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OJ Simpson, NFL star acquitted in ‘trial of the century’, dies aged 76



OJ Simpson, the former American footballer who was controversially cleared of double murder, has died aged 76.

Orenthal James Simpson rose to fame as a college footballer before playing in the NFL.

In 1995, he was acquitted of the murder of his former wife Nicole Brown and a friend in a trial that gripped America.

In 2008, he was sentenced to 33 years’ imprisonment on charges of armed robbery. He was released in 2017.

Simpson died of cancer on Wednesday “surrounded by his children and grandchildren”, a family statement read.

In 1994, Simpson was arrested as a suspect in the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman.

The pair were found stabbed to death outside Brown’s home in Los Angeles, and Simpson was an immediate person of interest in the case.

On the day he was due to turn himself in, Simpson fled in his white Ford Bronco with a former teammate, and led the police on a slow-speed chase through the Los Angeles area.

That chase engrossed audiences in both the United States and abroad as it was broadcast live on “rolling” 24-hour news channels that were still in their relative infancy.

In the ensuing court case, dubbed the “trial of the century” by US media, prosecutors argued Simpson had killed Brown in a jealous fury. Evidence included blood, hair and fibre tests linking Simpson to the murders.

The defence argued Simpson was framed by police who were motivated by racism.

In one of the trial’s most memorable moments, prosecutors asked Simpson to wear a pair of blood-stained gloves allegedly found at the scene of the murder, but Simpson struggled to put them on. It led to one of Simpson’s lawyers, Johnnie Cochrane, telling the jury in his closing arguments: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

The jury ultimately sided with Simpson, who declared he was “absolutely 100 percent not guilty”. The acquittal proved hugely controversial.

The families of Smith and Goldman did not give up – they pursued a civil case against Simpson in 1997 where a jury found Simpson liable for the two deaths. He was ordered to pay US$33.5m (NZ$57m) in damages to their families.

In 2006, Simpson sold a book manuscript, titled “If I Did It”, and a prospective TV interview, giving a “hypothetical” account of the murders he had always strenuously denied.

Public objections ended both projects, but Goldman’s family secured the book rights, added material imputing guilt to Simpson and had it published.

Simpson’s final disgrace came in 2008, when he was convicted of armed robbery for breaking into a Las Vegas hotel room with four accomplices, holding two sports memorabilia dealers at gunpoint and stealing items related to his NFL career.

He was sentenced to 33 years in jail, but was granted parole after serving the minimum of nine years.

Before his legal problems, Simpson was well-liked, known as an athlete, actor and the face of several major companies.

He was a college football star at University of Southern California before signing with the Buffalo Bills in 1969, where he played until 1977.

He became one of the greatest ball carriers in NFL history. In 1973, he was the first NFL player to “rush” – running to advance the ball for his team – more than 2000 yards in a season.

He retired in 1979 to concentrate on a career in film and television. His credits include roles in the Towering Inferno, Capricorn One and the Naked Gun series.

Initial public reaction to his death ranged from muted to hostile.

In a statement, the Pro Football Hall of Fame outlined Simpson’s achievements as an NFL player, and said records of those contributions would be preserved in its archive.

Fred Goldman, Ronald’s father, described Simpson’s death as “no great loss”.

“The only thing I have to say is it’s just further reminder of Ron being gone all these years,” he told the NBC News network. “It’s no great loss to the world. It’s a further reminder of Ron’s being gone.”

Source: BBC and RNZ

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French President Emmanuel Macron lands in Nouméa amid unrest



French president Emmanuel Macron has landed in Nouméa.

The French Ambassador to the Pacific Véronique Roger-Lacan was on the flight.

“The unrest in New Caledonia is absolutely unacceptable,” Roger-Lacan told RNZ Pacific in an interview on 22 May at 12.20am (NZT).

She had just arrived back from Caracas where she represented France at this week’s UN seminar on decolonisation.

“As far as the French state is concerned, our door is open, we are welcoming everyone for dialogue, in Paris or in Nouméa. It’s up to everyone to join further dialogue,” Roger-Lacan said.

Roger-Lacan said the unrest had been provoked by very specific parts of the Caledonia establishment.

She said she made a plea for dialogue at the United Nations decolonisation seminar in light of the deadly protests in New Caledonia.

“Well, what I want to say is that the Nouméa agreement has enabled everyone in New Caledonia to have a representation in the French national assembly and in the Senate,” Roger-Lacan said.

“And it is up to all the parties, including the independentists, who have some representatives in the National Assembly and in the Senate, to use their political power to convince everyone in the National Assembly and in the parliament.

“If they don’t manage, it is [an] amazingly unacceptable way of voicing their concerns through violence.”

While the French government and anti-independence leaders maintain protest organisers are to blame for the violence, pro-independence parties say they have been holding peaceful protests for months.

They say violence was born from socio-economic disparities and France turning a deaf ear to the territorial government’s call for a controversial proposed amendment to be scrapped.

Roger-Lacan said while ‘everyone’ was saying this unrest was called for because they were not listened to by the French state, France stands ready for dialogue.

She said just because one group failed to ‘use their political power to convince the assembly and the senate’, it did not justify deadly protests.

The delegation

A long-time journalist reporting on Pacific issues says the composition of the French President’s delegation to New Caledonia will anger pro-independence leaders.

Islands Business correspondent Nic Maclellan said Macron would be accompanied by the current overseas minister Gérald Darmanin and armed forces minister Sébastien Lecornu.

“They will no doubt be welcomed by supporters of the French republic, anti-independence politicians who want to stay with France but Lecornu and Darmanin have been responsible for key decisions taken over the last three or four years that have lead to this current crisis,” Maclellan said.

