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Brilliant career keeps coming up for heir

Breathing a little easier: Jessica Fox, whose three-month tour of Europe, included a scary moment and great success. Photo: Anthony JohnsonJESSICA Fox is upside down, grasping desperately for her paddle. She is quickly running out of breath as the white water churns around her. She fights the urge to panic. It is July. Fox, 19, and the K1 silver medallist at last year’s London Olympics, is at Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia, for the under 23 world championships. The first outing in a new canoe for the C1 event she is dominating has just met a disastrous and desperate end.
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Natural courses can be more dangerous for canoeists and kayakers with obstacles such as trees and rocks, against the “well rounded bollards and softer features” that Fox says characterise man-made courses such as this one where water levels and force can be controlled, or hands-on help – as she may soon need – can be a rope’s throw away by attendants.

But capsizing as she has while “surfing” a stopper – a wave that will “pull you back in and hold you” – can still be frightening.

“I was dizzy and couldn’t breathe,” Fox said this week at home in Penrith of the moment that led her to think “if I don’t get air in the next two seconds” she would have to unzip from her canoe and face the heavy rush of water that would make the situation “worse before it gets better”.

But after 30 seconds, Fox said she fought the fear, pushed “up from the bottom and got a bit of air” and was suddenly flushed to safe water.

Fox not only handled the ordeal well, but won gold in the C1. It was but one part of a terrific season.

In the World Cup, Fox won the C1 in four rounds. At Tacen, Slovenia she also became the first woman to win the C1 and K1 at a cup round. Then last weekend, she won gold in the C1 at the world titles in Prague, and a second in the C1 team event before her one main setback – not making the K1 final.

But considering her three-month tour was her first with so much racing against opposition 10 or more years older, it was invaluable experience.

“You can’t learn unless you have that racing,” Fox said. “It is when you are on the start line of a final that you know what it’s like.”

Fox, who is studying social science and psychology, has also put plenty of energy into her call for the C1 event to join the K1 on the Olympic program for the 2016 Games. But until the International Canoe Federation ticks off a change in the 4-1 ratio for men’s and women’s events for the C1’s entry, the International Olympic Committee can’t act.

“It’s been a hard battle,” she said. “A lot of people are missing the point why we are pushing it. It’s an event that I’d love to compete in at the Olympics but Australia is pushing for gender equity because it is the right thing to do. It is for the benefit of the sport. It’s for the benefit of women … to get more women involved.

“Some federations say ‘women are not at the level of the Olympics. We are not going to support them until they get to this level’. Some girls have been brainwashed to think they are not good enough, don’t deserve to be in the Olympics. But it’s not about that any more, it’s about equal opportunity.”

Supporting Fox in her campaign and pursuit for white water success are her parents Richard and Myriam who are former Olympic paddlers. Richard, a 1992 Olympian and five-time world K1 slalom champion for Great Britain, is Canoeing Australia’s national performance director. Myriam, from Marseilles in France where Jessica was born and lived until the family moved to Australia when she was five, was an Olympian in 1992 and 1996 – when she won bronze – and a two-time K1 world champion. She coaches Jessica and her 16 year-old sister Noemie.

Jessica’s first sports were swimming and gymnastics but at 12 she took to the white water when advised by her physiotherapist to paddle for rehabilitation from a broken arm in a gymnastics fall. Soon, Fox found “going down rapids was much more exciting than swimming”.

“For a long time I heard ‘You are the daughter of Richard Fox. Are you going to be as good?” Fox said, laughing. “At my first junior worlds in 2010 at France the speaker was saying, ‘Is she going to equal her mum? She was the queen of the water. Is Jessica going to be the princess’?

“I just decided I am my own person. I am different, that is what I told myself. Then when I won the junior worlds. Well, mum never won at junior level. So I am a step ahead.”

Twitter – @rupertguinness

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

Thomas Kelly’s mother recounts his final hours: ‘He suffocated in front of us’

Revealing her torment: Kathy Kelly.The mother of Kings Cross assault victim Thomas Kelly has recounted in detail the final 48 hours of her son’s life, in a speech that left much of her audience in tears.
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“The one thing they don’t tell you about when they finally do remove life support is how a person dies,” Kathy Kelly said at the launch of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation.

“They took the ventilator away and Thomas suffocated in front of us. His heart was beating as strong as an ox and it just got slower and slower until he passed away.”

