0

J is for jihad

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

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.

0

Running with scissors

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

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.

0

Norzita takes flight to satisfy Bart

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

BART CUMMINGS made it trackside yesterday to see ”justice done” as Norzita grabbed the Flight Stakes at Randwick.
Nanjing Night Net

As he waited for his 265th group 1 winner to come back, the living legend joked with chairman of stewards Ray Murrihy that his filly should have kept the Tea Rose Stakes a fortnight ago.

”They can’t take that off her,” Cummings said. ”They should not have taken the other one either.”

Murrihy retorted: ”If you won by 3½ lengths last time you would have been right.”

Norzita proved too strong for Longport, which had benefited from the protest decision in the Tea Rose. She streaked clear in the final 100 metres to score by 2½ lengths from Longport, with 1½ length back to Dear Demi.

”She’s OK, isn’t she?” Cummings said. ”She can go to the Thousand Guineas and win that and the other one [Duet] can go to the Oaks down there [in Melbourne]. She went well as well, I think she ran fifth and is on track for the Oaks.”

Hugh Bowman had given Norzita the perfect ride in a slowly run race, which Longport controlled from the front, and at the 600m mark he came three wide to be poised to strike turning for home. He went up on the outside of Longport and the two squared off to fight out the race. But Norzita stamped her authority inside 200m.

”She always travelled and always felt like she was going to give a kick,” Bowman said. ”I had ridden her on Tuesday morning and was so confident after that. She didn’t let me down.”

For Bowman, who replaced Corey Brown after the Tea Rose, it was a second consecutive Flight Stakes after winning on Streama last year, but this was very special.

”It is just a privilege to win a group 1 for him [Cummings],” Bowman said. ”I have been riding for him since I was an apprentice.”

Gai Waterhouse’s filly Urban Groove, which had won her only two starts, was backed from $3.50 into $2.80 but couldn’t match the winner when she sprinted. ”She has come a long way and will be better for that run at the mile,” Nash Rawiller said.

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

0

Quinn steals Smoken’s thunder

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

Interdominion winner Im Themightyquinn was named harness horse of the year for season 2011-12 this week and was retrospectively given the title for 2010-11 at the expense of Smoken Up.
Nanjing Night Net

Smoken Up was not eligible to keep the title after being disqualified from the 2011 InterDominion but he was unlucky not to win the title last season.

Smoken Up was the 2011-12 Grand Circuit Champion after he won the Miracle Mile, Victoria Cup, SA Cup and Len Smith Mile as well as three heats of the InterDominion before breaking in the final. But the deeds of Im Themightyquinn in winning the premier series got him over the line.

Im Themightyquinn didn’t win outside Western Australia but he was unbeaten in the InterDominion, giving Gary Hall a memorable win in the final, and also took out the Fremantle and Western Australian cups.

It was a toss-up but the award is Australian horse of the year, not West Australian.

NSW supplied both three-year-olds of the year. Scandalman was named the best colt and gelding in the country, while the Paul Fitzpatrick-trained Marquess De Posh was the filly of the year.

NSW Harness Racing Club will follow the InterDominion model, giving horses the chance to qualify for the Chariots Of Fire and Ladyship Mile in their home towns. There will be qualifying races in Western Australia, Victoria and New Zealand for the $200,000 group 1s for four-year-olds and mares.

”The idea is to attract the best mares and four-year-olds from every part of the country,” NSW Harness Racing Club chief executive John Dumesny said.

The day will feature the InterDominion Final, Ladyship Mile, Chariots Of Fire, NSW Derby and NSW Oaks, meaning the best horses from Australia and New Zealand will be on show at Menangle on March 3.

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

THE legal time limit on abortion should be halved to 12 weeks, British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
Nanjing Night Net

Mr Hunt said he believed there was a moral case for cutting the current limit of 24 weeks. Although he stressed the Coalition had no plans to change abortion rules, his comments would encourage MPs and campaigners seeking a new vote on the issue.

”Everyone looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when they think that moment is, and my own view is that 12 weeks is the right point for it,” said Mr Hunt, who was appointed to his post last month.

He denied that his view on abortion was based on religious belief.

”It’s just my view about that incredibly difficult question about the moment that we should deem life to start. I don’t think the reason I have that view is for religious reasons,” he said.

Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary said she was ”chilled and appalled” by Mr Hunt’s statement, adding: ”Has he any idea what that means for women’s health?”