President Macron has said the main objective of the trip is to resume political talks with all stakeholders and find a political solution to the crisis.

United Nations

This year Véronique Roger-Lacan represented France at the table at a seminar which took place in the lead up to the Committee in New York in June.

The right to self determination is a constitutional principle in the French constitution as much as it is in the UN Charter, Roger-Lacan explained.

The meeting she has just been at in Caracas, “prepares a draft, UN General Assembly resolution, that is being examined in the committee, which is called the C 24,” she said.

Roger-Lacan was appointed to the role of French ambassador to the Pacific in July last year.

Various groups have been calling for the United Nations to head a delegation to New Caledonia to observe the current situation.

Roger-Lacan said the New Caledonia coalition government representative and the FLNKS representative both called for a UN mission at the meeting.

“Then there were five representatives of the loyalists and they all made the case of the fact that a third referenda had in compliance with the two UN General Assembly resolutions determined the future status of New Caledonia,” she said.

As the representative of the French state, she made the case that France has always been the only administrative power to sit in the C24, “and to negotiate and cooperate,” she said.

“The United States, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom never did that,” Roger-Lacan said.

She also welcomed the UN, “whenever they want to visit”, she said.

“That’s the plea that I made on behalf of the French government, a plea for dialogue.”

Source: RNZ

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French-operated flight to evacuate next group of New Zealanders from New Caledonia



A French-operated flight will bring stranded New Zealanders to Brisbane, with a New Zealand Defence Force flight arranged for the travel from Brisbane to New Zealand.

The French flight is due to depart Tontouta Airport at 6pm NZ time with 49 Kiwis on board.

The flight from Brisbane to Auckland is due to arrive at Auckland International Airport at 1am NZ time.

MFAT said it was still working with French and Australian authorities on logistics.

Around 10pm last night a Defence Force flight completed the first mercy mission, landing in Auckland with 48 New Zealanders on board.

MFAT said 260 New Zealanders remain and are hoping to leave Noumea (of the 274 NZers in New Caledonia registered on Safetravel).

It is believed that in total there would have been at least 371 NZers in New Caledonia when the conflict erupted.

It has claimed six lives while millions of dollars in damages has been caused to businesses and infrastructure.

French President Emmanuel Macon is due to arrive in New Caledonia this evening.


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Russia starts exercise to simulate launch of tactical nuclear weapons



Russian forces have started the first stage of exercises ordered by President Vladimir Putin to simulate preparation for the launch of tactical nuclear weapons, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

Moscow has linked the exercises to what it calls “militant statements” by Western officials, including French President Emmanuel Macron, which it said created security threats for Russia.

Nuclear analysts say the exercises are designed as a warning signal by Putin to deter the West from wading more deeply into the war in Ukraine. Western countries have provided weapons and intelligence to Kyiv but have refrained from sending troops.

The Defence Ministry said the first stage of the exercise involved Iskander and Kinzhal missiles.

It is aimed at ensuring that units and equipment are ready for “the combat use of non-strategic nuclear weapons to respond and unconditionally ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian state in response to provocative statements and threats of individual Western officials against the Russian Federation”, the ministry said.

The drills involve missile forces in Russia’s Southern Military District, which lies adjacent to Ukraine and also includes parts of Ukraine that Russia now controls.

Belarus, where Russia said last year it was deploying tactical nuclear weapons, will also be involved, the two countries have said.

Tactical, or non-strategic, nuclear weapons are less powerful than the strategic arms designed to wipe out whole enemy cities, but they nevertheless have vast destructive potential.

Some Western analysts believe non-strategic nuclear weapons have acquired greater importance in Moscow’s thinking since the start of the war in Ukraine, where its conventional forces struggled in the first two years.

In theory, the use of such a weapon could deliver a stunning shock to the West without necessarily triggering a full-blown nuclear war, though the risk of triggering a cycle of escalation would be huge.

‘Special ammunition’

Russia has about 1558 non-strategic nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists, although there is uncertainty about exact figures. They are controlled by the Russian Defence Ministry’s 12th Main Directorate, known as 12th GUMO.

The ministry said troops were practising obtaining “special ammunition” – meaning nuclear warheads – for Iskander missiles, equipping launch vehicles with them and “covertly advancing to the designated position in preparation for missile launches”.

It said aviation units were also practising the fitting of special warheads to Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, and flying into designated patrol areas.

Video released by the ministry showed missiles being transported in a convoy of military vehicles and placed in position ready for firing.

“The exercises are, obviously, a signal in response to discussion of NATO countries’ troops in Ukraine. The most important features are advance announcement and visibility,” Nikolai Sokov, a former Soviet and Russian arms control official, told Reuters.

Western militaries will be watching the exercises closely and seeking to draw conclusions about how much warning time they would have if Russia deployed such weapons for real, he said.

“The involvement of 12th GUMO can produce insights into how much time the release of warheads takes, how well detectable, how much warning,” said Sokov, a senior fellow at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.

The involvement of Kinzhal, he said, was “a new element I did not expect to see”, although there was no doubt about its capability to carry both nuclear and conventional warheads.

When Putin ordered the drills this month, Russia’s Foreign Ministry linked them to comments by France’s Macron, who floated the possibility of sending European troops to fight Moscow in Ukraine, and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who said Kyiv had the right to use weapons provided by London to strike targets inside Russia. It also cited the provision of long-range British, French and U.S. ATACMS missiles to Kyiv.

The Foreign Ministry said on 6 May the exercises should send a “sobering signal” to the West and its “puppets” in Ukraine.

“We hope these drills will cool the hot heads in Western capitals,” it said, adding the West should realise “the potential catastrophic consequences of the strategic risks they are generating” and stop short of direct military confrontation with Russia.

Source: Reuters and RNZ

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