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Monthly Archives: March 2019

Dalai Lama free to those who can’t afford him

Written on March 22, 2019 at 10:33, by

Respect: Recovering alcoholic Murray (left) is looking forward to the visit of the Dalai Lama. Photo: Tamara Dean The Loaves and Fishes Free Restaurant in Ashfield, where the Reverend Bill Crews’ The Exodus Foundation provides up to 1000 meals a day to the poor and homeless, is a world away from the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
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The restaurant’s clients, such as 62-year-old Murray, could not afford to pay up to $721 to attend the Dalai Lama’s speeches at the venue as part of his Australian visit.

Yet Murray will have his own audience with the Dalai Lama on Monday when the Tibetan spiritual leader visits The Exodus Foundation in the grounds of the Ashfield Uniting Church to speak to the homeless and serve them lunch.

It’s a coup for the organisation. When the Dalai Lama arrived in Sydney on Thursday for his eighth Australian tour, his office was so swamped it had to turn on the answering machine to say all tickets for the Sydney and Melbourne events were sold out.

Ticket prices ranged from $337 to $721 for the two-day Beyond Religion: the 14th Dalai Lama on the Benefits of Living Ethically event at Sydney Entertainment Centre to $1855 for a gold pass to the two-day Melbourne conference next week.

Events held abroad are an important fund-raiser for the Tibetan cause – most of the Dalai Lama’s public talks are in India, where the tickets are free.

Mr Crews said it had been a battle to keep the ”toffs” away from the event at his foundation.

”They can meet him anywhere. This is for the people who didn’t think they’d ever have a chance.”

Paul Bourke, executive officer of the Australia Tibet Council, said event organisers usually would be asked to make ”some contribution” to the Dalai Lama In Australia Ltd charity in exchange for his appearance. The Paddington charity organises most of his conferences and whatever is left in the kitty after paying for such things as venue hire, security, staff and marketing goes back to charities.

Last financial, year Dalai Lama in Australia Ltd made a loss of $369,939.93, according to its financial statement filed with ASIC. It made $53,635 in merchandise sales and $63,072 in ticketed events but earned just $798.30 in donations.

On Sunday at his Sydney event, a team of 70 volunteers planned to hand out ”kindness cards” to the audience of 10,000 people, who will each be invited to do one small act of kindness and then email in their story. These stories will then be compiled into a book and given to the Dalai Lama as a thank-you gift.

The idea came from Jono Fisher, the founder of the Wake Up Project, who will also present at the conference. Mr Fisher’s kindness cards gained a cult following on his blog and there are about 90,000 circulating in Australia.

Reverend Crews invited the Dalai Lama, who he described as being homeless for more than 50 years, to visit Ashfield last year. He had known the Dalai Lama for more than 20 years, said the longtime advocate for Tibetan causes. ”He is the only person I know who is himself everywhere,” Reverend Crews said. ”That I’ve found is a real strength.”

Murray, a recovering alcoholic who has been a client of the restaurant since 2000, said he was not daunted by the prospect of meeting the Dalai Lama.

”It’s beautiful that we on Earth have someone of such a nature, the guidance and where he’s been and also his teachings,” he said.

Murray said the visit was keenly anticipated saying he had noticed an air of respect that the clientele are showing now they realise the Dalai Lama is coming to see them.

The message of the visit is simple, Reverend Crews said: ”China with all of its power and all of its military is frightened of one man who is as homeless as the people who come and eat here every day.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Accounts queried in tax sweep

Written on March 22, 2019 at 10:33, by

Controversy: Barry O’Sullivan has been asked to explain his offshore accounts to the ATO.Barry O’Sullivan, the wealthy detective-turned-property developer who was recently chosen to replace Barnaby Joyce in the Senate, is one of the many high-profile Australians who has had a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.
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Mr O’Sullivan has been a divisive figure in Queensland politics. Last year he was in the spotlight over an appointment to a state government audit job while he was a party executive.

Only last week, a series of conversations secretly recorded by former Queensland Liberal leader Bruce Flegg revealed that, in 2011, Mr O’Sullivan and Dr Flegg discussed ways to topple then opposition leader John-Paul Langbroek.

