First rains fall for parched NSW

Source: The Northern Daily Leader
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AFTER an agonising wait for rain, some areas have finally reported their first falls in two months – with better chances that more is on the way in the next two days.

While some places, like Tamworth, waited around for rain nearly three days after optimistic forecasts late last week, Sunday night finally delivered the best fall since Christmas Eve.

It was patchy but hopes for some better widespread falls of up to 30mm could be an even better bet tomorrow.

At least 5-10mm was expected today and there was even the chance of isolated showers of up to 50mm, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Chris Webb said.

“There is an increasing trend in the next couple of days,” Mr Webb said.

He said that today the North West Slopes and Plains could expectscattered showers and thunderstorms coming down from Queensland to bring between 5-10mm.

On Wednesday, it would be a morewidespread system delivering between 20-30mm and would contract to Queensland again – but it would float back over the ranges again on Thursday.

Sunday’s rain had brought some relief to the drought-stricken North West and Northern Tablelands.

At Loomberah Kevin Tongue recorded 21mm all up – and like many others, watched clouds go round and below them for so long.

But when it arrived, mostly about 6pm Sunday, it was more than welcome, it was also long overdue.

“It will settle the dust, but it’s a start,” Mr Tongue said yesterday.

“We certainly need follow up rain to get us through winter. We need runoff water into our dams so if those forecasts of Wednesday and Thursday bringing up to 50mm are correct, that would be ideal. We need more now. You can’t sow oats because it’s so dry underneath but it will start freshening things up. It’s cooler and the sun’s not burning, so that’s another plus.”

South of Tamworth, it was a similar story – some got it, some didn’t but optimism is renewed.

Tambar Springs recorded 38mm – but less than 5km away one farmer registered 21.5mm in the gauge.

David Quince, a grazier who owns Tambar Vale about 4km south-east of the village, said: “I actually measured 21.5mm – I think it’s a bit patchy”.

It was a story repeated elsewhere – Narrabri received 12mm but nearby it was a different scenario.

Phillip Kirkby, who lives 30km south-east of Narrabri, said his 809-hectare Santa Gertrudis stud, Wave Hill, had received hardly anything.

“Just a bit of a sprinkle,” Mr Kirkby said.

Where it fell on Sunday:

Armidale 13mm; Barraba 14mm; Ben Lomond 6mm; Blackville 39mm; Boggabri 11mm; Bundella 22mm; Duri 15mm; Glen Innes 1.2mm; Gunnedah 17mm; Gwabegar 14mm; Inverell 3mm;Moree 5mm; Mt Kaputar 29mm; Mt Lindsay 21mm; Mulla Crossing (Cockburn River) 18mm; Narrabri 12mm; Nundle 18mm; Nowendoc 16mm; Pine Ridge 24mm; Quirindi 18mm; Tambar Springs 38mm; Tamworth 19mm; and Yarrowitch 13mm.

Ben Lomond also received a further 7mm between 9am-3pm yesterday and Nowendoc another 2mm.

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The Last of Us addresses some unanswered questions in Left Behind

Left Behind offers bittersweet insight into the life of Ellie, youthful heroine of The Last of Us.While I had some issues with its gameplay, the story and characters of last year’s PlayStation 3 hit The Last of Us kept me hooked to the end. Sure, the combat overstayed its welcome and got very samey, but Joel and Ellie’s growing bond of trust as they struggled together to survive was seriously compelling stuff.
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As such, the arrival of Left Behind made me very happy indeed. While The Last of Us has received a few multiplayer DLC packages, this is the first additional content that expands its story and gives greater insight into the characters.

In my opinion, there were two major unanswered questions in the original game: how did Ellie end up involved with a bunch of terrorists before the game began, and how did Ellie keep Joel alive and move him to safety after he was injured in Colorado? Left Behind doesn’t answer either question fully, but it fills in the broadest strokes.

Two stories are presented in parallel, both centred around Ellie. One is a prequel of sorts, showing one night of her life in the quarantine zone, and the other shows her in the middle of the main story, searching for supplies to keep the critically injured Joel alive.

The prequel story is sweet and simple. A friend of Ellie’s, a girl about her age named Riley, returns after a long absence, and convinces her to sneak out after curfew to explore an abandoned shopping mall. There is very little of the core gameplay here – most of it is just two friends talking about the stuff that matters to them while they explore.

