Is George Pell innocent?

Secrecy around trials

But the guilty verdict itself has unleashed something more primal across the nation. Factors contributing to this national trauma include the images of a haggard-looking 77-year-old man in a priest’s collar running the gauntlet of a baying mob outside the Melbourne court. There has also been the secrecy surrounding the two trials, the fact the key witness’ evidence was replayed in court via video link and the press was barred, the personal involvement of media figures on both sides, and divisions among lawyers and even former judges about the outcome.

Lawyers mounting the appeal against the Pell conviction will claim the jury reached an “unreasonable” verdict based on the evidence presented; that the jury selection process was flawed; and that it was wrong for the Victorian County Court to bar the jury from watching a video setting out the scene inside Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral when the alleged attack took place.

That defence video, which depicted the layout of St Patrick’s Cathedral and had coloured dots representing each of the people involved in Sunday Mass in December 1996, was compared during court hearings to the 1980s video game Pac-Man. Pell’s defence lawyers argued it should be shown to the jury but Victorian chief judge Peter Kidd ruled it out.

A culture wars factor is also apparent in this searing post-Pell-guilty-verdict atmosphere. Some of Pell’s most vehement post-verdict defenders also have a past history of backing his trenchant political and social conservatism; some share his deep Catholicism. For many others, however, there is no denominational or vague political sympathy involved – they just have deep misgivings about the verdict.


Among former members of the judiciary there is concern about the basic issue that should determine the outcome of a criminal case – the quality of evidence presented by the prosecution. This concern is summed up by Melbourne crime reporter John Silvester who says Pell’s conviction means, in effect, that the cardinal “was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt on the uncorroborated evidence of one witness, without forensic evidence, a pattern of behaviour, or a confession”.

Concern about public ‘climate’

“It is a matter of public record that it is rare to run a case on the word of one witness, let alone gain a conviction,” Silvester wrote in The Age on Wednesday.

There is also concern about the public “climate” surrounding the case. “It just seems the well has been poisoned a bit” is one view. Senior lawyers who discussed the Pell appeal on a background basis say the key claim will be that the conviction was “unsafe” because the jury was not given the correct directions.

One of the strongest critics of the guilty verdict is Frank Brennan, a Jesuit priest and human rights lawyer whose father, Sir Gerard Brennan, was Chief Justice of Australia from 1995-98. Frank Brennan wrote in the Jesuit publication Eureka Street that he was “very surprised by the [Pell] verdict. In fact, I was devastated.”


“The proposition that the offences charged were committed immediately after mass by a fully clothed archbishop in the sacristy with an open door and in full view from the corridor is incredible to my mind,” Brennan wrote.

“Pell has been in the public spotlight for a very long time. There are some who would convict him of all manner of things in the court of public opinion, no matter what the evidence. Others would never convict him of anything, holding him in the highest regard. The criminal justice system is intended to withstand these preconceptions,” Brennan noted, but it “is under serious strain, when it comes to Pell”.

A similar view is promoted by Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, a onetime professor of law at Notre Dame University, and a leading republican. “What matters in the Pell case,” he argues, is “not whether you like or loathe Pell, or even whether you think he is innocent or guilty. What matters is whether we have a system of justice that is exposed to extraneous pressure” – like, say, from the media or social media.

“What the last year has shown is that the justice system can be systematically assaulted from the outside in a conscious attempt to make a fair trial impossible,” Craven writes in an article published last Wednesday in The Australian. “This should terrify every citizen, because every citizen is a potential defendant.”

Concentrated media campaign

He claims “parts of the media – notably the ABC and former Fairfax journalists – have spent years attempting to ensure Pell is the most odious figure in Australia. They seemed to want him in the dock as an ogre, not a defendant.”

It’s a powerful view coming from an authoritative source. However, it can also be turned on its head in the Pell case, with an argument that there is in fact a concentrated campaign in sections of the media and in church circles to apply pressure on Victorian Appeal Court judges to have the Pell guilty verdict overturned, irrespective of the merits of the case.

David Marr, a former editor of the now defunct Fairfax publication, The National Times; author of a fine biography of the great Australian novelist, Patrick White, and more recently author of The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell; and, moreover, a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage, was a regular attendee at the Pell trial and rejects the false verdict claims.

Marr is “completely astonished” that soon after Pope Francis had expressed concern about the victims in child sexual offences, “the church in Australia appears to be campaigning for Pell’s defence and you can’t do that without putting the boot into the victim. It’s a zero-sum game,” he says.

