Tiger’s wife hires Kidman’s divorce lawyer: report

Elin Nordegren … divorce would be “lawyers’ dream”.Elin Nordegren is bringing in the big guns, reportedly hiring Nicole Kidman’s divorce lawyer to preside over the disintegration of her marriage to Tiger Woods.
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The 29-year-old mother of two has enlisted veteran legal eagle Sorrell Trope, 82, London’s The Times reports.

Los Angeles-based Trope is experienced with high-profile cases. He’s represented Nicole Kidman, Britney Spears and Cary Grant.

He also has Frank McCourt, the owner of the LA Dodgers baseball team, on his books, charging $239,000 for a month’s work in November, the Los Angeles Times reported.

But Ms Nordegren’s rumoured desire to file for divorce in California – where property laws could gift her a better settlement than in their home state of Florida – may not materialise, according to The Times.

Californian law requires her or Woods to have lived in the state for six months before any petition is filed.

“Particularly with children involved, who I believe have lived in Florida, you can’t get around that easily,” Orlando-based divorce lawyer, John Wallace, told the paper.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to have done a good job drawing up a prenup.

“That’s where she’s going to have difficulty. You can’t deal with children’s issues in a prenup….This is the kind of divorce that’s a lawyer’s dream.

“You could have lawyers fighting over several different issues in different states.”

Meantime, bookmakers continue to have a field day with the scandal.

British bookmaker William Hill is taking bets on just how much Ms Nordegren will get if she decides to divorce the world’s No. 1 golfer, who is taking an indefinite break from the sport after admitting to infidelities.

As the scandal widens, gamblers can get 25-1 odds Ms Nordegren will receive more than half a billion dollars in a divorce settlement. The odds drop to 6-4 for a settlement under $100 million. William Hill is offering only 1-2 odds that she would get between $100 million and $500 million.

At odds of 25-1, people who bet $1 and win will get $25 plus the $1 stake back. At 6-4 odds, a $4 bet will get $10 in return.

William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said the company had been taking bets on whether or not the couple would get divorced at all, but took the market down because it was too one-sided with people betting on divorce. William Hill also had bets on how many women would come forward as alleged mistresses, but Mr Adams said that was too difficult to verify.

None of the bets, though, have been for much money.

“People are putting on small bets, probably so they can have a giggle in the pub and show their mate a betting slip,” Mr Adams said.

“It’s not vast sums of money.”

Two other British bookmakers, Ladbrokes and Coral, are only taking bets on Woods as a golfer, saying they wanted to stay away from his personal problems.

“We did think about it, but we tend not to go down there,” Coral spokesman Gary Burton said.

Ladbrokes spokesman Nick Weinberg said his company is more concerned about Woods’ sporting achievements.

“We usually stay away from the less tasteful elements, so we’ve given that one a miss,” Mr Weinberg said.

Ladbrokes is only taking bets on whether or not Woods, with 14 major titles, will break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 — and the odds on that are getting longer.

“He’s 2-5 to break the record, 23-1 not to,” Mr Weinberg said.

“We were as short as 1-20.”

Coral is taking bets on whether Woods will play at the Masters, the first major of the year, in April.

Two weeks ago, they were giving 9-2 odds that he would miss the tournament at Augusta. That’s been cut to 11-10 because of the mounting scandal.

Woods is also 4-6 to play at the Masters, and 2-9 to break Nicklaus’ major record.

As for Woods ever playing golf again, Coral has cut the odds from 33-1 to 16-1.

William Hill is offering the most bets, going even further than next season by giving 6-1 odds that Woods will win the Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

He is also 4-6 to play at this year’s Masters and 11-8 to win a major in 2010.

“In terms of golf, we think that it won’t affect him massively,” Mr Adams said.

“He’s such a focused bloke, I think he can separate the two.

“If anything, he might come back more focused.”

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Court overturns father’s triple-murder conviction

Died in the dam…Jai, Bailey and Tyler Farquharson, who drowned on Father’s Day, in 2005, near Winchelsea, Victoria.A FATHER jailed for life with no minimum term for the alleged murders of his three sons has been granted a retrial, with Victoria’s highest court finding that a miscarriage of justice had occurred.
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Robert Donald William Farquharson, 40, will face a new trial next year after the Court of Appeal ruled that a Supreme Court judge, Philip Cummins, and the prosecution made serious mistakes about the evidence and reputation of a star witness.

But the judges said ”it was open to a jury acting reasonably to be satisfied of guilt” beyond reasonable doubt.

Mr Farquharson was convicted of murdering his sons Jai, 10, Tyler, 7, and Bailey, 2, by driving them into a Winchelsea dam on Father’s Day in 2005.

The prosecution alleged that the boys’ deaths were a deliberate act of revenge by Mr Farquharson against his former wife, Cindy Gambino, over the break-up of their marriage.

Mr Farquharson denied killing his sons. He said he had suffered a coughing fit and blacked out, resulting in his car veering off the road and into the dam.

In a case that Victoria’s Chief Justice, Marilyn Warren, described as containing issues that were ”complex, emotive and readily capable of being misunderstood”, the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial.

The case was largely circumstantial and key evidence came from a friend of the accused, Greg King, about threats Mr Farquharson had allegedly made at a Winchelsea fish and chip shop before his children died.

Mr King changed his story several times – each time changing the level of threats his friend had allegedly made – but eventually told police that Mr Farquharson had told him that he was ”going to pay her [Cindy] back big time” and kill his children.

”Accident involving a dam where I survive and the kids don’t,” Mr Farquharson is alleged to have said. ”Something like Father’s Day so everybody would remember.”

