Will second inquest uncover the truth about Simone’s death?


IN AN explosive new development, a second Coronial Inquest into the 2005 death of Simone Strobel in Lismore, will be held in February next year.

The Department of Communities and Justice confirmed the inquest was set to take place, 14 years after the first one found there was insufficient evidence to lay charges over the death.

TOP STORIES: Where is all that smoke coming from?

Since then, a $1 million reward has been offered and police investigating the suspicious death confirmed a former suspect was now reclassified as a witness.

No one has been charged over the death of the 25-year-old German backpacker, whose body was found under palm fronds at the Lismore Bocce Club, six days after she went missing.

At the conclusion of the first inquest in 2007, Deputy State Coroner Paul Macmahon referred the case back to police.

File photo Simone Strobel with her boyfriend, Tobias Suckfuell. Photo Contributed

During the inquest, Mr Macmahon said despite agreeing with evidence police said showed Tobias Suckfuell (now Moran) was the most likely suspect, there was not enough evidence to charge him or his sister, Katrin Suckfuell, who police suspected may have helped him hide Simone’s body.

Hermann Zeissner (uncle), Uwe Klein (brother-in-law), Katrin and Tobias Suckfuell visiting the site of Simone Strobel’s death in Lismore. Photo Jacklyn Wagner

Hermann Zeissner (uncle), Uwe Klein (brother-in-law), Katrin and Tobias Suckfuell visiting the site of Simone Strobel’s death in Lismore. Photo Jacklyn Wagner

Last month, Richmond Police District commander, Superintendent Scott Tanner announced a $1 million reward for information about Simone Strobel’s death.

Supt Tanner confirmed Ms Strobel’s former boyfriend remained a person of interest.

“As was clear at the 2007 inquest, the then boyfriend is certainly a person of interest and he remains a person of interest in this investigation, police are keeping an open mind on all circumstances around this homicide,” Superintendent Tanner said.

“The inquest did identify a number of persons of interest, however, our investigation will take us where it takes us.”

German backpacker Simone Strobel was found dead in Lismore in 2005. Photo Contributed

German backpacker Simone Strobel was found dead in Lismore in 2005. Photo Contributed

Last week however, Detective Acting Inspector Grant Erickson, of the Richmond Police District, said one of those suspects was now considered a witness.

“German authorities advised detectives last week that a former nominated suspect has now had their classification changed to a witness”, Insp Erickson said.

“This development is of interest to the Strike Force detectives and is something we will be monitoring.”

Insp Erickson said the NSW police and German police were in constant contact over possible new information regarding the case.

Additionally, the Richmond Police District has received new information in relation to the Simone Strobel case after announcing the $1 million reward for information in October.

Insp Erickson also revealed DNA technology would be a part of the investigation, due to the advances made in the technology since Simone’s death in 2005.

“As part of the ongoing inquiries, we are also looking at the advancements in DNA technology and we’re constantly reviewing the examination processes of forensic material obtained as a result of this investigation,” he said.

Police and emergency workers at the Lismore Bocce Club in February 2007.

Police and emergency workers at the Lismore Bocce Club in February 2007.

During the 2007 inquest, the Coroner noted there was a critical piece of evidence found by police at the Bocce Club, believed to be a human hair.

At the conclusion of the inquest, Mr Macmahon said: “Unfortunately at this stage current technology is not sufficiently advanced” to identify who the hair came from.

Mr Macmahon concluded that Simone died on or about February 12, 2005, that she likely died from suffocation or smothering asphyxia, and that her death was ’caused by the action of a person or persons unknown’.

Details about the second Coronial Inquiry – dates, witnesses to appear, and the scope of the hearing – had not yet been released.

The reward for information remains open to any person or resident including both Australian and German residents.

If you have any information about the death of Simone Strobel, contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.





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Caught in a lie The truth behind Stephen Crichton’s handshake deal with Penrith Panthers and coach Ivan Cleary


“I heard that you shook hands with Ivan and said ‘I’m not going to change my mind, a deal is a deal’. A verbal agreement. Is that right?” Crichton was asked by the Herald on October 18.

“Yeah, yeah,” Crichton replied before hinting that he was going to discard the agreement. “I’m just trying to see what’s best for me and my family, especially because I’m the only one at home paying off and helping my mum and dad. I really want to get a good deal, good enough so my parents don’t have to work any more.

Panthers stars Stephen Crichton, Josh Mansour and Jarome Luai.Credit:Brook Mitchell

“I’m the only one at home, I’m the oldest one at home as well because my brothers have all moved out of home with their families and kids. My parents are relying on me so, yeah. I’m just trying to sort out what the best deal is for me and my family and what’s really going to help us. I want to stay at Penrith, but, yeah.”

