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 business benefits of being family-friendly

February 10th, 2019

Lynda McAlary-Smith knows the benefits of flexible working arrangements.With family the number one life priority for so many employees, providing a family-friendly workplace is an important way for employers to ensure they keep staff happy and motivated.
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Providing flexible working options suited to employees with young children or caring responsibilities can help employers retain skilled and valued staff members, decrease absenteeism and reduce staff turnover and increase the number of people who return to work after parental leave.

By being flexible to the needs of employees, employers can also improve staff morale, engagement and productivity by demonstrating to staff that they are valued.

The best way for employers to understand how they can help their staff achieve a balance between their work and personal commitments is to speak directly to them about what their needs are.

Employers need to let staff know they are prepared to work with them to find a solution that suits the employee, as well as the needs of the business.Both sets of needs must be given consideration for the situation to work.

The development and implementation of carefully considered policies is also an important part of building a family-friendly culture in any workplace.These policies include organising meetings when most people can attend, allowing employees toaccess their annual leave in single or part-day periods, organising professional development or training during ordinary work hours and creating meaningful part-time work opportunities and job share arrangements.

These opportunities should be promoted to all staff and also highlighted in job advertisements. The fact that your workplace is open to flexible working arrangements should be celebrated – and it’s certainly a way to attract top quality staff.

Developing flexible working arrangements for staff is also a way to be recognised as an employer of choice. To gain these benefits – such as attracting quality staff and retaining them – employers should ensure that their employees and potential employees  are informed of the family-friendly policies that are in place at the recruitment and induction phases.

Communication is king. Documentation, such as writing down the policies and distributing them to staff, is also crucial because it ensures that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and entitlements.

Employers striving to create a family-friendly workplace should take the following check-list into account:Is the concept of a work/life balance positively received and understood by managers and employees? Is it acknowledged in the workplace that employees have important roles and responsibilities outside the workplace? Are there consultative processes in place that enable staff to talk about their needs and the needs of the business? Are employees aware of what family-friendly entitlements exist in the workplace?Are the existing family-­friendly policies being reviewed regularity?

More information about how to create a family-friendly workplace can be found in the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Work & Family Best Practice Guide, which is available for free download at www.fairwork.gov.au/BestPracticeGuides/01-Work-and-family.pdf

Lynda McAlary-Smith is an executive director with the Fair Work Ombudsman. Lynda’s role is to lead the agency in its education focus and reaching its goal of creating fairer Australian workplaces.

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Paul Chapman impatient with Geelong

February 10th, 2019

Paul Chapman, right, with amigos Andrew Mackie and Jared Rivers at Geelong’s Wacky Wednesday. Photo: Pat ScalaGeelong forward Paul Chapman is growing increasingly impatient with his uncertain future and has urged the Cats to make a decision ”as soon as possible”.
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The 31-year-old is keen to stay at Geelong but will go elsewhere if an agreement cannot be reached with the Cats. He has not ruled out moving interstate should the right offer come along.

Chapman admits the idea of not being a one-club player ”really hurts” but says his desire to play on next year overrides any romantic notion of retiring as a Cats champion.

In limbo until Geelong completes it list review, Chapman said he and his pregnant partner wanted an answer from coach Chris Scott and the club so they could start planning the next stage of their lives.

”As I said to [Scotty], once you know, I need to know because whatever the future holds I need to start preparing as soon as possible,” he said. ”Hopefully it’s here, but who really knows? It’s all up in the air.”

Geelong has a number of key decisions to make on veteran players, including Chapman, defenders Corey Enright and Josh Hunt, midfielder Joel Corey and key forward James Podsiadly. Enright is considered likely to stay, but there is growing doubt over the other four.

Attempts to ascertain when the players would formally meet the club about their futures were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

Asked when his meeting with Geelong would be, Chapman replied: ”I have no idea, it’s a good question. I would like to know – let’s get it over and done with [and] whatever happens, happens.”

Asked whether he was disappointed he might not be a Cat for life, Chapman said: ”It hurts, it really does. I suppose you take a little bit for granted – you think things will just happen and roll on and then all of a sudden things like this get thrown at you.

”To be a one-club player would be awesome, will be awesome, but to play for another club … I’m not saying that may not happen if things don’t work out here.”

Richmond and North Melbourne have emerged as potential perfect fits should the Cats say no to Chapman. However, the former Norm Smith medallist said he did not know whether his manager, Liam Pickering, had fielded any offers from rival clubs.

”Hopefully there are a few out there, though,” he added.

Chapman is confident he would have an impact for whoever signs him. ”Injury has hurt me this year. I do think I’ve got a lot to give but I don’t really need to sell myself too hard, either.

”I know what I can do and I’m confident of that, so hopefully Geelong or someone is as well.

”The fire still burns and I still want to be more successful than what I’ve been.”

Chapman played only eight games this season because of an ongoing hamstring issue.

He has been buoyed by the comebacks of veterans such as Luke Hodge, Luke Ball and Lenny Hayes, who missed large chunks of recent seasons only to return the next year revitalised.

Chapman said he hoped his body was the only issue Geelong was grappling with.

”I suppose when I do play, I play well. So just me getting on the park, I would assume, would be the issue from their point of view. But who really knows?”