Police later got Mr King to wear a wire. The prosecution alleged that during these secretly taped conversations Mr Farquharson engaged in ”sustained manipulation”, trying to prevent Mr King from telling the police about his alleged threats. The jury was told it was evidence pointing to Mr Farquharson’s guilty conscience.

Chief Justice Warren, Justices Geoffrey Nettle and Robert Redlich said it was essential for Justice Cummins to direct the jury that they had to be satisfied of the terms of the fish and chip shop conversation before they could infer Mr Farquharson was conscious of his alleged guilt.

The appeal judges found the prosecution had wrongfully failed to disclose that Mr King had been charged with recklessly causing injury and that police planned to provide a statement in his favour during his case.

Asked outside court if he had expected the dramatic result, Mr Farquharson’s lawyer, Peter Morrissey, SC, smiled and said ”no”.

Cindy Gambino’s parents said they were not surprised. ”It is just out of our hands, it is the judges’ decision,” Bob Gambino said.

The success of the appeal means Mr Farquharson will not have to pay $225,000 awarded in May to Mrs Gambino for pain and suffering.

with Kate Hagan

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Hayne sticks with NRL but warns of player drain

JARRYD HAYNE finally re-signed with Parramatta yesterday, injecting some good news into a week that has been otherwise full of bad headlines for rugby league.However, his signature came with a warning for those running the game: Do something to bring more money into it or the exit of star players to other codes is just going to continue – and might even include him in the future.There is no chance of that day coming before the end of the 2013 season, since that is how long Hayne has recommitted himself to the Eels on a deal worth $500,000 annually, but after that, who knows? The Eels superstar will still only be 25 then and he might have already achieved enough in rugby league to seriously think about what it would be like to play something else – particularly if star players keep leaving the game.”I’m too young [now], but when it comes up next time it’s definitely going to be an option,” Hayne said. “It would be sad to go, but it seems like the NRL’s just letting them go. It would be good to see the NRL step in, but the way they see it, one player doesn’t hold a competition together. But when you’re losing such quality players in consecutive years, the question’s got to be asked: How many are we going to let go?”Hayne and his manager, Wayne Beavis, met with NRL chief executive David Gallop last week. Beavis said Hayne had wanted to find out first-hand what the league planned to do about about stopping the flow of players such as Mark Gasnier, Sonny Bill Williams and Craig Gower to rugby union, and Karmichael Hunt to AFL. There had recently been speculation that the new Greater Western Sydney AFL franchise would offer Hayne a fortune to try to snare him.”Jarryd made his feelings quite clear,” Beavis said yesterday. “Not just on his own behalf, but for players generally, that the league needed to be more proactive and get more money into the game because the outside temptations grow and these are all marquee players that are highly sought after by after codes. You have to be careful we don’t keep losing marquee players to other codes.”Hayne said it was important for him, as a challenge, that he keep matching himself against the best possible players in league. He said he was concerned the game might next lose Australian halfback Johnathan Thurston, who has talked about possibly going to union when his contract with North Queensland runs out at the end of next season.”It would be very sad to see him leave the game because players like me, you want to play against the best,” Hayne said. “You don’t want to see them go to other codes – you know, Sonny Bill, Mark Gasnier and Craig Gower and that. It’s a bit disappointing, them going and the NRL not doing anything about it.”You’d hate to see it in another four years, other quality players have left the game and then it hits them [the NRL] in the head [and they say] ‘oh, hang on a minute, let’s do something now’, instead of jumping on it straight away and knocking it on the head. When you look at it, I know ‘Greggie’ [Melbourne star Greg Inglis] re-signed last year, but when he comes up for contract there’s going to be massive questions about him and a lot of other players.”Asked for his reaction to Hayne’s words, Gallop said last night: “I explained to Jarryd we would love for players to be earning higher salaries, but the pie is only so big and there are a lot of mouths to feed, including clubs, players and junior-development programs. I stressed [to Hayne] that we were not in a position to change the salary-cap rules for any player and I think he appreciated that.”Eels chief executive Paul Osborne reacted to Hayne’s re-signing by saying it would have been “diabolical” for the game had it lost him.Hayne’s re-signing was announced on-stage at Rouse Hill Town Centre shops, in Sydney’s north-west, as the Eels continued their club-membership drive by producing not only Hayne but a host of other stars – including Nathan Hindmarsh and Daniel Mortimer – to meet the fans.Hayne said he wanted to realise his two biggest goals – winning a State of Origin series with NSW and a grand final with Parramatta.
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Fightback lifts Kookas to gold

The Kookaburras’ ability to conjure big-match wins against the odds sealed a record 10th Champions Trophy men’s hockey title on Sunday with an extraordinary fightback to sink world and Olympic champions Germany.Trailing 3-1 at halftime in the final, Australia launched a relentless second half effort to win 5-3, lifting every aspect of their game after crucial first half lapses.Three goals in the opening 15 minutes of the second half – two of them penalty corner flicks from Luke Doerner – stunned the Germans and ensured the Kookaburras back-to-back gold medals in the tournament for the world’s top six nations in Melbourne.Experienced defender Mark Knowles paid tribute to his side’s self-belief for getting them out of trouble.It was a trait which came to the fore with different personnel at the 2004 Olympics and 2006 Commonwealth Games, but appears to beat just as strongly in the heart of the new Kookaburras.”We know we’re young, we’ve been training hard for this, done plenty of fitness work, so we thought if we could get an early (second half) goal we’d be right back in it,” Knowles said.”We stuck in there, and that little bit of pressure really helped.”It takes a long time to break very good teams down and it’s a credit to the playing group and the coaching staff.”But there’s a belief in the team we can win from any situation.”Australia started superbly and had the lead inside two minutes when striker Des Abbott found the net.Then the Germans hit back midway through the half with three goals in 11 minutes.First Florian Fuchs found the net, before a Martin Haner drag flick and another to Matthias Witthaus from open play gave them what appeared a stranglehold on the match.But with newly-crowned world player of the year Jamie Dwyer outstanding, the Kookaburras powered back in the second half and started to convert the penalty corners which were wasted in the first.First Liam de Young tapped in, before Doerner found his range with a drag flick on 41 minutes to bring his side level.Nine minutes later, Australia had snatched back the lead when Doerner was on target again.The Kookaburras finished off Germany with three minutes remaining, when Fergus Kavanagh latched on to a long Doerner pass and flipped the bouncing ball up over keeper Max Weinhold’s head to delight the 5,000-plus crowd at the State Hockey Centre.To cap their tournament, striker Grant Schubert was named the Champions Trophy’s best player and he and Luke Doerner shared leading scorer’s honours with six goals each.South Korea took the bronze medal, beating The Netherlands 4-2 in the third place playoff.Spain beat England 5-2 to secure fifth place.
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TV explosion that threatens the networks

