Engineering firm Downer EDI’s first half profit has grown by 11 per cent and the company has maintained its expectation of a profit rise for the full year.

Downer EDI made a net profit of $94 million in the six months to December 31, up from $84.9 million in the previous corresponding period. Revenue in the six months to December of $4.4 billion was up 18 per cent from $3.71 billion in the same period in the previous year.

The company re-affirmed its forecast for an underlying net profit of around $210 million in the 2012-13 financial year, after it rose by 24 per cent in the first half to $105.5 million.

Chief executive Grant Fenn said the results showed an improved performance from all areas of Downer EDI’s business.

‘‘Each of our three divisions achieved substantial revenue growth, underlying EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) has grown over 12 per cent and our cash performance was strong once again,’’ Mr Fenn said in a statement. ‘‘We have continued to build momentum in our operational and financial performance.’’

Downer EDI operates business in infrastructure, mining and rail. The company is manufacturing new trains for Sydney’s rail network, known as Waratah Trains.

After many problems and delays, production was now at the required rate to complete the project on time, Mr Fenn said.

‘‘We remain on track to deliver the 78th Waratah train in mid-2014,’’ he said.

The company declared an interim dividend of 10 cents per share, 70 per cent franked.Downer EDI did not pay an interim dividend last year.

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US stocks drifted in light volume on Wednesday, ending little changed, as investors remained cautious after the S&P 500 index briefly hit its highest intraday level since November 2007.

The S&P 500 was buoyed by General Electric after cable company Comcast Corp said it will buy from GE the the part of NBCUniversal it didn’t already own for $US16.7 billion.

Comcast’s stock hit the highest since 1999 before closing up 3 per cent at $US40.13 and GE gained 3.6 per cent to $US23.39.

The S&P 500 is up 6.6 per cent so far this year, partly due to stronger-than-expected corporate earnings and a better economic outlook. The Dow industrials is about 1 per cent away from an all-time intraday high, reached in October 2007.

Volume has been weak in recent days with the S&P moving sideways around 1520. The index is about 3 per cent away from closing at a record high.

A scarcity of sellers after a consistent string of gains is a positive sign and shows the uptrend is intact, King Lip, chief investment officer at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco, said.

“Last year we had double-digit returns in the first quarter. It’s fairly possible we can move higher from here,” he said.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 35.79 points or 0.3 per cent, to 13,982.91, the S&P 500 gained 0.9 point or 0.06 per cent, to 1520.33 and the Nasdaq Composite added 10.38 points or 0.33 per cent, to 3196.88.

The S&P gained 12 per cent in the first three months of 2012.

Deere & Co, the world’s largest farm equipment maker, forecast a modest increase in sales this year despite the prospect of the biggest corn crop in US history. The forecast fell short of analysts’ expectations, sending shares of Deere down 3.5 per cent to $US90.68.

In extended trading, shares of technology bellwether Cisco Systems fell 2 per cent after it posted results.

Dr Pepper Snapple fell 5.8 per cent to $US42.69 after it forecast profit for the current year below analysts’ estimates.

Cliffs Natural Resources lost a fifth of its market value a day after the miner reported a quarterly loss and slashed its dividend by 76 per cent. Its shares fell 20 per cent to 429.29.

According to the latest Thomson Reuters data, of the 364 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results, 70.3 per cent have exceeded analysts’ expectations, above a 62 per cent average since 1994 and 65 per cent over the past four quarters.

About 5.9 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and NYSE MKT, below the daily average in February last year of 6.94 billion.

On the NYSE, roughly seven issues rose for every five that fell and on Nasdaq more than six rose for every five decliners.


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Canberra Capitals coach Carrie Graf will re-sign with the WNBL club after Basketball Australia confirmed she would stand down as national coach of the Australian Opals.

Basketball Australia revealed on Twitter the Opals job will be a full-time role for the first time in over a decade.

Graf will also fill a role as a coach in residence at University of Canberra, a new role established after Basketball Australia’s lengthy review.

It is believed Graf’s Capitals contract will be for up to three seasons.

Locking in Graf is a great relief for the Capitals, given she has coached them to six of their seven championships.

Choosing not to renominate for the Opals role will give her far more time to help restore Canberra as a WNBL force, given it has missed the finals for a second straight season.

Graf became Opals coach in late 2008, guiding the team to bronze at last year’s London Olympics.

The new Opals coach will also be head of the women’s program at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in Canberra.

