Fat Tony actor says Tony Mokbel will ‘probably think most of it’s bullshit’

Actor Robert Mammone had to shave part of his head to get Tony Mokbel’s look right for Fat Tony & Co. The old gang is back … Les Hill as Jason Moran and Vince Colosimo as Alphonse Gangitano.
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Cross Keys Reserve is an ordinary footy oval in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, a forgettable expanse of car park and playing fields but for its dubious claim to fame as the site of a chilling double-murder 11 years ago.

It was here in 2003 that underworld figures Jason Moran and Pasquale Barbaro were shot dead in broad daylight. There were children in the back of the van where the two men were executed, while other children kicked footballs on a Saturday morning.

The chilling scene was vividly captured in the original Underbelly, and once again a crew is here for the filming of the latest chapter in the Screentime-Nine true-crime saga.

Ominously, a pair of policemen who could easily be mistaken for actors are in the process of apprehending a man right next to the tents where catering and production crews are installed.

For various reasons, Fat Tony & Co isn’t branded ”Underbelly”, though its roots are unmistakably in the original 2008 drama.

Key events of Melbourne’s so-called gangland wars that were central to Underbelly are revisited here, while many Underbelly actors reprise what amount to career-defining roles: Vince Colosimo as Alphonse Gangitano, Gyton Grantley as Carl Williams, Les Hill as Jason Moran, Madeleine West as Danielle McGuire and Simon Westaway as Mick Gatto.

The eponymous character of Fat Tony & Co is convicted drug trafficker Tony Mokbel, who was largely excised from Underbelly on account of pending criminal trials at the time of its broadcast.

Even after a major re-edit, the character played by Robert Mammone was identified only as ”Larry” in the original.

With equal measures of humour and caution, Mammone recalls that ”changes had to be made once a certain gentleman who was wanted by the police was apprehended”.

Mokbel was famously arrested wearing a punchline-worthy wig in Greece in 2007 after ”disappearing” from Melbourne while on trial the year before.

Implicated in several murders, he was finally sentenced in 2012 to 30 years in prison for his involvement in drug trafficking.

The wig makes a brief appearance in later episodes of Fat Tony & Co, but what surprised Mammone during his months-long stay in Melbourne for the shoot was how much people knew about ”that guy with the wig”.

”When I ventured out … everyone had a story, either an encounter with Mokbel himself or one of his brothers or someone related to them, from a horse trainer that trained horses that he apparently didn’t own but really did, to cafe guys and sports people. He was quite a character in this city. Up in Sydney, where I live, there’s also no shortage of conversation about him”.

Born in Kuwait to Lebanese parents who emigrated to Australia in the mid-1970s, the young Tony Mokbel was a milk bar owner and pizza chef before turning to the manufacture and importation of drugs.

Many parts of Mokbel’s colourful story remain open to conjecture, and Mammone goes to great lengths to emphasise Fat Tony & Co is a fictional story based around certain known events.

”I looked for footage of him walking, talking, all those characteristics that give me a clue of the character and it was hard to find anything, in fact I couldn’t. I realised then that in line with what Screentime and Channel Nine wanted, that it’s a drama. I decided to take a few little cues from there and re-create my own (character) because it’s not a documentary and, while I’m portraying a real person, I think it best we take dramatic licence and create an entity that may or may not be exact. As far as this show is concerned I don’t think it needs to be exact”.

For Mammone, the death of Mokbel’s father when Tony was 15 was a key to the strong work ethic that was thrust upon him. ”He was certainly determined to be successful and to be wealthy and (trafficking was) the best way he knew how to do that. He was uneducated, so what the hell, if he didn’t do it someone else would. And he was smart enough to actually generate and turn over the sort of dollars that big, big, big business generates, not just guys who deal pills in nightclubs, which was way beneath him.

”When I spoke to some police officers some years ago they were begrudgingly admiring of what he got up to and the level he operated at and were in no doubt that had he chosen to go down a legal path business-wise he’d have been successful. His drive, his work ethic, there’s no way he could fail.”

Despite amassing considerable wealth, Mammone’s Mokbel doesn’t rest on his laurels. ”It was always onwards and upwards. I have a line (in the show), ‘I’m a shark, always moving’, and it’s true, for me anyway.”

Apart from news footage of Mokbel entering and leaving court, Mammone was unable to find any significant films or recordings that Mokbel left behind.The only time he’s heard Mokbel’s voice was a recorded phone call that Mokbel made to an Australian journalist from a Greek prison.

”Even that conversation I heard five years ago, there was a lot of thought in it. It wasn’t just babbling. Every sentence had a motive.”

The task of ”creating” Mokbel’s receding hairline fell upon hair and make-up supervisor Helen Magelaki. Mammone’s head was partially shaved so that the hand-stitched wig could be fitted. The sides of Mammone’s scalp were shaved daily and make-up applied to cover the white area on his forehead, a process that took two people 90 minutes every day.