Mrs Kelly told a packed room at The Star on Wednesday that she knew when the phone rang on July 7 last year that the call had something to do with her son, who was 18 and on his first night out in Sydney when he was king hit in an unprovoked attack.

“As soon as they said it was St Vincent’s and Thomas had been assaulted I just threw the phone at [husband] Ralph … I don’t think we understood how serious the situation was. They were telling Ralph that we both needed to come to the hospital.”

When Mrs Kelly arrived with her husband, they found their son, “a beautiful young man, who was shy, independent”, lying in intensive care. A doctor told them it would take a miracle for him to survive.

“He was very cold, he had his head shaved and there was a very large bandage that said ‘no bone’ on the front of his skull. That’s a very confronting thing to see when your 18-year-old son is lying there and you don’t know what the outcome is going to be.

“We were told that we would have to turn off Thomas’ life support,” she said. “A lot of media said we made that decision but … we didn’t make that decision. It was made for us when Thomas was punched.”

Family and friends who came to the hospital left completely heartbroken, Mrs Kelly said.

“At the very final hours of the day, on a Monday, we gathered together, just the four of us, and we just said goodbye to Thomas in our own way. It’s hard enough for Ralph and I as Thomas’ parents, but for his brother and sister seeing their beautiful big brother die in front of them was a very difficult thing to face and I’m sure it will affect them for the rest of their life.”

The foundation aims to help curb the alcohol-fuelled street violence that robbed the Kellys of their son. It held the launch dinner to raise money for a package of programs to improve street safety at night.

The programs will be known as TK, for Take Kare (TK was also Mr Kelly’s nickname among his friends), and include additional CCTV cameras to be installed in the city and other areas after consultation with police, and the establishment of a “safe zone” in Kings Cross that will offer support services to drunk young people who may be at risk of crime as a victim or offender.

In his speech at the launch, Ralph Kelly said the judicial system also needed to change, to stop “hooligans and cowards” who king hit others from getting off with light sentences. The man who king hit Thomas Kelly that night, Kieran Loveridge, has pleaded guilty to his manslaughter.

Mr Kelly said he had attended a homicide victim’s support group meeting in June, at which 25 families were warned to lower their expectations of the judicial process.

“We were told that night we would not receive justice. If we could all walk away and know that we would be disappointed at the end of the process, then we would come out at the other end far better than we were that night,” he said. “To me that’s outrageous.”

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

Father jailed for ‘vengeful’ killing of Brandon Siaa at Banktown train station

A young father who stabbed a teenager and told him “I run Bankstown, I own Bankstown” has been sentenced to at least 18 years in prison for a “cowardly, vicious, vengeful and premeditated attack”.
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Mosa Julius Mbele, 24, armed himself with a dagger and a hoodie and went to Bankstown train station to confront Brandon Siaa, 16, on May 25, 2011, two hours after the pair had a heated fight about dominance in the Bankstown area.

At 6.48pm, Mbele approached Mr Siaa, slapped him across the face twice and produced a large dagger from underneath his jumper.

Friends tried to separate the pair but, after exchanging some angry words, Mbele stabbed Mr Siaa in the heart so severely that the blade snapped off and Mr Siaa died within minutes in front of his brothers, friends and shocked commuters.

In sentencing Mbele to prison on Friday afternoon, Justice Megan Latham accepted that Mr Siaa had racially taunted him by calling him a “nigger” but she said such provocation “was the consequence of the offender’s own aggression towards the victim”.

Two hours earlier the men, whose animosity arose out of being part of rival Bankstown groups, had traded punches and Mbele had warned that he “owned” the suburb.

Justice Latham rejected Mbele’s argument that he was acting in self-defence during the fatal encounter, saying that “at no stage did [Mr Siaa] threaten him in any way”.

Rather, he stood over his victim “menacingly” and deliberately assaulted and antagonised him because of a toxic mix of his own anger, immaturity and insecurity that Mr Siaa was much larger than him.

“This was a cowardly, vicious, vengeful and pre-meditated attack which was out of all proportion to the petty animosity that existed between them,” Justice Latham said.

She was scathing of Mbele in her judgment, saying that little of his evidence could be taken as credible and he showed no remorse or desire to undertake steps to understand what he had done.

Mbele’s South African parents had little idea of their son’s true character and believed him to be a non-violent boy, she said.

Justice Latham sentenced Mbele to 26 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 18 years.