Graf’s new role as an adjunct professor of sports studies at the University of Canberra will involve her offering support and mentoring university sports teams, lecturing and working with sports researchers.

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker said Graf would make a big contribution to education, research and social life at the university.

“Carrie Graf’s unrivalled professional experience will be an asset to the University’s teaching and research in sports studies and coaching, but I’m pleased that she’ll also play a part in student sport at all levels,” Professor Parker said.

“It is another way we can give life on campus at the University of Canberra the edge over other universities.”

Graf said in a statement she was honoured to be the university’s first coach in residence.

“I know I’m biased in saying this, but I don’t think there’s a city in Australia as staunchly supportive of their sports as Canberra,” Graf said.

“It’s heartening to see the university giving back to the community yet again by bringing on its first ever coach in residence, and I’m humbled to have been approached for the role.”Follow The Canberra Times Sport on Twitter

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Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Locals in the NSW town ofOrange are abuzz with gossip about the former mining minister, who appears to have fallen on hard times.

On Tuesday, Ian Macdonald told the inquiry he had been too busy to read all the transcripts of the evidence, saying: ”I do cleaning and work associated with a shop and I’m pretty busy.” Yesterday, he said again he had been occupied because ”I have to earn a living”.

Several people have spotted the 63-year-old former minister at a premium greengrocers, Fresh on Woodward, an attractive small shop that specialises in fresh produce and gourmet preserves.

Annette Nunn, who owns the butcher shop next door, said Mr Macdonald’s wife, the former bureaucrat Anita Gylseth, had been working in the grocery most days of the week, but Mr Macdonald did not seem to do much.

”I couldn’t tell you what he does there,” Ms Nunn said. ”I see him sitting out the front talking … He might take boxes out the back occasionally.”

The owner of the grocery shop, Margot Connors, said she could not comment.

But a friend of Ms Connors told Fairfaxthe Macdonalds had intended to buy the business, but could not get a bank loan. She had been told they now hoped to lease it.

Mr Macdonald has certainly had trouble with the bank. In evidence before the ICAC on Wednesday, he explained that when he sold his home in Northbridge, anything he had left over was ploughed into paying off some of the mortgage he had over his farm on Canobolas Road in Orange.

Pressed about how he was going to repay a questionable loan to a friend’s company, Mr Macdonald said: ”I haven’t got the funds to pay it unless I sell my property, and I’ve been in the process of selling my property, properties for over a year.”

Curiously, Fairfax Regional Mediareported this week that Mr Macdonald had in fact recently taken his property off the market.

When contacted by telephone, Ms Gylseth declined to clarify the arrangement regarding the grocery shop.

”I am not interested in you getting a story right,” she said. ”You disgust me.”

Ms Nunn said she and her husband were not impressed by the evidence that had been given to the inquiry.

”He can go and jump in the lake as far as we’re concerned.”

Ian Macdonald arrives at the ICAC inquiry on February 12. Photo: ROB HOMER

Katie Peters was killed fighting a bushfire in northern Victoria on Wednesday.Source: The Border Mail

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) have named 19-year-old Katie Peters, from Tallandoon, as one of the two front-line firefighters who died yesterday battling the Harrietville fire in eastern Victoria.

The DSE are still contacting relatives of a 29-year-old man from Corryong,the fire firefighter who died alongside Ms Peters.

It’s understood the accident occurred in a remote front of the fire when the pair’s emergency vehicle was struck by a falling tree.

Make a tribute to the fire fighters by clickinghere.

Katie Peters had been with DSE for two seasons as a Project Fire Fighter, joining DSE as her first paid job after taking a year off after Year 12 to travel overseas.

In a statement released by DSE, they said Ms Peters was always prepared to have a go and was the first one to put her hand up to drive a tanker or use the chainsaw.

“She loved animals and was planning to be a vet.

“She made time for everyone – she loved working with her colleagues and was incredibly down-to-earth.”

As part of a feature on female fire-fighters recently, Katie spoke of how much she enjoyed the previous season, with one of the highlights attending a bushfire in remote terrain at King’s Spur, south east of Dartmouth Dam.

DSE Chief Fire Officer Alan Goodwin said the loss of Ms Peters and her colleague was a tragedy.

