Monthly Archives: October 2018

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Lies, love and money: Shelley Zimmerman perjury charge

George and Shellie Zimmerman …. both sued for failing to pay credit car bills. Killed … Trayvon Martin.
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George and Shellie Zimmerman struggled with money problems.

The year they married, he was sued, accused of failing to pay a credit card bill. Three years later, she was sued for the same thing.

Both were in and out of community college, records show, and spent their first years together in a home owned by her parents.

Then their lives were turned upside down – George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, in Florida in February – and the money began pouring in.

Now what Shellie Zimmerman told a judge about family finances has made her a focus of national attention.

It is the reason her husband is back behind bars and the basis for her arrest this week on a charge of perjury.

What is known about her?

She is a 25-year-old who wants to be a nurse and, when pressed, aggressively defends her husband.

Although George Zimmerman has been vilified, especially on the internet, for killing Martin, she testified at his bond hearing in April that she had never seen him angry.

“Do you believe he’s a danger to the community?” asked his attorney, Mark O’Mara.

“No, I do not,” she said.

She and family members did not respond to phone calls and email, but acquaintances described her as respectful, polite and a good match for Zimmerman.

George Michael Zimmerman married Shellie Nicole Dean in November 2007 in Daytona Beach, according to public records. He was 24. She was 20 and a cosmetologist who specialised in facials.

She enrolled at Seminole State College – formerly Seminole Community College – in the fall of 2008 and left the school in the fall of 2010, their records show.

Olivia Bertalan, a neighbour the couple helped after a burglary, described Shellie Zimmerman as a “stay-at-home student.”

“We had common interests,” Bertalan said. Both wanted to become nurses.

The couple had moved into Sanford’s Retreat at Twin Lakes in 2009, records show.

Frank Taaffe, one of George Zimmerman’s most visible friends and early defenders, said he met Shellie Zimmerman once or twice at homeowners association meetings.

She was much less active in that group than her husband, he said.

Together the Zimmermans mentored two black middle-school students, a brother and sister, according to family members.

Leanne Benjamin, a longtime friend of George Zimmerman’s, met the children in December, she said.

“They did this because of their love of education and a desire to help people,” she said of the couple, adding that she was aware they struggled with money.

“I know they didn’t have anything before this all happened,” she said.

That began to change in April when TheRealGeorgeZimmerman南京夜网 was created. It was a website dedicated to George Zimmerman that allowed supporters to make donations via PayPal.

On February 26, George Zimmerman shot and killed Martin after calling authorities to report a suspicious person in his gated community.

Sanford police did not arrest Zimmerman, saying they didn’t have enough evidence to contradict his self-defence claim.

The shooting set off a storm of controversy.

Zimmerman went into hiding. Civil rights leaders travelled to Sanford, and thousands of protesters took to the streets.

Zimmerman and his family received death threats, and a growing chorus demanded his arrest.

Donations began to roll into the PayPal account, according to O’Mara and court records.

They kept coming after a special prosecutor filed a second-degree-murder charge against Zimmerman on April 11, and he was locked up in the Seminole County Jail.

At a bond hearing April 20, Shellie Zimmerman testified that she and her husband were broke.

In truth, they had access to more than $US130,000 in the PayPal account, according to prosecution paperwork.

George and Shellie Zimmerman talked about the money several times on a recorded phone line at the Seminole County Jail, according to court records.

He talked her through how to transfer it and directed her to pay off their bills, records show.

She moved $US74,000 into her account during one four-day period while he was in jail, records show, and George Zimmerman’s sister transferred an additional $US47,000 into hers.

On Tuesday, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey charged Shellie Zimmerman with perjury. She was released from a short stay in the Seminole County Jail after posting $US1000 bail.

What will happen now?

The charge is a felony and could carry a five-year prison term.

But Bill Sheaffer, an Orlando defence attorney and legal analyst for WFTV, predicted that if she enters a plea, she would likely wind up on probation.

