Trump squeezed over JFK disclosure

President Donald Trump is caught in a push-pull on new details of John F.

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Kennedy’s assassination, jammed between students of the killing who want every scrap of information and intelligence agencies that are said to be urging restraint.

How that plays out should be known on Thursday, when long-secret files are expected to be released.

On one side is an alliance of sleuths and scholars pushing for Trump to honour the 1992 law that requires the release this week of all 3,150 still-secret files on Kennedy’s killing on November 22, 1963. For them, Trump has tweeted his intent to “allow the release of the long blocked and classified JFK FILES.”

But US intelligence agencies are apparently citing the same law to urge him to keep some files out of public sight on national security grounds. For this group, Trump’s tweet offered a caveat that he intends to disclose the materials “subject to the receipt of further information.”

Whatever details are released, they’re not expected to answer the major – and for many, still-lingering – question of whether anyone other than Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in the assassination, including the government.

The Warren Commission in 1964 reported that Oswald had been the lone gunman, and another congressional probe in 1979 found no evidence to support the theory that the CIA had been involved. But other interpretations, some more creative than others, have persisted.

In 1992, Congress passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act, which directed the National Archives to collect all information related to the assassination and release it within 25 years, barring exceptions designated by the president. The deadline is Thursday.

Crossbenchers back Cash to keep ministry

Crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm says Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s admission she gave wrong evidence to a Senate committee is not a “hanging offence”.

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Senator Leyonhjelm and fellow crossbencher Nick Xenophon believe Senator Cash shouldn’t be forced to resign despite wrongly telling a estimates hearing none of her staff informed media about federal police raids at Australian Workers Union offices.

“She was the one who said ‘I’ve been advised my staff did tip off the media’, nobody else divulged that information. I don’t regard that as a hanging offence,” Senator Leyonhjelm told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

Both men spoke glowingly of their dealings with Senator Cash, who is under mounting pressure to quit.

“She said it had absolutely nothing to do with her office. At the time she told me that, I accept that she believed that,” Senator Xenophon told ABC Radio.

But Labor aren’t so trusting. They say it’s inconceivable Senator Cash didn’t know her office was involved.

“She should resign and I expect that she will have resigned by the end of the day. But if she hasn’t the prime minister should sack her,” deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told reporters.

“It beggars belief that the minister, the staffer who resigned, met with the prime minister before question time and this issue didn’t come up. I don’t think anybody’s buying that.”

The adviser at the centre of the controversy resigned after admitting he leaked information about the raids in Melbourne and Sydney on Tuesday to journalists.

After repeated denials her office tipped off media, Senator Cash was forced to correct the record to the committee on Wednesday night, insisting she was unaware of her staffer’s actions.

Labor calls for Michaelia Cash’s resignation after staffer admits to AWU raid media tip-off

Labor has called for the resignation of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash after one of her staff members admitted to tipping off journalists about police raids on the Australian Workers Union’s Sydney and Melbourne offices.

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Senator Cash said she only found out about it on Wednesday night during the dinner break of a Senate estimates hearing. It followed media reports which claimed a staff member notified the media of the raids.

“I have just been advised that, without my knowledge, one staff member in my office in the course of discussions with journalists indicated that he had received information that a raid may take place,” she told the committee.

“I am advised that this information came from a media source. I was not aware of it at the time and was not aware of it earlier today at Senate estimates. This took place without my knowledge and was not authorised by me.”

0:00 Tony Burke calls on Michaela Cash to go after her staffer told media about AWU raids Share Tony Burke calls on Michaela Cash to go after her staffer told media about AWU raids

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Senator Cash denied she misled the Senate when, in giving evidence earlier in the day, insisted her staff did not tip off the media about the raids.

Labor jumped on the revelation, calling for Senator Cash’s resignation and accusing the minister of “misleading Senate estimates”.

“There might be a member of Senator Cash’s staff who has just resigned, but the wrong person has resigned,” opposition frontbencher Tony Burke told the House of Representatives shortly after the revelation.