Knowing that the real Tony Mokbel will be watching his portrayal of him will weigh on him.

”I’d really hope that he watches it and enjoys it. He’ll probably think most of it’s bullshit because it is a drama, but I do hope he appreciates the effort everyone has put in.”

Fat Tony & Co premieres on Sunday at 8.40pm on Nine.

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Dine-in delights: the world’s best hotel restaurants

Sense of place: Las Balsas in Patagonia. Tapas Molecular Bar, Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo. Photo: Chris Chen
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When the food matters as much as the rooms, check our list of hot hotels, writes Ute Junker.

More than a century ago, Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier made it clear: a great hotel needs a great restaurant.

Over the years, however, the definition of hotel dining has expanded. For every formal dining room, there’s now a breezy meal on the terrace, or even a snack of crispy fried insects.

So what makes a hotel restaurant great?

More than just sublime food, it should offer a sense of place, plus an X-factor that sets it apart.

Here is a selection of places where dinner is a destination.


New York

Cool and class collide at this hip eatery, which has been virtually booked out since it opened last year. Each of the restaurant’s separate spaces has its own vibe, from the buzzy Atrium to the cosily opulent Parlour and the romantic Fireplace.

The menu has the finesse you’d expect of chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara, the team behind the revered Eleven Madison Park restaurant.

There’s enough foie gras and truffles to suit the expense-account diner, while more inventive vegetable-based dishes showcase Humm’s modern approach.

For a perfect night out, grab a seat in the Parlour (mood lighting that still lets you read the menu – respect!) and start with a salad of fresh, sweet young brussel sprouts done three ways – steamed, shredded and fried leaves -with accents of hazelnuts, apple and lemon.

That should leave enough room for the show-stopper roast chicken for two, done with foie gras, black truffle and brioche: worth every cent of the $79 price tag.

See thenomadhotel爱上海同城论坛m.



Few things are what they seem at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, the celebrity chef’s outlet in London’s Mandarin-Oriental Hotel.

Those light fittings? They are actually jelly moulds. That mandarin?It’s made of foie gras.

This a wonderland of a restaurant, with an inventive menu and superb service.

From the warm welcome when you arrive, to the meal’s grand finale, ice-cream made at your table, the experience is seamless.

More than any other hotel group, Mandarin-Oriental has perfected the art of destination dining. With Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, they have trumped themselves.

See mandarinoriental爱上海同城论坛m/london.


Wanaka, New Zealand

It’s a rare hotel where you feel comfortable popping into the kitchen in the morning to ask for a coffee, but then, staying at Whare Kea Lodge feels more like staying with super-wealthy friends.

Which is what you are doing, sort of: the six-bedroom lodge was once the Myer family holiday home and has retained that laidback vibe. Meals are served at a communal table and feature whatever chef James Stapley feels like serving up. That could include delicious Bluff oysters, a salad of West Coast crayfish and homegrown heirloom tomatoes, wild Fiordland venison, or the bite-size beignets. Best of all, Stapley likes to please: following our raptures over the beignets served for dessert, he whips us up another batch the next morning.

See wharekealodge爱上海同城论坛m.



Some chefs think they know everything. Rachid Agouray is not one of them. When he was asked to add a contemporary twist to the classic Moroccan dishes for which La Mamounia’s Le Marocain restaurant was famous, he turned to the experts: local women. It’s the women who keep Morocco’s culinary traditions and his team of specially recruited females has created some of Morocco’s most interesting cuisine.

Whether it’s a phyllo cigar stuffed with chicken or a reinvented pastilla, the traditional pigeon replaced with lobster and salmon, the dishes are a delight.

Throw in a torch-lit terrace, carved cedar screens, tinkling fountains and the scent of jasmine – and it’s an Arabian night.

See mamounia爱上海同城论坛m.


Yunnan, China

You don’t have to eat the bamboo worms if you don’t want to, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t.

Bamboo worms don’t feature on most Chinese menus but Xishuangbanna is a very particular pocket of China. It’s the Chinese equivalent of the wild west, closer to Thailand than to cities such as Shanghai and Bangkok, and known for its vast rainforests, wild elephants and majestic centuries-old tea trees.

Top marks to the hotel for showcasing the cuisine of the local Dai tribespeople, full of fresh herbs and indigenous specialties such as ganba (air-dried beef), river snails, river weed, and rice dishes cooked in bamboo.

And the bamboo worms? The local equivalent of crisps, flash fried and perfect for munching on as you pull on a beer. Ganbei!

See xishuangbanna.anantara爱上海同城论坛m.



Here are some reasons why we love La Cuisine, one of two Michelin-starred restaurants in this Parisian pleasure palace.

There’s the decor: a funky updating of the traditional grand restaurant that is not in the slightest stuffy. There’s the attentive service, in which no detail is neglected: order steak, and you will be invited to choose from a selection of nine knives, each with its own history.

