Thursday, February 20, 2020

Trump ‘offered Assange pardon’ for Russia denial

United States President Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in the hacking of Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told. Lawyers acting for Assange made the claim at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, arguing that the effort to extradite the Wikileaks founder to the US is about politics not criminality. A statement from lawyer Jennifer Robinson referred to US Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher in 2017 visiting the Ecuadorian Embassy ($) where Assange was claiming asylum “and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks”. The judge presiding over the pre-trial hearing said the allegation would be admissible during Assange’s extradition hearing, due to begin next week. Liberal Nationals MP George Christensen and Independent senator Andrew Wilkie visited Assange in prison on Tuesday to lobby to stop his extradition.

Family killed in car fire: A 31-year-old Brisbane woman has died in hospital on Wednesday evening, after her estranged husband allegedly set her car alight in an event that also claimed the lives of the couple’s three children. Detective Inspector Mark Thompson said police are determining whether the event was a murder-suicide or accident, and suggested further crime scenes would be declared. Witnesses claimed to The Courier Mail ($) that Brisbane man Rowan Baxter forced his way into his wife Hannah Baxter’s vehicle on Wednesday morning, dousing the family in petrol before stabbing himself. It is understood police were called to a family violence incident in January, with Queensland’s Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women aware of the family due to recent violent behavior from Rowan, a former rugby league player.

Sexual assault investigations: An ABC investigation has found police in the Northern Territory are less likely to pursue a sexual assault report than police in any other part of the country. In the NT 19 per cent of sexual assaults reported were “not pursued” in 2018, a rate three times higher than in New South Wales. Jonathan Crowe, professor of law at Queensland’s Bond University, said: “This is obviously a pressing issue for the NT, given that the NT has the highest rate of sexual assault per capita in Australia.”

Aged care discrimination: New research from La Trobe University finds that older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people fear discrimination in aged care services. Interviewees reported that they feel they must hide their sexual orientation in care facilities, and lack families of origin, such as children, young relatives, or partners who are legally recognised to advocate on their behalf.


“A newborn oil and gas company that four years ago bought an ageing Woodside offshore facility for a pittance, allowing the gas giant to avoid a $230 million clean-up, went into liquidation last week and Australian taxpayers may be left with the bill. The Northern Endeavour is now moored in the Timor Sea north-west of Darwin with no crew on board and 89,000 barrels of oil in its holds.”


“I don’t know why Peter Garrett and Midnight Oil were absent ... But their absence spoke volumes. Commercial media is not apolitical. Its politics are firmly resistant to any change to current structures that support the fossil fuel industry and consumerism built on cheap materials, cheap transport, cheap wages and minimal accountability. Mostly this status quo politics is passive and indirectly expressed, via advertising and infomercials. News Corp, of course, takes a more direct approach.”


“Dust, sand, debris and remnants of long-lost things are a recurring theme on the record and its accompanying imagery. Parker enlisted photographer Neil Krug to shoot ... the ghost town of Kolmanskop. A former diamond mine in southern Namibia, it’s famous for the images of stately rooms filled knee- and sometimes neck-deep in sand that has accumulated over time. The images are beautiful and distressing; they make us aware of a world with no more people. Imagining yourself in those rooms may be the closest you come to mining the ruins of your own life.”


“Advocates of child sex abuse survivors have slammed Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt for appearing to defend convicted child sex offender Peter Kehoe during a segment about the St Kevin's College scandal … Mr Bolt questioned the seriousness of Mr Kehoe's crime. ‘[He] hit on a boy, no sex occurred.’”


“Australia's premier foreign cyber intelligence agency would be enlisted to help track down online paedophiles, terrorists and other serious criminals under a proposal being developed by the Federal Government. The ABC understands the change could allow the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to call for assistance from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) ... Mr Dutton wants to bring online warrants into the 21st century to keep up with evolving technology that has made it easier for criminals to hide.”


“More than a century ago, whalers learned to examine the creatures’ earwax, which builds up over the years and congeals into a sticky plug. If you extract it from a deceased ani­mal and cut the cylinder in half lengthwise, you’ll see light and dark rings. Researchers think the light bands could be from a buildup of lipids during summer feasting, while the dark ones come from winter fasting. Count the rings, and you can estimate the animal’s age. Then an idea came to us ... what else could they reveal?”

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