Lennon sets new targets for Celtic

The Hoops boss has watched proudly on as goalkeeper Fraser Forster first surpassed the club’s clean sheet record before setting a new Scottish shut-out record in the 2-0 win on Saturday.

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The English ‘keeper has now gone 13 consecutive matches and 1,215 minutes without conceding a goal as he closes in on Edwin van der Sar’s British record.

Now Lennon has set his sights on surpassing another landmark in what could be a record-breaking league campaign.

Lennon was part of the Celtic team that racked up 103 points under Martin O’Neill in the 2000/2001 season.

However, the Parkhead boss believes his squad can top that, with his side on target to reach 108 points if they win their remaining 12 games.

“It would be quite something to get more than 100 points and more than we got under Martin in 2002,” Lennon said.

“It is a target we are aiming for. We want to try to remain unbeaten until the end of the season but it might be a step too far.”

Celtic head north to Aberdeen on Tuesday night looking for their 16th consecutive league win but they will find it tough at Pittodrie.

The Dons defeated Lennon’s side at Parkhead a fortnight ago to knock the Hoops out of the Scottish Cup and were the last side to score past Forster on league duty way back in November.

Derek McInnes’ side are Celtic’s closest challengers, albeit 24 points off the pace after a surprise 3-1 defeat to Partick Thistle on Saturday, and Lennon knows his side can expect a tough test on Tuesday night.

“Aberdeen are the only team to have scored against us in quite a while now and they provide us with very stiff opposition,” Lennon said.

“They played very well against us a couple of weeks ago. Our focus is on maintaining this run now. We’ve broken the clean sheet record and we would like to go as long as possible unbeaten but that is going to be very difficult.

“It’s got all the ingredients for a great game and we will need to maintain our focus between now and the end of the season if we are to remain undefeated.”

Vigils held for slain asylum seeker

Thousands of people have lit up the night skies with candles across Australia at vigils to remember slain Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati and to call for an end to secrecy on refugees.

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Organiser of the event GetUp! estimated 15,000 people attended vigils in several capital cities, with about 5000 in Melbourne and 3000 in Sydney.

The vigils come days after Mr Berati, 23, was killed and 62 other asylum seekers were injured in violence at the Australian-run immigration detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

“The truth is we just don’t know what’s happening in these places. The government’s shut off the lights, taking censorship to an unprecedented level,” GetUp! national director Sam McLean said.

World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello spoke at the Melbourne vigil in Federation Square and said the people who attended across the country were doing serious moral work.

“We know asylum policy is complex, but what isn’t complex is that a human being who came to us for protection instead died in terrible circumstances,” Rev Costello said.

Father Bob Macguire, also in Melbourne, said the thousands of candles that lit up Federation Square would shine a light on the plight of asylum seekers.

Several other speakers called for the closure of Manus Island.

The gathering also shared one minute’s silence to remember Mr Berati.

GetUp! says more than 600 snap protests were organised for Sunday night, from Queensland cattle stations to Sydney’s Town Hall.

Among the 3000 at the Town Hall vigil was Emma Miller-Cockcroft, who is sick of the government’s treatment of asylum seekers, which she reckons doesn’t reflect the will of many Australians.

“If your own government doesn’t respect human right to life then … it’s just a disgrace. It’s embarrassing,” the 28-year-old told AAP.

“It’s important that the world knows not all Australians are like this. We’ve got a reputation as being quite racist.”

The “hysteria” over a couple of boat arrivals was disingenuous and ignored Australia’s history, she added.

“Some of my family came here in 1890. They didn’t drive to Australia from Europe, they came by boats.”

Xenophobic treatment of asylum seekers must stop in Australia, The Chaser’s Chris Tylor said during a brief address to the crowd.

“We have more land than anyone else and we take fewer people than anyone else. That is absolutely appalling.”

Sydney-based communications student Sarah Hunt, 34, agreed, adding that Australia was “privileged” and said the debate should centre on human rights, not which of the two major parties was less-harsh.

Losing finalist Dubuisson makes big PGA Tour splash

Though bitterly disappointed after losing one down to Australian Jason Day in a marathon title match that lasted 23 holes at Dove Mountain, Dubuisson had much to be proud of after making only his fifth start on the U.

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S. circuit.

“I’m happy but, at the same time, disappointed because this afternoon I didn’t play very well,” the Cannes native told reporters after a birdie by Day at the 23rd hole, the driveable par-four 15th, ended the match.

“I just battled, especially the back nine. And at the end, I really battled hard because I wanted to take a chance, at least try to take my chance.