There’s the menu, which offers both traditional and innovative approaches. Atlantic cod, for instance, comes as both a traditional confit option, or an Asian-influenced version with braised black rice, honey, ginger and lemon.

Just be sure not to peak too early: once the cheese sommelier has had his way, you’ll still need room for the made-to-order Pierre Herme millefeuilles combinations such as fig and foie gras.

See www.leroyalmonceau爱上海同城论坛m.


Black Forest, Germany

How did a small spa village in the Black Forest, home to just 8000 people, come to score eight Michelin stars?

Largely through the rivalry between the town’s two largest hotels, Hotel Traube Tonbach and Hotel Bareiss.

Both hotels invested heavily in their restaurants and both can boast three-Michelin-star restaurants but only the Traube Tonbach has chef Harald Wohlfahrt. Wohlfahrt is culinary royalty. Not only has he held three stars for more than 20 years, he also trained most of Germany’s other three-star chefs himself.

All that and he still finds ways to weave new flavours and textures into his dishes, such as a delicate char served with kataifi and a salad of carrot, coriander, ras al hanut and caraway seeds.

With food this good, it’s hard to restrain yourself – but you can always burn it off afterwards with a walk in the Black Forest.

See traube-tonbach.de.


Patagonia, Argentina

If you appreciate the perfection of an exquisitely decorated petit four, or a single scallop perched carefully on a porcelain spoon, you’re going to love Las Balsas, a small but perfectly formed hotel with an equally enchanting restaurant.

The setting alone is enough to conjure superlatives – a shoreside location on Lake Nahuel Huapi, the prettiest mountain-fringed lake in northern Patagonia – but Lucas Dabrowski’s way with local ingredients is just as impressive.

A crab strudel with squid ink and apple is wonderfully light, with a perfect blend of flavours; but Dabrowski’s real genius lies in reinventing favourites such as roast chicken, here served with sun-dried tomato, black olives, toasted almonds and potato and cheese fondue.

Throw in an impressive wine cellar showcasing Argentina’s extraordinary wines, and you have a real little gem.

See relaischateaux爱上海同城论坛m/lasbalsas.



Sometimes, dinner at the hotel restaurant is the easy option.

When you’re too tired and hungry to go elsewhere, you end up sitting in a corner table, reading your book or your iPad while you eat. At Tokyo’s Mandarin-Oriental hotel, they have an antidote for this kind of meal: the Tapas Molecular Bar.

Two chefs, two nightly sittings, eight diners, 16 courses, plenty of molecular flimflammery, including dragon imitations using liquid nitrogen: it’s a night out that turns strangers into participants in a culinary adventure.

The food is exquisite, each themed plate showcasing a different set of ingredients.

The pretty Underwater Forest, for instance, highlights delicately briny flavours such as Okinawa seaweed, kombu seaweed broth and sea urchin.

See mandarinoriental爱上海同城论坛m/Tokyo.



The UK has no end of country houses with fine food, but few do it as well as Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons.


The Fasano family understand food – and branding. Before they opened the Hotel Fasano in Sao Paulo, they ran the city’s biggest restaurant empire. Naturally their hotel restaurant – again called Fasano – is one of the best in town.


Basque chef Martin Berasategui has brought his creative cuisine to Barcelona’s Condes de Barcelona hotel, highlighting quality ingredients such as smoked eel and woodpigeon.


Some might call this cheating – Michel Bras’ eponymous triple Michelin star restaurant came first, the attached rooms followed. But we love the place so much we’re including it anyway.


There’s plenty of southern comfort on offer at Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm but the real reason people flock here is dinner in the atmospheric barn.

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Chinese developer snaps up Tabcorp building in latest Sydney asset sale

A new round of assets sales is set to hit the Sydney market worth well over $200 million in coming months.
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It is expected the main buyers will continue to be overseas-based investors, some of whom are keen to get a foot hold into the market and convert the offices into residential.

The Ausgrid Tower at 570 George Street, opposite Sydney Town Hall and St Andrew’s Cathedral, is said to be close to being sold.

It is is being divested by the NSW Government with a mooted price tag of about $200 million.

Real estate agents speculated that chinese investors, Greenland, was an interested party.

Stockland has also confirmed it has non-core assets on the market including its share of the Piccadilly Centre in Pitt Street and has done a deal with Investa Commercial Property Fund to sell the office component of 135 King Street. Stockland will retain the retail component.

The latest sale was by AMP Capital, which has exchanged contracts on the Tabcorp headquarters at 495 Harris Street Ultimo with a Chinese developer for $63 million.

The office property has 10,000 square metres of net lettable area over four floors, with basement parking and two ground floor retail suites.

The current site zoning is mixed use and provides for a variety of uses including commercial and residential premises.

AMP Capital Wholesale Office Fund Manager Nick McGrath said he was pleased with the sale of the asset, which delivered upon the fund’s strategy to divest smaller, non-core assets.

