Religious leaders invoke ‘selfies’ and new Pope in Christmas messages

Sunday, 14. October 2018

Sydney’s Christian leaders have turned to Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year and Time magazine’s person of the year in their annual Christmas messages.
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”What is it about our society that ‘selfie’ is the landmark word for 2013?” said Dr Glenn Davies in his first year as Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop.

”At Christmas time we should remember that there is an ultimate self-image, the image of God, which far outweighs the supercilious picture of a face filling our screen. We are all stamped with the image of God and it is this image that makes us precious in his sight.”

Dr Davies said the Christmas image of Jesus as a ”cute and inoffensive” baby in a stall was only part of the picture.

”Christmas without Easter is not the full story,” he said. ”We fail to appreciate Christmas if we fail to appreciate the reason why he came – to suffer death upon a cross on Good Friday, rise again on Easter Day so that the bonds of death may be broken and new life become a reality for all who put their trust in him.”

In a year marked by inquiries delving into the Australian church’s handling of child sexual abuse, Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, urged Christians to keep the faith. ”We acknowledge the wide scepticism and occasional hostility of those around us, but because we know Christ, we should have the courage of our convictions, we should not lapse into timid silence and we should not be frightened to appear as different,” Cardinal Pell said.

He called on Catholics to recall the messages of the man Time dubbed ”The People’s Pope”.

”Our new Pope Francis has warned us of these dangers, urging us not to lapse into small-minded melancholy, not allow ourselves to be submerged by bitterness and fatigue.” Cardinal Pell said ”crimes and sins” could not eliminate the ”good works of the spirit”. ”The cross remains a symbol of victory, especially in our hectic and confused times,” he said.

The Pope claimed the church’s challenge was not atheism, Cardinal Pell continued, but ”how best to respond to the many adults and children thirsting for God”.

”Christians cannot answer this challenge if we look like we have just come from a funeral,” he said.

Reverend Dr Keith Garner, the head of the Wesley Mission, said it would be easy to be overwhelmed by events at home and abroad.

”This Christmas we need to receive God’s love into our hearts, exchange selfishness for forgiveness and breathe peace into a restless world,” he said.

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

2013 Bushfires: Festive cheer among the ruined homes

Sunday, 14. October 2018

Resilient: Joe and Chereyl Moore say their foster children are coping well after the fire. Photo: Janie Barrett They are a family used to giving to others but since the Moores lost their home in the October bushfires, people have been giving back.
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Joe Moore has been overwhelmed by what he says is ”almost too much generosity”.

”There’s a lot of goodwill, a lot of good to come out of this,” he said. “It puts a smile on your face and gives you a warm feeling for Christmas.”

Joe and his wife Chereyl raised three sons and were bringing up four foster children, aged six to 11, in their ”castle” on Heather Glen Road, Winmalee.

Little is left but a concrete slab. Only a handful of houses are still standing on their street where, two months later, blackened trees are wreathed with new green leaves and excavators are clearing rubble.

A neighbour put up the family until they found somewhere to rent. People gave them furniture, others helped them move in.

The children were coping well, Mr Moore said. ”They are pretty resilient, and the fact that the community has supported us so much [makes it easier].”

Festive cheer is hard to muster when everything you own has been turned to ashes. Without family photographs, the walls of their temporary home are bare.

The Christmas tree and the presents underneath it have been donated. However, the Moores have put up decorations; a banner on the balcony wishes those who pass by a Merry Christmas.

”We’re all together, so that’s the main thing,” Mrs Moore said.

This time of year is usually a double celebration for Mr Moore, Springwood Country Club’s golf pro, and his twin, Mick, who were born on Christmas Day.

”This is the first year we will be out of our comfort zone,” he said.

”It won’t be the same but it will be OK. The joy of Christmas is in the kids.

”The kids will open up their presents and it will be like normal.”

What to do next is the family’s biggest worry. Their short-term lease is almost up and the added expense of rebuilding in the ”flame zone”, in line with strict safety standards introduced after the 2009 Black Saturday disaster in Victoria, makes the Moores, and others, wonder if they can afford to build again on their old blocks.

