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!

... There's no rationalisation for what you do and you are satan's little helpers. ... Bill Hicks

I feel sorry for Americans

STOP THE WARS! TAX THE RICH!

FREE THE REFUGEES!

Perception correction.

Bearing witness.

Unfashionable.

"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

Peace.

Copyright 2003-present

 



* Other Things *


... Activists carry a mock coffin during a protest rally in front of the US Embassy in Manila ...

Image: @live24india [24/10/14]

Activists bring mock coffin, doves to US Embassy hours before Laude burial [GMA Network - 24/10/14]

5,500 US troops in Manila not allowed to leave ship [Rappler - 24/10/14]

US Marine dies in third war on Iraq

Washington Post [25/10/14]:

The Pentagon on Friday reported the first death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq in its new mission to combat Islamic State militants who have seized large areas of Iraq and Syria.

Marine Lance Corporal Sean Neal, a 19-year-old old from California, died in Baghdad on Thursday in what a Pentagon statement described as a non-combat incident.

Further details about how Neal died were not immediately available.

Earlier this month, a U.S. Marine was deemed lost at sea after he fell from an aircraft into the Arabian Gulf.

Iraqi Spring Media Center [25/10/14]:

The government's forces shelled by planes and artillery the civilians in Raffosh and Dwelibah southern west of Baghdad after defeating in storming the area.......

The artillery and launchers of government's forces have shelled south and north of Fallujah resulted in human and building losses

Lavrov Says Russia has Not Agreed to Train Iraqi Troops [Naharnet - 25/10/14]

... Russia's rejection of such intelligence-sharing contradicted Kerry, who said October 14 that he and Lavrov had agreed "to intensify intelligence cooperation with respect to ISIL (Islamic State) and other counter-terrorism challenges".

Russian President Vladimir Putin in a keynote speech to Russia experts and journalists on Friday strongly criticised the United States' actions in Iraq, saying that former soldiers in Saddam Hussein's army had swelled the ranks of ISIS and "act very effectively from a military point of view".

...

US drone strike kills 10 in Yemen [25/10/14]

Egypt-Gaza border closed after deadly Sinai attack [Al Arabiya - 25/10/14]

Afghanistan: At least 37 Taliban militants were killed and 55 others were injured following military operations in the past 24 hours. ... [Khaama - 25/10/14]

China to host international meeting on Afghanistan [Khaama - 25/10/14]

The State Department is funding a contractor $3.6 million for three mobile television trucks that cost a lot more than expected and were delivered two years behind schedule, a US federal watchdog said on Friday. ... [Pajhwok - 24/10/14]

Japan: Cabinet OKs changes to law that bans late-night dancing

Japan Today [25/10/14]:

Japan’s cabinet approved changes on Friday to a 66-year-old law that bans late-night dancing in clubs, a decision that will help businesses cash in on an expected influx of tourists ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Dancing at public venues is illegal in Japan and is only permitted until midnight under a special license, in a holdover from a 1948 law to stamp out prostitution linked to dance halls.

The police stiffened enforcement of the rule four years ago, however, after a student was killed in a brawl in Osaka, Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area, and worries grew about risks to young people against a backdrop of celebrity drug scandals.

“Visitors from overseas would come here to Japan and they’d wonder why they can’t dance, even though you can dance at night anywhere overseas,” said Kenji Kosaka, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and head of an alliance of lawmakers for the promotion of dance culture.

“The biggest thing that will change in this law is that you can now dance at night.”

The cabinet’s decision must be ratified by the Diet, but Kosaka said that should not be a problem as the LDP had a majority in both houses of Japan’s Diet.

The changes approved on Friday clear the way for a new category of clubs where people can dance all night, but added requirements for better interior lighting.

The lighting must now be brighter than 10 lux, or about as much as in a movie theater before a show starts, to discourage crimes and bad behavior.

“The actual standard was dancing. Now that is changing to the level of lighting,” said Takahiro Saito, a Tokyo-based lawyer who spearheaded a movement called “Let’s Dance”.

The easier rules should help bar owners such as Shuya Okino, who got rid of the dance floor at ‘The Room’ two years ago, after police stepped up crackdowns on Japan’s nightlife.