In other deals Mirvac is looking to sell 50 per cent of its 275 Kent Street, Westpac headquarters, worth about $410 million and a further $500 million of ”non-aligned” assets to help fund its office and retail projects and recent acquisitions.

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Cash splash: Another $6b to line investor pockets

Six of the major businesses reporting this week plan to pay out a total $6.3 billion in dividends. Photo: Peter BraigCompanies are continuing to line investor pockets with cash returns this reporting season, with more than $6 billion in dividends paid this week.
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Wesfarmers, BHP, Fortescue, Suncorp, Woodside and Seek are amongst the group of corporates splashing cash on investors.

Fortescue surprised investors on Wednesday, when it announced a total dividend payout of $US292 million ($324.41 million), of which close to $103 million with be paid to its biggest shareholder and company chairman Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.

Combined, six of the major businesses reporting this week plan to pay out $6.3 billion in dividends, a sign of confidence in their own businesses, and the Australian economy.

In the case of Woodside and Suncorp, dividends were increased, despite profits falling.

Forecasts have varied and there is still some worry surrounding Australia’s transition away from the mining economy, but payout ratios continue around record highs.

The 10-year average S&P/ASX 200 payout ratio is about 60 per cent but has been as low as 52.2 per cent – the payout in 2007 – Perpetual’s figures show.

Healthy dividends are popular with Australian investors and companies, despite cut-backs, have been keen to keep investors happy with solid and growing returns.

Consumer spending is slowly returning and the aggressive cost-cutting has allowed the flow of dividends to keeping pushing through.

Stronger balance sheets, repositioned asset portfolios and underlying profitability have given businesses the confidence to pay out increased dividends, Morgan Stanley head of investment strategy Malcolm Wood said.

”It is a vote of confidence in the future, of course. Companies don’t like mucking around with their dividends too often and the market still offers a very attractive dividend yield, vis-a-vis alternative assets,” Mr Wood said.

”I guess that management and boards are saying they’re fairly comfortable with the outlook.”

The yield theme has been prominent for the Australian market in recent years.

Falling bond yields, short and long term rate cuts, and less appealing term deposits have sent investors looking for a more profitable use of their money.

So far this earnings season, things have looked positive.

Of the 30 per cent of companies that have reported, more than half have beat net profit expectations, Deutsche Bank strategist Tim Baker said.

“The change to earnings is more modest (+1-1.5 per cent for financial years 2014 and 2015), but still positive. And this should be viewed against the backdrop of only very mild earnings downgrades coming into results, making the hurdle of beating expectations higher,” Mr Baker said.

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Why the ‘Penfolds curse’ could strike again

Penfolds’ earnings potential in the next two years is vast. Photo: Tamara DeanIs there a Penfolds curse at work? A succession of six corporate owners of Australia’s most famous wine brand over the past three decades have either been taken over or run into financial strife, and the prospect of it happening again remains high.
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It’s as if the ghosts of the founders Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold, who started Penfolds in 1844, are wreaking their revenge because the wine brand has strayed so far from its original purpose of being a medicinal benefit for patients of Christopher’s medical practice.

The latest custodians, Treasury Wine Estates, have earned the wrath of investment markets and the credibility of the board and management is in tatters, as they battle to try and restore some confidence in the company’s direction after a run of disasters. Much depends on the reception received by Treasury chairman Paul Rayner and his stand-in chief executive Warwick Every-Burns, who stepped out of the Treasury boardroom to run the company last September. They will attempt to defend their strategy on Thursday when they outline the full details of the $40 million full-year profit downgrade announced three weeks ago, as Treasury officially unveils its first-half profit results. But how long will Treasury be around in its current form?

The irony is that Penfolds itself is a highly-profitable business and the jewel in the crown of Treasury. Penfolds is estimated to make around $180 million in profits annually, which is about three quarters of the total profits of Treasury’s sprawling wine business which also includes the Beringer brands in the United States, and Wolf Blass, Rosemount, Seppelt, Lindemans and Wynns in Australia.

Penfolds’ earnings potential in the next two years is vast, as a treasure trove of up to $280 million worth of high-quality red wines currently maturing in barrel halls will hit the market.

This is why potential suitors are closely eyeing the corporate mess that Treasury has found itself in and the potential upside for a new owner. Speculation centres on Chinese firms and private equity buyers as those most interested.

The Penfolds brand, with a 170-year-old history, has proven very resilient over three decades of corporate ructions with the brand having passed through six different sets of corporate owners since the early 1980s. The prestige of the flagship Penfold’s Grange, the latest release of which the company was selling for $785 per bottle, is a huge strength and the halo effect down through the range is a winner in the marketplace.

Bruce Kemp was chief executive of Southcorp Wines, a forerunner of Treasury, for most of the 1990s and is today chairman of Tasmanian wine company Pipers Brook. He says Penfolds has enormous cache in the marketplace.

