Life review Jake Gyllenhaal hits the retro rockets for sub-Alien space horror

Gyllenhall and Ryan Reynolds play members of a scientific team investigation material from Mars that turns out to contain a hostile life-form

Like the anonymous phone call in a horror film that turns out to be coming from inside the house, Life is a sci-fi thriller about a contamination crisis: a crisis that goes on pretty much uninterruptedly for around an hour and three quarters. Its a serviceable, watchable, determinedly unoriginal film starring Jake Gyllenhaal about a parasite-predator in a spaceship, a creature which can only survive by feeding off a pre-existing host. The expressions on the spacepersons faces here may give a guide to the feelings of Ridley Scott and everyone involved with the 1979 classic Alien when they see it. Life is indebted to Alien, to say the least, although its final, perfunctory hint of a conspiracy doesnt approach Aliens powerful satirical pessimism.

Actually, Lifes screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (known for box-office smash Deadpool) seem also to have been as impressed as everyone else by Alfonso Cuarns sci-fi drama Gravity, with their scenes of lone astronauts wobbling about outside the spaceship which is always liable to get smashed to low-tech smithereens. At the last moment, Reese and Wernick and director Daniel Espinosa hit their retro-rockets for a neat little 180-degree twist, thankfully reversing the prevailing mood of sucrose fatalism. It has the audience leaving the cinema with ironic grins on their faces.

Life is about a liaison spacecraft which at some time in the future is hovering outside Earths atmosphere, acting as both floating science lab and halfway house. An automated craft is about to arrive from Mars after a long flight, freighted with red rock and dust. The crew must effectively catch this craft, like a mailbag chucked from a speeding train, decant its contents and analyse them in secure conditions which mean that any possible bacteria contained in this material dont infect anyone down on earth. But to their astonishment and excitement, the crew find that within the dust is what looks like a tiny, living monocellular organism. They have given a big fat yes to David Bowies immortal question.

Ryan
Loyal … Ryan Reynolds in Life. Photograph: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

A schoolkid back on the home planet wins a competition to name this entity and her choice of Calvin might annoy the Catholic church until it becomes clear what kind of a creature Calvin is. Its growing at an alarming rate in its petri dish, like a little two-armed jellyfish the size of a nickel. Then it grabs the little spatula with which one of the scientists is prodding it, with surprising strength and hostility. And it keeps on growing.

The crew itself is international and diverse: their missions sponsors are described as American, Russian and Chinese although that might just be a description of the films target market territories. Gyllenhaal is the quiet, introspective Dr David Jordan, Ryan Reynolds plays hot-tempered and fiercely loyal crew member Roy Adams, who is a good friend to the chief scientist Dr Hugh Derry, played by Ariyon Bakare. Rebecca Ferguson plays the supervising medic Dr Miranda North and Olga Dihovnichnaya is another scientist, Katarina Golovkin.

As Calvin gets bigger and bigger and more and more resourceful, the film seems always to be echoing to the sound of doors and pods and hatches being clanged shut, just in time, as Calvin lands on them with an almighty squelch or too late, and Calvin slithers through. Perhaps its appropriate for a country obsessed with walls and boundaries. The metaphorical potential is cutely signalled early on when Rory says that the teams proposal to cultivate an organism from the tiny life-form is some Reanimator shit a movie reference Dr North dismisses as irritatingly obscure, although the Frankensteinian-hubris parallel isnt wholly out of line. Later, Adams is seen with a copy of Freuds Interpretation of Dreams, and it could be that in dreams, or in waking life, the idea of a yucky, tiny little beastie getting bigger and bigger signals all kinds of fear: fear of sex, fear of invasion, fear of penetration. However, the legendary jump-scare for John Hurt at the beginning of Alien did all that much more effectively.

The crews memories of the kids bedtime book Goodnight Moon are supposed to lend a little gentleness and humanity to the film, and a bit of a narrative breather, but this third-act conceit only succeeds in replacing a creeping sense of tiredness with sentimentality. Much better is the jeopardy and tension of the movies final sequence. He leaves it very late, but Espinosa brings his film back to life.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/mar/22/life-review-jake-gyllenhaal-ryan-reynolds-alien-space-horror

Im unemployed and ashamed. The idea that people dont want to work is a ridiculous myth | Vicki Nash

The stigma attached to unemployment can be dangerous. We should all think before we judge people who are struggling with trying to find work

Last year I made a decision Id been struggling with for a few years: I walked away from the business I was running, the business Id sacrificed most of my 20s and numerous friendships and relationships to, the business I had dreamed of running since my primary school years.

To say this was a difficult choice would be a massive understatement but it was what was right for me, or so I believed. I wanted a social life, a regular job and a regular paycheque, and most of all I wanted to feel like a regular person.

For too long I had felt like someone who was tied to her business, who was constantly overworked, overstressed and over budget, but Id lost track of who I was outside the business. I ran a small thoroughbred farm breeding and breaking in horses for racing, and it was my life for a long time. But its clearly not an industry that leaves me with an obvious place to transition.

Another factor was my age. If I was leaving my business behind then I also wanted to leave the industry behind, start afresh entirely and, at 28, I was aware that not only was I getting ancient in terms of entry-level positions, but that if I was going to make a success of myself in my new field then I was better off getting started in it yesterday.

Unfortunately it has now been over six months since I started in earnest to apply for jobs in different fields, seeking to be reborn on a new career path. With the exception of one online video interview, I havent made it past the first checkpoint.

