A stark, stunning picture. African refugees on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea, taken by Massimo Sestini.

Image: @SimonNRicketts - Guardian [23/6/14]



World Press Photo, 2nd prize singles, Massimo Sestini:

 Shipwrecked people aboard a boat are rescued 20 miles north of Libya by a frigate of the Italian navy. After hundreds of men, women and children had drowned in 2013 off the coast of Sicily and Malta, the Italian government put its navy to work under Operation Mare Nostrum rescuing refugees at sea. Only in 2014, 170,081 people were rescued and taken to Italy. More than 42,000 had come from Syria, 34,000 from Eritrea, 10,000 from Mali, 9,000 from Nigeria, as many from Gambia, 6,000 from Palestine, and more than 5,000 from Somalia.

Senate Hansard [12/2/15]:

Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee—Manus Island Detention Centre—Interim and final reports. Motion of Senator Bilyk to take note of report called on. On the motion of Senator Urquhart the debate was adjourned till the next day of sitting.



Pregnant refugee attempts suicide on Nauru [Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney - 12/2/15]

An asylum seeker who is suspending a hunger strike while his Federal Circuit Court challenge is heard has argued he fled Iran because he risked death for having sex with his girlfriend.

The 31-year-old Iranian, known in court as 'DZAFF', has been in and out of immigration detention since he arrived at Christmas Island by boat in August 2010 and claimed refugee status.

He started hunger striking in Darwin at the end of November last year, with a brief pause of three days, before restarting his protest.

His barrister, Julian Burnside, told Justice Philip Burchardt in Melbourne on Thursday that his client had started eating again on Friday "so you aren't under pressure to make a judgement". ... [ABC - 12/2/15]





The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, and human rights advocate and lawyer Greg Barns have taken the next step in their formal request for the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate crimes against asylum seekers by members of the Abbott Government. … [Media Release – 12/2/15]


UNHCR Statement: The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014 [12/2/15]:

UNHCR considers that the detention of people seeking protection should be a measure of last resort. Where it is used, it must be subject to independent monitoring and inspection by international, regional and/or national monitoring and oversight bodies.

Seeking asylum is not illegal, and respecting the right to seek asylum includes provision of humane reception arrangements for asylum-seekers. The fundamental right to liberty and the prohibition of arbitrary detention applies to all people regardless of their immigration or other status.

UNHCR in 2012 issued new Guidelines relating to the detention of asylum-seekers and in 2014 launched a new global five-year initiative aimed at helping countries move away from the detention of asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless people worldwide.

The new intiative, Beyond Detention, called firstly for an end to the detention of children, secondly for alternatives to detention to be available in law and in practice, and thirdly for conditions of detention - when unavoidable - to fully meet international human rights standards.

Independent scrutiny by oversight bodies is essential to meeting these aims.

The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014 report by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which was tabled by the Australian Parliament on 11 February 2015, reaffirms that the detention of asylum-seekers, refugees and stateless persons causes unnecessary suffering, with often serious consequences, in particular when people are held for long periods.

It is an important reminder that, for children, the effects are particularly serious because of the effect detention can have on their physical, emotional and psychological development, even if they are not separated from their families.

UNHCR has welcomed moves by successive Australian governments to reduce the number of children who are in detention and to implement alternatives to detention, and supports further progress in this regard.

In the case of Nauru, UNHCR welcomes indications that the Governments of Nauru and Australia will move towards an open reception centre for family groups and children in Nauru. At the same time, longstanding and well-known concerns remain about the transfer of asylum-seekers from Australia to Nauru, and the significant shortcomings in the reception arrangements, particularly for children.




UNHCR calls for end to detention of asylum-seekers and refugees [Media Release - 3/7/14]

Law Council of Australia considers children in detention report [12/2/15]



Iraq Refuses US Ground Forces After Obama “Special Forces” Announcement [Al Akhbar - 12/2/15]:

Baghdad has not requested foreign ground forces to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari said Thursday after Barack Obama called on Wednesday for military operations that stop short of a full-scale invasion.

In Sydney, the Iraqi minister said ground forces were not part of his government's plan.

"We have never asked for a ground forces contribution," he said through an interpreter after meetings with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

"We have established a set of guidelines," for the international coalition, Jafaari told a press conference, stressing that this was to provide air support for Iraqi forces, training and intelligence.

"The message that Iraq has submitted to the (United Nations) security council never included a request for ground forces to enter Iraqi territory to conduct such operations."

However he added: "We are at the beginning of a major war and the situation could be changing."

The minister noted that Iraqi armed forces were advancing against ISIS and had no shortage of troops.