”It’s 7 o’clock in the morning. We should be rolling over and patting someone on the arse,” joked Mr O’Sullivan as he and Dr Flegg sat in a cafe, cold-bloodedly discussing how to knife Mr Langbroek and replace him with Campbell Newman.

”He’s been at the centre of so much embarrassment to the party for the past year or two, they just cannot be serious,” said former Liberal MP and radio presenter Gary Hardgrave, of the push to install Mr O’Sullivan as Mr Joyce’s replacement.

Mr O’Sullivan, the former Liberal National Party state treasurer, recently received a ”please explain” letter from the Australian Tax Office over his offshore company.

”We have identified people we believe we should at least be asking questions of, and giving them an opportunity to explain to us in the first instance how and what is going on,” said the ATO’s Greg Williams, deputy commissioner of serious non-compliance.

Mr Williams confirmed that the US, British and Australian tax authorities are working together on possibly the largest tax investigation in history.

In 2010, millions of files from two companies including Portcullis TrustNet, which manages offshore companies in tax havens for wealthy people, was leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The Portcullis documents indicate Mr O’Sullivan set up Asia Pacific Claims Management in the British Virgin Islands in March 1998.

The burly would-be Senator confirmed he recently received an inquiry from the ATO about his offshore company. ”That company has never, not for one day, not for one week, not for one month, not for one year since 1999 until now, ever operated,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

Mr O’Sullivan said he was a detective for 15 years and for the following two decades after leaving the police force he ran an international business ”preparing briefs of evidence predominantly for US [law] firms for clients who had been injured in catastrophic air crashes”.

Mr O’Sullivan said that because ”we had a presence all over the world” a law firm in Singapore suggested he establish an offshore company.

He said it cost him ”an arm and a leg” to set up, but when he returned to Australia, his accountants advised him against having an offshore entity.

”Here was my mistake, which I am alive to now; I just automatically assumed it [his BVI company] would be wound up … It wasn’t a case of trying to go up a shady alley somewhere,” he told Fairfax Media.

Mr O’Sullivan said his accountants were working on getting all the documentation together and the ATO had agreed to give him extra time to comply with their queries due to an accident in which his five-year-old grandson was seriously injured when he fell from a ride at a school fete.

NSW state independent Richard Torbay was set to contest the federal seat of the Northern Tablelands for the National Party. But his dramatic resignation from public life over a donation scandal left the way clear for Mr Joyce to contest a lower house seat.

Mr O’Sullivan, who has made a fortune in property development, was chosen to replace Mr Joyce in the Senate. In February, Mr Joyce notified the Parliament he had accepted a flight between Brisbane and St George on a private four-seater plane owned by Mr O’Sullivan.

Bets scheme trail links Pickering with secret offshore companies

Cartoonist, bankrupt and failed businessman Larry Pickering has always claimed he had nothing to do with a sports-betting software scheme that fleeced hundreds of investors of millions of dollars.

”I feel sorry for people who lost money but I had nothing to do with it,” Mr Pickering told The Daily Telegraph two years ago.

But now evidence has emerged to suggest Mr Pickering was using secret offshore companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and managed out of Hong Kong to channel funds generated by the scheme.

The documents were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which has published ground-breaking stories this year that have rocked private banking.

The 70-year-old, who has recently devoted himself to writing defamatory blogs about the Prime Minister, has 11 children to five women and lives in a mansion on the Gold Coast.

Emails and company documents generated by his own accountant – Portcullis TrustNet, a global firm that specialises in trust schemes in tax-free countries – reveal his companies were referred to the Hong Kong police because investors wanted their money returned.

Software vendor Cohen Strachan Investment Pty Ltd failed in 2010. Its sports-betting software was faulty and customers reported they believed their accounts were being manipulated or did not exist.

In an October 2006 email, Jamie Williams, a Portcullis TrustNet employee who had helped administer Mr Pickering’s offshore companies, confirmed to his colleagues Mr Pickering’s involvement in the affair. ”I believe the companies were all involved in the same business which I think was selling PC software over the net,” he wrote.

”I understand the companies had some complaints from customers about the products. The customers wanted their funds returned and complained [to] the bank [Standard Chartered in Hong Kong]. The bank returned the funds. LP [Larry Pickering] disputed whether the bank should have returned the funds.”

