You better Believe it – it’s looking like superstar singer and actress Cher will headline Sydney’s 40th gay and lesbian Mardi Gras in March.
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While it is understood a contract is yet to be signed, sources close to the event have told Fairfax Mediathe 71-year-old gay icon is almost locked in to perform at the world-renowned gay pride festival.

Organisers typically seek out big overseas acts on major anniversaries – the 30th Mardi Gras was headlined by Cyndi Lauper – and this year’s will take on extra significance given the historic legalisation of same-sex marriage just weeks ago.

Cher, a leading gay icon, is known for hits such as ”Believe” and ”If I Could Turn Back Time”. Photo: Aaron Lee Fineman

The rumour mill has been in overdrive, especially after the If I Could Turn Back Time singer hinted at the deal on her official (and ever zany) Twitter account, teasingly posting: “Where am I going in March!?”

And it was helped along last week when the Australian Radio Network appeared to break an embargo by publishing an online story declaring Cher was “officially coming to town” for Mardi Gras. It was swiftly retracted but remains viewable in cached form.

Officials made it clear that while Cher was being courted as “plan A” for the after-party, dealings with megastars were always precarious and fallback options were in place.

Already, the 40th anniversary Mardi Gras parade has been swamped with interest and overbooked. Organisers copped heated criticism for rejecting the NSW Teachers Federation – a long-time participant in the parade – before bowing to pressure and granting the union a float once another group pulled out.

About 12,000 people from 200 groups are expected to march along Oxford Street on March 3, which will mark 40 years since the political protest and gay pride march began.

Organisers issued an apology to those unable to participate, citing safety and security concerns that imposed strict limits on the number of people and vehicles involved in the parade.

Brandon Bear, co-chair of Sydney Mardi Gras, said the chief barrier to expanding the size of the parade was the limited space allocated for pre-parade marshalling on College and Liverpool streets, around Hyde Park.

“If there are more people in there, it does actually become less safe, and it becomes very unpleasant,” he said.

“We’re part of Sydney, we’re not separate to it. It’s about making sure that we can be as fabulous as we can, but not ruining the space for everybody else and keeping the city operational.”

Mr Bear declined to confirm Cher’s involvement in the festival, saying only that “no announcement has been made” and “part of the excitement of the party is waiting to find out who the headliner will be”.

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SMH News. Story by, Kate McClymont and Michaela Whitbourn. Photo shows, Eddie Obeids wife, Judith Obeid leaves the Supreme Court, Sydney with one of her daughters.Photo by, Peter Rae Monday 10 April, 2017As Eddie Obeid languishes behind bars for a second Christmas and New Year, the family of the corrupt former Labor MP is being pursued in court for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash they received from the Circular Quay cafes at the centre of his trial.
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Fairfax Media can reveal the liquidator appointed to Circular Quay Restaurants, the failed front company which ran the cafes, is suing the Obeid family patriarch, his wife Judith and five of their nine children in the District Court for just over $708,000.

The figure includes $433,382 in cash payments the family members allegedly received from the businesses, plus interest and costs.

Circular Quay Restaurants, which operated three cafes on or near the bustling ferry wharves at the quay, went into liquidation in 2014 owing taxpayers almost $1 million in unpaid rent and other costs.

Obeid snr, who spent 20 years in the state’s upper house, was jailed in December 2016 for lobbying a senior NSW Maritime Authority bureaucrat in 2007 to secure favourable conditions for tenants at Circular Quay without revealing his family had a financial interest in the cafes.

In a circular to creditors dated November 28, 2017, Circular Quay Restaurants liquidator Frank Lo Pilato said he conducted public examinations of the company’s current and former directors, its professional advisers and members of the Obeid family in August 2016 and March and April this year.

“During the course of the public examinations evidence was given that cash payments totalling $433,382 were made to members of the Obeid family in the years preceding the liquidation of the company,” Mr Lo Pilato, a managing partner at RSM Australia, said.

As a result of the evidence, he launched proceedings in the District Court against the Obeid family members who received the payments. Mr Lo Pilato said he was also taking action against a former director of the company, Obeid’s brother-in-law John Abood, “for breach of his statutory duties as a director and officer of the company”.

The Obeid children named in the District Court action are Moses Obeid, his older brother Damien and younger brothers Gerard and Eddie junior, along with their sister Gemma.

Obeid snr’s criminal trial followed an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into the cafe leases, which was in turn sparked by a Walkley Award-winning Herald investigation in 2012 exposing the Obeid family’s secret interest in the cafes.

During a liquidator’s examination in April, Judith Obeid described her occupation as “home duties” and agreed she was given $1000 in cash a week from the takings of the businesses. She said she spent the money on items “for the home and for the family”.

Asked who was running the cafes, Mrs Obeid insisted she “really had no knowledge of my sons’ business whatsoever”.

“I have a large family. My dedication was to my nine married children and 33 grandchildren,” she told the Supreme Court.

“I am a hands-on mother and hands-on grandmother. I had no time whatsoever to get involved. That’s the honest truth.”

Asked if she had her own bank account, Mrs Obeid replied: “Not to my knowledge.”