Shellie Zimmerman has no record of prior arrests, and the lies she’s charged with telling did not send an innocent man to prison or allow a guilty one to go free, he said.

Still, “if the criminal justice system is to seek the truth, nothing sabotages that more than a liar,” Sheaffer said.

Shellie Zimmerman is not a key witness in her husband’s case, and the lies she’s accused of telling probably won’t impact his prosecution, he said, but they did him no good.

Sheaffer said she has “significantly tarnished, at least in the court of public opinion, her husband’s credibility.”

Orlando Sentinel/MCT

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Brown predicts more Greens in Canberra after next election

Tomorrow Senator Brown – who resigned as Greens leader in April – will formally resign from the Senate.Former Greens leader Bob Brown says he has no regrets about quitting Federal Parliament and predicts there will be three more Greens senators after the next federal election.
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Senator Brown said that if the Greens kept up poll results similar to their current 14 per cent primary vote, they will boost their numbers in federal parliament.

”There will be three more senators for a start, but there will be more Greens in the parliament,” he told reporters in Canberra today.

The Greens had a 11.8 per cent primary vote in the 2010 election and have nine Greens senators and one lower house MP (deputy leader Adam Bandt) in Canberra.

”Look at those polls for the Greens, they’ve gone up since I got out. Quite clearly I should have done it earlier,” he joked.

Tomorrow Senator Brown – who resigned as Greens leader in April – will formally resign from the Senate.

”And that’s that,” he said.

Senator Brown joined the Senate in 1996 and had been leader of the Australian Greens since 1992.

He insisted that in hindsight, he had no regrets about his decision to go: ”I’m very happy”.

It’s not all smooth sailing for the Greens, however. Senator Brown said the party needed more donations and called for more financial support.

”We’re short of funds and we’d like a lot more,” he said, encouraging any large donors to get in contact via his post office box.

”I’d be very happy to go as a middle person.”

Former foreign minister Gareth Evans famously complained of ”relevance deprivation syndrome” after leaving Parliament but Senator Brown said he had no fears he would suffer the same plight.

”I’m a more casual, easygoing guy,” Senator Brown said.

Senator Brown will also continue to campaign for the Greens and other environmental causes.

His parting gift to his parliamentary colleagues was a poster of James Price Point in Western Australia, in a bid to save the area from a gas plant.

He also pledged to continue supporting Greens candidates at both state and federal elections.

”I’ll be campaigning with the Greens candidates to the very day they put me in a box,” he said.

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Marginal seats in sights as Lib team takes shape

The Liberal Party’s plan to seize marginal Victorian seats off Labor is heating up, with a former federal MP and a successful Vietnamese migrant among those heading the team.
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The party is confident it can win the Victorian seats of La Trobe, Deakin, Corangamite and Chisholm at the next election.

John Nguyen, who lost to acting Speaker Anna Burke in 2010, is running again in Chisholm.

A bitter preselection battle in Corangamite — the country’s most marginal seat — will be resolved on Sunday, while the vote for Deakin will be decided on Saturday.

Mr Nguyen fled Vietnam in 1979, arriving in Australia nine months later with nothing. He is now a partner at Ernst & Young.

”I want to make a contribution. It’s about what I can do for others,”  Mr Nguyen told the National Times.

His parents live in Kensington, an area home to thousands of new migrants particularly from Africa, and Mr Nguyen says his frequent trips to the suburb solidify his desire to create opportunity for others to succeed in Australia.

”I spent five years in New York and saw everyone working towards the American dream. It’s about opportunity for others.”

Mr Nguyen is a firm believer in the Liberal Party’s values of free markets and enterprise, and freedom and responsibility to choose.

He fled Vietnam with his grandparents and siblings when he was five, making a boat trip to a United Nations refugee camp in Malaysia, where he spent nine months before coming to Australia though policies championed by the Fraser government.

