Australian family say lost son would want them to ‘keep fighting’ for MH17 truth

A Sydney mother who lost her 25-year-old son in the MH17 disaster says while Jack “didn’t come walking back in the door” she knows he would say to keep on fighting for the truth to come out.

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Three years after the Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down by a Buk missile over Ukraine, Meryn and Jon O’Brien and their daughter Bronwyn attended the opening of a new memorial in Holland to the 298 people who lost their lives

Among them were 38 Australian citizens and residents, including their son Jack, flying back on July 17, 2014, from a European backpacking trip to resume his studies.

The memorial at Vijfhuizen near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport features 298 young trees planted for each of those who died.

After the memorial’s opening, attended by the Dutch king and queen, the O’Briens visited their son’s tree, a crab apple, as planes took off from the nearby airport he flew out of.

“It’s a big thing for us to come back to the airport that Jack left from,” Ms O’Brien told AAP.

“We want Jack to walk back in the door but it’s a beautiful symbol,” she said of his tree, now hung with cards and ribbons sent by his grandmothers, friends, cousins and soccer mates.

Ms O’Brien said her “beautiful child” was returning to Australia “to get on with his life” and he had been passionate about the things he cared about.

A Dutch-led investigation, that includes Australians, has concluded that the Buk missile that downed MH17 was fired from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine from a launcher that had crossed the border from Russia.

The Russians insist the Ukrainian military downed the aircraft.

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Mr O’Brien said some responsibility must lie with Ukraine for not closing its air space during conflict and with Malaysian Airlines, which with many other airlines continued to fly over Ukraine.

“We hold accountable the crew on the ground who shot the missile but there’s a level of responsibility and accountability all the way up the chain of command, all the way to the top,” he said.

The O’Briens know it may take years for the investigative and prosecution process to play out.

“The main game is that Jack didn’t come walking back in the door, but the truth would matter to Jack as well,” Ms O’Brien said.

“So I feel like he would say to us, ‘keep fighting for the truth to come out’.”

She said the 298 people whose names were read out by relatives at Monday’s ceremony had “lost the chance to live, so the truth matters”.

Many of those reading out the names were in tears, with their voices breaking with emotion.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima led 17 school children from the local community to lay sunflowers at the new memorial in a symbolic opening.

No regrets for speaking out: Harrison

Amber Harrison doesn’t regret speaking out about her bitter battle with Seven West Media, despite a court finding she acted “unreasonably” in her case against the network.

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The ex-lover of Seven boss Tim Worner has been at the centre of a long-running dispute with the broadcaster after she publicly revealed details of the affair in December.

While Ms Harrison admits she made some mistakes, she says she was driven to breach a confidentiality agreement about the relationship after fighting to resolve the matter for more than two years.

“When I was exhausted emotionally and financially and left ruined in December of 2016, I made a decision that the court system does not serve an individual,” she told ABC Radio on Monday.

“It serves a company who knows its way around it and I took the path that I took.

“And no, I did not regret that.”

Ms Harrison has been ordered to pay all Seven West Media’s legal costs after a judge on Monday found she made allegations she could not substantiate and acted unreasonably in her battle with the company.

The single mother of one insists she won’t pay the bill – which could total hundreds of thousands of dollars – because it would send her bankrupt.

While Ms Harrison says it will be difficult figuring out how to financially support her son, she remains unapologetic.

“I think (Seven) won in court by bankrupting me, but the court of public opinion is very different and I’ve had overwhelming support,” she said.

She also fired a warning to the “boys’ club” that she believes dominates Australian business.

“I think my case is a wake-up call for them and I hope it changes things, changes the culture,” she said.

The media company had sought a permanent gag order to stop Ms Harrison from leaking company details and argued her social media posts had breached her employment contract.

Justice John Sackar on Monday found she had decided to contest the company’s claim and run a cross-claim, mounted on allegations she wasn’t able to back up.

US travel ban tweak lets grandparents in

Grandparents of US citizens from six Muslim-majority countries are now eligible to receive US visas, according to a State Department memo seen by Reuters that reflects the latest court ruling on US President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

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The memo, or cable, from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was sent to all US diplomatic posts overseas on Friday after a US district judge in Hawaii issued a ruling late on Thursday limiting the scope of the administration’s temporary ban on refugees and travellers from the six countries.

US District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu found the government cannot bar grandparents and other relatives of United States citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from getting visas under the ban.

Watson declined to put his ruling on hold pending appeal, meaning it went into effect immediately. The administration has asked the Supreme Court and San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to block the decision.

The July 14 cable updated the definition of “close family” that are exempt from the temporary travel ban laid down in Trump’s March 6 executive order.

The cable reversed the State Department’s previous, narrow definition of close family and stated that “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, and cousins” are eligible for visas.