“This is devastating news and the loss of staff is a tragedy under any circumstances. Even one death is not acceptable. I would like to personally extend my sympathies and DSE’s sympathies to their families and friends.’ Mr Goodwin said

“Our continuing focus is on the safety and wellbeing of our staff, our agency partners – CFA, Parks Victoria and DPI – and interstate and international colleagues (NSW and NZ) who are assisting us to fight fires across the state.’

Support is being offered to his DSE colleagues and senior DSE staff are in Harrietville to provide support and counselling for the crews.

Theincident was witnessed by the son of Towong Council deputy mayor David Wortmann.

“My 19-year-old son was in the crew,” Mr Wortmanntold ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“The vehicle in front of my son, a tree fell on it and the two firefighters were killed.”

He said the girl, a university student, was from an outstanding family.

“I just felt so sorry for him and his crew to have witnessed and experienced such a tragedy,” he said.

Police say the pair were struck by the falling tree around 3.35pm (AEDT) and it took until after 8pm to reach them because of the fire and hazardous conditions.

Today, flags will be flown at half-mast on Victorian government buildings.

Premier Ted Baillieu says the flags will be lowered as a mark of respect for the pair.

“The tragic loss of these two firefighters will affect all those who have been fighting these fires and protecting Victorian communities,” he said.

“My thoughts and the thoughts of all Victorians are with their families and loved ones at this time.”

Australian Workers Union Victorian secretary Cesar Melhem yesterday said DSE firefighters were “unsung heroes”.

He said there was little recognition of their work as what they did behind fire lines was rarely seen.

“They work in the most horrific conditions imaginable,” he said.

“They work away from the big centres, out in the bush, and with very little recognition for their heroic contribution to this state,” he said.

“They have died heroes, which will be small comfort to those who grieve for them.”

The member for Indi, Sophie Mirabella, last night said she was deeply saddened by the devastating news of the firefighters’ death.

“This is shattering for their family, friends and the community,” Mrs Mirabella said.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with them.”

DSE and CFA firefighters had been making the most of mild weather conditions, working around the clock to control hotspots and build containment lines.

They have faced a continual challenge to get into isolated areas where the fire is burning.

Earlier yesterday, Ovens incident controller Tony Long said crews had had to trek for more than two hours to get to areas to build control lines.

“Where crews can’t walk into the affected areas, we use rappel crews to go down from a hovering helicopter, carrying their gear, to put out hot spots,” he said.

The Harrietville fire has burnt 27,000 hectares since it was started by lightning on January 21.

Mr Long said it would burn until the Alpine region received rain.

The deaths come a month after Peter Cramer, a DSE firefighter and CFA volunteer from Tyers in Gippsland, died working on bushfires in Tasmania.

Mr Cramer, 61, died on January 13 at Taranna, east of Hobart. He was scouting for possible containment lines on the southern boundary of the fire near Forcett.

Source: Donnybrook Mail

Theowners of the historic Southampton Homestead, near Balingup,said they were devastated by the news that theirhome had been destroyed by fire.

”My family and friends are devastated at the loss of our beautiful home, Southampton Homestead. The fire started from lightning on the hills above us and quickly progressed down through the valley when the winds picked up early Wednesday morning,” owner Jeff Pow said.

”We were on business in London and so unable to defend or assist the gallant firefighting efforts of friends and neighbours, who have put their lives on the line fighting to save our home. We wish to thank them.”

”As new farmers,we are also deeply distressed by the injuries sustained by the many varieties of animals on the farm and at a dream literally gone up in flames.”

”We are trying to get a vet in now to assess the condition of the animals while we make our way back to Perth.”

”Our loss is compounded by the loss to the West Australian public of a irreplaceable historical treasure, the Southampton Homestead, having been founded and constructed in 1859 by settlers who arrived on the first ships to WA.”

”With the loss of Wallcliffe house to the recent Margaret River fires, we hope this sends a clear message to the state and federal government heritage agencies to act with haste and to provide deluge fire defense systems for the remaining colonial properties before they share out fate.”

The bushfire which destroyed the homestead, along with one other home, wasdowngraded to a watch and act alert on Thursday afternoon.

The warning is for the Greenbushestownsite and areas south to Dalgarup plantation in theShires of Donnybrook-Balingup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Nannup.

Thewatch and acthas been issued forpeople south of Hay Road, west of South Western Highway, north of Forrest Park Avenue, west of Maranup Ford Road, north of the Dalgarup plantation and east of Wetherley Road and south of the Nannup-Balingup Road in the Shires of Donnybrook-Balingup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Nannup.

