Benedict breaks silence to defend his papal record

August 8th, 2018

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has broken his self-imposed silence with a lengthy letter to a prominent atheist in which he defended himself from accusations that he did not do enough to bring to justice sexually abusive priests.
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The former pontiff spoke of his ‘‘profound consternation’’ that ‘‘evil’’ had entered so deeply into the Roman Catholic faith. But he denied that he had, either as pope or previously as head of the Vatican office dealing with abuse cases, tried to cover up the scandals that tarnished the Church’s reputation around the world.

‘‘I never tried to cover these things up,’’ he wrote.

‘‘That the power of evil penetrated so far into the interior world of the faith is a suffering that we must bear, but at the same time must do everything to prevent it from repeating.

‘‘Neither is it comforting to know that, according to research, the percentage of priests who commit these crimes isn’t any higher than the percentage of other similar professions.

‘‘Regardless, one shouldn’t present this deviation as if it were something specific to Catholicism.’’

The letter was sent to Piergiorgio Odifreddi, an atheist mathematician, who in 2011 wrote a book titled, ‘Dear Pope, I’m Writing to You’.

In his book, Odifreddi posed a series of polemical arguments about the Catholic faith, including the church’s sex abuse scandal.

The letter was reprinted by the leading Italian newspaper La Repubblica, and was the first published statement from Benedict since he said on retirement that he would live out his years ‘‘hidden from the world’’.

It discussed topics such as the nature of Catholic belief, the conflict between good and evil, and evolution, came two weeks after La Repubblica published a similar letter from his successor Pope Francis on atheism and agnosticism.

The Vatican said the timing of the two documents was a coincidence, rather than a concerted attempt by the two pontiffs to launch a fresh engagement with non-believers.

But the fact that a former pontiff and his successor wrote letters on the same issue within days of each other underlined the peculiarity of a situation in which, for the first time in centuries, two popes live virtually under the same roof.

While Pope Francis lives in a Vatican guesthouse called the Casa Santa Marta, his predecessor is living out his retirement in a former convent a few hundred yards away. It is not known how often the two men meet as they move around within the walls of the tiny sovereign state but they share the same private secretary – Archbishop Georg Ganswein.

Benedict’s assertion that he had done what he could to end sexual abuse by priests was disputed by groups representing the victims of paedophile clergy.

‘‘Over a clerical career that lasted more than six decades, we can’t think of a single child-molesting bishop, priest, nun, brother or seminarian that Benedict ever exposed,’’ said Barbara Dorris of the United States-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

‘‘In the Church’s entire history, no one knew more but did less to protect kids than Benedict. As head of CDF, thousands of cases of predator priests crossed his desk. Did he choose to warn families or call police about even one of those dangerous clerics? No. That, by definition, is a cover-up.’’

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Palmer candidate Jacqui Lambie claims final Senate seat in Tasmania

August 8th, 2018

Federal politics coverageLambie celebrates win, flips on carbon tax
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The Palmer United Party has won its first seat at the election, with its candidate Jacqui Lambie taking out the final Senate seat in Tasmania.

A 42-year-old single mother with two children, Ms Lambie squeezed past the Liberals’ third candidate Sally Chandler and sex industry lobbyist Robbie Swan to win a seat in the new Senate.

In the tightest contest in Tasmanian history, Mr Swan fell just 244 votes short of overtaking Labor senator Lin Thorp at the point where one or other dropped out of the count.

With just another 0.08 per cent of the vote, the Canberra-based co-convenor of the sex industry’s Eros Foundation would have topped her vote, won her preferences and most likely gone on to take the seat.

Instead, Ms Lambie won the seat, winning 6.6 per cent of the vote, in the Palmer United Party’s best performance anywhere outside Queensland.

She was helped over the line by a horde of preferences from other parties, ranging from the libertarian Liberal Democrats to the Greens.

The Palmer United Party is certain to win a second Senate seat in Queensland, where rugby union legend Glenn Lazarus won 10 per cent of the vote, and has a 50/50 chance of winning a third seat in Western Australia, where it is in a fight with the obscure Australian Sports Party.

PUP leader Clive Palmer won the lower house seat of Fairfax by 36 votes but the slender margin means the contest is now subject to a recount, with results not expected until next week.

The Coalition’s loss means it will have only 33 seats in the new 76-member senate, one fewer than now. Labor and the Greens will have 35 seats between them, with a crossbench of eight senators holding the balance of power.

A combative former military policewoman, Ms Lambie has warned the government she will be no pushover.

”If he thinks that Pauline Hanson was a pain in the rear end, Tony Abbott better look out,” she told Fairfax Media in an interview after early counting showed she may secure the seat. ”He hasn’t come up against Jacqui Lambie.”

The AEC has also officially announced the Senate results for the Northern Territory. As expected, the Country Liberal Pary’s Nigel Scullion has retained his Senate seat, with Labor’s Nova Peris taking the second spot.

Ms Lambie joined the army at 18 and served for 11 years before a back injury forced her to quit. She then spent years fighting the Department of Veterans Affairs in the courts before it finally gave her a disability pension.

