Colorado DJ’s lawsuit against Taylor Swift dismissed

Pop star Taylor Swift has won an important ruling in the trial stemming from her allegation that she was groped by a Colorado disc jockey, with the judge dismissing the DJ’s rival claim accusing the singer of wrongfully getting him fired.

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The ruling by US District Judge William Martinez left intact Swift’s assault and battery countersuit against David Mueller, who asserts he was falsely accused by the recording star and ousted from his $150,000 ($190,000) a-year job at radio station KYGO-FM under pressure from her.

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The Grammy-winning artist known for such hits as Fearless and I Knew Your Were Trouble reacted to the decision with tears of joy, embracing members of her legal team and family members with bear hugs in the courtroom.

Mueller sat alone at the plaintiff’s table, appearing sombre as he sipped a glass of water.

Friday’s decision capped the fifth day of a trial highlighted by vivid testimony from Swift charging that Mueller clutched her bare buttocks during a pre-concert fan reception in 2013 against Mueller’s assertion under oath that he did no such thing.

Ryan Kliesch, a Denver radio host, emerges from the federal courthouse after testifying in the civil trial for pop singer Taylor Swift.AAP

The judge had tossed out Mueller’s defamation-of-character claim against Swift before the trial, ruling that the former Denver DJ had waited too long to file suit under the statute of limitations.

Earlier on Friday, Swift’s former bodyguard corroborated her account of being groped by Mueller, testifying that he saw the radio personality slip his hand under the singer’s skirt as they posed together for a photo with Mueller’s then-girlfriend.

Lawyers for both sides rested their respective cases after the ex-girlfriend, Shannon Melcher, took the stand as the final witness to deny seeing Mueller inappropriately touch Swift during the picture-taking session. But she added, “I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.”

After jurors were excused for the day, Swift’s lawyer, J Douglas Baldridge, asked the judge to throw out Mueller’s two remaining legal claims in the trial – disruption of his $150,000-a-year employment contract and interference with his future earnings.

Swift has said her representatives lodged a complaint with KYGO management about the alleged groping but insisted she never demanded Mueller be fired.

Douglas Baldridge, front center, attorney for pop singer Taylor Swift, leads his legal team out of the federal courthouse.AAP

Although Martinez agreed to dismiss both claims as they related to Swift, he kept the contract claim intact for Swift’s two co-defendants – her mother, Andrea, and her radio station liaison Frank Bell.

The eight-member jury also will be left to decide whether Mueller is liable for assault and battery, for which Swift is seeking a symbolic $1 in damages.

Swift, known for baring her soul and her grudges in her music, by all accounts was the undisputed star witness of her own trial, giving an unflinching account of the incident in question on Thursday.

In unvarnished language that occasionally drew titters in the courtroom, even from some jurors, Swift testified that she was the victim of a “devious and sneaky act.”

“Your client grabbed my ass,” she told Mueller’s lawyer, Gabriel McFarland. “He stayed latched onto my bare ass cheek. I felt him grab onto my ass cheek under my skirt.”

North Korea still mastering nuke delivery

While US intelligence officials are pretty sure North Korea can put a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental missile that could reach the United States, experts aren’t convinced it would survive the flight.

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They cite lingering questions about Kim Jong Un’s nuclear know-how.

Could North Korea deploy nuclear weapons successfully time after time and hit their intended targets?

Would its weapon system break apart from the heat and stress it would sustain as it re-enters the atmosphere roughly 10 times faster than a speeding bullet?

“I don’t think North Korea has a good measure of how accurate the missile is at this point,” said Michael Elleman, an expert with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“They don’t know if the re-entry technologies will really hold up, whether the bomb will survive the trip.”

North Korea has short-range missiles that can hit its neighbours.

It has tested an intermediate one that could strike Guam, a US territory, as well as a longer-range missile that could reach Hawaii and perhaps the West Coast of the United States.

The intermediate and long-range missiles are still being developed and it’s still questionable if they can reliably strike targets.

Kim must do more tests to master what is known as “re-entry” in missile parlance, experts believe.

The process involves shielding a nuclear warhead from the high temperatures and force it faces upon re-entry at 7 kilometers a second.

“In principle, Kim Jong Un could hit the United States with a nuclear weapon,” said Elleman, a former scientist at Lockheed Martin’s Research and Development Laboratory who also worked as missile expert for UN weapons inspection missions.

“In practice, I think they are probably a half-year to a full year away from having something that will work more often than it would fail.”