“Everything is in a gray zone,” said Okino. “It’s all illegal, but there are clubs that do operate.”

Television footage of police raids on clubs shows patrons being dragged out protesting they have done nothing wrong, while proprietors were charged with the crime of making people dance.

Police often used the existing law as a pretext to investigate problems such as boisterous clubbers, illegal drugs or suspected gangster involvement, so changing the rules may not end police intrusions into clubland.

Thanks for doing my PR!: Indian Prime Minister to media

Hindu Business Line [25/10/14]:

Reaching out to the media, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today lauded its role in spreading awareness about his pet ‘Clean India’ campaign, saying it has helped remove the perception that the Government is responsible for everything.

At his first interaction with the media in Delhi after becoming the Prime Minister, he recalled his fond relations with the media when he was a BJP office-bearer before going to Gujarat as Chief Minister in 2001.

Using the Diwali milan (get-together) organised by BJP chief Amit Shah at the party headquarters, Modi freely mixed with a few hundred journalists, including top editors and beat reporters.

“I used to arrange chairs here (BJP office) waiting for you (media). Those were different days when we used to interact freely. I had a beautiful relationship with you and it helped me in Gujarat,” he told the assembled editors, reporters and other journalists at the Diwali milan (get-together).

Fondly recalling the deep relationship he had with the media, Modi said he was looking for ways to further deepen and expand the old relationship.

“Some way will be found. It is important to interact with the media directly rather than through reportage and articles. By interacting directly, one gets to know things which mediapersons cannot report. Not only does one get information but also vision, which is very valuable,” he said.

Referring to the ‘Swachch Bharat’ campaign launched by him, Modi said he was happy to see several articles, TV features and social media write-ups on the subject, giving the mission wide publicity.

“Media has converted its pen into broom. This is a service to the nation,” he said, saying he felt indebted for this.

He said although 80 per cent of the media coverage is criticism of Governments, this is an issue which affects the image of the country and impacts the poorest most.

“More important than healthcare is preventive healthcare and cleanliness plays a crucial role in this,” he said, adding that it is a national duty to raise awareness about the issue.

Noting that all, including influential people, are getting involved in the ‘Swachch Bharat’ campaign, he said the notion that the Government has to do everything has changed.

“For the last 60 years, the thinking was that the Government has to do everything. Now the thinking is that we all have to work together. This demonstrates how big a role media can play,” Modi said.

Media has inspired people to take part in the cleanliness exercise, he said.

Earlier, Shah said the Central Government is doing a good job after people reposed their faith in Modi’s leadership. He hoped that it would rise to the expectations of the people.

Modi later mingled with journalists, many of whom jostled to get clicked with him. Several young journalists did selfies with the Prime Minister, who happily obliged them.

US Tech Firm Fined for Underpaying Indian Workers [NDTV - 24/10/14]

Canada: Town rallies around vandalized Cold Lake Mosque

CBC [24/10/14]:

When Mahmoud Elkadri arrived at the mosque in Cold Lake, Alta., early Friday morning, he was met with a disturbing sight.

The words "Go home" and "Canada" had been sprayed across the front face of the building sometime over the night. Vandals had also smashed two of the mosque’s windows.

"When you’re coming in the morning for a peaceful prayer, it is hard," said Elkadri, who is one of the mosque’s board members.

"This is our home. My kids have been born and raised in Cold Lake. I have been in Cold Lake since 1996."

Only a couple hours later, it was a much different sight. Over the course of the morning, dozens of people from the town showed up to help repair the damage. Some helped paint over the damage, while others taped their own messages to the window reading "You Are Home" and "Love Your Neighbour."

Cold Lake resident Matt Downey, who came down to the mosque with his daughter to deliver flowers to Elkadri, says he wanted to show that the vandals didn’t speak for the majority of the people in town.

"It’s sad. I mean, these guys are peaceful. I think it is important for the community to show them that we know the difference between extremists and a religion," he said.

Elkadri said he’s received visits and messages of support from soldiers stationed at the Canadian Forces base in Cold Lake.

"We were crying together in the morning. People coming here, people expressing their feelings," he said.

Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland says the mosque is an important part of the town and that he was disappointed that someone in the community could be behind the damage.

