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Hundreds farewell Vietnam pilot, 39 years on

Pilot Officer Carver’s family and friends took part in a full military funeral service at St Luke’s Church in Toowoomba, Queensland, almost 40 years after the airman’s death.

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The 24-year-old pilot, and his colleague, Flying Officer Michael Herbert, also 24, disappeared while on a bombing mission near the Vietnam-Laos border in November 1970.

Their remains were finally found – alongside the wreckage of their bomber – in dense jungle last month, allowing them to be returned to their families.

“Freddy, welcome home,” said Lieutenant Colonel Tony Ralph (retired) who was a member of the cadets with Pilot Officer Carver four decades ago.

“It’s taken a long time, but we are glad you’re here,” he said, speaking on behalf of the Carver family.

Acting parish priest Father Geoff Poliness said the funeral was of national significance, because Pilot Officer Carter was one of “the last men home”.

RAAF fly-past tribute

“But let us not forget that behind it all there is the life of a human being that we’ve come to honour.”

Defence Minister John Faulkner and Air Force Chief Air Marshal Mark Binskin were among the mourners, and later presented the Carver family with the RAAF Ensign that had adorned the coffin.

At the conclusion of the service in the sun outside the church, three volleys were fired by a special guard of airmen and women before the Last Post and Reveille were played.

Then, in a final, roaring tribute, an RAAF F-111 performed a fly-past.

The Anglican Bishop to the Defence Forces, Bishop Len Eacott, led the committal outside and provided a sense of final resolution for mourners after so many years of waiting.

“As a family, as a nation, as a community, we now leave Robert Carver to rest in peace,” he said. “Rest in peace Freddy.”

Pilot Officer Carver’s remains were later cremated in Toowoomba.

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Aussie Mark Renshaw kicked off Tour

Australian Mark Renshaw paid the price for his team’s win-at-all-costs approach to the Tour de France 11th stage on Thursday when he was excluded from the race for headbutting.

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Renshaw, the lead-out man for HTC-Columbia team-mate Mark Cavendish, played a crucial role in Cavendish’s six stage wins on the race last year.

VIDEO: Chaotic sprint to the finish

VIDEO: Mark Renshaw describes the action

But in the final 500 metres of the 184.5km stage from Sisteron, the normally affable Australian lost his head when he tried to headbutt Garmin-Transitions’ Kiwi lead-out man Julian Dean three times.

Cavendish eventually raced on towards his third stage win of the race, and 13th of his career, as Renshaw then produced another blatant blunder by trying to block Dean’s sprinter, Tyler Farrar, as the American tried to come up the inside of the barriers.

Top race official Jean-Francois Pescheux said they only needed to look at the television pictures once to make their decision.

“Renshaw was declassified immediately but we have decided to also throw him off the race,” said Pescheux.

“We’ve only seen the pictures once, but his actions are plain for all to see. They were blatant. This is a bike race, not a gladiator’s arena.”

Television pictures show Dean getting very close to Renshaw as he tried to bring Farrar into position, although elbows and shoulders are certainly not unknown to clash in the hotly-contested bunch sprints.

For Dean, a former team-mate of Renshaw’s at Credit Agricole, Renshaw’s actions were simply uncalled for.

However, the Kiwi suggested it was Renshaw’s second error, closing the door on Farrar, that was most dangerous.

“All the other (HTC-Columbia) guys were fine, it was just Renshaw’s behaviour that was inappropriate,” said Dean.

“I jumped my front wheel in Cav’s wheel. I went past Renshaw and tried to keep the speed high and while I was coming out of Renshaw, he didn’t seem to like it too much.

“I didn’t make any movement at all. Next thing I felt like he was leaning on me and hitting me with his head.”

He added: “And then he carried on afterwards and came across on Tyler’s line and stopped Tyler from possibly winning the stage. He shouldn’t have done that. It’s not appropriate.

“It’s dangerous behaviour and if there had been a crash there it would have caused some guys some serious damage.

“What we do is very dangerous and we don’t need behaviour like that to make it even more dangerous.”