“There needs to be a resignation here because it defies credulity that Senator Cash gave false information five times to the Senate and her staff said nothing.”

Earlier, Labor senator Doug Cameron asked if Senator Cash was certain no one in her office pre-warned the media about the raid.

Australian Employment Minister Michaelia Cash speaks during Senate estimates hearings at Parliament House in Canberra.AAP

“Yes,” Senator Cash replied at the time.

“And quite frankly, I am offended on behalf of my staff as to those allegations. They are very serious allegations.”

“As previously indicated I was not notified of the raids until I watched them unfold on the television,” she said.

Wait begins as police hold AWU documents 

A watchdog investigating union payments faces a lengthy or indefinite wait to see the documents seized in federal police raids as a court considers the case which has rocked Australian politics.

The Australian Workers’ Union went to the Federal Court on Wednesday seeking to have raids on its offices in Sydney and Melbourne declared invalid and that any items seized not to be passed on to the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC).

Parties agreed the documents would not be shared until the court matter is revisited.

While the ROC might not get its hands on the documents for some time, it said it acted and sought authority for the offices to be raided amid concerns the union was moving to destroy the paper trail.

The AWU denies the allegation, insisting it was willing to co-operate with investigators.

The allegations surround whether proper guidelines were followed in 2005 when the AWU, then under the leadership of federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, donated $100,000 to activist group GetUp!

Malcolm Turnbull insists the union and Mr Shorten have questions to answer.

“The AWU should comply with the law,” the prime minister said.

The ROC is also examining a $25,000 donation to Mr Shorten’s own campaign to enter federal parliament in 2007.

It sought search warrants because it had “reasonable grounds” to believe documents related to its inquiry could be “concealed or destroyed”.

Malcolm Turnbull says the AWU and Bill Shorten have questions to answer after AFP raids on the union’s officers in Sydney and Melbourne. AAP

Mr Shorten accused the coalition of a “grubby effort” to “damage the reputation of their opponents”.

“The regulator, at the behest of the government, is conducting a political witch-hunt designed to throw mud in the hope that some will stick,” the opposition leader said.

GetUp! has previously acknowledged receipt of a donation of $100,000 in 2005 from the AWU.

-With AAP

Newcrest keeps forecast but output slips

Newcrest Mining has posted a decline in September quarter gold and copper production as a number of major plant shutdowns weighed on performance.

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Australia’s biggest gold miner produced 522,917 ounces of gold in the three months to September 30, down 5.2 per cent from the June quarter and 15 per cent lower from a year ago.

Copper output was up nearly 29 per cent from the preceding quarter to 16,681 tonnes, but was down nearly 30 per cent from a year earlier.

Newcrest managing director Sandeep Biswas said the result was helped by both panel caves at the Cadia East mines restarting production.

“While gold production for the group was lower than the prior quarter, we conducted a number of major plant shutdowns across the group in the September quarter, and we expect gold production to increase over the coming quarters,” he said.

Cadia – Newcrest’s biggest and lowest-cost mine – was hit by a magnitude 4.3 earthquake in central west NSW in early April, prompting suspension of operations.

Production at the mine’s Panel Cave 2 section resumed in July, but ore extraction from the second section was only restarted in September.

The miner has kept its full-year guidance range unchanged at 2.4 to 2.7 million ounces of gold and 80,000 to 90,000 tonnes of copper production.

“Guidance for FY18 remains unchanged, with the continued expectation that gold production in the first half will be lower than the second half of the financial year as Cadia East ore production ramps up and with fewer planned shutdown events at Lihir scheduled,” it said.

Cash flow in the first-half is also expected to be substantially lower, Newcrest said in a statement on Thursday.

Del Potro wins opener in Basel to keep London hopes alive

The Argentine, twice champion in Basel, maintained the form he showed last week in capturing his first title of the year in Stockholm by overpowering Sousa 6-1 4-6 6-1.