Richard Ackland, editor and publisher of Justinian, a legal newsletter, for the past 40 years, says: “My instinct would say he [Pell] got a fair run. He had the best barrister [Robert Richter] in town – a very flamboyant, theatrical and ferocious character – a fair judge and a straight prosecutor. The witness came out with a credible, consistent story [although] there’s always these variations in evidence.

“It’s a huge case for the most powerful and important people in the Vatican. Pell was Australia’s top man in Rome and he had all that support from the powers that be.”

Ackland, who also writes on legal affairs for Guardian Australia, and pens the “Gadfly” gossip column in The Saturday Paper, says the Gillard-appointed royal commission inquiring into sexual abuse “was an incredible institution”.

Shift in investigation of sex crimes

It “created such a momentum in an otherwise docile country that the cops in Victoria decided to investigate Pell, and they spent two years investigating him.

“It may never have happened if Australia had not had that royal commission. It forced the coppers to get the bit between the teeth and it was a huge thing to charge him [Pell].”

A different view comes from The Age‘s Silvester, the son of former Victorian police superintendent Fred Silvester, who at one time was the boss of the Victorian CIB. Hailing from a family immersed in Victorian police culture, Silvester detects a “shift in the investigation and prosecution” of sex crimes.

From only investigating what Silvester calls “black and white” cases, Victorian police are now obliged to “come with a mindset of believing a person who says they have been sexually assaulted”.

As a result, “sex crimes are being treated differently to other crimes, although the standard of proof remains the same”, Silvester writes in The Age.

There will be many more chapters in the Pell case, and the arguments and the agony will continue.

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Top Quotes from Antonio Brown, Anthony Davis, LeBron James on ‘The Shop’

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 08:  Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans looks on from the bench against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA Basketball game at ORACLE Arena on April 8, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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Two of the biggest and most disgruntled stars in sports were given a new forum to discuss the situation with their current teams. 

Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans and Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers joined LeBron James on Friday’s episode of The Shop, and they got into what they believe is an unfair representation of who they are. 

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Brown got in an argument with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during practice, which led to his benching in Week 17. Brown requested a trade from the Steelers on Feb. 12. The seven-time Pro Bowler tweeted a week later, after a meeting with Steelers president Art Rooney II, that both sides agreed to move on.

“That’s the narrative they try to create once you doing your own thing,” Brown said regarding reports of drama in the Pittsburgh locker room. “It’s like, this guy’s a distraction. He’s this type of guy. All I’ve ever been was a guy who came from Central Michigan, sixth round, who worked his ass off.”    

Brown also said he felt Roethlisberger wrongly called him out after he threw an interception in the end zone, sealing the Steelers’ loss to the Denver Broncos, via Chris Adamski of TribLive.

Maverick Carter, James’ business partner and an executive producer on The Shop, then asked: “Why would Ben do that? What’s up with that?”

“[That’s] the type of guy he is,” Brown said, via Adamski. “He feels like he’s the owner. Bro, you threw the [expletive] to the D-lineman. What the [expletive]? I’m over here wide-open. You need to give me a better ball. You’re going to have a guy from the team that’ll be like, ‘Boy, you can’t say nothing. I need you to get out there like… But it’s like, why I got to be acting? At least ask a [guy] how he feels first.”

Meanwhile, James came to the defense of Davis. On Jan. 28, the six-time All-Star requested a trade from the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2012. Davis was then booed by Pelicans fans during a Feb. 8 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in his first appearance since requesting to be dealt. 

“Seven years in the league, nobody’s ever said … anything negative about AD,” James said. “But you can tell when the narrative changed when you don’t do what they want you to do.”

Davis also spoke about the fickle reaction he received in that game against the T-Wolves:

The Pelicans superstar noted he’s ready to take control of his career: “As the CEO of my own business, I got the power. I’m doing what I wanna do and not what somebody’s telling me to do.”

James closed the episode by praising Colin Kaepernick for sacrificing for “something that was bigger than him” when he protested systemic oppression of people of color.

James’ The Shop is in its second season on HBO.

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Rare fish washes up on California beach

A hoodwinker sunfish washed up in CaliforniaImage copyright
Thomas Turner/Reuters

Image caption

The hoodwinker sunfish was only discovered in 2014

A rare fish thought to live in the southern hemisphere has washed up in Santa Barbara, California.

The appearance of the seven-foot (2.1m) hoodwinker sunfish has baffled scientists, who question how the fish made it so far from its home waters.

An intern at the University of California spotted the animal at the Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve.

It took researchers several days to properly identify the creature, which was only discovered in 2014.

