The US election: what you need to know

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The president is not elected by popular vote but by the Electoral College. The number of Electoral College votes per state is roughly proportional to the population of that state. There are 538 votes in total, so to secure the White House a candidate must win 269 votes plus one for a majority.

The Democrats began the election with an advantage because many of the most populous states are strongly Democrat. According to analysis by the Real Clear Politics website, Democrat President Barack Obama began the campaign with 201 likely votes, Republican challenger Mitt Romney with 191.


By the measure above, this leaves 11 states as contestable; of these, the most valuable are those with the most electoral votes in which the contenders are closest. This year, Ohio, Florida and Virginia are the most crucial, along with North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire.


This also means it is possible to lose the popular vote and win the election. With Mr Obama leading in the Electoral College count so far, but tied in the national polls, many suspect this could happen this year.


Americans are not just voting for their president today. About a third of the Senate is up for election, as is all of the House of Representatives. Early predictions suggest Democrats will maintain their control of the Senate, Republicans the House, prompting fears of further gridlock, whoever wins the White House.


If Mr Romney wins the 2012 presidential election, he will immediately become the president-elect, but will have no formal executive powers until he is inaugurated. He will be inaugurated and take the oath of office in Washington, DC at noon on January 20, 2013. Between the election of a new president and the inauguration, the president-elect will traditionally name a transition chief to manage the administrative tasks of the transition of power. A White House Chief of Staff will be named and cabinet secretaries will be nominated, though they must be approved by a majority vote in the US Senate, which cannot happen until the new year.


Americans will also be voting on various referendums, as well as for state, county and even school board positions. For example, Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpio, famous for his enthusiastic targeting of suspected illegal immigrants and fondness for chain gangs, is up for election.

It is estimated it will take some people 45 minutes just to fill in their ballots.


Each state has its own election laws and regulations, some which make it quite difficult to cast a ballot. Lawyers are already circling in Florida and Ohio, where early voters have been waiting in lines for hours only to see doors closed ahead of them.


New voter identification laws that critics claim benefit Republicans (because voters from minority groups, who are more likely not to have photo ID, are also more likely to vote Democratic) have also caused controversy.

Defending the laws became harder after the Pennsylvania state House Republican Leader Mike Turzai listed as one of his achievements: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”


In Iowa, where this election began with the Republican caucuses in the snows of January, the counting of early votes began in late September, followed days later by other swing states, such as Ohio. Iowa began counting absentee ballots on Monday, the day before the national election. Well over 600,000 Iowans have already voted, a new record for the state, with a plurality of those votes coming from registered Democrats.


Each state sets its own hours for when voting polls are open, but the earliest will begin at 6am in Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Virginia on the east coast. Polls typically close between 6pm and 8pm (Iowa closes voting at 10pm), though judges will order polling places to remain open for longer if there are delays in voting, such as very long lines or malfunctioning equipment.


The media will not announce the winner of a state until the polls in that state close and exit polls should not be treated as reliable – they have missed badly in the past. Considering how close many states are – and the embarrassment media organisations have suffered from calling a state early and then having to rescind that prediction – expect to not know who has won the election until late into the night.

Most likely, there will be no announcement until after 10pm Eastern US time, and it could be much later – perhaps into the next morning.


Gay marriage is a hot issue in the US. Four states – Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington – will have that issue on the ballot tomorrow as state referendums. Gay marriage is already legal in Maryland, but the referendum could overturn it. Maine is voting on whether to allow gay marriage for the second time in just a few years and Minnesota is voting on whether to adjust the state constitution to make marriage strictly between a man and a woman.


Key Senate races to watch are in Indiana, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Missouri. In Indiana, right-wing tea party favourite Richard Mourdock ousted moderate conservative Richard Lugar, a Republican icon, in a bitter party primary months ago. Had Lugar won the GOP nomination he would have held this seat for the Republicans easily, but Mourdock is considered too extreme by many, even in this conservative state.

In Connecticut, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon is a conservative Republican trying to win the seat of the retiring Joe Lieberman, Al Gore’s running mate in 2000. Democrat Chris Murphy is trying to hold the seat for the Democrats and is now favoured slightly.

In Maine, the Republican and the Democrat are both trailing Angus King, an independent candidate and former governor. Although King has no formal ties to either party, he is generally considered more liberal than conservative and the Democratic candidate, Cynthia Dill, running a very distant third place because so many Democrats are voting for King.

In Missouri, Republican Todd Akin, a darling of the tea party and an ardent opponent of abortion, was favoured to take this seat away from the incumbent, moderate Democrat Claire McCaskill. However, Akin turned the race upside down when he defended outlawing abortion even in cases of rape, declaring that the female reproductive system has ways of preventing a pregnancy in case of rape. This is a conservative state that will go for Mitt Romney, but McCaskill is now favoured to keep the seat for the Democrats.