“I’ve learned that my nerves, my mental approach, can be very solid in a difficult situation. I’ve learned that anything can happen. I did well this week and I had some good nerve against my opponent. I know what I have to do now to improve.”

Dubuisson, who in November won the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open where Tiger Woods and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose were also in the field, conjured two spectacular recovery shots on Sunday that fans watching will never forget.

On the 19th hole, the par-four first, he got up and down to save par from desert scrub over the back right of the green, hitting his third shot from behind a cactus, via sand, rocks and a television cable strung in front of him, to four feet.

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One hole later, at the par-four ninth, he missed the green badly to the left with his approach, his ball ending up in a bush from where he amazingly hit his third to seven feet, prompting a wry smile from Day.

“I just play my shot 100 percent, like it was a playable shot, like I have nothing to lose,” Dubuisson said of his strategy.

“I battled as hard as I could at the end,” added the Frenchman, a brilliant amateur who turned professional after he missed the cut at the 2010 British Open following his only major start so far.

Day was astonished as anyone after watching Dubuisson’s two up-and-downs from seemingly impossible positions.

“Vic coming down the stretch was just unbelievable,” the 26-year-old Australian said. “I’ve never seen someone as young, apart from Jordan Spieth, and in the old days, Tiger Woods, how clutch he was, especially out of the cactus.

“I kept shaking my head because it was so surprising because there was a couple of times there where I thought he was absolutely dead. The tournament was mine (to win). I’m just so thankful to be here right now,” said the winner.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine)

Hawks learn harsh AFL lessons of 2008

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson blames himself for the club’s failure as defending premiers to reach the top eight in 2009.

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But he’s also quick to point out Hawthorn’s long injury list after claiming their 10th flag.

Clarkson says this time, hopefully, will be a lot different.

“You learn a stack,” the dual premiership mentor said, adding that a premiership hangover is only obvious in hindsight.

“You never detect it even when you’re within it.

“We made plenty of errors as a coaching group, as a club and as individual players having gone through that for the first time.

“You probably have a bit of a mask on in a sense. You don’t realise it’s occurring to you.

“We had 15 post-season surgeries after the 2008 grand final.

“Even that in itself is one example of just how difficult it is to prepare properly for the following season.

“But that’s not the sole reason.”

From a historical standpoint, Hawthorn have only gone back-to-back once – back in 1988-89.

It’s become even harder to do in the modern era, with Leigh Matthews’ great Brisbane teams of 2001-03 the most recent example of a club staying on top of the pile for successive years.

Ex-Saint Ben McEvoy’s arrival to replace retired premiership ruckman Max Bailey already looks a good fit and Clarkson has successfully trialled Cyril Rioli in defence following Brent Guerra’s retirement.

Utility Alex Woodward has returned to action following two years on the sidelines with serious knee problems and Matt Suckling gives the Hawks another defensive option after a year out with a knee injury.

Norm Smith Medallist fullback Brian Lake is suspended for the first three rounds.

But none of this compares with the impact caused by the departure of Lance Franklin to Sydney.

It has been suggested that the Hawthorn marketing staff will miss the sport’s most recognisable figure even more than the football department.

But any way you look at it, Franklin is a massive loss.

Even so, Clarkson did a mighty job last year preparing the club for what has turned out to be the post-Buddy era.

Jarryd Roughead’s career-best year was rewarded with 72 goals and a first All-Australian guernsey, while Jack Gunston and Luke Breust also reached the 40-goal mark in 2013.

Add Rioli and ruck-forward David Hale to the mix and the Hawks will hardly struggle for firepower, even though Franklin is – in every since – irreplacable.

The midfield is a work in progress. Dual premiership ruck-rover Brad Sewell, 30, is one veteran who may not be around for long.

Dropped midway through last season, Sewell fought back strongly and Clarkson is keeping the faith that the 190-game veteran remains in his best 22.

“The challenge we’ve got is not so much Sewelly individually but the collective of four or five guys who are all really important to the middle part of our ground, but they’re all 28, 29, 30 years of age,” Clarkson said.

“We’ve started looking at that over the last couple of years by playing Luke Hodge, Shaun Burgoyne and Sam Mitchell in different positions and Sewelly played a little bit of half-back last year.

“We’ll see Mitch Hallahan, Will Langford and Alex Woodward who are ready to play some senior football. But we need to open up the spaces for them.”

Clarkson is not seeking quick dividends from Billy Hartung, Dayle Garlett and James Sicily – picks 24, 38 and 56 in last year’s draft.