Photos of the giant fish first appeared on the Coal Oil Point Facebook page, and experts from around the world weighed in to help identify the creature.

The animal was named “hoodwinker” after its discovery after eluding researchers for so many years.

Marianne Nyegaard, a marine scientist who found and named the fish, told CNN she “nearly fell out of my chair” when she saw the pictures of the beached traveller.

“When the clear pictures came through, I thought there was no doubt,” she said. “It’s intriguing what made this fish cross the equator.”

The hoodwinker is larger and sleeker than other species of sunfish, weighing up to two tonnes (2,000kg).

They reportedly favour more temperate waters, such as off the coast of Chile or New Zealand.

A different form of sunfish appeared twice off the west coast of Scotland in a week last September.

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Canada allows US extradition of Huawei CFO to proceed

The Canadian government has decided to allow the U.S. extradition process of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to proceed, the country’s Department of Justice announced Friday.

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It’s the first step in what’s likely to be a lengthy and revealing legal process. Meng will sit for an extradition hearing in Canada on March 6, during which evidence will be entered into the public record.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia, in December over allegations that the company defrauded several banks, including HSBC and Standard Chartered, by concealing payments from Iran in violations of sanctions against that country.

The process to extradite Meng extends a saga that has captivated markets and fueled tensions between the U.S. and China.

“Canada is a country governed by the rule of law. Extradition in Canada is guided by the Extradition Act, international treaties and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which enshrines constitutional principles of fairness and due process,” the Canadian agency said in a statement. “Today, Department of Justice Canada officials issued an Authority to Proceed, formally commencing an extradition process in the case of Ms. Meng Wanzhou.”

Meng will remain under house arrest during the extradition proceedings, as a stipulation of her bail. She must also continue to wear a GPS tracking device and be accompanied by a security detail whenever she leaves her residence.

“We are disappointed that the Minister of Justice has decided to issue an Authority to Proceed in the face of the political nature of the U.S. charges and where the President of the United States has repeatedly stated that he would interfere in Ms. Meng’s case if he thought it would assist the U.S negotiations with China over a trade deal,” a spokesperson for Meng’s defense team said in a statement to CNBC.

Huawei is one of China’s biggest companies, and U.S. officials have been accusing the hardware giant — which recently surpassed Apple in number of mobile phones shipped — of a wide range of sanctions violations, cybercrimes and intellectual property theft for the better part of a decade.

“Our client maintains that she is innocent of any wrongdoing and that the U.S. prosecution and extradition constitutes an abuse of the processes of law,” Meng’s defense spokesperson said.

Here’s the government’s announcement:

News release
March 1, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – Department of Justice

Canada is a country governed by the rule of law. Extradition in Canada is guided by the Extradition Act, international treaties and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which enshrines constitutional principles of fairness and due process.

Today, Department of Justice Canada officials issued an Authority to Proceed, formally commencing an extradition process in the case of Ms. Meng Wanzhou.

The decision follows a thorough and diligent review of the evidence in this case. The Department is satisfied that the requirements set out by the Extradition Act for the issuance of an Authority to Proceed have been met and there is sufficient evidence to be put before an extradition judge for decision.

The next step in the case is as follows:

The British Columbia Supreme Court has scheduled an appearance date for March 6, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. (PST) to confirm that an Authority to Proceed has been issued and to schedule the date for the extradition hearing.
During the extradition hearing, the Crown will make its detailed arguments in its submissions to the Court, where evidence will be filed and become part of the public record.

An extradition hearing is not a trial nor does it render a verdict of guilt or innocence. If a person is ultimately extradited from Canada to face prosecution in another country, the individual will have a trial in that country.

While court proceedings are underway, Ms. Meng will remain on bail subject to her existing conditions, as set by the court.

Quick facts
— The Authority to Proceed is the first step in the extradition process. The decision on whether to issue an Authority to Proceed was made by Department of Justice Canada officials, who are part of a non-partisan public service.

— The next step is the judicial phase where a judge hears the case. If the judge decides a person should be committed for extradition, then the Minister of Justice must decide if the person should be surrendered (extradited) to the requesting country.

— The Minister of Justice will not comment on the facts of this case given he may need to make a decision later in this process.

— Under the Extradition Act and the Treaty, Canada must review the alleged conduct and determine whether it could have resulted in a jail sentence of 1 year of more if it had taken place in Canada. The conduct for which extradition is sought must also be considered criminal in both the United States of America and in Canada. This is known as “dual criminality”.

— Canada’s extradition process protects the rights of the person sought by ensuring that extradition will not be granted if, among other things, it is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the principles of fundamental justice.

