Devonport car explosion had enough force to injure

Sunday, 22. July 2018

AN EXPLOSION that rocked the quiet streets of Devonport on Saturday night had enough force to injure anyone in its vicinity according to Western District Police Commander Locky Avery.
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The explosion in Steele Street was caused by an unknown explosive device attached to the personal vehicle of a Devonport policeman.

The senior sergeant, who has worked in Devonport CIB, and his young family were at home at the time of the blast.

RELATED: Pat Allen hits out at ‘cowardly attack’ on officer’s car

The explosion caused the vehicle to catch on fire and blew out a portion of the windscreen.

Commander Avery said forensic tests indicated the explosive device was placed on the outside of the vehicle near the windscreen and detonated, which caused the windscreen to blow out.

He said it was too early yet to tell what kind of explosive device was used in the attack, which is the second incident in a month on the 2001 silver Nissan Patrol.

An unknown flammable liquid was poured onto the car and set alight on November 19.

It was extinguished by the senior sergeant at the centre of the attacks before any serious damage could be incurred to the vehicle.

Commander Avery said both instances were being thoroughly investigated by a special taskforce set up specifically to deal with the attacks.

The family at the centre of the attack have been placed under special police protection.

Commander Avery said considerable police security had been placed around the family and the house.

The attack was similar to several fire bomb attacks that occurred in Devonport in 2007,but Commander Avery dismissed notions that the attacks were connected.

“There’s nothing to indicate any great connection [to 2007] but at this stage we are approaching it [the investigation] with an open mind,” Commander Avery said.

Tasmania Police were keeping tight lipped on the identity of the police officer at the centre of the attacks and said they wanted to protect the privacy of him and his family.

“It’s unacceptable that his family would have to deal with this at this time, it’s the worst Christmas present they could receive,” Commander Avery said.

Commander Avery said the senior sergeant was still on duty at work at the Devonport Police Station.

He said preliminary blast and forensic testing had been conducted and was expected to be completed in the coming days.

The car was being held at the Devonport Police Station as it undergoes the forensic tests.

Commander Avery said the special taskforce was pleading with the public to come forward with any information and said anonymous calls to CrimeStoppers would be welcomed.

Forensic officer senior constable Melle Zwerver looks for fingerprints on the vehicle owned by a Devonport police officer. It had a device strapped to the windscreen and detonated on Saturday night. Picture: Jason Hollister.

If you have information about the incident call Tasmania Police on 131 444 or anonymously on CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000.

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Yuulong Lavender Estate a purple patch for new owners

Sunday, 22. July 2018

A simple web search about soap-making ended with New Zealand’s Debbie Macfarlane buying the Yuulong Lavender Estate in Mt Egerton.
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Along with her brother Tony Jury and his wife Sharyn, the trio left everything they had in New Zealand to revamp the lavender estate.

“We sold everything,” Ms Jury said.

“We were ready to make a change into the lavender industry.”

The trio assumed ownership of the 10-acre property on May 31 and have already made big changes.

“We’ve removed the admission fee to the estate,” Mr Jury said.

The interior has also been revamped and fitted with a new cafe.

Instant coffee has been swapped for an espresso machine, and lavender-inspired snacks are on the cafe menu.

Mr Jury hosts 30-minute tours of the Lavender Estate, while Sharyn and her two sons lend a hand in the garden.

And, to Ms Macfarlane’s joy, the estate makes and sells lavender soaps.

“I had a 14-year-old daughter who was keen to get into soap making,” she said.

“And she’s still doing it today.”

Big change: Owners of the Yuulong Lavender Estate Sharyn Jury, Debbie Macfarlane and Tony Jury. PICTURE: KATE HEALY

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Cathedral Park restoration open

Sunday, 22. July 2018

IT holds more secrets than anyone knows, but the mysteries of what lie beneath and above it are now ready to be explored.
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Gone are the waist-high weeds which once dominated the historic Cathedral Park which lies between Christ Church Cathedral and King Street in Newcastle. In their place are brand new walking paths, restored gardens and revitalised historic corners of the city which few knew existed.

All up, more than 3300 people are said to have been buried in the historic park and cemetery, but an ambitious project spearheaded by Newcastle City Council has only been able to map out about 258 graves.

Among them is the grave and memorial of James Hannell, Newcastle’s first mayor. There is also a mass grave containing 31 members of the Cawarra shipping disaster – 60 people died when the boat sank off Stockton beach in 1866.

It also contains the graves of local magistrates John Bingle and Major Archibald Innes, and former mayor James Kemp. The 1826 grave of Mary Martin is thought to be the oldest.

In the early 1970s one of the stone retaining walls fronting King Street collapsed, exposing many of the bones and skeletons that had been buried deep beneath the surface for more than 100 years.

‘‘The cemetery was mainly for important people,’’ council project officer Mark Woolley said. ‘‘But there were many, many more people buried here by family members who couldn’t afford proper burial spaces, so the graves were never marked.

‘‘Sometimes people would just come up here at night, dig a hole only 300 millimetres deep and bury a young child which had died.’’

Specialised undergound imaging carried out by heritage officers shows where most of the people are buried.

