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J is for jihad

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网419 /

IN MARCH this year, a group of Islamic radicals were scoping out new targets in Bali, hoping to enact their own murderous 10th anniversary of the 2002 attacks.
Nanjing Night Net

They had surveyed the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Kuta and the Australian-run La Vida Loca bar in Seminyak. They had chosen a suicide bomber and planned to fund the operation by robbing a money changer and a gold store.

What is not widely known is that three of the five plotters for ”Bali III” – including their leader Hilman, aka Surya – were low-level drug pushers who were radicalised in Kerobokan prison when they were locked up with the original Bali bombers in the early 2000s.

According to research by the International Crisis Group, Hilman, who was serving a seven-year sentence for marijuana possession, was the prisoners’ mosque functionary who came under the influence of Bali bomber Imam Samudra. On leaving prison he became a full-time jihadist. Another plotter shared a cell with another Bali bomber, Amrozi.

The radicalisation of their cellmates was the Bali bombers’ slow-burn revenge. If an attack had overshadowed this week’s 10th anniversary commemoration, they would have their last, posthumous, laugh over their jailers. (Samudra and Amrozi were executed in 2008.)

Indonesia’s prisons are a breeding ground for terrorists, and so are some of the Islamic boarding schools. But despite the ever-present threat of terrorism, the Indonesian state shows little interest in tackling this issue.

After the authoritarian and secular regime of Suharto fell in 1998, many groups that were previously repressed thrived under ”Reformasi” – Indonesia’s flowering of freedom. Among them were those groups with a radical religious agenda who wanted to replace the state of Indonesia entirely with an Islamic caliphate under Islamic law.

Until the Bali bombings, whose death toll of 202 woke it from its torpor, the newly democratic Indonesia knew little or nothing of the growing number of deadly men in its midst.

Ten years on, Indonesian law enforcement, spearheaded by Detachment 88, the anti-terror police, has had great success in cracking down on religiously inspired radicalism. On his recent visit to Indonesia, Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith lavished praise, saying: ”There is no country in the world that is more successful in arresting and prosecuting terrorists.”

Since the first Bali attack, Indonesia has arrested 700 people for terrorism offences and prosecuted 500. For every 10 prosecuted, another one suspected terrorist – including some of Asia’s most dangerous men – has been killed by police on the streets.

That success story, though, contains the frightening truth that, in 10 years, Indonesia has produced 500 people with a proven link to terror, and many more who have gone unnoticed so far.

Every few months a new plot, with a new set of plotters, is uncovered. Some, such as a recent group calling itself ”al-Qaeda Indonesia”, have progressed far enough to start making bombs – albeit ones which blew up by accident in the kitchen.

Many now believe that law enforcement alone is not enough. They say the country’s jihad factories, which still pump out recruits, must be shut down and the radicals de-radicalised. The effort so far, though, has been piecemeal and anaemic, marred by poor funding and follow-through and an apparent lack of political will.

In Indonesian prisons, extremist preachers, terrorists and would-be jihadists are locked up with common criminals. Low-level terrorists – youngsters or those who have dabbled around the edges of a radical group – are housed with hardened jihadis, persuasive men with a seductive story to tell.

The most infamous of these men, Abu Bakar Bashir, is serving a 15-year sentence for helping set up a paramilitary training camp in Aceh in 2010. But inside he is still surrounded by acolytes and young prisoners, and boasts in a written interview with The Sunday Age that he is ”busy spreading the word of Allah to the people”.

His words remain unrepentantly full of violent jihad – ideas of noble martyrdom and the overthrow of the state of Indonesia so ”that people’s life may be managed by Allah’s law”. Bashir refers repeatedly to ”evil Indonesia” and offers up a contradictory mish-mash of arguments to explain and justify the Bali bombs.

First, he asserts that the massive bombs were set by three individuals, ”Mukhlas and his two friends”. He calls them ”mujahideen [holy warriors] who actively defended Islam” and were ”slaughtered by the Jews, the United States and their allies”.

In the very next paragraph he claims the bombs were part of a conspiracy, a ”micro-nuclear device” planted by the US to discredit Islam. ”So it was the US who essentially killed tens of Australians not the three mujahideens,” he writes. ”God willing, Islam will win due to Allah’s help of jihad,” he writes, before exhorting Australian journalists to ”convert to Islam so you will be saved”.

Ask most ordinary Indonesians about Bashir and his ilk and they shake their heads and pronounce him ”gila” – ”crazy”. But his carefully cultivated look of a gentle and wise old scholar has made his loony rhetoric surprisingly resilient, despite the patent failure of the populace of Indonesia to rise up in support of holy war after the Bali bombings.

Jemaah Islamiah, Bashir’s former terror vehicle, is now mistrusted in the radical community because a few of its high-profile members – notably Bali bomber Ali Imron, and former senior member Nasir Abbas – ”turned” and offered information to police. But a whole slew of new followers have emerged. Bashir’s new radical group, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, or JAT, has been involved in many of the latter-day plots that police have uncovered.

As disturbing is the fact that the Ngruki boarding school Bashir co-founded, and where his son (and leader of JAT) Abdul Rohim is a teacher, is still pumping out fresh-faced ”martyrs”. Bali bomber Idris, an old boy of Ngruki, said of his alma mater recently: ”That is where jihad was taught.” But suggest that the school in Ngruki, a suburb of Solo, might be closed down, and Indonesians simply laugh.

All schools look something alike, and, apart from the enormous mosque being built and the separate sections for boys and girls, the Al-Mukmin school in suburban Ngruki is no exception. The classrooms have whiteboards and teachers at the front, and rowdy students in rows. In science the boys are learning about microbes. Graffiti and motivational posters adorn the walls.

But in the girls’ section, along with exhortations to pious (veiled) womanhood, is a noticeboard. Pinned to it is a graphic photograph of a dead man, blood fanning out from the back of his head. The man is Farhan, a young jihadist shot dead by anti-terror police on a Solo street two weeks before our visit.

Farhan was an alumnus of the Ngruki school and the pictures and two separate stories describing his death were downloaded from radical Islamist websites, printed out and pinned up, presumably for their educational value. Depending on how it was spoken about, the story might have been placed there in mourning, or as an exhortation to righteous fury.

Asked about it, young English and Arabic teacher Abu Amar airily says the school teaches current events, just like any other. But this is not just any event. And there were no other posters on that board.

Abu Bakar Bashir’s son Aburahman Rohim is a senior teacher at the Ngruki school his father founded. He defends the teaching of jihad, saying: ”More than 60 verses of the teaching of jihad are in the Koran. Should we delete those verses?”

Not all the verses are about violence or war. Some are about the struggle to be a good Muslim; others about the desirability of an Islamic state. But alumni such as Idris recall a focus, particularly in extracurricular activities, on the warlike verses. Rohim bristles at any suggestion that this school is unusual, or its curriculum dangerous.

”Yes, some alumni of Ngruki are involved [in holy war], but you cannot put the blame on the school,” he says angrily. ”It’s so unfair. It’s so irresponsible. It’s a ridiculous way of thinking. For example, in your own country, if there’s a thief or a rapist, would you put the blame on their school?”

