TPP Transparency Chapter: Annex on transparency and procedural fairness for pharmaceutical products and medical devices
Today, Wednesday 10 June 2015, WikiLeaks publishes the Healthcare Annex to the secret draft "Transparency" Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), along with each country's negotiating position.
The Healthcare Annex seeks to regulate state schemes for medicines and medical devices. It forces healthcare authorities to give big pharmaceutical companies more information about national decisions on public access to medicine, and grants corporations greater powers to challenge decisions they perceive as harmful to their interests.
Expert policy analysis, published by WikiLeaks today, shows that the Annex appears to be designed to cripple New Zealand's strong public healthcare programme and to inhibit the adoption of similar programmes in developing countries. The Annex will also tie the hands of the US Congress in its ability to pursue reforms of the Medicare programme.
The draft is restricted from release for four years after the passage of the TPP into law.
The TPP is the world's largest economic trade agreement that will, if it comes into force, encompass more than 40 per cent of the world's GDP. Despite the wide-ranging effects on the global population, the TPP and the two other mega-agreements that make up the "Great Treaty", (the TiSA and the TTIP), which all together cover two-thirds of global GDP, are currently being negotiated in secrecy. The Obama administration is trying to gain "Fast-Track" approval for all three from the US House of Representatives as early as tomorrow, having already obtained such approval from the Senate.
Julian Assange, WikiLeaks publisher, said:
It is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the west versus the rest. This "Great Treaty" is descibed by the Pentagon as the economic core to the US military's "Asia Pivot". The architects are aiming no lower than the arc of history. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support.
Few people, even within the negotiating countries' governments, have access to the full text of the draft agreement and the public, who it will affect most, have none at all. Hundreds of large corporations, however, have been given access to portions of the text, generating a powerful lobby to effect changes on behalf of these groups. WikiLeaks has launched a campaign to crowd-source a $100,000 reward for the rest of the TPP, which at time of press had raised $62,000.
Dangerous minds: Are maths teachers Australia's newest threat? [The Age - 8/6/15]
Man attempts self-immolation outside BBC London HQ [RT - 10/6/15]
BBC "trending" devotes Rohingya attack piece to what isn't happening, completely ignoring what is happening [BBC - 6/6/15]
Settle the Rohingya before it’s too late
Editorial, Khaleej Times [10/6/15]:
Bangladesh and Myanmar who are engrossed in a migrants’ row, should look at the bigger picture of human rights. Hundreds of stranded folks in the high seas, as well as those who have now been quarantined on Indonesian shores and on the coasts of Bangladesh must be rescued and rehabilitated.
All these victims of poverty desired while venturing into the high seas on rickety boat was a life of dignity away from cramped camps.
The United Nations estimates that more than 2,000 migrants are still trapped in waters and those washed ashore face difficult times.
The Rohingya people, who are scrambled in Bangladesh and Myanmar, are subject to international law, as their host governments contest their national identity.
Some 1.5 million Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar are clueless as to where they belong as Bangladesh shuns them and Myanmar refuses to accept them as citizens. — one reason why they have lived below the line of poverty and have had to face persecution at the hands of other communities.
This issue can be addressed in a two-pronged manner: First, all the migrants who have launched themselves in a troublesome journey should be accounted for and rehabilitated.
Second, an international commission under the UN should help find a permanent home for them after talks with the governments of Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
If they are not settled early and discussions are delayed, more people will die at sea, at the hands of traffickers and in camps.
2,000 Rohingya trapped at sea. US State Department on questions from a journalist about their plight and/or citizenship status: ... "The – which – whose response?" ... [9/6/15]
Tunisia rescues 356 refugees off southeast coast [Naharnet -10/6/15]:
Tunisia's navy on Wednesday rescued 356 migrants including a two-month-old baby girl off the country's southeastern coast near Ben Guerdane, the Red Crescent said.
Red Crescent official Ammar Lamloum told AFP that the group of migrants, mainly Africans, had been trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa when they were rescued.
"They are now at the port in Ben Guerdane," he said.
... Vijay just sits silently and barely talks to anyone.
All he said to me briefly on the phone is that he doesn't need anything, just a safe place for his daughter. ...
[The Age - 10/6/15]
The Australian Government welcomes the entry into force of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction between Australia and the Republic of Korea.
The Hague Child Abduction Convention protects children from the harm caused by international child abduction. ... [Attorney General and Foreign Minister Media Release - 5/6/15]
Queensland Mayor helps take focus off Australian government's arbitrary creation and detention of a stateless person by raising unsubstantiated doubts about his claim
Torres Strait Island elders have cast doubt on claims by an immigration detainee that he was born in the region in Australia's north, saying they have no recollection of him.
To properly establish his identity, elders from Murray and Yam Islands want to know the lineage of the 39-year-man calling himself Eddie David, held in the Yongah Hill Detention Centre 100 kilometres north-east of Perth since Friday.
Mr David had initially claimed he was born on Murray Island in 1974.
He has since said he was from somewhere in the region but was not sure where because his father died when he was young, his mother was absent, and he was illiterate and an alcoholic.
WA Aboriginal Legal Service Chief Executive Dennis Eggington said it was very common for Indigenous people to have no identification papers.
"We find on a regular basis people coming in with absolutely no ID, and only the knowledge in their own head," Mr Eggington said.
However, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is certain he is in fact Fijian man Rinay Rekash Singh, who arrived in Australia in early 1998.
The department has used fingerprint analysis and facial comparisons in its investigation.
Torres Strait Island Regional Council Mayor Fred Gela spoke to elders on Murray and Yam Islands about the detainee's case.
"There's no recollection of the individual," Mr Gela said.
"If he is a Torres Strait Islander, if he is who he says he is, then the only way to prove that is we need to know who his parents and grandparents [are] so we can actually do some research.
"It's very possible that he could have been missed ... especially when he's articulated his parents died and he didn't stay in the Torres Strait for a length of time and left."
Torres Strait Regional Council:
•It is believed 70,000 years ago, the first inhabitants of the Torres Strait migrated from the Indonesian archipelago at a time when New Guinea was still attached to the Australian continent.
•The first navigator credited with coming across the islands is the Spaniard Luis Vaez de Torres who sailed through the strait in 1606.
•James Cook first claimed British sovereignty over the eastern part of Australia in 1770 at Possession Island.
•In 1860 the pearl shed led to an influx of people from all over the region (Japanese, Malays, Filipinos, Micronesians and Europeans).
•The industry employed 700 people by 1877 and more than 100 pearl luggers. (Trade stopped after World War II).
•On 1 July 1871 the London Missionary Society led by Rev. Samuel Macfarlane arrived on Erub (Darnley Island). This is referred to by the Islanders as "The Coming of the Light" and is celebrated annually by all Island communities on 1 July.
•The Torres Strait Islands were annexed in 1879 by Queensland. They thus became part of the British colony of Queensland and after 1901 of the Australian state of Queensland although some of them lie just off the coast of New Guinea.
Who needs evidence when you have biometrics says Australia's protected, unaccountable Immigration Minister [Speech - 10/6/15]
Jail rape victims consented, former Queensland prison worker tells court
Brisbane Times [10/6/15]:
A Queensland prison instructor who raped or sexually assaulted 10 inmates thought his victims enjoyed performing sexual acts on him, his lawyer says.
David Howard Wright, 53, was employed as a trade instructor in the prison's kitchen when he abused the inmates between 2008 and 2011.
Wright's offending came to light when one of the women complained after leaving the jail.
Others admitted they had also been abused only when authorities approached them directly, the Brisbane District Court heard on Wednesday.
Wright orally raped one woman on three occasions and at other times he would rub his genitals against inmates while they bent over, expose himself to them, grope them and make sexually inappropriate jokes.
"The complainants felt they had no choice but to go along with the offending and afterwards that they wouldn't be listened to if they made a complaint," prosecutor Sarah Farnden said.