Playing for an interstate club is not out of the question but would present challenges.

”There are plenty of things to work out first and my partner has a lot to do with that, as well as her being pregnant obviously,” he said. ”We just need to get this meeting over and done with, with Scotty, and see where I stand in their eyes and then work from there.”

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Missing mother Belinda Peisley was most likely murdered, inquest told

February 10th, 2019

DIsappeared: Belinda Peisley. Photo: NSW Police Media The home where Belinda Peisley lived before she disappeared in September 1998. Photo: Shane Desiatnik/Blue Mountains Gazzette
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A young Blue Mountains mother who disappeared in suspicious circumstances 15 years ago most likely died as a result of homicide or violence, the Coroners Court has heard, but there is insufficient evidence to charge any of those suspected of involvement.

Belinda Peisley, 19, was last seen leaving Katoomba Hospital, west of Sydney, on September 26, 1998. Her remains have never been found.

For more than 13 years police attempted to uncover what had happened to the young woman, but found little solid evidence beyond the fact that, shortly before her disappearance, the mother-of-two had inherited a significant amount of money from her great uncle and had developed a heroin addiction.

But in late 2012, investigators uncovered new information suggesting the young woman may have been the victim of foul play within the group of young people she was spending time with, many of them drug users. An inquest into Ms Peisley’s death was initiated and police began searching a large swath of bush land near Blackheath.

The inquest heard that a few days after her death, Ms Peisley’s house was broken into by a number of her former friends and acquaintances, who later used her identification cards to sell items at a western Sydney pawn shop.

Two of the 19-year-old’s former friends – Jeremy Douglas and Saxon Holdforth – became “persons of interest” at the inquest, with the scrutiny on their activities intensifying.

The inquest received evidence from multiple witnesses suggesting that Ms Peisley had been killed and thrown off one of the Blue Mountains’ many cliff edges.

“Some of the things I have heard over the years is that Jeremy, Saxon and Olly [Peisley’s former boyfriend Oliver Tipping] took her in a car and bashed her and left her somewhere,”  Kerren Fittler said in a handwritten statement to police.

“After they’ve left her they’ve come back and got her body and done some things to her before or after she was dead and chucked her over the cliff.

“I heard she was killed over drugs or she wouldn’t give them what they wanted.”

Mr Holdforth and Mr Douglas have steadfastly maintained their innocence at the inquest.

On Wednesday, counsel assisting the inquest, Phillip Strickland, SC, said the evidence relating to the exact manner and cause of the young woman’s death was inconclusive, but that it did “point strongly to her death being the result of some sort of homicide or violence”.

“Much of the hearing has been directed towards whether these persons of interest had knowledge of or direct involvement in the circumstances surrounding Belinda Peisley’s death,” he said.

“The evidence regarding these persons is inconclusive and not capable of convincing a jury that a known person committed an indictable offence.”

Speaking after the hearing, Ms Peisley’s aunt, Sharon Versace said she was “very, very disappointed” that charges would not be laid.

“At the end of the day, someone hurt Belinda but they’re still out there living their life and they’ve taken hers,” she said.

“I’ll never give up, the detectives have come so far – I’m hoping that one day we’ll get some good news. It won’t bring Belinda back, but it will be a bit of justice for the family.”

Deputy State Coroner Paul McMahon will hand down his formal findings next month.

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New US ambassador John Berry touches down in Canberra

February 10th, 2019

Governor-General Quentin Bryce, new US ambassador John Berry and his spouse Curtis Yee. Photo: Andrew TaylorAustralia’s new United States ambassador John Berry has presented his credentials in a private ceremony at Government House on Wednesday.
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Accompanied by his partner of 17 years, Curtis Yee, a lawyer and native of Hawaii, Mr Berry is the first openly gay ambassador of a G20 country and is the 25th US ambassador to Australia.

Mr Berry and Mr Yee arrived in Canberra late last week. The couple were married just last month in Washington DC and have started the posting at the same time the ACT is passing legislation to become the first Australian jurisdiction to allow same-sex marriage.

Mr Berry, 54, joins the current US ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, David Huebner, as an openly gay diplomat.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said she was looking forward to meeting the ACT’s new high-profile residents, saying “Australia enjoys a strong positive relationship with the United States and Canberra has always welcomed the US diplomatic representatives with open arms to their home away from home here in the national capital.

“Ambassador Berry and his spouse are no exception and I look forward to meeting with the new US ambassador this week to personally welcome him to the ACT on behalf of the Canberra community.”

Mr Berry was nominated for the top spot in June by President Barack Obama after former ambassador Jeffrey Bleich stepped down from the position after five years.

Mr Bleich described Mr Berry as “a smart, energetic and extremely likable man who is enthusiastic about the US-Australian relationship”.

“He is a talented and dedicated public servant with a wealth of experience in senior level positions.”

According to a statement put out by the US Embassy on Wednesday, Mr Berry “seeks to strengthen the US-Australia alliance, which has served as an anchor of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the world for more than sixty years; to increase bilateral trade and investment; and to deepen cultural, scientific and environmental cooperation between the United States and Australia.”

In a video introduction to Australians posted on the embassy’s website earlier this month, a beaming Mr Berry admits to loving the outdoors and has asked Australians to suggest places he and Mr Yee should visit during their posting.

