Socceroos on brink of World Cup berth

Socceroos succeed. Tim Cahill (Aus) celebrates Lucas Neill’s goal with teamates. Photo: Justin McManus

Australia is so close to a third consecutive World Cup appearance that it can almost taste it. But Holger Osieck, its phlegmatic German coach, is right to remember the old adage that there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip.

After Iraq’s last gasp defeat at home to Japan – Shinki Okazaki’s 89th minute goal giving the Blue Samurai a 1-0 win in Doha in the early hours of Wednesday – the 2007 Asian champions cannot now qualify directly, nor make third place, which would give them a shot at a play-off position.

In theory that should make Australia’s task on Tuesday, when it takes on the Iraqis in Sydney, easier.

But it doesn’t always work out that way. With nothing left to play for, the men from the Middle East may take two approaches to this match. They could treat it as an academic exercise and use it as the first phase of a rebuild towards the 2015 Asian Cup, playing fringe players or youngsters, or they might throw caution to the wind and play with freedom and abandon now that the pressure is off, a tactic that could make them a more difficult opponent.

For Australia the equation hasn’t actually changed all that much. It knew it had to beat Jordan and Iraq after returning from that battling draw in Japan, and it still does.

A win takes the Socceroos to Brazil.

A draw would leave them sweating on the result of the Jordan v Oman match, being played in the early hours of next Wednesday morning. If Australia and Iraq were to finish level the Socceroos would have 11 points from their eight games. Should Oman win in Amman they would move to 12, and take the automatic second position. A draw would leave them on 10 points, and in third spot.

If the Jordanians bounce back and beat Oman the best they can hope for is third place. They would have 10 points (Oman would stay on nine) and even if the Socceroos were to lose narrowly to Iraq, allowing Jordan to go level with them on points, the Jordanians goal difference is so dreadful that Australia would finish ahead anyway.

For Australia fans then, the perfect outcome would be a win in Sydney and a draw or Jordan success in the other fixture.

Bookmakers have the Socceoros as short price favourites to get the job done and, as Osieck and a number of players said after Tuesday night’s demolition of the Jordanians, the team’s confidence has been given a massive boost by the past two performances.

“It was a great team effort. I think our team showed great unity and the score was definitely what we needed in that form. A good margin, a good clean sheet compared to some of the other results. It will definitely give a lot of confidence for the last game against Iraq. We made a big step forward, but we haven’t crossed the finish line.”

Osieck tried to downplay the coming of age performance of Robbie Kruse, the young former Melbourne Victory winger now carving out a career for himself in the German Bundesliga, but the superlatives have rightly been delivered following his tremendous effort against the Jordanians.

Kruse knows the Etihad arena better than most in the Socceroos squad, and he showed himself right at home once more with his best ever performance in a Socceroo shirt, creating two goals and scoring a third. He looks to be one of the keys to future success and has timed his run perfectly.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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US sued over privacy as Snowden disappears

Even before it can work out the how and why of its latest classified leak scandal, the US government is under legal challenge over the constitutionality of its phone surveillance, with the American Civil Liberties Union suing on the grounds that it tramples the rights to freed speech and privacy.

Quoting the First Amendment [free speech] and the Fourth [privacy], the case filed in the US District Court in New York describes the surveillance as ‘vacuum[ing] up information about every phone call placed within, from or to the US.”

At the same time, ACLU and other rights organisations have launched a website – – to protest at widespread surveillance in the name of combatting terrorism.

Last heard from in Hong Kong, the man at the centre of the scandal, Edward Snowden, has gone to ground –– and advice is coming thick and fast on how he might evade American efforts to capture him.

Officials in Moscow said that Russia would consider an asylum application by Mr Snowden and legal experts are warning that he is misguided in his belief that authorities in Hong Kong will shield him from any US dragnet.

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, urged Snowden to head for Latin America, in an interview on ABC TV’s Lateline on Monday evening.

And Mr Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills has blogged recently that ‘sometimes life doesn’t afford proper goodbyes.’

Mr Snowden reportedly checked out of the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong on Monday, as at least two US investigations geared up for the effort to extradite his to face charges over his sensational leaks to The Guardian and The Washington Post of the extent of Washington’s spying on phone and email communications by hundreds of millions of Americans and foreigners. One is being run by the FBI; the other by the National Security Agency.