Wright took advantage of their vulnerability because his position of authority meant he could control the highly regarded kitchen roles, she said.
With the benefit of hindsight, the remorseful defendant questioned how he became so "morally distorted" as to think his behaviour was appropriate and that his victims were consenting, Wright's lawyer Angus Edwards said.
"Although he still maintains at the time he honestly believed that," he said.
"Why would he?" Judge Terry Martin asked. "What perceived enjoyment did he understand the complainants were receiving from giving him oral sex?"
"Well, he obviously thought that they were interested in him, and they were enjoying sexual acts with him," Mr Edwards said.
"It doesn't sound that enjoyable or rewarding for the complainants," Judge Martin replied.
Wright was charged with multiple counts of rape, committing indecent acts and sexual assault.
Judge Martin said he needed time to consider the matter and adjourned the sentencing until Friday morning.
Homeless man allegedly assaulted by police at WA lock-up, court hears
WA Today [10/6/15]:
A homeless man was "a little mouthy" towards police before an officer grabbed him by the throat and slammed him to the ground during a strip search at a lock-up, a Perth court has heard.
Sergeant Lachlan Nairn Boath is on trial in Perth Magistrates Court accused of assaulting Clinton Nicholson in June 2012 at the Perth Watch House where he was the officer in charge.
Mr Nicholson testified on Wednesday that he was a homeless drug user at the time and his memory was "hazy", but remembered feeling agitated about being detained and admitted being "a little mouthy" at police.
While he was being strip-searched, Mr Nicholson threw an item of clothing at one of the two officers in the room and then Boath "charged" at him.
"I was slammed to the floor with his hands around my neck," he said.
"I couldn't struggle ... I was trying to remain conscious."
Mr Nicholson said he was gasping for breath and tapped his fingers on the wall to signal his surrender.
The alleged choking lasted up to 20 seconds, leaving the victim in shock.
Mr Nicholson said he refused to give a statement because he did not want to be a "dog" but later changed his mind.
Prosecutor Kirsten Nelson said in her opening address that Boath and Mr Nicholson were involved in a "verbal sparring match" in the reception area and Boath baited Mr Nicholson.
She said Boath then took Mr Nicholson into the strip search room where there were no security cameras "to teach him a lesson".
Ms Nelson said Boath assaulted Mr Nicholson without provocation and it was not self-defence.
"His actions were deliberate and controlled," she said.
Boath's lawyer Linda Black said in her opening address that her client never attempted to strangle anyone and disputed details of the incident.
The trial continues.
Troubled former West Coast Eagles player Daniel Kerr faced the Perth Magistrates Court on Wednesday for alleged repeated breaches of a violence restraining order against his ex-partner.
Four charges have been laid against Kerr, who police claim contacted his ex-partner via text messages.
Fairfax Media understands the texts are alleged to be of a threatening nature. … [WA Today – 10/6/15]
Steroid trafficking operation, Toowoomba and Brisbane
QPS Media [10/6/15]:
Police have charged three people and seized a significant amount of drugs as part of a four-month investigation into the trafficking of steroids in the Toowoomba and Brisbane areas.
Officers from the Darling Downs District Tactical Crime Squad and Petrie Criminal Investigation Branch have seized around nine litres of liquid steroids with an estimated street value of $180,000, along with 1,850 tablets believed to be steroid drugs and 43 bottles of prescription medication during a series of raids.
Officers executed a search warrant at a Samford Valley address on Sunday where they allegedly located 11 vials of steroids, unlawfully obtained prescription medication, capsicum spray and an extendable baton.
A Brendale storage unit was also searched where police allegedly uncovered 923 viles of steroids and other medication.
A 43-year-old Samford Valley man has been charged with one count each of trafficking in dangerous drugs, possessing dangerous drugs, possessing items used in the commission of a crime, unlawful possession of a Category M weapon and unlawful possession of a Category R weapon. He is due to reappear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on July 13.
The arrest follows earlier investigations where 12 vials of steroids were seized during a search of a Harristown address.
A 28-year-old man was charged with 19 offences including two counts of supplying a dangerous drug, eight counts of possessing a dangerous drug, four counts of unlawful possession of restricted drugs and one count each of common assault and wilful damage. He is due to appear in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court on June 22.
A 20-year-old Toowoomba man was also charged after a search warrant was executed at a Toowoomba property on March 30 where 10 vials of steroids was allegedly uncovered. He was charged with possessing a dangerous drug and has appeared in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court.
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.
Firearm incident, Cooktown
QPS Media [10/6/15]:
A man has been charged following investigations into an incident at Cooktown on Monday night where a firearm was discharged and a dog injured.
It will be alleged three men attended a residence on Endeavour Valley Road around 6.25pm where a disturbance occurred with two occupants, a man and a woman.
One of the men then allegedly pointed a rifle towards the man and woman before discharging a number of rounds with one of the rounds striking a dog.
The man and woman were not physically injured. The dog’s injury is not believed to be life threatening.
A 46-year-old Cooktown man has been charged with acts intended to maim, threatening violence – discharge of firearm, two counts of common assault and one count of injuring animals. He is expected to appear at the Cairns Magistrates Court today.
Investigations are continuing with investigators appealing for anyone who may have information about the incident that could assist them to contact Crime Stoppers.
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.
Truckie used work card because he couldn't afford fuel [Gladstone Observer – 10/6/15]
Rockhampton woman fined after being caught with bong in vehicle [Morning Bulletin – 10/6/15]
Target cashier stole to help mate with drug debt [Gladstone Observer – 9/6/15]
15-year-old arrested for property offences, Mermaid Waters [QPS Media – 9/6/15]
Girls charged with robbery, Surfers Paradise [QPS Media – 9/6/15]
Update: Robbery charge, Palm Beach [QPS Media – 9/6/15]
Fire destroys truck at Warrego Highway transport depot
A truck at a transport depot on the Warrego Hwy west of Toowoomba was extensively damaged by fire overnight.
The fire at Beaumont Transport's depot next to the coal loading facility at Jondaryan was reported to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services about 8pm.
The prime mover was fully engulfed in flames when fire crews from Oakey and Jondaryan arrived on scene.
They had the fire extinguished by about 8.30pm.
The driver was out of the vehicle when the truck caught fire.
Never again: further criminal charges again Linc Energy must prompt tighter environmental controls on unconventional mining
Lock The Gate [10/6/15]:
Lock the Gate Alliance has welcomed the further criminal charges laid against Linc Energy in the Dalby Magistrate’s court today for the widespread contamination of soils in the Hopeland area caused by the company’s nearby controversial underground coal gasification plant.
The Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has announced today that it has filed a fifth charge against the company, which the Government alleges was operating outside the terms of its Environmental Authority approval for the plant.
Lock the Gate President, Drew Hutton, said, "It’s good to see action being taken against a rogue mining company, but we should never ever have gotten into this situation, where farmers are facing devastation of their businesses because of lax compliance and enforcement of mining controls in this state. This dangerous unconventional mining operation operated for six years before any action was taken, and there's going to be a huge clean up bill.
"Our priority now is the community at Hopeland, who have an anxious wait for the results of the individual farm assessments to see if they will ever be able to farm their soil again. The impacts of this contamination are being felt 60 kilometres away. The full force of the law must come down on this company for the damage it’s done.
"But there’s a broader lesson here that Queensland cannot afford to ignore: you’ve got to watch the mining industry like a hawk, have strong enough laws to stop them ruining the land for others, and enough money and powers to stop them breaching their licences before the damage is done.
"There’s unconventional gas mining rolling out in the Darling Downs, and proposed for the Channel Country, and huge and damaging coal mines proposed for the Galilee Basin. How often will the Government get out to Winton and Hughenden to make sure the mining companies are not doing what Linc has done, and flouting the rules? How can Queenslanders have confidence something like this won’t happen again?”