Dozens of Mr Siaa’s relatives attended the Supreme Court on Friday and cried after the lengthy sentence was handed down.

“The court is acutely aware of the devastating effects on them,” Justice Latham said. “The violent way [in which Mr Siaa was killed] must haunt their daily lives.”

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

The secret lives of us

About halfway through our interview, Canadian actor/director Sarah Polley does a very curious thing. Out of nowhere she asks, ”Are you from Australia originally?” and then spends the next couple of minutes asking me about my own background with apparently genuine interest.
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It’s unusual because, as a rule, interviewees are never interested in the interviewer (which is fair enough – it’s not about us, after all). But then Polley has long ducked conventional expectations and this quirky reversal makes perfect sense when one considers her fascination with families, their stories and how they are told and re-told.

Stories We Tell is an award-winning multi-layered portrait of Polley’s own family and the myth-making surrounding one key event in the past. The story is told in part through interviews with Polley’s siblings, her father, actor Michael Polley, and other family and friends.

At one point, her brother, John Buchan, asks: ”What would you say this documentary is really about?”

Curiously, this key question arises only near the end of the film. And, even now, Polley doesn’t have a neat answer.

”I think it’s something different for everyone,” she says.

It appears that, in a strange way, Polley is still relying on members of the audience to explain her own film to her.

”I feel I discover more of what it’s about by reading what people write about it and hearing people talk about it afterwards.

”I hear much more articulate explanations than I had at the time I was making it or even that I have now,” Polley says.

Stories We Tell is her seventh film as writer/director, in addition to her extensive television and film work. She first shot to prominence in Canada when she starred, aged 12, in 65 episodes of the popular show Road to Avonlea.

It is impossible to outline too closely the central event of Stories We Tell without spoiling it for would-be viewers, but it’s not revealing too much to say the narrative centres on Polley’s mother, who died when Polley was just 11.

Diane Polley was an actress and casting director who captivated pretty much everyone she met with her infectious appetite for life. The story is gradually revealed from multiple points of view through family interviews but also by a mixture of re-staged Super-8 ”home movies” and some genuine footage.

Like Diane herself, Stories We Tell is a film that resists being neatly placed in a category. Is it a documentary, a detective story, a memoir, a family drama … or all of the above?

”The way I thought of it while I was making it was as a hybrid between a documentary and an experimental film,” Polley says. ”I think lots of documentaries now push the boundaries of traditional documentary, so I don’t think this film is original in that sense. I think it fits into a lot of categories. But I find it interesting how so many people see it so differently. Some people see it completely as a documentary and some people don’t see it as a documentary at all.

”I did have a sense that I couldn’t find a model for what I wanted to do. It really excited me, as well as terrified me, that I didn’t have a reference point. I don’t think anyone ever creates anything completely original, but it was as close to original as I was going to get,” Polley says.

In part because of this ambiguity, and also because of the intensely personal and revelatory nature of the story, making the film became an agony of uncertainty for her. It is remarkable that, despite being constantly assailed by doubts over the validity of the project, she persisted with it.

”There was never a moment when I got completely comfortable with the fact I was making the film in the first place,” she says. ”It felt like a real mess to me most of the time. There were so many points of view and we had so much material to work with, it was a pretty bewildering and confusing process right until the end.

”I was telling my husband the whole time I was making it that there was a 98 per cent chance the film would never get finished,” Polley says.

”I just wanted to quit all the time. But I said there is a 2 per cent chance it will get made and I know I will be prouder of it than anything I have ever done, just because of the sheer difficulty of making it.”

A key theme of the film is how, when it comes to stories – big and small – in the lives of families, each family member has their own take on what happened and why.

”At the time I was making it, what was most interesting to me was this idea of storytelling and the many versions made out of the same story,” says Polley.

”And also why we have this attachment to creating a narrative out of our lives and how we deal with the bewildering nature of life by creating stories.”

Polley’s own memory of her mother is hazy, simply because she was so young when she died. But rather than try to establish a ”true” representation of her quixotic parent, she allows each player in the family drama to add their own layer of interpretation of the ”mythic figure”. ”I became really interested in what it means to try and recreate a person through so many images of that person.”

At a purely family level, Polley’s project also came at some personal risk. Old wounds could easily have been reopened. However, in the end, all but one member of the family was happy to take part in the film.