"There is no doubt that the Iraqi armed forces need aerial support, in addition to intelligence information," he said. "No country has regular armies or ground troops present in Iraq except for providing training and counseling."




Afghanistan: Striking PC members block Kabul airport road

Pajhwok [12/2/15]:

Provincial councils (PC) members and their supporters numbering around 700 people on Thursday blocked the road leading to the Hamid Karzai International Airport to protest a Wolesi Jirga’s decision.

The lower house has amended on the law on provincial councils, barring the elected bodies from evaluating the performance of local departments.

But President Ashraf Ghani had said PC members should supervise the performance of local bodies under a defined framework.

Despite this assurance from the head of the state, PC members and their supporters continued with their protests against the lower house. On Thursday, they blocked the main airport road at 10:30am and the protest is still underway.

Sayyed Abdul Rahman, Kabul PC chief, told Pajhwok Afghan News their protest was a warning to the government that if the parliament’s decision was not reversed, the demonstrations would continue and even broadened.

Sar-i-Pul PC head Mohammad Noor Rahmani said: “The protest will continue until the Wolesi Jirga reverses its decision.”

Article 139 of the Constitution says: “The provincial council shall participate in the attainment of the development objectives of the state and improvement of the affairs of the province in the manner prescribed by laws.

The article adds PC shall advise the provincial administrations on related issues and perform its duties in cooperation with the provincial administration.


Israel earmarks vast area of Hebron land for annexation

Maan [11/2/15]:

Israel has earmarked around 2,000 dunams (500 acres) of private Palestinian land for annexation in the Hebron district, local activists say.

Muhammad al-Halayqa, an activist in the village of al-Shuyukh northeast of Hebron, told Ma'an that Israel's Civil Administration has posted warning notices on the land slated for confiscation.

The land belongs to the al-Halayqa, Rasna, and al-Hasasna families.

The Mayor of al-Shuyukh, Sharif al-Halayqa, says Israeli forces have prevented locals from accessing their land, adding that the areas slated for confiscation are likely going to be used for settlement building.

The village council will liaise with Palestinian officials and legal groups to try to prevent the annexation.

A spokesperson from the Israeli Civil Administration told Ma'an that the land in question was designated as "state land."

On Jan. 27, an Israeli court issued an order to confiscate hundreds of dunams of land northwest of Hebron in the village of Beit Ula. The land is located in Area C, under full Israeli security and administrative control.

Last December, Israeli authorities declared a vast area of private Palestinian land in the northern Jordan Valley a closed military zone in preparation to confiscate the land, an official said.

Ribhi al-Khandaqji, the governor of the Tubas district, said in a statement that the land was located in the Ein al-Sakut area and measured about 10,000 dunams (2,500 acres).



Sri Lanka Seeks Delay in UN War-Crimes Report

Jakarta Globe [12/2/15]:

Sri Lanka said on Wednesday it was seeking a delay of several months in the release of a UN report on alleged war crimes during the country’s civil war until the government has time to establish a new judicial mechanism to deal with the allegations.

Last March, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to look into reports of abuses during the conflict, saying the Sri Lankan government had failed to investigate properly. The UN report is due out on March 25.

Sri Lanka’s new government, which took power last month, says it is planning a new local inquiry that would bring in some foreign experts if necessary. It has also invited the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit to discuss the issue.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said during a visit to Washington that the road map for the government’s plan should be in place by March 2 and it was hoping to see the UN report delayed until after that.

“Once the report is finalized, we are hoping they can refer it to our domestic (judicial) mechanism for action,” he told reporters. “We are hoping they could hold on to it until our mechanism is in place – maybe August or so.”

UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville declined to comment earlier on Wednesday when asked about a possible delay but, when pressed, said the report was still due on March 25.

Samaraweera is scheduled on Thursday to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has strongly backed the UN inquiry, and is expected to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Friday. Before coming to Washington, he visited Britain.

Asked whether he had sense of US and British attitude to a delay, Samaraweera replied, “not really,” although Sri Lanka had exchanged ideas with them about the modalities of the local mechanism and what the international assistance ought to be.

He said he would discuss the call for a delay with Kerry on Thursday, “if we get a chance.”

The United States has not made clear where it stands on the possibility of a delay, but it is eager to open a new chapter of relations with Sri Lanka following the surprise election of President Maithripala Sirisena last month.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was seen as close to Beijing and had poor relations with the United States, which is eager to woo Asian countries to counterbalance an increasingly powerful and assertive China.

On Friday, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice included Sri Lanka alongside Myanmar and Tunisia as a country “in transition,” and pledged to assist the new government in creating a more open and democratic society.

The United Nations estimated in 2011 that about 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final weeks of the civil war, which ended in 2009, most of them by the army. The government has rejected this assertion.