But he backs the party’s stance on border security, saying Australia has and always will welcome refugees.

”At some point in time we need to protect our borders,” Mr Nguyen said.

”I get a bit uncomfortable when people say that by supporting these policy I’m against refugees, but it’s not like that.”

Mr Nguyen said hearing a talk from opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who said people did not appreciate the moral dilemmas of shaping border protection policy and dealing with refugees, firmed his views.

He said  the party was not  polling as strongly in Victoria  because of the state’s history as a moderate state, citing how multiculturalism was much more vibrant and successful in Melbourne than Sydney.

Running against the high-profile Ms Burke would be a challenge, he said, paying tribute to Ms Burke as a decent person who stood up for him at a hostile question and answer session last election.

”I want to run as a Liberal candidate not as an Asian candidate,” said Mr Nguyen. ”I want people to vote for me on my values, not because where I come from.”

Ms Burke  – who has held the seat since 1998 – said: “I’ll be working hard, as I always have, to look after the interests of the people of Chisholm and to see that Labor is returned to government.

“The major issues which locals are talking to me about are higher education, aged care, open space and urban amenity and the services which affect them everyday.”

Former Liberal MP for La Trobe Jason Wood has also been preselected for the seat, which he held from 2004 until 2010 when he lost by 1600 votes to Laura Smyth.

Nick McGowan, a former peacekeeper and Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu’s 2006 campaign media director, has been preselected unopposed to contest Jaga Jaga.

The seat is held by Families Minister Jenny Macklin, who won in the last election on a two-party preferred vote of 62-38.

Mr McGowan works for Victorian Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Richard Dalla-Riva.

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Reverse mortgages on the rise

Demand for reverse mortgages is increasing as poor investment markets leave older retirees strapped for cash.
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Superannuation funds are said to be weighing up whether they should offer reverse mortgages to their retiree members. If the talk comes to something, the market for reverse mortgages would be greatly expanded.

Super funds are about providing retirement income for their members and for many of those people, their retirement savings will not buy much more than a new car and some maintenance on the house. Cash-poor retirees are increasingly going to look favourably upon unlocking some of the equity in their homes.

Also known as ”equity-release” products, reverse mortgages are available to home-owning over-65s or over-60s (depending on the provider), who borrow against their homes and make repayments on the loan. But as the interest and fees are capitalised, the outstanding loan amount grows quickly. The loan is repaid when the owner goes into a retirement home or an aged-care facility, or dies.

In its latest survey of the reverse-mortgage market, Deloitte says there was about $3.3 billion in funding at the end of last year, a 22.5 per cent increase over the past two years. About 5000 new borrowers accessed equity in their homes last year, with more than 42,000 reverse mortgages in total.

Many retirees’ investment portfolios have been hit hard by the dreadful investment returns of the past five years, which makes the attraction of reverse mortgages understandable.

Retirees may not be generating enough money from their savings and the age pension to provide for their living expenses or to maintain their home. They want to keep their financial independence without being a burden on others. A reverse mortgage could also be used to help pay for home-based care, even if it means less left in equity in the house for the children.

The average age of new borrowers last year was 75, and borrowers told Deloitte they used the money to make home improvements (18 per cent), repay debts (16 per cent) and supplement retirement income (15 per cent).

Reverse mortgages can be a good solution for some people as long as they are careful and borrow only relatively small amounts.

With interest rates low and likely to go lower, not many people are interested in taking out a reverse mortgage with an interest rate that is fixed for a period of time, and providers are generally not offering fixed-interest loans. While a variable interest rate may go lower in the near term, it’s bound to rise over the period of the loan, which is likely to be least a decade for most people. Higher interest rates will make the debt grow even more quickly.

The single-biggest potential danger is where the debt blows out to be worth more than the house.