The email went on to describe how two companies linked to Mr Pickering were the subject of Hong Kong police requests for information. The documents show Mr Pickering’s secret offshore companies also owed thousands of dollars to a string of overseas companies that sent debt collectors across the globe to hunt for him.

Standard Chartered itself was owed $HK58,0307.87, postal company UPS had $HK85,707.23 outstanding and two other companies were demanding $HK44,773.84.

He is listed in the documents as ”the beneficial owner” of Cable Tower Limited, Azure Dene Limited and Soft Holdings Limited, all of which are incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, according to the Portcullis TrustNet documents.

The two firms that owed the money were Azure Dene (ADL) and Soft Holdings (SHL). His signature appears on their registration documents, which have been seen by Fairfax Media.

”Amazingly LP [Larry Pickering] now claims that he is not and was never the beneficial owner of ADL and SHL … This is contrary to what LP has previously told us,” an internal Portcullis email said. At one point, a manager referred his staff to an email he had written to Mr Pickering: ”I think it is time to get tough.”

When Fairfax Media listed the companies to Mr Pickering, he initially said: ”Never heard of it. I’ve got no offshore stuff, mate.”

He later said he had some Hong Kong companies, but ”that was back in the ’90s”. When told the documents dated from 2006, he said ”I don’t believe that’s the case.”

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Top apps for splitting the bill

Written on March 22, 2019 at 10:33, by

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Billr works well for splitting restaurant bills between up to 16 people – especially if everyone’s paying different amounts. It supports splitting shared items, such as entrees and wine, and you can send your friends a copy of the bill via text message or email. You’re out of luck if someone has an issue after the bill’s been paid, however, as the app doesn’t save anything.

BillPiniPhone, AndroidFree

BillPin aims to make money owed between friends as argument-free as possible. It lets you split shared bills by equal or custom amounts, as well as enter any IOUs. Integration with your smartphone’s address book and Facebook means you can send notifications to friends for money owed and “tag” them in bills.

SplitwiseiPhone, AndroidFree

Splitwise is a little more thorough than the other bill-splitting apps. As well as letting you share household bills and track IOUs, it keeps track of your expenses and tabulates them into ‘spending trends’, and it lets you send email reminders for money owed. It also supports attaching notes and images for each amount – the latter is handy for snapping pictures of receipts and bills.

SpotMe PaymentsiPhoneFree

There are a couple of cool features in SpotMe Payments that you won’t find in the other bill-splitting apps. The ability to create custom groups makes it easier to split expenses between more than one person, such as roommates and travel groups, while the integrated free group messaging adds a real-time communication component into the mix.

Bank of MeiPhone$0.99

Debts between friends don’t always have a monetary value. Bank of Me lets you track other IOUs as well, such as cases of beer, a meal and favours. Integration with the iPhone’s address book lets you add new people quickly and send receipts and reminders via email. If they happen to use the same app, they can choose to import the transaction into their iPhone.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Mobile movie makers

Written on March 22, 2019 at 10:33, by

Cinematic devices: Baz Luhrmann uses tablets and smartphones for movie making. Photo: Edwina Pickles Jason Van Genderen shot his latest award-winning short film on a Nokia Lumia 920. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
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Always at work: Baz Luhrmann, third from left, on his smartphone.

The line between tablets and desktop computers used to be pretty clear-cut. Tablets were good for consuming content, browsing the web and watching videos, while desktop computers were the tools for getting ”real” work done.

In the past year, however, that division of labour has blurred. In industries such as film and music, mobile devices are increasingly being used as a vital part of the creative process.

Baz Luhrmann, renowned Australian director of Hollywood blockbusters Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge! and most recently The Great Gatsby, is a big fan of Samsung tablets and smartphones. As you’d expect him to be, given his long-term partnership with Samsung and official title as one of the brand’s global ”passion ambassadors”.

But Luhrmann insists that he uses Samsung products because he genuinely values them as tools to help his creative process.

”I think their products are actually more advanced than ‘the other cult’,” he says. The other cult, of course, being Apple, with its ever-popular line of iPhone and iPad mobile devices.

While filming The Great Gatsby, Luhrmann used Samsung’s mobile devices as a key part of the filmmaking process, using them to create storyboard frames, scout locations and write scripts with videos embedded on each page.