— CNBC’s Kate Fazzini contributed to this report.

The US thinks Huawei has been a massive national security threat for years — Here’s why

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Wake-up call for investors facing lower returns in Labor franking plan

Under Australia’s system of dividend imputation, shareholders receive franking credits to account for tax paid at the corporate level, which in most cases is 30 per cent. Credits can be used to offset tax owed by the shareholder.For people who pay little or no tax (such as superannuation funds and retirees), excess franking credits are paid out as cash refunds. Labor will end those refunds, except for people covered by its “pensioner guarantee”. The guarantee means anybody receiving a Centrelink age pension will still be eligible for refunds. A limited exclusion for SMSFs applies only if one member was receiving a part or full pension before March 28, 2018.

Wealthier shareholders will be less affected because they tend to have tax liabilities and can therefore fully use imputation credits. People with more than $1.6 million in superannuation will have moved any excess into their accumulation account, where it is taxed at 15 per cent. They will be able to use their tax credits to offset this liability. But for those who pay no tax, the credits will go to waste.

While investors with larger balances (paying tax) won’t be hit, Hamilton Wealth Management managing partner Will Hamilton says the changes will leave investors with smaller balances (paying no tax) in the lurch. As the table shows, those paying higher levels of tax won’t be worse off under the proposed change but those on zero or 15 per cent tax will be worse off because they will no longer receive a tax refund.

“We’ve had new clients that have come to see us and it’s a big discussion,” Hamilton says. “The sophisticated investor can prepare for this. Some people have a lot of money and have still struggled with this conversation. It’s the impact on smaller balances where I do feel the shadow treasurer doesn’t quite realise what he’s done.”


Mason Stevens portfolio manager Alwyn Hung says those with taxable income are better protected from the proposed changes while lower-rate taxpayers would be hit hardest.

“The community of net losers if the Labor party were to win office and implement this change would be, for the most part, those that have tax liabilities less than the value of the franking credits. Broadly speaking, these are not-for-profit organisations, self-funded retirees, self-managed super funds (SMSFs) and income earners earning less than $18,200 and exempt from tax.”

The Australian equity market returns far more to shareholders through dividend distribution than other global markets and the complacency of local investors has meant they are often unaware of other investment options.

“The one positive will be that there will be some discipline towards asset allocation,” Hamilton says. “I don’t agree with people having 100 per cent cash and Australian equities.

Investors should consider alternatives with caution, says Sentinel Wealth’s Justin Hooper.  Daniel Munoz

“There’s a familiarity that sometimes does breed contempt. They’re using the system and supplementing their income by investing long in Australia equities. [But] people have made plans based on the laws that have existed and these people do things themselves. If they look to diversify, there’s going to be another cost from that.”

Hamilton says many smaller investors have expressed concerns about trying to readjust their portfolios, particularly those unable to pay for professional advice.

“They’re really worried. Suddenly that tap [of refunded franking credits] is going to be turned off and it’s really sad. They can’t go and [reallocate assets] to the same extent.”

Despite concerns the changes will force investors away from assets they know and understand, advisers believe there could be some unintended positive consequences.

Providence Wealth’s Grant Patterson is worried investors who will receive less income under the Labor proposal will try to chase higher returns through assets they don’t fully understand. Peter Braig

Where to invest instead

The implementation of Labor’s franking policy would be just the latest hurdle for dividend-chasing investors. The blue-chip dividend stars of yesteryear have disappointed in the last few months and while the big iron ore miners have paid generous dividends in the past few months, they are heavily exposed to the fluctuations of the commodity cycle.

“What people have to do is change the focus. Stop looking at the yield and start looking at the total returns,” Hamilton says. “Look at growth companies, international equities or, if their risk appetite is correct, some alternate debts products.”

Sentinel Wealth financial planner Jon James believes investors need to have a strong objective and find the right portfolio to match that objective.

“It really does come back to your asset allocation and having a strategy,” he says. “One of the concerns we have is people abandoning their investment strategy because they’ll introduce some additional risk into their portfolio.”

Bond proxies

Advisors say bond proxy stocks, such as infrastructure and real estate investment trusts (REITs), are a good option for investors looking for regular income and are already well understood by equity investors.

REITS and infrastructure stocks are closely linked to the bond market due to their high levels of debts, with investment spurred by lower interest rates.

They can offer predictable returns, with revenue streams similar to bonds. Due to the defensive nature of infrastructure stocks, they can typically offer a greater level of certainty for investors than other sectors.