In Massachusetts, moderate Republican Scott Brown won a special election in 2010 to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy, younger brother of the former president and an icon of American liberals. In this deeply blue state, even a moderate Republican like Brown was always going to have trouble and he’s found it in Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law professor and sharp critic of Wall Street shenanigans. Brown led in most polls throughout the summer, but Warren has now pulled ahead in most surveys and is favoured to win a narrow victory, returning this seat to the Democrats.


You will be able to read constant updates from this website’s live election coverage starting at 5am. Alternative sources in the US for specialist coverage include:

Good websites to use to follow the U.S. election are Real Clear Politics, Politico, Associated Press, and CNN.


What are the major policy differences between the candidates?

Taxes and budget

Mitt Romney wants to cut taxes 20 per cent across the board and pay for the measure by closing unspecified tax loopholes. Barack Obama wants tax rates for wealthy Americans to rise, returning to the levels they were at during the Clinton administration, but keep the tax rates for everyone else stable. Mr Romney wants to cut the budget deficit through massive cuts in government spending, though he has not said what he will cut. Mr Obama wants “shared sacrifice”, which means a mixture of budget cuts and tax increases for the wealthy to reduce the deficit.


Mr Romney wants to increase defence spending – about the only part of government that he thinks is under-funded, while Mr Obama wants a gradual reduction in defence spending as he continues his plan to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Mr Romney opposes Mr Obama’s plan to end the war in Afghanistan, just as he opposed Mr Obama ending the war in Iraq.

Social issues

Mr Romney opposes abortion rights and gay marriage and promises to use the power of the federal government to limit or end them. Mr Obama has come out in support of gay marriage and promises to protect abortion rights and contraception. Since the president appoints Supreme Court justices – and those justices decide on the constitutionality of laws covering abortion, gay marriage and many other issues – a president has the ability to shape national policy in those areas for many years after he leaves office.

Health care

Mitt Romney opposes the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the signature legislative achievement of the Obama presidency and one that will guarantee health care access to almost all Americans. Obamacare is modelled very closely on a similar law in Massachusetts signed into law by Mr Romney when he was governor of that state, but Mr Romney says what was suitable for his state is not suitable for the nation as a whole. He will make it his first priority to undo the law.

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No change in interest rates

The Reserve Bank has left interest rates on hold following a robust inflation reading in September, marking the first Melbourne Cup day in six years that rates will remain unchanged.Home loan guide: What it means for youChronology of interest rate moves since 1990
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The cash rate was held steady at 3.25 per cent today, the level it moved to when rates were cut by 25 basis points in October.

The decision to delay further interest rate relief will surprise the majority of economists who anticipated a cut, and disappoint borrowers who were hoping for a rate reduction.

The Australian dollar rose on the decision, moving from $US1.0368 in the moments before the announcement to about $US1.043.

Inflation flagged

The RBA flagged said a rise in inflation during the September quarter, in part due to the introduction of the carbon tax, was one of the factors in today’s decision.

“With prices data slightly higher than expected and recent information on the world economy slightly more positive, the board judged that the stance of monetary policy was appropriate for the time being,’’ said RBA governor Glenn Stevens in the accompanying statement.

“The introduction of the carbon price affected consumer prices in the September quarter, and there could be some further small effects over the next couple of quarters.”

Rochford Capital managing director Thomas Averill said the Reserve Bank was playing “wait-and-see” game by delaying a decision to cut.

“The RBA want to keep some bullets in the gun,” he said.

“If they cut too aggressively and things start to deteriorate, then you have same situation as you have (overseas) where central banks have cut rates so much that monetary policy has become a blunt instrument.”


He said the next decision in December would be another 50-50 call.

Surprise decision

National Australia Bank group chief economist Alan Oster said he was surprised by the RBA’s decision.

‘‘They seem to be saying the world is a bit better, inflation is a bit higher and growth is around trend,’’ he said.

‘‘My initial reaction is that the RBA is going to sit and wait for a little while. I still think they have one more cut to come,” said Mr Oster.

ANZ head of economic research Ivan Colhoun agreed that the Reserve Bank was factoring in previous rate cuts into its decision.

“They are looking at how their past decisions are flowing into the data, which suggests they will be somewhat gradual (with their decision-making),” he said.

He said the bank hinted at the need for other sectors of the economy to pick up in order to offset the decline in resources.

“Reading between the lines, it looks like, if they don’t  get signs that they are picking up, then they would be prepared to ease some more,” he said. “But that would probably be later next year.”