TELEGRAPH

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

DEPENDING on your taste in comedy, Julia Morris’s stand-up will leave you shrieking with laughter or wanting to lie down in a dark room with a cup of tea and whale music.
Nanjing Night Net

She is, in her own words, a ”nuclear” live performer: a loud, fast-talking comedian who riffs on the ordinary humour of domestic life with eye-rolling glee.

So it came as a surprise when the 44-year-old was announced as a star of Channel Nine’s new Sunday night dramedy House Husbands, playing no-nonsense nurse Gemma, partner of Gary Sweet’s Lewis.

Even Morris had her doubts about whether she could play a straighter role. She need not have worried. Not only has the show been a great success – it has averaged an audience of more than 1 million each Sunday and a second series has been commissioned – but Morris has often been singled out for praise among the cast, with critics surprised by her serious acting chops.

It was not just the critics whose eyebrows were raised. Sweet says he was mildly concerned when Morris was announced in the role because he did not know of any dramatic acting experience she may have had.

”The thing about her, though, is that she has all the characteristics that you require to be successful as an actor, and that is that she’s incredibly intelligent,” Sweet says.

Morris is not new to acting: in fact, she has just spent the past two years studying acting in Los Angeles, hoping to crack the US sitcom scene.

Last September, on a family trip back to Australia, which was intended to last nine days, Morris was offered a spot on the reality show Celebrity Apprentice. After winning that, she was offered the role of Gemma and could not believe her luck: ”There’s just no way in my wildest dreams I would have expected that my first dramatic job would have been such a substantial job.”

It was at home in Gosford that Morris first got a taste for performance. Her parents, Michael and Maureen, imbued her and her older brother, Brendan, with a sense that anything was possible.

Blessed with a strong singing voice, Morris assumed her career would be in musical theatre. Her first TV gig was on the talent show New Faces in 1985, aged 17, in which she tied for first with a marching band.

She came across stand-up by accident, when she agreed to MC a comedy event on the central coast for a friend. She established a name for herself over many years on the touring circuit, while making regular TV appearances on shows such as Full Frontal and Beauty and the Beast.

In 1999, Morris packed up her particular brand of humour and took it to Britain to see how she might fare.

She went remarkably well. She hosted her own BBC chat show on a Friday night and a radio show.

Then she found herself doing a show at the Edinburgh Festival in 2002. There she met fellow comedian Dan Thomas, who she married in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve in 2005.

”I hit the jackpot there,” she enthuses. ”I was just hoping for a nice overnight romance but it’s turned into what could possibly be a lifetime romance.”

Two daughters followed soon after and, in a neat case of life mirroring art, Morris is able to do House Husbands because Dan is the primary carer for Ruby, 5, and Sophie, 3.

It was after Ruby was born that Morris’s life took another turn. She and Dan decided that they would prefer to raise their daughter in Australia and so they returned. Morris says she felt at the time as though she was ”starting again”.

But she had two breaks: the first was winning the singing reality show It Takes Two with opera singer David Hobson in 2008. And then she won Celebrity Apprentice. Between those shows, Morris packed up her family and moved to LA.

In the two years she was in LA, Morris switched from blonde to brunette and dropped several dress sizes. Her shape, she says, is a ”forever-changing landscape” but it was her drama teacher in LA who sparked her latest downsizing. Morris was wearing a size 15.

The teacher told her that she could not understand why Morris’s acting career was not progressing as she would like, based on the work she was doing in class.

Morris recalls her saying: ”So the only thing that I can think of is that you don’t look like everybody else. And the weight you are at the moment, you either need to put on some weight and become bigger or you need to take off some weight.”

So take it off she did bringing herself down to a trim size 10.

Morris now finds herself in the unusual – and slightly unnerving – position of being able to refuse work.

”No one would ever have thought that I was coming back into fashion, I can assure you,” she says drily. ”It has been my life’s mantra to say ‘yes’ to everything because I’m a real worker. I come from a working-class family and that’s what we’re like.”

House Husbands screens on Channel Nine at 8.30pm tonight. Julia Morris’s stand-up tour will be at The Concourse in Sydney on Friday and Saturday and the Enmore Theatre next Sunday.