“Some of the infrastructure stocks on the ASX and the real estate investment trusts are certainly options clients might look at,” Sentinel Wealth’s James says.

Providence’s Patterson says both sectors are likely to provide good income. “[Infrastructure] has its own dynamics but it traditionally pays a reasonable income because it’s very highly geared. The real estate investment trust sector might also attract more interest because of the distribution yield.”

According to data from Factset, the dividend yield of the S&P/ASX 200 is about 4.6 per cent and 6.1 per cent after franking, making it relatively attractive compared with real estate investment trusts at 5.5 per cent with no franking and utility stocks at 5.1 per cent with no franking.

Were franking credits to be removed, stocks like Transurban, Sydney Airport, Spark Infrastructure and Atlas Arteria would look significantly more attractive from an income perspective relative to the S&P/ASX 200.

Corporate bonds

Corporate bonds could also provide a reasonable level of income to investors, although advisers are cautious on the risks surrounding them.

“People might look at corporate debt instruments,” says Sentinel’s James. “However when people move into the corporate bond world, the overall risk is a concern.”

Corporate regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission says it is vital investors know the risks associated with corporate bonds.

“The main risk with corporate bonds is that you may not receive interest payments or get your money back if the company issuing the bonds goes out of business,” it highlights.

ASIC recommends assessing the business environment the company operates in, including looking which country it is in, what the outlook for the industry is and the strength of management.

Providence’s Patterson agrees, saying that while debt markets can diversify a portfolio, investors need to be aware of the elevated risks.

“The potential positive in returning the franking is Australian shares become less attractive at the margin and portfolios might become more diversified,” he says. “It may mean investors focus more on corporate bonds but they need to understand the risk of credit markets. As we saw in the global financial crisis, credit markets basically imploded.”

Income trusts

Hybrid securities are another asset class often used by not-for-profit organisations, SMSFs and self-funded retirees as a proxy for fixed income, with the added benefits of franking.

Hybrids are also set to be impacted under franking changes, with the dividends being paid out from them subject to the same rules as equity investments. Mason Stevens’ Hung says: “The proposed tax changes may mean they need to rethink this strategy.”

A note from Bell Potter analysts Damien Williamson and Barry Ziegler in early February suggested investors in hybrid securities could shift some of their investments to an income trust to avoid losing their tax refund.

“In quantifying the impact on an SMSF with a $600,000 investment in Westpac Capital Notes 5 generating $22,050 cash and $9,450 in franking credits, the SMSF would lose a surplus franking cash rebate of $4,725 under the ALP policy,” they said. “To maintain the same level of after-tax income, this investor may reallocate half their Westpac Capital Notes 5 holding into an investment such as NB Global Corporate Income Trust.”

They added the move by investors away from the capital structure of banks to offshore investments would likely increase bank funding costs and limit government revenue. “This investment strategy also brings into question the quantum of revenue this policy will generate,” the Bell Potter analysts add.

Overseas shares

Buying overseas shares, where the total returns and prospect of share buybacks are greater, could also be another option for investors searching for income.

Hamilton says overseas markets are becoming better understood by investors. “If you spoke to people 15 years ago about international equities, they weren’t as popular.”

Most advisors agree that international equities should form a part of any diversified portfolio but say the income stream isn’t as simple.

“[International equities] have got to be part of your overall investment strategy,” says Sentinel’s James. “You shouldn’t just be going overseas to search for dividend yield. So by going to the US market, you’re not necessarily going to get a very high yield but they generally have higher capital growth. You’re also exposed to currency movements.”

Providence’s Grant is more sceptical. “Investors are unlikely to go to international equities because it won’t provide enough income,” he says. “Overseas companies’ excess capital is used to buy back shares rather than dividends. I don’t see it as a replacement for people requiring income.”

Additional reporting by Joanna Mather.

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Catch up on all EW’s Game of Thrones recaps before season 8

Are you ready to watch the throne for the last time?

Game of Thrones fans are anxiously awaiting the HBO saga’s final episodes, which begin airing April 14. And whether you’ve been with the show since its early days or entered the bloody, dragon-filled fray for the Iron Throne in the years since the show premiered, everyone could likely use a refresher before everything begins to end.

We’ve scoured all of Westeros (or, fine, just the archives) to pull together all of Entertainment Weekly’s Game of Thrones recaps, from the very first one to the season 7 finale. Pick through a few to refresh your memory, or hunker down for 67 episodes’ worth of analysis. And, of course, stay tuned to for much more on the final season of Thrones leading up to and throughout season 8.