A former member of the Liberal party, she originally sought its preselection for the north-west Tasmanian seat of Braddon. When that failed, she decided to stand for the Senate as an independent, selling her house in Burnie to finance her campaign, but then ran into party leader Clive Palmer at an airport, and agreed to be his lead candidate.

Ms Lambie has already shown an independent streak, telling the ABC she disagreed with her party’s policy to remove the price on carbon. “There still needs to be a carbon tax, but it just needs to be a lot lower,” she said.

However, she appeared to change her mind on the issue after her win was announced on Wednesday, saying ”I just buggered that up”.

She has also sharply attacked both major parties over cuts to welfare payments, and urged the new government to increase the staff of the Veteran Affairs department by 50 per cent.

She will replace Labor senator Lin Thorp when the new Senate takes its place next July.As expected, the other five seats in Tasmania went to sitting Labor senators Carol Brown and Catryna Bilyk, Liberal senators Richard Colbeck and David Bushby, and Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson.

with Judith Ireland

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Roseville cinema robbery: pair arrested for assaulting police to be questioned

August 8th, 2018

Police are investigating whether two people arrested after allegedly assaulting officers at a Kirrawee fast food outlet are linked to a violent rampage across Sydney on Monday night, during which a hotel and cinema were robbed and an elderly man was carjacked.
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The 22-year-old man and 20-year-old woman will be questioned at Sutherland Police Station on Wednesday over armed robberies at the Roseville Cinemas and the Revesby Pacific Hotel, in which staff and customers were threatened with a sawn-off shotgun. The pair will also be quizzed about a carjacking in Lane Cove on the same night in which an 87-year-old man’s car was stolen.

The pair was arrested at a McDonald’s outlet on the Princes Highway at Kirrawee about 11pm on Tuesday after police were called to investigate reports that they were acting suspiciously.

When police spoke with the couple, the man allegedly punched a constable in the face and the woman kicked another officer twice in the head.

The man then allegedly bit the first officer on the hand before running from the restaurant. He was arrested a short time later in Monroe Avenue.

More officers who were called to the fast food outlet were allegedly assaulted by the woman, before both were taken to Sutherland Police Station.

Police will also allege the woman scratched and punched the custody sergeant at the station.

A total of seven police officers were injured during the incident, police allege.

Officers seized a number of bags that were found with the couple and they are being forensically examined.

A NSW Police spokeswoman said the Metropolitan Robbery Unit, which was investigating the robbery at the Roseville Cinemas and at the Revesby Pacific Hotel on Monday night, was waiting to interview the couple. No charges have been laid.

During Monday night’s rampage, thieves carjacked a vehicle from an 87-year-old man in the driveway of his Lane Cove home before driving to the Roseville Cinemas.

Four thieves ran into the cinema about 8pm and threatened to shoot and kill a number of cinemagoers if they did not hand over their wallets, before stealing about $1000 from the cinema box office.

The thieves then fled in the stolen car, which police say was used in another armed robbery at the hotel in Revesby later that night.

Police have urged anyone with information about the robberies to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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The Turning strikes a chord

September 12th, 2019

Still from Tim Winton’s The Turning, making its world premiere at MIFF 2013. Christina Ricci (right) stars in Around the Block, set in Redfern.
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People planning to turn up for The Turning

Producer-director Robert Connolly describes ticket sales for the Tim Winton adaptation The Turning as ”huge” so far. An innovative approach to turn the film into a special event in cinemas has generated more than $200,000 in pre-sales. After a series of Q&A screenings around the country, the three-hour film is screening for two weeks from Thursday with an interval and a free program. Like a live show in a theatre, it will also have just one session a night, plus the odd matinee in some cinemas. ”I’ve picked the 15 best screens in the country to launch this film,” says Connolly, whose boldness ran to using 17 directors for different chapters of the film including actors David Wenham and Mia Wasikowska. In Sydney, The Turning is screening at the Cremorne Orpheum, Dendy Newtown, Dendy Opera Quays and Palace Verona.  In Melbourne, it’s at the Nova, Rivoli, Palace Como and Palace Brighton. Other venues are the Palace Electric in Canberra; Palace Centro and Dendy Portside in Brisbane, the Arts Centre on the Gold Coast, Palace East End in Adelaide, Luna Leederville and Luna on SX in Perth and the State Cinema in Hobart.Around the Block moves around the calendar

The cinema release of the film that Christina Ricci (pictured) shot in Australia last year, Sarah Spillane’s Around The Block, is shifting from November to March next year. Producer Brian Rosen says the warm audience response at the world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival has encouraged thoughts the drama could take up to $3 million at the local box office. ”We need to get 50 or 60 screens to be able to do that,” he says. ”If we go in November, I don’t think I can find that many screens. So we’re looking to push into March after the Oscars.” The film is about a high school teacher (Ricci) who wants to help a talented indigenous student (Hunter Page-Lochard) at the time of the Redfern Riots. “It’s a gritty urban story that really could be set anywhere – East LA or Sao Paulo – so it’s got a universal appeal,” says Rosen.Golden oldies not so mouldy

