SPRING HILL VOICE
The Australian website where spooks, media advisors, media monitors, partisan shills, sentiment miners, establishment media purloiners, fabricators, marketing and PR people start their day!
STOP THE WARS! TAX THE RICH!
FREE THE REFUGEES!
"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time ... but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." - Lilla Watson, aboriginal educator and activist, Brisbane
* Other Things *
Serco managers at Curtin refugee concentration camp say they'll look at asylum seekers requests for clothing
Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney [29/7/14]:
The Tamil asylum seekers held at sea on the Oceanic Protector for almost a month have been left in Curtin with only the clothes they are wearing.
Many of them are still in the same clothes they were wearing when they were picked up at sea at the end of June.
To make matters worse, the weather has been quite cold at Curtin in the past few days.
Asylum seekers already in the Curtin detention centre have taken up a collection of any spare clothes they have (which is not much) to try help out the new arrivals.
We are very concerned about the children. They need extra clothes in particular, the Refugee Action Coalition was told from inside the Curtin detention centre.
There are a large number of children under three, and there are no specific facilities to look after them.
It has become clear that the governments decision to bring the Tamils to the mainland was particularly hasty. Serco is largely unprepared to properly accommodate the new arrivals.
Serco managers at Curtin said only that they would look at the asylum seekers requests.
There is no excuse for not having enough clothes for the asylum seekers. The government must get the clothes needed to Curtin immediately. They could send a car to Broome in a couple of hours, said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
There are no recreational facilities in place not even a TV.
Nor have the new arrivals have even been allowed to make calls to families and loved ones to tell them they are safe.
It is also clear that Indian government authorities will play no role in the assessment of any of the asylum seekers.
Scott Morrison should come clean. The so-called deal with India was always a smoke-screen to cover the governments backdown. The government was desperate to avoid the High Court assessing the legality of its actions, said Rintoul.
These asylum seekers will be processed by Australia, in Australia. There is no indication that there was even one Indian national on board the asylum boat.
The asylum seekers should be give access to phones so they can call their families. They should also be given access to legal advice so that their protection applications can be made without delay.
Indian officials prepare to meet with Tamil asylum seekers 'within days' [Guardian - 29/7/14]
Adelaide bishop says young asylum seekers live in fear of Australian concentration camps, deportation
Nine MSN [29/7/14]:
Young asylum seekers living in community detention are scared they will be sent back to detention centres, an Adelaide bishop says.
Bishop Greg O'Kelly said on Tuesday that 12 juvenile asylum seekers remained at large after going missing from community homes in Adelaide several weeks ago.
Bishop O'Kelly, who met most of the missing children during their stay at a detention centre in Port Augusta, said the "aggressive" tone of immigration officials had sparked fear among young asylum seekers.
"Those still at school are frightened of being whisked away without warning," he said.
"With their home background, government officials create fear in them. They should be approached with kindness, assurance and gentleness, if trust is to be established."
South Australian police said in July that 11 asylum seekers were missing, including some adults.
The youngest person listed as missing at the time was 14 and was understood to be with his father.
A police spokesman would not confirm on Tuesday whether that number had grown.
"The only comment SA Police will make on the subject is that police are formally filing the reports received from (the Department of Immigration and Border Protection) in relation to the missing detainees," he said.
Gaza power plant shut down, 40 dead in Israeli shelling Tuesday
Al-Amin mosque in Gaza City is one of four mosques bombed last night by Israeli military
Image: @sharifkouddous - Independent journalist. Democracy Now! correspondent [29/7/14]
The Gaza Strip's sole power plant shut down due to a large fire caused by Israeli shelling on Tuesday morning, after at least 40 were killed in a series of Israeli strikes from land, air, and sea since midnight.
The strikes brought the death toll in Gaza to 1,128, with more than 6,200 injured in 22 days of Israeli assault, as the Israeli military said it launched strikes on 70 "targets" across the Strip.
The military also announced its deadliest 24 hours since the beginning of the conflict, with 10 soldiers killed on Monday alone, bringing the total to 53.
The military admitted early Tuesday that five Israeli soldiers had been killed in a Palestinian militant attack through a tunnel into the southern Israeli area of Nahal Oz on Monday afternoon, after al-Qassam Brigades had claimed 10 dead.
Meanwhile, Israeli shelling on the Gaza Strip power lead to a major fire at the station, shutting down production for the coastal enclave's 1.8 million people.
Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, deputy head of the power authority in Gaza, said that one shell had hit a fuel container, setting fire to it, after another shell had hit a steam engine in the plant.
Khalil said that teams on site were unable to control the fire.
Even before the plant shut down, electricity was severely rationed in eight hour increments, a result of the eight-year long Israeli siege on Gaza that has led to frequent shortages of basic necessities including the fuel needed to run the plant.
ICC bans Moeen Ali from wearing Save Gaza wristbands
DZRH News [29/7/14]:
England batsman Moeen Ali has been banned from wearing wristbands featuring the slogans Save Gaza and Free Palestine, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced on Tuesday.
Moeen, who is Muslim and of Pakistani descent, helped raise funds for charities working with those affected by the three-week conflict with Israel.
He wore the wristbands on Mondays second day of the third test against India at Southampton.
Moeen, 27, risked disciplinary action under the ICC Code of Conduct, which forbids players wearing, displaying or conveying messages through arm bands or other items on clothing or equipment without prior approval.
Messages related to political, religious or racial activities or causes are not allowed.
Moeen was backed by the England and Wales Cricket Board but was told by match referee David Boon to remove the wristband and not wear them again while playing for England.
The ICC Equipment and Clothing Regulations do not permit the display of messages that relate to political, religious or racial activities or causes during an international match, an ICC statement said on Tuesday.
Moeen Ali was told by the Match Referee that whilst he is free to express his views on such causes away from the cricket field, he is not permitted to wear the wristbands on the field of play and warned not to wear the bands again during an international match.
Brazil president condemns Israel's 'massacre' in Gaza
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff condemned Israel's offensive in Gaza as a "massacre" on Monday, joining international calls for a halt to the bloodshed.
"What's happening in Gaza is dangerous. I don't think it's a genocide, but I think it's a massacre," Rousseff said at a forum organized by newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, endorsing the United Nations' call for an immediate ceasefire.
"It's a humanitarian issue. This can't be done in such a small strip (of territory), with people who are in a situation of great insecurity, very threatened, with many women and children," she said.
"We know that in a war like this, the ones who pay are the civilians."
She criticized the Israeli campaign as "disproportionate" -- echoing a statement released by the Brazilian foreign ministry last week when it recalled its ambassador to Israel, a move that caused a row between the two countries.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor responded by calling Brazil a "diplomatic dwarf."
"I regret those words," Rousseff said. "Words, including the spokesman's, sometimes create a very bad climate. In this case, we have to be very careful."
More than 1,050 Palestinians have been killed in three weeks of devastating offensive in and around Gaza since Israel launched its onslaught, which it says aims to put a stop to Palestinian rocket fire.
US lawmakers give full support [Daily Star - 29/7/14]
Iran accuses Israel
of genocide [iAfrica - 29/7/14]
refuses to sign Nordic letter condemning Israel [Copenhagen Post
Karzai's cousin and Ghani ally killed in Afghan suicide attack
President Hamid Karzai's powerful cousin, a close ally of presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, was killed on Tuesday in a suicide bomb attack at his home, the office of the southern province of Kandahar said.
Hashmat Karzai was hosting an event at his house for the Eid al-Fitr holiday when a man set of hidden explosives. No one else was killed, the governor's office said.
SIGAR criticizes excessive supply of weapons to Afghan forces
The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has criticized the US Department of Defense (DoD) for excessive supply of weapons to Afghan national security forces.
According to the latest report released by SIGAR on Monday, Afghan security forces have oversupply of weapons and equipment and have serious problems keeping track of those weapons.
The report further added that the weapons supplied by the United States to Afghanistan could wind up in the hands of the Taliban and other groups seeking to destabilize Afghanistan.
According to SIGAR, Afghan forces received more than 112,000 small arms from United States from 2010 to 2013, which is what was required.
The report said, the scheduled reduction in ANSF personnel by 2017 is likely to result in even greater excess weapons.
Given the Afghan governments limited ability to account for or properly dispose of weapons, there is a real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents, SIGAR said in its report.
SIGAR also expressed concerns regarding the systems used both by US and Afghan side to track and keep information of the weapons supplied to Afghan forces.
It said US Department of Defense uses different systems to keep track of weapons supplied and received, which leads to errors and discrepancies, as the information recorded on different systems did not tally when they were compared.
Meanwhile, on the Afghan side, the inventory management system used by Afghan National Army was unreliable because the data were often entered in correctly, SIGAR said.
Afghan National Police, meanwhile, uses handwritten records and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to maintain its inventory records, making the prospect of a unified electronically-accessible system even more difficult, the report added.
SIGAR has recommended that the tracking system of the US Department of Defense should be reconciled within six months and an inventory check should be completed with the Afghan national security forces of the weapons transferred and develop a plan that addresses the potential future excess of small arms if the ANSF force strength is reduced.
SIGAR in its report also suggested that the weapons should be destroyed rather than risk their being sold on the black market or to militia groups.
One Child Killed as Bus Carrying Refugees in East Ukraine Comes Under Fire
RIA Novosti [29/7/14]:
A 3-year old child and 12 passengers were injured as a bus carrying refugees in eastern Ukraine came under fire, the head of the South-Eastern Front information center said Tuesday.
As a result of the firing, a 3-year old kid and around 12 passengers suffered gunshot wounds, Konstantin Knyrik said in an interview with Rossiya 24.
