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Afghans more confident in national army

For much of Australia’s time in Afghanistan, Australian troops devoted their time to training, advising and mentoring Afghan soldiers and that appears to be paying off.

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Afghans are increasingly confident in the ability of the Afghan National Army, with 57 per cent saying it will help improve security and 63 per cent believing it’s honest and fair.

A survey by international think tank the Asia Foundation found 86.5 per cent of respondents expressed confidence in the ANA and 73.2 per cent in the Afghan National Police.

But more than half (55.7 per cent) think Afghan security forces will still need foreign support to do their job properly.

That’s most pronounced in southern provinces where insurgents have been most active including Oruzgan, where Australian troops operated until the end of last year.

About 400 troops remain in Afghanistan in a variety of advisory and mentoring roles in Kabul and Kandahar.

The poll interviewed more than 9000 Afghans, half men and half women, from the country’s 34 provinces after the June presidential run-off vote.

This national attitude survey has been conducted every year since 2004.

Despite the ongoing insurgency, Afghans are optimistic about the future with more than 75 per cent saying the government is doing a good job.

Thirty-seven per cent say unemployment and the poor economy is the nation’s biggest problem, followed by insecurity (34 per cent) and corruption (28 per cent).

At the local level, unemployment is seen as the biggest problem (33 per cent), followed by electricity (23 per cent), roads (18 per cent) and drinking water (16 per cent.

Continue reading Afghans more confident in national army

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Guns boom to welcome French president Francois Hollande to Sydney

French President Francois Hollande has been welcomed to Sydney with an honour guard and 21-gun salute.

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Mr Hollande became the first French head of state to visit Australia after attending the G20 Summit in Brisbane.

After the G20, Mr Hollande flew to New Caledonia for his first official visit, before touching down in Sydney.

Mr Hollande met with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and has planned talks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Canberra tomorrow, as part of the two day visit.

Diplomatic relations between France and Australia have historically been frosty after French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

New Caledonia, one of Australia鈥檚 closest neighbours, is one of three French dependencies in the Pacific region and President Hollande has signaled France’s intention to maintain a presence there.

French President #Fran莽oisHollande gets a 21 gun salute at Sydney’s Fleet Steps @SBSNews pic.twitter南宁桑拿会所,/u9Njt0hDQv

鈥?Gary Cox (@GCoxsbs) November 18, 2014

His office says the aim of the visit is to “strengthen the historical links and economic relations” between France and Australia.

During a key-note speech later today at the Business Council of Australia, President Hollande is expected to make growing economic relations with Australia a priority.

He travelled with a large business delegation and will tour a joint French- Australian defence research facility.

France and Australia signed a Strategic Partnership agreement in 2012 as a as a sign of improving relations between the two nations.

In 2012-13, bilateral trade between Australia and France stood at $5.4 billion.

Continue reading Guns boom to welcome French president Francois Hollande to Sydney

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Pilgrims flock to ‘Sex Mountain’ in search of fortune

Married men, cheating housewives, government officials and prostitutes revelling in a mass ritual of adultery and sex.

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This is what happens on Gunung Kemukus in Indonesia, otherwise known as Sex Mountain.

鈥淚 come here to seek good fortune,鈥?regular visitor Mardiyah told me as I follow her journey on tonight鈥檚 Dateline at 9.30pm on SBS ONE.  

She is one of thousands of pilgrims who journey to a mysterious hilltop in Java to perform this ancient ritual. Most of those who take part in the ritual consider themselves devout Muslims.

There are several versions of the mythic tale that date back to the 16th century. Legend has it a young Indonesian Prince Pangeran Samodro had an affair with his stepmother.

They ran away and hid on Gunung Kemukus. One day, while mid-coitus, they were caught, killed and buried atop the mountain. It’s now an Islamic shrine where this sex ritual takes place.

The story goes: pilgrims must copulate on the mountain every 35 days for seven consecutive times and blessings and wealth should come their way.