”I was surprised,” admits Polley. ”I think probably the potential risk would be what would attract them, rather than what would scare them away. In that way, they are probably different from a lot of families.”

Still, it was a nervous time for Polley when she finally showed them her work in a series of individual screenings.

”I wanted to hear what they thought and felt before I locked [the] picture,” she says. ”Strangely, nobody had any notes and they were all very supportive. They all felt it was not the story they would have told, but it was the story I was going to tell.

”I was terrified, because I don’t know what I would have done if they had had questions or notes. I don’t think I had thought that through. It was probably the most stressful three weeks of my life.”

In particular, uncovering what turned out to be a big family secret could have taken a severe toll on Polley’s father, Michael. In the end, however, it is he who provides the narrative device through his voiceover to drive along the drama. His response to the revelations is also extraordinary.

”I always knew he saw the world in really unusual ways and not like anyone else,” Polley says. ”But I don’t think anything could have prepared me for how gracious and understanding and empathetic he was.”

■ Stories We Tell opens on September 26.

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

Israeli destruction of Bedouin village puts strain on peace talks

The demolished village of Khirbet Makhoul in the Jordan Valley. Photo: Ruth Pollard Goats huddle in a temporary shelter in the demolished village of Khirbet Makhoul in the Jordan Valley. Photo: Ruth Pollard
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The demolished village of Khirbet Makhoul in the Jordan Valley. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Palestinian village of Al-Zubeidat, overlooking farms located in illegally-built Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Mangled tin lies as if tied in knots on the dusty ground as pigeons try to nest in shattered coups and residents gather near two solar panels – the only structures still standing after Israeli soldiers demolished the tiny Bedouin village of Khirbet Makhoul this week.

Twelve families – more than 100 people – are now homeless and unable to herd their animals, residents say.

Conducted in the shadow of renewed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, and just a day after the most recent visit to Israel by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the demolitions placed further pressure on a process already weighed down by decades of distrust.

The army came without warning at 4.30am on Monday, said resident Yousef Bisharat. “They didn’t even allow us to get our furniture out before our homes were destroyed.”

The Israel Defence Forces also knocked down and confiscated the emergency tents provided on Wednesday by the International Committee for the Red Cross, the 33-year-old herder said.

Describing it as a “despicable and ruthless act,” Mr Bisharat said simply: “We have nowhere else to go”.

The IDF declined to comment on the demolitions, while Israel’s Civil Administration said the structures were illegal because they had been built without a permit.

The demolitions took place after the village unsuccessfully applied to the High Court of Justice to prevent the destruction of homes, the administration told The Jerusalem Post.

But residents say they have the deeds to their land and that they have made repeated efforts to seek building permits from the Civil Administration, only to be denied every time.

It is a dilemma faced by many Palestinians living in what is known as “Area C” in the West Bank, which is under the civil and military control of Israel, human rights groups say.

Last week, Israeli forces raided the Jericho village of Fasayel and demolished residential and agricultural structures, while in the village of al-Zubeidat, Hassan Jerme’s date palms, planted on his land, are the subject of demolition orders.

It is all part of a plan to expand nearby settlements, the governor of Tubas, Rabih Khandakj, told diplomats and journalists in the highly contested Jordan Valley, the site of large swaths of fertile agricultural land and significant water resources.

It starts with a demolition notice, then there is military training, next your home is destroyed and a military camp is erected in its place, and finally, settlement construction begins, Mr Khandakj said.

For Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator in the Israel-Palestine talks, it is a familiar pattern and one threatening the survival of the newly revived negotiations.

“I have never seen it [settlement growth] as intensive as I have seen it now,” Dr Erekat said, indicating that since July 30, settlements were growing at seven times the pace of housing in Tel Aviv.

Declining to comment specifically on the content of the talks, he said: “Is this the behaviour of someone who wants to reach an agreement? Is this the trust that is required to achieve the two-state solution?”

There are 37 Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley with an estimated income of $US612 million last year, Dr Erekat said.

He pointed to past comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he called for Israeli control of the valley for another 40 years.

Israel has always said the Jordan Valley was key to its military security. “It’s not about security,” Dr Erekat said. “It’s about stealing land and profiting.”

Dr Erekat’s claims were dismissed as “grandstanding” by senior Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.

“All the construction that this government has authorised is in Jerusalem and the large settlement blocs, areas where the Palestinians themselves have admitted in the past will be staying part of Israel in [a] final status peace agreement,” Mr Regev said.

