Monthly Archives: July 2018

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Daily horoscopes: Saturday, May 18

Read Alison Moroney’s daily stars for Saturday, May 18, 2013.ARIES: You’re a touch confused about some aspect of your life during Saturday and Sunday, paralysing action. It’s good to stop and think about the problems at hand.
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TAURUS: Taurus has doubts about something they are striving to attain during May 18, 19: a financial vulnerability exists or there is a weak link in a chain of communication or line of thought.

GEMINI:Gemini natives tend to stumble as they climb that career ladder during May 18, 19, so youneed to ensure you fully comprehend any situation you are about to tackle: place yourself in context.

CANCER: Information you are receiving may well be misleading during May 18, 19, even if it seems to come from an authoritative source. All people make mistakes so, if in doubt, double check.

LEO: You need to make yourself fully aware of the fine print in any policies you hold as they may well be problematic during May 18, 19: the same goes for any financial communications.

VIRGO: With your eyes set on something personally important to you, it is possible that misunderstandings could arise between yourself and your partner during May 18, 19: don’t make assumptions.

LIBRA: A vulnerability exists in the Libran constitution during May 18, 19, so try avoiding excessive use of alcohol, cigarettes and other toxins; minimise exposure to contagions.

SCORPIO: Uncertainty associated with a child or romance can raise anxiety levels during May 18, 19. It’s important to make sure of your facts then and keep track of children.

SAGITTARIUS: It seems that misunderstandings disturb domestic quietude during May 18, 19. Sagittarius needs to clarify plans and ideas with other family members.

CAPRICORN: Don’t believe all you read and hear during May 18, 19, as there is an element of fantasy or illusion around it. Situations need to be put into perspective.

AQUARIUS: Flawed communications tend to give rise to misunderstandings over money during May 18, 19. Take the time to clarify important details, for losses may occur otherwise.

PISCES: Piscean individuals are prone to flights of fantasy making it difficult, sometimes, for others to reach you. Such a situation arises during May 18, 19: come down to earth.

LUCKY NUMBERS: Aries: 1, 3, 4, 9; Taurus: 5, 8; Gemini: 6, 7; Cancer: 3, 4, 7, 9; Leo: 1, 3, 4, 9; Virgo: 6, 8; Libra: 5, 7; Scorpio: 2, 3, 7, 9; Sagittarius: 1, 3, 4, 9; Capricorn: 5, 6; Aquarius: 5, 6; Pisces: 2, 4, 7.

Inside Berlusconi’s bunga bunga parties

Berlusconi_HPL_2Silvio Berlusconi’s private disco featured not only aspiring showgirls performing striptease acts as sexy nuns and nurses, but one woman dressed up as President Barack Obama and a prominent Milan prosecutor whom the billionaire media mogul has accused of persecuting him, according to the first public sworn testimony by the Moroccan woman at the center of the scandal.
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Karima el-Mahroug’s testimony Friday (local time) at the trial of three former Berlusconi aides accused with procuring her and other women for prostitution confirms a sexually charged atmosphere at the “bunga bunga” parties of the then-sitting premier.

The trial is separate from the one in which Berlusconi is charged with paying for sex with a minor – el-Mahroug when she was 17 – and trying to cover it up.

El-Mahroug, now 20, said she attended about a half-dozen parties, using her nickname Ruby, and that after each, Berlusconi handed her an envelope with up to 3,000 euros (NZ$4775)  in denominations of 500. She said she later received 30,000 euros cash from the then-premier paid through an intermediary – money that she told Berlusconi she wanted to use to open a beautician salon despite having no formal training.

But she denied that Berlusconi had ever given her 5 million euros ($6.43 million). She said she told acquaintances and even her father that she was going to receive such a large sum “as a boast,” but that it was a lie to make her seem more important.

The three Berlusconi aides – Emilio Fede, an executive in Berlusconi’s media empire; Nicole Minetti, a former dental hygienist, showgirl and local politician, and talent agent Dario “Lele” Mora – are accused of recruiting women for prostitution at the parties and abetting prostitution, including of a minor. They deny the charges.

El-Mahroug has made carefully orchestrated statements to the media since the scandal broke, but has never publicly given sworn testimony. Both she and Berlusconi deny having had sex.

Dressed soberly with her hair pulled back, El-Mahroug said she first made contact with Berlusconi’s inner circle when she participated in a beauty contest organized by Fede in Sicily when she was 16.

