The home stretch

Reaching out: Lleyton Hewitt stretches for a shot at Kooyong on Wednesday.LLEYTON Hewitt will spend the year travelling with his pal Peter Luczak, the promoted hitting partner who will effectively co-coach the dual grand slam champion in tandem with the more stay-at-home veteran Tony Roche. There will be golf (Hewitt off a handicap of seven, Luczak off nine), dinners, practice. It will be comfortable, and fun.
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As an end approaches for Hewitt that will arrive sometime in the next few seasons, he is fit and pain-free enough to enjoy his tennis again, and looking optimistically ahead to a season in which the popular Luczak will be his on-the-road partner, as he has often been on the practice court.

”It’s always important to have people around you that you trust and get along well with, and he knows my game and what makes me tick as well,” Hewitt said after his 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7-3) defeat of world No. 15 Milos Raonic at Kooyong’s AAMI Classic.

”So I have a lot of confidence in him with that. Plus, he knows my strengths and weaknesses and how to get the best out of me. He’s a very positive guy as well, which is a good thing, so it’s going to be a bit of fun. I’ve always got along extremely well with ‘Looch’, tried to help him out as much as possible when he was playing, and obviously we’re pretty close family friends, too.”

Roche will continue to travel to the Davis Cup ties and grand slam tournaments, and to help Hewitt during the grasscourt season. ”So I get both of them, and they get along extremely well, which is great for me,” he said.

Much has been written about Hewitt’s fused big toe, which has left him with ”a lot of metal plates and screws in there and I can’t move it”, but there is also a load off his mind to be playing without the need for a pain-killing jab before he could even warm-up.

”I don’t know how many injections I had last January; it was just getting out of control. So in terms of mentally, I can just focus on that I need to do and my game, which is a lot. It’s refreshing,” he said.

”There’s no stress or extra pressure about my body at the moment, which just leaves me with a clear mind. It just makes you happier to be out there doing the hard work and not grimacing every time you’ve got to do something.

”I’ve always prided myself on being pretty tough mentally – even when I was 20 and world No. 1, I felt like I won so many matches through mental toughness back then, and doing the right things, and those one-percenters really got me across the line in so many close matches. I don’t think that’s changed that much; I still believe in myself and back myself out there. But I feel like when the going gets tough I’m there, and I enjoy those moments.”

Yet if it is more than a decade since Hewitt won the second of his two singles grand slams, and there will not be another, one of the only other two men not named Federer, Djokovic or Nadal to own a major out of the past 27 – Juan Martin del Potro – can appreciate even more the size of his achievement in claiming the 2009 US Open. Del Potro has since suffered wrist, knee and hip injuries but returned to a world ranking of No. 7, and although he is yet to reach another grand slam final, ”maybe in this tournament or in this year, another name can win,” he said after a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3) victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu in difficult, windy conditions at Kooyong.

”I need many things to be there, but I am working to be a better player day by day,” said del Potro.

”I found the experience against them in the grand slams, I made semi-finals in [the ATP World Tour finals] London. I got the bronze medal in the Olympics and I know it’s very tough to beat them in grand slams.

”But I have confidence in myself to try to do it again in this tournament or the future.”

Earlier, world No. 9 Janko Tipsarevic succumbed to a tendon injury in his right arm that had been bothering him during his run to the title in Chennai last week, and left for hospital for an MRI scan after retiring at 0-1 in the second set against Marcos Baghdatis, having dropped the first 6-1.

From the original field, Juan Monaco (hand) withdrew on Monday and Kei Nishikori (knee) on Tuesday night.

Tennis Australia has secured an extension of its sponsorship deal with Kia Motors, for a reported $50 million over five years. The original contract was for $36 million from 2008.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Wal King asked to join right royal battle over Indonesian coalminer

In demand: Wal King.FORMER Leighton boss Wal King has found himself at the centre of what is shaping up as a fierce battle to seize control of a listed miner in London, with shareholders set for a showdown next month.
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Mr King, who retired from Leighton Holdings two years ago, has been approached to chair listed coalminer Bumi Plc pending the outcome of a proposal to oust the incumbent board and chief executive and buy out a key shareholder.

An extraordinary general meeting has been requisitioned for early February after Bumi Plc’s share price fell 70 per cent last year.

It is believed that financier Nat Rothschild, who co-founded Bumi Plc in 2010 with Indonesia’s high-profile Bakrie family through its shareholding in Bumi Resources, approached Mr King to help spearhead his push to sever Bumi Plc’s relationship with Bumi Resources. Mr Rothschild wants to buy out the Bakrie family’s stake by raising between £200 million ($305 million) and £300 million on the London sharemarket.

It is believed that Mr King’s experience in Asia and contract mining was behind the decision to offer him the role as chairman. He was chief executive of Leighton for 23 years. During his reign he took the construction company from a market capitalisation of $70 million to $10.3 billion by expanding into Asia and creating the biggest contract miner in the world.