Speaking before being informed of the decision, Renshaw claimed he had been in danger of being put into the barriers by Dean; a claim that television pictures did not appear to corroborate.

“The guy (Dean) came across from me… either he keeps turning left, puts me in the barrier and I crash, or I try to lean against him,” he said.

“I didn’t have another option. It’s all about sprinting straight.”

Although saddened by the decision, Cavendish laid some of the blame on Dean, claiming the Kiwi “hooked his elbow over Mark’s right elbow”.

“Mark used his head to try and get away. There’s a risk when the elbows are that close (that) the handlebars are going to tangle,” said Cavendish.

“That puts everyone behind in danger. Mark (Renshaw) gave us a bit of space that kept us upright.”

He added: “I’m very happy to win. The team did a great job.”

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Most long-haul first class seats ‘axed’

Australia’s flag carrier Qantas is planning to dump two-thirds of its first-class airline seats as part of a radical 350 million US dollar overhaul of its long-haul fleet, a report said Monday.

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The changes, which could increase economy seating areas on planes by up to 20 percent, comes after the world financial crisis sparked a dramatic slump in demand for expensive premium seating on long-distance flights.

Under the scheme that could be announced within weeks, Qantas would retain first class seats only on its London and Los Angeles flights, slashing the number of its first-class planes to 12 from 30, the Australian Financial Review said.

The paper, quoting a leaked reconfiguration plan, said the changes would mean that sumptuous first class bed-seats would be stripped out of all the airline’s Boeing 747-400s, leaving 14 first class seats in just 12 Airbus A380 super jumbos.

‘Number of changes’

Qantas confirmed it was in talks with suppliers and manufacturers about implementing changes to its fleet, but declined to offer further details or to confirm the Review story.

“We are considering a number of changes to our fleet including the 747-400 and we are still in early discussions with suppliers and manufacturers,” a Qantas spokeswoman told AFP.

“We have flagged previously that Qantas is considering a number of options for our fleet, but it’s too premature to provide further details on changes that Qantas may make in the future,” she said.

The airline’s Chief Executive Alan Joyce said Qantas would continue to offer first class seats after it completes a new seat configuration, the details of which he said were expected to be announced in a few weeks.

“There is a role for first class but it’s not as extensive it was in the past,” Joyce told CNBC television.

The airline’s international business is continuing to suffer, he conceded, adding however that demand for air travel in the domestic market was recovering.

Qantas said last month that its international patronage was down 22.6 percent in the 12 months to November compared with a year earlier.

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BHP beats forecasts, lifts ore guidance

BHP Billiton’s shares leapt up after a record-breaking production report that has investors eyeing a strong profit and better capital returns.

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The global mining giant upgraded full year iron ore production guidance by five million tonnes (mt) to 212 mt (BHP’s share 192 mt).

The lift in guidance comes after BHP beat forecasts by increasing iron ore output by 23 per cent year on year to a record 48.85 million tonnes during the three months to the end of September.

Total ore sales out of Western Australia – including joint venture partners – was 53.56 million tonnes, also a 23 per cent lift.

Record petroleum production of 62.7 million barrels of oil equivalent excited analysts and the market as it was less expected.

BHP’s shares had gained 90 cents, or 2.5 per cent, to $37.10 by 1530 AEDT.

The focus on cost cutting and increasing free cash flow had positioned the company to grow returns to shareholders, said BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie, who took the top job in May.

Macquarie Equities criticised BHP and Rio Tinto’s dividend policies this week, saying they should return more to shareholders.

Mr Mackenzie said productivity gains and $US6.5 billion in transactions such as sales of assets and partial stakes – for which it has received $US2.2 billion so far – were delivering value for shareholders.

BHP cut $US2.7 billion in cash costs last year and dropped capital and exploration expenditure by 25 per cent to $US16 billion.

“Our rate of expenditure will decline again next year and if our investment criteria cannot be met in any one project, product or geography, we will redirect our capital elsewhere or we will not invest,” Mr Mackenzie said.

IG market strategist Evan Lucas said the strong performance of petroleum driven by US onshore shale oil and gas was healthy because it reduced BHP’s reliance for earnings on iron ore, which is expected to drop in price soon as Chinese growth slows.