Yesterday, Australia got its newest free-to-air television station when Kevin Rudd flicked the switch on ABC3. The just-for-kids station will broadcast 15 hours a day,and brings to 12 the number of free-to-air channels Australians with a digital television or a digital set-top box can receive – a tripling of free viewing options since 1980, and a doubling since 2005. But it’s just the beginning.The TV broadcasting landscape is changing so quickly that predictions about what shape it will take are no longer flagged as coming soon but happening now.This year alone, new station launches have included Ten’s digital sports channel OneHD (March), SBS2 (June), Nine’s digital spin-off Go! (August), Seven’s 7Two (October), and now ABC3. Each network also carries a digital simulcast of its analogue transmission, meaning that there are, in effect, 17 free-to-air channels being broadcast (including the community TV channel, 31).It also comes as Foxtel expands its pay TV service. In mid-November, it launched its ”next generation” offering, with more high-definition channels, an increased number and range of pay-per-view movies, and the option to download programs to computers or mobile devices, legally.But perhaps the biggest drivers of change are two sides of the one coin: improvements in technology and the illegal downloading it has allowed.Massively increased computing power, large, high-resolution monitors, and relatively cheap and fast download rates have turned the computer into a threat to traditional TV broadcasting, both pay and free to air. To save itself, TV is having to become a lot more like the web.”It’s becoming a semantic question whether television is a URL on the internet or the internet is a channel on the television set,” says Jeff Cole, a futurist and the director of the Centre for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California. ”The key word is convergence.”Dr Cole says the old model of television broadcasting is almost irrelevant already: ”Teenagers barely understand the concept of watching television on a broadcast network’s schedule,” he says. ”If you talk to them about the days when you used to have a favourite show and you had to be home before it started and you couldn’t leave the house until after it aired …”He lets the absurdity of that proposition hang in the air, even though most Australians grew up with it. But the ability to record now and watch later – which began with the introduction of the VCR to living rooms in the late 1970s – has fundamentally changed the game. The industry calls it ”time-shifting”, and it poses a major threat to the business model of free-to-air broadcasting.The free-to-air model relies on a network being able to deliver an audience of a certain size and demographic at a set time. That guarantee allows commercial networks to sell advertising spaces at a set rate – hence the importance of TV ratings. Advertisers are, effectively, buying eyeballs.But when those eyeballs have the opportunity to record and watch later – at a time when they are less inclined to make grocery-buying decisions, for instance – or to fast-forward through the ads entirely, the business model falters.The problem has become so serious that from December 27, OzTAM – which collects ratings for the networks – will for the first time begin tracking time-shift audiences. Anyone in the ratings sample group who records a program to a personal video recorder and watches it within seven days will, for the first time, be counted as a viewer. In the US, where Nielsen has been tracking time-shift audiences within three days of broadcast, ratings have been boosted by as much as 25 per cent for some programs.That’s great news for traditional broadcasters. But time-shifting is just one of the fronts on which they are vulnerable.Video on demand is another. Whether legally or illegally, the tech-savvy have been able to search for programming online for years, and download to watch on their computers. Now the same service is downloaded or streamed over the internet and watched on the television screen.In the last three weeks alone, Australian viewers have been promised the following: Telstra’s T-Box, which will allow paid content to be streamed or recorded, with unmetered downloads from BigPond’s libraries; the ABC iView player, which can now play content on the TV via Sony’s PlayStation 3; and a hook-up between iiNet and TiVo to stream free, unmetered content to the television.In the US, the shift is even more advanced. Hulu – a joint venture between News Corp and NBC – allows subscribers to stream a vast array of content legally and free (for now at least; Hulu is expected to start charging next year). Originally, that content could only be watched on the computer, but software recently released allows it to be relayed to the TV via the PlayStation, X-Box and Wii gaming consoles. Hulu was launched in 2008 and already has more than 42 million users. In October, it delivered 856 million downloads, almost twice as many as the preceding month.According to the head of digital marketing at IBM Australia, Martin Walsh, ”the Australian TV networks had the opportunity to joint venture to bring Hulu to Australia, but they turned it down”.While they may rue that decision, another US service provider, Netflix, is rumoured to be working with TV manufacturers to develop a set that would eliminate the need for peripheral devices such as game consoles or computer hard drives.In Ericsson’s Asia-Pacific TV Centre in Port Melbourne, a ”techspert” is talking through the company’s vision of the future. He’s demonstrating a set-up that will allow multiple TVs or computers or other devices scattered throughout a household to stream content individually while remaining networked so that each user can send messages to the others – ”dinner’s ready, come to the table”, for instance – or even to keep tabs on the household energy use or grandma’s medical records. As for entertainment, he says, ”everything that’s ever been made could quite feasibly be stored on servers, for you to download instantly, whenever you want”.”It’s bringing the web and internet experience into one,” says Kursten Leins, Ericsson’s strategic marketing manager. ”The vision has been there for a long time. The reality is it’s actually happening now.”That reality is called Internet Protocol Television, or IPTV. It is, many believe, where everything is heading, though Leins argues there are significant hurdles. First, it will not become fully realised until the national broadband network is rolled out – we need fast download rates to make full use of the offerings – and that’s at least five years off. And second, there are issues of governance.”The biggest stumbling block is regulation,” Leins says. ”At the moment you have a separate regime for telecommunications and another for broadcasting. When you’re talking about the blending of all these services, it’s the regulation that will get in the way, not the technology.”But those issues are certain to be resolved because the Federal Government is committed to the digital future. It is the key to giving Australia a ”competitive edge”, in the Government’s view, and will enable cheaper and faster delivery of everything from health care to education.And, of course, it will also facilitate an explosion of choice in entertainment.So, with the viewer liberated from the tyranny of the TV programmer, will the networks and pay TV operators cease to exist? Maybe, says futurist Jeff Cole. ”We’re still going to have scheduling for people over the age of 50 or 60, but that’s gradually going to diminish. It will go mostly to on-demand.”
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Big fish in a small pond