Joseph Bermudez, an internationally recognised expert on North Korean defense and intelligence affairs and ballistic missile development, agrees.

“Putting these things all together and making them work is extremely challenging and they haven’t yet demonstrated a capability to produce a reliable re-entry vehicle, which is what houses the actual nuclear device,” he said.

“Remember, they’ve only tested these systems very few times.”

Still, Bermudez, said, North Korea is “on track” to figure it out.

US officials also think it’s just a matter of time before Kim’s program fully matures.

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats told Congress in May Kim has been photographed beside a nuclear warhead design and missile airframes to show that North Korea has warheads small enough to fit on a missile.

North Korea conducted its first test of an intercontinental missile on July 4. On July 28, it conducted a second test of its long-range Hwasong-14 ICBM.

The second test flight was captured by a rooftop camera operated by Japan’s NHK television on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Elleman, who analysed the video, concluded it most likely “disintegrated” before splashdown, suggesting North Korea is still struggling with re-entry.

Equality advocates welcome Warringah poll

Equality advocates are hoping a High Court legal challenge will kill off the federal government’s postal survey on same-sex marriage but, at the same time, they’re buoyed by an opinion poll in former prime minister Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah.

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A push to stop the controversial plebiscite will be heard in the High Court in early September just days before the vote is scheduled to begin.

Chief Justice Susan Kiefel on Friday said the full bench would hear the case on September 5 and 6.

The court received two separate applications. One came from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre on behalf of Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie, advocate Felicity Marlowe and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Another was lodged by the Human Rights Law Centre on behalf of Australian Marriage Equality and Greens Senator Janet Rice.

Gay rights campaigners question the legal validity of the postal plebiscite and its $122 million cost.

They’re also concerned campaigning in the lead-up to the vote could tip over into hate speech and discrimination.

Still, they’ve been encouraged by an Australia Institute poll which suggests Mr Abbott’s own electorate overwhelmingly supports gay marriage.

The former prime minister, who opposes same-sex marriage, this week linked the plebiscite to religious freedom, freedom of speech and political correctness when urging people to “vote No”.

But in his Sydney electorate, 70 per cent off 700 resident surveyed said same-sex couples should be able to get married.

Liberal voters polled 60.3 per cent in favour, Labor voters 88 per cent and every Green polled expressed support.

“There is a massive mood for change on marriage equality around Australia and this poll is further evidence of that,” Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said in a statement on Saturday.

“Warringah voters look set to overwhelmingly back marriage equality and they do not appear to be buying into the line that the survey has anything to do with free speech or political correctness.”

Dragons back in the NRL finals mix

St George Illawarra have revived their NRL finals hopes with a desperately needed 42-16 victory over embattled Gold Coast.

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With their season on the line, the Dragons hauled themselves back into the top eight on Saturday with a seven-tries-to-three triumph ver the Titans at UOW Jubilee Oval.

Try-scoring doubles from winger Jason Nightingale, playmaker Kurt Mann and impressive hooker Cameron McInnes and a further four-pointer to Joel Thompson earned the one-time competition leaders just their third win in nine starts.

Gold Coast’s fourth-straight defeat has piled yet more pressure on beleaguered coach Neil Henry, while another lacklustre Jarryd Hayne display is certain to add to speculation around the superstar code-hopper’s future at the Titans.

Despite the Dragons living to fight another day, coach Paul McGregor wasn’t impressed with his side leaking three soft second-half tries after taking a commanding 22-0 lead into the break.

“I thought our first half was probably our best of the year, to be honest, defensively and attack-wise,” McGregor said.

“We were quite comfortable going in with a nice lead and I thought we started the second half aggressively.

“We didn’t have much possession the first six to eight sets and we tried to attack our way out of it instead of getting a nice comfortable grind through our defence.”

McGregor said his side couldn’t afford any such lapses on Friday night in a daunting clash with the second-placed Broncos in Brisbane.

“Our D’s going to have to be good because we’ve seen the last two weeks Brisbane put on – what, 80 points? – on two sides,” he said.

In ending a two-match losing run, St George Illawarra temporarily climbed above Penrith into eighth spot on points differential, ahead of the Panthers’ hosting of North Queensland.

The Dragons face Penrith in a potentially decisive round-25 showdown before finishing the home-and-away season with another must-win contest against Canterbury.

At least three dead in fresh Kenya poll protests

“We have one person killed and four others admitted in hospital with gunshot injuries,” said Dr Ojwang Lusi, the regional health chief in western Kisumu county.