Two classics feature at the Seniors Film Festival in Melbourne next week, Casablanca and Gone With The Wind. But it’s not all nostalgia with the program also including the French drama Haute Cuisine, about a cook employed by the French president, and Alex Gibney’s powerhouse documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In the House of God, about the culture of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. The festival runs  October 6-11 at the Australian Centre For The Moving Image, with seniors tickets $5 and carers free.Documentray legend O’Rourke remembered

The Antenna Documentary Festival in Sydney will pay tribute to one of the country’s finest documentary makers, Dennis O’Rourke, who died in June. A screening of Cunnamulla, his controversial 2000 film about a Queensland country town, will be followed by a Q&A with executive producer Stefan Moore and editor Andrea Lang. ”In my view it’s Dennis’s greatest film,” says Moore. ”I was very surprised at how controversial it was. I looked at it as just a beautiful film about this small dot on the Earth.” While some claimed two Aboriginal teenagers were exploited by discussing their sex lives in the film, Moore says O’Rourke’s intention was ”to show how brave these girls were”. The festival opens with Eva Orner’s The Network, about a new Afghan television station, at the Chauvel cinema next Wednesday (sub: October 2). In Melbourne, it runs at ACMI from October 17 to 20.

Twitter @gmaddox

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Tulloch Lodge cuts Nash Rawiller loose as Tom Berry hits his straps

September 12th, 2019

Cut loose: Nash Rawiller is no longer riding in a partnership with Gai Waterhouse and Tulloch Lodge Photo: Jenny EvansPremier jockey Nash Rawiller has taken a freelance role in recent months and Gai Waterhouse admits their successful partnership has moved to more of an association.
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Rawiller has held the coveted No.1 rider position at Tulloch Lodge since the autumn of 2007.

It has been the most important riding position in Sydney for the past 50 years, since the halcyon era of Tommy Smith, however, Waterhouse made it clear the position is vacant as Tom Berry and Rawiller now share the stable’s best rides.

”There is really not a No.1 there at the moment,” Waterhouse said.

”I think Tom has really come of age. I think Tom is a very exciting jockey. He hasn’t got the maturity of someone like Nash or Glyn Schofield, but, my gosh, he is a good young jockey.” Rawiller didn’t want to comment about his position in the Waterhouse stable after he rode a treble at Canterbury on Wednesday, but none for Tulloch Lodge.

It was the outside rides that helped him surge to the jockeys’ title in July and this season he has only ridden three winners for Waterhouse from 12 rides, in a suspension-interrupted start to the new term.

Waterhouse said it was her idea for Rawiller, a heavyweight who rarely rides less than 55.5 kilograms, to branch out.

”I told him to [do a bit more outside riding]. I told him he should go and catch and kill his own and he would do well and he has,” Waterhouse said.

It was clear from Rawiller’s treble at Canterbury that he had embraced the new situation.

Waterhouse had runners, at Rawiller’s weight, in both races he won for Chris Waller, on Earnest Desire and Perplexity, before he was at his best to score on Clarry Conners-trained Turnley.

Rawiller has ridden seven winners for Waller this season and the premier trainer is happy to get the opportunity to use him.

”He is [a] great asset when you can get him,” Waller said.

Waller made it clear that he believed Rawiller was one of the elements of success at Tulloch Lodge.

”As a competitor, I look to see what the opposition is doing that makes them better then you try to apply that to your set-up,” he said.

Rawiller has been riding less trackwork for Waterhouse and it’s obvious looking at the bookings for Rosehill on Saturday – he is riding for a variety of stables.

He has three rides for Waterhouse – Julienas in the Colin Stephen Quality, Greytfilly in the Reginald Allen Quality and Hydro in the Gloaming Stakes.

It is Berry who has the pick of the stable’s rides on Saturday. They are highlighted by the promising Ecuador with 60kg in the opener, and the talented Aussies Love Sport (56.5kg) in the Stan Fox Stakes. He also has the important task of getting Our Desert Warrior, which has the minimum of 53kg, into the Epsom by winning the Shannon Stakes.

Waterhouse and Rawiller have been the strongest team in Sydney for the past six years and peaked when they combined for seven group 1 wins at last year’s autumn carnival. More Joyous and Pierro delivered three each but cracks have developed in the partnership in the past year.

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Stewarts and Burgesses: two proud, contrasting families put it all on the line

September 12th, 2019

Brothers gonna work it out: The Burgess clan at the XBox1 launch on Wednesday. Photo: Anthony JohnsonAre two Stewarts better than four Burgesses? And will Friday night mark the changing of the guard as the Burgesses replace the Stewarts as rugby league’s most influential band of brothers?
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It is probably an argument worth debating in 10 years’ time after we witness the legacy the English siblings leave at South Sydney, but as Glenn and Brett Stewart enter the twilight of their careers, there is little doubt they will be remembered as two of the greatest Sea Eagles of all time. In Friday’s preliminary final, two proud families go to war for their equally proud respective clubs.