DANNY GREEN has been accused of running scared by the most dangerous man on his radar, Chad Dawson, after blowing off the suggestion he should fight the American because he is not a big enough name.
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Having scored the most remarkable stoppage victory of the year – bar Manny Pacqiuao’s second-round annihilation of Ricky Hatton – Green’s victory over Roy Jones jnr has catapulted him into the global stratosphere.

But there are surprisingly few big names to chase.

Bernard Hopkins is one but the Philadelphia fighter is hardly interested, preferring to spruik a rematch with Jones despite his pale showing at Acer Arena on Wednesday night.

Asked about future opponents yesterday, Green dodged and weaved better than Jones jnr in his heyday. ”Not Chad Dawson, I would like to fry bigger fish than him, definitely,” Green said.

Asked who was a big name if not Dawson, the IBO cruiserweight champion finally gave an indication: ”Hopkins has a pretty good name, he’s already disrespected Australia enough.”

But Dawson’s camp bristled at the comments.

”What that tells me is that Danny Green is afraid of Chad Dawson. He thinks he is bigger than he is – he beat a washed up 40-year-old guy that was over his weight class,” said Dawson’s manager, Gary Shaw.”What bigger name could he think of? Maybe he should fight [super-flyweight] Vic Darchinyan, he is a big name. Chad has defeated Antonio Tarver twice, he has beaten Glen Johnson twice, he has beaten Tomasz Adamek â?¦ I can’t see Danny Green beating Glen Johnson.”

Dawson, undefeated in 29 fights, had campaigned furiously for a fight with Joe Calzaghe, but the Welshman retired after defeating Jones and Hopkins. Jones and Hopkins have also resisted Dawson, who, at 27, is nine years younger than Green.

Dawson holds the IBO light-heavyweight title but, through his management, contacted Green’s camp early yesterday to say he’d be willing to move up to cruiserweight.

Dawson was even willing to travel to Australia but upon hearing Green’s comments, Shaw pulled that offer.

”I won’t come down to Australia now. Let Mr Danny Green wait for that big name, we can’t wait to see who that is,” Shaw said.

”Hopkins is not fighting Danny Green, no way.”

I’m not saying he is not a household name in Australia, but Danny is not an advanced fighter. If his claim to fame is that he beat an old man, and he can go to sleep happy with that, then good on him, let him do that.

The trouble with a lot of these fighters is that when they win, instead of being humble, they talk out of their ass. He should take the fight for what it is, a great financial success for him. If he is good as what he thinks he is, he should fight the premier guy at 175 pounds, not hide behind that old excuse of waiting for a bigger name.”

Hopkins, who defeated Enrique Ornelas on points yesterday – as part of the double-header that was promoting the Hopkins-Jones rematch for March 13 – maintained the bout would still hold appeal. This is for two reasons he did not share: a second fight with Jones, 16 years in the making, would still command high television buys; and now Jones looks shot, Hopkins would command the greater share of the purse- the primary reason they had not been able to agree terms before.

The 44-year-old overlooked the fact Jones had hinted at retirement after Wednesday’s debacle, and instead did his best to pump credibility into Jones – fully aware he needs momentum in a public relations campaign to sell the fight – by questioning the referee’s decision to stop the bout after 122 seconds.”

From what I saw, [Green] was pounding away and got some shots in there, but I don’t think the referee should have stopped the fight,” Hopkins said. ”When you have someone like Roy Jones jnr, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

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Here’s to you, Mr Robinson: Tahs veterans take inspiration from Benn

