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‘Lucky’ McGinley picks Westwood, Poulter, Gallacher

The trio join automatic qualifiers Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson, Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson and Graeme McDowell in a 12-man team for the Sept.

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26-28 matches against the United States.

Poulter, 38, the fierce, bulging-eyed competitor who inspired the remarkable “Miracle in Medinah” comeback victory two years ago, has had an injury-plagued season but a European team without him seems almost unthinkable.

Former world number one Westwood, 41, has played in the last eight Ryder Cups while 39-year-old rookie Gallacher will be making his debut in the biennial team event on home soil at Gleneagles, Scotland.

Among the players to miss out on a pick were former world number one Luke Donald, Italian Francesco Molinari, veteran pair Bernhard Langer and Miguel Angel Jimenez, England’s Paul Casey and Dutchman Joost Luiten.

“I’m a very lucky man to have such a variety of talent to choose from,” McGinley told a news conference at Wentworth on the outskirts of London. “There are some real quality players who haven’t made the team.

“But on the positive side I think we have three players who will add a lot to the nine who have already qualified and make the European team as strong as it needs to be to take on the might of America.”

McGinley said Gallacher, who almost displaced McDowell as the ninth automatic qualifier when he finished third at the Italian Open on Sunday, thoroughly deserved his selection.

WEE MAN

“Stevie’s first words to me when I told him he was in the team were, ‘That’s brilliant wee man’,” added the 5-foot-7 (1.7-metre) Irishman.

“Of course there’s always a concern that he’s a rookie but I’m not afraid to pick a rookie if he’s good enough and there’s no doubt Stevie earned his place in this team.”

McGinley said he was particularly impressed with Gallacher’s display under pressure in Turin.

“His performances last week in particular had a big effect on me,” explained Europe’s captain. “Stevie played relatively poorly for three weeks in a row in America but came back and had a good performance in the Czech Masters and then played well last week.

“For me Friday afternoon was when he showed he really wanted to be a Ryder Cup player. To come home in 30 shots and get within touching distance of the leaders showed just how strong he is.”

Englishman Westwood will be making his ninth successive Ryder Cup appearance, only Nick Faldo (11), Langer (10) and Christy O’Connor senior (10) have played more for Europe.

“There was a real sense of pride when I spoke to Lee,” said McGinley who explained his decision by phone to most of the players in contention for a pick. “He was very gracious, very humble when he learned he would be on the team.

“Ian Poulter is a bundle of energy and you could feel the energy that was coming down the phone.”

TOUGH CALLS

McGinley said the calls to his three picks were easy, unlike those that were made to the players who missed out.

He described the conversation with Donald, who has never been on the losing side in four previous Ryder Cup appearances in 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012, as very difficult.

“I was Luke’s partner when he played his first match in 2004,” said McGinley. “Every Ryder Cup he’s been involved in, I’ve been involved in as a player or vice-captain.

“I have forged a very strong relationship with him. He’s been an incredible performer over the years and his record is outstanding.

“He was very, very disappointed and rightly so. He said ‘even though you haven’t picked me I still back you to be a great captain’ – that says a lot about Luke,” said McGinley.

“He will go on to make many more appearances and it was a very, very difficult call for me to make but one I had to do in the interests of the European team.”

McGinley said Italian Molinari, who appeared in the Ryder Cup in 2010 and 2012, was another serious contender for a pick.

“We gave Francesco a lot of thought and, just like Luke, he was incredibly humble, incredibly accepting of my decision,” said the captain.

“I couldn’t have asked for two guys to have accepted my decision in a better way and it speaks volumes of them.

“I also called Bernhard Langer out of respect. He wasn’t in consideration for a pick but as a captain I played under, I want to have a chat with him,” added McGinley.

“I’ve left messages for him but haven’t managed to reach him yet…I’m interested to hear his views on a number of things.”

U.S. captain Tom Watson is scheduled to announce his three wildcards in New York later on Tuesday.

(Editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)

Talks push Kerry back into Mideast turmoil

US Secretary of State John Kerry is wading back into the tumult of the Israel-Palestinian peace process, meeting Palestinian negotiators for the first time since the 50-day war in Gaza ended.

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The talks come just days after Israel announced its biggest grab of Palestinian land since the 1980s, and as a new showdown looms at the United Nations with the increasingly frustrated Palestinians planning to push a resolution setting a three-year deadline to end the Israeli occupation.

Wednesday’s face-to-face talks will be Kerry’s first with Palestinian negotiators since Washington found itself sidelined from the Gaza ceasefire talks in July, when Kerry, the top US diplomat, failed to broker a truce in the war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

It was a further blow after Kerry’s high-profile bid to hammer out a full peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinian Authority collapsed spectacularly amid bitter recriminations in April, despite him shuttling back and forth to the region more than a dozen times during his first year in office.

