First Irish gay marriages likely in July

August 7th, 2019

Ireland’s new laws on gay marriage will be enacted by the end of July.


After the country’s resounding support in a world-first vote, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said on Monday she was working to fulfil the wishes of same-sex couples who want to wed as soon as possible.

With the standard three-month notification to register a wedding day, the first ceremonies are likely to take place in the country’s autumn.

“The Irish people have chosen decisively to extend the right to marry to same-sex couples,” Fitzgerald said.

“I am particularly proud that the right to marriage equality will now be enshrined in our constitution as a result of a popular vote. I would like to compliment all of those who voted and who campaigned on both sides for what was a passionate and yet civilised referendum campaign.

“I am very conscious that many couples will want to get married as soon as possible. I am working to make that happen.”

Government officials are currently drafting the Marriage Bill to reflect the vote and constitutional change.

It is expected to be finalised in June when it will go to Cabinet before passing through both houses of the parliament in Dublin.

The new laws will also give same-sex couples who have already made plans to enter a civil partnership to switch their notification to a planned marriage.

“This means that couples who have already registered their intention to enter a civil partnership will be instead able to get married once the law is enacted on the basis of the same registration of intent,” the minister said.

The referendum made Ireland the only country where same-sex marriage reform was backed by popular vote.

Real sack coach Ancelotti after mediocre season

August 7th, 2019

“The board of directors have decided this evening to relieve Carlo Ancelotti of his duties,” president Florentino Perez told a news conference on Monday.


“It was a very difficult decision … but we have not come to Real Madrid to take easy decisions but to take decisions that we believe are the best for an institution that is a reference point around the world,” added the construction magnate.

“The demands are huge and we believe it is the right moment to give fresh impetus that will allow us to win more titles and reach our optimum competitive level in a new phase.”

The club will announce a successor next week, Perez said, and local media say former Liverpool and Chelsea boss Benitez, who once had a stint as a Real youth team coach, is the frontrunner to replace Ancelotti.

Others to have been linked with the job are German Juergen Klopp, who has quit Borussia Dortmund, and former Real player Michel who has had spells running the B team at the Bernabeu and clubs including Getafe and Sevilla.

Italian Ancelotti, who had a three-year contract that was due to run until the end of next season, led the club to a record-extending 10th European crown and a King’s Cup triumph in his first term in charge in 2013-14.

However, this term they were eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals by Juventus while Barcelona won their fifth La Liga title in seven years. Real also lost to Atletico Madrid in the King’s Cup last 16 in January.

Real won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup but Ancelotti’s failure to win any of the three trophies that make up the traditional treble was deemed unacceptable.

Perez’s decision came despite strong public backing for Ancelotti from players including top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, midfielder Luka Modric and forward James Rodriguez.

Ancelotti told the Italian daily Il Giornale on Monday he was suffering from cervical stenosis and would be travelling to Vancouver for an operation.

The condition, a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck area or upper part of the spine, has caused tingling in his hands and was part of the reason he planned to take a year off if Real sacked him, he told the paper.

After Real announced his sacking, Ancelotti said on his Twitter feed: “I leave with the memory of two fantastic years… thank you to the club, the fans and my players.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Six Aussies into French Open second round

August 7th, 2019

Nick Kyrgios hailed Australia’s “unbelievable” start to the French Open after leading six through to the second round at Roland Garros.


Kyrgios and fellow seeded flagbearers Samantha Stosur and Bernard Tomic, along with teenage ace Thanasi Kokkinakis and exciting young imports Daria Gavrilova and Ajla Tomljanovic all advanced in Australia’s best start to the claycourt major in five years.

“It’s unbelievable,” Kyrgios said after outclassing Denis Istomin 6-3 6-4 6-3 in his first outing as a grand slam seed.

“I am really, really happy with Thanasi getting through. Bernard surprised me a little bit today. He fought really well and Dasha (Gavrilova) has been playing some really good tennis, and Sam as well.

“All in all, it was a pretty good day for the Aussies.”

Riding high after claiming her first title of the year in Strasbourg at the weekend, Stosur swept past American Madison Brengle 6-1 6-3 in 77 minutes.

“It was a good start. I guess I was in control of the match and it was on my racquet,” Stosur said.

“I just had to keep concentrating, keep doing the things that were working and I thought I did pretty well.”

Stosur’s victory thrust the 26th seed and former finalist into a meeting on Wednesday with French wildcard Amandine Hesse, who earlier eliminated Jarmila Gajdosova in three sets.