“My spouse Curtis Yee is a triathlete from Hawaii who loves anything involving salt water and waves,” Mr Berry says in the video.

“We both can’t wait to explore your beautiful country.”

In 2010, Mr Berry agreed to be part of the “It Gets Better” campaign to support gay and lesbian teenagers in the US and filmed a similar direct video in which he provided an emotional and revealing insight into his family’s reaction to his sexuality.

Mr Berry said he was lucky to have never been bullied, but that he “was afraid of who he was”.

He said his father had a hard time accepting his coming out.

“It wasn’t easy. My dad, a marine sergeant who went to mass every day, asked me when I came out to him not to bring my partner over to the house.”

“Ten years later, when my partner was dying from AIDS, my dad held him in his arms and told him, ‘I love you like my own son’. Things do get better.”

Mr Berry has had a distinguished public service career spanning more than thirty years. Prior to his nomination, he served as the Director of the US Office of Personnel Management – the federal government’s “chief people person” – from April 2009 to April 2013. Hiring of veterans and people with disabilities reached record highs under his leadership and this role made Mr Berry was the highest ranking openly gay government executive in US history.

From 2005 to 2009, Mr Berry served as Director of the National Zoo, after it was found to have shortcomings in management and maintenance. He created a strategic plan focused on its modernization – prioritising fire protection and renovations of animal houses. From 2000 to 2005, he worked to conserve wildlife habitats and protect endangered species through public-private partnerships as Director of the non-profit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Between 1997 and 2000, Mr Berry served as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the Department of the Interior – overseeing 66,000 employees.

Between 1995 and 1997, he served as director of government relations and senior policy advisor at the Smithsonian Institution and from 1994 to 1995 he served as deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary for law enforcement in the US Treasury Department, where he was responsible for 40 per cent of US federal law enforcement officers, including the Secret Service.

A native of Maryland, Mr Berry holds degrees from the University of Maryland and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Administration.

Wednesday’s formal ceremony entailed Governor-General Quentin Bryce accepting Mr Berry’s credentials to be America’s formal representation in Australia. His diplomatic car drove through the gates without a flag, but following the ceremony, was adorned with America’s star-spangled banner.

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Making a noise about their sound investment

February 10th, 2019

How much noise should we put up with in strata?How much noise should we put up with in strata? Noise is part of normal life, but how much should we be prepared to tolerate, StrataLearner asks on the Forum. And how do you know if it’s a building defect?
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”I am living in a relatively new building and we are going through the defects process,” he says. ”What would be considered as normal noise in such a building?

”People are complaining of music coming through the double-brick walls into their apartment, people talking in the lobby outside, furniture being moved on the tiled terrace area, and other noises such as hammering, slamming of sliding doors, [and] children running and playing on the terrace area.

”Some of these would be expected, but others may be because of incomplete or shoddy workmanship.”

There are two aspects to noise in strata blocks: structural and behavioural. And even though the building standards for apartments can seem inadequate, they are usually sufficient if people remember they have neighbours above, below and to the side.

That means turning the bass down on the surround sound, leaving carpet on the floors (or using top-notch insulation under the timber), telling your kids to save their running for the park and not extending your dinner party into the lift lobby when you say goodbye.

Also, some people are much more sensitive to noise than others, so the right to ”peaceful enjoyment of your lot” is totally subjective.

However, there might be defective structural elements involved, and this can be determined only by an acoustic consultant. Even then you’ll have trouble arguing that inadequate sound insulation is a defect if the building is demonstrably compliant with building standards.

However, if it isn’t up to code, or if the promised level of sound insulation wasn’t delivered, you might have a case. There’s a lot more on this on the Forum.

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

2013 AFL grand final pre-game live coverage

January 10th, 2019

AFL Grand Final Grand final day. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
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Grand final day

Crowd

A bit of a stretch.

Not a bad gig at all. Photo: Will Brodie

Are we missing anything? Photo: Will Brodie

First among equals.

Grand Final 2013.

The 3AW OB.

St John’s Ambulance crew preparing for a big day. Photo: Will Brodie

Nick Constance has thought of everything at his grand final complex. Photo: Will Brodie

Inside the MCG press box.

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In this day and age, the MCG does not provide much entertainment for any fans who come in super early. Photo: Will Brodie

Dockers settle some pre-match nerves. Photo: Will Brodie

North Melbourne grand final breakfast at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Wayne Taylor

grand final 2013

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou at the North Melbourne grand final breakfast this morning. Photo: Wayne Taylor

grand final 2013

The September Club. Photo: Will Brodie

Fans vie for grand final tickets from 3AW commentators. Photo: Will Brodie

The crowd builds. Photo: Will Brodie

All the anticipation of the football world’s biggest day, live from the MCG.

It was cool and breezy outside the MCG at 6.50am grand final morning, but not as inhospitable as it had been during the previous evening.

Diehard grand final fan and Hawk devotee Rohan, at the head of the MCC member’s queue, had been in place since 7.20pm the previous evening, and in his understated way, admitted that it “got a bit windy” the previous night. And a bit wet. Several heavy downpours drenched those who lined up in search of their preferred seats. Rohan took refuge beneath a tarpaulin on a fold-up bed, watching his iPad.

