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Wildlife in peril on Madagascar

MAROJEJY NATIONAL PARK, Madagascar: A political crisis in this African island nation has triggered a pillage of its mythical wildlife and forests, and conservation groups fear that the peril will worsen as donors suspend funding to punish the coup leaders running the country.Conservationists say the problem is particularly distressing in Madagascar, because it is a land like no other. After the island broke off mainland Africa 160 million years ago, Indian Ocean isolation created a biological laboratory that spawned thousands of plants and animals – massive moths, brawny baobabs, a hundred species of furry lemurs – that exist nowhere else.Security in Madagascar has broken down since a coup in March and traffickers have smuggled out record numbers of Ploughshare tortoises, one of the world’s rarest, for sale to Asian and European collectors, environmentalists said. A nature organisation has exposed a lemur-poaching racket providing scores of the rare primates, roasted, to restaurants in port cities.Most troubling, activists said, was a brazen plunder of protected forests by armed bands of illegal loggers who, by threatening park rangers, loot prized hardwoods for a ”timber mafia” that exports them to furniture markets in Asia and the US.”Once the crisis exploded, there was no more state of law in Madagascar,” said Herve Bakarizafy, the director of the Marojejy National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which closed for two months this year as gangs felled hundreds of rosewood trees in a forest that is home to 11 species of threatened lemurs.Tourism and economic growth, which rose steadily in recent years, have plummeted since President Marc Ravalomanana was ousted by the DJ-turned-mayor of Antananarivo, the capital, Andry Rajoelina, who had military backing.In Madagascar’s remote northeast, the breakdown has allowed a ”gold rush” of illegal logging and poaching, transforming languid parks into mini battlegrounds, said Niall O’Connor, the WWF’s regional representative.A decree issued by the Ravalomanana government in January permitted select companies to temporarily export stocks of rare rosewood and ebony trees that had been felled by a cyclone. When the government collapsed, those exporters saw a green light to pillage, park officials said.Conservation activists said they are encouraged by the new environment minister, an army colonel named to the transitional government last month. But the international community views the administration he serves in as illegitimate. So it is anyone’s guess how long he will keep his job.The Washington Post
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Cop charged over indecent assaults

A police officer will face court in Dubbo over six indecent assault charges.
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The two separate alleged incidents occurred in 2004 and 2009, in the Western Region, a statement from NSW Police said.

Both matters were reported to police recently.

“After investigations by his own command and the Professional Standards Command, the officer was arrested at his home (on Monday, July 12),” the statement said.

The 45-year-old sergeant, who is attached to the Western Region, has been charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault and three counts of indecent assault.

He was granted conditional bail and will appear in Dubbo Local Court on August 25.

The sergeant has been stood down from duty.

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US defence firms to lose impunity or contracts

