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Stoyle shines as big names make splash

IN FORM: Sunshine Coast surfer Dimity Stoyle pulled out a 9.43-point ride after a slow start in her first heat at Surfest 2016 to progress to round five. Picture: WSL/BennettDIMITY Stoyle got one over Sally Fitzgibbons again at Surfest but the top seed still progressed along with six-time world champion StephanieGilmore and Merewether hope Philippa Anderson on Thursday.

The big namesmade their debut in the 6000-point qualifying series contest in round four, and world No.3Fitzgibbons came up against Stoyle in a repeat of the 2013 Surfest final.

Stoyle, who is trying this year to get back on the championship tour, produced the standout performance of theround, earning scores of 9.43 and 8.23 for a 17.66 total. Fitzgibbons was second with 14.77 (7.77 and 7).It was the start Stoylewas after at the Surfest Women’s Classic,which launched her onto the CT in 2014.

“I just want to get straight back on tour,that’s my goal, so it feels really good to get first heat out of the way,” Stoyle said.“I love matching up against the girls on tour and makingsure I’m still at that level. I think that’s what it’s going to take.”

Fitzgibbons said she would have to improve her wave selection but was pleased for the early test against Stoyle.

“We’ve had some great battles over the years, and especially last year on tour,” Fitzgibbons said.“We kind of had that magnet for one another, in the draw it just seems tohappen that we meet up. Butshe’s in great form and it’s interesting getting used to that four-person priority.”

Gilmore had an easier time in her first heat of 2016, posting an eight-point ride earlyto set up a winning total of 15.1.Anderson edged outCT surfer Laura Enever in heat twowith the same score.

UP AND AWAY: Merewether’s Philippa Anderson gets the fins out in her commanding heat victory on Thursday at Surfest. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Gilmore, the 2008 Surfest champion, missedmost of 2015 with injury and was glad to get off to a strong start on the World Surf League ahead of the CT opener on her home break, Snapper Rocks, from March 10.

”It’s good to take the pressure off with a nice first wave,” Gilmore said.

“I fell off at the end, and that was my first surf of the morning, and I was a bit nervous and had a few things going on.

“It was a nice way to start. Merewether is always a nice spot to hang out with these little right-handers, which is what I like to surf.

“They are my sort of waves, and I think in the next couple of days we’ll get some more, so it’s going to be fun.”

Anderson, who won in 2009 and was runner-up last year at Surfest, was equally impressive and faces Ella Williams and Nikki Van Dijk in round five.

“I got a few good waves and it was good to get it out of the way,” Anderson said.

“No matter what heat you’re in, it’s prettyhard. All the girls here are really impressive.

“It was my first 6000-point contest heat of the year, so I was a bit nervous as well.”

Australian Keely Andrew and Alessa Quizon, who are both CT surfers this year,were the major casualties of the round.

SHINING LIGHT: Stephanie Gilmore is all smiles after winning her round four heat at Surfest on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Avova 15-year-old Macy Callaghan, now a two-time Surfest Pro Junior winner, was second to CT surfer Nikki Van Dijk to progress.

Kiwi Paige Hareb was also a winner, while Hawaiian glamour girl Alana Blanchard was second in the same heatto move on.

Past Surfest champions Malia Manuel, Coco Ho and Silvana Lima also made the cut into three-womenround five heats.

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Gilmore backs Fanning to return

SPOTLIGHT: Stephanie Gilmore with her fans at Merewether on Thursday.

STEPHANIE Gilmore knows well the demands on a multiple world champion and believes Mick Fanning will come back a better surfer after taking a break from them.

Three-time world champion Fanning announced on Thursday he was having a “personal year” and would compete onlypart-time. It comes after a year in whichFanning narrowly escaped a shark attack, mourned the death of his brother and separated from his wife.

Gilmore, a six-time world champion, missed most of last year’s top tourbecause of injury and is making her comeback at Surfest. She also overcame a brutal assault in 2010 and believes Fanning can bounce back.

“Mick had one of the most radical years probably ever last year, and for him to come out from that even stronger,it’s a real testament to his character,” Gilmore said. “He’s been on tour for many years, so he probably wants to take a bit of time to relax.He’ll probably come back much more inspired and surfing even better.

“I’m happy for him.”

