‘I’m filled with shame’: Selma Blair apologises for in-flight outburst

“I’m filled with shame:” Selma Blair aplogises for on flight outburst. Photo: Theresa Ambrose Blair and son Arthur, 4, on board a the plane to Cancun on Friday. Photo: Selma Blair/Instagram
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Selma Blair taken to hospital after flight outburst

Selma Blair has apologised for her outburst on an international flight that led to her hospitalisation.

Returning from a family holiday, the 43-year-old actor said she deeply regretted the incident, where she was stretchered off a plane from Cancun, Mexico to Los Angeles on Monday.

In a statement issued to Vanity Fair, she said: “I made a big mistake [on Monday]. After a lovely trip with my son and his Dad, I mixed alcohol with medication, and that caused me to black out and led me to say and do things that I deeply regret.

“My son was with his Dad asleep with his headphones on, so there is that saving grace.

“I take this very seriously, and I apologise to all of the passengers and crew that I disturbed and am thankful to all of the people who helped me in the aftermath.

“I am a flawed human being who makes mistakes and am filled with shame over this incident. I am truly very sorry.”

Blair was travelling with her son Arthur, aged four, and ex-boyfriend Jason Bleick to celebrate Father’s Day.

Witnesses told TMZ that she was travelling in first-class and mixing prescription medication with wine. Two nurses tried to comfort her during the incident.

Shortly after, she “suddenly started crying” and was heard saying: “He burns my private parts. He won’t let me eat or drink … He beats me. He’s going to kill me.”

Blair, who recently played Kris Jenner in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, had shared a selfie of herself and Arthur seated on a plane on Instagram, ahead of their trip.

“We’re leaving on a jet plane. Dad is already asleep. Not for long. Bwahahahha,” the Legally Blonde star wrote.

Bleick shared a similar selfie on Monday at Cancun International Airport alongside Arthur and before Blair’s outburst.

“On our way back from Fathers Day in Mexico. #arthursaintbleick,” he wrote.   On our way back from Fathers Day in Mexico. #arthursaintbleickA photo posted by Jason Bleick (@jasonbleick) on Jun 20, 2016 at 10:17am PDT

Former refugee sets sights on uni degree

FAST LEARNER: Khadijeh Ebrahimi won the cultural diversity prize at the 2016 Hunter TAFE Awards and is hoping to study nursing at university.WHEN KhadijehEbrahimi arrived from Iran as a refugee, she was so determined to learn English she completed two years’ worth of study in just one.
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“I didn’t want to waste any time,” Ms Ebrahimi, 26,said.

“I’m a fast learner, but I’m also a dedicated learner.

“It was really hard, I had no car, a small daughter, but I still came every day and did my best to learn.”

Ms Ebrahimi, who was recentlyawarded the Cultural Diversity prize at the 2016 Hunter TAFE Awards, reflected during Refugee Week on her journey to her much-loved adopted homeland and plans to contribute.

She will start the University of Newcastle’s Open Foundation program next month and hopes to study for a nursing degree.

“I want to become more independent, I don’t want to have to rely on other people,” she said.

“If I study I can do my job and I don’t need anybody else’s help.

“If you work hard, you can do anything and achieve your goals.”

Ms Ebrahimi’s parents were born in Afghanistan, but the war forced them to flee to Iran.

They married and had Ms Ebrahimi and her two younger brothers and sisters in Iran.

Ms Ebrahimi said she had a safe and happy upbringing and married,according to custom, at 14.

But in 2010, the government decided Afghans or those of Afghan descent “should not be in the country anymore”.

Her family were moved to a camp where they spent two years in a two-bedroom house without a kitchen or bathroom, waiting for their application to Australia to be approved.

Her parents and siblings arrived in August 2013 and she, her husband Shahab and daughter Neyayesh, now 4, arrived 13 days later.

Ms Ebrahimicompleted her Preliminary Course and Certificate 1 in Spoken and Written English at Tighes Hill TAFE in half the recommended time, before enrolling at a Certificate III in Aged Care at Glendale, which earnedher the qualification of an assistant in nursing.

Her teacher Paul Robertson said she was a “hardworking, gifted language learner”.

“It was commitment to her studies and a preparedness to practice her language skills wherever possible that allowed her to do this,” he said.

