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AFL steps in to fix infighting at Lions

Former Lions coach Michael Voss and club chairman Angus Johnson. Photo: Chris Hyde Leigh Matthews Photo: Getty.
Nanjing Night Net

The AFL has stepped in to try and fix the mess that is the Brisbane Lions board, scheduling a mediation meeting between the warring parties in Melbourne next week.

With the Lions remaining locked in a Mexican standoff following a boardroom coup lead by Paul Williams, Mick Power and former coach Leigh Matthews, AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said there was a need for “high-level intervention” from the code’s governing body.

Current chairman Angus Johnson has refused to step down and the matter had seemed destined for a fiery extraordinary general meeting. But Fitzpatrick wants the matter sorted in a far shorter time period.

“The AFL’s preference was for this matter to be resolved internally through negotiation and compromise but this hope appears to have receded in recent times,” Fitzpatrick said.

“It is crucial that the club’s leadership and direction is settled as quickly as possible to provide the Lions with stability at a time when it is actively planning for the 2014 season and beyond, including the appointment of a senior coach and the development of new facilities.

“As the Lions sign or re-sign key players, recruit members and seek out corporate support, they need a board that is pursuing a clear and united vision for the club.”

Brisbane are in the middle of trying to find a head coach to replace sacked mentor Michael Voss and are also fighting to retain players, with a number of youngsters, including Jared Polec, already leaving the club.

Fitzpatrick said the AFL didn’t want to see the matter end up in front of members at a special meeting, which would be held to decide the fate of the current board.

“It is pleasing to note that the club’s regular operations are continuing as normal, as is the process to identify a new senior coach for the Lions,” Fitzpatrick said.

“But it is the AFL’s belief that the interests of Lions members and supporters are best served by resolving the board dispute as quickly as possible to enable the Lions’ sole focus to be on strengthening the club and its prospects for success, both on and off the field.”

In a statement, the Lions welcomed the move from the AFL and recognised “the importance of stability and is keen to see the matter resolved ASAP”.

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

Warm spring to stoke early-season fire risks

Fires threatened Sydney’s outskirts on September 10. Photo: Nick MoirThe exceptionally warm start to spring for south-eastern Australia is likely to extend well into October, breaking more records and exacerbating early-season fire risks, according to Weatherzone.
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Both Sydney and Melbourne – and much of the nation – are well on course to set record temperatures for September with weather models indicating next month will also be unusually hot, said Weatherzone meteorologist Ben McBurney.

“Our fortnightly models indicate it’s going to be a very warm end to September, so it’s very likely we’re going to see the warmest September on record for Sydney at least,” Mr McBurney said.

Sydney’s maximums this month are running at about 23.6 degrees, well above the long-term norm of 20 degrees, and eclipsing the previous record of 23.3 degrees in 1980. The Bureau of Meteorology predicts days will average about 24 degrees over the next week. Minimum temperatures are also well above previous records.

Melbourne’s maximums are running at about 19.5 degrees, just shy of the 2006 record of 19.7 degrees, but the mercury is likely to reach an average of about 21 degrees or more for the next week. “There’s a good chance they’re also going to break their [September] record as well,” Mr McBurney said.

Central heating

The Bureau of Meteorology said it was possible September would see more monthly records fall.

“The area of most-abnormal warmth has been inland central and eastern Australia,” said Blair Trewin, senior climatologist at the bureau. “A lot of that area has been 4-6 degrees above normal for September to date.”

Alice Springs is running at about 3 degrees above the previous record for September. “It’s just been ridiculous,” Mr McBurney said.

Australia’s record heat over the past year has surprised climate experts, not least because it has occurred in a period without an El Nino weather pattern over the Pacific Ocean, the conditions that typically see national temperatures spike.

Outgoing chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery also highlighted the unusual heat and the early start to the fire season around Sydney on Thursday when he disclosed that the new Abbott government had axed the commission.

Dr Flannery said it remains important that the public continues to get “a reliable, apolitical source of facts” on climate change, a task he said was made harder by the commission’s demise.

Fire worries

Weatherzone’s Mr McBurney said weather models indicate the potential for more early-season fires remains high, particularly in NSW.

“September has been quite hot and our models suggest October will also be very hot,” Mr McBurney said. “The early part of the fire season could be quite bad.”