She said her injury-enforced break had made her hungry for more success.

“I had that last year. I had a good break, and it feels good,” she said.

“It gets you excited. I don’t know if Mick’s going to feel like it, but Imissedcompeting, and I’m excited to get back into it.”

She said the demands on multipleworld champions were “full on”.

“The more you win, the more work you have to do,” she said.

“It’s all part of it, though, and Mick’s always been such a great ambassador in that sense.

“He’s always got something going on and he works hard, so for that reason, he probably decided he needs a little break, and this will be good for him to absorb everything that’s happened over the last year.

“He’s great. I really like Mick. As long as he’s happy, that’s the main thing.”

Read the WSL’s press release on Fanning’s decision below:

Mick Fanning (AUS), 3x WSL Champion and 2015 World Runner-Up, today announced that he is viewing 2016 as a ‘personal year’ in which he will take time off from full-time competition.

The Australian sporting icon endured an intense 2015 in which he was thrust into the international spotlight following an on-air battle with a Great White Shark during July’s J-Bay Open. Despite the incident, Fanning rallied to battle for the WSL Title throughout the back half of the season, pushing the race to the final event of the year. Suffering the tragic and unexpected loss of older brother Peter during the event window, Fanning’s performance at Pipeline was emotionally charged, but ultimately short of the world surfing crown.

“Last year was definitely intense – what happened at J-Bay, being in a title race and the unfortunate passing of my brother,” Fanning said. “There was so much build up with everything happening. I got to a point at the end of the year where I felt empty. I didn’t feel like I had much to give back.”

“This year, I’m going to take some time off and have a bit of a personal year,” Fanning continued. “Just to regroup and re-stoke the fire. At this stage, I’m going to compete at Snapper and I’m going to compete at Bells and then I’m going to take some time off from there. They (Snapper and Bells) are two events that I love and I’d go crazy if I were sitting at home and couldn’t go surf Snapper. Bells is like a second home as well. From then on, I feel like I have to take some time away from the tour to get out of that sort of zone to see where my head is at.”

The decision to surf in select events in 2016 came after lengthy discussion with family, friends, sponsors and the WSL.

“When I first came to this decision, I rang up Kieren (Perrow) and Paul Speaker and gave them an idea of what I was thinking and seeing if it was okay with them,” Fanning said. “Between those two and the whole WSL being supportive, it’s been really incredible. Even last year, with all the things happening, they were the first people that would reach out to support and make sure everything was okay. I’m really thankful that they’re giving me this opportunity to be selective with events and see where I’m at.”

“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of accomplished people across a variety of mediums and Mick Fanning is certainly one of the most inspiring,” Paul Speaker, WSL CEO, said. “His class and character, even in the face of multiple scenarios that would undo most people, are tremendous. He is a truly special person and we’re here to support him in whatever way we can.”

The shark incident at Jeffreys Bay in July became a top international news story, vaulting Fanning into a level of public recognition never before seen in the sport. While his 2016 season remains in flux, Fanning has indicated plans to return to Jeffreys Bay this year.

“I want to go back to J-Bay,” Fanning said. “I feel like there’s something there that I want to go and face. I want to make sure that I scratch that off the list. I think the main thing will be that first surf. I probably won’t be getting up at dark and getting out there before the sun gets up anymore. I think it’s more about jumping in and surfing once or twice and then I’ll be fine. It’s the same thing as when I came back and surfed Snapper for the first time. You’re a little bit wary and it’s in the back of your mind, but you get to a point where you start to feel comfortable again. If I go and do that event, there are going to be a lot of eyes on me. A lot of people will be seeing what reaction I’ll have. I don’t think I’ll be paddling out early for heats, but I think after a surf or two, I’ll feel fine.”

A 15-year veteran of the elite WSL Championship Tour, Fanning has amassed an impressive 21 event wins and three world titles.

“Mick Fanning is one of the most committed and inspiring figures our sport has been fortunate enough to have,” Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said. “He’s been up front and open about his feelings following the 2015 season and the Commissioner’s Office wholeheartedly supports him taking time for himself this year. We look forward to seeing him at the opening event on the Gold Coast and at select events throughout the year.”

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Petrol on the nose

LEGISLATION CHANGE: Motorists in Katherine and surrounding towns wanting 91 octane fuel can now only purchase low-aromatic varieties following changes to federal legislation on February 19.

