Court will decide if sailor, 14, is too young

WELLINGTON: A 14-year-old girl fighting Dutch authorities over her desire to sail around the world solo wants to move to New Zealand to continue her dream.A Dutch court will decide today whether to allow New Zealand-born Laura Dekker to become the youngest person to attempt to sail solo around the world.Child protection services are seeking to prolong her court-ordered official supervision.She needs to complete the trip – which she expects to take two years – before she turns 17 on September 20, 2012, to set the record.Child welfare experts have previously raised concerns about her being cut off from parents and peers and other social stimulus or interaction.Last year she raised plans for the voyage to start when she turned 14, and the District Court in Utrecht granted temporary custody of her to the Dutch Council for Child Protection.She asked her municipality to deregister her as a resident so that she could move to New Zealand, where she was born on a yacht while her parents were sailing round the world.”I was born in Whangarei,” she said. ”And of course I have a New Zealand passport.”In December she breached the court order, running away to the Dutch Caribbean island territory of Saint Martin. Police had to escort her back home.An appeals court in May, citing ”great and unacceptable risks”, upheld the first ruling that barred her from setting sail until at least July 1, when the school year ends, and ordered her to remain under supervision.The court said her father ”has a limited appreciation of the risks involved and ”overestimates” her abilities.In a closed hearing on Monday, child authorities asked the Middelburg District Court to extend the supervision by another two months.An Australian, Jessica Watson, completed the voyage in May, arriving in Sydney days before her 17th birthday.Abby Sunderland, 16, an American, was rescued in the Indian Ocean last week after her yacht was dismasted.Agencies
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Genes help but you still need to have a good diet

TWO groups of genes influence longevity. The first are those associated with serious diseases, which centenarians are less likely to have. The second group are longevity enabling genes, which are more likely to be present in centenarians and to influence the rate of ageing.Dr Bradley Willcox is co-principal investigator of the Okinawa Centenarian Study and professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Hawaii. “There are two [longevity gene] superstars: ApoE and FOXO3A,” he says.His team, including twin brother Dr Craig Willcox, has found that a genetic variation (or allele) in the FOXO3A gene is strongly associated with longevity. “About half of centenarians have at least one copy of the protective allele of FOXO3A. If you have two protective alleles of FOXO3A you are 300 per cent more likely to live to be 100.”It is not known precisely how FOXO3A increases longevity. “It mainly acts as a protector against physiological stress. [It] reduces free radical damage, enhances DNA repair, makes the body more energy efficient, helps the body recognise and kill off cancer and other aberrant cells,” says Brad Willcox.A variation in the ApoE gene, which has an impact on cardiovascular disease and dementia, is the only other variant that has also been sufficiently replicated in studies to show that it appears less frequently with advancing age.”There are going to be probably in the order of 100 genes that contribute to longevity. They’ll all have a small effect, and they’ll have different effects in different people,” says Brian Morris, professor of molecular medical sciences at the University of Sydney and Bosch Institute.”But one of the very important findings that has come out of all the research is that someone who has the good genes for long life yet has a bad diet and lifestyle can reduce their chances of living to an old age substantially.”
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Court victory for two Waterfall policemen

TWO former policemen who rescued survivors of the Waterfall train disaster have won a significant High Court victory as they battle for compensation.Senior constables David Wicks and Phil Sheehan were among the first at the site of the 2003 derailment, which killed seven people.They were confronted by horrific scenes, including dismembered bodies, and helped the distressed and injured to safety. Both were medically discharged from the police in 2004.The pair sued the State Rail Authority, claiming they suffered psychiatric injuries due to its negligence. But the NSW Court of Appeal last year upheld an earlier ruling that they could not be compensated because the Civil Liability Act restricts damages for mental harm to close relatives of a victim or those who saw someone “being killed, injured or put in peril”.This did not extend to those who came across the scene after the incident in which people were killed, injured or imperilled, the Court of Appeal found.That ruling was overturned yesterday in a unanimous High Court decision after an appeal by Mr Wicks and Mr Sheehan.The court found it was wrong to assume all cases of death, injury or being in peril were events that ”begin and end in an instant” or last only minutes.Survivors injured in the derailment could have suffered psychiatric injury at the scene or been further harmed as they were extricated from the wreckage.”The process of their suffering such an injury was not over when Mr Wicks and Mr Sheehan arrived … [The survivors] remained in peril until they had been rescued by being taken to a place of safety,” the ruling said.Barbara McDonald, a professor of law at Sydney University, said it was a significant judgment which ”brings down a hurdle” for all rescuers who suffered mental harm.The High Court took an ”absolute commonsense” approach to legislation which had prevented rescue workers or members of the public who encountered the aftermath of an accident from recovering damages for psychological injury, she said.”We’re all dependent on professional rescuers to come to our assistance … so it’s right that they should be looked after if they suffer as a result.”The High Court remitted the case to the Court of Appeal to consider issues of negligence and duty of care, but Mr Wicks said he was ”over the moon” about the judgment. Mr Sheehan described it as ”groundbreaking”, adding: ”There’s some light at the end of the tunnel.”The president of the NSW Police Association, Scott Weber, said the decision ”makes it clear that all emergency service workers, rescuers and volunteers present at a disaster should be given the option to pursue compensation”.
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Nice shelves, pity no books