“It still stands out,” Mr Kemp says. Penfolds Grange and the higher-quality Penfolds range that sits underneath it were big profit drivers in the 1990s, and two decades on, the “halo” effect is still intact. “There’s a pretty big halo, and a big shadow down the line,” Mr Kemp says.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst David Errington has all but given up on Treasury’s current board and management and says ”if the board’s focus turns to maximising shareholder returns, it will need to consider breaking the company up”.

A break-up would result in a scramble for the best assets, with Penfolds at the top of the tree. The one possible saviour in the ongoing Treasury saga is the prospect of a new, highly-respected chief executive being appointed soon. There are persistent rumours about the long-time boss of Coca-Cola Amatil’s Australian operations, Warwick White, having been approached to take the job. Outgoing CCA chief executive Terry Davis, who had been the subject of speculation that he has being courted, says he has not interest in taking another chief executive role at a public company.

But Penfolds has been through a lot. It’s had six owners in just over three decades. In the mid-1970s, Penfolds was acquired by then NSW brewer Tooth & Co, and then in the 1980s became part of corporate raider John Spalvins, Adelaide Steamship Company, which also owned Woolworths, David Jones and a host of big-name food brands including Peters ice-cream and Four’N’Twenty pies.

Mr Spalvin’s empire fell apart after the 1987 sharemarket crash under the weight of $7 billion in debts, and Penfolds was sold off to another beer company, SA Brewing, in 1990. SA Brewing, an ASX-listed company, changed its name to Southcorp in 1993, sold off packaging and water heaters businesses, and Southcorp Wines became a stand-alone wine business. It then merged with privately-owned Rosemount Wines in 2001 in what was effectively a reverse takeover, to become the world’s largest wine company. But things went awry under new management and in 2005 it was taken over by Foster’s Group. But plans by Foster’s to extract efficiencies from selling beer and wine into the same liquor retailers didn’t work properly, and after further management changes, Foster’s was split into two companies in 2011. The wine company was re-badged Treasury Wine Estates and in May, 2011 set sail on his new voyage as an ASX-listed debt-free wine group, with Penfolds as the biggest brand.

Chief executive David Dearie lasted a little over two years but was then punted by the board in September, 2013, taking the blame for $160 million in writedowns connected with the United States wine operations.

A potential predator of Treasury will be closely eyeing the red wine inventory sitting in barrel halls at Penfolds. Bank of America Merrill Lynch believes the profit increase from the Penfolds business over the next two to three years is substantial, with Penfolds having increased inventory levels of its higher-priced wines from $50 million worth in 2011, to $280 million in 2013. The stockbroking firm estimates that Penfolds currently contributes 75 per cent of Treasury’s total depressed earnings before interest and tax, and given the difficulties Treasury has faced with under $10 bottled wines in Australia with its other commercial brands, that proportion of profits may be even higher.

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Peter Betham says failure not an option for Waratahs back line against Western Force

Confident: Peter Betham throws a last-gasp inside ball in the Waratahs’ trial against Auckland Blues on February 7. Photo: Anthony JohnsonWaratahs winger Peter Betham is fully aware of the danger of the Force back row stifling vital ball supply to the NSW back line in Sunday’s Super Rugby clash at Allianz Stadium.
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But the New Zealand-born flyer says the threat will not provide just cause for the Waratahs failing to showcase the potency of the NSW back line. Such is Betham’s new strength of mind, galvanised by the confidence he gained from his performances last year that lead him to make his Wallabies Test debut.

Betham, 25, says he realises the quality of ball the NSW backs receive from their formidable forward pack will depend on their West Australian opposition. “Especially with the type of back row the Force always produce, it’s definitely going to be a battle at the breakdown,” he said. “It’s not an excuse for the backs to not play. We are definitely going to make gains.”

This time last year the former Brumbies and Rebels player was at the dawn of a new season with the Waratahs that would end with him scoring five tries from 15 games in Super Rugby. Last year also saw the Sydney University winger play his first – and so far only – Test for the Wallabies: in the starting side that lost 41-33 to the All Blacks in Dunedin.

Asked about his mindset on the eve of season two under Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, Betham said: “I am quietly confident. That lack of confidence which led to errors in games [beforehand] is pretty much a no-go for me. That [confidence] is one thing I will take into this season. I will put my [best] foot forward. It won’t stop me from doing the same things that I do.”

Betham, who has 24 Super Rugby caps, says he is physically superior now: “I am getting faster,’’ he said. ‘‘My general fitness is going pretty well, so when it comes to fitness your numbers generally get a bit higher with your speed.”

With this new speed and confidence, Betham hopes he will be more assured and effective on the field – from anticipating opportunities to running on to the ball. “It’s [about] getting the confidence up and putting yourself in situations where you are under pressure but confident in your ability to get the job done,” Betham said.