“We have serious concerns about Palestinian behaviour. They have their demands but the way to move forward is in negotiations and not through grandstanding,” Mr Regev said.

Since 1967, Israel had severely restricted Palestinian development in the Jordan Valley, which made up 28.5 per cent of the occupied West Bank, the Palestine Liberation Organisation said.

More than 90 per cent of the valley was off limits to Palestinians, the PLO said, forcing many to leave their homes and villages, leaving only 70,000 out of a population of 250,000 before Israel’s 1967 occupation.

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

Pies star Ron Richards dies aged 85

Ron Richards and brother Lou in 1952.Collingwood has paid tribute to one of its ”greatest servants”, after the death of Ron Richards on Friday.
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Richards, the younger brother of football great Lou, passed away after losing a long battle with illness. He was 85.

Richards, a key player in the Magpies’ 1953 premiership side, had also spent considerable time at the club as assistant coach, on the match committee and on the board.

Magpies president Eddie McGuire said Richards was one of the club’s most revered figures.

“In the rich history of the Collingwood Football Club, Ron Richards will always be known as one of its greatest servants,” McGuire said.

“Ron was a member of the Pannam/Richards dynasty, which collectively produced more matches than any other in the game’s history and dates back to 1894, through Charlie Pannam snr.

“Ron distinguished himself in everything he did at Collingwood, be it as a star of the 1953 grand final who had been picked out by Jock McHale for an unaccustomed role on the wing, coach or administrator. Ron was best on ground in the flag triumph, helping his brother Lou, who was captain, to lift the premiership cup.

“Later, as Lou moved into the world of show business and the media, Ron dedicated himself to Collingwood, something he cared for deeply.

”He served as a thirds and seconds coach. He spent time on the board and he sat by the side of Tom Hafey and Leigh Matthews as chairman of selectors. In any discussion of great Collingwood men, Ron Richards – Collingwood life member, AFL life member, legend and premiership star – cannot be overlooked,” McGuire said.

Richards played 143 games for the Magpies from 1947-1956.

The extended Pannam-Richards families pulled on the black-and-white guernsey in more than 930 games, including eight premierships.

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

O’Connor stood down by Wallabies

James O’ConnorO’Connor’s troubles sign of deeper issuesWallabies disillusioned with O’Connor: Sharpe
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The Wallabies will play the Springboks in Cape Town without their most experienced outside back after James O’Connor was stood down for an alleged drunken display at Perth Airport last weekend.

O’Connor was stood down indefinitely on Friday after failing to ”uphold the behavioural and cultural standards expected within the team”, according to the ARU. He will miss the Wallabies’ tough two-week tour of South Africa and Argentina. He was denied boarding on a flight to Bali and escorted from the terminal less than 12 hours after helping the Wallabies claim a narrow win over the Pumas.

While the ARU investigation is ongoing, a statement from the Federal Police alleged O’Connor was ”intoxicated”.

It is understood the 23-year-old has not denied having consumed alcohol but, in a first explanation given to the ARU’s integrity officer earlier this week, claimed that an argument over seating arrangements was the reason he did not board the flight.

The decision means Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie will be forced to start a vastly less experienced player on the wing in place of the 44-Test outside back.

”I’ve basically lost one of my most experienced backs who is playing quite well and replacing him with a player with no [Test] caps … that’s unfortunate but it’s the right thing for the team,” he said.

McKenzie did not nominate a date for O’Connor’s return, saying he would not be forced into making a decision until he was ”satisfied [O’Connor] can once again contribute positively to what we are trying to achieve as a group”.

”The reality is that representing your country is the ultimate honour but also a week-to-week proposition,” he said.

”To be selected, players must consistently do the right things on and off the field. We’ll continue to assess James on that basis before any team decisions are made about a return.”

O’Connor was in negotiations to re-sign with Australian rugby and the Western Force after leaving the Rebels this year. The impact on those negotiations is unclear, with the Force saying this week they would monitor the outcome of the investigation.

McKenzie refused to comment on O’Connor’s contract situation or the details of what the former Wallabies playmaker admitted to doing on Sunday morning, instead saying he had acknowledged he had not conducted himself appropriately in public. McKenzie said ”periodic events” were bringing down O’Connor and the team, and would not be tolerated.

”We’re not getting the right type of behaviour from him,” McKenzie said. ”There’s no doubt since I met with him prior to the start of [the Rugby Championship] he made incremental improvements, but he let himself down at the weekend.”