SCHOOLS will be unable to get full value from billions of dollars worth of new libraries because of long-running declines in staffing and book budgets, teachers and librarians warn.Across the country, 3472 libraries have been funded under the federal government’s Building the Education Revolution program, with a combined value of almost $4 billion.But submissions to a federal parliamentary inquiry on school libraries and teacher librarians warn that the potential benefits of the spending will not be realised unless schools are given extra funding to employ staff and update their collections.”The severe decline in the number of qualified teacher librarians staffing libraries … [and] in school library funding … over the last several decades means that despite the welcome injection of federal funds to library buildings, many new BER libraries will have no qualified librarian and no new books,” the Australian Education Union’s submission says.The Children’s Book Council of Australia echoes this view: ”The billions spent by the federal government on library buildings will not translate into improvements in learning outcomes, unless that funding is accompanied by adequate resourcing, staffing, management and administrative support for those libraries.”The school building program, begun in February last year to create jobs during the economic slowdown, has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement and profiteering by contractors.Yesterday the Herald revealed that a contractor had charged 10 NSW schools an identical amount – $1,303,505.22 – for a prefabricated library, even though they were costed at $850,000.Officials from the federal Education Department will give evidence to the inquiry today.A spokesman for the federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, said that while the government provided funding for schools, the states were responsible for their day-to-day management and staff allocation.
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Crean seeks insurance against Prime Minister

THE Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, has told his senior public servants to improve their connections with other public servants to help him avoid being ”surprised” by his government’s policies.The former Labor leader addressed an ”away day” for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s senior executive service at a Canberra hotel on May 10, eight days after the government revealed its controversial resource super profits tax.He told the 100 or so officials he would have preferred not to have learnt about the contents of the Henry review and the decision to delay the emissions trading scheme from newspapers, sources at the meeting said.They said Mr Crean urged them to establish better connections with officials in other departments so that as their minister, he did not have any more such ”surprises”.The sources said Mr Crean urged the officials to play a bigger role in a broader range of policies with an impact on international economics or trade, to ”play itself in” to policymaking.He said he wanted the department to strengthen its economic and trade analysis and to work more closely with his office.There has been serious disquiet in the cabinet from ministers shut out of crucial decisions by the so-called kitchen cabinet, or strategic budget and priorities committee. These included the decisions to delay the emissions scheme and to adopt the super profits tax.Some ministers have told the Herald the cabinet has been consulted more in recent weeks and that the government has set up a larger cabinet committee to develop policies for the election this year.But many blame the narrowness of the advice – from the committee and the Prime Minister’s office – for many decisions that have backfired and contributed to Labor’s slide in the opinion polls.Last week Mr Crean conceded on Perth radio that the government should have consulted more widely before announcing the new tax.Asked whether consultation should have happened, he said: ”Of course, it should. But it didn’t take place. What we’re now saying is let’s fix it. We will have the consultation. We’ve signalled that, and what we want to do is to get an outcome – to get a result.”Mr Crean declined to comment on the address yesterday.
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Hogan tax trail exposed