The fact is that not just one, but many terrorists have been to Ngruki, including some of the linchpins of the Bali bombings – Mukhlas, Idris, Mubarok. In a recent series of terror raids in Indonesia, a number of the jihadis arrested or killed were also Ngruki alumni. Rohim says when such cases come to light, the current students are taught that ”it’s such a wrong action”.

But his words are ambivalent at best. He refuses to call the Bali bombers terrorists, saying they were, at worst, misguided ”mujahid” (holy warriors). ”Mujahid can make mistakes. What they did will not reduce their status as mujahideen. They must be judged by what is their intention,” he says. ”I don’t want to even subtly claim that they were terrorists. It’s a word used by non-Muslims to corner Islam.”

Asked about the recent crop of alumni involved in terrorist activities, Rohim, like his father, claims a conspiracy. They were turned to terrorism by the police to discredit Islam, he says, even though a police officer was killed in one of their attacks. ”Well, it’s a conspiracy. Sometimes they are willing to sacrifice their own friends for the conspiracy … It’s a pretty normal thing for an intelligence officer to kill his own friends to cover up their own activities.”

Rohim boasts that the school has been continuously accredited by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Education for more than a decade. He says demand for places grew fast in the wake of the Bali bombing, and the school is still expanding. Posters around the campus show plans for new dormitories in new locations.

Once radicals graduate from school or prison, the next stage is to be invited to join a training camp, or a plot. After the recent spate of arrests, there was a push for the government to establish a de-radicalisation program. Vice-President Boediono himself ordered an anti-terror plan to be in place by next year, and said that the fight against radical ideas had been too sporadic. ”This de-radicalisation blueprint will be comprehensive and will really serve the purpose,” Boediono said.

But Irfan Idris, the head of the de-radicalisation program at the National Agency for Counter-Terrorism, says the entire agency has a budget of only $9.5 million, of which only a part is set aside for the ”soft approach” of de-radicalisation (as distinct from hard law enforcement).

An existing program running in Indonesian prisons since 2010 applies three strategies, he says: culture (using traditional Wayang puppet shows); business (trying to establish an economic base for prisoners); and ideology (countering the radical brainwashing). But in the past two years, only 32 prisoners nationwide have completed the program and there has been no attempt to measure its success.

Professor Sarlito Wirawan, a psychologist working on this program and others, says it can take up to three years to convince someone not to act on their radical theology. At this rate it would take decades to even talk to one year’s supply of recruits from the radical boarding schools and the prisons. Asked about the radical boarding school in Ngruki, Irfan refers me to the Religious Affairs Ministry, which keeps accrediting the school.

There are also several private-sector de-radicalisation programs. Noor Ismail Huda, a journalist and former student at Ngruki, says Indonesian authorities ”have been doing extremely well after the milk has been spilled”.

He runs a program of ”disengagement”, which involves having former radicals run cafes. Here they are forced to serve customers of all cultures and religions, and they can also make money, making his program self-sustaining. ”We fight terrorism with doughnuts and coffee,” he says.

So far, though, he has only three cafes, and has helped perhaps a handful of radicals.

Another private program is the Afghan Alumni Forum, where former radicals, the hard core who trained in Afghanistan, try to use their kudos in the jihadi community to put people on the right path.

It is led by Abu Wildan, a former senior teacher at Ngruki who was asked to join the Bali plot but refused. Abdurahman Ayub, Jemaah Islamiah’s former deputy in Australia, is also a key member, as is one-time Bali plotter Maskur Abdul Kadir. It holds forums in suburban function rooms under a banner that reads: ”Indonesia, peace without violence, terrorism and radicalism in the name of religion”.

Psychologist Sarlito works with the forum and claims an 80 per cent success rate. He says attacking the ideology head-on simply did not work because the radical imams still hold such sway. ”I’m not replacing anything. I leave their beliefs, but I say don’t do this and this … don’t start hurting people,” he said.

”Then we bring in the wives, families, and say, ‘How about helping each other?’ … It’s step by step and it takes three years. It’s not an easy job.”

As these well-meaning efforts continue, though, schools and prisons keep churning out radicals. Australia has proscribed organisations and passed laws against hate speech. People have been jailed for preaching terror. Indonesia has nothing similar.

And, according to Nasir Abbas, the highest-profile reformed member of Jemaah Islamiah, it will not develop them. ”In Indonesia it’s different. They let you build whatever ideology you want, set up a school, as long as you don’t do the crime … this is what people here call Reformasi,” he says.

”We’ve got freedom of speech and expression. You can’t just shut down a school.”

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

Islamist teaching … cleric Abdul Rahim, a son of Abdul Bashir, is a teacher at al-Mukmin school. Students laugh during a break in classes at al-Mukmin school.
Nanjing Night Net

Students in an English class at al-Mukmin school.

In March, a group of Islamist radicals were scoping out new targets in Bali, hoping to enact their own murderous 10th anniversary of the 2002 attacks.

They had surveyed the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Kuta and the Australian-run La Vida Loca bar in Seminyak. They had chosen a suicide bomber and planned to fund the operation by robbing a money changer and a gold store.

What is not widely known is that three of the five plotters for ”Bali III” – including their leader, Hilman, aka Surya – were low-level drug pushers who were radicalised in Kerobokan prison when they were locked up with the original Bali bombers in the early 2000s.

According to research by the International Crisis Group, Hilman – who was serving a seven-year sentence for marijuana possession – was the mosque functionary who came under the influence of the Bali bomber Imam Samudra. On leaving prison, he became a full-time jihadist. Another plotter shared a cell with Amrozi.

The radicalisation of their cellmates was the Bali bombers’ slow-burn revenge. If an attack had overshadowed this week’s 10th anniversary commemoration, they would have their last, posthumous, laugh over their jailers. (Samudra and Amrozi were executed in 2008.)

Indonesia’s prisons are a breeding ground for terrorists and so are some of the Islamic boarding schools. But, despite the ever-present threat of terrorism, the Indonesian state shows little interest in tackling the issue.

After the authoritarian and secular regime of Suharto fell in 1998, many groups that were previously repressed thrived under ”Reformasi”, Indonesia’s flowering of freedom. Among them were those groups with a radical religious agenda who wanted to replace the state of Indonesia with a caliphate under Islamist law.

Until the Bali bombing, whose death toll of 202 woke it from its torpor, the newly democratic Indonesia knew little or nothing of the growing number of deadly men in its midst.

Ten years on, Indonesian law enforcement, spearheaded by Detachment 88, the anti-terrorism police, has had great success cracking down on religiously inspired radicalism. On his recent visit to Indonesia, the Australian Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, lavished praise, saying: ”There is no country in the world that is more successful in arresting and prosecuting terrorists [than Indonesia is].”

Since the first Bali attack, Indonesia has arrested 700 people for terrorism offences and prosecuted 500.

For every 10 prosecuted, one suspected terrorist – including some of Asia’s most dangerous men – has been killed by police on the streets.

That success story, though, contains the frightening truth that, in 10 years, Indonesia has produced 500 people with a proven link to terrorism and many more who have so far gone unnoticed.