Mr Snowden says he chose Hong Kong because of its ‘spirited commitment to free speech and the right to political dissent.’ But citing documents showing that Hong Kong cooperated in the CIA’s controversial below-the-radar movement of dissidents around the globe, a process called ‘rendition,’ the New York-based Human Rights Watch, advised the 29-year-old American to move on.

“I certainly would not consider Hong Kong a safe place for him at the moment,” HRW’s emergencies director told The Guardian.

However, it seems that Mr Snowden could buy time, perhaps months, if he opted to stay in Hong Kong – legal technicalities reportedly have rendered the island’s asylum laws inoperable and experts say that all current applicants for asylum are entitled to remain in Hong Kong until the legal anomaly is rectified.

Mr Snowden was an employee of the defence and intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, not directly of the NSA. On Tuesday, the contracting firm issued a brief statement, confirming that Snowden had commenced working for it as recently as March and, in the wake of the leaks, he had been fired.

“Booz Allen can confirm that Edward Snowden, 29, was an employee of our firm for less that three months, assigned to a team in Hawaii,” it said. “Snowden, who had a salary of $US122,000, was terminated on June 10, 2013 for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy.”

Mr Snowden’s 28-year-old girlfriend Lindsay Mills, a ballerina who performs with a Hawaii dance troupe, blogs under the banner ‘Adventures of a world-travelling pole-dancing superhero.’

The site was removed soon after Mr Snowden outed himself as the leaker. But in cached versions, Ms Mills writes: “I don’t know what will happen from here. I don’t know how to feel normal…my world has opened and closed all at once, leaving me lost at sea without a compass – at the moment all I can feel is alone.”

Mr Snowden’s leaks have left Americans reeling in wonder at the illusory nature of privacy in a post-9/11 world. But some are asking where have they been, suggesting that it is the news media’s treatment of the contents of the Snowden leaks that is illusory.

In The Washington Post, the respected columnist Walter Pincus quotes a 2006 report in USA Today, which disclosed that the NSA “has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

“The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans – most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyse calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity…”

Similarly, Mr Pincus pulled out a March 2012 report from Wired magazine, in which author and intelligence expert James Bamford describes the NSA $US2 billion new data centre in Utah and its capacity to ‘intercept, decipher, analyse and store vast swathes of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables in international, foreign and domestic networks.”

Writing about how the centre would operate when it comes on stream at the end of this year, Bamford writes: “Stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails – parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases and other digital ‘pocket litter.’”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Eliza Park echoes Patinack Farm woes

Article from Business Review Weekly

SHE may have retired earlier this year, but there is still no bigger name in Australian racing than Black Caviar, the champion sprinter who won all 25 races she contested.

Black Caviar’s popularity and renown reflects on her family, and perhaps most of all on her dad (or sire, as it’s called in the racing game), the great stallion Bel Esprit.

A former crack sprinter himself, Bel Esprit has sired 377 winners of more than $33 million in prize money, and the link to Black Caviar makes him hot property.

But not hot enough to help the owners of Bel Esprit, the Fleming family.

They are former members ofBRW’s Rich List and the owners of the horse stud Eliza Park.

After putting Eliza Park and its 12 stallions (including Bel Esprit) up for sale in March, the business has collapsed into receivership and is now in the hands of insolvency firm PPB.

Lee Flemingtold BRW in Marchthat he wanted to sell the business to give his 24-year-old son Reis a clean start in the industry.

But it appears the company’s creditors have lost patience, putting the stud – which owns properties in Victoria and Queensland –into the hands of the corporate undertakers.

The business will continue to operate and while the receivers might face some challenges in selling the whole stud as a going concern, there is sure to be strong interest in individual assets – particularly Bel Esprit.

But the collapse of Eliza Park is worrying news for the broader thoroughbred industry and one man should be particularly concerned: Nathan Tinkler.

The former billionaire is currently trying to sell his own racing and breeding operation, Patinack Farm, which has properties in the Hunter Valley and on the Gold Coast, and initial reports suggested he could be looking for as much as $200 million.

But as yet, there hasn’t been a buyer. It’s starting to look like selling Patinack Farm on the“walk in walk out basis” that was initially advertisedis going to be very difficult, based on what we’ve seen at Eliza Park.