RBA: Benefits to come

The RBA also stressed that the full effect of the 150 basis points in cuts its made since November 2011 had not been be felt by consumers and businesses.

“Further effects of actions already taken to ease monetary policy can be expected over time,’’ said Mr Stevens.

“The Board will continue to monitor those effects, together with information about the various other factors affecting the outlook for growth and inflation.”

With Georgia Wilkins

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House prices struggling

House prices inched higher last quarter and annual growth was barely positive, a sign past rate cuts are having only a tepid impact and an open door to more easing ahead of the Reserve Bank’s rates decision today.
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The Australian house price index rose by just 0.3 per cent in the third quarter, following a 0.5 per cent rise in the second quarter, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Over the year to September, they grew 0.3 per cent following a 2.1 per cent drop.

Economists polled by Bloomberg expected a 1 per cent rise in the quarter, amid firmer auction clearance rates and lower interest rates. In the year to September, analysts forecast a 0.8 per cent rise.

The housing market has sent mixed signals in recent months, with auction clearance rates in Sydney and Melbourne rising, but demand for home loans remains at a 35 year low and new home sales have fallen.

Meanwhile, capital city homes prices fell 1 per cent in October, following a 1.4 per cent increase in September, according to RP Data. In October, home prices fell 0.9 per cent in Sydney and 1.1 per cent in Brisbane.

Commonwealth Bank chief economist Michael Blythe said the market was starting to reflect rate cuts from the middle of the year, but that things were still very patchy.

“There are lags in these sorts of things, so the September quarter data will reflect decisions made mid-year, when latest round of rate cuts began,” he said.

“Then we can expect that improvement in affordability to flow through more clearly.

But he warned that the property outlook was unclear.

“It’s still a very uncertain environment. You still have a range of fears out there about, for example, job security, and global issues are still in the background,” he said.

“Sentiment is still pretty fragile overall. And as we have seen, things can change pretty quickly.”

Macquarie economist Brian Redican said weaker housing growth showed that rate cuts were not having as much of an impact as in the past.

“The Reserve Bank cutting interest rates has removed some of the downward pressure from the housing market,” he said.

“But without investors coming back and looking to re-gear, and indeed with banks reluctant to lend, I don’t think you’re going to get the very strong increases you’d typically have when the Reserve Bank cuts interest rates significantly.”Comment at BusinessDay

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Cockley completes fairytale comeback

BURT Cockley’s brave comeback to first-class cricket has been rewarded with a full-time contract at the Western Warriors.
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FINE FORM: Burt Cockley has earned a full-time contract at the Warriors. Picture: Getty Images

The 27-year-old fast bowler, who spent his formative years with Waratah-Mayfield, spent almost two years out of the game after suffering stress fractures in his back and a knee injury that required reconstructive surgery.

Those setbacks cruelled Cockley’s career just as it was poised to take off.

After only a handful of games for NSW, he was rushed into the Australian one-day squad and was poised to make his international debut against India in Mumbai in 2009, only for the match to be washed out without a ball being bowled.

Within weeks of returning from India, Cockley broke down and did not resume his professional career until moving to Perth on spec at the start of last season.

After consistent form in grade cricket for Midland-Guildford, he was called into the Warriors side for the final three Sheffield Shield matches of the season.

He grabbed his chance, returning figures of 2-47 and 3-65 against Tasmania, 0-36 and 2-46 against South Australia and 4-50 and 3-87 against Queensland.

With fellow Novocastrian Michael Hogan leaving WA to play county cricket for Glamorgan, Cockley had stated an irrefutable case for a contract.

“There haven’t been too many additions to the squad,” Warriors coach Justin Langer said on Wednesday.

“We’re looking to encourage the philosophy that we’ll reward performance not just talent and reputation.

“The guys who’ve been upgraded, [Sam] Whiteman, [John] Rogers, [Hilton] Cartwright and Cockley, deserve it based on their performances last year.”

There was no contract for former Newcastle University all-rounder Josh Anderson, who took a competition-best 47 wickets and helped Joondalup win their maiden first-grade premiership.

Anderson took 4-10 and scored 58 in his team’s triumph against Melville in the final at the WACA Ground.

Knights face Gold Coast giant with axe to grind

A BARRAGE of criticism, including some harsh words attributed to Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett, could leave the Knights in the wrong place at the wrong time when Gold Coast giant Dave Taylor returns to the NRL at Skilled Park on Sunday.
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UNDER FIRE: Dave Taylor will have no shortage of motivation on Sunday against the Knights. Picture: Getty Images

Taylor, one of the competition’s great enigmas, was stood down from Gold Coast’s first-grade squad for two weeks for unspecified issues relating to discipline and commitment.

