February, 2019

Pistorius may appeal prison release delay – lawyer

The board on Monday upheld a decision by South African Justice Minister Michael Masutha, who intervened in plans for Pistorius’ release to say the law requires the athlete to serve a sixth of his sentence before parole can be considered.


Pistorius was due to be released into house arrest in August after serving 10 months of a five-year sentence. His parole hearing was conducted before he had served six months.

“We are considering our position,” Pistorius’ solicitor Brian Webber told Reuters when asked if they would appeal the decision.

The family of the Paralympic gold medallist, whose lower legs were amputated as a baby, said in a statement on Tuesday that they were “concerned about the legality” of the parole decision and believed Pistorius was being unfairly treated.

“This experience leaves us with the uncomfortable conclusion that the public, political and media hype that was allowed to develop around Oscar’s trial has undermined his right to be treated like any other prisoner,” the statement said.

Pistorius was found guilty in September 2014 of culpable homicide, the equivalent of manslaughter, after he fired four 9mm shots through a locked toilet door on Feb. 14, 2013 killing model and law graduate Steenkamp.

At a globally televised trial, he argued that he had mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.

Prosecutors are appealing the verdict, arguing it should be murder because Pistorius must have known that the person behind the door could be killed, regardless who it was. The appeal is due to be heard on Nov. 3.

A panel of five judges will hear the appeal. The judges could either reject the prosecution’s appeal, order a retrial or convict Pistorius of murder themselves, legal experts say.

(Reporting by Joe Brock and Siyabonga Sishi; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Finance News Update, what you need to know


The Australian dollar is stronger against the greenback, extending its post-Reserve Bank rate decision gains.


At 0630 AEDT on Wednesday, the currency was trading at 71.68 US cents, up from 71.22 cents on Tuesday.

And the Australian share market looks set to open higher following a mixed performance of US equities as the US dollar weakened and oil prices surged.

At 0645 AEDT on Wednesday, the December share price index futures contract was up 11 points at 5,180.


LIMA – The International Monetary Fund has cut its growth forecasts for the world economy, warning of increasing risks from the slowdown in China, which is dragging other emerging markets down with it.

LIMA – The massive arrival of migrants in the European Union will burden member states’ budgets in the short term but ultimately fuel economic growth, the IMF’s chief economist says.

WASHINGTON – The International Monetary Fund has estimated that the US economy will pick up only modestly in 2016 after a mild gain this year, thanks to low energy prices and an improving housing market.

BERLIN – The new chief of scandal-hit Volkswagen has braced his workforce for tough times ahead, while admitting that billions laid aside for fines and damages arising from a massive pollution cheating scam will not be enough.

NEW YORK – Freeport-McMoRan says it’s considering spinning off its oil and gas business and other strategic alternative to focus on its copper mining business.

PURCHASE – PepsiCo’s third-quarter profit topped Wall Street expectations as the maker of Frito-Lay snacks and Mountain Dew soda hiked prices and trimmed costs.

Qld man claims cops edited ‘assault’ video

A Cairns man facing charges of obstructing police is considering suing the Queensland Police Service after claiming he was bashed by an officer during a routine traffic stop.


Kenneth Wong says police took his phone and edited footage of him being assaulted by a male constable.

But the QPS will not look into the allegations until Wong, 24, has been through court for a string of charges himself, including failing to stop, contravening a direction and obstructing police.

“As the matter is currently before the court it is not appropriate to comment further,” a police statement read.

Wong says he was repeatedly punched in the face by the constable after he was pulled over on August 29 for failing to completely stop at an intersection while on the way to visit his sick mother in Cairns.

An emergency department report obtained by AAP shows Wong suffered two black eyes, a cut under his left eye, bruises to both wrists and a bruise to his right shoulder.

The law graduate and education student says the officer called for back-up when he questioned why he had to hand over his licence.

After realising Wong was recording him, the officer then allegedly took Mr Wong’s glasses off, punched him multiple times and tried to pull him from the vehicle while he was still strapped in.

Once at the police station, he was pressured into giving police his phone’s passcode, Wong says.

He says police then disabled the iCloud function so he could not download the video remotely.

Wong’s phone was returned last week and he is convinced the video has been “trimmed” to remove possibly incriminating evidence. He plans to have a computer expert look at it.

Wong can be heard on the video file telling the officer: “No, you can’t do that. You don’t have the power under PPRA (Police Powers and Responsibilities Act).

“I give you licence, you better leave me alone.