But for the magic to work and the money to flow, it鈥檚 believed their sex partner for the ritual should not be their spouse.

I meet Gepeng, who like many others has travelled hundreds of kilometres from across the archipelago to get to sex mountain.

鈥淵ou go there to look for a different partner, not the one you have at home. Historically that’s how it works,” he said.

Another man travelling with him explained: 鈥淚 don鈥檛 tell my wife. There鈥檚 no way my wife will find out.鈥?/p>

Pilgrims first pray and make offerings at the grave. They then must wash themselves at sacred springs nearby and once that’s been completed, they have sex.

This ritual isn’t seen anywhere else in Indonesia or the rest of the Muslim world. It鈥檚 a very Javanese blend of religious ideals with Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist influences.

Professor Keontjoro Soeparno, a social psychologist from Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, has been studying the ritual for more than 30 years.

鈥淚t鈥檚 a strange thing. A paradox: there鈥檚 a mosque, shrine – but outside 鈥?there鈥檚 a place for having illicit sex,鈥?he said. “The fact is – it’s hypocritical.”

It’s impossible to ignore that the ritual is riddled with contradictions. Islam views adultery as a sin, so the ‘out of wedlock’ sex clearly goes against the mainstream law of the religion.

Karaoke bars and 鈥榮ex shacks鈥?line the hillside. Some are privately owned, others built and funded by the local government. But they鈥檙e loathe to publicly admit there is any sex going on at Gunung Kemukus.

“Pilgrims should come here with pure hearts and clean bodies,鈥?a gatekeeper employed to look after the mountain shrine said.

“We鈥檝e never said the sex is a condition of the pilgrimage. It鈥檚 what they want to do.”

The territory has become prime real estate for commercial sex workers. Professor Keontjoro estimates about half of the women who show up now are prostitutes.

鈥淭he government facilitated the rise of prostitution. The Islamic religion forbids all this, but the government would rather not know about that. Because they鈥檙e more interested in profit 鈥?they leave their religion behind,” he said.

Some say if you pay for sex the ritual doesn’t work. The reality is the local government makes a sizeable profit from sex mountain. They charge the stalls to set up shop and the pilgrims pay a toll to enter the site.

With up to 8,000 pilgrims arriving on the busiest nights and an entry fee of around 5000 rupiah, or 50 cents, a time, it’s big business in Indonesia.

So it鈥檚 not surprising officials and religious leaders turn a blind eye.

 

The question remains though 鈥?how do we know this ancient tradition actually works. Does sex with a stranger really boost your bank account?

Mardiyah genuinely believes it does, attributing sex mountain and its spiritual powers to her recent success.

鈥淧raise be to God, after coming here, even though I have a few debts, my business is making a bit of a profit. Even though it鈥檚 small, I still give thanks that I鈥檝e received blessings from here,鈥?she said to me.

I don鈥檛 know how willing I am to believe in the legacy of Prince Samodro and his stepmother lover, but I can understand the attachment to the myth.

See the full story on Dateline at 9.30pm on SBS ONE.

Continue reading Pilgrims flock to ‘Sex Mountain’ in search of fortune

No Aussies left to cheer in Open

For the first time in seven years there will be no local player in the third round of the Australian Open men\’s singles championship.

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For the first time ever there will, at the conclusion of the Open, be no Australian male in the world\’s top 100.

The last of a group that seems to dwindle every year was Chris Guccione who lost his second round match on Tuesday after showing everything that everyone has hoped to see from him – for about 45 minutes.

Guccione won the first set from the talented Frenchman Gilles Simon, but then seemed to run out of ideas and desire, going down 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-1 6-2.

The 23-year-old Australian served well, moved well and was tactically sound for just about every game of the opening set.

And then it all began to disappear.

Simon was frustrated and uncertain and it showed in his early play.

But as Guccione admitted, the Frenchman then “got onto my serve”.

“It wasn\’t to be today,” Guccione said.