Crichton was then pressed on the details of his conversation with the coach which left the club of the opinion that his future was committed to Penrith on the three year, $1.5 million deal.

“I’ve told Ivan that I really want to stay here,” Crichton said last month. “But I just want to see what the best deal for my family is.”

The Herald contacted Panthers head of football Matt Cameron on Sunday afternoon, but he declined to comment.

Ayoub’s argument that Crichton is worth more than $500,000 is valid. The Blues squad member would likely attract offers of around $600,000 to $700,000 elsewhere, such is the talent he possesses. But Penrith are disappointed with how the version of events have changed over time.

Crichton is contracted to Penrith until the end of 2021, however he is now able to talk to rival clubs after becoming a free agent on November 1. Things will escalate once he comes out of NSW Origin camp on Thursday.

The Panthers face an uphill battle trying to retain all their star juniors, which would be aided by the potential release of fan favourite Josh Mansour before the season. The problem for Penrith is that Mansour is also managed by Ayoub, who is expected to push any savings the club gains from Mansour’s likely release towards Crichton’s new deal. Penrith want to use some of that money to keep the likes of Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo at the club beyond the end of next season.

Mansour and Leniu in demand

Speaking of Mansour, the Wests Tigers remain the favourites to secure his services, however the club will not take him on until the end of 2023 as Ayoub is demanding. The 30-year-old was one of the best wingers in the NRL in 2020 and would provide the Tigers with valuable leadership that has been lacking at the joint venture, however his age is a sticking point for the club.

Panthers player Josh Mansour, wife Daniella and children Andre, left, and Siana.

Panthers player Josh Mansour, wife Daniella and children Andre, left, and Siana.Credit:Nick Moir

The Tigers are happy to sign him on a two-year deal, but not three. Parramatta are also keen to lure him to the club, which has received glowing recommendations from a number of ex-Panthers in the squad, however it requires Ayoub finding a new home for his other client, Blake Ferguson.

The Panthers may also struggle to keep young prop Spencer Leniu, who is off contract at the end of the year. Penrith offered him a two-year extension before the finals, but at least four clubs have since expressed interest in his services for 2022, including Trent Barrett at the Bulldogs.

NRL checks Cartwright’s salary sacrifice

The NRL has asked Parramatta to hold off announcing the signing of Bryce Cartwright as the NRL Integrity Unit looks into a couple of things that raised concern.

Bryce Cartwright is headed for the Eels, pending approval from the NRL.

Bryce Cartwright is headed for the Eels, pending approval from the NRL.Credit:NRL Photos

The NRL has been doing its due diligence on Cartwright’s exit from the Gold Coast, with the former Panthers backrower walking away from a $600,000 deal with the Titans for a $130,000 deal with the Eels.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing, however given the significant salary sacrifice, the NRL wants to make sure everything is above board before the Eels announce his deal.

Moses decision could trigger chain reaction

The NRL is still waiting on the verdict from the independent tribunal that examined the recent Isaac Moses hearing. There are a lot of people holding out for the result, including his clients and rival agents who are lining up to steal his talent.

The NRL is also very keen for the result. Under previous administration, Moses had a very strong connection with the governing body that angered clubs who felt he was untouchable. When agents have previously been suspended by the NRL, clubs still negotiated with some banned agents, only for another accredited manager in the company to sign off on the deal.

You can guarantee plans are already in place to make sure that doesn’t happen if Moses goes down. The code is considering fining or standing down club officials who negotiate with a suspended agent. Expect that to be the first of many reforms, given that the sport is hellbent on cleaning up this murky area.

NRL plays catch-up with regions

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The NRL will make up for having a lack of matches in the bush during a disrupted 2020 season when it announces the draw for next season at the end of the month. The NRL has included additional matches in regional centres for the 2021 season. The only game played in regional NSW this season was a Warriors game in Tamworth as a tribute to the town for welcoming them during a two-week quarantine period in May.

Can’t please them all

One particular club chairman had his nose out of joint after he was left out of the committee that selected Kate Jones as the newest ARL commissioner. Peter V’landys invited Canberra’s Allan Hawke and Penrith’s Dave O’Neill to join NSWRL chairman George Peponis, QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher and ARL commissioner Megan Davis. It’s the first time the clubs were invited to have their say, however some didn’t agree with the representatives on the committee.

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Glamorous TV presenter has revealed the TRUTH about rumoured affair with NRL legend Cameron Smith


Glamorous sports presenter Yvonne Sampson has revealed the truth about unfounded rumours she had an affair with rugby league superstar Cameron Smith. 

Ms Sampson, a respected former Wide World of Sports presenter and current Fox League host, responded to the rumours on Friday after they were dredged-up by Smith in promoting his new autobiography. 