“Do not touch it, it’s my property.”

The officer repeatedly replies: “Don’t start, mate.”

Wong says his facial injuries have prevented him from continuing his placement at a Cairns high school, while the incident itself has left him frightened and distrustful of police.

Wong approached the Crime and Corruption Commission to investigate the officer, but the complaint was forwarded to the QPS’s Ethical Standard Command.

Wong has sought advice and said he is considering legal action.

It comes amid a QPS review into a recent spate of police brutality incidents on the Gold Coast.

The Queensland Council of Civil Liberties, which has been assisting Wong, says police behaviour is a growing concern.

“We’re receiving at least one complaint or allegation about police violence or brutality a week,” acting president Julie Jansen told AAP.

No let up in pressure but Boks know path to success

A bonus-point victory at the Olympic Stadium would enable the Boks top the pool and advance from a group they were expected to dominate before the 34-32 loss to Japan in their tournament opener.


That result sent shockwaves through the team and the country, and defeat to the U.S. could send them home early if other results go against them.

“We have had massive pressure in the last two weeks and it is still on,” Du Preez said.

“But we are also putting pressure on ourselves (to perform), at least now we know the way we want to go and what is successful for us.”

With just four days turnaround time from their 34-16 victory over Scotland, Du Preez admits that a good start is vital for the Boks, who do not want to have to find reserves of energy going into the final 20 minutes.

“In any game it is vital to start well, but given that we pretty much have had the same starting line-up for the last two weeks, if we don’t get a good start we will have to adapt,” he said.

“We were under a bit of pressure last week against Scotland and there were times when things did not go our way. But the guys fought through that.

“But this time round we would love to be in a comfortable position going into halftime.”

In Du Preez the Boks have a skipper with a calm head, a player who lets his actions, rather than words, do the talking on the field.

Since being handed the captaincy by coach Heyneke Meyer after Jean de Villiers exited the tournament with a fractured jaw and second-choice Victor Matfield was sidelined too, Du Preez says he has enjoyed the experience — sort of.

“So far I have enjoyed it,” he said. “I don’t enjoy media conferences and these speeches, but as soon as I get onto the field I love it.

“I enjoy having an influence on the guys around me and I have got great guys next to me, so I don’t have to say too much.”

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

‘This does not look like an accident’: NATO rejects Russia explanation on Turkish air space

With Russia extending its air strikes to include the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he was losing patience with Russian violations of his country’s air space.


“An attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO,” Erdogan warned at a Brussels news conference.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had reports of a substantial Russian military build-up in Syria, including ground troops and ships in the eastern Mediterranean.

“I will not speculate on the motives … but this does not look like an accident and we have seen two of them,” Stoltenberg said of the air incursions over Turkey’s border with Syria at the weekend. He noted that they “lasted for a long time”.

The incidents, which NATO has described as “extremely dangerous” and “unacceptable”, underscore the risks of a further escalation of the Syrian civil war, as Russian and U.S. warplanes fly combat missions over the same country for the first time since World War Two.

The Russian Defence Ministry had said that an SU-30 warplane had entered Turkish air space along the border with Syria “for a few seconds” on Saturday, a mistake caused by bad weather. NATO says a plane also entered Turkish air space on Sunday, an incident Russia says it is looking into.

A U.S. official told Reuters the incursions had lasted more than a few seconds and described Moscow’s assertion that they were an accident as “far-fetched”.

The Turkish military said a further incident took place on Monday when a MIG-29 fighter and Syria-based missile systems “interfered” with eight Turkish F-16 jets patrolling along the Syrian border.

The MIG-29 locked its radar onto the Turkish patrol for 4 minutes 30 seconds, and a Syria-based missile system locked onto them for 4 minutes 15 seconds, the Turkish military said. Russia flies MIG-29s, as does Syria’s own air force.

Stoltenberg said the U.S.-led alliance had not received “any real explanation” from Russia about the incursions.

Air space violations

Disagreement over the air space violations comes as Russia and the west dispute the aims of Moscow’s air campaign. Moscow says it is attacking Islamic State, but most of its air strikes have hit territory held by other rebel groups fighting against its Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

Western countries, Arab states and Turkey, who are waging their own bombing campaign against Islamic State but also want Assad to leave power, say Moscow is using Islamic State as a pretext to target Assad’s other foes. Russia says the Assad government should be the centerpiece of international efforts to combat extremism.

With Russian and NATO planes now flying combat missions in the same air space, a danger is that the Cold War enemies could fire on each other.