In another reversal, the State Department had originally interpreted the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling to exclude fiances, saying they do not count as a close family relationship eligible for an exemption to the travel ban. Just before the 90-day travel ban was to take effect on June 29, the State Department said fiances would be counted as close family.

Last month the Supreme Court partially revived the March 6 ban that had been blocked by lower courts. It said the ban could take effect, but people with a “bona fide relationship” to a US person or entity could not be barred.

Parliament indigenous voice a challenge-MP

The first Aboriginal woman elected to the House of Representatives now believes an indigenous referendum is even further away, after leaders were encouraged to enshrine a voice in parliament.

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Linda Burney is disappointed the Referendum Council did not recommend removal or replacement of “archaic” race powers in the constitution.

Instead, in a report released on Monday, the body tasked with finding a path to constitutional recognition recommended establishing an advisory body.

It proposed a constitutionally-entrenched body, whose powers would be legislated.

Ms Burney believes the proposal is limited.

“They have specifically said that ‘we will not entertain anything except this voice to the parliament’ and this has created I think a challenge for everyone,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.

Ms Burney acknowledged the council’s months of consultation, which culminated in a summit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders at Uluru in May.

“Somehow or other we’ve got to find the magic formula of meeting the aspirations of Aboriginal people,” she said.

As well, there was an understanding there had to be a “clear, fairly simple proposition” that would win support from the broader Australian community.”

Ms Burney was hopeful of a referendum in early 2018 but now doubted that would be the case.

“I think we are on a path that it is further away than what I anticipated,” she said.

Council co-chair Mark Leiber told political leaders there were only two options available in pursuing a referendum – adopt the recommendation or put constitutional recognition on the back burner.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was non-committal when he sat down with the council, describing its recommendation as a “big idea” short on detail.

He and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten both vowed to give the proposal careful consideration.

Mr Leibler said some details of how the representative body would operate needed to be fleshed out before a referendum was held, but most could be finalised afterward.

Labor senator and Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson described the council’s proposal as “a bit of a bolt in the dark” and that handing down a single recommendation made things pretty hard.

Senator Dodson believes the nature, function and purpose of the indigenous advisory body needs to be clearly understood and explained, to ward off any potential scare campaigns at a referendum.

“I don’t think we’ve got a clear line of sight as to whether any constitutional change is going to take place or not,” he said.

White House accuses Democrats, Ukraine of ‘collusion’

White House spokesman Sean Spicer repeated allegations that a Democratic operative had met with Ukrainian embassy officials during the campaign, turning the tables on its accusers amid an all-engulfing scandal over Trump’s contacts with Russia.

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Spicer referred to several recent reports by conservative media outlets, alleging the Democratic operative sought dirt on then Trump campaign director Paul Manafort.

The allegations first came to light in a Politico story in January.

“Obviously, there’s been a lot more interest in recent days with respect to what the DNC did in coordination with the Ukrainian government to try to collude,” Spicer said.

The White House spokesman alleged that the Democratic National Committee collusion took place to “achieve a goal of having someone removed, which ultimately did happen.”

Manafort left his post in August 2016, as Trump’s general election prospects looked dim and details of his own business dealings with pro-Kremlin leaders in Ukraine emerged.

Spicer was asked by a pro-Trump media representative whether the issue was raised when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited the White House in June.

Spicer said he did not know, but claimed that “the DNC’s collusion with the Ukrainian government has definitely gotten a lot more attention since that meeting.”

Adrienne Watson of the DNC accused the White House of deflecting.

“The White House has been pushing this narrative to distract from the Trump campaign’s willingness to work with a hostile foreign government to interfere in our election. No one is buying it.”

‘That’s politics!’

The comments come as the White House reeled from Donald Trump Jr.’s confession that he and two other Trump senior aides knowingly met Kremlin-connected operatives to get incriminating information on rival presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

That admission, after months of denials, has prompted some Republicans to openly criticize the White House and venture that Donald Jr. may have broken the law.

US intelligence agencies believe that President Vladimir Putin ordered a vast influence operation to tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

Trump himself has responded by describing his son’s meeting as business as usual.

“Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent.

That’s politics!” he tweeted on Monday.

Spicer seemed to contradict his boss, by saying the meeting was actually about adoption.

In a statement, the Ukrainian embassy in Washington denied allegations it had “colluded” with Democrats against the Trump campaign.

The embassy “neither coordinated with the DNC on opposition research nor taken any actions to undermine campaign efforts,” the statement read.

“While some politicians who are not part of the Ukrainian government might have taken sides or made comments during last year’s election, the Embassy and the government of Ukraine did not.”

“We highly appreciate US administration support to Ukraine and the progress achieved in recent months in our bilateral relations.”

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