He added that one of the passengers has been severely wounded. The bus carried mostly women and the residents of Ukraines eastern regions seeking to flee from the regions conflict.
Kiev has been leading a military operation in southeastern Ukraine since mid-April, trying to suppress the protests against the new authorities that have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new government.
The fighting intensified after the Donetsk and Luhansk regions proclaimed themselves independent peoples republics. Hundreds of people, including civilians have died in both regions over the past months.
Moscow has described the ongoing military action as a punitive operation and has repeatedly called on Kiev to put an immediate end to the bloodshed.
Russias Foreign Ministry has also urged the international community to intervene and investigate the crimes against humanity that have occurred in Ukraine in recent months.
According to the UN report, the conflict has claimed the lives of 1,129 civilians since mid-April till July 26, and 3,442 civilians were injured.
not so subtle art of russophobic propaganda [Vineyard Saker - 28/7/14]
BP Warns more Sanctions on Russia Could Hit Business
Oil giant BP warned on Tuesday that more sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis could "adversely impact" its activities, and posted a quarterly profit leap aided by its stake in Rosneft.
BP said that it had been unaffected so far by U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia, reporting a two-thirds boost to second-quarter net profits from the equivalent figure last year.
The British energy major owns almost 20 percent of Rosneft following a 2012 deal in which it sold the Russian state oil firm its 50-percent stake in joint venture TNK-BP.
"If further international sanctions are imposed on Rosneft or new sanctions are imposed on Russia or other Russian individuals or entities, this could have a material adverse impact on our relationship with and investment in Rosneft, our business and strategic objectives in Russia and our financial position and results of operations," BP said.
"To date, these sanctions have had no material adverse impact. However, BP will continue to keep this under review," the London-listed group said in a results statement.
Later on Tuesday, the European Union is set to approve further sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis and the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Western powers, which have accused Moscow of fanning the rebellion by supplying it with weapons including the missile system allegedly used to shoot down MH17, have urged new sanctions.
"Any future erosion of our relationship with Rosneft, or the impact of further economic sanctions, could adversely impact our business and strategic objectives in Russia, the level of our income, production and reserves, our investment in Rosneft and our reputation," BP added on Tuesday.
BP said that "our business and strategic objectives in Russia and our ability to recognize our share of Rosneft's income, production and reserves may be adversely impacted."
This would be the case "to the extent we fail to maintain a good commercial relationship with Rosneft in the future, or if as a result of our non-controlling interest in Rosneft we are unable in the future to exercise significant influence over our investment in Rosneft or pursue other growth opportunities in Russia."
On Saturday, the EU hit another 15 individuals and 18 entities -- including Russia's intelligence chiefs -- with "Phase 2" asset freezes and travel bans for their role in the crisis.
Later on Tuesday, EU member states are expected to take the next step, approving sanctions in four key areas: access to capital markets, defense, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector.
Meanwhile, BP revealed that net profits surged 65 percent in the second quarter on the back of higher oil prices.
Earnings after taxation rallied to $3.369 billion (2.508 billion euros) in the three months to June, compared with $2.042 billion a year earlier.
The group's replacement-cost profit, the current accounting figure which excludes changes in the value of oil inventories, rose by almost a third to $3.18 billion.
Rosneft contributed $1.02 billion of the group's replacement cost profit in the quarter compared with $218 million a year earlier, boosted partly by favorable exchange rate moves.
BP also increased its shareholder dividend to 9.75 cents a share, from 9 cents a share.
"It's a good quarter. It's a good solid start to the first half of the year," said chief executive Bob Dudley in a video released alongside the results.
"The environment has been down in some ways, offset by oil prices in another. We've been bringing on new projects, five new upstream projects so far this year (with) two more to go by the end of the year."
BP added that production eased six percent in the reporting period to 2.11 million barrels of oil per day.
Output was expected to fall further in the third quarter owing to seasonal maintenance in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.
In morning deals, the group's share price gained 0.40 percent to 498.85 pence on London's benchmark FTSE 100 index, which was 0.10 percent higher.
"While earnings from Rosneft surprised on the upside, BPs core businesses generally performed well over the second quarter," said analysts at Jefferies financial consultancy.
U.S. judge signs order to seize cargo of Kurdish oil from tanker off Texas
Acting on a request from the central government in Iraq, a U.S. judge has signed an order telling the U.S. Marshals Service to seize a cargo of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan aboard a tanker off the coast of Texas, court filings showed early on Tuesday.
To carry out the order from Magistrate Judge Nancy K. Johnson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the Marshals Service may need to rely on companies in the Galveston Bay area that provide crude offloading services.
The United Kalavrvta tanker, which is too large to enter the port of Galveston near Houston, was given clearance by the U.S. Coast Guard on Sunday to transfer its cargo offshore to smaller boats that would deliver it to the U.S. mainland.
It is carrying some 1 million barrels of crude worth about $100 million and arrived on the Texas coast on Saturday.
Iraq, in a filing on Monday, laid claim to the cargo that it says was sold without its permission.
The case is Ministry of oil of the Republic of Iraq v. Ministry of Natural Resources of Kurdistan Regional Governate of Iraq et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 3:14-cv-00249
US Thanks Japan for Sanctions Against Russia
RIA Novosti [29/7/14]:
US Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Japans Foreign Affairs Minister Fumio Kishida for the sanctions Japan has put in place against Russia, Japan's Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
Secretary of State Kerry expressed his gratefulness for the list of sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis published on July 28. Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishida said that Japan had imposed these new sanctions as a sign of solidarity with the G7 members, and intends to keep taking actions in cooperation with the G7 states, the ministry said in a statement.
On Monday, the Japanese authorities released a list of new sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.
The sanctions presuppose the freezing of assets of individuals involved in Crimea annexation and responsible for destabilizing the situation in Ukraine.
Japan will also be implementing new projects in Russia in accordance with the policy set by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development adopted by the European Union. There will be limitations on the goods imported from Crimea.
The United States and EU member states have already imposed sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis. In addition to that, the European Commission has suggested sectoral sanctions against Russia that will be concerned with capital market access, the defense sector, dual-use goods and sensitive technology export in the energy sector.
Moscow has said numerous times that threatening Russia with sanctions was inappropriate and counterproductive. Russia has also pointed out that it is not involved in the conflict in Ukraine.
UQ scholarship honours WW1 nurse
UQ News [29/7/14]:
A Queensland nurse who proved her mettle treating Anzac casualties on a Greek island in World War One is being honoured with a $30,000 RSL University of Queensland (UQ) scholarship.
UQ and the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) South Eastern District Limited will commemorate the service and sacrifice made by World War One nurses with the launch of the Matron Grace Wilson RSL SED Scholarship.
Grace Wilson was born in Brisbane in 1857 and trained as a nurse in Brisbane and later as a midwife in London.
In World War One she served with the Australian Imperial Force on the Greek Island of Lemnos, treating Anzac casualties in conditions she described as too awful for words, and in Egypt and England.
The Matron Grace Wilson RSL SED Scholarship, offered by the RSL in conjunction with UQs School of Nursing and Midwifery, recognises the contributions of all Australian Defence Force (ADF) nurses at home and abroad during war and on peacekeeping missions.
The scholarship is for a past ADF nursing officer or one serving in the reserve forces to undertake postgraduate study in the school.
Acting Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery Associate Professor Christine Neville said the scholarship acknowledged the importance of collaborative engagements between UQ and key community groups such as the RSL.
This exciting scholarship will play a vital role in addressing the growing need for continued nursing education across a wide sector, Associate Professor Neville said.
Nurses are a crucial part of the Australian Defence Force as they provide and manage the health needs of the nations defence community across a wide range of contexts.
UQ is delighted to be involved with the RSL South Eastern District in providing a service nurse with the opportunity to further their education through the wide range of courses we have on offer.
Newly-elected RSL South Eastern District President and former Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps member Ms Wendy Taylor said the scholarship would continue to acknowledge the contribution of nurses in the ADF.
The RSL had its origins in World War I and, with more than 36,000 members across Queensland, it continues to care for both ex-serving and current ADF personnel and their families, Ms Taylor said.
The Matron Grace Wilson RSL SED Scholarship aligns with the mission of the RSL to preserve the memory of the fallen and appeal to younger veterans entering our healthcare system.
The creation of this scholarship assists in preserving the memory of those brave service personnel for future generations.
Grace Wilson trained at the Brisbane Hospital site that now serves as the workplace of many of UQs School of Nursing and Midwifery staff.
Australia's culture of death and cruelty
Wildlife carers say there are an increasing number of bow and arrow attacks on native animals, prompting calls for the weapons to be prohibited.
But bow hunters say their sport is being tarnished by the actions of a few reckless amateurs.
Wildlife rescue organisation WIRES says it is seeing an increase in the number of native animals being shot with arrows, with devastating consequences.
"The animal is lame, sometimes the animal has been shot in the head, or in the body, hasn't been killed, there's usually infection at the entry site and maybe damage to internal organs," WIRES general manager Leanne Taylor told the ABC.
"They're often dehydrated, they've been exposed to extremes of either heat or cold because they're not as mobile, they may be underweight because they haven't been able to access food.
"It can be anything from days to weeks with an animal in that state, and they suffer prolonged pain."
The Sunshine Coast council says it is difficult to say whether or not flying foxes will return to their roost site at the Cassia Wildlife Corridor in Coolum.
Council carried out non-lethal dispersal at the wildlife corridor in May but recently about 40 per cent of the 2,500 flying foxes returned to the roost.