There could be more potentially bad fire days by the middle of next week, with temperatures likely to approach 30 degrees. “Those westerlies will come in and dry things out again,” he said.

There’s also little sign of rain over the next fortnight for the Sydney region. Melbourne can expect close to average rainfall for September “but the further north you go, it’s pretty dry”, he said.

Melbourne has received about 44 millimetres of rain so far in September, a month that typically sees about 58 millimetres for the city. Sydney’s rain tally of 35.8 millimetres is about half the long-run average of 68.6 millimetres.

As of Friday afternoon, the Rural Fire Service was reporting 19 active fires across NSW with just two of them uncontained.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

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

Sydney auction market braces for big weekend

Antony Lawes’s Hot Auctions: 88 Campbell Street, Surry Hills, About $550,000. 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 0 car spaces. There should be at least eight paddles being waved for this unrenovated terrace, which is on the market for the first time in nearly 50 years. Agent: Ray White Surry Hills, 0438 332 088. Auction: 9am. Antony Lawes’s Hot Auctions: 357 Catherine Street, Lilyfield $1.1 million+. 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 2 car spaces. It’s likely there will be more than five bidders for this double-fronted cottage close to the light-rail station. Agent: Pilcher Residential, 0425 216 043. Inspect: 9.30am. Auction: 9.45am.
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Antony Lawes’s Hot Auctions: 28 Westcott Street, Eastlakes $890,000+. 3 bedrooms, 1 bathoom, 1 car space. About eight bidders are expected for this bungalow in a quiet, convenient location. Agent McGrath Coogee, 0415 647 111. Inspect 11am. Auction 1.30pm.

Sydney is set for another big weekend of auctions, with 565 properties scheduled to go under the hammer.

Though slightly below last weekend’s post-election bumper day, when 637 homes went to auction, this weekend remains well above the same Saturday a year ago, when 504 auctions were scheduled.

Despite the high listing number last weekend, the Sydney weekend home auction market recorded yet another extraordinary result, with a clearance rate of 84.1 per cent.

Sydney’s weekend clearance rate has now exceeded 80 per cent on nine of the past 10 weekends – a rate of 79 per cent was recorded on August 24.

This Saturday, Sydney’s upper north shore is the most popular region for auctions, with 89 scheduled, followed by the inner west with 82, the south with 72 and the city and east region with 71.

Paddington in the eastern suburbs will offer the most properties for sale of any Sydney suburb – eight homes are scheduled to go under the hammer.

A number of suburbs have seven auctions listed, including Strathfield and Marrickville in the inner west, Coogee in the east, St Ives on the upper north shore and Kogarah in the south.

The most popular Sydney suburbs this weekend for unit auctions are Coogee with six, and Randwick and Paddington with five each.

The solid listings numbers again this weekend will present the Sydney spring selling season with yet another stiff test.

However, buyer demand shows no sign of abating so expect more sellers to take advantage of the strongest auction market in 10 years.

Dr Andrew Wilson is senior economist for Fairfax Media-owned Australian Property Monitors.

Twitter: @DocAndrewWilson

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

Michael Mosley’s five biggest health myths

No need to slog it out at the gym: Michael Mosley discovers the benefits of the fast fix. Photo: act\karen.hardyMichael Mosley is arguably the most famous human-health guinea pig on the planet.
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The BBC journalist, doctor and author of the best-selling 5:2 diet has been studying health and the human body for the past 20 years.

But for all his knowledge and self-experimentation, the self-confessed “sugar addict” has not been particularly healthy.

“I needed to be told I was diabetic to change, despite everything I knew,” he says.

Instead of resorting to medication, Mosley decided to get drastic with his diet and see whether he could effect any change.

Turns out he could.

Through intermittent fasting, upping his greens and shifting the way he exercises, he has lost 12 kilograms and his blood sugar has returned to normal. “I can fit into a dinner jacket I haven’t worn since I was 25 and I’m enjoying life,” says Mosley, who was in Australia this week to promote the release of his book in Australia as well as his new BBC documentary series, What’s Your Body Hiding.

The basic concept of intermittent fasting, where for two days of the week you restrict your calorie intake to about 2500 kilojoules a day, is that it gives your body a break from processing food and a period where your blood is not filled with glucose.

The diet, which Mosley insists he was initially sceptical about, is not the only interesting discovery he has made through his research for the series.