MsEbrahimicompleted at Certificate II in Spoken and Written English last year and is currently completing Certificate III.

“I love Australia, it’s given me freedom, it’s given me everything,” MsEbrahimi said.

“I can study, I can get a job.

“I can do anything I want to do.”

Hedge fund manager Valvani in apparent suicide after insider trading charge

Sanjay Valvani was accused of having made $US25 million getting the drop on US regulators’ drug approvals. Photo: Duke/The Fuqua School of BusinessSanjay Valvani, a Wall Street hedge fund manager who was criminally charged last week in a major insider trading case, has been found dead in an apparent suicide, the police said on Tuesday.
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Valvani, 44, was discovered by his wife on Monday evening in the bedroom of his Brooklyn home with a wound to his neck, a New York Police Department spokeswoman said. A suicide note and a knife were recovered, she added.

The death marked a stunning turn in one of the US government’s biggest recent insider trading cases. Valvani’s lawyers, Barry Berke and Eric Tirschwell, called his death a “horrible tragedy that is difficult to comprehend.”

“We hope for the sake of his family and his memory that it will not be forgotten that the charges against him were only unproven accusations and he had always maintained his innocence,” they added.

The city’s medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of Valvani’s death, and police said an investigation was under way.

Prosecutors last Wednesday unveiled charges against Valvani, a fund manager at Visium Asset Management, alleging he fraudulently made $US25 million ($33.5 million) by getting advance information about US Food and Drug Administration approvals of generic drug applications.

Prosecutors said the inside information was provided by Gordon Johnston, a political intelligence consultant and former employee at the FDA, who got it from a friend, who still works at the agency.

Valvani passed some of the tips to Christopher Plaford, then a Visium portfolio manager, who made his own illegal trades, prosecutors said.

Both Johnston and Plaford secretly pleaded guilty earlier this month and agreed to cooperate in the case against Valvani, who pleaded not guilty to charges including securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy. He had been free on $US5 million bond.

The charges were announced by Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, who has overseen a series of insider trading prosecutions that have resulted in 107 people being charged and 81 being convicted since 2009.

That push has suffered recent setbacks following a 2014 appellate ruling that limited the scope of insider trading laws, resulting in charges being dropped or dismissed against 14 defendants.

A spokesman for Bharara declined to comment. Helped build Visium

Valvani grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan and graduated from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business before heading to Wall Street where he began covering the pharmaceutical sector.

He had been a partner at Visium Asset Management and was instrumental in building it with founder Jacob Gottlieb into an $US8 billion firm that counted some of the country’s biggest pension funds as clients.

“We mourn the tragic loss of Sanjay, a devoted father, husband and friend,” Gottlieb said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”

Gottlieb told investors on Friday that it was impossible to continue managing the firm because of the negative impact from the publicity surrounding Valvani’s indictment and substantial investor withdrawals.

Gottlieb wrote to clients that one of the firm’s portfolios was being sold to AllianceBernstein and that the Balanced Fund, where Valvani worked, was being shut down.

Visium’s Balanced Fund, which Valvani helped run, earned 5.6 per cent last year when most hedge funds were losing money.

This year, the fund is in the red, posting a 9.25 per cent loss for the year through early June. The Visium Global fund, which is being sold to AllianceBernstein, returned 10.3 per cent last year and has lost 2.3 per cent through early June.

Former drug executive Martin Shkreli, under indictment himself in an unrelated securities fraud case, in a post on Reddit said he could understand the pressure felt by Valvani, whom he said he had spoken with in the past.

“I couldn’t be more saddened to see this process destroy someone,” Shkreli wrote.

Lifeline 13 11 14


‘Heaven over Hospital’: Five-year-old Julianna Snow dies on her own terms

Julianna Snow celebrating her birthday. Photo: juliannayuri上海龙凤419m Five-year-old Julianna being treated in hospital for a neurodegenerative disease. Photo: juliannayuri上海龙凤419m
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Julianna said “not the hospital” when asked about the future. Photo: juliannayuri上海龙凤419m

Julianna Snow, the little girl who touched millions with her approach to terminal illness, died at home in her mother’s arms on Tuesday.