The skies in the area have seen incidents in the past. A Turkish jet was shot down by the Syrian air force in 2012 over the Mediterranean and earlier this year Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter that Ankara said violated its airspace.  

Russia’s NATO envoy said the alliance was using the accidental incursion into Turkish air space for propaganda.

“The impression is that the incident in Turkish air space was used to plug NATO as an organization into the information campaign waged by the West to distort the aims of the operations carried out by the Russian air force in Syria,” Alexander Grushko was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying in Brussels.

Russia’s defense ministry said it agreed in principle with U.S. proposals on coordinating military flights in Syria. The ministry said it was ready to hold talks with Turkey to avoid “misunderstandings” and invited foreign military officers to Moscow for talks on how best to fight Islamic State.

President Vladimir Putin has said he will not put Russian ground forces in Syria, where the civil war has killed 250,000 people. However, Stoltenberg said there was a growing presence of Russian forces in Syria.

“I can confirm that we have seen a substantial build-up of Russian forces in Syria – air forces, air defenses, but also ground troops in connection with the air base they have, and we also see an increased naval presence,” Stoltenberg said.

Russian tanks

Several senior officials in the Middle East told Reuters the Russian air campaign was part of plan that will also involve a ground offensive by Iranian troops, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Syrian government forces against Assad’s foes.

The ground campaign is being led by Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, the elite extra-territorial special forces arm of the Revolutionary Guards who reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the officials said.

They said Soleimani traveled to Moscow in July to help plan the joint action after senior Russian officials met Khamenei and senior Iranians met Putin to agree it.

U.S. officials have previously said Russia has sent seven T-90 tanks, some artillery, and about 200 marines. It has also deployed temporary housing units, a portable air traffic control station and components for an air defense system.

Russian defense ministry sources have been quoted in Russian media as saying about 1,500 Russian servicemen are involved in supporting the air strikes and advising Syria’s army.

The Russian Defence Ministry says it has more than 50 warplanes and helicopters in Syria. Russia’s Tartous naval facility there is a logistics base and has been overhauled in recent years. It is being used to unload equipment, some of which is also being flown in.

In the latest strikes, Russian jets hit Islamic State targets in Palmyra and struck the northern province of Aleppo, Syrian state television said.

Islamic State forces captured Palmyra in May, an advance that brought them closer to the core of government-held territory in western Syria. It also put the city’s Roman-era ruins under the militants’ control.

Russia denied hitting civilian targets inside Palmyra or conducting strikes that might harm the ruins.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group tracking Syria’s civil war, said the Palmyra strikes killed 15 Islamic State fighters.

“It was the heaviest Russian attack on Palmyra,” Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said. Across Syria, Russian jets carried out at least 34 air strikes in the last 24 hours, the Observatory said.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Madrid, Andrew Osborn and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; Writing by Giles Elgood and Peter Graff; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Unis buoyed by innovation calls

Universities are demanding an end to parliament’s bottleneck on reform and want both sides of politics to put their money where their mouth is on innovation.


Buoyed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s shared view that innovation is the key for future prosperity, Universities Australia chair Barney Glover says it’s time to invest in it or fall behind those that do.

“Both major political parties have decidedly planted their feet firmly in the future,” Professor Glover told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

“We have reached a stage where a progressive legislative framework is not only possible, but achievable.”

He also criticised the uncertainty left by the government’s inability to push fee deregulation through the parliament.

The plans, twice blocked by the Senate, have been mothballed and will not go ahead until 2017.

The impasse left the nation’s third-largest export industry in funding limbo and without a plan forward.

“This kind of instability is simply intolerable,” Prof Glover said.

He warned Australia risked being left behind without a long-term advancement plan.

With 40 per cent of jobs tipped to disappear within two decades, university investment will be needed to create new jobs, industries and sources of income.

“We face a stark choice. We either make this investment or we fall behind those that do,” he said.

In a pre-election wish-list, his group calls for tax concessions for firms that work with universities on research, more money to encourage international research ties, and efforts to encourage start-ups.

But it all depends on all sides agreeing.

Prof Glover says the nation is up to it – and universities are willing to help.

Sugar trade deal not so sweet

Sugar is shaping up as the most controversial commodity in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


As well as boosting trade with the US, the government says the deal will open up markets in Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile and Canada and usher in a new era of opportunity across the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.