Some of the others relate to fairly common knowledge, for instance, that we have to drink two litres of water a day or that eggs raise your cholesterol: “Now we know that’s absolute rubbish,” he says.

Other discoveries are more surprising.

We need five small meals a day

This is “completely, awfully, terribly false,” Mosley says.

The idea behind eating regularly is that we speed up our metabolic rate and prevent the body from going into starvation mode. But the body does the opposite, he says.

The origins of this myth come from a study done in the 1950s, when a group of young men survived on approximately half their normal calories for six months.

They lost significant amounts of weight, but while their body fat went down to 5 per cent they also started to experience significant problems.

Relatively short periods of going without food, however, is a different story, Mosley says, and can have a positive effect on us – physiologically and psychologically.

Doctors know it all

While he was studying to become a doctor, Mosley was surprised to hear that, within 15 years of completing his six-year degree, half of what he had learnt would be out of date.

For this reason, he says, exempting those who are specialists or make a concerted effort to keep abreast of the latest science, many doctors lack knowledge in certain areas.

Nutrition and weight loss is one. In fact, he says during his years of training he was required to attend just one class on nutrition.

Despite this, and although some doctors are open-minded about the latest research, “some are happy to pontificate about subjects they know nothing about”.

He mentions one study comparing various methods of weight reduction where the group who received advice from their GP actually put on weight.

Sugar is the devil in disguise

In a media briefing this week, Mosley said he disagreed with the stance of I Quit Sugar author and host of the event, Sarah Wilson.

“Sugar is one of my greatest addictions,” he acknowledges. “Pretty much every tooth in my mouth has been drilled and replaced. If there’s chocolate or biscuits in the house, I’ll eat them.”

In this sense, he says: “I do generally agree that we eat far too much of it.”

That said, he feels sugar has become a “massive thing” and is wary of being “evangelical” about it.

“Do we know that fructose is as demonising as we say? No, the evidence is contradictory.”

Besides, he believes it’s not about completely avoiding foods, but forgiving yourself when you do falter, being aware of the impact of certain foods and “knowing you’ll be constantly tempted and finding strategies around it”.

Mosley’s strategy involves no longer keeping biscuits or chocolate in the house.

Exercise is the best way to lose weight

“Exercise is a bad form of weight loss,” Mosley says, pointing to research on compensatory eating and relaxing, where “basically you’re knackered, so you sit down” for the rest of the day.

The problem with people believing that exercise is a good way to lose weight is that they get disenchanted and stop doing it, he explains.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t exercise.

According to Mosley, the real benefits are the effect exercise has on insulin sensitivity and aerobic fitness. “Which means a longer and healthier life,” he says.

There’s “preliminary” research that high-intensity interval training burns more fat, so “you will look more gorgeous at the beach”.

But for those who don’t do the recommended daily amount of exercise – about 80 per cent of Australians – Mosley wanted to know “what’s the least you can probably do”.

“One of the gurus I spoke to said you can get most of the benefits from three minutes a week,” he says. “I was absolutely sceptical about it.”

Mosley now does a short, sharp workout, pushing as hard as he can for 20 seconds, taking a break and repeating. The entire thing takes him a measly four minutes.

The effects of these quick hits of exercise persist for up to 36 hours after, he says.

Mosley has also increased his incidental activity. Just taking the stairs and getting up regularly has a surprising impact on fat and blood sugar levels.

“We need to move every 30 minutes,” he says. “Get off your arse and go for a short stroll.”

Everyone needs to eat breakfast

Not true, Mosley says.

He mentions studies where some people, when they are forced to eat breakfast, actually put on weight. “It depends on what your body likes to do,” he says.

Which is why Mosley ultimately believes in becoming your own guinea pig. Depending on our own physical make-up and routine, we reap benefits differently. It’s a matter of absorbing the information and trying it on for size.

But if you’re making a change or trying to break a bad habit, don’t expect to be transformed within 21 days.

“That’s completely made up,” Mosley says. “I’ve looked into it.”

What’s Your Body Hiding? season, from October 6 on BBC Knowledge

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

‘Remember what happened to Skase’

In happier times: John Hancock with his mother Gina and sister Ginia Rinehart. Photo: Supplied A hard man to track down: Christopher Skase fled to Majorca after his business empire crashed. Photo: Supplied
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One of Gina Rinehart’s closest lieutenants in the Hancock Prospecting empire warned her son he would be hunted down like Christopher Skase unless he ceded control of the family’s multibillion-dollar trust to his mother.