The later story is more action-oriented, with Ellie desperately searching a different shopping mall for medical supplies, especially needles and sutures to sew up Joel’s wounds. During her search, both the hideous zombie-like infected and murderous human bandits cross her path, and Ellie is forced to deal with them on her own, without Joel to protect her. One interesting new development is that bandits and infected can appear in the same area, and clever players will find ways to set them on each other.

More than fighting, though, Left Behind is about Ellie. This night of lighthearted fun with Riley reveals new aspects of her character, giving new insight into where she has come from and what she wants out of life. Before inadvertently becoming the last great hope of salvation for the human race, she was just an ordinary teenage girl, with the same kinds of hopes and fears that most people her age have.

This is a short and sweet package, giving me a little under three hours of play, though some players get through it in only two. After the over-long original game, I actually welcomed a more compact story, but some may consider its brief duration too little for its asking price of $21.95.

I can’t go into any real detail about either story without giving away too much. The sweetness and tragedy of Left Behind really need to be experienced without spoilers, so I will simply say that if you are a fan of The Last of Us, this is an essential purchase. The price is admittedly steep, but fans of Ellie who want to learn more about her cannot afford to miss this.

– James “DexX” Dominguez

Screen Play is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

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Fresh breakout at Manus Island after more violent riots

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison addresses the media on Monday about the first Manus Island breakout at the weekend. Photo: Alex EllinghausenFederal politics: full coverageBeds smashed in battle with guardsMichael Gordon: Demonising and secrecy must stop, Mr Abbott
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Asylum seekers have escaped the Manus Island detention centre for the second night in a row following violent clashes overnight.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement on Tuesday morning that the incident was more serious than the violent altercations that occurred the previous night when asylum seekers destroyed fences, tore down light poles and smashed bunk beds after clashes with security guards.

Staff were evacuated from the detention centre on Monday night and the asylum seekers who escaped may still be missing.

Thirty-five asylum seekers escaped and 19 were treated for injuries on Sunday night.

It is unclear how many asylum seekers escaped during the incident on Monday night. Mr Morrison confirmed that asylum seekers had again been injured.

”I am advised that there has been a further and more serious incident at the Manus Island processing centre overnight involving transferees breaching internal and external perimeter fences at the centre,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.

”I am advised non-essential staff were evacuated as a precautionary measure last night prior to any escalation of these events, when low level demonstrations resumed.

”The extent and nature of the subsequent events and perimeter breaches is still being verified. However, I am advised that all staff have been accounted for, our service providers are in control of the centre and there has been no damage to critical infrastructure or accommodation at the centre, which will enable the centre to resume normal operations.”

Lorengau hospital chief executive Dr Otto Numan said two asylum seekers were being cared for at the hospital.

One had an injury to his buttocks, while another sustained an injury to the right side of his face. ”I have not examined them myself, so I can’t say how serious,” he said.

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul, citing reports from inside the camp, claims asylum seekers were attacked by police and locals.

”The perimeter fences were breached by locals, the centre had already been evacuated and PNG police and locals carried out systematic attacks, savage attacks on the asylum seekers last night,” Mr Rintoul told ABC News Breakfast.

”If there are asylum seekers outside the perimeter fence it’s because they’ve fled for their lives late last night from those attacks.

”Bashings, cuts from machetes, with sticks, gunshots were heard overnight.

”I don’t know of anyone being shot but people – one person we were told –  was actually thrown off the first floor of one of the buildings.”

On Monday evening, asylum seekers said they were fearful of a violent attack by the local PNG police, which have been dubbed as the ”death squad”, and angry locals who they said would be wielding machetes, knives and guns.

The president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, told the ABC that the Australian government owed an obligation to those who were seeking asylum under international law.

”Australia owes an obligation of protection of those who seek asylum with us,” Dr Triggs said.

Local PNG MP Ron Knight said responsibility lay solely with detention security provider G4S.

”This shows that shoddy camp management and lack of responsible authority prevalent at Lombrum (naval base, where the facility is located),” he said.

Mr Knight said his staff were turned away from the centre when they tried to find out what was going on.

”Yes, all guards that turned back my staff are expatriate G4s staff,” he said.