There are a lot of factors at play in this, and in some way I even have sympathy with the countless employers who have rejected me without even meeting me; unemployment is high at that moment, particularly in the Geelong region where I now live. I have no experience that counts, and that I was self-employed for so long does negatively affect the quality of my references. It has also become clear to me that most prospective employers see a history of self-employment in a negative light.

But sympathising with all the reasons that people dont want to hire me doesnt actually make the task of job hunting any easier, if anything it makes it worse. I can see why people dont want to hire a now 29-year-old with no relevant experience and a history of self-employment and, as time passes, I increasingly fail to see why they would.

I imagine this loss of faith in oneself and the growing belief that the ongoing rejections are never going to turn around is common among the unemployed. I just never thought Id be one of them.

Going into this, my biggest concern was that I would have to start at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up. It never occurred to me that I would be unable to get a leg on the first rung. I would now give almost anything for the opportunity to prove my worth in almost any position and at any level.

This time last year I was still in the process of closing down my business. It was heartbreaking and depressing but it was something I got through by reminding myself how much easier it would be when it was through.

I knew, not with cockiness but simply because of the faith I had in myself, that I would find another arena in which to excel. The thought that I may be unemployed and on the precipice of giving up entirely never occurred to me.

Among the things I knew about myself then was that I was intelligent and hardworking, with many transferrable skills that would make me an asset in any number of industries but I no longer know these things.

When I think about my unemployed status today these are the things I know: that I may never find anyone willing to hire me; that with every passing day I get a little older and a little less employable and the majority of my intelligent, articulate and sometimes witty cover letters are not even being read. Or perhaps theyre not that witty after all.

I do not feel this every day but there are days where a previously unfamiliar feeling of uselessness and hopelessness do creep over me, and they are demons that I find myself increasingly unable to keep at bay. I never thought unemployment would happen to me. I imagined having to take a job I didnt necessarily want but no job at all wasnt anywhere on my radar. I think its probably this way for a lot of unemployed individuals. And this is probably the greatest lesson that has come out of this experience: that the idea that people dont want to work, that the unemployed are somehow lazy or unmotivated, is a ridiculous myth. And yet I still havent learned it completely.

I still lie to acquaintances and even friends about my employment; make out that Im doing some casual work to tide me over or make jokes about it because Im ashamed. I judge myself every day and Im determined not to let others judge me too.

There is a stigma attached to unemployment that can be dangerous because I dont think it would take much for it to create a potentially irreversible self-hatred. I fill my days with routines that involve exercise, cleaning, job applications and writing and certainly no television or leisure time during work hours; Im strict on that. I dont claim welfare of any kind, because apart from anything else I am far too proud, another one of my failings.

I am not what the unemployed stereotype looks like but I am unquestionably unemployed and Im struggling mentally, emotionally and financially every day. I often barely recognise myself.

This is not a story of self-pity, although it has elements of that Im sure. Im sacrificing my pride in writing about this. But its a lesson to think before you judge because unemployment is hard. If we could just come out and speak about our own struggles with unemployment freely and without shame and stigma, it may just get a little bit easier.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/22/im-unemployed-and-ashamed-the-idea-that-people-dont-want-to-work-is-a-ridiculous-myth

House committee grills Comey and Rogers on Trump and Russia: key points

FBI director confirms investigation of Trump campaigns ties to Russian government and smacks down several of the presidents tweets

The House intelligence committee hearing on Russian tampering in the US election has wrapped, as has day one of judge Neil Gorsuchs confirmation hearings. Heres what happened.

  • FBI director James Comey announced for the first time that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian governments efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russias efforts.
  • Trump campaign figures mentioned at the hearing included Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, JD Gordon, Jeff Sessions and Kellyanne Conway. Comey declined to say whether the president was or is being personally investigated.
  • Comey knocked down Trumps assertion on Twitter that Barack Obama had wire tapped him. We do not have any information that supports those tweets, Comey said.
  • Republican chairman Devin Nunes admitted: We know there was not a physical wiretap at Trump Tower. However it is possible that other surveillance technology was used against President Trump and his associates.
  • Tweets sent from the @potus account during the hearing mischaracterized Comeys testimony and that of NSA director Michael Rogers. One tweet said the witnesses had told Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.
  • Comey was asked about the tweet. Weve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact, because its not something weve looked at, Comey said. It certainly wasnt our intention to say that today.
  • Rogers denied a White House claim that the Obama administration asked GCHQ to conduct surveillance on Trump, saying it would have been a violation of US law to ask the British to conduct such an operation.
  • Republicans called for punishment for anyone who leaked classified information to the press, concerning Flynns contacts with Russian operatives or other issues.One member promised to grill former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper about leaks next week.
  • It emerged that the FBI investigation of Russian tampering was launched in late July, although the public did not learn of the investigation for months, well after the FBI saw fit to announce its investigation of Hillary Clintons emails.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/20/key-points-house-committee-hearing-trump-russia-comey

Interstellar Overdrive: Pink Floyd to release full quarter-hour version

Instrumental track that Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason performed in 1966 will go on sale as one-sided vinyl record

The British rock band Pink Floyd will put out a version of Interstellar Overdrive that has never before been released.

Out on 15 April ahead of Record Store Day a week later, the instrumental 14-minute, 57-second version will be released as a one-sided, 12-inch black vinyl record, Legacy Recordings has announced.