Hancock Prospecting chief financial officer Jay Newby sent a series of explosive emails to John Hancock a day after the mining magnate warned her four children they would be bankrupted if the trust was allowed to vest.

In one email, Mr Newby wrote: ”Remember what happened to Skase when he tried to escape being brought back to Australia when bankrupt. The government simply doesn’t let people off for not paying due taxation.”

Christopher Skase became a fugitive when he fled Australia for Spain in 1991 after his business empire collapsed.

In the same email Mr Newby says: ”Please don’t think for one second this means you can enjoy your Thai palace should a court-appointed designate be appointed for your bankruptcy.”

Mr Hancock later received a private binding ruling from the Australian Tax Office that said no capital gains tax was payable by the beneficiaries on vesting of the trust.

Mr Hancock had been living with his family in Thailand in a house he helped build using a loan from Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd (HPPL), which is partly owned by the family trust. HPPL holds the title deed.

In a bitter court dispute, Mr Hancock and one of his three sisters, Bianca Rinehart, are applying to remove their mother as trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, alleging she has acted ”deceitfully” and with ”gross dishonesty”.

A trial is set for October 8, unless they reach a settlement beforehand.

The trust was set up in 1988 by Gina Rinehart’s father, Lang Hancock, with her children as beneficiaries.

It was due to vest on September 6, 2011, when the youngest child turned 25, giving them financial independence.

Three days before, Mrs Rinehart wrote a letter to each of her children warning them they would face a capital gains tax bill that would bankrupt them if the trust was allowed to vest.

Mr Hancock questioned whether the beneficiaries would face a tax bill. He wrote to Mr Newby: ”Nothing I’ve heard makes me believe the CGT fabrication.”

Mr Newby said: ”We don’t take any chances with tax – the stakes are simply too high. You cannot take positions in tax based on incomplete information – the advice considers all relevant matters … The tax position presented in the trustee’s letter is absolutely correct, and is not a basis for negotiation.”

In court this week it emerged that Mr Newby told PwC to prepare two versions of its advice. In one version he requested they remove any reference to the possibility that shares in the family company, which were to be distributed to the children, could be pre-capital gains tax.

In an email sent on September 2, 2011, Mr Newby told PwC: ”I would like the ‘sanitised’ version signed and sent please.” According to an internal email from PwC, this version was ”for provision to the children”.

Mrs Rinehart failed in a last-ditch attempt to stop the trial and send the matter to private arbitration. The attempt to derail the trial came days after Mr Hancock was given access to hundreds of pages of documents between Mr Newby and PwC.

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

Whale rescued at city beach: video, photos

Please enable Javascript to watch this videoSITTING in the back of his rented camper van in the Horseshoe Beach carpark on Friday morning, German backpacker Gerd Wiegmann initially thought his eyes were playing tricks when he saw a ‘‘big black fish’’ swimming in the Newcastle Harbour.
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Rescuers push the whale out into the harbour at Newcastle’s Horseshoe Beach.

The 23-year-old followed the dark shadow around to the popular dog beach and watched it grow larger and larger until a 6-metre juvenile humpback whale came thumping onto the shore.

‘‘It was splashing and jumping around and another guy on the beach ran over to it and was trying to push it back in,’’ Mr Wiegmann said on Friday.

‘‘I went to help as well and there was about four of us trying to turn it around, it was very hard because he was lying on his fin and he was so heavy.’’

The small group – which included University of Newcastle student Xanthe Kerr and father-of-two Hayden Ferguson – successfully pushed the flailing whale off the sandbank and into deeper water.

But their rescue effort was far from done.

During the next half-an-hour or so, the humpback, which the National Parks and Wildlife Service said was likely sick or injured, floundered up and down the shore, attempting to beach itself four more times.

On each occasion the group of rescuers grew larger and more determined, finally standing waist deep in the water to prevent the whale from coming back to shore.

‘‘It swam in circles seemingly very confused and then headed into the deeper water of the main channel,’’ one of the rescuers, Benjie Williams, said.

‘‘The last I saw of it it was headed out through the heads towards the open ocean.’’

