Monthly Archives: November 2018

James Packer and Mariah Carey are engaged

Engaged? James Packer and singer Mariah Carey. Photo: Justin ChinSomething magical is in the media mogul air.
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Fairfax has confirmed that James Packer is engaged to Mariah Carey, just one week after Rupert Murdoch announced his intention to marry Jerry Hall.

E! News first reported that they have “exclusively learned” of Packer and Carey’s news.

“Mariah’s future hubby popped the big question in her hometown tonight, and he presented her with what can only be described as the most breathtaking engagement ring,” the entertainment site reports.

“We’re told that Mariah’s new diamond bling comes in at around 35 carats and that no wedding date has been set just yet.”

The couple have been dating for less than a year.

The 48-year-old Australian billionaire is believed to have met 45-year-old singing superstar, Carey at a movie premiere in Aspen in 2014.

The connection between the two was instant, according to Carey who recently opened up to American TV show host Steve Harvey.

“We were talking and laughing and people were getting mad at us and stuff like that. So, we hit it off,” Carey said.

Harvey noted that James was a “lucky” guy, to which the singer replied, “I’m lucky, too.”

Carey reportedly moved into Packer’s Beverly Hills residence in November after five months of dating.

Most recently the pair were in Australia for New Year’s Eve where Carey cooed about her boyfriend while performing onstage at his casino in Melbourne.

“Spectacular, handsome … I don’t even have words for the man who introduced me tonight,” Carey gushed, “we’ll just say the amazing Mr James Packer.”

A source said the couple were well-suited.

“As soon as their friendship turned romantic, they have wanted to spend every moment together,” the source told E! News. “They have a connection that is unparalleled; it’s been a very beautiful experience for them both. If you spend even five minutes with them, you can’t help but believe in true love.

“They are just very cute together, they like doing sweet things for one another. They want to make each other happy.”

It would be the third marriage for Carey and Packer, who have five children between them. Carey has 4-year-old twins, son Moroccan and daughter Monroe, to Nick Canon. Packer, with ex-wife Erica, has three children, daughters Indigo, 7 and Emmanuelle, 3 and five-year-old son Jackson Packer.

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Is the ASX a grizzly or a gummy bear?

Australia is set to enter a bear market – but it’s likely to be one of the sweet, gummy kinds. Photo: Achim SassOnce markets have dropped 20 per cent and enter bear territory, there are two types of bears they can encounter: savage grizzly bears, or the chewy, sweeter and decidedly less terrifying gummy bear.
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Chances are that Australian investors will meet the sweeter variety this time around, according to analysts at Credit Suisse. Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index has lost about 18 per cent since it last came close to the 6000-point level in April last year. This week, it fell as low as 4803.9 points – narrowly avoiding the 20 per cent bear threshold, but with markets around the globe entering the woods, it’s likely Australia will soon follow.

As analysts are preparing for the local market to sink there, the discussion now revolves around what type of bear it will likely encounter.

“There is the grizzly bear, which is more vicious and involves further large declines in price indices, after the first 20 per cent setback,” Credit Suisse analysts Hasan Tevfik and Damien Boey wrote in a note to clients.

“Then there is the Gummy Bear variety.” ‘Sweeter, less dangerous’

The “sweeter and less dangerous” bear is more common and is marked by gains of an average 20 per cent in the 12 months following the slide, the analysts said.

And with stagnant earnings, aggressive corporate restructuring and largely reasonable share price valuations, “the potential coming bear market in Australia is likely to be one of the gummy kind,” they said.

The bleak start to 2016 for the sharemarket has a number of drivers – from weaker Chinese growth, the oil slump, banks writing down commodity companies’ debt and the effects of a strengthening US dollar.

Further declines in the S&P/ASX 200 will result in the 13th Australian bear market in the past 40 years, the analysts said.

Looking at the previous troughs, for two out of every three times the index slumped, the levels rebounded and ended up higher a year later.

Forty years of Aussie bears – not many were biting for long. Graphic: Credit Suisse

“So an investor buying into Aussie equities, once the 20 per cent decline is triggered, has a two in three chance of making money over the next 12 months,” Mr Tevfik said.

While Credit Suisse viewed this as a buying opportunity for some investors, Clime Asset Management reckoned the market’s retreat from last year’s high is a reflection of fundamental domestic problems, rather than simply an overreaction to overseas turmoil.

