Call to outlaw fake guns

A 16-year-old was shot by police in 1993 after using a replica gun to hold-up the Top Shop at Waverley.A former Launceston police officer who was involved in the fatal police shooting of a youth holding a replica pistol in 1993, said outlawing such toys could prevent a repeat of this tragedy.
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The retired officer of 20 years’ experience was one of five called to an armed hold-up at the Top Shop at Waverley one night on August 12, 1993.

When he arrived, a 16-year-old suspect was standing in the middle of the Tasman Highway, holding a weapon and had been in stand-off with two officers for about 15 minutes.

“After a while, he lifted up the revolver which was aimed at both of these officers,” the police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

“One of them responded, warning him to drop his weapon. They were less than 20 feet away, both pointing their guns at each other.

“It was when the young guy lifted his gun up further at shoulder-level that he was shot and straightaway fell to the ground.

“We all ran up – two officers went to tend to him but the first thing I saw was the gun which was still easily in his reach.

“When I kicked the revolver away, it looked real and had a similar weight of an older police revolver when I kicked it.”

The injured youth died the next morning in the Launceston General Hospital from stomach wounds.

“At the station the next day, we were all gutted,” the police officer said.

“It was made much worse later on when we found out he was holding a fake gun.

“This guy knew it was a replica but as far as we were concerned, it was real.

“Shooting someone with a replica pistol is the last thing a copper would ever want to do.”

A coronial investigation into the incident concluded a year after the shooting.

Coroner Peter Wilson, expressed concern that replica pistols could reach the hand of immature and irresponsible people but made no recommendations on their use.

Any realistic toy guns found in Tasmanian homes could attract $6000, two years jail – or both – if the owner does not have a firearms licence for it.

This stipulation has been enshrined in Tasmania’s firearms act for the past 15 years.

Other states have only recently moved to do the same with Victoria last year imposing a maximum fine of up to $28,000 and two years jail for toy guns that could be mistaken for actual weapons.

A Tasmania Police spokeswoman told The Sunday Examiner there was no specific definition of an imitation firearm or toy in the state’s Firearms Act.

She said the guiding principle was if something substantially replicated a real firearm then it was subject to the Act’s provisions as if it were a real firearm.

“That includes the requirement to have a genuine reason for possessing a firearm and storage,” she said.

To possess an imitation firearm, the owner had to have a category H gun licence and be a member of an approved collection club or society.

The spokeswoman said the Police Commissioner could grant exemptions to licencing requirements in some circumstances, such as in theatre productions.

“The simple act of carrying a pistol without either constitutes an offence,” she said.

The police officer in this article did not want to be identified out of respect for the officer who fatally shot the youth.

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

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Relax, 3D Tintin’s the goods

LIFELIKE: Likeable odd couple Captain Haddock and Tintin in The Adventures Of Tintin.THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (PG)
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Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: the voices of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis and Daniel Craig

Screening: general release from Boxing Day

Rating: Four and a half stars

IN the words of intrepid reporter Tintin, ‘‘Great snakes!’’

How far animated movies have come.

Wearing a pair of 3D glasses at the movies these days is as commonplace as scoffing salted popcorn and enduring the rustling of junk-food wrappers. The sense of wonder felt when watching Avatar in 3D has been replaced with expectation. The ‘‘oohs’’ and ‘‘aahs’’ are becoming rarer.

So, how can a film adaptation of a comic written in the 1940s, based on the adventures of Tintin – a young Belgian reporter – and his faithful canine sidekick, Snowy, hope to compete in the cutthroat post-Christmas movie blitz?

It will hold its own, for two reasons. One, Tintin fans are curious to see their childhood hero on the big screen. And two, The Adventures Of Tintin brings back the wow factor.

This 3D version of Hergé’s classic comic strip is technically groundbreaking, creating a believable sense of time and place as well as edge-of-your-seat action. Director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson achieve this while staying true to the comic’s original charm.

The Adventures Of Tintin fuses three adventures into one: The Crab With The Golden Claws; The Secret Of The Unicorn; and Red Rackham’s Treasure. Clean-living Tintin (Jamie Bell) and the heavy-drinking Captain Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis) join forces to seek the truth about The Unicorn (a ship), Marlinspike Hall and the Haddock family.

It’s an action-packed rollercoaster ride with a well-executed plot and effects so realistic you sometimes forget you are watching, well, a cartoon.

It is only the exaggerated features of the characters – the bulbous noses of Haddock and the twitty Thompson Twins (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost); the oversized chins and ape-like arms of the mutinous crew of the Karaboudjan; and the narrow-eyed, sharp features of the villainous Sakharine (Daniel Craig) – that remind us that these are not flesh and blood actors.