IF THE statistics that mattered were age and the number of Test caps won, Wallabies prop Benn Robinson would be the one looking to his Waratahs teammates Al Baxter and Phil Waugh for inspiration.But in the aftermath of the Wallabies’ tour of Europe, it is now Baxter and Waugh who regard Robinson as a perfect example from which to draw motivation. The pair still firmly believe in their own Test futures, despite being omitted from the tour; and both have been buoyed by the private talks they have had with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.”I have been pretty clear with my goals and my ambitions. He [Deans] has been very open and very supportive of my ambitions,” Waugh said at yesterday’s unveiling of the 2010 Waratahs strips. ”The call they made [non-selection] was [for] being injured for the first couple of games.”From that moment it was all about me having a good 2010 and rejoining the group in June.”Baxter, a specialist tighthead prop, said he was told by Deans: ”This is not the end of your Test career. You are still very much in the he frame.”Both players agree that Robinson’s transformation from a player omitted from the 2007 World Cup squad and who had to fight his way back into the Waratahs side by playing for the NSW A team in 2008 to becoming the world’s top loosehead prop, is an example to follow.Waugh, 30 and with 79 Wallabies caps to his name, said Robinson, 25 and with 31 caps, has the ability to enjoy a long reign as the world’s premier prop. ”It’s exciting. He works hard. He will be the first to admit that he can work harder, which is exciting. And he is only 25, and for props that is relatively young,” the openside breakaway said.”He just has to keep fit and get fitter, [keep] doing what he is doing and keep being dominant in his position. He is one of the standout rugby union players in the world at the moment.”He had belief in himself and people around him believed in him, which is important. But he kept playing hard, whether it was for Eastwood, NSW A or when he got back to the Waratahs. He has come a long way in 18 months.”Baxter, 32 and with 69 Test caps, believes Robinson’s return from Wallabies wilderness has helped to make the loosehead a better player.”If he had not missed the World Cup and gone as a reserve then not be dropped by ‘Link’ [former Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie] he might have been happy to bubble along like that,” he said.”The challenge [of] getting back in makes everyone a better player. Those things did a lot for his career. He fought hard, worked very hard and came back better than he was before.”❏ Wallabies and NSW No.8 Wycliff Palu leads the 2010 John Eales Medal vote score after the first of two stages of a progressive count to precede next October’s unveiling of the final score.After the spring tour, Palu has 113 votes. Matt Giteau has 102, David Pocock 86, Will Genia 72, and Adam Ashley-Cooper 52.❏ Wallabies tourist and back-rower Dave Dennis has re-signed with the Waratahs for two more years after starting the spring tour with his playing future in doubt.❏ Tony Dempsey will retire as the Rugby Union Players’ Association head at the end of the month after working for the organisation for 15 years – nine of them in the top job.
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Waratahs’ new winger prepared to stick his neck out for teammates

WITHOUT having played a game for the Waratahs, All Blacks recruit Sosene Anesi has already set a daunting benchmark for even the toughest of his new teammates.Some players earn reputations as ”hard eggs” for playing on with broken ribs or noses, with torn cartilage, or even fractured skulls.That the 28-year-old outside back played 75 minutes of a Super 14 game in 2007 for the Chiefs with a broken neck is not something he openly brags about. He even looks uneasy when you jokingly inform him that playing with the injury would challenge even Waratahs breakaway Phil Waugh’s threshold.However, it is a measure of the severity of the fracture and his apparent disbelief that he avoided what could have happened – possible paralysis – that Anesi discusses it when asked.The break occurred five minutes into the round-two game as he tackled Hurricanes winger Ma’a Nonu; but without him or anyone realising until he went to hospital the next day. ”I got my head on the wrong side [in the tackle]. I was sore but played all the game,” Anesi said yesterday. ”I even tried to crack my back into place as the game went on.”The next day Anesi learnt the shocking truth: he had fractured the C6 vertebra in his neck. It brought an end to his season and added another chapter of injury woe to a career that has stopped and started. But Anesi knows he was lucky. ”It could have been a lot worse,” he said.The Kiwi admits that returning to the paddock as he did five months later was as hard mentally as it was physically. Gaining confidence in the tackle contact again took time. But after an exhausting rehabilitation program, he took the field for the Chiefs against Taranaki in the Air New Zealand Cup.Anesi, whose one All Blacks cap was earned against Fiji in 2005 and who has come to the Waratahs to replace Lote Tuqiri, says he is now 100 per cent fit and is confident his injury run is over. ”I’m injury free – a bit of a tight groin from NPC but I’ll be back running next week,” he said.While injuries limited his playing opportunities at the Chiefs, so did the calibre of the Kiwi side’s back three, which includes Mils Muliaina, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Lelia Masaga.”That was the main thing. I had to look somewhere else. Being at the Chiefs didn’t quite get me that opportunity, with the likes of Mils, Masaga and ‘Siti’,” Anesi said.However, the time spent watching the likes of Sivivatu – at Super 14 and Test level – provided him with a chance to learn, and in particular see how a winger can assert his influence on the game.”I have learned a lot the last few years about getting involved,” Anesi said. ”I have watched how Sitiveni plays his game. He is always trying to be a playmaker, getting involved. That’s what I am trying to do. Being on the wing, it’s a bit hard, but you have to go and look for the ball.”As well as Anesi’s blistering pace, the Waratahs will look to take advantage of the Kiwi’s insider knowledge of the Chiefs players and their game.”I think it will help a lot. But it is not about them, it will be more about us and the game we bring that day,” Anesi said. ”I played the Waratahs once. That was in my first year and we lost. We got a hiding.”
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DNA exonerations lead to decline in death sentences

