Agency Group releases results after administration row




Real estate firm The Agency Group has released its most recent financial and operating results just days after having to fight to stop administrators from taking action.

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Retail sales continue rebound, having risen 7 months in a row since COVID low in April


Retail sales have risen for seven months in a row and are now more than 5 per cent higher than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The data agency released numbers for November on Friday that showed Canadian retailers racked up more than $55 billion in sales during the month. That’s more than $600 million higher than they were the previous month, and the seventh straight monthly gain since shopping cratered in March and April of 2020, when the pandemic was just beginning.

The increase was led by higher sales at food and beverage stores and higher online sales — continuing the internet shopping trend that exploded last spring.

Different types of stores saw different sales changes, including:

  • Food and beverage stores, up 5.9 per cent.
  • General merchandise, up 1.6 per cent.
  • Building and garden supply, up 2.2 per cent.
  • Gas stations, down 1.6 per cent.
  • Clothing and accessories, down 3 per cent.

Sales grew in every province except Manitoba, where they declined by 3.1 per cent. Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic noted that Manitoba’s lag is likely because that province was among the first to move into a second lockdown phase.

“That could be a preview of what is coming in the data for December and January from some other larger provinces that have since taken similar measures,” Kavcic said.

While retail sales numbers look strong “in the rearview mirror,” as Kavcic put it, the data agency indeed warned that the streak of growth may come to an end with next month’s numbers, which cover the normally busy shopping month of December.

StatsCan said Friday that preliminary data suggests retail sales were down by 2.6 per cent in December. That estimate is based on early numbers from 59 per cent of retailers surveyed by the data agency, so the number may change as more retailers report their numbers.

It may also get worse as retailers locked down by government orders report their sales data.

“We’re set for a steep decline in December as lockdown measures spread more widely across major parts of the country and then extended into January,” Kavcic said.

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Australian Cherries Dubbed As “Inferior” By Chinese Media

australian cherries

The latest rift between China and Australia saw Australian cherries being panned as “inferior” by the Chinese state media in the latest trade row with the country’s biggest export partner.

Consequently, Australia’s share of cherries in the Chinese export market has dramatically dropped as buyers now prefer Chilean fruit, according to Global Times reports.

With the wine, seafood and timber industries being targeted amidst the havoc of trade issues, Australian cherries are Beijing’s latest subject.

Given that the trading relationship between the two countries takes up to 30 per cent of Australia’s market, this latest move has left Australian producers anxious.

Sales manager at Wandin Valley Farms in Victoria, Tim Jones, told media that Australian cherries are “the best in the world”. However, as China comprised 40 per cent of the business’s exports and it was worrying.

According to Mr Jones, “China is probably our main market as an industry for fresh cherries. We’re still able to trade gently, and we’re just trying to keep a lid on things, and try to keep our industry moving in the right direction.”

A fruit trader revealed in Global Times that, “The share of Australian cherries in Chinese market … has dropped due to the inferior quality of the product given the reserved seasonality. The taste and quality of Australian cherries is not as good as it once was.”

The trader then added that Chilean cherries have the largest share in the Chinese market, with better quality and lower price.

As of, 30 per cent of Australian cherries are exported to more than 30 countries in a highly competitive international market. Aside from China, most exports are sent to Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

A US judge has halted the execution of the only woman on federal death row

This article contains references to child sexual abuse.

A federal judge in Indiana late on Monday local time blocked the execution of Lisa Montgomery, a convicted murderer and the only woman on federal death row in the United States, on mental health grounds, based on evidence that she was unable to understand the government’s rationale for her execution.

The decision was later upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, pushing any new execution date into Joe Biden’s administration unless the Supreme Court intervenes.

Montgomery, who was due to be killed by lethal injection on 12 January, was convicted in 2007 in Missouri for kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then eight months pregnant. Montgomery then cut Ms Stinnett’s fetus from the womb.

The child survived.

US judge James Patrick Hanlon on Monday granted a stay of execution to allow the court to conduct a hearing to determine whether she is competent to be executed, according to a court filing made in the US district court of Southern District of Indiana.

Montgomery’s lawyer, Kelley Henry, welcomed the judge’s ruling and said the court was right to put a stop to her execution.

“Mrs Montgomery is mentally deteriorating and we are seeking an opportunity to prove her incompetence,” Ms Henry said in a statement.