He said there were about 40 brave souls there all night, and the crowds really started to assemble at 4am.

Rohan happily admits he is a “little bit OCD” for going to such lengths to snare his favourite seats – level three, second row, above the Long Room. “We like to sit where we like to sit. Its easier to come early than to get up in the middle of the night.”

Rohan was measured in his assessment of the game. “After last year, we’ll just see how it goes. I thought we’d win last year. Getting the Geelong monkey off our backs will have been good for the boys. We can beat Fremantle if we play our best.”

At the rear of the MCC queue at 7.15am were Simon O’Brien, a North Melbourne fan and Daniel Carmody, A Tiger tragic. They came at 4am last year but felt demand would not be as high in 2013. All up,approximately 8000 MCC seats are attained by those who line up on the day.

About 10,000 are assigned by ballot. There is a strong possibility that restricted members will be allowed to buy tickets later this morning, if the reserve does not look like filling up. Such members should check the MCC website after 10am to see if tickets will be made available. Daniel’s tip for the big one? He thinks the Hawks – “if they can get out of the blocks”.

Typical of the commitment of MCC footyheads was Carlton fan ‘L’, who has attended the grand final every year since 1981. Close to the gates in the special needs queue, he would grab his seat at 8am, then attend Peter MacCallum centre for a treatment of radiotherapy at 12.30pm, before returning to the big game.

He admitted the treatment was “knocking him around a bit”, but grand final day air had given him a burst of energy, and he wasn’t going to let the small matter of cancer treatment stop him from being there for footy’s biggest day.

The quiet around the MCG at 7.28am grand final day is calming, and a little perplexing, considering the tumult to come. The 8000 queuing for MCC seats are rugged up and reserved, saving their energy for the game ahead.

So when an industrial strength speaker starts blurting out Gangnam Style, the noise reverberates off the canyon walls of the MCG, and the St John’s Ambulance folk prick up their ears, wondering if they will have some early duties. Turns out the Korean disco ceased quickly, to be replaced by the Hawthorn theme song, at mega decibels.

The broadcast was courtesy of the day’s first barbequers, Hawkers Matt Burns, Jason Cowling, Jay Burns and Clay Litherland, who arrived at 5am to claim the best berth, about 20 metres from the back of Gate Three, and alongside their main aural competition, coming from the elaborate 3AW grandstand/marquee.

Their playlist, apart from We’re A Happy Team At Hawthorn? “A couple of footy songs, then mostly motivational – Eye Of The Tiger, that sort of stuff…” said Matt. I hadn’t known Gangnam Style to be particularly motivational, but one learns things on grand final day.

We’ve all heard those stories about people dressing up in various ways to get into the grand final. Most such loopholes are assiduously guarded these days. Probably one of the best remaining ways to avoid paying through the nose for entry is to do an honest day’s work, as a Record seller. At 7.30am, Tom Carns, Zac Kayll and Lachie McLeod were preparing to offload 80 stacks of the now glossy official program. Their shift extends until 50 minutes after the game starts, when they go downstairs to settle how many they have sold. Then they get to watch the rest of the game. It seems a decent wage.

Loud music, check. Beer in ice, check. Snags, check. Get to G at 5.30am to ensure you get prime barbeque possie? Check. Matt Burns’ set-up outside gate three, 7.28am.

The supposedly elitist MCC has a very simple, egalitarian ethos come grand final day: First in, first served. Here are the hardy souls who fronted the queue of 8000 for walk-up seats, many having camped overnight in wet and windy weather.

The 3AW complex, complete with outdoor broadcasting booth and grandstand, is now a established feature of the grand final precinct. Watching radio veterans such as Tony Leonard at work, you realise that the talking medium demands a level of energy beyond normal conversation, everything heightened. Tough to keep up for hours on end.

Taking care of a crowd of 100,000 revellers and distracted fans takes an army of often unnoticed workers. Key amongst them is the array of St John’s Ambulance volunteers. On grand final day, 65 paramedics, nurses and assistants are in the vicinity, from 8.30am until after the post-game concert ends at 9pm. To prepare for the day ahead, team leader Robert McManus (no relation to the ubiquitous Docker clan) helps prepare 10 kilos of bacon and countless dozen boxes of eggs to feed the troops before they enter the fray. St John’s experts are ready for anything, but mostly attend to “trips and falls” and what they diplomatically referred to as “people who need hydration”.

Nick Constance has been running a major BBQ event for friends and family for the past 28 years. A Hawker “through and through”, he nonetheless decided that he wanted his mob to have more of an involvement on the big day, in case Hawthorn did not make it to the decider. So he started designing jumpers featuring both teams for everyone to wear. By 2013, the party is a major undertaking, with two marquees, two BBQs, a sound system and a large flat screen all powered by a large portable generator. Over 50 footyheads crowd the sprawling party central, which even has a red carpet. At 10 o’clock, the gathering was humming along nicely.

It appears that Hawthorn has been assigned the city end, and Fremantle the Punt Road end, the club logos painted at those ends of the arena, and the cheer squads having begun to colour the fences behind their respective goals with their banners. The ground is in perfect order, despite recent heavy rain, and looks magnificent under brilliant sunshine. But the wind is blowing, so everything could change by game time. The tops of the goal posts are swaying giddily. For fans obsessed with the impact of the weather on the fortunes of both teams, it is worth remembering that wind affects skills more than rain, especially on a surface as good as the current MCG.