WASHINGTON: US defence firms are to be barred from lucrative government contracts if they refuse to allow employees access to the courts, after a woman working for a Halliburton subsidiary in Iraq was prevented from taking legal action over an alleged gang rape by fellow workers.Al Franken, the Senate’s newest member, has won an amendment to the defence appropriations bill prompted by the case of Jamie Leigh Jones. She alleges that she was drugged and raped by seven American contractors in Baghdad in 2005.Ms Jones, who was employed by KBR, which was fighting oil fires, said that subsequent behaviour by the firm, including allegedly locking her in a container under armed guard and losing forensic evidence, amounted to a cover-up.Halliburton/KBR used a clause in her contract requiring disputes to be settled by arbitration to block legal action – a policy that, her lawyer says, has encouraged assaults by creating a climate of impunity.Senator Franken described it as a denial of justice. ”Contractors are using fine print to deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court,” he said in a Senate debate.In legal papers Ms Jones, who was 20 at the time, says she was fed a knockout drug while drinking with KBR firefighters. ”When she awoke the next morning still affected by the drug, she found her body naked and severely bruised, with lacerations to her vagina and anus, blood running down her leg, her breast implants ruptured and her pectoral muscles torn which would later require reconstructive surgery. Upon walking to the rest room, she passed out again,” the papers say.Ms Jones was treated by a US Army doctor who gave forensic evidence to company officials. She says the firm placed her under guard in a shipping container and she was released only after her father asked the US embassy to intervene. When the forensic evidence was handed to investigators two years later, crucial photographs and notes were missing.Ms Jones says she identified one of the men who attacked her after he confessed, but that Halliburton/KBR prevented her from taking legal action against him or the company by pointing to a clause in her contract requiring disputes to go to arbitration.She told a Senate committee: ”I had no idea that the clause was part of the contract, what the clause actually meant, or that I would eventually end up in this horrible situation.”Her lawyer, Todd Kerry, said that by forcing earlier assault cases to arbitration, Halliburton and other defence firms had created a climate in which some workers believed they could get away with sexual assaults and other crimes. ”Had there been public scrutiny to prevent such things happening and these cases taken to court, they might not have been repeated. Instead one of the men who raped Jamie was so confident that nothing would happen that he was lying in bed next to her the morning after.”Halliburton and KBR divided into separate companies in April. Halliburton declined to comment on the case. KBR has sought to discredit Ms Jones’s account by saying she was seen drinking and flirting with a firefighter before leaving the gathering with him, and that the man claims to have had consensual sex with her. The firm denies that Ms Jones was held prisoner, but not that her injuries indicated serious sexual assault.KBR defended arbitration as a ”fair process”, saying: ”Most large companies have a dispute resolution program which is mandatory and is designed to address employee complaints quickly and efficiently. Under KBR’s dispute resolution program 95 per cent all employee complaints are resolved quickly to the employees’ satisfaction without a mediation or an arbitration.”Senator Franken and Mr Kerry challenge the claim that arbitration is usually settled to the satisfaction of complainants. Last month Ms Jones won a court ruling against Halliburton and KBR that the arbitration clause in her contract did not prevent them from being sued.Guardian News & Media
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Haylock’s time away from the pitch has him on right course

Local junior Joseph Haylock is on a roll and his 44 stableford points on Saturday at Dubbo indicates how his much he has improved in recent times.
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Playing off 21 handicap, he made the C-grade trophy his own with his score finishing two in front of second placed Sean Rumble (42).

Like a few of our members Haylock spends most of his summer months paying cricket and the occasional game of golf but more regular competition and time on the course is obviously helping his game no end.

Other good scores in the grade came from Paul Ensor with 41, Chris Scales, Paul Chandler 40 and Greg Matthews and Ross Tomlins with 39.

The other good card came in A-grade when Ray Moulds off 11 was in super form to post 43 points, four in front of second placed Craig Marchant.

For the B-grade trophies, Andrew Graham had 40 points and edged out Tony Ford on a countback.

The cut line for golf balls were 37 in A and C-grades and 36 on a countback in B-grade.

Four nearest to the pins were contested on the 19-9 layout with the winners being Kel Kilsby (5th) 70cm; Jeff Wright (8th) 126cm; Greg Matthews (23rd) 114cm and Joseph Haylock (26th) with a great shot to 89cm.

The Wednesday Medallion was also a feature of the week in golf for trophies courtesy of Blowes Menswear.

Division 1 winner was Hanlon Hyland with 80-68 from Matt Gleeson 69-69 and Division 2 Todd Richards 88-68 from second placed Lachlan Earle 97-71.

The scratch prize winners were Matt Gleeson for his two-under-par 69 and Todd Richards with 88. The cut for golf balls was 74 after a countback on a difficult day.

NTP winners were Ian Edmunds (5th) 80cm; Ian Shepherdson (8th) 380cm; Matt Gleeson (11th) 136cm; James Cusack (15th) 224cm and Graham Allan (18th) 510cm.