A fortnight ago, more dispersal action was performed and council's Peter Nagel says the animals have moved on to other sites on the Maroochy and Mooloolah rivers and Pumicestone Passage. ... [ABC - 28/7/14]
How many Australians are in Israel murdering Palestininans right now "7.30 Report Land"? AFP issues arrest warrants for Australian Islamic State fighters Mohamed Elomar, Khaled Sharrouf, after gruesome beheading photographs published online [ABC - 29/7/14]
Afghan authorities have condemned the killing of civilians including five children in a raid by Australian troops. ... [The Age - 15/2/09]
Richard Roxburgh discovers an ancestor was busy in the slave trade [North West Star - 27/7/14]:
... My great-great-grandfather, Thomas Roxburgh, had a really quite large holding of slaves. Just before emancipation happened, there was a brief window in which slaves were basically very cheap. You could buy up a lot of them and use them very thoroughly until they were sort of wrung out.
I started out on the thing saying, I am not my forebears, but you do hope your forebears in some way reflected your own moral currency, that they didnt disgrace themselves. There was a disgrace in that because by the time he was buying up all of those slaves, there was a very powerful anti-slavery lobby in Britain. Its not like he was going in blind.
Roxburgh doesnt want to say his great-great-grandfather was evil. Its too simple and dangerous to paint people as a villain. What I do for a living is about precisely that. If you go in to play Richard the Third or Iago or any of those wonderful villains, the more elements you can find that illuminate other parts of that life, the more interesting the portrayal, the more lifelike the portrayal.
You read a letter he wrote to his wife while he was at sea and its full of tenderness and all the longing for his family and his children that makes so much sense to me. He may well have been the most delightful, charming slave owner in the entire Caribbean. He might have been wonderful to all of his slaves. But obviously thats a grubby, grubby world and he was a part of it.
But then came the good news. There was another ancestor who balanced the damage done by Thomas Roxburgh.
Another great-great-grandfather, James Watson, was a minister who was setting up congregations of entirely black people and schools for ex-slaves. He was one of the strong voices against the slave trade. I dont know how the drawing-room meetings between the two played out but I dont imagine it would have been pleasant.
Major hazard reduction burn at Hinze Dam scheduled to commence Tuesday 29 July 2014
Subject to weather conditions, Seqwater will undertake a major planned hazard reduction burn in the Hinze Dam area from Tuesday 29 July 2014, in preparation for the summer ahead.
Once the burn has begun, it will be conducted over a 14 day period and is coordinated with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, Queensland Police, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services, the City of Gold Coast and residents living near the burn area.
Recreation areas are not expected to be affected, although smoke may drift and be visible in surrounding areas.
To reduce the effects of smoke, avoid hanging washing out to dry during the burn period, stay indoors and close windows and doors.
If you have a health condition, follow the treatment plan provided by your doctor and if you are asthmatic, follow your asthma plan and carry reliever medication with you at all times.
Please be advised smoke can stay around for up to a week after a planned burn. Please follow signage and direction of Seqwater staff.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we undertake this essential hazard reduction burn.
If you would like more information about the Hinze planned burn, please contact Seqwater on 1800 771 497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and keep an eye on our recreation and safety notices, should conditions to recreation change.
Malaysia Air Quality Unhealthy as Haze Obscures Skies
Jakarta Globe [29/7/14]:
Air quality around Malaysias capital Kuala Lumpur and on Borneo island was unhealthy on Tuesday, with one town reaching very unhealthy levels as haze, mostly from forest fires in Indonesia, obscured skies.
Kuala Lumpur residents wore face masks as protection from the choking smog, while visibility was low.
Nine out of some 50 measuring stations recorded air pollutant index readings above 100, which signify unhealthy air quality.
Readings in Sibu town in Sarawak state on Borneo breached 200 designated as very unhealthy on Monday, but recovered slightly early Tuesday.
A reading of above 300 signifies hazardous air.
Readings hit 750 in a town in southern Malaysia in June last year, the highest seen in the Southeast Asian country for 16 years, causing a declaration of emergency in several districts, school closures and a regional diplomatic row.
Haze is an annual problem during drier summer months when monsoon winds blow smoke from fires mostly on the huge Indonesian island of Sumatra, which lies across the Malacca Strait from Malaysia and Singapore.
The fires have been largely blamed on palm oil firms using the illegal but cheap method of burning vast tracts of rainforest and peatland to clear them for planting.
Indonesian authorities had warned last month that Malaysia and Singapore could be hit by haze again after a huge jump in forest fires in Riau province on Sumatra, which was at the centre of the air pollution crisis last year.
Malaysia usually known for its tropical heavy downpours this year has also been plagued by drought, leading to water rationing, particularly in the central state of Selangor, the countrys economic hub, which surrounds the capital.
Japan: Heatwave kills 15; more than 8,000 hospitalised
Japan Today [29/7/14]:
Sweltering summer heat in Japan has left at least 15 people dead over the past week, while more than 8,000 others were rushed to hospital with heatstroke symptoms, official figures showed Tuesday.
At least six people died on Saturday alone, when the state weather agency warned temperatures had topped 35 degrees Celsius, with dripping humidity in certain parts of the country.
Nearly 8,600 people were taken to the emergency room for heat-related symptoms in the week through Sunday, more than double the previous week, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.
The elderly were particularly vulnerable to the rising temperatures, with nearly half of those taken to hospital aged 65 or older, the agency data showed.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said that the mercury topped 35 degrees Celsius again on Tuesday.
Last year, Japan experienced its hottest summer on record, with the mercury hitting a record 41 degrees C in some parts of the country.
Tens of thousands were taken to hospital suffering from heat-related symptoms.
The archipelago nation regularly experiences sweltering summer temperatures.
Tasmania: Mini tornado wreaks havoc
North West Star [29/7/14]:
A mini tornado smashed businesses and shredded trees when it hit at Round Hill in Burnie.
The storm hit hard on Monday evening and left a trail of devastation in its wake across the North-West and West Coasts of Tasmania. The area of Round Hill near Burnie was among the worst hit.
Victorian police officer charged with assault
Nine MSN [29/7/14]:
A Victorian police officer has been charged with an assault allegedly committed three years ago.
The leading senior constable was charged on Monday with intentionally causing injury and recklessly causing injury after the incident at Swan Hill in June 2011.
He has been moved to non-operational duties and will appear in the Swan Hill Magistrates Court on September 16, police said.
Man killed ex after she moved out: court
Nine MSN [29/7/14]:
A Brisbane grandmother who was allegedly bludgeoned to death by her hammer-wielding former husband had recently moved in with a new partner, a court heard.
Lawrence Alfred Gaskell, 72, is on trial accused of murdering his 62-year-old former wife, Katarina Gaskell, during a violent argument at their former home in Brisbane.
The Brisbane Supreme Court heard the Fijian grandmother was admitted to hospital on October 17, 2011, in a critical condition after suffering more than five hammer blows to her head.
She died the following day.
Gaskell told police he struck his former wife in self-defence after she came at him with a knife at the Zillmere house in Brisbane's north.
He has pleaded not guilty to murder.
On Tuesday, a courtroom filled with relatives heard the couple's 35-year marriage ended in divorce about 2009 and Mrs Gaskell moved into a house they owned next door.
The mother-of-four was "rapt" to begin a new relationship, according to evidence by her son John Gaskell, but was locked in a legal dispute with her ex-husband over the property in which she lived.
The court heard that while she was overseas in 2011, Gaskell removed his ex-wife's belongings from the house.
When she returned in late August 2011, Mrs Gaskell moved in with her new partner, William Eakin.
Mr Eakin testified that the mother of three went to the Zillmere property seven weeks later to collect some dresses but never returned.
He received a call from Mrs Gaskell's brother-in-law that afternoon saying she had been seriously injured, and at the hospital surgeons warned him there was little hope.
"It was pretty much stated at the very beginning it was looking very bad, but (they) said they'd do what they could," Mr Eakin told the court.
"(The next evening) it was indicated to us that there was absolutely no chance (and her) life support would be switched off at 8pm."
Mrs Gaskell died at 8.20pm in front of Mr Eakin and her children.
The trial continues.
Waste truck driver guilty of crash death
A JJ Richards waste truck driver found guilty of dangerous driving causing death was most likely distracted by something inside his cabin or outside, a Toowoomba District Court judge found.
Judge David Reid said Donald Shane Bosworth, 52, could have been distracted by a number of things - a mobile phone, a radio.
However, Judge Reid said, in his view, "this is something more than momentary inattention".
"The driver of a heavy vehicle like that has special responsibilities," he said.
The court heard Bosworth had been driving the 12-tonne truck east on North St about 11am, October 30, 2012.
After travelling under the rail bridge near the Mort St intersection, he was heading east when his truck veered across the road into the path of a Ford Festiva sedan heading west on North St.
The Festiva's driver, Michael White, 50, had tried to get his car as far left as possible but couldn't avoid the collision, the truck pushing his car into a power pole before continuing on through a fence and into a tree.
Mr White died at the scene.
Bosworth pleaded not guilty, claiming he had no memory of from the time of driving under the rail bridge until after the accident.
Judge Reid said he thought Bosworth had, and still had, memory of the event.
The jury took just over four hours to reach a verdict of guilty.
Bosworth had no previous criminal history and served in the army for 20 years, reaching the rank of sergeant.
However, his traffic history included two offences of driving while using a mobile phone and in the months leading up to the tragedy he had been counselled by his employer for driving indiscretions including tail-gating and driving erratically on the Warrego Hwy, just over a week before the accident, for which he received a written warning.
The court heard Bosworth had an excellent work record and he and his wife were involved in important family community work.