But Garlett will still attract plenty of attention, after the Hawks took the plunge on the talented West Australian whose off-field issues turned off several other suitors.

While the Hawks have been late to the pre-season training track in comparison to other clubs, Clarkson is not concerned.

“We’re really pleased with where they’re at in terms of being ready to play and being hungry,” he said.

Remy gives Magpies welcome EPL win

French international striker Loic Remy marked his return to the Newcastle line-up after serving a three game suspension with a late goal to give his side a much-needed 1-0 win over Aston Villa in their Premier League clash.

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The 27-year-old’s 12th goal of the season was Newcastle’s first since they beat West Ham 3-1 in a disastrous run, which also coincided with the departure of playmaker Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint Germain, that has seen them lose six of their nine league matches.

Defeat for Villa – they have just two wins in their last 13 matches – keeps them very much in the relegation battle, as they lie just four points above third from bottom Sunderland, who have a game in hand.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew will also be relieved that the return from injury of Argentinian central defender Fabricio Coloccini saw the previously leaky defence succeed in keeping a clean sheet.

The hosts had the first chance of the game as Paul Dummett, also recalled to the starting line-up, set up Papiss Cisse and his shot should have been easily gathered by Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan but he fumbled it and it had to be cleared for a corner by a Villa defender.

Villa then had two clear chances to break the deadlock, both falling to Gabriel Agbonlahor, first his fierce effort was tipped away by Tim Krul and then his long range effort was on target but went over the bar.

Cisse, though, should have put the hosts ahead in time added on of the first-half as Remy set him up but he snatched at his shot from close range and sent it high over the bar.

The hosts had the better of the early part of the second-half although they had no reward, with Yoann Gouffran going just wide and Dummett sending a shot over the bar.

Remy, who Pardew will hope he can make his loan signing permanent at the end of the season, made Guzan work hard to prevent his sharply-taken effort not sneak in with the American goalkeeper turning it round the post to safety but he was not to be denied at the death.

Dutch striker Luuk de Jong saw his shot deflected and into the path of Remy, who made space and curled his shot past Guzan and then handed his shirt to a fan.

Jovovich vows to help Ukraine victims

Ukrainian-born actress Milla Jovovich has spoken out about the deadly fighting in her homeland, vowing to help the helpless.

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Jovovich, who was born in Kiev where more than 80 protesters have died following clashes with riot police, reveals she has been following the events that have culminated in the collapse of President Viktor Yanukovych’s government.

She wants to do what she can to raise funds to benefit hospitals and aid workers in the city.

In a post on Facebook, “I have no taste for politics, but I will do everything in my power to help the helpless, not the ones with guns.

“I have always put my money where my mouth is when it comes to helping people and you better believe I will find out what I can personally do for the victims of the violence in the Ukraine.”

Jovovich, best known for her roles in the Resident Evil films and The Fifth Element, says she has been following the Twitter postings of 21-year-old medical volunteer Olesya Zhukovska, who was reportedly shot in the neck by riot police on Thursday.

Zhukoska hit the headlines after appearing in photographs clutching at her bleeding throat. She survived after being treated at a nearby hospital.

“No matter what the reasons for the fighting, innocent people are being brutalised and that is undeniable and unacceptable … I am slowly researching and making my way through to find the (charities) that I will personally donate to, as well as, great (web)sites that talk about what’s really going on in the Ukraine right now,” Jovovich wrote.

Jovovich is the third major Hollywood figure to have voiced support for the people of Ukraine.

George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger recorded more political messages last week.

Frozen marks second renaissance for Disney

A critical and commercial success, Frozen marks a second renaissance for Walt Disney’s legendary film studio – and is widely tipped to win its first Oscar for best animated feature next weekend.

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The movie, which has made nearly $US1 billion ($A1.12 billion), is the culmination of a revival driven by fierce competition and the studio’s purchase of rival Pixar in 2006, bringing boss John Lasseter into the Disney fold.

Critics have hailed Frozen as one of Disney’s best ever movies, following the success of The Princess and the Frog (2009), Tangled in 2010 and 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph.

If the movie does win at next Sunday’s 86th Academy Awards, it will be Disney’s first best animated feature Oscar since the category was created in 2001.

Disney has come a long way since the turn of the millennium, when the studio had been sidelined by Pixar and its string of blockbuster hits from Toy Story and Cars to Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and Up.