“I am calling it the Mackenzie effect because he knows the petroleum division very, very well,” he told AAP.

“Heading into February next year the half year earnings numbers will be very exciting.”

A strong average iron ore price of $US135.10 a tonne this year will also boost profits and is well above previous forecasts of only $US100-115.

The increase in iron ore guidance was linked by Mr Mackenzie to mobile crushing units he said were reducing bottlenecks and getting product on to conveyer belts quicker.

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Australia’s Hughes needs ‘love’ to blossom, says Ponting

The 24-year-old scored an unbeaten 81 in the first innings of the Ashes opening test in England but was dropped for the rest of the series after failing in his next three turns at the crease.

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The demotion was his third from three Ashes series, having struggled against England seamers in 2009 and at home in 2010-11.

“He is clearly our best young batsman in the country,” Ponting told Australian Associated Press of Hughes, who cut his teeth as an opener but was punted down the order during the Ashes.

“The guy knows how to bat. He knows how to score runs. And he’s just the sort of character that you love to have around your team.

“He would be somebody that I would give a spot in the order and let him go about making that his own … if you give him a bit of love and a bit of stability around his game, I’m sure he’ll come good.”

Ponting retired from international cricket in a series-deciding loss against South Africa a year ago and has since watched Michael Clarke’s side suffer a 4-0 trouncing away to India before a 3-0 capitulation in the Ashes series.

The blame for Australia’s slide has largely been heaped on their struggling batsmen, and the jury remains out as to the make-up of the country’s top six batters less than a month before the return Ashes series starts in Brisbane.

The hot-headed David Warner, who was exiled from Australia’s Ashes campaign for the first two tests for punching England batsman Joe Root at a bar in the leadup, has belted consecutive tons in recent days in the domestic one-day tournament to put his hand up for selection.

Warner remains a polarising figure in Australia, where he has been in hot water for skipping club cricket duties and for engaging in profanity-laden rants against local journalists on Twitter.

Ponting, however, went in to bat for Warner and said he would have learned from his transgressions.

“To me, some of the things that have happened have just been almost tell-tale signs of someone just under extreme pressure,” said the Tasmanian.

“The thing about Davey, he hasn’t had a break from any cricket for about two years … and it’s such a high-pressurised environment, you need to be able to get away and let a bit of steam off here and there.

“Whenever he has tried to do that, he has got himself in a little bit of trouble.

“He would have learnt from that and it will make him a better person and hopefully a better cricketer.”

(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Blog: ‘I’m a sperm donor, not a dad’

I don’t ever recall wanting to have children.

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I never had pressure from my family to have children. But here I am with six children I know of and perhaps as many as another dozen I know nothing about – all through private sperm donation.

The first donation was the most straightforward. Dianne and I had been in a relationship years before. Early in that relationship it was clear that heterosexuality wasn’t for me. We remained friends and agreed that when Diane wanted to have a child she could ask me to be the father. By the time she did, I was in a long-term gay relationship; having sex would have been unnecessarily complicating. So I ‘donated’. Mary has always known me, and relates to me as her biological father, and I see her and relate to her as my daughter. In Mary’s early years I took an active role in parenting her.

Soon after I began donating to Dianne, I was asked by Louise and Margaret, a lesbian couple I knew, if I would be their donor. At the time, lesbians could not access donor insemination clinics. I was a politically active gay man and saw this as wrong, so I agreed to donate. They decided that they wanted the child to know and have contact with their father and I agreed. Dianne also wanted Mary to know her brother, Raj, and so began our extended family. Some years later, Louise and Margaret asked me to donate again, and I did. Jesse is son number two. Both see me as their father and call me Dad and I see them as my sons, though I have had virtually no part in their day-to-day parenting.

In between Raj and Jesse, my work friends Kerry and Simon had also asked me to be their donor because Simon was infertile. They did not want to go through a clinic either. By this time, I had grown to love Mary and Raj and having children had become unexpectedly satisfying. So I agreed. Alexis has always known me as her sperm donor not her Dad. I have had no part in her parenting. She does, however, see my other children as her sisters and brothers.