Judge Reid said such sentences were difficult and consideration had to be given to Mr White's family who had been significantly affected by his tragic death.
He sentenced Bosworth to two years jail, the term suspended after having served eight months, and disqualified him from driving for one year.
Jobs to go in Victorian factory, station closure
Nine MSN [29/7/14]:
About 70 jobs are expected to go with the closure of a briquette factory and the power station that fuels it in Victoria's Latrobe Valley.
The CFMEU says operator Mecrus told Morwell briquette factory workers on Friday the factory would cease operations on August 30.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) organiser Duncan MacGregor said the closures would cut about 70 jobs across the factory and power station, and at least 20 more jobs indirectly.
The Energy Brix power station's parent company, HRL, says most of its 37 employees will be given redundancy packages when it ceases operations.
HRL said on Tuesday it was a temporary closure while it conducted a feasibility study of the commercial viability of a project to repower Energy Brix with a new steam supply.
It said the decision was made after the loss of three major briquette customers and the poor outlook for wholesale electricity prices.
Mr MacGregor said the impact of the job losses on workers and their families would be severe.
"The Latrobe Valley is already struggling. These job cuts will impact heavily on these workers and the whole community," he said.
Comment is being sought by Morwell briquette factory operator Mecrus.
Point Henry smelter: Sombre days for Alcoa workers as aluminium plant near Geelong winds up
After more than 50 years as one of Geelong's major employers Alcoa will close its aluminium smelter this week.
One by one the pot lines are being switched off, with the Point Henry plant's final line being shutdown on Thursday.
The shutdown was announced in February after the company decided the ageing smelter was no longer financially viable.
The closure will leave about 500 workers jobless.
College raises concerns at 'extortionate' fees of some surgeons
Canberra Times [29/7/14]:
Dan Harrison, Daisy Dumas
The professional body for surgeons has expressed concern about the ''extortionate'' fees being charged by some specialists, including some of its own members.
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons president Michael Grigg said the college would take action against any of its members found to have charged ''exploitative and unethical'' fees, and could expel members from the college, which would have ramifications for their professional registration.
''[The college] believes that extortionate fees, where they are manifestly excessive and bear little if any relationship to utilisation of skills, time or resources, are exploitative and unethical. As such, they are in breach of the college's code of conduct and will be dealt with by the college,'' Professor Grigg said.
The college's intervention comes ahead of a hearing in Canberra on Tuesday at which senators will take evidence about the out-of-pocket costs of healthcare as part of an inquiry initiated by Greens Senator Richard Di Natale.
In his submission to the inquiry, director of the Grattan Institute's health program, Stephen Duckett, writes that between 2007 and 2013, average out-of-pocket costs for operations increased by more than 25 per cent in real terms.
Almost a fifth of Australian health spending comes from consumers directly, Professor Duckett wrote, noting Australia's reliance on such payments was higher than Canada, New Zealand and the UK.
Some surgeons privately say they are frustrated by colleagues who charge high fees for questionable procedures, such as brain surgery when there is a very small chance the patient will benefit.
There are also concerns that some surgeons do not disclose the out-of-pocket charges a patient may face from their anaesthetist and other assistants involved in their surgery.
Professor Grigg said the conventional wisdom that higher cost services were of higher quality often did not hold in medicine.
''We've all been brought up (to think) that if you pay more, you're getting more for it in medicine and surgery, it's actually almost exactly the opposite. The people who are ethical, well trained are likely to charge much less than the people who are in fact the opposite.''
He said patients had a right to know the fees they are likely to be charged and to be made aware of the alternatives.
The chief executive of the Consumers Health Forum, Adam Stankevicius, said the federal government could help consumers assess whether fees are reasonable by releasing Medicare data.
''Medicare figures show specialist gap fees have also been rising, by more than 13 per cent per year over the past decade for operations,'' he said.
Brisbane Transport chief to leave post after 14 years
North West Star [29/7/14]:
... The [Brisbane City] council runs Brisbane Transport, the states biggest provider of bus routes and the employer of 2700 employees.
In 2011 it ran 1200 buses on 245 routes, providing 63,859 bus services a week and 1465 school runs, which dropped to about 235 routes in early 2012.
A review of the councils bus routes in 2013 cut that number of routes to 225 and resulted in major changes to about 80 routes.
The Queensland government has begun the process of contestability, where the private sector can judge whether there is value for firms to compete against Brisbane Transport for the city's most-profitable routes.
Alan Warren, who has headed Brisbane Transport for 14 years, offered to renew his contract in November 2014, but that has been rejected by BCCs civic cabinet.
With contestability on our doorstop, I have offered to extend my contact, Mr Warren wrote in a memo to Brisbane Transports 2700 staff.
However civic cabinet has decided this new dawn needs a new divisional manager with a new skill set to mine.
I respect this decision and I am working with our CEO Colin Jensen to determine an appropriate finishing date in the next three or four weeks.
Public and Active Transport chairman Peter Matic said the state's government's Translink recently provided the council with an extension on its contract to operate bus services.
Cr Matic said council bus contracts would remain until September 2015.
Council will be contesting the tender process once the state government announces the details of contestability and we will be competing to win, he said.
The Lord Mayor has previously said he does not support the privatisation of Brisbane Transport. We will continue to make Brisbanes public transport as efficient as we can because we need to provide the best value for money for ratepayers and taxpayers.
Last financial year council buses made 3.1 million bus trips at a cost of $78 million.
Council does not make public comment on the non-renewal of an individuals employment contract, Cr Matic said.
However, council deputy opposition leader Helen Abrahams said lord mayor Graham Quirk has been caught out secretly clearing the decks in Brisbane Transport.
Brisbanes bus drivers and maintenance staff have been told this week that contestability is on its way in and the divisional manager of Brisbane Transport is on his way out to make room for someone with different skills ahead of privatisation of the network, Cr Abrahams said.
The Queensland government cut $16.4 million in public transport funding over three years to the council in 2013.
The council reduced the number of new buses built from 100 per year to 60 per year and closed down the Bowen Hill bus depot.
Cr Abrahams said she was concerned Mr Warrens memo outlined $20 million in savings, not the 16.4 million cut by the state government and that an extra $4 million in savings had been found.
The memo circulated to key stakeholders has confirmed the worst; that $20 million has been cut from public transport in Brisbane, that privatisation is being discussed and that the lord mayor is actively taking steps to remove any barriers to privatisation, she said.
This is no longer a rumour or speculation, the divisional manager of Brisbane Transport has confirmed that privatisation is coming and the lord mayor needs to come clean and admit what he knows about it.
Twelve months ago Cr Quirk said the state government had yet to speak to the council about public transport contestability.
Cr Abrahams said the public deserved to know what the state government and Cr Quirk - had in mind for privatising bus services.
In the last year, the lord mayor has ordered a review and cut bus routes, reduced the number of new buses brought, slashed CityCat services and now hes getting rid of the people who have built Brisbane Transport from the ground up, she said.
Everything the lord mayor has done in the last year looks like he has been secretly preparing Brisbane Transport to be broken up and privatised and Im concerned about what this means for commuters.
Cr Abrahams said Mr Warren was very well-respected in the council, as he had worked beside four lord mayors over the past 14 years.
He was instrumental in opening new depots, buying new air-conditioned buses and building Brisbane Transport to what it is today.
Greece names fifth privatization agency chief in four years
Greece has appointed a management professor to head its privatizations agency, the fifth leadership change since the agency was launched in 2010 to sell off state assets as required by the country's international bailout.
Emmanuel Kondylis, a business administration professor, will be the new chairman of the privatizations agency TAIPED, which has fallen behind on privatization targets that form part of Greece's 240 billion euro international bailout.
Kondylis, who has held top managerial posts at several Greek companies, will replace Constantinos Maniatopoulos who took over in October, the finance ministry said on Monday. It did not give a reason for the replacement of Maniatopoulos.
Greece also nominated Pashalis Bouhoris, a former banker, to replace TAIPED's current chief executive Ioannis Emiris.
Athens has so far signed privatization deals worth 4.9 billion euros since the its bailout four years ago, raising 2.69 billion euros in cash. The sum is far below an original target of 22 billion euros for 2010-2013.
This has often been due to limited investor interest, plus regulatory and legal hurdles.
Greece has slashed this year's privatization receipts target to 1.5 billion euros from 3.6 billion after a plan to sell state natural gas company DEPA stumbled.
The country clinched its biggest privatization deal, a 915-million-euro property lease at the site of the former Athens airport, this year.
The nominations of Kondylis and Bouhoris are expected to be approved by a parliamentary committee.
AAP buys Margaret Gee's, Who's Who
Nine MSN [29/7/14]:
Australian Associated Press has bought Crown Content's directories business in a move which brings the Margaret Gee's Media Guide and Who's Who in Australia publications into the AAP stable.
AAP chief executive officer Bruce Davidson said Crown Content's seven online and print directories brands will be incorporated into the AAP Medianet communications solutions business.
Hacking Democracy 
Hacking Democracy filmed over 3 years, first shown on HBO (a unit of Time Warner) in 2006 and released on DVD in 2007. The film reveals many strange facts about paperless (or e-voting) systems that established during elections in the U.S.A. in the last years. It focuses on the story of Bev Harris, director of nonprofit election watchdog group called Black Box Voting, and her investigations of potential security flaws inherent in electronic voting.
Electoral Commission proposes electronic vote counting for federal elections
[ABC - 29/7/14]
Magistrates to hold court at Gatton Shire Hall
Queensland Times [29/7/14]:
The Magistrates Court in Gatton is expected to use the Gatton Shire Hall as a temporary facility between late September and January next year.