WASHINGTON: The number of death sentences imposed by courts in the United States has fallen because of a growing number of exonerations through DNA testing, according to a report by a prominent anti-death penalty group.The Death Penalty Information Centre in Washington says judges and juries imposed fewer death sentences over the past 12 months than at any time since the restoration of execution in 1976.This year 106 death sentences have been passed, the seventh year in a row the number has fallen. The total is sharply down on the high of 328 in 1994.However, the number of executions rose to 52 this year, a sharp increase on the year before, because of the lifting of the de facto moratorium while the US Supreme Court considered the legality of lethal injections. Richard Dieter, the information centre’s director and author of the report, said the decrease in death sentences reflected growing concern over the reliability of convictions. ”The principal reason is the innocence cases, the exonerations, people getting out because of DNA testing,” he said.”People read about these exonerations, people walking out of prison 20 years after the crime. Jurors are convicting but giving life sentences, not the death penalty.” The centre said nine condemned men were exonerated in 2009, the second highest number of exonerations since the death penalty was reinstated.The Innocence Project says that 245 convicts have subsequently been cleared by DNA evidence across the US. Last week a man was released after 35 years in prison for raping a child. James Bain was sentenced to life for kidnapping and raping a nine-year-old boy who identified him from a photograph. A judge ordered the 54-year-old to be freed after DNA testing cleared him of the crime.Mr Dieter said the decline in death sentences was particularly pronounced in the two states that carry out the most executions, Texas and Virginia. A decade ago Texas was imposing 34 death sentences a year. This year it imposed nine.The economic climate had also contributed, Mr Dieter said, because prosecutors were increasingly hesitant to spend the millions of dollars it often takes to secure a death penalty conviction when spending by many states is being cut.Half of this year’s executions were in Texas. But the total number of executions was still down by nearly half from 10 years ago.Guardian News & Media
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Health bill to be Obama’s early Christmas present

WASHINGTON: Democrats in the US Senate have closed ranks in support of legislation to reform the nation’s healthcare system, overcoming months of internal division and clearing a path for quick Senate passage of President Barack Obama’s top domestic policy priority, possibly on Christmas Eve.The Senate leader, Harry Reid, secured the pivotal 60th vote after acceding to the demands of the Nebraska senator Ben Nelson for tighter restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions, money for his home state and breaks for favoured health-care interests.”Change is never easy, but change is what’s necessary in America,” Senator Nelson said in announcing his support.In remarks at the White House, Mr Obama said it appeared a vote was certain on a bill that would provide coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans.”After a nearly century-long struggle we are on the cusp of making health-care reform a reality.” Mr Obama had sent senior Administration officials to lock down Senator Nelson’s support.Republicans excoriated the Senate bill as a threat to Medicare and the employer system that provides health coverage to most Americans. Party leaders invoked a rarely used Senate rule to require that the entire 338-page package of amendments introduced by Senator Reid on Saturday be read aloud on the floor, consuming about seven hours on Saturday.”This bill is a monstrosity,” said the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell. ”This is not renaming the post office. Make no mistake – this bill will reshape our nation and our lives.”But Republicans were running out of options in their quest to derail the bill. Unless the party yields, it is expected to pass in a final Senate vote at 7pm on Christmas Eve. Negotiations to merge it with the House of Representatives version would begin in early January.Its stark differences with the House plan, which includes a public option, would have to be reconciled in order to pass a final measure before Mr Obama’s state of the union speech in January.Securing Senator Nelson’s support allows the Democrats to manoeuvre the bill through a parliamentary minefield without obstruction. A 60-vote bloc prevents the filibuster, the Senate minority’s primary source of power, and the Republicans’ best hope of defeating the bill.Many liberals, however, were bitterly disappointed with the bargains struck to win support from moderates in his caucus. Democratic leaders dropped a government insurance option and the idea of expanding Medicare to younger Americans.The revised Senate bill would require every American for the first time to obtain insurance or face a penalty of as much as $US750 ($850) a year or 2 per cent of income, whichever is greater, with a cap for families set at $US2250. Those without access to affordable coverage through an employer would be eligible to apply for federal subsidies and shop for coverage in new state-based exchanges from 2014.Instead of a public option, the legislation would allow private firms to offer insurance across state lines on the state exchanges.Starting immediately, insurers would be barred from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. A total ban on the practice would take effect in 2014. Lifetime limits on coverage would be banned and annual limits would be restricted until 2014, when they, too, would be banned entirely.The Washington Post, Agence France-Presse
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The day the Earth stood still