But after scoring a try and creating two others at the weekend for Tweed Heads Seagulls in their Queensland Cup win against Easts Tigers, the man they call the “Coal Train” has been recalled to the Titans bench for Sunday’s showdown with Newcastle.

And if Taylor’s attitude has come under fire, it is hard to imagine he will not be highly motivated to show his true colours this week.

Not only has the 123 kilogram back-rower effectively been put on notice by Titans coach John Cartwright, but a host of high-profile former teammates have delivered some scathing home truths.

Writing on the NRL website yesterday, ex-Test prop Petero Civoniceva said Taylor, whom he played alongside at Brisbane, was in danger of being remembered as a player who wasted his formidable talent.

“I hate to say it, but Dave Taylor finds himself at a career crossroads at the moment,” Civoniceva wrote.

“For the record, I’ve always been a big Dave Taylor fan [but] . . . Dave is at a point where he has to make a decision about which way he wants his career to go – whether he has the desire to be all that he can be.” Even more cutting was the assessment of another retired champion, Gorden Tallis, who mentored Taylor as forwards coach at South Sydney.

In a recent radio interview, Tallis said Taylor was ‘‘all about himself’’ and suggested that Bennett, under whom Taylor made his NRL debut in 2006, shared a similar opinion.

‘‘I remember bumping into Wayne Bennett and he asked me, ‘How’s Dave Taylor going?’’’ Tallis said.

‘‘I said, ‘He’s going all right’, and he said, ‘He is going to do your head in … he’s the only guy I’ve ever coached that doesn’t have a conscience.’’

All of which must surely have provided Taylor with a power of motivation.

Consistency has never been his trademark, but when he is in the mood there are few players in the NRL capable of causing more damage.

Unfortunately for the Knights, they are likely to be dealing with an opponent determined to prove a point, rather than one just going through the motions.

‘‘He got dropped there for a couple of weeks, but anyone who takes pride in their own performance and pride in their team, they don’t like being dropped from first grade,’’ Knights skipper Kurt Gidley said.

‘‘He’ll certainly be one of those guys. He’s always a danger man, Dave Taylor.

‘‘He’s big and he’s strong and he’s skilful, but it’s about getting a few numbers around him at the same time and not giving him too much space.’’

Even that may not be enough if Taylor is anywhere near his destructive best, and chances are he will be.

Waratahs thrilled as Belgian hits groove

ROOKIE coach Hayden Pedersen was a little circumspect when told that a Belgian international prop was on the way to The Waratahs.
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POWER GAME: Alain Miriallakis tries to force his way through against Merewether last Saturday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

After playing behind a pack which had been heading in reverse for much of the past three years, Pedersen was desperate to add some grunt.

Nudging 110 kilograms, Alain Miriallakis certainly ticked that box.

As for the rest of the package, Pedersen was reliant on a resume that included internationals for Belgium and stints in the US and Canada – not exactly rugby heavyweights – and Canberra.

“Before he arrived I was just going off what we were told and a quick look at his playing history,” Pedersen said.

“I knew he had played for Belgium, but I had no idea how strong they were internationally. He has certainly exceeded my expectations. Now he is here I am very happy.

“We needed to beef up the tight five to help win us some front-foot ball.

“That is what we have lacked in the past few years.

“We have always had strike power in the back line and pretty good loose forwards. Alain, [loose head prop] Josh Afoa and [lock] Tyson Tenari have been key in that area.”

Miriallakis, who has scored two tries in three games, was recruited by the Tahs through last season’s American import, Ben Nelson, who played alongside the 26-year-old Belgian at Kansas City.

“Ben told me the club was looking for some props and I was keen,” Miriallakis said.

“I spent two years in Canberra at Easts previously, really enjoyed it, and when the chance came up to come back I was quick to take it.”

Miriallakis was born in France and played most of his career there, but he is eligible to play for Belgium through his mother.

“I have played between 30 and 40 games for Belgium,” he said. “I started when I was 18.”

He completed the first phase of the 2015 World Cup qualifiers before joining the Tahs.

His last international was a 43-32 loss to Russia in March, which followed Tests against Romania, Georgia, Portugal and Spain.

At just 26, Miriallakis has packed a lot into his career.

He played in France at first-division clubs Aurillac, Villeurbanne, Orleans and Saint Elieme before taking off on a rugby Contiki tour and stopovers in Canberra, Kansas and most recently Montreal.

“I travel around playing rugby. I love it,” he said.

“In Europe it is more about the set piece. Here it is a little bit more about the game.