"I just want to say that the Muslim community is at home in Cold Lake, so maybe they need to evaluate whether or not they belong in Cold Lake," he said of the vandal.

Copeland thinks the vandalism is in response to the shooting in Ottawa that killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Wednesday.

He said that people are taking out their frustration on the wrong place.

Afghan Cameleer Australia 1860-1938 [Documentary]

Explores the historic relationship between the desert and Afghani immigrants in Aboriginal Australia.

Afghan Cameleer Australia was broadcasted on NITV at Saturday 25 October 2014.

Superheroes welcome refugees in #Australia #Sydney

Image: @RemeSakr - journalist, Press TV [25/10/14]

 

... Sometimes I need to hide a piece of butter in my hat or pockets to take it for my son ...

Letter from Nauru [The Saturday Paper - 25/10/14]

Phosphate hill family camp, Christmas Island

Image: @KayeBernard



... What is this place? ...

Samar Alzeiny, sister of refugee incarcerated at Australia's refugee death camp on Manus Island.

... When planes started arriving with transferees we were not allowed to go to the airport, and to this day we are not allowed to go into the centre, and we don't know what is actually happening there. ...

Ruth Mandrakamu - Mayor, Lorengau, Manus Island


Strangers in paradise [VIDEO - East 101 - Al Jazeera - 24/10/14]

 

Detainee at Afghan Prison to Face Trial in US

Naharnet [24/10/14]:

A Russian held for years by the U.S. military in Afghanistan will be flown to the United States to face trial, marking the first such transfer for a foreign fighter from the country, officials said Friday.

The detainee is one of 13 foreigners who remain under detention by U.S. authorities at a wing of the Parwan prison near Bagram in Afghanistan, on suspicion of fighting with Taliban insurgents.

"We can confirm that a detainee at the Parwan detention facility in Afghanistan will be transferred to law enforcement custody and brought to the United States for trial," a defense official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The detainee will face "terrorism-related charges" in federal court, the official said.

The detainee was a Russian national, known by the nom de guerre of Irek Hamidullan, who allegedly led insurgent attacks in 2009 that wounded or killed American forces, officials said, confirming media reports.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the case.

Although other detainees at Parwan have been quietly repatriated to other countries, this was the first time an inmate had been transferred to U.S. soil from the prison.

The American combat mission in Afghanistan is due to wrap up this year, and Washington is anxious to transfer the remaining foreign detainees at Parwan by the end of December.

A Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. military was seeking to transfer more detainees out of the prison, without confirming whether they might be flown to the United States for trial.

"The Defense Department is working diligently to transfer the handful of remaining non-Afghan detainees at the Afghan National Detention Facility-Parwan prior to December 31," Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins said.

Argentina sentences 15 to life over La Cacha prison

BBC [25/10/14]:

An Argentine ex-police chief and ex-interior minister have both been given life sentences for running a detention and torture centre in the 1970s.

They were among 19 people charged with the kidnap, murder and torture of 128 prisoners in the city of La Plata.

The detention centre also functioned as a maternity unit for pregnant prisoners who gave birth before being executed.

Tens of thousands of Argentines were kidnapped or killed by the military junta between 1976 and 1983.

The former police chief of the province of Buenos Aires, Miguel Etchecolatz, and ex-Interior Minister Jaime Lamont Smart were part of a group of 21 army, navy, police and prison service officers and members of the Buenos Aires provincial government, who ran the centre from 1976 to 1978.

Fifteen of them - including Etchecolatz and Smart- were sentenced to life, with four others receiving sentences ranging from 12 to 13 years.

One suspect was cleared, while another had his sentence suspended for health reasons.

The judge said those convicted were accomplices in a genocide against mostly young, left-wing activists in Argentina between 1976 and 1978.

The detention centre was in an old radio station building on the outskirts of La Plata nicknamed La Cacha after a cartoon witch who abducted small children.

The men were accused of crimes ranging from murder, kidnapping and illegal detention to holding and hiding a child under 10 years of age.

Among the prisoners was the daughter of the head of a leading campaign group, the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Their victims were mostly young, left-wing opponents of Argentina's military junta and also included the father of the present Argentine ambassador to Spain.

The judges heard 130 witnesses over the 10 months of the trial.