Waratahs winger Peter Betham will be called into the squad to cover for O’Connor’s absence. Brumbies winger Joe Tomane and Reds winger Chris Feauai-Sautia have also been called in to cover injuries to winger Nick Cummins and fullback Jesse Mogg.

O’Connor’s loss comes at a terrible time for the Wallabies, who are short on wins and experience, but McKenzie said the team’s interests had to be put first.

It also comes less than a month after O’Connor declared he had put past controversies behind him and wanted to be known for his football instead of a string of incidents that have marred a promising career.

He was suspended for one game after missing the Wallabies’ 2011 World Cup squad announcement, was involved in an apparent public scuffle in Paris with teammates Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale the year before, was photographed on a 4am burger run with Beale in a crucial Test week and missed Robbie Deans’ final team meeting as coach after the British and Irish Lions series loss.

”He’s a good footballer, no one disputes that, he’s been doing good things for us and he’s definitely demonstrated change already but he’s tripped himself up,” McKenzie said. ”There’s a track record there of similar types of events. They’ve all been different circumstances, so I think a significant change in behaviour is required.”

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

WORD OF MOUTH: Shootyapooch 

WHEN Jenny Parker met a professional animal photographer in a Gold Coast pet shop three years ago, the Newcastle woman had a life-changing moment.
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Three days later, she registered the business name, Shoot-Ya-Pooch, and joined the growing number of Australian ‘‘petrepreneurs’’.

Her love for animals and her keen interest in photography was the perfect combination to cash in on Australia’s multimillion-dollar pet industry.

She set up a pet photography studio in Wallsend that has been running successfully for the past three years.

Parker said her passion for photography developed while travelling around Australia with her husband in 2009 and 2010. Initially she was taking photos purely to document their travels. Later, she attended photography classes to further develop her skills and found herself being constantly drawn to taking photos of pets for assignments.

“Unlike the other students in my classes, I did not have my own children to practise on.’’

She attributes a good photo shoot to “being able to read the animal’s behaviour, a lot of patience and a few tricks’’ she has learnt over time.

Parker doesn’t just restrict herself to ‘‘pupography’’ either. She has photographed plenty of cats and the occasional bird.

“I’ve also photographed a blue-tongue lizard and a baby python snake and would love the opportunity to photograph Australian wildlife,” she


As the Hunter Animal Rescue’s volunteer photographer, she has photographed almost 300 rescued animals in an attempt to find them a new home.

She is available for shoots seven days a week at her Wallsend studio.

She also works from a studio in Balmain one weekend a month.

The photo shoot takes around an hour and customers receive 10 photographs.

Costs start at $175 for up to two pets, with additional pets costing $25 each.

For more information visit shootyapooch南京夜网

Jenny Parker

THAT’S LIFE: Drink codes hard to swallow

TODAY I want to talk about beverage etiquette – the dos and don’ts of tipple time – on your turf, and out in the field.
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It’s a complicated, nuanced situation, judging by the exuberant response when the topic came up over the water cooler.

We had a quorum (three dudes sharing war stories) and the ball was being batted. It started off with in-laws. ‘‘Don’t get me started’’, was the vibe.

It moved on to spouses – best not to go there, either – before devolving into wine tastes at the dinner table and sponging drinks at parties.

Hello, start your engines.

Seemed everyone had an opinion, an anecdote and a pet hate, often related to

in-laws and spouses – but we weren’t going there, remember?

Top of the list: the freeloaders who turn up thirsty with only a token offering, or worse, nothing at all, in exchange for what you suspect they know you have in the fridge.

It might well be your best friend from primary school, Uncle Barry, or some unsung Samaritan type who resolves to help you for the 14th time since Origin to deal with what they make you feel are your drinking issues, by matching you drink for drink. Nostrovia!

Houston, is there a problem?

Well, not really; it’s called being social, but it can depend on the situation, the invite and possibly a person’s upbringing.

For example, we all agreed if you’re gonna pop around to watch the footy, you bring a token six-pack of something to acknowledge your host’s hospitality. Or, at least, the fact he went to the trouble to get cable TV. There is nothing worthy about turning up dry, unless it’s Ocsober, and by then the finals are nearly over.