Meanwhile, some of the Dubbo juniors have been playing in tournaments with the latest news coming to hand from the Hunter that Andrew and Ben Page both won trophies at the Saunders Motor Group Scone Junior Open recently.

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Facebook shuts page on Auschwitz

LONDON: Launching an Auschwitz Facebook page might have seemed like a good way to reach out to a web-savvy younger generation to keep alive the memory of the most notorious Nazi death camp.But after gaining 2000 followers in two days, the Facebook page launched by the Auschwitz museum in Poland was taken down on Thursday without explanation.The Auschwitz museum is the official memorial to the camp in which more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died.Friends of the Facebook page wrote on the online wall, most of them saying that they would ”never forget”.Earlier, an Auschwitz museum official, Pawel Sawicki, said the museum kept an eye on everything that was posted on the Facebook page. ”It is a moderated site,” he said. ”A group of administrators will delete everything that is not suitable and against the spirit of the place.”Of course, we can lock ourselves in the memorial, but the internet is used by other institutions,” he said.Guardian News & Media
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Twin triumphs have Rams well placed in State League

Dubbo Rams captain Claire Hargreaves looks for options during her team’s 74-63 win against Wagga Blaze on Sunday. Photo: JEN McGHEEThe Dubbo Rams women have consolidated their position near the top of the State League ladder by claiming a winning home double on the weekend.
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Merle Hall, Mellissa Lee and Shannon Mathes starred over the two days as the Rams beat Penrith on Saturday before backing up to dispose of Wagga at the Woolshed on Sunday.

After losing to Penrith on their home court the Rams were looking for revenge when they met.

The game started quickly with the Rams looking to run the floor and it was strong offence combined with a committed defensive pattern that enabled them to go into the first break up 19-14.

Merle Hall dominated proceedings in the first half, nailing three three-pointers as the Rams opened up an 18-point lead at the main break, with her work coupled with strong rebounding by Melissa Lee and Shannon Mathes.

The third quarter saw Lee take control of the game offensively while the combination of Hall, Rebecca Rattey and Cara Dordon worked really well, causing many turnovers and not allowing Penrith to get back into the match.

When the final whistle sounded Dubbo had run out commanding 65-52 winners, with Hall (14), Lee (14) and Mathes (11) all reaching double figures.

The girls then had to back up on Sunday against rivals Wagga Blaze, who were looking to book themselves a spot in the semi-finals.

The game started quickly with Hall once again giving her opponent nightmares with her quick hands and fantastic footwork on defence.

In a physical clash, the Rams found themselves in foul trouble which helped Wagga make several trips to the free throw line.

Coach Nick Hubbard was given a technical foul in the second quarter after questioning a referee’s call however the home side rallied to lead 43-34 at the main break.

With Wagga focusing on shutting down Hall, the ever-reliable Claire Hargreaves and Melissa Lee stepped up and along with some good shooting from Cara Gordon and Rebecca Rattey, enabled the home side to extend the lead to 16 at three-quarter time.

Wagga managed to stage a comeback in the fourth however it wasn’t;t enough as Dubbo hung on to win 74-63.

Hall led the way again with 17 points while Hargeaves chipped in with 15 and Lee contributed 12.

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Far-right party agrees not to discriminate against race, religion