Some of the survivors who testified during the trial said they were treated "like dogs".

"We were given sleeping pills, we were held hooded and naked at a warehouse," one of the witnesses, Alberto Alfio Cavalie, said during the trial.

"They used to tie a wire to our toes, it was connected to a machine that gave us electric shocks."

"We could hear the screams of the men and women that were being tortured. I weighed 30 kilos when I was able to leave the centre," he added.

The trial was part of a continuing series of actions against Argentine officers and other officials associated with the military dictatorship.

Legal action began once democracy returned to Argentina in 1983, but President Raul Alfonsin brought an end to the trials in 1986, arguing the country needed to look to the future and not the past.

Three laws granting amnesty for crimes committed during the so-called Dirty War were passed in 1986 and 1987 but were later overturned in 2003.

Since then, a number of high-profile figures from the military regime have been convicted, including the de facto Presidents Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone.

General Videla had already been convicted of homicide, torture and kidnap amongst other crimes in 1985, but he was granted amnesty by President Carlos Menem in 1990.

About 250 convictions have been secured, including that of Alfredo Astiz, who in 2011 was given a life sentence for the part he played in infiltrating left-wing groups and betraying their members to the junta.

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [24/10/14]:

U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Thursday and today using bomber aircraft to conduct six airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted twelve airstrikes Thursday and today using bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists in Iraq.

In Syria, six airstrikes near Kobani struck three ISIL units and destroyed an ISIL vehicle. In Iraq, three airstrikes southeast and west of the Mosul Dam destroyed two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL mortar position.

Three airstrikes south of the Bayji Oil Refinery struck two small units and destroyed an ISIL vehicle. Two strikes near Bayji struck an ISIL training camp. Three airstrikes near Fallujah struck two small ISIL units and destroyed three ISIL vehicles.

Finally, one airstrike near Zumar destroyed five ISIL buildings. All aircraft departed the strike areas safely.

Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.

The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project power and conduct operations.

Among the coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq are the U.S., France, United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the U.S., Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Bahrain.

Iraqi Spring Media Center [24/10/14]:

Anbar: Amiriyat AlFallujah police has evacuated one of schools from the displaced people under the pretext that it saves their lives and accuses some of the displaced people of communicating with the insurgents and captures them imposing a beseige on all shools and shells describing the them Daish [ISIS] families ......

ISIS seized 2,500 armored military vehicles confirms Pentagon [IraqiNews.com - 24/10/14]

IraqiNews.com [24/10/14]:

11 civilians were either killed or injured due to two bomb explosions in eastern and western Baghdad on Friday.

Security source mentioned to IraqiNews.com, “Four persons were injured due to a bomb explosion in Shaab area of northeastern Baghdad.”

“A civilian was killed while six others were injured due to a bomb explosion in Amel neighborhood of southwestern Baghdad,” the source added.

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon will not deploy on Syrian border [Daily Star - 25/10/14]

Syria Air Strikes Kill 10 Children, 5 Women in Aleppo [Naharnet - 24/10/14]

School gunman was Homecoming prince, students say

Yahoo [24/10/14]:

A student recently crowned freshman class Homecoming prince walked into his Seattle-area high school cafeteria Friday and opened fire, killing one person and shooting several others in the head before turning the gun on himself, officials and witnesses said.

Students said the gunman was staring at students as he shot them inside the cafeteria at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

The shootings set off a chaotic scene as students ran from the cafeteria and building in a frantic dash to safety, while others were told to stay put inside classrooms at the school 30 miles north of Seattle.

The gunman was identified as student Jaylen Fryberg, a government official with direct knowledge of the shooting told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Students and parents said Fryberg was a member of a prominent family from the nearby Tulalip Indian tribe and a freshman who played on the high school football team. He was introduced at a football game as the school's 2014 Homecoming court freshmen class prince, according to a video shot by parent Jim McGauhey.

Marysville Police Commander Robb Lamoureux said the gunman died of a self-inflicted wound, but he could not provide more details.

Shaylee Bass, 15, a sophomore at the school, said Fryberg had recently gotten into a fight with another boy over a girl.

"He was very upset about that," said Bass, who was stunned by the shooting.

"He was not a violent person," she said. "His family is known all around town. He was very well known.