Then there is the dinner party scenario. You’ve invited friends or relos over – or, indeed, you’re visiting friends and relos, but you feel from experience their taste in wine is abysmal. Who knows when you became such a wine snob, but it’s happened and now diplomacy will be required.

What to do?

If you’re hosting, do you stash the primo and offer up the dregs from the last time you changed the engine coolant?

There seemed to be a utilitarian inclination not to waste the good stuff on unappreciative palates. Selfless selfishness.

One friend said that when visiting he always turns up with two bottles – one for laying down in the cellar (that is, the crap bottle) and the other for enjoying with dinner (the Grange). He emphasised that he made the distinction clear on arrival in a show of exaggerated graciousness that no doubt reinforced in his hosts that he had a drinking problem.

But at least he was locking in certainty. And, ask any economist, that’s what holds the market together.

It’s a considerate approach in that he anticipates the problems he wants to avoid and gives the innocent criminals an ‘‘out’’.

Savour the good wine with the food and later on we can pour the sump oil over our head when taste buds have gone to hell.

Yes, it’s a complicated neuro-sociological minefield.

And a miracle that people remain friends.

Sometimes you might happen to be the perpetrator.

Maybe not by design, maybe just circumstances conspiring against you.

Sometimes you just can’t get to the bottlo before you arrive.

Maybe someone’s been in your ear about how someone’s got to be the designated driver, leaving you in that corridor of uncertainty as you whistle past a beer barn, rendering you dry on arrival.

Then you discover on arrival that your would-be passenger has decided to drink tea, and maybe it would have been better, as usual, if you had something to with which to overcompensate.

No one wants to be the thirsty person who has nothing to contribute.

Or, worse still, the parasite who prefers instead as the party takes off to suggest to themselves kind of out loud, monologue-like, ‘‘I might have one of these’’, as they delve inquisitively into what suddenly appears to them to be the communal Esky and happen to discover someone else’s Trappist Monastery pale ales.

This has the potential to get ugly, we agreed.

Doesn’t take long in these moments before the communal Eskies become individual Eskies.

Social socialism has its limits, particularly when we’re talking fancy beer – not that anyone is keeping score or taking notice, comrade.

As one person recalled over the water cooler, without wanting to overstate the seriousness of the situation, ‘‘your Esky is your embassy’’.

And, as any international lawyer will tell you, embassies are sovereign areas.

And your beer is essentially Julian Assange.

Touch someone’s beer without a

United Nations mandate and basically you’re a threat to the free world.

Yeah, beverage etiquette is tricky.

You don’t need to drink to be social,

but it seems being social can drive some people to drink.

CRIME FILES: Robert Bretherton

ROBERT Bretherton was capable of better. He was capable of interacting with people, including women, and he was capable of at least appearing ‘‘normal’’ or fitting in, which begs the question: why did he save his worst for Jodie Jurd?
Nanjing Night Net

Bretherton, 38, was jailed this week for 21 years after previously being found guilty by a jury of murdering her. He claimed he was substantially impaired due to an abnormality of the mind when he stabbed the popular nurse 12 times in her Bellbird home on November 16, 2011.

The trial heard from women who had relationships with Bretherton in the 12 months leading up to the crime including one who fell pregnant to him.

Their experiences with Bretherton were in stark contrast to Jodie’s.

Jodie Jurd was born and raised in the Coalfields surrounded by a loving family.

After high school she studied nursing and found work locally before she was introduced to Bretherton at the Cessnock Ex-Services Club in 2001.

She had a group of girlfriends who liked to catch up often and a family that got together for Sunday tea every week.

All of that changed in 2001.

Some of the girlfriends told the Supreme Court they did not see much of Jodie after she met Bretherton.

When Jodie brought her new boyfriend around to meet the family, Bretherton didn’t fit in.

He sat on his own, he couldn’t hold a conversation and he made it clear that not only should he be excused from Sunday tea, but he didn’t see why Jodie should attend either.

‘‘He had no social skills,’’ Jodie’s father, Norm, said.

Jodie defended Bretherton saying he’d had a hard childhood and he couldn’t relate to a close-knit family.

But it wasn’t just Jodie’s family to which Bretherton objected. He shunned her friends, also.

One of Jodie’s friends told the court she was having a chat to Jodie on the phone one day when she heard a noise in the background and the phone was disconnected.

The friend rang back straight away and the phone was answered by Bretherton who refused to put Jodie back on the line then hung up.

He also influenced how Jodie dressed.