“The Australian sharemarket has arguably been in a bear market for the past nine months,” the fund manager said in a blog post. “The stimulation from a weakening currency, growing employment, historic-low cash rates and substantial inbound tourism growth is simply not transferring itself into higher reported profits.”

Only one thing seems clear to everyone: current share prices have the ASX teetering on a bear market – gummy, grizzly or stuffed.

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Yann Martel’s High Mountains of Portugal and the ‘freak success’ of Life of Pi

Yann Martel lives a quiet life in a remote part of Canada most people couldn’t pinpoint on a map.
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The famously restless author arrived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan as the public library’s artist in residence in 2003, came to embrace the dry cold, the temperature extremes and the low-slung horizons, and stayed. He shares a plain wooden house in this corner of the Canadian prairie lands with Alice Kuipers, the British author he met in the same year, and they have four young children, ranging in age from six years to six months old.

At the rear of the home, Martel has a writer’s studio with central heating and a window view of the children playing outdoors, and it’s here the author comes to shut out the extraordinary, ”freak” success that is the ​Life of Pi, the book that changed his writing fortunes and his life.

The magic realist fable of a boy who survives 227 days adrift in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger won Martel the Man Booker Prize in 2002, and was made into an Oscar-winning film directed by Ang Lee, who accepted the award for best director in 2013 thanking Martel for his luminous words.

”It came out at the right time, it hit a nerve, people read it,” Martel says of Pi, which has sold more than 10 million copies. ”There is no way I’m going to get a success as big as that. That’s fine. Better a one-hit wonder than no hits at all.

”[But] at one point you have to shut the world out, and close the door. Don’t forget, success as a writer is very different from success as, say, a politician or an actor. As an actor you are your product; as a writer my product is a book and I’m something else. I’ve just moved on. I have difficulty remembering large chunks of Life of Pi now; I haven’t read it in 12 years.”

Martel has written two books since Life of Pi. Beatrice & Virgil was published five years ago, and tells the story of a bestselling author who is struggling to find a way to depict the Holocaust in an allegorical form. It took eight years and three full rewrites to bring it to publication and even then it didn’t cut it with some critics who took a dislike to this peculiar book featuring a talking stuffed monkey and donkey.

The second was a collection of letters and short book recommendations Martel sent Canada’s conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, twice a month for four years.

Harper’s ”education” was brought to a close in 2011 without Martel ever receiving a personal reply so the author could concentrate on his next novel.

That new book is The High Mountains of Portugal, a novel in three parts which returns to the grand literary themes of Life of Pi, of love and loss and the tussle between religion and reason, as told using Martel’s signature devices of religious allegory and zoological lore.

It begins with the story of Tomas, a young man in Lisbon in 1904 who discovers an old journal and heads off in mad pursuit of a strange religious treasure carved by an excommunicated priest, shifts to a Portuguese pathologist visited 30 years later by an old woman wanting him to perform an autopsy on her dead husband, whom she brings to him in a suitcase, and then jumps 50 years to a lonely Canadian senator who flees the memories of his dead wife to live with a chimp he has rescued from a cruel sanctuary.

Each interconnecting story looks at different aspects of faith. In Homeless, Tomas turns his back on God when his lover and son die as Martel sets out to show what it is to live in a state of “rupture and disenchantment” from faith. In Homeward Martel shows how it is fora believer to have their faith tested, and finally, inHome, the consequences of living with the object of one’s faith.

“I find faith,” says Martel, “a very odd phenomenon because we live in a very reasonable age. At the end of a life no one says I’ve been reasonable my whole life and therefore I’ve lived a good life. Obviously the quality of one’s life is defined by something else and as far as I can tell it is, one way or another, a form of faith, and faith is not reasonable; you can’t get to faith through reason.”

Martel, 52, was born in Spain, but grew up in Costa Rica, France, Mexico and Alaska, trailing his parents, both French-speaking members of the Canadian foreign service who lived through Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, a period of massive social, political and economic change coinciding with the dramatic reforms of Vatican II.

“Quebec went from being the most backwardly Catholic society to being the most socially democratic secular province in Canada,” Martel recalls. “I’m a grandchild of that revolution, so I grew up in a secular household, there was no religion whatsoever. Religion was something you saw in National Geographic.”

Studying philosophy at Trent University in Ontario was, says Martel, a “great way to make you an atheist or an agnostic depending on your level of anger”. But a trip to multi-faith India in 1997 triggered a period of personal exploration in which he says he looked into the eyes of gods and animals, and tried to understand each on its own terms. Returning to Canada, Martel volunteered in a palliative care ward, spending four or five hours every Thursday tending to the dying, this time overlapping with the writing of Life of Pi.