Mr Morrison, who is visiting Darwin, said he would return to Canberra as soon as possible for briefings from the head of Operation Sovereign Borders Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell. He will hold a media conference from Darwin at 10am on the latest incident.

In Canberra, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said on Tuesday that Australians needed to hear details of the incident.

”We’ve got Australians working on Manus Island, and of course we’re concerned about any asylum seekers or locals who might have been injured or in any way in danger,” she told ABC radio.

The Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young told Fairfax Media on Tuesday that if the reports were true then Manis Island must be closed.

”Responsibility for this policy failure falls directly at the feet of the Abbott Government and the Immigration Minister,” she said.

”The government was warned about the toxic environment on Manus Island repeatedly by organisations like Amnesty International and the UN but those warnings were ignored and dismissed.”

with Sarah Whyte and AAP

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need2know: Earnings, RBA awaited

Local stocks are poised to open higher ahead of a wave of earnings from BHP Billiton, Coca-Cola Amatil and Seven West Media.
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What you need2know:

• SPI futures up 28 points to 5373 at the close of European trading

• AUD at 90.30 US cents at 7.20am AEST

• On Wall St closed for the Presidents’ Day holiday

• In Europe, Euro Stoxx 50 unchanged, FTSE100 +1.09%, CAC -0.11%, DAX -0.06%

• Spot gold up $US9.81 to $US1328.60 an ounce

• Brent oil rises 10 US cents to $US109.18 per barrel

• Iron ore up $1.20, or 0.97%, to $US124.40

What’s on today

Australia: imports of goods, Reserve Bank board minutes.

Stocks to watch

Earnings from: BHP Billiton, Asciano, Amcor, Arrium, Coca-Cola Amatil, CFS Retail Property Trust, Challenger Financial, GWA Group, Macmahon Holdings, Monadelphous, Mermaid Marine, Orora, Pacific Brands, SAI Global, Sonic Healthcare, Seven West Media.

The ink is yet to dry on Healthscope mandates, but already the hungry pack of equity capital markets bankers have moved on to their next health sector target, Medibank Private, according to The Australian Financial Review’s Street Talk column.

RBC Capital Markets has an “outperform” on Transurban Group and a 12-month price target of $7.50 a share after first-half results of the 2013-14 financial year solidified its positive view on the stock.

Currencies

The euro touched a three-week high of $US1.37245 and was last up 0.1 per cent at $US1.3700.

Against the yen the dollar fell to its lowest since February 6 but later recovered to trade up 0.1 per cent at 101.89 yen after weaker-than-expected Japanese gross domestic product data.

Commodities

Copper rose for a second session, touching the strongest level in 11 days. LME copper, untraded at the close, was last bid at $US7170 a tonne after hitting $US7206.50, its highest since February 6. It closed at $US7150 on Friday.

Nickel closed at $US14,385 a tonne from $US14,250 at the close on Friday, extending gains after a ban Indonesia imposed in January on unprocessed mineral exports. Nickel has risen more than 3 per cent so far this year and is the top performer, along with tin, on the LME.

Spot gold touched its highest since October 31 at $US1329.55 an ounce earlier in the session and was trading up 0.7 per cent at $US1327.91 by 1700 GMT. US gold futures rose for a ninth session running, up 0.7 per cent to $US1328.30 an ounce.

United States

US markets are closed for the Presidents’ Day holiday.

Europe

European stock markets have closed mixed, with London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index ending 1.09 per cent higher at 6736 points. Frankfurt’s DAX 30 dipped 0.06 per cent to 9656.76 points and the CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.11 per cent to 4335.17 points.

Data from EPFR Global showed European equity funds have enjoyed net inflows of $US17 billion since the beginning of 2014, marking a record start to the year and in sharp contrast to massive outflows from emerging market funds. EPFR said that within Europe, equity funds focused on Italy and Spain have been leading the way in terms of inflows. Both countries have recently seen their bond yields retreat sharply.

Britain’s fraud agency has started criminal proceedings against three former bankers at Britain’s Barclays for the alleged manipulation of Libor interest rates. The Serious Fraud Office said it has charged Peter Charles Johnson, Jonathan James Mathew and Stylianos Contogoulas with conspiracy to defraud between June 2005 and August 2007.