Mr King left in January 2010 after a bitter falling out with Leighton’s major shareholder, Hochtief.

Mr Rothschild and Mr King are believed to be acquaintances, along with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

Between now and Bumi Plc’s EGM there is expected to be a dogfight as Mr Rothschild pushes forward his proposal and the Bakrie family puts forward its proposal to buy all of Bumi Plc’s coal assets.

According to the Financial Times, Mr Rothschild has won the support of Schroders and some other key investors to replace the board. He needs 50 per cent to win control of the company, while the Bakrie family is believed to have about 30 per cent support.

Bumi Plc was created in 2010 when Mr Rothschild, who had a cashbox company in London, was approached by the Bakrie family to take a cross-shareholding as part of a plan to give the Indonesian coalmining company access to the British market. Bumi Plc ended up with a 29 per cent stake in Bumi Resources and 85 per cent of Berau, another Indonesian coalminer.

The tie-up was a disaster and the relationship between Mr Rothschild and the Bakries disintegrated. Mr Rothschild, who holds more than 12 per cent of the voting rights in Bumi, resigned from the board late last year.

On Monday he put forward a proposal for a new board with Brock Gill as chief executive, Mr King as chairman and himself as an executive director. He also wants to bring a former British ambassador to Indonesia on to the board.

For the first three quarters of last year Bumi Resources posted a loss of $US633 million and must pay off $US3 billion in debt by 2017.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Lleyton keen to bring Tomic back to cup

HAD anyone predicted just a couple of years ago that Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic would become friendly Davis Cup teammates and regular practice partners, they would have been laughed out of Melbourne Park.
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But Hewitt plans to speak to Tomic about the Queenslander’s decision to boycott Australia’s second Davis Cup tie this year, and perhaps try to use his new-found influence to prompt a rethink.

Captain Pat Rafter, with Tennis Australia’s backing, suspended Tomic from next month’s opening Asia/Oceania tie against Taiwan for his unprofessionalism and questionable efforts at times last year. In Perth and Sydney in the past week, Tomic has countered by declaring himself unavailable for the second tie, in April. After his opening win at Kooyong’s AAMI Classic on Wednesday, Hewitt admitted he was disappointed to hear it.

”I’d like to have a chat with him obviously at some stage about it more, and just see, because I know Pat, he’s pretty frustrated,” Hewitt said. ”For one, he wants to have the best possible team he can have, and Bernie’s in that, there’s no doubt about it, so it’s a tough one.

”Obviously he had to work on a few things before he got back in the tie, and whether that’s had any influence on him missing the second tie, I don’t know. I personally haven’t spoken to Bernie about it; but I feel like the last year-and-half, two years, I’m probably the closest out of anyone with him, which a lot of people would find amazing after a few years ago.”

So the chat will come, but not immediately. And the next selection call, whenever it is made, will involve Rafter, new Davis Cup coach Josh Eagle, and veteran mentor Tony Roche, said Hewitt, Australia’s most successful cup warrior. Tomic himself has declared he will not be back until the world group play-off round in September.

”I’m not going to talk to him right now about it – it’s not the right time,” said Hewitt, the former world No. 1. ”So it’s disappointing that he’s not playing the first tie, but that’s for other reasons than Bernie missing it himself … So there’s still a bit of time before the second one; we’ll have to wait and see.”

The previous ill-feeling between Hewitt and Tomic can be traced back to a practice incident at Wimbledon in 2009, when the senior player’s invitation to Tomic to hit was rejected, and the then 16-year-old approached Juan Carlos Ferrero instead. ”To say that we were less than impressed would be an understatement,” said Hewitt’s manager, David Drysdale, at the time. Things, clearly, have changed. And, in the interests of Australia’s Davis Cup prospects, something else might soon need to.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Winehouse tragic death verdict

“A lovely, funny girl” … Amy WinehouseShe sang about having to wake up alone, but tragically that is how she died instead.
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Famous for the defiant song, ‘Rehab’ Amy Winehouse died alone, at home, watching YouTube clips of herself after drinking two bottles of vodka.

An inquest into the troubled singer’s death found what has already been widely reported; that the 27-year-old died of alcohol poisoning in her London home on July 23, 2011.

Miss Winehouse drank so much that she stopped breathing and fell into a coma, The Daily Mail reported.

While her live-in body guard was home and had seen the Grammy-award winning singer earlier in the evening, he insisted to the courts that she was her ‘usual, bubbly self’ and while he could tell she had been drinking, she ‘wasn’t completely drunk’.

According to the body guard, Winehouse, who was struggling with alcoholism, bulimia and who was a recovering drug-addict, spent the night watching television and listening to music in her bedroom.