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Fourth seed Del Potro will face French qualifier Julien Benneteau in the last 16 at the St Jakobs Hall, where hometown favourite Roger Federer is bidding for an eighth title.

It looked being a quick assignment for the former U.S. Open champion as he blazed away with his power game but a lapse at 4-4 in the second set allowed Sousa to break and level.

But Del Potro stamped his authority on the decider.

“I need to improve my game a little bit for tomorrow and see if I can keep winning because I’d like to spend more days in Basel,” the fourth seed said.

Del Potro began the tournament 14th on the ATP Race to London list but with several players above him missing the rest of the season, the door is still open for the 29-year-old to sneak into the prestigious year-ender in London.

Should he win the title in Basel he would be breathing down the neck of Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, currently holding the last of the eight spots heading into next week’s Paris Masters.

Six places have already been taken, but Belgium’s David Goffin is also in the mix after beating South Korea’s Chung Hyeon 6-4 6-1 to move into the third round in Basel.

American Sam Querrey and South Africa’s Kevin Anderson are also in with a chance of making London as is France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Croatian youngster Borna Coric set up a meeting with second-seeded compatriot Marin Cilic when he came back from squandering set points in the opener to beat Swiss Henri Laaksonen 6-7(8) 6-1 6-3 in one of the day’s other first-round matches.

Top seed Federer, bidding to catch Rafa Nadal and finish a resurgent year as number one in the rankings, returns to action on Thursday when he takes on Frenchman Benoit Paire.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

EU considers carbon tax on imports

As trade negotiations between Australia and Europe begin in earnest, a large bloc within the European parliament is considering imposing a carbon tax on all imports.

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The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) – the second largest bloc within the 747-member parliament – wants a border carbon tax considered among other new revenue-raising ideas for the next EU budget from 2020.

Party vice-president Isabelle Thomas says the imbalance between high contributions from individual countries and limited EU-wide revenue measures must be addressed with this next budget.

She’s seized on measures suggested by a high-level working group led by former Italian prime minister and European Commissioner Mario Monti, which include the carbon tax.

“We don’t want that it is only for citizens,” Ms Thomas told reporters in Strasbourg of any new tax.

“We want that a carbon tax is at the border to regulate importations, not only on our artisans and producers.”

She believes such an imposition would be defensible to the World Trade Organisation and would lead to a “virtuous cycle” on climate action since countries wanting to sell goods in Europe would have to do more to reduce their own emissions.

Mr Monti’s report, delivered in January, said the move would reinforce Europe’s credibility as a world leader in environmental protection and the fight against climate change.

Former US Republican congressman Bob Inglis would like to see Donald Trump establish a carbon tax on imports to that country, saying the president could couch it in terms of forcing China to pay up if it wants to send goods to America.

The European parliament will vote on Thursday (local time) on what issues should be discussed during trade talks with Australia.

Members of parliament want any deal to boost the EU economy while protecting its farmers and consumers.

If the negotiating framework is adopted, talks could formally being before the end of the year.

Ancient PNG skull oldest tsunami victim

A mysterious partial skull unearthed in Papua New Guinea in 1929 that once was thought to belong to an extinct human species now turns out to have another unique distinction.

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Scientists believe it belongs to the oldest-known human tsunami victim.

Researchers said on Wednesday that new examinations of the sediments where the 6,000-year-old skull was found detected hallmarks of a tsunami, with a composition remarkably similar to the remnants of a deadly 1998 tsunami that lashed the same area.

The skull was discovered near the town of Aitape, about 12 km inland from Papua New Guinea’s northern coast. It is one of the earliest human remains from the island of New Guinea, and initially was mistaken for a species called Homo erectus that died out about 140,000 years ago. Later scientific dating revealed it was actually 6,000 years old.

“As probably the oldest-known tsunami victim in the world, the Aitape skull speaks volumes about the long-term exposure of human populations along the world’s coastlines and how such events in the past will have undoubtedly had fundamental effects on human migration, settlement and culture,” said tsunami expert James Goff UNSW in Australia.