A scathing Queensland Audit Office report has found the State Government's Great Barrier Reef plan commitments lacks the "programmatic rigour" needed to address poor quality water entering the reef from catchments.
The 2014-15 Managing water quality in Great Barrier Reef catchments report tabled to parliament today stated Queensland's response to the issue lacked urgency and purpose.
It also found the plan's was characterized by disparate projects and no central authority or clear accountability. ... [Gladstone Observer - 10/6/15]
BG Group has completed the sale of its QCLNG gas pipeline linking gas fields to Curtis Island.
The company's wholly-owned 543 kilometre pipeline network was sold to APA Group. … [Gladstone Observer – 10/6/15]
Caustic leak at QAL investigated
Gladstone Observer [10/6/15]:
QAL staff are investigating the reason for a leak of alkali into the atmosphere yesterday around midday.
The leak does not constitute a danger to health, but there could be some damage to vehicles.
QAL community relations manager Jeremy Hastings said the company had dropped letters at all residences likely to have been affected by the leak.
"We have identified the exact area where there could have been damage to property," he said.
"If there is any damage, the company will rectify it."
Marine biologist concerned by Pelican Waters fish kill
Sunshine Coast Daily [10/6/15]:
Marine biologist Craig Winkel has raised concerns about marine environment conditions at Pelican Waters after he found a large school of mullet dead or dying.
Mr Winkel, who lives in the southern Coast suburb, said there were between 1000 and 2000 dead or dying fish floating in the canal near his Columba Place home on Monday.
Their scales had fallen off, they had redness around the mouth, eyes and gill area and there was a loss of sheen on their bodies.
He was initially concerned the fish were affected by a toxic pollutant.
But after further checking, he noted there were small bream fish swimming around healthily as well as prawn lavae that seemed to be unaffected.
"If it was a pollutant or toxin then it was on the surface," Mr Winkel said.
He said mullet tended to venture close to the surface, which could have put them in contact with any pollutant that had stayed suspended high in the water.
But yesterday he was leaning toward a different theory.
"I'm still debating whether it's disease, or maybe they have gone through the weir and the water has bashed them around," Mr Winkel said.
"When they pumped the water in to bring it up or down, they (fish) got smashed terribly."
He said all of the fish he had caught and analysed were adult spawners.
A Sunshine Coast Council spokeswoman said officers yesterday launched an investigation at Pelican Waters.
"A waterways officer has this afternoon inspected the North Lakes Weir and Lock at Pelican Waters (and two other possible sites) and noted about 20-30 mullet swimming around the weir, which appeared to be in poor condition," the spokeswoman said yesterday.
"There were no dead fish."
She said the fish were on the southern side of the weir and had full access to the passage and tidal flushing.
"There were no indications of anything in the water that could be pinpointed as a cause to their poor condition.
"There could be a number of reasons why this could be happening, but without evidence, council is unable to comment."
She said the situation would be monitored over the coming days.
... The Coordinator-General has approved BHP Mitsubishi Alliance's Red Hill Mining project north of Moranbah. ... [Daily Mercury - 10/6/15]
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has officially opened GE Australia’s new Queensland headquarters at Springfield, south-west of Brisbane.
The $72 million energy-efficient building will bring together 480 of the company’s 750 Queensland staff, with room for 700 more in the years ahead.
... The Premier will also visit GE’s Software Centre of Excellence near San Francisco on her US Trade Mission, departing tomorrow. [Media Release - 10/6/15]
Serco ordered to pay $1 million in penalties over failure of Fiona Stanley Hospital contracts [ABC – 10/6/15]
The Canberra Eye Hospital is in voluntary administration and its owners, who include pioneering eye surgeons, appear to be in a dispute over the sale of the business with shareholders.
One of the founders, Dr Leo Shanahan, said the company had $2.3 million in the bank 15 months before it went into voluntary administration in about January.
Dr Shanahan, a distinguished Australian ophthalmologist who has run practices in Sydney and clinics in Goulburn and Cooma, told an earlier meeting of creditors he could not understand why the company had been placed in voluntary administration.
His comments are in minutes of creditors meetings subsequently filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. ... [Canberra Times - 9/6/15]
Expert argues against smokescreen on e-cigarette research
UQ News [5/6/15]:
A leading Australian substance abuse expert is pleading for moderation in policies on e-cigarettes.
The University of Queensland’s Professor Wayne Hall said current law on electronic nicotine delivery systems placed researchers – and people who wanted to use e-cigarettes to quit smoking – in a difficult situation.
E-cigarettes containing nicotine cannot legally be sold in Australia.
”We should not have to choose between banning e-cigarettes completely and selling them alongside children’s candy,” Professor Hall said.
Professor Hall is an advisor to the World Health Organisation and the director of UQ’s Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research.
“We are told e-cigarettes will only be available to smokers as medicinal products to stop them smoking if clinical trials show them to be safe and effective.
“However, regulation as medicines may not be the best regulatory model and, until the products are approved as medicines, smokers must obtain them from the black market.
“Effectively, we are treating e-cigarettes like heroin or cocaine, and stifling any real research on their effectiveness.”
Such is debate on the topic, Professor Hall’s paper - Ethical issues raised by a ban on the sale of electronic nicotine devices -- has met diverse reactions from around the world before its official publication.
Professor Hall and UQ collaborators Dr Coral Gartner and Dr Cynthia Forlini said those who recommended legalising e-cigarettes were often portrayed as “in the pay of the tobacco industry”.
But he said this, and other forms of ad hominem argument, prevented a better understanding of ways of combating one of the world’s greatest causes of preventable death.
“A policy that bans a less harmful form of nicotine while still allowing the sale of cigarettes is inconsistent,” Professor Hall said.
“Laws are giving much higher priority to the interests of hypothetical smokers (who could take up smoking via e-cigarettes) at the expense of current, especially addicted, smokers.
“I do not advocate laissez faire, but rather closely-regulated e-cigarette sales for current smokers as a step towards an increased regulation of the most harmful tobacco products – cigarettes.
“If research proves e-cigarettes are much safer than cigarettes and are an acceptable substitute, we would have a strong case for removing cigarettes from convenience stores and supermarkets.”
News of the World phone hacking trial: 'Inconceivable' that former deputy editor Neil Wallis didn't know about hacking, court hears
Phone hacking was so widespread at the News of the World that it is “inconceivable” the Sunday tabloid’s former deputy editor did not know of the practice, a court has heard.
The claim was made against Neil Wallis, who was right-hand man between 2003 and 2007 to former editor and Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson, as he went on trial accused of plotting to eavesdrop on the voicemails of celebrities and public figures.
A number of senior staff at the now-defunct NOTW have admitted involvement in large-scale phone hacking during the early part of the last decade. Mr Coulson, who edited the famously salacious title between 2003 and 2007, was convicted last year of conspiring to intercept voicemails at the high-profile trial which saw his predecessor, Rebekah Brooks, cleared of all charges.
On the opening day of Mr Wallis’s trial, a jury at the Old Bailey heard that the journalist, who went by the newsroom nickname “Wolfman”, had been surrounded by people above and below him on the Sunday title who knew of or were involved in hacking.
Julian Christopher QC, for the prosecution, said the 64-year-old was not accused of intercepting voicemails himself but alleged he had known of the practice and agreed to it, including an incident when it was used to uncover an affair between David Blunkett, while he was Home Secretary, and a married woman.
Opening his case, Mr Christopher told the court: “The practice was so widespread at the NOTW that it is inconceivable that the editor above him should have been involved, and those below him should have been involved, without him also knowing about it and being involved.”
The jurors were told that alongside this assertion, other evidence pointed to Mr Wallis’s knowledge of hacking, including emails to him which referred “obliquely” to the practice and the testimony of a former reporter, Dan Evans, who had specialised in voicemail interception and claims he played recordings of eavesdropped
Mr Christopher added that there was “no dispute that hacking was going on, and going on on a large scale” at the paper.