In a statement read out at court, he said he had left her around 2.30am before checking on her again at 10am. Lying fully-clothed, face-down in bed, he believed she was sleeping. He realised there was a problem when he found her in the same position at 3pm that same day and alerted emergency services.

She was pronounced dead shortly after paramedics arrived.

Pathology tests showed she had 416 mgs of alcohol per decilitre in her blood – 350mg is enough to kill.

The death was described as a ‘misadventure’ by the coroner.

This was in light of a statement by Winehouse’s doctor, who said: “In the course of the last consultation, Amy did not appear to be depressed at any stage… She specifically said she did not want to die.”

This was the second inquest into the singer’s death. The first inquest was rescheduled after it was found the original coroner was underqualified.

Winehouse wrote her first song as a 10-year-old and learned to play guitar when she was a teenager.

She went on to win six Grammys from her album Back to Black which documented her personal problems.

Her father Mitch has previously said she was working hard to overcome her troubles and described his daughter as “a lovely, funny girl.”

www.smh上海夜网m.au

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

As public fumes, AIGwon’t sue America

Facing anger from Congress and the American people, AIG says it won’t sue the US government over terms of the company’s multi-billion dollar bailout.
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Insurer American International Group had been weighing whether to join a lawsuit filed by its former chief executive Hank Greenberg and his company Starr International, which owned 12 per cent of AIG before its $US182 billion rescue that started in 2008.

Mr Greenberg claims the rescue was unfair to shareholders and that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York charged an excessive interest rate on its initial loan. He is seeking billions of dollars in damages.

AIG said its board had carried out its legal and fiduciary duty to consider joining Mr Greenberg’s lawsuit before making its decision. Mr Greenberg has a case pending in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, DC, and is also appealing the dismissal of a lawsuit in the federal court in New York.

AIG chief executive Bob Benmosche said in an interview with CNBC that ultimately the public had to trust the company.

“It is not acceptable socially for AIG to have taken this money and to think we can go back and sue the government,” Mr Benmosche said.

AIG said it would not pursue Starr’s claims nor would it allow Starr to pursue them on AIG’s behalf, setting the stage for a fresh legal fight between Mr Greenberg and the company.

The idea that AIG might sue the government struck a raw nerve with the public, which took to the Internet to vent its anger at what it viewed as the company’s audacity. The volume of AIG mentions on Twitter rose more than 50-fold on Tuesday, according to Topsy Analytics.

Starr’s attorney, David Boies, said in a statement that AIG’s effort to block Starr from pursuing claims was contrary to shareholders’ interests.

“Whether or not the AIG board will be successful in blocking Starr’s efforts to recover damages for their shareholders will ultimately be decided (by) the court,” Mr Boies said.

Emotions run high

Former Obama administration adviser Austan Goolsbee said “GO SCREW YOURSELVES” in a multi-tweet tirade. Comedian Andy Borowitz drafted a mock letter from the company to taxpayers, asking for more bailout money to pay for the cost of the lawsuit. Dozens of obscene comments made descriptive references to the anatomy of chief executive Robert Benmosche.

And those were the gentler barbs. The New York Daily News ran an editorial cartoon in which a lifeguard saves a drowning man with “AIG” on his belly. When the lifeguard asks the man how he feels, the victim says, “Like suing you.”

The vitriol was just like it had been in late 2008 and early 2009 when, with the United States deep in recession, AIG employees hid ID badges and their families were threatened amid an uproar over bonuses.

A group of congressmen led by Vermont Democrat Peter Welch sent AIG’s chairman a letter late on Tuesday, advising, “Don’t do it. Don’t even think about it.” Other members of Congress threatened hearings.

AIG took to Twitter to defend itself, saying it was legally obligated to at least consider action, but its defence mostly fell on deaf ears.

The US government rescued the company from the brink of bankruptcy in September 2008 with a bailout that ultimately topped $US182 billion. After a recapitalisation deal closed in early 2011, the US Treasury owned 92 per cent of AIG.

The Treasury sold the last of that stake in mid-December 2012. The government has said it earned a return of $US22.7 billion on the rescue.

AIG shares rose 0.3 per cent to close at $US35.76. The stock lost half its value in 2011 but then rose more than 50 per cent in 2012, as it showed consistent profitability.