During this time the existing courthouse facility will be unavailable for use as it is refurbished.
Lockyer Valley mayor Steve Jones said current bookings had been checked to make sure no community groups and associations were affected by the decision.
"We are happy to work with the Gatton Magistrates Court on this request and this is an opportunity to improve the current facilities," Cr Jones said.
Police Shoot Tear Gas in Indonesias Dolly District
Jakarta Globe [28/7/14]:
Indonesian police on Sunday fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters at the countrys infamous Dolly red light district, where workers are refusing to accept government orders to close shop.
Around 300 protesters, mostly men who work as pimps or vendors in the area, tore out and set alight a sign erected by the Surabaya city that read: This area is free from brothels and prostitution.
The closure of one of Southeast Asias biggest prostitution dens was spearheaded by Surabaya mayor Tri Rismaharini, who announced last month that Dolly would be completely closed by the end of Ramadan, which fell on Sunday.
We reject the instalment of this sign here. And after Ramadhan, we will operate as normal. We refuse to shut down, said head of Dollys workers forum Ari Saputro, who goes by the nickname Pokemon.
An AFP reporter saw a protester being punched by police and then being detained with blood running from his nose.
Police fired the tear gas after workers set tyres alight, both sending a thick haze across the demonstration, dispersing protesters after around an hour.
Hundreds of sex workers, as well as others who eke out a living out of the vast red light district in Indonesias second biggest city, have lashed back at the closure order, complaining they will be left destitute.
Indonesia is the worlds biggest Muslim-majority nation, but prostitution is common, though it is usually offered discreetly in karaoke lounges and clandestine brothels.
Dolly in eastern Java, on the other hand, is famous for openly touting women in shopfront windows, resembling Amsterdams red light district.
The name Dolly is believed to come from a Dutch madam who ran a brothel in the city during the Netherlands colonial rule of Indonesia.
Rismaharini described prostitution as immoral in a public event last month to announce Dollys closure, peppered with Islamic references.
Hardline Muslim groups have threatened violence if brothels continue to operate beyond the end of Ramadan.
... I am a refugee.
My family are of refugee pedigree. My grandma fled the communists from North Vietnam to South Vietnam as a young widow with two little boys.
My parents don't speak freely of their many attempts to "vuot bien". They are not natural storytellers. What they do say, they say it briefly and matter-of-factly. Over dinner with my mum and dad, I asked them, "why did you do it?" They looked at me and smiled, amused by this question from me after 25 years in Australia.
"We had to."
"But why did you think we had to?"
"It was the only way. There was no other choice. We had to."
[An open letter from a reluctant refugee - ABC - 29/7/14]
Greens commend Charles Sturt Councils vote to support young refugees
Greens Media Release [29/7/14]:
Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison will be hearing from the Charles Sturt Council in South Australia after they voted last night to call for the return of two refugee students who were rounded up and taken to a Darwin detention centre a month ago.
"I congratulate these councillors who are standing up for their community," the Greens' immigration spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
"When these students were rounded up and dumped in a Darwin detention centre it sent a shockwave through the school and its community.
"The Woodville High students who spoke at the Council meeting clearly want their friends back and it's time the Abbott government listened.
"Hopefully, after hearing from the Charles Sturt Councillors, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison will realise that these students should be brought back to their community.
"With the government acting like this, it's no wonder that 15 other students have fled in in fear of being rounded up themselves. As the legal guardian of unaccompanied refugee children, the Immigration Minister should be caring for these kids, not scaring them into hiding.
"Children should not be caught up in the politics of the day and the Abbott government must commit to returning these students to their community as soon as possible."
Brett Lee unaware signed bat would be used in asylum seeker negotiations with India, manager says
Former Australian cricketer Brett Lee was unaware that bats signed for the Immigration Minister would be given to Indian officials involved in asylum seeker negotiations, the sportsman's manager says.
Lee and fellow retired bowler Glenn McGrath signed cricket bats which, according to reports in News Corporation newspapers, were used by Scott Morrison as a "secret weapon" in negotiating an asylum seeker deal with India.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported Mr Morrison gave the bats to the Indian ministers for home affairs and external affairs before striking a deal which has seen 157 asylum seekers sent to the Curtin Detention Centre, where they will be assessed by Indian officials.
It was reported the cricketers were happy to sign the bats as a favour to Mr Morrison, after he told them what they were for.
Lee's manager Neil Maxwell says he appreciates the controversy surrounding the bats but says Lee signed them without asking what they would be used for.
Mr Maxwell says "as a gesture of goodwill" Lee signs 5,000 crickets bats each year "to help people out". He says many are for charity.
"I couldn't tell you where everything else ended up," Mr Maxwell said.
He says unlike some other athletes Lee has decided not to charge for signing bats.
McGrath has taken to Twitter to defend his decision to sign the bats for Mr Morrison, saying he supported asylum seekers and always tried to "help people out".
Another whale freed from Gold Coast shark nets
A humpback whale has been freed from shark nets off the Gold Coast days after two young whales became trapped in the area.
Sea World marine experts were alerted about 7.45am on Tuesday after reports a humpback was caught in nets about 300 metres off Kirra Beach.
A spokeswoman for the Gold Coast theme park told AAP a team cut the whale free about two and a half hours later.
Marine experts onboard a boat are following the mammal, which appears to be in good health.
An exhausted humpback calf was freed by a rescue team after struggling for hours in a net off the same beach last Thursday.
The whale suffered muscle and tail damage but was able to swim away.
However, a baby whale that became trapped off a southern Gold Coast beach on July 20 was not so fortunate.
The newborn hit the bottom of a shark net, was unable to free itself and drowned.
Sea World's director of marine sciences Trevor Long last week called for a review of the use of shark nets off the Gold Coast.
He said many inexperienced mammals ran into trouble on their first southern migration because they did not know where the "traps" were.
Mr Long suggested replacing the nets with drum lines during the whale season in winter, when the beaches aren't as popular.
Minke whales spotted off Surfers Paradise [NBN News - 29/7/14]
Call goes out for a ban on a net loss
Sunshine Coast Daily [29/7/14]:
A disgusted Councillor Frank Pardon has renewed his call for a ban on commercial fishing on Noosa North Shore after two separate incidents involving what he regards as overkill of local marine stocks.
One involves the ripping out of 30 tonnes of mullet from local waters two weekends ago, where Cr Pardon said the fish ended up being worthless because of the way the catch was handled.
The councillor said he saw the mullet in the nets on the Sunday and was told by an industry source that the 30-tonne catch was totally spoiled because of the amount of time it took to haul them in.
"I've got this straight from the horse's mouth - they were in the nets around 10 (pm Saturday) and they did not get the fish out until about 12 the next day."
He believed it was a combination of having too many fish in the nets and the incoming tide that led them to be crushed to the extent they had no scales left.
"These sort of netting practices are not sustainable, especially when you take them to the processor and the processor rejects them because they've been pulverised," Cr Pardon said.
"A friend of mine who was actually given some of these mullet said they were mush - they had not a scale on them."
And in another instance not related to the mullet catch, on the same weekend he alerted local fishing authorities to the illegal take of 700 pipis by a couple of persons in a four-wheel drive 12 km along Noosa North Shore.
The allowed limit for the popular food and bait is 50.
"My friend had driven up there and saw this happening and said Frank, 'what can I do about it?'," Cr Pardon said.
"When I arrived the fisheries patrol was there. They went north from there and got another lot so good on them for responding like that.
"They went up the beach and found another lot with too many pipis as well," Cr Pardon said.
The long-time advocate for commercial fishing licence buy-outs on the North Shore said he had spoken some weeks back to the Fisheries Minister John McVeigh concerning this issue and "told him I'll be back".
"I want a buy-out with compensation.
"No one's talking about kicking anyone out (without remuneration), but we didn't become a biosphere to do unsustainable practices," Cr Pardon said.
Australia Zoo trainer rushed to hospital after tiger bite
Sunshine Coast Daily [29/7/14]:
A spokeswoman for Australia Zoo has confirmed the trainer bitten by a tiger earlier today will be fine.
The 42-year-old was bitten by 10-year-old Sumatran tiger Juma just before noon today.
"First aid protocol was followed, the same as Australia Zoo renders all staff, and the keeper is going to be fine. Juma the tiger is fine as well," the spokeswoman said.
Celebrations were in full swing at Dreamworld today, with the team at Tiger Island celebrating Global Tiger Day [NBN News - 29/7/14]
Wildlife hospitals save 16,000 animals in four years
UQ News [22/7/14]:
Birds are the most commonly rescued wildlife in Queensland, with the laughing kookaburra among our hardiest species, according to new research from The University of Queenslands Gatton Campus.
Masters student Marisol Torregrosa Rocabado and honours student Archibald Bouchon-Small tracked animal rescues from three wildlife hospitals in South East Queensland over four years for their research.
They found that from 2009-2013, 80,000 animals were rescued, with 16,000 animals being successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
Fifty per cent of all animals brought into care are birds and most of the species identified are abundant and widespread, Mr Bouchon-Small said.
It was interesting that the survival rate of the laughing kookaburra is 34 per cent - twice the average survival rate of birds. This kind of data shows us the areas and the species where we can make the most difference.
Rainbow lorikeets were the bird species most commonly admitted to wildlife hospitals, followed by Australian magpies, tawny frogmouths, the laughing kookaburra and finally noisy miners.
Ringtail possums were the most commonly rescued mammals, followed by brushtail possums, koalas, black flying foxes and eastern grey kangaroos.
Mr Bouchon-Small said the findings highlighted the important role hospitals played in the welfare and conservation of wildlife.