Many years later Bronwyn, a single woman I was friends with, also wanted a child. An arrangement she made with a friend fell through so I donated instead. Arlo is the last of my children. I see a lot of him as I did with Mary. He calls me Dad.

I think the extended family that I, my known children and their parent(s) form has been a success because we all chose to be open from the start with our children about our complex and different relationships as biological and social parents, taking it a step at a time, protecting them when that was needed, but never keeping from them information about their background. The children have been allowed to form whatever relationship they want with me as they have grown; sometimes coming closer, sometimes being less close.

Back when I was donating to Margaret and Louise, I also donated to a number of other lesbians and single heterosexual women. In all but one of these arrangements my role was strictly as a donor. Do any children born from those other donations have the right to know who I am and to contact me?

I don’t know if their mothers have told them they are donor children. I hope they have. I hope that the children have been raised in loving supportive families that have given them a strong enough sense of self not to need to know anything about the man who a long time ago gave their mothers sperm through which they were conceived.

[RELATED: Sperm donation – Right to know or right to privacy?]

But do they have the right to know me though that was never part of the agreement about their conception? The question has to be put because there is discussion currently about whether children born from anonymous donations made to fertility clinics should have the right to know who their donor was. The discussion comes about because there has been a radical shift in the way we view the rights of adopted children and the children of the stolen generation. I absolutely support the right of these children to know and seek out their parents. In their case, separation from their parent(s) was under duress or coercion and not through an agreement willingly and transparently entered into.

My case is different. So is that of the men who donated to fertility clinics. I don’t have problems with children born from anonymous donations knowing information about their biological male parent. I do have problems with making it their right to have that man’s contact information. It’s a question of balancing the child’s right and the right of the donor, who, to be blunt about it, was nothing more than a service provider.

Paul van Reyk is a guest on SBS’s Insight program tonight, 8.30pm on SBS ONE, which explores sperm donation and asks whose rights should prevail – those of the donor or the donor conceived child.

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Facebook shows beheadings but bans boobs

Beheadings yes, boobs no.

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That is essentially Facebook’s new stance after confirming it will allow users to watch videos of people having their heads chopped off.

But it won’t allow bare female breasts.

The internet is, weirdly, full of videos of people being decapitated – from soldiers being executed, to one purportedly showing a Mexican having her head lopped off after cheating on her husband.

Facebook’s justification for allowing beheading footage is that it wants people to condemn the videos.

“Facebook has long been a place where people turn to share their experiences, particularly when they’re connected to controversial events on the ground, such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism and other violent events,” a Facebook Australia spokesman told AAP.

“People share videos of these events on Facebook to condemn them.

“If they were being celebrated, or the actions in them encouraged, our approach would be different.”

Facebook, with nine million daily users in Australia, temporarily banned beheading videos in May after the Family Online Safety Institute – a member of its Safety Advisory Board – complained they “crossed a line”.

Although that ban has now been overturned, Facebook, which allows children as young as 13 to join, has maintained its ban on some sexual content, including bare female breasts.

Rule seven of its safety guidelines states: “You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”

Essentially, the new rules mean that the context of any Facebook post is now key. The US firm has indicated it will examine the entire context of any post before deciding whether or not to allow it.

Jon Lawrence, executive officer of Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc, a non-profit organisation that fights for internet freedom, access and privacy, has welcomed Facebook’s move to allow decapitation videos.

“In terms of censorship, social media may be one of the only ways for people in countries with limited freedom of expression to publicise human rights violations,” he told AAP.

“As such, Facebook should not be censoring such material.”

But he said it highlights the “fine line” Facebook now treads between censorship and providing a safe environment, particularly for younger users.

He called for “global age-based restrictions” on the site – similar to those on YouTube – allowing graphic or explicit material to be flagged as mature and potentially removed from young persons’ view.

Other social networking sites do allow graphic material to be viewed and shared – though most, including Facebook, operate complaint mechanisms whereby potentially offensive material can be reviewed and removed.