Montgomery’s lawyers have asked for US President Donald Trump’s clemency, saying she committed her crime after a lifetime of being abused and raped. In a nearly 7,000-page clemency petition filed last week, they asked Mr Trump to commute Montgomery’s sentence to life in prison.

The lawyers have said Montgomery admits her guilt but deserves clemency because she has long suffered severe mental illness, exacerbated by being gang raped by her stepfather and his friends during an abusive childhood.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at Beyond Blue.org.au and lifeline.org.au.

Anyone seeking information or support relating to sexual abuse can contact Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380.

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Lisa Montgomery: Execution of only woman on US death row can go ahead, judges rule | World News


The only woman on death row in the US is set to be executed after a court overruled a decision to delay her death.

Lisa Montgomery, 52, was convicted of strangling to death 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and cutting her baby out with a kitchen knife in 2004.

The baby survived the attack and prosecutors said Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass them off as her own.

Image:
Montgomery pictured in a police mug shot after her arrest

She was due to be executed by lethal injection in Terre Haute, Indiana, on 8 December but a stay was put in place after her lawyers contracted COVID-19 while visiting her in prison.

On Boxing Day, Judge Randolph Moss vacated a Federal Bureau of Prisons order rescheduling her death for 12 January after siding with her lawyers, who said a date could not be set while a stay was in place. He said a date could not be rescheduled until at least 1 January.

However, on Friday, a three-judge panel on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the lower court judge delayed the date in error and reinstated the execution.

One of Montgomery’s lawyers, Meaghan VerGow, has said her team will ask for the full appeals court to review the case.

Her legal team has argued that she suffers from serious mental illness after years of physical and mental abuse.

The fresh ruling means Montgomery can now be executed a week before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on 20 January.

Mr Biden opposes the death penalty and his spokesman has said he would work to end its use. However, he has not said whether he will halt federal executions after he is sworn in.

Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, was killed in Skidmore, Missouri, in December 2004
Image:
Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, was killed in Skidmore, Missouri, in December 2004

Montgomery will be the first woman in more than 70 years to undergo a federal execution in the US.

The last, Bonnie Heady, was executed in a gas chamber in 1953 after kidnapping and shooting dead six-year-old Bobby Greenlease, then collecting a ransom of $600,000 (equivalent to $5.7 million or £4.08m today).

Other women have been executed, but under state executions, not through the federal courts, as Montgomery and Greenlease were.

President Donald Trump’s administration restarted federal executions after a 17-year pause in July and has since carried out 10 death sentences, including two in December.

It has executed more people in a year than any other administration in more than 130 years.

Two other federal inmates are also scheduled to be put to death this month, but tested positive for coronavirus around Christmas, prompting their legal teams to also seek a stay of execution.



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Iwao Hakamada: Japan’s top court gives retrial hope for man who spent almost 50 years on death row


Former professional boxer Iwao Hakamada — declared the world’s longest-serving death row inmate by Guinness World Records in 2014 — was accused of robbery, arson and the murder of his boss, his boss’ wife and their two children in 1966. The family was found stabbed to death in their incinerated home in Shizuoka, central Japan.

Hakamada initially admitted to all charges before changing his plea at trial. He was sentenced to death in a 2-1 decision by judges, despite repeatedly alleging that police had fabricated evidence and forced him to confess by beating and threatening him.

In 2014, in a rare reversal for Japan’s rigid justice system, the Shizuoka District Court ordered a retrial and freed Hakamada on the grounds of his age and fragile mental state. But four years later, the Tokyo High Court scrapped the request for a retrial, for reasons it would not confirm to CNN.

Hakamada’s defense team then appealed to the Supreme Court.

“We were afraid that Hakamada could be redetained at any moment and given the death penalty. But at least now, with the hope of a retrial, we know he is safe,” said Kiyomi Tsunagoe, a lawyer on Hakamada’s defense team, on Thursday.

Tsunagoe added that Hakamada’s case will return to the Tokyo High Court for fresh deliberation — although a retrial is still not guaranteed, and the defense team is now awaiting the high court’s response. Tsunagoe said it was unclear when this would come.