After that she made her way to Milan, hoping to find work. She said she tried to get work through another defendant’s talent agency but didn’t have proper identity documents, and wound up landing a job as a hostess in nightclubs, earning around 100 euros a night.

She frequently changed accommodation during that time, staying for periods of days with people whose names she no longer recalls.

Eventually, she ran into Fede at a restaurant, where she reminded him of his promise in Sicily to help her. Shortly thereafter, she was invited to a dinner party, at Berlusconi’s villa outside of Milan.

She testified that she met the premier that night – on Valentine’s Day in 2010 – and that he gave her an envelope of 2,000 to 3,000 euros ($2,600 to $3,900) as she was leaving, saying it was “a little help” and asking for her telephone number, which she gave him. Ad Feedback

At that party, she said, she introduced herself as Ruby and told other guests a fake tale that she was Egyptian, that her mother was a famous Arab singer and that she was related to then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. She was 17 at the time but had passed herself off as being 23 or 24.

El-Mahroug confirmed Friday what other witnesses have testified previously: that at some of the soirees, young female party guests had dressed up like nuns and danced for Berlusconi and then stripped down to their underwear.

The parties took place in a disco in Berlusconi’s villa equipped with a lap dance pole. El-Mahroug told the court that there was sometimes a singer who is close to Berlusconi at the parties, but most of the guests were young women. While she went home in a taxi alone the first night, other times, she testified, she slept in a guest room by herself. Since she only had the dress she was wearing, she was given a track suit in the morning to have breakfast, and sometimes stayed for lunch, leaving in the late afternoon.

El-Mahroug said Minetti, one of the defendants, had dressed up like a nun at that February 14 party and lifted her costume to show off her legs as she danced in Berlusconi’s in-house disco. El-Mahroug demonstrated from her seat how Minetti had raised her hemline. She said Minetti eventually took off her costume and was in just her lingerie.

She said another young woman dressed up alternately as Obama or a Milan magistrate who is leading the prosecution against Berlusconi in the sex scandal, donning a red wig and the black robes worn by magistrates in Italy.

“The girls who were dressed in costumes approached him in a sensual way as they danced. They raised their skirts,” El-Mahroug testified. She added: “I never saw contact.”

On the stand, El-Mahroug denied ever having acted as a prostitute, and repeated her denials that she ever had sex with Berlusconi.

However, when the presiding judge pressed her on wiretaps in which she appears to be referring to acts of prostitution, she said that her statements then were just “stupid things.” It was the same phrase she used to explain away her statements that she was about to receive 5 million euros from the then-premier.

At one point, the judge admonished her that she was testifying at a trial aimed at ascertaining the facts, not appearing on a televised interview, when she appeared to criticise prosecutors, then backed down.

Prosecutors in Berlusconi’s separate trial have said El-Mahroug’s testimony is unreliable and are relying on her sworn statements. The defence had initially called her as a witness, but then changed its strategy and didn’t call her. That trial is nearing a verdict and will reconvene May 24.

– AP

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

New car review: Honda CR-Z

On the surface, Honda’s latest CR-Z coupe seems like a masterstroke, combining the performance of a sports car with the efficiency of a hybrid.
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Add to that an arsenal of accessories befitting a luxury vehicle and a price tag of less than $40,000, and you should be onto a winner. And a worthy successor to sporty Honda predecessors including the NSX, S2000, Integra and Prelude.

Unfortunately for Honda the latest iteration CR-Z has efficiency and sportiness in the wrong doses.

Honda recently streamlined the CR-Z range to just one luxury model. At $38,490 plus on-roads ($40,790 in automatic), the CR-Z is more expensive than a Toyota 86, Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen Polo GTI and Hyundai Veloster Turbo.

As before, the two-door CR-Z gets a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, combined with a lithium ion battery. Honda engineers have extracted some extra performance from the teaming, boosting power to a combined petrol-electric output of 99kW and 190Nm in automatic form. The CR-Z comes with a choice of a six-speed manual or CVT auto. We drove the latter, fitted with paddle shifters for increased driver involvement.

From the outside, the CR-Z lives up to Honda’s sporty past. There’s a striking resemblance to the 1980s CR-X, from which it takes its styling inspiration. A prominent grille and LED lights punctuate the car’s swoopy and slightly revised front end, with a sharply tapered rear and two-tone 17-inch wheels complementing the aggressive stance. Owners won’t appreciate the CR-Z’s extra-long driver and passenger doors in tight spaces, though.