The fires destroyed 206 homes. While all lived through the same devastation, each family is feeling the loss in its own way.

Burnt-out blocks should be cleared by the end of January, but the recovery effort was ”about healing people as much as repairing property”, Blue Mountains City Council mayor Mark Greenhill said.

Beyond Blue staff will help support residents next year, with charities and welfare organisations that have been there from the start.

Bushfire recovery co-ordinator Phil Koperberg said morale was as good as could be expected but some people found Christmas difficult at the best of times.

”We want them to know that the whole recovery effort is not going away on holidays,” he said. ”We’re not knocking off and enjoying our Christmases. We’re there for them.”

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

Rolf Harris facing more child sex charges, including accusation he assaulted girl under 10

Sunday, 14. October 2018

Australian entertainer Rolf Harris is facing three additional sex assault charges involving two new alleged victims, one aged ”seven or eight” at the time.
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The additional counts mean Harris, 83, is now accused of assaulting four victims dating back to the late 1960s. He is facing 16 separate charges in total.

”Rolf Harris is to be prosecuted over a further three allegations of indecent assault,” the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in a statement on Sunday.

”The alleged offences relate to one existing complainant and two new complainants.”

Harris was already facing six counts of indecently assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 1980 and 1981 and three charges of indecent assault of a girl aged 14 in 1986.

He was also charged previously with four counts of making indecent images of a child in the first half of last year.

The additional counts revealed on Sunday include one offence of indecent assault ”relating to a girl aged seven or eight in 1968 or 1969”, the CPS said.

The artist and singer is also accused of indecently assaulting a girl aged 14 in 1975 and indecently assaulting a woman aged 19 in 1984.

The additional counts were included in the original police file sent to prosecutors in August. But it was only after a ”review process” that the CPS decided the allegations should be formally added to the indictment against Harris.

Prosecutors say because evidence relating to the further counts has already been served on the court and the defence, Harris will not appear again at a magistrates court. Rather, he will appear before Southwark Crown Court on January 14 as previously scheduled for a plea and case management hearing.

Harris has not commented on the allegations since he was first named in the press in April.

He appeared in Westminster Magistrates Court in September in his only court appearance to date.

His lawyer indicated the entertainer would plead not guilty.

For the offences committed after 1985, Harris could face up to 10 years’ jail. The Australian is on conditional bail under which he is banned from having contact with anyone under 18 unless he is accompanied by someone over the age of 21.

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

Pink Polar Expedition: Geoff Wilson 107 kilometres away from Antarctica goal

Sunday, 14. October 2018

Serial adventurer: Geoff Wilson is raising money for McGrath Foundation and breast cancer. Photo: SuppliedA satellite snapshot of Geoff Wilson any time in the past six weeks might have shown a lone man on skis crossing the vast expanse of Antarctica; a luridly coloured kite, to which he is tethered, billowing overhead and propelling him towards the South Pole; and, trailing him, an oversize model of a woman’s breasts, which rise pinkly and pertly from the white never-never.
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”We made a Kevlar boob mould of my darling wife’s breasts,” Wilson said by satellite phone on Monday, 40 days and 2200 kilometres into a 3300-kilometre expedition to cross Antarctica solo and unassisted.

The Australian veterinarian was 107 kilometres shy of the South Pole – ”the peak of Everest for me”.

After confronting blizzards, crevasses, isolation and monotony, Wilson, 43, is close to realising his ambition to break the Norwegian record of 64 days for the fastest crossing of Antarctica. Which is all fascinating, but why the hell is he lugging those Kevlar breasts?

”It’s a bobsled turned into a boobsled,” Wilson says. ”My good friend Katie Carlyle came down with breast cancer four years ago. Watching her journey, and having a bit to do with the McGrath Foundation, we designed an adventure that would help raise breast awareness, especially in younger women like Katie Carlyle.”

Wilson’s Pink Polar Expedition has raised almost $200,000 for the foundation, which cricketer Glenn McGrath founded with his wife Jane before she died of breast cancer in 2008.