The settings are equally realistic, and the attention to detail remarkable. A cobbled street in Europe shrouded by fog is so lifelike you can actually feel the sting of the crisp morning air as it enters your lungs.

In the tradition of classic detective movies, clue after clue presents itself, a stranger warns our hero of danger and is shot dead, there are twists and turns in the plot and Tintin has his fair share of lightbulb – and life and death – moments.

He is knocked unconscious, shot at, kidnapped and held prisoner on a ship, stranded in the open ocean, flies a plane which crash-lands into a North African desert, and lands plenty of punches of his own.

Equal part action hero and sleuth.

Incorrigible drunk Captain Haddock is a constant source of mirth. In one scene, a plane is running out of fuel and he merely blows into the fuel tank, his alcohol-drenched breath bringing the engine back to life.

In another, after being rescued by soldiers in the desert, Haddock is dehydrated and – even worse – sober. When handed a glass of water he says: ‘‘What is this peculiar liquid? There’s no bouquet, no palate.’’

As a child I spent hours reading and re-reading Tintin’s adventures, and in one instance was even so bold as to write (in lead pencil) ‘‘I love Tintin’’ on the first page of a Tintin book borrowed from the library. Nerdy? Definitely. A criminal offence? Perhaps.

Tintin, with his ginger fringe reminiscent of a cockatoo’s crest, his three-quarter length trousers, long socks and blue sweater over a collared white shirt, looks as I’d imagined him. He is brave, intelligent and pursues truth and justice in the Belgian way.

This is not a film for young children. There are gunfights, fist fights, references to alcohol and drinking, and exceedingly nasty ‘‘baddies’’.

But Tintin purists will not be disappointed. I wasn’t.

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Coronation Street blog

Today, bloggers, is the first day of my annual leave, and I want to wish each of you, even Adam, a happy Christmas-New Year. Thank you all for being such scintillating company during the year, for being the characters that you are, and for sharing part of your life. I’ve written in the Herald today about the blog, and I’ll copy and paste that here. Tomorrow in the Herald, by the way, I tell how I’m going to become a better person in 2012, and hopefully that process will be underway by the time of my return on Tuesday, February 14. Cheers, and thank you again. Hey, I think I’m going to miss you! Jeff.
Nanjing Night Net

AS a young teenager I was fascinated by the British soapie Coronation Street, and while I was never sure why, I think now it was that the characters were not only credible but that I’d encountered them in my short life.

I’d seen a number of perpetually disapproving women just like Ena Sharples, nervous mousy women like Minnie, stern and sneering Marthas and monosyllabic men in overalls, real characters rather than the impossibly melodramatic characters of American and Australian soap.

And that’s why I sometimes have a sense of Coronation Street when I’m on my blog.

The blog, like Coronation Street, has its own life, a life, like that of a company, that is more than the sum of the individuals who create it. But more importantly in the association with the British series, the blog has credible characters.

Not only are they credible, they’re real, because while blog contributors can disguise their identity they invariably disclose their personality and character over a series of posts. We come to know whether Honeypie is a cranky, intolerant bastard or a kindly person accustomed to being the victim, and that’s despite his best efforts to reinvent himself. Yes, attempts at gender reassignment fail too.

The day’s blog article, a shorter version of the day’s column in the Herald, provides the hook for the day, but running in parallel to the debate or mere discussion are what I like to think of as committee proceedings, perhaps blog respondents immersed in their own argument or exploring an issue that appeals to them both.

Sometimes these parallel proceedings are not as friendly as I’d like – there is no love lost, for example, between Directeur Sportif and The Real Tough Titties. They’ve quarrelled about road rules for cyclists, Newcastle street names, famous Hunter athletes and local history, and next year I’m planning to provoke an argument about the origins of lilly pilly jam.

These combatants have, also, a friendlier life on the blog. We have, for example, been part of the admiring circle as Directeur Sportif became a father for the first time and as The Real Tough Titties married. And Directeur Sportif gives us uncommonly lucid explanations of matters of medicine and science.

This life beneath the surface of the blog has, like life itself, joys and sadnesses, and one heart-wrenching episode was the struggle against cancer and death of the teenage son of the blog’s chaff and oats, who at that time and since has parted the curtains on the life of a parent involved in such an emotional challenge.

We’ve been privy to the highs and lows of life in China of a Coalfields man teaching English at a Yancheng university, of a Newcastle woman’s efforts to balance her roles as a vet and as a single mother, of a first-time Newcastle councillor’s struggle with the realities of politics.