Every few months a new plot, with a new set of plotters, is uncovered. Some, such as a recent group calling itself ”al-Qaeda Indonesia”, have progressed far enough to start making bombs – albeit ones that blew up by accident in the kitchen. Many now believe that law enforcement alone is not enough. They say the country’s jihad factories, which still pump out recruits, must be shut down and the radicals de-radicalised.

The effort so far, though, has been piecemeal and anaemic, marred by poor funding, little follow-through and an apparent lack of political will.

In Indonesian prisons, extremist preachers, terrorists and would-be jihadists are locked up with common criminals. Low-level terrorists – youngsters or those who have dabbled around the edges of a radical group – are housed with hardened jihadis, persuasive men with a seductive story to tell.

The most infamous of these men, Abu Bakar Bashir, is serving a 15-year sentence for helping set up a paramilitary training camp in Aceh in 2010. But inside, he is still surrounded by acolytes and young prisoners, and boasts in a written interview with The Sun-Herald that he is ”busy spreading the word of Allah to the people”.

His words remain unrepentantly full of violent jihad – ideas of noble martyrdom and the overthrow of the state of Indonesia so ”that people’s life may be managed by Allah’s law”. Bashir refers repeatedly to ”evil Indonesia” and offers up a contradictory mish-mash of arguments to explain and justify the Bali bombs.

First, he asserts that the massive bombs were set by three individuals, ”Mukhlas and his two friends”. He calls them ”mujahideen [holy warriors] who actively defended Islam” and were ”slaughtered by the Jews, the US and their allies”.

In the very next paragraph, he claims the bombs were part of a conspiracy, a ”micro-nuclear device” planted by the US to discredit Islam. ”So it was the US who essentially killed tens of Australians, not the three mujahideen,” he writes.

”God willing, Islam will win due to Allah’s help of jihad,” he writes, before exhorting Australian journalists to ”convert to Islam so you will be saved”.

Ask most ordinary Indonesians about Bashir and his ilk and they shake their heads and pronounce him ”gila”(crazy). But his carefully cultivated look of a gentle old scholar has made his loony rhetoric surprisingly resilient, despite the patent failure of the populace of Indonesia to rise up in support of holy war after the Bali bombings.

Jemaah Islamiyah, Bashir’s former terrorism vehicle, is now mistrusted in the radical community because a few of its high-profile members – notably Bali bomber Ali Imron and former senior member Nasir Abbas – ”turned” and offered information to police. But a whole slew of new followers have since emerged. Bashir’s new radical group, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, or JAT, has been involved in many of the more recent plots which police have uncovered.

As disturbing is the fact that the boarding school Bashir co-founded, and where his son (and leader of JAT) Abdul Rahim is a teacher, is still pumping out fresh-faced ”martyrs”. Bali bomber Idris, an old boy of Ngruki, said of his alma mater recently: ”That is where jihad was taught.” But suggest that al-Mukmin school in Ngruki, a suburb of Solo, might be closed down and Indonesians simply laugh.

All schools look something alike, and, apart from the enormous mosque now under construction and the separate sections for boys and girls, al-Mukmin is no exception. The classrooms have whiteboards and teachers at the front, and rowdy students in rows. In science the boys are learning about ”mikroba” – microbes. Graffiti and motivational posters adorn the walls.

But in the girls’ section, along with exhortations to pious (veiled) womanhood, is a noticeboard. Pinned to it is a graphic photograph of a dead man, blood fanning out from the back of his head. The man is Farhan, a young jihadist shot dead by anti-terrorist police on a Solo street two weeks before our visit.

Farhan was an alumnus of the Ngruki school and the pictures and two separate stories describing his death were downloaded from radical Islamist websites, printed out and pinned up, presumably for their educational value. Depending on how it was spoken about, the story might have been placed there in mourning or as an exhortation to righteous fury.

Asked about it, a young English and Arabic teacher, Abu Amar, airily says that the school teaches current events, just like any other. But this is not just any event. And there were no other posters on that board.

Rohim is a senior teacher at the Ngruki school his father founded. He defends the teaching of jihad saying: ”More than 60 verses of the teaching of jihad are in the Koran. Should we delete those verses?”

Not all the verses are about violence or war. Some are about the struggle to be a good Muslim; others about the desirability of an Islamist state. But alumni such as Idris recall a focus, particularly in extracurricular activities, on the warlike verses. Rohim bristles at any suggestion that this school is unusual or that its curriculum is dangerous.

”Yes, some alumni of Ngruki are involved [in holy war], but you cannot put the blame on the school. It’s so unfair. It’s so irresponsible. It’s a ridiculous way of thinking,” Rohim says angrily. ”For example, in your own country, if there’s a thief or a rapist, would you put the blame on their school?”

However, not just one, but many terrorists have been to Ngruki, including some of the linchpins of the Bali bombings – Mukhlas, Idris, Mubarok. In a recent series of terrorism raids in Indonesia, a number of the jihadis arrested or killed were also Ngruki alumni. Rohim says when such cases come to light, the current students are taught that ”it’s such a wrong action”.

But his words are ambivalent at best. He refuses to call the Bali bombers terrorists, saying they were, at worst, misguided ”mujahid” (holy warriors). ”Mujahideen can make mistakes. What they did will not reduce their status as mujahideen. They must be judged by what is their intention,” he says. ”I don’t want to even subtly claim that they were terrorists. It’s a word used by non-Muslims to corner Islam.”

Asked about the recent crop of alumni involved in terrorist activities, Rohim, like his father, claims a conspiracy – they were turned to terrorism by the police to discredit Islam, he says, even though a police officer was killed in one of their attacks. ”Well, it’s a conspiracy. Sometimes they are willing to sacrifice their own friends for the conspiracy … It’s a pretty normal thing for an intelligence officer to kill his own friends to cover up their own activities.” Rohim boasts that the school has been continuously accredited, both by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Education for more than a decade.

Depressingly, he says demand for places grew fast in the wake of the Bali bombing and the school is still expanding. Posters around the campus show plans for new dormitories in new locations.

Once radicals graduate from school or prison, the next stage is to be invited to join a training camp or a plot. After the recent spate of arrests, there was a push for the government to establish a deradicalisation program. The Vice President, Boediono, has ordered an anti-terrorist plan to be in place by next year, and says that the fight against radical ideas had been too sporadic. ”This de-radicalisation blueprint will be comprehensive and will really serve the purpose,” Boediono says.

However, the director of the de-radicalisation program at the National Agency for Counter Terrorism, Irfan Idris, says the entire agency only has a budget of $9.5 million, of which only a part is set aside for the ”soft approach” of deradicalisation (as distinct from hard law enforcement).

An existing program running in Indonesian prisons since 2010 applies three strategies, he says: culture (using traditional Wayang puppet shows); business (trying to establish an economic base for prisoners); and ideology (countering the radical brainwashing). But in the past two years, only 32 prisoners nationwide have completed the program and there has been no attempt to measure its success.

A psychologist working on this program and others, Professor Sarlito Wirawan, says it can take up to three years to convince someone not to act on their radical theology. At this rate, it would take decades to even talk to one year’s supply of recruits from the radical boarding schools and the prisons. Asked about the radical pesantren at Ngruki, and Irfan refers me to the Religious Affairs Ministry, which keeps accrediting the school.