Inside, the CR-Z’s cabin is very much focused on the driver, with a cockpit feel to the instrument panel and a driving position that is low and laid-back, with white-stitched leather front seats. The instrument read-out is a highlight, changing colour depending on the driving mode you choose. Hit the Eco button and it turns green, go to sport and it glows red. The only let-down is an abundance of hard plastic on the dash and doors.

By comparison, the cloth-trim seats in the rear are virtually redundant and are among the worst for practicality in the new-car market. Teens would struggle to squeeze into the rear pew because of negligible leg room and the sharply tapered roofline, and even little ones will feel claustrophobic. Honda has fitted the CR-Z with two anchor points for a baby capsule, but they’re virtually useless because of the poor layout. The shallow 225-litre boot (despite getting a tyre inflation kit instead of spare to conserve space) is hard to access, while the two-piece rear glass makes rear vision a chore.

Driving through Sydney’s outskirts, the 1199-kilogram CR-Z felt surprisingly agile, but only when it was fixed to Sport mode. A new Plus Sport (S+) button supposedly provides further engine and electric motor assist power, but the gains felt negligible. Switching from Sport mode to the Normal and ECON mode, the CR-Z turned its hand to efficiency, dimming power and handling characteristics to more docile levels. Honda claims fuel usage figures of 5.0L/100km; our reading was closer to 7.0L/100km in a mix of driving.

The CR-Z’s engine is helped along by a fairly adept, albeit buzzy, CVT gearbox. The combination, while undernourished, worked well enough. The CR-Z works its way up to 100km/h in circa-10 seconds and, once there, springs no nasty surprises with road and engine noise.

The steering in the CR-Z is razor sharp, accurate and well-weighted, giving terrific feedback through turns. Impressively, the car suffered very little front-end scrub, though the Michelin tyres tended to lose grip in the rear fairly easily with enthusiastic driving.

As a result of the sporty steer, the CR-Z tended towards firm in its handling, bouncing over all but the smallest of bumps and even crashing in the rear over larger obstacles. Tyre noise is also intrusive.

The CR-Z is fitted with a swag of fruit to match the $40,000 price tag, including sat-nav, reversing camera, DVD player, auto-stop function, Bluetooth phone audio streaming, a six-speaker stereo, USB connectivity, climate control and sun-roof.

The CR-Z gets a five-star safety rating (six airbags, stability control) and a three-year, 100,000-kilometre warranty, but isn’t offered in Australia with capped price servicing.

There is plenty of merit in combining performance with hybrid efficiency. But unfortunately for Honda, the CR-Z is neither overtly sporty or impressively efficient.

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

Fast lane

Setting the standard: Mercedes-Benz’s new S-Class comes stacked with features.Old people love to ”tut-tut” about the reckless indifference of youth, but there were some sobering statistics out of the US this week that might provoke a little look or two in the mirror.
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AT&T has told USA Today that adults are worse than teens for texting behind the wheel. The company, which is about to launch a campaign to discourage people from texting behind the wheel, says its research shows that 49 per cent of adults admit to texting behind the wheel, compared with 43 per cent of teens. And if the ”adult” who sent in the following comment to Drive this week is any indication of broader community attitudes, we’ve got even more to worry about.

”I’ll admit to texting a few times whilst driving. And drink-driving lots. Texting is way more dangerous. Phones in cars need to be banned. With careful drink-driving you at least are looking at the road with more intensity and caution because you know you’ve been drinking.”

With comments like that, it makes it harder to disagree with this reader’s Darwinian outlook: ”If these people manage to kill themselves without killing or injuring others then great. They won’t pass on their stupid genes to the next generation.”Risky business

That said, it appears that teens are not immune to stupid behaviour. Two separate studies in the US have found that teens who text behind the wheel are more likely to engage in other risky behaviour, including binge drinking, drink-driving, smoking pot, having unsafe sex and – wait for it – using indoor tanning devices.

There was nothing in the report to suggest all of this was going on at the same time behind the wheel, but we’re sure some product developer somewhere is now working on the world’s first in-car tanning salon. Perhaps someone at Mercedes-Benz is on the case, judging by the technology in its new S-Class. From air filters made from coconut shells to perfume dispensers and six-mode ”hot stone” massaging seats with heated armrests, the new S-Class is just a tanning bed away from a Hollywood day spa.Mercedes sees light

For all its luxury excesses, the new Mercedes-Benz will be the first to do away with conventional bulbs. Mercedes says it has made the switch to LEDs (almost 500 of them) because they emit better-quality light and do so using less power.