SERVICE stations in Northern Territory towns including Katherine,Pine Creek and Mataranka will be slugged with fines of up to $54,000 for selling or possessingstandard 91 octane fuel following changes to federal legislation on February 19.

Indigenous Affairs Minister and NT senator Nigel Scullion said that he had used powers under the Low Aromatic Fuel Act 2013 to enforce the change, which he described as a last-ditch effort to reduce the prevalence ofpetrol sniffing inKatherine and its surrounding regions.

The changesonly apply to corporations,and motorists will not be penalised for using standard 91 octane fuel.

Wurli-Wurlinjang Health Service alcohol and other drugs co-ordinator Andy Blaney welcomed the announcement and said that, while Katherine had been fortunate to avoid major cases of petrol sniffing, it would reduce potential sources for would-be users.

“Every now and again, there will be something happening and we will hear about a couple of kids that have got a hold of some fuel and are sniffing,” he said.

“It does such horrible damage to kidsthat you don’t want any child doing it.”

The majority of service stations in Katherine already stocked low-aromatic fuel prior to Friday’schange and Mr Blaney said those who had held off could no longer avoid doing whatwas in the community’s best interests.

“I suppose it’s disappointing when the low-aromatic fuel becomes available and people chose not to use it,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s got to the point where the government needs to legislate it.”

Riverview Tourist Village customer service attendant Damon Alexander said, since the change, only one customerhadasked about the ban of standard 91 octane fuel.

He added thatthere should be no noticeable difference usinglow-aromatic fuel, but that motorists should check their vehicle’s specifications before filling up.

Katherine Times

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Steve proved them wrong

Love story: The late Steve Koulis, of Steve Koulis Smash Repairs, pictured with his wife of 55 years, Eva. The Greece-born businessman passed away on Sunday after a long battle with cancer. He was 74.

THE life of Newcastle business owner,family man and mentor SteveKoulis was remembered at a ceremony at St Demetrios Church, Hamilton, on Friday.

Mr Koulis’ name has been synonymous with the smash repairs trade ever since heopenedSteve Koulis Smash Repairs on Griffiths Road, Broadmeadow, in 1971.

He lost his long battle with cancer on Sunday. He was 74.

Born in 1941 inGreece on an island called Samos, Steve came to Australiawhen he was 14 years old.

Steve proved them wrong TweetFacebook Steve Koulis rememberedHe could not speak, reador write English. But he learned, and later would often actas a translator for other members of the Greek community in Newcastle.

Steve played trumpet in a band that played at weddings, and he worked as a taxi driver, a driving instructor, and a wood machinist prior to enrolling in a panel beating course at Newcastle Technical College.

But panel beating was not his first choice.

He had wanted to do a mechanic course, but itwas already at capacity.

Despite his teacher telling him a panel beating apprenticeship was a “gentleman’s” coursethat he would never “do much with”, Steve proved him wrong.

After operating a small business out of a rented shed in Broadmeadow for six years, he opened Steve Koulis Smash Repairs at its current location on Griffiths Road in 1971.

The successful enterprise went on tosponsorthe Newcastle Knights and the Hamilton Olympic soccer team for many years.

Steve was big on family.

He met his wife of 55 years, Eva, while she was still at school.

Mrs Koulis laughed as she recalled their elopement.

“We were just kids. After three years together,we got married. We eloped, actually.

“I’m Hungarian and Steve was Greek, and there were some problems with that. But my father-in-law went to Melbourne for a wedding, and while he was gone, Steve said, ‘I want to marry you.’”

They were married ona Tuesday night, withjust a few close friends as witnesses.

“I was only 18, and he was 20. No one thought it was going to last, but it did last.It was avery successful marriage,” Mrs Koulis said.

Their children George, Elizabeth and Anita will remember Steve asa kind, loving father who always put them first.

As stressful and difficult running a business could be, when Stevearrived home, hewas all about his family.

Steve was also a keen fisherman, and a member of Newcastle Pistol Club for more than 20 years.

“He was a very ambitious and hardworking man,” Mrs Koulis said.“He was an achiever. He had a lovely personality and he loved what he did.We’ll miss him a lot.”