But many of the bones have moved around over the years, making it hard for the researchers to plot the graves, match headstones or identify who is buried where.

During the park refurbishment project, 84 graves have been relocated, and many of the headstones restored.

Stage two of the project has been completed, with paths and walkways allowing people to stroll through the site and take in the magnificent views of the city afforded from the top, near the cathedral.

Future stages include a viewing platform which will replicate the old Mulimbah Cottage which once stood on the site, and a natural amphitheatre which might one day host open-air concerts or movie nights, but funding for those stages is still being negotiated.

Newcastle City Council project officer Mark Woolley shows the recent works near completion in the Cathedral Park, The Hill. Picture Darren Pateman

Newcastle City Council project officer Mark Woolley shows the recent works near completion in the Cathedral Park, The Hill. Picture Darren Pateman

Newcastle City Council project officer Mark Woolley shows the recent works near completion in the Cathedral Park, The Hill. Picture Darren Pateman

Newcastle City Council project officer Mark Woolley shows the recent works near completion in the Cathedral Park, The Hill. Picture Darren Pateman

Newcastle City Council project officer Mark Woolley shows the recent works near completion in the Cathedral Park, The Hill. Picture Darren Pateman

Mass graves fuel fears of ethnic bloodshed in South Sudan

Thursday, 15. August 2019

Volatile situation … United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) personnel guard South Sudanese people displaced by recent fighting in Jabel, on the outskirts of that capital Juba.Cairo: The United Nations says it has discovered a mass grave containing at least 34 bodies in Benitu in South Sudan and warns there are reports of two more mass graves in the capital, Juba, as the country slips further into chaos following more than a week of deadly clashes.
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Originally the UN said 75 bodies had been seen but later corrected that statement to 34 bodies seen and 75 people missing and feared dead.

The gruesome discoveries come as the UN pushes to nearly double the size of its mission to South Sudan, which now stands at 6700 UN troops and 670 police officers.

The Security Council was due to vote overnight on a resolution approving the extra 5500 peacekeeping troops.

International mediation efforts have so far failed to halt the clashes, which broke out in the capital Juba on December 15 and have now reached the oil fields in Benitu in Unity State, the cornerstone of the fledgling country’s economy.

The official death toll remains at 500, although observers say at least thousands if not more have died.

“Mass extrajudicial killings, the targeting of individuals on the basis of their ethnicity and arbitrary detentions have been documented in recent days,” the United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said in a statement on Tuesday.

“There are reportedly at least two other mass graves in Juba,” she said, believed to be in the areas of Jebel-Kujur and Newside.

Tensions in South Sudan’s governing party emerged in July when President Salva Kiir, who is from the majority Dinka group, sacked his deputy Riek Machar, who is from the second largest group, the Nuer. Those tensions spilled over into fighting in the capital on December 15.

Now, Pillay says, “there is a palpable fear among civilians of both Dinka and Nuer backgrounds that they will be killed on the basis of their ethnicity”.

“There needs to be clear statements and clear steps from all those in positions of political and military control that human rights violations will not be tolerated and those responsible will be brought to justice.”

At least 80,000 people have been internally displaced by the crisis, with many seeking refuge in UN compounds around the country.

However, the total number of those forced to flee the fighting is believed to be much, much higher, as people take shelter in churches and other locations, the UN reported.

Several hundred civilians were reportedly arrested in house-to-house searches in Juba, while hundreds of members of the South Sudan National Police Service are also believed to have been arrested in police stations around the capital, the UN says.

Last week, United Nations officials said 2000 armed youths had attacked one of its bases in the town of Akobo, killing at least 11 civilians who were sheltering there and two of the peacekeepers trying to protect them.

Both President Kiir and the deposed deputy president Machar, who is now essentially leading the rebel movement against the government, have indicated a willingness to negotiate, but a government official told Reuters it would not meet Machar’s demands that detained opposition leaders be released.

The United States special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, met President Kiir in the capital and was granted access to 11 senior opposition politicians who “remain detained in Juba”.

“I can report that they are secure and well taken care of. These individuals communicated to me their desire – and their readiness – to play a constructive role in ending the crisis through peaceful political dialogue and national reconciliation.”

South Sudan only became a nation on July 9, 2011, after a decades-long civil war with the north left more than a million dead. It has experienced internal conflict ever since.

With AP

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Car bomb kills 15 in Egypt, raises fears of violence in Nile Delta

Thursday, 15. August 2019

Cairo: In one of the deadliest attacks since the Egyptian army deposed Mohamed Mursi from the presidency in July, a car bomb tore through a building in the northern city of Mansoura, killing 15 and injuring at least 140 people.
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The blast was so powerful it reportedly shattered windows in buildings kilometres away, ripping apart the five-story building that housed the Daqahliya security directorate.

The attack sparked fears that deadly six-month campaign of violence in the North Sinai against police and security forces that has killed at least 200 was spilling over into the Nile Delta, and raised concerns about the environment in which Egypt will conduct a referendum on its new constitution next month.

Following the attack the cabinet released a statement declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, although interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi stopped short of openly blaming them for the attack.