“He was hitting a lot of good passing shots, was getting onto my serve a bit.”

Simon is ranked 124 places higher than Guccione, a statistic that seemed to satisfy the Australian.

“It was no easy assignment out there.” he said.

“It was good to get a set, but I would have liked to have done a little bit better in the third and fourth sets especially.”

A lot better, perhaps.

This isn\’t the attitude that Jelena Dokic took into her match the night before.

Faced with an opponent ranked 169 places higher, and with a far from orthodox preparation behind her, Dokic got tough and won.

For Australian men\’s tennis, the picture – as the rankings reveal – has hardly been more grim.

Lleyton Hewitt is showing the strain of carrying the weight of a nation\’s expectation for most of this century.

Bernard Tomic revealed his awesome talent when he was 12 and as a 16-year-old he showed he probably has what it takes by becoming the youngest Australian male to win a singles match at the Open.

But he doesn\’t seem to be bringing too many through with him.

While the top 100 is now bereft of Australians, there are 16 Spanish players on the list, 14 Frenchmen, 10 Argentinians, seven Russians and the same number of Germans.

Tennis Australia (TA) and the Australian Institute Of Sport have been working on the problem for the past three years.

“We are rebuilding,” says TA\’s director of tennis Craig Tiley.

“We\’ve introduced many initiatives that have set the foundations for future success.

“Results take time and patience, but we are entering an exciting time for tennis in Australia.”

It will be possible to gauge the progress of the Tennis Australia program when Australia play Thailand in March in their bid to win back a spot in the World Group of the Davis Cup.

But with fewer than four players in the world\’s top 200, exciting times may still be a way off.

Continue reading No Aussies left to cheer in Open

Slumdog stars sued for defamation

Slumdog Millionaire, the runaway hit film that has charmed audiences around the world, seems to have hit a sour note with one Indian activist a day before its release in India.

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Tapeshwar Vishwakarma, representing a slum-dwellers\’ welfare group, is suing the film\’s music composer A R Rahman and one of its stars, actor Anil Kapoor, for depicting slum-dwellers in a bad light and violating their human rights.

Vishwakarma objected to the use of words such as “slumdogs” to describe the millions of inhabitants of India\’s cramped shantytowns, and filed a defamation case against the duo in the east Indian city of Patna, according to media reports Thursday.

Movie \’derogatory\’

His lawsuit alleges that the very name of the movie is derogatory and an affront to the dignity of India\’s many slum-dwellers.

The Golden Globe-winning film tells the rags-to-riches story of a young orphan from Mumbai who defies expectations to win the Indian version of the popular gameshow Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

It has won accolades in India and abroad, and is viewed as a possible contender for next month\’s Oscars.

Vishwakarma told the Times of India that he was only suing Kapoor and Rahman because they were more familiar to Indian audiences than the film\’s British director Danny Boyle.

Slumdog title \’hurts\’

“Vishwakarma made it clear that he hardly expected anything positive from a British filmmaker as their ancestors described us as \’dogs\’,” Vishwakarma\’s lawyer Shruti Singh told the Indo-Asian News Service.

“But what hurt him was that even Indians associated with the film hardly bothered to object to calling us a \’slumdog\’.”

The film\’s co-director Loveleen Tandon is quoted in the Mail Today newspaper as defending the movie, saying “the title is really not meant to be taken as insulting or offensive”.

The Patna court will hear the case on February 5.

Continue reading Slumdog stars sued for defamation

Lightning sparks Victorian blazes

Lightning strikes have started one fire and authorities fear they could ignite more as firefighters battle wild weather and several blazes across Victoria.

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Fire crews are at the scene at Centre Track, 7km south-west of Mallacoota near the NSW border, where lightning started a fire that had spread to around half a hectare by Thursday afternoon.

A fire at Stuart Creek, 10km north-east of Bruthen in Gippsland, has been contained but crews are having difficulty reaching another blaze in remote and rugged terrain at nearby Mountain Ash Creek, 15km north-west of Glencairn in the state\’s east.

