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Three Westerners killed in Syria fighting

Washington: Syrian soldiers have killed three Westerners, including an American woman and a British man, both Muslims, in northwest Idlib province near the Turkish border, a monitoring group says.
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‘‘They were shot dead during an ambush in the Idlib region and the army found them with maps of military positions,’’ said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, late on Thursday.

The three had apparently been taking photos of military positions on the road between Harim, near the border with Turkey, and the town of Idlib further south when government troops ambushed them, he added.

The incident happened on Wednesday.

The nationality of the third Westerner was not clear, said Mr Rahman.

A US State Department official, in response to a query from AFP in Washington, said ‘‘We are aware of the case.’’

Czech diplomats in Syria were helping them in efforts to get more information.

‘‘Because of privacy considerations, we are unable to comment further,’’ the official added.

AFP

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Midnight deadline for defence victims of abuse to register with taskforce

Victims of abuse in the defence force are being urged to come forward before tonight’s midnight deadline to register their complaint with a government-appointed taskforce.
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”We are urging everyone to come forward. People are still coming out of the woodwork and we expect there are still many more out there,” said Jennifer Jacomb, a former navy member who runs a group for victims of defence abuse.

”It takes a lot of effort to come forward because you bury it so deep.”

The taskforce will examine individual cases and also advise the government on any systemic problems it uncovers within the Australian Defence Force.

Victims stand to receive up to $50,000 in reparation money. The taskforce, headed by respected former judge Len Roberts-Smith, will also refer cases to police if they believe there is a chance for criminal prosecution.

Adair Donaldson, legal partner with Shine Lawyers, who is representing many alleged victims of abuse, said the taskforce could be one of the last chances victims get to have their voices heard.

”If they don’t register, they may find they don’t get another chance,” he said.

Victims need only register with the taskforce by the midnight deadline, not to give details of their complaints. The cutoff is midnight and the complaints can be registered through a hotline, 1800 424 991 or at [email protected]

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Armed robbery suspect picture released

POLICE have released an image of the suspect in the armed robbery of a Muswellbrook shop on Tuesday.
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The man entered the Bridge Street shop about 7pm and threatened a 19-year-old female employee with a knife before demanding money.

He fled with some items.

He was described as being of Caucasian appearance and 170cm to 175cm tall.

He is shown wearing a grey hooded jumper and blue tracksuit pants with white stripes down both legs.

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Hunter Valley detectives on 6542 6999.

– Image courtesy of NSW Police

Winter Heat set to fire up cold nights

PEACEFUL: Simone Sheridan, from Hunter Development Corporation, and Nicole Hellyer, from Newcastle NOW, with hand-made lanterns, which people will be able to create themselves. Picture: Max Mason-HubersWINTER Heat organisers are promising an “assault on the senses” in Newcastle’s Honeysuckle precinct this month with lanterns, fire performers, drummers and a newly added laneway full of food vendors.
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Newcastle NOW marketing officer Nicole Hellyer and Hunter Development Corporation placemaking co-ordinator Simone Sheridan said the event, in its eighth year, was including a “taste of Honeysuckle” in the lane behind the precinct’s restaurants.

“We’ll be lighting up just outside the Maritime Centre,” Ms Hellyer said.

“It’s going to be vibrant, bright and spectacular.

“It’s going to be an assault on the senses,” Ms Sheridan added.

“The sound of the drums and the fire, and the smell of the food; it’s really going to be quite amazing.”

While in previous years the event was held at multiple locations on multiple nights, this year’s instalment would take over Honeysuckle for one evening in June, Ms Hellyer said.

Newcastle artist Ken O’Regan will host lantern-making workshops in the lead-up to the Winter Heat event.

Mr O’Regan will be near the Maritime Centre tomorrow and every Sunday until June 16, between 10am and 1pm.

The best lanterns will then be used in the lantern parade during the Winter Heat finale event on June 22.

Homeless causes historical: mission

OLD JOLLY ROGER A DRUG SLUM
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DANGER: Discarded needle at the old Jolly Roger in King Street, Newcastle.

CONVERSATION isn’t the best tool to understand how a 36-year-old man ended up living among the rotting ruins of the old Jolly Roger nightclub.

He’s a man of few, often confused, words, but his eyes tell you everything you need to know about him.