During Obeid snr’s first criminal trial, Mrs Obeid’s cousin Paul Maroon volunteered damning financial records showing payments from the cafes being made to “Dad”.

Mr Maroon was asked during a liquidator’s examination if he subsequently wrote an email apologising to Eddie Obeid’s lawyers for finding the records.

“What were you apologising for in that sentence? The monumental ‘expletive’ thing you had done?” the liquidator’s lawyer, Jim Harrowell, asked Mr Maroon. Mr Maroon replied it was “over a year ago” and he could not recall.

The liquidator’s action, scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on January 15, is not the only legal headache for the Obeid clan. The family is also locked in a long-running Federal Court battle with the Australian Taxation Office over bills totalling $8.6 million, which were sent to the family in August 2013 following an audit of Obeid snr and a complex web of family trusts and companies.

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Alastair Cook wound the clock back to post a potentially career-saving century on a day Australia’s over-reliance on Steve Smith was exposed, leaving the hosts in a grim struggle in the fourth Test.
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The second day crowd of 67,882 came to the MCG expecting another ton from the Australian skipper only to see the home side crumble with the bat as England enjoyed one of its best days on what has been a miserable campaign.

Australia had been well placed to post another gargantuan first innings total but its hopes of inflicting a third straight whitewash on home soil now hang in the balance.

The visitors were 2/192 at stumps on the second day after Australia suffered a dramatic batting collapse in which it lost 7/67 to be all out for 327.

The hosts were not helped by a stomach bug to an exhausted Pat Cummins, who came off the field several times and was so tired he slept during the tea break. Down his pace due to his illness, Cummins still shouldered his share of the load as temperatures soared into the 30s.

“I was pretty proud of Pat. You go through moments when you don’t feel well in Test cricket,” Nathan Lyon said.

“The way he stuck at it and put in a massive effort was quite pleasing to see. Hats off to him for the effort he’s put in for us today.”

Things would have been worse had James Vince challenged a leg before wicket verdict with replays showing the England No.3 had feathered one onto his pad.

On a benign pitch, there is no reason why Cook and his successor Joe Root, who was unbeaten on 49, cannot bat well into the third day and leave Australia in the unfamiliar position of having to bat for survival in the second half of the match.

Opportunities have been few and far between for the Australian attack on a pitch where bowlers are relying primarily on batsman error for their wickets.

They are already ruing the life given to Cook, who was reprieved on 66 when Smith failed to hold on to a difficult chance at first slip off Mitchell Marsh

Cook capitalised on Smith’s gamble to bring himself on for the final over, peeling off the seven runs he needed to reach triple figures with two balls to spare.

England’s leading run-scorer, who posted his first ton in six matches and had gone 10 innings without passing 50, had been under fire from former greats Kevin Pietersen and Mitchell Johnson who believed he should retire.

“Testament to the bloke he is, he’s a calm character, not someone who gets fazed,” Stuart Broad said.

“He went through so much stuff about his captaincy, I’m sure a bit of stick about his batting is not going to bother him too much.

“Cooky has had periods in his career where he might not score the runs he wants then scores a big hundred. He doesn’t deal in little hundreds, he seems to go big.”

The turning point of the day came when Smith chopped on to his stumps on 76 with a 23rd Test ton within reach.

Although Australia’s top six is more stable now than a year ago, its fortunes still ride heavily on Smith’s back. Almost half the team’s runs have come while the skipper has been at the crease.

Smith was lured into a rare mistake by debutant Tom Curran, who a day earlier was cruelly denied what would have been his first Test wicket by a matter of millimetres.

The crowd was stunned when Smith chopped a short and wide ball on to his stumps on 76. He was one of three Australian batsman, along with Mitchell Marsh and Tim Paine, to lose his wicket trying to force the issue off the back foot on a pitch lacking pace.

Once Shaun Marsh departed for 61, one of four wickets to a much-improved Broad, there was little resistance from Australia’s tail.

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The England and Wales Cricket Board will complete a meticulous review of what’s required to succeed in Australia in 2021 – and the opening two days at the MCG have given insight into what’s needed.
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While there is an Ashes rematch on the swinging decks of England in 2019, the ECB will also have an eye towards its next trip here and what skill base its squad must have to be a chance of toppling a robust opponent at a time when home-ground advantage may never have been stronger.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said while the cricketing calendar was crowded, there was still opportunity to thoroughly prepare for a marquee series.

“I think it’s about understanding where the margins can be gained. Obviously, that is a complex issue with respect to our particular structure. It’s about pitches that you play on, it’s about the kind of conditions and the kinds of players that you are creating, out of your own environment,” he said on ABC radio.

“So we’ll go back and have a look at that. As I’ve said we have a thick plan in place for both white-ball and red-ball cricket, so I will go back and have a good look at it but, hopefully, come back better prepared in four years’ time.”

A prerequisite will surely be heart and resolve, something England showed in dismissing Australia for 327 on Wednesday, including claiming 7-67 from the moment Steve Smith dragged a wide delivery onto his stumps and became the maiden Test wicket of Tom Curran.