Not so the cabinet spokesman Sherif Shawki, who was quoted by the Middle East News Agency as saying the Brotherhood had shown its “ugly face as a terrorist organisation shedding blood and messing with Egypt’s security”,

The Brotherhood condemned the bombing, releasing a statement on Tuesday saying it “considers this act as a direct attack on the unity of the Egyptian people.”

No one had claimed responsibility for the Mansoura bombing by Tuesday night, although it came a day after an al-Qaeda-linked group believed to be based in the Sinai called on police and army personnel to desert or face death.

In November a car bomb killed 10 soldiers in the Sinai, and 24 policemen died in an August ambush, meanwhile, there has been an ongoing Egyptian army operation in the Sinai in order, it says, to rein in the militants.

Speaking at a public forum on Monday, Egypt’s military spokesman Ahmed Mohammed Ali said the army crackdown has killed 184 militants and arrested 803 others.

But as human rights groups and most journalists have been denied access to the area, the details are impossible to confirm.

As darkness fell on Tuesday local media reported that crowds of people had stormed Mansoura – about 110 kilometres north of Cairo – torching buildings and shops they believed to be owned by Muslim Brotherhood.

Human rights groups fear that the bombing will lead to a further tightening of security and more abuses of power, as the mass arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members widens to include activists prominent in the January 25 revolution that overthrew the former leader Hosni Mubarak.

The bomb blast and its aftermath would create an atmosphere in which the referendum will take place as “anything but free and fair”, said Tamara Alrifai, a spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch in Egypt.

The interim government had already begun a campaign to encourage Egyptians to vote ‘yes’ in the January 14 referendum.

“Increased security, increased intimidation, but also increased attacks if they happen, will not make it easy for those who want to vote ‘no’ to go and vote ‘no’,” Ms Alrifai told Fairfax Media.

“Even before what happened today we had a concern about [whether] people could really express their opposition to the referendum.”

Last week prosecutors ordered Mursi and other Brotherhood leaders to stand trial on charges including working with foreign militants to carry out terrorist attacks in Egypt – charges the Brotherhood denies.

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How a Christmas baby grew into the Grinch

Thursday, 15. August 2019

It’s hard sharing your birthday with the world’s Christian population.Lesley Picking describes how sharing your birthday with Christmas has its pitfalls and what it’s really like watching others open presents on the big day.
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I’ve always hated Christmas, but I’m getting better at hiding it as the years go on.

I’m one of those people who get harassed when they have to disclose their date of birth: the 25th of December.

“Oh you’re a Christmas baby!” people exclaim. I secretly seethe inside. All I want to do is finish filling in whatever form I’ve had to provide my ID and date of birth for; instead, I have to answer a raft of questions.

Yes, I often only get one present.

Yes, I did find it hard as a child, seeing everyone else open gifts on my birthday.

No, I’ve never had a birthday party on my birthday.

And yes, I did grow up with a deep jealousy of other people who had a special day just for them, and who didn’t have to share their celebrations with the entire Christian population of the world.

We did try alternatives. One year my mother nominated a birthday date in the middle of the year for my one and only party, but it felt fake and hollow, and everybody knew it wasn’t really my birthday. It didn’t go well at all.

As the baby in a family of six kids, my mum and dad were stretched financially during December, and the gifts and fuss I received certainly didn’t compare to what some friends got for their birthday or even Christmas. It was hard to understand how I was expected to enjoy my combined celebration books and hula-hoop when Santa had brought the kid nextdoor a bike. I thought that as part of his cost saving, Santa had figured out that I didn’t need much as I’d get otherwise. Santa sucked.

As I got older I learned not to be too hopeful about my special day. If I knew in advance I would be jealous and upset, then it didn’t hurt so much.

Thus my “grinchiness” emerged.

Having children shifted the focus – it’s much easier to grit your teeth when your kids are happy. As a single mum I ignored my birthday and focused on showing the kids and extended family a good time. Of course that involved cooking and hosting visitors and running around organising things, but hey, people shouldn’t miss out on their celebrations just because I got a year older, should they?

Then a couple of years ago I married my Mr Right, and for my birthday he organised the most amazing experience. We ran away camping, far from the decorations and lights and advertising, and pretended it wasn’t Christmas. It was my first real birthday and I loved it. But with five kids between us we can’t do that every year.

Now that we have our first grandchild, the fun in the planning is reappearing. I can focus on her and ignore the fact that my birthday gifts (if I get any) will be wrapped in Christmas paper, that I’m not likely to get any cards, and some family members will be so distracted they won’t remember to say happy birthday until mid-afternoon.

I admit I have a terrible hang-up about the whole ordeal. I’ve spent my lifetime feeling cheated and sad every time I see a garland of tinsel.

I also know that I’m only speculating about what birthdays are like for others. Maybe I have it all wrong and everybody’s birthday feels like just another day? Maybe it doesn’t feel special and unique and just for them?

I have a dream that one day I will go to a restaurant on my birthday for the very first time, and the menu won’t contain ham or turkey or brandy snaps. There will be a cake with candles and friends with gifts who won’t have anywhere to rush off to. And the only decoration in the place will be a banner that reads ‘happy birthday’.