Ever wondered what the press box at the MCG is like? Perhaps not. Well, I’ll tell you anyway. It is steep, a little cramped, and the middle-aged fella on the door watches anything but footy on his TV – this morning, obscure tennis, then a Katy Perry video. A few of the behind scenes technicians are filing in – the room didn’t even open until after 10am, leaving digital types to their own devices – but Dermott Brereton has arrived, keen as mustard and working out where his son will watch his first ever grand final.

The sports betting competitors are relentless in their pursuit of coverage for their products. But amongst their torrent of press releases, there are ocasionally genuinely eye-raising stories. Sportingbet南京夜网.au reports that a punter stands to win $148,000 if Fremantle gun Nathan Fyfe kicks the first goal of the grand final. Given the thousands of dollars he has expended on the best, it is probably not going to be a rags to riches win if it happens. Given how expensive getting to Melbourne has been this week for Dockers fans, perhaps the winner can act as benefactor to some out of pocket diehards if he gets lucky.

Anyone doubting the sacrifices being made by Freo fans paying through the nose for accommodation, transport and tickets, here is a fact kindly sent through from Roy Morgan research: Hawthorn fans spend an average of $190 per week on leisure activities; Fremantle fans an average of $143.

How about this for some cheap grand final entertainment – which might free up some funds to allow some more real fans into the game: little league; long kicking and accuracy competition; one lap of the ‘G footrace; the TAC Cup back as the morning curtain-raiser. And rock bands that like footy.

During the week, one could be forgiven for thinking that the whole Buddy Franklin issue had been defused, and lost the attention of the public. Several media articles addressed this anomaly at the end of the week. But it would seem the social media portion of the public has still been talking about the superstar Hawthorn forward and whether he will leave the Hawks for GWS after this game…

“Hawthorn’s Buddy Franklin (@Buddy_Franklin) has been crowned as this season’s most followed (with over 243,000 followers) and most talked about player on Twitter. Swans’ Adam Goodes  (@AdamRoy37) was the second most mentioned player on the platform, followed by North Melbourne’s forward Majak Daw (@MajakDaw)”

Earlier this week, Jon Pierik had this to say about the grand final teams’ respective defences:

“How the Hawks will handle Fremantle’s defensive intensity, and master tagger Ryan Crowley, have become heightened themes after the Dockers shocked many in the football world with their ferocity against the Swans last weekend.

While the Dockers have boasted the stingiest defence in the league, the Hawks, too, have plenty to crow about.”

Read more here.

The grand final sprint heats are under way: in heat 1, Patrick Dangerfield has taken first place easily. The Freeeeooo chant is STILL going arounf the MCG. In heat 2, Gary Rohan has taken first place, with similar ease to Dangerfield.

Fremantle has some significant hurdles to jump if after 19 seasons in the competition it is finally to win its first AFL premiership this afternoon, writes Rohan Connolly. Read more here.

The grand final sprint has been run and won and it’s Patrick Dangerfield has gone back-to-back-to-back. Huge effort by Dangerfield, not that you’d know it to watch him actually run. He won it by a country mile ahead of such speedsters as Chris Yarran, Gary Rohan, Jordan Murdoch and Campbell Brown.

And while being interviewed post-sprint, Dangerfield has thrown in a Craig Willis impersonation to boot.

Brenton Sanderson explains how the Hawks can win the flag:

The Hawthorn game style of spreading hard to create space and then using the ball by foot is well suited to playing against Fremantle. Read more here.

Darren Crocker makes the case for the Dockers:

Fremantle will maintain the clearance dominance it has had during the finals, and Hawthorn will struggle to get clean clearance wins. Read more here.

In this day and age, the MCG does not provide much entertainment for any fans who come in super early. Previously, TAC under-18s games were played in the morning, a treat for MCC members who get in at 8am to secure a favoured seat. At 10.30, the last quarter of the 2012 grand final was played on the big screen, and you remembered just how exciting that game’s finale was, as Anthony Hudson’s urgency boomed around the mostly empty stadium.

Some restless Dockers went out on to the member’s flank for a kick at 11.30, clad in purple polo shirts and slick black tracksuit bottoms. They are now sauntering across the playing space shivering as the weather changes from brilliant sunshine to drizzly cold. Spring in Melbourne means a battle between sun and rain, summer and winter. It looks like both seasons will land big blows today.

Tegan Higginbotham attended this morning’s North Melbourne grand final breakfast at Etihad.

Heading in to the Grand Final Breakfast & surrounded by die hard supporters. The Freo fans are excited…the Hawks fans all looked stressed.— Tegan Higginbotham (@TeganMH) September 27, 2013

Demetriou point’s out that 1966, the year of the first GF Breakfast, was the same year Hendrix released “Purple Haze”. The place goes wild.— Tegan Higginbotham (@TeganMH) September 27, 2013

With the crowd starting to filter into the stadium, and the big screen launching into a loud, very overwrought commentary of the past 50 years of grand finals, overgrown, sponsored little leaguers playing mini-games at either end of the arena, and the hubbub of meeja types filling the pressbox, the countdown is on in earnest for the grand final. It began with the rain, which lasted for about 15 minutes, despite blue skies on either horizon.