On Tuesday, a US State Department official praised “initial steps taken by the new Sri Lankan government to bring accountability and reconciliation.”

The official did not respond when asked if Washington backed a delay in the release of the UN report, but said:

“Issues of reconciliation, accountability, and justice are difficult and complex issues. We are consulting broadly and considering a number of different options to help resolve these issues.”

Nisha Biswal, the US State Department’s senior official for South Asia, told reporters last week that Sri Lanka still faced “big challenges” in dealing with reconciliation.

Asked about the UN report, she said there was a review under way, but said that, whatever was decided on the timetable, it was important for Sri Lanka to show it had the intent, capability and will to address the issues.


Myanmar revokes Rohingya voting rights

BBC [11/2/15]:

Rohingya Muslims will not be able to vote in Myanmar's referendum after President Thein Sein withdrew temporary voting rights following protests.

Hundreds of Buddhists took to the streets following the passage of a law that would allow temporary residents who hold "white papers" to vote.

More than one million Rohingya live in Myanmar, but they are not regarded as citizens by the government.

In 2012, violence between Muslims and Buddhists left more than 200 dead.

The clashes broke out in Rakhine province and sparked religious attacks across the country.

The so-called white papers were introduced in 2010 by the former military junta to allow the Rohingya and other minorities to vote in a general election.

Thein Sein had originally persuaded parliament to grant white-paper holders the vote, but later apparently changed his mind.

The announcement came just hours after demonstrations in Yangon. Those protesting resent what they see as the integration of non-citizens into the country.

"White card holders are not citizens and those who are non-citizens don't have the right to vote in other countries," said Shin Thumana, a Buddhist monk who took part in the protest.

However, Rohingya MP Shwe Maung, whose constituency is in Rakhine, argued that voting rights had only become an issue following the violence in 2012.

Buddhist monks are at the forefront of protests against Muslims. One high-profile leader is monk Ashin Wirathu, who recently used abusive language to describe the UN's special envoy to Myanmar.

In December, the UN passed a resolution urging Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) to give access to citizenship for the Rohingya, many of whom are classed as stateless.

Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei calls for urgent Middle East peace talks

Channel News Asia [12/2/15]:

Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has called for a comprehensive Middle East peace conference, modelled on negotiations post-World War I, to tackle the region’s security and political crises.

In an exclusive interview on Channel NewsAsia’s Between the Lines on Wednesday (Feb 11), Mr ElBaradei said that dealing with issues in isolation is proving to be ineffective in reaching regional solutions. Talks with all major players is the only way to gain a lasting peace, he said.

“At this time in the 21st century, nobody is going to prevail over the other. Either we’re all going to be able to swim together or we’re all going to sink together,” he said.

“People need to get engaged, people need to be able to speak to their leaders. We do not want to see yet another confrontation, yet another war; we need to find a better architecture where we can all live together in peace and dignity. It is doable.”

The 72-year-old formerly served as the Vice-President of Egypt before resigning following a violent crackdown on supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

He was also the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1997 to 2009, during which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work attempting to prevent the development and use of nuclear weapons.

Mr ElBaradei said a formula needs to be found where fundamental issues and disagreements can be discussed and debated without the threat of confrontation or violence.

He alluded to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, where the Allied Powers and Germany negotiated a number of treaties, including the Treaty of Versailles.

“You put everything in the pot – the Iranian issue, the Israeli issue, the Palestinian issue, weapons issues, governmental issues, Syria, Libya – all of these are linked. In the future nothing is going to move unless they do that,” he said.

“We have a lot of major issues that we are not addressing and then we are complaining at the end that we have ISIL and Al Qaeda. Well, these are the outcomes of this foul environment.”




The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday that Egypt’s structural and monetary "reforms" were starting to produce a turnaround in the economy, which has been hit by persistent turmoil since 2011.

The uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak four years ago hit the country’s economy hard, discouraging investors and tourists and slashing growth to below 2 percent in 2010/11.

Egypt’s current government has since embarked on a series of reforms, and asked the IMF to assess its financial and economic condition in the hope that a positive report would boost its image ahead of an international investors conference in March.

“The measures implemented so far, along with some recovery in confidence, are starting to produce a turnaround,” the IMF said in a press release. ... [Daily Star - 12/2/15]



Radio an invaluable resource to peacekeeping

UN Media Release [AUDIO - 12/2/15]:

Radio is an invaluable resource to peacekeeping, the head of a recently-launched UN Radio in the West African nation of Mali has said.

Helene Papper made the remarks ahead of World Radio Day (WRD) observed annually on 13 February.

The Day is a global celebration of radio as a medium and this year's goal is to increase the level of participation of young people as producers of content.

