Pistorius to face additional gun charges

17Aug

South African Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius is facing two additional gun-related charges at his trial for the murder of his girlfriend.

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The prosecution won permission to add the charges to their main case against Pistorius for the Valentine’s Day murder of Reeva Steenkamp, even though the two alleged violations are understood to have taken place before the killing.

“The prosecution received authorisation to combine or centralise all charges against Mr Pistorius,” National Prosecution Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube told AFP on Tuesday.

Pistorius’s defence team was informed of the decision on Tuesday, he said, adding that the charges were not new, without elaborating.

The double amputee, known as the “Blade Runner” for the fibreglass prosthetic legs he uses in competition, shocked the world when he admitted to killing Steenkamp, a blonde cover girl and law graduate.

He has however denied murder, saying he shot her through a locked bathroom door in his upmarket Pretoria home because he thought she was an intruder.

While Mncube was quoted later on Tuesday as stressing the “convenience” of having the cases heard together, prosecutors have hinted at a strategy that will portray Pistorius as trigger-happy and that the killing was pre-meditated.

According to local media, the sprint star once fired a shot through the sunroof of his former girlfriend Samantha Taylor’s car. He had also allegedly accidentally discharged a firearm at a Johannesburg restaurant, weeks before he killed Steenkamp.

Pistorius catapulted to fame at last year’s London Olympics as the first double-amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes.

But the killing sent shock waves around the world and since then his reckless past and love of fast cars, beautiful women and guns has emerged in the media.

One newspaper has dubbed him the “Blade Gunner”.

The trial of Pistorius, who is currently out on bail, is set for March 3 to 20 at the Pretoria High Court.

ODI final a fitting end to special series

17Aug

It’s only fitting that the record-breaking one-day series with world No.

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1 India comes down to a winner-takes-all final game, says Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

He describes Saturday’s game 7 clash in Bangalore as “grand final day”.

What started out as a fight for the No.1 ODI ranking has surely proven beyond doubt these are the two best 50-over sides in the world.

Washouts in games four and five ended world No.2 Australia’s hopes of stealing the home side’s top ODI ranking.

But the closeness of every contest shows just how evenly matched they are.

It’s a series that has produced the second and third highest successful ODI run chases in history.

Batting records have tumbled in every game, with Australian skipper George Bailey in exquisite touch while India’s Virat Kohli has proved equally unstoppable.

Had it not been for James Faulkner’s extraordinary 30-run over off Ishant Sharma which single-handedly stole victory for Australia in Mohali, this series would likely already be decided in India’s favour.

But after six games the score is 2-2 and series honours will now be taken by the winner in Bangalore.

“It’s grand final day now, and I think it is very fitting that it comes down to a deciding match,” Haddin told AAP.

“There’s been some outstanding cricket played throughout the whole series.

“It’s obviously been very attractive to watch and there’s been some very special performances right the way through.

“To be playing for the series … it’s exciting and is exactly what this series deserves.”

The flow of runs is unlikely to slow in Bangalore, with smaller boundaries and generally placid pitches tipped to deliver another nightmare for the bowlers.

“It’s certainly a very high-scoring ground,” allrounder Shane Watson said.

“…Hopefully not (this time), for the bowlers’ sake. Otherwise there might be a few bowlers are a little despondent on the flight home.”

Watson said the one-day format was a different game these days, following significant rule changes introduced this year – notably the requirement for one more fielder to be inside the 30-yard circle.

“No doubt it provides a really big challenge for the bowlers and also George as captain to be able to try and find ways to defend a big total like we’ve been able to get,” Watson said.

“It’s certainly changed the dynamic of one-day cricket.”

Australia’s task is made even more difficult following Cricket Australia’s decision to fly fast bowler Mitchell Johnson home ahead of the Ashes.

Johnson has been the most effective bowler of the series, leading with seven wickets, and is expected to force his way into Michael Clarke’s Gabba Test lineup after terrorising the Indian middle order.

“Obviously it’s a loss and we’ll miss Mitch, but that’s cricket these days,” Haddin said.

“He’s gone home in the best interest in Australian cricket to prepare himself to hopefully bowl his way into an Ashes squad.”

Johnson will likely be replaced by fast-bowling allrounder Nathan Coulter-Nile.

While still in doubt, batsman Adam Voges’ chances of featuring have improved after he reacted well to treatment on a back injury suffered in Wednesday’s thrilling loss.

CMC boss ‘curries favour’ to keep position

17Aug

The head of Queensland’s independent corruption watchdog has been accused of acting like the government’s puppet in a bid to be reappointed.

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Crime and Misconduct Commission acting chairman Dr Ken Levy wrote an unsolicited opinion piece on Thursday backing the state government’s controversial anti-bikie laws.

Members of the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee (PCMC), which oversees the CMC, told him on Friday morning he’d compromised his independence.

“The opposition no longer has any confidence in you continuing as acting chair and I believe that your position now is untenable,” Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk told him at a committee hearing.

Independent MP Peter Wellington said the CMC chairman had used his position “to effectively become a puppet for the government”.

“I no longer have confidence in Dr Levy’s independence heading the most powerful organisation in Queensland,” he told AAP.