Far from making him depressed, the close-up experience of death clarified for him the tragedy of placing too much value on personal possessions and the importance of living in the moment.

Eventually he stopped looking for what he hated in religion – the sexism, the homophobia, the patriarchy – and realised there was a “great benefit to letting go, to stop trying to understand everything and trusting”.

Such an uncynical approach to belief is one of the reasons Martel believes Life of Pi resonates with readers.

“I think most people in public don’t want to sound like fools but in private we all have questions, wondering where we are going. No one likes ageing, everyone is afraid of death and I think in Life of Pi there was a forthright discussion of what reality is about. What do we want to believe here? Do we want to believe in more or do we want to believe in less, and what does that entail?”

The spark for The High Mountains of Portugal came from an idea Martel had of a crucifix carved in the image of a chimpanzee, the icon for which Tomas searches.

Wild animals serve as symbols for man’s quest for unfettered freedom in Martel’s writings, as metaphysical dream vehicles. In Pi the tiger teaches the shipwrecked survivor a lesson in co-existence, and their emotional bond saves Pi from despair. The chimp in The High Mountains invokes Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species the clash between theism and science, and carries a warning of species extinction.

Other elements of The High Mountains of Portugal date to Martel’s first attempt at a novel started in university. It was also set in Portugal, in 1939, about a group of lost pilgrims, and had a dog as a narrator. This is the failed book referred to by the author-narrator in the opening pages of Life of Pi, which is mailed to a fictitious address in Siberia before the author meets in Pondicherry an elderly man who boasts of knowing a story that ”will make you believe in God”. Unlike his fictitious narrator, Martel says he didn’t ditch that manuscript but mailed it to his real home address in Montreal, where he recovered it and fed some of his notes into The High Mountains.

What started Martel writing? ”A host of things,” he says. ”Books that I read as a child that showed me how powerful stories could be; a fear of the working world, to which I seemed to have nothing to offer and that seemed a cruel, forbidding place; the discovery that creating a story on the page was intensely satisfying; and the luck of having people who encouraged me early on, my parents, and small-journal publishers, then book publishers.”

​His breakthrough came while working in Paris as a security guard at the Canadian embassy, where his parents were staying. His first short story was published in The Malahat Review, one of Canada’s leading literary journals. It won the Journey Prize for Short Fiction and became the title story of  The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, his first published book. Martel regards the lean decade that followed as “glorious years”.

“I had enough money to live frugally, but really I lived like a king. Think of it: I woke every morning and the only thing I had to do that day was work on my first novel – Self – or later on, Life of Pi. What else could someone ask for? I was alive creatively and had no other worries in the world.”

And the decade since Pi?

Martel accepts Beatrice & Virgil was a relative failure compared to the extraordinary heights of Pi. He was doing something experimental with the representation of the Holocaust, a subject that has long fascinated him. He expects to be forever defined by Life of Pi, as William Golding is remembered for Lord of the Flies.

”That first decade was special because everything was new and exciting,” he says. ”Now my life is still exciting and creative, but also burdened by busyness and multiple demands. But overall I’ve had outrageous luck.”

The High Mountains of Portugal is published by Text at $29.99. 

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The insidious consequences of one punch attacks

Concussions are often associated with subtle symptoms of headache, memory loss, and confusion. Image: Megan Campbell, QBIThe devastating death of Cole Miller, as in the case of Daniel Christie, who was coward punched in Sydney in 2014, is yet another eye opener to the grave consequences of alcohol-fueled one-punch attacks in Australia. These tragic cases have gained much media attention because of the immediate severity of the violence, but the reality is that, in many thousands of cases, a punch – fatal or not – is more than just a knock to the head. A single punch has more insidious, unseen effects that can surface and become more apparent decades down the track.
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The brain is a soft and fragile organ floating in a cushioning fluid, much like jelly in a suspension, within the hard protective skull. When banged, it accelerates, knocks against the skull and bounces back, leading to a mild form of brain injury known as concussion.

Concussions are often associated with subtle symptoms of headache, memory loss, and confusion that may not be immediately apparent. Even when they are, the symptoms are often downplayed because they seem reversible, and therefore not that serious. However, research in the field of traumatic brain injury clearly shows that even the most superficial and ‘silent’ of knocks triggers changes in brain physiology and in the metabolism of nerve cells.

