Wednesday, July 15, 2020

SAS accused of planting evidence

Soldiers from the Australian army’s Special Air Service Regiment allegedly planted the same weapon on the bodies of two Afghan civilians to make them look like Taliban militants, in a practice known as a “throwdown”. The incidents occurred after a 2012 raid on the village of Shina, during which locals claim two unarmed civilians were executed along with one Taliban fighter, reports the ABC. The SAS claim all three killed were insurgents. The same AK-47 assault rifle with teal-coloured tape wrapped around the stock was photographed next to two bodies in separate locations and logged in the special forces database. Several members who served on that 2012 special forces rotation say that so-called "throwdowns", such as assault rifles and radios, were often used to cover up unlawful killings. The killings at Shina and the alleged use of a planted assault rifle are reportedly part of an investigation by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force.

An elderly woman and man in Victoria have died from Covid-19, taking the national death toll to 110. Victoria on Tuesday recorded its ninth day of triple-digit growth in cases, reporting another 270 infections. A Victorian man in his 30s is one of 26 people in the state currently being treated for the virus in intensive care. The Crossroads Hotel Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney has grown to at least 30 cases,  with genomic testing conducted by NSW Health revealing a diner at the pub was genomically linked to the Victorian outbreak. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told the ABC she was not intending to implement another city-wide lockdown. Cases from the Crossroads outbreak have continued to spread to other businesses in the area, with the Kmart store in Casula Mall forced to close after a worker tested positive, and two further cases linked to the Planet Fitness gym in Casula. NSW Health confirmed 22 new cases on Tuesday. NSW Police branded a Krispy Kreme promotion as “nonsensical” for attracting large queues of people awaiting free doughnuts.

The federal government has refused to commit to repaying more than 200 Centrelink debts raised using a method it says is unlawful. Guardian Australia reports a “historical review” of pre-2015 welfare debts ordered government services minister Stuart Robert found that of the 1000 random cases analysed in 2009 and 2011, 206 were issued using an illegal method known as “income-averaging”. On Tuesday a spokesman for Robert refused to explain why the government refused to locate recipients and repay debts uncovered by the review.

At a video court hearing in Manhattan, Ghislaine Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to charges she recruited girls for Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse. Epstein’s former girlfriend was denied bail on Tuesday, with prosecutors arguing she was a flight risk because of her “undisclosed wealth” and “extensive international ties”. The judge set a trial date for July, 2021. Meanwhile, a United States federal judge has rejected a $US18.8 million settlement deal that lawyers for Harvey Weinstein and his studio offered to dozens of sexual misconduct accusers. Lawyers for several of the accusers backed the judge's decision to reject what they described as a “one-sided proposal”. 


“During their early morning commute in Sydney, Hogan would pass an independent grammar school with a sprawling campus complex. ‘It looked like a gated community,’ they say. ‘As [public school] teachers, we’re left to create everything from scratch ... Where it clicked with me was reading about funding. I got on Google as an extension of my frustration, I wanted to know: why is every school I work in in this situation?’”


“As the world shifts, so do intelligence practices. An intelligence analyst at her desk today worrying about the accuracy of Covid-19 data from China, the origins of a persistent cyberattack or the machinations of a terrorist group with undercover cells in half a dozen countries probably doesn’t spend a lot of time reflecting on how much easier her job would have been thirty years ago. But recent developments in geopolitics and technology, as well as a continuing terrorism threat, have been complicating the lives of Australia’s intelligence community.”


“Jarvis Cocker is in a countryside living room, grunting into a microphone. He stands behind a makeshift DJ booth, cloaked in strobe lights, one attenuated arm gesticulating, while the other fiddles with the speed on a house remix of ‘Stone Fox Chase’, the theme song of the BBC TV music show The Old Grey Whistle Test. ‘Welcome on this voyage on a Saturday night,’ Cocker announces, ‘to escape your cabin fever, leave your troubled mind behind.’ He shouts out the names and cities of viewers who pop up on screen. ‘In a field in Suffolk? Well, as long as there’s only you and a few sheep there.’”


“West Australian senator Dean Smith has lashed Labor’s claims that the palace letters tie Queen Elizabeth to the dismissal of Gough Whitlam, saying the oppos­ition is ‘clutching at straws’ to propel the political agenda of Australian republicanism.”


“Crucially, the palace provided a specific nudge to Kerr in the direction of dismissing the government as a solution. It did so by highlighting one expert’s view that Kerr could secure an election while saving his own position as governor-general. A ... letter from the queen’s private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris, to Kerr pointed him to Canadian constitutional law expert Eugene Forsey’s opinion that: ‘if supply is refused this always makes it constitutionally proper to grant a dissolution.’ In such correspondence, the queen’s private secretary is understood as speaking for the queen herself.”


“Poker players like to brag they win with skill not luck. So do investment bankers. Scientists. And writers. Skill, we insist, is our ticket to success. Who can blame us? It’s a useful delusion to bank our identity on skill, says Maria Konnikova. We can’t stand trembling in the chaos. And skill does matter. That skill can ever be enough, though, is ‘the biggest bluff’.”

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