Mr Wiegmann said the experience of rescuing a whale was ‘‘incredible’’ and joked his friends back home would not believe him.

‘‘We were very happy when we saw it swimming back to the ocean, people were shaking hands and those on the beach were cheering,’’ he said.

Ms Kerr, who came to the beach to walk her dog, said she was shocked at first but quickly jumped into the water to join the others.

‘‘I always rescue the stray dog in the neighbourhood and take it to the vet, I can’t help myself,’’ she said.

‘‘But I’ve never done anything on this scale.’’

National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Jo Erskine said the whale was possibly ill and would most likely try to beach itself again.

‘‘We’ll keep an eye on it, if it’s beached itself multiple times then there is always a reason for that,’’ she said.

‘‘If it comes back then we would cordon off the area so it doesn’t get distressed and get a vet, someone who is experienced in marina animals to come down and assess it.’’

Whale protection group ORCA member Trisha White urged people to call the authorities if they witnessed a whale beaching.

Nobbys beach lifeguard Travis Lynch said the whale looked injured and may have been attacked by a shark.

‘‘It just looked like it was having trouble swimming, but a few members of the public said that it had puncture wounds so it might have got attacked by a shark or something,’’ he said.

‘‘And it also had damage to one of its fins.’’

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Picture Gerd Wiegmann

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Xanthe Kerr talks with NPWS Ranger Jo Erskine. Picture Darren Pateman

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Xanthe Kerr talks with NPWS Ranger Jo Erskine. Picture Darren Pateman

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. NPWS Ranger Jo Erskine. Picture Darren Pateman

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Xanthe Kerr talks with NPWS Ranger Jo Erskine. Picture Darren Pateman

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. National Parks and Wildlife Rangers at the beach. Picture Darren Pateman

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. Trisha White , ORCA member. Picture Darren Pateman

Scenes from the baby humpback whale rescue at Horseshoe Beach, inside Newcastle Harbour on Friday. one of the rescuers Gerd Wiegmann from Germany. Picture Darren Pateman.

‘Are you man enough for that woman?’: Penis-grabber fined for drunken act

A Bungendore man has expressed his shame and remorse after he grabbed another man’s penis and testicles during a night of drinking at the Royal Hotel, Bungendore.
Nanjing Night Net

Paul Daniel pleaded guilty to common assault in Queanbeyan Local Court on Monday as a result of the incident.

Daniel’s solicitor Christina Lewis said her client couldn’t remember the events of Saturday, June 15 due to his state of intoxication.

According to police, the victim was having a drink at the hotel with his wife, a work colleague and the colleague’s partner.

Daniel, 32, walked up to the victim and his wife who were standing by the fireplace and asked “are you man enough to look after that woman?”

He then stood over the victim in what the police facts described as an “intimidating manner,” before reaching out and grabbing the victim’s penis and testicles.

The victim threw his hands up in shock and said “what are you up to?” before pulling himself away. The defendant released the victim, turned around and walked to the bar.

Local Magistrate Chris Bone described the incident on Monday as a “nasty little offence”.

“This is not a minor offence: it quite easily could’ve been an indecent assault,” Magistrate Bone said.

“In other respects he seems like a decent fellow. This is a man who makes bad decisions after he has had too much to drink.

“Was it a joke? It goes a bit further than that. It’s not someone’s first instinct to act like this; it wouldn’t occur to most people. It didn’t hurt the victim, perhaps it was done to shock him. It doesn’t seem motivated by sexual feeling. I’m not sure if it was done to ridicule him.

“At the end of the day it’s probably safe to say it was most likely an attempt by the accused to try to make the victim look silly in front of his wife.”

Ms Lewis said the assault was “out of character” and wasn’t premeditated.

“My client doesn’t recall that night very well because of his level of intoxication. He is extremely ashamed and remorseful and realises his actions were completely inappropriate and plain wrong,” she said.

“This incident came about after a few too many drinks, it was a night where things got a little bit out of hand.”

Magistrate Bone warned Daniel he was at risk of going to jail, but instead issued the accused an 18-month good behaviour bond and a $1000 fine.

“The main purpose of this is to minimise the chance of offending again,” Magistrate Bone said.

“You’re very, very close to going to jail and you should bear that in mind.”