Bad weather has forced the reconnaissance aircraft to return to base.

Fire near NSW border

Two separate blazes burning close to each other in the South-East Forests National Park at Yambulla, also near the NSW border, have remained stable and firefighters are working in steep, rugged terrain to complete control lines around them.

A one-hectare fire at Morris Peak, 11km north-west of Bullumwaal, should be under control by Thursday night, the

Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) says.

A DSE spokeswoman said a band of lightning was crossing the Gippsland region on Thursday afternoon and could ignite more fires.

Country Fire Authority (CFA) crews have contained a fire that had threatened houses in the bayside suburb of Seaford, in Melbourne\’s south, earlier on Thursday.

Crews were dealing with smaller grass fires on Thursday afternoon but they did not pose any risk, a CFA spokesman said.

It is likely the total fire ban will be lifted on Friday, he said.

Wild weather causing closures

Meanwhile, high winds and storms have caused widespread damage and road closures throughout the state.

The State Emergency Service has responded to more than 200 incidents so far on Thursday, including a house in Violet Town whose roof was blown off in the wind.

Fallen trees have damaged a home in nearby Jamieson in the state\’s north, while a large number of roads across Victoria are blocked due to debris.

Hot winds fanned dust storms across Melbourne on Thursday afternoon, although a cool change was expected later in the day.

Severe thunderstorms are predicted by the weather bureau in the north-east of the state, particularly in Wodonga, Wangaratta, Sale and Bairnsdale.

The storms are likely to produce damaging winds, large hailstones, very heavy rainfall and flash flooding and people are being warned by emergency services to take care and stay indoors wherever possible.

Gale warnings are in place for coastal areas.

Continue reading Lightning sparks Victorian blazes

City\’s Hughes wants talks with absent Robinho

Striker Robinho faces crunch talks with Manchester City manager Mark Hughes next week after the club confirmed that the Brazilian had returned home without permission.

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Robinho left City\’s training camp in Tenerife on Tuesday, just hours after the club\’s failed bid to sign his fellow Brazilian Kaka from AC Milan.

“Robbie left without permission, he felt that he had personal things that he needed to attend to,” Hughes told the club\’s website 南宁夜网.mcfc.co.uk.

“He made the decision to leave the camp, and go back to Brazil.

“That was not with my permission, and the situation at the moment is not really practical to get him back here with time differences and length of flights.

“Once he is back, I will sit down with him and explain my feelings, and decisions will be made after that,” added Hughes, who said he expects Robinho to be back in training next week.

\’Family matters\’

“He has rung me, and he understands that we need to address this — and we will. Then we will move on.”

The Brazilian\’s website said the player was in Santos and would return to Manchester in the next few days after solving family matters.

“I have a good relationship with coach Mark Hughes and have always respected his decisions. He is the boss,” the 24-year-old striker told the site 南宁夜网.robinhoofficial广西桑拿,.

Robinho has enjoyed a successful start to his City career since his 32.5 million pound transfer from Real Madrid in August but his return to Brazil has prompted media speculation about his future at the club.

Hughes denied that Robinho\’s decision to return to Brazil had anything to do with the club\’s failure to sign Kaka.

“He has already said that himself, and he was on a plane back to Brazil when the Kaka deal was dead and buried,” Hughes said. “People trying to link the two are trying to cause a little bit of mischief.”

Continue reading City\’s Hughes wants talks with absent Robinho

Safin to throw caution to the wind against Federer

The last time the pair met at Melbourne Park in 2005, the 1.

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93m tall Safin saved a match point and triumphed 9-7 in the fifth set of their semi-final before going on to claim his second grand slam title.

Since then the Russian former world number one has suffered from debilitating knee injuries and has slipped down the rankings.

Federer, however, has won nine grand slam titles over the past four years to take his total tally to 13 and now stands just one major away from equalling Pete Sampras\’s record of 14.