What happened yesterday

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index added 26.6 points, or 0.5 per cent, on Monday to 5382.9, with the broader All Ordinaries Index also lifting 0.5 per cent.

Mining stocks led the gains after the release over the weekend of stronger than expected Chinese credit data provided support for global commodity prices.

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Sochi Winter Olympics: Arrest of protesters puts focus on Russian suppression of dissent

Detained … Vladimir Luxuria, a former Communist lawmaker in the Italian parliament and prominent crusader for transgender rights, was arrested by Russian police for holding a pro-gay banner. Detained … Vladimir Luxuria, a former Communist lawmaker in the Italian parliament and prominent crusader for transgender rights, was arrested by Russian police for holding a pro-gay banner.
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Detained … Vladimir Luxuria, a former Communist lawmaker in the Italian parliament and prominent crusader for transgender rights, was arrested by Russian police for holding a pro-gay banner.

Activist David Khakim, right, is approached by two police officers after pulling out a banner protesting a recent prison sentence for a local environmentalist in front of the Olympic rings in central Sochi.

Sochi: Russia’s suppression of dissent during the Winter Games is again under the spotlight, after two protesters were arrested in Sochi.

A former Italian MP claims she was arrested at the Olympic site on Sunday while queuing to buy a ticket and brandishing a banner saying “It’s OK to be gay”. On Monday police detained an activist in central Sochi, who was holding a solo protest against a three-year prison sentence given last week to environmental activist Yevgeny Vitishko.

On Sunday, Vladimir Luxuria, a prominent gay rights campaigner who was Europe’s first openly transgender MP, reportedly called for help after she was detained by police.

Ms Luxuria later told reporters she was approached by two men in plain clothes in the Olympic village while she held up the banner. She said she was not released until early Monday morning, and was told not to display pro-gay slogans in public.

“I think it is important [to have] the opportunity to talk internationally about these things because otherwise these things happen in Russia and nobody knows, nobody cares,” she said.

Earlier that day she had tweeted a photo of herself at the Olympic village brandishing a rainbow fan and wearing a rainbow skirt, saying in Italian “I’m in Sochi! Regards with the colours of the rainbow, in the face of Putin!”

Sono a Sochi! Saluti con i colouri della rainbow, alla faccia di Putin! pic.twitter爱上海同城论坛m/E68Lgtadgv — vladimir luxuria (@vladiluxuria) February 16, 2014

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Insensitive interview with Sochi medal winner Bode Miller angers viewers

Overcome with emotion: Bode Miller is interviewed by NBC. Photo: NBC screen shot Emotional … US skier Bode Miller reacts to questions about his brother after the Men’s Alpine Skiing Super-G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.
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“Today was one of the most emotional days of my life.”: Bode Miller. Photo: NBC screen shot

Difficult line of questions … US skier Bode Miller is comforted by his wife Morgan Beck after the Men’s Alpine Skiing Super-G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.

Emotional … US skier Bode Miller breaks down during an NBC interview after the Men’s Alpine Skiing Super-G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.

Emotional … US skier Bode Miller breaks down during an NBC interview after the Men’s Alpine Skiing Super-G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.

The US television network NBC has provoked a storm of criticism after a reporter covering the Sochi Olympics repeatedly questioned an athlete about his dead brother until he broke down in tears on air.

Reporter Christin Cooper was interviewing skier Bode Miller after he won the bronze medal in the Super-G. With the win, Miller made history as the oldest alpine skiing medalist.

But Cooper was more interested in talking to Miller about his brother Chelone who died last year after a seizure in California.

“Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here. What’s going through your mind?” she asked him.

Miller replied: “A lot, obviously. A long struggle coming in here. And just a tough year.”

Miller was visibly emotional at that point, but Cooper pressed on with: “I know you wanted to be here with Chilly [Chelone Miller] experiencing these games, how much does it mean to you to come up with a great performance for him? And was it for him?”

Miller’s reply, while wiping away tears: “I mean, I don’t know if it’s really for him. But I wanted to come here and … I don’t know, I guess make myself proud, but …”

Cooper then asked a third question, clearly referring again to Miller’s brother: “When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it just looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?” she asked.

Miller then doubles over, breaking down in tears. His wife, professional beach volleyball player Morgan Beck, then stepped in to comfort him.

The camera stayed on the couple for more than a minute.

