Australian asylum seeker deal included in US refugee cap

The Trump administration’s new 45,000 cap on refugees will include people resettled in the US under a deal struck with Australia.


This week more than 50 refugees who had been in limbo for years on Manus Island and Nauru departed for a new life in the US.

Up to 1,250 refugees are expected to be resettled in the US.

The US resettlement agreement was the subject of a heated phone call between Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in January in which the new US president characterised the deal as dumb.

Mr Trump has since reluctantly agreed to honour the agreement, which Mr Turnbull struck with the Obama administration.

Overnight, the White House released a document outlining the new cap for the 2018 financial year, which is the lowest in decades.

The Trump administration says the lower cap is necessary so that US officials can address a growing backlog of people applying for asylum inside the United States and to do better vetting of refugees.

Refugee advocates say the lower limit ignores growing humanitarian crises around the world that are causing people to flee their native countries in greater numbers and represents a departure from US global leadership.

Former President Barack Obama had wanted the US to accept 110,000 refugees in 2017, but the end of the financial year total will actually fall short at 45,000.

Asked if the US refugee resettlement deal was affected by the new cap, a spokesman for Australia’s immigration department said: “Questions about the US refugee program should be directed to the US.”

The US State Department has told reporters in a special briefing that the new cap will include the intake from Nauru and Manus Island.

From whipping boy to AFL premiers’ star

Richmond’s much-maligned forward Jack Riewoldt has enjoyed the last laugh.


Riewoldt, a whipping boy for frustrated fans and opinionated pundits throughout his 225-game AFL career, was overcome with emotion on Saturday after the Tigers’ grand-final win.

“Who would have thought we finished 13th last year, beaten by (113) points in the last round and now we’re f***ing premiers,” Riewoldt said in his on-field interview.

Riewoldt proceeded to rock out with The Killers, gatecrashing the US band’s post-match gig in the middle of the MCG.

The 28-year-old took to the stage, was handed a microphone then belted out Mr Brightside. All to the delight of delirious fans.

Riewoldt was the subject of trade gossip last year, while even this September, he had his fair share of critics after Richmond’s final wins over Geelong and Greater Western Sydney.

The 28-year-old delivered on football’s grandest stage in style.

He booted two goals, clutched a game-high three contested marks but even more impressive was a team-high seven tackles.

There was an early screamer and serious nerves, with Riewoldt missing the Tigers’ opening three chances to kick a goal.

But he continued to apply serious pressure, with the highlight being a pair of run-down tackles in the opening half.

“I was about to swap him and Rancey (key defender Alex Rance) at one stage,” coach Damien Hardwick joked.

“Jack was great today.”

If asked whether Richmond were grand-final material at this point last year, Riewoldt would have given you an honest answer.

“Probably no,” Riewoldt said during Friday’s parade.

Riewoldt has been at the fore of an incredible turnaround.

They key forward played a far more selfless role in 2017 but finished the season with 54 goals.

Legendary coach Paul Roos suggested the Tasmanian was unlucky to miss out on All-Australian selection.

“He has really owned that forward line group – it has been special to see,” captain Trent Cotchin said.

Renewables opportunity in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s antiquated and bankrupt electrical system, leaving millions in the dark and utility crews scrambling to help.


Now some politicians and renewable energy investors see a golden opportunity in the crisis to use federal funds to re-invent the US territory’s grid as a storm-resistant network that relies less on costly coal and oil imports and more on local wind, solar and batteries.

If it happens, it could ease power bills on an island that struggles with the second-costliest electricity in the United States, behind Hawaii, as well as infrastructure prone to failing in the region’s frequent hurricanes.

“We cannot waste the opportunity of this crisis and federal aid package,” said Ramon Luis Nieves, a Puerto Rican politician in the Popular Democratic Party, who headed the island’s senate energy committee until his term expired in January.

“We need to focus on not only getting the grid back up but improving it so it can tolerate more renewable energy.”

A set of bills introduced this week by US Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon would call on the Department of Energy to make the US electric grid hardier against natural disasters and offer grants for small scale, grid-connected solar and other projects.

A Wyden aide said Puerto Rico’s utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, could apply for such grants to modernise the grid or get funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild and then apply for the grants to help pay for upgrades.

About half of Puerto Rico’s electricity is generated from imported fuel oil, with another third coming from natural gas and much of the rest from coal, according to the Department of Energy.

Renewables supply about 2.4 per cent, though the island has set a goal to obtain 20 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2035.

O.J. Simpson set for imminent release



J. Simpson could be a free man within days.

The One-time Trial of the Century defendant may be released from the Nevada prison where he has been held since 2008 for a botched robbery as early as Sunday (Monday Australian time).

Simpson, 70, won his freedom from a Nevada parole board in July after nine years behind bars, at a hearing that did not take into account his 1990s trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and a friend, Ron Goldman.

The former football star turned actor and TV pitchman nicknamed The Juice during his playing career was found not guilty in 1995 following that sensational, 13-month trial in Los Angeles, which was televised live daily, transfixing much of the nation.

A civil court jury subsequently found him liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $US33.5 million ($A42.7 million) in damages to the victims’ families, a judgment that remains largely unpaid.

The Nevada Department of Corrections, seeking to avoid the kind of media frenzy that often accompanies Simpson, has declined to say exactly when and where he would be released.

A department spokeswoman warned media not to try to chase his vehicle from the prison gates, saying officials could postpone the release for weeks if necessary to avoid “risk to the community” from such a frenzy.

Also unclear is the former star athlete’s ultimate destination. He told parole board members he hopes to move to Florida, where he has friends and family, a plan that must be approved by probation authorities there.

During the parole hearing, Simpson joked that he was willing to stay in Nevada but “I’m sure you don’t want me here”.

His Las Vegas-based attorney, Malcom LaVergne, reiterated the Florida plans during an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America program on Friday.

LaVerge said his client was looking forward to spending time with family members, eating steak and seafood and buying an iPhone.

Florida corrections officials say they had not received a parole transfer request for Simpson and had not been contacted by their counterparts in Nevada.

Simpson is a native of California, born in San Francisco, and played his final years as a pro football player for that city’s team, the 49ers. He lived in Los Angeles at the time of the murders.

But California corrections officials say he has not filed papers to live in that state either.