Still struggling with a virus that forced his withdrawal from last week’s Nice Open, Tomic dug in for an impressive 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory over Italian qualifier Luca Vanni.

“It was not easy. He beat me before, so I was very happy to win,” Tomic said.

“I wasn’t feeling that good. Still sick. I’m getting better, but still a little bit down. So it was tough out there.

“Everything felt much, much longer than it was. I was really feeling the fatigue out there. Happy I won in the end.”

Tomic’s first victory at Roland Garros since 2012 and Kokkinakis’ 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 success over Georgian qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili set up a second-round showstopper between the Davis Cup teammates.

The reward for Wednesday’s victor is a likely third-round shot at world No.1 Novak Djokovic.

“Yeah, I’d love to get a crack at Novak, but Bernie is a tough task,” Kokkinakis said after claiming his first-ever win at Roland Garros.

“I’ve got to go out and try and play the ball. I know his game and he knows mine.

“I think we know what each other is going to try to do.”

A quarter-finalist at Wimbledon and the Australian Open in the past 10 months, Kyrgios next faces British qualifier Kyle Edmund and has a golden opportunity to book a third-round blockbuster with Andy Murray.

“I’ve tried not to think about it, but it is hard not to,” Kyrgios said.

“On social media, I see it every day – Kyrgios v Murray, third round – and I hadn’t even won a round yet.

“So I have probably thought about it.”

Tomljanovic crushed compatriot Casey Dellacqua 6-2 6-2 in 62 minutes to set up a second-round clash German 11th seed Angelique Kerber, while Gavrilova added to Australia’s triumphant day with 6-1 7-6 (7-3) victory over Swede Johanna Larsson.

The Russian-born 21-year-old’s maiden grand slam win earned her a crack at 20th-seeded German Sabine Lisicki.

Like Dellacqua, Jarmila Gajdosova, Sam Groth and Marinko Matosevic all crashed out on day two, but James Duckworth will be looking to continue Australia’s flying start when he plays Italian qualifier Andrea Arnaboldi on Tuesday.


27-Bernard Tomic bt Luca Vanni (ITA) 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4

29-Nick Kyrgios bt Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-3 6-4 6-3

Thanasi Kokkinakis bt Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-2

Marinko Matosevic lost to Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) 6-1 6-2 6-4

Sam Groth lost to 21-Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-3 6-3

Women’s singles, first round

26-Samantha Stosur bt Madison Brengle (USA) 6-1 6-3

Daria Gavrilova bt Johanna Larsson (SWE) 6-1 7-6 (7-3)

Ajla Tomljanovic bt Casey Dellacqua 6-2 6-2

Jarmila Gajdosova lost to Amandine Hesse (FRA) 2-6 6-3 6-2


James Duckworth v Andrea Arnaboldi (ITA)

Levy heads 11 qualifiers from Walton Heath for U.S. Open

August 7th, 2019

Levy fired a six-under-par 66 on the Old Course in the morning and a five-under 67 on the New Course in the afternoon to lead 11 players who booked berths at the year’s second major.


Also advancing were India’s Shiv Kapur, England’s John Parry and Jason Palmer, Swede Alex Noren, Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, Germany’s Marcel Siem, South Africans Garth Mulroy, Tjaart van der Walt and Thomas Aiken and Australian Marcus Fraser.

Triple major champion Padraig Harrington missed out after rounds of 72 and 68.

“I’m really happy,” Levy told reporters after booking his place at the June 18-21 U.S. Open to be played at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington.

“I played really good golf…I was positive and had a good attitude.

“It will be my first time in the U.S. Open. I missed the Masters so it will be great to play another major.”

Palmer, renowned for his unusual one-handed chipping and bunker play technique, was elated to earn a maiden appearance at a major championship.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” the 30-year-old said after scores of 69 and 68. “I’ve always wanted to play in a major.

“I knew this would present a good opportunity to do it because I love Walton Heath.”

The final four spots on offer at Walton Heath were decided in a playoff after van der Walt carded a birdie and two eagles in his last six holes to make it a five-way tie for eighth place on five-under 139.

Fraser advanced at the first extra hole before van der Walt, Aiken and Mulroy secured their spots at the third extra hole, with Welshman Oliver Farr missing out.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes, editing by Tony Jimenez)

Islamic State faces battle in Iraq, bombs in Syria

August 7th, 2019

In Palmyra, the Syrian air force struck at buildings captured by the Sunni militant group, whose arrival has raised fears that the city’s famed Roman ruins will be destroyed.