The scientists examined geological deposits at the river-bed site where the skull was found, identifying clear signs of tsunami activity. They spotted microscopic organisms from the ocean in the sediment, similar to those found in soil after the 1998 tsunami.

“We also employed chemistry and examined the size of sediment grains,” finding they were indicative of a tsunami, said anthropologist-archaeologist Mark Golitko of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and the Field Museum in Chicago.

The 1998 Papua New Guinea tsunami killed more than 2,000 people, wiped out villages, destroyed crops and forced many survivors to relocate. The tsunami 6,000 years ago apparently was similar.

“Much like the 1998 tsunami, we suspect that one or more large waves very suddenly impacted the coast, washing near-shore villages and anyone living there further back into swamps and lagoons that dot the coast,” Golitko said.

The research is published in PLOS ONE.

‘Russia’s Paris Hilton’ not a stooge for Putin, will give election ‘legitimacy’: expert

Reality TV star Ksenia Sobchak’s candidacy for next year’s Russian presidential election brings ‘legitimacy’ to the process for ordinary citizens, a leading expert told SBS News amid claims she was brought in by the Kremlin to split the opposition.

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Sobchak, 35, on Tuesday unveiled her plans to run against Vladamir Putin at the presidential election in March. 

The television personality was dubbed by Vogue magazine as the Russian version of US socialite Paris Hilton. 

The daughter of a former mayor of St Petersburg, for whom Putin once worked, said she does not expect to beat Putin – the runaway favorite for re-election in the poll if he chooses to run again. 

Some opposition activists including Putin-critic Alexei Navalny, claim she was a Kremlin “project” designed to split the opposition, something she vehemently denies.

Russian TV host Ksenia Sobchak, daughter of the late Russian politician Anatoly Sobchak, speaks during a press conference in Moscow, Russia (AAP)AAP

“I tell you honestly: I‘m running against everyone, and this refers to Vladimir Putin,” she told a news conference as she unveiled her campaign team. But she added: “I personally will not insult Putin.”

“For some, he is a tyrant and dictator… but for me this is a person who, first of all, helped my father in a difficult situation and de facto saved his life,” she said.

She did however state her opposition to Putin possibly running for a fourth term in power.

“I am against the corrupt system which was built in our country during these years and I am against anyone, including Putin, being in power for 18 years.”

“The fact that the country has no fair elections is the result of those 18 years.”

“It will be easy to present that picture of her simply because of the closeness of Putin with Sobchak’s father, they were very close and Putin worked for Sobchak’s father for a number of years in St Petersburg,” he told SBS News.

“If she does see herself as having any career in politics, what she needs to do is set herself apart from Putin but not completely break the ties with Putin, because Putin can be useful for her later on.”

Professor Gill said Putin would win the election if he ran, but admitted that Sobchak’s candidacy brings “legitimacy” to the election for ordinary citizens.

“It’s pretty clear that Putin is going to win; it would be a remarkable turn-up if he didn’t,” he said.

“It would mean that the whole system would cease to function in a way in which it had been over the last 10 or 15 years.

“Sobchak’s participation does give it a sense of legitimacy that it might otherwise not have had. The leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny says he’s going to run for presidency, but he’s legally forbidden to do so.

“She brings a public name, which most people in Russia will recognise, but it’s also a name that most of them won’t have any connection much with politics, so in that sense she’s really a reality TV star in the same way that Trump is. And therefore it’s difficult to see what she’s actually going to bring to the election, except perhaps a bit of glamour because the other candidates, none of them are particularly aspiring at this stage.”

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (R) shows his handcuffed hands during a hearing at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, 30 March 2017 (AAP) AAP

Professor Gill said the only way for Sobchak to gain popularity with the electorate was to focus on the “nuts and bolts” issues, such as the economy, the need for economic change and the need for improvement in the standard of living. 

“If she sees herself as running as an alternative to Putin, she’s going to have to generate a policy,” he said.