In one corner the flavour of the year and the talk of the town – the Burgesses. They love the spotlight. They love the camera. They are a promoter’s dream and everything off the field the Stewart boys aren’t.

The Manly pair have long been regarded as the hard men of rugby league. No-nonsense footballers who loathe the limelight and take no pleasure in seeing their names up in lights. Tough, unrelenting. They epitomise what it is to be Manly.

As siblings go, rugby league has been blessed with brilliant brothers. The Mortimers, the Walterses, the Hugheses, the Johnses, the Walkers – just to name a few. Victory for the Sea Eagles would give the Stewart brothers a chance to win their third premiership together, a feat that has only been achieved by Steve, Chris and Peter Mortimer for the Bulldogs in 1980, 1984 and 1985.

While they may not have the same numbers as the Mortimers, Canterbury great Steve Mortimer rates the Stewarts as one of the best set of brothers to have played the game. The Stewarts had only begun to forge their identity at Manly when the club announced its greatest team of all time in 2006, but Mortimer believes the pair have achieved enough to warrant selection if the team was to be reselected. ”I’m a huge fan of the Stewart boys, but in particular Glenn,” Mortimer said.

”He’s a playmaker in a forward’s body. He’s such a crafty player and would sit well in the company of Manly’s greats like Terry Randall and Malcolm Reilly, who I played against, as well as Steve Menzies in their greatest team. I wouldn’t want to say who would miss out but Glenn definitely is in the same category as those players. I also think the same with Brett Stewart in comparison with Graham Eadie. Brett’s an incredible player.”

The Stewart brothers have played 111 games together for the Sea Eagles, winning 81 of those matches (73 per cent) when they have been on the field together. The Burgesses have won 28 of 39 games (71.8 per cent) when at least two brothers have played together.

Sam Burgess, the most accomplished of the quartet, said he could see the camaraderie between Brett and Glenn. ”It’s hard to notice that connection they have when you’re playing against them, but when you watch videos of the game you notice the connection they have because they’re brothers,” he said. ”They are very good. Glenn certainly is a quality forward and Brett’s an outstanding player. I know how it feels to play alongside your brothers and they are two outstanding players in a great team.”

Tom Burgess, who will miss Friday’s preliminary final having been selected to play for North Sydney in the NSW Cup, said his brothers aspire to have similar careers to the Manly duo. ”We always like to see brothers in the game, it’s good to see,” Tom said. ”If we can achieve what they’ve achieved during their careers at Manly then we would’ve had pretty successful careers.”

Mortimer believes the connection between brothers on the field and their willingness to put their bodies on the line for each other provide the foundation for good football teams, and predicts the Burgess brothers will leave a huge legacy at the Rabbitohs.

”Playing with my brothers and the Hughes brothers, it was definitely an advantage, and while you bleed for your teammates, you die for your family,” he said. ”There’s nothing like having brothers in the same team – you do anything for them. I think the Burgesses definitely have the potential to be remembered as one of the great sets of brothers. They are humble, they are quiet and are good, quality young men. I definitely see them leaving a significant mark in South Sydney’s proud history.”

Twitter – @MichaelChammas

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Roberts gets the green light for Newcastle

September 12th, 2019

Fortunes improving: Tyrone Roberts, front left, is expected to be fit to take on the Roosters. Photo: Simone De PeakNewcastle halfback Tyrone Roberts is on track to line up against Sydney Roosters in the preliminary final at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night after a solid training session on Wednesday.
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Knights coach Wayne Bennett was certain Roberts would take his place but effectively ruled out back-up playmaker Craig Gower (neck), and said winger James McManus (ankle) remained under an injury cloud. In their last run in Newcastle before the grand-final qualifier, the Knights were cheered on by several hundred supporters.

”We’re all fit to go … James McManus is still in doubt, but outside of him, everyone is good,” Bennett said.

Roberts was in a leg brace after Newcastle’s 18-16 semi-final victory over Melbourne at AAMI Park last Saturday night after hyperextending his right knee in the final minutes. Cleared of a significant injury after scans the following day, the goal-kicking Ballina Seagulls product showed no ill effects at training as he ran, stepped and kicked without incident.

”He trained all morning, he didn’t miss a drill out there, so if he’s got a bad knee, he can’t do all that he did,” Bennett said. ”He’s got no strapping on it.”

McManus has battled a stress fracture in his lower-left leg since the Origin decider in Brisbane on July 17 and was replaced by Kevin Naiqama for the game against the Storm last Saturday. Though he is no longer wearing a moon boot, McManus sat out most of Wednesday’s session and Naiqama remains on standby.

”He’s on the borderline, so we’ll give him until Friday and see how he is,” Bennett said. ”We’re all confident in Kevin, so it always helps when you’ve got … somebody else that’s very capable.”

Gower had neck surgery three weeks ago to shave a bulging disc and is not expected to displace bench utility Matt Hilder.

