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Seoul hopes new era will bridge Korean divide

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak.SEOUL – South Korea sees an opportunity for better relations with North Korea as its new leader takes power, President Lee Myung-Bak said yesterday, while vowing to respond strongly to any provocations.
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“Our biggest goal is the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula,” Mr Lee said in a televised New Year address. “We are leaving the window of opportunity open.”

Mr Lee said the peninsula’s political situation “is at a new turning point, but there are new opportunities in the changes and uncertainties”.

“We will be able to open the door for a new era in the Korean peninsula if North Korea shows sincerity.”

The North has harshly criticised the South’s conservative president since its longtime leader Kim Jong-Il died on December 17 and his son Jong-Un took power.

On Friday, Pyongyang’s top decision-making body, the National Defence Commission, warned the world to expect no policy changes under the son.

It threatened unspecified retaliation against the South for perceived disrespect.

The South “will thoroughly maintain national security as long as there is a possibility of provocation by the North,” Mr Lee said. “We will respond strongly if provoked.”

The President said he expected “big changes” and hoped 2012 would be a turning point in the efforts to negotiate an end to the North’s nuclear programs.

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

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Byun cleared for Mariners derby

CLEARED: Byun Sung-hwanJETS coach Gary van Egmond had no hesitation in reinstalling Byun Sung-hwan for the match against arch rivals Central Coast at Bluetongue Stadium tonight after the Korean was cleared of a major heart problem.
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Byun was stood down from training on Tuesday after results of an electrocardiograph (ECG) test, which all players underwent in the pre-season, revealed he had left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), or an enlarged left ventricle.

In extreme cases LVH can cause heart failure.

The 32-year-old consulted Cardiff cardiologist Geoff Oldfield on Wednesday and had more tests.

After two anxious days, Byun yesterday received the go-ahead to resume training and playing.

The Jets did not provide details of the test results, but it is understood Byun will require further treatment.

Van Egmond said the news was a relief to everyone.

‘‘He is a very popular member of the team and has been a major contributor this season,’’ the coach said.

‘‘You do not need much motivation for a derby, but I’m sure this will provide a lift.

‘‘It has been very frustrating for Byun, and this will be a huge weight off his shoulders and those of his family and friends.’’

Van Egmond said the fact that Byun had not trained this week was not a concern and confirmed the experienced Korean would line up in his usual spot at left back.

‘‘His fitness levels are very high and he hasn’t had a great deal of time out this year,’’ the coach said.

‘‘Although he hasn’t worked with the group, he has been doing a degree of exercise.

‘‘The other benefit is that Central Coast have a similar set-up to [last week’s opponent] the Melbourne Victory.

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High temperatures bring fire risk

CLOUD cover has cooled fire conditions in Northern Tasmania this morning but the bushfire risk will remain high for the rest of the week.
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Tasmania Fire Service have declared a high fire danger day for the Central North, East Coast, Midlands, Upper Derwent, Central Plateau and Western districts today.

There have been no significant fire threats yet today but the 30 degree temperatures and strong north-easterly winds forecast for Launceston mean any fire started could easily spread out of control.

Deputy Regional Fire chief Jeff Harper said the North will face its worst fire conditions of the summer tomorrow and Wednesday as Tasmania catches the tail end of a hot weather system that is causing 38 degree temperatures and extreme fire danger in Victoria.

Mr Harper said the abundance of fine dry fuels meant any fire could get out of control in the right conditions.

”As long as the wind stays away we can cope with it – usually it’s the wind that gives us problems.”

”We won’t want to many more weeks like this.”

He warned people to take care slashing, with camp fires and when conducting permitted burns this week.

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

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‘Worst ever’ Bulahdelah bottleneck

LAST TIME: Long traffic queues at Bulahdelah during the holiday seasons have been part of the trip north for many years.A FINAL farewell from Bulahdelah’s notorious highway bottleneck will give motorists an unwelcome Christmas present, with lower speed limits set to apply during the holidays.
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Read the Herald’s opinion here.

