Monday, August 12, 2019

Trio of investigations into Epstein death

Three different investigations in the United States will look into the circumstances of the apparent suicide in prison of wealthy financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. The Federal Bureau of Investigations, the US justice department, and the New York City medical examiner’s office will investigate why Epstein was taken off suicide watch. US Attorney-General William Barr said the death “raises serious questions that must be answered”. The investigations come as Democrats criticise US President Donald Trump for retweeting an unsubstantiated claim that the death was related to Epstein’s ties to former president Bill Clinton. Trump was also an associate of Epstein, with the two attending parties together. Alleged victims of Epstein have expressed disappointment that he will not face justice. That includes Australian resident Virginia Giuffre who said she had been groomed as a “sex slave” for Epstein. She told The New York Times: “We’ve worked so hard to get here, and he stole that from us, too,” she said.

Prime minister Scott Morrison will today unveil $500m in funding for Australia’s special forces. The four years of spending includes funding for drones, body armour, weapons, diving technology and communications systems, as part of the first stage of the $3bn Project Greyfin project. The spending arises out of recommendations made in the 2016 Defence White Paper. Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, a former SAS officer, said the funding would allow ($) special forces to ­deliver “clandestine, discreet strategic effects” to protect the ­national interest. The announcement comes as trade minister Simon Birmingham and Labor’s shadow defence minister Richard Marles both criticised Hastie over his comment last week that compared the international complacency over China’s economic liberalisation to France’s reliance on the Maginot Line against German aggression in 1940. 

Australians over the age of 65 are searching for jobs in record numbers but are struggling to find work. There has been a 39 per cent jump in the number of unemployed over 65s looking for a full time job since last year, with unemployment across that group increasing by almost 28 per cent. “The 65-plus age group is caught between a transition to a new retirement system, a changing labour market and an economy which still values their skills,” said West Australian workplace diversity expert Conrad Liveris. Last month the age at which a person can access the pension was increased to 66 from 65.5 years.

New South Wales water minister Melinda Pavey yesterday revealed plans to boost output at a Sydney desalination plant to deal with “one of the worst droughts in living memory”. She said the Kurnell plant was playing a vital role in maintaining the city’s water supply. “By undertaking this planning work, should the drought worsen and water levels continue to drop, we will be ready to act immediately to increase water supply,” she said. The plans come as WaterNSW and the fisheries unit of the Department of Primary Industries prepare emergency response teams for potential fish kills in waterways that could dwarf the mass die-offs in 2018. The agencies are “preparing early for the carnage”, said one official, who asked to remain anonymous. “It's going to be messy.” 

Murdoch and the far-right
For the first time ever, individual articles can be linked to far-right recruitment drives. High on the list is reporting from The Australian, in stories about Safe Schools as well as about race.


“As a volunteer co-ordinator at Switchboard Victoria, Zhang fielded countless calls from those who rang the LGBTQIA peer support service in crisis. A warm, loving and gentle presence with a deep capacity for empathy, she was seldom seen without a smile. She would often tell her boss, Switchboard chief executive Joe Ball, ‘I can’t believe I get paid to be here.’ When Zhang called in sick one April morning last year, it seemed out of character. In five years as a volunteer and as a member of staff, she had rarely missed a day’s work. The news was delivered the next day by her shell-shocked father. The 25-year-old was dead, and she had died by suicide.” 

Lifeline 13 11 14


“Even if Australia were to lift the moratorium on nuclear power – a move that would require bipartisan support – Quiggin said the legislative and regulatory work required to choose a site, select designs, approve them, build prototypes and carefully oversee the process to completion would take at least two decades. ‘And that is being optimistic,’ he said. By then, renewable energy will by all indications be cheaper, more effective and more widespread than it is today, leaving nuclear power a costly waste of time.”


“Performance-based contracts, which Argus recommended, work to shift responsibility for structural flaws onto individuals who became bonus-obsessed. A long-running pay dispute between Cricket Australia and the Cricketers’ Association throughout 2017 left fans unsure about whom to support: the corporate managers who sought to divide and conquer in apparent pursuit of greater grassroots funding, or the players’ union that wanted greater incomes for players Argus had described as able to ‘make a very comfortable living without necessarily achieving excellence’.”


“Heavy snow, freezing temperatures and ‘treacherous driving conditions’ have forced road closures across Victoria, as the state shivers through its third day of an extreme cold snap that has blanketed towns in snow. A cold front has been covering Australia's south-east for days, bringing blizzards, rain and strong winds to Victoria.”


“Ellise Turner wrote to Ski and Snowboard Australia in May to express concern that a complaint she had first made to the athlete’s coach about sexual harassment by the athlete 2½ years ago seemed to be ignored by officials. Ms Turner, 24, released the letter to The Australian yesterday because she was upset that SSA was publicly insisting there had been no complaints about the sport’s culture. In the letter, Ms Turner alerted the sport to the alleged harassment, named the athlete and detailed how more than 10 female Australian athletes across a range of winter programs had been ­alleged victims of the accused sex pest.”


“The Russian leader wore black leather and drove a motorbike during the Shadow of Babylon show organised by the Night Wolves. ‘I am very pleased that these manly and cool guys serve as role models for youngsters in our country, showing them the right attitude towards Russia,’ Mr Putin told the crowd.”



Max Opray
is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.