Season 1

Season 1, episode 1: “Winter is Coming”

Season 1, episode 2: “The Kingsroad”

Season 1, episode 3: “Lord Snow”

Season 1, episode 4: “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”

Season 1, episode 5: “The Wolf and the Lion”

Season 1, episode 6: “A Golden Crown”

Season 1, episode 7: “You Win or You Die”

Season 1, episode 8: “The Pointy End”

Season 1, episode 9: “Baelor”

Season 1, episode 10: “Fire and Blood”

Season 2

Season 2, episode 1: “The North Remembers”

Season 2, episode 2: “The Night Lands”

Season 2, episode 3: “What Is Dead May Never Die”

Season 2, episode 4: “Garden of Bones”

Season 2, episode 5: “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

Season 2, episode 6: “The Old Gods and the New”

Season 2, episode 7: “A Man Without Honor”

Season 2, episode 8: “The Prince of Winterfell”

Season 2, episode 9: “Blackwater”

Season 2, episode 10: “Valar Morghulis”

Season 3

Season 3, episode 1: “Valar Dohaeris”

Season 3, episode 2: “Dark Wings, Dark Words”

Season 3, episode 3: “Walk of Punishment”

Season 3, episode 4: “And Now His Watch Is Ended”

Season 3, episode 5: “Kissed by Fire”

Season 3, episode 6: “The Climb”

Season 3, episode 7: “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”

Season 3, episode 8: “Second Sons”

Season 3, episode 9: “The Rains of Castamere”

Season 3, episode 10: “Mhysa”

Season 4

Season 4, episode 1: “Two Swords”

Season 4, episode 2: “The Lion and the Rose”

Season 4, episode 3: “Breaker of Chains”

Season 4, episode 4: “Oathkeeper”

Season 4, episode 5: “First of His Name”

Season 4, episode 6: “The Laws of Gods and Men”

Season 4, episode 7: “Mockingbird”

Season 4, episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper”

Season 4, episode 9: “The Watchers on the Wall”

Season 4, episode 10: “The Children”

Season 5

Season 5, episode 1: “The Wars to Come”

Season 5, episode 2: “The House of Black and White”

Season 5, episode 3: “High Sparrow”

Season 5, episode 4: “Sons of the Harpy”

Season 5, episode 5: “Kill the Boy”

Season 5, episode 6: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

Season 5, episode 7: “The Gift”

Season 5, episode 8: “Hardhome”

Season 5, episode 9: “The Dance of Dragons”

Season 5, episode 10: “Mother’s Mercy”

Season 6

Season 6, episode 1: “The Red Woman”

Season 6, episode 2: “Home”

Season 6, episode 3: “Oathbreaker”

Season 6, episode 4: “Book of the Stranger”

Season 6, episode 5: “The Door”

Season 6, episode 6: “Blood of My Blood”

Season 6, episode 7: “The Broken Man”

Season 6, episode 8: “No One”

Season 6, episode 9: “Battle of the Bastards”

Season 6, episode 10: “The Winds of Winter”

Season 7

Season 7, episode 1: “Dragonstone”

Season 7, episode 2: “Stormborn”

Season 7, episode 3: “The Queen’s Justice”

Season 7, episode 4: “The Spoils of War”

Season 7, episode 5: “Eastwatch”

Season 7, episode 6: “Beyond the Wall”

Season 7, episode 7: “The Dragon and the Wolf”

HBO’s epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin’s novels

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Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe Lead Bucks to Win over LeBron James, Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 1: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 1 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Eric Bledsoe had a season-high 31 points and nine rebounds, and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 16 points and 15 rebounds, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a 131-120 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Milwaukee closed the game on a 15-2 run over the last 2:25.

LeBron James contributed 31 points, 10 assists and seven boards for the 30-32 Lakers, who have lost seven of their last 10.

Brandon Ingram also scored 31 on 13-of-21 shooting. He started the game by making his first nine field goals.

The 48-14 Bucks have won seven straight and 19 of their last 21. With the win, Milwaukee became the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season.


New, Improved Ingram Can Push Lakers to Playoffs

There’s no such thing as a second-half All-Star, but if there were, Ingram would have an early case for a spot on the team.

Entering Friday, the 21-year-old forward had averaged 27.8 points on 56.7 percent shooting, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in his four post-All-Star break games. He also made 54.5 percent of his three-pointers.

Ingram posted 12.2 points per game on 43.8 percent shooting over the first two years of his career, which are respectable numbers but unspectacular.

However, the 6’9″ forward has been excellent of late, bringing up the question as to where the improvement has originated.

