Monthly Archives: June 2019

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Mum Karlie killed before daughter: cop

A mobile phone believed to belong to the man charged with murdering Karlie Pearce-Stevenson was in the Belanglo State Forest near the spot where the single mother’s remains were found, police will allege.

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Daniel James Holdom appeared via video link at Maitland Local Court on Thursday, charged with the murder of Ms Pearce-Stevenson, five years after her remains were found dumped in the notorious forest south of Sydney.

Police on Thursday also revealed they now believe Ms Pearce-Stevenson was killed a short time before her daughter Khandalyce Pearce was murdered.

The remains of the toddler were found in July, dumped on the side of a highway more than 1000km away in South Australia.

Holdom has not been charged in relation to Khandalyce’s death.

It’s understood police have been able to trace a telephone belonging to Holdom via pings off mobile phone towers in the Belanglo State Forest, which put the phone near the location where Ms Pearce-Stevenson’s remains were found, at about the time of her death.

Police believe she was murdered on either December 14 or December 15, 2008.

At a media conference in Sydney before Holdom’s first court appearance, Detective Superintendent Mick Willing said Ms Pearce-Stevenson “sustained certain injuries to her body” but refused to add details as investigations are ongoing.

Det Supt Willing said police believe the Alice Springs mother, who was last seen alive in Charnwood in Canberra, was murdered before her daughter.

“We believe that Khandalyce was murdered at some point after Karlie but we are trying to establish the exact time,” he said.

“Now we know that others have knowledge of what occurred to Karlie and Khandalyce and we need those people to come forward. The time to do that is now.”

Asked if his client had indicated if he had known Ms Pearce-Stevenson, lawyer Peter Cleaves replied: “No.”

Holdom, 41, did not apply for bail and it was formally refused, with Mr Cleaves, later saying “extensive” enquiries would be necessary before a plea could be determined.

“He’ll await advice,” Mr Cleaves said outside the court.

Mr Cleaves said he had spoken with Holdom for about 20 minutes.

Holdom, who was dressed in matching shirt and trousers and had short-cropped hair, said little during his brief appearance.

A request by Mr Cleaves for Holdom to not appear was refused by Magistrate John Chicken.

“Given the nature of the charge … I think it’s appropriate he be brought on screen,” Mr Chicken said.

The court appearance came after police on Tuesday revealed Ms Pearce-Stevenson’s identity, bank account and mobile phone were used for years after her death to mislead family and defraud social services.

Her skeletal remains were discovered in August 2010 in Belanglo State Forest.

Inquires are continuing into the murder of her daughter, aged two at the time of her death.

The toddler’s remains were found with a suitcase close to a highway near the town of Wynarka, about 130km east of Adelaide.

Holdom will next appear in Sydney’s Central Local Court on November 12.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to face most serious kind of court-martial in Army desertion case

Army Sgt.

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Bowe Bergdahl will face general court-martial in connection with his 2009 disappearance from his base in Afghanistan, the service announced on Monday, raising the possibility that the soldier could face life in prison after being held captive for five years.

Bergdahl, 29, is charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He has been a political lightning rod since he was exchanged in May 2014 in a prisoner swap approved by the White House in which five Taliban officials were released from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and kept under supervised watch in Qatar.

The decision was made by Gen. Robert Abrams, the four-star commander of US Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It came after Bergdahl broke his silence last week by participating in the popular podcast ‘Serial’. The weekly podcast obtained 25 hours of recorded conversations between Bergdahl and film producer Mark Boal with Bergdahl’s approval.

The decision is more severe than what was recommended by an Army officer, Lt. Col. Mark Visger, who oversaw a two-day hearing for Bergdahl’s case in September, according to Bergdahl’s lawyer. Visger recommended that Bergdahl face a lower form of judicial proceeding known as a special court-martial, which would have come with a maximum penalty of 12 months of confinement.

An arraignment hearing will be held at a later date at Fort Bragg, Army officials said. Bergdahl is currently assigned to Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, with a desk job.

General court-martial is the highest level of trial in the military justice system. If convicted, Bergdahl could face anywhere from life in prison to no confinement. Desertion can carry a death penalty, but Army officials have said that will not occur in Bergdahl’s case. No U.S. service member has been executed for desertion since World War II.

Bergdahl’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, said Monday that Abrams “did not follow the advice of the preliminary hearing officer.” Bergdahl’s defense team “had hoped the case would not go in this direction,” Fidell said.

“We will continue to defend Sgt. Bergdahl as the case proceeds,” Fidell said. “We again ask that Donald Trump cease his prejudicial monthslong campaign of defamation against our client. We also ask that the House and Senate Armed Services Committees avoid any further statements or actions that prejudice our client’s right to a fair trial.”