“Hopefully I can stay here at least another year.”

■ Join me on Fridayat 1pm for a live blog on all things Newcastle rugby.

Also, go to theherald南京夜网.au on Saturday night for scores and a review of the round.

No qualms as Gidley hooks into new role

EVERYWHERE MAN: Kurt Gidley.AT a stage of their careers when most athletes know their roles inside-out and back-to-front, Kurt Gidley is returning to square one.
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After 197 NRL games, 12 Tests and 12 Origins for NSW, the Knights skipper is established as one of the game’s most experienced campaigners.

But the 30-year-old has no qualms about admitting that when it comes to playing hooker, he is still an L-plater.

Gidley, the game’s premier utility player, has spent the past three games as rake after champion Danny Buderus was sidelined indefinitely with a recurring back injury that required a second bout of surgery.

Given Buderus is set to hang up his boots at season’s end, Gidley could well be a dummy-half for the rest of his career.

While the prospect of learning a new trade at such a late juncture might unsettle some, for Gidley it must evoke a sense of deja vu.

After making his top-grade debut as a five-eighth with a lone game in 2001, he has forged a nomadic existence.

Wherever he plays, Gidley rarely puts a foot wrong.

In his first full season in first grade, 2002, he started as a bench-warmer, had a game at centre, switched to pivot and finished the year as fullback.

He spent the next few years playing alongside Andrew Johns at pivot, or filling in at first receiver whenever Johns was unavailable.

In 2007, he moved to fullback and appeared to have finally found himself a permanent home. But Darius Boyd’s arrival last season changed all that.

After Wayne Bennett took the reins, Gidley started at five-eighth before switching to halfback, where the coach hoped he would form a long-term partnership with Jarrod Mullen.

But the impressive form of young playmaker Tyrone Roberts, combined with Buderus’s injury, prompted Bennett to scrap Plan A.

Now Gidley is preparing himself for a new challenge.

While he has played his share of cameos as a bench hooker in representative teams, at club level his experience at dummy-half extends to just five games.

Unsurprisingly, he admits it will take time to learn the hooking craft.

“I’ve only played hooker for different parts of my career, mainly in the rep teams when I’ve come off the bench,” he said.

“So I think there are certainly things I’ve got to learn if that’s the position I’m going to play over the next few years.

“I guess that’s up to the coach and where he sees my best fit being in the team.”

Gidley said he had tailored his training program to cater.

“I think any time you get to play a long time in one position, you get to know that position a bit better and any extras you do after training, you train for that specialised position.

“Whether I’ve played halfback or when I’ve played at fullback, all your extras revolve around what you do for the team or the finer skills of that position.

“If I know I’m going to be playing hooker, I’ll obviously get in and do the things I need to work on.”

Former Knights coach Michael Hagan, under whom Gidley made his debut in 2001, had no doubt the matchwinner would handle the transition.

“It might take him a bit of time to come to grips with the extra workload and fatigue, but he’s certainly got the skill set to do it,” Hagan said yesterday.

“Physically he’s fit enough to cope with the defensive stuff. And when he’s played that role in the past for NSW, coming off the bench, he’s been one their most dangerous players despite getting limited time.

“I guess Kurt’s a victim of his own versatility, but he always puts the team first.

“And at the end of the day you just need him out there around the ball.”

For Gidley, a change is as good as a holiday.

“As long as I’m out on the field and part of it, then I’m happy wherever I am in the team,” he said.

“If that’s hooker for when Bedsy moves on, then I’m comfortable with that.

“My job is to do the best job I can wherever Wayne has me in the team, and it’s been hooker the past few weeks. I’ve enjoyed it.”

League pioneer a true hero of war

NEWCASTLE rugby league pioneer Stan Carpenter was a hero.
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ANZAC SPIRIT: Stan Carpenter, second from right in the front row, with the Combined Hunter and Northern side of 1911.

Not the type of so-called “hero” who scores a grand final-winning try, but the genuine kind.

While the South Newcastle hooker or second-rower was a gifted athlete and captained Newcastle in the inaugural season of the NSW Rugby League in 1908, his war-time deeds set him apart.

On this ANZAC day98 years ago, Carpenter became one of the original Anzacs when he arrived on the beach at Gallipoli with the 2nd Battalion to face heavy fire from Turkish troops.

While rugby league people often rave about the courage of footballers to take the collisions and play injured, Carpenter truly put his life on the line. Four times at Gallipoli, he ran out onto the exposed beach to rescue wounded countrymen, all the while under enemy fire.

His deeds led to a recommendation for a Victoria Cross.