THE Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan allegedly committed tax fraud by deliberately misleading both Australian and American tax authorities about his residency status.According to confidential documents released yesterday, the actor, 70, was allegedly in effect ”stateless”, telling the US authorities he was paying tax in Australia while simultaneously telling the Tax Office he was paying tax in the US.The details of Hogan’s allegedly fraudulent tax arrangements were released yesterday after he lost a High Court battle to keep secret 108 pages of confidential advice from the accountancy firm Ernst & Young and his former accountant Tony Stewart.In unanimously dismissing Hogan’s appeal, the High Court also granted access to the Australian Crime Commission’s outline of its case against the actor.The commission alleges that Hogan tried to mislead tax authorities on both sides of the Pacific and did so “with the intention of committing crimes of fraud, including breaches of taxation laws”.One of the undeclared payments being investigated is $5 million paid to Hogan on July 18, 2002. The crime commission classified the payment as potentially a ”sham transaction”.It was paid to Hogan through a complicated series of offshore trusts and through his company Trelene Investments, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands.The $5 million payment was purported to be for the purchase of the rights of Crocodile Dundee IV, a film that was never made.Hogan returned to Australia to live in 2002, before deciding to return to the US in June 2005.According to the crime commission, Hogan was ”stateless” for periods in 2002 and 2005 for the purpose of avoiding tax. During those times, he received millions of dollars from trusts based in tax havens, which he declared to neither country.”In 2002-03 the tax advantage lay in telling the US authorities he was coming to Australia permanently; but in 2005, the tax advantage lay in telling the Australian authorities that he came here only temporarily in 2002. Both cannot, however, be the case,” the commission alleges.Hogan, his business partner John ”Strop” Cornell and the Sydney accountant Tony Stewart, have been accused by the commission of using overseas accounts to keep tens of millions of dollars in profits away from the Tax Office.The three have maintained their innocence throughout a hard-fought, five-year legal battle.In mid-2008, Hogan, who lives in the US and has said he paid Australia more tax than he could have, told the Tax Office to ”come and get me, you miserable bastards”.Fairfax Media, the publisher of the Herald, and Nationwide News asked to see the secret dossier in 2008.Hogan fought the application all the way to the High Court. After the decision yesterday he was forced to pay both companies’ legal costs.It is not known how much Hogan’s challenge would have cost, but as one source said: ”It’ll be a massive whack.”The Ernst & Young dossier was seized along with thousands of other documents during raids on accounting firms and the homes of accountants in 2005.Cornell and Hogan are believed to have made as much as $150 million from the Crocodile Dundee films, which grossed more than $500 million at box offices worldwide.Cornell produced and co-wrote the first film and produced and directed the second one, and shared a company, GB Film Finance, with Hogan.Mr Stewart managed the pair’s huge income between 1997 and the mid-2000s.The Hogan investigation is one arm of the continuing work of Project Wickenby, a joint Tax Office and Australia Crime Commission investigation initiated in early 2006 into overseas tax evasion, money laundering and concealment of income and assets.Fifty-seven people have been charged and almost $500 million in tax collected under the project, according to the commission.
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VIDEO: US may fight Gulf oil spill for years, says Obama

America will be fighting the Gulf of Mexico oil spill “epidemic” for months, even years, US President Barack Obama warned today, as he accused oil giant BP of “recklessness”.
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In the first Oval Office address of his presidency, Mr Obama said he would order BP to set up an independent claims fund and swore not to rest until it had paid for the damage to lives, businesses and shorelines.

Mr Obama, who is determined to hold BP accountable for the largest environmental disaster in US history, said it was time to embrace a ”clean energy future”.

Eleven workers died in the deep-sea explosion on April 20, which set the oil spill in motion.

Pledging to do “whatever’s necessary” to return the Gulf to its natural state, Mr Obama also urged the world’s biggest consumer of fossil fuels to respond to the disaster by accelerating its transformation to renewable clean energy.

“We cannot consign our children to [an oil-dependent] future,” Mr Obama said. “The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.

“Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.”

The President warned that rehabilitation of the Gulf would take years given the nature of the disaster.

“Unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.

“But make no mistake: we will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.”

Mr Obama, who has been fighting public perception that his administration was slow to respond to the catastrophe, said he was committed to a massive clean-up and compensation operation. Plans were unveiled this week for a special fund for compensating victims into which BP could ultimately pay $US20 billion.

He repeated that the National Commission investigating the leak would determine its cause and recommend measures to prevent a recurrence.

It was the first time the President has used the Oval Office to address the nation, a practice resorted to by presidents typically in times of war or national distress.

Former president George Bush addressed the nation from the White House on the evening of the September 11, terrorist attacks. The last time a president chose an Oval Office address to talk about energy issues was in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter outlined a range of measures to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, a goal that failed miserably.

Oil has gushed freely from the BP-operated oil well since April 20 when the Deepwater Horizon rig caught fire after an explosion, and sank two days later.