Reverse-mortgage providers who are members of industry body SEQUAL (Senior Australians Equity Release Association of Lenders), and the better providers, have ”no negative-equity guarantees” whereby, if there is a shortfall in covering the debt on the sale of the house, the lender wears the loss.

There are conditions in reverse-mortgage contracts, such as maintaining the property to the standard required by the lender. If the borrowers fail to maintain the house, the ”no negative-equity guarantee” may be rendered void.

It is essential to obtain independent legal advice on the contract, as well as advice on whether a reverse mortgage will affect social security entitlements.

Many people would prefer to have a reverse mortgage provided by their super fund.

Big super funds have buying power, which can mean lower prices for members. The big super funds offer good deals to members on life insurance, for example. If reverse mortgages were to be offered by super funds, they could be on better terms, such as lower interest rates and more consumer-favourable contracts, than from established players.

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Drawing the line around our city

Melbourne’s urban development is all wrong.FOR more than 10 years – December 1999 to February 2012 – I led the Committee for Melbourne. Decreasing density was seen by the committee as one of Melbourne’s greatest threats. Now we see the urban growth boundary extended again.
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Over the past few months I have spent significant time in two cities that take a very different approach to density and public transport: London and Salt Lake City.

London is a low-rise city. It has an urban density more than three times that of Melbourne, but without skyscrapers. It does so by having consistent four-storey (or thereabouts) development across the entire city.

Those who object to the ”Manhattanisation” of our CBD and Docklands, may like this concept.

The fairly consistent density across the city is one of the reasons that public transport has less impact on the public purse. On the downside, thin roads and four-storey heights along most streets restrict the amount of light that gets to the ground, adding to a compressed feel in many parts of the city.

I don’t like the feel of compression, but there are pros and cons to the London option of medium to high density everywhere.

Salt Lake City in Utah has a population of around 900,000 and an average density almost equal to Melbourne’s, but very little public transport.

With much higher vehicle usage, and a particular weather-related inversion effect in winter, the city suffers from days of poor air quality. Public transport provision may help clear the air, but the retrofitting of public transport into low density areas is extremely expensive.

So the residents of Salt Lake City have little choice but to use cars. As fuel prices become more expensive there will be an adverse impact on the community and the environment.

What lessons then can we learn for Melbourne? Firstly, quality of life is improved with good public transport. Secondly, retrofitting public transport into low density cities is extremely expensive. Far better to build public transport as one builds a city. Thirdly, while there can be too much density – as in Mumbai – there can also be too little density as in our outer suburbs.

Why is Melbourne allowing the government to extend the urban growth boundary rather than looking for better urban density designs? Is it because we fear the voices of the anti-development set? And if we do opt to extend the city, why are we doing so without provision of decent public transport – particularly light rail, trains and trams – to these new areas?

In effect, Melbourne is becoming like Salt Lake City – with ultra low densities and poor public transport. The cost of this is not felt just by those living on the urban fringe. Food prices for all may go up as market gardens get gobbled up. Poorer air quality – as more car journeys take place in the outer urban areas – impacts everybody and inner urban congestion increases.

So should we go for the London option – four to five storeys everywhere?

In my opinion, variety is better. Areas of high density in places such as the CBD, Docklands and Fishermans Bend make sense and provide high density options for people who prefer it.

Four-storey medium density design around public transport nodes also makes sense. Likewise, having suburban streets with lower density makes sense to give people different living options – provided that public transport and service provision are as readily available as they are in established suburbs. We must demand and be prepared to pay for these provisions in outer suburbs too.

What we should not do is extend the urban boundary. It may give a perception of doing something, but without thinking about public transport and services and what such lack of foresight may bring, it impacts on all residents of Melbourne.

Rather than taking the hard solution to consult with the community and determine where our density mixes are going, we are again simply extending our boundary and again falling into the trap of decreasing density – and that is dangerous.

Andrew MacLeod is the former CEO of the Committee for Melbourne.

Comment at The National Times.

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