Japan puts far fewer people in prison than most developed countries: 39 per 100,000 people, compared with 655 in the United States and 124 in Spain, according to the World Prison Brief website.
But the country is known to have a rigid criminal justice system, with a 99.9% conviction rate. According to a 2019 report released by the Cabinet Office, 80% of people surveyed also supported the death penalty.

Hakamada’s sister, Hideko Hakamada, has maintained her brother fell victim to “hostage justice,” when police allegedly strip suspects of their right to remain silent and coerce them to confess.

Hakamada now lives with his sister in Hamamatsu city, Shizuoka prefecture. Though he will likely never return to full mental health, Hideko Hakamada told CNN in March that her brother’s condition was improving, and he had lost a limp that he developed while on death row.

Unlike in the US where execution dates are set in advance, death-row prisoners in Japan are executed in secret, with no advance warning given to the inmate, their family or legal representatives, according to Amnesty International.

Prisoners often only learn of their execution hours before it’s due to take place. Authorities say this occurs “out of consideration that an advance notice would disturb the inmate’s peace of mind and might cause further suffering.”

Usually, inmates must be executed within six months of their sentencing hearing. But Tsunogae says this rarely happens, and many end up waiting years.

Capital punishment is usually reserved for those who have committed multiple murders. All executions are carried out by hanging.



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Lisa Montgomery: Judge delays execution of only woman on US death row | US News


A federal judge has delayed the execution of the only woman on death row in the US.

Lisa Montgomery was convicted of strangling an eight-months pregnant woman in 2004 and cutting her baby out with a kitchen knife.

The child survived the attack and prosecutors said Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass it off as her own.

Image:
Montgomery killed Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, in Skidmore, Missouri, in December 2004

Montgomery’s lawyers say she suffers from serious mental illness after years of physical and mental abuse.

She was due to be executed by lethal injection in Indiana this month, but judge Randolph Moss delayed it after her lawyers caught coronavirus and asked for more time to file a clemency petition.

The judge has now scrapped an order by the director of the Bureau of Prisons that set another execution date for 12 January.

He said it was not made “in accordance with law” because a stay of execution was in effect when the decision was made.

The Bureau of Prisons is now barred from setting a new date for the 52-year-old’s execution until at least 1 January – and an inmate must generally get 20 days’ notice.

It raises the possibility of the execution being scheduled for after Joe Biden‘s inauguration as president on 20 January.

Mr Biden opposes the death penalty and a spokesperson has said he would try to get it scrapped when he takes office.

However, it is not known whether Mr Biden will pause all executions when he comes to power.

Joe Biden said the US government had been hacked on Donald Trump's watch
Image:
The execution may be rescheduled after the inauguration of Joe Biden, who opposes the death penalty

President Donald Trump‘s administration restarted federal executions after a 17-year pause in July and has since carried out 10 death sentences, including two earlier in December.

It has executed more people in a year than any other administration in more than 130 years.

In a statement, one of Montgomery’s lawyers, Sandra Babcock, said: “Given the severity of Mrs Montgomery’s mental illness, the sexual and physical torture she endured throughout her life, and the connection between her trauma and the facts of her crime, we appeal to President Trump to grant her mercy, and commute her sentence to life imprisonment.”

Two other federal inmates are also scheduled to be put to death next month but have tested positive for coronavirus, prompting their legal teams to also seek a stay of execution.



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Sydney Thunder young gun Ollie Davies hits five sixes in a row to claim victory over Melbourne Renegades


The game was reminiscent of the last time the Renegades faced a Sydney side, with the Sixers claiming a 145-run victory against them earlier this month.

Renegades star Kane Richardson was brutal in his response to the huge losses.

“It’s a disappointing change room right now,” he said post-match.

“There are some key players out of form … it’s on each individual to do their homework.

“If guys get better individually then we will start winning some games.”

There was drama of another kind in the nation’s capital, with another blunder from the umpires after several high-profile mistakes in recent games.

Aaron Finch dropped a catch behind the wicket after an edge from Daniel Sams. However, the decision was still sent upstairs by the umpire, with fans using the example to again critique the BBL’s review system.

The decision added to a number of howlers in recent weeks. Usman Khawaja was last week given a life despite being clearly caught behind.

Thunder Alex Hales and Khawaja opened the batting for the Thunder and got them off to a flying start with a 50-run partnership in just four overs.