Of more significant concern is repetitive concussive trauma, where relatively minor hits to the head cumulate over time to trigger significant problems at later stages.

Even subconcussive knocks, which seem to have no effect, can eventually lead to progressive neurodegeneration and a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. In American football, for example, where head injuries are common, players have developed dementia-like symptoms and CTE as early as their late 30s.

While concussions have taken centre stage in recent years, it is still largely an unrecognised public health problem. General lack of awareness and denial is the core issue: people need to understand that getting up from a violent hit to the head, with few symptoms, is not consequence-free. Bridging the link between repetitive concussions and progressive brain deterioration will provide concrete evidence of the potential side effects that are too grave to ignore. It needs to be emphasised to young men that one punch—a single punch—even if doesn’t seem to have any serious immediate effects, can result in lasting and irreversible damage later on. Only a deeper understanding of the consequences of a single, foolish punch will make young men more accountable for their actions.

Given the current unavailability of efficient treatment, prevention is therefore key. This may mean greater penalties for problem drinkers, increased taxes on alcoholic beverages, improved education campaigns, or limiting advertising and marketing strategies that encourage alcohol consumption, particularly to young people.

Dr Fatima Nasrallah is the MAIC Senior Research Fellow in Traumatic Brain Injury at the Queensland Brain Institute. Her research focuses on functional neuroimaging and brain injury.

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Where you can celebrate

FLYING THE FLAG: The Hunter will host a range of Australia Day celebrations, including harbour swims, citizenship ceremonies, live music and fireworks displays.Festivities will be held across the Hunter on Australia Day.
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Here’s a list events where you can join in the celebrations.


7am:Harbour Swim fromStockton to Newcastle.9am-11am: Australia Day Awards and Citizenship Ceremony, Newcastle City Hall.10am-12pm:Circus workshops and face painting, Brake Block Park.10.30am:Ducks 4 Dollars, Queens Wharf, Newcastle Harbour.11am-12pm and1pm-2pm:Yacht race, Newcastle Harbour.12pm-4pm:Awabakal performance,Polynesian show,Thai performance,South Korean drummers,Irish dance,salsa show, Merengue dance class, dance performers –Worth Place Park.

LAKE MACQUARIE, Speers Point Park

Noon: National anthem and flag-raising ceremony.12.15pm:Paper Planeson the big screen.12-4pm:Splash down stress free zone,face painting, mobile video games van.1.30-5.30pm:Live music; aerobatic displays.4pm: Annual Scouts canoe race.4.35pm: Mayor’s welcome and presentation of Scouts canoe race winner.6.15pm-9pm: Live music by 1927 and Richard Clapton.9pm: Fireworks display.

PORT STEPHENS, d’Albora Marinas, Nelson Bay

12pm-3pm: Live music by Todd Schmoo.4pm-5.30pm: Balloon animals and face painting.5pm-8pm:Live music by Crawford Brothers.6.30pm-7pm: Stilt walkers and wing dancers.

MAITLAND, Maitland Park

7.30am to 9:30am – Free BBQ breakfast hosted by the Lions Club of East Maitland.8.00am – 3.00pm – Classic Kombi display.9.00am to 3.00pm – Free entry to Maitland Pool. 9.00am – 3.00pm – Free amusements.9.00am – 3.00pm – Free interactive and educational live marine display hosted by Rangers on the Run.9.00am – 3.00pm – Free giant beach volleyball.9.00am to 3.00pm – Free face painting. 9.00am – 3.00pm – Cooks Hill Lifesaving and Surf Club activities.9.30am – 3.00pm – Free scout activities. 9.30am to 3.00pm – Free miniature pony rides. 9.30am – 3.00pm – Free kids craft hosted by Girl Guides NSW & ACT.10.00am – 2.00pm – Jellyfish eating competition with 234 Army Cadet Unit.11.00am – 12.00pm – Registration for Thong Throwing Competition(pool grounds).12.00pm – Thong throwing competition starts(pool grounds).

SINGLETON,Community Day, Civic CentreGreen

8am:Rotary Club of Singleton free breakfast.9.30am: Australia Day ceremony, Civic Centre Auditorium.11am: Kids’activities, food stalls and markets, Civic Green.11am:Lioness morning tea, Civic Centre Foyer.11.30am:Croc Stars – live snakes, crocodiles and lizards.12.45pm:Thong-throwing competition.1pm:Tug-o-war competition.

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