Billabong HY loss deepens to $16.1m

Struggling surfwear retailer Billabong has downgraded its full-year earnings guidance after its first-half loss widened to $16.

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1 million.

The Gold Coast-based retailer said on Friday it expects full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of between $52 million and $57 million.

Billabong’s previous guidance was for earnings of between $60 million and $65 million, but it revised the figures following this week’s $60 million sale of swimwear brand Tigerlily to Crescent Capital.

Billabong’s total revenue for the six months to December 31 dropped 9.6 per cent to $511 million, pushing its loss out from $1.6 million in the prior corresponding period.

The group said it had a weak October with comparable store sales down 16 per cent in Australia.

However, comparable sales improved during December to rise 0.9 per cent.

For the entire six months, comparable store sales declined 4.2 per cent in Australia and 3.7 per cent for the group’s Asia Pacific market.

The company said full-year earnings will rely heavily on the second half, when the Americas business is expected to pick up significantly following the region’s comparable bricks-and-mortar sales growth of 0.5 per cent in the first-half.

Chief executive Neil Fiske said the results were consistent with the company’s warning in November that the first half would be substantially down but that the second half would improve.

“There is a strong profit lift in the Americas as we enter its seasonally bigger second half,” he said.

“Gross margins in the region were up 170 basis points overall year-on-year.”

He said this combined with reduced costs and better inventory gives him confidence in the second half.

BILLABONG”S HY LOSSES WIDEN

* Net loss $16.1m vs $1.6m loss

* Revenue down 9.6pct to $511m

* No interim dividend

Farmgate milk price may lift: MG

The price that dairy processor Murray Goulburn pays farmers for their milk could improve in fiscal 2018 as the co-operative benefits from stronger prices for dairy commodities, and if seasonal conditions for farmers remain good.

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Murray Goulburn says that since last August, prices for dairy commodities – full-cream milk powder, skim milk powder, butter and cheddar – had improved towards their 10-year average.

Farming conditions had also improved, after very wet weather last August and September reduced the amount of raw milk produced on farms..

Better weather meant more milk available to dairy processors, Murray Goulburn chief executive Ari Mervis said on Friday.

“If these factors remain in place, we can look forward to a more favourable future and a more favourable outlook,” he said.

Interim chief financial officer Alan Tilley said that, hopefully, the heavy rains that had impacted on fiscal 2017 would not be repeated in fiscal 2018.

“And given where commodity prices are sitting now compared to where they were this time last year, and with the (co-operative’s) cost-reduction initiatives well on track, it gives confidence for an improved milk price for FY18,” Mr Tilley said.

Murray Goulburn’s positive outlook for the farmgate milk price echoes dairy processor Bega Cheese’s similar assessment on Wednesday.

Murray Goulburn on Friday booked a first-half loss of $31.87 million, compared to a profit of $10 million a year earlier, after taking an impairment on its milk supply support package for dairy farmers, and making step-up payments to milk suppliers.

Excluding one-off items of $41.3 million, net profit for the six months to December 31 fell six per cent to $9.4 million.

Business was hit by a near 21 per cent drop in milk supply due to the very wet conditions in the southern milk region.

And, with production across the industry down about 10 per cent because of the weather, processor competition for the reduced pool had been aggressive .

Murray Goulburn said competition accounted for 60 per cent of the drop in its milk intake, seasonal conditions for 25 per cent, and dairy farmer retirement for 15 per cent.

As a result of tighter milk supply, Murray Goulburn’s farmgate milk price had risen to $4.92 per kilogram of milk solids, from $4.86.

Murray Goulburn maintained its forecast average farmgate milk price for fiscal 2017 at $4.95, indicating a possible three cent step-up.

Units in Murray Goulburn’s listed entity, the MG Unit Trust, were 4.75 cents, or 4.9 per cent, lower at 92.75 cents at 1419 AEDT.

COMPETITION, WET WEATHER HELP CRIMP MURRAY GOULBURN PROFIT.