The relaxation of Facebook’s rules may be a move to bring it into line with the more liberal approach of its rivals.

AAP mdg/sd/pmu

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Bosnian football success sets example for healing ethnic divide

Last week the national football side won a place at the World Cup finals for the first time, two years after Bosnia was briefly suspended from international competition for letting ethnic politics pervade the sport.

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Under a reformed football federation, Bosnia automatically qualified for Brazil next year on the same night as some much bigger names in the European game – Spain, England and Russia.

Bosnians let off fireworks and honked car horns long into the night in Sarajevo when their team qualified, embracing a moment of joy after the horrors of a war that pitted Muslims, Croats and Serbs against each other in the early 1990s.

The victory mattered all the more because the team is a beacon of progress and unity in a country still divided between ethnic groups, mired in corruption and quarrels, and floundering on the edge of the European mainstream it wants to join.

“My message today to Bosnian politicians is: follow the example of your footballers and live up to expectations of your citizens,” said European Union enlargement chief Stefan Fule the day after Bosnia qualified for the World Cup finals.

Nearly two decades after the civil war in which around 100,000 people were killed, the former Yugoslav republic’s problem is not so much that the ethnic groups don’t get along.

A system created by the 1995 treaty that ended the war, giving each of the three ethnic groups a share of power and rotating important posts between them, has kept the peace.

Bosnia’s main problem is that this system breeds sleaze, the protecting of vested interests and paralysed decision-making. But while the politicians are still stuck in their old ways, the football team has shaken off the system and achieved the qualification, sealed by last Tuesday’s victory over Lithuania.

DYSFUNCTIONAL SET-UP

Two years ago, Bosnia’s NFSBiH football federation mirrored the way the state is organised. Its presidency was run by a Serb, a Croat and a Muslim who took turns in the job every 16 months, in much the same way that the state presidency works.

The system, say people involved in the sport, was dysfunctional. Officials were chosen on ethnic and political grounds rather than on competence.

Crucial decisions were fumbled. One example was the missed opportunity to recruit Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of Europe’s top stars who now plays for French side Paris Saint-Germain.

Near the start of his career, his Bosnian-born father said he wanted Zlatan to play for the national side. No one from the federation pursued the possibility, former officials and local media say, and now the striker captains Sweden, the country of his birth.

The Bosnian federation was on the verge of bankruptcy. Three former officials, one of them an ex-commander of the Muslim-dominated Bosnian army during the war, were jailed last year for tax evasion and embezzlement.

Many foreign-based players and devoted football fans boycotted the national team, angry at political interference which they said was spoiling otherwise harmonious relations among players and coaches.

The world and European governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA demanded the federation should have a single chief. “We were in an abyss only two years ago,” said NFSBiH President Elvedin Begic, who was appointed to the job in December last year.

NEW BEGINNING

The turning point came in 2011. With no sign of any progress, FIFA and UEFA briefly suspended Bosnia from competitions in April of that year. Stung by this, ethnic leaders agreed to reform the federation’s set-up.

A FIFA-appointed interim committee made up of football professionals of all ethnicities took over from the suspended federation. It was headed by Ivica Osim, who as a player led the former Yugoslavia to the World Cup quarter-finals in 1990. A Sarajevo-born Bosnian Croat, he is married to a Muslim.

Osim signalled how things had changed last year, when matches between Bosnian clubs were marred by violence between fans from Sarajevo and the Serb-dominated city of Banja Luka.

In an act of candour unprecedented in Bosnian football, he said sectarian politics was behind the violence, and this had no place in sport. He banned visiting fans from the stadiums.

Last December, the federation’s assembly elected its first single president for a four-year term and appointed a 15-member executive committee, comprising officials from Bosnia’s two autonomous regions, the Federation of Muslim Bosniaks and Croats and the Serb Republic.

“We now have a national team which is not based on the grounds of who is who, but who is the best,” Osim, who advises the new football federation, said last week. “If only politicians were as cohesive as this team.”