We tracked the animals, looking at the cause of admission, length of stay in rehabilitation and the outcome for each animal, he said.
Strong seasonal trends were identified, with a marked increase in animals being admitted during spring and summer coinciding with the breeding season of most species.
Senior Lecturer in Wildlife Behaviour and Welfare Dr Andrew Tribe said the results showed how little was known about current rehabilitation procedures.
This study shows how important accurate record-keeping is to track what is happening with our wildlife, Dr Tribe said.
Good record-keeping by the hospitals allowed us to track this data, but there were some inconsistencies between the hospitals. It would be helpful if record-keeping was standardised.
The data was collected from South East Queenslands three largest wildlife hospitals: the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Hospital and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Queensland Wildlife Hospital.
Forum leaders urged to speak on West Papua
The Pacific Islands Forum leaders in Palau have been urged to discuss human rights violations in West Papua.
The Australian West Papua Association says the leaders need to make a public statement of concern in its official communiqué, just as the MSG leaders did at their meeting in Noumea last year.
The AWPA also called on the forum leaders to urge the new Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, to release all West Papuan political prisoners unconditionally as a sign of good faith to the West Papuan people.
The AWPA secretary, Joe Collins, says West Papua is the one territory in the Pacific where the deteriorating human rights situation could lead to instability in the region.
He says the forum can play an important role in helping to facilitate a dialogue between genuine representatives of the West Papuan leadership and the Indonesian Government.
Three Indonesian soldiers have suffered gunshot injuries following an attack in the province of Papua.
The Jakarta Globe reports the attack, allegedly by a separatist group, targetted a military post in the Tingginambut area of Papua's Puncak Jaya district.
The soldiers were reportedly patrolling near the post when a group attacked the post, leading to an exchange of fire, which eventually forced the attackers back into a nearby forest.
The soldiers were taken to Jayapura for medical treatment.
A Papuan military spokesman, Rikas Hidayatullah, refused to comment.
PNG National Court today [29/7/14]: HRA 105/14 Australian Papua Civil Rights Council VS Dept. Of Foreign Affairs & Trade (Mention)
PNG: Flood-hit villagers still waiting for assistance
The National [29/7/14]:
Disaster -stricken Wire village in Pangia, Southern Highlands, is still waiting for the relief assistance.
Marapin ward 1 councillor Tanguwe Yamu said the village had not received any assistance while other affected areas had received some assistance.
Our food gardens and some houses have been destroyed by landslide and it is still raining so we need immediate help, Yamu said.
The people are facing food shortage and the homeless need shelters.
The village is on the mountain side and people are living in fear of a possible landslip that can cause destruction to their lives and properties.
We are in need for shelters, food supplies and relocation of the people to the valley.
The landowners of the proposed relocation site will require some compensation over the land. We cannot just settle there without the payment.
Village leader Mathew Karu said they were not happy with delay in the relief assistance.
Karu said he had spent more than K13,000 to bring the news media from Mt Hagen to report on the disaster situation.
My effort through the media helped to grab the countrys attention which prompted action. But now my people have not received any assistance, he said.
Yamu said he would go to the provincial disaster office in Tari, Hela, to enquire about the delay in relief assistance.
Fire crews working to put out fire at Toorbul
Sunshine Coast Daily [29/7/14]:
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) and Rural Fire Service Queensland crews are at the scene of a vegetation fire in the vicinity of Pumicestone Rd, Toorbul (near Bribie Island).
The fire, which started around 9am, currently poses no threat to properties but is causing a smoke hazard in Toorbul and surrounding area.
Residents are asked to close windows and doors and if suffering from respiratory condition, keep medications close by. Motorists should drive with caution and to conditions.
If residents are concerned their property is under threat they are advised to call Triple Zero (000) immediately.
Train sparks bushfire yesterday afternoon near Calliope
Morning Bulletin [29/7/14]:
Two fire crews have extinguished a bushfire at Targoola Rd in Calliope.
The fire started at 2pm and was put out by 5pm. Calliope Rural Fire Brigade first officer Keith Hill said the fire started on the railway line by a train.
Crash victim slams deadly intersection
A Westbrook man who escaped serious injury in a crash at a notorious Gore Hwy intersection hopes safety improvements will be made at the junction.
David Mitchell, 21, was on his way to work on Friday morning last week when a truck entered the highway in front of him from Toowoomba-Karara Rd.
Mr Mitchell's car collided with the rear of the truck, causing extensive damage to his car.
He was yesterday nursing a sore shoulder which, luckily, was the worst of his injuries.
His main criticism of the intersection was that vehicles turning right onto the Gore Hwy had limited visibility of eastbound traffic.
"You've got about seven or eight seconds to gun it up to 90kmh," Mr Mitchell said.
"The road rules kind of fail there in terms of safety.
"When you get something like what happened to me, that is when things get really bad."
A Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesman said there were no plans to upgrade the intersection.
"Safety is our main priority," he said.
"In 2011, we carried out safety works at this intersection which included installing a protected right turn lane to enable northbound
Gore Hwy traffic to safely right turn toward Karara."
He said there had been two reported traffic incidents at the intersection since June 2013.
Both of those occurred on Friday, last week.
"We have carried out several packages of flood recovery works on the Gore Hwy and Toowoomba-Karara Rd between 2011 and 2014."
Fatal traffic incident, Gympie
QPS Media [28/7/14]:
Police are investigating the discovery of a crashed vehicle in Gympie earlier today.
About 2.30pm, police were called to Widgee Crossing Road following reports a car had been located in a paddock.
On arrival, officers located a man deceased inside the car.
Early investigations suggest it was a single vehicle incident where the mans car left the road and collided with a tree.
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Rockhampton rally raises concerns over plans to privatise
Morning Bulletin [29/7/14]:
Michael Delaney was blunt when he addressed a rally outside the Rockhampton Hospital yesterday. "We, and our patients, have been betrayed," he said.
The United Voice delegate was referring to plans by Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service to privatise medical imaging services.
About 20 staff members attended the rally, but organisers said their petition has 700 signatures on paper and 1300 signatures online.
Mr Delaney said the union was concerned that privatisation would impact staff and services.
"The medical imaging departments are here to provide a service to our patients," he said.
"Because we are a service, we are not here to make a profit however, when you have any private organisation, they must make a profit."
Mr Delaney said the only way to increase profits would be to reduce costs by increasing throughput or reducing overheads. He said the service would not be able to increase the number of patients seen because the majority were older residents who had longer consultations.
Grant Burton, of the Queensland Nurses Union, said he had heard conflicting reports about the future for staff at the Rockhampton Hospital.
Former Queensland Health employee on fraud charges
A former Queensland Health employee has appeared in court over allegations she defrauded the department of more than $36,000.
Caboolture woman Karma Elms, 35, appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Tuesday charged with 46 counts of fraud.
Elms was hired by Queensland Health after the March 2010 introduction of a new payroll system, which was plagued by troubles.
She was employed to help manage the increased workload brought on by the new system.
An investigation by the Crime and Misconduct Commission, now the Crime and Corruption Commission, led to allegations she fraudulently claimed $36,500 in overtime and penalty payments between May 2010 and August 2011.
Elms appeared in court without a lawyer and was granted a four-week adjournment of her case.
She was also granted bail on her own undertaking. She is due back in court on August 26.
Joint operation arrests six men, including four "Rebels CMG members", on drug importation to the value of $20 million [QPS Media - 29/7/14]
"Bandido" behind "Rebel" clubhouse fire caught in drug deal [Sunshine Coast Daily - 29/7/14]
Serious assault police charges, Brisbane [QPS Media - 29/7/14]
Stolen vehicle and assault police charges, Woodridge [QPS Media - 29/7/14]
Man charged after clandestine laboratory located, Caloundra [QPS Media - 29/7/14]
Clandestine laboratory located, Airlie Beach [QPS Media - 28/7/14]
Overwhelmed by propaganda?
Sick of the lies?
Why not make your own media?
Subverting Media: A Low Tech Guide to Information Activism (1998) [VIDEO]:
From stencils to zines to graffiti and poster art, Subverting the Media takes us on a trip through the alternative media scene. East Harlem muralist James De La Vega, anti-patriarchal poster collective Sister Serpents, Bronx-based graffiti group, Tats Cru and Sabrina Margarita Sandata, a feminist zinester, challenge social and cultural stereotypes through their work. The program explores the potential everyone has to create their own media, examines the process for creating the message, and demonstrates how to go out and make your own media.
Art, Truth & Politics - The Nobel Prize in Literature 2005:
... The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.
Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.
It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.
I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'
It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.
This Is Not A Massacre
" What remains? Only traces.
The photo (dead girl,
hand clutched at her side,
once-white ribbon still discernible
on her pallid profile,
ashen skin melting into the dust
that clogs her mouth):
nothing more than shadow
of the drowned, odor of mint
wafting from a grave.
Say it fast over and over:
this is not a massacre this
is not a massacre this is not
a massacre this is not a
massacre this is not
a massacre this is not a
Lisa Suhair Majaj, from her book 'Geographies of Light. Poets for Palestine'.
Ataque contra un edificio externo al hospital Al-#Shifa. Así ha quedado el muro. #Gaza
Image: @AneIrazabal - Freelance journalist based in the Middle East [28/7/14]
#Israel denied attacking #Gaza hospital and park, but an NBC reporter said he/she witnessed Israeli drone fire at al-Shifa hospital. "tweeted" by @AlakhbarEnglish [28/7/14]
Image: @DrBasselAbuward [28/7/14]
Displaced children are playing in one of the UNRWA schools
Image: @DrBasselAbuward [28/7/14]
Death toll in Gaza hits 1,088 as Israel resumes bombardment [Maan - 29/7/14]
At least 26 were killed and 241 injured across the Gaza Strip on Monday night as Israel resumed its bombardment of the Gaza Strip from air, land, and sea.