Miller later tweeted: “Today was one of the most emotional days of my life. I miss my brother.”

Reaction to the interview in the US has been almost overwhelmingly negative, with NBC and Cooper taking enormous heat.

It also provoked an avalanche of criticism on the social media platform Twitter.

NBC has been criticised for allowing the footage to air, including the camera lingering on Miller as he wept, despite having considerable time to make cuts due to the time delay in NBC’s coverage the Sochi games.

In an interview on the Today show, Miller later told Matt Lauer he had no quarrel with Cooper.

“I’ve known Christin a long time. She’s a sweetheart of a person. I know she didn’t mean to push,” he said. “I don’t think she really anticipated what my reaction was going to be, and I think by the time she sort of realised, it was too late. I don’t blame her at all.

“It was just a lot of emotion for me. It’s been a lot over the the last year. You sometimes don’t realise how much you contain that stuff until the dam breaks and then it’s just a real outpouring.”

NBC also put out a statement saying it was the network’s “judgement that [Miller’s] answers [to Cooper’s questions] were a necessary part of the story.

“Our intent was to convey the emotion that Bode Miller was feeling after winning his bronze medal,” the statement said.

“We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far. We’re gratified that Bode has been publicly supportive of Christin Cooper and the overall interview.”

NBC has also drawn criticism for an interview in which host Meredith Viera questioned 31-year-old women’s skeleton silver medal winner Noelle Pikus-Pace about a miscarriage she suffered several years ago.

NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell today said it was the network’s job to tell the personal stories of athletes.

“At the Olympics, particularly because people don’t know these athletes, they don’t know their stories, they don’t know the sports, it’s even a bigger responsibility to be able to share those to get viewers to connect with these athletes and their stories and their sports,” he said. “You’d be irresponsible not to tell that part of the story. That’s what we do,” he said, referring to the emphasis on personal stories and, in particular, the issue the death of Miller’s brother or Pikus-Pace’s miscarriage.

“We have to make a lot of decisions every day in our coverage, and we made that one, and we’re fine with it, and the interview subject was fine with it, so I think that should be the end of it,” Bell said.

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Stand your ground law means history will keep repeating

The circumstances of the killing are not in question. Michael Dunn, a 45-year-old white man, pulled up outside a convenience store in Florida, objected to the music blaring from a neighbouring vehicle and, after a brief argument, pulled a handgun out of his glove box and fired ten rounds into the car.
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Three of the young black men in 4WD were lucky enough not to be hurt at all. The fourth, 17-year-old Jordan Davis, sat in the back seat dead or dying from three gunshot wounds. The young men had tried to escape, but Dunn, a gun collector, kept firing into their car as they fled.

The boys drove to hospital where Davis was pronounced dead. Dunn went to his hotel room with his girlfriend and ordered a pizza.

On Saturday night in Florida an exhausted jury told the judge that after 30 hours of deliberations over four days they had come to a verdict on some of the charges Dunn faced, but were deadlocked on the main one. They could not agree that he was guilty of first-degree murder. On that count alone a mistrial was declared.

Kruzshander Scott, president of the Jacksonville section of the National Council of Negro Women, was among the crowd waiting outside the court for the verdict, the Associated Press reported. “I am scared to death because unless these laws are checked or changed for the benefit of all, it’s not going to change. We are going to repeat this same story over and over,” she said.

She is right. Floridians might be struck by the brutality of Jordan’s death but they cannot claim to be surprised that a jury could not convict his killer of murder.

This is the state where the stand your ground law written by the National Rifle Association protected George Zimmerman from conviction for shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin dead as he walked home with a packet of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.

This is the state where Curtis Reeves shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson dead in a cinema after they argued about Oulson’s texting. A newly released autopsy report shows a bullet grazed Oulson’s wrist before it hit him in the throat. The injury to the wrist is thought to be a defensive wound, as though in the instant before he was shot Oulson tried paw the bullet out of the air.

In each of these cases the killers used the stand your ground law as a defence, either explicitly or implicitly.

Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, followed Martin in his car because he thought the boy was suspicious. After he shot him dead he told police they had become involved in a fight and he feared for his life. Police took him at his word and he was not even charged with a crime for six weeks.

His lawyers did not raise the stand your ground law in court, but they did not need to, the judge explained in instructions to the jury.