That's what makes it so bizarre."

Three of the victims had head wounds and were in critical condition. Two young women were taken to Providence Everett Medical Center, and a 15-year-old boy was at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, hospital officials said. Another victim, a 14-year-old boy, was listed in serious condition at Harborview as well, the hospital said.

...

Egypt declares state of emergency in Sinai

Al Jazeera [24/10/14]:

Egypt has declared a state of emergency in the north and centre of the Sinai Peninsula after a suicide car bombing killed at least 30 soldiers.

The measures will begin on Saturday at 03:00 GMT "for duration of three months," Presidency Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said in a statement, in the wake of the deadliest attack on the security forces since the army deposed President Mohamed Morsi last year.

A three-day mourning period has been declared across the country, while a curfew has been put in place between 7pm and 7am in areas covered by the state of emergency declaration, according to state media.

The attack on Friday afternoon hit an army checkpoint at Karm al-Qawadeis, southwest of Sheikh Zuweid in Sinai.

Egyptian sources said the suicide car bomber detonated his explosives near the checkpoint's magazine, causing it and an army vehicle to explode. Fighters then attacked the site with guns and a rocket-propelled grenade.

The source said the group attacked as soldiers were on break inside their tents. State media reported that 28 other people were wounded, several of whom were in critical condition.

"Most have been seriously injured and not all of them have been taken to hospital yet," health ministry official Tareq Khater told the AFP news agency.

Three more members of Egypt's security forces were killed in a separate attack at a checkpoint outside nearby al-Arish. It was not immediately clear whether the dead were soldiers or police.

Local media said the president also ordered a meeting of the government's national defence council following the blast.

The council is made up of the prime minister, the head of the parliament, the minister of defence and the commanders of the Egyptian armed forces, and is chaired by the president.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Peter Bechtold, a former US State Department official, said that anger is brewing in the region following the ouster and imprisonment of Morsi.

Bechtold quoted sources as saying that Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the most active armed group in Egypt, may be linked to the attack.

The attack was one of the deadliest on security forces since Sisi in July last year overthrew Mohamed Morsi from the presidency, launched a bloody crackdown on his supporters and declared his Muslim Brotherhood movement a terrorist organisation.

Hundreds of soldiers and police officers have been killed in attacks since last year.

8 Troops, Several Gunmen Wounded in Violent Clashes across Tripoli

Naharnet [24/10/14]:

Fierce clashes erupted Friday evening in the northern city of Tripoli, leaving at least eight army troops, including a first lieutenant, and several gunmen and civilians wounded.

Meanwhile, al-Jadeed TV said 15 people were injured, including eight troops. It said the army's casualties include a first lieutenant who was “critically wounded.”

The Tripoli News Network Facebook page for its part said that seven civilians were wounded in the clashes.

The identity of the gunmen and the reason of their attack on the army were not immediately clear, but media reports said the fighting likely erupted following raids linked to the apartment in the Dinniyeh town of Asoun, where troops had arrested Thursday the “dangerous terrorist” Ahmed Salim Miqati and killed three others.

A security official said earlier on Friday that five troops and a number of Islamist gunmen were wounded in a clash in a historic area of Tripoli.

"The number of wounded soldiers has risen to five," said the official, who spoke to Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity, adding that "several gunmen have been injured, while others have been arrested."

The clash that initially erupted in the old souks also extended to other areas. Tripoli's historic heart is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

Several TV channels revealed that the exchange of gunfire had first erupted in the al-Souwaiqa-Khan al-Askar area in Tripoli.

The army brought reinforcements to the areas of clashes and took defensive measures at all of its positions in Tripoli, according to LBCI television.

As a result of these clashes, stray bullets reached "areas far from the old souks and its surroundings," said the Tripoli News Network Facebook page.

“The clashes have spread in Tripoli and sniper gunfire is targeting several neighborhoods,” MTV reported.

Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) said the fighting started during a raid by the army in al-Tarbiya area, "where Ahmed and Omar Miqati used to live."

Army intelligence agents had raided at dawn Thursday an apartment in the town of Asoun in the northern district of Dinniyeh, which was inhabited by a “group of terrorists,” killing three gunmen and apprehending a fugitive.