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The heroes of a new age

September 12th, 2019

Breakout: Clark Gregg’s agent Phil Coulson (right) is the link between Marvel’s cinematic and television universes.Stepping out of the long shadow of iconic superheroes such as Iron Man and Thor, the centrepiece of the new action series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a vast, fictional intelligence organisation: the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. With long tendrils and vast archives, its heart is a literal and metaphorical vault, packed to breaking point with secrets. ”There are a lot of questions that come with that,” producer Jed Whedon says. ”How far do you take that? Is keeping a secret ever valuable if it keeps someone safe? Or taking their liberty away if it will keep people safe?”
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When the fictional espionage and law-enforcement agency was created in 1965 by reverend comic-book writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics – as one of those fictional super agencies that tangled with superheroes – it talked to a different American social landscape: one touched by the CIA in its infancy and other, traditional international agencies such as Britain’s MI5.

In 2013, it makes a very different social statement, about a world of WikiLeaks and Anonymous, where freedom of information and the democratisation of knowledge have become important social issues. ”We are dealing with both sides of that debate on our show,” Whedon’s co-producer [and wife] Maurissa Tancharoen says.

For a long time (in the comics world at least), S.H.I.E.L.D. was the institutional keeper of secrets, Whedon says. But now, in the wake of the events depicted in the Marvel theatrical films, the paradigm has shifted. ”Now their world has changed and people know the truth, that there are aliens and that there are gods and monsters,” he says.

”It’s an escape show where you’re watching characters with costumes and superpowers and strange gadgets. We don’t have too lofty a concept of ourselves, but I think it is relevant in terms of how global the world is now and how much information is out there,” Whedon says.

In that sense, Tancharoen says, the series is about the connected world: ”The human experience, amplified by this extraordinary world, but with characters who are regular people in this extraordinary world.

”And people who are feeling even more ‘less-than’ because they’re aware that gods, aliens and superheroes exist. How do you deal with that? We’re always trying to be something better than we are. It’s the beauty and the curse of being a human being.”

The series stars Clark Gregg as agent Phil Coulson – a character established in the Marvel feature-film universe – who takes charge of a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents: Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen), Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), Leo Fitz (Iain de Caestecker), Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) and Skye (Chloe Bennet), a civilian who inadvertently becomes a member of the group.

In motion it’s a fast-paced mixture of action sequences and character moments. It’s loaded with special effects at the top end of the TV range; an advantage, perhaps, of having a billion-dollar film franchise down the hall. All of that is set to an acoustic signature composed by Bear McCreary, the American composer best known for scoring the reboot of Battlestar Galactica and zombie drama The Walking Dead.

When Whedon and Tancharoen articulated the series to McCreary, they told him they wanted a show with big horns, big music themes and music that ”made you feel you were on an adventure”, Whedon says. ”But there’s also the human aspect, and that’s more about acoustic instruments.”

The show’s soundtrack, Tancharoen says, is infused with a sense of hope. ”And in those moments, big brass orchestral swells happen,” she says. ”It’s very fun. The first time we heard them score the pilot episode it was … well, that was a moment. We may have had a moment.”

To understand the series, however, we need to appreciate its placement inside the Marvel universe: where superheroes (such as Iron Man) and gods (such as Thor) are real people, and where ”the Avengers” – Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye – allied to defeat Thor’s stepbrother, the villainous god Loki.

That conflict – referred to within the Marvel comic-book continuity as the Battle of New York – was a definitive moment in human history, a paradigm shift in terms of the world’s population and its understanding of superheroes (and gods) and the roles they play in society.

Unlike a lot of comic-book franchises in the past – notably Superman and Batman, which tended to develop discrete film and television projects with very little crossover – a clear decision has been made with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to establish that the TV series, and the other Marvel feature films, exist within one continuity.

Which is not to say that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) or Iron Man (Robert Downey jnr) will be making guest appearances in the TV show, but that there is connective tissue that links the various elements of the bigger tapestry.

In addition, Whedon says, a lot of ”time and money has been spent fleshing out this world, creating a bunch of franchises, which they started linking together, and then they made a film [2012’s The Avengers] that brought them all together. We get the advantage of that world being established already.”

Gregg’s agent Phil Coulson inadvertently became the link, having first appeared in Iron Man (2008) and subsequently in Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011) and Marvel’s The Avengers (2012). ”His performance grew and grew in each movie,” Whedon says.

Far less likely is an appearance by either Iron Man or Thor, but Whedon and Tancharoen believe the TV series will benefit enormously from its relationship with its larger big-screen cousins.

”We’re open to crossovers and we communicate with features to try and weave between those releases, but we are very focused on being our own thing and establishing our characters,” Whedon says.

The TV series might, Tancharoen suggests, be an opportunity to explore the impact of events depicted in the Marvel feature films. ”We like to say the movies are about giants, but our TV show is about the people in the building that the giant crushed.

”The people at the centre of our show are real people and real people who dealt with the fallout from the [fictional] Battle of New York. Many people were hurt. And the world is a different place. It’s a big part of our team’s job to go in and help people deal with that.”

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Wednesday, Seven, 7.30pm.