There are also several private-sector deradicalisation programs. A journalist and former student at Ngruki, Noor Ismail Huda, says Indonesian authorities ”have been doing extremely well after the milk has been spilled”.

He runs a program of ”disengagement”, which involves having former radicals run cafes. Here they are forced to serve customers of all cultures and religions, and they can also make money, making his program self-sustaining. ”We fight terrorism with doughnuts and coffee,” he says.

So far, though, he has only three cafes and has helped perhaps a handful of radicals.

Another private program is the Afghan Alumni Forum, where former radicals, the hard-core who trained in Afghanistan, try to use their kudos in the jihadi community to put people on the right path.

It is led by Abu Wildan, a former senior teacher at Ngruki who was asked to join the Bali plot but refused. Abdul Rahman Ayub, Jemaah Islamiyah’s former deputy in Australia, is also a key member, as is one-time Bali plotter Maskur Abdul Kadir. It holds forums in suburban function rooms under a banner that reads: ”Indonesia, peace without violence, terrorism and radicalism in the name of religion”.

Psychologist Sarlito works with the forum and claims an 80 per cent success rate.

He says attacking the ideology head on simply did not work because the radical imams still hold such sway. ”I’m not replacing anything. I leave their beliefs, but I say don’t do this and this … don’t start hurting people,” he said. ”Then, we bring in the wives, families, and say, ‘How about helping each other?’ … It’s step by step and it takes three years. It’s not an easy job.”

As these well-meaning efforts continue, though, schools and prisons keep churning out radicals. Australia has proscribed organisations and passed laws against hate speech. People have been jailed for preaching terrorism. Indonesia has nothing similar.

And, according to Nasir Abbas, the highest-profile reformed member of Jemaah Islamiyah, it will not develop them. ”In Indonesia, it’s different. They let you build whatever ideology you want, set up a school, as long as you don’t do the crime … This is what people here call reformasi,” he says. ”We’ve got freedom of speech and expression. You can’t just shut down a school.”

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

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Running with scissors

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网419 /

Nicy try … Peter Morrissey, Megan Gale, Alex Perry and Claudia Navone.Looking back, model, actor, swimwear designer and host of Project Runway Australia, Megan Gale, has a clear memory about the moment when for her, clothes became ”fashion”.
Nanjing Night Net

Several waiters at the Southbank restaurant where we meet gaze at her from a discreet distance while an oblivious Gale stirs her coffee. ”It was the night of the school disco and mum wouldn’t let me go, but I just hassled her until she said, ‘All right, you can go, but you’ve got to go now.’ I was so happy I just went in the clothes I was in, which was a pair of jeans and tracksuit top.

”It was the ’80s so all my friends were wearing ra-ra skirts and their hair was crimped. That was the first time where I felt like I didn’t fit in because of what I was wearing.”

While you probably won’t see a ra-ra skirt on the fourth season of Project Runway Australia, Gale says some of its designers have produced remarkably original garments. ”Some of them interpret fashion in interesting ways,” she says. ”That’s what makes this show feel different each season. Everyone remembers Matcho from season three … he made you wonder where his head was creatively. This year we have Christina – she’s got this amazing vision and she really thinks outside the square. That’s exciting.”

Based on the long-running US version hosted by Heidi Klum, Project Runway Australia is a reality show about 12 fashion designers who must create a garment within the short time frame. Each week there’s an elimination – the last contestant standing wins.

The first challenge in episode one begins at midnight; pressure, exhaustion and creative temperaments are a compelling combination. Then there are the challenges. Gale says there are plenty of fresh tasks that force designers to use materials out of their comfort zones.

This year’s judges include Australian fashion designer Peter Morrissey and professional stylist and former fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar Australia, Claudia Navone. ”Peter’s very playful,” Gale says. ”He takes it all seriously, but sometimes he’s like a six-year-old on red cordial. But I’m the wrangler when it comes to the judges, designers and guest judges [including Miranda Kerr and Dannii Minogue], so that’s a lot of fun, too.”

As a judge herself, Gale doesn’t hold back and has developed an uncanny knack when it comes to spotting the designers’ attempts to hide wayward pins. ”It’s true. I have an evil eye when it comes to pins but constructive criticism is important – but not all the designers like to hear it. Some of them stand there and just give you excuses and that just brings out my ‘mum’ tone.”

Designer Alex Perry (if he had a more substantial moustache, he’d twirl it) returns as mentor, dishing out his signature advice, which ranges from supportive and astute to delightfully acerbic. ”A lot of people may not believe this,” Gale says, ”but Alex has one of the biggest hearts. He has this persona that works on the show but he’s very down to earth. He rarely goes out to functions – he’d prefer to be at home, in his jammies, having a cup of tea with his wife and his dog.”

At the suggestion that maybe the decision-making process featured on the show is the result of scripting, Gale stresses that every result is hard-won.

”We all have a different perspective. We don’t always agree – Claudia might focus on how the garment photographs, Peter’s looking at how it’s crafted, and I’m thinking, ‘Would I wear that on the red carpet and do I want my underwear hanging out the back?’ We nut it out until we have a result.”

Gale is reluctant to reveal any specifics about the new season, but says there was one challenge that almost ended in disaster.

”All I’ll say is that the designers were asked to make an entire outfit and someone decided they’d knock out a pair of jeans, but they ended up looking like something circa 1980 and not in a good way.”

It could be said, though, that the mishaps – say, the model teetering down the catwalk praying her ill-fitting garment doesn’t cause a wardrobe malfunction – are a large part of the show’s appeal.

”Coming up with new challenges that are good for both the designers and viewers at home is a challenge in itself,” Gale says with a laugh, ”but this year we’ve definitely managed to come up with some great ones.”

Project Runway Australia premieres on Monday, October 8, at 8.30pm on Arena.

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

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EDITORIAL: Air pollution comes back

July 27th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网419 /

WHEN the BHP steelworks closed, one of the most common predictions was of a Mayfield renaissance.
Nanjing Night Net

Relieved of the burden of air pollution from the smoking giant next door, the suburb would bloom as newcomers rediscovered its vibrant shopping strip and modest but character-filled residential streets, some pundits tipped. That prediction has been only partially fulfilled.

The suburb has a great deal more residential amenity than many of the new brick-veneer satellite settlements on the fringes of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.

But if Mayfield hasn’t experienced the great rebirth many had expected, one explanation might be that one big source of pollution appears to have been replaced by a number of smaller ones.

According to the authoritative government website, the National Pollutant Inventory, the 2304 postcode that includes Mayfield, Warabrook, Sandgate and Kooragang Island has experienced a surge in some pollutants over the past decade.

Inventory statistics indicate that the number of pollution-generating industries in the area increased from nine to 16 between 2001 and 2011. The number of officially reported pollutants from those sites increased from 35 to 38.

Ammonia emissions grew 188 per cent, benzene 600 per cent, sulphur dioxide 312 per cent and carbon monoxide 6 per cent, with most of this increase attributed to industries on Kooragang Island.

After last year’s highly publicised malfunctions of the Orica fertiliser plant on Kooragang, the state government introduced tough new pollution control measures and there is evidence that these will soon result in lower emissions of some pollutants.

