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Australian conservatives set for victory

With two-thirds of votes counted, the ruling coalition is leading in 72 seats in the 151-member House

Narrow win: Liberal party supporters reacting to announcement of results in Sydney.REUTERSSTRINGER

Australia's Liberal-led conservative government was headed for a remarkable win at the national election early on Sunday after uncovering a narrow path to victory that twisted through urban fringes and rural townships.

The results upended pre-election polls which predicted a Labor victory, though it is unclear whether the Scott Morrison-led coalition can govern with an outright majority or will need to negotiate support from independents.

The final result may not be known for some time.

“I have always believed in miracles,” Mr. Morrison told cheering supporters at Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel, where the government holds its official election night function. “Tonight is not about me or it’s not about even the Liberal party. Tonight is about every single Australian who depends on their government to put them first.”

The conservative government has won or is leading in 72 seats in its quest for a 76-seat majority in the 151-member House, according to the Australian Electoral Commission, with just over two-thirds of votes counted.

Several seats are still too close to call and the final result is complicated by a large number of early votes that have delayed counting.

Mr. Morrison’s coalition defied expectations by holding onto a string of outer suburban seats in areas where demographics closest resemble America’s Rust Belt, blocking Labor’s path to victory.

This included a devastating result in the coal-rich state of Queensland, which backed the Pentecostal church-going Prime Minister by defying expectations and delivering several marginal seats to his government.

Aspirational voters

Voters on Saturday cast their ballots for Mr. Morrison’s message of support to aspirational voters and turned their back on Labor leader Bill Shorten’s reforms.

“I know that you’re all hurting and I am too,” Mr. Shorten told supporters at the party’s Melbourne election night function.

“And without wanting to hold out any false hope, while there are still millions of votes to count and important seats yet to be finalised, it is obvious that Labor will not be able to form the next government.”

Mr. Shorten said he would step down as the party’s leader. Labor, a party with deep ties to the union movement, had promised to abolish several property and share investment tax concessions primarily aimed at the wealthy.

Both major parties suffered a decline in their primary vote, according to AEC data, which was caused in part by a well-funded campaign by Clive Palmer’s populist United Australia Party.

There were also 40 of 76 Senate spots contested in the election, the outcome of which will determine how difficult it will be for the next government to enact policy.

Ex-CIA agent jailed over spying for China

Mallory gets 20 years for selling classified information to a Chinese agent


An ex-CIA officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday for spying for China in a case called part of an “alarming trend” in the U.S. intelligence community.

Kevin Mallory, 62, was convicted under the Espionage Act for selling classified U.S. “defence information” to a Chinese intelligence agent for $25,000 during trips to Shanghai in March and April 2017. “Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid,” he told the Chinese agent in a May 5, 2017 message. He had served in the U.S. Army, then as a special agent for the State Department, before becoming a covert case officer for the CIA.

Mallory is one of several U.S. officials with high-level security clearances arrested and charged over unsanctioned dealings with Chinese intelligence. In March, former Defense Intelligence Agency official Ron Hansen was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of attempting to sell classified information to the Chinese. In April, a former diplomat, Candace Marie Claiborne, pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about money she received from Chinese intelligence agents in exchange for U.S. documents.

And in the most significant case, on May 1, former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee pleaded guilty to spying for China. Lee faces a possible life sentence. Arrested in January 2018, he was suspected of having provided Beijing the information it needed to bring down a CIA network of informants in China.

U.K. law secures rights of Sikhs to carry kirpans

Weapons Bill was amended last year

The U.K. government has passed an amendment by which Sikhs in the country will be allowed to carry kirpans and use it during religious and cultural functions. The ‘Offensive Weapons Bill’ received the royal assent this week.

The Bill had been amended late last year to ensure that it would not impact the right of the British-Sikh community to possess and supply kirpans, or religious swords. “We have engaged closely with the Sikh community on the issue of kirpans. As a result, we have amended the Bill to ensure that the possession and supply of large kirpans for religious reasons can continue,” a U.K. Home Office spokesperson said.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs had led a delegation to the U.K. Home Office to ensure that the kirpan remains exempt when the new Bill becomes law. Large kirpans, with blades over 50 cm, are used by the community during ceremonies in gurdwaras as well as for events involving the traditional Sikh Gatka martial art.

The Offensive Weapons Act covers new offences around possession of certain offensive weapons in public and enforces new restrictions on the online sale of bladed articles and corrosive products.

Barr again questions Russia probe

Govt. power was used to spy on Americans, says AG

Backing the President: Attorney General William Barr with President Donald Trump in Washington.NYTDOUG MILLS

When Attorney General William Barr described the early stages of the Russia investigation as “spying” on the Trump campaign, he prompted questions about whether he had used that word spontaneously — or whether he was deliberately fuelling conspiracy theories.

That question flared anew on Friday after Mr. Barr went even further in casting doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation in two interviews that, by design or coincidence, provided fresh ammunition for President Donald Trump and allies to attack law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Mr. Barr told Fox News that he had been asking whether “government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale” in opening the Russia inquiry. “A lot of the answers have been inadequate and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” he added.

Claims of ‘spying’

And he doubled down on the innuendo-laden formulation he used in congressional testimony last month, telling The Wall Street Journal, “Government power was used to spy on American citizens.”

The statements were the latest in a series of actions and comments by Mr. Barr expressing scepticism about how the FBI began investigating during the 2016 presidential campaign whether any Trump associates had conspired with Russia’s election interference. Mr. Barr has appointed a federal prosecutor to review aspects of the investigation, rather than await the results of an independent Inspector General inquiry due in the coming weeks, and he has invoked the term “spying” on multiple occasions. NY Times

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