“I believe it’s untenable for the government to extend his appointment and it should immediately call for expressions of interest for a new chair.”

Corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald and civil libertarians also accused Dr Levy of bias and undermining the CMC’s independence.

Dr Levy defended himself, saying he’d confined comments to issues within the bounds of the CMC, which was tasked with fighting crime, including criminal bikie gangs.

When asked whether he’d consulted anyone about the article, he said: “No, it’s my composition”.

Mr Wellington said it appeared Dr Levy’s opinion piece was “all about currying favour with the government”.

A call for nominations for a permanent CMC chair is due in about two weeks.

The government’s candidate must be approved by the PCMC, but that committee could be bypassed if the government simply extends Dr Levy’s tenure as acting chairman.

When asked on Friday if he would support Dr Levy’s nomination as permanent chairman, Premier Campbell Newman said: “Of course”.

Murray not sure he’ll make Australian Open

17Aug

Wimbledon champion Andy Murray will only compete in next year’s Australian Open if he feels capable of mounting a serious challenge to win it.

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Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon for 77 years in July, but he missed the latter part of the season after undergoing surgery on his back in September.

He is now working his way back to full fitness, but says he will not cut any corners in his preparations for the Australian Open, which begins on January 13.

“I would be disappointed to miss the Australian Open because it’s a grand slam. It is a tournament all the players want to play at,” he said on Thursday.

“But when you start setting targets — especially when you are coming back from having surgery on your back; it’s a serious thing to have done — (it is important) that you don’t come back just to play a match or to the Australian Open.

“If I come back, I want to be in shape to win it. I can look at this in a lot of positive ways and if I do get myself ready for it, I will have had a long lead-up and training block, really, to get myself in the best possible shape.

“Whether I make it or not depends on how things go once I get back on the tennis court. I haven’t been on the tennis court yet, so I’m not sure.”

It is now six weeks since Murray’s operation and he says he intends to return to the court for the first time next week.

“Rehab has been going well. I haven’t hit any balls yet, but all is on track,” said the world number four.

“I’m hoping to hit a couple of balls next week, but very few and very light just to see how it is and I will start to progress from there. I have still got quite a way to go until I am 100 per cent.”

Murray was speaking at the launch of his new racquet, made by Head, at London’s Queens Club.

Surprise success for Scandidramas

17Aug

Why has the Western world fallen in love with Nordic noir thrillers?

Danish public broadcaster DR gained a reputation for quality television with the success of The Killing, a police thriller that was watched all over the globe.

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And now, the third and final season of Borgen is set to premiere in Denmark, having become one of the highest-selling television series in modern history.

But before Borgen hit record highs, the idea that the show could follow the path of unexpected global hit The Killing seemed too good to be true.

“When it started travelling I just couldn’t believe it,” says Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudson, who plays the role of Danish Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg Christensen.

Sidse Babett Knudsen interview:

When he landeded the role of the Prime Minister’s spin doctor Kasper, actor Pilou Asbaek was certain the show wouldn’t be a global hit.

“It’s about Danish politics, with a spin doctor and a journalist. It has absolutely no international potential at all.”

Asbaek is pleased about the show’s success, but finds it difficult to deal with his newfound fame.

“One third of the population in Denmark watches the show, so I am very thankful that I got the opportunity. But I am also angry because it’s more difficult to shop alone now and buy toilet paper.”

Screened in 120 countries, both series are set in Copenhagen, but brought to life in DR’s space-age studios in a series of elaborate, purpose built sets.

The public broadcaster has now produced two critically acclaimed series, on a drama budget one eighth of the size of the BBC.

DR Head of Fiction Nadia Klovedal Reich admits she was surprised at the success of the shows, but understands why they appeal to a global audience.

“We are a little country with a small budget for drama but we also have a lot of good stories to tell in Denmark. We feel that the shows we are doing have something for the heart and for the mind…we are kind of rough and soft at the same time.”

Pilou Asbaek too has theories about the secret to Scandinavia’s success.

“I have some ideas. One of them is that Danish drama is a mixture of business life and personal life. I think that people really like that they can see people with power in their own private homes. And the other one is that there are strong female characters and I don’t know how it is in Australia, but in Denmark right now the strongest persons in the country are female.”

Pilou Asbaek interview:

“I think it’s easier to be a woman prime minister in the fictional world,” says Babett Knudson.

“In no episode do we talk about my clothes, or my handbags, or my haircut, which they do much more with female politicians than male politicians.”

The imminent third and final instalment of the political thriller will bring an end to one of Denmark’s most successful productions.

However, Kovendal Reich isn’t wasting any time looking back.

“It’s actually not [sad] because we are on our way with news shows we have all our creative energy in now…so it’s okay to say goodbye to Borgen.” 

The success of The Killing and Borgen has paved the way for Denmark’s next Nordic noir adventure: ten part series The Legacy, which is due to be released in January 2014.

Producer of The Legacy Karoline Leth admits it is a bit daunting to be working in the aftermath of such global success, but she isn’t deterred.

“I think the best thing is not to feel the pressure.”