‘My husband and I were made aware of these absurd and baseless rumours when they surfaced three years ago. They are utterly false. This malicious gossip has no bearing on my life, career as a journalist or love of rugby league,’ the 40-year-old told News Corp. 

Glamorous sports presenter Yvonne Sampson (pictured) has revealed the truth about unfounded rumours she had an affair with rugby league superstar Cameron Smith 

Smith (pictured with wife Barbara) brought up the rumours which began in 2017 in promoting his autobiography this week

Smith (pictured with wife Barbara) brought up the rumours which began in 2017 in promoting his autobiography this week 

Cameron Smith (pictured) with wife Barbara has said rumours of an affair with sports presenter Yvonne Sampson are untrue and hurtful

Cameron Smith (pictured) with wife Barbara has said rumours of an affair with sports presenter Yvonne Sampson are untrue and hurtful 

Smith, 37, said when he was first informed of the unfounded gossip being spread on social media, he was so surprised he burst out laughing. 

But the NRL star, who has been married to his wife Barbara for almost ten years, quickly realised the gravity of situation. 

‘It was just cruel … rumours that were completely untrue. When I told Barb she was shattered. It floored her,’ Smith told QWeekend

Smith, who has released a new autobiography, said the rumours were false and while he felt he could handle them, his concern was for both his wife and Ms Sampson. 

Ms Sampson is a long serving and well respected rugby league presenter, having worked for Wide World of Sports and Fox League. 

Smith said on the first occasion he did an interview with Ms Sampson after the rumours surfaced he felt deeply concerned for her and her fiance, who were getting ready to tie-the-knot later that year.  

‘Honestly, if I was going to have an affair – which I never would – why would I do it with someone with a profile as big as hers? And in my own sport?’ 

Smith revealed his wife and Ms Sampson exchanged text messages in the aftermath of the rumours – checking on each other’s welfare. 

The idea of publicly quashing the gossip on a scheduled appearance by Smith on Fox Sport’s League Life in 2018 was also brought up but in the end Smith decided it would be better not to fan the flames. 

Yvonne Sampson announced her engagement to her Channel Nine news reporter boyfriend Chris O’Keefe in 2017

Yvonne Sampson announced her engagement to her Channel Nine news reporter boyfriend Chris O’Keefe in 2017

Smith revealed his wife and Ms Sampson exchanged text messages in the aftermath of the rumours - checking on each other's welfare

Smith revealed his wife and Ms Sampson exchanged text messages in the aftermath of the rumours – checking on each other’s welfare 

Smith’s book, The Storm Within, also addresses some other events in the career of the former Melbourne and Australian captain.  

The book reveals he was so affected when he and his wife were portrayed as ‘greedy’ for accepting a diamond ring worth $15,000 from the NRL for his 400th game that he considered leaving the sport. 

The gift received criticism online from footy fans who questioned why Smith’s wife had received the expensive gift. 

‘Why did you buy Cameron Smith’s wife a ring? Is it because he runs the game?’ one person wrote to the NRL’s Twitter account after the 2019 presentation. 

‘Instead of buying Cameron Smith’s wife a $15,000 diamond ring, (Todd) Greenberg could send 10 TVs over to Papua New Guinea and footballs for the PNG kids to kick around!’ wrote another. 

Cameron Smith and wife Barbara at the 2018 Dally M Awards a year after the rumours surfaced

Cameron Smith and wife Barbara at the 2018 Dally M Awards a year after the rumours surfaced 

Former Queensland Maroons captain Cameron Smith (right) stands with his family ahead of Game 3 of the 2018 State of Origin series between the NSW Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane

Former Queensland Maroons captain Cameron Smith (right) stands with his family ahead of Game 3 of the 2018 State of Origin series between the NSW Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane 

The Storm star was quick to hit back saying his wife had no knowledge of the gift until it was presented to her and she should not be targeted. 

‘Criticism is part of the game. I signed up to be an NRL player. To bring in personal attacks and family, that’s not on. I’m not just saying that about myself. That’s any athlete’s family. I just think that’s off-limits,’ Smith said. 

Todd Greenberg, the then chief executive of the NRL, defended the present to Mrs Smith, saying the wives of rugby stars play a vital supporting role for players. 

Greenberg was replaced in the role earlier this year after the dire financial state of the NRL was exposed when coronavirus restrictions disrupted the 2020 season. 

Cameron Smith is pictured with his wife Barbara as he leaves the field after becoming the first player to reach 400 matches

Cameron Smith is pictured with his wife Barbara as he leaves the field after becoming the first player to reach 400 matches

Smith also revealed he still bitterly views Melbourne’s treatment in the salary cap scandal that stripped the club of two premierships as unfair. 