Until then, I’ll enjoy the good food I prepare, and relish not having to go to work on my birthday. But please, when you pull a cracker this year, spare a thought for all the Christmas babies doing dishes, or cooking a BBQ, and just wishing they were somewhere else.

– ©Fairfax NZ

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Workplace crush, with beer

Thursday, 15. August 2019

More on Drinking BuddiesMovie session timesFull movies coverage
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Kate and Luke work in a Chicago micro-brewery. They both have partners outside its friendly walls, although their respective relationships are at different points on the graph; Kate’s boyfriend, Chris, is resolutely withdrawing from her, while Luke and Anna are skirting around discussing the nitty-gritty of weddings. Like most people, however, they spend most of their time at work. They josh each other and share lunches. They are recognised at work as besties. They go for drinks after work. A lot of drinks.

“Most people in their lives have been through this,” says Swanberg. “You have a crush on someone you work with or someone to whom you’re in close proximity. You have trouble navigating that or you kind of vacillate between wanting that to become something more and feeling bad about the person you’re with, that you’re emotionally cheating.”

Swanberg’s films rely on actors, along with audiences, having been through similar rites of passage: all the dialogue is improvised, with actors called upon to tell stories that may well be their own. “One of the reasons I fell in love with movies is the voyeuristic peek it gives you into other people’s experiences.”

Among aficionados, Joe Swanberg is the leading light of mumblecore, the American school of low-fi film-making that uses digital cameras, tiny crews, free locations and frequently improvised scripts to deliver slices of ordinary 20-something life. As in the real world, improvising actors tend to talk over each other and leave sentences unfinished, hence the “mumblecore” moniker. Being cheap, it is also quick. Swanberg has been remarkably prolific, making 16 features in less than nine years and, at 32, has already been the subject of several retrospectives. Unfortunately, his films to date have been so definitively indie that they have largely been seen at festivals.

Drinking Buddies is his move into the slightly-less-smalltime; instead of his usual two crew and three actors, he had 40 crew and 20 actors, including recognisable faces Olivia Wilde (Kate) and Anna Kendrick (Anna); Luke is played by Jake Johnson, a television actor who was recommended to Swanberg by his friend Lizzie Caplan. “The casting process for my movies is interesting because there are a few things I really want to know about these people,” he says. “One of them is whether they have a rich, interesting life outside their acting work. I am going to be putting them in a lot of situations where they are going to have to talk and I need to make sure that all of their stories don’t circle back to some experience they had on a film set.”

A significant slice of experience he brought along himself was his interest in brewing. “I’m a home brewer and a big beer geek, so partially this was a selfish chance to get to spend a lot of time in a brewery,” he says. “The location is beautiful – all those big silver tanks look great on camera – but to me is also represents a growing scene of a return to craft, artisanal products and locally produced things.” Rather like his own films, in fact – because even with a 40-strong crew and a professed love of romantic comedy, Swanberg is not about to succumb to the cinematic equivalents of Anheuser-Busch. “I have a lot of friends who work in craft breweries,” he says, “This was a chance to show them the right way, rather than a big studio comedy doing a bad job of it.”

Drinking Buddies screens exclusively at Cinema Nova from Boxing Day.

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Boxing Day movies: All eyes on cinema’s blockbuster season

Thursday, 15. August 2019

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
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Boxing Day movies

More on The Railway ManMovie session timesFull movies coverage

Like cinema-goers all over the country, Australian filmmaker Jonathan Teplitzky always looks forward to Boxing Day at the movies.

“It’s always a nice thing to take the kids to,” says the director of Better Than Sex, Gettin’ Square and Burning Man. “It’s a good tradition.”

And so it is: it’s time to relax into the holidays. And on the biggest day of the year for cinemas, there is always a rich brew of new movies.

But Teplitzky has a special interest this year. He directed one of those movies – the emotional Colin Firth-Nicole Kidman drama The Railway Man, about a survivor of the infamous Thai-Burma railway during World War II who confronts one of his Japanese captors decades later.

While other Boxing Day releases are pitched at different audiences, it has to be a daunting proposition for any director to go up against Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Disney’s animated Frozen and Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig in the comic drama The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.

For audiences who prefer art-house films, there is also Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in the British drama Philomena and Short Term 12, an American drama set in a foster home for troubled teenagers.

“It’s a daunting part of the process whenever you release,” says Teplitzky. “You may as well go out when people are really keen to go to the cinema and they’re looking for all sorts of films to take their friends and family to.

“It’s a day when there’s a lot of choice but it’s also a day when there’s a huge audience looking for choice.”

After a patchy few months for Hollywood blockbusters, cinemas are expected to be buzzing from the first Boxing Day session.

A week ago, box office was less than $14 million over seven days. Over the next week, it will likely top $40 million.

Given the creep of ticket prices towards higher priced sessions over the past year, the national tally could easily top last year’s $44 million in the same period. That equates to more than 3 million cinema visits – almost 500,000 a day.

Cinema executives are unanimous in believing the second Hobbit movie will lead the box office over the next month.

While the middle movie was the least successful of Jackson’s earlier Lord of the Rings trilogy, it did well enough to still be among the 20 highest-grossing movies in Australian cinema history.