It helps being in a Waratahs back line that offers so much strike power and laden with various options in attack with Nick Phipps at No.9, Bernard Foley at No.10, Kurtley Beale at No.12, Adam Ashley-Cooper at No.13, rookie Alofa Alofa at No.14 and Israel Folau at No.15.

“It is a back line that has matured, and [with] the additions we have had with Kurtley Beale and Nick Phipps, it [has] more firepower,” Betham said. “It’s just about getting the right combinations on the day. It’s not exactly [that] the best players will be on the field, but the best players on the day will be on the field.”

Betham rates Foley’s skills at five-eighth highly: “There are a lot of things of his game that are unseen – his communication skills, his leadership role in the team.”

As for the competition for the NSW wing slots, heightened by Alofa’s push into the starting side after joining the Waratahs squad from the ranks of Shute Shield rugby? “It’s definitely healthy competition,” Betham said. “Having guys like Alofa is refreshing and it adds a different dimension to our back line.”

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Stevie Nicks reveals love of Game of Thrones: ‘It blows my mind’

Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), who Nicks describes as ‘sickly, deeply, sadistically evil’, in Game of Thrones. Photo: SuppliedFleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks has confessed she’s a huge fan of Game of Thrones and wants to write music for the show.
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Nicks told Britain’s Radio Times that after she contracted pneumonia and her mother died in 2011, she became a recluse and was comforted by the HBO drama.

“I didn’t leave the house for almost five months … With my pneumonia and my mother’s death I watched the entire first season of Game of Thrones. That certainly took my mind off everything,” she said.

Nicks thought so much about George RR Martin’s characters and plot that she now wants to contribute to it.

“I would love to write some music for the show. I’ve written a bunch of poetry about it — one for each of the characters. On Jon Snow … on Arya … on Cersei … on Cersei and Jaime, the blonde on blonde … on Khaleesi …

“I’m always looking for that kind of inspiration, and I’m very inspired by it.”

Nicks admires Martin’s ability to create complex worlds with such well-drawn characters.

“The guy who wrote these stories [Martin] is my age now, and I think: how in the world does somebody come up with these 15 or so characters and then everything that’s wrapped around each one of the 15 characters? It blows my mind that he’s able to create this vast, interlinked world.”

Nicks admitted a fondness for many of the show’s female characters – whether good or evil.

“Khaleesi [Emilia Clarke] is my new favourite heroine. And Cersei [Lena Headey] is fantastic. She’s just mean as shit. And you know who else is mean? Not Joffrey [Jack Gleeson] — he’s beyond. He’s just sickly, deeply, sadistically evil. But no, the one that’s going to marry him, Margaery [played by Natalie Dormer]. She is just such a great evil person. And she thinks she is going to be able to handle him. And then you have Brienne of Tarth [Gwendoline Christie] — I love her.”

– Peter Vincent

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Best of Sochi: Day 11GALLERY

Martin Fourcade of France stretches for the finish line next to Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway during the Men’s 15 km Mass Start during day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES Short track speed skaters compete in the Short Track Ladies’ 3000m Relay Final B at Iceberg Skating Palace on day 11 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES
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Tina Maze of Slovenia reacts after a run during the Alpine Skiing Women’s Giant Slalom on day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Marianne St. Gelais of Canada falls while competing in the Short Track Ladies’ 1000m Heat at Iceberg Skating Palace on day 11 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Tina Maze of Slovenia wins the gold medal during the Alpine Skiing Women’s Giant Slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games at Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Taihei Kato of Japan crashes as he competes in the Nordic Combined Men’s Individual LH during day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Nathan Smith of Canada competes at the shooting range in the Men’s 15 km Mass Start during day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

A coaching staff of South Korean short track team celebrate winning the gold medal in the Short Track Ladies’ 3000m Relay Final at Iceberg Skating Palace on day 11 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Armin Bauer of Italy competes during the Nordic Combined Men’s Individual LH on day 10 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Martin Fourcade of France practises at the shooting range in foggy conditions before the Men’s 15 km Mass Start during day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Omar Visintin of Italy (red bib), Pierre Vaultier of France (green bib), Jarryd Hughes of Australia (blue bib), Hanno Douschan of Austria (white bib) and Konstantin Schad of Germany (yellow) compete in the Men’s Snowboard Cross Quarterfinals on day eleven of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Hanno Douschan of Austria (white bib), Luca Matteotti of Italy (blue bib), Pierre Vaultier of France (green bib), Paul-Henri De Le Rue of France (yellow bib), Omar Visintin of Italy (red bib) and Cameron Bolton of Australia (black bib) compete in the Men’s Snowboard Cross Semifinals on day eleven of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Michael Goodfellow and Greg Drummond of Great Britain sweep the ice while playing Norway during the Curling at Ice Cube Curling Center on day 11 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Cameron Bolton of Australia looks on after the Men’s Snowboard Cross 1/8 Finals on day eleven of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Joergen Graabak of Norway leads the pack in the Nordic Combined Men’s 10km Cross Country during day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at RusSki Gorki Nordic Combined Skiing Stadium on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Lavinia Chrystal of Australia makes a run during the Alpine Skiing Women’s Giant Slalom on day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway practises at the shooting range before the Men’s 15 km Mass Start during day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Janne Ryynaenen of Finland makes a trial jump as he competes in the Nordic Combined Men’s Individual LH during day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Vanessa Vanakorn of Thailand prepares to make a run during the Alpine Skiing Women’s Giant Slalom on day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo: GETTY IMAGES