* First-half net loss of $31.9m, vs net profit of $10m a year earlier

* Revenue down 14.8pct to $1.18bn

* Interim distribution of 1.7 cents, down from 3.5 cents, fully franked

These businesses are refusing to cut penalty rates for their staff

The directors of Lush Australia and New Zealand have confirmed that the cosmetics company will not be applying reduced penalty rates to its staff.

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On Thursday, the Fair Work Commission announced that Sunday and public holiday penalty rates will be reduced for hospitality and retail workers

But in a Facebook post to staff, Lush directors Mark Lincoln and Peta Granger confirmed that no employees will be “adversely affected”.

“On behalf of Lush Australia, we wish to advise that we will not be applying these reductions to the rates of pay our staff are currently paid,” the post read.

“We will continue to pay our staff under the existing terms and conditions for employees working on Sundays and public holidays.”

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The development was then confirmed in a statement on Friday morning.

“At Lush we have always had a commitment to trading fairly, committing to pay a fair trade premium to struggling communities who produce ingredients and components for our products,” the directors said in the statement.

“Applying Fair Work’s ruling on penalty rates is a choice. The happiest and most productive employees are those who feel safe, valued and listened to by their employers. We encourage other employers to carefully consider the implications on their employees before making the choice.”

A small number of cafes around Australia have also taken to social media to publicly confirm that they will also ignore the changes.

“Our staff are our family,” posted Brisbane’s Delfina’s Bistro on Facebook.

We’re proud to support our staff for the wonderful work they do, they deserve their #penaltyrate pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/5somwkrQcH

— Delfina’s Bistro (@delfinasbistro) February 23, 2017

“We will continue to pay their penalties because we value their work and their time. As employers we have a choice and these changes have not taken that choice away from us.”

“We value our staff who give up their Sundays to serve you tasty food on your day off,” said the owners of Bonta Vera café near Newcastle.

Post by Bonta Vera.

“Ain’t gonna happen. Period,” posted The Hairy Giraffe Café near Hobart.

Post by The Hairy Giraffe Cafe.

And the Surf Café on the NSW Central Coast slammed the penalty rate changes. In an expletive Facebook post, the owner said they “believe in a fair playing field” and will continue to pay staff above the previous rates.

WATCH: Fair Work Commission cuts penalty rates

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The changes explained

Under the changes, workers in retail (including pharmacies) will no longer be paid double time on Sundays. Their rates will drop to time-and-a-half except for casuals, who will receive time-and-three-quarters instead.

It is much the same for hospitality workers, but there will be no change for casuals. In fast food, time-and-a-half pay will drop to time-and-a-quarter. Fast food casuals will receive time-and-a-half.

Public holiday rates have also been cut but still remain above double time.

The Fair Work Commission says the changes will lead to more jobs, and longer trading hours on Sundays and public holidays.

But the Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have slammed the decision, saying some of Australia’s lowest paid workers would lose thousands of dollars a year.

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Transgender students decry Trump’s ‘dangerous’ bathroom policy reversal

The White House decision to allow states and school districts to decide whether students can access bathrooms of their choice violates civil rights that should be enshrined at the national level, they said.

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Fewer than half of all states currently ban public accommodation discrimination based on gender identity while four Republican states actively restrict bathroom access or restrict laws that would allow it.

“Things I never imagined happening are just blowing my mind,” said Lauren Bocketti, mother of 10-year-old Zach, whose needs she says were always treated fairly at school on Long Island, New York.

“We’ve been lucky and want everybody to feel lucky,” she told a news conference of Long Island parents and transgender students who joined an avalanche of human rights groups already criticizing the move.

Lauren Bocketti with her 10-year-old transgender son, Zach, says it’s not a choice.AAP

“It’s not a choice. It’s who he is. He knew by two years old who he is. He is a boy. He’s a boy trapped in a girl’s body,” she said.

Madeline Bruni, 18, who began transitioning in middle school, said even in a state as liberal as New York life was not easy. A year and a half ago, a restaurant called the police when she used the women’s restroom.