Service providers, miners and manufacturers will benefit from slashed tariffs, while farmers will reap an extra $1 billion from cuts to export levies on beef, dairy, wine, rice, horticulture and seafood in a number of markets.

The deal signed in the US on Monday will see tariffs for beef cut by another nine per cent and, for the first time in decades, rice growers will be able to send more product to Japan.

But for Australian canegrowers, the deal isn’t so sweet.

While access to the US market will double, the outcome is well below what the cane growers had sought.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb conceded he couldn’t secure the increase he wanted, prompting lobby group Canegrowers to describe the $16 million boost as bittersweet.

Government MP George Christensen said he was prepared to cross the floor of the House of Representatives to vote against the government.

Despite welcoming the freshly-inked 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership as a win for agriculture, the Nationals backbencher says the deal is only “OK” for sugar.

“Across the sugar industry this deal has been met with mixed emotions and I feel likewise,” he said in a statement.

“I will be reserving my right to cross the floor on the deal, depending on the outcome of other factors plaguing the sugar industry.”

Unions are also wary.

The ACTU fears there could be many harmful elements and believes there’s a great probability the deal isn’t balanced and doesn’t protect Australian jobs.

“You have to wonder, if it’s such a good deal, why are the details hidden,” president Ged Kearney said.

Former UN head charged with corruption

John Ashe, a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was general assembly president from 2013 to 2014, was accused in a complaint filed in federal court in New York of taking more than $1.


3 million in bribes from Chinese businessmen, including developer Ng Lap Seng.

Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, who announced the arrests of Ashe and the other defendants, said the investigation could result in more charges as authorities examine whether “corruption is business as usual at the United Nations.”

“If proven, today’s charges will confirm that the cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well,” Bharara said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “shocked and deeply troubled” by the allegations, said his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric. The UN had not previously been informed of the probe, Dujarric said, but would cooperate if contacted.

The case followed the Sept. 19 arrest of Ng, 68, and an assistant, Jeff Yin, 29, for falsely claiming that $4.5 million they brought into the United States from China from 2013 to 2015 was meant for gambling or buying art, antiques or real estate.

Both men are charged in the latest case. Bharara said authorities continue to examine the funds connected to Ng, who prosecutors say has a $1.8 billion fortune, much of which he earned on developments in Macau.

Rolexes, BMW and basketball court

According to the complaint, Ng, through intermediaries, paid Ashe more than $500,000 for telling the UN secretary general that a yet-to-be built multibillion-dollar UN-sponsored conference center in Macau was needed.

The intermediaries included Francis Lorenzo, 48, a deputy UN ambassador from the Dominican Republic, and Yin, who told authorities that Ng viewed the conference center as his legacy and made payments to get UN action on it, the complaint said.

Ashe, 61, also received more than $800,000 from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the UN and Antigua, and kicked some of the money to Antigua’s then-prime minister, the complaint said.

The complaint said those bribes were arranged through Shiwei Yan, also known as Sheri Yan, chief executive officer of a New York-based non-profit, and Heidi Hong Piao, also known as Heidi Park, its finance director.

The unnamed non-profit matches the description of the Global Sustainability Foundation. And while the complaint did not name the prime minister, Baldwin Spencer held the post at the time.

The foundation and Antigua and Barbuda’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to requests for comment. Spencer could not be reached.

The complaint said Ashe solicited bribes in various forms, including payments to cover a family vacation to New Orleans and the construction of a $30,000 basketball court at his house in Dobbs Ferry, New York, the complaint said.

From 2012 to 2014, more than $3 million from foreign governments and individuals was deposited in bank accounts controlled by Ashe, who spent the money on his mortgage, BMW lease payments and Rolex watches, the complaint said.

The complaint only charged Ashe with tax offenses, which it said are not covered by any diplomatic immunity he enjoys.

The UN general assembly presidency is a ceremonial one-year post paid for by the home country.

Bieber Brian, Lorenzo’s lawyer, said his client “maintains that he acted in good faith at all times and believed in the integrity of what he was told by those involved.” Ng’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, said his client committed no crime.

Yin’s lawyer had no immediate comment. Lawyers for the others could not be immediately identified.

Prior investigations

Ng, also known as David Ng, heads Macau-based Sun Kian Ip Group, whose foundation arm lists several ambassadors to the UN, including Ashe, as holding leadership positions.

In China, Ng sits on several government committees and belongs to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the Beijing government.

Ng’s name previously surfaced in US investigations into how foreign money might have been funneled into the Democratic National Committee before the 1996 elections, when it was working to re-elect President Bill Clinton.