But residents of nearbyBalingupwere bracing themselves for an expected wind change that may determine the course of a bushfire burning to the south east of the town.

The Balingup Nannup Road has been closed to all traffic except residents choosing to leave.

Spring Gully Road resident Betty Guest said she and husband John Guest had been fighting the fires around their property last night. They lost some fencing and half a paddock before a firebreak was put through the centre of the property, containing the fire at that end.

Neighbour’s paddocks and a hill on the south side of Spring Gully were lost.

Mrs Guest, who evacuated at 8.30pm Wednesday with another woman, said fires were burning throughout the plantations and bush in the area.

She said last night the flames were crowning, meaning they were burning 100m above the treetops.

“They roared so loudly,” she said.

“Now we’re just waiting to see what the winds are going to do.”

Balingup resident Margie Miskimmin said south east Balingup was possibly in danger from the fire this afternoon, depending on the wind. Residents in her neighbourhood, located off the Balingup-Nannup road, were fireproofing their houses.

Balingup resident Sana Turnock said the sky in Balingup was white yesterday, and today there was ash landing on her balcony and coming into the house. She said she had packed her bags yesterday and was ready to go should it be necessary.

[View the story “Bridgetown, Greenbushes, Balingup and Nannup bushfires” on Storify] Photos of the bushfires taken at 2pm Wednesday by Elsie Scarrott at Maranup Ford.

Photos of the bushfires taken at 2pm Wednesday by Elsie Scarrott at Maranup Ford.

Photos of the bushfires taken at 2pm Wednesday by Elsie Scarrott at Maranup Ford.

This photo was taken in Greenbushes by local resident Clint Walker.

Gary Humphries has received strong praise from Heather Henderson and Tony Abbott.Tony Abbott has hit out at ”ambushes” in preselection contests as he strengthened his support for ACT Liberal Gary Humphries.

The federal Opposition Leader also called for all eligible Liberal Party members to have a say in the looming preselection battle between Senator Humphries and Zed Seselja.

His strong intervention came on Wednesday evening at a party function organised by Senator Humphries’ supporters.

A petition was circulated at the function calling for the preselection process to be overturned on the basis that many of Senator Humphries’ supporters have been disenfranchised.

Mr Abbott praised Senator Humphries’ political skills for becoming ACT Chief Minister before he entered the Senate.

”I want to see those gifts continue to be available to us in the Senate and more widely, so I really want to support Gary’s continuation in the Senate as strongly as I possibly can.

”Gary Humphries has done a marvellous job in politics and should have many more years in politics ahead of him. I think people who have worked like that deserve the support and loyalty of their fellow MPs and their fellow party members,” he said.

Mr Abbott said the Liberal Party believed in competition and its MPs should expect to face challenges for their positions.

”But it’s got to be a fair and clean preselection, there should be no dirty tricks, there should be no ambushes, we leave the dirty tricks and the ambushes to the Labor Party,” he said.

”I hope that every ACT Liberal who wants to participate in this preselection will be given every opportunity to do so.”

Mr Abbott said he hated factions because they meant decisions were not made on the merit of the argument.

”Regardless of the way in which this preselection is ultimately conducted and regardless of who ultimately is entitled to vote, I hope every single one of those preselectors will give it his or her honest, conscientious attention and will make

the decision that he or she thinks is best for our party and our country,” he said. ”No one should be told what to do. No one should be dragooned into voting for one or other candidate simply because some boss says you’ve got to go this way.”

Senator Humphries warned the Liberal Party could lose its sole ACT Senate spot if infighting continued.

”The truth is, in the last two weeks, the Canberra Liberals have taken their eye off the ball,” he said.

”Let’s make sure this unfortunate episode in our party’s history is put behind us as soon as we can.

”Let’s deliver a Senate seat in the ACT to an Abbott government. But to be frank with you I fear whether that is capable of being guaranteed if we don’t decisively settle the situation.

”It’s not a safe seat, it’s not a seat that automatically comes to us without having to fight very hard, it’s in reality a marginal seat.”

The daughter of former prime minister Sir Robert Menzies, Heather Henderson, said it was distressing to see the present ruction in the ACT Liberals. ”We don’t want to lose a senator, which we might easily so … I know we all support him [Senator Humphries] and certainly I do. I find it very sad we have a fight in public and not behind closed doors.”

