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December 17, 2017

Lagos uses beach polo to hook investors to 'Dubai of Africa'

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Lagos uses beach polo to hook investors to 'Dubai of Africa'

Azzo Rezori: Going on a cruise, and going on a ride

Of all the Sesame Street songs I’ve hummed and whistled to over the years, Going For A Ride is my favourite.

It runs over three verses.

A line in the first verse: “Gonna sit behind the wheel.”

In the second verse: “Gonna speed along the track.”

In the third: “Gonna sail the ocean blue.”

There’s already been a lot of ‘wheel’ and ‘track’ in my life, but not nearly enough ‘ocean blue’. So it’s always the third verse that comes to my mind when I think of the song.

Oh I’m going for a ride

I’m, gonna sail the ocean blue

And I’m gonna be a captain

And I’m gonna have a crew

Gonna sail the seven seas

On the water I will float

‘Cause I’m going for a ride

And I’m riding in a boat.

Well, that’s just what we did the week before last, my wife Brenda, our daughter Gaia, and I — we went on a cruise of the western Caribbean starting and ending in Miami. 

Our first cruise ever.

Getting away from our old selves

It was all about getting away, of course. Away from our same old selves. Away from the people around us who have their own vested interests in us being safely and predictably our same old selves. Away from this place which has played such a crucial role in shaping our same old selves.

Going on the cruise did the trick, even without any of us being the captain and having a crew.

There was no need to keep asking “How am I doing?” The question quickly became, “How’s the world doing?”, and the world replied, “Never mind how I’m doing. You wouldn’t understand anyway. I just am.”

That was good enough for me.  

There was the early morning stroll through the neighbourhoods around our Miami hotel with proof at every corner that things can be different, that the plants we can only cultivate inside up here do thrive outside down there, that coconuts do grow on trees, that Spanish-speaking people really are reclaiming Miami after they lost it to the United States two centuries ago.

Living in a floating village

There was the novelty of making a cabin our home for a week, of learning to find our way through the lanes and alleys of a floating village, of getting to know all kinds of people we’ll never see again. 

We were constantly torn between differences and similarities. No familiar whirling and screeching of sea birds greeted us as we docked at Cozumel Island off the Mexican coast, yet, like the wind-swept barrens of Newfoundland, the low-lying island was covered with its own kind of tuckamore, a tangle of dwarf palms and tropical trees. 

On the jungle trek to cave tubing in Belize we were shown a palm tree which carries small red berries that self-ignite after dropping to the ground and cause wild fires that regenerate the forests. There was also the killer tree which smothers other trees by wrapping itself around them.

The caves are mile-long tunnels with underground streams moving darkly past underground beaches, the walls and ceilings gnarled and twisted with formations that make you wonder how solid rock can flow. Next thing you find asking yourself what comes first in this crazy world, flow or pattern. And while you drift through another cave past another underground beach you realize there’s no either or, it’s all the same, flow and pattern are like energy and matter – two faces of the same thing.

While watching the sun set from our cruise ship balcony, we figured out how the ancients of Egypt and of the Americas came up with the same idea of building pyramids. 

No wonder they worshipped the sun

Was it the Egyptians who crossed the Atlantic and taught the Mayans, as some believe? Was it the Mayans who crossed first and taught the Egyptians, according to others?

It doesn’t have to be one or the other in this case either. Both the Egyptians and the Mayans were sun worshippers and would have noticed on their respective horizons how some sunsets send out shafts of rays that rise like pyramid-shaped altars over the sea and earth.      

In Roatan we spent the day on a small island set up as a sanctuary for rescued animals, while a reluctant jaguar gets dragged to the beach every day so tourists can have their picture taken with it in the water.

On the sandbar inside the barrier reef off Grand Cayman Island we swam with sting rays and weren’t sure who was mobbing whom, they us, or we them. 

The reef itself is slowly dying and looked through our snorkeling masks like a ruined city with tumbles upon tumbles of broken structures stacked on top of each other.

Nothing was obvious yet everything exotically self-explanatory. 

Amid all this diversity of being, our same old selves simply shrank away. And that was the whole point.