NSW Roads and Maritime Services has confirmed roadwork speed limits will be enforced through the area between December 23 and January 3, despite workers downing tools, shaving 30km/h off drivers’ speedometers.

The slowdown has prompted one Bulahdelah business owner to predict the worst bottleneck in the town’s history, potentially adding hours to drivers’ trips.

Peacehaven Country Cottages owner Nita Eadie said she believed this year could be the worst yet for commuters travelling through the town.

‘‘This year, I think, will be the worst ever because of those roadworks,’’ Ms Eadie said. ‘‘It’s not giving people a good experience [with Bulahdelah] but at least this will be the last year.’’

A spokesman for Roads and Maritime Services confirmed the 80km/h limits would be enforced, as motorists heading north would use a completed section of divided road through the 8.6kilometre stretch.

‘‘Roadwork speed limits will remain during the holiday period, even when no work is being carried out,’’ the spokesman said. ‘‘This is to improve road safety and reflects the fact motorists are travelling through an unfamiliar road layout.’’

Bulahdelah service station co-owner Terry Stellema said she believed the slowdown was necessary this year, citing recent accidents in the area.

‘‘Even though people hate it, it does flow better, ’’ Mrs Stellema said.

She expected the slowdown to have a minimal impact on business in the town’s busy trading period.

‘‘By that time [after driving for a while] the kids are hungry and thirsty, and they stop,’’ Mrs Stellema said.

Lengthy waits and queues have formed a regular part of the holiday period for northbound travellers for years, with queues during April’s Easter long weekend this year extending more than 10kilometres at some points.

An NRMA spokesman said the motoring body was urging drivers to adhere to the speed limits, but pushed for signage to ensure the speed conditions were made clear.

Roads and Maritime Services will also enforce several other interim measures in the area, including left turns only from Stroud Road, the town’s main business strip, onto the highway.

Estimated travel times and updates will be displayed and traffic controllers and emergency crews will be on site.

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City embraces party plan

New Year’s Eve goes off with a bang at Launceston’s Royal Park.GREATER support from the Launceston City Council, local businesses and the community will be the key to the success of the New Year on Royal celebrations going into the future, according to organisers.
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As the clean-up got under way yesterday, the event’s organising Festivale committee chairwoman Lou Clark said that despite a collective lack of sleep and sore feet it had been a great effort thanks to everyone who went out of their way to make it happen.

Reveller numbers at the event are believed to have surpassed the 5000 hoped to bring in the new year on the banks of the Tamar River.

Ms Clark said after the non-event of 2010, locals and visitors were only too happy to come out and support the celebrations and the committee had received a lot of positive feedback.

She said it was a not-for-profit committee which budgeted $165,000 for the event and expected to break even.

Ms Clark said the Launceston City Council contributed $30,000 and the remainder of the funds came from businesses, sponsorship and revenue raised at the gate.

“Council has supported us this year but we’ll need that kind of support to be ongoing and increased and hopefully we can get some more local businesses interested in supporting it,” Ms Clark said.

“We’ve had a lot of support from local businesses, even from contractors who have supported us in-kind.

“It’s a public holiday today (Sunday) and businesses have arranged to have their staff work on this event and that’s been great.”

Ms Clark would not be drawn on whether the committee would take on organising the event again this year and at the moment was only looking as far as Festivale in early February.

She said it did not seek funding from the state government because of the government’s financial woes and she believed it did not meet the government’s criteria for event funding.

Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten said it was a fantastic evening; well organised, the crowd was well behaved and it was topped off with a great fireworks display.

Alderman Van Zetten said greater support of the event was something the council would look at in due course and discuss with the organisers.

He said he would be happy to talk to the state government if there was the possibility that funding could be secured for the event in the future.

Ms Clark said the highlight of the evening was the large fireworks display which capped off a night of great entertainment and it was nice to see many families soaking up the atmosphere with a picnic and local wines.