– The Queanbeyan Age

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

On the inside looking out

Cuban Ambassador Pedro Monzon Barata smoking a cuban cigar. Photo: Melissa Adams Detail from the US Embassy in Canberra. Photo: Travis Longmore
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Cuban Ambassador to Australia Pedro Monzon Barata holding a Cuban cigar. Photo: Melissa Adams

For Cuban ambassador Pedro Monzon Barata, the Cuban cigar is as vital to his happiness as the air he breathes.

Like Winston Churchill, who was rarely photographed without a Romeo y Julieta clenched between his teeth, or JFK – who famously instructed his press secretary to procure him 1200 H. Upmann Petit Upmann cigars one day before extending the US trade embargo in the fierce but tiny Communist country – Barata is an aficionado.

Since arriving in Canberra three years ago, he has maintained a steady supply of the sought-after Cuban exports – extolling their health benefits over cigarettes. ”Cuban cigars are much healthier than cigarettes; they’re all organic, and not that junk that people usually smoke.”

And, at upwards of $30 each – and sometimes hundreds of dollars a pop – they wouldn’t want to be.

The mystique of a genuine Cuban cigar will be experienced by 40 keen Canberrans who will sample a traditional hand-rolled Cohiba or Partagas while they sip on a Mojito – using Havana Club rum, no other – as part of Windows to the World.

Windows to the World is the diplomatic corps’ 100th-birthday gift to Canberra, with 35 embassies and high commissions throwing open their doors to the public in a series of open days each weekend for the next month.

Many Canberrans will relish the chance to sticky-beak inside some of the dress circle addresses and through the lavishly tended gardens on display, with the US and Japanese embassies boasting some of the city’s most enviable landscaping.

The US embassy has perhaps the most famous trees in Canberra, after Eleanor Roosevelt in 1944 began the tradition of planting a tree to mark every auspicious visitor. Five presidents – from Carter to Obama – followed her lead to help make the Canberra landmark the greenest embassy in the world, according to the State Department.

Consider Windows to the World a ticket around the globe in a weekend, minus the jetlag.

A heavy emphasis will be on food – with most embassies promising exotic morsels and a family-friendly day out with dancing, performance and art and crafts on display.

Some know the hospitality drill well, such as the Thai embassy, which already attracts throngs of loyal devotees each year to its food and cultural festival and has forged a warm relationship with a hungry and appreciative city.

For others, such as the embassy of Saudi Arabia, this will be the first time it has opened to the public.

It promises Arab coffee, dates and traditional foods, showing off its small museum of artefacts and allowing children to dress up in traditional robes in what is hopefully the start of a new cross-cultural friendship.

It’s a first, too, for the Cuban embassy, with Barata determined to bring a little of the rum, tobacco, art and music of those steamy Havana nights to Canberra.

While it may have been engaged in protracted battle with the US for the past half-century, Cuba enjoys a warm bond with Australia, which has voted against the US trade embargo since 1996 at the United Nations General Assembly.

Barata says fostering bilateral links across health, trade and education means the job in Canberra is an extremely busy one. ”Canberra is a quiet city, compared with Havana, but there is too much work to ever get bored here,” he says.

His sentiment is echoed across ambassadorial ranks, with diplomats agreeing that their initial perceptions of Canberra as a small and quiet city soon give way to an appreciation of its natural charms, and the need to keep pace in a hustling intellectual and political capital.

Some find it so lovely, they’re loath to leave. Swedish ambassador Sven-Olof Petersson asked to stay on this year – an extra year beyond his five-year posting. His sprawling residence was the third embassy built in Canberra, in 1947, after the British and American embassies.

Many distinctive features, such as the Atvidaberg windows, Kolmarden marble fireplace and copper roofing, were imported from Sweden. But by the time it came to landscaping, the Swedes had run out of money and it was left to Canberra’s revered director of parks and gardens, Lindsay Pryor, to come up with the distinctly Australian feel of the gardens throughout the enormous allotment. ”We are extremely indebted to Mr Pryor,” Petersson says.

Even now, the Swedish embassy maintains a tight budget. Staff is down from five to three, and a full-time gardener has given way to regular lawn-mowing and hedge trimming, with Petersson and his wife Anita happy to take a more active role in the more mundane aspects of gardening, such as weeding. ”You’ll find an ambassador cannot keep his head up in the clouds,” he says, matter-of-factly.