They came back though.

Not a single four-letter word of frustration passed my lips while we were on the cruise. I counted at least a dozen on my first day back to work.

So be it till the next ride.

Excerpt from:

Azzo Rezori: Going on a cruise, and going on a ride

70 years ago, a relatively-unknown photographer took the most iconic war photograph of all time

Iwo Jima Joe Rosenthal / AP

The raising of the US flag atop Mount Suribachi on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima 70 years ago is perhaps the most iconic image of World War Two.

No other picture so succinctly and evocatively captures the triumph of the Allied forces, while also highlighting the critical role that US troops played in the Pacific. The picture has also become one of the enduring symbols of the US Marine Corps.

Joe Rosenthal, at the time an unknown Associated Press photographer, is the man behind the photo. Although it was technically the second flag raising on Iwo Jima, which shows five Marines and a Navy Corpsman, it is no less important. The first flag planted was replaced, as it was too small to be seen from the coast.

Rosenthal, in an attempt to position himself properly for the shot, almost actually missed the flag raising. In a desperate attempt to capture the scene, Rosenthal shot the image without the use of his viewfinder. His gut instinct certainly hit the mar. He went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for his image.

Almost immediately, though, the overall quality of the framing led to accusations that Rosenthal had framed the picture.

This controversy still remains. Fortunately, an official video of the flag raising by a Marine photographer shows that the events transpired naturally, and exactly as Rosenthal had claimed.

Rosenthal’s photo has gone on to become a deeply ingrained cultural image for America. The US Marine Corps War Memorial, in Arlington, Virginia, is modeled after this photo. President Franklin D. Roosevelt also used the image to promote war bonds at the end of the war, and it was featured on stamps.

USMC_War_Memorial_Night en.wikipedia.org The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial at night.

It’s important to note that while the image evoked a feeling of American victory, it was shot only five days into the Iwo Jima campaign. The battle went on for many more weeks, and three of the Marines who raised the flag were later killed in action.

Although Rosenthal’s image has become synonymous with the courage of the Marines, many still debate the value of invading Iwo Jima.

The battle was particularly bloody and was the only battle in which the US Marine Corps suffered more casualties than the Japanese Army. The Japanese were well entrenched on the island when the US decided to invade. Iwo Jima is also a mountainous island, and its topography proved extremely difficult for US troops.

Once taken though, Iwo Jima proved of significant tactical importance as the US military pursued its strategy of “island hopping” to the Japanese mainland. For pushing the US deeper into Japan’s Pacific holdings, the military command decided that the 26,000 American casualties was worth the island.

Both the cost and the accomplishment of the campaign is forever immortalized in Rosenthal’s photograph.

Iwo_Jima_Suribachi_DN SD 03 11845.JPEG Wikimedia Commons Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, the site of the famous flag-raising.

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70 years ago, a relatively-unknown photographer took the most iconic war photograph of all time

Chinese leaders pick through man-made obstacles

Alicante (Spain) (AFP) – Leaders Dongfeng Race Team and the rest of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet were carefully picking their way through the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday in Leg 3 of the nine-month marathon offshore race.

Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier (France) protected a narrow 30-nautical mile (nm) advantage over closest rivals Team Brunel (Netherlands) with three other boats within 5nm of them (0940 GMT).

For all, however, it has been a case of very watchful progress because of the pollution in the Bay as they headed towards another hazardous stretch of water, the Malacca Strait, that separates the Indonesian island of Sumatra and Malaysia and is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking wrote in a blog: “There was so much plastic in the water that I started counting in several intervals of 10 minutes for a duration of four hours, the amount of plastic I could see floating by.

“A scary result was the outcome. Every 37 seconds on average I saw a piece of rubbish floating by, either big or small. I am not a scientist or researcher, but the total weight of this trash floating around in this part of the world must be enormous.”

Already crews have had to release fishing nets and all sorts of debris from under their boats on their passage through the 4,670nm stage from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, Hainan Island, on the southern-most tip of China.