Nabi broke through, sending Khawaja to the sheds for 34 before Peter Hatzoglou dismissed Hales for 35, who in the process notched his 1000th Big Bash run.

Thunder captain Callum Ferguson was then happy to play the support role for Davies, who doubled down on his brilliant debut performance last week.

After being elevated to No.5, Daniel Sams required a concussion test after copping a ball to the grill of his helmet before hitting 22 off 12.

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Ben Cutting was run out without facing a ball before Ferguson fell for 31 as the Renegades managed to limit some of the damage with several late wickets. Kane Richardson almost took a hat-trick in the penultimate over, but still effected a wicket with his hat-trick ball after running out Baxter Holt. Nathan McAndrew rounded out the innings with a stunning 20 off 5 balls to set the Renegades a target they never looked like chasing down.

The Renegades had a horror innings as youngster Tanveer Sangha wreaked havoc, the 19-year-old leg-spinner finishing with 4-14 from 3.1 overs.

“Each game I play I am getting more familiar with the environment,” Sangha said afterwards. “It was great to contribute to the team’s success.”

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US federal judge again delays execution of lone woman on death row


A US federal judge has said the Justice Department broke the law when it rescheduled the execution of the only woman on federal death row last month, potentially pushing her execution into Democratic president-elect Joe Biden’s new administration.

US District Judge Randolph Moss on Thursday, local time, vacated an order from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department, that had rescheduled convicted murderer Lisa Montgomery’s execution to January 12.

President Donald Trump’s administration has rescheduled 13 executions since July, when Republicans resumed federal executions after a 17-year hiatus.

Ten of those have been put to death already with two more scheduled before he leaves office. It could mean Mr Trump would be the most prolific execution president in more than 130 years.

The Justice Department resumed the use of the federal death penalty earlier this year following a 17-year hiatus.(AP/The Tribune Star: Austen Leake)

The last time executions occurred in a lame-duck period was during the presidency of Grover Cleveland in the 1890s; his administration put 14 people to death that year.

If her execution is carried out, Montgomery would be the first woman to be federally executed since 1953.

Delays could push execution date beyond Trump’s presidency

Montgomery’s execution had originally been scheduled for December 8, but Judge Moss agreed last month to delay after her attorneys fell ill with COVID-19 and were unable to file a timely clemency petition on her behalf.

Judge Moss on November 19 gave Montgomery’s lawyers until December 24 to file the clemency request and granted her a stay of execution until December 31.

On November 23, the Bureau of Prisons announced it was rescheduling her execution to January 12, 2021.

Judge Moss on Thursday sided with Montgomery’s lawyers, who argued that federal regulations bar the Bureau of Prisons from rescheduling an execution during a stay period.

A close up of Joe Biden paired with an image of Donald Trump.
Montgomery’s execution could be pushed back until after Mr Biden, who opposes the death penalty, takes office on January 20.(AP: Andrew Harnik/ Alex Brandon)

Under Judge Moss’s Thursday order, the Bureau of Prisons cannot set a new date for Montgomery’s execution until January 1.

Justice Department rules require inmates be notified of their execution date at least 20 days’ beforehand, except when the date follows a postponement of fewer than 20 days.

That means Montgomery’s execution could be pushed to after Mr Biden, who opposes the death penalty, takes office on January 20.

The Justice Department, under Attorney General William Barr, who stepped down earlier this week, resumed the use of the federal death penalty earlier this year following a 17-year hiatus.

Montgomery, now 52, was convicted in 2007 of kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant.

Montgomery then cut the baby, who survived the attack, out of the womb.

Her lawyers had said that Montgomery has long suffered from severe mental illness and was the victim of sexual assault.

Neither Sandra Babcock, an attorney for Montgomery, nor the Justice Department, immediately responded to a request for comment on the Christmas holiday.

ABC/wires



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The Harrovian chasing 11 wins in a row in the Bernborough Plate at Eagle Farm


He’s no Winx but bush freak The Harrovian has earnt cult hero status after shaking off a near-fatal illness to conquer Queensland racing.

Ten in a row and counting — that’s The Harrovian, the bush freak that shrugged off a near-fatal bout of travel sickness to conquer Queensland racing.

He might be a long way short of being the best horse in the country, but for owner Tom Hedley and his former trainer Stephen Massingham, The Harrovian is nothing short of a champion.