Reuters

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

2013 BAFTA Award nominees

Hugh Jackman. Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images Director Tom Hooper. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
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Bradley Cooper. Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Actor Alan Arkin. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

Eric Fellner. Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Universal

Writer/director Quentin Tarantino. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. Photo by Eamonn McCormack/Getty Images

Director Steven Spielberg and Producer Kathleen Kennedy. Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images

Producer Dimitri Doganis. Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Director Bart Layton and producer Dimitri Doganis. Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

John Madden. Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Actress Jessica Chastain. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Actress Amy Adams. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Actress Jennifer Lawrence. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Actor Suraj Sharma. Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Marion Cotillard. Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Actres Emmanuelle Riva. Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Director Michael Haneke. Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Elizabeth Olsen. Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images

Actor Tommy Lee Jones. Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

Actress Sally Field. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Actress Helen Hunt. Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images for BFI

Actress Anne Hathaway. Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Producer Graham Broadbent. Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Actor Javier Bardem. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

BEST FILM

ARGO – Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney

LES MISÉRABLES – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

LIFE OF PI – Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark

LINCOLN – Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

ZERO DARK THIRTY – Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM

ANNA KARENINA – Joe Wright, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster, Tom Stoppard

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL – John Madden, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, Ol Parker

LES MISÉRABLES – Tom Hooper, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh, William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS – Martin McDonagh, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin

SKYFALL – Sam Mendes, Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER

BART LAYTON (Director), DIMITRI DOGANIS (Producer)- The Imposter

DAVID MORRIS (Director), JACQUI MORRIS (Director/Producer) – McCullin

DEXTER FLETCHER (Director/Writer), DANNY KING (Writer) – Wild Bill

JAMES BOBIN (Director) – The Muppets

TINA GHARAVI (Director/Writer) – I Am Nasrine

DIRECTOR

AMOUR – Michael Haneke

ARGO – Ben Affleck

DJANGO UNCHAINED – Quentin Tarantino

LIFE OF PI – Ang Lee

ZERO DARK THIRTY – Kathryn Bigelow

DOCUMENTARY

THE IMPOSTER – Bart Layton, Dimitri Doganis

MARLEY – Kevin Macdonald, Steve Bing, Charles Steel

McCULLIN – David Morris, Jacqui Morris

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN – Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn

WEST OF MEMPHIS – Amy Berg

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

AMOUR – Michael Haneke

DJANGO UNCHAINED – Quentin Tarantino

THE MASTER – Paul Thomas Anderson

MOONRISE KINGDOM – Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

ZERO DARK THIRTY – Mark Boal

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

ARGO – Chris Terrio

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD – Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin

LIFE OF PI – David Magee

LINCOLN – Tony Kushner

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – David O. Russell

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

AMOUR – Michael Haneke, Margaret Ménégoz

HEADHUNTERS – Morten Tyldum, Marianne Gray, Asle Vatn

THE HUNT – Thomas Vinterberg, Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Morten Kaufmann

RUST AND BONE – Jacques Audiard, Pascal Caucheteux

UNTOUCHABLE – Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache, Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun

ANIMATED FILM

BRAVE – Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

FRANKENWEENIE – Tim Burton

PARANORMAN – Sam Fell, Chris Butler

LEADING ACTOR

BEN AFFLECK – Argo

BRADLEY COOPER – Silver Linings Playbook

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS – Lincoln

HUGH JACKMAN – Les Misérables

JOAQUIN PHOENIX – The Master

LEADING ACTRESS

EMMANUELLE RIVA – Amour

HELEN MIRREN – Hitchcock

JENNIFER LAWRENCE – Silver Linings Playbook

JESSICA CHASTAIN – Zero Dark Thirty

MARION COTILLARD – Rust and Bone

SUPPORTING ACTOR

ALAN ARKIN – Argo

CHRISTOPH WALTZ – Django Unchained

JAVIER BARDEM – Skyfall

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN – The Master

TOMMY LEE JONES – Lincoln

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

AMY ADAMS – The Master

ANNE HATHAWAY – Les Misérables

HELEN HUNT – The Sessions

JUDI DENCH – Skyfall

SALLY FIELD – Lincoln

ORIGINAL MUSIC

ANNA KARENINA – Dario Marianelli

ARGO – Alexandre Desplat

LIFE OF PI – Mychael Danna

LINCOLN – John Williams

SKYFALL – Thomas Newman

CINEMATOGRAPHY

ANNA KARENINA – Seamus McGarvey

LES MISÉRABLES – Danny Cohen

LIFE OF PI – Claudio Miranda

LINCOLN – Janusz Kaminski

SKYFALL – Roger Deakins

EDITING

ARGO – William Goldenberg

DJANGO UNCHAINED – Fred Raskin

LIFE OF PI – Tim Squyres

SKYFALL – Stuart Baird

ZERO DARK THIRTY – Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg

PRODUCTION DESIGN

ANNA KARENINA – Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

LES MISÉRABLES – Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson

LIFE OF PI – David Gropman, Anna Pinnock

LINCOLN – Rick Carter, Jim Erickson

SKYFALL – Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock

COSTUME DESIGN

ANNA KARENINA – Jacqueline Durran

GREAT EXPECTATIONS – Beatrix Aruna Pasztor

LES MISÉRABLES – Paco Delgado

LINCOLN – Joanna Johnston

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN – Colleen Atwood

SOUND

DJANGO UNCHAINED – Mark Ulano, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Wylie Stateman