Mr Wallis, of Chiswick, west London, denies conspiracy to illegally access voicemails.
Evans, who has previously pleaded guilty to extensive hacking while working at the NOTW, was courted by the paper when he was employed by the Sunday Mirror and eventually joined Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid in 2005.
The court heard that on his first day he was sent a list of 700 names and mobile numbers and tasked with phone hacking.
The court was told the case against the former deputy editor will also include phone records which appear to show that he was involved when the NOTW was preparing to reveal Mr Blunkett’s affair. Mr Christopher said there had been a series of phone calls between Coulson and his deputy around the time when the editor personally confronted the politician about the story.
The trial, which is expected to last up to six weeks, continues.
The Sun. Discrimination. Rescue boats I'd use gunships to stop migrants [Hacking Inquiry – 9/6/15]:
... Despite a public outcry and the condemnation by the UN, IPSO failed to initiate an investigation into the Hopkins outburst, reinforcing the view that it is nothing more than a complaints-handling body – exactly the same flaw that mortally wounded its predecessor, the widely-derided PCC.
IPSO reportedly rejected more than 400 complaints about the article being discriminatory, instead referring just two complaints about accuracy on minor points to the Sun.
Commenting, IPSO said, “while we noted the general concern that the column was discriminatory towards migrants, clause 12 [of the Editors’ Code] is designed to protect identified individuals mentioned by the press against discrimination, and does not apply to groups or categories of people.”
The NUJ criticised this decision, saying that by rejecting the complaints, IPSO has “thrown further doubt on its own legitimacy” as a regulator. The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights observed that the article was simply one example of “decades of sustained and unrestrained anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion” when it came to the reporting of migrant and refugee issues in the British media.
This shows, once again, that the discrimination clause of the Editors’ Code is completely inadequate – an issue which was raised by a number of representative groups during the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press. We have highlighted this problem in our analysis of the national newspapers in previous months’ press monitoring blogs.
The newspapers behind IPSO claim that all such comments – which do not name an individual – are essentially harmless in ethical terms and are matters of opinion, taste and decency. The obvious problem with this this argument can be seen by substituting, in Hopkins’ piece, the word “migrants” with another previously stigmatised minority, like “Jews”.
A revised Standards Code, prepared by an independent body with industry input after public consultation, needs to deal with this issue. IPSO’s “Code Committee”, dominated by editors, will not.
10 Things you CAN do if you are not a boat person or ex-detainee [Ramesh Fernandez – February 2015]:
1. Amplify our voices
2. Realize when to back off
3. Leave us to speak on behalf of ourselves
4. Not using our images & stories to promote your cause
5. Don’t refer to us as : Illegals, irregular arrivals, queue jumpers
6. Being aware of misinformation about us perpetuated by the governments and tabloid media
7. Not expect us to educate your privilege
8. Boycott detention industry not only the governments.
9. Act against the government’s detention policies
10. Support anti-deportations
Ex-Black Panther released after 43 years in solitary confinement
A U.S. judge ordered Tuesday the release of prisoner Albert Woodfox from solitary confinement, where he has been kept for 43 years for a crime he did not commit.
Woodfox is one of three inmates known as the 'Angola Three' who were thrown into isolation in 1972, after being accused of killing a guard during a prison riot.
Over the course of the years, Woodfox was twice convicted at trial for the guard's murder, but both convictions were overturned on the grounds of racial prejudice and lack of evidence.
He has been waiting in solitary confinement for the third trial to begin.
U.S. district judge James Brady, who presided over the case from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ordered Woodfox’s unconditional release and ruled that he could not be tried again for the guard's death.
“The only just remedy is an unconditional writ of habeas corpus barring retrial of Mr. Albert Woodfox and releasing Mr. Woodfox from custody immediately,” Brady wrote. His lawyers, George Kendall and Carine Williams, went to seek Woodfox' release Monday night.
“Mr. Woodfox has spent 40 years in solitary confinement under constitutionally invalid convictions,” they said, happy and relieved with the ruling. “The only just remedy is his immediate release from prison.”
Northern CNMI 100% against US military plan says mayor
A mayor in the Northern Marianas mayor says residents are 100 percent against live-fire training by the US military.
Jerome Aldan wants to re-establish a community on the island of Pagan which is among sites being eyed by the military for live fire exercises and amphibious landing training.
Under the proposal Pagan would also be the target for so-called inert bombs.
Mr Aldan says the U.S. Department of Defence has not taken indigenous and cultural factors into account in its plans.
... And, beyond the U.S. government’s direct dissemination of disinformation, the U.S. government also has spread around hundreds of millions of dollars to finance “journalism” organizations, political activists and “non-governmental organizations” that promote U.S. policy goals inside targeted countries. Before the Feb. 22, 2014 coup in Ukraine, there were scores of such operations in the country financed by the National Endowment for Democracy. NED’s budget from Congress exceeds $100 million a year.
But NED, which has been run by neocon Carl Gershman since its founding in 1983, is only part of the picture. You have many other propaganda fronts operating under the umbrella of the U.S. State Department and its U.S. Agency for International Development. Last May 1, USAID issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”
USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the coup, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security.” ... [Cold War II to McCarthyism II - ICH/Consortium News - 9/6/15]
The best defence against enemy propaganda is truth: American Cold War Era Documentary on Soviet Propaganda
United States, "allies" continue bombing Iraq and Syria
US Department of Defense [9/6/15]:
U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.
Airstrikes in Syria
Bomber and fighter aircraft conducted nine airstrikes in Syria:
-- Near Raqqah, three airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units, destroying two ISIL fighting positions.
-- Near Kobani, six airstrikes struck four ISIL tactical units, destroying three resupply boats, an ISIL excavator, an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL vehicle.
Airstrikes in Iraq
Attack and fighter aircraft conducted 14 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
-- Near Beiji, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying four ISIL structures.
-- Near Kirkuk, one airstrike struck two ISIL heavy machine guns.
-- Near Makhmur, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL mortar firing position, destroying an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Mosul, four airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and an ISIL mortar firing position, destroying two ISIL buildings, two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL mortar system.
-- Near Tal Afar, four airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units, destroying five ISIL buildings, an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL rocket system and an ISIL rocket-propelled grenade.
Obama weighs sending several hundred more US troops to Iraq: officials [Reuters - 9/6/15]
US plans new military base in Iraq’s Anbar [Al Arabiya - 10/6/15]
An alliance of Syrian rebel forces seized a key army base in the south of the country Tuesday in a new setback for the regime’s embattled troops.
The Southern Front alliance, affiliated with the rebel Free Syrian Army, took full control of the 52nd Brigade base in Deraa province after 24 hours of fierce clashes, a spokesman told AFP. ... [Daily Star - 10/6/15]
Egypt ISIL affiliate fires rockets at Sinai airport used by UN peacekeepers [Sputnik News - 10/6/15]
US stirring chaos in Middle East through ISIL: Analyst [Press TV - 9/6/15]
US-backed Saudi air strikes kill 19 in Yemen [Reuters - 9/6/15]
Rocket attack at Bagram airfield kills American
An American citizen was killed in a rocket attack in Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan’s Parwan province.
54-year-old Krissie K. Davis was working for Defense Department’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) was from Talladega of Alabama state.
Davis was working at the agency’s disposition services unit which includes the destruction, sale or other removal of excess U.S. equipment and supplies and died after a rocket landed on its location from outside the base.
AP news agency is quoting Kenneth MacNevin, a spokesman for DLA, as saying that Davis was the first civilian of the agency killed in Afghanistan.
There is no world of responsibility but Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for several rocket attacks at the base in past.
7 killed in drone strike, Nangarhar [Pajhwok - 9/6/15]
Four members of a family were kidnapped by unknown gunmen from a vehicle in the Gilan district of southern Ghazni province, a senior official said on Tuesday.
Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, the deputy governor, told Pajhwok Afghan News the incident took place the other day.