Earlier, Liberal MP Alby Schultz said in an email Senator Humphries had an ”absolute lack of political nous” because his staff sent an invitation to the ”disgraced” former Liberal Peter Slipper.

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NSW Labor is struggling internally with its promise to deliver greater democracy through rank-and-file preselections before the federal election.

Factions within the party have been involved in a tug of war over who will represent Labor in the seats of Werriwa and Throsby.

The general secretary of the NSW Labor Party, Sam Dastyari, right, last year told all federal MPs including John Murphy (Reid), Stephen Jones (Throsby), Chris Hayes (Fowler), Ed Husic (Chifley), Michelle Rowland (Greenway) and Laurie Ferguson (Werriwa) that they would be expected to win the support of their branch members. The six were parachuted into the seats for the last election.

Mr Ferguson, who was imposed by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, would most probably win a rank-and-file preselection in the seat of Werriwa, but some members aligned with the United Voice union and the so-called ”hard left” faction, linked with the federal minister Anthony Albanese, are said to be supporting the grassroots campaigner Damian Ogden.

The Herald understands Mr Ogden, the NSW Labor deputy general secretary, John Graham, and the union representative Mark Boyd met Mr Dastyari before Friday’s administrative committee meeting to discuss Mr Ogden’s position.

It is understood that the possibility of intervention was discussed, but dismissed.

Mr Dastyari, who has staked his reputation on delivering greater democracy within the party, has said he will not go back on his promise of running rank-and-file preselections.

Mr Ferguson said he was confident members of the ALP Right faction would vote for him and that he had the numbers to win preselection.

However, Mr Ogden denied the claim. ”For two years I have been saying Werriwa is a marginal seat and I was the best one to contest it,” he said.

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Remarkably, the Bioshock infinite team has made the dizzying Skyrails work well as a game element.Bioshock Infinite feels like Bioshock.

It seems strange to say it, but that is my strongest impression after playing the first three hours of Bioshock Infinite earlier this week.

I mean this as high praise, of course; the original Bioshock was not only an excellent and atmospheric first-person shooter, but was also a significant milestone for interactive storytelling and thematic maturity and depth in video games.

Infinite seems determined to match its predecessor in every way. Its world, the flying city of Columbia, is both high-concept and deeply unsettling, much like Rapture before it. Rather than a libertarian capitalist wonderland, Columbia is a sheltered bastion of extreme nationalism, where patriotism has been fused with religious extremism, giving rise to an army of self-described patriots who love their floating city-state with evangelical fervour.

Bioshock’s plasmids, genetically-engineered biological weapons that made your bare hands as dangerous as any gun, return in the form of “vigors”. These vigors allow the expected flinging of fire and electricity, but also stranger effects such as commanding a murderous flock of crows to peck at your foes, distracting them while you take aim with your gun.

As before, there is a variety of weapons, all of them feeling pleasantly old school – pistol, machine gun, shotgun, and carbine rifle, among others. Combat is fast, brutal, and dangerous, and while it has clearly been finetuned and tweaked, it still feels a lot like the hectic gunplay in Bioshock. Also returning is the one-two combo of a gun in one hand and plasmid in the other.

There are subtle differences in the action this time around. There is a limit of two guns, and you can’t carry a huge amount of ammunition for them. This adds to the chaos on the battlefield as you frantically snatch up weapons from fallen enemies while taking fire from their friends. The enemies did not seem to be super-smart, but they did engage in basic flanking manoeuvres, and were smart enough to take cover while reloading their weapons. Another simple but effective change is that your melee weapon now has its own button – you don’t have to select it from your weapons list in order to use it.

This melee weapon is the Skyhook, a bizarre tool that allows you to latch onto and ride the Skyrail, Columbia’s vertigo-inducing roller coaster-like aerial railway. This was one element of the game that I was concerned about them getting right. In early gameplay footage, the player was shown zipping around on the rails, using them to both advance quickly on enemies and escape from them when things got too hot. I had trouble believing it would work so smoothly within the real game.

Amazingly, they made it work. Riding the Skyrails is exhilarating and terrifying, a remarkably original piece of video game design. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I got a feel for this outlandish mode of transport, and before long I was zipping around in the sky, flitting swiftly to sniping vantage points or launching devastating aerial attacks on unsuspecting foes.

The game starts with an amusing parallel to the original Bioshock, with your character sitting in a rowboat in a rough sea and finding his way onto a city in the sky, instead of starting in an aeroplane and being plunged into a city under the waves.