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Australian Government warns of ‘advanced stage’ attack plans in Indonesia

The site of terror attacks in Central Jakarta in January. Photo: Screengrab The Australian forensic officers from WA look for evidence Bali bombing site in 2002. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Jakarta: The Australian government has warned terrorists may be in the advanced stages of preparing attacks in Indonesia.

The updated travel advice on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ website smartraveller came as Justice Minister Michael Keenan met Jakarta police chief Tito Karnavian to discuss the recent Jakarta attacks and Australia’s ongoing efforts with Indonesia to combat terrorism in the region.

Mr Keenan said it was likely there would be more attacks in South-east Asia as violent extremists sought to inspire young people to take up their cause.

“Indonesia and our neighbours are all targets for [Islamic State]-inspired terrorism in the same way as Australia,” Mr Keenan said.

“This is of grave concern for Australia and the Australian government. We are working in close co-operation with our neighbours to keep the region safe from terror.”

Mr Keenan has been to Indonesia three times since becoming justice minister, with the discussion mainly centred around shared counter-terrorism efforts.

Australian and Indonesian authorities have a history of strong cooperation in the field, with Australia supporting Indonesia in the investigation of several major terrorist attacks in Indonesia, resulting in arrests and convictions.

Indonesian authorities have proven highly effective in disrupting terrorist plots and networks. There have been more than 900 terrorism-related arrests and about 650 convictions since 2002.

“Recent indications suggest that terrorists may be in the advanced stages of preparing attacks in Indonesia,” the smartraveller website entry for Indonesia says.

However the overall level of advice for the country has not changed.

“We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia, including Bali,” it says.

Security in Bali has been immediately increased following the warning, with police and military personnel patrolling the airport.

Bali airport authority head Yusfandri Hona told Fairfax Media the authority was also conducting background checks on airport staff.

“We have further increased security throughout the airport in response to the travel warnings,” he said after a meeting held to discuss threat.

Mr Yusfandri said this was on top of the high security alert put in place after the January 14 attacks.

Terror expert and chair in Global Islamic Politics at Deakin University Greg Barton said he suspected Australian authorities had intercepted communications that showed increased “chatter” that was cause for concern.

“When they intercept communications they might not necessarily get access to the contents of the message but may see an increase in frequency between two nodes of concern,” Professor Barton said.

He said messaging services, such as Telegram, may contain encrypted messages but a flurry of activity could indicate imminent attacks.

“Some times places and times also come up in unencrypted messages,” he said.

Professor Barton said prior to the 2002 Bali bombings the American Embassy had issued warnings of possible attacks in places such as Bali.

He said the Australian government had been criticised after the bombings for not having done so: “The position now is it is better to be safe with public communication.”

The warning comes after the Australian government also warned of a possible attack in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, indicating Australian agencies have received specific information about a potential terrorist plot.

Malaysia later said it was not aware of what might have prompted such a warning.

Indonesia is currently debating measures to tighten its anti-terror laws passed after the January 14 suicide bombings and shootings in Central Jakarta, which left eight dead.

“We can detect a terrorist network but we can’t act before they have committed a crime,” said national police chief Badrodin Haiti. “That is the weakness of our laws.”

The draft legislation, seen by Fairfax Media, says an individual could be detained for up to six months if it was suspected they would carry out an act of terrorism.

It would also become an offence to join a terrorist group such as Islamic State, or recruit others, with a maximum punishment of seven years’ jail.

The Bali police and airport authority convened meetings immediately after the updated warning from Australia.

National police spokesman Agus Rianto told Fairfax Media Indonesia was safe and security was under control.

“It is understandable if people are worried however [special forces police unit] Detachment 88 continues to chase people based on interrogations of people arrested recently,” Mr Agus told Fairfax Media.

About 40 people have been detained in connection with the police probe to uncover the network of those involved in the Jakarta attacks.

Mr Agus said bombmaking materials such as nails and fertiliser had been found during the arrests.

“The President [Joko Widodo] said we are not afraid, however we remain alert,” he said.

“The police along with related agencies and the people are working together to monitor the situation to make sure the security is there.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the Australian government worked closely with the Indonesian government to address terrorism. “It is a shared threat,” she said.

“I urge all Australians travelling, whether to Indonesia or elsewhere, to purchase travel insurance, register on smartraveller and to read the travel advice carefully before they travel.”