The abducted persons belonged to the same family and they were forced out of a vehicle on the main highway and adducted, he said.
They included a woman, two children and a man, the deputy governor said, adding that local elders had started their efforts to secure the release of the abducted people.
However, he did not say who could be behind the abduction. No group has asserted responsibility for the incident, the latest in a series of abductions in Ghazni in the recent past.
Residents from the southeastern villages of Shebaa and Kfar Shuba vowed Tuesday to dismantle a barbed wire fence erected by the Israeli Army if works on disputed territory are not brought to halt.
The residents, most of whom own agricultural lands in the area, raised the Lebanese flag over the fence built one day earlier by the Israeli Army as part of a plan to build new military roads on occupied Lebanese territory. ... [Daily Star - 10/6/15]
Dempsey, Israeli Leaders Discuss Defense Cooperation [US Department of Defense - 9/6/15]
UN keeps Israel off child rights blacklist [Maan - 9/6/15]
In the United States, the Supreme Court has struck down a law which would have let Americans born in Jerusalem list their birthplace as "Israel" on their passports.
In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled the law infringed on the president’s right to make decisions about recognizing foreign nations.
While Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, Palestinians claim it as the capital of any future Palestinian state. [Democracy Now - 9/6/15]
UN volunteer in Mali advocates for detainees’ rights [Media Release – 9/6/15]
UN peacekeepers deployed in Haiti engaged in “transactional” sexual relationships for food and medicine with over 200 women and underage girls, a draft report seen by the Associated Press suggests, noting that many cases of abuse remain underreported.
According to a new UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report obtained by the news agency, a third of alleged sexual exploitation and abuse involved minors under 18.
The shocking conclusions were revealed after investigators interviewed 231 people in Haiti who claimed they were forced to perform sexual acts with UN peacekeepers in exchange for basic necessities. ... [RT - 10/6/15]
A haggard Dennis Hastert appeared in court Tuesday for the first time since he was indicted, pleading not guilty to charges that he violated banking rules and lied to the FBI about promising to pay $3.5 million in hush money to conceal misconduct from his days as a high school teacher.
As his attorney entered the plea on his behalf, the 73-year-old former House speaker stood motionless, his hands folded and eyes downcast at the floor.
When the judge asked if he understood he had to submit a DNA sample and could go to jail if he violated any conditions of his release, the man who was once second in the line of succession to the presidency answered quietly, "Yes, sir." ... [Yahoo - 10/6/15]
The US agency in charge of transportation security failed to detect at least 73 people with links to terrorism who were hired by U.S. airports, a new report made public Tuesday has revealed. ... [Al Arabiya - 9/6/15]
Protesters hike to G7 summit: ‘We protested the ban on protesting!’
France 24 [9/6/15]:
Hundreds of protesters went on an eight kilometre hike on Sunday towards Germany's Elmau Castle, where leaders from G7 countries had been meeting for two days of talks. But they weren’t only protesting the world powers’ policies. They also wanted to defend their right to demonstrate, after local authorities fenced the area off to keep protesters away.
The leaders of Germany, Canada, the US, France, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom met on June 7 for two days of talks that focused on the Greek debt crisis, Ukraine and climate change.
But the G7 summit, which brings together seven of the world's most advanced economies, also attracted thousands of anti-G7 protesters. From June 4, more than 30,000 of them began spilling onto the streets of Munich - around 100 kilometres away from Elmau - to voice their opposition.
Demonstrations also took place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where a makeshift protest camp was set up. The resort town is barely five kilometres away from where the summit was held. On Saturday, several people were injured after scuffles broke out with security forces during a march by some 4,000 protesters through the town.
Rome mafia investigation stretches to city hall works, M5S protest outside City Hall
The Finance Guard on Tuesday arrested six people and placed a total of 20 under investigation on suspicion of bid-rigging and other crimes in connection with a contract to restore Rome's city council assembly hall, among others.
The latest developments in an expanding case case fueled a big, lively demonstration outside city hall led my members of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, who called on Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino and his executive to quit.
The new suspects are charged with racketeering, aggravated fraud committed against the city of Rome, bid-tampering, issuing false invoices, and tax evasion aggravated by transnational transactions committed in Rome and Luxembourg.
The corruption surrounding the contract to restore and refurbish the Giulio Cesare assembly hall allegedly involves an executive official at the Rome cultural superintendency and businessman Fabrizio Amore, whose name surfaced in the so-called Mafia Capitale probe into a crime syndicate that muscled in on city contracts and involved elected officials, businessmen and mobsters.
Investigators say Amore was so certain he would win the bid that he began putting subcontractors on his payroll days before the winner was announced.
Amore also used firms he owned through holding companies based in Luxembourg to lease two residential buildings in Rome's Ardeatina district to the city, which allegedly destined them to remedy the capital's notoriously chronic public housing shortage.
As it turns out, while the city paid Amore 2,250 euros a month for each apartment over the course of several years, not all of the units went to those in need - the entrepreneur kept some for personal use, investigators say.
As well, investigators discovered Amore dodged an estimated 11 million euros in taxes through a group of companies held in Luxembourg.
The newly restored Giulio Cesare assembly hall - which had been spruced up with touch screens for voting and other state-of-the-art technology to make the assembly's work easier - was inaugurated with great fanfare in September 2010 by then-mayor Gianni Alemanno.
The ex center-right mayor is among over 100 suspects under investigation in the Rome mafia case which sees former gangster and right-wing terrorist Massimo Carminati jailed as the alleged ringleader of a mafia-style organisation that muscled in on city contracts worth millions.
Last week, 44 people were arrested for alleged involvement in the plundering of public money destined for migrant reception centres. Also on Tuesday, Democratic Party (PD) official Marco Vincenzo resigned as Lazio regional party whip after press reports linked his name to the probe.
"I resign as whip in the interests of the regional PD caucus, of the regional administration and of the PD," Vincenzo said.
Greece, Germany and the Eurozone – Keynote at the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, Berlin [Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis - 8/6/15]:
... Earlier I referred to the Aesop fable that has done so much damage to our peoples’ understanding of their relation and to their appreciation of each other. Allow me to re-tell it in a manner better suited to the economic circumstances of the Eurozone.
To begin with, I hope you agree that the idea that all the ants live in the North of Europe and all the grasshoppers have congregated in the South, in the Periphery, would have been comical if it were not so offensive and so destructive of our shared European project.
What happened in Europe after we established the euro, during the good times, was that the ants worked hard everywhere, in Germany and in Greece. And the ants were finding it hard to make ends meet. Both in Germany and in Greece. In contrast, the grasshoppers both in Greece and in Germany were having a finance-fuelled party.
The flow of private money from Germany to Greece allowed the grasshoppers of the North and the Grasshoppers of the South to create huge paper wealth for themselves at the expense of the ants – of the German and the Greek ants. Then, when the crisis hit, it was the ants of the North and especially the ants of the South, of Greece, that were called upon to bailout the grasshoppers of both nations.
These bailouts cost the ants dearly. Especially the Greek ants lost their jobs, their houses, their pensions while the German ants felt cheated, hearing about all these billions going to the Greeks while their living standards refused to rise despite their productive eforts. As for the Greek grasshoppers, some of them also suffered but the big, fat ones had nothing to worry about: they took their ill gotten monies to Geneva, to London, to Frankfurt. And they laughed all the way to the bank.
This is what was so wrong with the bailouts. It is not that Germans did not pay enough for Greeks. They paid far too much. For the wrong reasons. Money that, rather than help the Greeks, was thrown into a black hole of unsustainable debts while people suffered everywhere. From debt fuelled growth we went full circle to debt fuelles austerity.
It is this vicious cycle that our government was elected to put an end to.
Indonesia: World Bank MD questioned over 2009 oil graft case
The Jakarta Globe [8/6/15]:
The National Police on Monday questioned World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati over a graft case that resulted from a deal made by the nation’s upstream oil and gas regulator. In 2009, Sri Mulyani authorized the deal while serving as Indonesia’s finance minister.