‘Boggles my mind’ 

“In this day and age it just boggles my mind that is something that still goes on,” she told reporters.

Ethan Diaz, 16, said that while he had never had a problem, the decision made him angry on behalf of others who had experienced fear and anxiety about using the bathroom.

Ethan Diaz, a transgender 10th grader from Hempstead, New York, at a news conference in the LGBT Network offices in Woodbury, NY.AAP

“New York is a great place to transition, people do feel comfortable. But for people not in New York that’s the fear,” he told AFP.

Toxic schools contribute to higher rates of depression, suicide, homelessness and HIV infection for transgender youth, activists say.

New York LGBT Network CEO David Kilmnick warned that the decision will increase the stigma attached to transgender youth and put them at “greater risk for hate-motivated violence.”

“What this policy does is increase the likelihood of that violence taking place,” he told the news conference. “Refusing to protect our most vulnerable youth is both deplorable and dangerous.”

Three quarters of transgender youth report feeling unsafe at school, more than 40 percent have been physically abused at school and more than half report skipping school to avoid bullying, Kilmnick said.

He rubbished arguments put forward by conservatives that the protections put in place by Barack Obama’s administration had put other children at risk.

‘High risk’ of assault

“We know that the transgender community is not at risk for committing sexual assault, the transgender community is at high risk of being a victim of sexual assault.”

His network, which he founded 24 years ago, set up a 24-hour hotline on Thursday and is now assembling a team of lawyers to take action against institutions or the federal government if warranted.

David Kilmnick, CEO of LGBT Network, speaking at a news conference at the LGBT Network offices in Woodbury, New York.AAP

The issue will be a rallying cry at a national LGBT march on Washington scheduled for June 11 and Kilmnick said there was an increased urgency for all marginalized groups to unite in protest.

“There’s always going to be something we’re going to be marching for on a Saturday for the next four years it seems,” he said.

Bathroom rights are a hot-button social issue at the center of a broader cultural battle between conservatives and liberals.

When North Carolina passed a law requiring transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates, a string of companies and sports teams boycotted the state.

The US Supreme Court is set next month to consider the case of a 17-year-old in Virginia who was born a female but identifies as a male and filed suit to be able to use the boys’ bathroom at his high school.

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One dead as Storm Doris hits British Isles

A woman suffered a fatal head injury from a piece of debris blowing down onto the street in Wolverhampton, central England.

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Storm Doris was heading eastwards from the Atlantic Ocean across the British Isles, and was expected to clear the east coast around sunset.

I am deeply saddened at today’s tragic news that a women has lost her life in our city centre as a result of todays storm thoughts with all

— WolvesMayor (@WolvesMayor) February 23, 2017

The gales caused around 10 percent of flights to be scrapped at London Heathrow Airport.

In Britain, the top wind speed of 94 miles (151 kilometres) per hour was recorded at Capel Curig near Snowdon, the highest mountain in  Wales.

In Ireland, wind speeds of 87 mph (140 kph) were recorded at Mace Head in County Galway on the Atlantic west coast.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said several paramedics were sent to the fatal incident in Wolverhampton.

“On arrival, crews found a woman who had suffered very serious head injuries,” a spokesman said.

“Sadly, it quickly became apparent that there was nothing that could be done to save her and she was confirmed dead at the scene.”

Wheelie bins on as street in Warrington are blown to the floor as storm Dorris hits Warrington,AAP

A West Midlands Police spokeswoman said: “The incident is believed to be related to Storm Doris.”

Rebecca Davis, a 40-year-old teacher who saw the victim receiving emergency treatment, said the debris “was a big piece about the size of a coffee table”.

The storm caused travel disruption.

A Heathrow spokesman said: “Strong winds and poor weather across the UK have resulted in approximately a 10 percent reduction to Heathrow’s flight schedule.”

Speed limits of 50 mph (80 kph) were imposed on several train lines in Britain, while many trains were cancelled, including services linking London with Manchester and Liverpool.