“If instead, she’s running as a stalking horse for Putin, well then she won’t do that, she’ll simply flounce around and make generalised statements.”

Connection to Putin

Sobchak is the daughter of Anatoly Sobchak, a reformist Petersburg mayor who hired Putin as an official in City Hall in the 1990s. Sobchak became his mentor. 

Sobchak lost the mayor’s job in a 1996 election. He later moved to France and became the subject of a criminal investigation in Russia for receiving bribes and abuse of office. He denied wrongdoing, saying the case was politically-motivated.

The case against him was dropped in 1999, soon after Putin became prime minister. When Sobchak died in 2000, Putin attended his funeral.

Opinion polls show that Putin, 65, who has dominated Russian politics for nearly two decades, will comfortably win re-election if, as most analysts expect, he decides to seek a fourth term in March. He has so far kept silent about his plans.

-With Reuters

AFLX could be put on pre-season backburner

The AFL’s contentious AFLX hybrid format is no certainty to be played this pre-season with key details still being sorted.

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The league on Thursday released pre-season fixtures, with each club to play two warm-up games rather than three.

But AFL broadcasting manager Travis Auld refused to say whether AFLX – played on a soccer-sized field between teams of seven – would be played next year.

“We’re not really in a position to finalise both the format and when we might program AFLX games,” Auld said.

“There’s no sticking points, it’s just a new product. New products take time to develop.

“We like to (proceed) pretty slowly with that stuff and we want to make sure that our format’s right, that our clubs have bought into the product and the journey of what we’re trying to do with it.”

The AFL have long been keen to explore a shortened format of the game, similar to Twenty20 cricket.

But support has been scarce, with Richmond great Kevin Bartlett last week branding it “a Mickey Mouse game … (that) would have no interest for fans”.

The AFL’s pre-season competition will played across three weeks from February 24 with a bye scheduled for each club.

With the season proper starting on March 23, it was expected AFLX could be played either side of the pre-season games.

Unlike previous years, regional grounds will be used in places like Colac, Moe and Wangaratta instead of major venues like Etihad Stadium.

There will also be no double-headers, with every AFL Women’s game played as a stand-alone fixture.

Key games include reigning premiers Richmond against Essendon in Wangaratta during the first round and Gold Coast facing Geelong – potentially featuring star recruit Gary Ablett – in Townsville on March 4.

“We think we’ve struck the right balance with two (games each),” Auld said.

Footprints reveal huge S.African dinosaur

Long before leo wore the crown, a mighty reptilian meat-eater that would have dwarfed the largest lion was King of the Jungle.

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Several three-toed footprints left by the two-legged “megatheropod” – an early forerunner of Tyrannosaurus rex – were found near the site of a prehistoric watering hole or river bank in the kingdom of Lesotho.

Experts calculated that the fearsome creature would have been around nine metres long and stood almost three metres tall at the hip.

It was four times the size of a lion, the largest carnivore in southern Africa today.

The dinosaur, named Kayentapus ambrokholohali, was much larger than any other meat-eating dinosaur previously discovered in Africa.

British team member Dr Fabien Knoll, from the University of Manchester, said: “The latest discovery is very exciting and sheds new light on the kind of carnivore that roamed what is now southern Africa.

“That’s because it is the first evidence of an extremely large meat-eating animal roaming a landscape otherwise dominated by a variety of herbivorous, omnivorous and much smaller carnivorous dinosaurs. It really would have been top of the food chain.”

Each of the footprints, preserved in rock over many millions of years, measured 57cm long and 50cm wide.

The footprints were found in the Maseru district of Lesotho by an international team of experts who described the find in the journal Public Library of Science ONE.

Co-author Dr Lara Sciscio, from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, said: “This discovery marks the first occurrence of very large carnivorous dinosaurs in the Early Jurassic of southern Gondwana, the prehistoric continent which would later break up and become Africa and other landmasses.

“This makes it a significant find. Globally, these large tracks are very rare. There is only one other known site similar in age and sized tracks, which is in Poland.”