“His life has changed (and it) didn\’t (go) too bad. He won a couple of grand slams afterwards, and me, I got injured,” Safin said of their contrasting fortunes.

“I had to recover from the injuries, so we went in different ways. He got much more confident throughout the years and I had to recover from injury.

“I want to be in his shoes.”

\’Nothing to lose\’

When fit and healthy, Safin is considered to possess a game capable of matching the mercurial Swiss and the Russian will be aiming to narrow his losing 9-2 head-to-head record against Federer on Friday.

“Unfortunately I (have not) won a lot of matches against him, but I\’m looking forward. It\’s another chance,” said Safin who also lost to Federer in the 2004 Australian Open final.

“I have nothing to lose. I\’m going to go for it. Whatever comes, comes.”

The Safin family have been given the honour of opening and closing the day\’s action on Rod Laver Arena.

Dinara Safina will continue her bid to try and step out of big brother Marat\’s shadow when she takes on Estonia\’s 25th seed Kaia Kanepi in the first match (midnight British time).

“I\’m not (known as) Marat\’s sister anymore,” she said with a grin on her move up the women\’s rankings.

“Before, really, I was known as Marat\’s sister, nothing else. I had some success, but I cannot compare to what I have now.”

Women\’s top seed Jelena Jankovic is also in action on Rod Laver Arena, against Japan\’s Ai Sugiyama after men\’s champion, and Serbian compatriot, Novak Djokovic plays Amer Delic of the United States.

Continue reading Safin to throw caution to the wind against Federer

Microsoft to slash 5,000 jobs

US software giant Microsoft announced on Thursday it was cutting up to 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months including 1,400 immediately due to a slowing economy and weak spending on technology.

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Releasing its results for the second quarter of its fiscal year, Microsoft said net profit fell by 11 percent from a year ago to 4.17 billion dollars on revenue of 16.63 billion dollars, a two percent increase over a a year ago.

The Redmond, Washington-based company said earnings per share were 47 cents, less than the 49 cents per share forecast by analysts.

“In light of the further deterioration of global economic conditions,” Microsoft said it was eliminating “up to 5,000 jobs in R&D (research and development), marketing, sales, finance, legal, HR (human resources), and IT (information technology) over the next 18 months, including 1,400 jobs today.”

The world\’s biggest software firm said the jobs cuts were among various steps to manage costs “including the reduction of headcount-related expenses, vendors and contingent staff, facilities, capital expenditures and marketing.”

“These initiatives will reduce the company\’s annual operating expense run rate by approximately 1.5 billion dollars and reduce fiscal year 2009 capital expenditures by 700 million dollars,” Microsoft said.

“While we are not immune to the effects of the economy, I am confident in the strength of our product portfolio and soundness of our approach,” chief executive Steve Ballmer said in a statement.

“We will continue to manage expenses and invest in long-term opportunities to deliver value to customers and shareholders, and we will emerge an even stronger industry leader than we are today,” he said.

Microsoft chief financial officer Chris Liddell said “economic activity and IT spend slowed beyond our expectations in the quarter, and we acted quickly to reduce our cost structure and mitigate its impact.

“We are planning for economic uncertainty to continue through the remainder of the fiscal year, almost certainly leading to lower revenue and earnings for the second half relative to the previous year,” he said.

Microsoft\’s share price fell 7.12 percent to 18 dollars in electronic trading ahead of the opening bell on Wall Street.

Continue reading Microsoft to slash 5,000 jobs

Australia\’s growth near zero: IMF

The IMF warning coincides with official confirmation that China\’s economic growth, the engine room of Australia\’s resources boom, slowed more sharply than forecast, to 6.

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8 per cent from 9 per cent in the final quarter of last year, as the global downturn hit.

Australia affected by China\’s crisis

With the Asian giant now gravely suffering too, reporting just 6.8 percent growth in the last quarter of 2008, signs emerged of a knock-on effect, with Australia warning of the impact on its own prospects.