The Port of Liverpool in northwest England was closed due to the winds, while some ferry services to Scotland’s west coast islands were disrupted.

Some roads were shut due to strong winds and snow.

The Republic of Ireland’s state Electricity Supply Board said some 37,000 customers were without power due to around 1,000 separate faults, with high winds and falling timber damaging electricity lines.

In neighbouring Northern Ireland, NIE Networks said they had restored electricity to around 14,000 customers, with some 2,700 still affected.

Our Crews have restored supply to 40k who lost power due to #StormDoris we work on to get as many customers back as possible tonight

— ESB Networks (@ESBNetworks) February 23, 2017 

Iraqi forces recapture Mosul airport in pivotal step

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop now says Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, must be part of any political solution to the nearly six-year-old war.

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Her remarks come as peace talks resume in Switzerland.

Australia’s position on Syria has long been to oppose the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

And, following the lead of the former Obama administration in the United States, Australia’s stance has been that Mr Assad must step down for peace to return to Syria.

But after her first meeting with the new Trump administration officials at the White House, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has now confirmed a critical shift in Australia’s position.

Speaking in London after follow-up talks with British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, she says, despite Mr Assad’s faults, there is no choice but to have him as part of Syria’s transition.

“It’s clear that President Assad will be part of the transition. The precondition that Assad must go has been a condition in place for some time, but most countries have moved on from that, and there’s a recognition that President Assad, backed by Russia, will have to be part of a transition. And how long he remains will be a matter of negotiation.”

Ms Bishop says a precondition that Mr Assad must go would only delay negotiations for a political solution now.

Her remarks leave a split between Australia and Britain, where Prime Minister Theresa May still maintains he cannot be a part of the solution.

But Australia’s surprising position change does follow the lead of the United Nations, where many diplomats fear removing Mr Assad would leave a power vacuum as happened in Libya.

Talks aimed at achieving a political solution have resumed this week at UN headquarters in Switzerland.

Syrian negotiators have come face to face for the first time in three years.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, says some progress has been made but he still does not expect a breakthrough.

“I’m not expecting miracles. We face an uphill task. It will not be easy. There is a lot of tension, and there is a lot of suffering that everyone has been bearing. But we must apply ourselves to this task.”

The head of the opposition negotiating team, Nasr al-Hariri, says the focus must be on a political transition.

“To achieve a sustainable peace in Syria that guarantees what the Syrian people want, gives the Syrian national forces a possibility to fight terrorism, control the chaos present today in all the regions that the regime controls, or even in some regions that the regime does not control, to be able to do this, we must get over the main obstacle that has been facing us for six years. That is, the real political transition that satisfies the Syrian people.”

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Alexei Borodavkin, says a solution can only come from direct talks between the Syrian parties.

“I think that the most optimal format of talks is direct talks. We have said this many times, and I reiterate: direct talks between the Syrian sides. The agenda of these talks is not yet ready, as far as I understand, the UN staff haven’t finalised the preparation. But for us, it’s important that it covers all the main points of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”

Staffan de Mistura has told negotiators to keep the interests of the Syrian people in mind.

“The Syrian people desperately want an end to this conflict, and you all know it, and you know it very well. You are the first ones to tell us this. They are waiting for a relief from their own suffering and dream of a new road out of this nightmare to a real and normal future in dignity — Syrian people have a lot of historic dignity — and a future that addresses their own legitimate aspirations for themselves and for their own country.”

A separate set of negotiations in Kazakhstan, convened by Russia, Turkey and Iran, is dealing with the ongoing ceasefire and other humanitarian issues.

The Geneva talks are focused purely on a political solution.

Outside the UN headquarters, a group of Syrian mothers has met the delegations in protest.

The mothers have demanded the United Nations address the fate of those imprisoned by the Assad Government.

“Like we said in our demands, (we just want) a fair … a justice for them. We just want to know if they are alive or dead. I just want to know that my husband is alive or dead. And if he’s dead, I want to feel this sadness about him. I want to know if I should (be) waiting for him or not.”