Officials found the club had breached the salary cap rules by keeping a second set of financial books which hid a total of $3.78million in secret payments to players between 2006 and 2010. 

The Storm’s titles between those years were revoked and the league fined the club more than $1million which was distributed among the other 15 clubs. 

Smith maintains his club’s punishment was far more severe than other clubs who later broke the rules. 

Smith (pictured centre) celebrating with MElbourne

Smith (pictured centre) celebrates with fellow Melbourne Storm teammates after winning the 2020 Grand Final in October 

As for his will-he-or-won’t-he retirement moment, which has been shrouded in speculation, Smith is still leaving that a mystery. 

He explained the contracts started dropping for the 2021 season this week and he has not received one but maintains he is still playing as well as he ever has and his body is not asking him to stop. 

The record holder for the most games ever played in the NRL could have one more season in him yet. 



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Clarence cop’s ‘COVID truth’ letter subject of investigation



AN OFFICER from the Coffs/Clarence Police District is the subject of an internal investigation after an open letter sent to the NSW Police Commissioner was published online claiming the enforcement of coronavirus restrictions was eroding community trust.

The six-page letter, addressed to NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and posted on a website called Cops for Covid Truth, claims “the use of the police to enforce the ongoing restrictions placed upon our citizens relating to COVID-19 … has seriously eroded community trust in our great police force”.

“Many members of the force are fed up with the approach to enforce oppressive rules placed upon the population in the name of COVID-19 and the looming mandatory vaccinations,” the letter says, before going on to urge the NSW Police Commissioner to “raise the alarm that there is a global dictatorship occurring and the Police Force is being used as a tool to push these global and corporate agendas upon the population”.

The letter also advocates the use of the hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, a drug which has no proven benefits, and claims the Federal Government’s deal with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca was made for “corporate interests” as well as questioning the severity of COVID-19, how it’s being testing for, and the move towards ensuring the Australians were vaccinated once a vaccine against the coronavirus was available.

A NSW Police Force spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Examiner that an investigation is continuing into the letter and the officer.

“NSW Police are aware of the letter and the matter is now subject of an internal investigation,” the spokesperson said.

“The officer, who is attached to a specialist command in the Northern region, has been spoken to. His duty status is currently under review.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

The letter claims to be reaching out to fellow officers across the country, and called for police to not “participate in any way in the forcing of vaccines upon the population”.





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The sad truth behind James Roberts’ release from South Sydney Rabbitohs


South Sydney had multiple opportunities to trigger the clause earlier in the year when they began to question Roberts’ commitment to the team. But given his history and the challenges he had faced throughout his life, the Rabbitohs were reluctant to kick him to the curb.

It’s why they paid close to $30,000 in psychological support for him and his family, including a month’s stay at a northern beaches rehabilitation clinic to help him deal with the struggles related to the COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney.

James Roberts is leaving Souths with a year remaining on his contract.Credit:Getty

Despite his release, Souths have also pledged to continue their financial assistance of the 27-year-old, which it is projected will cost another $30,000 based on the welfare plan set out for the next 12 months.

When South Sydney sat down with Roberts to discuss the contract breaches three months ago, which were nothing more than a few incidents that raised questions over his commitment to the club, the Rabbitohs decided against immediately terminating his deal and offered to pay him for the remainder of the rugby league financial year.

It cost the club more than $100,000 they were not obligated to pay under the terms of the contract, but the club had Roberts’ welfare at the forefront of their decision making.

South Sydney also wanted to give Roberts time to find another club, agreeing to provide a reference if he managed to secure interest elsewhere.

James Roberts has struggled to recapture his best form since returning to South Sydney from the Brisbane Broncos.

James Roberts has struggled to recapture his best form since returning to South Sydney from the Brisbane Broncos.Credit:NRL Photos

The Newcastle Knights are considering offering Roberts a lifeline but there has been very little appetite shown at other clubs.

The NRL has had several discussions with South Sydney in relation to Roberts’ release and is comfortable with the mutual understanding that has been struck between the two parties.

SBW could go another round

While the common train of thought surrounding Sonny Bill Williams is that his football days are over, don’t discard the possibility of one last cameo appearance if the right opportunity pops up.

Williams wants to focus on boxing and will earn around $300,000 a fight, a lot more than he stands to earn if he commits to a 12-week preseason and 30-week competition with an NRL club.

Sonny Bill Williams may not have played his last game of professional rugby league.

Sonny Bill Williams may not have played his last game of professional rugby league.Credit:Getty

Williams has no desire to put himself through the rigours of a full rugby league season, but if something comes up close to the June 30 deadline, after he has had a few fights, it may provide the veteran back-rower with some food for thought.