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

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AGL halts Gloucester exploration drilling plan

NOT BACKING DOWN: Farmers forming the blockade, which has been operating since Monday. – Picture by Gloucester AdvocateA ‘‘RELUCTANT’’ AGL has stopped planned exploration drilling south of Gloucester and says it will subject the approved first stage of its big gas production project to a fresh assessment.
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The move came late yesterday and followed a Barrington-Gloucester-Stroud Preservation Alliance blockade of the road to the exploration site.

Gas company AGL had planned to drill six exploration wells on land owned by coal company Gloucester Resources until the blockade halted operations.

The first stage of AGL’s Gloucester Gas Project, made up of 110 production wells, has been approved but is the subject of a legal challenge by the alliance.

About 40 farmers have been blockading the farm at Gloucester since Monday, when AGL began bringing equipment in to start exploration at the property.

AGL issued a statement yesterday deferring the exploration drilling until an ‘‘independently, peer-reviewed’’ hydrogeological study of stage one of the production project was completed and the results made public.

‘‘While AGL acknowledges the alliance wants a new groundwater study initiated and completed without any involvement from AGL, the reality is that extensive groundwater monitoring has already taken place,’’ the company said.

‘‘This work will be independently peer reviewed by an expert appointed by the Gloucester community consultative committee.

‘‘AGL makes the decision to defer the drilling program with some reluctance in the knowledge of the impact it will have on our local business suppliers and partners and their employees so close to Christmas.’’

The company will also wait until the legal challenge is resolved before resuming drilling.

Alliance chairman Graeme Healy said AGL’s move was a ‘‘significant victory’’.

But there would be further negotiations with the company about the group’s demands, he added.

The blockade will continue but the protest will be scaled down, Mr Healy said.

AGL group general manager upstream gas Mike Moraza said other work on the Gloucester gas project, including seismic surveying, ground water monitoring and irrigation trials, would continue.

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Hussey goes in to bat for umpires despite Boxing Day woes

Mike HusseySYDNEY – He had as much reason as any to lament the lack of a decision review system during the Boxing Day Test against India, but Australian batsman Mike Hussey has applauded the umpire’s work in Melbourne.
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Hussey appeared to be on the receiving end of a harsh caught-behind decision in the first innings of Australia’s 122-run win in Melbourne, given out for a first-ball duck despite replays suggesting that he hadn’t edged through to Indian wicketkeeper MS Dhoni.

But rather than slamming the lack of technological aids, Hussey paid tribute to umpires Ian Gould and Marais Erasmus.

“I’d have to say that I think the umpires did an outstanding job. They’ve got to make a decision within a split second on what they see and they don’t have the benefit of doing the slow-mo replays, having the technology to make their decision.”

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

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Pay up for fig fiasco, says Buman

DAYS NUMBERED: Laman Street figs.NEWCASTLE councillors should be held financially responsible for wasting ratepayers’ money on Laman Street, says Cr Aaron Buman who has lodged a motion calling for an investigation into ‘‘deliberate delays’’.
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Cr Buman lodged a notice of motion this week calling for an investigation with a view to surcharging councillors ‘‘in respect to culpable negligence or misconduct’’.

His call comes as Labor councillors conceded defeat in the long-running dispute, citing a lack of numbers within the council chamber and ongoing costs.

Also yesterday, Cr Bob Cook issued a document, The Litany of Lies, which says the Save Our Figs group should be held accountable for the $1.5million fiasco.

Cr Cook’s document responds to 50 specific claims made by supporters of the fig trees, which he says are ‘‘misinformation’’.

‘‘Some of these mistruths may appear insignificant, but considered as a whole they demonstrate and represent the deliberate campaign by Save Our Figs Inc to distort the public perception of this issue,’’ Cr Cook wrote.

‘‘The people responsible for this should be made accountable for their behaviour.’’

Cr Buman said a surcharge might create more responsible actions from councillors and the general manager.

Save Our Figs spokeswoman Caity Raschke said the group had real concerns, and still disputed the council’s contention that the trees were a risk.

She said she had not lied or misled anyone.

‘‘I think the amount of money spent on the issue has been an effective tool used by the council,’’ Dr Raschke said.

‘‘For $10,000, the council could have had an independent assessment. With leadership like that, I fear for this city.’’