IN a faltering step that nearly all concede is too little to avert a climate crisis, the majority of world leaders will adopt the first international agreement that recognises global warming must stay below two degrees to avoid dangerous climate change.Despite the deep disappointment of many who helped create it, the Copenhagen accord will stand as a first attempt to bring the biggest greenhouse gas polluting nations, the United States and China, into a political deal to curb soaring global emissions.By the end of next month, rich nations, including Australia, must lodge their 2020 targets to cut emissions under the accord while the big emerging polluters, including China, India, Brazil and Indonesia, have agreed to list the voluntary measures to curb theirs.”We have sealed the deal,” the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said. ”This accord cannot be everything that everyone hoped for, but it is an essential beginning.”The accord was formally recognised by the UN conference in Copenhagen in its closing session even as some of its smaller members condemned its lack of ambition – if unchanged, it will leave the world on a path to warming at least three degrees.The deal was struck after a marathon round of negotiations between 26 world leaders, including the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, which almost collapsed several times as it was progressively watered down by China and the US.The exhaustion on the faces of the European leaders was matched by the disappointment when they finally faced the media at 2am on Saturday. The Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, acting as President of the European Union, and Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, had just given their grudging agreement to the flimsy document, just several pages long, that was supposed to guide the world in its fight against climate change.”Let’s be honest and say that this is not a perfect agreement. It will not solve the climate threat,” Mr Reinfeldt said as the last draft of the accord was running off the photocopiers.He admitted that throughout the long day and night all hope of an ambitious politically binding agreement had been crushed by China and the US. ”We have been fighting not to go backwards,” he said.Yet in those early hours of Saturday, the Europeans, along with Mr Rudd and his British counterpart, Gordon Brown, faced the media one after the other to defend the accord that environmental groups and many small, vulnerable nations were calling a catastrophe.”This represents a significant global agreement,” Mr Rudd insisted. His Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, stood beside him looking shattered, whether from exhaustion, disappointment or a combination of both was unclear. By then, Senator Wong had been in negotiations for 24 hours, working through the gritty details of the deal.Mr Rudd had to acknowledge the accord’s obvious flaw: the emissions cuts promised in the document, even at their most ambitious, failed to match the promise of avoiding dangerous climate change.”A huge amount of work still remains to be done,” he conceded. ”But the alternative, which we confronted, staring into the abyss at midnight last night, [was] these negotiations collapsing altogether and throwing back all progress that has been reached in recent times in global climate change action.”Almost two hours earlier, before Mr Rudd, Mr Brown and the Europeans had emerged from their final leaders’ meeting, the US President, Barack Obama, had announced the accord to the travelling White House press corps as he prepared to fly out of Copenhagen.A reporter queried the President’s departure before the draft was finalised. ”Does it require signing, is it that kind of agreement?” The President replied vaguely: ”You know, it raises an interesting question as to whether technically there’s actually a signature – since, as I said, it’s not a legally binding agreement, I don’t know what the protocols are.”But Mr Obama quickly added: ”I do think that this is a commitment that we, as the United States, are making and that we think is very important.” Then he raised his hands. ”All right. Thanks, guys.” And briskly he left for Air Force One.Mr Obama had been in Copenhagen for less than 14 hours.In that time, he had done a deal with the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, that steamrolled over the UN climate negotiations. The US and China had wrested control of the strategic decision-making from the Europeans. Any future climate change agreements will be dictated by their joint level of ambition.After almost two weeks of debate, where minister after minister, and leader after leader, had spoken passionately about the threat facing the planet, after all the mass protests, the pleas, the prayers and the promises, what had emerged was not ”the grand bargain” called for by Mr Rudd, but the weak compromise so many had predicted.The Copenhagen accord lacks legal force. In the last hours of the conference on Saturday, nations agreed only to ”take note” of the agreement.The accord has one big promise: to keep the global temperature from rising by more than two degrees. But the fine print shows clearly that as it stands, the accord keeps the world on a path that will lead to a warming of at least three degrees.This, according to the UN’s scientific body, will lead to catastrophic consequences this century for many nations, from Bangladesh to Australia.As Mr Reinfeldt explained to the bleary-eyed reporters, richcountries were supposed to come to Copenhagen with pledges on the table to cut their emissions from 1990 levels between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020. They did not. What is on offer is a group cut of only 18 per cent. Dragging down the numbers, Mr Reinfeldt said, is the US. Bound by bills before the US Senate, Mr Obama would not move beyond pledging a cut of about 3 per cent on 1990 levels.The Europeans agreed to the weak outcome largely because of one breakthrough: for the first time, the US, with China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Singapore have put on paper measures to curb emissions.But those 2020 commitments are now likely to be at the lower level of ambition. Mr Rudd’s promise of a 25 per cent cut to Australia’s emissions is conditional on an ambitious deal. He will now feel justified in putting up a target of 10 to 15 per cent.China, who repeatedly blocked negotiations, promised to curb its emissions, but will be limited by economic growth – and so they could continue to soar.The Europeans’ concerns were compounded after Mr Wen argued to remove a clause calling for global emissions to be halved by 2050 – the formula based on the advice of the UN’s peak scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. ”How can we reach the two degrees if we can’t agree on a long-term target?” Mr Barroso asked.Mr Obama faced criticism from the Europeans over the lack of a long-term target in the accord or pledges to achieve it. But he insisted the accord was a first step. ”There are going to be those who are going to look at the national commitments, tally them up and say, you know, the science dictates that even more needs to be done,” he said.”The challenge here was that for a lot of countries, particularly those emerging countries that are still in different stages of development, this is going to be the first time in which even voluntarily they offered up mitigation targets. And I think that it was important to essentially get that shift in orientation moving. That’s what I think will end up being most significant about this accord.”Mr Obama’s determination to have China, India and Brazil in an agreement, however weak, overrode the resistance of the Europeans. The deal was struck after critical meetings. Mr Obama and Mr Wen met twice behind closed doors after each publicly staked their positions.The US-China meeting was then expanded to include the leaders of India, Brazil and South Africa. ”That’s where we agreed to list our national actions and commitments,” Mr Obama said. ”We agreed to set a mitigation target to limit warming to no more than two degrees Celsius, and importantly, to take action to meet this objective consistent with science.”But what Mr Obama ditched was any promise for a legally binding treaty as the next crucial step. The Europeans had argued such a treaty needed to be signed within six months, a year at the latest, when the UN climate conference meets in Mexico. Asked if that was possible, Mr Obama said: ”I think it is going to be very hard and it’s going to take some time.”This was a big defeat for Australia, Europe and Japan who, unlike the US, have ratified the only current legally binding climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol. Under Kyoto, rich industrialised nations must cut their emissions. A strategy behind Copenhagen was to get a deal that would lead to replacing the Kyoto Protocol with a single treaty for all nations, especially the US and China.But China, India and Brazil along with virtually all the key developing nations brought the summit to a standstill over this issue, refusing to accept any proposal they said would ”kill Kyoto”.The accord has been criticised by environmental groups, small island states and the least developed nations, who said two degrees of warming would condemn much of Africa and the low-lying islands to disaster.They mounted a strong case for a limit of 1.5 degrees – ”1.5 to stay alive”. The clause to examine this target was taken out of the final text. But, critically, what remains is a promised review in line with the science by 2015, after the next report of the UN’s scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.But despite all the criticism, the last two weeks cannot be seen simply as a failure. For all its many flaws, the summit brought together 119 world leaders who acknowledged for the first time that climate change is one of the greatest economic and security challenges facing the planet.From the President of the US to the President of the Maldives, virtually almost every leader recognised their economies would be forced to undergo a clean energy revolution within the next few decades.One of the most telling revelations came not on the floor of the conference but in a briefing from the US senator John Kerry, who is trying to shepherd climate change laws through the Senate.Asked why anyone would believe the US would pass these bills next year given the level of scepticism in America, he hit back. The state of North Carolina, he said, has just announced it is shutting down 11 coal-fired power plants. South Carolina is refusing to build another one.America is already moving, he said. He was not worried about its initial 2020 target being seen as too weak: ”We will eclipse it dramatically.”
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Better watch out, better not care: Santa Claws is coming to town