BALL IN POLITICIANS’ COURT

Ethnic suspicions linger. Most of Bosnia’s ethnic Serbs have traditionally supported the Serbian national team and many Bosnian Croats cheer for Croatia – although this may be changing thanks to Bosnia’s success.

In the Serb Republic, the Serb-dominated autonomous part of Bosnia, public television did not broadcast the match against Lithuania and reported the result only hours later, as a short news item.

“Football cannot reconcile the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, football cannot make them more tolerant because football was not an issue. Politicians are those who must do it,” said Srdjan Puhalo, a psychologist from Banja Luka, main city in the Serb Republic.

Brussels has made reforming Bosnia’s ethnically-based political system a condition of starting talks on EU accession. So far, the politicians are reluctant to change a set-up that serves their interests.

Yet at a grass-roots level, the example set by the multi-ethnic football team is helping heal some of Bosnia’s divisions.

Sasa Zivkovic, a graphic worker from Banja Luka, watched the Bosnia-Lithuania match at home with friends by tuning into a Bosnian commercial station that carried it.

Zivkovic said many other people in the city cheered on the Bosnian team, though they don’t admit it because of “strong antagonism” towards anything connected to the Bosnian state.

“But people like winners, and Bosnia’s football team is a winning team, so I think that many things will change,” he said.

(Additional reporting to Gordana Katana in Banja Luka; Editing by Christian Lowe and David Stamp)

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Fenech biggest loser in Mosley pullout

Jeff Fenech says he’s the biggest loser – $460,000 out of pocket – after American great Shane Mosley walked away from his fight with Anthony Mundine just hours before the weigh-in.

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Fenech says he put up the money in advance to get Mosley to Sydney for Wednesday’s scheduled WBA light-middleweight bout because promoter Vlad Warton couldn’t afford it.

But Mosley abandoned the fight, flying home on Tuesday, claiming a breach of contract after he was not paid the balance of his $1 million purse on Monday for the fight.

And Fenech, who says he didn’t know Mosley was due to be paid before the fight, is heavily out of pocket.

“If I’d have known that, I wouldn’t have given him – I gave him $460,000,” Australian boxing great Fenech said on Tuesday morning.

“I certainly wouldn’t have done that if I thought the fight wasn’t going to go ahead because my guarantee was that when the fight went ahead, (with) the pay-per-view money and the pub and club money that I’d be paid back, but now it doesn’t look like it.”

Fenech said he put up the cash after Warton, whom he has known for many years, asked him to “give him a hand” with the downpayment because he couldn’t fund it himself.

“I was just trying to be nice,” the 49-year-old said.

“Vlad Warton told me he needed $US300,000 as a start to getting here, then another $US100,000 for all his expenses, and a little more.”

“So I accommodated for all that, and now they’ve gone home so I’m really left with nothing.

“It’s going to be a little bit tough for a while.”

Fenech added that while “bloody money” had gotten in the way, he believed it saved Mundine from certain defeat.

“Being honest, I watched Shane Mosley train throughout the whole 10 days, two weeks that he’s been here and I wouldn’t give Anthony a chance,” said Fenech.

“It was a great opportunity for Anthony but, watching him train, I thought Shane was a class above what I’ve seen here for a long time,” said Fenech.

“It’s a pity we didn’t get to see the skills of Shane Mosley and we didn’t get to see Anthony Mundine fighting one of the greatest fighters in history.”

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It’s A Dundeel the new Cox Plate favourite

New Zealander It’s A Dundeel has been handed a golden opportunity to establish himself as Australasia’s champion racehorse by winning Saturday’s $3 million Cox Plate.

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Having inherited favouritism following the shock scratching of Atlantic Jewel soon after acceptances on Tuesday, It’s A Dundeel will have few challengers for the title if he wins the race regarded as Australia’s best.

And the confidence of trainer Murray Baker suggests he will.

It’s A Dundeel assumed the top line of betting at $4 after Atlantic Jewel was declared a non-runner at the end of a morning of drama and intrigue at Moonee Valley.

No clue of the injury suffered by the champion mare was offered by trainer Mark Kavanagh who came to the Valley for the Cox Plate barrier draw.