The track, written and performed by Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason, was recorded on 31 November 1966 before the band was signed to EMI.

A shorter version of the single nearly 10 minutes long featured on the bands debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, released in 1967.

The new release will come out with a fold-out poster and an A6 postcard taken from a 1967 gig in London.

In their giant box set The Early Years 1965-1972, released in November, Pink Floyd put out more than 20 previously unreleased tracks.

The bands career and contribution to rock music will also be celebrated in The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains due to open in May at Londons Victoria & Albert Museum.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/mar/21/interstellar-overdrive-pink-floyd-to-release-full-quarter-hour-version

Anita Cobby murder: ‘Everyone in the car that dreadful night had a passport to doom’

Thirty years after the trial of five men for the shocking attack on a Sydney nurse, then public defender Bill Hosking reflects on his part in it

The tragedy that would shock the whole of Australia began just before 10pm on 2 February 1986. A registered nurse, 26-year-old Anita Cobby, had been having dinner with friends after finishing her shift at Sydney hospital on Macquarie Street, next to state Parliament House in the city.

She caught the 9.12pm train to Blacktown in outer-western Sydney to her parents home, where she was living after recently separating from her husband. On arrival at Blacktown station just before 10, she went to find a phone to call her father. The usual routine was for Cobby to phone her father, Gary Lynch, to collect her by car. This was well before mobile phones and the public phone at the station had been vandalised, so Cobby decided to walk home.

As she did, an HT Holden Kingswood slowed beside her and stopped. Two of the five male occupants jumped out and grabbed her, pulling her into the car as she screamed. Cobby was then robbed, bashed, raped and tortured before having her throat cut. So severe was the cut, it almost left her decapitated. Her bloodied, naked body was left in a secluded cow paddock at Prospect, not far from Blacktown, and was not discovered for two days.

Everyone in the car that dreadful night had a passport to doom. None more so than poor Cobby.

When Cobbys body was found, the New South Wales government posted a $50,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. In the hope of jogging memories, a police officer dressed as Cobby travelled on the 9.12 pm train to Blacktown while her colleagues interviewed passengers. Cobbys murder was front-page news. Gruesome details of the offences and the harrowing atrocity gradually unfolded.

Anita
Anita Cobby, who went missing on 2 February 1986. Photograph: AAP

Understandably, the community, indeed the whole of Australia, was outraged. Even the police involved in the investigation were deeply affected. Led by Detective Sergeant Ian Kennedy, a top detective of his day, it took police just under three weeks to track down, arrest and charge five men with the murder.

They were 19-year-olds John Travers and Michael Murdoch, and the Murphy brothers, 33-year-old Michael, 28-year-old Gary and 22-year-old Leslie. The five were hated and reviled by the community. They all came from deprived backgrounds and were of below-average intelligence. They were petty criminals accused of a major crime. I was briefed to appear for Michael Murphy.

Given the dreadful nature of the crime, the atmosphere in the community after the arrest of Cobbys alleged killers was one of brooding malevolence. It manifested at the first formal court appearance of the five accused at the tiny Westmead coroners court.

Opened in 1984, Westmead coroners court was brand new and located inside the grounds of the huge Westmead hospital complex. Uniformed police were present in large numbers in case of trouble. Ominously, a dummy dangled from a noose tied to a tree branch. A large crowd had gathered. Some held up placards calling for the restoration of the death penalty. Showing solidarity with Cobby, uniformed nurses were prominent. The magistrate was the city coroner, Derrick Hand. Formalities were short and Hand promptly fixed the committal proceedings for the more secure surroundings of the coroners court on Parramatta Road at Glebe.

As the prison van edged out of the Westmead hospital, the crowd surged forwards. They banged on the sides of the van and booed and catcalled. It was clear the chances of finding a sympathetic jury in the Sydney metropolitan area or the world were zero, and chances of finding a cool and impartial one were slight.

Bill
Bill Hosking QC, who acted as public defender for Michael Murphy. Photograph: Harlequin

Before the advent of the public solicitor and legal aid, the unrepresented accused standing trial was at a tremendous disadvantage. The role of counsel for the accused in any criminal trial can be controversial, particularly where there has been a grave crime. Defence counsel has a duty to act for his or her client with vigour, but also with ethical propriety.

There is a popular misconception that a true defence counsel must believe in the clients innocence. Nothing can be further from the truth. A competent and vigorous defence is essential to a fair trial. The personal belief of counsel is irrelevant. The lawyers duty is to argue, firmly, the case of their clients and not to express a personal opinion.

Often, this is forgotten by the public. The so-called cab rank principle simply restates the rule that barristers do not choose their clients. If it were the other way around, despised causes and hated accused would be denied an experienced, professional voice. Fearless independence for barristers is fundamental. Even more so where there is a public defender involved who holds that independent statutory office with all its privileges and its responsibilities.

In seeking the convictions of the five men, the crown relied upon the legal doctrine of common purpose. To explain common purpose, judges use an example of two would-be bank robbers. One drives the getaway car, while the other enters the bank and demands cash of the teller using a replica pistol. The teller refuses and is then shot. It turns out the pistol was not a replica. Both men are charged with murder although the driver has never left the car. There follow disputed questions of fact and law. First of all, was there an agreement to use a replica and not a real pistol? The answer could be decisive in determining the drivers level of criminal responsibility. Likewise, did the driver know his accomplice well enough to reasonably expect him to bring a real pistol and use it? In other words, you can still be guilty of murder if you have never set eyes on the victim let alone wanted them to be killed.