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Macka tackles gator weed

Landfill: Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie plans to tackle alligator weed on his property, within the Williamtown RAAF Base contamination zone, by putting up to 200mm of landfill across it. PORT Stephens mayor Bruce Mackenzie has such an alligator weed problem on his Williamtown propertythat he needs a development application to deal with it.

But the landfill solution he has proposed, within the Williamtown RAAF Base contamination zone, has nearby residents, one of his councillors and Port Stephens MP Kate Washington concerned about the impact on surrounding areas.

Mr Mackenzie plans to scrape the alligator weed off the top of potentially 12 Williamtown lots of land and replace it with up to 200 millimetres of landfill. The development application will be considered for approval ata council meeting in March.

A council document shows the landfill proposal could include acreagesowned by Mr Mackenzie on Nelson Bay Road and Stockton Bight Track.

The Federal Department of Environment describes alligator weed as one of the worst weeds in Australia, responsible for the failure of small crop and turf farms in the Lower Hunter. It recommends repeated spraying to remove it.

Physical removal isdifficultand requirestakingweed material to a depth of one metre, and “deep burial” disposal, the department said.

Mr Mackenzie declined to comment when contacted by the Newcastle Herald.

Councillor Geoff Dingle described the proposal as extraordinary because of serious drainage issues in the area and concerns about any development within the Williamtown contamination zone that could potentially exacerbate the drainage issues.

“If you’re looking at up to 200mm of fill across such a large area, you’re talking about a very large amount of fill, and residents aresaying there’s flooding here that they’ve never seen before,” he said.

He also questioned the approach taken, saying it was contrary to material supplied to councillors recommending alligator weed be sprayed, or if removed from land that it should be “burnt or buried to a depth of up to five metres”.

Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association spokesman Nigel Waters said the development application showed the area proposed was “substantial” but there was “no estimate of how much fill would be involved”.

“It’s a bit of a mystery that the council would even consider such a proposal because it’s partly in the contamination zone,” Mr Waters said.

Ms Washington wasconcernedabout potential impacts from introducing fill into a known flood area.

A Port Stephens Council spokesman said the application was referred to the Environment Protection Authority which “raised no objections to the proposal subject to conditions”.

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Melbourne Victory hold Champions League dream, win praise from unexpected quarter

Right: Matthieu Delpierre’s calm demeanour, organisational skills and tactical understanding made the difference on the back line against Shanghai. Photo: Robert Cianflone Victory’s defence was excellent against Shanghai, with youngsters Nick Ansell and Jason Geria producing coming-of-age performances. Photo: Robert Cianflone

Melbourne Victory and coach Kevin Muscat have won praise from an unlikely source for their Asian Champions League triumph over Shanghai SIPG on Wednesday night – Melbourne City boss John van ‘t Schip.

Victory clawed out a 2-1 win over the big spending Chinese club, coached by former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, in a thrilling contest played at a frantic pace.

Muscat’s team managed to quell, for the most part, Shanghai’s big name imports Dario Conca, Elkeson and Asamoah Gyan, and Van ‘t Schip was impressed with their organisation and strong will.

He was not, however, impressed by Shanghai, who, he said, looked less like a team and more a collection of individuals.

Granted the Chinese team was playing only its second competitive match since the Chinese Super League season ended last December, and it was trying to integrate players new players.

But, said Van ‘t Schip, the game showed how preparation and team spirit could take Australian teams a long way against superior technical opponents with much bigger budgets.

The Dutchman hopes to be in Muscat’s position next year, if City can nail one of Australia’s guaranteed two spots in the competition.

“To be honest, I think Victory deserved to win that game. Shanghai had some chances as well, but  I was very disappointed in the Chinese team,” the Dutchman, who was at AAMI Park to watch first-hand, said.

“You can see with less money and more team effort and a game plan you can still achieve a lot of things in the Asian league.

“Western Sydney is a good example, and yesterday was another. If you have players that are really wanting to make the effort and work with each other you can still get wins against teams that have maybe three or four individual good players, but the team doesn’t really work together.

“I think that was the key yesterday, that Melbourne Victory looked like a team and Shanghai didn’t .”

Muscat can feel delighted that his side got off to such a positive start, even if Eriksson felt his team did enough to secure a point.