That’s good news, but residents of the affected suburbs are rightly calling for a smarter approach to applications by companies to build new industrial plants in the area. Instead of considering each application in isolation, it is argued, approval authorities should examine every proposal against a backdrop of the existing environment.

It’s a similar argument to that mounted by Upper Hunter residents who have long wished for the cumulative effects of coalmines to be considered when new mining proposals are received.

So far the idea appears to have been too hard for the government to embrace, but that’s no reason for residents to stop demanding a smarter approach to industry regulation.

Bali anniversary

IT seems hardly possible that the Bali terrorist bombing that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, could have been 10 years ago.

The memory seems too raw and painful to already have aged a decade.

But while the pain remains, much healing has been done. Many people who were caught up in the tragedy have worked with great determination to ensure that those who perished are remembered and that the terror of the day is balanced by compassion and kindness.

That’s the best answer, in the end, to those who sow hatred and violence.

RESERVE Bank Governor Glenn Stevens is expected to serve out his full term – due to end in September 2013 – despite reports in Britain that the Australian central bank boss has been approached to take the top job at the Bank of England.
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One of the world’s top central bankers, Mr Stevens was reportedly among the contenders to become the next governor of the Bank of England to replace Mervyn King, London’s Sunday Times reported, citing unidentified sources.

However, it is believed that Mr Stevens has not been approached by any officials from Britain, despite the news report saying informal discussions had taken place.

Mr Stevens has been at his current post since September 2006 and is believed to be planning to serve out his full seven-year term to September 17 next year.

A Reserve Bank spokesman declined to comment on the news report, or on Mr Stevens’ tenure.

Mr Stevens is scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee this morning in Canberra.

It is highly unusual for a foreign citizen to head the central bank of another country. An exception in recent years has been American-born Stanley Fischer, who is the head of Israel’s central bank. To take the top job in 2005, Professor Fischer first had to become an Israeli citizen and renounce his American citizenship.

Earlier this year, Canada’s central bank chief Mark Carney was also reportedly approached for the Bank of England role.

The BoE governor will soon become Britain’s most powerful civil

servant, assuming responsibility for not just monetary policy, but for the monitoring of banks and the prevention of future financial crises.

It will be the new governor’s job to lead the bank through major reforms to Britain’s regulatory system, ”including the transfer of new responsibilities that will see the bank take the lead in safeguarding the stability of the UK financial system”, the government’s advertisement says.

The successful candidate must also demonstrate that he or she can ”lead, influence and manage the change in the bank’s responsibilities, inspiring confidence and credibility both within the bank and throughout financial markets”.

The list of applicants will tomorrow be seen by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and a decision is expected to be announced by the end of this year.

The role will pay £302,000 ($A478,240) a year.

The list of reported favourites to succeed Mr King includes the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor, Paul Tucker, the chairman of the Financial Services Authority, Adair Turner, the Independent Commission on Banking chairman, John Vickers, and former British civil service boss Gus O’Donnell.

Mr King will have been head of the bank for more than 11 years when he steps down in June.

Mr Stevens, who has helped steer Australia through the global financial crisis, was last month voted one of the world’s best central bankers by Global Finance magazine.

He will have been in the role for seven years, which is the average length of the modern governor’s term.

It is the job of Australia’s federal treasurer to appoint the RBA governor.

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

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Runs revive glory days

July 27th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网419 /

THE group 1-winning run of Newcastle Cup winners on Saturday surely will bring calls for the great race to return to its glory days as a group 2 event.
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In Sydney, reigning Newcastle Cup winner Glencadam Gold smashed his rivals in the group1 Metropolitan (2400metres).

He immediately jumped from a $23 chance to be installed as $6 favourite for the Caulfield Cup after the dominant front-running display.

In Melbourne, the Newcastle Cup winner of two years ago, Green Moon, turned in a stunning performance to take the group1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington.

Green Moon was forced to work early after sitting three-wide but still proved too strong at the finish.

Green Moon is right in the betting for the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup.

The Newcastle Cup was last run as a group2 event in 2001.

Agincourt Express was a heavily backed favourite and did the punters proud.

The following year, when Time Off won the Cup, he scored a group3 win and it has been that way since.

Surely now with the results of Saturday, plus what lies ahead for Glencadam Gold and Green Moon, an upgrading must be a distinct possibility.

A group 2 Newcastle Cup on the Broadmeadow track – now that would be something to see.

■ There is a touch of Malcolm Johnston in racing’s new glamour boy Tommy Berry.

The 21-year-old strutted his stuff in the best possible way by winning the group1 Epsom on Fat Al and The Metropolitan on Glencadam Gold at Randwick on Saturday.

Both were dashing, front-running rides.

After both, he was flashing a brilliant smile that bordered on cheeky.

In the early 1980s, when Mal Johnston was the undisputed king of Sydney racing, he loved the limelight, ate it for breakfast, dinner and tea.

In fact, ‘‘Miracle’’ was an unabashed self-promoting machine.

But, boy, couldn’t he ride, coming from the country to be a champion apprentice and champion senior rider in Sydney.

Young Tommy has progressed from winning an apprentice’s title in Sydney to now being one of the best riders in the big show, and another racing legend looks to have been born.

All he needs to do now is conquer the Melbourne spring carnival.

And that is a distinct possibility.

■ Of course, the late, great Tommy Smith would have been sitting in the big grandstand in the sky smiling and riding home daughter Gai’s winners in the Epsom, Metropolitan and Breeders Plate at Randwick, and in the Gilgai Stakes at Flemington.

That Gai has equalled her father’s record of seven Epsom wins and surpassed TJ with eight Metrop victories says so much about the daughter of the legend.

She carries the sport’s promotion on her shoulders.

But is she a better trainer than Tommy? I doubt it.

No one was before him and no one, even the great Bart Cummings, has shown he is better since.

■ It is not the big handout from Racing NSW to Newcastle that is causing problems.

But plenty of Novocastrians see the funding as giving with one hand and taking with the other.

In receiving the $11.2 million in track funding, Newcastle Jockey Club must cut its board from 10 to seven, and three of those will be appointees of Racing NSW.

That is one reason members have called a special meeting for tomorrow night to discuss what can be done.

NJC chairman Geoff Barnett has weighed into the debate.

He is asking members to vote for constitutional changes to the club.

‘‘Regarding the constitutional changes, the NJC board have requested from our lawyers to provide the changes in draft form,’’ Barnett said.

‘‘This is so members can be advised of the changes before our annual general meeting in November.

‘‘The changes can only be made if the members attending the meeting vote in favour.’’

Barnett described the funding as a chance to restore Broadmeadow as a leading track in Australia.

‘‘This funding is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make Broadmeadow a great racing centre again.

‘‘I also believe that the new board structure can work very well.

‘‘I will be advocating this to our members before the AGM.

‘‘We do not want to jeopardise the $11.2 million funding.

‘‘We all know what needs doing at the track, and this funding will ensure the improvements are carried out.

‘‘The NJC will request members to change the constitution to four voted-in board members and three appointees.

‘‘The appointees are to be Newcastle people and selected from a list, made up in conjunction with Racing NSW and the newly elected members.’’

■ It was great that Bart Cummings was on-track to see his 265th group 1 winner when Norzita blitzed her rivals in the Flight Stakes.