Daimler board member Professor Thomas Weber explained the switch, saying: ”Our engineers have made great advances where energy efficiency is concerned too, reducing power consumption to a quarter of that of conventional headlamps.”

Which would be a really impressive environmental breakthrough in isolation, but perhaps not so impressive in a car that now has to power electronic massaging seats and an ever-increasing array of driver aids. Not to mention about two tonnes of metal and a V8 under the bonnet.The wheel threat

If you thought getting your car keyed, your tyres slashed or your aerial bent was bad, brace yourself. It seems the 21st-century version of car vandalism could be a lot worse.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fronted a US Senate committee hearing this week about the increasing cyber security risks posed by car computers. American senator Jay Rockefeller posed this curly one at the hearing: ”As our cars become more connected – to the internet, to wireless networks, with each other, and with our infrastructure – are they at risk of catastrophic cyber attacks?”

According to one expert who appeared at the hearing, a typical luxury car has more than 100 million lines of computer code. That presents the opportunity for some serious tampering. The possibilities are endless, from carjacking to road rage and simple good-natured pranking.

We’d prefer to focus on the upside of being able to hack your fellow motorists’ cars. Imagine being able to turn down the ”doof-doof” on that Subaru WRX next to you at the lights. No need to worry about that bloke sitting below the speed limit in the right-hand lane, you could just activate his indicator and move him gently into the left lane. And if someone took your parking spot, you wouldn’t have to resort to letting down their tyres. Simply manoeuvre their car into a no-standing zone and let the parking police do the rest.

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

Baby SUV invasion

It seems nothing in the automotive world can escape the current trend of downsizing – apart from the world’s insatiable appetite for soft-roaders, that is.
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But even the compact SUV – at present the fastest-growing segment in the industry – is being put through the wringer. During the next 12 months, the biggest trend to hit showrooms will be little SUVs: shrunken soft-roaders that are based on city runabout hatchbacks.

It’s a car class destined to further increase the boom in popularity for SUVs. That’s because, despite their lack of genuine off-road ability, the lure of $20K starting prices and their blend of urban style, space and practicality, along with low fuel consumption, will be hard to resist for small families.

While Drive has tested these new-generation city crossovers during a series of international events recently, this isn’t a traditional comparison but more a preview of the baby boom expected later this year.Ford EcoSport

Negotiating the cows, motorcycle riders, pedestrians and trucks on a buzzing stretch of road in Goa, on India’s west coast, it soon becomes apparent Ford’s EcoSport can work in the urban jungle.

The Indian-built baby SUV has excellent vision from the driver’s seat – including large side mirrors – and its 92kW 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder is perky enough for the manic overtaking manoeuvres you often have to make in this type of driving. The engine has a typical three-pot warble but its power delivery is smooth and linear. With a claimed fuel-use figure of 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres, it is among the best in class for economy.

It comes mated solely to a five-speed manual gearbox, which is bad news for the majority of Aussie buyers, who will more likely want the gearbox to do the thinking for them. Ford Australia has confirmed, for those looking for an auto, the 82kW 1.5-litre four-cylinder model will have the choice of a five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch self-shifter.

Ford says there will be no local suspension tuning for the car but if it drives anything like the pre-production models we tested, there won’t be any issues with how it copes on Aussie surfaces when it arrives in December.

The suspension irons out bumpy sections of road with ease, providing a comfortable and cushy ride in most situations.

Inside, the EcoSport is surprisingly spacious given its compact dimensions. Its cabin has more than 20 storage compartments and nine cup holders.

Ford Australia hasn’t said how the car will be priced, but hinted at a starting point in the low $20,000s.

Vital statistics

On sale December

Price From $22,000 (estimated)

Engine 92kW 1.0-litre 3-cyl turbo, 82kW 1.5-litre 4-cyl

Transmission 5-sp manual; 6-sp dual-clutch auto (1.5-litre only), FWD

Donor vehicle Ford FiestaHolden Trax/Opel Mokka

Tapping into General Motors’ global product portfolio, Holden and Opel will welcome a set of non-identical twins – the Trax and Mokka respectively – from about September.

They are in essence the same car underneath as they share their underpinnings with the Barina, and while they both use the same five-door body style they will be dressed slightly differently, the Trax having a Holden badge slapped on the nose of the Chevrolet version while the Mokka receives its European-designed front end.