AT CAFE BONES in Leichhardt, dog ”parents” are lining up to have their ”children’s” pictures taken with Santa.The cafe owner and mother-of-three tail-waggers, Chaka Khashayar, says it’s done with good humour and for a good cause – all profits going to animal charities – but it also meets a need, because dogs aren’t allowed to visit shopping-centre Santas.”There shouldn’t be any difference between taking dogs into Westfield than taking a child,” she said.The state Opposition recently responded to public indignation about dogs being turned away from outdoor areas of cafes with the promise of new legislation to overturn the ban. Politicians, from Richard Nixon to Malcolm Turnbull, have long been aware of the political appeal that comes from cosying up to a four-legged friend.The number of registered dogs in NSW has risen from 509,611 in June 2005 to 808,144 in June this year. But it’s not just the number of dogs- their social status is also changing. ”There has been an elevation in the social position of what I would call companion animals,” said the social demographer Bernard Salt. ”I wonder whether it’s a consequence of rising incidences of singledom or childlessness … If the human desire to heap love and affection on to a child is being redirected on to an animal.”Advocacy groups such as Dogs NSW and the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) are hoping the Opposition’s move on cafes will drive a greater liberalisation of other laws.Dogs are allowed on public transport in Britain and Italy. It’s not uncommon in Tokyo to see a fashionista board a subway carriage with a dog in her handbag, or to see a dog indoors in a Paris restaurant.In NSW, pets are banned from trains and only allowed on buses and ferries if staff are satisfied they are enclosed in an appropriate carry case. Only guide dogs are usually allowed in plane cabins. ”Sydney is becoming the dog-hater capital of the world,” said Peter Higgins, spokesman for Dogs NSW.Mark Lawrie, the president of the AVA, said there is no scientific reason to exclude pets from indoor areas, provided they aren’t places where food is being prepared. ”The risk of [disease or bacteria] coming from dogs or humans is comparable,” he said.Already there has been slow reform, particularly in the City of Sydney, in favour of dogs. In the past two years alone, the council has added 18 off-leash parks. The dog-collar-wearing Lord Mayor, Clover Mayor, has also campaigned against pet shops, and supports removing barriers to having pets on public transport, in strata apartments, cafes and rental properties.But not everyone in the inner-city is happy about their neighbourhood going to the dogs. A Darlinghurst resident, Narelle Taylor, said she saw a dog send coffees flying at a cafe when it pulled suddenly on its lead, which was tied to a table leg. A recent book, Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, claimed that a medium-sized dog had a carbon footprint twice that of a four-wheel-drive, due to the large quantity of meat it consumes every year.The Labor councillor Meredith Burgmann said the City of Sydney’s support for pet ownership was incongruous with its green image.
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Minister tried to stop memorial

THE Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, attempted to intervene personally in the approval of a monument commemorating the contested Assyrian genocide after being lobbied by the Turkish Government.But his advice was ignored by Fairfield Council and the 4.5-metre statue to be built in Edensor Park was approved.In a strongly worded fax sent to the Mayor of Fairfield, Nick Lalich, Mr Smith urged the council to consider diplomatic consequences. ”Under Australian law, whether or not Fairfield City Council supports the construction of such a monument is a matter for the council,” Mr Smith wrote.”However, I must impress upon you in the strongest possible terms that the construction of such a monument would run the very grave risk of causing significant tension in the Australia-Turkey relationship, and for this reason I request that the proposed construction not proceed.”Elsewhere in the fax, Mr Smith urged Mr Lalich to delay the approval vote, carried successfully last Tuesday, so that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade could give the council a full briefing.”Australia does not intervene in the historical debate,” Mr Smith wrote. ”The Australian Government acknowledges the terrible loss of lives from the many communities at that time, the effect this has had on subsequent generations, and their identity, heritage and culture.”The councillor who moved the motion, Anwar Khoshaba, said the fax was not read out at the meeting but was given to councillors before the vote.”It was unanimous. There was no discussion. Nothing,” he said. ”I don’t think local government is intervening in international affairs. This is something for the local area,” Cr Khoshaba said.”This is something people asked for and we approved it. We approved a statue in Parramatta for the Vietnamese. This is no different. Stephen’s letter indicated this was a council matter. The council disagreed with him.”Mr Smith’s intervention came as riot police separated hundreds of Turkish and Assyrian protesters outside the council meeting last week.The Local Government Association formally recognises that genocide was perpetrated against the Assyrians after World War I, but neither the NSW nor federal governments have acknowledged the claim and it is disputed by Turkey.”We should not be intimidated by the Turk and let their politics pressure us,” the Australian regional secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, Hermiz Shahen, said of Mr Smith’s intervention.”We are not trying to insult anybody but this has an effect for us. We cannot build this monument in Turkey or in Iraq. We are doing it here because we are stateless people.”A spokeswoman for Mr Smith said the minister was unhappy with the council’s actions. ”Ultimately it is a decision for the council,” she said yesterday. Neither Cr Lalich nor the Turkish ambassador returned the Herald’s calls last night.
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