“She is a witness now as she is still undergoing questioning. If we need her to testify more, we will summon her again, but for now she’s due to return to the United States tomorrow,” Brig. Gen. Viktor Simandjuntak, director for special crimes at the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Unit (Bareskrim), said in Jakarta on Monday evening.
Sri Mulyani was questioned at her old office at the Ministry of Finance in Central Jakarta.
“Although witnesses are supposed to undergo questioning at Bareskrim, some relevant data are at the ministry so she will be questioned there,” Viktor said prior to the interrogation.
The case began when the regulating agency BPMigas — currently known as SKKMigas — appointed privately owned Trans-Pacific Petrochemical Indotama (TPPI) to sell its condensate.
Direct appointment was against the regulations, but Sri Mulyani signed a document detailing the payment method to TPPI in 2009. The deal was later found to be problematic.
Instead of selling the condensate to state-owned energy firm Pertamina, as then-vice president Jusuf Kalla (who serves in the same post now) instructed, TPPI made another deal with another company. The troubled sales process, according to police investigations, are believed to have caused state losses of Rp 2 trillion ($148 million).
Investigators so far have named three suspects in the resulting embezzlement and money laundering case, including former BPMigas chief Raden Priyono, his former deputy for finance Djoko Harsono and TPPI’s former owner Honggo Wendratmo.
Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent lawyer, says he believes Sri Mulyani cannot be held accountable for the graft-ridden deal.
“Sri’s position as a minister at that time may be the reason why the police summoned her. But she cannot be named a suspect for doing her job. Signing documents is merely part of a minister’s job,” Todung said.
“Policy issuance cannot be disputed unless she signed the document on the payment system for her own interest,” he added.
Ichsanuddin Noorsy, an expert on political economy, seconded Todung’s opinion.
“In my view, Sri Mulyani didn’t really know about this. She only agreed on the payment method for TPPI,” Ichsanuddin said, adding the possibility was very small that Sri Mulyani would be named a suspect in the case — as opposed to a witness.
“This was not her responsibility, it was BPMigas’. How could it give the condensate without any seller appointment agreement or a deal? Instead, the agreement was only made later and without a payment guarantee.”
Transparency International Indonesia secretary general Yenny Sucipto, however, says Sri Mulyani is responsible for approving the contract.
“That is an indication that she is clearly involved in the case. She’s the one who approved the payment,” Yenny said on Monday. “Without her approval, the condensate sale would have never taken place to begin with. It is Sri’s responsibility to explain to the public why she approved the payment method at that time,” the activist added.
Sri Mulyani’s alleged role in the case came to light after the current chief of SKKMigas, Amien Sunaryadi, also a former commissioner with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), said last month that there was a letter from the Ministry of Finance at that time that directly instructed SKKMigas to sell its condensates to TPPI.
Police said this was in spite of the fact that TPPI had been known to be an ailing company. Later on, it was unable to pay SKKMigas the amount it was supposed to have obtained from the condensate sales. A 2012 report by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) also reportedly said that the finance minister at that time was involved in the direct appointment of TPPI.
Mulyani’s questioning took place less than a week after former state enterprises minister Dahlan Iskan, another cabinet member under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was named a suspect by the Jakarta Prosecutors’ Office over the graft-ridden construction of power transformers for state utility firm PLN, which he had led before his appointment as minister.
The move fed speculation that law enforcement institutions are currently targeting former officials from the time of Yudhoyono’s presidency.
Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) [10/6/15]: Update: everything is quiet and calm at the moment, and police presence has not been a cause for concern. We will keep people updated if the situation changes though (we will be able to do this very quickly if we need to, though happily this seems unlikely). We are wanting to thank everyone who came out for this important solidarity action, it was so very much appreciated by those inside.
Sacked Nauru AFP commissioner was consulting with US authorities over corruption allegations when dumped [ABC - 10/6/15]
... Mr Adeang said the embittered involvement in the report of the country's former chief justice and former magistrate, who are both Australians, suggested it was time for both of them to accept that they have lost the perks and cosy relationships they enjoyed under the former government, and move on.
The minister said the untrue and personal nature of the story means it is likely he will take defamation action against the ABC and those involved. [Republic of Nauru Media Release - 10/6/15]
NT Motor Vehicle Registry allows Wilson Parking access to motorists' personal data [ABC - 10/6/15]
Nine MSN [19/5/15]:
Women and children at the Nauru detention centre choose to wet the bed at night rather than risk being attacked on visits to the bathroom.
The disturbing claim was aired during a Senate inquiry hearing in Canberra on Tuesday in which centre operator Transfield Services, Wilson Security and welfare provider Save the Children gave evidence about how abuse complaints are handled.
A female asylum seeker at the centre told visiting Sydney pediatrician David Isaacs last year of the harrowing night she was raped on the way to the bathroom.
The woman had wept uncontrollably for 10 minutes as she detailed the ordeal, but had chosen not to report it to police because of fears of repercussions.
"Many children and some mothers had nocturnal enuresis (bed-wetting at night) rather than run the gauntlet of a night-time toilet visit," Professor Isaacs said in a written submission.
Wilson Security told the hearing it was unaware of the incident and declined to speculate on why women were so terrified.
The only CCTV cameras cover the administration, recreation and medical centre areas, though some security guards wore GoPro cameras in emergency situations but the footage was routinely deleted, the hearing was told.
Wilson general manager John Rogers said he did not believe allegations male staff watched female asylum seekers and children in bathrooms, with some said to have urged women to expose themselves for extra shower time.
Male guards had to wait outside the family facility while female guards entered bathroom areas, he said. ...
PNG Chief Migration Officer farts out more stats regarding the exile and deportation of refugees tortured and incarcerated by Australia on Manus Island
... The officials allegedly told Sakhravi “this is our country” and threatened to kill him before making him run ahead of their car.
After a while they allegedly beat him again then drove him to the accommodation where his pleas to be taken to hospital were refused. ...
[Guardian - 9/6/15]
The National [10/6/15]:
More than 500 asylum seekers on Manus have had their refugee claims assessed, according to Chief Migration Officer Mataio Rabura.
Rabura said 129 had been determined to be refugees by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Rimbink Pato.
Forty have been moved to the East Lorengau Refugee Transit Centre to undertake language and cultural orientation training.
A recruitment agency is assisting them prepare for jobs and to link them to appropriate firms. They are now awaiting Cabinet’s endorsement of the national refugee integration policy.
“They will be permitted to commence work once the National Executive Council endorses (the) policy,” he said.
He said the Government was confident they “will make a positive contribution to our communities”.
“But patience is required as this is a very sensitive process and must be done properly,” Rabura said.
On the arrest of the three migration officers implicated in the abuse of a refugee in Manus on June 1, he said police were dealing with the matter.
“If it is proven that there was any wrong doing by immigration officers, they will be subject to internal disciplinary proceedings in addition to any judicial sentence.”
City authorities in Port Moresby have started clearing the streets of children involved in selling items, or in any form of child labour.
City manager Leslie Alu has appealed to parents and primary care-givers to take their children from the streets and be more responsible for their safety, development and welfare.
He said the National Capital District Commission was the city’s governing authority which was concerned about the increasing number of children roaming the streets, or living and working on the streets and public places, as the Pacific Games nears. ... [The National - 10/6/15]
Australian officials paid captain and crew of refugee boat $5000 each to turn back to Indonesia
Sydney Morning Herald [10/6/15]:
Australian officials paid thousands of dollars to the captain and crew of a boat carrying asylum seekers, who were then returned to Indonesia, according to passengers and an Indonesian police chief.
Sixty-five people from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, who were seeking asylum in New Zealand, had their boat intercepted by Australian navy and Customs officials in late May, and were then returned to the island of Rote.