Further to that, both brands are playing fair and will distinguish the twins with unique mechanical and feature propositions.

Holden has yet to announce the Trax’s official specifications but Opel has confirmed its Mokka will be sold with just one engine – a 103kW 1.4-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder – that will be available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox.

Unlike most of its rivals, the Mokka has the option of a part-time four-wheel-drive transmission and will be fitted with a suite of safety technologies such as lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems, hill-descent control and a hill-start function. It is unknown if these will remain exclusive to the Opel or whether Holden will also include such features.

It is almost certain, though, the Trax will be fitted with Holden’s MyLink infotainment system, with integrated apps such as Pandora and Stitcher internet radio.

With Opel only electing for the 1.4-litre petrol, Holden has a choice of either a 83kW 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four (which is only available with the manual transmission and front-drive set-up) and a 96kW 1.7-litre turbo diesel to differentiate its Trax from the Mokka.

Vital statistics

On sale September

Price From $23,500 (estimated)

Engine 1.4-litre turbo petrol 4-cyl (Opel). Holden (TBA)

Transmission 6-sp manual/auto, FWD and optional AWD

Donor vehicle Holden BarinaRenault Captur

Renault has, in typical Gallic fashion, put a lot of emphasis on fun and funkiness with its Clio-based Captur.

Its exterior looks fresh and is matched inside the cabin, with the tablet-style centre console dominating the cockpit.

Yet the French brand’s tame new crossover front-drive mini SUV drives impeccably well too, handling urban or highway work with a pleasing level of noise suppression not often found in a vehicle of this (expected) price.

And the little 88kW 1.2-litre turbo engine (with a claimed fuel consumption of 5.4L/100km) performs acceptably, tackling steep climbs and highway cruises with laudable eagerness, all the time enjoying a harmonious working relationship with the EDC (efficient dual-clutch) gearbox, which uses smooth, barely perceptible shifts, even in the manual mode.

The electric steering immediately feels light, in keeping with the rest of the baby SUV’s target market, but it also feels connected with the road.

The Captur gets a different suspension tune to that of the Clio, due to its higher-riding body and extra kilos.

That suspension tune leans towards the comfort area rather than sporty, although it doesn’t much like sharp edges in the road’s surface.

Pressing the Eco button enhances fuel economy by instantly changing throttle and gearbox behaviour and turning the airconditioning into a wimp mode. A tip: don’t hit Eco while embarking on a long, steep ascent.

Back-seat room is good for head and knee space, the latter only when the sliding rear bench is in its most aft position.

It wouldn’t be French without a little quirkiness or innovation. One practical styling detail is the clever design of the base of each door, shaped to prevent shoes and clothing from being soiled when climbing in.

Vital statistics

On sale Early 2014

Price From $25,000 (estimated)

Engine 88kW 1.2-litre turbo petrol 4-cyl

Transmission 6-sp dual-clutch auto, FWD

Donor vehicle Renault ClioPeugeot 2008

Peugeot is struggling under the weight of crippling debts but this car – in this exploding segment – holds the key to unlocking its financial burden. It’s the French brand’s first true global car, designed not only for Europe but the booming markets in China and South America. And it’s good.

Peugeot Australia has yet to formalise the 2008’s model line-up before it arrives in October but it is expected to follow a similar path created by the 208 it is based on. That will probably mean an entry-level 60kW 1.2-litre three-cylinder but a pair of 1.6-litre four-cylinders – an 88kW petrol and 68kW turbo diesel – making up the bulk of sales.

All three engines will be available with a five-speed manual gearbox, and only the 1.6-litre petrol will have an automatic option, albeit an outdated four-speed self-shifter.

Not surprisingly, the 2008 shares about two-thirds of its mechanical underpinnings with the 208 hatch. But it’s all under the skin, as the baby crossover has had its wheelbase stretched by 200 millimetres, its ground clearance increased by 25 millimetres and its overall height raised by 96 millimetres.

Despite the larger overall dimensions, though, Peugeot has invested heavily in decreasing the weight of its small-car platform, with the 1.2-litre tipping the scales at a featherweight 1045 kilograms. It certainly feels light on its feet and has a level of ride comfort the French were once renowned for.