Dongfeng, Team Brunel and Abu Dhabi Ocean were locked at the top of the overall leaderboard on four points apiece after two of the 11 legs of the race, which started in Alicante, Spain, on October 4 last year and is scheduled to finish in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27.

Caudrelier, a member of the victorious Groupama crew in the previous edition in 2011-12, would dearly love victory in this stage, which is expected to be completed around January 25-26 after three weeks of racing depending on weather conditions. They have just under 2,500nm to sail before then.

None of the three Chinese-backed boats to have taken part in the 41-year-old event – formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race – has won a leg and victory in Sanya would be the ideal place to break that duck. It would also put Dongfeng Race Team narrowly ahead in the overall standings.

“Onboard we are focused but tired from the constant battle of nerves. Nothing is ever for keeps on this leg, we need to fighting for another 15 days to get our boat home,” said Caudrelier, 40.

The Volvo Ocean Race is held every three years and is generally accepted as offshore sailing’s toughest and most prestigious event. This is the 12th edition.

Latest standings after Leg 2: 1 Team Brunel (Netherlands) 4 pts, 2 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 4, 3 Dongfeng Race Team (China) 4, 4 Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.) 9, 5 MAPFRE (Spain) 11, 6 Team Vestas Wind (Denmark) 12, 7 Team SCA (Sweden) 12.

Originally posted here:

Chinese leaders pick through man-made obstacles

Five years after quake, Haiti struggles to reopen its doors to the world

Growing up on the Haitian island of Ile-a-Vache, Exerre Dieunest used to hate going to school in the rainy season. It was bad enough that there were no buses, but there were also no roads. He walked two hours each way from Kay Kok, and when the paths turned to deep mud, he could hardly manage the trek.

It’s different for kids today. Kay Kok now has a school, “and it’s thanks to tourism,” says Mr. Dieunest. Tourists came, saw the need, established a foundation, and funded the building of a school. Tourist donations also helped expand a local orphanage.

Ile-a-Vache residents see great potential in hospitality, but when the central government tried to launch a major tourism plan here in 2014, it sparked protests from locals who feared a land-grab. The tourism ministry has since achieved buy-in from much of the community, but now it faces another challenge: Keeping the confidence of investors as Haitian democracy teeters on the brink.

Recommended: Where does Haiti stand three years after its 7.0 earthquake?

Just over five years ago, Haiti looked relatively ripe for investment. Crime was low, there was a reprieve from anti-government demonstrations, and democratic institutions seemed to be functioning better than ever. Haitian and foreign leaders said Haiti was stable, and ready to grow.

That’s when a 7.0 earthquake struck the country, killing tens of thousands of people.

Today, Haiti is rebuilding, still mired in the poverty people had hoped to escape before the earthquake, and now trying to avoid a massive political upheaval – one that could scare off the very investors who could help the country develop. 

The prime minister was deposed in December, and on January 12 most legislators’ terms expire – with no one to replace them due to a failure to hold elections. Popular protests against President Michel Martelly have grown, along with fears he will rule by decree – unless Parliament approves on Monday an agreement reached Sunday night between President Martelly and opposition leaders.  

Ile-a-Vache feels far from the tumult of the capital, but its struggles may exemplify Haiti’s challenges in democracy and development. 

TRUST AND DEVELOPMENT

Ile-a-Vache is a 16-square mile jewel of an island, with rolling hills, paths connecting sweet cottages on a candy-colored bit of Caribbean Sea. But its residents – roughly 15,000 farmers and fishermen – say the government has continuously left them in the dark, literally, with no electricity or roads. Health care and potable water aren’t delivered by the government, and tourism remains at a trickle.

But this might change.

After the 2010 earthquake, a government came in with the motto, “Haiti is Open for Business.” The government wooed investors – with massive tax breaks and supportive infrastructure supplied by foreign aid – to take part in an industrial park and capital city hotels. They drew up plans for massive tourism developments, including one on Ile-a-Vache complete with roads, an airport, a port, a marina, 1,000 hotel rooms, and an 18-hole golf course.

The island was finally getting attention, but residents weren’t happy. In early 2014, protesters took to the newly carved roads. A presidential decree declared the island a tourism development zone, property of the government. Waterfront residents were driven from their homes without compensation and roadside dwellers lost fruit trees vital for their livelihoods. Riot police appeared on the island to back up the few officers already there.