After the failed Gallipoli campaign, Carpenter was posted to the Western Front, where he twice crossed into “no-man’s land” to rescue wounded soldiers.

The Newcastle coalminer received a second Victoria Cross recommendation and finished World War I with two distinguished service medals.

After the war he returned to Souths, where he continued to play rugby league before moving up the coast.

Carpenter died in 1962 aged 83.

Newcastle Rugby League board member Steve Doran said Carpenter’s story had no parallel in rugby league.

“I think he’s the most decorated rugby league player who’s been in either of the wars,” Doran said.

Politics had prevented Carpenter from receiving a Victoria Cross.

“Maybe because he was Australian and the English didn’t like giving out VCs to the colonials,” Doran said.

“He certainly got two medals just down from a VC, and there wouldn’t be too many guys with that.”

Only last month Carpenter and Central Newcastle halfback Ernie Patfield were recognised as Test players after the match they played in between Australia and a New Zealand Maori side in 1909 was finally given international status.

The Hunter Hall of Fame and Souths team of the century member also played in the great Combined Hunter and Northern side of 1911, which went on tour and beat Metropolis Sydney 31-24 and Queensland three times in Brisbane, 19-9, 26-14 and 10-8.

Smith backs Kiwis to defend World Cup

SUSPENDED Knights enforcer Jeremy Smith saw enough in New Zealand’s performance against Australia at Canberra Stadium last Friday night to feel buoyant about the Kiwis’ chances of defending their World Cup crown in England in November.
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Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Benji Marshall and Simon Mannering were among the big names missing for the Kiwis, who held Australia to 6-6 at half-time before succumbing 32-12.

The Kiwis have not won an Anzac Test against Australia since 1998 but traditionally save their best for tournament play, as was the case when they shocked the Kangaroos to win the last World Cup in 2008 and the 2010 Four Nations trophy.

“There were some encouraging signs there and I thought the Aussies got a couple of lucky tries, I suppose, and made the score out to be what the game really wasn’t,” said Smith, who played in the victorious New Zealand team in the 2008 World Cup and 2010 Four Nations finals.

“It was a tough, physical game and the boys stepped up, so I’m looking forward to the end of the year, definitely,” he said.

■ Smith is one of several Knights keen to represent a country other than Australia in the World Cup.

Country Origin winger James McManus has indicated his willingness to play for Scotland, and centre Siuatonga Likilili is on track to represent Tonga after his starring role in their 36-4 victory over Samoa in the Pacific Test at Penrith last Saturday night.

In only his second game back after reconstructive knee surgery last October, the 23-year-old former Junior Kiwi international scored two tries and set up another for the Mate Ma’a.

“It was a passionate game, and real physical when it first started and it was good to play alongside some experienced NRL players,” Likiliki said.

“It was good to pull on the Tongan jersey again, because it’s been a while. The last time I played for them was in 2009, so it was good to have a run with some of the boys.”

■ Evergreen centre Timana Tahu is hoping for a better result with the Knights on Sunday than the last time he played against the Titans on the Gold Coast.

“Last time I played up there I was playing for Parramatta and we got towelled up,” Tahu said.

That was at Carrara on April 29, 2007, in the Titans’ inaugural season, when he was a member of the Eels team beaten 38-12.

It was the Titans’ biggest winning margin until they shut out the Raiders 36-0 six weeks ago.

■ Knights prop Kade Snowden will watch his older brother Jake try to defend his NSW amateur super heavyweight boxing title at Newcastle Leagues Club next week.

Jake “The Snake” Snowden’s bout will headline the program on Saturday, May 4, the night before Kade tackles his former club Cronulla at Hunter Stadium.

Fight tickets are available at Newcastle Leagues Club or from Peter Hallett’s Tuff ‘N’ Up gym.

■ Newcastle’s Harold Matthews (under-16s) season ended at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday when Parramatta beat the Knights 38-12 in a semi-final.

The Eels proved too strong and will now play Wests at St Mary’s in a preliminary final on Saturday for the right to play Souths or Penrith in the decider.

■ Strange call by the Sharks to schedule their home game against the Bulldogs at Gosford’s Bluetongue Stadium on Sunday.

Central Coast footy fans will be pleased to have it in their own backyard but surely a game against the popular Dogs, a fellow Sydney club with whom they share a border in the south-western suburbs, would pull a decent crowd to Shark Park on a Sunday afternoon.

Instead, fans of both clubs will have to wend their way up the F3 then deal with the likelihood of end-of-school-holiday traffic gridlock for the trip home.

■ Join me on Sunday between 2pm and 5pm for a live blog during and after the Knights-Titans game. Log on to theherald南京夜网.au from 2pm on Sunday and follow the link.


