Newby told AAP.

“We are suggesting it might be a body image issue.”

When the women were surveyed while pregnant, almost half said they expected to feel embarrassed about breastfeeding in front of strangers.

But many more larger women anticipated they would feel uncomfortable if friends of both sexes were present and 25 per cent believed they would even feel uneasy breastfeeding in front of a close female friend.

Dr Newby said the study showed there was a point where issues affecting breastfeeding became insurmountable for larger women.

She said the research, published this month, recommended further investigation into the rapid decline in breastfeeding rates among obese mothers.

“Mums want to do the best thing for their babies and we need to support them to reach their breastfeeding goals,” she said.

More than 250 Queensland women responded to an antenatal and six postnatal questionnaires in the study, conducted between 2010 and 2012.

Vic family violence federal response call

Australia’s first royal commission into family violence is over, but Victoria’s peak service for women and children hope the findings mark the beginning of better intervention by the state and federal governments.

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The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence delivered its findings to the state government on Tuesday with the report to be tabled in parliament just before its findings are released on Wednesday, along with the government’s response.

Community organisations, police, victims and almost 1000 other people and groups made submissions to the inquiry, which wrapped up public hearings in October.

Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive Fiona McCormack hopes the report will urge the state and federal governments to increase funding.

“Our hope is it will provide recommendations about the introduction of a dedicated family violence funding stream that’s a partnership between federal and state governments,” Ms McCormack told AAP on Tuesday.

“A dedicated funding stream would give this issue the focus that’s required.”

More money for intervention would help address the gaps and weaknesses in the current system, she said.

“It’s really time to start seeing more intervention designed to interrupt violence, engage with men … and share data that’s critical for the safety of women and children.

“We need to do better with children.”

Ms McCormack says Victoria can not go it alone, and neither can the Commonwealth, when it comes to stopping family violence.

“There are a number of different strategies where the solutions lie with the federal government, or in closer working relationships between the federal and state governments,” Ms McCormack said.

Governments need to commit to long-term goals rather than focus on political reform agendas, she said.

Victoria’s royal commission was a 2014 election promise by Premier Daniel Andrews, following the death of 11-year-old Luke Batty earlier that year.

The primary school student was murdered by his father at cricket training, a tragedy that spurred his mother, Rosie, to campaign against domestic violence and push for reform.

Last year, Victorian Coroner Ian Gray found Luke’s death was unforeseeable because one man alone – his mentally ill father Greg Anderson – was responsible for the 11-year-old’s death.

But Judge Gray also found failings and delayed responses in the justice system and health department allowed Anderson to subject his son and wife to years of abuse and irrational behaviour.

The coroner made 29 recommendations calling for agencies dealing with domestic violence to share more information and act in a more integrated way.

Mr Andrews has repeatedly said the government will implement all of the royal commission’s recommendations.

“This report will change everything. Our family violence system has failed victims for too long,” Mr Andrews said.

The report will be immediately available to the public after it is tabled at 11am on Wednesday.

* National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800 RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

Japan affirms no nukes policy

Japan’s government said it will stick to its policy of not possessing nuclear weapons, after US presidential hopeful Donald Trump said he would be open to the idea of Japan and South Korea having their own atomic arsenals.

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Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Monday that the country’s “three principles” of not owning, making or allowing nuclear weapons “remain an important basic policy of the government”.

Trump said in an interview with The New York Times published on Sunday that asking Japan and South Korea to pay more for their own defence “could mean nuclear”.

He said the issue “at some point is something that we have to talk about”.

Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman, declined to comment specifically on Trump’s statement, saying he is only running for the presidency at this point.

Suga expressed confidence that the US-Japan alliance will remain a pillar of Japanese policy, no matter who wins the US presidential election in November.

The US stations tens of thousands of troops in Japan and South Korea, and both are key US allies in the Pacific.

Trump said he would withdraw those troops if Japan and South Korea don’t contribute more to their cost.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said he had no comment on Trump’s remarks.

Asked in general about a US troop withdrawal, he said South Korea believes that its alliance with the United States remains strong.

North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons has prompted questions about whether other Asian nations would feel the need to follow suit.

State Department spokesman John Kirby also declined to address Trump’s statement, but said nothing has changed about the seriousness with which the US takes its treaty commitments to Japan and South Korea and its view on the need for denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Kiwi coach grabs underdog label

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson has immediately grabbed his side the underdog status for the upcoming World Twenty20 semi-final against England, despite having the better recent record.

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England coach Trevor Bayliss this week described the unbeaten Kiwis as hard grinders with a working-class mentality.

But Hesson has taken the opportunity to describe England as dangerous.

That was despite them losing their opening tournament match against the West Indies and only scraping past minnows Afghanistan.