He showed in the semi-final against the Raiders that he still has something to offer, but a neck injury and a lack of time limited his impact for the Roosters. He would have 10 weeks to get himself right before the finals if he was to sign with an NRL club prior to next year’s deadline. Those clubs with a roster spot available at that time of year may benefit from his services off the bench.

Crichton, Panthers on cash collision course

The rumour mill has been in overdrive the past week about the future of Penrith young gun Stephen Crichton. There had been a suggestion Crichton attracted interest from the Sydney Roosters to replace Josh Morris at left centre in 2022, but the Tricolours have strongly denied any pursuit of Crichton.

This column last week reported the handshake deal Crichton made with Ivan Cleary to honour a three-year $1.5 million deal which had been agreed upon three months ago.

It now looks like Crichton will honour one part of that deal: to remain at Penrith. But you can be guaranteed his new agent Sam Ayoub will be arguing that Crichton is worth far more than $500,000 a season when he begins negotiations this week. The change of heart hasn’t gone down well at Penrith.

Marshall turns down Cowboys

Benji Marshall has knocked back the latest offer from the North Queensland Cowboys to join the club next season. The Cowboys recently upped their original offer from $210,000 to $260,000 for Marshall to play at the club in 2021, however the veteran playmaker declined.

A similar offer to play in Sydney would likely be enough to secure Marshall’s services, but the 35-year-old is reluctant to uproot his wife and son to Townsville without greater financial incentive. Marshall stands to earn more by remaining in Sydney to work in the media at Fox Sports.

Benji Marshall still plans to play in the NRL but knocked back two offers from the Cowboys for 2021.

Benji Marshall still plans to play in the NRL but knocked back two offers from the Cowboys for 2021.Credit:NRL Photos

There could be an opportunity alongside Kyle Flanagan at the Bulldogs given Blake Green looks set to remain at the Knights, however Canterbury are yet to express interest in Marshall’s services. The only Sydney club to sniff around has been Cronulla. Marshall earned $300,000 in his final season at the Wests Tigers.

Questions over Knights boss

There are a few people involved with the Newcastle Knights starting to question chief executive Phil Gardner after NRL.com revealed the details of Kalyn Ponga’s deal.

Kalyn Ponga will become a free agent on November 1 next year.

Kalyn Ponga will become a free agent on November 1 next year.Credit:Getty

A few months ago Gardner trumpeted Ponga’s extension until 2024 and was adamant there were no clauses allowing him to leave early. But when NRL.com published all updated contracts for 2021 last week, including player options for Ponga in 2023 and 2024, Gardner was left with egg on his face.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened. Gardner was adamant that the club did not go behind former coach Nathan Brown’s back when they approached Adam O’Brien last year, although those close to Brown insist the coach only fell on his sword after learning of the club’s enquiries into O’Brien.

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Gardner pointed the finger at former recruitment manager Troy Pezet, who wore all the blame for approaching O’Brien, but Brown struggled to believe that the Pezet went rogue. Pezet has since been made redundant and his son Jonah, considered one of the best young halves coming through the grades, has signed with the Melbourne Storm for next year.

Nines cut for 2021

With the NRL set to unveil the 2021 draw at the end of this month, the governing body has decided to scrap the Nines from its pre-season calendar. The Indigenous All Stars match against New Zealand Maoris will remain in the schedule, with a location yet to be determined.

It is highly unlikely there will be a World Club Challenge. The NRL can’t finalise the draw until a decision is made on where Origin belongs. Don’t expect it to remain an end-of-season fixture.

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The moment of truth for stock-market investors? Election Day looms and the most crucial stretch of 2020 awaits


Could the 2020 U.S. presidential election be the most highly wagered on event in history?

That means bets on the political race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President and Democratic challenger Joe Biden already have surpassed total wagers on high-profile sporting events, like the National Football League’s Super Bowls, the National Basketball Association finals, and big ticket boxing matches, Watt says.

But there are, gargantuan sums at stake on Wall Street too, and this coming week could represent the moment of truth for traders who have been rattled recently in the lead-up to the highly anticipated election.

The Dow closed 6.5% lower for the past week and the S&P 500 lost 5.6% over the same stretch, while the Nasdaq skittered 5.5% lower.

However, it isn’t just political agita that this week drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.59%
,
the S&P 500 index
SPX,
-1.21%
,
and the Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP,
-2.45%

to register their worst weekly tumbles since March—there’s been a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic too.

Traders this coming week confront the prospect in some U.S. states of a return to business shutdowns like those seen in March as COVID-19 cases rise to daily records.

Stephen Dover, head of equities at Franklin Templeton, put it this way: “This next week will be a confluence of market driving events: of course the election, stimulus, earnings and growing Covid infections.”