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Aussies out to spoil Tendulkar’s 100 party

SYDNEY – For all those hoping Indian great Sachin Tendulkar can achieve his 100th international hundred during the Sydney Test this week, the Australian cricket team is only too happy for him to wait a bit longer.
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Many feel Tendulkar, who averages 221.33 runs after seven Test innings at the venue, is destined to achieve the milestone in the historic 100th Test match at the SCG starting tomorrow.

While such would seem fitting for Tendulkar, with the support of many Australian fans as Indians, that’s not the view in the Australian dressing room.

”I can assure you that everyone in our dressing room does not want him to make a 100,” veteran batsman Mike Hussey said.

”I am a bit nervous because the stars seem to be aligning with Sachin needing one more 100. (It’s) the 100th Test match in Sydney, he’s made runs here before.

”It’s a little bit ominous but hopefully we can make him wait until after this series and he can get a 100 in the first game of the next series that he plays.”

Rohit Sharma, who could make his Test debut if he gets the nod ahead of middle-order batsman Virat Kohli, said Tendulkar’s personal milestone wasn’t affecting him or his teammates.

”Not at all, and I’m sure he’s also not thinking of that,” Sharma said.

”As we know, Sydney is his lucky ground so hopefully it happens here.”

The last time Australia hosted India at the SCG was in 2008, with relations between the teams reaching an all-time low in the aftermath of the fiery affair.

Michael Clarke’s three wickets in the final overs of the fifth day delivered the Australians a world-record-equalling 16th consecutive Test win, but allegations Andrew Symonds had been racially abused by Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh overshadowed the match.

”That was a long time ago and the personalities and teams have changed quite a lot, particularly in our team,” Hussey said.

”That’s gone, that’s in the past. I think the players that were involved in all the controversies have moved on, even played together.”

Despite having his place in the team questioned at times during 2011, Hussey ended the year as Australia’s top Test scorer with 680 runs at 42.50.

And the 36-year-old felt the tide was turning for Australia after a tough 12 months.

”I look back on it with a lot of mixed feelings really because as a team we haven’t had a lot of success,” Hussey said of his year.

”We lost the Ashes and that was very, very disappointing for us. We didn’t get as far in the World Cup as we would have liked.

”There’s been a lot of change around our team and a lot of uncertainty.”

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

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Rail upgrade to replace ‘passing loops’

QUEUE: Traffic at Adamstown gates.RAIL enthusiasts say a big upgrade between Sydney and Newcastle is based on replacing a number of ‘‘passing loops’’ that were taken out of the system over the past decade.
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The state government says the old loops were too small for long modern freight trains, but critics say they could have been extended before now.

Thornton public transport advocate Bob Bell, who was on the NSW Commuter Council when it argued against axing the passing loops, said people had plenty of warning that longer trains were on the way.

‘‘In most places they could have lengthened the loops because there’s plenty of land,’’ Mr Bell said.

‘‘We warned them it would create problems but they took them out of service and let them go to rack and ruin.’’

A recently retired train driver of more than 30years’ experience said the loops had been taken out of service by bureaucrats with no practical knowledge.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union organiser Steve Wright said the old loops at Awaba, Dora Creek, Morisset, Ourimbah and Tuggerah were built for 500-metre trains, not the 1500-metre ‘‘super freighters in use now’’.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said: ‘‘The loops that were previously removed from the area were only a few hundred metres long and unable to hold large freight trains.’’

The Transport Minister’s announcement on Wednesday of a $1billion spending program between Strathfield and Hexham has reignited debate on delay at the Adamstown and Islington level crossings and the need for a dedicated freight line between Fassifern and Hexham.

Federal Labor MP for Newcastle, Sharon Grierson, said Canberra was not looking at the Fassifern bypass because the state government had never formally proposed it.

State Liberal MP Tim Owen said Ms Grierson was correct, but that was because ‘‘her Labor mates’’ in state politics had ignored the Hunter for 16years.

Ms Berejiklian said the Fassifern freight link was ‘‘a potential future option’’ that would be considered in the long-term transport master plan.

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