Winning home matches is vital in such tournaments, and if Victory can now pick up a point away to Gamba Osaka next week its chances of making it past the group stage will multiply.

The club is one of a number of A-League sides said to be chasing Socceroo winger Tommy Oar after he ended his contract with English Championship team Ipswich Town last month, citing homesickness.

Club officials confirmed on Wednesday night that Oar was on their radar, most likely as a replacement for Kiwi wide man Kosta Barbarouses, who is expected to move to Wellington for a big-money marquee player contract next season.

While Oar could undoubtedly assist with a rebuild at Victory, Muscat must surely wish he could persuade veteran French defender Matthieu Delpierre to reconsider his decision to head back to Europe at the end of the season.

The former Stuttgart captain has said he plans to return to live in Germany at the end of his contract later this year and his will be huge shoes to fill when he goes.

Delpierre was immense in the win over Shanghai, hardly losing out in any contest.

Victory’s defence was excellent through the night, with youngsters Nick Ansell and Jason Geria producing coming-of-age performances.

Delpierre’s defensive attributes – he is strong and good in the air and the tackle – are one thing. But his calm demeanour, organisational skills and tactical understanding make him the outstanding  leader of a backline that often features younger players.

Muscat would love to have him for one more season, both as a player and as a mentor to his youthful defenders like Ansell, Geria, Scott Galloway and Thomas Deng.

“Jason’s season has been interrupted with international duty, we are still not going to see the best of him, he is still finding his feet because of his fitness,” said Muscat, predicting further improvement from Geria.

“Nick and Matthieu were outstanding, and both Nick and Thomas are gaining so much experience from playing alongside Matthieu. It will be hard to persuade him to change his mind, but lets enjoy watching him for the rest of the season,” Muscat said.

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From goats to goannas, 2500 rescued

HOME: Facebook pet rescue page founder Melissa Wilson with bearded dragons Slayer (large) and Mary (hatchling). Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.WITH a cattledog,kelpie,fosterdachshund and twobearded dragons at home, Melissa Wilson couldbe forgiven for decidingquite enough creatures are inher care.

But in the eightmonths since she foundeda Facebook pageforlost pets, Ms Wilson and herbandof volunteershavereunited 2500 animals with their owners.

“There were 91 on New Year’s Eve alone,” the LostPetsNewcastle,Hunter Valley&Surroundsfounder said.

“Wehelped reunite a cat after two-and-a-half years. We’ve organised horse floats in flood-affected areas,had goats and sheep stay the night ina volunteer’sbathroom.”

Armed with microchip scanners and the will to crawl under houses,Ms Wilson’s team issummoned daily bythe Facebook page’s 11,000 members to deal with lost and frightened animals before the authorities do.

A simple “lost dog” notice that appearson the page will, Ms Wilson said, resultin success 90 per cent of the time.

Her most recent high-profile clientwasa goanna seenscurrying towards Lambton’s Mark Hotel and,it turned out, socialmedia stardom.

The fugitive goanna was corralled away from traffic as Ms Wilson rapidlycalled the Native Animal Trust Fund, put out a Facebook alert and madeherbest attempt atreptilian reassurance.

Despite a cut to its head, the goanna was expected to fullyrecover.

Then there’sScooter.

The Maltese terrier was found onthe streets of Charlestown on Boxing Dayin what looked like a textbookcase oflost dog, until Ms Wilson scanned his microchip.

Scooter was500 kilometres from home,thetown of Tottenhamin the state’s Central West.

It is now believed Scooterwas takenby someonepassingthrough Tottenham whobroughthim to Charlestown to live out his days, untilhe escaped.Michelle Owen, hisowner, was beside herself with relief.

The family own a petroleumcompany, and a truck was dispatched to retrieve Scooter in the night.

On Thursday, an appeal wasmade on the Facebook page fora lost male chihuahua.

He had escaped from Wangi, wearing a blue collar.

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New Atlas robot from Google’s Boston Dynamics shows off human-like qualities

Boston Dynamics — the Google-owned engineering company dedicated to creating robots that move like animals — has shown off a updated version of its human-like Atlas design with a new video.

Standing 175 centimetres tall and weighing 82 kilograms, the new Atlas has long arms, short legs, a tiny cylindrical head and is designed to operate outdoors as well as inside buildings.