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Bennett cagey on rumours of a move

August 10th, 2019

Nothing settled: Wayne Bennett was his usual elusive self when he fronted the media. Photo: Darren PatemanKnights coach Wayne Bennett has knocked back an opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to Newcastle for the last two years of his four-year contract.
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Bennett’s future remains the subject of speculation in the lead-up to Newcastle’s preliminary final against the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, despite assurances from Knights chief executive Matt Gidley that he will remain at the club until the end of 2015. ”Look, I’ve got no control over that, so I don’t worry about it,” Bennett told the media after overseeing training on Wednesday, when asked about that speculation.

But when asked if he was staying in Newcastle for the next two years, honouring the commitment he gave Knights owner Nathan Tinkler in April 2011, Bennett said: ”Look, I can’t give you an iron-clad guarantee about anything in this game, so right now, I’m the coach here, and when that changes, I’ll let you know.”

Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that Bennett was still being linked to a possible move to Townsville to take up a role with the North Queensland Cowboys, or a return to Brisbane to rejoin the Broncos, but Gidley said the seven-time premiership-winning coach was staying put. ”I’ve spoken to him about that – he’s not going anywhere,” Gidley said. ”We’ve put a lot of work in to get some of these players here. We bought players who want to play under Wayne and play for Wayne and improve on his watch.

”He’s not going to let these guys down. Wayne is extremely loyal. I don’t laugh at [the speculation] or buy into it. Whenever there’s instability at the Broncos, Wayne’s name will be mentioned as a possible solution. He built the place there and had wonderful success there. I understand that. But I think he’s excited about what we’re trying to do here.”

Bennett told the media after training on Wednesday that the Knights would not be within one win of a grand final without Tinkler’s intervention and involvement. ”I made a statement after the game [against the Storm last Saturday] – I was interviewed in Melbourne the other night – that without Nathan doing what he’d done, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

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Manly have faith: club anxious to secure favourite son Toovey for long haul

August 10th, 2019

In for the long haul: Manly are keen to extend Geoff Toovey’s time at Brookvale Oval. Photo: Quentin JonesManly are poised to start contract extension discussions with coach Geoff Toovey in a huge show of faith leading into their grand final qualifier against South Sydney.
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Toovey is signed until the end of next season but Sea Eagles powerbrokers are keen to secure him long-term. The club is set to form a retention committee to expedite the matter, with chief executive David Perry, chairman Scott Penn and board members Bob Reilly and Phil Sidney likely to be tasked with keeping Toovey on the northern beaches. The matter will be discussed at a board meeting on Thursday.

It is understood that some at the club are pushing for an extension of an additional two years to his current contract, while others are after just one. Of the four coaches still in the play-off race, Toovey is the most unheralded. But his ability to again get the Sea Eagles, written off by many as being too old at the start of the year, into the finals is one of the coaching achievements of the year.

While Trent Robinson, Michael Maguire and Wayne Bennett all have claims for the Dally M coach of the year honours, Toovey could scoop them all if his side makes an unlikely grand final appearance.

When the former premiership-winning halfback took over at short notice after Des Hasler defected to Canterbury, many believed Manly’s empire would crumble. But they have again made it to the penultimate game against the odds, defeating Cronulla after an arduous hit-out the previous week against Sydney Roosters.

Toovey is one of the club’s favourite sons, a one-club man who guided the Sea Eagles to premiership success during his playing days. The news is a huge boost ahead of their clash with South Sydney at ANZ Stadium. Toovey was ropeable after their last encounter, complaining about several contentious refereeing decisions which went against his side.

”We were in a really good position to win it last time,” said halfback Daly Cherry-Evans. ”There were a few things that went against us, whether it be the bounce of the ball or a few unfortunate decisions.

”I know we’ll be putting ourselves in the right positions the next time we play them so we can get the result we’re after.”

Halves partner Kieran Foran is confident Manly still has enough in the tank to overcome the Rabbitohs. ”You want to be there come grand final day. Everyone has got that burning desire to get there so of course you’re going to find that bit extra,” Foran said.

”As much as you’re tired and been playing tough games, we’ve got to find that bit extra to put in a good performance against Souths.

”They are a huge side, they really test you physically and I think they’ve got some really good threats across the park.

”We’re going to have to go up another level if we want to put in a good effort against them.”

Twitter – @proshenks

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

Knights to the rescue in fairytale final

August 10th, 2019

Winning us over: Jeremey Smith and the Knights have proven the good news story of this year’s finals. Photo: Darren PatemanYou and me, babe. We watch the rugby league finals roll on by, like a passing circus, all the jugglers and the clowns … all the frowns, all the hoopla and carry-on.
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Not being particular followers of any of the teams, we have no skin in the game, but still watch with interest to see what kind of sporting theatre it will deliver. The key question before us, thus, is who should we be hoping wins the whole damn thing, to deliver the greatest dramatic climax, the most bang for our buck? Which result will make for the greatest sporting narrative?

After all, accepted wisdom, at least north of the Tweed, is that the NRL wants a Roosters-Rabbitohs grand final, but as you and I care nothing for what the NRL wants, and even less for what those who live north of the Tweed think, we’re going to have to work it out for ourselves. So here is your ready-reckoner, as jotted down by myself, with a mark out of 10 for the satisfaction a grand final win by these teams would deliver.