Ng, who was never charged, stopped coming to the United States from 1996 to 2000 amid the probe, prosecutors have said.

More recently, in 2014, Ng was subpoenaed in a US foreign bribery investigation, a source has said, after his name surfaced in litigation involving billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS.N).

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn also have brought sealed charges against another individual linked to Ng, Yin’s lawyer Sabrina Shroff said at a Sept. 28 hearing. The status of any Brooklyn-based investigation was unclear on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond and Joseph Ax in New York; Additional reporting by Jon Stempel, Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau in New York and Farah Master in Hong Kong; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Hooper ‘gutted’ to miss Wales WC clash

Australian vice-captain Michael Hooper says he’s shocked and gutted by a one-week World Cup ban which left his teammates and coaching staff silently cheering.


Hooper admitted he had a “very fair hearing” in London on Tuesday, which lasted for two hours in which footage was dissected of his aggressive clear out of England fullback Mike Brown from a ruck just before halftime in the Wallabies’ 33-13 win.

He will miss Saturday’s final pool game against Wales at Twickenham, which will decide who tops Pool A and earns the easier draw through the competition’s knock-out stages.

He’d been cited by independent citing commissioner Steve Hinds who found Hooper had charged “into a ruck or maul without the use of arms or grasping the player”.

The result was of great relief for the Wallabies, who had privately feared the judiciary would come down hard on the talented flanker with a ban that had the potential to end his tournament.

But it’s hard for a player to be pleased about missing a Test match.

While the Wallabies never seriously considered fighting the charge – and Hooper pleaded guilty – he did admit for a fleeting moment the thought crossed his mind.

“Surely it always crosses everyone’s mind, doesn’t it? That you’re innocent and you can hopefully play the next week,” he said.

“Being fresh out of the meeting, I think we had a fair trial.

“One week is not ideal – I’m not raving about it. But we can move on and I’m glad it’s all over and done.”

The base level for the charge normally carries a two-week ban, but Hooper was given a lighter sentence as the judiciary took into account his contrition, good on and off-field record and good behaviour during the hearing.

It frees him up to play in Australia’s quarter-final clash – with the opponent to be determined by their result against Wales.

“Obviously I’m gutted I won’t be able to be in the mix for selection,” he said.

“It really hurts. You always want to be in these sort of games – the big ones.”

Hooper will be replaced in the starting lineup by either Ben McCalman or Sean McMahon – with the other to be picked on the bench.

He hoped the ban would be used as an example for teammates to take more care in those scenarios, although defence coach Nathan Grey was adamant that team policy would remain to go 100 per cent into every contest.

“It’s a tough part of the game,” Hooper siad.

“Small margins of errors and you get it wrong and you’re in a situation that I’m in or worse.

“It’s a good example for guys to keep working on that technique during training to not be in the situation I’m in now.”

Wales wary of Giteau threat

The winners of the match at Twickenham on Saturday will top the group and get an easier draw in the knockout stages.


“Matt as a second playmaker is one of the best in Europe, if not the world,” Roberts told reporters.

“He is a special player and I’m sure he is delighted at the chance to play for Australia again. We have to do a job on him. We have to put him under pressure and stop their speed of ball, which is difficult to defend against, as England found out.”

Wales have lost their last 10 matches against Australia but many of them have been extremely close.

“Looking back over the last seven years it’s the same old story,” Roberts said.

“Over the last 10 minutes, they have killed us on many occasions. I hope that what is on the line on Saturday will bring out the best in us.”

Roberts nervously watched Australia beat England 33-13 on Saturday, a result that sent Wales through to the quarter-finals.

“I was shaking for 80 minutes,” he said. “It was like playing a game, though not expending as much energy. It was a bit awkward being surrounded by a load of English. When it got to 20-13, I’m sure the whole of Wales was panicking a bit.”

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley is relishing the challenge of pitting his wits against the Wallabies.

“You look forward to playing and coaching against Australia,” he said.

“As for the manner of the defeats over the last two or three years in particular, the margins are pretty low — one to five points. History is pretty irrelevant in World Cups and it’s about the side who can master the moments and have accuracy in the last 20 minutes of the game.”

Wales showed great composure in the closing minutes to seal their dramatic 28-25 win over England and must do the same again.

“We need to be more accurate against Australia,” Howley said. “We need to start well and get on the scoreboard.”

(Reporting by Ed Osmond, editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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