The defence of each of the accused in the Anita Cobby case was that Travers alone had the knife. Travers alone stabbed Cobby. He alone was to blame for her death. The crown case was, irrespective of what each actually did that night, all were equally responsible for her death and each was guilty of murder. Because each knew what Travers was likely to do, therefore all were equally culpable under common purpose. For the crown, this was true as a matter of law and, equally compellingly, as a matter of fact and common sense. Even so, questions remained as to the extent of each accuseds personal involvement. In that respect, their signed confessions were the crowns trump cards.

The defence claimed the confessions were obtained improperly and by force. To present the clients case, those allegations had to be put. They were all denied by the police. Mere presence that night in the car, then the cow paddock, leaving aside what each offender himself did, was a matter of the gravest wickedness. The law, through the courts, had the task of determining the degree of culpability using rules that have evolved over centuries and long before 1788 and the arrival of the First Fleet, carrying with it the invisible cargo of the common law.

The line of defence that emerged was, even accepting the crown case, the worst that could be sheeted home to Murdoch and the Murphys for the death, in terms of legal liability, was the crime of manslaughter. That line of reasoning was barely intellectually respectable but, nonetheless, required a competent presentation to the jury. Was only Travers accountable for murder and one or more of the remaining four only guilty of manslaughter? This had to be considered calmly and unemotionally and, I have to tell you, on these facts it was not an easy task, even for an experienced defence counsel like me. That initial question was limited, of course, to the homicide, not the rape and sexual brutality. My difficult role was to seek to protect the interests of Michael Murphy.

Anita
Anita Cobby, right, with her younger sister Kathryn Szyszka. Photograph: AAP

On 16 March 1987 when the trial began in historic No 5 court at Darlinghurst, the central criminal court, the bar table was crowded with five, sometimes six, robed barristers and their instructing solicitors for what the press soon described as the trial of the century.

Closest to the judge, with his own lectern, was the grim, unsmiling crown prosecutor, Alan Slipper Saunders, QC. The origin of the soubriquet Slipper is lost in the mists of time. It was definitely not derived from being a soft and comfortable opponent. The crown had no better or more able advocate. He dominated the bar table with his reputation, experience and sheer forensic skill. We had been regular opponents over the years. I didnt like him. He didnt like me.

The days proceedings always began with what became a ritual loud knock on the large oak door leading from the judges private chambers. Preceded by his tipstaff wearing a black frock coat and carrying a white staff topped with an elaborate gold crown, in came the judge. Not a tall man, he was resplendent, wearing the royal scarlet robes of a supreme court judge sitting in the courts criminal jurisdiction. Justice Maxwell was the epitome of duty, courtesy and dignity.

The usually solemn atmosphere at Darlinghurst was absent the morning the trial began. A huge number of potential jurors milled around in front of the sandstone pillars, spilling over on to the lawns fronting Taylor Square and Oxford Street. Television crews seemed everywhere, as were radio network reporters. The press had their usual, reserved, prime seats on the judges left, facing the jury.

The police had done their duty. The magistrate, Hand, his. Next, the crown prosecutor and his instructing solicitors were ready. The judge and the jury were now in place. Also present, in almost reviled solitude, were the lawyers all funded on the modest legal aid rates, except me, on the salary of a public defender. The others would only receive the extremely nominal legal aid fees of the time in accepting these briefs. Far from helping the four other barristers careers, or bank balances, appearing in this trial was a positively negative factor. There are no lawyers made rich on the meagre fees paid for by legal aid cases. It is done as a noble service by the profession.

The concept of legal aid itself seemed to be on trial. Legal aid is effectively the postwar creation of the NSW McKell Labor government, ensuring the honest battler is not subsumed by the power of the state. I lost count of the number of friends and strangers who asked me, Why on earth would you accept a case like this? or, Do you enjoy it? There is a simple answer, apart from duty. There are many, many occupations and professions which are not only more unpleasant but some are also very dangerous. There is the challenge of appearing in what you know is a losing brief for a particularly despised client. Particularly, where there is no real issue as to identity, and the crime is so harrowing and has such cruelty, there will be not a scintilla of public sympathy for your client. This was such a case. During it and afterwards I received considerable personal criticism for accepting the brief. Even my son, James, who was still at school, was criticised by other boys. They wanted to know why his father would appear in such a terrible case.

This trial clearly raised the question, does the community want symbolic or real representation for major criminals? Under our system the accused is not guilty until our grand, but still imperfect, system has run its full course. The spectacular miscarriages of justice staining our history highlights the still inherent dangers which arise through human fallibility. A major safeguard is that all court proceedings with the rarest of exceptions are open to the public and, perhaps more importantly, open to and subject to intense scrutiny by the media. There was certainly no absence of that for this trial.

In such a case, where there is justifiable community anger, counsel has at least two options. One can merely go through the motions to ensure it appears the formalities of a fair trial were observed. Alternatively, counsel does what he or she should do in every case. That is, to do ones professional best for a client who would not have a clue what that involves.

Opening the crown case to the jury, Alan Saunders QC lived up to his reputation, describing in detail the callousness Anita Cobby suffered. He described Cobbys ordeal as sustained degradation, brutal, unbridled lust culminating in one of the most savage brutal murders the state has ever known. Any wonder the media called it the trial of the century.