“The Chinese boom that supercharged Australia\’s economy over the past five to seven years is receding rapidly,” Australia\’s Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said.

Rate cuts \’may not be enough\’

The IMF\’s first deputy managing director, John Lipsky, told The Australian yesterday the global recession was deepening even as central banks repeatedly cut interest rates.

While backing the principle of using government budgets to support growth, he cast doubt on whether short-term fiscal expansion – such as the Rudd Government\’s one-off payments to households – would boost spending and stave off recession.

Mr Lipsky said governments in the US, Europe and Britain needed to do more to stabilise their financial crises as a precondition for economic recovery.

“The contraction in the major economies in the fourth quarter of last year was as striking and as severe as we have seen in modern times,” he said at the IMF\’s Washington headquarters.

“Moreover, there is no sign the contraction has stopped.”

The IMF is expected next week to lower its global growth outlook for this year for the third time in four months. In early November, the fund predicted the advanced economies would contract by 0.25per cent this year, which would be the first negative result since World War II.

Tanner hints at tax cuts

Mr Tanner hinted yesterday the government could cut taxes to try to stave off a recession.

Mr Tanner says the government will push ahead with another economic stimulus package to boost the economy, if it\’s necessary.

The last package involved cash handouts. The next one could mean tax cuts.

“The options that are in the mix at any time will involve either increased spending or reduced taxation,” Mr Tanner told the ABC.

“At any given time for a government in these circumstances those options are open,” he said.

“I don\’t rule things in, rule them out, whatever, they\’re options that are available there for the budget.”

He said some tax cuts were due to come into effect in the next budget anyway, and noted there was speculation about whether those cuts should be brought forward.

Mr Tanner pulled no punches on the dangers ahead for the Australian economy.

“We are in completely uncharted territory here economically.”

Mr Tanner said the federal budget surplus was smaller than previously predicted, but it was still in the black.

“The government on the latest figures believes the budget remains in surplus … I would necessarily say wafer-thin, but it\’s getting pretty tight.”

Asia\’s champion exporters suffer

China wasn’t the only country affected in Asia as Japan warned it was facing a two-year recession and announced new measures to repair battered credit markets after announcing a 35-percent plunge in exports in December.

“Exports tumbled so much that you cannot believe your eyes,” said Naoki Murakami, chief economist at Monex Securities in Japan.

South Korea said its economy was in the worst shape since the East Asian financial crisis a decade ago while Singapore announced a 13-billion-dollar stimulus package and said it would tap its vast financial reserves for the first time.

Continue reading Australia\’s growth near zero: IMF

Slowing Chinese economy \’will hit Australia\’s growth\’

Official figures released showed China\’s economy grew at 6.

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8 per cent in the December quarter, down from nine per cent.

Australia has ridden the wave of insatiable Chinese demand for iron ore and coal during recent years but that is expected to slow dramatically as its rapid growth begins to falter.

The government believes the slowing Chinese economy could blow $5 billion in export revenue to China.

“What we are now seeing is the unwinding of the mining boom and all of the consequences that will have for our economy and, of course, for growth more broadly,” Mr Swan told Fairfax Radio Network from New York.

“There will be a very significant impact on government revenues flowing directly from the unwinding of the mining boom, particularly this dramatic slowing of Chinese growth.”

Despite the immediate gloomy outlook for the mining sector, Mr Swan said demand for commodities would still be a driver for the Australian economy over the longer term.

“Commodities in the long term for Australia will be a continuing source of our prosperity,” Mr Swan said.

Mr Swan is in New York for the G\’Day USA trade promotion initiative but says it is also an opportunity to discuss the global economic problems.

“A real feature of this global financial crisis which is turning into a global recession is the speed (of changes),” he said.

There had been a marked deterioration in the international outlook since October, he said.

“What we are now seeing in figures for the December quarter throughout the G7 and now in China and South Korea is a marked correction in growth, which is very sobering and which will have knock on effects for countries like Australia.”