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Why we didn’t see the GFC: OECD admits failures

Among their most prominent thinkers, there is no consensus as to how – or whether – governments in advanced countries can improve lackluster recoveries. All in all, the situation recalls a cruel joke:
Shanghai night field

How many economists does it take to change a light bulb? None. When the one they used in graduate school goes out, they sit in the dark.

Recently, economists at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a retrospective study of its economic forecasts. This qualifies as an act of bureaucratic courage, because the record was predictably dismal. Not only did the OECD miss the 2008/09 financial crisis, but it routinely over-predicted the recovery’s strength. In May 2010, for example, the OECD forecast that the US economy would grow 3.2 per cent in 2011. Actual growth was 1.7 per cent. This is a huge error, and there were larger misses for some European economie as well. 

The OECD wasn’t alone. As the study notes, ‘groupthink’ is endemic among forecasters. The International Monetary Fund, private economists and government agencies — including the Federal Reserve and Congressional Budget Office — all committed similar mistakes.

In explaining its poor performance, the OECD cites three under-appreciated forces.

First, globalisation: The weaknesses of some economies, especially the United States’, depressed other economies through reduced trade and greater financial strains.

Second, fragile banks: Countries with undercapitalised banks fared especially poorly, presumably because the banks lent less.

And finally, economic regulation: Highly regulated societies had a harder time adjusting to adversity than more flexible societies.

All these underestimated factors made forecasts too upbeat, says the OECD. Interestingly, one item not on the list is “too much austerity.” The OECD economists found that they generally hadn’t underestimated the effects of spending cuts and tax increases intended to shrink budget deficits in Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and elsewhere. Greece was a conspicuous exception.

This conclusion is surely controversial because many economists attribute the weak recovery to misguided austerity, especially in Europe. Just follow the advice of John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), they say. When the economy suffers a massive drop in private spending, government should offset the loss by increasing its budget deficits. Europe’s budget cuts were too aggressive, they say, while US “stimulus” policies were not aggressive enough.

Perhaps history will vindicate this appeal to Keynesianism. Or perhaps not. The fact is that the United States did respond aggressively under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It certainly didn’t embrace austerity. Federal budgets ran massive deficits — $6.2 trillion worth from 2008 to 2013, averaging 6.4 per cent of the economy (gross domestic product). Nothing like this had occurred since World War 2. Yet, the economy limped along. Why wasn’t this enough?

It’s not just Keynesianism that’s under a cloud. The same fate has befallen monetarism — the doctrine that stable growth in the money supply can promote a more stable economy. Since 2008, the Federal Reserve has poured more than $US3.2 trillion into the economy to keep interest rates low and accelerate economic growth. By monetarist reasoning, so much money pumped out so quickly should spawn higher inflation. Some economists predicted as much; it hasn’t happened yet. Consumer prices today are up a mere 1.5 per cent from a year earlier.

If you add the last six years of US budget deficits and the Fed’s injection of cash into the economy, the total is approaching $US10 trillion. It’s hard to believe that all this stimulus didn’t aid the recovery, but the fact that it resulted in only modest growth has created an identity crisis for economists. The promise they held out was that, through suitable economic policies, they could produce long periods of stable growth and – just as important – avoid prolonged slumps and lengthy periods of substandard growth. Clearly, they aren’t delivering on this promise.

The Great Recession and financial crisis changed behaviour in fundamental ways that economists have yet to incorporate fully into their models or theories. The widespread faith that modern societies were sheltered from deep and sustained economic setbacks has been shattered, causing consumers, business managers and bankers to be more cautious in borrowing and spending. Economic stimulus may offset this caution, but if it signals that the economy is weaker than expected, it may also further depress private spending. There are countervailing tendencies.

The faith in economics was, in many ways, the underlying cause of both the financial crisis and Great Recession — it made people overconfident and careless during the boom — and the basic explanation for the weak recovery, as stubborn caution displaced stubborn complacency. To regain relevancy, economists are searching for a new light bulb — or better use of the old one. Meanwhile, most are still sitting in the dark.

Washington Post

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Found: the facelift alternative

Age-defying lotions and skin-plumping potions are all the rage today but in 2000, when Maria Hatzistefanis founded skincare business Rodial, her cutting edge anti-wrinkle formulations were ground-breaking.
Shanghai night field

“There was a gap in the skincare market for a product that offered an alternative to cosmetic surgery,” she explains. “Nobody was making products like that.”