“Just like Great Mouse Detective was a step up from the nadir of Black Cauldron, so Princess and the Frog was more successful than the earlier films like Home on the Range and Meet the Robinsons,” said Tom Sito, professor of cinema at the University of Southern California (USC).

It is not Disney’s first comeback. The 1970s and 80s were tough for the studio, until a new generation of animators arrived to create films like The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and 1994’s majestic success The Lion King.

Ironically, the Prince Charming of this latest rebirth had been the studio’s main rival: Lasseter, co-founder of Pixar, who was named Disney’s animated creative director after his company became part of Mickey’s empire eight years ago.

“Since the merger with Pixar in 2006, Disney Animation is once more under the direct guidance of an animator, John Lasseter. This had not been the case since the death of Walt Disney in 1966,” Sito, a former Disney animator, told AFP.

The Toy Story and Cars creator “brought in a lot of new talent to the storytelling departments: clever young writers and directors … We also (saw) a return to the movie-musical format after a 20-year hiatus, which for Disney has always been a specialty,” he added.

Music is at the heart of Frozen: the movie’s keynote tune Let It Go is a frontrunner to win the best song Oscar next weekend.

Peter Del Vecho, producer on the film, said Lasseter changed the culture at Disney Animation: “We’re a different studio than Pixar, but a lot of the same ideas that he learned there, he imported to us.

“The main thing he imported was that we as filmmakers have to take ownership of our product. John sets a very high bar in terms of story, in terms of research, and you always want to hit that bar,” he told AFP.

But the studio’s culture is also highly collaborative, with directors and screenwriters on projects able to voice their opinions about others’ films after in-house development screenings.

“The best idea wins, you’re encouraged to make mistakes and to take risks,” said Del Vecho.

“We’re responsible for each other’s films, meaning that I went to Tangled screenings, I went to Wreck-it Ralph screenings and gave notes just as filmmakers and writers on other projects come and give us notes. Our movie couldn’t have evolved without that kind of open collaborative environment.”

The other factor driving Disney’s renaissance has been increasingly tough competition from rivals like Blue Sky (Ice Age, Rio), DreamWorks Animation (Shrek, Kung-Fu Panda, Madagascar) and Illumination, which makes the Despicable Me films – the second of which is also nominated next Sunday.

“A rising tide raises all boats. It is very important for the art of animation to have competitors at other studios,” said Sito. “Walt Disney did some of his best work while fighting off challenges from Max Fleischer and Looney Tunes.

“When (Disney) was alone in the 1960s and 70s feature business, an outdated repetitive aesthetic caused their films to grow stale, despite the quality of their technique,” he added.

“The success of The Lego Movie and Despicable Me creates a wonderful climate for new ideas in animation.”

Indon elephants die, poisoning suspected

Seven Sumatran elephants have been found dead in western Indonesia and it is thought they were poisoned, a wildlife official say, just the latest deaths of the critically-endangered animals.

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Dozens of the elephants have died after being poisoned in recent years on Sumatra island, as the creatures come into conflict with humans due to the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations which destroys their habitat.

The latest to die were a female adult, five male teenagers, and a male calf believed to be from the same herd, said local wildlife agency spokesman Muhammad Zanir.

The remains of the elephants were found on February 16 just outside Tesso Nilo National Park and it is thought they died five months earlier, he said.

“There is an indication that they were poisoned,” he said.

“Some people may consider the elephants a threat to their palm oil plantations and poison them.”

While Sumatran elephants are regularly found dead, it is rare to discover so many at the same time.

Swathes of rainforest have been destroyed in recent years to make way for plantations and villagers increasingly target Sumatran elephants, which they regard as pests.

While most concessions for palm oil companies are granted outside Tesso Nilo, in Riau province in eastern Sumatra, many villagers still illegally set up plantations inside the park, said WWF spokeswoman Syamsidar, who goes by one name.

Poachers also sometimes target the animals – the smallest of the Asian elephants – for their ivory tusks, which are in high demand for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

The WWF says there are only between 2400 and 2800 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild and warns they face extinction in less than 30 years unless the destruction of their habitat is halted.

Rampant expansion of plantations and the mining industry has destroyed nearly 70 per cent of the elephant’s forest habitat over 25 years, according to the WWF.

Protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the elephants as “critically endangered”, one step below “extinct in the wild”.

Borussia Dortmund has CL injury worries

Borussia Dortmund head to Zenit Saint Petersburg for Tuesday’s Champions League last 16, first-leg clash on the back of a shock Bundesliga defeat and injury worries.