The man said he used to earn a solid wage as a builder’s labourer before things turned bad a few years ago.

Since then he has spent his time staying with friends throughout the Lower Hunter and squatting in the city’s derelict buildings.

He has spent two weeks sleeping on a dilapidated couch behind a wall of the former shopping village.

“It’s OK when you don’t have any money,” he said. The man hoped to secure a Department of Housing property next week.

His mate, 28, said he lived at the Hunter Village site a couple of years ago but now had permanent accommodation in Maitland.

“I still come down to visit,” he said.

Wesley Mission chief executive Keith Garner said the causes of homelessness were multiple and varied: “From Wesley Mission’s experience and research there is a strong probability that if you are homeless as a child you are likely to be homeless as an adult and find it difficult to form meaningful relationships as an adult.”

Wesley Mission helps about 10,000 people in the Hunter annually.

“We quite often find that a homeless person needs some of the services, apart from a roof over their heads.”

Gilmour hopes obstacle race has big future

NEWCASTLE Surf Life Saving Club is taking the muck out of the obstacle course craze and bringing it to picturesque King Edward Park tomorrow.
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And it’s all for a good cause.

Mick Gilmour from the Newcastle surf club is the driving force behind the inaugural Surf’n’Turf Obstacle Race, which is putting the city spin on the endurance event phenomenon sweeping the country.

The 5km event through King Edward Park and along Newcastle Beach will include a tyre field run, cargo net climbs, balance beam, commando crawls, hurdles as well as sandbag and log carries. No swimming is involved. Gilmour came up with the idea for the event while running in and around King Edward Park over the past 18 months.

He believed the race was a first because all proceeds from it go to worthy cause – buying lifesaving equipment for the Newcastle Surf Life Saving Club. “This is unique because it is run by a community, a not-for-profit group,” Gilmour said.

More than 300 people had registered online and Gilmour hoped many more would sign up on the day.

He hoped to grow the race into an annual fundraiser for the club.

“At a lot of these events you have to travel to the back of Joe the farmer’s paddock and drive home muddy,” he said. “Here you get to have a shower straight after then go to a nice restaurant or bar nearby. We believe it has a lot of appeal.”

The event is a timed race for teams or individuals starting in waves of 70 people every 15 minutes from 9am.

Food, refreshments, and live music will be available on the day at Newcastle SLSC.

HEAVY LOAD: Mick Gilmour in the heat of battle in King Edward Park.

Rogers on road back to fitness

Canberra’s Michael Rogers will take another step in his comeback to cycling on Sunday when he starts the Dauphine Libere, the lead-up race to the Tour de France.
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Since leaving Team Sky in the off-season to take up a position at Team Saxo-Tinkoff, the 33-year-old has endured more health concerns – firstly with the Epstein-Barr virus, before repeated bouts of tonsillitis.

After making his return with a second place finish at the Tour of California a fortnight ago, the three-time time trial world champion is now confident of a full recovery, but concedes there is a long road still ahead.

”Over the last couple of years my health has been a real sore point for me, and it’s starting to hopefully turn things around, physically.” Rogers told cyclingnews南京夜网.

”But it’s a tough road back. You have three or four months out the sport and you’re so far behind. When you start off already on the wrong foot at the start of the year, it’s hard to progress and to catch up again. I’m slowly getting there. Hopefully for the Tour I’ll be back to my usual self.”

Canberra’s Michael Matthews will also compete, for Australia’s Orica-GreenEdge, having been forced to sit out the Giro d’Italia because of illness.

But Rogers will engage in a tenser battle with Australian Richie Porte. They were teammates on the all-conquering Sky last year, but instrumental in helping Bradley Wiggins to victory in the Tour de France.

This time they will be fierce rivals, Rogers as the main domestique for Alberto Contador and Porte for Sky’s Chris Froome.

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Swifts on course to set record attendance

Sydney is often accused of being a city of fair-weather sports fans but the NSW Swifts are set to break that stigma by setting an attendance record when they host Adelaide Thunderbirds.
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To prove the city doesn’t just love a winner, more than 7000 people are expected at Allphones Arena on Sunday to set a record attendance for a regular-season game despite the Swifts’ horrible form this year.