The air force leveled Islamic State “hideouts” and killed a large number of its members around Palmyra’s military air base, Syrian state media said.

Islamic State has killed at least 217 people execution-style, including children, since it moved into the Palmyra area 10 days ago, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Another 300 soldiers were killed before the Syrian city was captured, the monitoring group said.

The insurgents reinforced Ramadi on Monday, deploying fighters in preparation for battle against security forces and paramilitary groups advancing on the provincial capital, which lies 110 km (70 miles) northwest of the capital, Baghdad.

Iraqi forces have regained ground east of Ramadi since launching a counter-offensive on Saturday, a week after it was overrun, and on Monday retook a rural area south of the city.

Police sources said Iraqi forces supported by Iran-backed Shi’ite militia and locally recruited Sunni tribal fighters had retaken parts of al-Tash, 20 km (12 miles) south of Ramadi.

Pro-government Sunni tribal fighters, with the help of the army, laid land mines to reinforce their defensive lines around Baghdadi, a settlement northwest of Ramadi which controls access to a major Iraqi air base. Islamic State attacked Baghdadi with seven suicide car bombs on Sunday.

In Ramadi, residents said trucks carrying Islamic State fighters arrived on Sunday evening.

Local man Abu Saed heard a commotion outside his house in the city’s southeastern Officers neighborhood. “I saw two trucks pull up outside with dozens of fighters carrying arms running quickly into nearby buildings and taking cover.”

Another resident said at least 40 fighters had jumped out of three trucks that arrived in the southern al-Tamim district on Sunday evening.

“They were carrying weapons and wearing mostly khaki dress with ammunition belts wrapped around their chests,” said Abu Mutaz. “They were talking in an Arabic dialect, they were not Iraqis.”

Major setback

The seizures of Ramadi and Palmyra were Islamic State’s biggest successes since a U.S.-led coalition launched an air war against it last year.

The near simultaneous victories against the Iraqi and Syrian armies have forced Washington to examine its strategy of bombing from the air while leaving fighting on the ground to local forces.

In a sharp criticism of Washington’s ally, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Sunday accused the Iraqi army of abandoning Ramadi to a much smaller enemy force.

A spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi dismissed the comments as “untimely and surprising at a time when Iraqi security forces are preparing to launch a counter offensive to retake Ramadi”.

The general in charge of Iran’s paramilitary activities in the Middle East said the United States and other powers were failing to confront Islamic State.

“Today, in the fight against this dangerous phenomenon, nobody is present except Iran,” said Major General Qassem Soleimani, who is often seen on the battlefields of Iraq.

But in a move that could mark an expansion of U.S. involvement in the conflict, Turkey said it and the United States had agreed in principle to give air support to some forces from Syria’s mainstream opposition.

Meanwhile, the United States and its allies carried out 10 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and 25 strikes in Iraq since Sunday, the U.S. military said.

Most of the strikes in Syria were in the northeast, near Al Hasakah, while in Iraq, Islamic State positions were attacked near Baghdadi, Bayji, Fallujah and Mosul, among other sites.

Days after taking Ramadi, Islamic State defeated Syrian government forces to capture Palmyra, home to 50,000 people and site of some of the world’s most extensive and best-preserved Roman ruins.

The Observatory said there had been no reports so far of Islamic State destroying Palmyra’s ruins and artifacts.

The militants have proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from territory they hold in Syria and Iraq. They have carried out mass killings in towns and cities they have captured, and destroyed ancient monuments, which they consider evidence of paganism.

In Syria, Hezbollah fighters captured two hilltops from al Qaeda’s Syria wing, the Nusra Front, in areas close to the Lebanese border and killed dozens of enemy combatants, Hezbollah-run al-Manar television reported on Monday.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil war. The group’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has vowed to clear the border area of Sunni Muslim militant groups that have carried out attacks on Lebanese soil.

(Reporting by Baghdad Bureau, Isabel Coles in Erbil, Sylvia Westall in Beirut, Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by David Stamp and Sonya Hepinstall)

Campaign underway to preserve Indigenous languages

July 7th, 2019

Globalisation has put Indigenous languages in a precarious position.




Studies indicate that by the end of the 21st century, 90 per cent of the world’s 7000 languages could be lost.


But academics and educators across the Pacific, where a third of the world’s living languages are from, are trying to halt the trend.