The Indonesian police chief on Rote, Hidayat, said the six crew members said they had been given $US5000 each by Australian officials. The crew were apprehended when they arrived at Rote and are being processed for people-smuggling offences.
Mr Hidayat said the captain, Yohanes, told him they had been given the money by an Australian customs officer called Agus, who spoke fluent Indonesian. The other crew members had corroborated Yohanes' story.
"I saw the money, the $5000 was in $100 banknotes," he said. The crew had $30,000 in total, which was wrapped in six black plastic bags, he said.
When asked on Tuesday whether Australian officials had recently paid the crew of a boat carrying asylum seekers to stay away from Australia, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton simply said, "No."
He refused to answer follow-up questions, citing the government's policy of not commenting on "on-water matters".
A letter to the New Zealand government signed by all 65 asylum seekers on board says Australian officials paid the six crew members at least $A7000 each.
"Then they take away our better boat and give two small boats that had just a little dry foods like biscuits and chocolates, and they also give very little fuel, just 200 litres for four to five hour journey," the letter says.
Nazmul Hassan, a Bangladeshi on board the boat, said he saw the skipper put money in his pocket.
He said the crew initially told Australian officials they couldn't go back to Indonesia because they could be jailed for people smuggling.
However, after a meeting the captain reportedly said: "We have to go back. Australia want to pay for us."
"After they finished the meeting, everyone looked happy and they agreed to the proposal," Mr Hassan said from Inaboi, a hostel in Kupang, Indonesia, where the asylum seekers are being detained.
"We didn't say anything because they didn't give us time to talk."
The asylum seekers swam ashore after their boat hit rocks near Landuti island in the West Rote district of Indonesia, 500 kilometres north-east of the Australian coast.
Mr Hidayat said it was the first time he had heard of Australian payments to people smugglers and that he was surprised the crew members had that amount of cash.
"Boat crews are usually very poor," he said. "I even sent the money to their villages upon their request."
Mr Hidayat said he had not confiscated the money. "What for? It is not crime-related," he said.
"I still wonder who Agus is and what is his motivation to give money to boat crews. Maybe he wanted them to go out of Australian border so he gave them the money."
An Immigration Department spokesman said: "The Australian government does not comment on or disclose operational details where this would prejudice the outcome of current or future operations."
Former Immigration Department executive Peter Hughes, who now works at the Australian National University as an expert on refugee policies and international migration, said if the payment was true, the move would be unprecedented.
"I have never heard of that happening before," Mr Hughes said.
In the letter to the New Zealand government, the asylum seekers said they had set off for New Zealand on May 5, after living in Indonesia for a few months.
"Then we hope you [New Zealand] can give asylum and you can also give a peaceful life for us," the letter says.
It says the boat was intercepted and searched by Australian customs officers on May 17, who warned: "You don't try to come in Australia and don't try to use Australia water area also."
The letter says the navy and Customs returned six days later and removed the captain for a secret six-hour interview.
It says the asylum seekers were then removed from their boat and kept in jail-like conditions on a navy ship for several days.
"Then they separate our six sailors and donated them by giving at least $A7200 per person. They never ask to us any opinions and they also never accept our petition," the letter says.
On about May 31, they were then given two smaller boats and sent back to Indonesia.
Mr Hassan said Australian authorities had burnt their original boat because it had sufficient supplies for them to continue their journey to New Zealand.
Don Rothwell, a professor of international law at the Australian National University, said if money had been handed out, it could be interpreted as a form of people smuggling.
However, he questioned the motive of the officials to do it.
Professor Rothwell said it was unlikely to breach any laws under the Migration Act.
"The great significance is how this decision would be seen in regards of our regional neighbours," he said.
"If Australian officials were to pay crews to take those people to Indonesia, I suspect that Indonesia and some other regional neighbours would take a dim view of that conduct from Australia.
"I cannot recall any situation where Australian officials have paid crew."
One in ten Rohingya have fled Myanmar on boats
Our very rough estimate is that some 2,000 people could still be stranded on smugglers’ boats.
Vivian Tan, spokeswoman UNHCR
Why is Australian the UNHCR branch enthusiastically tweeting links about Bosnia Miss Universe and Mediterranean refugees while ignoring the humanitarian crisis in our own region?
As many as one in 10 of all Rohingya in Burma have fled by boat, making a dangerous voyage with human smugglers who have left them trapped at sea for weeks or forced them into secret jungle camps.
The claim is made by Chris Lewa, whose Arakan Project tracks the movement of Rohingya as they have fled persecution over the past three years, cramming into primitive boats as part of a lucrative smuggling trade.
“At least 100,000 Rohingya have left ... which is about 10% of the Rohingya population,” she told the Guardian by phone.
The government of Burma does not recognise the roughly 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya as citizens, creating a stateless people. In 2012, deadly clashes with Buddhists in the western state of Rakhine caused 140,000 Rohingya to flee their homes.
Lewa’s organisation relies on a network of local sources in Burma and Bangladesh, which borders Rakhine, who discreetly count migrant numbers at the point of embarkation. From there Rohingya hope to reach Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Rights groups accuse Burmese authorities of ethnic cleansing, systematically forcing Rohingya Muslims from the country through violence and persecution, a charge the government denies and says is “one-sided”.
“The figures give an idea of the situation after three years,” Lewa said, adding that her organisation’s numbers are conservative as there are several other smuggler ports in Burma that are not being monitored. She said Rohingya using land routes are also not counted.
“This does not cover all forced migration of Rohingya,” she said.
Eight five percent of those who have left are young men, Lewa said. This has meant the cost of a dowry for women in Rakhine has soared. Families are now sending their daughters on boats to Malaysia to get married, she said, further compounding the human smuggling tragedy.
A Thai crackdown on illegal detention camps where Rohingya are held along its border with Malaysia in May shook the trade, making it too risky for people smugglers to dock. Smugglers abandoned boats full of migrants in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, leaving Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants thirsty and exposed.
Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian authorities have also turned away migrants.
Vivian Tan, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said the world body was working to triangulate how many people could still be stuck at sea.
“Our very rough estimate is that some 2,000 people could still be stranded on smugglers’ boats,” she told the Guardian by email.
Manipur ambush: Army strikes back at northeast militants inside Myanmar, kills 15 [Times of India - 9/6/15]
Twelve Maoist rebels died in a gunbattle with security forces in a remote forest in eastern India, police said Tuesday.
Police said the fighting broke out when they tried to intercept a group of suspected guerrillas late Monday in eastern Jharkand state, a rebel stronghold. ... [Naharnet - 9/6/15]
Why are these people so confident about ignoring Myanmar's ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya? [Channel News Asia - 10/6/15]:
Myanmar's opposition leader and democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi is set to land in China on Wednesday for a debut visit, at a time of cooling relations between the once closely-bonded nations.
Beijing was a key backer of Myanmar's military junta while it was under Western sanctions, providing a much needed international ally for a brutal regime that crushed dissent and kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for years.
Now the 69-year-old visits China both as a free woman and a politician ahead of crunch elections slated for November at which her National League for Democracy party (NLD) are expected to make significant gains, if the vote is free and fair.
Nicholas Farrelly, a Myanmar specialist at the Australian National University, said the former political prisoner will not allow China's historical support for a junta that imprisoned her cloud her judgement.
"Aung San Suu Kyi is getting on with the business of trying to win an election. She will be utterly pragmatic about what is at stake and cannot afford to indulge undue sentiment," he told AFP.
"She knows that China will play a mighty role in Myanmar's future." ...
Woodside Petroleum has been accused of holding back natural gas shipments from China in an effort to lift the price of a 25-year supply contract. ... [SBS - 29/1/15]
Pakistan to provide $5m food grant to Rohingya refugee camps – lying Australian media report Taliban is seeking Rohingya recruits [Dawn - 9/6/15]:
A cabinet committee formed to tackle issues over the plight of Rohingya Muslims has decided on a $5 million grant in the form of food to be channelled through the World Food Program for distribution in Rohingya camps in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Pakistan will also appeal to the United Nations to impress upon the Myanmar government to grant Rohingya Muslims equal citizenship rights and ensure the protection of the oppressed minority community.