GWS supporter (and Prime Minister) Tony Abbott spoke earlier this morning at North Melbourne’s grand final breakfast.

“It’s good to see people here in such numbers and with such enthusiasm because I know it has been a tough year for the AFL. Some people were even charged with bringing the game into disrepute. I’m grateful, I really am, that there’s no offence of bringing parliament into disrepute because I fear all MPs might be guilty.”

The PM congratulated both teams for making it to the last Saturday in September. He’s tipping the Hawks, for all those interested, because “if you lose one big event you deserve to win the next one”.

And he added his thoughts about the Kennett Curse:

“…I gather there’s something in AFL called ‘Kennett’s Curse.’ I can’t believe there would be anything called ‘Kennett’s Curse’ because Jeff is a terrific person, I love him, but whatever ‘Kennett’s Curse’ might be, let’s hope no one suffers from it today.”

Spotlight on the fringes: Ben Stratton, Hawthorn. It is a sign of the depth of Hawthorn that one of its more unheralded players is a 189 cm backman of 78 games experience, who is likely one of the first players picked each week. Quick and flexible despite his height, he can take a variety of forwards with poise, uses the ball well, and backs up his tall defenders when they encounter the league’s “gorillas”

Time again to turn the focus to the big game.

Spotlight on the fringes: Cameron Sutcliffe, Fremantle.The least well-known Docker in Freo’s grand final line-up is yet another tall, physically robust utility, who Ross Lyon has used mostly in defence. The 21-year-old right-footer has played 18 of his 22 AFL games this season, often as sub, and proved durable and dependable.

12.14 marked the first strike in the barracking battle this afternoon. Between ads and songs booming out of the big screen, the “FREE-OOOOHHH!!!” chant starts up from the Punt Road end. The purple army isn’t waiting any longer to get in and experience – and create – the atmosphere. Their end of the ground is vastly more populated than the city end, Hawthorn’s cheer squad base.

Final teams are in and there are no late changes for either team.

Simpkin, Hawthorn’s only inclusion this week, will be the sub for his side. Neale will wear the green vest for the Dockers.

After a huge morning of pre-game coverage, we’re wrapping up here. But the action continues over on our game blog with Scott Spits. Click here for more.

Here is Ross, who pre-planned a visit to Melbourne in June, so his flight “only” cost $1700. He made the voyage once before, in 2006, which was a downer as Docker arch-enemy the West Coast Eagles prevailed. “If they’re in it, you have to do it,” he said. He was in early, like most Freo fans, who wanted to soak up every minute of the experience. As a result, Fremantle fans owned the early pre-game,with the FREEE-OOOOOOHHH!!!! chant breaking out repeatedly. Hawks fans didn’t start arriving in big numbers until after 12.30.

Every nook and some crannies never before seen by man or beast are being used to entertain within the MCC. Soundtrack in this relatively down to earth section? Epic U2 circa Still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

The atmosphere at the stadium, despite all the gladhanders, is ripe, thanks to the passion of real fans. No mention of supplements. The team is bigger than the player; the club is bigger than the team; the league is bigger than the club; the game is bigger than the league. And it’s only because of every fan who loves it.

A touch of yachtie psuedo-glamour comes to Brunton Avenue with the ‘September Club’, which looks like a bayside eatery. It is complete with cover band doing Mustang Sally. Some fans, I am sure, have accepted the frills just to get a ticket to the game as part of an exorbitant package, making the band one of the least essential acts in musical history.

The pattern has been established: sunny, warm patches followed by chilly, wet blasts. It is becoming the norm at these games. Here 3AW fans bid for a grand final ticket with stories of woe and amusement. The signs attract the attention of the commentators, the fan tells their yarn, and the decision is made who gets in. It is very Roman – thumbs up or thumbs down.

Have a great day, footy lovers. It’s our Christmas!

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

No bubble trouble

January 10th, 2019

Redcourt, 506 Orrong Road, Armadale: the garden before renovation. Redcourt garden now.
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One of the rooms in Redcourt before the renovation.

The Redcourt room now.