But it would not surprise if Bart got just as big a thrill out of imported stayer Dare To Dream’s third in the Group 3 Craven Plate (2000m).

Dare To Dream is ready to win now, and old Bart just may have another cup on his mantelpiece before the end of the spring.

■ Thank goodness Ray Murrihy and his stewards were asking questions after Fat Al led all the way to win the Epsom.

A week earlier, Fat Al took a sit behind the pace in the Shannon Stakes when ridden by Nash Rawiller and was beaten easily as a $1.35 favourite.

After grilling Tommy Berry over his riding instructions, stewards accepted the explanation.

Wonder if punters who laid the tomato sauce last week and were gun-shy to back up on Saturday were also easily appeased.

■ Apprentice Rachel Murray was in hot water with stewards at Broadmeadow on Saturday.

They alleged she tried to weigh out in race five with an unapproved safety vest.

Steward Ray Livingstone asked Murray to produce the vest, but she allegedly showed stewards a different vest.

She was suspended for two weeks on that charge.

Murray was fined $300 for trying to weigh out with a vest that was lighter than the approved brands.

‘‘She pleaded guilty to both charges and was remorseful,’’ chief steward Danny Greer said.

■ Newcastle trainer Paul Perry looks to have another handy youngster.

That is the opinion after his two-year-old Wouldn’t It Be Nice finished fourth in the Breeders Plate on Saturday.

The youngster got going only when he was taken off the rails in the straight.

There are wins in him.

■ Marina Sands achieved a rare feat when winning at Newcastle on Saturday.

The three-year-old geld-ing won over 900 metres in 50.98 seconds, which was a class record.The course record of 50.08 seconds was set by Johnny on December 15, 2007.

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Newcastle boxer Chad ‘‘Hollywood’’ Bennett hopes he is one win on foreign soil away from securing a world title fight in his home town after a fourth-round knockout of Ghana’s James Armah in their rematch at Newcastle Panthers on Friday night.
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Bennett successfully defended the World Boxing Organisation Oriental and Asia Pacific junior welterweight belts he won when he stopped Armah in the eighth of 12 rounds in their first meeting at the same venue on June 1.

Armah, a two-time former Commonwealth champion, cried foul after that fight, complaining it was stopped prematurely because he was ahead on two of the three scorecards and he believed he should have been given the chance to continue.

But there were no protests on Friday night after referee Brad Griffiths counted Armah out just as he regained his feet with about 30 seconds left in the fourth round.

Bennett trapped Armah in a corner with a flurry of 20 unanswered punches and the African fighter was finished.

‘‘He’s a very good boxer and he boxed really well at the start of the fight, and he hit me a lot,’’ Bennett told the Herald yesterday.

‘‘The game plan was to try to pressure him and suck a bit of fuel out of him then later in the fight bail him into a corner, similar to what happened last time, but this time it happened a lot earlier than I expected.

‘‘He started to tire a bit in the fourth round and he went into a corner, then I jumped on him in the corner, landed some good shots, and that was the end of him.

‘‘I landed some good shots, and the left hook I hit him with was probably the best punch I’ve thrown in a long time, and that hit him flush.

‘‘I thought he was going to get back up – he tried to get back up – but the referee counted him out, and they didn’t complain at all this time.’’

Bennett, the two-time former World Boxing Foundation welterweight champion, will speak to American-based promoter Vlad Warton this week to finalise details of his next fight against Ghanaian national welterweight champion Ben Ankrah next month.

That has been tentatively scheduled for November 17 in Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe. If he wins, Bennett hopes to headline a Warton-promoted WBO world junior welterweight title fight at Newcastle Entertainment Centre in February.

‘‘I’ve had a few missed calls from Vlad, but I’ll speak to him this week.

‘‘It looks like November 17 and he’s just locking in a venue, so I’m back at training on Tuesday, all guns blazing,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve got Ben Ankrah to concentrate on now, and a win there hopefully means a world title fight against Cesar Cuenca in Newcastle in February, which would be a dream come true.’’

Former Knight Cory Paterson won his first professional fight, knocking out Sydney’s Anton Tuilotolava 30 seconds into the second round of their support bout.

Chad ‘‘Hollywood’’ Bennett gets Ghana’s James Armah in a tight spot on Saturday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

Jeremy Smith will miss this weekend’s Test against Australia. Picture: Getty ImagesKnights recruit Jeremy Smith is expected to be ready for pre-season training with his new NRL club next month despite a shoulder injury that has ruled him out of the New Zealand team for the one-off Test against Australia in Townsville on Saturday night.
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The 32-year-old former Sharks, Dragons and Storm enforcer will see a specialist this week for a second opinion after shoulder surgeon Des Bokor recommended that Smith should have an operation to repair torn cartilage.

The Newcastle Herald has been told the injury is not serious and, whether Smith has surgery or allows it to heal without an operation, it will not stop him reporting for pre-season training with his new teammates on November 2.

Responding to concerned Knights supporters on Twitter yesterday, Smith tweeted: ‘‘don’t worry bout me boys ill be sweet!! #loveit’’.

Smith, whom Cronulla released from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds, has signed a three-year deal with the Knights.

In a statement issued late last Friday night, the New Zealand Rugby League said Smith suffered the injury in his last game for Cronulla, a 34-16 loss to the Raiders in a qualifying final at Canberra Stadium on September 9.

‘‘A thorough medical recently with his new club, the Newcastle Knights, suggested further examination of the shoulder was needed,’’ the NZRL said.

‘‘An MRI scan this week has shown the severity of the injury had been underestimated and Smith has been ruled out.’’

Knights coach Wayne Bennett has recruited Smith and Beau Scott, two members of his 2010 premiership-winning St George Illawarra team, and former South Sydney and New Zealand Test enforcer David Fa’alogo to add some starch to the Newcastle pack.

Smith, who had two seasons at the Sharks after leaving the Dragons, was named Cronulla’s Player of the Year at the club’s awards presentation last month.

He has been replaced in the New Zealand Test side by Wests Tigers forward Adam Blair, who has played 25 internationals.

The Kiwis assembled in Cairns yesterday and will train today.

Meanwhile, veteran hooker Danny Buderus won his third Players’ Player of the Year award at the Knights’ awards presentation at Wests Leagues Club, New Lambton, on Friday night.

Buderus, who rejoined the Knights this year after three seasons with English Super League champions Leeds Rhinos, was voted Players’ Player in 2004, the year he was the NRL’s Dally M medallist, and in 2008, his last year at the Knights before joining Leeds.

Second-rower Chris Houston won his first Knights Player of the Year award, and Bennett gave his coach’s award to mid-season recruit Willie Mason.

Former NSW winger James McManus was named Clubman of the Year and Junior Kangaroos back-rower Alex McKinnon was Rookie of the Year.

Merewether all-rounder Pat Darwen showed why he was considered the best signing of last summer in Newcastle district cricket when he scored a run-a-ball 101 against University on Saturday.
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The entertaining innings took the Lions to a strong position of 7-300 before bad light cut the day’s play five overs short at University No1 Oval.

Sea Dragons captain Josh Emerton sent the Lions in on a slow wicket and with a short square-of-the-wicket boundary.