Recommendations to intensify diplomatic efforts in this regard were made by the special committee— comprising Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Tariq Fatmi— which were approved by PM Nawaz Sharif.
According to the committee's recommendations, the prime minister will write a letter to the United Nations Secretary General, as well as the President of the UN Security Council, highlighting the humanitarian crisis and asking for further intensification of diplomatic and moral pressure on the Myanmar government to grant adequate citizenship rights to the Rohingya community in accordance with international humanitarian laws.
Simultaneously, the adviser to the prime minister will address another letter to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General to propose the creation of a special OIC fund to provide food and other assistance to Rohingya Muslims who have left Myanmar and also those still living there.
The committee will also attempt to sensitise the international community to encourage greater assistance in all forms to the Rohingya Muslims, who are neither claimed by their government nor given shelter in neighbouring countries.
In addition, Pakistan will propose the establishment of a three-member committee of OIC foreign ministers who will travel to Myanmar in order to impress upon the Myanmar government to restore fundamental rights of the Rohingya community so they can live peacefully without fear of persecution.
Nisar vehemently pleaded the case of the Rohingya Muslims and raised the issue twice during the last two cabinet meetings.
The plight of the Rohingyas evoked immediate response from the prime minister and cabinet members and it was decided that a committee led by the interior minister would be constituted to chalk out an effective response to the issue.
Pakistan senate passes resolution against persecution of Rohingya [Daily Times - 10/6/15]:
... The resolution said that it was an issue of humanity, not merely involving one religion or ethnic group, and the international community as a whole must take firm and urgent notice of these serious and unprecedented violations of human rights since these are also a violation of the United Nations charter, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, all international laws and convents including the Convention of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and Convention Against the Torture (CAT). It further said that the actions of the Myanmar government are in gross violation of the established human rights norms and exhibit a consistent and persistent pattern. International law considers these activities as a violation of fundamental human rights obligations. The sate of Myanmar is not merely failing in protecting the Rohingya Muslims but promoting deliberate policies of ethnic cleansing, mass deportation and socio-economic deprivation of this beleaguered community, it added. ...
Mediterranean refugees crossings in 2015 already top 100,000
UNHCR Media Release [9/6/15]:
Refugee and migrant arrivals to Europe across the Mediterranean so far in 2015 have moved above 100,000, with record numbers now arriving every day in the Greek islands.
Official figures show that as of 8 June a total of 103,000 refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe: 54,000 in Italy, 48,000 in Greece, 91 on Malta and 920 in Spain.
The latest tally includes around 6,000 migrants and refugees who were disembarked in southern Italy last weekend in a major rescue operation coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard and joined by navy ships deployed by Frontex and from Italy, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Spain and MOAS.
Record numbers of the refugees are arriving in flimsy rubber dinghies and wooden boats on the Greek island of Lesvos, putting an enormous strain on its capacity, services and resources.
Half of some 600 refugees, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, who arrive daily in Greece, now come ashore on this island. Arrivals on Lesvos have grown from 737 in January and 1,002 in February, to 3,348 in March. Almost 5,000 arrived in April and over 7,200 in May.
Hundreds of refugees leave the island for the Greek mainland every day after being identified, screened and registered. At present, however, there are around 2,200 to 2,500 waiting there for registration by the authorities.
A screening centre in the village of Moria, a former detention centre for migrants waiting to be deported, is currently housing over 1,000 refugees.
"This is more than twice its official capacity of 410 people. In addition, an education park in Kara Tepe is being used as temporary accommodation for around 1000 refugees," UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told a press briefing in Geneva.
Two NGOs, Metaction and Medecins du Monde, are providing urgently needed services in Moria. Metaction is responsible for the identification, follow up and referral of unaccompanied children, while Medecins du Monde provides medical attention and psychosocial support. The Ministry of Interior's First Reception Service is responsible for the registration of the new arrivals.
UNHCR has a permanent presence in the island's main town, Mytilini, and is working with people at the Moria centre. UNHCR has been present on Lesvos and other Greek islands since 2011, supporting the authorities' efforts to improve reception conditions and procedures, providing legal advice to newcomers about the asylum procedure in Greece, as well as their right and responsibilities, and identifying and referring people with specific needs such as unaccompanied children, people with disabilities, the elderly and victims of torture or trauma. In recent weeks, UNHCR has been distributing sleeping bags and hygiene kits to refugees in greatest need in Lesvos and other Greek islands.
To deal effectively with the challenges posed by the large number of arrivals in Lesvos and other Greek islands, UNHCR is calling for urgent reinforcement of personnel and resources of all the state services and civil society organisations dealing with the reception of refugees. We are also seeking increased support to the affected island communities.
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 9 June 2015, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. ... [Media Release - 9/6/15]
@ItalianNavy [9/6/15]: #UltimOra #SAR nave Bersagliere #MarinaMilitare termina soccorso a gommone recuperando 101 #migranti
@ReginaCatrambon - Director @tangiersgroup Founder & Spokesperson @moas_eu [8/6/15]: We had run out of life jackets.Maltese vessel P51 donated to us these. Thanks for cooperation #savinglives #migrants
Mouthpiece of empire shows the world how it is responding to the US-created refugee crisis ---> Eleven million people were uprooted by violence last year, most propelled by conflict in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and Afghanistan. Conflict and extreme poverty have also pushed tens of thousands out of parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Here’s a look at the international response to what has become the worst migration crisis since World War II, according to the United Nations. [New York Times - 8/6/15]
What about your own backyard Uncle Sam? ----> One third of the Senate has had enough of the Obama administration’s abusive imprisonment of vulnerable mothers and children fleeing violence in Central America. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Monday, they wrote:
“We urge you to end the practice of presumptive detention of families and return to the policy of utilizing detention only as a last resort, when there is a serious public safety or flight risk that cannot be mitigated by alternatives to detention.” ... [ACLU - 3/6/15]
Pentagon bars discrimination against gays, lesbians in uniform [Reuters - 9/6/15]
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Australia continue to face unjust state-sanctioned discrimination, unacceptable levels of violence, harassment and bullying and a lack of visibility of the issues that directly affect them in accessing essential services, according to a new report released today by Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson. ... [Media Release - 10/6/15]
Routine in Australian run detention centers : guards will enter your room early in the morning to cuff you, beat you & deport you.
"tweeted" by @RameshFernandez - ex detainee and refugee [9/6/15]
This needs to be on the front of every major newspaper in Australia … ChilOut calls on the Australian Government to end the detention of children, and to bring all children on Nauru to the Australian mainland immediately. ... [Media Release - 9/6/15]
Spread the word using #sydneymediadrinks @mediaalliance #SydneyMediaDrinks is a MEAA initiative. With thanks to our sponsor Media Super. [An investor in Australia's refugee concentration camps?]
@racvictoria: Still standing strong against threat of forced transfers. Head down to #MITA if you can. 150 Camp Rd Broadmeadows
@FFFADmelbourne: ... Here to welcome the sunrise @ #MITA . Still #nodeportations to #Nauru!
A former Australian magistrate employed in Nauru can't understand where $1.2 billion earmarked to run offshore detention centres on neighbouring islands is going.
Peter Law, who was controversially expelled from Nauru last year, called for increased transparency around money paying for offshore detention, after a two-year $1.2 billion contract was awarded to Transfield Services to operate facilities on Nauru and Manus Island.
"They're just tents. This is what I can't understand," he told a parliamentary inquiry into allegations of abuse on Nauru on Tuesday. [Nine MSN - 9/6/15]
Alleged Nauru sex assault victim interviewed in public [Sunshine Coast Daily - 9/6/15]
10 June 2015