There’s no boom, nor a bubble, but Melbourne’s top property agents and commentators are predicting a strong spring selling season ahead.The city faces another big auction day on Saturday with about 900 properties scheduled to go under the hammer. It’s a similar number to last weekend when the clearance rate was 76 per cent, according to the Fairfax-owned Australian Property Monitors.Hocking Stuart chief executive Nigel O’Neil is upbeat. ‘‘We’ve got 110 auctions booked across our network … that’s exciting for early spring.‘‘It’s an alignment of the planets in terms of lower interest rates and two years of pent-up demand.’’His counterpart at Marshall White, John Bongiorno, says many buyers are trying to snap up properties ahead of auction, with offers on seven of his eight properties. But he warns against going overboard: ‘‘There’s talk of a boom market … I don’t think that’s the case.‘‘I think we’re in a strong market but vendors shouldn’t get ahead of themselves.’’APM senior economist, Dr Andrew Wilson, says the market’s on the rise. ‘‘Melbourne’s still a couple of per cent below its previous peak: it’s still playing catch-up but it’s nearly there.’’Prices have jumped beyond previous highs reached in 2010 in most parts of town; it’s just the prestige markets of the inner east and inner south where median prices are still about 7 per cent behind where they were in that period. Though prices in the top-end of town are also rising strongly as buyers chase still-existing value opportunities.The AMP chief economist, Shane Oliver, agrees that things are looking good.‘‘Buyers are returning in force so we think we’ll see a pretty favourable spring,’’ he said. ‘It’s taken a while, but low interest rates have started to work and the impact seems to be coming through, so I suspect we’ll see some fairly solid sales growth.’’Dr Oliver says price growth is running at about 3 to 5 per cent. Dr Wilson is expecting price growth of about 7 per cent growth over the year.Both experts dismiss any talk of a bubble.‘‘Bubbles happen when prices become detached from the underlying fundamentals and take on a life of their own, usually supported by very favourable lending conditions,’’ Dr Oliver said.‘‘Prices have picked up, but growth is quite modest compared with past levels of strength.’’Dr Wilson laughs off the suggestion. ‘We don’t have bubbles in this country … it’s a bandwagon without any wheels.’’One vendor hoping to capitalise on the market’s rising fortunes is the entrepreneur Adam Garrisson. He bought the ultimate renovator’s delight in 2009 – a run-down Queen Anne-style mansion at 506 Orrong Road, Armadale – at a huge discount on the original $8 million asking price and done a no-expense-spared restoration. It had been a home for art and music students in the 1950s, but the government abandoned it in 1996 and vandals had taken over.‘‘For many years I would drive past it once or twice a week … it was hidden away behind padlocked gates and vegetation but I was always intrigued by it,’’ he said, who snapped it up as developers were circling with intentions of turning the once-grand home into 28 bedsits.After reaching a deal, he brought in Shannon Bennett, the chef and owner of Vue de Monde, to design the kitchen; leading fashion designer Akira Isogawa for the Music Room makeover; artist David Bromley for a children’s bedroom and some sculptures.  John Warwicker, of the British design collective Tomato, was responsible for the art throughout the home. It comes complete with tennis court, servants’ quarters coach house and pavillion.Ross Savas, a director at Kay & Burton in South Yarra, has $10 million-plus expectations. ‘‘Someone will fall in love with it without a shadow of a doubt,’’ he says.Mr Garrisson, meanwhile, is looking for his next renovation project. ‘‘My thing is that I want to preserve the integity of old buldings,’’ he says.

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

Another day in the election without end

January 10th, 2019

Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese at the Labor debate on Tuesday. Photo: Rob HomerFull politics coverage
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Only a party that has thrown away government through years of leadership inconstancy could get themselves into this position.

Going on for three weeks after exhausted Australian voters went to the polling booths and gave Labor the heave-ho, two would-be Labor leaders – one Right, one Left – are travelling the nation debating about who ought to assume the actual leadership.

One is likely to end up the people’s choice; the other, the elected MPs’ favourite. Potentially awkward.

Welcome to the election without apparent end.

While Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese go to it, feigning to be as loving to each other as Bib and Bub, a former Labor Premier who went to the federal parliament for the purpose of travelling the world and now, 18 months later, finds himself wearied by the prospect of opposition, is debating with himself the most suitable date for retirement and chatting merrily over salad with Rupert Murdoch’s lieutenant, Col Pot Allan.

Bob Carr hasn’t said anything publicly, mind. He’s leaving the rest of the party to settle the succession before abdicating. Murdoch’s Mr Allan, you’d imagine, would have been derelict if he hadn’t offered a regular post-politics column over pudding during his Rockpool lunch with Mr Carr, who was, after all, once a journalist.

Back at the ALP’s carving table, where there is little but a carcass to pick over, the Australian Workers Union’s Paul Howes has had a press conference to announce he’s not going to offer himself for Carr’s putative Senate vacancy; the vanquished MP for Eden-Monaro, the moustached Mike Kelly, is publicly musing about making a bid for the yet-to-be-vacated spot; and in the backrooms of the NSW Right, a deal has allegedly been struck to ensure the freshly defeated Labor MP for the NSW seat of Robertson, Deborah O’Neill, (you’ve probably seen her on TV, nodding enthusiastically over Julia Gillard’s shoulder in Parliament), gets the job.

Meanwhile, the Australian Electoral Commission struggles bravely on through the byzantine intricacies of a voting system strewn with micro-parties and corrupted by their preference flows to figure out who might gain the last Senate seats in Western Australia. The Sports Party, the Palmer United Party, the Greens and Labor are all still in anxious contention.

Labor tragics enthuse about the continuing leadership contest between Mr Shorten and Mr Albanese, of course. It’s all about a new participatory democracy, an opportunity for the membership to renew itself by granting a grassroots say in who is to lead the party out of its new wilderness.

Less discussed is that it is the shotgun child of Kevin Rudd who introduced it as part of a vain attempt to ensure he remained leader for life. A great believer in people power was Mr Rudd. He invoked it to try to persuade the party to overthrow Julia Gillard in his favour in February 2012. Unaccountably, it failed. He called on people power to save the Labor Party at last month’s election. Another fail. Now people power in the form of the ALP membership is being given its say in who should lead the party in its post-Kevin phase.