Columbia is stunningly beautiful, and has been realised in amazing detail. Rather than one enormous flying mass, it is comprised of dozens, maybe even hundreds, of individual airborne pieces, ranging in size from single buildings to whole neighbourhoods. While it has been created in the Unreal Engine, same as the original, this is a radically upgraded visual experience. Even when it is creepy or disturbing, Columbia never stops being gorgeous.

Strangely, though, the horror still works. It is unusual to be engaging in tense, bloody battles in a brightly-coloured city beneath a clear blue sky, your battlefield bathed in golden sunlight, but somehow that mismatch between setting and content increases its disquieting nature, instead of defusing it.

Another big change is that the game’s protagonist, a man named Booker de Witt, has a voice, and uses it. He will talk to people he meets, comment on events in the world, and shout obscenities when hurt or frightened. He is not alone, either. Early in the game, you meet and befriend a mysterious young woman named Elizabeth, who has a major impact on gameplay.

Elizabeth has strange supernatural powers that she can neither understand nor control, and it has been revealed that these powers will become very important as the game progresses. During the few hours I played, though, Elizabeth mostly made herself useful by autonomously scavenging for money and supplies, and sometimes tossing over a freshly-loaded gun when mine had run out.

More interesting than this, though, is de Witt’s personal relationship with Elizabeth. She is the reason that he is in Columbia in the first place, having been sent there to retrieve her by some very bad people to whom de Witt owes a lot of money. While it is clear he views her as no more than a job at first, before long he starts to care about her as a friend.

Their growing relationship is a pleasantly healthy counterpoint to the sunlit horrors of Columbia. While it appears superficially to be a pleasant place, it is shot through by fascism, religious fundamentalism, and racism. Some of the propaganda on display is shocking, depicting glorious white people towering over cowering foreigners. This is a society in which black people are still kept as slaves and seen as less than human, though there are at least a few decent people who rail against this injustice.

The religious imagery is also disturbing, with Columbia’s beloved dictator being hailed as a prophet, who received the technology to build the flying city from the archangel Gabriel himself. American founding fathers such as Benjamin Franklin are revered as religious icons, and residents of Columbia regard their home as a new ark, floating free from the “new Sodom” of the America below.

Despite the radically new setting and the many changes to gameplay, Bioshock Infinite still feels authentically like a Bioshock game. The combat is solidly-designed and entertaining, but as before it is the story that drives you forward, and this sequel features enough thrilling setpieces and tender character moments to keep you forging ahead to find out what happens next. Also, while there were no spoilers given, I was assured that Infinite will have a powerful and ambiguous finale that will keep gamers debating and disagreeing for months afterward.

All I know for sure is that I did not want to stop playing. I was back in the Bioshock magic and loving it, and its worldwide release date of 26 March cannot come soon enough.

How about you, readers? Are you hyped out yet, or are you still excited about Bioshock Infinite?

– James “DexX” Dominguez

DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

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A CHAMPION speedboat racer who died in a crash on Tuesday afternoon has been remembered as a good mate and a responsible skipper who was highly regarded by all who competed against him.

The body of Steven Antuch was pulled from the Georges River on Wednesday morning after a horror accident on Tuesday afternoon in which his boat overturned near the ramp at the end of The River Road in the Georges River National Park in south-west Sydney.

The accident, in which it is believed the boat split in two, sparked a major rescue operation and search of the river involving police divers and SES volunteers.

The 28-year-old had been travelling in the boat with another man, 27, from Hurstville, who was taken to hospital after the boat rolled. However, he returned to the river on Wednesday morning, joining Mr Antuch’s family and friends for a vigil.

St George Motor Boat Club commodore Robert Taylor said it was a ”very traumatic time” for those in the club. ”We are only a small family and we are all shocked,” he said.

Mr Taylor was so impressed with Mr Antuch he had recommended him for a senior position in the club.

”He was only 28. He was the nicest and most responsible young man I know. So much so I recommended him as vice-commodore of St George Aquatic club, that’s how highly I thought of him,” he said.

”A lot of young blokes are a little bit irresponsible, drink too much and are rowdy. Steve was not like that.”

Mr Taylor described Mr Antuch as a ”competent boat driver” who was ”highly regarded by his competitors”. He was a champion racer with records for bridge-to-bridge events, he said.

Police said the boat was submerged following the accident.

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