And the strong critical reception for The Desolation of Smaug – “nearly everything … represents an improvement over the first instalment,” said The Hollywood Reporter – suggests it will top the $42.9 million taken by the first Hobbit movie.

One in every three tickets sold over the next week is expected to be for a journey into Middle-earth.

While the industry thrives on hype and hope, there seems solid grounds for the optimism of cinema and distribution executives for the holidays, including continuing audiences for American Hustle and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

While there is neither a big action movie (like Skyfall last year) nor an acclaimed foreign-language film, there is also nothing as disappointing as Parental Guidance last year or Tower Heist and War Horse the year before.

And if the new movies feel familiar, there are good reasons. Once Boxing Day was all about a new Lord of the Rings instalment; now it’s a new Hobbit movie. Past years have featured Ben Stiller in Meet The Parents movies and Tower Heist; now he’s in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. And where there have been animated Happy Feet movies set in Antarctica, now there is Frozen set in an icy kingdom.

David Seargeant, the managing director of Amalgamated Holdings which owns Event cinemas, says he grew more confident about the movie line-up as Boxing Day approached.

“We had a very soft period over July-October,” he says. “With [the latest] Thor, we got a little bit of traction. Then [the latest] The Hunger Games has been fantastic. That all-important momentum – people talking about movies and what we’re going to see over summer – was on the radar.

“And there’s a lot there for everyone. It’s a really broad offering this year.”

Blending fantasy, adventure and a touch of romance, the new Hobbit is what marketers call a four-quadrant movie – playing to males and females, both under and over 25.

“That’s what people want – those big releases – on Boxing Day,” Seargeant says. “Then you support it with a lot of well-told stories.”

According to the chief operating officer of Hoyts cinemas, Matthew Liebmann, the movie line-up is spot-on.

“Your triple-A blockbusters like Hobbit and Frozen are going to cover the mass market, Mitty will do the same, and for those who have slightly more specialised tastes, there are a couple of great films for them as well.”

While weather can be a factor in how often we go to the cinema, Liebmann believes that won’t be the case these holidays.

“In our industry, we always like a bit of rain or a bit of extreme heat. But I honestly believe the line-up of films this Christmas is strong enough to withstand whatever weather.

“Sometimes we do the rain dance harder than other years. I think we can go a little easier this year.”

Taking into account the Meryl Streep-Julia Roberts family drama August: Osage County on January 1, distributor Troy Lum from Hopscotch calls it “one of the strongest line-ups in years”.

Also heading for cinemas in January are Walking With Dinosaurs, adapted from the acclaimed BBC documentary series, Geoffrey Rush in the literary adaptation The Book Thief, the action movies Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and 47 Ronin, and the Oscar contenders Inside Llewyn Davis from the Coen brothers and Saving Mr Banks with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.

Considering the strong competition in cinemas as well as from sport, DVD box sets and improved summer television, some films are bound to get disappointing audiences.

As Lum says, movie-goers are drawn more often to “event” movies in both mainstream and art-house cinemas, which means films tend to be either hits or flops, with little in between.

“In the quality end of the market, you have to be what people want to see,” he says. “If you are, you’ll get results like Blue Jasmine or The Butler or what we’re hoping for with Philomena.

“Then again, we’ve had films this year like Red 2 that have really disappointed. Even Rush to a certain extent was a disappointment. We really thought that film would do a lot better but it just didn’t hit that bullseye.

“What you find is if you’re not hitting the bullseye, you’re really falling way short.”

Jonathan Teplitzky is hoping an interest in meaningful movies helps Railway Man hit that bullseye.

“There’s a great thirst among audiences for films about things, for films that have substance and for films that tell a great story,” he says. “And Railway Man is not just a great story; it’s a real story.

“There’s a real interest in those stories where you can go, wow, a real person went through those experiences.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Sydney to Hobart: Ragamuffin crew count on ‘lady luck’

Monday, 15. July 2019

World sailing champion Vanessa Dudley, who is competing in her 18th Sydney to Hobart. Photo: Sahlan HayesEven after 17 Sydney to Hobart Yacht races, Ragamuffin crewmember Vanessa Dudley, 55, still gets nervous on Christmas Day and has to watch what she eats to avoid seasickness.
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Ms Dudley will be sailing alongside 86-year-old skipper, Syd Fischer, and over 20 other crewmembers in the annual Boxing Day race.

“[There’s] only one woman though, so this is lady luck for the Ragamuffin,” said NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Roads Ray Williams, pointing to world sailing champion Ms Dudley.

Having started sailing when she was nine years old at Manly Yacht Club, Ms Dudley has gone on to win the Laser Grand Masters world championship in Oman earlier this year.

“Sometimes you wonder why you put yourself in … not harms way but … I’m a bit of a chicken in real life. It’s a really cliché but you feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Ms Dudley is optimistic that the 100 foot Ragamuffin will complete the 628 nautical mile race quickly.

“They’re getting shorter because the boats are getting faster as years go by. I’ve done a Hobart race that’s taken six days and this one will take a couple of days,” said Ms Dudley.

Ragamuffin will be one of 94 yachts which will race out of Sydney’s heads after the starter’s cannon at 1pm on Thursday.