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

0

On your marks, get set, show

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

For television audiences hungry for new American and British programming, the notion of ”fast-tracking” might become a case of be careful what you wish for.
Nanjing Night Net

Channels Seven and Ten, the ABC and Foxtel are delivering international programs with unprecedented speed. Foxtel’s ”Express from the US” campaign is fast-tracking more than a dozen shows, with new episodes of Sons of Anarchy and Boardwalk Empire on air within hours of their US broadcast.

Two new US series – 666 Park Avenue and Revolution – are also screening on Foxtel 12 hours and 36 hours behind the US.

The ABC, meanwhile, has been making new episodes of Doctor Who available via iView an hour after the show airs in Britain.

And Ten last week introduced fast-tracked content with its ”Take a Fresh Look” campaign. It has new seasons of the comedy New Girl and series two of critically acclaimed drama Homeland.

However, at first glance the numbers for Ten are not promising – New Girl (screened 10 days after the US) drew fewer than half a million viewers nationally and came fourth in its timeslot.

If audiences want networks to make good on the promise of delivering day-and-date programming, they’re going to have to start watching in greater numbers.

To put the Ten figures in context, New Girl was against Seven’s ratings mammoth The X Factor – a high-risk strategy that has claimed the scalps of other shows. Seven will follow this month with The Amazing Race, Grey’s Anatomy and Once upon a Time.

Anecdotal evidence suggests fast-tracked content performs best when aired within 24 hours of its international broadcast.

The ABC’s iView carriage of new Doctor Who episodes, in particular, drew enormous traffic. It also failed to damage the terrestrial broadcast a week later, a rare example of a network being able to have its cake and eat it, too.

Foxtel’s director of television, Brian Walsh, describes the ”Express from the US” campaign as ”a powerful differentiator for Foxtel”.

It is, however, a powerful differentiator for any broadcaster that wants to cultivate strong brand loyalty in an increasingly fragmented TV market. Even the ABC has used fast-tracked content and its market-leading online replay platform, iView, to become a dominant digital player.

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

0

A summer on the sea

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

South American exploration … Crystal Cruises’ Serenity. Jewel-class … the Norwegian Jade.
Nanjing Night Net

AS THE summer cruising season Down Under kicks off, many will be thinking about planning their next high-seas holiday. And for those with enough time and money to spare, a longer stint at sea is appealing.

World cruises and grand voyages lasting from 40 days to more than 100 days are a throwback to the age of the great ocean liners, when travel between continents involved many days at sea and unusual ports of call. Today more cruise lines, particularly at the luxury end, are adding them to their annual calendars.

On January 16, 2013, Crystal Cruises’ Serenity will depart from Miami on a 74-day exploration of South America. The ship will travel through the Caribbean before calling at ports stretching from Colombia to Brazil, with highlights including a transit of the Panama Canal, cruising the Chilean fiords and Amazon River, and overnight port stays in Valparaiso, Ushuaia, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.

If you have less time, and would like to end your cruise in Australia, Seabourn Cruises’ Quest has a 40-day World Voyage departing from Fort Lauderdale on January 6. The luxury yacht will also cruise the Caribbean and travel the Panama Canal, before making a 10-day crossing to French Polynesia to explore a variety of South Pacific Islands through to Sydney.

Looking towards 2014, and P&O Cruises’ newly launched world cruise program features no less than three ships. Aurora and Arcadia both embark on full-world circumnavigations from Southampton in January, while sister ship Adonia will explore the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia in-depth on a round trip also from the famous British port city.

Finally, Cunard will be sending all three of its perennially popular Queens to Australia as part of world voyages in 2014. Between them, the famous liners will make 17 calls at Australian ports including Sydney and Brisbane; Queen Victoria will also take an extended trip around South America, featuring eight maiden calls to ports on the continent, while Queen Elizabeth will make a maiden visit to Japan.

Package of the week

Cruiseabout is offering a special guided tour of Croatia combined with a European river cruise next year. Departing on August 19, you fly to Vienna for a 13-night tour of the Croatian countryside and Dalmatian coast. Next you travel to Budapest on September 1 to join Avalon Vista for a 14-night river cruise of the Danube and the Rhine Gorge to Amsterdam. Priced from $11,999 a person, twin share, the package includes return flights to Europe, the cruise and 13 nights touring on land. 1300 450 133, cruiseabout南京夜网.au.