The five-year-old, who was born with an incurable illness, told her parents she wanted to go to “heaven not hospital” in a conversation that sparked a series on CNN called Heaven over Hospital.

Her mother, Michelle Moon, chronicled her daughter’s decision on a blog devoted to the girl who loved princesses and having her toenails painted.

Dr Moon, a neurologist from Portland, Oregon, announced her daughter’s death on Tuesday.

“Our sweet Julianna went to heaven today,” she wrote on her blog.

“I am stunned and heartbroken, but also thankful. I feel like the luckiest mom in the world, for God somehow entrusted me with this glorious child, and we got almost six years together. I wanted more time, of course, and that’s where the sadness comes in. But she is free now.”

Julianna was diagnosed with a severe form of the neurological disorder Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease when she was two years old.

By the time she was four, the condition had robbed her of the use of her arms and legs. She was fed through a tube and suffered breathing difficulties. Long stays in hospital were a constant feature of her young life.

After one such confinement in Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, specialists warned Dr Moon and her husband, Steve Snow, that they faced a heartbreaking choice. To what extent should their daughter continue to receive often painful medical interventions?

Dr Moon raised the subject with Julianna, asking her if she wanted to go to the hospital again or stay home, even if that would mean going to heaven.

Julianna replied: “Not the hospital.”

Her simple answer raised complex questions about the nature of terminal illness and whether a child should be consulted in medical decisions.

It caused widespread debate, with the director of the division of medical ethics at New York University School of Medicine, Art Caplan, telling CNN that Julianna showed wisdom beyond her years .

“She taught me and others that even a child can become very knowledgeable about a challenging illness and can convey thoughtful and remarkable feelings about her illness and her ideas,” he said.

In her post, Dr Moon described her daughter as: “A bright light. An old and delightful soul.”

“Her words were startling,” she wrote. “Sometimes I thought that people wouldn’t believe the conversations I recorded. How could a five-year-old know those things? But if you spent any time with her, you knew.”

Dr Moon wrote of Julianna’s courage, fighting “with a body that was too frail for this world”.

“This last fight was not to be won by her body,” she wrote. “It was tired, and it needed to rest. And when it did, she was comfortable. Today, she is free. Our sweet Julianna is finally free.”

Orlando shooting aftermath: American politician to give away assault rifles at fundraiser

Better gun laws could have stopped Orlando shooting: EDITORIALOrlando shooter Omar Mateen’s confused backgroundLast call at the Pulse nightclub, then the shots rang outOrlando shooting survivors’ struggle to stay alive
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Washington: On Friday, Tennessee representative Andy Holt unveiled plans for an upcoming fundraiser at his family farm later this month. The event, according to an invitation posted on the politician’s blog, will feature a roasted hog, a petting zoo, live music and “hay rides for the kids”.

“Oh, did I mention we’re giving away an AR-15 as the door prize!” the invitation adds. Rep. Holt fundraiser set for June 25 pic.twitter上海龙凤419m/C8K7LfOWtO— Alanna Autler (@WSMVAlanna) June 13, 2016

Hours later, as Saturday night spilled into Sunday morning, Omar Mateen walked into Pulse nightclub in Orlando with a Sig Sauer MCX assault rifle – a weapon similar to the AR-15 – and began shooting club-goers. When the bodies were tallied, 49 people were dead, dozens more were injured and one of central Florida’s most popular gay nightclubs had become the setting for the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

Instead of cancelling his gun giveaway, as some critics called for, Mr Holt had another idea.

“That’s right…. I’m now giving away TWO AR-15s!” he wrote on Facebook on Monday. “I’m sick and tired of the media and liberal politicians attacking our right to keep and bear arms. I’ll do everything I can to ensure the 2nd Amendment is protected and people are equipped to exercise their innate right to self-defense [sic].” . @shellyamberston No, I’m giving away two actually.— Andy Holt (@AndyHolt4TN) June 13, 2016

Mr Holt told the Tennessean that he remains convinced that the weapon used Orlando’s mass shooting has no bearing on the massacre. The paper noted that Mr Holt has sponsored multiple gun bills, including one recently passed into law that gives full-time employees at Tennessee colleges and universities the ability to carry weapons on campus.