Anita
Anita Cobbys parents at her grave site. Photograph: AAP

The first witness set an atmosphere of indescribable sadness: Cobbys father, Gary Lynch. He was a tall, dignified figure. He gave brief, formal identification evidence relating to his late daughter. While he did so the silence in the courtroom was deafening. He then joined his wife at the back of the court where they remained for the duration of the trial. Gary and Grace Lynch attended the trial each day. They showed great dignity. Because of police fears, security was tight and gallery and lawyers alike were searched after each adjournment. In the process, Cobbys parents often had to stand in a line with their daughters killers lawyers. Never once did they show anything other than class. Propriety and protocol prevented us from exchanging a single word.

Michael
Michael Murdoch. Photograph: NSW police/AAP

There were no eyewitnesses to Cobbys ordeal, and the principal evidence was the individual confessions. It must be said, the account of one in the others confessions could not legally be used against another. This means the confession can be used to prove the guilt of its author but not prove guilt against any co-accused mentioned in it. This is a safe and fair way to view confessions, because the confessor may want to shift the blame to their co-accused. It should be for a jury, hearing evidence, to determine the accountability of each accused.

The exception to this rule is where the co-accused agrees with anothers confession. More astute police try this stratagem, to get offenders to agree with each others confessions, even in part, thereby implicating themselves. While not unlawful, the strategy is discouraged. Accepting the confessors account only against the person making it is a technical but important rule. The crown had the powerful advantage of not having to ask the jury to rely on circumstantial evidence alone but on the words out of each accuseds own mouth.

Leslie
Leslie Murphy. Photograph: NSW police/AAP

At the outset, sadly, there could be no argument about the fact poor Anita Cobby had been murdered. The trial was all about, 1. the involvement of all or any of the accused; 2. if that issue were resolved adversely, the extent of involvement; and 3. having decided the extent of legal liability, whether the particular accused is guilty of murder or manslaughter.

In part, Michael Murphys case, and that of his two brothers and Michael Murdoch, was that Travers inflicted the fatal wounds on Cobby with a knife and was acting on his own account. Travers had pleaded guilty to this. So far as the murder charge was concerned there was really no direct evidence to support a conviction of the others for murder on the basis they assisted or encouraged Travers to commit murder. Michael Murphy allegedly told the police, I didnt want her to be killed. [Travers is] a maniac. Its his fault, I told him not to kill her Hes a fucking lunatic. I just wanted to piss off What I done Im prepared to cop. Its just that cunt, Travers

Michael
Michael Murphy. Photograph: NSW police/AAP

In legal terms, it was the defendants case that they were neither party to a common purpose to commit murder, nor had they intentionally assisted or encouraged Travers to commit the murder. That was not technical legalistic jargon. It was fundamental. It must be conceded on the crown case there was evidence they, as Travers co-offenders, were criminally liable either as principals or accessories for the murder, as well as the other grave crimes alleged. They denied this.

Defence strategy in this trial was to seek to avoid confronting and emphasising prejudicial evidence and to direct the focus to more favourable features. That is easy to say, but the harsh reality of the situation was such favourable facts were thin on the ground. Michael Murphys defence was a legal nightmare. On his instructions, he was not guilty of any crime. The law provides being present when a crime is committed is not an offence. But to infer that co-accused John Travers, who pleaded guilty, committed the murder of his own volition, was to stretch reality beyond credible limits.

Gary
Gary Murphy. Photograph: NSW police/AAP

The reading [of the accuseds statements] was damaging stuff, but nothing compared with the police photographs of the scene and the postmortem details. Again, what was my clients defence? I wasnt there, and If I was, it was for sex and not for murder.

Merely stating those horrible alternatives underlines the gargantuan task facing the defence. Given the basis of the Travers is a maniac defence, this unanswerable question always loomed large: Why, then, ever be in his company?

I repeat, this was not an easy case.

John
John Travers. Photograph: NSW police/AAP

The inscrutability and confidentiality of the jury room shields the tenor of their deliberations. They were instructed by the judge to banish prejudice and, to use the words of the jurors oath, to well and truly try and true deliverance make. Pre-judgment and prejudice would have brought swift verdicts. The jury deliberated all day and were locked up in a secret location overnight to continue their deliberations. They were obviously conscientious and, from time to time, sought Justice Maxwells help. All communications were proper and in open court in the presence of the accused.

First thing the next morning, all accused were convicted on all counts.

The morning for the sentencing had arrived. At 10am there was a slight delay, as Anita Cobbys parents were not in court. When they arrived, all that remained was the formal ritual of judgment. Everyone in court thought they knew the result: life. Even so, there still was the possibility that release one day would not be excluded. Personally, I wondered if a future government would ever be brave enough to give any of the five an opportunity for release, however deserving. It would be, I thought, decades away before such a decision would have to be made.

The judge entered and was seated. Then the five accused, together for the first time since the first day of the trial, were brought up into the dock. There were police everywhere. The atmosphere in the courtroom was one of unprecedented tension. So high was the emotion, at one stage, the experienced, calm and respected judge, Maxwell, was moved to tears.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/mar/20/anita-cobby-everyone-in-the-car-that-dreadful-night-had-a-passport-to-doom

Crazy dream: the former Delhi IT worker in the race to land on the moon

TeamIndus is one of four teams competing to win Googles Lunar XPrize for the first ever private moon landing, worth $20m

To this day, Rahul Narayan doesnt know why he said yes, except that it was the very last day to sign up, and if he didnt agree to it, then there would be no Indian teams in the running. He threw together a proposal and clicked submit.