Hesson also appears to have forgotten the eight-wicket drubbing his side dished out to England in last year’s 50-over World Cup.

“They bat very deep,” Hesson said ahead of the match in Delhi on Wednesday.

“They have got batsmen that can score all around the ground. When they put you under pressure it’s difficult to contain.

“I think obviously taking wickets throughout is important, and obviously the way we play their spinners through middle will be important as well.”

After making last year’s World Cup final, the Kiwis have again excelled at the shortest form of the game, winning all four pool matches in India.

The nature of the wins had given them confidence, Hesson said.

“I think we also realise that’s gone now. We’ve given ourselves a chance of a semi-final and we’ll just be as consistent as we can be and see what unfolds.”

They would not be changing their methods for the semis, he said.

“No matter what conditions you are dealt with, you just have to find a way. I think the word of the tournament has been adaptation.

“We’ve had four different surfaces and we are going to have another one in Delhi.”

Hesson said in-form opener Martin Guptill will return after sitting out the 75-run win over Bangladesh with a hamstring strain, meaning the New Zealanders will have a full squad to pick from.

USGS to map quakes caused by humans

Earthquakes caused by human activity will now be included in the US Geological Survey’s seismic risk maps, the agency says after a sharp rise in tremors linked to wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma.

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The seismic risk maps are used by emergency management officials as well as the country’s major engineering and design associations to guide how strong to construct buildings.

“By including human-induced events, our assessment of earthquake hazards has significantly increased in parts of the US,” Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, said in a statement.

About seven million people in the central and eastern United States live or work in areas threatened by so-called induced seismicity, and in parts of these regions, the damage caused by earthquakes could be at parity with that seen in high-hazard regions of California, the USGS said.

Oklahoma is at the greatest risk for hazards associated with induced seismicity, the USGS said, followed by Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arkansas.

Oklahoma in 2015 experienced 907 magnitude-3.0 or greater earthquakes, compared with just two of similar size in 2009. In February, a magnitude-5.1 tremor shook the area around Fairview, Oklahoma – the third strongest recorded in the state.

The uptick in quakes has prompted serious concern among those near the oil storage hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, home to about 66 million barrels of oil and the delivery point for the West Texas Intermediate futures contract.

“We have had some earthquakes that were way to close to those tanks,” said Michael Teague, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Energy and Environment.

The disposal of saltwater – a natural by product of oil and gas drilling – into wells has been tied to earthquakes. Oklahoma regulators have already ordered many disposal wells to curb operations.

“The good news is that we are already seeing a very positive response to those actions in the form of reduced seismic activity in the central and north central areas of Oklahoma,” the Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association said in a statement.

Saltwater injections into disposal wells is down by roughly half from a peak of 1.8 million barrels per day in 2014, the Oklahoma Geological Survey said, with half the wells shutting due to low oil prices.

The USGS said building code committees are still deciding whether to include induced earthquakes in their revisions, in part because they could be temporary.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2016 guidelines do not take into account man-made earthquakes and it does not plan to update them until 2022.

“There is always a delay in design codes adapting the USGS Seismic Hazard Maps,” said Muralee Muraleetharan, a civil engineering professor at the University of Oklahoma.

Japan public divided as laws easing limits on military take effect

Laws loosening the limits of Japan’s pacifist constitution on its military took effect on Tuesday as surveys showed the public remained divided over a change that allows Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War Two.

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the security legislation, the biggest change in Japan’s defense policy since the creation of its military in 1954, is vital to meet new challenges including a rising China.

Critics say the changes, which triggered mass demonstrations ahead of their enactment last September, violate the pacifist constitution and increase the risk of involvement in foreign wars. Opposition parties plan to campaign for the laws’ repeal in an upper house election in July.

The legislation “is vital to prevent wars and protect the people’s lives and livelihoods amid an increasingly severe security environment surrounding our country,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

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“The government will first preserve the peace through diplomacy and there is no change at all in our policy of proactive diplomacy for that purpose,” he added.

Japan’s ally the United States has welcomed the changes, which allow the military to fight in aid of friendly countries that come under attack if Japan’s security is also threatened.

But China, where bitter memories of Tokyo’s wartime aggression run deep, has repeatedly expressed concern about the legislation, based on a controversial re-interpretation of the pacifist constitution.

The main opposition Democratic Party and other opposition groups are raising the issue ahead of the upper house election amid speculation Abe may also call a snap poll for the powerful lower chamber. How much traction the issue is unclear.

A voter survey by the Yomiuri newspaper published on Tuesday showed 47 percent did not approve of the changes against 38 percent who did. That compared to 58 percent who opposed the legislation last September versus 31 percent who approved.

However, in a separate survey by the Nikkei business daily, only 35 percent said the legislation should be repealed, while 43 percent said it should remain in place.