The wanted man has been identified as Ahmed Salim Miqati, who was reportedly involved in beheading captive Lebanese soldier Ali al-Sayyed and recruiting defected army troops for the extremist Islamic State group.

Earlier on Friday, the army arrested two wanted men in al-Mankoubin neighborhood in Tripoli after an exchange of fire.

“Army troops apprehended two wanted men from al-Mankoubin neighborhood, one from the Salha family and the other from the Dinnawi family,” said the National News Agency.

Gunfire was exchanged between them before the men were arrested.

On Thursday evening, two masked men on a motorcycle shot at the soldier Khaled Youssef in Ibn Sina street in Tripoli's al-Qobbeh.

Israeli forces shoot, kill Palestinian teenager near Ramallah

Maan [24/10/14]:

Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager late Friday during clashes in Silwad village near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, medical officials said.

Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad, 14, was shot multiple times with live bullets. He was taken to Palestine Medical Complex where he was pronounced dead.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that soldiers fired at a Palestinian adult who was hurling a Molotov cocktail at forces in the area.

Witnesses said Hammad was hit by an Israeli sniper from close range, insisting the soldier shot to kill.

Orwa was a US national. His uncle was killed during the First Intifada.

UN chief calls for resumption of Cyprus talks

Hurriyet Daily News [24/10/14]:

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a quick resumption of Cyprus peace talks that were suspended during a dispute over rights to offshore oil and gas.

Ban made the appeal after meeting with U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide who is brokering talks between Cypriot Greek and Turkish leaders on the divided island.

The U.N. chief “expressed concern over the tensions that have arisen in relation to hydrocarbons and over the suspension of negotiations” and said the sides must “return to the negotiating table without delay,” a U.N. statement said.

Greek Cyprus suspended its participation in the U.N.-led negotiations on Oct. 7, to protest moves by Turkey to undermine its right to exploit gas and oil reserves.

Turkey dispatched a survey boat to an area where the Greek Cypriot government had licensed exploratory drilling for oil and gas.

Ban called on countries in the region to help advance the peace process.

DR Congo: UN, African Union urge eastern town to support operations to end rebel threat

UN Media Release [24/10/14]:

Visiting the site of a recent flare-up of deadly violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), United Nations and African Union (AU) envoys met with the Mayor of the town of Beni, Congolese military officials and local leaders, urging a united front to “put an end to the terror imposed on the population by armed groups,” including Ugandan-based rebels operating in the area.

Martin Kobler, head of the UN stabilization mission in the country, known by its French acronym, MONUSCO, Saïd Djinnit, UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, and Boubacar Diarra, AU Special Representative for Burundi and the Great Lakes region, reiterated that only united action by the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC), MONUSCO and the population would the armed groups be successfully reigned in.

According to a press release, the envoys had meetings with the mayor of Beni, FARDC officials and the local population. They stated their assurance in the determination of the FARDC and MONUSCO to end, once and for all, the threat posed by the Ugandan rebel group in Beni territory.

They stressed that the confidence and support of all stakeholders involved to the FARDC and MONUSCO is essential for the success of joint operations. They appealed to the population to unite and cooperate with all actors in eliminating the authors of these terrorist acts.

Nearly a week ago, Mr. Kobler called for “decisive joint military actions” by the Congolese army and UN peacekeeping troops in the wake of two deadly attacks by suspected to quell the activities of suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels near the town Beni.

Around two dozen of people in Eringeti, North of Beni were killed by suspected ADF elements in the night between 17 and 18 October, the Mission says. This follows an incident in the early evening of 15 October, when a group of assailants presumed to belong to the ADF attacked the Ngadi and Kadu localities in Beni area leading to the death of more than two dozen people.

Earlier this week, MONUSCO stepped up its security following several attacks on its bases in Beni, including when a large number of youths converged on the premises, and another which required the evacuation of 12 staff members.

Winter looms as fighting continues to displace people in Ukraine

UNHCR Media Release [24/10/14]:

With the crisis in Ukraine entering its first winter, UNHCR is racing to help some of the most vulnerable displaced people cope with expected harsh winter conditions.