“We think we’ve probably been the underdogs a little bit because Wild Oats hass obviously got a fantastic record and there’s a big boat – ex-speed boat, now Loyal – which has had a lot of media coverage, so we’re really looking forward to getting in and mixing with them.”

There is a record number of international competitors this year with 22 overseas entries.

It’s expected the race will begin against a backdrop of cloud and possibly even rain, that could allow a speedy exit through the heads for the boats but a choppy day for spectators on the water, Ms Dudley said.

“The smaller spectator boats can get thrown around like crazy so it’s better for everyone if they take it easy,” she said.

The NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Roads Ray Williams warned racegoers on the water to respect exclusion zones, wear life jackets and drink responsibly this Boxing Day.

“When you’ve got a lot of smaller vessels, as we normally do see, we’re expecting some choppy conditions, especially in the harbour when we’ve got so many vessels that are out there – it makes the conditions just a little bit more awkward.”

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Australian batsmen vow to target Panesar

Monday, 15. July 2019

Monty Panesar signs autographs for fans at the MCG on Monday. Photo: Wayne TaylorAustralia’s batsmen have vowed to attack Monty Panesar as part of a ruthless plan to grind England’s pace bowlers into submission.
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Having already landed what David Warner described as a “knockout blow” on Graeme Swann with their aggressive tactics, Australia will adopt the same approach against his replacement.

Panesar is no stranger to being targeted by Australia, famously conceding 24 runs in an over against a rampant Adam Gilchrist in the Perth Test of 2006.

His record of 13 wickets at 53 from five Tests would hardly have Australia’s line-up waking in a cold sweat though he does boast a five-wicket haul.

As a left-arm finger-spinner, Panesar turns the ball in the other direction to Swann which will force Australia’s batsmen to look for different scoring areas. But their modus operandi will not change.

“The best way we play spin as a batting unit is playing quite positively against it,” said Test No.5 Steve Smith.

“When he comes on to bowl I’m sure we’re going to be looking to keep scoring runs and putting the pressure back on him.

“He [Darren Lehmann] says that’s the way we should play our cricket against spin, especially on the wickets here in Australia which are pretty consistent and don’t have a great deal of spin you can go after it a bit easier. The way we’ve played Swann has been very good.”

The added benefit of playing Swann so well has been the extra pressure placed on England’s pacemen, who have not had the same impact in Australia as they have back home.

“If we can attack him [Swann], that was our mindset at the start of the series and make their quicks come back sooner than they would have liked to that was our plan at the start of the series,” Smith said.

Panesar blew hot and cold in his only appearance in this series, in Adelaide, with match figures of 2-198 from 54 overs.

Warner described Panesar, who has 166 Test wickets, as a world-class bowler who deserved respect but said that would not stop him from trying to hit the left-armer out of the attack.

“You see Monty in India, basically him and Swanny won the series for England over there,” Warner said.

“Coming to Boxing Day there might not be any turn there in the first innings but we’ve got to respect him as we did Swanny, but we have to come out and try to target them from ball one because you have to try and get on top of the bowlers. It doesn’t matter who that bowler is.”

Warner said he was surprised to hear of Swann’s sudden retirement but paid tribute to the 34-year-old, who leaves the game second on England’s all-time Test wicket-takers list for a spinner.

“From our point of view it was a bit of a shock to the system. He’s had a fantastic career, it’s been a privilege to play against him. I wish him all the best in his retirement,” Warner said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Reverend Bill Crews urges Premier to adopt ‘Newcastle solution’

Monday, 15. July 2019

It will be 50 years next month since Reverend Bill Crews answered a knock on the door of his Sydney home and was given the shattering news that his younger brother was dead.
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Robert “Bob” Crews had been driving down a country road in northern NSW in January 1964 when, confronted with two oncoming cars, he crashed off the road into a ditch.

Reverend Crews, a Uniting Church Minister and founder of the Exodus Foundation, said the youths were drunk, and racing two vehicles towards his brother, leaving no room for his vehicle to pass.

“There’s not a day we don’t think of him. It took 30 years before my father could put my brother’s photograph up on the wall,” Reverend Crews said.

“Now, when I look at the families of the kids who have been king hit, or who are the victims of alcohol-fuelled violence, I see my father all over again. And I think it’s got to stop.”

Fed up with the scourge of alcohol-fuelled violence exploding on Sydney’s streets each weekend,he has penned an open letter to NSW Premier Barry O’Farrelldemanding that a state-wide trial of the so-called “Newcastle solution” be instituted.

The Newcastle solution consists of 1am lockouts and a ban on the sale of shots after 10pm, and has led to a steep reduction in violent assaults in Newcastle.

Reverend Crews said he had known Mr O’Farrell for many years, and loved him “like a brother”.

But it is the memory of his real brother, Bob, that prompted him to speak out against the Government’s unwillingness to extend the trial of the Newcastle solution to Sydney’s CBD.

That is despite the president of the NSW Police Association, Scott Weber, calling on the government to do just that.

Reverend Crews said the youths were charged by police over his brother’s death in 1964, but eventually they were acquitted of his brother’s manslaughter.

Still, the effect on his family had been devastating, he said.