Key events of the coming week include the U.S. election results on Tuesday, an update from the Federal Reserve at its Wednesday and Thursday meeting, and the jobs report for October from the U.S. Labor Department on Friday.

“Next week is going to be a volatile week for the market given all the big events,” Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest, told MarketWatch.

Will Trump overcome betting odds and the opinion polls to stage a comeback in the electoral college against Biden as he did in 2016? Or will the Congressional races amount to a so-called blue wave in Washington, resulting in a Democratic sweep of both the White House and Congress that may usher in another broad fiscal relief package to combat the economic harm from the pandemic ?

“If the Democrats gain a strong majority in the Senate there is likely to be more legislation that will affect the markets and there will be sentiment shifts in many sectors of the market,” Franklin Templeton’s Dover explained.

Specifically, Dover thinks the congressional races could prove a source of jitters for markets into late November and beyond, pressuring stocks lower.

“It is likely that we will not know the final Senate results on Tuesday evening,” Dover told MarketWatch, while warning that uncertainty could “add to volatility in the market until resolved which, because of runoff races, might not be resolved until January.”

It is a point that can’t be overstated: the investment community hates the unknown.

Ally Invest’s Bell ranks the political race as the key issue next week, perhaps even above the second or third wave of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and in major cities in Europe.

“I believe the election will be the key driver of next week’s action,” Bell said. “That’s because the election has the most consequential near-term and long-term implications for the market,” she said, while pointing out that investors will be looking to adjust their portfolios based on its outcome.

However, Katie Nixon, chief investment officer at Northern Trust Wealth Management, views the deadly pandemic as trumping all other market risk factors.

“Given the global ‘risk off’ tone of the market this week, it is clear that the rise in Covid-19 cases across Europe and the U.S. has taken center stage in terms of key risk factors,” she wrote in a Friday research note.

“With memories of March and April fresh in investors’ minds, many are fearful of a repeat, and this fear has been supported by the announcement of various restrictive measures taken across Europe.”

Against that backdrop, the Federal Reserve’s two-day Nov. 4-5 policy meeting and the nonfarm payrolls report on Friday, usually a pivotal market driver, could end up being a sideshow to the election and the coronavirus.

The barrage of factors already has investors bracing for wild swings in the coming week. The Cboe Volatility Index
VIX,
+1.14%
,
a gauge of implied moves in the stock market, soared to the highest level since around June, closing Friday out at around 38.02, or well above its historical average at around 19. The volatility index tends to rise when markets fall, therefore can be used by some traders as a hedge against coming equity market drops.

Could there be a big tumble coming, considering the treacherous wall of worry markets must scale now? Northern Trust’s Nixon, doesn’t think so.

“This is unlikely for a few key reasons: First, the panic during March was exacerbated by the tremendous uncertainty related to the virus. We know more today about the epidemiology, we have more advanced and effective treatments, and we sit perhaps weeks away from the announcement of a vaccine,” she explained.

Independent market technician Mark Newton thinks otherwise and sees November and parts of December as vulnerable to post-election rockiness.

“Markets are likely to fall into late [November] or even Dec 21-22, but could have a reprieve from Wed-Friday where bounces are possible,” the market technician said. But he also sees late November as potentially ripe for a “particularly bearish” run for equities.

“Lots of volatility and [I] wouldn’t’ be surprised to see SPX 2900,” Newton wrote.

Furthermore, Newton speculates that new highs for stocks won’t be achieved in 2020 and sees a high likelihood of a contested election, which many expect because of the slow process of counting mail-in ballots, among other issues.

But after the uncertainty lifts, perhaps, there will be a newfound path forward for investors over the longer term, as Bell at Ally Invest expects.

“Right now, we’re bracing for more rough days ahead, but we’re feeling good about the earnings outlook. Earnings can help drive the market after this particular storm, too,” the analyst explained.

“Believe it or not, reports from nearly 60% of S&P 500 companies have shown that U.S. companies are in the midst of a comeback,” she said, adding that “2021 continues to look promising.”  

How much of comeback may be partially determined next week.





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Truth Seekers on Amazon: Nick Frost on ghostly encounters and the paranormal


Nick Frost loves being scared, and he wants to make sure you are too.

Frost and frequent collaborator Simon Pegg have a new TV show out this weekend. It’s called Truth Seekers and it follows a broadband installer who moonlights as a paranormal investigator who posts his findings on YouTube.

It’s both creepy and funny – in other words, exactly the kind of show Frost wants to watch himself.

The idea was born out of his own fascination with things that go bump in the night, a hobby he and Pegg were already indulging in two decades earlier.

“When Simon and I lived together, some weekends, if we weren’t going out trying to be big hits with the ladies, we’d be holed up in an old, gothic graveyard, or trying to get into a Saxon church or a creepy building,” he told news.com.au.