Darwen strode to the crease with a licence to play his shots after the top three of David Celep (40), Jono Dunn (47) and captain Simon Moore (46) built a strong platform.

The former Bankstown batsman dispatched his first two balls to the boundary and continued in that vein as he smashed 11 fours and two sixes in his third century for the Lions.

At the start of last summer Darwen captured the headlines due to his stint with the Australian under-19 team in 2005.

That hype has since moved to former NSW fast bowler Mark Cameron, who has also joined the Lions.

‘‘Coming to a new club, the first half of the season is about finding your feet, but now I can relax into it. It’s great having Scud [Cameron] to take the pressure off me,’’ Darwen said.

The NSW Country representative made two centuries last season against Wallsend, including 113 in the two-day final.

Merewether won the premiership trifecta last season and their dominant display against Uni’s strong bowling arsenal sent a warning to their rivals.

‘‘We’ve all made a really conscious effort to step up our game because we know everyone is going to be hunting for us this year, considering we won everything last year,’’ Darwen said.

‘‘We need to be a better side than last year to win it again.

‘‘The boys have stepped up to that challenge so far, so it’s really fantastic.’’

Former Wallsend batsman Joe Clarke (62) continued his fine form since switching to Stockton-Raymond Terrace by guiding the Seagulls to first-innings points against Western Suburbs (99) at Lynn Oval.

Stockton were dismissed for 124 in 46 overs with Wests’ Todd Griffith taking 5-16 off eight overs.

Clarke came to the crease at 4-44 and formed a 75-run partnership with Michael Ridgewell (21).

It followed Clarke’s 49 on debut for Stockton against University last week.

The Rosellas were cruising to a first-innings lead at 2-62 before Stockton’s Ben West (4-24) and captain Nick Foster (3-45) destroyed the Wests’ batting order.

At stumps, the Seagulls were 0-10 in their second innings.

Wallsend appear set to claim first-innings points at Kahibah Oval with Charlestown reeling at 8-112 in reply to the Tigers’ 156.

Tigers skipper Brett Jackson (46) again led from the front. Jackson was dismissed at 9-112, but a late flourish of 34 from wicketkeeper Josh Forsyth could be decisive.

Only Jed Dickson (39) made a start for the Magpies as Wallsend openers Matthew Wicks (3-23) and Dan McGovern (3-31) did the damage.

Hamilton-Wickham’s Ben Balcomb (56) top-scored in only his second first-grade match in a total of 9-297 (dec) against Toronto at Ron Hill Oval.

The Kookaburras are 0-49 in reply.

Newcastle City are well placed to take first-innings points over Waratah-Mayfield. City will resume at 2-91 on Saturday in reply to the Tahs’ 117.

City opener Dylan Hunter starred with 62.

Marcus Hainsworth and Mark Jones both made half-centuries in Belmont’s 234 against Cardiff-Boolaroo (1-24) at Cardiff Oval.

Stockton wicketkeeper Jeff Goninan reacts after Wests batsman Anthony Hobson is run out. Picture: Peter Stoop

You usually hear them before you see them. They have an aversion to showering and shaving, are excessively opinionated and opposed to everything that doesn’t comply with their leftist world view.
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They also have a preference for chaining themselves to heavy objects when they don’t get their way.

We are talking about activists, or attention-seeking pests who use up valuable public resources when the time comes to arrest or rescue them.

Let’s not mention the disproportionate amount of media attention they attract and their ability to unfairly hold multimillion-dollar investments to ransom.

As the Newcastle Herald’s environment reporter I get to interact with these characters more than most.

The battle of Laman Street, coal seam gas exploration and the expansion of coalmining and related industries have contributed to a busy couple of years for Hunter’s protest industry.

If you are a conservative-leaning, pro-development type you should probably stop reading now because I believe there is another perspective worth considering.

Fact: trespass, interfering with commercial production and disobeying police directions are criminal offences and liable to be punished by our courts.

But haven’t some of our country’s most important and progressive social changes also been the direct result of intense protest and activism?

Women’s suffrage, the Aboriginal right to vote and the abolition of the death penalty would probably still be pipedreams if ordinary punters hadn’t stood up to powerful and entrenched institutions.

History tends to focus on the end result of these campaigns.

What is not so well documented is many were started by a handful of fired-up individuals whose persistence broke through complacency and ridicule.

Maybe that’s why multimillion-dollar companies, which are otherwise immune to criticism, are so sensitive and keen to target pesky activist types.

In recent months we have seen the Hunter’s direct action group, Rising Tide, linked to ordinary citizens concerned about the impact of industrial development on their communities.

The first instance followed a community meeting in Mayfield in August to discuss the potential impact of the proposed fourth coal terminal on air quality.

The meeting was hosted by the Coal Terminal Action Group, whose membership includes some experienced environmental campaigners and activists.

Of the 80 people at the meeting I counted about 20 who I would consider to be activists. Three were members of Rising Tide.

It was enough to worry the big boys at Port Waratah Coal Services, who insist there is wide support for their $5 billion project.

‘‘A lot of the [Coal Terminal Action Group’s] members – for example Rising Tide – are ideologically opposed to coal and have histories of campaigning against anything to do with coal,’’ a media release declared.

Later that month Dart Energy, which is behind a proposed coal seam gas exploration project at Fullerton Cove, also resorted to the activist card.

‘‘Whilst we recognise that local residents might want to express their concerns peacefully, it was clear professional activists, from the Lock the Gate, Rising Tide and Greens groups from outside the area were behind the extended illegal blockading of the site,’’ the company asserted.

What wasn’t mentioned was that most of the blockade’s participants were non-political residents concerned about the impact of coal seam gas. I saw one Rising Tide member during the nine-day blockade.

The right to public protest, forcefully at times, is one of the founding pillars of our democracy.

But let’s not confuse someone who risks getting munched into a thousand bits because they have chained themselves to the top of a coal loader, with someone who pickets a coal seam gas site or a public street to stop the removal of some much loved trees.

In the end both have chosen to act because they are concerned about their community. It’s just that one chooses to break the law, spend someone else’s money and risk life and limb to make their point.

Unfortunately democracy isn’t perfect but it’s still the best option.

Recently Newcastle City Council staff developed four organisational values which will guide our behaviour at work.
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We believe in co-operation, respect, excellence and well-being. We are focusing on working together as an organisation, helping and supporting each other to do the best we can, respecting diverse views and opinions and acting with integrity.

It is solid values such as these that drive many members of our community to generously contribute to the welfare and well-being of others, often without recognition or reward.

The City of Newcastle stages two events each year which seek to reward outstanding contributions made by an individual and by groups to our community and city.

These accolades are known as the community awards and Australia Day awards and recognise outstanding effort and achievement towards advancing values like a fair go, democracy, integrity, diversity, participation, endeavour and service.

They acknowledge the leadership provided by ordinary people doing extraordinary things, or the ordinary things people do extraordinarily well.

The community awards recognise outstanding effort and achievement by Newcastle individuals or community groups.

There are three levels of awards including the Freeman of the City, the City of Newcastle Medal and the Service Award.