“It makes me feel enormously sad, really it does. If speaking out helps, then my brother’s death isn’t so useless, you know?” he said.

In his letter to Mr O’Farrell, Reverend Crews reflects on the almost weekly reports of people being injured in alcohol-fuelled violence in the city.

One of the latest attacks occurred in Bondi on December 14, when 23-year-old Michael McEwan was knocked unconscious in an attack that left him in a coma in hospital for a week.

“One more young person killed is one too many, but it’s a tragedy that is likely to happen unless you act,” Reverend Crews writes in his letter to Mr O’Farrell.

“I appeal to you as the good man I know you are to help stop this violence. Please introduce the Newcastle solution now. I don’t want any more fathers to have to lock away their son’s photographs for 30 years before they can bear to look at them again.”

Reverend Crews said alcohol was being promoted to the point where it was creating more violence than ever before.

“We know lockouts at Newcastle worked, we know that there was decreased violence, and I’m just a bit staggered that something as obvious as that isn’t being followed up,” he said.

“To me it shows the strength of the alcohol lobby, that it’s able to push onto society outcomes society doesn’t want but it’s powerful enough to almost paralyse governments.”

The government’s list of achievements in tackling booze-fuelled violence includes hundreds more police patrolling the streets, sobering-up centres and a “three strikes” policy for pubs and clubs where violence frequently occurs.

It will also extend a liquor licence freeze in the Oxford Street-Darlinghurst area until mid-2015, amid concerns about outlet density.

Barry O’Farrell’s office has been contacted for comment.

Call for action: Reverend Bill Crews. Photo: Anthony Johnson

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell: urged to adopt the ‘Newcastle solution’. Photo: Steven Siewert

Robert Crews: died after his car left the road. Photo: Supplied

How Duck Dynasty exposed a new Christmas culture war

Monday, 15. July 2019

Each year after the leaves fall and Congress ends its business and real news recedes the Christmas culture wars erupt in America.
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Traditionally the right rails against the “war on Christmas”, chastising public officials and private companies who dare send “holiday greetings” rather than “Christmas cards.” This, we are told, is at best pandering to liberal-atheism, at worst actively engaging in it. In early December the usual standards were thrust into the usual turf. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, by some accounts the War-on-Christmas patent-holder, dedicated a section of his show to the issue.

Sarah Palin went on tour promoting her new book on the crisis, Good Tidings, Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas. “Thomas Jefferson today, he would recognise those who would want to try to ignore that Jesus is the reason for the season, those who would want to try to abort Christ from Christmas,” she told an audience at Liberty University.

This year though, rather than having to settle for the usual Christmas media pantomimes, America’s commentators found themselves in combat in a different battleground. A sudden proxy war broke out over a real issue – the rapid advancement of gay rights.

It began when GQ magazine published an interview with Phil Robertson, the paterfamilias of the family that is the focus of the most-watched reality show in America, the Duck Dynasty. Robertson and his family live on the bayous of Louisiana and run a successful business called the Duck Commander Company, which sells hunting gear and is named for Phil’s duck call, the Duck Commander.

While the 10 million-odd viewers appear to be drawn to the family’s earthiness – “redneck” culture has been all the rage over the past season or two on American cable television – many conservative commentators have celebrated the show for its depiction of the Robertson family’s values.  In no particular order, the Robertsons believe in God and guns and family.

So it should have been no surprise to A&E, the channel that produces the show, when during an interview with GQ magazine Phil Robertson likened homosexuality to alcoholism and terrorism.  “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job,” he said, reasonably enough. “We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus – whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”

Though Robertson had aired such views often in the past – you can find them on YouTube – he voiced them at a time when the show has become a genuine cultural phenomenon, and from a far more public stage.

A&E suspended Robertson from filming. “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” the network said in a statement last week.

And rather than dying off over the weekend the story has picked up steam, leaving those with a commercial interest in the program in the difficult position of trying to pick which constituency they can least afford to offend – conservative traditionalists or those who consider anti-gay bigotry as a peculiar relic. One example: on Friday the Tennessee-based restaurant chain Cracker Barrel, which has 625 locations in 42 states, announced it would cease selling Duck Dynasty merchandise. By Sunday it reversed its course.

“You told us we made a mistake,” the company said on its Facebook page. “And, you weren’t shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong. We listened. Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores.” While Cracker Barrel eventually came around to the Duck Dynasty’s view of the world, what is striking is that it was not there in the first place.

Gay rights have advanced in America at a pace that has left gay activists dizzy, and many in opposition utterly disoriented. On May 9 2012 Barack Obama became the first US president to back gay marriage. In June this year the US Supreme Court made two rulings effectively finding bans on gay marriage to be unconstitutional. On Friday a federal judge in one of America’s most conservative states, Utah, struck down its ban on gay marriage, writing, “The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason. Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional.”

With the decision, which is being appealed, Utah became the 18th US state to legalise gay marriage, just one day after New Mexico became the 17th.

An ABC poll found at the beginning of the month that 58 per cent of Americans supported the right of gays to marry, a 17-point surge since 2004. The same poll found that 81 per cent of those aged between 18 and 29 support the freedom to marry.