“It has nothing to do with the style of weapon,” he told the paper. “It has everything to do with who’s behind the weapon.”

In a statement published by Fox affiliate WZTV, Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini called Mr Holt a “reckless” gun owner and blasted his timing,

“…we’re furious that in the wake of this tragedy, state Rep. Andy Holt is being such a reckless and irresponsible gun owner,” the statement said. “Responsible gun owners don’t give away guns without background checks. Responsible gun owners make sure that guns are safely and securely stored to prevent access by children or irresponsible adults. Responsible gun owners don’t put guns in the hands of strangers. Andy Holt doesn’t know if he’s putting the winning raffle ticket in the hands of the next mass shooter.”

“We’re also furious that when 18% of all hate crimes are committed against the LGBTQ+ community, Andy Holt continues to fan the flames of hatred towards that community by making jokes that demean them and statements that blatantly define them as different, wrong, and scary,” the statement added.

On Tuesday, Mr Holt posted a message on his website that says a man using a Memphis phone number called his office on Monday and threatened him and his legislative assistant. The message said that the caller – who did not identify himself – promised to “kick his a**” and that he would be coming to Nashville on Tuesday to “pay him a visit”.

In a recording of the exchange posted on Mr Holt’s site, the caller makes no mention of why he’s upset or whether it stems from the planned ‘s gun giveaway. The caller indicates that he has “plenty of guns, and a licence to carry”. While the caller didn’t speak of any political affiliation, Mr Holt referred to the individual as “a liberal activist” and called on Democratic politicians to condemn the individual’s behaviour.

Assault-style rifles, like the one used in the Orlando shooting and those being given away by Mr Holt, have been the weapon of choice for mass shooters in recent years, as The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham recently reported:

Six months ago, in San Bernardino, California, a man and woman armed with assault-style rifles killed 14 people and wounded 20 others at a holiday party.

In 2012, in Aurora, Colorado, a man armed with an assault-style rifle killed 12 people and wounded 58 others in a crowded movie theatre.

Also in 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, a man armed with an assault-style rifle killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school.

In the past 10 years, Ingraham noted, assault-style rifles have been used in 14 public mass shootings, half of which have occurred since last June.

The weapon’s potential for inflicting mass harm in a short time has even been noted by terrorists. In 2011, al-Qaeda encouraged its followers to take advantage of lax guns laws, purchase assault-style weapons and use them to shoot people, Ingraham reported.

“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms,” American-born al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn said in a video. “You can go down to a gun show at the local convention centre and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

Gadahn’s characterisation, while mostly accurate, failed to point out that the sale of fully automatic weapons, which shoot continuously when you hold down the trigger, have been banned since 1986.

Within hours of this weekend’s mass shooting, Mr Holt posted on Facebook that he was furious, both about the attack and the criticism he was getting about giving away weapons while the accounting for the dead, missing and injured continued in Orlando.

“I’m furious that I get phone calls from the media asking me if I’m still going to give away an AR-15 at our HogFest, rather than asking me how many extra firearms I’ll be handing out to ensure people can protect themselves,” he wrote. “After all, it was a bullet that stopped the terrorist. Amazing how so many seem to miss that fact.”

Washington Post

How barrister Charles Waterstreet caused Rogerson, McNamara trial to be aborted

Barrister Charles Waterstreet at the NSW Supreme Court in July 2014. Photo: Ben Rushton Artist Nigel Milsom with subject Charles Waterstreet and the work Judo house pt 6 (the white bird). The portrait won the 2015 Archibald Prize. Photo: Steven Siewart
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Roger Rogerson, left, and Glen McNamara during the trial.

Victim: Jamie Gao. Photo: Facebook

Rogerson and McNamara found guiltyJamie Gao’s family speakRogerson’s notorious career 

The first trial of Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara was aborted in July last year after McNamara’s then barrister Charles Waterstreet made a reference to Rogerson “killing two or three people when he was in the police force”.

Justice Geoffrey Bellew said he had no alternative but to discharge the jury just two days into the trial because of the potential prejudice caused by the jury being alerted to Rogerson’s chequered history as a detective in the 1970s and ’80s.

In his opening address, Mr Waterstreet further asserted that Rogerson was sacked from the NSW Police.