Will Mumford reports.


Actor Richard Green says he wants bring his native tongue Dharug, or Eyora, back to life.


Mr Green, who speaks eight Aboriginal languages, has joined academics, educators and linguists in calling for more effort to be put toward preserving the vast and diverse range of Indigenous languages in the Pacific.


The Pacific region is home to more than 2000 languages, however many are critically endangered and face the prospect of dying out in the coming decades.


A symposium at Sydney University has brought together experts in the field to discuss the status of indigenous languages in the French Pacific and Australia, and how we might better protect their future.


Professor Jaky Troy is the director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at the university and says when a language ceases to exist, it also has a broader cultural effect.


“It means that there is a lesser world. So when a language disappears in many ways the people associated with that language disappear, part of them disappears. All their knowledge, everything they know about themselves in their language goes with the language.”


There are around 250 languages spoken by Australia’s Indigenous communities, however many experts say there is a lack of engagement with and recognition of these languages.


Professor Troy says there needs to be a greater focus on language education in policy and the curriculum, as well as the arts and new media.


According to Professor Troy, Australia is behind other parts of the world when it comes to recognising and actively supporting the existence of native tongues.


“None of our Indigenous languages are national languages. We should have our languages alongside English, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Australia was the country in the world with 251 national languages – English, plus the other 250. It’s a sad thing that a lot of the countries where the English invaded English becomes the dominant language and is the only national language. But for other countries in the world, in spite of European invasion, the languages are recognised – so the French recognise the languages across French Polynesia, they are national languages as well in their constitutions.”


Actor Richard Green says better public knowledge of local languages would help us explain the world around us and its history.


“The whole city is covered in this very language we’re speaking about, when we’re concerning ourselves with the Sydney language – the Dharug, Eyora – in that it’s written on all the street signs, it’s written in all the suburbs… I mean Bondi does not mean waves crashing on rocks, it’s a five letter word that’s mispronounced. It’s Boondee and it means beach – so when are we going to be allowed to deal with our own language, instead of everyone else deciding what my Grandmother’s tongue was. “


Aboriginal actor and television presenter Ernie Dingo spoke at a public forum held as part of the symposium.


He says native languages represent a self-contained form of history.


And through the quirks and idiosyncracies of languages, Dingo says we can understand something about the culture and geography of the people who speak them.


“Language is very important for people’s identity. Before we had too much influences…you can tell where people come from by the sounds of the language because it reflects their environment.”


Professor Troy says the preservation of languages has been proven to result in positive health outcomes and gives people a sense of cultural awareness and identity.


“There are studies now that demonstrate that where people speak their languages their health is better. Chronic disease is reduced, youth suicide is dramatically reduced. If you, as an Aboriginal person know that you and your language are recognised nationally, you’re one of the people of the country. You’re no longer somebody who sits sideways while English and imported culture dominates. “






Explainer: What is the List of World Heritage in Danger?

July 7th, 2019

Peter Valentine, James Cook University

The List of World Heritage in Danger has recently come to the attention of Australians, as the World Heritage Committee considers whether the Great Barrier Reef belongs there.


What is the list, and what does getting onto it mean?

The World Heritage Convention and the ‘in danger’ list

The World Heritage Convention is an international convention adopted by UNESCO aimed at conserving the world’s most outstanding heritage sites. The convention covers 190 countries that voluntarily participate in it. Identifying potential world heritage places is the responsibility of each participating country.

The World Heritage Committee – a 21-member body established by the convention but with membership elected by the member states – decides which sites make the list (there are currently 1,007). Countries have to protect, conserve, communicate the value of, rehabilitate and transmit the sites to future generations.

The government of Honduras requested the World Heritage Committee place its Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve on the List in Danger because of its reduced capacity to manage the site. Lawlessness in the area led to illegal logging, fishing and land occupation, poaching and the presence of drug traffickers. Hjvannes/Wikimedia Commons

The World Heritage Committee also publishes a second list: the “List of World Heritage in Danger”.

Normally, for a site to enter this list, its country asks for help to address serious threats. But in cases of urgent need, the committee can inscribe a site immediately and without the agreement of its country. Currently, 46 World Heritage Sites, 20 of which are natural, are on the List in Danger.

The 46 sites currently on the List of World Heritage in Danger. UNESCO/Google Maps


How are sites added to the list?