It has flowed into the sea at an estimated rate of between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels a day, paralysing the fishing and tourism industries of Louisiana and disrupting communities along several hundred kilometres of coastline through Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

“The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face,” Mr Obama said. “This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again.

“What sees us through – what has always seen us through – is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it.

“Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day.”

Source: theage南京夜网.au

Inglis sticks to colours

Greg Inglis has a blunt message for those questioning the motives behind his move to shun his native NSW in preference of Queensland: ”Just move on”.
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Inglis’s decision to represent the Maroons four years ago has been thrust into the spotlight this week, with details emerging that he was motivated by the belief that Queensland provided indigenous players with greater opportunities than NSW.

The revelations followed Andrew Johns’s description of Inglis as a ”black c—” in an address to NSW centre Beau Scott ahead of tonight’s Origin II clash at Suncorp Stadium – a rant that prompted Timana Tahu to walk out on the the Blues training camp in protest.

Last night, NRL Indigenous Council board member Sol Bellear alleged that Johns had also described other Queensland players in derogatory terms.

The Kempsey-born, Bowraville-raised Inglis would not be drawn on the specifics behind his decision to represent Queensland – ”There’s a long story behind it but I don’t want to get into it” – but told NSW in no uncertain terms he would not be changing his mind.

”They can whinge all they want to,” Inglis told the Herald. ”In the end, I’m sticking to my colours and that’s the way I am. I definitely think they should just get over it and move on. I hear they’re still going on about it but I’m not changing my mind and I never will.

”I’m a Queenslander. There’s no doubt about it. My family couldn’t be happier. If they’re happy with it, I’m even happier.”

The controversy surrounding Johns, Tahu and Inglis has provided a fiery backdrop to tonight’s Origin clash – a match NSW must win to avoid a fifth consecutive series defeat.

Inglis, an unwitting component of the furore within the Blues’ camp, moved to Brisbane as a teenager and was eligible for both states. Anthony Mundine, a close friend of Inglis, told the Herald this week that race was a motivating factor behind Inglis’s final decision to represent the Maroons. The claim that NSW provided fewer opportunities to indigenous footballers than Queensland was disputed by Geoff Carr, the chief executive of the NSWRL, but Mundine insisted ”[Inglis] wanted to play for Queensland because that is where they give the boys a go.”

Bellear, meanwhile, has spoken to members of Tahu’s family and believes Johns’s racist outburst extended beyond Inglis and involved more offensive slurs than initially reported.

”I spoke to senior members of Timana’s family and that is my understanding,” Bellear said last night. ”It wasn’t just about Greg Inglis, either.”

Bellear urged other Blues players to speak out about Johns’s rant, and called for an inquiry into the way NSW team management had handled the situation. ”This isn’t a vendetta against Johns, this is a vendetta against racism,” he said.

Johns’s management last night refuted Bellear’s claims.

Winnie gold: Reid rescues Kiwis

New Zealand 1 Slovakia 1
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From villain to hero, Winston Reid did for New Zealand what no one could do for Australia.

Even better, his last-gasp header gave the All Whites a point – their first at a World Cup. History was made as honours were even against Slovakia, who had assumed, with some justification, that they had done enough to win the game.

It was Reid who was culpable as the Slovaks took the lead, but how he redeemed himself. A player with a Maori background and Danish parentage has united a nation, not that New Zealand hasn’t been right behind the All Whites. After this famous, almost unbelievable, result, watch the euphoria build. Incredible.

A journey into the unknown looked like it would have a premature ending until the 93rd minute of an arm-wrestle of a match. But then Shane Smeltz, perhaps feeling guilty after squandering a gilt-edged opportunity, whipped in a peach of a cross, and there was Reid, muscling his way to get on the end of it.

The Socceroos rolled up their tent against the Germans, but the All Whites refused to lay down against the Slovaks. A huge gulf in quality in terms of the opposition, granted. But there is a moral to this story. Don’t get caught up in the hype.

Now New Zealand have given themselves a hope, however slim, of achieving the impossible dream. Getting past the group stage. Paraguay and Italy will offer much sterner tests than the modestly endowed Slovaks. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“This is the biggest stage in the world for football and that has to be the most important goal of my life,” Reid said.

“If you look at the smiles on the guys’ faces, that says it all.

“I thought their goal was offside but they made it tough for us in the second half. So to come back and get the equaliser is a fantastic feeling.”

New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert hailed the point as the greatest result in the rugby-mad country’s football history.