As Kavanagh was producing an Academy Award-winning performance at the Valley, fellow Flemington trainers Chris Waller and Danny O’Brien made the surprise moves of accepting for the Cox Plate with Foreteller and Shamus Award.

Waller’s decision to pay up came in a hurried phone call to stewards only minutes before the acceptance deadline and less than an hour after he declared the horse would miss the race and run in Saturday week’s Mackinnon Stakes.

Shamus Award, a maiden and the Cox Plate emergency, hadn’t been mentioned among the possibilities and would have been given no chance in the race.

But with Atlantic Jewel out, he gets a shot at some substantial minor prize money.

For Baker, the news of Atlantic Jewel’s defection wasn’t welcomed, but the possibility it created was.

It’s A Dundeel is the only horse to have defeated Atlantic Jewel, beating her fair-and-square in the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield a month ago and shaped as the clear danger to her in Saturday’s race.

After a slight setback two weeks ago, Baker said It’s A Dundeel had made a complete recovery from the foot abscess that kept him out of the Caulfield Stakes.

“We think he’s tightened up a bit. He looks healthy and we’re pretty happy with him,” Baker said.

It’s A Dundeel turned in one of the best performances of the public gallops at the Valley on Tuesday morning, easily getting the better of the handy mare Let’s Make Adeal.

For Baker, the Cox Plate is shaping as the making of a horse whose only rival for top honours was Atlantic Jewel.

“He’s shown how good he is. His Derby win in Sydney was spectacular,” Baker said.

“The thing with him is that he does it all so easily, he’s easy to train, nothing worries him.

“He’s relaxed, he’s got plenty of speed and he can stay.”

One rival trainer who agrees with Baker is Gai Waterhouse who named It’s A Dundeel as the danger to her runner Fiorente, even before Atlantic Jewel came out.

“It’s a Dundeel, he’s the horse to beat,” she said.

“He’s a very masculine, big strong colt, I’m very impressed with the horse.

“Murray’s a lucky man to be training him.”

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Royal radio prank described in crude terms

Southern Cross Media’s chairman has used the words “sh*t happens” to describe the tragic royal radio prank call as shareholders delivered a first strike against the company’s executive pay.

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Just over 30 per cent of shareholders voted against the company’s remuneration policy at its annual general meeting on Tuesday.

This was more than 25 per cent threshold needed to trigger a first strike and spark a spill of board positions if it happens again next year.

But during the annual general meeting in Melbourne, chairman Max Moore-Wilton stirred controversy when he reportedly used salty language to describe the infamous prank phone call to a London hospital in December 2012 in which two presenters impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles inquiring after the health of a then pregnant Duchess of Cambridge.

“These incidents were unfortunate, no doubt about that,” Moore-Wilton told shareholders.

“But in the immortal words of someone whose identity I cannot recall, sh*t happens.”

The group’s Sydney radio station 2Day FM aired the call made by presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

The episode ended in tragedy, with the suicide of duped nurse Jacintha Saldanha.

It occurred during the last financial year, which saw chief executive Rhys Holleran’s total pay rise by more than $350,000 to $1.66 million.

The company’s profit in that time rose slightly to $96 million, despite a 6.5 per cent fall in sales revenue during the year.

But the total amount paid to senior executives in 2012/13 was lower than the previous year.

Southern Cross owns the 2Day and Triple M radio networks, and a regional TV network.

Radio revenues and market share fell during the year, as 2DayFM presenter Kyle Sandilands was also embroiled in scandal.

TV revenues were down nearly 13 per cent, mostly due to the weak performance of Southern Cross’ affiliate Ten Network.

Mr Holleran told Tuesday’s meeting that radio revenues had improved in the three months to September, compared to a year ago, though television revenues remained flat.

The company is also hoping an increase in consumer sentiment will provide a boost to the retail sector, which should flow into higher advertising revenues.

“There presently seems to be more positivity surrounding consumer sentiment and when that will translate in to the broader retail economy,” Mr Holleran said.

“Whilst forever hopeful, we are yet to see this positivity translate into our business activity.”

