Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Sweden ends Assange rape investigation

Swedish authorities have discontinued a preliminary rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The deputy chief prosecutor, Eva-Marie Persson, said that after nearly a decade the memories of witnesses had faded. “Time is a player in this decision,” she said. Assange has repeatedly denied the allegations, and sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 as he feared extradition to Sweden would then see him transferred to the United States. After being forcibly removed from the embassy this year, he is now in a British prison awaiting a hearing regarding extradition to the US, where he potentially faces decades in prison over charges including violation of an espionage law. 

Secret trial: Author Robert Macklin, who prompted a police crackdown by attempting to work with a prisoner in publishing a memoir, has criticised the secrecy surrounding the man’s imprisonment, reports Guardian Australia. The prisoner, understood to be a military intelligence officer, was convicted and jailed in the ACT last year for an unknown crime in a process hidden from public view. “I didn’t think we had secret trials in Australia,” Macklin said. 

Infrastructure spending: In a speech to the Business Council of Australia tonight, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is to announce an accelerated plan of $3.8 billion of infrastructure investment into the next four-year forward estimates period. Nearly half of that sum will come in the next 18 months. The effort comes in the wake of concern that the federal government’s tax cuts have failed to adequately stimulate the economy. Morrison will downplay the prospect of bringing forward plans ($) for future tax cuts.

Epstein death criminal charges: Two prison guards in New York have been charged by US prosecutors for falsifying records to cover up their failure to monitor sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in the hours before his death in a cell in August. Epstein was awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges. The news comes as a new accuser has come forward claiming Epstein sexually abused her as a 15-year-old, and urged Prince Andrew, who is attracting scrutiny over his close relationship with Epstein, to share information.

Impeachment revelations: The impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump has heard from officials who gave first-hand accounts of alleged efforts from Trump to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rival, former US vice-president Joe Biden. Among the revelations was that Trump was acting on his own in a July call in asking for the investigations and was provided with no talking points to back that up, and that in another phone call the following day to Gordon Sondland, Ambassador to the European Union, Trump sought confirmation that Ukraine would undertake an investigation.

The cabinet maker
Since becoming prime minister, Scott Morrison has stamped himself on the cabinet process. There will be more PowerPoints, and less debate about issues he sees as being routine. Karen Middleton on the new processes and how they work.


“In 2015, Luke Lazarus was found guilty of sexually assaulting Mullins, but the decision was overturned on appeal because the trial judge had erred in giving directions to the jury. After Lazarus was acquitted at the retrial, which was heard without a jury, the Court of Criminal Appeal found the judge in the second trial had also erred, but ruled that a third trial would be unfair. The morning after Saxon Mullins’ story aired on the ABC’s Four Corners, in May last year, the NSW attorney-general, Mark Speakman, announced he was referring consent law to the Law Reform Commission.”


“Debate over the ownership of the land and its subterranean riches, the possible revitalisation of the Panguna mine, which closed amid violence in 1989, and even Papua New Guinea’s dominion over the region is reaching a new peak this month, as Bougainville finally gets its long-promised independence referendum. Delayed several times, it is set for November 23, with huge implications not just for the local peoples, but regionally and for a trickily positioned Australia.”


“Avary confronts the monster once more. She hooks Steph De Lander, aka the Python Powerhouse, into the ‘cattle mutilation’ submission hold. Still no joy. With 20 kilograms on her opponent, De Lander muscles out and unleashes a guttural scream. She’s done playing. She drags Avary in by the hair, heaves her 60-kilogram frame onto her broad shoulders, and drops her with the ‘death adder’. Avary face plants on the mat. The ‘hot mess’ of Australian women’s wrestling is out cold. That’s all she wrote.”


“CommInsure has pleaded guilty to 87 counts of unlawfully selling life insurance policies in unsolicited phone calls, marking the first criminal conviction against a major bank since the financial services royal commission ... ‘ASIC is concerned that the way in which these products were sold was manifestly unfair, with customers given insufficient information to make an informed decision,’ ASIC deputy chair Daniel Crennan QC said.”


“Revelations that scandal-prone financial giant AMP has continued to knowingly charge dead customers have been called ‘confronting and disappointing’ by the head of Australia's corporate watchdog. Australian Securities and Investment Commission chair James Shipton told a Senate committee he was disturbed by the ABC's report on the treatment of customer Daryl Oehm.”


“In the 1960s, Fidel Castro faced many challenges by becoming an ideological enemy of the United States ... arguably the most vexing issue for Castro, especially on a sweltering summer day in Havana, was the United States cutting off Cuba’s dairy supply. That was a problem, because Castro was obsessed with ice cream.”

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