A spokesman for Abrams, John Boyce, said that the decision to go forward with a general court-martial now has nothing to do with Bergdahl’s participation in the “Serial” podcast.

Bergdahl left a tiny combat outpost June 29, 2009, just before midnight in an area in which the Taliban were known to operate. He wanted to cause a large enough crisis to get the attention of a general officer and relay concerns he had about his leaders, according to a senior officer who investigated his case, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, and Bergdahl in the recording released through ‘Serial’. The designation is known as a DUSTWUN, an acronym short for “duty status-whereabouts unknown.”

Bergdahl was captured within hours, and moved within days over the border into Pakistan. His loss prompted a monthslong manhunt that ran American troops in the region ragged and spawned operations in which their lives were put in danger, Army officials allege.

Bergdahl, meanwhile, was held by the Haqqani network, a group affiliated with the Taliban. He was moved several times over the next five years, tortured and kept primarily in the dark and isolated from other people.

Bergdahl said on a ‘Serial’ episode released last week that within 20 minutes of him leaving his base, Observation Post Mest-Malak, with plans to go to the larger Forward Operating Base Sharana, he had second thoughts. He realised he would face a “hurricane of wrath” from commanding officers, and deviated from his plan to find intelligence that he hoped would make the Army go easier on him, but got lost in some hills and captured by Taliban on motorcycles, he said.

“Doing what I did is me saying that I am like, I don’t know, Jason Bourne. . .. I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world that I was the real thing,” Bergdahl said. “You know, that I could be what it is that all those guys out there that go to the movies and watch those movies, they all want to be that, but I wanted to prove that I was that.”

Dahl, the investigating officer of the case, said during the preliminary hearing in September that Bergdahl had outsize perceptions of his own ability as a soldier, and judged others unrealistically harshly. Other soldiers in Bergdahl’s unit did not see the same problems with leadership that he did, Dahl said.

A panel of psychiatrists found that Bergdahl was suffering from a mental defect when he walked away from his base, Fidell said during the hearing.

A former enlisted specialist in Bergdahl’s infantry company, Jon Thurman, said in a phone interview on Monday that he wasn’t surprised by the Army going forward with a general court-martial. Thurman, who also was interviewed for ‘Serial’, speculated that Bergdahl’s comments in the podcast could hurt his case.

“When that first episode aired, I mean, he sort of hung himself by saying that he walked off and was kinda thinking about doing his own Jason Bourne thing,” Thurman said. “The guilty verdict might come from just that.”

Thurman doesn’t know what will happen during the coming proceedings but just wants to see Bergdahl punished.

“I want to see him serve time for what he did,” he said.

Another soldier in Bergdahl’s battalion, former Capt. Nathan Bethea, said that he was dumbfounded when he heard Bergdahl say on ‘Serial’ that he deliberately walked away, even though his legal team had acknowledged it previously.

“Hearing it his own voice, hearing him say I deliberately caused a DUSTWUN, it’s hard for me to get away from saying, ‘Hey, this is desertion and misbehavior before the enemy,'” Bethea said. “After I heard it, there’s no way to get away from it.”

A spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., whose office has closely tracked the case, questioned whether Bergdahl participating in the podcast may have forced the Army to seek the most serious form of trial.

“He came across nuttier than anyone could have foreseen, and there was already consensus he wasn’t all together to begin with,” said the spokesman, Joe Kasper. “There has to be little sympathy left, where there was some to take.”

Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, expressed frustration that the case continues to be politicized. Republicans in the House Armed Services Committee accused the White House in a report released last week of having an ulterior motive in exchanging Bergdahl for Taliban officials: closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison.

The report said that the congressional committee will “remain abreast of the disciplinary process which is underway” and “ensure that standard procedures are properly implemented and administered.”

The case should be handled by the courts, not politicians, Fidell said.

“That’s not their role at all,” Fidell said of the committee. “This is a dog whistle.”

Budget deficit blows out to $37.4 billion

The federal budget deficit for the 2015/16 financial year is now forecast to be $37.

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4 billion, but the Australian economy is heading in the right direction, Treasurer Scott Morrison insists.

“Strengthening our nation’s finances is a core component of our national plan for jobs and growth,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Perth.

It compares with the $35.1 billion deficit predicted at the time of the May budget, the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook released on Tuesday shows.

The result is down to “considerably weaker” tax receipts from falling commodity prices, low wages growth and weaker equity markets.

Mr Morrison said government spending as a share of GDP had been pared back to 25.9 per cent and will fall to 25.3 per cent.

All policy decisions taken since the budget, including the cost of Senate negotiations, had been more than offset by the savings measures in MYEFO by almost $400 million.

“These results better the average of market expectations that have been reported over the last few days and are the result of the government focusing on what it can control rather than on the things it can’t,” the treasurer said.