Perhaps it was the dullness of his day job in IT services, or a last-ditch effort to recapture some adolescent Star Trek-themed fantasy; but once the idea got into his head, it stuck.

And so it was decided Rahul Narayan would send a spacecraft to the moon.

Sitting in his office now, three years since his moon mission started, Narayan talks through the complexities of lunar expeditions. Sometimes, people ask him why he, a software engineer from Delhi, and a complete outsider to the space industry would attempt a lunar landing, a feat that only three countries have successfully achieved so far.

The real answer to that, Narayan says, is that if you were an insider youd never attempt something like this.

If he succeeds, Narayan and his company TeamIndus will be the first private company ever to land on the moon.

But competition is stiff. Three other teams are competing to win Googles Lunar XPrize for the first ever private moon landing, worth $20m. When Narayan signed up, at the end of 2011, there were 30 teams in the running. The competitions elimination rounds have whittled it down to four.

TeamIndus is now racing against MoonExpress, led by Indian-American dot-com billionaire Naveen Jain; SpaceIL, set up by three Israeli engineers, and an international team called Synergy Moon, all planning to launch their spacecrafts in December this year. A fifth team, Japan-based Hakuto will send a rover on TeamIndus spacecraft which will be launched on a government-owned rocket in Chennai, and reach a top speed of 10.3km a second.

After landing at Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Showers, a four-wheeled, solar-powered, aluminium rover, one of the lightest ever to roam the moons surface will beam HD images back to earth as it makes a 500m journey.

If it completes all this successfully and before the other teams, TeamIndus will have done enough to win the Xprize. Money however, is tight. The project has raised only $16m of the $70m it will need. Private investment from friends, family members and Indian entrepreneurs make up part of the pot, selling payload on the spacecraft, corporate sponsorship and crowdfunding, the company hopes, will make up the rest of it.

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A model of the moon lander to be used by Indian company TeamIndus.

Narayan started working on the moon mission in 2012, mostly in the evenings and on weekends in Delhi. After a year of juggling between his IT company and his new obsession with the moon, he decided it had to be one or the other, and so left the company, and moved his family to Bangalore, Indias tech capital, and the headquarters of Indias space industry. His wife didnt object. She knows what Im like, he says.

TeamIndus is the only company from a developing country to attempt the moon landing. If we could pick this as a problem statement and solve it, I think we could solve any complex engineering problem, says Narayan.

The company has vague plans to start a satellite programme or develop solar powered drones after the moon mission. But the real ambition, says Narayan was to prove the impossible can be done. I dont think anybody starts something to inspire people, but because what were doing is exceptionally difficult, I think the impact is very clearly cultural and social, he says.

The new space race

Narayans mission appears a long way from the heady days of the 60s and 70s when the US and then USSR spared no expense to explore space. The last few decades have seen some of those dreams die amid severe cuts.

But now, with the rise of China and India in the past two decades a new race for technological ascendancy began. The 37-year hiatus in lunar landings was broken by the China National Space Administration in 2013, when the Change 3 sent back soil samples to earth after successfully performing the first soft landing on the moon in decades.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) plans its own first lunar landing with the launch of Chandarayaan II planned in the next few years. The Indian companys landing however, if successful, could beat its own government to the punch, and make India the fourth nation ever to land on the moon.

Vishesh Vatsal, an aerospace engineering graduate joined TeamIndus when the company only had a handful of employees. He was hired as an intern by Narayan, despite failing technical interviews, and is now responsible for the team working on the spacecrafts lunar descent system, one of the trickiest parts of the entire journey.

Were not the most elite group of Indian engineers that have come together. A lot of people used to laugh at us, he says, recalling one of his first weeks on the job, when Narayan pushed him in front of some executives during a company review. I gave the silliest answers possible. We got ridiculed in subtle ways, he says.

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A diagram of the moon lander to be used by Indian company TeamIndus Photograph: TeamIndus

The criticism didnt deter them. In January 2015, TeamIndus became the last of four teams to qualify for the XPrize award.

After that, Indias space scientists started taking them seriously. A number of veteran Isro engineers signed up to help the moon landing. Some like 72-year old PS Nair had even worked on Isros first satellite launch in 1975, and shaped the national space mission from its infancy.

[The] goal is not going to the moon, he says. The goal is to empower industry and the country to do what big, giant organisations have done earlier, and thats the goal of the XPrize too, to popularise hi-tech activity and take it out of the control of big organisations like Nasa or Isro. Thats the real motivation for many of us.

Indias space programme is hugely controversial, especially in the west, with some campaigners arguing millions of pounds of British aid money was being misspent in India.For many, the space mission is a symbol of neglect towards Indias most impoverished citizens, while its delusional elites reach for superpower status.

Sheelika Ravishankar, head of marketing and outreach, argues the countrys ventures are a huge source of national pride. Different parts of India care about what were doing in different ways, she says, recalling an auto rickshaw driver who donated a part of his salary to TeamIndus after one of the companys employees told him about the moon mission on his way to work, or a man who left a board meeting to donate 2m rupees (23,800) when the cash-strapped company urgently needed to test its spacecraft.