The first one is obvious: He’s a young and tremendously talented player who has found another gear. Ingram was just 18 years old when the Lakers drafted him second overall in 2016. Like any player, Ingram has to develop his game as he gains experience.

Second, Ingram’s scoring has improved since he came back from a sprained left ankle that sidelined him for seven contests, as Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report noted:

Ingram has averaged 19.7 points per game and shot 50.5 percent from the field since returning Dec. 21 compared to 15.2 points on 47.0 percent shooting beforehand.

Head coach Luke Walton pointed out a third reason after Ingram scored 23 points in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday:

“He’s [scoring] more consistently,” Walton said per Christian Rivas of SB Nation’s Silver Screen and Roll. “I think he’s done a nice job of cleaning up some of the shots that we don’t prefer that he takes, some of the isolation, mid-range pull-ups without moving it. He had a couple of them tonight, but for the most part, I think he’s continued to grow as a player.”

ESPN color commentator Doris Burke mentioned in the third quarter of the television broadcast that Ingram could get a shot any time he wanted. The third-year pro proved that Friday evening. He was able to effortlessly get off a few mid-range rhythm jumpers in addition to some buckets at the rim and a few threes.

The fourth reason comes from Ingram himself after the aforementioned Pels game, via Rivas:

“The closer I get to the rim, I think my percentages go up, so I’m just trying to find a way to the rim, find a way to be aggressive and either draw a foul or get over the top,” Ingram said. “If I draw a foul, I’m confident to know I can knock the free throws down.”

Ingram is right about his percentages. According to Basketball-Reference, the ex-Duke Blue Devil shot 68.2 percent from the field at the rim entering Friday. He’s making 39.6 percent of his shots elsewhere.

All of those reasons converged at a pivotal moment, when Ingram put Bucks center Brook Lopez on a poster:

The Lakers may be 3.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the eighth and final playoff spot, and their playoff chances look bleak.

However, ESPN play-by-play announcer Ryan Ruocco made a good point on the television broadcast: The team simply does better when James and Ingram are on the court.

It just hasn’t happened often, which has played a large part in the Lakers’ slide outside of the playoff picture.

Ingram returned to the court right before James had to sit for an extended period because of a groin strain. And James was on the court when Ingram was out.

Those two haven’t played together much, but when they have, the Lakers have been 19-14.

That’s not a dominant mark, but if Ingram and James had been on the court together all year, we’d probably be talking about the Lakers’ push for home-court advantage in the first round.

Hanging with the Bucks, who were at full strength and sport the league’s best record, is an impressive feat. The Lakers can take their performancecoupled with Ingram’s development and continued on-court development alongside Jamesand know that they have a shot.


What’s Next?

Both teams play on the road Saturday. The Bucks will face the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena, and the Lakers will visit the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

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Trump asks China to lift farm tariffs

Donald Trump and Xi JinpingImage copyright

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Mr Trump now plans a summit with China’s Xi Jinping about trade

US President Donald Trump has asked China to “immediately” lift all tariffs on US agricultural products.

In a tweet, the president said he made the request because “we are moving along nicely with Trade discussions”.

Mr Trump has delayed tariffs scheduled for 1 March on Chinese goods due to progress in talks.

He has long complained about the country’s trading practices, and has imposed tariffs totalling more than $250bn (£189bn) on Chinese goods.

China has responded in kind, placing tariffs on $110bn of US products and accusing the US of starting “the largest trade war in economic history”.

Last month Mr Trump said the two countries were “very very close” to signing a new trade agreement, saying they had made “substantial progress” following a Washington summit.

While a rise in import duties on Chinese goods from 10% to 25% was due to come into effect on 1 March, the US is now planning a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The trade war has prompted worries in financial markets about the impact on the global economy.

The International Monetary Fund warned the trade war risked making the world a “poorer and more dangerous place” in its assessment on world growth last October.

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PwC’s golden goodbye ties former partners to the firm’s profits forever

Perception of conflict

Former senior PwC partner Bill Edge confirmed on Monday he was still being paid by the firm while acting as the chairman of the Financial Reporting Council, a body responsible for overseeing the effectiveness of the financial reporting framework in Australia.

As head of the council, Mr Edge has previously stated the FRC has “found no evidence of systemic issues or major concerns” with audit quality, adding that he had confidence that the big four firms Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC were doing their best to improve audit quality.

In contrast, the corporate regulator and the joint committee on corporations and financial services have both raised major concerns about audit quality in Australia.

Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert said the PwC payments are “not relevant”, while Labor MP Julian Hill said the payments could lead to a “perception of a conflict”. Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson was more direct, saying Mr Edge had to “make a choice” between heading the FRC and the PwC payments.