Talks for a ceasefire, meanwhile, appeared stillborn after Israeli Prime Minister warned in a speech that the campaign could last long, even as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rushed to Cairo to meet with Hamas representatives.
The renewed evening assault brought the total of Palestinians killed Monday to 44, while another 12 bodies were recovered from the rubble by medical teams earlier in the day.
Gaza Ministry of Health Spokesman said over the last 21 days, a total of 1,088 Palestinians have been killed and 6,470 have been injured. Of the dead, 251 have been children and 50 have been elderly, while 1,980 children and 259 elderly have been among the injured.
The figures include 10 people who were killed on Monday following an Israeli air strike on a children's playground in al-Shati refugee camp in the afternoon, where family outings to celebrate the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday ended in horror with eight children among the dead.
Eyewitnesses told Ma'an that children had been wearing clothes given to them as gifts for the Eid and many families had chosen to take advantage of a relative lull in the 21-day assault to head to the park in the seaside neighborhood where the strike occurred.
Although Israel has blamed the deaths on a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket, Gaza police who inspected the rubble and victims' bodies as well as eyewitnesses confirmed the strike was Israeli.
Israel stepped up its bombardment Monday night in response to rocket fire by Palestinians, as well as a mortar fire that killed four soldiers in southern Israel.
The attack brought the total number of Israeli soldiers killed in the conflict to 43. Fewer than 10 percent of Israeli casualties have been civilian, while Gaza-based rights group estimate that Palestinian deaths have been more than 90 percent civilian, including nearly 300 children.
Meanwhile, Israel had told at least 400,000 Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes via text and phone, raising terror among Gazans that all those who stayed would be treated as legitimate targets.
All borders in and out of Gaza remain closed shut, as Israel has maintained its complete blockade of the tiny coastal enclave intact over the course of its 21-day assault.
Israel shells house of Hamas political leader Haniya: son [Yahoo - 29/7/14]
Gaza Situation Report 20 - The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) [29/7/14]:
... UNRWA Commissioner- General, Pierre Krähenbühl, together with other UNRWA staff members, met yesterday at UNRWA Headquarters in Amman with Queen Rania Al Abdullah. The Commissioner - General expressed gratitude to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for support to the Agency and stated that the situation in Gaza has been extreme for so many years, to the point of becoming completely unsustainable. Her Majesty expressed concern with the impact of the conflict on civilians, stressing that there is no safe place for those seeking refuge from the violence.
in critical condition, says Ban, calling again for immediate ceasefire
[UN Media Release - 28/7/14]:
... Mr. Ban underscored that both Israelis and Palestinians have a responsibility beyond ceasing the ongoing hostilities to start a serious dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict.
That means an end to the blockade of Gaza and ultimately to the nearly half century of occupation, he said, adding that it equally means security for Israel.
Irish Times [29/7/14]:
With more than 1,030 people now dead in Gaza, mostly civilians, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has been urged by human rights organisations to urgently seek access to the (ICC) so that it can pursue allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In an open letter to Mr Abbas, 17 organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said impunity had regularly undermined the Middle East peace process and they believed a credible prosecution threat would help to advance the cause of peace.
The relationship between the Palestinians and the ICC has been complex. In 2009 it lodged a declaration recognising the jurisdiction of the ICC but the court ruled the declaration was not valid because issues over the definition of Palestinian statehood were unresolved.
However, in November 2012 the UN general assembly voted to grant Palestine the status of non-member observer state. As recently as May, former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said that had changed the Palestinians position radically: Today they are recognised and can choose to turn to the court.
In their letter, the human rights organisations which made this call before but say they are repeating it urgently in the context of the Gaza crisis are of the same opinion, urging Mr Abbas and his government to apply again to accede to the Rome Statute that set up the ICC in The Hague.
On this basis, the current ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has said that The ball is now in the court of Palestine to seek the courts jurisdiction, says the letter.
It goes on: While we understand the pressure that Palestine is under from Israel and the United States not to pursue the jurisdiction of the ICC we oppose these efforts to politicise justice for victims of serious crimes under international law, and urge you to resist them.
And it concludes: The ICC represents an important tool for justice. We urge you to seize it without any further delay.
France 24 [25/7/14]:
A French lawyer said on Friday that he had filed a complaint on behalf of the Palestinian justice minister at the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing Israels military of having carried out war crimes in the Gaza Strip.
The complaint targets war crimes committed by the Israeli army in June and July 2014 in Palestine in the context of the operation known as Protective Edge, Gilles Devers told reporters.
Israel, the occupying power, is carrying out a military operation which in principle and form violates the basis of international law, he said. Every day new crimes are committed and over 80 percent of the victims are civilians. Children, women, hospitals, UN schools the Israeli soldiers respect nothing.
This is a military attack against the Palestinian population.
The Israeli offensive has left more than 5,200 Palestinians injured, according to emergency services in Gaza, and 33 Israeli soldiers and two civilians have died, too.
The Palestinian Authority, which has non-member observer state status at the United Nations, has not yet signed up to the Hague-based ICC, due to what Devers said were political quarrels over the Palestinians status.
But according to Devers, the complaint is still valid.
The UN Human Rights Council is launching a probe into Israels offensive in Gaza, with rights chief Navi Pillay saying the Jewish states military actions could amount to war crimes.
France offers asylum to Iraqi Christians
Al Jazeera [28/7/14]:
France has said it is ready to welcome Christians fleeing the area of Iraq controlled by Islamic State (IS) fighters, saying it is "outraged" by their persecution.
Islamic State fighters seized large swaths of northern Iraq last month, prompting hundreds of Christian families in Mosul to flee a city which has hosted the faith since its earliest years.
"France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.
"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIL is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added, referring Islamic State's former name of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
"We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.
"We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them," both ministers said.
Islamic State had ordered Christian families to convert to Islam or leave the city, prompting the mass exodus.
Those who failed to comply were threatened with execution, and the property of those who left was forfeited to the Islamic State, AFP reported a statement from the group as saying.
The United Nations Security Council has already denounced the persecution of minorities in Iraq, warning such actions can be considered crimes against humanity.
In a unanimous declaration adopted last week, the Council condemned "in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of individuals from minority populations and those who refuse its extremist ideology in Iraq by ISIL and associated armed groups," it said.
Islamic State has also persecuted Iraq's majority Shia Muslims in areas under their control, as well as Sunni Muslims that oppose the group's idealogy.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier this month condemned the treatment of the Christians and instructed a government committee to help those made homeless.
Before the 2003 US-led invasion, more than a million Christians lived in Iraq, including more than 600,000 in Baghdad and 60,000 in Mosul, as well as a substantial number in Kirkuk and in Basra.
Iraq filed suit on Monday in a Texas court to gain control of a cargo of crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan that Baghdad says was sold without its permission. ... [Reuters - 28/7/14]
Ukraine civil war death toll 1,100, over 3,500 wounded - UN
Some 1,129 people have been killed and nearly 3,500 wounded in eastern Ukraine since the start of the Kiev's military operation in April, according to UN estimates.
The report also states that these are the minimum casualty toll estimates by the UN monitoring mission and WHO.
The report says that the cause of the rising death toll is intensified artillery shelling of the civilian residential areas and the so-called collateral damage of the armed actions in the heavily-populated areas.
Also, 100,000 people were forcibly displaced in eastern Ukraine.
The Kiev authorities are using heavy weaponry and artillery in strikes on residential areas, while the armed rebels are firing back, the report states.
Both sides must take great care to prevent more civilians from being killed or injured, she added. Already increasing numbers of people are being killed, with serious damage to civilian infrastructure, which depending on circumstances could amount to violations of international humanitarian law. The fighting must stop, the report stated.
On Friday, Human Rights Watch alleged that Kiev is using indiscriminate Grad missiles to attack densely populated areas in Donetsk, which violates international humanitarian law, and also blames the militia for taking cover in the same areas.
Although Ukrainian government officials and the press service of the National Guard have denied using Grad rockets in Donetsk, a Human Rights Watch investigation on the ground strongly indicates that Ukrainian government forces were responsible for the attacks that occurred between July 12 and 21, HRW stated.
The downing of the Malaysian MH17 plane may amount to a war crime, the UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said.
The horrendous shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines plane on 17 July came just after the cut-off date of this report, Pillay said.
This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime. It is imperative that a prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation be conducted into this event, she added.
Due to ongoing violence in the area of the plane crash, investigation teams, including Dutch and Australian police, can't get to the scene.
On Sunday, at least 13 civilians and likely dozens more were killed by ongoing artillery strikes, as government troops closed in on militia positions around the city of Gorlovka.
Among the dead were a 1-year old and a 5-year old, according to information published by the Donetsk regional administration. The 1-year-old girl was killed next to her parents.
RIA Novosti [28/7/14]:
The first group of monitors of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Permanent Mission is due to arrive in Rostov-on-Don, in southern Russia on July 29, a spokesman for the local authorities told RIA Novosti.
Tomorrow the first OSCE monitors are to arrive in Rostov Region, spokesman Aleksander Titov said.
Other monitors are expected to arrive on July 30-31.
Two weeks ago, OSCE representatives visited Russias checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk and later sent a report to the representatives of the organizations 57 member states.
The OSCE has decided to send 19 staff members, including 16 monitors.