Folks are coming forward to say this is architecting a new India, which is technologically advanced, which is bright, which is not the last stop of IT services where you backend to the cheapest country. This is the front of technology.

As the launch deadline draws closer, teams are working faster than ever to test and enhance their models. A misplaced particle of dust or a simple electronic malfunction could derail the whole mission.

Many see TeamIndus as underdogs in the moon race, up against teams with vast resources.

But Ravishankarsays being in the race, and in it to win, puts India on the map.

This proves that you can get state of the art technology coming out of India. It is proof, that you dont have you be a huge team of rocket scientists with the deepest pockets to do research. Its also for the rest of the world to see that anybody can put together a crazy dream. I mean, how much crazier can you be than to look at the moon and say, hey, Im going there?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/lunar-xprize-moon-landing-former-delhi-it-worker-crazy-dream

BBC apologises for ‘what is the right punishment for blasphemy?’ tweet

Broadcaster says it never intended to imply blasphemy should be punished and said the tweet was poorly worded

BBC Asia has apologised after it posted the question what is the right punishment for blasphemy? on its Asian Network Twitter account.

The tweet was intended to promote a debate about about blasphemy on social media in Pakistan with presenter Shazia Awan.

In an apology, the network said it never intended to imply that blasphemy should be punished and said the tweet was poorly worded.

BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork)

Apologies for poorly worded question from #AsianNetwork yday. Q was in context of Pak asking FB to help we shd have made that clear 1/2

March 18, 2017

BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork)

We never intend to imply Blasphemy should be punished. Provocative question that got it wrong 2/2

March 18, 2017

It emerged this week that Pakistan has asked Facebook and Twitter to help identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Under the countrys blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said an official in Pakistans Washington embassy had approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.

He said Pakistani authorities had identified 11 people for questioning over alleged blasphemy and would seek the extradition of anyone living abroad.

The BBCs tweet prompted anger and disbelief on social media. Human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie said the tweet was disgraceful.

Maryam Namazie (@MaryamNamazie)

Disgraceful that @bbcasiannetwork @ShaziaAwan would ask what ‘punishment’ should be for blasphemy. You know people get killed for it.

March 17, 2017

Malcolm Wood (@Askrigglad)

@BBCNews We could inform the BBC’s Asian Network there should be NO punishment for blasphemy. We’re not living in the Middle Ages

March 18, 2017

Clive Norman (@Clive752)

@bbcasiannetwork The fact that it appears that BBC Asian network has not roundly condemned punishment for blasphemy. One has to conclude you support it!!

March 18, 2017

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/mar/19/bbc-apologises-for-what-is-the-right-punishment-for-blasphemy-tweet

Parody of Robert Kelly’s BBC interview imagines how a woman would have coped

Comedy duo produce spoof in which a female interviewee feeds her child, cleans a toilet, cooks dinner and defuses a bomb

A video has emerged parodying the BBCs viral hit which featured a professor interrupted by his children during a live interview, re-imagining how the scene would have unfolded if a woman had been in the hot-seat.

Last week the video of university professor Robert Kelly became world-famous after his four-year-old daughter Marion barged into the room mid-interview, followed by his eight-month-old son James and finally his panicked wife Jung-a Kim.

The New Zealand comedy show Jono and Ben released their spoof on Thursday night, with a woman as the interviewee. The Facebook video has been watched 32m times.

During the one-minute clip the woman is first interrupted by a young child in a yellow jumper. She seamlessly continues answering complex political questions about South Korea while pulling the child onto her lap and feeding her a bottle.

Next, a baby totters into the room with a walker, and the woman continues answering questions, her eyes never leaving the camera, whilst holding the child in her lap, and entertaining the baby with a rattling ball.

As the child wanders out of the room the mother reaches off-camera and pulls out a roast chicken dinner, sniffing it to check if it is ready.

The BBC interviewer observes You do look rather busy there, we can reschedule … but the woman ignores him, reaching for a shirt to de-lint while she speaks, and, a moment later, scrubbing a toilet bowl that appears on her left.

The interview continues as a bomb squad in flak-jackets burst into the room, and the woman defuses a bomb; Oh my god, is that a bomb? asks the interviewer.

As the interview draws to a close a man in bare feet speaking in a broad New Zealand accent rushes into the study, flapping a sock at the womans back.

I cant find my missing sock, I have looked everywhere, I have looked in the sock drawer! he says, panicked.

The BBC presenter thanks the woman for her time, calling the interview interesting. The woman smiles warmly, her eyes finally leaving the camera. OK, lets find this sock then! she says cheerfully.

The Jono and Ben version of the video was greeted with a decidedly mixed response. Some female commentators called the video hilarious and said it was an accurate and amusing reflection of a working mothers life. However many others, both male and female, labelled the parody sexist and said it was a classic example of man-bashing.

The original video became a global hit, making Kellys family overnight internet stars.

While the candid video was mostly embraced as a charming and spontaneous moment of family life interrupting a professional interview, some viewers were critical of the professors reaction, saying he should have responded to his children instead of ignoring them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/19/robert-kelly-bbc-interview-parody-imagines-how-a-woman-would-have-coped

Donald Trump anti-China tweet gives Rex Tillerson a fresh wall to climb

As secretary of state travels to Beijing, his mission to set stage for a leaders summit is hampered by presidents hectoring messages

Donald Trump took his latest online swipe at Chinas leaders as his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, flew into Beijing to finalise plans for a high-stakes summit designed to soothe tensions after months of bad blood and uncertainty.