After shooting Oulson in the cinema Reeves told police he had “reason to believe [Oulson] was going to kick my ass”. He remains in jail awaiting trial.

Dunn told police he was intimidated by the “thug music” playing in the car Jordan was sitting in. During his trial he claimed Davis raised a shotgun and pointed it at him. No other witnesses saw a shotgun and none was found. The prosecution asked why, if the boys had a shotgun, they did not fire it.

Florida’s stand your ground law extends the so-called castle doctrine – which allows people to use lethal force to protect themselves in their homes – into the public domain. Where once people who feared for their safety had to first seek to retreat before using lethal force, they may now legally shoot first.

Zimmerman’s acquittal and Dunn’s mistrial are not glitches in stand your ground law, but the law’s very intent.

Since Florida introduced the law in 2005 it has spread via the conservative campaign organisation the American Legislative Exchange Council to nearly two dozen states. It is impossible to know whether these scared and angry men shot strangers because they were aware of the law and felt protected by it, but research by Texas A&M University shows that in states with stand your ground homicides have increased by up to 9 per cent.

The NRA believes the greatest danger to Americans are what it calls “gun free zones”, places where it is illegal to carry guns. The group is working hard and successfully to eradicate these zones, places like schools, churches, bars and restaurants. But the organisation seems to believe that there is no point in arming citizens if citizens don’t feel comfortable using their weapons.

Jordan’s father Ron Davis has no doubt the law failed his boy.

“[Jordan] was a good kid. It wasn’t allowed to be said in the court room, but we’ll say it. He was a good kid,” he said after the mistrial. “There are a lot of good kids out there … They should have a voice. They shouldn’t have to live in fear … that if they get shot, it’s just collateral damage.

“We do not accept a law that would allow collateral damage to our family members … We expect the law to be behind us, and protect us. That’s what I wanted the law to do — to protect Jordan as we protected Jordan.”

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Lily dognapped: two men charged after allegedly stealing family pet

Two men have been charged by police after allegedly stealing a dog from a backyard in Sydney’s west and demanding cash from the owner for the animal to be returned.
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The men, both aged 25, were arrested in a vehicle in Cabramatta with the female Labrador cross Staffordshire, named Lily, sitting in the vehicle with them.

The dog’s owner told police she had received a phone call telling her to bring cash to a specific location in Cabramatta if she wanted to see her dog again.

But when she arrived at the location she instead flagged down patrolling police officers, who approached the vehicle on her behalf and arrested the two men.

The 21-year-old woman told police that Lily had been stolen from the backyard of her home in Bonnyrigg earlier on Monday, before she received the phone call.

A NSW Police spokesman would not specify how much cash the men allegedly demanded in return for the dog, but said it was a “reasonably small amount”.

When the woman arrived in Cabramatta about 4.30pm on Monday she flagged down officers from the Cabramatta proactive crime team who were patrolling along John Street and Gladstone Street.

Police said the officers approached the car and arrested two men.

“They searched the vehicle, locating the female Labrador cross Staffordshire named Lily, and will allege they also located cannabis, goods suspected of being stolen, and a balaclava,” police said in a statement.

The men were taken to Cabramatta Police Station, where one man was charged with drug possession, stealing a dog, having goods in custody, having custody of a knife, and corruptly taking reward for a stolen dog.

The second man was charged with driving while disqualified, breaching bail, stealing a dog, and corruptly taking a reward for a stolen dog.

Both men were refused bail and are due to appear in Liverpool Local Court on Tuesday.

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Torah Bright ‘appalled’ at Bruce Brockhoff’s attack on AOC

Olympic snowboarding champion Torah Bright has condemned the attack on the Australian Olympic Committee from the father of her teammate Belle Brockhoff and distanced herself from “team outcast”.
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Brockhoff’s father, Bruce, enraged team officials when he said that Belle had received very little financial support from the organisation and teammate Alex “Chumpy” Pullin had received too much.

It came on the eve of the men’s snowboard cross, in which Pullin is a favourite to win.

“Mr Brockhoff should be held accountable for his words,” Bright said. “And . . . I am speechless. I am appalled, actually.

“Belle has put on such a show. To have this have any shadow over her is beyond me.

“It’s about these guys competing. It’s not about parents meddling. It’s not about using someone else as the vehicle for their own purpose.”