Continue reading Slowing Chinese economy \’will hit Australia\’s growth\’

Sony faces record $2.9bn loss

Sony Corp.

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has warned it expects its biggest-ever operating loss of 2.9 billion dollars as the global economic crisis saps demand for televisions, cameras and video game consoles.

The huge loss, which would be Sony\’s first in 14 years, underscores the depth of the problems facing the electronics industry as consumers cut spending amid a wave of global job cuts.

Chief executive Howard Stringer said he would speed up restructuring, closing a television plant in Japan with the loss of 1,000 jobs as part of efforts to save 250 billion yen a year.

“We must now embrace many difficult decisions in order deal with this new reality immediately,” Stringer told a news conference.

Sony will also outsource some software development to India, reduce its executive bonuses and introduce an early retirement programme. Last month it said it would slash 16,000 jobs and axe plants.

The iconic Japanese company said it expects an operating loss of 260 billion yen (2.9 billion dollars) for the current financial year to March, a dramatic reversal from an earlier goal of a 200-billion-yen profit.

Sony sees a net loss of 150 billion yen for the current year, compared with an earlier projection for the same amount in profit.

“This is worse than I\’d expected,” said Kazumasa Kubota, an analyst at Okasan Securities.

“Additional restructuring to cut fixed costs is necessary to staunch the bleeding,” he said.

“But just stopping the haemorrhage is not the final solution. You need a strategy to make a comeback, but I don\’t know who on earth can prescribe such a measure in the severe environment we face today,” he added.

Sony blamed the worsening business environment, the stronger yen, weak financial markets and restructuring costs for the bleak outlook.

Under Stringer, a Welsh-born US citizen, Sony has shed non-core assets and slashed thousands of jobs in recent years.

The huge loss would be a far cry from the operating profit of 475 billion yen the company made last year. It slashed its sales forecast to 7.7 trillion yen from 9.0 trillion.

The company has had a difficult few years in the face of tough competition from rival products such as Apple\’s iPod and Nintendo\’s Wii, but it had enjoyed a strong recovery last year.

Other Japanese companies are also facing tough times as consumers tighten their purse strings to cope with recessions in major economies from the United States to Japan and Europe.

Toyota Motor Corp. last month forecast a first-ever annual operating loss of 150 billion yen.

Sony\’s share prices closed down 2.56 percent at 1,938 yen Thursday ahead of the profit warning.

Continue reading Sony faces record $2.9bn loss

Hicks \’excited\’ about Guantanamo closure

David Hicks is reportedly “quite excited” at the possibility his conviction may be quashed as US President Barack Obama’s vows to close the Guantanamo detention facility.

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Hicks was held in Guantanamo after being charged in 2001 with “providing material support for terrorism”. He remained there for more than five years of his suspended seven-year sentence, then served nine months in Adelaide\’s Yatala prison.

David’s father, Terry Hicks, says it\’s “great” that Obama is “sticking to his word” in ordering the closure and freezing the controversial military commissions under which Hicks was originally tried.

The newly-inaugurated President vowed during his election campaign to close the facility and investigate the charges against around 250 inmates who remain there.

Terry Hicks says his son was tortured during his time in Guantanamo, but despite that he is more concerned with clearing his name than seeking monetary gain.

“I think David\’s interest is in challenging the wrongful conviction, I suppose you could look at it that way, with the information extracted under torture for a start,” he told SBS.

“So as far as compensations and that sort of thing, I don\’t think David\’s too worried about that sort of side of it,” he added.

Approximately 420 detainees have been released from Guantanamo without charge since the US began its assaults on suspected al-Qaeda operatives and Taliban militants in Afghanistan in 2001.

Hicks was one of two Australians arrested as an enemy combatant in the conflict. He had trained in al-Qaeda-linked camps and converted to Islam.

Continue reading Hicks \’excited\’ about Guantanamo closure