While Peugeot doesn’t pretend the front-drive 2008 is designed to provide a legitimate alternative to four-wheel-drives, some variants can be optioned with the company’s Grip Control function, which is in essence a multi-mode electronic stability system that allows for increased wheelspin in muddy conditions so it can maintain forward momentum.

Vital statistics

On sale October

Price From $22,900 (estimated)

Engine 60kW 1.2-litre 3-cyl, 88kW 1.6-litre 4-cyl, 68kW 1.6-litre turbo diesel 4-cyl

Transmission 5-sp manual/4-sp auto (1.6-litre 4-cyl only), FWD

Donor vehicle Peugeot 208Nissan Juke

After years of saying no, Nissan has finally said yes to adding the original baby SUV to its ever-expanding line-up.

The Japanese car maker’s radically styled Juke virtually kick-started the shrunken-soft-roader segment when it was launched in Europe in 2010 and will now arrive in Australia later this year, joining the Dualis, X-Trail and Patrol on Nissan’s ladder of crossovers.

From its pumped-up wheel arches to its masculine haunches and manga-style head and tail lights, which jut proudly out of the bonnet and rear pillars, the Juke is styled to polarise.

Like the Opel Mokka (and potentially Holden’s Trax), it will be one of only a few in its class to be available with an all-wheel-drive option, albeit only a range-topping sports model that is powered by the same 140kW 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder that will propel the Pulsar SSS hatchback.

The other front-drive-only options open for Nissan with the Juke are an 84kW 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four and a Renault-sourced 81kW 1.5-litre turbo diesel.

On the road, the little Nissan feels much like a conventional hatchback, except for its slightly elevated driving position. And while the 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine needs to be revved to deliver meaningful forward progress, it is helped by a continuously variable transmission that manages to keep the engine working in its sweet spot.

The Juke also has what it calls an ”Intelligent Control Display” that provides information about the car’s torque, power output and fuel efficiency. The driver can choose from three driving modes: normal; sports, which sharpens up throttle responses; and eco-mode, which dulls response and backs off the airconditioning to save fuel.

Vital statistics

On sale October

Price $25,000 (estimated)

Engine 81kW 1.5-litre 4-cyl, 84kW 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 140kW 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo

Transmission CVT auto/ 5-sp manual, FWD/AWD (1.6-litre turbo 4-cyl only)

Donor vehicle Nissan Micra

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

Frequently unasked questions

What if the Monaco Grand Prix circuit was abandoned, and nature allowed to fight back?
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Imagine waist-height grass pushing through the bitumen that sweeps into Beau Rivage and Tabac Corner, moisture streaming through the mossy, vine-filled tunnel.

Picture a massive tree poking through the collapsed seats of the crumbling St Devote Square grandstand, the edge of the track along the Piscine falling away into the harbour, the ghostly presence of long-gone drivers lurking at every bend.

It won’t be any time soon, one hopes. Though some of us would like to see unchecked vegetation do its stuff on the surrounding casinos and gauche mansions of tax exiles.

A tiny hint of the above scenario can be seen at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, about 90 minutes west of Sydney.

There, one can still walk a full lap of Catalina Park, last used for serious racing in the 1970s and now intact but thoroughly overgrown.

Similarities between Catalina Park and the Circuit de Monaco are slight, other than both being very narrow and, at times, fatally dangerous. At Catalina, foliage is pushing inwards from both sides, leaving only a car width or so in the centre of the track and completely wrecking the cornering lines.

In some places trees are growing through the bitumen, which would make it hard to hit some apexes without also hitting a solid piece of eucalyptus.

Today’s lap time would be somewhat lower than the 141km/h average once achieved around the tight, hilly 2.1-kilometre track by Frank Matich.

Yes, there is always something haunting about abandoned race circuits. I felt it yet again while walking Catalina.

Every distant car or truck sounds like the approaching wail of a racing engine.

At least three drivers died at Catalina. There’s a story of Aboriginal dispossession too, now afforded far more prominence on the official signage than any glorious feats behind the wheel.

The track was officially opened in the early 1960s in a place known as The Gully.

Bizarrely, it was just a few hundred metres from the centre of Katoomba.

Did no one realise how much noise 20 open-wheelers would make in a rock-lined natural amphitheatre? With houses so close, the surprise is that the track lasted so long.

It was built by volunteers from the Blue Mountains Sporting Drivers Club and incorporated design suggestions from Jack Brabham, though none from the local Aboriginal community, whose principal suggestion was to go away and build the track elsewhere (though they possibly did not use those words).