“We have adopted a measured approach that avoids extreme responses that would place a handbrake on household consumption and business investment growth and unnecessarily threaten the fresh new momentum emerging in our transitioning economy.”

Journey to surplus ‘like a family holiday’

Mr Morrison likened the journey back to surplus to a family holiday.

“The family saying are we there yet, are we there yet?” he said.

“The path back to budget balance is similar to that. We need to take a safe and careful route and one that does not put at risk our jobs and growth.”

The government’s plan was about restraining expenditure while supporting economic growth to lift revenue, Mr Morrison said.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government had stuck to its fiscal discipline.

A key savings measure was a crackdown on welfare cheats by using better data matching to ensure payments were within the rules.

“Importantly, the spending reductions that we have been able to achieve are sensible, they are measured, they are focused on improving consistency, integrity and efficiency across commonwealth government payments,” he said.

They also help the government continue to head in the right direction and get the budget back into balance as soon as possible.

KEY SPENDING SINCE THE MAY BUDGET

$1.1b over two years for Roads to Recovery programResettling of 12,000 Syrian refugees ($909m over four years)New medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme ($621m over four years)Management of illegal boat arrivals in Australia ($500m over two years)Innovation programs ($459m over three years)

KEY SAVINGS SINCE THE MAY BUDGET

Recovering money from welfare cheats ($704m over three years)Changes to bulk-billing ($639m over four years)Streamlining funding across health workforce programs ($595m over four years)Childcare system changes ($441m over four years)Aged care funding changes ($472m over three years)

Morrison says economy on right track

The Australian economy is heading in the right direction, Treasurer Scott Morrison insists.

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Mr Morrison on Tuesday released the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook which revealed a 2015/16 budget deficit of $37.4 billion, up from the $35.1 billion forecast in May.

“Strengthening our nation’s finances is a core component of our national plan for jobs and growth,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Perth.

Mr Morrison said government spending as a share of GDP had been pared back to 25.9 per cent and will fall to 25.3 per cent.

All policy decisions taken since the budget, including the cost of Senate negotiations, had been more than offset by the savings measures in MYEFO by almost $400 million.

“These results better the average of market expectations that have been reported over the last few days and are the result of the government focusing on what it can control rather than on the things it can’t,” the treasurer said.

“We have adopted a measured approach that avoids extreme responses that would place a handbrake on household consumption and business investment growth and unnecessarily threaten the fresh new momentum emerging in our transitioning economy.”

Mr Morrison likened the journey back to surplus to a family holiday.

“The family saying are we there yet, are we there yet?” he said.

“The path back to budget balance is similar to that. We need to take a safe and careful route and one that does not put at risk our jobs and growth.”

The government’s plan was about restraining expenditure while supporting economic growth to lift revenue, Mr Morrison said.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government had stuck to its fiscal discipline.

A key savings measure was a crackdown on welfare cheats by using better data matching to ensure payments were within the rules.

“Importantly, the spending reductions that we have been able to achieve are sensible, they are measured, they are focused on improving consistency, integrity and efficiency across commonwealth government payments,” he said.

They also help the government continue to head in the right direction and get the budget back into balance as soon as possible.

Bob Dylan inspires medical scientists

Bob Dylan’s lyrics have inspired a generation including, it seems, medical scientists.

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It’s just been revealed that they’ve long been referencing the American troubadour’s words in their published papers.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ tops the list with 135 articles, while Blowin’ In The Wind comes in second with 36.

Other popular titles include All Along The Watchtower, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and Like A Rolling Stone.

The unusual research, published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ, flows from the disclosure last year that a group of scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet had been sneaking the lyrics of the singer-songwriter into their papers as part of a long-running bet.

That inspired a Karolinska librarian and two colleagues to investigate the use of Dylan’s lyrics in titles of biomedical papers further afield over the years.

They did a search of all his song and album titles, as well as looking for truncated versions of a selection of Dylan’s most popular songs to find modified titles.

In all, 213 of 727 references were classified as unequivocally citing Dylan.

The earliest reference was in 1970 in the Journal of Practical Nursing, but only a handful continued the practice until 1990.

“However, since then, the number of articles has increased exponentially,” wrote librarian Carl Gornitzki.

The authors suggest the reason is “that some of the young and radical students of the 1960s who listened to Dylan ended up as medical doctors and scientists and, perhaps more importantly, as editors of journals in the 1990s and onwards”.

“A more liberal attitude towards eccentric article titles in general could also partially explain our findings.”

DYLAN INSPIRATION

* Blowin’ in the Wind – The BMJ editorial title about the risk of hang gliding

* The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Burns journal article starts by paraphrasing Dylan with “Come editors and authors throughout the land”

* Like a rolling histone – used in review of epigenetics

* Knockin’ on pollen’s door: live cell imaging of early polarisation events in germinating Arabidopsis pollen