"Fighting in the east, and the resulting breakdown of basic services, continues to drive more people from their homes," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva. He added that the need for humanitarian aid was rising, particularly around the cities of Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv, and in the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzia regions.

Ukraine's internally displaced population is estimated at 430,000 people, some 170,000 more than at the start of September.

Some 95 per cent of the displaced are from eastern Ukraine and are concentrated in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv and other cities. In all of these areas, UNHCR has been distributing aid among the most vulnerable.

"We are planning to distribute additional winter clothes and blankets over the coming weeks, as well as providing 400,000 square metres of reinforced tarpaulin sheets for roof repairs in the east of Ukraine," Edwards said.

While the majority of the displaced people are staying in rented accommodation or with family and friends, at least 14,000 are currently living in collective centres. With the onset of winter, one of the urgent priorities is to make sure that these centres are weather-proofed and that warm blankets and winter clothes are being provided for those in greatest need. UNHCR plans to refurbish 40 collective centres in major arrival areas.

Edwards said that cash assistance programmes amounting to some US$250,000 had been established in cooperation with the local authorities to support highly vulnerable individuals, many of whom have not received pensions or welfare payments due to the conflict. So far, some 1,600 people in the Kyiv, Lviv and Vinnytsia regions have benefitted from this. The programme is being extended to six other parts of Ukraine.

In the past two weeks, Ukraine has taken important steps to protect and assist displaced people with new government resolutions on registration and assistance. Some 16,000 families have been registered in the last week. Edwards said UNHCR looked forward to the establishment of a central agency and full and timely registration of the displaced over the coming weeks.

Last Monday, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a law on the rights and freedoms of internally displaced people. The law, which was developed with support from UNHCR and civil society, extends a specific set of rights to internally displaced people, providing protection against discrimination, forcible return and assistance in any voluntary returns. The law also simplifies access to different social and economic services.

"UNHCR hopes that rapid implementation of this legislation will help displaced people in finding safe shelter, jobs and proper access to services. The law obliges the government to start developing a policy on integration of internally displaced people, which is expected to lead to better planning for those in need," Edwards said.

Meanwhile, in the Russian Federation, more than 207,000 Ukrainians have applied for refugee status or temporary asylum since the beginning of this year, according to the Federal Migration Service. In addition, some 180,000 Ukrainians have applied for other forms of legal stay in Russia, such as temporary or permanent residence permits. A larger number of Ukrainians are arriving in Russia under the visa-free regime between the two countries.

Most Ukrainians arriving in Russia stay with relatives, friends or find private accommodation either rented or with a host family. The Russian authorities have adopted several regulations to facilitate the temporary stay of Ukrainians arriving in their territory and UNHCR hopes equal treatment will be afforded to refugees from other countries too.

As of the end of September, more than 6,600 Ukrainians had requested asylum in European Union (EU) countries, compared with 903 applications during the whole of 2013. The EU country receiving the largest number of Ukrainian asylum seekers has been Poland (1,632), followed by Sweden (841). In addition, 581 Ukrainians have sought asylum this year in Belarus.

Detained Myanmar reporter Aung Naing shot dead

BBC [24/10/14]:

A Burmese journalist has been shot dead while trying to escape from custody, the army has said.

A military statement said that Aung Naing was arrested in Mon state at the end of September while covering clashes near the border between Thailand and Myanmar, which is also known as Burma.

The military accused him of working for an armed group in the area.

But his family and colleagues denied this, and activists said his death was a rights violation.

The military statement came in response to a request from Aung Naing's wife.

It said he had been shot dead on 4 October when he tried flee military detention by seizing a gun from a soldier.

The military described Aung Naing as a "communications captain" of a Karen rebel faction, but his colleagues said he was a reporter.

Aung Naing often reported on ethnic issues along the Myanmar-Thai border for several papers based in Yangon (Rangoon).

He had met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on several occasions.

Campaigners say that journalists are still being taken to court by the authorities despite the government's pledges to improve press freedom His wife Than Dar told the Irrawaddy newspaper that she had not been informed of his death.

She said she would bring a legal case against the army for torture and death.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Yangon says that while the media is now relatively free, anything to do with the army or its activities is still extremely sensitive.

Free speech advocate Zaw Thet Htway said the truth about his death needed to come out.