While Tinkler’s Hunter Valley property would be highly sought after in thoroughbred circles, and his operation is much larger than that of Eliza Park, there is an argument to be made that Patinack’s stallion roster lacks the sort of star quality of a Bel Esprit.

The market for an expensive, luxury purchase like a horse stud is limited at the best of times. As the Fleming family have learnt, it’s particularly limited in the current economic climate.

Nathan Tinkler will need patience and probably a much more realistic view of Patinack’s value if he is to get a deal done.


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News Corp investors approve split

The split of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has been formally approved by its shareholders.

The global media company is breaking up into two parts – a publishing firm and a film and television unit – and the vote overnight was expected as the Murdoch family holds a majority of the voting shares.

‘‘We are pleased that the proposals have been approved by an overwhelming majority of the outstanding shares, and that our shareholders clearly recognise the anticipated benefits of the separation,’’ Mr Murdoch said in a statement.

‘‘We are on track to complete the separation on June 28 and look forward to launching two new industry leaders.’’

The entertaining firm will be called 21st Century Fox while the publishing company will retain the name News Corp.

The Australian assets of News Corp, including its interests in pay TV provider Foxtel and in Fox Sports, will be included in the publishing unit. It will also include international publishers such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and HarperCollins.

The new News Corp will have $US2.56 billion in cash, including a $US1.82 billion payment from 21st Century Fox, and no debt.

The 21st Century Fox company will include assets such as the 20th Century Fox movie studio, the Fox News Channel and the Fox broadcast TV network.

Mr Murdoch will be the chairman of both firms and the chief executive of 21st Century Fox. His sons, James and Lachlan Murdoch, will sit on both boards.

Australian Robert Thomson, who was the Wall Street Journal’s managing editor, will be the chief executive of News Corp.

Mr Thomson said in an investor briefing in Sydney last week he was optimistic about the medium-term prospects of his company, despite the struggles facing by the newspaper industry amid a decline in revenues.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Scott to headline Australian PGA field

Adam Scott celebrates with his 2013 US Masters green jacket. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Adam Scott after his US Masters win. Photo: Scott K. Brown

Australian PGA Championship organisers have completed a major coup, with US Masters champion Adam Scott confirming he will play in his home-town tournament on the Gold Coast in November.

In a move certain to fill the fairways at the tournament’s new home of Royal Pines, Scott will tee off for the first time in Australia since breaking Australia’s 77-year Masters drought by claiming the Green Jacket at Augusta National.

Scott has already confirmed he will play at Royal Melbourne from November 14 to defend his Australian Masters title but Queensland fans will get the first look at the world number three, whose stocks have soared through the roof since his Augusta triumph.

With the event moving from Coolum to a new base at Royal Pines, they could scarcely have asked for a better drawcard to kickstart the domestic summer of golf.

“To be able to play at home at Royal Pines is going to be a lot of fun. All my friends and family will be out there so it’s going to be exciting way to start,” Scott said as he prepared for this week’s US Open.

“The Gold Coast has been so supportive of me my whole career so it’s a good chance for me to hopefully go out and say thanks to them and play well.

“The PGA is an amazing event – the history of winners there is Australia’s finest and I’d certainly like to put my name on that trophy.”

The PGA will no doubt capitalise on Scott’s inclusion in the field and his name should help them draw some more marquee additions to the Gold Coast.

“The significance of Adam’s victory is immense and we’re very excited to welcome him home to the Gold Coast,” said PGA chief executive Brian Thorburn.

“To have Adam contend our Championship for its return to the Gold Coast is a wonderful opportunity, and we’re sure the fans will come out in their thousands to congratulate Scotty.”

Scott would love to add the Joe Kirkwood Cup to his collection, with his best finish a fourth in 2011. His wins on home turf are the 2012 Masters and the 2009 Australian Open.

Previous winners of the Australian PGA include Kel Nagle, Peter Thomson, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman.

More recent Champions include Geoff Ogilvy (2008,) Robert Allenby (2000, 2001, 2005 & 2009,) Peter Senior (2010), Greg Chalmers (2011) and last year’s Cinderella story, Victoria’s Daniel Popovic.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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