The most prestigious is Freeman of the City. It goes to an individual who has provided the highest level of service to Newcastle, Australia or humanity. Historically the Freeman of the City award has been given rarely. The award dates back to ancient times, when an exceptional person was recognised and given privileges that extended beyond the law. That is, they were given the ‘‘run of the city’’ and hero status.

The Australia Day awards recognise achievement in the fields of arts, sport, the environment, community service, career, or sustainable development.

The Citizen of the Year is presented to the individual judged to have made the most outstanding contribution to Newcastle in any field. The Young Citizen is presented to the individual under the age of 27 who has made the most outstanding contribution.

The Community Group of the Year is presented to the cultural, social, educational, environmental or sporting group which has made a significant contribution to the community as a whole or to a specific community.

The program aims to celebrate community spirit, raise awareness of the many contributions people make individually and together, and recognise ambassadorship.

The awards honour those people or groups whose contributions have made them role models for other Novocastrians.

If you know someone who deserves to be acknowledged go to www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au or phone 49742841 for a nomination form.

Phil Pearce is Newcastle City Council’s general manager.

Follow-up is a big word for journalists. We like to report on the after-effects, the tale behind the big headlines.
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So I’m tipping my hat to colleague Fran Thompson, who recently highlighted a 121-year-old follow-up: the campaign The Newcastle Morning Herald began in 1891 succeeded in winning decent housing for the harbour’s pilot boatmen. Boatmen’s Row, you owe us.

Inspired by this and other examples (what if Joanne McCarthy had left it at just one local story about paedophile priests, eh?), I’m using this, my final column for the Newcastle Herald, to do a bit of catch-up of my own.

So, catch-up number one: all the puppies grew up healthy (that’s from my first story in 1975, about a dachshund that had delivered more pups than she had nipples for).

Closer to today, I can’t go out leaving my three end-of-year topics hanging, so here’s the latest.

Word of the Year, 2012: Sadly, it’s a bit early for the big guys. The people who began the WoTY quest, the American Dialect Society, won’t publish their decision until February 2013, and our own Macquarie Dictionary rarely comes good until January.

Other candidates don’t show until early December, when the crunch comes between the online dictionaries, which judge by hits on their particular site, and the statisticians, who rely on the number of times a word is fed into a search engine. So you’ll have to keep an eye out for those.

But at least I can offer a couple that were too late for last year’s column. Japan has spent 2012 celebrating “bond” – in the familial, not the financial, sense – and Germany’s choice was “stresstest”, which basically means what you think it means, but applied to banks’ financial strength.

While we’re on the subject of what you think it means, the Germans’ official borrowed WoTY was “shitstorm”, which, according to the academics who chose it, “fills a gap in the German vocabulary that has become apparent through changes in the culture of public debate”.

Why, exactly, there was such a gap is probably the most interesting part of this choice. Possibly Germans used to be more restrained than the rest of us in their discussion of public issues. Or maybe they’ve suddenly begun turning into Australians. Sorry, but I’ll have to hand this one on.

Conspiracy Theory of the Year: The American elections have brought us a beautiful late starter: Barack Obama is the bastard child of 1950s black activist and Communist Frank Marshall Davis.

This, apparently, proves that Obama is a Communist too because he got it through his DNA, and is therefore devoted to the overthrow of All That We Hold Dear. (It would also make him doubly an American citizen, but that doesn’t seem to rate a mention.)

However, first place must still go to the UN Agenda 21 theory, because that’s affecting the real world.

As I mentioned in an earlier column, Agenda 21 is a non-binding agreement from the 1992 Earth Summit, full of environmental idealism. But it’s been taken by some of the odder US pollies as a threat to national sovereignty. So they’ve been refusing funds for bicycle paths (after all, they’re approved of in the Agenda) and even for projects that encourage that dangerous aim “sustainability”.

Where, as granma used to quaver, will it all end? Well, let’s check out my third pet topic, the cyberspace crystal ball.

Internet psychic predictions for 2013: The Mayan calendar/Book of Revelations “World will end on December 21, 2012” forecasts seem to have died down completely, all morphing into “world will become different spiritually” then.

At least the industry can now feel more consistent about making any predictions at all for 2013.

They’re also consistent about predicting a win for Barack Obama in the US Presidential elections, though some seem to equate that with Armageddon.

Psychic research did lead me to an interesting Twitter detail: one Kevin Rudd MP follows New York medium Jesse Bravo.

Somehow I suspect that someone’s been pranking Our Kev. Maybe I should predict a Twitch-hunt.

The psychics are unanimous that the climate will be worse, a point on which they align with solid science. Among all the cyclones, tsunamis, bushfires and earthquakes, though, there’s a cute little bit of advice that in 2013, part of a developed nation will simply disappear. Not sink, or be swallowed up or blown away; just disappear.

If Tasmania goes missing, you heard it here first.

Fare thee well, netizens – Cheryl.

BEST CONSPIRACY: Is Barack Obama actually the son of Frank Marshall Davis?

THE Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, is expected to serve out his term – due to end in September next year – despite British reports at the weekend that the central bank boss has been approached to take the top job at the Bank of England.
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One of the world’s top central bankers, Mr Stevens was reportedly among the contenders to become the next governor of the Bank of England to replace the present governor, Mervyn King, London’s The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing unidentified sources.

However, it is understood Mr Stevens has not been approached by British officials, despite the news report saying informal discussions had taken place.

Mr Stevens has been at his post since September 2006 and is believed to be planning to serve out his full seven-year term, which expires on September 17, 2013.

A Reserve Bank spokesman declined to comment on the news report or on Mr Stevens’s tenure.

Mr Stevens is scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee this morning in Canberra.

It is highly unusual for a foreign citizen to head the central bank of another country. An exception in recent years has been the American Stanley Fischer, who is the head of Israel’s central bank. To take the top job in 2005, Professor Fischer had to become an Israeli citizen and renounce his US citizenship.

Earlier this year, Canada’s central bank chief, Mark Carney, was also reportedly approached for the Bank of England role.

The Bank of England governor will soon become Britain’s most powerful public servant, assuming responsibility for not just monetary policy, but also monitoring of banks and prevention of financial crises.

It will be the new governor’s job to lead the bank through reforms to the British regulatory system, ”including the transfer of new responsibilities that will see the bank take the lead in safeguarding the stability of the UK financial system”, the government’s advertisement says.

The successful candidate must also demonstrate that he or she can ”lead, influence and manage the change in the bank’s responsibilities, inspiring confidence and credibility both within the bank and throughout financial markets”.

Tomorrow the full list of applicants for the role will be seen by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and a decision is expected to be announced by the end of this year. The role will pay £302,000 ($478,000) a year.

The list of reported favourites to succeed Mr King includes the Bank of England’s deputy governor, Paul Tucker; the chairman of the Financial Services Authority, Adair Turner; the chairman of the Independent Commission on Banking, John Vickers; and the former head of the British civil service, Gus O’Donnell.

Sir Mervyn King will have been head of the bank for more than 11 years when he steps down in June.

Mr Stevens, who has helped steer Australia through the global financial crisis, was last month voted one of the world’s best central bankers by Global Finance magazine.

He will have been in the role for seven years, which is the average length of the modern governor’s term. It is the job of Australia’s federal treasurer to appoint the Reserve Bank governor.

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