 

The fruit and vegetables most likely to reduce risk of lung disease

Eating lots of fruit and vegetables is not just good for the heart but also the lungs, especially those of former smokers.

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New research has found a diet rich in fruit and veg has been linked to a much lower risk of developing chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) – a condition that affects up to one in five Australians over the age of 40.

A study published in journal Thorax found each extra daily serving of fruit or vegetables was associated with a four to eight per cent reduction in risk of COPD among former and current smokers.

Smoking is the leading cause of COPD and the World Health Organisation predicts the lung disease is set to become the third leading cause of death worldwide.

The main symptoms of COPD, for which there is no cure, are shortness of breath, coughing, and increased mucus production, while wheezing and chest tightness are also common.

To try to find out if fruit and vegetable intake might have a dietary role in treatment, researchers from the Department of Human Nutrition at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland tracked the respiratory health of more than 44,000 Swedish men aged between 45 and 79 for 13 years up to the end of 2012.

Almost two thirds of the men had smoked at some point; around one in four were current smokers; and nearly four out of 10 had never smoked.

During the monitoring period, 1918 new cases of COPD were diagnosed.

In all, those eating five or more daily servings were 35 per cent less likely to develop lung disease than those eating two or fewer daily servings.

Each additional serving was associated with a four per cent lower risk of COPD in former smokers and an eight per cent lower risk in current smokers.

Apples or pears; green leafy vegetables; and peppers seemed to exert the strongest influence on risk.

No such associations were seen for berry fruits; bananas; citrus fruits; cruciferous and root vegetables; tomatoes; onions; garlic; or green peas.

It’s thought the antioxidants abundant in fruit and vegetables my curb the inflammation smoking causes in the lungs.

Expert on COPD Dr Raphaelle Varraso from French research institute INSERM says while this is only an observational study “there is nothing to be lost by acting now”.

“We would argue that clinicians should consider the potential benefits of a healthy diet in promoting lung health, and advocate optimising intake of fruits and vegetables, especially in smokers who are unable to stop smoking,” he said.

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Hawks not a dirty NBL side, says Gleeson

Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson has dismissed suggestions the Illawarra Hawks are a dirty side, saying they play hard but fair basketball.

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Adelaide import Jerome Randle lit the fuse last week when he labelled Illawarra a dirty team, while also adding that he dislikes all the Hawks players.

The trash talk backfired badly on Randle, with Illawarra notching an upset 2-1 semi-final triumph over the ladder-leading 36ers.

The Hawks will now take on Perth in a best-of-five grand final series, starting at Perth Arena on Sunday.

Gleeson was careful not to fuel the fire when asked if he agreed with Randle’s assertion that Illawarra were dirty.

“Not at all,” Gleeson said on Friday.

“They play hard, but fair, and it’s the way it should be played.

“If you’re going to talk, you’ve got to back it up.

“I coached one of the best talkers in the game in Homicide (Corey) Williams, but he could back it up.”

The top two teams failed to qualify for the grand final, meaning the third-placed Wildcats will enjoy home court advantage over the Hawks in games one, three, and five (if necessary).

The Hawks were dealt a big blow when it was confirmed import Marvelle Harris would miss the grand final opener in order to fly back to the US to be by the side of his critically ill father.

Harris is expected to return in time for game two.

The Hawks are also sweating on the fitness of star big man AJ Ogilvy, who injured his ankle in Thursday night’s 106-98 win over Adelaide.

Wildcats centre Matt Knight is free to play after escaping with a two-match suspended sentence for thrusting the ball into the face of Cairns guard Travis Trice.

If Knight reoffends, it means the two-game ban will be activated.

But Gleeson isn’t worried one bit about the suspension tightrope, and is urging Knight to maintain his normal aggression.

“He’s been playing great the past month,” Gleeson said.

“We often say all the action’s in the kitchen, get in the kitchen, and don’t be out on the porch.