In July, Wilson was one of 11 kite surfers who crossed Torres Strait in five days. They had planned to tow the Kevlar breasts until maritime rules forbade it. Still, they raised $75,000 for the charity.

Wilson, a father of three, is a serial adventurer. ”This is how these things happen,” his wife, Sarah, says at their Gold Coast home. ”He wakes me up in the middle of the night. ‘Hey, babe, do you reckon anybody has kite-buggied across the Sahara?”’ Wilson did it in 2009.

”And with this one: ‘Hey, babe, do you reckon it’d be good if we got a mould of your breasts and I went across the Antarctic raising money for McGrath?’ I said, ‘Well, I know nobody’s done it. Go back to sleep.”’

Leaving from the South African end of Antarctica on November 13, he was four days in when a ”very frightening storm” with 70-knot winds convinced him he would never finish. ”In the first 14 days I spent seven days stuck in the tent.” Then came the glacier – a 3000-metre climb over 200 kilometres. ”The sled is 180 kilos full of food and fuel and kites and skis. I had to split the sled into two loads. To cover six kilometres, you’d walk 18 during the day. You’d go up with one load, come back, drag another load up and do it all again the next day.”

There were long hard days with little or no wind. On good days he could reach 60km/h and on his best covered 170 kilometres. Battling against waves of ice, he did not see his ”boobsled” overturn. He lost two weeks’ food. He backtracked eight kilometres to salvage some of it but spent 10 days on light rations.

Wilson met three Russians at a fuel dump. They wanted to take him in and feed him. To satisfy the rules of an unassisted expedition, ”I couldn’t even get a glass of water off them”. He refuses to acknowledge the concept of loneliness ”because that leads to fear”.

He listens to his daughter’s music compilations and to talking books, including the diaries of Robert Falcon Scott, who was Wilson’s age when he perished on this frontier in 1912.

”Scott talks about the monotony and having to control your mind so you don’t go loopy out here,” Wilson says.

He sleeps with one ear open for the wind. He hears Christmas Day will be a good day. He expects he will conduct a quiet service, alone, then catch the wind on the ”downhill” run to his final destination.

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

Bail hurdle remains despite acquittal of Dubai fraud accused Marcus Lee

Sunday, 14. October 2018

Marcus Lee thought his five-year nightmare in Dubai had ended with his final acquittal on property fraud charges but there is another hurdle: his $300,000 bail has not been returned and, without it, he cannot pay his debts and so cannot leave the country with his wife, Julie.
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While his former boss Matt Joyce has returned to Australia with his family since his acquittal, Mr Lee fears he could be trapped in Dubai until at least late next month. His passport was returned on December 15 after he was cleared in November for the third time. His application for the revocation of his bail conditions was also granted. The Lees thought that would have included the return of the 1 million dirhams bail they paid when Mr Lee and Mr Joyce were released after nine months in prison in 2009. The Lees had been forced to sell their family home in Australia to meet the bail.

But when Mr Lee went to ask for the return of his cash, he was told he would need to apply again.

Much of the Dubai legal system has gone on holidays. Any delay will prevent the couple from clearing big debts they have amassed in Dubai.

Mr Lee has not been allowed to work since his January 2009 arrest. The Lees need most of the money to pay their Dubai legal fees, credit-card debts and rent.

‘‘The landlord won’t permit them to bring a removalist truck into the driveway until they have paid their rent,’’ Mr Sneddon said

The Lees also need a bank ”no objection certificate” to confirm all debts have been paid before they can leave Dubai.

They need money to pay for their flights to Sydney, including for their dog, Dudley, and to send their belongings home.

Mr Lee said: ‘‘We have lost everything because of this and now are still trapped as, without the return of our money, we are unable to leave.

‘‘We were just hoping we could move on and start to rebuild our lives after being so conclusively cleared, but now this seems unlikely in the short-term. It’s just another blow for us in this sorry saga.

‘‘Our families and friends, now eagerly waiting for our safe return to Australia, are devastated.’’

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