In brief

The cultural historian, author and performer Warren Fahey is one of several presenters featured on Seabourn Odyssey’s cruise from Bali to Sydney departing on December 21. Among his many popular presentations is a lecture on the myths and traditions of Christmas and the New Year.

APT has added a free concert from the popular violinist Andre Rieu to one of its European Christmas river cruises. The 15-day cruise from Budapest, departing on December 21, includes complimentary tickets to a performance in Cologne on January 2.

If you fancy seeing the rare total solar eclipse next month, try it from a ship. P&O’s Pacific Dawn will be cruising off the north-eastern corner of Australia for the event on November 14, with astronomy lecturer Peter Anderson on board and documentaries broadcasting on its newly installed outdoor big screen.

Norwegian Jade

LAUNCHED 2006 PASSENGERS 2402 REGULAR HAUNTS The Mediterranean BEST FOR Families THE DETAILS A 12-night cruise of the Holy Land and Mediterranean, a round trip from Rome departing on February 23, is priced from $3079 a person, twin share. 1300 369 848, ecruising.travel.

Need to know

1 The second of Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) four Jewel-class ships, Jade began its career as the Pride of Hawaii, the largest and most expensive US-flagged passenger ship built. It was withdrawn from the Hawaiian Islands in 2008.

2 Its design embraces NCL’s Freestyle cruising concept, offering flexibility throughout from dining to activities. Since taking on her new identity, Jade is based in the Mediterranean year-round, cruising from Venice and Civitavecchia (Rome).

3 Accommodations range from compact inside staterooms to an over-the-top three-bedroom Garden Villa that sleeps eight, complete with a garden and hot tub. Families are well catered for with multiberth staterooms and villas, and the decor of striking colours varies significantly across the categories.

4 There’s an impressive line-up of 12 dining venues including a main dining room, however they mostly all come with a fee. Options include the 24-hour Blue Lagoon Restaurant, the Jasmine Garden Asian and Cagney’s Steakhouse.

5 A ship with something for everyone. Facilities range from basketball and tennis courts to four hot tubs, a jogging track, a gym and a Mandara Spa. Kids have clubs to suit various ages, and entertainment varies from Broadway shows to magicians.

Port watch: La Coruna, Spain

Need to know Situated on the rugged north Atlantic coast of Spain, La Coruna is not only a historic city but also an old fishing port and a modern-day commercial port. Ships dock in the heart of the city, just a five-minute walk from the main sights. The cruise terminal, new since 2011, has some shopping and tourist information.

Do not miss The city’s sights include Maria Pita Square in the centre of the old town, plenty of shops and restaurants, and some pretty beaches along a three-kilometre stretch of coastline. Top of the list of excursions is the magnificent Santiago de Compostela, a cathedral dedicated to the apostle James, and whose relics are believed to have been discovered in the 9th century. Another nearby place worth visiting is Vigo, which has an impressive historic quarter and some beautiful plazas.

Q&A

We’re visiting Picton in New Zealand on a cruise and hear it has some good hiking trails. Do you know anything about them?- M. O’Dowd, Windsor.

Arguably the most popular trail in the area is the Queen Charlotte Track. It stretches for just over 70 kilometres, from Ship Cove to Anakiwa, but you can opt to walk part of it in a round trip that takes a few hours. If you go it alone, take bottled water and a mobile phone in case you get into any difficulties. To play it safe, you can also opt to go with a local tour operator. They offer guided walks of between one and five hours.

[email protected]南京夜网.au

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

Relaxing … Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake in Yangon.My fiance and I are honeymooning in the vineyard area out of Cape Town next March and are casting around for ideas on somewhere fabulous to spend another week before flying home to Sydney. A safari perhaps? Unique accommodation of some sort would also be lovely. What experiences shouldn’t we miss while we are there?- E. Sutherland, West Pymble.
Nanjing Night Net

Africa’s spectacular wildlife draws most visitors to this part of the continent, although March is not the perfect time for a safari. This is the end of the rainy season and water levels and grass are high, which makes it more difficult for safari vehicles to get around, and animals are dispersed and harder to spot.

Despite all that, the chance to see Africa’s wildlife in its natural habitat is irresistible and my pick is Kruger National Park.

At the top right-hand corner of South Africa, this is Africa’s largest national park. It has more animal species than any other African wildlife park, including lion, elephant, buffalo, cheetah, leopard, hippo, baboon and the only viable rhino population on the continent.