LONDON: The far-right British National Party has agreed to change its constitution so that would-be members are not discriminated against on the grounds of race or religion.The party was forced into the move after Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission issued legal proceedings against it in August, claiming its membership criteria unlawfully excluded certain groups.Counsel for the commission, Robin Allen, QC, said the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, had agreed to present party members with a revised constitution at its general meeting next month.The party had agreed not to accept any new members until the new constitution was in place, Mr Allen said.In an order issued at Central London County Court on Thursday, the BNP agreed to use ”all reasonable endeavours” to revise its constitution so it did not discriminate on what the Equality Act terms ”protected characteristics”, including race, gender and religious belief.The commission, which has a statutory duty to enforce the act and prevent discrimination, made its concerns known to the BNP earlier this year.In a letter sent in June the commission pointed out that the party’s constitution and membership criteria – which appear to restrict membership to those within what the BNP regards as particular ”ethnic groups” and those whose skin colour is white – were contrary to the Race Relations Act.The commission’s legal group director, John Wadham, said the commission was pleased that the BNP had ”conceded the case” and agreed to all its requirements.”Political parties, like any other organisation, are obliged to respect the law and not discriminate against people,” Mr Wadham said.”We will be monitoring the BNP’s compliance with this court order on membership, and its other legal obligations, including to its constituents.”The party’s eastern regional spokesman, Chris Roberts, said it was too early to say how the proposed rule change would affect its membership, and accused mainstream political parties of stirring up trouble.Guardian News & Media
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Hoy’s Rebelle a cause to celebrate

Garth Hoy with Rebelle during the first stage of the pacer’s career. Rebelle’s comeback continues tonight at Bathurst in the Benjamin Neil Pace (2130m).Dubbo trainer Garth Hoy isn’t expecting miracles from his former top pacer Rebelle as the eight-year-old makes a comeback to the track after a three-year break.
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Hoy looked after Rebelle in its early days and developed the John Street North (USA) x Bellevedere gelding into one of the region’s most exciting pacers until a joint infection ruined the horse’s career as a five-year-old.

Several times Hoy and the gelding’s owners were told they would have to put their horse down however through perseverance and hard work, Rebelle resumed its career at Penrith last Thursday night.

Before that its most recent start resulted in a sixth placing at Harold Park on June 5, 2007.

Despite finishing last in a nine-horse field at Penrith, Hoy was happy with the run and will back Rebelle up in a race at Bathurst tonight that has attracted a quality field.

“We don’t know how long we have got him for but after all he has been through it is just good to have him back again,” Hoy said.

“He got the joint infection and had some operations then he had colic and nearly died. It’s been tough but we have got him back and we are hoping he will go well.

“It will take a while to get him back fully fit but there aren’t many races for him out here so we have to travel a bit but it will be the only way to get him fit and see how he will go.”

Tonight at Bathurst Rebelle will face only seven rivals in the Benjamin Neil Pace (2130m) but included in them is exciting Bathurst pacer Intoxicated, winner of the feature event at Dubbo’s Carnival of Cups meeting in April.

A winner of 13 races and more than $100,000 in prizemoney, Intoxicated is the horse Hoy believes will be hardest to beat.

“It’s a good field and obviously Intoxicated is a pretty good horse but we have to run Rebelle and he has improved since last Thursday,” Hoy said.

“He had a trial at Riverstone on Sunday and won that and he felt good.

“If we see some improvement from him over his next few runs that is all we are really looking for.”

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Russian historian arrested in Stalin-era clampdown