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY – Tony Johnson, Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick, Brent Burge, Chris Ward

LES MISÉRABLES – Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John Warhurst

LIFE OF PI – Drew Kunin, Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton, Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill

SKYFALL – Stuart Wilson, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Peter Bebb, Andrew Lockley

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White

LIFE OF PI – Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer

MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE – Nominees TBC

PROMETHEUS – Richard Stammers, Charley Henley, Trevor Wood, Paul Butterworth

MAKE UP & HAIR

ANNA KARENINA – Ivana Primorac

HITCHCOCK – Julie Hewett, Martin Samuel, Howard Berger

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY – Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, Rick Findlater

LES MISÉRABLES – Lisa Westcott

LINCOLN – Lois Burwell, Kay Georgiou

SHORT ANIMATION

HERE TO FALL – Kris Kelly, Evelyn McGrath

I’M FINE THANKS – Eamonn O’Neill

THE MAKING OF LONGBIRD – Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson

SHORT FILM

THE CURSE – Fyzal Boulifa, Gavin Humphries

GOOD NIGHT – Muriel d’Ansembourg, Eva Sigurdardottir

SWIMMER – Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, Diarmid Scrimshaw

TUMULT – Johnny Barrington, Rhianna Andrews

THE VOORMAN PROBLEM – Mark Gill, Baldwin Li

EE RISING STAR AWARD

Elizabeth Olsen

Andrea Riseborough

Suraj Sharma

Juno Temple

Alicia Vikander

Fires burn family’s treechange dream

Geoff and Nicole McKenzie with their three children, Tyler, Elizabeth and Connor.Source: The Cooma-Monaro Express
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A young family of five are picking up the pieces after their home was the only major property loss in this week’s NSW bushfires.

Geoff and Nicole McKenzie have lost everything except the clothes on their back and what items they could squeeze into the boot of their car after the bush fire at Mount Forest Road destroyed their home on Tuesday.

The family, Connor, 8, Tyler 6 and Elizabeth, 2, had moved from Nowra to the 30 acre property about 20 minutes from Cooma on Mount Forest Road Carlaminda six months ago.

“We were looking for a bit of space. A country change. Some peace and quiet,” Mr and Mrs McKenzie said.

They had owned the property for just over a year. They had a shed, two caravans and a shipping container set up on the property and were planning to build a house there.

Now all that stands is an empty shell, ash and a generator that survived the blaze.

“We are gutted. It is not so much the shed. It’s the possessions that we have lost.

“Like my great grandfather’s war medals and Christmas presents the kids just got,” Mr McKenzie said.

The family fled their home on Sunday afternoon when a bush fire started in the area.

Mr McKenzie said they could see the fire two properties away. When it was safe, at about 6pm, they packed the car with clothes and important documents, drove to town and stayed in a motel.

“We couldn’t get out before that,” Mr McKenzie said.

“When it cleared we got straight out.

“When they started the water bombing it became a bit more serious.”

On Tuesday morning Mr and Mrs McKenzie drove to Pambula to drop the children their grandmother’s house, while they went out to the fire and watch it from a neighbour’s property.

“The wind was just crazy out there,” Mr McKenzie said.

“It was swirling around.”

With crews defending the property throughout the day, the couple decided to come into town about 5.30pm for dinner when it looked like their home would be safe. After dinner they received a call from a neighbour who told them the news.

“We went up there but couldn’t see because of the smoke,” Mr McKenzie said.

Mrs McKenzie said she was too upset to look.

“It was all gutted. All gone,” Mr McKenzie said.

“We put all the more important stuff in the shipping container but it blew apart.”

The couple went back to their property on Wednesday morning to have a closer look.

They described what was left as an “empty shell” and “ash”.

“The odd thing is the generator out the back survived, out of everything,” Mr McKenzie said.

“The hardest part is telling everyone. As soon as you try to say anything the tears swell up,” Mrs McKenzie said.

Despite the loss, Mrs McKenzie said they still planned to build at the property.

“We will be back,” she said.

For now, the family is staying at a motel and have been offered accommodation at the Cooma Martial Arts Centre by Sensei Jim McDonald.

There is a kitchen, laundry and bedrooms for the family to stay.

Sensei McDonald is also organising an appeal for the family, to help them get back on their feet.

Details are still being finalised but in the meantime Sensei McDonald said donations such as food were welcome. To make a donation call Sensei McDonald on 0419993449.

Photos: Kirrily Carberry

Photos: Kirrily Carberry

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Photos: Kirrily Carberry

Photos: Kirrily Carberry

Photos: Kirrily Carberry

Photos: Kirrily Carberry

Photos: Kirrily Carberry

Photos: Kirrily Carberry

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Photos: Kirrily Carberry

Photos: Kirrily Carberry

US website ‘outs’ gun owners

GAWKER, the Manhattan-based gossip site, has posted a searchable list of licensed gun owners in New York City, following a move last month by a newspaper in nearby Westchester County to publish a map of pistol permit holders.
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The information was obtained from the New York Police Department via a Freedom of Information Law request in 2009, Gawker writer John Cook said yesterday in a posting on the blog. The 446-page list dates from 2½ years ago and contains names but not addresses.