That said, Bright has been at the vanguard of a social media campaign about funding, creating a splinter group identified as “#teamoutcast”.

Said Bright: “This is kind of something we should all move on from, because we’re all Australians united as an Australian team. We need to forget this craziness.

“I don’t want to answer any more questions about it. We’re here at the Olympics, and we know we’ve done incredible things.

“Teamoutcast, to me, is something I did to support the people who were an outcast. It was other snowboarders, outside of Australia. For some reason, it’s been turned into addressing someone else’s agenda, and I am not going to have any part of it because they are using me and the silly little hashstag as the vehicle for their own agenda.”

Her remarks came in the aftermath of wild comments from Brockhoff’s father, Bruce, who the day before blowtorched Pullin, the AOC and the Olympic Winter Institute of Sport on the eve of Pullin’s run at the gold in the men’s snowboard cross.

Bruce Brockhoff claimed, via email to Australian journalists, that Pullin had received $1 million in funding while his daughter had only been given $38,000 in their pursuit of Olympic gold in Sochi.

Pullin brushed off questions about the animosity in the team after his event was postponed for a day because of heavy fog hanging over the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Just to add to the madness, Bruce Brockhoff has issued an apology for his email outburst.

It gave an insight into his bizarre way of thinking with a statement on his own website.

“It was never my intention to upset the men’s boardercross event nor any one of the contestants especially Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, Jarryd Hughes nor Cam Bolton on the Australian team,” he posted.

“The intention of my email to the press was to point out reasons why some of the Australian boardercross team felt the need to form a lose (sic) group supporting one another calling themselves #teamoutcast.

“The reason I issued the email Sunday was to gain maximum publicity hot on the heals (sic) of my daughter Belle’s race at her first Olympics. To delay this email I felt would lesson (sic) its impact.

“The full story of what has transpired is being written at the moment and will appear in the newspapers ASAP complete with copies of supporting emails and one recording of a meeting in May.”

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The many different faces of sci-fi

The fact that Tatiana Maslany’s mother was a translator may have assisted her in pulling off her roles in Orphan Black (SBS2, 8.30pm).
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As Sarah Manning, and her various clones, Maslany succeeds in what must be a devilishly difficult task for an actor – playing a variety of characters, of a variety of nationalities, who all look the same but have wildly differing personalities. Just keeping the accents straight would be challenge enough, not to mention the array of hairdos that Maslany must switch in and out of to help us differentiate. And things have to get gruelling when you have to shoot the scene twice as different people. Spare a thought too for the body doubles, fated to a life of being shot from behind in someone else’s wig.

As we get to the pointy end of the series, and the mystery uncoils like a great snake, Maslany’s skills are tested heavily, particularly in a tense confrontation between the daring, troubled Sarah, seeking to protect her clone sisters and deranged Ukrainian assassin Helena, seeking to exterminate them.

The challenge with sci-fi is always making it feel important.

There’s a great risk, when your characters start talking about self-directed evolution and revealing their bio-engineered tails, that it’ll all start to feel a bit silly, and the essential unreality of the whole thing will cause the viewer to lose any feeling that anything on screen actually matters.

The question is, do you go full-Star Trek into fantasy land, or do you take the riskier route of grounding your show in the world we know, and hoping your writers and actors can muscle up enough to make it feel real? Orphan Black does the latter, to commendable effect.

As Sarah learns more about the cloning program, Cosima is drawn into the dangerous orbit of Dr Leekie, and Helena continues her fanatically murderous quest against the Neolutionists, it is very much down to Maslany’s ability to be by turns desperate, quirky and psychopathic, investing each clone with her own authentic identity, that Orphan Black still feels like it matters as the story becomes more and more extreme.

Speaking of extreme, the Winter Olympics (Ten, 8.30pm) bring us some of the most extreme behaviour possible for humans to engage in for the sake of a little gold disc. In the Summer Olympics elite athletes push themselves to the very limit – in the icebound version they push themselves over the limit and off a cliff.

Gold medals are being handed out in the women’s giant slalom (AKA throwing yourself down a mountain) and in the speed skating (AKA hurtling around in circles on razor blade shoes). There’s also qualifying in the ice hockey (AKA men bashing each other with sticks).

Sport, as always, is at its best when death lurks at every turn.

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