Coroner to confirm man’s death after 9 years

IN June 2004 a Central Coast man set sail from Townsville on his yacht, bound for Papua New Guinea.
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Apart from a possible sighting six months later, he was never seen again.

On Fridaya coroner is expected to state what nearly nine years of silence has indicated – that Colin James Burgess, 55, of Charmhaven, is no longer missing but presumed dead.

Deputy state coroner Hugh Dillon is not expected to answer the question how Mr Burgess, who sold cakes and pies from his shop only a few minutes from home, disappeared after leaving on June 8, 2004 – World Oceans Day.

As Townsville boat and yacht repairer Greg Hounsell said this week: ‘‘Once you’re out on the ocean, there’s a million things can happen.’’

‘‘It’s pretty rough on the family if things happen, but it’s part and parcel of being out at sea.

‘‘If you hit a container ship in a yacht you can be gone and no one would ever know. Anything could have happened.’’

Mr Burgess set sail with a warning tattooed on his right arm – ‘‘Insulin dependant diabetic’’.

He left Townsville on board his yacht, ‘‘Vangie’’, with plans for a three-month trip, but enough supplies to extend to six months if necessary.

Australian Federal Police have told Mr Dillon that Mr Burgess planned to sail towards Papua New Guinea and visit areas including the Louisiade Archipelago, part of the Milne Bay province to the east of the country.

His planned trip included Flinders Reef, Harald Cay and Willis Islet, Woodlark and Misima islands, and possibly Bougainville.

Apart from a possible sighting on Rossel Island, the easternmost point of the Louisiade Archipelago, in December 2004, Mr Burgess has not been seen or heard from since.

His name has appeared on an Australian Federal Police missing persons list for a number of years with the comment: ‘‘Concerns are held for his safety and welfare.’’

His wife has declined to comment about her husband and his disappearance.

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, remembered a pleasant man who would distribute unsold cakes and pies to neighbours at the end of each day.

Mr Hounsell said yachts and boats left Townsville every day for lengthy ocean trips, and Mr Burgess’s departure would only have been noted by anyone who knew he was leaving.

‘‘There are so many boats coming and going here, it’s like seeing cars waiting at traffic lights,’’ Mr Hounsell said.

‘‘They come and they go all the time and you don’t really take much notice because there’s so many of them.’’


JOANNE MCCARTHY: War never glorious

BY five on Thursday morning, the car park at the beach near where I live will be filled.
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All the street parking will be taken. By 5.30am stragglers for this year’s Anzac Day dawn service will be hiking in from where they’ve parked their cars, outside the town centre, hundreds of metres away.

Families, couples, individuals, groups of teenagers, little kids wearing jumpers with medals on their chests. Hundreds will stand for a little under an hour and listen as the familiar rituals are performed.

At the finish they’ll head for cafes for coffee and breakfast – as much a part of the ritual as the Last Post. And I mean no disrespect in saying that.

A couple of kilometres away from the beach there is a cemetery with a spectacular view of a lake. I walk there regularly because it’s far enough to make a nice circuit for the dog.

At the most distant edge of the cemetery is the grave of a man named Jack Christie, who died in 1964. The headstone is simple and carries the words ‘‘Original Anzac’’. A couple of years ago I wrote about a local man I knew, Graeme Gleeson, who took it upon himself to tidy up Jack Christie’s grave during regular visits and find out about his war history.

Jack Christie was seriously injured with a gunshot wound to the stomach only days after the first landings on April 25, 1915. War records showed his anguished family did not know for some months whether he was alive or dead.

I walked to Jack’s side of the cemetery about a week ago to look at his grave. I haven’t seen Graeme Gleeson for a while since he sold his small business, but it appears he’s been at work.

There were flowers for Jack, and the mess of branches and mud that tend to settle at that part of the cemetery after heavy rain was cleared off the grave.

Jack Christie lived for decades after Gallipoli. I don’t know if he was permanently disabled by his injuries, to become what historian Marina Larsson called a ‘‘shattered Anzac’’ in her important 2009 book, Shattered Anzacs: Living with the Scars of War.

In it Larsson noted that in 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, there were still 77,000 Australian World War I veterans living with a war disability. Three died each day from their wounds.

In the past couple of decades we’ve seen a marked increase in numbers at Anzac Day services, a significant increase in media interest, and some unease about what it means.

I studied history. When politicians and commentators invoke war and ‘‘the Anzac spirit’’, I run for primary sources. I’m fortunate enough to have been a journalist for long enough to have interviewed Gallipoli veterans like Harry Newhouse before his death in the late 1990s.