But when the tourism minister met with community leaders, gave checks to those robbed of their land, and implemented projects for the community – like drinking wells, a community center, and subsidized community cafeterias – many residents began to show support for the government’s tourism plans, in spite of lingering fears.

An elderly islander named Myltha Boulot says there is no knowing whether or not the government will take her land, but when it comes to tourism: “That’s another thing entirely. If tourists come, they’ll give jobs to the poorest men and women, so people can survive.”

Yet now, if locals don’t block the tourism plan, would-be investors might.

Haiti has peaks and valleys of instability, says Mark Schneider, a long-time Haiti-watcher and senior vice president of the International Crisis Group. “I think we’re at a point close to a peak,” Mr. Schneider says, prior to Sunday’s agreement.  That is, if there is no executive-legislative agreement, Martelly might rule by decree, causing more protests, and possibly violence, Schneider says. In which case, “there’s no way for investors to tell their boards or financial backers that the situation is on its way to being resolved and they can go back to expanded plans for development.”

Pamela Cox, who was the World Bank’s vice president for Latin American and the Caribbean at the time of the earthquake, says when nascent democratic institutions fumble, everyone gets spooked.

“Any time there’s huge political uncertainty, it scares investors away,” Ms. Cox says, especially in countries like Haiti, where there’s a lack of domestic trust in the government, and likely civil unrest.

In the coming days, Haiti’s political leaders will signal to investors and constituents whether or not their country is on solid ground.

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Five years after quake, Haiti struggles to reopen its doors to the world

Ukraine's recent nuclear reactor scare harkens back to ghosts of historic nuclear accidents

One of the reactors in Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine suffered an accident that triggered an automatic shutdown this week. Reports suggest that damage occurred to a transformer in one of the 1000-megawatt reactors at the Zaporizhye plant, which provides over one-fifth of the country’s electricity.

Ukraine’s energy minister said that it was a “technical fault” and assured the public that there was “no threat” to the reactor’s safety, according to BBC News

With the country already suffering fuel shortage, Ukraine this winter will probably be forced to import electricity from Russia.

Accidents at nuclear rectors makes folks understandably nervous, and is also a reminder that despite all the climate change benefits we get from nuclear energy – like cutting greenhouse gas emissions – there are a lot of risks associated with it, too.

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima all grabbed the world’s attention over the past 30 years when the crises unfolded at those plants. But what happened after they left the headlines?

The worst-ever U.S. nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, near Middletown, Pennsylvania, was a partial meltdown that occurred on March 28, 1979

The facility was only 3 months old when a cooling problem caused one of the reactors to overheat and release radioactive gases and iodine into the environment, but it wasn’t enough to cause any confirmed health effects to local residents.

The reactor was shut down permanently, was decontaminated and put into what is known as “post-defueled monitored storage,” with plans for dismantling only after its neighbouring reactor on site is shut down sometime in 2034.

In April 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred at Ukraine’s Chernobyl power plant. technicians lost control of nuclear fission reactions in the reactor core and heat rose quickly until pressure built up and explored the core, releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. After the initial explosion occurred, fire broke out that sent large clouds of radioactive particles high into the air, which was then swept over a large part of Western Europe. 

Thirty-one people – technicians and firefighters mostly – died from the accident itself, and untold thousands may have contracted cancer. Exact numbers are still being debated

If you want to see the devastation that this nuclear accident wrought in its immediate surroundings check out newly-released video footage obtained via a remote-controlled drone. This is the first time that the nearby ghost town Pripyat has been filmed from the air.

The power plant itself is entombed within an aging concrete structure that was hastily built back during the old Soviet era.

Currently, an internationally-funded project is underway to build a massive 32,000 ton metal arch that will contain the entire building. Hopes are that it will be ready by 2017, before the existing shelter collapses and releases more radioactive-laden dust into the atmosphere like a dirt bomb. It is expected that the arch should last anywhere from 100 to 300 years.