The move thrusts Gawker into a growing debate over gun control and the privacy rights of firearms owners, sparked by the shooting deaths of 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school on December 14.

It comes as Steve and Amber Mostyn, wealthy Texas trial attorneys, said that they are giving $US1 million to help start the gun-control advocacy group formed by former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.

Steve Mostyn, who has a shooting range on his ranch in west Texas, is listed as treasurer of Ms Giffords’ new political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions.

‘‘It’s time to stop the [National Rifle Association] from bullying common sense out of the discussion,’’ Mr Mostyn said. ‘‘There are more options than just ‘guns or no guns’.’’

The White Plains, New York-based Journal News drew outcry last month when it published a map showing the names and addresses of handgun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties, seeking to better inform readers about firearms in their neighbourhoods.

Other community newspapers have criticised the Journal News for singling out people who have obtained permits legally and putting them at risk.

‘‘While the information is public record, what they’ve done is point out all these homes to criminals and burglars and also point out all those homes that don’t have weapons that they could target,’’ said William Pape, the editor and publisher of the Waterbury, Connecticut-based Republican-American.

Unlike New York state, Connecticut prohibits the names of gun permits owners from being released. In New York, the names must be requested at the county level.

Last week a group of Rockland County lawmakers held a press conference vowing to make New York gun information confidential.

The elementary school shooting took place in Newtown, Connecticut, about 30 kilometres from the border with Westchester County.

In the wake of publishing the gun map, the Journal News has hired armed guards to protect itself against threats, according to the New York Times.

Gawker said in a separate post yesterday that its staff began receiving death threats after its gun list was posted.

Bloomberg

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Palace ‘backs changes’ on royal succession, marriage

WHILE the hit TV series Downton Abbey portrays a family’s struggle with the status of women and Roman Catholics almost a century ago, 2013 looks likely to be the year when the royal family finally catches up.
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After doubts were raised over plans to change the rules on succession to the throne, British Prime Minister David Cameron has assured MPs that the moves have been cleared by Buckingham Palace.

Father of the House Sir Peter Tapsell queried whether the plans – which will allow first-born women to take precedence in the line of succession for the first time and allow marriage to Catholics – had royal backing.

Sir Peter raised the issue  after Prince Charles’ questions about aspects of the plans earlier this week.

He said: ‘‘Bearing in mind that Bills which may be thought to affect the Royal Prerogative require the signification of the Queen at second reading, can you tell us whether you have yet heard from the palace whether it regards any of the major constitutional changes proposed in the Succession to the Crown Bill as intruding either on the Royal Prerogative or on the Coronation Oath which Her Majesty took?’’

Mr Cameron replied: ‘‘What I can say is throughout the process of bringing forward this proposal, which is a proposal that head of all the Commonwealth dominion realms have also signed up to, through that process there has been thorough contact between Number 10 Downing Street and the Palace.

‘‘All of the issues are settled and agreed.’’

The Bill, which will be retrospective when it becomes law, is expected to be pushed through the House of Commons in a single day.

It would allow the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first baby to succeed to the throne whether it is a boy or a girl, something that the fictional Lord Grantham’s eldest daughter Mary is unable to do in Downton Abbey.

In another clear sign that the changes will proceed, the Queen has declared that if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a daughter she will bear the title ‘‘princess’’.

Under past rules, a girl born to Prince William and Kate would have been styled ‘‘lady’’ and not known as Her Royal Highness – only a first-born boy would automatically become a prince.

But the Queen has taken action, by issuing new Letters Patent, to insure her great-grandchild has a title suitable for a future monarch.

Charles Kidd, editor of Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage, said the alteration was expected in light of the forthcoming  legislation.

Press Association

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Battle to contain fires before heat returns

Firefighters have been backburning overnight to try and contain several major bushfires across NSW, taking advantage of the cool temperature before hot, windy weather sets in again.
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There are 126 bushfires burning across the state, including 15 that are not contained, on Thursday morning.

Over 1000 Rural Fire Service volunteers are working, using more than 80 firefighting aircraft and 360 trucks.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said firefighters are trying to contain the blazes before dangerous fire conditions return on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“When you’ve got more hot air dominating much of the state, which is already very dry and vegetation is highly susceptible to ignition and spread of any existing fire, that’s a real challenge to firefighters,” Mr Fitzsimmons told Sky News.

“We’re going to be working very closely with the weather authorities to make sure we’re identifying those most severe of conditions and those areas of concern.