The empanelling of a new jury scheduled a fortnight later was then delayed after Justice Bellew was informed of social media posts allegedly posted by Mr Waterstreet.

A post on an Instagram account in Mr Waterstreet’s name, being charleswaterstreet, allegedly contained a picture of Mr Waterstreet and another manstanding next to Nigel Milsom’s Archibald Prize-winning portrait of him.

The caption had various hashtags including #bluemurder #rake and #teammcnamara and words to the effect of “look out, here comes Team McNamara”.

Blue Murder is the name of a 1995 ABC TV mini-series about Rogerson’s relationship with notorious criminal Arthur “Neddy” Smith in the 1970s and ’80s when he worked as a detective in Kings Cross. Rake is a TV series about a fictional Sydney criminal barrister loosely based on Mr Waterstreet’s life. Both star actor Richard Roxburgh.

Justice Bellew formally vacated the second trial and ordered the registrar of the Common Law Division of the Supreme Court to investigate Mr Waterstreet for contempt of court.

Mr Waterstreet told Justice Bellew he did not post the picture and caption.

The court also heard a Twitter account in Mr Waterstreet’s name at @ccwaterstreet posted a link to the Instagram post.

Mr Rogerson’s barrister, George Thomas, accused McNamara of instructing Mr Waterstreet to act in a way that caused the case to go off the rails.

However, Justice Bellew dismissed any suggestion McNamara was behind Mr Waterstreet’s alleged actions.

Mr Waterstreet sought his own legal advice and sought leave from the court to withdraw from the case, although he said it did not constitute an admission that contempt of court had occurred.

Former Liberal NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith, SC, then appeared in court, saying McNamara wanted to retain him. However, he said he wasn’t available until about March 2016 and did not end up taking on the case.

But Mr Waterstreet’s involvement in the case did not end there. In April, McNamara sacked his barrister Kara Shead, SC, 10 weeks into the new trial, telling the court a conflict of interest had arisen.

Mr Waterstreet turned up in court and offered to appear for McNamara for the rest of the trial, if no other member of the NSW Bar was willing to take on the case.

He told the court he had been told by the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court that no action was to be taken against him for his actions leading to the abortion of the first trial.

Justice Bellew said it was a matter for Mr Waterstreet but wondered if it was advisable, given the events of July and August last year.

During a tense few days of hearings in the absence of the jury, Crown prosecutor Christopher Maxwell, QC, accused McNamara of pulling a stunt and trying to manipulate the system.

Justice Bellew said he couldn’t say either way because McNamara refused to give evidence as to why he sacked Ms Shead and his solicitors other than to say it was on “legal advice”.

Ms Shead told the court it was because of a “complex issue”.

At one stage it looked as if McNamara would be representing himself for the remainder of the trial, but barrister Gabriel Wendler stepped in and, after allowing a few days to get his head around the brief, the trial continued.

Alligator drags toddler into water in Orlando, Florida

Child taken: An alligator seen here in a file picture. Photo: Wolter Peeters Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Google Earth
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The parents of a two-year-old boy tried desperately to pull their son from the jaws of an alligator that dragged him into a lagoon at a Disney hotel in Orlando, Florida.

Florida County Sheriff Jerry Demings said the toddler was dragged into the Seven Seas Lagoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Orlando.

Sheriff Demings said the boy and his mother were playing on the beach in about 30 centimetres of water when the animal attacked.

“As they waded into the water along the lake’s edge at the time, that’s when the alligator struck,” he said.

The boy’s father tried to wrestle him from the alligator’s mouth but was unsuccessful in saving him. The father received scratches to his hands.

“They were simply relaxing and wading at the water’s edge. The father entered the water and tried to grab the child (but) was not successful in doing so. I’m told the mother also entered the water. So the parents diligently tried to get the child.”

The parents alerted a pool lifeguard and a 911 call to police was made at about 9.16pm Tuesday (11.16 AEST Wednesday).

The family (a mother, father and three children) were on holiday from Nebraska and had been staying at the resort since June 12, when the tragedy happened. There had been a movie night and fireworks on the beach that night.

He said more than 50 officers and two marine rescue boats were searching the waters using helicopters with light beams, sonar and a dive team. But so far the child has not been found.

“We are not leaving until we recover the child.