Finally, the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami showed us that there can be natural forces that have to be considered with nuclear power. The Fukushima Daiichi power plant, located 220 km northeast of Tokyo on Japan’s east coast, had three of its six reactors melt down when it got hit by tsunami waves triggered by a 9.0 earthquake. This knocked out its generators which caused its reactors to overheat, explode and release radioactivity into the environment – contaminating food, water and air.  

Over 300,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding villages. Nearly 16,000 residents are still unable to return to their homes because clean up efforts are being hindered by unsafe levels of radiation in the soil and water.

All this radiation from the disaster has definitely not been isolated to just Japan. Researchers monitoring the Pacific Ocean, in which much of the radiation spilled into, have detected radioactive isotopes this past November just 160 km off the coast of California.

So this story will continue to unfold for many years to come.

See the original article here – 

Ukraine's recent nuclear reactor scare harkens back to ghosts of historic nuclear accidents

Ukraine's recent nuclear reactor scare harkens back to ghosts of historic nuclear accidents

One of the reactors in Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine suffered an accident that triggered an automatic shutdown this week. Reports suggest that damage occurred to a transformer in one of the 1000-megawatt reactors at the Zaporizhye plant, which provides over one-fifth of the country’s electricity.

Ukraine’s energy minister said that it was a “technical fault” and assured the public that there was “no threat” to the reactor’s safety, according to BBC News

With the country already suffering fuel shortage, Ukraine this winter will probably be forced to import electricity from Russia.

Accidents at nuclear rectors makes folks understandably nervous, and is also a reminder that despite all the climate change benefits we get from nuclear energy – like cutting greenhouse gas emissions – there are a lot of risks associated with it, too.

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima all grabbed the world’s attention over the past 30 years when the crises unfolded at those plants. But what happened after they left the headlines?

The worst-ever U.S. nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, near Middletown, Pennsylvania, was a partial meltdown that occurred on March 28, 1979

The facility was only 3 months old when a cooling problem caused one of the reactors to overheat and release radioactive gases and iodine into the environment, but it wasn’t enough to cause any confirmed health effects to local residents.

The reactor was shut down permanently, was decontaminated and put into what is known as “post-defueled monitored storage,” with plans for dismantling only after its neighbouring reactor on site is shut down sometime in 2034.

In April 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred at Ukraine’s Chernobyl power plant. technicians lost control of nuclear fission reactions in the reactor core and heat rose quickly until pressure built up and explored the core, releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. After the initial explosion occurred, fire broke out that sent large clouds of radioactive particles high into the air, which was then swept over a large part of Western Europe. 

Thirty-one people – technicians and firefighters mostly – died from the accident itself, and untold thousands may have contracted cancer. Exact numbers are still being debated

If you want to see the devastation that this nuclear accident wrought in its immediate surroundings check out newly-released video footage obtained via a remote-controlled drone. This is the first time that the nearby ghost town Pripyat has been filmed from the air.

The power plant itself is entombed within an aging concrete structure that was hastily built back during the old Soviet era.

Currently, an internationally-funded project is underway to build a massive 32,000 ton metal arch that will contain the entire building. Hopes are that it will be ready by 2017, before the existing shelter collapses and releases more radioactive-laden dust into the atmosphere like a dirt bomb. It is expected that the arch should last anywhere from 100 to 300 years.

Finally, the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami showed us that there can be natural forces that have to be considered with nuclear power. The Fukushima Daiichi power plant, located 220 km northeast of Tokyo on Japan’s east coast, had three of its six reactors melt down when it got hit by tsunami waves triggered by a 9.0 earthquake. This knocked out its generators which caused its reactors to overheat, explode and release radioactivity into the environment – contaminating food, water and air.  

Over 300,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding villages. Nearly 16,000 residents are still unable to return to their homes because clean up efforts are being hindered by unsafe levels of radiation in the soil and water.

All this radiation from the disaster has definitely not been isolated to just Japan. Researchers monitoring the Pacific Ocean, in which much of the radiation spilled into, have detected radioactive isotopes this past November just 160 km off the coast of California.

So this story will continue to unfold for many years to come.