“I expect to see more total fire bans across Friday and certainly into Saturday as these hot weather patterns dominate much of NSW.”

Crews were backburning at the Deans Gap fire, in the Shoalhaven on Wednesday night, but it has not been contained.

That fire has burnt through more than 5700 hectares of land.

Residents in Wandandian, Sussex Inlet, and those south of the coastal villages, are advised to remain vigilant and keep up to date with information.

Firefighters also spent the night backburning at the Cobbler Road fire, near Yass, to establish and strengthen containment lines around the blaze, which has burnt through 14,000 hectares and killed thousands of animals.

A bushfire continues to burn about 20 kilometres east of Cooma, in the state’s south, and residents are advised to stay informed.

A fire at Lithgow, which police believe was deliberately lit, is under control, but smoke is still affecting the town and the Bells Line of Road.

Mr Fitzsimmons said people in bushfire prone areas need to stay alert, and not always expect a warning message from the RFS.

“Some fires will start, they will take hold and they will spread so quickly that they could be impacting on people before someone’s even had a chance to report it to triple-0, or certainly before the fire engine is able to get on scene.

“Until someone’s got that crystal ball that can tell us exactly where that fire is going to be, and start, and exactly what time it’s going to be, that’s a reality of life.”

Total fire bans are in place in the North Western and Northern Slopes regions.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Raiders recruit emerges as bolter for All Stars game

Jake Foster with his fiancee, Kelly Brooks.Most league fans wouldn’t look twice if they passed him in the street, but that hasn’t stopped Canberra recruit Jake Foster emerging as a shock contender for the Indigenous All Stars next month.
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Despite Foster playing just 10 NRL games in five years for Canterbury, coach Laurie Daley said on Wednesday the unheralded forward was a serious chance of selection.

A shoulder injury to Kangaroos star Sam Thaiday, plus a lack of depth of Indigenous back-row talent, has improved his chances of playing in the season opener in Brisbane on February 9.

The 24-year-old, who moved to Canberra to kick-start his career, had attracted the 25th-most votes by Wednesday afternoon. Voting closes on Monday.

Fans vote in the first 17 players and the remaining three bench places are at the discretion of Daley.

It means Raiders supporters could receive an unexpected glimpse of what the Guildford Owls product has to offer, before he begins his two-year deal at the club.

Not bad for a player who remains absent from the Raiders’ player profiles on their official website. ”I think all players on the fringe who haven’t played a lot of first grade [are a chance] because we don’t have a lot of depth in the back row, and the forwards in particular will come into consideration,” Daley told The Canberra Times on Wednesday.

”He would be someone you may look at to have involved in that squad. We’ve got plenty of backs, we just need a few forwards.

”You need to look at what 17 has been delivered [by the fans] before you start looking at other people.”

Boom Raiders rookie Jack Wighton also remains a possibility, and would likely play a utility role off the bench should he get the nod.

Canberra forwards Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Joel Thompson, mainstays of the Indigenous side in the concept’s first three years, will retain their spots and are fourth and 10th respectively in voting.

Raiders teammate Blake Ferguson is 14th in voting, and is tipped to claim a wing spot alongside Souths flyer Nathan Merritt.

Ferguson moved to the centres with great success for Canberra last year, but Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges are pencilled in to play there for the Indigenous All Stars.

After his big game against the NRL All Stars last year, Daley said Learoyd-Lahrs would be ”one of the first front-rowers picked” if Daley became NSW coach.

Those comments bode well for the 27-year-old, as Daley takes over from former Raiders teammate Ricky Stuart as Blues coach this year. ”Most definitely [he can play Origin], I’ve always admired Tommy and think he’s a wonderful player, he’s a big body and has been there before,” Daley said.

”Hopefully he’s injury-free and if he’s in the right frame of mind and starts off well, he’ll be a big show.”

Canberra prop David Shillington looks well poised for a recall to the NRL All Stars squad, boasting a handy lead over incumbent Josh Dugan approaching the closing days of voting.

Shillington, who last played the match in 2010, is 18th on the list with nearly 2400 votes, comfortably in front of Dugan, who has been the Raiders’ designated representative the past two years.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Claiming the stairway to haven

The Grand Stair itself is not only of reclaimed timbers, but so too is the ceiling void.If one had to nominate the Seven Man-Made Wonders of Canberra then the Grand Stair just installed in the environmentally gentle Nishi building in New Acton would jostle for a place.
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Not quite finished (it leads from the Nishi’s downstairs foyer up to the unfinished foyer of an unfinished hotel), it is a hard-to-describe creation made of thousands of horizontally arranged pieces of reclaimed timber. Startled by the look of it in online pictures, we asked the Nishi supremos, the Molonglo Group, for a tour and explanation. We had as our tour guide Nectar Efkarpidis, one of the group’s three directors.