Norm recalled the immaculate way she dressed when she wasn’t with Bretherton.

She always took pride in her hair, make-up and clothes, but when she was with him she changed.

‘‘Frumpy’’ was the word Norm used.

A friend told the court Jodie had confided to her that Bretherton controlled who visited the house and was adamant Jodie’s friends and family were not welcome.

Jodie told others that Bretherton was jealous and liked to be the centre of attention.

She said he was more abusive and violent when he was drinking.

The couple moved in together in 2005 or 2006 and over the years they bought the Bellbird property in Cruikshank Street, a property in Queensland and other interests.

It was difficult to gauge the true state of the couple’s finances because even though they owned the properties together Bretherton was secretive and obsessed with money.

He worked weekends at the Wambo coalmine, but had played the stockmarket at times over the years.

He was constantly monitoring Jodie’s finances, but he wouldn’t share anything about his own.

She remarked to friends and family that she didn’t have a clue what he earned or what exactly he owned even though he knew everything about her.

Despite the strain of the relationship the couple tried to have children together without success. They resorted to IVF and it is believed Jodie financed the treatments at enormous expense to herself.

She endured the pain of 10 miscarriages and at least one witness said Bretherton blamed Jodie for being unable to sustain a pregnancy to full term.

Jodie loved Christmas.

She was the proud owner of a homemade collection of decorations and cut-outs that Bretherton destroyed in 2010.

For reasons known only to himself he set them alight in the backyard.

There were stories over the years of tantrums and fights.

Jodie’s mother, Muriel, recalled an incident when her daughter said: ‘‘I have to go home. Rob’s very upset that I’m spending too much time with you … and not enough with him.’’

Then in mid-2010 the couple decided to go on a trip.

The road trip was meant to be for three to five months, but the couple were home within several weeks with their relationship hanging by a thread.

Bretherton had confiscated Jodie’s credit cards to control her spending and seized her mobile phone to stop her from calling friends and family.

She confided to friends that Bretherton was violent and she feared what her family’s reaction would be.

Later that year they broke up.

But with a feeling of helplessness, friends and family worried she would eventually go back to Bretherton and she did.

By early 2011 the couple appeared to be trying to reconcile and intended to seek counselling.

Despite this, Bretherton was trawling dating websites and meeting other women.

Some of these relationships were purely sexual, but at least one was genuine.

It was with a younger woman who had tentatively gone online.

She met ‘‘Aussie Bob’’, as Bretherton called himself, and they agreed to meet in person.

He seemed nervous at first, but eventually opened up and they continued to see each other for a few months, she said.

For a man who couldn’t bring himself to attend Sunday tea with the Jurds, Bretherton was all of a sudden attending family functions with his new flame who could distinctly remember him engaging in conversation with her brothers.

It was perhaps the most damning evidence against Bretherton at the trial.

A man, who claimed he was on the autism spectrum, which he alleged reduced his culpability for the killing, was forming a healthy, loving relationship with another woman and doing the very things he claimed he was incapable of doing.

Bretherton called this new relationship off after about four months, but by then the woman was pregnant.

She later rang him and told him she’d had a miscarriage.

He was devastated.

He bought her flowers. He comforted her.

His reaction was in stark contrast to the way he had treated Jodie.

Throughout 2011 Jodie and Bretherton’s relationship fluctuated.

Friends who saw the text messages Jodie was receiving said they ranged from pleasant to abusive.

Despite their attempts to reconcile and plans to move out of the area together they proceeded to separate their property.

No one knows exactly what the couple fought about on the evening of November 16, 2011.

Bretherton had been drinking and there was paperwork in the house that suggested maybe they fought over the property settlement.

He had previously sent Jodie a message saying that if she did not sign the paperwork ‘‘your life won’t be worth living’’.

Neighbours had heard the couple fight before, but their last one was different.

There were banging noises and yelling before Jodie screamed.

A neighbour rang triple-0 before Bretherton himself did and police arrived at the scene minutes later. Bretherton was found kneeling over the body.

A knife was near Jodie’s feet.

Bretherton confessed to the stabbing immediately and his lawyers tried to convince a jury he was guilty only of manslaughter because of diminished responsibility.

A combination of stresses coupled with autism spectrum disorder and a major depressive illness lowered his culpability, reducing murder to manslaughter, they argued.

The jury must not have been impressed.

A decade of violence, control and manipulation was just too great to overcome.