“We came across with the intention to make a difference and we certainly did that against a highly rated team,” said Herbert.

“We are very, very proud. You would have to say this is our best ever result. We have never picked up a point in a World Cup before. We have come and thrown some extremely good punches and got what I thought was a fully deserved result.”

Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss described the late equaliser as a “small sporting tragedy for us.”

“During the match we were the better team, it is just a pity we did not take the opportunities we had.

“The mood in the dressing room is very sad but that is football. We have to cope with the sadness and I hope we will perform well in the next match.”

Ultimately, route one offered the avenue to goal for both teams and that will especially frustrate Weiss, who had clearly done his homework. By pushing three up-front as much as possible, he made it man-for-man against the New Zealand defence, forcing either Tony Lochhead or Leo Bertos to tuck in. Bertos, a danger man, was double-teamed by Marek Cech and Erik Jendrisek whenever he got the ball. And as the All Whites, predictably, lumped long balls into Rory Fallon, it was Slovakia’s tallest defender, Jan Durica, who muscled up.

New Zealand didn’t have too many ideas, but they did have a solution, even if it arrived late. Slow starters, but strong finishers. That the first half had been one of the poorest of the tournament so far wouldn’t have worried the All Whites one bit.

True, there were a few anxious moments, some involving keeper Mark Paston misreading the flight of the ball or, in one case, making an awful mess of a clearance. But the key for Herbert was that after six months of hype, and no doubt serious pre-match nerves, his team had a platform. Some encouraging signs from set pieces and reason to believe.

We’re not in Lennox any more … chasers hit US in hunt for tornadoes

THE six chasers had waited in position for most of the day, just outside the giant hail and rain, buffeted by 55km/h winds screaming into the base of the ”supercell” thunderstorm, feeding its explosive appetite.Then just after sunset, a huge cone forced its way downwards, out of the cloud base, unmistakable even in the low light. It was a large tornado, carving out a path on the Colorado high plains.”We had almost given up and then there it was, tornado,” said Jimmy Deguara, one of a growing number of Australian storm chasers making the pilgrimage to America each year to witness the incredible show.”It’s called Tornado Alley for a reason. It’s the ultimate in chasing, the pinnacle,” Mr Deguara, a high-school teacher in western Sydney, said.A storm chaser for 17 years, Mr Deguara has spent almost every season of the past decade studying severe weather in the US and then bringing his expertise home.He was, for example, able to alert the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to the October 2007 tornado in Dunoon, on the NSW north coast, which blew out the walls of a church, tore the roofs off about 20 homes and caused a power substation to explode, leaving 3000 homes without power.Mr Deguara and five other Australian storm spotters went to the US this month to further hone their forecasting skills.Michael Bath, a forecaster with the Australian Early Warning Network, which provides alerts on severe weather and natural disasters, said US storms were ”on a whole new level”.”It just seemed that everything was perfect for tornadic thunderstorms day after day, the size and scale and how quickly it all happened was awesome,” he said.The Bureau of Meteorology relies heavily on storm spotters – there are about 2000 in Australia – and its severe weather warning service is one of the bureau’s highest priorities.While they are not as intense or as frequent as the tornadoes in the US, the bureau believes they occur more frequently in NSW than people are aware.However, because they often develop in sparsely populated areas, it is difficult to obtain accurate data, with only 383 tornadoes recorded in NSW from 1795 to December 2007. Eight people have died due to tornadoes since 1918.The twister that tore through Lennox Head this month, demolishing homes and flipping caravans, showed only the destructive ability of a weak tornado.The tornado is yet to be classified on the Fujita scale, which rates a tornado’s intensity between EF1 and EF5, based on the amount of damage it inflicts on man-made structures.An EF5 may leave only the concrete foundations of solid buildings and scour asphalt off roads.The only EF5 tornado recorded in Australia was in NSW on January 1, 1970, which left a trail of damage 22 kilometres long and 1.6 kilometres wide through Bulahdelah State Forest, destroying 1 million trees.When these supercell thunderstorms become organised they can produce powerful straight-line winds called microbursts, giant or ”gorilla” hail more than 10 centimetres in diameter and a tornado which can produce winds at speeds of more than 400km/h.They are like an engine in the sky, with a complex system of moving updrafts, downdrafts, inflow and outflow.A tornado is thought to form when horizontal rotation in the atmosphere created by wind sheer above the supercell is bent vertically towards the ground.
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