"Whether he was a journalist or an officer from an armed group, this is a human rights violation," he said.

The army has been fighting armed groups in eastern, northern and south-eastern regions, despite efforts to bring an end to six decades of conflict.

Recent clashes reported in Karen, Shan and Kachin states may jeopardise a ceasefire agreement planned for later this year, correspondents say.

16,000 Armenians Rally Against Poverty, Graft

Naharnet [24/10/14]:

Some 16,000 opposition supporters rallied in the Armenian capital on Friday to protest against President Serzh Sarkisian's rule and demanded snap polls.

They accused the government of failing to stem poverty and corruption in the landlocked former Soviet republic.

A country of 3.2 million, Armenia was badly affected by the global downturn. It is economically isolated as its borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are blocked due to ongoing international disputes.

"A powerful movement for the change of government is being launched," Armenia's former president and leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress party, Levon Ter-Petrosian, told the applauding crowd in Yerevan's Freedom Square.

The rally was called by three main opposition parties, Prosperous Armenia, Heritage, and the Armenian National Congress, to protest against the government's economic policies and its failure to tackle graft.

Last Friday a similar rally attracted over 10,000 protesters.

Drones brought in to prevent use of guns in weddings in Black Sea district

Hurriyet Daily News [24/10/14]:

A district administration in the Black Sea province of Tokat has decided to start using two multicopter drones to prevent the traditional firing of weapons during weddings.

Shooting guns or rifles in the air in celebration remains a tradition in some parts of Turkey, especially in rural areas. Many people are accidentally wounded or killed in these shootings.

The Erbaa district of Tokat province decided to buy two multicopter surveillance drones to be used by gendarmerie and police forces in the district to monitor wedding ceremonies. The drones will be purchased within the next two weeks.

Erbaa Local Administrator Abdulkadir Demir said they had seized more than 10 guns in weddings in the last month alone.

“We are determined to end this [use of arms in weddings]. Fireworks are also banned. We have conducted almost 200 checks in weddings and given fines around 20,000 Turkish Liras so far,” Demir said, adding that two people had been wounded in weddings due to firearms so far this year.

He also said 77 people had fined a total of 14,553 liras so far this year in the district after inappropriately using fireworks. Demir added that the police had seized four guns, 24 blank guns, 32 bullets, and five rifles from wedding ceremonies.

In addition to monitoring wedding ceremonies, the new drones could also be used to monitor and prevent forest fires in the district, he also said.

Fannie Mae settles shareholder lawsuit for $170 million

Reuters [24/10/14]:

Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) has reached a $170 million settlement of a lawsuit accusing it of misleading shareholders about its finances, risk management and mortgage exposure before it was seized by the U.S. government during the 2008 financial crisis.

The settlement, which requires court approval, was disclosed in a Friday filing with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

It resolves shareholder allegations that Fannie Mae defrauded shareholders and inflated its stock by issuing false and misleading statements about its internal controls, capitalization, accounting, and exposure to subprime and low-documentation "Alt-A" mortgages.

The settlement allocates $123.8 million to common stockholders and $46.2 million to preferred stockholders between Nov. 8, 2006 and Sept. 5, 2008.

Fannie Mae's market value peaked during that period at more than $60 billion. It is now $2.71 billion.

"We are pleased to put this matter behind us," Joseph Grassi, Fannie Mae's interim general counsel, said in a statement. "This is another sign of progress as Fannie Mae continues our focus on serving the market and helping lenders make mortgage credit available to qualified borrowers."

The government seized Fannie Mae and the smaller Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) on Sept. 7, 2008, and put them into a conservatorship under the Federal Housing Finance Agency, where they remain.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac together drew about $187.5 billion of bailout funds, but have returned roughly $218.7 billion to taxpayers in the form of dividends.

The lead plaintiffs suing Fannie Mae are the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board, the State-Boston Retirement Board and the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, and are seeking class-action status.

They said the settlement averts potential "numerous and substantial risks" of continuing the lawsuit after similar litigation against Freddie Mac was dismissed last year.

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FEEDBACK

JUDICIAL CRITICISM OF THE MURDOCH MACHINE

BOB BROWN, THE FIRST GULF WAR AND UNITED NATIONS INTERVENTION

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