The Swifts are eighth in the trans-Tasman competition and were only propelled off the bottom of the table after a surprise 19-point win against Northern Mystics last weekend.

Netball NSW chief executive Carolyn Campbell confirmed the pre-sale and membership take-up indicated a crowd well above their record of 6928 set in 2010.

”The NSW Swifts are hugely excited to be on track to break its highest-ever regular home-game attendance record,” Campbell said. ”Sales remain strong this week and we are on course for a crowd of over 7000.”

The lure of another bruising encounter between the Swifts and the Thunderbirds is thought to have led to the spike in interest for Sunday’s game. The two sides met a fortnight ago where the league leaders came from behind to snatch a two-point win against the Swifts in a fiery contest.

NSW’s veteran defender Sonia Mkoloma said the disappointment of letting the match slip from their grasp was a motivation for Sunday.

”It was nail-biting. We are disappointed we didn’t get over the line. We had them by the scruff of their necks, so for us it’s going back to what worked well,” Mkoloma said.

Injured co-captain Mo’onia Gerrard will be given until game day to prove her fitness.

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Origin check-up saved Gidley more pain

A shattered Kurt Gidley has revealed how close he came to playing for NSW despite a serious ankle injury.
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The injury is expected to keep the NSW utility out for the rest of the series, with Gidley likely to miss at least six weeks of action. The news could have been far worse for the Newcastle captain, who had intended to play on Wednesday night despite some irritation in his ankle.

“I was confident going into the Origin camp that I’d be right to play,” Gidley said. “My head doesn’t feel great. My foot feels worse. It’s disappointing for this to happen at this time of year. I was looking forward to getting back into the Origin camp and that environment again. Unfortunately the risk involved playing on with it was too great. If I tore it completely it’s six- to 12-month recovery. It’s not worth it.”

The former NSW skipper damaged the ankle in the early moments of Newcastle’s round 10 clash against Canterbury. Scans did not reveal any long-term damage, so he took on the Warriors last week and had every intention to play his first game for NSW since 2011, after missing the last series with injury.

But more scans after his Origin call-up showed the extent of the problem.

”If we weren’t sent for more scans I would’ve played the Origin game,” Gidley said. ”It’s a bit of a ticking time bomb. All the reports from the doctors said it was OK to play on. If the Origin game wasn’t coming up I would’ve played the club game and we wouldn’t have done any more scans. It was lucky I was in Origin camp and the doctor said let’s go for another scan to make sure. It showed more damage. Lucky I got onto it when I did.”

 

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Confidence Northstars can conquer champs

CANADIAN import Jeff Martens believes the North Stars’ balance across the rink will give them the edge on Saturdayon defending champions Melbourne Ice.
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The North Stars host the Victorians at Warners Bay at 5pm in a replay of last year’s Australian Ice Hockey League decider where Newcastle went down 4-3.

After eight games of the season the North Stars have shown no signs of a grand final hangover and are leading the competition with six wins, including a 2-0 victory over Melbourne two weeks ago.

However, the third-placed Ice are bristling with class.

Canadian forward Matt Armstrong is the AIHL’s leading point-scorer with 22 (eight goals, 14 assists) with fellow imports Joseph Gordon (21 points) and John Gordon (16) third and sixth respectively.

Martens is the leading North Stars point-scorer with 20 (10 goals, 10 assists) and along with import Pier-Olivier Cotnoir (five goals, 10 assists) is the only Newcastle player in the top 20.

Martens said that statistic is proof that the North Stars’ quality is not confined to only a handful of players.

‘‘I think we have a much more balanced team than others,’’ Martens said.

‘‘We have two or three lines that can play regular shifts every night, which helps because we’re fitter and fresher when we go out there.’’

There has been growing hype among North Stars officials that this year’s crop of imports are on par with the foursome of BJ Pelkey, Colin Nicholson, Gabriel Andre and Mickey Gilchrist, which helped win the club’s last Goodall Cup in 2008.

‘‘Whenever you play with new players it’s a struggle at first as you don’t know how the other guys play,’’ Martens said.

‘‘I think now … we’re playing better.’’

Northstars’ Pier-Oliver Cotnoir and Jeff Martens.