“Matty’s always in there. When you’re in the action, there’s going to be some arms going around.

“That (incident involving Trice) was just a ball fake, and I’m glad we can move on from that.”

The Wildcats are chasing a record eighth NBL title.

Qld electoral changes biggest in 30 years

Queensland’s electoral’s map is set for its biggest shakeup in 30 years thanks to a massive redistribution that touches almost every seat in state parliament.

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The Queensland Redistribution Commission on Friday officially revealed its draft redistribution of the state’s electorates, creating four new seats to take the total number to 93, as well as significantly altering or renaming dozens of others.

The four new electorates are all in southeast Queensland – Bonney on the Gold Coast, Ninderry on the Sunshine Coast, Bancroft north of Brisbane and Jordan between Brisbane and Ipswich.

A key change is the merger of inner city Brisbane seats Ashgrove, Mt Coo-tha and Indooroopilly into two seats Cooper and Maiwar, a move which threatens rising Labor ministers Kate Jones and Steven Miles and shadow treasurer Scott Emerson.

Katter Party MP Shane Knuth’s seat of Dalrymple will also be abolished and parts of it hived off to three separate seats.

One chunk would go into the renamed electorate of Traeger, which also takes in the existing seat of Mount Isa held by Mr Knuth’s Katter Party colleague Robbie Katter.

Just two seats – Townsville and Southern Downs – remain untouched by the sweeping changes as both were within required population quotas.

The public now has 30 days to comment or make suggestions about the draft boundaries before they are put in place permanently. Two sitting MPs have already flagged objections – Mr Knuth in the now-defunct seat of Dalrymple and the LNP’s member for Hinchinbrook Andrew Cripps.

Queensland Boundaries Commission chairman Hugh Botting said they had tried to use local government areas and physical landmarks to define the new boundaries, especially in rural areas.

“At all times we have tried to ensure that the people of Queensland will have a fair say at the ballot box, whilst creating sustainable boundaries in a growing state,” Mr Botting told reporters on Friday.

“We’ve had to introduce four new electorates, find a place for them, and that inevitably involves significant moving of the boundaries.”

Queensland electoral commissioner Walter van der Merwe said residents would be notified if they were now in a new electorate with all draft boundaries and submission forms available on the electoral commission’s website.

“It is a very significant redistribution, Queensland hasn’t seen anything like this in 30-odd years,” Mr van der Merwe said.

‘That’s my boy’: Teen snake wrangler pulls live python from ute

With nothing but a heavy-duty glove on his right hand, 14-year-old Oli Wardrope did what most would consider the unthinkable.

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In a video posted to Facebook, now viewed thousands of times, the Queensland teen can be seen shirtless underneath a ute with one arm thrust up into the dark undercarriage – but he isn’t tinkering with the car.

Oli pulls the snake out from underneath the vehicle.Facebook

Across his chest lies half of a writhing carpet python, the other half still nestled deep in the frame of the vehicle.

“Do you think he’d squeeze through all that mate,” one onlooker asked as Oli tried to feed the snake back out.

“Yeah I won’t be able to get him by the head because I have to pull him out by the head and it won’t work,” Oli said.

Both the snake and Oli emerge unharmed.Facebook

“Oh, he’s coming out now … he’s loosened up now,” he can be heard saying. “I’ve got his head, I’ve got his head, I’ve got his head!

Much to the onlookers excitement, Oli pulled out three more feet of the snake, now forcibly trying to wrest itself from his iron grip.

“F—— hell lad! That’s a big snake,” another onlooked exclaimed as Oli and the snake emerged unharmed.

Oli helps place the snake in the bag.Facebook

Another man then helped Oli coax the snake into a bag: “Hop in there mate, it’s more comfy in there, it’s nicer,” he said.

After a round of congratualtions, Oli’s father Chazza Wardrope approached to offer his son a handshake, and later took to Facebook to express his pride.

“That’s my boy! Been wrangling snakes since he was five!”

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