The veteran diplomat was expected to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by telephone on Tuesday before meeting Palestinian negotiators Saeb Erakat and Majid Faraj, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“I think they’ll talk about a range of issues. There’s obviously an ongoing ceasefire discussion and upcoming negotiations that will take place. There’s a range of longer-term issues,” Psaki said Tuesday, asked about the talks taking place the next day.

More than 2100 Palestinians – nearly 70 per cent of them civilians – were killed in Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which ended last week with an open-ended ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, brokered by Egypt.

The two sides are supposed to meet soon in Cairo for negotiations on a long-term truce, but no date has been announced yet for the start of the talks.

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned Tuesday that Israel was eroding its international support, complaining the security cabinet had not been consulted about Sunday’s announcement of the confiscation of 400 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank for settlement building.

Cook vows to carry on to World Cup

England captain Alastair Cook insisted he still wanted to lead the side at the World Cup despite conceding the team’s chances of triumphing at next year’s tournament were “far-fetched” following another mauling by India.

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The reigning world champions inflicted a humiliating nine-wicket defeat upon England in the fourth one-day international at Edgbaston on Tuesday to take an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.

India dismissed England for just 206, a total that owed much to number seven Moeen Ali’s 67.

They then coasted to victory with more than 19 overs to spare after Ajinkya Rahane, whose 106 was his maiden ODI century, and Shikhar Dhawan (97 not out) put on 183 for the first wicket.

Defeat saw England suffer a fifth loss in their last six ODI series.

England only have a diet of limited overs cricket between now and the start of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in February.

But their chances of lifting the trophy for the first time, in what will be 40 years of trying, look as remote as they have since they made the last of their three losing appearances in the final in 1992.

Former England off-spinner Graeme Swann recently urged Cook to quit one-day cricket and concentrate solely on Tests.

But Cook, whose nine on Tuesday meant he has gone 38 innings without an ODI hundred, faced similar calls to stand down as Test skipper from half a dozen former England captains earlier in the season, only to lead the team to a 3-1 series win over India.

Cook, asked if he would be England’s captain at the World Cup, replied: “If I’m allowed to be, yes.

“I don’t have a say on selection, but I’ve captained for three-and-a-half years with the goal to try to win the World Cup in Australia.

He added: “I know that seems a bit far-fetched at the moment when we’re losing games of cricket, but there are a lot of really good players in that changing room.

“If we can improve at the rate we need to improve, we’ve got a chance.”

England, beaten heavily for the third match in a row, will try to avoid further embarrassment in the series finale at Headingley on Friday.

“Maybe for a few of these guys, it’s the first time it’s happened that we’ve lost as badly as this and it’s a true test of character for the whole team, really,” Cook said.

Economic growth kills minority languages

Economic prosperity is the worst enemy of minority languages, say researchers who list parts of Australia and North America as “hotspots” for extinction risk.

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Based on the same criteria used to determine the risk of extinction faced by animal and plant species, they concluded that about a quarter of the world’s known 6909 languages are threatened.

“Languages are now rapidly being lost at a rate of extinction exceeding the well-known catastrophic loss of biodiversity,” the US-European research team wrote in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters.

“Small-population languages remaining in economically developed regions are seriously threatened by continued speaker declines.”

In Alaska, for example, there were only 24 active speakers by 2009 of the Athabaskan people’s indigenous language, which children were no longer learning.

And the Wichita language of the Plains Indians, now based in Oklahoma, had only one fluent speaker by 2008.

In Australia, aboriginal languages like the recently extinct Margu and almost extinct Rembarunga are “increasingly disappearing”, the team wrote.

“Economically developed regions, such as North America and Australia, have already experienced many language extinctions,” they said.

“Nevertheless, small-range and small-population languages still persist in hotspots within these regions. Those languages need immediate attention because of their high extinction risk.”

Also at risk were developing parts of the world undergoing rapid economic growth, such as much of the tropics and the Himalayan region, said the team – citing Brazil and Nepal.

The researchers had gathered data on the number of speakers of a language, their geographical range, and rates of growth or decline.

They then considered possible influences like globalisation or environmental and socio-economic changes.

The data comparison showed that “levels of GDP (gross domestic product) per capita correlated with the loss of language diversity: the more successful economically, the more rapidly language diversity was disappearing,” said a press statement from the University of Cambridge.

Study co-author Tatsuya Amato from the university’s zoology department, explained that as economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation’s political and educational spheres.

“People are forced to adapt the dominant language or risk being left out in the cold – economically and politically.”

One saving grace is bilingualism, which the team said must be encouraged to preserve the world’s linguistic diversity.

“Our study also contributes to a basic understanding of the origin and maintenance of human cultural diversity,” they wrote.