What remains to be seen is whether there is a dreadful clash between people power and elected MPs when all the votes are counted. The MPs vote in caucus on October 10. The people’s vote will be concluded by then, but not counted until the MPs have made their choice.

The final, combined count will be announced on October 13. The distinct possibility is that Mr Shorten’s elected colleagues will have chosen him and the branch members will have chosen Mr Albanese.

If that sounds awkward – and new Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his colleagues are already licking their lips at the prospect of further Labor division, though Abbott won his own leadership by just one vote in the party room – you might consider the timing of the second debate between Mr Shorten and Mr Albanese.

It’s on Friday. In Melbourne. At 1pm. On AFL Grand Final eve, just as the tens of thousands watching the city’s grand final parade wend their way to the pub. Kevin Rudd on his worst day during the actual federal election campaign could hardly have organised a less appropriate arrangement.

All part of the election without end.

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

Labor hits out at Coalition secrecy as reports emerge of boat arrival in Darwin

January 10th, 2019

Labor has seized upon reports of a boat arriving in Darwin, accusing Immigration Minister Scott Morrison of going into hiding on the issue of asylum seekers.
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On Wednesday, Channel Nine reported that a boat carrying about 19 people, who are understood to be asylum seekers, arrived in Darwin overnight.

But under a new policy, introduced by the Coalition government, Australian authorities no longer announce when a boat has arrived in Australian waters, and are not able to confirm reports.

It was reported that the group was brought into Fort Hill Wharf in Darwin Harbour before being placed on a bus on Tuesday evening.

”It appears another boat arrived and was taken into Darwin Harbour last night,” acting Opposition Leader Chris Bowen told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

”A boat that Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison don’t want us to know about.”

Mr Bowen said that Mr Morrison has gone from criticising boat arrivals in opposition to ”avoiding scrutiny” on the subject when he was the Immigration Minister.

”Now he’s actually the minister responsible for doing something about it, he’s gone into hiding. He’s in a witness protection program,” he said.  ”It shows that this new government is more interested in managing the media cycle than managing our borders.”

It is unusual for asylum seeker boats to make it as far as Darwin, although Customs reported that a boat was picked up north-west of the city on the day after the federal election.

In a new policy approach, the Coalition has announced that it will not provide individual announcements when a boat arrives in Australian waters – as occurred under the Labor government – but provide weekly updates on Operation Sovereign Borders instead.

Australian authorities have picked up an estimated nine boats carrying asylum seekers since the September 7 election.

Addressing the media on Monday, Mr Morrison said he would not go into tactical or operational details in his planned weekly briefings, including whether a boat had been turned back.

”We are not getting into the tactical discussion of things that happen at sea … This is an open briefing process but there are obvious limitations to what can be discussed,’ he said.

The Greens have argued they will try and use the Senate to force the government to release the information as it happens.

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

How to get the old Gmail compose screen back

January 10th, 2019

The compose interface made mandatory by Google in August. Photo: Google After its initial rollout Google introduced a “full-screen” option.
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The old Gmail compose pane.

When Google forced 425 million users onto its new Gmail compose interface there was the usual “First World Problem” outrage that comes with any interface design change online.

Instead of allowing people to use their entire screen to compose emails, Gmail’s new layout shrank the compose interface to a small area at the bottom right of the screen where Google chat messages used to appear. Why? So that users could still see their inbox as they wrote emails.

After the initial outrage, Google introduced a full-screen option that was still different to the original compose interface. Some enjoyed it but many users were still unimpressed.

Numerous online petitions popped up, demanding Google to at least give users the option to revert to the old interface. But their low number of backers is unlikely to sway Google. Two on change.org gained only 131 and 128 supporters respectively, while another on thepetitionsite南京夜网 received 661 backers.

For a short period of time Google allowed users to “temporarily” revert to the old interface, but on August 13 removed this and forced all users to adopt the new one.

Alan Wexelblat, a user interface expert who has researched design at MIT, called the new interface “compost”.

“It is not more clever or more useful to change functionality in a seemingly arbitrary way, destroying all the learning people have put into it,” Dr Wexelblat wrote in a Google+ post.

“Whatever improvement you think you’re making, great. Offer it, let people adopt it if they want.”

He said the change was like someone coming into his house and rearranging his workspace.

Willard Foxton, an investigative journalist at the Telegraph in London opined that unless Google “fixed” its new compose he would move to another email provider.

But it’s not only design experts and journalists venting. When Google announced the forced change in a Google+ post, hundreds of users reacted angrily.

Getting the old compose screen back

Since then, a number of savvy software developers have created free plug-ins for web browsers that allow users to revert to the old compose interface.

They are “Retro Compose for Gmail”, “Classic Gmail Compose” and “Old Compose”. The Retro and Classic plug-ins only work in Google’s Chrome browser, while Old Compose works in both Chrome and Firefox.

They can be installed on the browser and change Gmail in different ways that allow it to function like it did prior to Google’s forced change.

Although not supported or endorsed by Google, the web giant has yet to remove the plug-ins from its Chrome Web Store.

On Monday Fairfax Media asked Google if it had heard users’ concerns, if it would change Gmail back and whether it would remove the plug-ins. It had not responded by midday on Wednesday.

Do you like the new compose or will you revert with a plug-in? Leave a comment.

 This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb

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