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Last year’s Champions League finalists Dortmund slumped to a shock 3-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Hamburg on Saturday and lost defensive midfielder Sven Bender for the next 10 weeks with an inflamed pelvis.

Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp has promised improvements in Saint Petersburg.

“Things will be very different there,” said Klopp before Monday’s flight to Russia.

Zenit certainly have the squad to trouble Dortmund with the likes of Brazilian striker Hulk and ex-Arsenal attacking midfielder Andrei Arshavin.

“Our team is fit and we are fully focused, a big plus for us is our great fighting spirit,” said Zenit’s ex-Bayern midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.

Zenit’s director of sport Dietmar Beiersdorf was at Hamburg’s Imtech Arena to witness Dortmund’s debacle.

“Of course, Borussia Dortmund fill the favourite role,” said the former Hamburg boss.

“The team has a very good reputation in Russia, it’ll be a great challenge for our club and our team.”

There is a danger the Russians will be rusty.

Zenit have not played since December 6, but won their final warm-up match on Saturday with a 2-0 friendly victory over Estonia’s Narva Trans with Venezuelan new-signing Jose Salomon Rondon scoring both goals.

Zenit “is one hundred percent ready for Borussia Dortmund,” insisted their Italian coach Luciano Spalletti, but his side won five of their ten friendlies in Qatar, Israel and Turkey over the winter break.

Nevertheless, Klopp was furious with his team’s mentality against a Hamburg side who had lost their last eight matches and admitted they were punished for taking their hosts too lightly.

But Dortmund centre-back Manuel Friedrich has said they will not make the same mistake against Zenit.

“That was a blip,” insisted Friedrich.

“If we play like we know we can, then we can beat anyone.

“Everyone has to question his attitude, results like that can happen, it’s hard to explain them.

“Our performance and mood for Tuesday’s game won’t be affected by the result in Hamburg.”

Bender’s injury does not help Klopp, who is already without centre-back Neven Subotic and winger Jakub Blaszczykowski who both miss the rest of the season with torn knee ligaments.

Dortmund’s Germany defensive midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has not played since August after suffering from a back injury and virus.

Germany centre-back Mats Hummels did not train on Sunday and is struggling with an ankle injury.

Likewise, Poland striker Robert Lewandowski missed training with illness, but will fly to Russia.

A section of the Petrovsky stadium, where Zenit’s hardcore ‘ultra’ fans normally congregate, will be closed after sanctions from European football’s governing body UEFA.

UEFA fined Zenit 40,000 euros (US$55,000) after their fans displayed a racist banner and threw fireworks amidst crowd trouble at Austria Vienna on December 11, when the Russians lost 4-1.

Zenit qualified for the last 16 despite winning just one of their Group G matches, but Beiersdorf said Dortmund will run out into a volatile atmosphere.

Refine policy for fuel security: NRMA

The federal government is being urged to lock in a domestic transport energy policy, with the NRMA warning Australia would only have a week’s worth of fuel if tankers stopped arriving tomorrow.

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NRMA Motoring and Services director Graham Blight wants legislators to work with industry stakeholders to help secure Australia’s transport energy future using the government’s National Energy Security Assessment.

“In 2000 we had seven refineries in Australia, we imported 60 per cent of our fuel usage and we had about 30 days’ supply,” Mr Blight told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

“In 2015 we will have four refineries, we will import in excess of 90 per cent of our fuel and we’ll have at best, 22 days of fuel.

“That 22 days of fuel translates to a lot more actual usage when you get it out there, more like seven or eight days maybe.”

Mr Blight said a disruption to global trade routes – such as natural disaster or unrest – would leave Australia exposed.

“One of those things has only to cause a disruption and we will find ourselves in a position where we are short of oil,” he said.

Just five per cent of Australia’s heavy transport was trains, while 95 per cent comprised trucks on the road, he said.

That scenario could lead to empty petrol pumps in three days, while supermarket shelves and hospital supplies would be empty in seven days.

“Add to that the social disruption of people not being able to get to work, on the assumption there is work,” Mr Blight said.

“That’s a pretty scary scenario to us.”

The NRMA on Monday released it’s report Australia’s Liquid Fuel Security: Part 2.

The paper’s author – retired Air Vice Marshall John Blackburn – called on the government to come up with a policy on refineries.

He also called for more fuel diversity in the transport sector, suggesting a move away from diesel fuel.

“Let’s have a bit of diversity – a bit of gas, a bit of Liquefied Natural Gas, Compressed Natural Gas,” he said.

“Let’s look at bio fuels. They will never be more than 10 per cent of the market, but we want alternatives.”