The World Heritage Committee gets information about the state of conservation of sites from countries and from advisory bodies such as the IUCN (natural heritage) and ICOMOS (cultural heritage). Where threats have been identified or changes proposed that may adversely effect a World Heritage property, the committee may seek a detailed site examination. This happened on the Great Barrier Reef in 2012.


The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere, was put on the World Heritage in Danger List for excessive development. The Great Barrier Reef is under scrutiny for similar concerns. Asteiner/Wikimedia Commons

Two of the criteria used for placing a property on the list are ascertained and potential danger. Ascertained danger measures imminent threats, such as industrial development, to the site. Potential danger applies to development proposals that could undermine the essential character of the site.

Why list a site as ‘in danger’?

There are some advantages to a country of having a site listed as “in danger”. The World Heritage Committee can allocate funds to respond to the threats, typically under a plan drawn up with the country concerned. And it highlights to the world the threats that exist and encourages donor agencies to help.

For example, all five World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been on the endangered list since 1994, which has generated a large amount of international aid to support their rehabilitation. More than US$50 million has flowed not just from UNESCO but also from non-government organisations and from Belgium and Japan. This is an excellent example of the convention at work.


Garamba National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is home to the last known wild population of Northern White Rhinoceros. Continual poaching of the rhinos has caused the park to be added to the list on two separate occasions. Nuria Ortega/African Parks Network

Countries may seek to avoid listing (and any perceived shame attached to this) and address the concerns internally. This occurred when Ecuador’s Galapagos World Heritage Area was inscribed.

Ecuador initially opposed the listing and asked for time to resolve the concerns internally. This required a constitutional change to empower the federal government to take appropriate action. Much to Ecuador’s credit, this was accomplished.

Few other countries have taken such dramatic action to protect World Heritage. On two occasions when countries have failed to respond appropriately, the committee has taken the radical step to remove sites from both Heritage lists altogether. The first to be removed was Oman’s Arabian Oryx Sanctuary – a victim of the nation’s lust for oil.

Every such removal would be seen as a failure of the convention. The presumption is that a site is rehabilitated and then upgraded to its original standing on the World Heritage list.

While there has been some debate about its efficacy and there are different interpretations about the significance and meaning of listing a site as “in danger”, the process is a very clear first step in the potential removal of a site from the World Heritage List.

Peter Valentine is Adjunct Associate Professor at James Cook University and is a member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. He has received funding from State and Federal Governments for World Heritage work.

Hockey accused of rental ‘double dipping’

July 7th, 2019

Joe Hockey has been attacked for what one voter has called “double dipping” as the debate on paid parental leave turned to political allowances.


Less than a fortnight out from the Abbott Government’s second budget, the Treasurer took part in a special one guest episode of the ABC’s Q&A program, facing questions on budget measures, marriage equality and tax reform.

Mr Hockey was questioned by audience member Mark Travers over allowances for politicians living away from home.

It follows allegations from News Corp Australia that Mr Hockey has claimed more than $100,000 in allowances relating to a house owned by his wife.

Mr Hockey said the allowances were not taxpayer-funded subsidies, citing it as a payment that applies for public servants that travel away.

“It has been a common practice on all sides of politics because ultimately most people want to have the same place over a number of years where they can leave their toothbrush at night,” he said.

“That’s what you want, instead of a hotel room or whatever the case or renting different accommodation as people do… I was away 185 days last year. You try to have the same bed, try to have the same place to leave a shirt.”

‘I’m sorry if you have taken offence’

Mr Hockey also apologised for the debate around his budget’s new paid parental leave proposals, which has described parents accessing payments from both the government and employers as “rorters” who were “double dipping”.

When pressed by host Tony Jones, the Treasurer conceded the wording was wrong.

“Yes, I totally accept that,” he said.

“No problems. I accept that.”

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Mr Hockey took the chance to defend the government’s new PPL proposal, saying costs had to be cut to meet childcare funding commitments.

“It was patently obvious that in the case of the government, we were paying a full wage replacement paid parental leave scheme to government employees and then they were also claiming $11,500 from the government’s paid parental leave scheme which is separately delivered by Centrelink,” he said.

“From our perspective, you couldn’t do both and still put more money into childcare.”

‘It is like a sausage machine, right?’

Mr Hockey also continued his attack on the modelling commissioned by Labor which shows that the low income families will be hit hard by his second budget.

Modelling by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) in Canberra stated that a family with two children and a single income of $65,000 will be $6164 a year worse off by 2018-19.