Earlier this month, Moscow invited the OSCE to assess the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border, which has been hit multiple times by Ukrainian artillery. On July 13, shells exploded in the Russian city of Donetsk in Rostov Region, killing one civilian and injuring two more.
Nigeria city hit by twin suicide blasts
Al Jazeera [28/7/14]:
Two blasts by female suicide bombers have killed three people and injured 13 in Nigeria's Kano city, bringing the number of attacks this week in the area to five and overshadowing festivities marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
A woman detonated low-calibre explosives packed to her torso at a petrol station in the Hotoro area on the outskirts of the city, targeting women who had lined up to buy kerosene, Kano police spokesman Musa Magaji Majia told AFP news agency.
Majia said 10 victims were rushed to the hospital after the blast that went off at roughly 09:30 GMT on Monday and that three had died.
Roughly three hours after the petrol station blast another female bomber approached the Trade Fair Complex in a key commercial district, Kano state police chief Aderele Shinaba said.
She was stopped at the gate and blew herself up, he added.
"It was the same modus operandi," Shinaba said. "Six people were injured, including two (police) officers."
Two U.S. citizens are being treated for Ebola in Liberia and the country shut some border crossings, as the worst outbreak of the disease on record spread to Nigeria, Africas most populous nation and largest economy. ... [Bloomberg - 28/7/14]
PNG: Defence silence over Kirakira
PNG Loop [28/7/14]:
The PNG Defence force has still to release the initial reports over the Kirakira arson incidents.
The PNGDF Commander Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo clarified that the first reports should be made available any time soon but it is taking time to compile, given the sensitive nature of the incident.
Toropo says that while investigators have been working around the clock to finalise the military reports, they are also mindful of time constraints that are in place.
He says that more than ever the investigators are trying to maintain objectivity on an issue that has been getting a lot of attention publically.
The Commander says that they are effectively remaining quiet to avoid a public trial of the soldiers and to not taint the outcome of investigations.
6yo boy dies after being hit by car at Hurstville in Sydney's south
A young boy has died after being hit by a car in Sydney's south.
Police say the six-year-old was hit by the vehicle when he ran across Durham Street at Hurstville about 4:40pm on Monday.
The boy was treated at the scene for serious injuries before being taken to St George Hospital, where he later died.
The female driver, who stopped after the crash, has spoken to police.
[STORY GOES ON TO INDULGE IN THE USUAL VICTIM BLAMING]
South Korea ferry: Students 'floated from cabins'
Students who survived South Korea's ferry disaster have described escaping from flooded cabins as the ship sank.
The students had obeyed the crew's orders to stay put, even as water started coming in as the Sewol listed.
"We continued to wait and only came outside because the water filled the room so much," one student said.
The Sewol ferry sank on 16 April off Jeju island, killing 304 people. The students were giving evidence against the captain of the Sewol and 14 crew.
They are accused of charges ranging from negligence to homicide.
The BBC's Lucy Williamson - at the trial - says that the picture painted by six female students giving evidence on Monday was of passengers left to find their own way out of the sinking ship.
The students who survived floated up to cabin doors - by now overhead - and were pulled out by their classmates.
Our correspondent says one student remembered how the water gushed in and swept away several of her friends.
Another questioned why rescuers did not enter the ship to help them get out.
It was the first time any of the teenagers on board the ferry have testified in a trial that is expected to last several weeks.
Most of those who died on the Sewol were teenagers from the same high school on a school trip.
While the crew are charged with abandoning ship, the captain and three officers are also charged with "homicide through wilful negligence".
Investigators say the ferry had been illegally modified to carry more passengers and cargo, and was overloaded.
But prosecutors say the actions of the captain and crew - including instructing passengers to stay in their cabins as the ship listed - led to more deaths.
The students are testifying at a district court near their homes near Seoul, rather than at the actual trial in the southern city of Gwangju.
The disaster - which correspondents say was South Korea's worst maritime disaster in 44 years - resulted in harsh criticism of both bureaucrats and business officials for alleged failings or corruption.
Officials from ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine are also the subject of separate legal proceedings.
Earlier this month, police identified a body found on 12 June as company owner Yoo Byung-eun, who had been the subject of a man-hunt since the disaster.
His son, Yoo Dae-kyun, was arrested on Friday.
Top Journalists and Lawyers: NSA Surveillance Threatens Press Freedom and Right to Counsel
The Intercept [28/7/14]:
To do their jobs properly, journalists and lawyers sometimes need to be able to keep information private from the government.
And because what journalists and lawyers do is so integral to safeguarding democracy and basic rights, the United States has traditionally recognized their need for privileged communications.
But the virtually inescapable government surveillance exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has impaired if not eliminated the ability of news-gatherers and attorneys to communicate confidentially with their sources and their clients, according to a new report by two rights advocacy groups.
The report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union is based on an exhaustive new survey of journalists and lawyers working in the areas of national security and intelligence. Both groups of professionals describe a substantial erosion in their ability to do their constitutionally-protected jobs.
Not even the strongest versions of NSA reform being considered in Congress come anywhere close to addressing the chilling effects on basic freedoms that the new survey describes.
If the US fails to address these concerns promptly and effectively, report author G. Alex Sinha writes, it could do serious, long-term damage to the fabric of democracy in the country.
Even before the Snowden revelations, reporters trying to cover important defense, intelligence and counter-terrorism issues were reeling from the effects of unprecedented secrecy and attacks on whistleblowers.
But newfound awareness of the numerous ways the government can follow electronic trails previously considered the stuff of paranoid fantasy has led sources to grow considerably more fearful.
It used to be that leak investigations didnt get far because it was too hard to uncover the source, but with digital tools its just much easier, and sources know that, said Washington Post contributor Barton Gellman, one of the 46 journalists interviewed for the survey.
Sources are afraid of the entire weight of the federal government coming down on them, New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer is quoted as saying. The added layer of fear makes it so much harder. I cant count the number of people afraid of the legal implications [of speaking to me].
Jonathan Landay, a McClatchy Newspapers reporter covering national security and intelligence, told Human Rights Watch that some sources have grown reluctant to talk to him about anything, even something like, Please explain the rationale for this foreign policy. Thats not even dealing with classified material; thats just educating readers.
Methods reporters use to avoid surveillance are time-consuming, difficult, off-putting to sources and ultimately futile, the surveyed journalists reported. If the government wants to get you, they will, Washington Post reporter Adam Goldman said.
But when journalists cant do their jobs, the effect is felt well beyond the profession alone. Insufficiently informed journalism can undermine effective democratic participation and governance, the report states.
What makes government better is our work exposing information, Washington Post reporter Dana Priest is quoted as saying. Its not just that its harder for me to do my job, though it is. It also makes the country less safe. Institutions work less well, and it increases the risk of corruption. Secrecy works against all of us.
The reports author also interviewed five current or former U.S. officials with knowledge of the surveillance programs.
They generally defended the programs as legal and important for national security. They also showed varying degrees of concern for or interest in the impact that the programs might have on the work of journalists and attorneys, Sinha wrote.
Most were skeptical that the programs have affected journalists and did not appear to have considered seriously the possible effect on attorneys.
In fact, Bob Deitz, who served as the National Security Agencys general counsel from 1998 to 2006, was apparently pleased to hear surveillance was making certain kinds of reporting more difficult.
Leaking is against the law. Good. I want criminals to be deterred, he told the reports author. Does a cop chill a burglars inclination to burgle? Yes.
But New York Times reporter Scott Shane disputed that analogy in his interview: Burglary is not part of a larger set of activities protected by the Constitution, and at the heart of our democracy, he said.
Unfortunately, that mindset is sort of the problem.
Lawyers, meanwhile, expressed concerns that U.S. surveillance comprised a violation of the attorney-client confidentiality and could stifle their clients. The Sixth-Amendment-protected right to counsel in criminal prosecutions is traditionally considered to include the ability to communicate freely.
Many of the 42 attorneys interviewed for the survey reported finding it harder to build trust with clients particularly those who are abroad, and aware of the extent of NSA surveillance.
One lawyer described feeling duty-bound to warn her clients. Given the now publicly admitted revelations that there is no privacy in communications, including those between attorneys and their clients, I feel ethically obligated to tell all clients that I cant guarantee anything [they] say is privileged or will remain confidential, said Linda Moreno, a defense attorney specializing in national security and terrorism cases.
Lawyers said they feared surveillance would allow the government to have advance knowledge of their defense plans, and that they feared that evidence collected through classified programs would nevertheless be held against the defendants, without the ability to challenge its acquisition.
Major Jason Wright, an Army JAG who was on Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds defense team, raised a troubling concern: We are fearful that our communications with witnesses abroad are monitored, and that attempts to build their case might put people in harms way, he said in an interview for the survey.
The U.S. government claims that it applies certain minimization procedures to protect attorney-client communications in the upstream collection conducted under one section, 702, of the surveillance statutes.
But as the report notes, that claim is a very limited one, with all the clauses and caveats indicating that those limiting procedures dont apply to other major surveillance initiatives and if they do, only when clients are post-indictment, which is when the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is directly implicated.
The government officials interviewed for the survey were skeptical that surveillance has undermined reporting, or indeed, that anything else has either, the reports author noted.
When asked what would constitute sufficient evidence of a chilling effect to cause them concern, both Deitz and [a] senior FBI official expressed skepticism about the reliability of self-reports by journalists or others.
CIA Intercepted Whistleblower Communications Related to Senate Investigation into Torture [Kevin Gosztola - 26/7/14]
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JUDICIAL CRITICISM OF THE MURDOCH MACHINE
BOB BROWN, THE FIRST GULF WAR AND UNITED NATIONS INTERVENTION
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