A lot of old Africa hands disparage Kruger because it is so popular that the game-viewing experience can be a mass event, but for first-time visitors in March, it’s a safe bet.

You can either join a guided tour or pick up a hire car and drive yourself. The roads are excellent and this is a very practical option, although you don’t want to step out of your vehicle too often.

Kruger also has a great choice of accommodation, from “rest camps”, which offer simple lodgings, to self-catering bush camps and luxury lodges set in their own private domain, such as Singita.

You can fly from Cape Town to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport at Nelspruit, close to the southern border of the park, and either join a guided tour there or pick up a hire car.

The first passage to India is best with a tour

My wife and I are planning a three-week holiday to India and Nepal between October and February. We would like to take in all the must-see sights but we want to avoid huge crowds if possible. We are in our 50s but we want to travel independently. In order to gain real-life experience, we are thinking of using local public transport. Would you suggest an itinerary or helpful websites, bearing in mind our middle-range budget?- S. Tam, Berala.

October and November are perfect for visiting north-west India, including Delhi, the desert state of Rajasthan, the city of Agra and the holy cities of Varanasi, Rishikesh and Amritsar. This region has some of India’s leading sights, such as the Taj Mahal, the pink city of Jaipur, the desert cities of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, and pilgrimage sites.

In Nepal, the major attractions are the temples and cities in the Kathmandu Valley. The other big drawcard is trekking – the peak season is October and November. The popular trails become crowded at this time but you can still walk at low altitudes below 3500 metres right through December and January, minus the hordes. A short trek of about five days through the valleys below the Annapurna range would be ideal.

If this is a first-time visit, I strongly recommend a tour. India is a full-frontal assault on the senses that leaves many visitors feeling shell-shocked and exhausted.

A good choice for help constructing a tour tailor-made to your needs and budget would be Ram World Travels, based in Sydney. Adventure tour operators include World Expeditions, Peregrine Adventures and Intrepid Travel.

Take the booking as read

To fit in with a tour we are doing through Burma next year, we have booked two nights’ accommodation at the Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake in Yangon online through Agoda. We have received acknowledgement from Agoda but really, we do not know much about it. Do you know if it can be relied on? We emailed the hotel seeking to confirm our booking, but no response.- B. Bricknell, Kuraby, Qld.

Agoda is one of several internet online hotel reservation systems, and it operates mostly in the Asia-Pacific region.

It has been around since the late 1990s, and it’s hard to find anything on the internet that would suggest Agoda is not reliable or trustworthy. Feedback from those who have booked rooms using its services is positive, and I do not believe you have any reason to worry.

The fact that you have not had confirmation from the hotel itself is not unusual or surprising. Confirmation from Agoda itself should be sufficient reassurance, but if you are still worried, try phoning the hotel’s reservation department on +95 1 544 500.

US history on DC’s doorstep

My husband and I thought it would be a good idea to stop over in Washington DC before our Caribbean cruise out of Miami. We have booked four nights’ accommodation in a hotel, as we intend taking some tours of Washington DC during our stay. After that, we will still have six nights left for touring. I cannot find any tours from Washington DC except the usual day tours. Have you any suggestions?- H. Jones, Castle Hill.

Trafalgar has several escorted bus tours that might be what you’re looking for.

Trails of Liberty turns the spotlight on the colonial period of American history, while the Historic Highlights takes in some of the sites associated with the War of Independence and the American Civil War. Globus has a similar tour, America’s Historic East. Each of these begins and ends in Washington DC, which would suit you, but each is eight days, and neither Trafalgar nor Globus offers any shorter tours in this region. This means you would need to amend the four-night booking you have already made but, provided you give the hotel plenty of notice, you should be able to avoid cancellation charges.

Since all of these tours spend the first couple of days touring Washington DC, you won’t miss out on the sights of the national capital.

Digiwatch

How do you say “ibuprofen” in Greek? Or “Lomotil” in Mandarin? Getting sick in a non-English-speaking country only adds to the drama, which is when the World Drugs Converter app comes to the rescue. Key in the product you need and the country you’re in and back comes the name in local script, which makes it easy for the pharmacist to read even if you can’t. Available for the iPad and iPhone.

If you have travel questions, we’d love to hear from you. Include the name of your suburb or town and send it to [email protected]南京夜网. Personal correspondence cannot be entered into. Only questions appearing in print will be answered. One published letter each week will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.

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