In reply, the tourists will resume day three on 2-192, with Alastair Cook unbeaten and having celebrated his 32nd Test century, and skipper Joe Root (49 not out) intent on building a big lead on a flat drop-in pitch.

Curran, after the disappointment of having David Warner dismissed off a no-ball on Boxing Day, deserved his reward but it was veteran leaders Stuart Broad and James Anderson who finally delivered in tandem.

Broad, with only five wickets through the opening three Tests, would reap four, while Anderson would finish with three and maximise reverse swing. That three Australians played on prompted the debate over whether it was more the batsman’s fault rather than canny bowling that reaped the wickets, but it did not matter.

What Broad and Anderson reinforced is how important it is that the team’s leaders show the way in a series when the spotlight is at its fiercest.

Broad said he had fallen into a “mental trap” of not wanting to concede runs in the Perth Test when he was wicketless and conceded 142 runs, but had adopted a more aggressive mindset here. He said he deserved criticism in Perth and conceded he might have been playing for his future in Melbourne.

“I have worked incredibly hard this week physically and mentally. I did some work on a few days off looking at certain things and then running hard in the nets trying to get a feeling of that rhythm back. Today, we got lucky with a couple of chop-ons and a couple of wickets Australia were probably disappointed with but we were delighted with,” Broad said.

“It’s been a pretty tough couple of weeks really but it makes playing and taking wickets very rewarding.”

Cook and Root then got in on the act with an undefeated century stand. Cook, profiting from a life on 66 when dropped by Smith at slip, broke out from his tour-long funk to deliver an innings neither he nor the 67,882 fans on hand will forget in a hurry.

This was Cook at his best, with sublime cover and straight drives and pull shots. The absence of Mitchell Starc was felt and Pat Cummins was ill, sleeping through the entire tea break, but Cook scored more on this day than he had in the previous three Tests combined. Had England’s greatest Test run-scorer found touch earlier in the series, the summer could have taken on a different complexion.

“I think every time you step on the field you are pretty much playing for your career really – that’s the pressure of international cricket,” Broad said.

“You never know how things will go – you just need to focus on making sure that your mindset is right, your work ethic is right, you are doing everything you can to be at your best.

“It shows a huge amount of character to be under that scrutiny and pressure and come out and deliver any sort of performance, let alone a hundred like Cooky has just done.”

Regardless of the result in Melbourne, there will be much for the ECB to discuss.

A lack of a pure speedster has been one reason given for the tourists’ troubles, for it’s meant they cannot consistently attack with the short ball in a bid to at least unsettle their opponents. Australia, with three pure quicks in Josh Hazlewood, Cummins and, for the opening three Tests, Starc, have been able to trouble batsmen through swing and seam when pitching up and also through intimidating short-pitched deliveries.

“Australia have been very good here. You look at most of the [Ashes] series – a lot of the home teams have won. Since ’05, we have won at home,” Broad said.

Harrison said the ceding of the Ashes urn had been “hugely disappointing”, with Root’s team unable to dominate the key moments.

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CONTINUE: The Hunter team aboard She’s The Culprit. Picture: Marina NeilShe’s The Culprit has avoided a near disaster on Wednesday to continue this year’s Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
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Co-skipper and part-owner Glen Picasso said they struck a potential boat-damaging sunfish, but managed to keep sailing towards the finish line at Tasmania’s famed Constitution Dock.

“Running hard under spinnaker,” Picasso said in a text message to the Newcastle Herald.“Hit sunfish, no damage, continue racing Culprit.”

She’s The Culprit, an Inglis/Jones 39 out of Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club and Lake Macquarie Yacht Club, had improved seven spots to 66thoverallat 10pm but droppedthree places to fifth in the PHS division two category they won in 2014.

Aroundthe same time overnight, as the battle for record-breaking line honours up the Derwent River was won by Wild Oats XI overLDV Comanche, fellow Hunter crews Dare Devil (75th) and Freyja (98th) were further behind.

Dare Devil,a Farr-Cookson 47 out of Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club withSibby Ilzhofer the owner-skipper, had gone back 26 places overall in the previous24 hour period and slightly slipped to 11thinORCi division two.

Dr Richard Lees’ Freyja, a 73-year-old Atkins-Ingrid designed wooden boat out of the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, remained fourth in PHS division two handicap after being last out of Sydney Heads on Boxing Day.

Both Dare Devil and Freyja failed to finish the race last year.

There have beenthree retirements in 2017 with Wots Next, Rockall and Jazz Player all out of the running from the original field of 102 that started from Sydney Harbour on Tuesday.

Elsewhere and Sonic, a Newcastle Cruising YachtClubTP52 owned by Mick Martin and known as Frantic, was up to 23rdin line honours at 10pm with its South Korean crew who have chartered the boat for asecond consecutive year.

Black Jack,with Lake Macquarie’s Tom Addis as navigator, was third in line honours at the same time.

The crew of runner-up LDV Comanche, which had been overtaken by Wild Oats XI in tense closing stages after leading most of the race, featuredformer Maitland Blacks junior and 2014 Super Rugby champion Jeremy Tilse.

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