MOSCOW: A Russian historian investigating the fate of Germans imprisoned in the Soviet Union during World War II has been arrested in an apparent clampdown on research into the Stalin era by the Russian authorities.Mikhail Suprun was detained last month by officers from Russia’s security services. They searched his flat and carried off his entire personal archive. He has now been charged with violating privacy laws and, if convicted, faces up to four years in jail.Professor Suprun had been carrying out research into Germans sent to Russia’s Arctic gulags. A historian at Pomorskiy University in Arkhangelsk, he was looking at German prisoners of war captured by the Red Army as well as Russian-speaking ethnic Germans, many from southern Russia, deported by Stalin. Both groups ended up in camps in Arkhangelsk.”I had been planning to write two books. I need another two or three years before I can finish them,” Professor Suprun said.The historian – who described his arrest as ”absurd” – said he had signed an agreement with local officials not to talk further about his case.But the arrest has provoked outrage in Germany and among leading historians. It comes amid attempts by the Kremlin to rehabilitate Stalin and to clamp down on independent historical research – with political repression during the Soviet era and victims of the gulag system now taboo topics.Orlando Figes, a writer and a professor of history at Birkbeck College, London University, described Mr Suprun’s arrest as unprecedented, and part of a ”Putinite campaign against freedom of historical research and expression”.He added: ”[It’s] potentially quite alarming, if it means that the regime intends to clamp down on the collection of personal data about the Stalin terror.”Russia’s FSB intelligence agency also arrested a police official who handed Professor Suprun material from the local Interior Ministry archive.It includes a list of 40,000 Germans deported to the Arkhangelsk region between 1945 and 1956. It details which camps they were sent to and whether they survived. The official, Colonel Alexander Dudaryev, is accused of abusing his position.”What we are seeing is the rebirth of control over history,” said Rauf Gabidullin, of the movement for human rights in Arkhangelsk.”The majority of Russians don’t have any idea of the scale of Stalin’s repression. Those in power are from the KGB. They don’t want people to know what their KGB predecessors were doing, or its huge scope.”The Second World War remains a source of tension between Russia and its post-Soviet neighbours. The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has repeatedly accused Ukraine, Poland and other eastern European countries of distorting history for political purposes and in May set up a new state commission to prevent what he called the ”falsification of history”.Allison Gill, the director of Human Rights Watch in Moscow, described the Suprun case as ”very troubling”.”It’s part of an attempt to provide a single narrative about what Russia was, and what it means today,” she said. ”It denies the full complexity of Russia’s history and the fact that individuals had vastly different experiences.”Guardian News & Media
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Ryan still chasing elusive Ramornie

Greg Ryan aboard Double Fun at Dubbo on Monday. The champion Dubbo rider will be out to win his first Ramornie Handicap when he partners Ollie Vollie in the feature race at Grafton today.There aren’t too many country races leading bush rider Greg Ryan hasn’t won but the Ramornie Handicap at Grafton is one of them.
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Ryan has ridden in the feature sprint on a number of occasions and come close a couple of times but has never managed to crack the event, which became famous in Dubbo racing circles in 2005 thanks to the victory of local champion King Rex.

His closest call was in 2003 when he partnered the Keith Swan-trained Caissa, a $4 favourite, to a narrow second placing behind 80/1 chance Citichy.

Today Ryan gets his chance to break his Ramornie duck when he partners the Sue Grills-trained Ollie Vollie in the $125,000 event.

But it will be no easy task.

Lining up against Ollie Vollie will be the likes of its star stablemate Border Rebel, dual Ramornie winner The Jackal and consistent Sydney performers Youthful Jack and Pinwheel.

Ryan concedes his mount is only a lightweight chance but said he will be out to give the $21 chance every hope.

“I used to go to Grafton every year with Keith Swan when I was basically his stable rider,” Ryan said yesterday.

“The closest I got was Caissa which only just got beat a few years ago.

“But since Keith died I haven’t been going up for the carnival but I’m looking forward to the trip.

“Ollie Vollie hasn’t been racing against this calibre of horse but he has been going consistently in the lower grades.”

Ryan believes Ollie Vollie’s stablemate Border Rebel will be the horse to beat but said he will have to work hard to win the race with top weight of 60kg.

Apprentice Ben Looker will ride Border Rebel despite not being able to claim his allowance in the race, with Ryan saying he was never a chance to ride the boom gelding despite doing most of the riding for the Grills stable over the two-day carnival.

“Border Rebel was no certainty to start in the race but the owner wanted him to and she wanted Ben because he has won on him before,” Ryan said.

“From the tricky barrier I will have to ride Ollie Vollie for luck but you have to be in it to win it and if he is travelling well with 200m to go who knows what can happen.”

Ryan also rides in today’s other feature, the $40,000 Grafton Guineas (1600m), where he will partner the Stephen Lee-trained Nobody’s Johnny, currently rated a $31 chance.

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