“We used to go ghost hunting and inspire meetings with the paranormal, that was our weekend. We enjoyed doing s**t like that. I don’t think we ever saw anything, but we always frightened ourselves!

“We always enjoyed being afraid and we’d usually just end up running off or getting in the car and driving away at high speeds. We always loved the paranormal.”

Frost and Pegg may not have encountered anything otherworldly during those nights out around among the dead, but he does recall one incident in his younger days when there may have been a brush with someone who wasn’t there.

“I was laying on my couch in a house that I was sure had a female ghost in it. I was kissed on the forehead and I spun around and there was no one else in the house,” he said. “That was probably my nearest [encounter].”

media_cameraNick Frost’s new series, Truth Seekers

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That lingering question about whether there’s another dimension of spirits most of us don’t seem to experience is the linchpin of Truth Seekers – although in Truth Seekers, it’s very much real.

Premiering on Amazon Prime Video today, it’s an eight-part series that’s a mix of classic case-of-the-week episodes (possessed dolls, ghost dogs, poltergeists) with an overarching conspiracy that may spell the end of the world.

The fact that his series is coming out at a time when real-world conspiracies are spread further every day and people are protesting and vandalising 5G towers isn’t lost on Frost.

“As a writer, you can’t help but be influenced by what’s going on around you, especially if you’re writing a show about bad people trying to take over the world behind everyone’s backs using telephone signals.

“I think it just drips in, and someone like Trump and Twitter and Instagram and people setting fire to 5G masts, it just adds into the depth of it all. Hopefully it will add to the creepiness and spookiness of it.”

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have been working together for decades
media_cameraSimon Pegg and Nick Frost have been working together for decades

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Even while filming Truth Seekers, which was co-created by James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders, there were moments when Frost felt a little spooked out, including a location that was an abandoned school for deaf children.

“They had a warren of tunnels underneath the school and we shot a lot in there,” he recalled. “There were days when I had to be on my own down there, while the crew were all out doing technical stuff, and just being down there on my own was, like, if you’ve got an imagination then it’s very easy to scare yourself when you’re down somewhere like that.”

Frost credited his devout Catholic upbringing for his susceptibility. “Watching The Omen and The Exorcist were like documentaries for me. It was something that we all loved.

“When The X-Files came out, Simon and I felt like that was written just for us. We love The X-Files, and not just the arcs but those little ones that were so interesting and fun, and they were often the best ones for me in a season.”

But what he really wanted to do was make a comedy about the occult culture, which was the perfect excuse to lose himself on the internet watching videos of supposedly possessed Italian women being put through an exorcism.

Frost said that while he’s mostly a nonbeliever these days, he has watched enough stuff on YouTube to think “f**king maybe, it’s kind of creepy, I’m kind of creeped out now”.

Truth Seekers is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video

Share your TV and movies obsessions | @wenleima

Originally published as Star’s ghostly encounter: ‘No one there’





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Wall Street rocked as it confronts a painful truth


Financial markets might not be the economy and might be forward-looking but the view that the pandemic was a fleeting phenomenon whose economic impacts would be short-lived always appeared at odds with the lived experience, albeit not with Donald Trump’s desperately optimistic predictions.

Investors now appear to be having second thoughts as a new wave of the virus sweeps across America.

Iis obvious that the pillars for their previous optimism are wobbling rather violently

The US is experiencing a resurgence in COVID infections and deaths, with the seven-day average at its highest level since the onset of the pandemic. About 8.6 million Americans have now been infected an the death toll – more than 225,000 – keeps rising even as Trump claims the US is “rounding the turn.”

“Even without the vaccines we’re rounding the turn,” he said at a rally this week.

That’s at odds with the rather chilling assessment of his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who said at the weekend that the administration is “not going to control the pandemic.”

Wall Street doesn’t seem to be as optimistic as Trump that the US is “rounding the turn” in its fight against the pandemic. Credit:AP

The data from Europe, which after largely bringing the virus under control is now experiencing a savage surge in infections and a new round of lockdowns, adds to the sense that the US experience, where mitigation efforts have been highly politicised, could be calamitous.

The markets had factored in a massive new round of COVID-driven fiscal stimulus to replace the $US2 trillion ($2.8 trillion) package Congress approved in March. That included US versions of our Jobkeeper and Jobseeker programs as well as mortgage and student loans forbearance, rent assistance and moratoria on evictions.

Some of those programs have already expired and the rest will be largely gone by the end of the year.

Expectations of a new round of stimulus haven’t been borne out. The Democrat-controlled House passed a $US2.2 trillion plan at the start of this month ($US1.2 trillion less than an earlier version passed in May) but the Republicans in the Senate are showing no interest in supporting it, instead pushing for a much smaller amount.