Most of Catalina’s outer fencing was solid wood. It’s still there, though the advertisements for cigarettes and Cinzano have largely faded. Some red-rusted Armco lines the interior in places. Elsewhere, solid rock faces did the job. As barriers went, sandstone wasn’t terribly forgiving, but it sure as hell was durable.

In the 1970s, the track was adapted for rallycross, using the ample mud and water always to be found in the infield.

Much of the water is now running along the track, causing some of the surface to collapse and making a couple of downhill sections frighteningly mossy and slippery even on foot.

In 2002, civic authorities declared the land an Aboriginal Place. It was a permanent residence for some Gundungurra, Darug and non-Aboriginal people, according to the signs.

Trees have been planted and raised walkways erected among the sedge grasses in the infield.

But, surprisingly perhaps, authorities have chosen to leave the circuit in elegant decay.

Perhaps in a century or two archaeologists will dig it back up and restore it like a Blue Mountains Circus Maximus.

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

Trophy home sales set scene for vibrant winter

Luxury living: The Castlecrag home that sold for $5.9 million.Recent ”trophy home” sales in the east are creating a ripple effect across Sydney with record highs in the inner west and bumper auction results on the lower north shore.
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The sale of a heritage-listed waterfront for $9 million in Balmain East set a new record house price for the area this week. The result, through Matthew Hayson, of Cobden & Hayson, was almost $3 million more than the previous high set in March.

Hotelier Peter De Angelis, who owns nine hotels across Sydney, bought the 686 sq m block in 2003 for $4.8 million and did extensive renovations on the four-bedroom house.

In Castlecrag, an Alex Popov-designed home sold for $5.9 million at auction earlier this week, $800,000 over the reserve, according to Mark O’Brien, of Richardson & Wrench Castlecrag.

Buyer’s agent Peter Kelaher, of PK Property, was one of the registered bidders for the 1383 sq m property of celebrity party planner David Grant, but says he had to withdraw because the price went too high.

”Typically, the prestige market shuts up shop at this time of year, but we have the potential for the strongest winter market we’ve seen in a long time, if ever,” Australian Property Monitors senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson says.

Dr Wilson says the recent trophy home sales in Point Piper of $50 million for Altona and $33 million for the Bang & Olufsen house, and a $30 million sale in Rose Bay, were a confidence boost to the market, but the more telling results are in the $2 million to $5 million range.

”Those green shoots we are seeing in the prestige market – and last weekend we had seven properties sell for more than $2 million – is a strong start, and it’s no coincidence we are seeing the equity market rise at the same time as prestige sales,” Dr Wilson says.

In Mosman, the recent price of more than $10 million for the home of former News Limited chief executive Ken Cowley by agents Richard Harding and Geoff Smith, of LJ Hooker Mosman, has been a boon to the market. Harding says as the dollar drops below parity with the US dollar, the expat market is likely to fire up.

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

Warner blasts journalists on Twitter

David Warner might have surrendered his place on cricket’s most prestigious tour because of 56 minutes of madness for all his 192,000 Twitter followers – and the rest of the world – to see.
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Warner launched a blistering attack in the early hours of Saturday morning, India time, against two of the Australian media’s longest-serving cricket writers, Robert Craddock and Malcolm Conn.

He will now almost certainly have to front a Cricket Australia Code of Behaviour hearing to explain why he should still be allowed to represent Australia on the upcoming Ashes series.Warner’s rant began when he took exception to a piece by Craddock about corruption in the Indian Premier League, which was rocked by allegations this week of spot fixing by three players, including India Test paceman Sreesanth.

Warner’s Delhi Daredevils plays their final match of the tournament this weekend and he is expected to return to Sydney before heading off, if permitted, with the Ashes squad on Wednesday. Cricket Australia is staging a farewell event at Sydney Airport for Sydney-based team members and it is understood Warner was listed as a participant.

Officials, including general manager of team performance Pat Howard, were still trying to contact Warner mid-afternoon on Saturday, Sydney time. It is believed the cricketer was still asleep. His manager, Tony Connelly, who is in India, did not return Fairfax Media’s requests for an interview about his client’s welfare.

It was still not confirmed if the opener had sent the tweets, which were laden with vitriol towards Craddock, Conn and the media in general.He began his tirade by tweeting ‘‘Shock me @crashcraddock1 talking shit about ipl jealous prick. Get a real job. All you do is bag people. #getalife’’. Craddock’s fellow News Ltd journalist, Conn, responded: ’’@davidwarner31 cricket is a real job? Please. Most people pay to play. Million dollar cricketers milking the IPL are hardly the best judges.’’