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Aussies look to close in on ODI series win

Australia’s destructive opener Aaron Finch can’t understand the sudden interest in the one-day day series with India.

南宁桑拿

Initially derided as an inconvenient obligation which threatened to derail Australia’s Ashes preparations, it is now being hailed as the saviour to the one-day format after back-to-back thrilling contests.

But Finch says the signs were there all along that this title fight was going to go the distance.

“I think so, it’s one versus two in the world,” he told AAP in Ranchi ahead of Wednesday’s fourth game of the seven-match series.

“I reckon the way that both teams are playing one-day cricket these days is very entertaining to watch.”

Victory in Ranchi, the hometown of India captain MS Dhoni, would give Australia a 3-1 series lead and go a long way towards maintaining their excellent ODI record in the subcontinent.

Despite their Test failings in India, Australia have enjoyed remarkable success in the shorter format, having not lost a seven-match ODI series on Indian soil.

In the six ODI series between the two nations on Indian soil, Australia has triumphed on four occasions.

They lost their most recent encounter, a three-match series in 2010, when two matches were rained out.

But in 2007 and 2009 Australia took 4-2 series victories, while they also triumphed in 2001.

Prior to that, you need to go back to 1986 for Indian success at home against Australia in the 50-over format.

And Finch says to open up a two-game break in the series would be significant.

“Of course it would be huge; I think the next couple of games are going to be really interesting,” he said.

“We know we’ve got a real opportunity to go 3-1 up here and that would be a fantastic position to be in.

“The expectations that come with being up in the series are probably higher but we’re we’re excited about that.

“We’re embracing the challenge.”

The formula on this tour has been simple: make the most of the conditions and use 300 as the target for every innings.

It has worked, with Australia passing 300 in all three matches to date – with their only loss coming on the back of India’s record-breaking chase of 360 in game two.

“I think the way that our tactics have changed over the last couple of months from the England series (which Australia won 2-1), where we thought we played really well, we’ve come here with a lot of confidence, the batters are backing themselves,” Finch said.

“I reckon we’ve scored 300 more times than we haven’t in the last couple of months.”

Despite heavy rain falling in the evenings, Finch expects to face a slower, lower pitch more in line with the conditions in Pune in game one than the harder, faster wickets on offer in Jaipur and Mohali.

“I played an IPL game here earlier in the year and it was quite slow and turned a little bit … I don’t expect it to be too different,” Finch said.

“It will turn a bit more, which obviously suits their tactics a bit more than ours.”

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Vic officer ‘feared death’ before shooting

A Victorian police officer says he thought he would be killed when he fired upon a murder suspect.

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The officer, who can only be identified as Operator 41, was one of four officers who fatally shot Wayne Joannou in a car at South Melbourne in February 2005.

The officers from the Special Operations Group say they were trying to arrest the 26-year-old Sydenham man over the murder of Brian Bottomley.

Operator 41 told an inquest into Joannou’s death that he saw a black and silver shotgun being pointed directly at him as he approached the car.

“I actually feared for my life,” he told the Victorian Coroners Court on Tuesday.

“He pointed that gun directly at me and I thought I was going to die.”

The officer said he started firing his semi-automatic rifle at Joannou, stopping when one of the windows shattered because he could no longer see.

He later estimated that he had fired nine rounds, but said he wasn’t counting at the time.

Operator 41 said Joannou was suffering severe facial and head injuries when he was removed from the car.

A second officer, known as Operator 34, said he fired a single shot when he saw a flash coming from the rear of the car.

“I took that flash to be that the person was firing at our members,” he said.

The inquest has previously been told that Joannou did not fire a shot.

Operator 41 said police had received information before the attempted arrest that Joannou was paranoid, had shotgun ammunition and “wasn’t going quietly”.

Both officers gave their evidence from behind large black screens to protect their identities.

Earlier this year the four police involved in the shooting unsuccessfully applied to have Coroner Jane Hendtlass removed from the inquest.

Mr Bottomley, of Sydenham, disappeared in January 2005.

Although his remains have never been found, police say he was shot in Melbourne and later dismembered with a power saw.

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