View original post here: 

Ukraine's recent nuclear reactor scare harkens back to ghosts of historic nuclear accidents

Athletics-Kenya's Kipsang, Keitany win NYC Marathon crowns

* Kipsang edged Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa by 11 seconds

* Keitany finished three seconds ahead of closest pursuer (Adds quotes, details official times)

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK, Nov 2 (Reuters) – Wilson Kipsang won a lucrative duel to the finish to join compatriot Mary Keitany in a Kenyan sweep of the men’s and women’s races at a cold, windy New York City Marathon on Sunday.

Kipsang and Keitany both pulled away in the last Central Park stretch, with Kipsang’s victory bringing him a $600,000 payday as the win also gave him the $500,000 World Marathon Majors bonus.

“Of course I was thinking about it,” Kipsang said about the bonus. “My only chance to win the jackpot was to win this race. I was trying to apply all the tactics to make sure I would win.”

With temperatures around 42 degrees Fahrenheit (6 Celsius) and wind gusting to 40 miles per hour (64 kph), some 50,000 runners set off in the world’s largest marathon on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island.

Runners wore ski hats or head bands over their ears and some pulled on sleeves or knee-high socks to deal with the elements that eased during the course of the 26.2-mile (42.2 km) race.

Conditions led to deliberate, tactical races that did not see the leading packs break up until after the 20-mile mark.

Kipsang, the London Marathon champion running the New York race for the first time, ran shoulder to shoulder with Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia over the last few miles.

In the final half mile, Desisa snuck ahead of Kipsang, who turned on a final burst to claim victory.

Kipsang crossed the finish line in two hours 10 minutes 55 seconds to win the $100,000 first-place price and catapult past compatriot Dennis Kimetto to win the massive bonus.

Desisa, the 2013 Boston Marathon winner, who said he felt discomfort from missing a bathroom stop, faded at the last and finished 11 seconds behind Kipsang, with fellow Ethiopian Gebre Gebremariam, the 2010 New York champion, third in 2:12:13.

Keitany won an exhilarating duel with compatriot Jemima Sumgong to claim the women’s crown.

The 2012 London Marathon winner, whose best New York showing was third place in 2011, edged ahead of Sumgong in the last two miles of the race that covers all five New York City boroughs.

Keitany, whose best New York showing was third place in 2011, widened her lead at the end as she crossed the line in 2:25:07, three seconds ahead of Sumgong in tying the closest women’s finish in the New York race.

The winner started her push at the 20-mile mark.

“I knew we still have only five miles to go. So I say let me push in and dig in in order to be in good position,” said Keitany.

Said Sumgong: “My target was to win, but it was Mary’s day.”

Portugal’s marathon debutante Sara Moreira finished third in 2:26:00.

Tennis player Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who finished her season last week ranked eighth in the world, completed her first marathon in 3:26:33 while running for a charity that benefits youth runners. (Editing by Frank Pingue)

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Athletics-Kenya's Kipsang, Keitany win NYC Marathon crowns

Marquez takes MotoGP pole in Australia

PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia (AP) — World champion Marc Marquez of Spain took pole position and Cal Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo also secured front-row starts in the MotoGP race at Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

Marquez, who clinched the 2014 season title last week with a second-place finish behind Lorenzo in Japan, took pole Saturday with a 1 minute, 28.408 second lap on his Honda, outpacing his nearest rival by 0.234 seconds on the 4.5-kilometer (2.7-mile) Phillip Island circuit.

Crutchlow, of Britain, was riding a Ducati Team entry, and Spain’s Lorenzo was on a Yamaha, ensuring three manufacturers will be represented on the front row in Sunday’s 27-lap race.

A first-place finish for Marquez on Sunday would equal Australian Mick Doohan’s record of 12 wins during a single MotoGP season. The Spaniard said to achieve the feat at Doohan’s home track would be fitting and humbling.

“It’s Australia, his country, it would be nice to do,” Marquez said. “I will try to take the risk to win the race. The records are always important, especially when people compare you with legends.”

It was Marquez’s 12th pole of the season, equaling a record for most MotoGP pole positions in a year.