The new video shows Atlas walking confidently past other members of its robotic family — including WildCat and BigDog — and heading straight out the door before wading like a terrifying idiot through a stretch of snow.

Boston Dynamics is renowned online for its quirky videos of new robots that don’t seem quite ready to handle the tasks they’re attempting — stumbling like babies over rough terrain or being shoved and kicked by researchers until they fall flat on their metal face.

The uneven nature of the robots definitely makes the videos palatable – without something to laugh and point at most of Boston’s creations would be more than a little scary – but it’s also the most impressive aspect of the machines.

Staying upright while navigating uneven terrain and adjusting for unexpected complications is an extraordinarily involved process, requiring constant adjustment that’s difficult to come by without a brain and central nervous system. Mastering this will be required for most tasks mobile robots will be used for, be it search and rescue, military applications or travelling back through time to track and assassinate humans.

What makes Boston’s robots so interesting to watch is that, when faced with an obstacle or a swift kick, they tend to react in an eerily similar way to a dizzy human or quadrupedal animal.

Walking is not Atlas’s only trick however. The video also shows it lifting and stacking boxes, reacting appropriately when a box is cruelly moved out of its reach at the last moment, and managing to right itself after being knocked to the ground.

Previously shown Boston designs include BigDog — seen cutting an empathetic, scuttling figure in the above GIF — and Sand Flea, a tiny car that can leap 10 metres in the air. The firm has also developed a Cheetah-like robot that can run 45 kilometres per hour, and at Christmas last year posted a video showing a troupe of prancing reindeerbots towing a sleigh.

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Jamie Gao’s phone was picked up by someone hours after his death, court hears

Misaki Takebayashi told the court that an unknown person picked up Jamie Gao’s phone hours after he was allegedly murdered. Photo: Facebook Jamie Gao was last seen by his girlfriend on May 18, 2014. Photo: Facebook

Glen McNamara leaving the Supreme Court in custody on Wednesday. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Roger Rogerson has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Jamie Gao. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Jamie Gao wanted to be a gangster, court hearsCCTV footage from the day of Jamie Gao’s murder​Rogerson and McNamara blame each other for Gao’s death

Just hours after university student Jamie Gao was allegedly shot dead and stuffed inside a surfboard bag, his girlfriend was desperately trying to call him when someone picked up his phone.

The voice said “hello” in Chinese and then hung up.

A few minutes later someone sent a text message from Mr Gao’s phone.

“I’m his friend, he’s lost his phone, his phone is on me,” the text message allegedly said.

A Sydney court has previously heard a friend of his found the phone after Mr Gao went missing.

When Misaki Takebayashi tried to contact Mr Gao later on the night of May 20, 2014, she could not get through to him.

This was what Ms Takebayashi told a jury during the murder trial of Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara on Thursday.

The pair are charged with murdering the university student on May 20, 2014 inside a southern Sydney rental shed.

The prosecution’s case is that Mr Rogerson and Mr McNamara were part of a joint criminal enterprise to murder Mr Gao and then steal the 2.78kg of methylamphetamine he had brought to sell to them.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to murder and supplying a large commercial quantity of prohibited drugs.

Wearing a black turtleneck jumper and pearls, Ms Takebayashi gave her evidence via video link from Japan to the NSW Supreme Court.

She spoke of how Mr Gao had met with Mr McNamara several times including three days before his death at a pub in Hurstville.

“I recall times where I would be shopping in Hurstville with Jamie and he would receive a call on his mobile from Glen wanting to meet,” part of her police statement, read out by Crown prosecutor Christopher Maxwell QC, said.

“Sometimes Jamie would be gone for hours.”

She said on May 17 she was with Jamie when he got a phone call from Mr McNamara.

“He went away for 30 minutes to one hour to meet Glen and then he came back,” she told the court.

The last night she spent with Mr Gao was at a party in Hurstville and then the pair stayed the night at Mr Gao’s house on May 18.

The next day Ms Takebayashi said Mr Gao went to study at the University of Technology Sydney and she went to TAFE.

She never saw him again.

In the days after Mr Gao’s death, a devastated Ms Takebayashi and her close friends went to where his body was found at Cronulla and threw flowers into the water.

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