Cardiff urged to be more ruthless

CARDIFF coach Adam Dugan has warned his players that improved execution, not past glories, will rescue their floundering Black Diamond AFL season.
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After six matches the one-time competition heavyweights are fifth, with only two wins.

Last week’s 32-point loss to Singleton at No. 1 Sportsground was a low point.

For the past five seasons the club have lost the grand final, but given current form a top-four berth is in jeopardy.

Today the Hawks face the cellar-dwelling Lake Macquarie at Tulkaba Park.

Dugan said his squad cannot expect to dominate like previous seasons.

“The past is not to be taken into account, it’s the future we make for ourselves now,” Dugan said. “We do have a fair few new players to the club, so they certainly can’t look back to the past and our older players probably shouldn’t be either.

“If they have an expectation they can get out of trouble late in games because of past history, well at the moment our execution isn’t allowing us to do that.

“We’re giving away leads and we can’t close the game out and it’s purely down to execution on the park.”

Dugan has drilled the basics into his squad, which is missing about a dozen first-graders with injury.

One player who is unexpectedly available today is Zac Metcalfe.

Last Saturday the halfback was stretchered off and taken to hospital via ambulance after complaining of pins and needles following a heavy bump to his neck. Scans during the week cleared Metcalfe of nerve damage.

In other matches today, competition leaders Newcastle City host Killarney Vale at No.1 Sportsground and Warners Bay face the toughest of road trips against Terrigal-Avoca at Hylton Moore Oval.

Cardiff’s Tim Sheldon in action last week, being tackled by Panthers Jayson van Dam. Picture Peter Stoop

Canterbury confirm Keneally was not linked

Former NSW premier Kristina Keneally never applied for nor received an approach from the Bulldogs about the club’s CEO job, as reported in the Herald on Friday.
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Fairfax Media apologises to Keneally for any distress caused by linking her to the job and accepts that she is very happy in her role as chief executive of Basketball Australia.

It is understood that Keneally contacted Canterbury officials seeking an explanation about how her name became linked to the job.

The Bulldogs announced on Wednesday that Netball New Zealand chief executive Raelene Castle had been appointed to replace Todd Greenberg, who is leaving to take on the new role as NRL head of football.

Castle, who beat a high-quality field of applicants, will officially join the club on July 15.

Canterbury issued a statement on Friday night saying that Keneally, who is also a member of the Souths Cares board, had not applied for the job.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have received $4 million in federal government funding for the next stage of development at Belmore Sports Ground and surrounding areas.

The development includes the construction of an additional 1700 grandstand seats at the southern end of Belmore Sports Ground and the adjoining Peter Moore Fields.

There will also be a community activities centre at Belmore Sports Ground and a performing arts centre at Peter Moore Fields for use by all members of the community.

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POLL: Royal fan remembers 60 years ago

SOUVENIR: Fay Langwill, who was in London at the time of the Queen’s coronation in 1953, with a program of events from the day. Picture Simone De PeakFAY Langwill happily sat for hours in the rain waiting for a glimpse of the ‘‘beautiful young queen ’’on the day of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
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The Merewether Heights grandmother, who is now 83, was just 23 years old at the time and was working as a nurse in London with a group of fellow Australians.

‘‘London was ablaze with flags and excitement,’’ Mrs Langwill said.

‘‘We were lucky to get a seat in Piccadilly. You had to be very lucky to get a seat along the route.’’

About 11am, the moment came.

A 27-year-old Queen made her way passed in an elaborate coach on her way to Westminster Abbey to be crowned.

‘‘People were singing all day long and we were just carried away with the euphoria when the coach came by at 11am,’’ Mrs Langwill said.

‘‘Everyone was cheering.’’

The Queen was crowned at Westminster Abbey in a solemn, ancient ceremony dating back more than 1000 years.

As the Queen celebrates the 60th anniversary of her coronation on Sunday , Mrs Langwill remains a dedicated royalist.

She was part of a guard of honour while working at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney when the Queen visited Australia in 1954 and has dozens of books about the royal family.

The royals will be out in force to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation with a traditional service at the abbey on June 4.

Alongside the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will be the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and more than 20 members of the royal family.

The Duke of Cambridge and a heavily pregnant Duchess of Cambridge will be among the 2000-strong congregation at Westminster Abbey in London on June 4.