Much of the Duck Dynasty debate has focused on A&E’s alleged abuse of Phil Robertson’s constitutional right to free speech. This is nonsense. America’s first amendment protects Phil Robertson’s freedom of expression from the government, not from the A&E channel.

In fact this year’s Christmas culture war has revealed as much about how America has embraced the expansion of civil rights to gays as it has about Phil Robertson’s opinions about them.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Festive favourites: the top 10 television Christmas specials

Monday, 15. July 2019

The Office Christmas specials were the perfect conclusion to the Ricky Gervais series. Photo: © BBC Memorable: the Community episode Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas. Photo: NBC
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Christmas has arrived and the holiday season is in full swing. It’s not just a time for carols, barbeques and backyard cricket; it’s also the time of year when our favourite programs release their holiday-themed episodes.

Not all shows can pull off a holiday episode (A Breaking Bad Christmas probably wouldn’t work) and many have tried and fallen flat.

Here are my top ten Christmas specials:Seinfeld: The Strike

Seeing Kramer (dressed as Santa) being labelled a communist by a child in The Race is hilarious, but it’s impossible to go past the episode that introduced Festivus and giving a donation in your name to The Human Fund. Get the pole out of the garage, air your grievances with loved ones and get ready for the Feats of Strength.

It’s one thing for a TV show to help us appreciate the magic of Christmas, but to influence us enough that some people celebrate a different day (December 23, by the way)? That’s truly fantastic.The Simpsons: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire

This was the first episode of The Simpsons to air, and an excellent precursor to what would arguably become the best television series of all time. Homer is denied a Christmas bonus at the power plant by Mr Burns (a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge if ever there was one) and after Marge’s rainy-day fund is spent on tattoo removal for Bart, it looks like the holidays are going to be ruined … until Santa’s Little Helper enters their lives.The Office (UK): The Christmas Specials

Technically two episodes, but you can’t have one without the other. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s brilliant mockumentary series wrapped up perfectly with two 45-minute helpings, stretched over two nights in 2003. Tim and Dawn live happily ever after and we see David Brent’s attempts to cash in on his 15 minutes of fame since the ‘documentary’ went to air.

Has there ever been a character more awkward to watch than Brent? His appearance in an Austin Powers costume on a dating game show still makes me cringe.Community: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas

The most memorable moments in Community seem to happen outside the confines of the classroom – Dungeons and Dragons, paintball and even an alternate universe. That’s the case again here, as a wonderfully claymated story plays out in the head of our favourite neurotic TV nerd, Abed.South Park: Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo

South Park has had some cracking Christmas episodes, such as Red Sleigh Down and Woodland Critter Christmas, but the popularity of Mr. Hankey as a character 16 years later speaks volumes. A completely unique take on the holiday season, which, in addition to being hilarious, addressed the topic of non-Christians at this time of year. By far the most remarkable thing to come out of this episode was that Kenny didn’t die.The O.C.: The Best Chrismukkah Ever

Another fictional holiday on the list! Chrismukkah was the brainchild of Seth Cohen, who found the perfect way to appease both his Christian mother and Jewish father. The holiday was featured once in each of the four seasons of Josh Schwartz’ teen drama. Although not to the same degree as Festivus, it also started a fad that spawned a website, greeting cards and widespread interest. Adam Brody’s character describes the celebration as “eight days of presents, followed by one day of many presents”. An idea I can certainly get behind.Futurama: Xmas Story

Matt Groening’s other excellent animated series was quirky and innovative in so many ways – and this unique spin on Christmas was no exception. Instead of a jolly man from the North Pole, Santa is a psychotic robot who was programmed poorly and assumes all humans are ‘naughty’, seeking to dole out violent retribution to all of Earth’s inhabitants.Friends: The One with the Holiday Armadillo

I’ve maintained that Ross is the best character on Friends. This opinion has sparked arguments with my friends before, but this episode has Ross at his awkward best. Despite being Jewish, Ross is ambitiously trying to find a Santa suit just two days before Christmas and ends up having to entertain his son, Ben, as the ‘Holiday Armadillo’. Just when he’s finally about to get Ben interested in Hanukkah, Santa Chandler and Superman Joey show up to make everything much more complicated.The Flintstones: A Flintstone Christmas

The plot itself is quite straightforward: Fred and Barney save Christmas by taking over Santa’s duties on Christmas Eve. I first remember watching this on VHS at a young age and loved it. This was such staple Christmas viewing for me that I eventually wore it out by shoving it into the VCR too many times.Mr. Bean: Merry Christmas Mr Bean

Rowan Atkinson only made 14 episodes of the fantastic Mr. Bean series but, as is often the case with superb British comedy, less is more. Bean runs wild in Harrods department store (with a cameo from a Dalek for all you Dr Who fans) before meeting up with his love interest, Irma, whose obvious hints for Bean to buy her a wedding ring hilariously go over his head. He then cheats in a guessing game to win a turkey before catching a pickpocket and conducting the Salvation Army band.

The episode ends with a Christmas cracker explosion, after Bean inserts several of the small explosive strips into one paper casing. Anyone that’s seen this would be lying if they said they’ve not tried that since.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.