He was nearly deaf, he was nearly blind, but the last time I met him at a Central Coast nursing home, Harry had no trouble bellowing his Anzac Day message to Australians.

War isn’t glorious, he said. Ever. War shouldn’t be celebrated. It is the ultimate human failure.

My suggestion to anyone who is serious about paying respects to the 324,000 Australians who took to the field in World War I, the 60,000 of that number who died, and the 150,000 who were injured, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Australians who followed them in subsequent wars, is to read a 1996 publication, The Last Anzacs, by Tony Stephens, with photographs by Steven Siewert.

The final 17 Gallipoli veterans in that book, including Harry Newhouse, talk about war. And on this day, two years shy of a century after they landed, I’ll leave Harry with the last words.

His brother George landed at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915, and died within days. Harry landed on April 26 and survived.

‘‘What was it for? I don’t know. It should never have been,’’ he said in 1995, aged 100.

‘‘They think we became a nation, but they killed half the nation.’’

Lest we forget that.

US unswayed by claim Assad has used sarin

The Obama administration is challenging an Israeli intelligence assessment that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has attacked rebels with sarin or other toxic substances.
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Secretary of State John Kerry and spokesmen from the White House and the Pentagon said US officials had not seen conclusive evidence that Syria’s government had deployed chemical weapons.

”We have not come to the conclusion that there has been that use,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. ”It is precisely because of the seriousness of the use of chemical weapons – and the seriousness with which the President made clear that that use would be unacceptable – that it is incumbent upon us and our partners to investigate thoroughly and validate or verify allegations of chemical weapons use.”

General Itai Brun, chief of research and analysis for the Israeli army’s military intelligence division, cited photographic and other evidence this week indicating that Syria used chemical weapons last month near Damascus and Aleppo.

”To the best of our professional understanding, the regime used chemical weapons against fighters in a series of incidents in recent months,” General Brun said at a conference, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by the Israeli army. ”The dilated pupils, the frothing at the mouth and other signs testify, in our view, to the use of liquid chemical weapons, some kind of liquid chemical weapons, apparently sarin.”

As the death toll in Syria mounts, Israel has joined some of America’s allies in Europe, as well as Persian Gulf nations that are arming and financing the Syrian opposition and some rebel leaders, to press a reluctant Obama administration to provide more support to the anti-Assad forces. Failing to do so, they warn, risks more human rights atrocities, bolstering radical Islamist opposition groups and letting Syria’s chemical and biological weapons fall into the hands of Sunni or Shiite terrorists.

The turmoil in Syria dominated talks on Tuesday at the White House between Mr Obama and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani.

The two nations had been discussing the best way to remove Mr Assad and ”strengthen an opposition that can bring about a democratic Syria that represents all people and respects their rights”, Mr Obama said. Sheikh al Thani called what is happening in Syria a ”major and horrific tragedy”.

General Brun said Israel had to be ”very troubled by the possibility that chemical weapons might fall into the hands of less responsible actors”.

Mr Kerry said that in a phone call on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been unable to confirm the reports of Syria’s use of chemical weapons.


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‘Bomb detector’ a golf-ball finder

When James McCormick told armies, police forces and governments that his bomb detectors worked from 30 metres underwater or a plane five kilometres up, it might have sounded too good to be true. Especially when he said they needed no power except the ”electrostatic energy from the human body”.
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Still, he found customers. He sold £37 million ($55 million) worth to Iraq. The United Nations paid £46,000 for five of them to find bombs in Lebanon.

In fact, the devices were £13 novelty golf-ball finders with no scientific basis and absolutely no ability to identify explosives, the Old Bailey in London heard on Tuesday.

McCormick, 57, who bought a yacht and homes in Bath and Cyprus with the profits, faces jail after being found guilty of fraud.

Thousands of the devices are still in use in Iraq.

McCormick’s clients included the Kenyan police, Hong Kong’s prison service, the Egyptian army, Thailand’s border control and Saudi Arabia.

A former electrical salesman who had spent less than two years with Merseyside Police before failing his probationary period, McCormick became involved with the devices after another businessman demonstrated a supposed prototype in 2000, the court heard. He agreed to buy one for £10,000 and marketed it around the world.

The device consisted of a swivelling antenna connected to nothing except a plastic handgrip. McCormick claimed the device came to life after the user shuffled their feet.

Colour-coded cards were inserted depending on the substance to be detected: explosives, drugs, ivory, or even specific currencies.

However, the cards were simply blank pieces of plastic containing no technology.

Experts told the court the design lacked ”any grounding in science, nor does it work in accordance with the known laws of physics”, adding that it was ”completely ineffectual as a piece of detection equipment”.

Telegraph, London

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