In the three-way battle among Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi to finish second in the championship, Pedrosa overcame the most adversity.

After finishing 11th in practice and forced into an extra qualifying session for slower riders, he emerged to sit on top of the time sheets at one stage. He will start fifth in Sunday’s race, while Rossi will begin from seventh.

Lorenzo said he was pleased with the front-row start as he looks to repeat his 2013 Australian GP triumph and make it three wins in a row this season.

“My target was to push the limit to make the best lap I could. Third place is good for tomorrow,” he said.

Tito Rabat of Spain, who could clinch the Moto2 title this weekend, won his ninth pole of the season Saturday.

Rabat arrived in Australia 38 points ahead of his teammate Mika Kallio. A victory for the Spaniard on Sunday, combined with a fourth place finish or worse for the Finn, would secure the title for Rabat.

Kallio qualified in third place on Saturday.

Moto3 championship leader Alex Marquez, Marc’s younger brother, also took pole for Sunday’s race. He looked a likely pole-sitter throughout qualifying, setting the pace with an early lap record of 1:36.387 before improving to 1:36.050.

“Today we had a really good rhythm, we made really good laps…we need to try to win this race,” Alex Marquez said.

KTM rider Niklas Ajo had a high-speed crash off Doohan corner, requiring a trip to the medical center and major repairs for his bike. Brazilian Eric Granado, who broke a finger earlier in practice, needed a stretcher to leave the track after a crash, but wasn’t seriously injured.

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Marquez takes MotoGP pole in Australia

Motorcycling: Fight on for title scraps behind Marquez

The pressure is off Marc Marquez after he clinched back-to-back world championships but the heat is still on in the race to finish second heading into Sunday’s Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island.

The 21-year-old Spanish Honda rider wrapped up the 2014 world title last weekend, finishing runner-up at Motegi in Japan, with races in Australia, Malaysia and Spain remaining.

With the title in the bag, Marquez can bask in his achievement of 11 victories in 15 races this year as Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo fight for the championship scraps in the remaining races, starting with Phillip Island.

“I feel really good, less pressure, more free,” Marquez said of his fourth world championship in five seasons.

“The championship is done, but you are more tired after all the commitments. Of course, you can enjoy it a lot after winning a championship and the confidence is high.”

Although Marquez won the 125cc race in Australia in 2010, he has never won a premier class GP at Phillip Island and that will be an incentive for him to give his all again this weekend.

“Phillip Island is a special place and it is one of the best circuits we come to. It is really nice to ride here,” Marquez said.

“I’ve only won here in the 125’s but the track is incredible and I have a good memory from 2012 that I won the (Moto3) world title here, so I am really focused and motivated for this weekend.”

– ‘My favourite place’ –

Fellow Spaniard Lorenzo, who won last year’s MotoGP at Phillip Island on the way to losing the world championship by four points to Marquez, is coming off two wins and is hitting form at the right time.

“We just needed to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” the Movistar Yamaha racer said.

“We are competitive now and strong. It is not going to be easy to keep winning races, because there are four riders in very good shape. But our level is high.

“For me it is always a pleasure to come here. It is my favourite place we come to,” he added.

Last year in Australia Lorenzo took victory by seven seconds in a race which involved the riders changing bikes midway through due to tyre durability concerns.

Lorenzo, a two-time MotoGP world champion in 2010 and 2012, lies three points behind Yamaha teammate Rossi and Pedrosa in fourth place in the world championship standings.

Rossi, a nine-time world champion through the classes, is well in the mix after finishing on the podium in five of the past six races, including victory in San Marino.

The Italian great, 35, has finished on the podium 14 times in 17 visits to Phillip Island across all three GP classes.

Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate Pedrosa was runner-up behind Lorenzo at last year’s Phillip Island GP, but has lost points to Lorenzo and Rossi in recent races.

The 4.448-kilometre (2.764 mile) circuit, located on the shores of the storm-tossed Bass Strait, is a season classic for the world’s top riders with its sweeping blend of seven left-handers and five right-handers.

Originally posted here:

Motorcycling: Fight on for title scraps behind Marquez