“As a father, as a grandfather, we are going to hope for the best in these circumstances but based on my 35 years of experience, we know that we have some challenges ahead,” he said. The location of where the 2yr old is missing. Alligator seen dragging child into the water. #BreakingNews#Orlandopic.twitter上海龙凤419m/8AUeiXdmBk— Stewart Moore (@Stewartmoore) June 15, 2016

A local reporter on the scene, Adrian Whitsett for WESH Orlando, tweeted that the alligator was reportedly around 7ft (2.1 metres) long. #UPDATE I count at least 14 @OrangeCoSheriff vehicles here at @WaltDisneyWorld Still no update if gator/child located @WESH— Adrian Whitsett (@AdrianWhitsett) June 15, 2016

Florida is believed to be home to up to 2 million alligators, the most of any US state. The average adult alligator weighs 360 kilograms and is four metres in length.

There have been two reported fatal alligator attacks in the past year, both of them in Florida.

The child’s name has not been revealed.

A Disney spokeswoman said they was co-operating with police and their thoughts were with the family.

“Everyone at the Walt Disney resort is devastated by this tragic accident,” she said.

It has been a tragic week in Orlando with 49 people killed and 53 more injured in a mass shooting in a gay nightclub that was the deadliest in US history.

The alligator attack comes a fortnight after Cincinnati zoo keepers shot and killed a male gorilla named Harambe to save a four-year-old boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure. Police putting up yellow tape outside of The Grand Floridian directly across from Magic Kingdom in Orlando… pic.twitter上海龙凤419m/yBQc3r4hcG— ChristianTheMagician (@Menardness) June 15, 2016Search crews at Grand Floridian Beach pic.twitter上海龙凤419m/wTCsxsJwNO— Jim (@JimAdams240) June 15, 2016The sick contrast of events… pic.twitter上海龙凤419m/lNelCyD4ki— ChristianTheMagician (@Menardness) June 15, 2016

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Smelling success: some Chinese investors switch from stocks to garlic

Speculating on garlic prices is luring investors, who think it’s a one-way bet. Photo: Tricia HogbinYang Fei doubled his money last year buying and selling in the unofficial garlic capital of the world. He did pretty well the year before, too, and the year before that.
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One of a few dozen garlic agents in Jinxiang, in China’s eastern Shandong province, 34-year-old Yang is at the centre of a trade that has attracted a small group of retail investors, mainly wealthy businessmen, seeking a surer bet than China’s volatile stock and real estate markets.

When prices are low around the spring harvest, investors buy as much of the crop as they can, put it into store, and release it on to the market when prices rise later in the year.

“Manipulating the garlic market and hyping the price is pretty simple compared to the stock market and real estate. Many of my clients have stocked tens of thousands of tonnes of garlic and don’t sell it until the price rises,” another agent, Liu Yunfei, told Reuters.

Yang’s profits and those of his dozen or so clients ballooned to 7 million yuan ($1.4 million) last year, when the price of garlic rose to 10.6 yuan ($2.19) per kilogram.

“For the last three years, our investors have made money, we made a 100 per cent profit last year,” said Yang, who has built five warehouses for garlic storage and plans another four.

This year, though, may be different.

The one-way bet on garlic has lured many new investors, driving prices up to a record 13.4 yuan/kg in March, much earlier than usual. Also, frosts in China at the turn of the year hit plantings and yields, and that could squeeze margins when the investors’ stored garlic comes on to the market later.

Agents said there were more investors this year, and they were spending more to buy up the garlic crop.

“This year, garlic prices are especially high,” said an agent named Yan Jianhua. “A lot of people have been looking for me. I know one person from Guangdong who wants to store around 5000 tonnes. Last year, he stored less than 1000 tonnes.” ‘Garlic economy’ boom

With a population of around 640,000 and no previous claim to fame other than proximity to the provincial capital, Jinxiang has boomed.

It produced 1.69 million tonnes of garlic last year, around 7 per cent of China’s total – and more than the whole of South Korea, the world’s third-largest producer. China’s annual crop of around 25 million tonnes dominates the global market.

Garlic fields stretch out around Jinxiang, and at harvest time the air is filled with dust kicked up by trucks ferrying the crop to market and storage. The town also grows onions and hot peppers.