Now with Toby and Trent Edmonds on the Gold Coast, he is a raging favourite in Saturday’s Listed Bernborough Plate at Eagle Farm to win his 11th consecutive race.

“I just take one race as it comes,” said Cairns-based Hedley, who has been racing horses for 45 years. “I don’t get too carried away anymore. I like the winning feeling of course.”

A plumber by trade who made his fortune in construction, property and hotels, Hedley figures he has about 100 horses on the books, most of them bought as tried commodities.

The Harrovian and this year’s Stradbroke winner Tyzone are the pick of them.

“I’m buying all the time and I can tell you they don’t all turn out like him,” he said.

“It’s a bloody trying game at times. It’s bad enough when you buy yearlings and they go slow, but when you buy tried horses and you get hoodwinked with what problems they might have, it can be pretty frustrating, brother.

“There’s always some rogues around who will push anything onto you. I had two vetted four weeks ago, they passed the vet, but both were gone in the feet by the time they got to us.

“So you need a Harrovian or Tyzone to come along and give you faith in the game.”

Hedley is known as an animal lover.

He once spent thousands to save his pet dog, so when The Harrovian, which Hedley had paid just $20,000 for, nearly died upon arrival in Queensland owing to travel sickness, no expense was spared.

Massingham recalls the call 2½ years ago telling him it was likely the horse would not survive the trip up from his original trainer Jim Conlan’s base in Victoria.

“I can remember as clear as day,” Massingham said. “He had arrived in Brisbane on the Thursday night and I received a call from Les Rudd (from Rudd’s Horse Transport) the next morning saying, ‘Big fella, this horse will most probably die in the next hour.’ I said you can only do what you can do and get the vet and hopefully save him.”

The trainer was told The Harrovian needed 10 litres of plasma, costing around $4000, which was no issue for the horse’s new owner.

“When I was a young fellow, about 12 or 13, I got a couple of awards for taking in stray dogs,” Hedley said. “It’s just one of those things. I’m a lover of nature and a lover of animals. I don’t even like hitting a mosquito. I just tend to shoo them away.

“I had five dogs, but lost my best one recently. I’m still grieving losing him.

“So when they said it was going to cost you three or four grand a pop and he might need five rounds of it, that’s just the way it is.”

After a lengthy period of recovery, The Harrovian eventually made his way to Massingham’s Cairns stable, where he has exceeded all expectations.

“The horse has come out of nothing,” Hedley said. “It’s well-bred, but I’ve bought a lot of well-bred horses over the years and they haven’t clicked like this horse.

“It’s a bit freaky.

“He was in good hands where he was — Conlan won three races from 14 starts before The Harrovian was sold to Hedley — and then all of a sudden he came north, got crook, had a long break, came back, won a race and then got some confidence.

“I’ve been doing it a long time and no matter where you are, it’s a pretty good achievement for a horse to win the races he has.”

Massingham, known to all and sundry as “Boogie” — “I’ve had that name since I was four. I have no idea where it came from, but some people don’t even know my name is Stephen” — discovered The Harrovian might be better than average after his first jumpout.

“He worked like a nice horse, but nothing super,” he said.

“I gave him a jumpout about 10 days before he raced. He was a mongrel in the gates, reared right up and was 10 lengths off them coming to the corner and the young fellow who rode him (Anton Gibson) gave him a smack with the stick and he picked up and went straight past them.”

He would go on to be the best horse Massingham has trained — by a good way. Boogie could also have been a 50 per cent shareholder in the horse, but at the time he “needed another horse like a hole in the head” so passed up Hedley’s offer.

Still, Massingham’s name is synonymous with The Harrovian, despite the fact he has now switched to the Edmonds stable on the Gold Coast, from where he won first-up for the stable at Doomben a month ago.

“It’s hard to put into words what he’s done for us,” Massingham said. “It’s become mayhem some days, but in a good ways.

“It was difficult (to say goodbye), but the reality is that’s where the horse belongs.

“If I only had two horses in work I would have taken six months off work and stayed there with him. The reality is I have 15 horses at home, the show still has to go on.”

Once again on Saturday, Massingham will be part of The Harrovian’s ever-growing supporter group. “We’re coming in force, anyway. We have to enjoy the ride while we can. It doesn’t happen every day,” he said.



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