The idea of him as ”director” of a Group will summon a mental picture of a suited person of mature years, but he is startlingly young and was informally dressed, and tousled, and might have been an ANU post-grad.

He sounds truly earnest about Nishi’s planet-kindly mission and for the first time in my writing life (because cliches are not in my toolbox) I find myself able to describe someone, him, as softly-spoken.

He explains that the design is by March Studio of Melbourne and that, in Nishi’s spirit of sustainability, they’ve used reclaimed timber from a dismembered house, from a demolished basketball court, from about the Nishi site itself and offcuts from the building’s own distinctive blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) faç¸ade.

No two fragments of wood are the same. There are polished ones and rough ones, painted and unpainted ones, unblemished ones and others characterfully scarred by nails.

Above the staircase, but echoing it, there’s a ceiling space, a ceiling feature, made from 2150 more pieces of wood and then at the foot of the stairs there’s a continuing feature in the wall space. It is all indescribable but did feel, standing on the stairs and surrounded by thousands of horizontally ”flying” pieces of wood (the pieces are held together by hundreds of steel rods) as if one was in the middle of the frozen explosion of something wooden (a Spanish galleon perhaps) that has just been powerfully blown up with its smithereens flying away.

It’s all an alternative, Efkarpidis says, to ”having sterile, white, clean, fabricated materials brought in from China”.

”It was very much about having craftspeople paying respect to carpentry as a skill set. The intention of the building was always about ‘how do you create foyers and spaces, public spaces, that (a) are of genuine interest but also make a place?’ We want people to occupy this building.

”For us this ground-floor area, what we call the ground-floor plains, we see as public spaces, despite the fact that this is the building for [various clients]. We’ve always wanted the public spaces to be used not only by the tenants but by the entire community.

”It’s about welcoming, say, ANU students who might want to just sit here with a laptop.”

In time ANU students and others grazing there will get used to it, and be able to stop looking all about them in wonder and to concentrate on their laptops. But for the moment the ”flying” wooden pieces make the space feel excitingly crazy.

One of the designers says, acutely, ”I think you’ll agree the word ‘beautiful’ doesn’t cut it – the effect is so full of thought and expressive of so many stories, as well as being real nice to look at.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Long and short of it: Test focus to blame

CRICKET AUSTRALIA has acknowledged that its determination to regain Test supremacy might have affected its one-day results but refused to use this as excuse for the dismal performance in England.
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The immediate consequences of Australia’s dreadful limited-overs tour of England will be known next week when selectors pick the one-day squad for a series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates. The result suggests Australia have a mountain of work to do before the Ashes, especially on their batting, and heralded another injury crisis, with vice-captain Shane Watson, fast bowling sensation Pat Cummins and veteran paceman Brett Lee all breaking down with muscle injuries.

While George Bailey has made the most of his first two one-day series, the introduction of Peter Forrest, regarded as a potential Test batsman, and the return of Steve Smith have been less successful.

”There is a possibility, and there is a fine balance, that to try and deal with Test improvement there’s been a balance between ODI success and trying to develop players,” Howard said. ”Obviously that tour wasn’t acceptable and we’ve got to improve a lot in the next 12 months.

”We wanted people to develop and grow, and that takes time. There has been a methodology that the best players are the best players, and we’d get them in and expose them at different levels. We don’t make any excuses for our performances in England. We’re not going to throw out that it was a development tour. Four-nil wasn’t good enough.”

Watson’s calf injury is of particular concern given his importance as an all-rounder and his experience in the top order, with Australia’s batting looking distinctly vulnerable one year out from the Ashes, with tough series against South Africa and India to play before then.

”Mickey [Arthur] and myself and Shane have had conversations about when we can peak, when we can look after him, when does he get a break to try and rebuild himself. We’ve tried to map out the next 12 months with him,” Howard said. ”We’ve got a camp up in Darwin in the lead-up to the UAE tour, which he will be at. It’s not just Shane but all the guys who play three forms [of the game], and those conversations will be about getting them up for the big tours.

”Players can play all three forms. Whether or not they can play all games in all three forms is your challenge, particularly making sure the players have got enough load going up the levels in terms of the longer forms.”

There were no plans for Watson, who lost last summer to soft-tissue injuries, to give up bowling. ”When you look at his bowling, it has been such a positive for him,” Howard said.

Scans have suggested Lee’s calf injury is not as serious as first thought – he intends to be running again in 10 days – raising hopes that he will be fit for the World Twenty20 in September-October, which could be his international swansong.

”When we have more information the national selection panel can assess, can he get in a great position to keep playing? But he is a seasoned professional, he knows how to manage his body, and I’m sure he will be realistic,” Howard said.

Cummins, who has a side strain and was unveiled as a star recruit for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League yesterday, would be handled with care, Howard said. CA is working to ensure his workload is closely monitored whether.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.