One of the biggest advantages, Luhrmann says, was being able to collaborate with the other people on his creative team in real time. ”I can work on an image on my device, and the six people on my team can see me working on that image on their devices. When they work on it, those changes share back to my device instantly.”

This real-time collaboration feature, called Group Play, is unique to certain models of Samsung Galaxy devices, and it enables users to collaborate on photos and documents (as well as share music and participate in games) with up to 10 other Samsung smartphones and tablets over a wireless connection.

Luhrmann is hardly the first filmmaker to use tablets and smartphones for creative purposes. D. J. Caruso, director of sci-fi flick I Am Number Four, said he made good use of an Apple iPad while he was on set, despite initially buying it as a toy. ”I realised about a week into prep that my storyboards were coming on it, my previs was on it, my script was on it,” he told the Cambio website. ”It just became this amazing production tool.”

Some filmmakers are even using mobile devices to shoot the movies themselves. Malik Bendjelloul, director of the Oscar-winning Searching for Sugar Man documentary, told CNN he’d run out of money towards the end of production and had to shoot the rest of the movie on his iPhone.

”I started shooting this on a Super 8 camera, like with film, which is pretty expensive stuff, and I completely ran out of money. I had very few shots left, but I needed those shots. And one day I realised that there was this one-dollar app on my iPhone, and I tried it, and it looked basically the same as the real stuff.”

Aussie filmmaker Jason van Genderen shot his latest award-winning short film, Red Earth Hip Hop, entirely on a Nokia Lumia 920. ”Filming on a smartphone is such an unobtrusive way to capture a story,” he says. ”People find they open up a lot more in a documentary sense talking to a device that they are used to seeing every day as opposed to a big film crew.”

He was also impressed with the high quality of the video footage.

”Such incredibly sharp pictures from such a tiny lens. For most audiences, they’d have no idea it came from a smartphone.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Reach your peak in measured steps

Written on March 22, 2019 at 10:33, by

Pet project: Michelle Bridges has handy hints for City2Surf runners. Photo: SuppliedI’m always banging on about the benefits of running, and there’s good reason. Running is one of the most effective exercises for weight loss, building stamina and improving cardiovascular fitness, and anyone can do it!
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Sydney’s City2Surf is an event everyone should have on their bucket list. If you are considering running or walking for the first time or are back for another go, it is time to get cracking.

Whether you are aiming for a personal best or raising money for charity, 14 kilometres isn’t easy.

If you are a novice or haven’t run for a while, work up to running outdoors for two kilometres or 15 minutes without stopping. Once you can do this, you are ready to tackle longer runs.

A good training program includes at least three days a week of running. Getting out there and pounding the pavement is the only way to build up your distance to the City2Surf, presented by Westpac.

But your running program should include tempo runs, sprints and hill intervals and one long run each week. A tempo run is the best way to improve your speed and endurance for any distance and these sessions should be “comfortably hard”. This means you should be able to comment but not hold a full conversation with your training buddy.

Training tips

Start small. Try a one-minute walk, followed by a one-minute jog and repeat, aiming to build to a run. Increase the distance by roughly 10 per cent each week.

You don’t have to run like a demon every session. Not every session is going to be a great one, but a bad run is better than none. Get a training buddy. Recruit someone who runs or is doing the race and put together a training schedule with them.  

Running on softer surfaces  will minimise your injury risk, however, it is important to run on footpaths or asphalt occasionally.

Remember that this is a hilly course. Sopractise running up hills.

Get a GPS watch or a free running phone app to track your distances.

Performing short bursts of high-intensity intervals significantly lifts your cardiovascular fitness as well as helping increase your speed. In a nutshell this means you can train harder and longer.

Long runs should be at a nice steady pace. If you’re starting out build up your distance by one to two kilometres each week. Aim to get up to at least 12 kilometres in the fortnight before City2Surf.

In between these running days you should be doing two days of strength and core exercises to keep your body well balanced, as well as giving your body time to rest and recover. The best strength exercises for runners are lunges, single-leg squats and planks. These will have the added benefits of improving your technique, correcting your posture and keeping you safe from injury.

Michelle Bridges runs an online 12 Week Body Transformation that offers running programs for all levels, from Learn to Run, Train for a 10km Fun Run and Train for a Half Marathon. Find out more at 12WBT上海夜生活m

Enter at city2surf上海夜生活

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.