As production around Jinxiang has doubled in a decade, the ‘garlic economy’ has sprouted new villas, auto dealerships and modern retail space.

“Garlic has made Jinxiang richer in the last two years,” said Su Xiuling, a local grower who makes some extra money by peeling garlic at the market once the crop is in. “There’s a huge change. Our roads are wider … and even farmers now build bigger homes.”

Garlic is a staple in Asia’s diet, used in everything from the ubiquitous monosodium glutamate (MSG) to desserts. Believed to have medicinal healing powers, it’s even added to foot salve.

It’s easy to grow, harvest, transport and store. Modern coldstores – some bigger than a soccer pitch – can keep it fresh for up to two years, giving investors a longer window to sell into.

Zheng Xiang from Chengdu in southwestern Sichuan – a more than 2-hour flight away – is one of those investors who converge on Jinxiang each year to meet their agents, inspect the crop and check on prices.

“I came to inspect the market and see how big the harvest is and whether the price has increased,” Zheng said over dinner, with heaps of stir-fried garlic.

Zheng invested 300,000 yuan ($61,873) in garlic last year and plans to spend up to 2 million yuan this year – hoping to recoup some of the 60,000 yuan he lost on the stock market when property shares fell.

“Isn’t everybody switching from stocks to agriculture commodities now? It’s the trend. Speculating with garlic is similar to stocks, but (physical) garlic is not as unreliable as futures (trading),” he said.

But not everyone gets to share in the spoils.

Garlic farmers see little of the profits once their crops are lifted. They typically sell their garlic for around 4.4 yuan/kg, according to local official media. Opaque market

China’s garlic market is difficult to track as there is no official data or clarity on acreage and no centralised pricing. That can exacerbate wild price swings as in some of China’s other nascent, casino-like futures markets.

And the scale of production in places like Jinxiang is felt thousands of miles from China among rival growers who accuse a hands-off government of failing to regulate the crop or control the “dumping” of cheap exports.

“The Jinxiang government is paying close attention to garlic prices, but isn’t regulating and controlling the market. It is trying to guide planting and trade,” said a local commerce official who gave only his surname, Li.

Yu Li, a spokesperson, said the Dalian Commodity Exchange has no plans to add garlic futures, and pays little attention to the crop.

As more money pours in, next year’s garlic acreage is expected to increase again, potentially squeezing margins, but not by enough to deter investors.

“You can buy garlic pretty much any year and still make money,” said Wang Xiaoying, an investor who owns four Jinxiang warehouses.

“If you invest a million, you’ll make a million, it’s that simple,” she says.


Jamie Gao’s family speak after Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara found guilty of murder

Victim: Jamie Gao. Photo: Supplied Detective Chief Inspector Russell Oxford leaves court after the guilty verdicts. Photo: Peter Rae
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Glen McNamara’s daughter Jessica leaves court after her father was found guilty of murder Photo: Daniel Munoz

Victim: Jamie Gao. Photo: Facebook

Roger Rogerson, left, and Glen McNamara during the trial.

Rogerson and McNamara guilty of murderTimeline of Rogerson and McNamara’s downfall

Members of the family of murdered university student Jamie Gao have broken their silence after a jury found disgraced former detectives Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara guilty of the 20-year-old’s murder.

But his family says that, despite the legal system working, nothing will bring their Jamie back.

“No matter what today’s findings are or the sentence that is given, it won’t change the fact that Jamie remains absent from the lives of our family – the people who love him – and we miss him every single day,” the Gao family said in a statement.

“Today the legal system worked. Two very dangerous criminals have been found guilty,” the family said.

“But while this is the verdict our family were hoping would be delivered, true justice can never really be served. Yes, Jamie was a young man who had made some mistakes – but what young person hasn’t?

“No 20-year-old deserves to lose their life over a stupid mistake.”

Rogerson and McNamara showed no emotion as the jury of five women and seven men handed down their verdict in the NSW Supreme Court.

The jury took 6½ days to consider their verdict.

McNamara, wearing a navy blue suit and a striped tie, did not react as the jury forewoman read out the verdict.

Rogerson showed no emotion and put his left hand on a piece of paper he appeared to be reading.