The modelling has not been released in full, a move which Mr Hockey said was “flawed”.

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“We haven’t seen it,” he said.

“You are asking me about something I haven’t seen, the Government hasn’t seen and most of the media haven’t seen.”

Mr Hockey went on to compare economic modelling to a sausage machine, saying “what you put in and what comes out” could be frightening. 

Mercedes to hold factory inquest after Monaco gaffe

July 7th, 2019

Although they won Sunday’s showcase race for the third year in a row with Germany’s Nico Rosberg, the headlines were all about how the dominant team blew a surefire victory for Lewis Hamilton.


Hamilton had the race under control until the safety car was deployed some 14 laps from the end and the Briton was called in for a needless pitstop while rivals stayed out.

The world champion finished third, his overall lead over Rosberg halved to 10 points.

Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff said an extensive debrief had been carried out already involving about 100 personnel from the factory, engine side and trackside operations on Sunday evening.

“We discussed it in an overview and we get back together on Tuesday morning to analyse it and by then we will know where we had a gremlin in the system,” the Austrian told reporters.

Hamilton, who was excused the post-race debrief and usual team media duties in Monaco, is unlikely to attend after struggling to comprehend what had happened.

Others were equally mystified, with former racer David Coulthard among those saying the driver was badly let down.

Wolff said the decision to declare a ‘virtual safety car’, a new development since last season, followed by a real safety car and Hamilton complaining about the state of his tyres had caught the team out.

They thought he had enough time to pit and rejoin the race in the lead but the figures were wrong, seemingly misled by unreliable GPS readings around the winding street circuit.

“The system, showing us a clear possibility of a free stop, was wrong by a couple of seconds,” said Wolff. “In hindsight, if you look at it from a common sense standpoint, there is a very different logic.”

Wolff would not say who made the call to pit and added Mercedes would not play the blame game anyway.

“I rate that guy and his group just as highly as I did before the race. He was dragged in by a decision, fooled by the numbers,” said the boss.

“There is no doubt what happened. We had a problem in our data tools and those data tools have won us many great races.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Aussie to be sentenced in NY over drugs

July 7th, 2019

US prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence a Queensland prison counseller to a maximum 12.


5 years’ jail for his role in the massive global drug-trafficking website, Silk Road.

Peter Nash, 42, was facing a life sentence when he was arrested by the FBI and Australian authorities in Queensland in December, 2013.

However, prosecutors admitted Nash played a relatively minor role in Silk Road, had entered guilty pleas to drug trafficking conspiracy and money laundering charges and had an impressive history helping people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

“Given Nash’s unique circumstances – both in terms of his low-level role and his mitigating personal factors – the government believes that a below-guidelines sentence is appropriate,” prosecutors Serrin Turner and Timothy Howard told US District Court judge Thomas Griesa.

They have asked for a sentence of between 10 and 12.5 years, while Nash’s lawyer argues the Australian should be given a time-served sentence for the 18 months he has been held in Australian and US jails.

Nash will be sentenced in a Manhattan court on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST).

An undercover operation by US authorities shut Silk Road down on October 2, 2013.

“The website was designed to make conducting illegal transactions on the internet as easy and frictionless as shopping online at mainstream e-commerce websites,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing submission.

Nash was living a double life.

During the day he worked as a senior manager of the Forensic Disability Service in Wacol, Queensland, where he helped intellectually-disabled adults in or facing jail and in his off hours was paid $US1,000 a week as a Silk Road forum moderator.

He didn’t sell drugs on the site, but bought cocaine to feed his own addiction.

Nash on one occasion posted to a discussion thread tips on how drug sellers could evade narcotics detection efforts by Australian customs officers.

He wrote “Australian customs claim they inspect all international mail, either visually, with canine detection, or a scanner” but if vendors prepared their shipments “using non vapor permeable methods” then the chances of packages being scanned by Customs was “approximately nil”.

“The scope of the criminal activity supported through Silk Road was staggering,” prosecutors said.

The site had $US17.3 million in sales of cocaine, $US8.9 million in heroin and $US8.1 million in sales of methamphetamine.

“The dealers and buyers involved in these transactions were spread across the world, from Argentina to Australia, from the United States to the Ukraine,” prosecutors said.

San Francisco-based site creator Ross Ulbricht, known as Dread Pirate Roberts, was convicted in February of seven charges, including conspiring to commit drug trafficking and money laundering, and faces a life sentence.