Manly. Tough one. They used to be the team everyone loved to hate, but having gone through their own tough times in recent years there is something admirable about their grittiness, if not always their stroppiness. P.G. Wodehouse once wrote, ”it is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine”, and much the same could be said of Manly coach Geoff Toovey. The players take their cues from him.

Yes, a Manly victory would be great for those on the insular peninsula, but as they won a couple of years ago under Des Hasler, the main narrative pay-off would be proof that Manly can do it without Dessie – which is fine, but hardly makes you choke up and say ”ain’t sport wonderful?” Yes, they have a couple of likeable characters, like that huge prop George Rose – who looks like he got lost from his natural place in time in the 1970s – and Daly Cherry-Evans, plus the fellow on the wing they call ”Wolfman”, but after that it seems a bit thin.


Sydney Roosters. It all seems to be about Sonny Bill Williams doesn’t it? Just about every story done on them focuses on what a superstar he is, how his presence has transformed the side, how he is the greatest athlete ever, etc. All of which is fairly true, but just as I personally find it a bit hard to get too emotionally involved in which billionaire has bought the best boat and best crew to win the America’s Cup – at least when Australia is not represented – it is hard to get too excited about who has managed to purchase Sonny Bill’s services this year. A better story would be the redemption of Roosters hooker Jake Friend, who is supremely talented, but lost his way under Willie Mason’s wing a few years back, and has now made his way back to his glory days. All up, a Roosters win would be … hardly the stuff fairytales are made of.


South Sydney. Great story. If they win, they will be the team that fought its way back from the apocalypse in the mid-90s to be the pride of the league. Pushed into the abyss for being too traditional, too old, too poor, too hopeless, Souths simply refused to die, and – in part helped by a Hollywood star – now find themselves the most powerful force in the land in the 21st century. Superb. It would be an even better story if there hadn’t been an expectation all season that this is exactly what was going to happen, and even better again if there hadn’t also been a fair measure of brutality during their rise this year. It makes it harder to warm to the players personally – but it’s still a great yarn nevertheless.


Newcastle. This is the one. This is the team. This is the coach. This is the club, boasting the most devoted rugby league tribe in the land. As far and away the least likely side to get to the grand final, let alone win it, they already have the whole underdog tag wrapped up. They lost four matches on the trot early in the season, and were going nowhere fast, but then something clicked. The side is full of admirable characters like Danny Buderus, somehow still going at the age of 35. There is the revamped Mason, again, somehow managing to make a major impact despite his advanced years. And then there is Wayne Bennett … already known as a supercoach, if Bennett can take this side from 12th at the end of last season to a premiership, it would confirm his credentials and be a staggering achievement for him, the team and the town. The only downside is it might also make a hero of Nathan Tinkler – Clive Palmer without the charm – but we could learn to live with it.


In short … go the Knights!

Twitter – @Peter_Fitz

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

Jake White quits as ACT Brumbies coach

August 10th, 2019

Jake White . Photo: Melissa Adams Former Brumbies coach Jake White with captain Ben Mowen.
Nanjing Night Net

White leaves with players’ blessing: Mowen

ACT Brumbies coach Jake White has sensationally quit his Super Rugby job just two months after leading the club to the grand final.

The Brumbies have granted White a release from the last two years of his contract because ‘‘his heart’s not in it’’.

Assistant coaches Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher are the front-runners to replace White with the Brumbies starting the search for a new coach.

White also feels his pathway back to international rugby as an Australian based coach was shut when the Australian Rugby Union overlooked him for the Wallabies job.

The Brumbies are about to start a process to find a new coach and hope to have an appointment finalised within the next two weeks when the players return for pre-season training.

White approached Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan last Friday to ask for a release for personal reasons.

Fagan and Brumbies captain Ben Mowen spoke with White about his decision, but his mind was made up about staying in South Africa.

Brumbies players were shocked on Wednesday night when they learnt of the news on social media.

They were of the belief White was committed to helping them win a Super Rugby title and the coach had spoken to them last week about the pre-season training program.

White is in South Africa and will be at Newlands in Cape Town on Sunday morning to watch the Wallabies play the Springboks.

Fairfax Media understands White has been linked to a job at the Cape Town Stormers for next season, either as a coach or a coaching director, or a job at the Durban Sharks.

John Smit, White’s former Springboks captain, is the boss at the Sharks.

It is understood missing out on the Wallabies coaching job affected White’s desire to stay in Australian rugby.

The ARU overlooked White’s World Cup-winning credentials to instead appoint Ewen McKenzie as the new Wallabies coach because of his vision to play ‘‘the Australian way’’, a reference to attacking rugby.

It’s understood White met with Mowen in Cape Town on Wednesday night to inform him of his decision.

Larkham and Fisher have been working this week to finalise the 2014 playing roster and tie up loose ends that White left unfinished. Both assistant coaches have contracts to stay with the Brumbies.

But it’s unclear whether their deals were affected by White’s presence.

White has also signed the bulk of his playing roster until at least the end of 2015, but it’s unknown if they have get-out clauses in their deals.