When the US GDP numbers come out later this week they are expected to show a very big rebound in activity in the September quarter – annualised it might be more than 30 per cent – from the depths experienced in the June quarter when the economy contracted 32 per cent.

Even the more optimistic analysts, however, now believe it will take until 2022 for the US economy to return to its pre-COVID size – and that’s without another virus-induced spate of lockdowns and collapses in activity.

The surge in infections and the absence of further stimulus – and the reality that the US Federal Reserve Board has done just about everything it could do in its unprecedented monetary policy responses — appears to have, and should have, investors questioning their previous optimism.

Late last week, writing in the New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller said his Crash Confidence Index – which measures sentiment about the safety of the market and is based on asking the respondents about the probability of a catastrophic stockmarket crash like that in 1929 – had hit a record low in August and remain extremely low in September.

An overwhelming number of investors had said there was a greater than 10 per cent probability of an imminent crash, which he described as a “remarkable indicator that people are quite worried.”

A question about valuations elicited a similarly concerned response, with only 38 per cent of investors thinking the market wasn’t too highly priced.

Shiller said that his proprietary measure of stock valuations, the “Cyclically Adjusted Price Earnings,” or CAPE ratio, was at a level only surpassed in two periods – the lead up to the Great Depression and in early 2000, just before the dot-com bubble imploded.

More conventional price-earnings metrics show the US market is trading on PE ratios in the mid-30 times earnings against an historical average over just under 20 times.

While it is possible to rationalise high valuations in an environment where bond yields and interest rate more generally are at historical lows – even 10-year bonds are yielding less than one per cent – the price investors have been paying for earnings appears excessive and would be impossible to justify if the resurgence of the virus and the absence of Congressional financial safety nets tore a new hole in America’s economy.

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Since the market rebound began in March – even after the sell-off in the past two weeks the market is up 52 per cent from its lows – investors have discounted and looked through the impacts of the pandemic, been confident of the imminence of a vaccine and priced in more stimulus to tide the economy through to a return to solid growth.

With the White House now conceding it has lost control, if it ever had it, of the virus, the prospect of a new fiscal response ahead of the election now negligible and the vaccine that Trump promised for month would be available in weeks unlikely to be submitted for approval by the federal health authorities until late November at the earliest, it is obvious that the pillars for their previous optimism are wobbling rather violently.

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Coronavirus updates LIVE: Melbourne’s 5km rule could increase to 20km; NSW Health Minister urges COVID-19 positive people to ‘tell the whole truth’; Australian death toll stands at 897


“While some of our larger commemorations won’t look the same as in past years, this exemption means smaller services can be held in all local communities across NSW,” Acting Veterans Minister Geoff Lee said.

NSW recorded six new locally acquired coronavirus cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday – matching Victoria’s six new local cases.

The NSW tally included a man in south-east Sydney with no known links to any of Sydney’s active outbreaks, and three linked to the growing Lakemba GP cluster – its source still a mystery.

Five new cases were travellers in hotel quarantine, taking the NSW daily total to 11.

Confirmed COVID cases being less than forthcoming with details about their movements while potentially infectious was a problem for both NSW and Victoria, Mr Hazzard said.

“We are not interested in any of your personal activities, we are not interested in other legal issues that you might have been involved in,” he said.

“Whether it’s deliberate or whether it’s simply overlooked … you need to make sure you tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

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Herschel Walker joins Graham’s team, tells Americans to vote ‘truth’


Former NFL running back Herschel Walker is backing Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., as the incumbent and the GOP tries to retain control of the chamber in the Nov. 3 election.

Graham tweeted Saturday: “Honored to have the great @HerschelWalker join #TeamGraham! Herschel is a college and NFL great, an entrepreneur, and a terrific conservative. Thank you so much!”

Walker spoke on Twitter Sunday that Americans shouldn’t vote for their feelings or their opinions. “Truth will set you free … vote the truth.”

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In August, Graham said President Trump should make a campaign ad out of Walker’s speech on the first night of the Republican National Convention.

“If we don’t make a commercial out what of Herschel Walker said, it’s political malpractice,” Graham told host Sean Hannity. “I want people all over the country to hear what Herschel Walker said about Donald Trump [and his] 37-year friendship. I can’t get out of my mind Donald Trump in the ‘[It’s a] Small World ride in a suit.”

Walker, who once played for the Trump-owned New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League, blasted Democrats over their repeated accusations that the president is racist.

“I take it as a personal insult that people think I’ve had a 37-year friendship with a racist,” Walker said. “People that think that don’t know what they’re talking about.”

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This week is setting up to be a contentious hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee – chaired by Graham – on Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Graham’s commitment to confirming Trump’s third nominee to the court has become a focal point in the Senate campaign.



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