Warner went on to write of Craddock: ‘‘All he did was talk shit about the greats now he sucks up there ass. Talk more crap why don’t you’’.Among several other colourful tweets, Warner wrote to Conn: ‘‘@malcolmconn keep writing paper talk trash for a living champ only thing you will ever do’’ and ‘‘@malcolmconn are you still talking you old fart, no wonder know one buys your paper’’.Among Conn’s responses was: ‘‘@davidwarner31 You lose 4-0 in India, don’t make a run, and you want to be tickled on the tummy? Win the Ashes and get back to me’’ and ‘‘It’s becoming increasingly obvious why Brad Haddin was brought back as vice captain. Your lengths behind in that race’’.

Wow @crashcraddock1 some smart journo who thinks he can bringDown people. Well done CHAMP!!— David Warner (@davidwarner31) May 17, 2013

By midday, CA had issued a statement saying: ‘‘Cricket Australia is aware of comments made on David Warner’s twitter account overnight.Cricket Australia is attempting to contact Warner and will continue to investigate the matter. Cricket Australia will make further comment once it has conducted a thorough investigation.’’

If Warner is charged with a breach, it will likely be under rule nine, ‘‘Detrimental Public Comment’’, which states: ‘‘Without limiting any other rule, players and officials must not make public or media comment which is detrimental to the interests of the game’’. He would face one of CA’s 18 commissioners.

Conn said on radio on Saturday he understood Cricket Australia ‘‘wouldn’t be happy with an international cricketer using that sort of language on a public forum. It doesn’t worry me. He’s entitled to his opinion and good luck to him. I hope he gets some runs in England.’’ Warner was out for a first-ball duck in Delhi Daredevils’ seven-run loss to Kings XI Punjab on Thursday night. He averaged 24.3 on the failed India tour recently.

The recall of Chris Rogers for the Ashes has placed his spot in the team under enormous pressure.This is another public relations disaster for captain Michael Clarke and the team’s hierarchy. Four players were publicly shamed on the recent fateful tour of India for having broken team rules, a move seen by many as a show of authority by Clarke, Howard and coach Mickey Arthur, and a statement about team discipline. One of the four, vice captain Shane Watson, left the tour and made his displeasure at Howard, especially, known upon arriving in Sydney. He returned to the tour but later resigned from the vice captaincy.

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

POLL: Double mastectomy ‘gave me back control’

Source: The Border Mail
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AN Albury woman took back control of her life when she opted to have a double mastectomy.

Deborah Palmer yesterday praised actress Angelina Jolie for taking the same action and sharing her story with the world.

News about Jolie’s procedure made headlines this week with her fiance, actor Brad Pitt, labelling her as “heroic”.

Although Mrs Palmer said heroic was not the word she would use.

“It takes bravery,” she said. “Heroic implies that she did it for all female kind and she only did it for herself.”

Mrs Palmer also did it for herself two years ago when she decided to have a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy — a reconstruction of her breasts involving removing most of the breast tissue — to greatly decrease chance of getting breast cancer.

“My mother and two aunties were diagnosed and it took my mother’s life,” she said.

Mrs Palmer, along with her mother and two aunties, were tested for the gene associated with breast cancer.

One aunty was shown to have the gene but the others were clear.

However, her mother died from an aggressive form 12 months after diagnosis.

The owner of Kava coffee bar said she was not taking any chances.

“It was about being in control of my life,” she said.

Mrs Palmer was found to have a 45per cent chance of contracting the disease and that was too high as far as she was concerned.

“I decided I was not going to wait to see if I was going to get breast cancer,” she said.

“I made the decision I was going to be in control of my health and my life.”

This also meant Mrs Palmer had the opportunity to choose her own surgeon in her own time.

“I took a while choosing the right surgeon,” she said.

“We take weeks looking at cars and getting quotes, so when it comes to your health you should do the same thing.”

Deborah Palmer has spoken about her double mastectomy in light of actress Angelina Jolie revealing she had the same procedure. Picture: Tara Goonan

Eagles v Kangaroos

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images
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The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

The AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Patersons Stadium on May 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

Photos of the match between the West Coast Eagles and the Melbourne Kangaroos. The Eagles won 90 – 88.