Players re-signed with the Brumbies because they bought into his program and believed he could turn the club into a Super Rugby powerhouse.

White’s tenure in Canberra has been riddled with speculation about his future as the Brumbies coach despite signing a four-year deal.

White almost walked out on the Brumbies just two games into his contract when he was linked to the vacant England.

Just hours before the Brumbies clash against the Free State Cheetahs in March last year, he ruled himself out of the running and committed to his Canberra deal.

But since arriving in the capital, White has always stated his desire to return to international coaching.

White led South Africa to a World Cup triumph in 2007.

He was also linked to the Ireland coaching job earlier this year and then the ARU asked White to apply for the Wallabies job.

White met with ARU powerbrokers in Melbourne before the Wallabies’ second Test against the British and Irish Lions in June.

Former South African World Cup-winning coach White was recruited to the Brumbies to lift the team out of its darkest era.

But he is now leaving after completing just two years of his four-year contract.

White overhauled Brumbies headquarters in Griffith and led them to within one win of a drought-breaking finals berth in his first year in charge.

In his second season with the Brumbies, they made the finals for the first time since 2004 and stormed into the grand final only to lose to the Chiefs in Hamilton in August.

The Brumbies will move into a new $15 million facility at the University of Canberra next year.

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

New trends in outdoor furniture

July 10th, 2019

Canasta loungeColour clash
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At recent design fairs both here and overseas, such as the recent Spoga gafa held two weeks ago in Cologne, bold hues rule. Safe colours are definitely out as explosions of colour in contrasting blocks or in geometric patterns dominate outdoor furniture designs.

Adam Robinson, a sought-after Sydney landscape designer and a canny outdoor stylist says colour is the most significant trend in outdoor decoration this summer.

“It seems that as the weather warms up, we have more confidence to embrace colour,” he says. “Bulky brown synthetic wicker settings with a combination of taupe cushions have well and truly slipped from being a top trend and there is certainly a move towards colour.

“We are not afraid of combining colour and pattern either,” says Robinson. “And just like in fashion we are seeing colour blocking outdoors. This is evident in soft furnishings, in particular. Due to improvements in textile technology we can leave our cushions outdoors all year round, without major moulding or fading.”

There are edgy tints and tones, too: “Lovely soft pastels and nature’s gentle earthy tones are coming into play,” says Robinson. “Think mint green, soft pink, peach, lavender, powder blue, as well as army green and burnt orange.”Multitalented pieces

As an international landscape designer, television personality and a designer of both indoor and outdoor furniture, Jamie Durie, knows a good sunbed when he sees one.

He says we’ll be seeing a lot more modular furniture: “Outdoor modular lounges are a great versatile design idea that allows you to create different configurations to suit your lifestyle and the size and shape of your outdoor room. The new Fremantle modular in my Patio range at Big W is really clever. Each piece is available separately and features an ottoman that doubles as a coffee table.”

Having furniture that performs more than one function is making sense indoors so why not outside? Just like Durie’s Patio ottoman, there are benches and sofas that provide storage as well as comfortable seating.

Other popular pieces of multifunctional furniture include fire pit tables or chairs and benches that incorporate places to grow plants within the seating design.

Robinson suggests you get inventive about furniture use. “Think about how you might find a double use for some product. For example, a low stool might double up as a side table when not required for extra seating. A decorative timber screen might hide a solution for storage.”Shape shifters

There’s a trend towards more refined silhouettes. A sleeker, lighter look is particularly enhanced in the soft curves of wire furniture or in the detailed cut-outs of powder-coated aluminium pieces.

Wooden outdoor furniture is showing up in slimmer shapes, too, echoing mid-century style, no less, especially in dining settings.

“This season we are seeing less bulky furniture pieces coming through,” says Robinson. “We are moving away from chunky dining chairs and seeing seamless light chairs, which are often stackable. They have a lovely sculptural quality and don’t clutter up an outdoor space.”

Motion furniture is also trending well. Swing seats and hammocks have always been popular, but now there are new versions, which boast very stylish, luxurious designs, such as pod chairs and swivel seats. In fact, creating one’s own outdoor spot in a cocoon-like hideaway, swaying in the breeze, is becoming the ultimate chill-out zone.Favourite things

There’s no reason why your outdoor space shouldn’t boast furniture that’s just for you.

Robinson currently prefers retro: “I have always loved the butterfly chair. It’s been around commercially since 1947 and is still in production. It has beautiful clean lines and is the perfect outdoor chair.”

Durie says that if he could buy just one statement piece for his garden, it would be a sunbed. “It just gives you that instant sense of luxury and resort style living. It’s perfect for relaxing outside on the weekends, or piling onto with friends and family when you’re entertaining.”

Looking to the future, Robinson says there will be a bit of a revival on old styles and materials that come into play. “I’m quite in love with cane furniture at the moment. Its old charm has a relaxed Palm Springs vibe to it,” he says. “They are very comfortable with deep cushions and the best part you can customise the fabrics to suit your space. Being cane they really need to be undercover to ensure durability. A verandah is ideal.”

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