To that end, the Swedes are considering hiving off part of the land they pay $75,000 a year to lease, in order to cut down the costs of operating the embassy.

It could be worse – Petersson has a friend from another European embassy who cannot afford the heating in winter and rugs up to remain inside, and says many are running on very, very slim budgets.

Long-term Canberra resident, Argentinian ambassador and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Pedro Villagra Delgado, says Windows to the World is a good chance to dispel the fanciful notion that life as a diplomat is all champagne and Rolls-Royces.

With the dean title and ceremonial role going to the longest-serving diplomat, Delgado has been here eight years and encourages Canberrans to visit their embassies for a taste of new culture and a more realistic insight into the hard work put in by foreign representatives.

”The thing is … we are posted to the whole of Australia – to 7.7 million square kilometres – so you keep us busy all the time and there is no time to get bored,” he says.

”The impression Canberra gives is it is quiet until you start working and then it is not quiet any more.”

Centenary of Canberra creative director Robyn Archer says the diplomatic corps contributing to the centenary celebrations should be extended as an annual event – to keep the city connected and appreciative of its unique access to the international community.

It’s a concept already supported by the ACT government, with deputy chief minister Andrew Barr saying a permanent Windows to the World program about this time of year could capitalise on the interstate tourism trade in town for Floriade.

Barr, a huge fan of the wildly successful National Multicultural Food Festival, says the opening of embassies en masse would cement Canberra’s status as a truly international city.

”We have more opportunity here in Canberra than anywhere else in Australia to engage with the world,” he says. ”We should do more to celebrate that.”

Windows to the World is a free event over the next four weekends, but places must be booked at windows totheworld 南京夜网.au.

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Big pre-grand final weekend for Melbourne auctions

Hot auction: 2 Abeckett St, Prahran East, Interest about $1.1 million. 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 car space. Adjacent to Orrong Park, the family-size floor plan has enticed about 25 groups through this elevated Edwardian. Agent: Rodney Morley Persichetti, 9826 0000. Inspect: 10.30am. Auction: 11am. Hot auction: 304/576 St Kilda Road, Melbourne $685,000-$730,000. 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 car spaces. About 30 groups have looked through this third-floor apartment in the YVE building, with six taking contracts. Agent: Hocking Stuart, 9690 5366. Inspect 11am. Auction 11.30am.
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Hot auction: 152 Rupert Street, Collingwood $540,000-$600,000. 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 0 car spaces. More than 50 groups have inspected this updated Victorian with a north-facing deck. Two or three bidders are expected. Agent: Nelson Alexander, 9353 8444. Inspect: 1.30pm. Auction: 2pm.

Sellers keen to avoid the grand final next weekend are taking their properties to market this Saturday, with 865 properties set to go under the hammer in Melbourne.

Last weekend was also a bumper weekend for auctions with 841 going ahead – the post-election weekend saw Melbourne host the highest number of auctions since Easter.

The good news for sellers is that last weekend’s solid 76 per cent clearance rate is likely to be repeated this weekend.

Again the inner city leads the auction numbers, with 177 homes set to go under the hammer this weekend. This is followed by the inner bayside with 149, the inner east with 136 and the west with 130.

Melbourne’s most popular suburb for auctions on Saturday is East Bentleigh, with 25 properties listed. Brighton and Glen Iris have 17 each, South Yarra 16 and Brunswick and Richmond 15 auctions each.

South Yarra is again the most popular suburb for unit auctions, with 14 listed this weekend, followed by St Kilda with 12 and Melbourne and East Bentleigh with 11 each.

Melbourne’s weekend auction market continues to clear significant numbers of properties despite high listing numbers. With strong competition for properties continuing, more sellers can be expected to take advantage of the strongest market conditions experienced for four years.

The weekend auction market has stepped up a gear over the past month but it will be presented with another solid test this weekend.

Dr Andrew Wilson is senior economist for Australian Property Monitors.