Ms Hatzistefanis’ background is in finance, not dermatology. She gave up a well-paid job at Salomon Brothers to spend a year researching the beauty market and meeting scientists. After countless trade shows and unsuccessful meetings in laboratories around Europe, she finally found a lab that could develop the formulas she wanted.

“From day one I always knew that I wanted to make original products, I didn’t want to copy anyone else,” she says. “We are still working with the same lab 14 years later and we still use only original ideas and concepts.”Ms Hatzistefanis started out with a single beauty brand, Rodial, which is sold through high-end retailers, including Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Space NK.

Over the past five years, the entrepreneur has rolled out Nip + Fab, which caters to the mass market. The company has doubled its revenues year-on-year and will turn over £15m in the year to March 2014.Part of Rodial’s allure is the brand’s eye-catching product names. “Some of our products sound scary,” admits Ms Hatzistefanis. “We have Snake Serum, Dragon’s Blood and Bee Venom. They are all very safe but we like to play with the names of our ingredients to create a talking point.”

Products start at £19 up to £375 for Bee Venom 24 Carat Gold Serum.

The company’s love affair with edgy names began with Snake Serum, launched in 2010. “When a snake bites you, it paralyses the muscles,” explains Ms Hatzistefanis. “The main ingredient in our Serum is a synthetic venom, called syn-ake, which performs the same way as viper venom.”

Snake Serum was unveiled with great fanfare. Adverts featured a black viper coiling around the products; Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham were rumoured to be fans and sales skyrocketed.

“There was the occasional person who didn’t like the product because they hated snakes but, mostly, it caused a lot of excitement,” says Ms Hatzistefanis. “So we thought, ‘What shall we do next?’ ”Dragon’s Blood is a bright red resin from a tree native to the Canary Islands and Morocco. The sap has been used for medicinal purposes since the times of the Roman Empire. “It helps to take down redness and irritation and I loved the name,” says Ms Hatzistefanis.

The skin plumping products are marketed as an alternative to dermal fillers, the so-called “liquid facelift”. “We added peptides and hyaluronic acid to make it really high tech and now Dragon’s Blood is our bestselling range.”

Bee Venom completed the animal-themed range. “Lots of customers were asking for it,” says Ms Hatzistefanis. “We took bee venom and the latest stem cell technology to develop a range for more mature skin.”

The business has made other bold moves in recent years. In 2012, the Nip + Fab brand launched a product called Tummy Fix.

According to the e-commerce site’s analysis, 40pc of the people buying the product were men. This convinced Ms Hatzistefanis to start researching the market for men’s skincare.“Women in London spend about £1,500 a year on skincare,” she says. “Men in London spend £1,100 – it’s not that far off.”

The Nip + Man range launched in May 2013. Products include Manotox, the men’s alternative to Botox, the Bicep Fix and the Ab Fix, with Gemmoslim to battle the bulge.

Nip + Man currently represents just 5pc of the company’s turnover, compared with Rodial, which has 55pc, and Nip + Fab with 40pc. “But it’s growing fast,” says Ms Hatzistefanis.

There has been one wrinkle in the firm’s growth trajectory, however. “A couple of years ago there was a big issue with a plastic surgeon who talked to a newspaper and said that our products didn’t do what they promised and could be harmful,” says Ms Hatzistefanis. “That was very shocking.”

Rodial’s lawyers sent a letter to the surgeon asking him to show evidence to back up his claims. A media storm ensued. “People said that we were threatening the plastic surgeon for expressing his opinion. The media called us bullies. Our integrity as a business was in question. Whenever we tried to clarify things, we couldn’t make it right. It was a really dark time.”

It took four months for the situation to blow over. Sales remained stable throughout but Rodial’s relationships with its customer base were sorely tested.

Today, the business is thriving. The products remain a firm favourite of celebrity make-up artists for the likes of Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga, helping to generate positive press for the brand.

The company is expanding its presence in department stores such as Harrods by introducing its own beauty counters. TV shopping is another growth area and airport sales are booming. Bestsellers, or “classics”, are a rarity, with customers demanding a continuous stream of new products.

“Beauty has become more like fashion,” explains Ms Hatzistefanis. “You used to launch a range and then maybe add one product a season. Now, the customer expects something new every six to eight weeks.”As new lines are introduced, poorly performing products are phased out. This is a “brutal” process, Ms Hatzistefanis admits.

A new range called Super Acids, described as an alternative to chemical peels, is due to hit the shops this month, to be followed by a make-up range in September.

After 14 years, Ms Hatzistefanis, who owns 100pc of the business with her husband, still enjoys the cut and thrust of the beauty industry. She has no plans to sell up any time soon.

“There’s so much you can achieve with a skincare product now,” she says. “Just imagine what we’re going to be able to do in 10 years time.”


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