We have a retired policeman who gives a sharp account of why we have so much antisocial behaviour, a divorced mother of adult children who rises at 4am to work a number of jobs to pay for her modest home, an artist who is revelling in being a mother for the first time, an investor and investment advisor who has given us a fascinating insight into his descent into depression and, I’m pleased to say, his recovery, a teetotal doorman at a Newcastle club who does not sing the benefits of alcohol.

There are many more characters on the blog, some who make an appearance in most blog topics, some who come and go, and some who rush across the stage unloading as they go.

Not all like me, and even more disagree with me, which is a relief, but many are ready to spring to my defence, as they did this week against Adam, who wrote: ‘‘You are the epitome of lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit and sense. I would love to have a conversation with you. I didn’t bother reading the dribble that is above. I’m sure you have not failed to uphold to the low standard of your usual written slop.’’

I hope we hear more of Adam, and indeed you, in 2012.

Please, everyone, stay safe.

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11 killed in NZ balloonaccident

People pay their respects near the site of the crash.CARTERTON, NZ – Two passengers plummeted to their deaths from a burning hot air balloon as it crashed to the ground in New Zealand’s North Island yesterday, killing nine others.
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Emergency services were at the scene, near Carterton, within three minutes but could not help any of the victims, who had been coming to the end of a scenic 45-minute flight and hoping to land in a paddock about 7.25am.

The balloon hit power lines and the sparks started a fire in the basket, Wairarapa police Area Commander Inspector Brent Register said yesterday afternoon.

Two passengers, a man and woman, appeared to have jumped from the basket, he said.

The fire then flared and the balloon dropped sharply to the ground, killing the rest of the occupants.

The pair who jumped were found 200 metres from the balloon wreckage.

The victims were five couples, all from the greater Wellington area, and the pilot, reported to be Lance Hopping.

The trip was run by the Early Morning Balloons company, which operates in Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.

Some of the bodies were badly burned and disaster victim identification experts were working through the wreckage to identify them officially.

“It’s a very hard scene. Some of the bodies are very badly burned,” Inspector Register said.

Two bodies were taken to the mortuary at Wellington Hospital late yesterday, while the other nine were to remain at the scene overnight.

No names have been released as police contact next of kin.

It is not known how far the balloon fell.

Police have spoken to five witnesses to the crash so far.

Three company staff – there to retrieve the balloon after it landed – witnessed the flaming crash.

“This a huge, nationally significant event,” Inspector Register said earlier yesterday. “It’s a tragedy as bad as tragedies get.”

Resident David McKinlay could not believe what he saw when he looked up while watering his garden at 7.40am.

“There were flames licking up the basket on one side, up towards the guy ropes of the balloon itself and probably just about reaching the fabric of the balloon,” he said.

The balloon came down at speed and Mr McKinlay ran inside to alert emergency services.

“When I got back out I could just see the mass of flame where the actual balloon was on fire,” he said. “It had completely disintegrated and it was just a long – probably 10 or 15 metres long – trail of flame coming in towards the ground at colossal speed.”

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

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Newcastle airport partial sale for growth

NEWCASTLE Airport says its potential partial privatisation does not mean that Williamtown is looking to become Sydney’s ‘‘second airport’’.
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But the airport is hopeful the RAAF will lift the domestic arrival limit from six planes an hour to eight as it chases international connections with New Zealand, Fiji and Asia.

As the Newcastle Herald reported yesterday, Newcastle and Port Stephens councils voted on Tuesday night to restructure their jointly owned business.

If the plan is approved as expected by the Department of Local Government, the councils will be able to sell as much as 49per cent of the operation.

Airport chief executive Paul Hughes welcomed the restructure, but said a partial sale was unlikely ‘‘in the shorter term’’.

Mr Hughes said the restructure would take $18million of airport debt off the councils’ books and allow the airport to borrow more money on its own account.

‘‘There will not be much change from a day-to-day point of view, but it’s really important we have the right structure in place that allows us to grow when we need to, but in a way that’s consistent with the RAAF,’’ Mr Hughes said.

Paterson MP Bob Baldwin, whose electorate covers the airport, said it was time the two councils sold out completely.

Mr Baldwin said the councils had done a good job building the airport ‘‘from a tin shed when nobody wanted it’’ but the time had come to let the private sector take things to the next stage.

Businessman Hilton Grugeon, whose Hunter Lands is planning a major airport-related business park immediately south of the airport, also called for a full sale.

He said nobody would pay good money to buy into the airport while the two councils remained in control.

Newcastle Airport’s head lease is with the Department of Defence and its operations are governed by an agreement with the RAAF. A Defence spokesman said it would not be commenting on the airport restructure until the new year.

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