But no matter how the FRC and the government resolve the issue, the payments create the perception of a conflict of interest for all former equity partners of PwC.

Unfunded liability paid out of profit

The crux of the problem is the payments, knowledge of which is tightly held among current and former equity partners, are not superannuation or defined benefit income from a pot of money that has been set aside. Instead, they are payments made each year out of the firm’s net profit, tying the alumni partners to the firm’s ongoing operation.

This unfunded liability is believed to be worth roughly 20 per cent of the firm’s net profit, a figure that means it was worth more than $80 million around five years ago and would have exceeded $100 million in the past few years.

“[I]f the money is coming from PwC’s general funds, retired partners still have some interest in the continued success of the firm,” said Ian Gow, a professor in the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Corporate Governance and Regulation and co-author of a critical look at the firms, The Big Four.

Former senior PwC partner Bill Edge confirmed on Monday he was still being paid by the firm while acting as the chairman of the Financial Reporting Council. Viki Lascaris

PwC declined to comment. The details of its retirement plan are based upon a number of sources including current and former partners and other individuals familiar with the firm’s workings.

The main condition that PwC has on the payments is that retired partners cannot work for an ever-expanding list of rival firms. PwC, privately, argues this eliminates any concern about conflict of interest.

But, as Professor Gow points out, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that partners have a direct financial incentive to ensure the firm continues to thrive.

Are declarations required?

It also raises questions, such as if former partners are obliged to declare the payment and its quantum when dealing with decisions that involve PwC. Might they have to also recuse themselves from making decisions that involve PwC? And are either of these options practical for those in certain senior commercial roles?

There are no exact figures but there are dozens if not hundreds of former PwC partners in mainly commercial and not-for-profit roles across the country and this number grows every year.

That means the payments remain an ongoing, and growing, issue for the firm. PwC must continue to grow at a rapid rate to comfortably fund the payments and provide current-day partners with their income. So far, current CEO Luke Sayers has managed double-digit growth year-on-year.

The payments have created a stark generational divide at the firm. Existing equity partners echo their predecessors by grumbling about each CEO attempting to reign in the payments, while younger partners grouse about losing out on their share of each year’s profit to partners long since departed from the firm.

In Mr Edge’s case, the FRC had the first of its four annual meetings where the articles about the payments were discussed with a representative of Mr Robert’s office in attendance for part of the day-long meeting. But it is unclear what the parties will do next.

As any accountant will tell you, this isn’t about any actual conflict of interest, it’s all about the look. And any way you look at it, receiving payments from your old firm raises a perception of conflict of interest.

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Amanda Bynes checked back into rehab facility after ‘relapse’ following return to public eye

Amanda Bynes is back in a mental health facility.

The actress, who retreated from the public eye after a breakdown in 2014, checked into a rehab facility in January. A source close to Bynes tells PEOPLE that she had a “relapse” and is getting help and treatment from mental health professionals and addiction counselors for drug addiction and mental health issues.

The source says Bynes has been struggling again since the end of last year, when she stepped back into the public eye and began pursuing work in Hollywood again.

Bynes opened up about her previous mental struggles in a November cover story for Paper. In the interview, the She’s the Man actress detailed how her drug use led to the spiral, explaining she began using drugs at 16 and smoked marijuana for the first time.

“Later on it progressed to doing molly and ecstasy,” she admitted. “[I tried] cocaine three times but I never got high from cocaine. I never liked it. It was never my drug of choice.”

While she didn’t use cocaine, Bynes did say she regularly got high on another drug: “I definitely abused Adderall.”

Her Adderall use led to her dropping out of the movie Hall Pass, where she remembered being “scatterbrained” from taking the pills. But the real breaking point came after seeing herself in the Emma Stone film Easy A. Bynes recalled being so alarmed by her appearance in the film, which she viewed negatively, that it convinced her to quit acting on the spot.

“I literally couldn’t stand my appearance in that movie and I didn’t like my performance. I was absolutely convinced I needed to stop acting after seeing it,” Bynes explained. “I was high on marijuana when I saw that but for some reason, it really started to affect me. I don’t know if it was a drug-induced psychosis or what, but it affected my brain in a different way than it affects other people. It absolutely changed my perception of things.”

She went on to have several brushes with the law — including two hit-and-run charges in 2012 and a DUI arrest (though all three charges were ultimately dropped) — she retreated from the spotlight completely and her mom Lynn was named conservator over her “person”, which includes health and medical decision-making, in 2014.

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