However, as Justice Geoffrey Bellew formally pronounced the convictions, McNamara stood blinking.

Rogerson bowed his head and kept two clenched fists on the bench in front of him.

After the verdict was read to the court, Glen McNamara’s daughter Jessica ran into the court complex on King Street.

She later left with another family member, not wanting to talk to the large media pack waiting outside.

McNamara’s barrister Gabriel Wendler indicated his client would appeal the decision.

Rogerson’s barrister George Thomas said: “the jury made its decision”.

Detective Chief Inspector Russell Oxford spoke outside court and said that he wanted no one to forget what had happened to Mr Gao.

He also spoke of the hard work the NSW Police’s Robbery and Serious Crime squad had put into the case.

“Today’s decision, the jury’s verdict today, is very pleasing for us; it’s a culmination of many, many months of hard work and I think from the outset I’d just like to praise all the efforts of police,” he said.

Chief Inspector Oxford also paid tribute to Mr Gao – and said he felt for the family.

“This young man, Jamie Gao, I suppose a lot’s been forgotten about him. He was lured into this unit, into a drug deal and then simply executed and unceremoniously wrapped in a bag and dumped in the sea.

“I feel for the family, for Jamie Gao’s family, I feel for him; regardless of what was said about young Jamie, he’s still a human being.

“He could have been any one of our sons or daughters or grandchildren.

“I think that’s probably what’s lost in today, is [that] Jamie Gao has been executed.

He also praised the work of NSW Police.

“The work of our officers was so methodical and so dedicated … There was just such a tremendous investigation.

“If you follow the evidence, this was a carefully planned and executed operation and poor old Jamie Gao was lured into the shed and simply executed, simple as that.”

The way Australian billionaires earn their wealth

Illustration: Simon Letch Illustration: Simon Letch
Shanghai night field

Illustration: Simon Letch

When I was a kid spotting a very fancy car was a rarity. But now hardly a week passes without a Ferrari, Maserati or Lamborghini cruising by. It’s a marker of how much wealth is concentrated in Australia’s prosperous urban twins – Sydney and Melbourne.

Recently Ferrari announced Australia was a market of “growing importance” for their prestige cars. Why? Those selling super-expensive status goods, like Ferraris, simply can’t ignore how many super-rich families now live in our biggest cities.

Industry data for 2015 shows new Ferrari sales jumped 48 per cent, Maserati sales rose 29 per and Lamborghini sales were up by 200 per cent.

Ferrari Australasia chief, Herbert Appleroth, told me customers ordering a new Ferrari now have to wait one to two years for delivery.

“We’ve never felt demand like we have right now,” he said.

A 2016 global wealth report by property firm, Knight Frank, said the number of ultra-high net worth individuals – those with net assets of $US30 million ($40.5 million) or more – has grown by 135 per cent in Australia over the past decade. Sydney is now rated the “world’s eighth-most important city” for people in that wealth bracket. Knight Frank estimates there are now 842 people in Sydney with net assets of $US30 million or more and another 588 in Melbourne.

There’s been similar growth in the number of Australian billionaires. A record 53 were included on last month’s BRW rich list this year compared with 22 a decade ago.

A study by Caroline Freund and Sarah Oliver from the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics has examined key characteristics of the world’s billionaires, including Australia’s growing band. It draws on two decades of data from Forbes’ annual world’s billionaires list.

The Peterson Institute study says extreme wealth is increasing rapidly, despite slow global income growth. The latest global rich list includes a record 1826 US-dollar billionaires.

One striking trend has been the surge of extreme wealth in emerging countries, especially China where the number of billionaires rose from 64 to 213 between 2010 and 2015.

The ultra-rich in developing nations are no longer concentrated in the “resource and politically connected sectors of the past”. Instead, a large and growing share of billionaires, especially in east Asia, have made their fortunes creating new and innovative products.

The demography of billionaires is also starting to change. The latest list has more under-40s and more females than ever.

But perhaps the biggest shift over the past two decades has been the rise of self-made billionaires. Self-made wealth accounted for nearly 70 per cent of billionaire wealth in 2014, up from 45 per cent in 1996. The finance sector and tech companies have contributed to the growth in self-made billionaire wealth, especially in the US.