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In the southwestern town of Siaya, a police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said a man had been shot dead in protests, but “we have not managed to collect the body… because of resistance from protesters.”

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Angry protests flared in opposition strongholds in Nairobi as well as in Kisumu after the election commission declared Kenyatta the victor in a hotly disputed vote over rival Raila Odinga.

After late night looting and riots, anger remained high Saturday morning, with running battles in the capital’s Mathare and Kibera slums.

Residents of the Mathare area of Nairobi, Kenya, take to the streets to protest in support of Kenyan opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga.AAP

However there were also joyous celebrations, some of which also turned deadly. A senior traffic police officer said “there were four people killed when they were hit by vehicles while celebrating.”

Kenya on edge

Kenya was on edge on Saturday after the disputed re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta sparked violent protests from opposition supporters who claim the vote was stolen from them.

While protests were limited to opposition strongholds, they came as a gloomy reminder of a disputed 2007 election which led to two months of ethno-political violence that left 1,100 dead and 600,000 displaced.

All eyes will now turn to opposition candidate Raila Odinga, and his reaction to his loss which he claimed was a result of massive rigging of Tuesday’s election, which his party denounced as a “charade” and a “disaster”.

0:00 At least five killed in Kenya protests Share At least five killed in Kenya protests

Odinga, 72, is a veteran opposition politician seen as having taken his last shot at the presidency after four unsuccessful runs. He believes elections in 2007, 2013 and now 2017 were snatched away from him.

Amid the anxiety over how the situation would unfold, there was also much joy in Kenyatta’s strongholds after he was declared the victor with 54.27 percent to Odinga’s 44.74.

“Let Uhuru rule. He is the best leader we have had,” said Simon Kipkoech in the town of Eldoret.

However in Odinga strongholds in Nairobi’s slums and poor areas, almost immediate protests and outbursts of anger were seen after the electoral commission (IEBC) announced the result, with gunshots ringing out and fires lit in the streets.

Burned tyres, debris and looted shops in the Kawangware slum in Nairobi bore testament to a night of running battles with police who tried to clear away rocks from the road, an AFP photographer said.

In the western city of Kisumu three young men were admitted to hospital with gunshot wounds, one to the jaw, another to a chest and a third, who gave his name as Michael Oluoch, 21, with a bullet to the thigh who said he had been shot by police.

Two men sustained gunshot wounds in the Mathare slum, according to an AFP photographer.

Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged police to show restraint in the face of protests.

“With growing reports of demonstrations and heavy gunfire in some areas, it is important for security forces to work to deescalate – not escalate – the violence,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at HRW.

“The police should not use teargas or live ammunition simply because they consider a gathering unlawful.”

‘Court is not an option’  

Foreign observers praised a peaceful, credible voting process — which saw turnout of 78 percent — but the mood quickly turned sour when Odinga rejected the results after only a few hours of counting.

The main opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance (NASA), has claimed both that the results were manipulated by a massive hacking attack, and that it is in possession of results being concealed on IEBC servers that show Odinga to be the rightful winner.

On Thursday it demanded Odinga be declared president on these grounds.

NASA on Friday demanded access to the IEBC’s servers, saying they would accept any result contained therein, as they remain convinced the commission has released manipulated results.

However despite opposition requests for more time to resolve their concerns, the IEBC went ahead and announced election results amid a NASA boycott.

In 2013 Odinga took his grievances to court and lost.

“We have been there before. Court is not an alternative,” said top NASA official James Orengo.

‘Let us be peaceful’ 

After being declared the victor, Kenyatta reached out to Odinga and his supporters, to “work together… so that we can build this nation together”.

“Let us be peaceful… We have seen the results of political violence. And I am certain that there is no single Kenyan who would wish for us to go back to this.”

Odinga had called for calm from his supporters before the announcement, but added: “I don’t control anybody. People want to see justice.”

Six people have died in election-related violence, including two protesters in Nairobi shot dead by police on Wednesday.

In his first term, Kenyatta, 55, was credited with a massive infrastructure drive, however his new government will face the rising debt as a result, and a predicted slowdown in growth from an average of more than five percent in recent years.

A major issue on the campaign trail was a spike in food prices and shortage of the staple maize meal due to a prolonged drought, which has hit the country’s poorest hard. 

Kenyatta’s administration has been dogged by several graft scandals, with the country dropping six points in Transparency International’s corruption index in 2016.