Twitter: @DocAndrewWilson 

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2013 Phantom Brownlow: Round 7 votes

Round 7 votes for the Age Footballer of the Year award.
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GEELONG v ESSENDON(Jake Niall) Steve Johnson (Geelong) 8 Steven Motlop (Geelong) 8 Mathew Stokes (Geelong) 8 Tom Lonergan (Geelong) 7 Heath Hocking (Essendon) 6

Projected Brownlow:3 – Steve Johnson2 – Steven Motlop1 – Mathew Stokes

PORT ADELAIDE v RICHMOND(Ashley Porter) Brett Deledio (Richmond) 8 Dustin Martin (Richmond) 8 Jack Riewoldt (Richmond) 7 Nick Vlastuin (Richmond) 7 Kane Cornes (Port Adelaide) 7

Projected Brownlow:3 – Brett Deledio2 – Dustin Martin 1 – Jack Riewoldt

BRISBANE LIONS v WEST COAST(Andrew Stafford) Matt Priddis (West Coast) 7 Matthew Leuenberger (Brisbane Lions) 7 Josh Kennedy (West Coast) 7 Pearce Hanley (Brisbane Lions) 7 Shannon Hurn (West Coast) 7

Projected Brownlow:3 – Pearce Hanley2 – Shannon Hurn1 – Matt Priddis

WESTERN BULLDOGS v NORTH MELBOURNE(Rohan Connolly) Jack Ziebell (North Melbourne) 8 Ryan Griffen (Western Bulldogs) 8 Majak Daw (North Melbourne) 7 Brent Harvey (North Melbourne) 7 Nick Lower (Western Bulldogs) 7

Projected Brownlow:3 – Jack Ziebell2 – Ryan Griffen1 – Majak Daw

HAWTHORN v SYDNEY(Greg Baum) Luke Hodge (Hawthorn) 8 Luke Breust (Hawthorn) 7Jarryd Roughead (Hawthorn) 7Josh Gibson (Hawthorn) 7 Josh Kennedy (Sydney) 7

Projected Brownlow:3 – Luke Hodge2 – Jarryd Roughead1 – Josh GibsonFREMANTLE v COLLINGWOOD(Brad Elborough) Michael Walters (Fremantle) 7 Michael Barlow (Fremantle) 6 Dane Swan (Collingwood) 6 Ryan Crowley (Fremantle) 6 Steele Sidebottom (Collingwood) 5

Projected Brownlow:3 – Michael Walters2 – Michael Barlow1 – Dane Swan

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY v ADELAIDE(Andrew Wu) Tom Lynch (Adelaide) 9 Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide) 8 Scott Thompson (Adelaide) 8 Brent Reilly (Adelaide) 7 Matthew Wright (Adelaide) 7

Projected Brownlow:3 – Tom Lynch 2 – Patrick Dangerfield1 – Scott Thompson

MELBOURNE v GOLD COAST(Emma Quayle) Gary Ablett (Gold Coast) 8 Harley Bennell (Gold Coast) 8 Matt Shaw (Gold Coast) 7 Jared Brennan (Gold Coast) 7 Zac Smith (Gold Coast) 7

Projected Brownlow:3 – Gary Ablett2 – Dion Prestia 1 – Harley Bennell

ST KILDA v CARLTON(Michael Gleeson) Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda) 8 Lachie Henderson (Carlton) 8 Ben McEvoy (St Kilda) 8 Jack Steven (St Kilda) 7 Brock McLean (Carlton) 6

Projected Brownlow:3 – Jack Steven2 – Nick Riewoldt1 – Lachie Henderson

THE TOTALS Mathew Stokes (Geelong) 37 Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn) 37 Travis Boak (Port Adelaide) 37 Jobe Watson (Essendon) 34 Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide) 32 Gary Ablett (Gold Coast) 31 Travis Cloke (Collingwood) 31 Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood) 30 Luke Hodge (Hawthorn) 30 Kane Cornes (Port Adelaide) 29 Josh Kennedy (Sydney) 29 Michael Barlow (Fremantle) 28 Matt Priddis (West Coast) 28 Daniel Hannebery (Sydney) 28 Jarrad McVeigh (Sydney) 24 Steve Johnson (Geelong) 24 Harry Taylor (Geelong) 24 David Zaharakis (Essendon) 23 Hamish Hartlett (Port Adelaide) 23 Grant Birchall (Hawthorn) 23 Brett Deledio (Richmond) 22 Dustin Martin (Richmond) 22 Marc Murphy (Carlton) 22 Michael Barlow (Fremantle) 22 Chris Yarran (Carlton) 22 Justin Westhoff (Port Adelaide) 22 Kieren Jack (Sydney) 22

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