Trump is expected to host Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach on 6-7 April for an informal no necktie encounter similar to the 2013 Sunnylands summit between Barack Obama and the Communist party chief.

Tillerson was due to arrive in Chinas capital on Saturday tasked with making final preparations for that presidential tte–tte. He will reportedly meet senior leaders, including Xi.

But on the eve of Tillersons two-day visit, during which he is also expected to call on Beijing to step up pressure on North Korea over its nuclear programme, Trump risked complicating those negotiations with his latest 140-character rebuke to Chinas leaders.

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been playing the United States for years. China has done little to help! the US president wrote on Twitter in a message that is likely to anger and unnerve Beijing.

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!

March 17, 2017

Paul Haenle, the national security councils China director under George W Bush and Barack Obama, said US officials would be concerned about the possibility of totally off-message late-night tweets marring Xis stay in Mar-a-Lago.

His rash way of dealing with things could offend the Chinese and could offend personally Xi Jinping … Its the Trump factor, he said.

It is so important to the Chinese that their leader is being treated with real respect. If he travels there and then something happens that appears to be disrespectful to Xi Jinping that could play very badly in the domestic politics here.

Trumps shock election sparked fears that US-China relations were entering a new era of confrontation. In books and interviews, on the stump and on Twitter, the billionaire has spent years berating Beijing over everything from currency manipulation to political repression.

During Xis last trip to the US, in 2015, Trump accused Chinas leader of crippling American industry by devaluing the Chinese currency and called on Obama to feed him a double-sized Big Mac.

However, tensions have subsided following President Trumps first phone call with Xi last month when he backed away from threats to challenge Beijings claim over Taiwan.

Experts say they are encouraged that after months of simmering discord Xi and Trump are preparing to thrash it out at the so-called Winter White House.

I think it actually has the potential to be quite a game-changing moment, said Orville Schell, the head of the centre on US-China relations at New Yorks Asia Society.

This will allow Trump to exhibit something he has not been able to really put on display in the public foreign policy realm, namely his putative deal-making skills. I think either the meeting will go very well, with some rather surprising deals announced, or it could go completely south. And that would be a very bad sign indeed.

Haenle, now head of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in Beijing, said China would see the meeting, which has yet to be officially confirmed, as a chance to bypass the most stridently anti-Beijing voices in Trumps team.

Trump likely thought that by getting Xi on his turf he could kick off efforts to strike a new deal with China. North Korea will be a the top of the list and rebalancing the economic relationship is going to be huge, said Haenle.

Speaking in Seoul on Friday, Tillerson warned that a pre-emptive US military strike against North Korea was an option and said Washingtons strategic patience with Pyongyang had run out.

Schell said it was possible the Mar-a-Lago summit would see some big breakthrough on the issue. I think it is a long shot but it is possible that Trump could just say to Xi, Listen, you and I have a lot of important things to do together. This is something that is important to us … what do you want?

Haenle expected Xi to bring a list of gestures such as infrastructure investment or market access that would allow Trump to emerge from the summit and tweet: Xi Jinping came and I got X!.

But he doubted China would do more on North Korea, with foreign minster Wang Yi recently describing Beijing and Pyongyang as being as close as lips and teeth. The US and China are in very different places right now, at least in terms of the rhetoric that we are hearing.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/18/donald-trump-anti-china-tweet-gives-rex-tillerson-a-fresh-wall-to-climb

New drug cuts ‘bad’ cholesterol by 60% on average, reducing heart attack risk

Trial of 27,000 patients found that those taking drug evolocumab saw their levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol fall

A new drug can prevent heart attacks and strokes by cutting bad cholesterol levels, scientists have found.

An international trial of 27,000 patients found that those who took the drug evolocumab saw their bad cholesterol levels fall by about 60% on average.

The patients in the trial were already taking statins, which are used to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Despite this, the patients who took injections of evolocumab saw their bad cholesterol levels fall even further. They were also less likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke than those who took the placebo.

The study found that for every 74 people who took the drug for two years, one heart attack or stroke would be prevented.

However, the findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the drug had no impact on the rate of cardiovascular mortality.

Prof Peter Sever, from Imperial College London which led the UK branch of the study, said: This is one of the most important trials of cholesterol-lowering since the first statin trial, published 20 years ago. Our results suggest this new, extremely potent class of drug can cut cholesterol dramatically, which could provide great benefit for a lot of people at risk of heart disease and stroke.

There are approximately 2.3 million people living with coronary heart disease in the UK, according to the NHS. It is responsible for more than 73,000 deaths a year in the UK, and occurs when fatty substances build up in the arteries, making it harder for blood to get to the heart.

Prof Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: Coronary heart disease is the single biggest killer in the UK and worldwide and bad LDL-cholesterol is a major cause.

While statins have had a significant impact in reducing the risk of heart disease for millions of people, they are not tolerated by everyone and only reduce cholesterol by a certain amount.

A promising new approach is blocking the action of PCSK9, a molecule which reduces the breakdown of LDL-cholesterol in the liver. Creating new treatments which use this approach could prove life-saving for patients with high cholesterol and those who cant tolerate statins.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/18/drug-which-cuts-bad-cholesterol-can-help-prevent-heart-attacks-and-strokes