Mali's north remains volatile since early 2012 because of fighting between Government troops and Tuareg rebels as well as the seizure of the area by radical Islamists.

Ms Papper told Jocelyne Sambira that the outlet has offered a neutral platform for people to dialogue.



Love showers Norwich mosque after attack [On Islam – 10/2/15]



Ukraine peace deal: Ceasefire starting February 15, removal of heavy weapons

RT [12/2/15]:

An agreement has been brokered in Minsk to stop hostilities in Ukraine from Sunday. The deal was reached after marathon talks between the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, and signed by the Ukrainian rebels.

“I believe we agreed on a big deal. We agreed to a ceasefire starting at 00:00 on February 15,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told the media after the talks were finished.

"The main thing achieved is that from Saturday into Sunday there should be declared - without any conditions at all - a general ceasefire," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told journalists in a separate statement.

A compromise decision was taken over the disengagement line, which was the biggest stumbling block in the negotiation.

According to the document, Kiev’s troops would pull back heavy weapons from the current frontline. The rebels would pull back from the line as it existed in September, when the previous ceasefire agreement was signed.

The security zone separating the warring parties must be at least 50km wide for artillery over 100mm caliber, 70km for regular multiple rocket launchers and 100km for heavier weapons with a longer range, such as Tochka-U ballistic missiles, the document states.

The weapons pullout must start on Sunday and be completed in no longer than 14 days. The OSCE is charged with implementing the ceasefire on the ground and will use its drone fleet and monitors to verify that both parties are sticking to the deal.

The ceasefire deal provides for withdrawal of all "foreign troops, heavy weapons and mercenaries" from Ukraine under an OSCE monitoring. "Illegal armed groups" would be disarmed, but local authorities in the future would be allowed to have legal militia units.

The agreement involves exchange of all prisoners, which is to be completed within 19 days. A general amnesty for the rebels would be declared by Kiev.

The national government’s control over the borders between Donetsk and Lugansk Regions would be fully restored a day after municipal elections, which would be held in the regions as part of a profound constitutional reform.



Naharnet [12/2/15]:

The International Monetary Fund and conflict-torn Ukraine have reached a preliminary deal on a new financial rescue plan worth $17.5 billion that could be a "turning point" for Kiev, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said Thursday.

In total, Ukraine will receive $40 billion (35 billion euros) in assistance over four years coupled with bilateral loans from other sources, Lagarde said, helping to stabilize Kiev's finances after 10 months of conflict in the east.

Talks have been under way in Kiev for days to reach an agreement on Ukraine's fourth IMF bailout in 10 years, with the last package in April 2014 failing to stave off financial crisis in the former Soviet republic. ...



Greece and eurozone fail to agree on way forward, will meet again on Monday

ekathimerini.com [12/2/15]

Wednesday's Eurogroup ended without agreement between Greece and its eurozone partners but also without a joint statement on how to move forward.

"We explored a number of issues, one of which was the current program," Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem told a news conference in the early hours on Thursday in Brussels.

"We discussed the possibility of an extension. For some that is clear that is preferred option but we haven't come to that conclusion as yet. We will need a little more time."

It appears that the two sides had agreed to release a joint statement but that last minute objections from the Greek delegations, which was led by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis, led to the process being abandoned.

Dijsselbloem said that the all the eurozone finance ministers would reconvene on Monday, which is the last planned Eurogroup meeting of the month, to reassess the situation but there would be no discussion between experts or visits to Athens in the meantime.

Varoufakis made a brief statement to reporters after the meeting and played down a failure to reach a common position. He said he believed a "healing deal" could be reached on Monday.

He denied that the sticking point had been an insistence from Greece's eurozone partners to extend the existing bailout and said there were no threats towards Greece during the meeting.

"We explained whey this bailout is not working," he said. "We want a new contract with Europe."

Government sources in Athens who spoke to Kathimerini insisted that Greece would not accept an extension to the current bailout and that negotiations would continue with the aim of reacing a "mutually acceptable solution."

They added that the Greek representatives at the Eurogroup were able to set out the government's argument that the bailouts had failed and to explain the extent of the humanitarian impact of the crisis, as well as to discuss concerns about Greece's public debt.


Investigation into Fiji torture video "completed"

RNZI [12/2/15]:

Fiji's police commissioner says the investigation into a 2013 video showing two men being beaten by security personnel has been completed.

The video, released in March 2013, showed the prolonged beating of two recaptured prisoners, and prompted international condemnation and calls for investigation.

The case was closed last July, before being reopened a week later by newly-appointed commissioner Ben Groenewald.

Mr Groenewald says the case was recently completed and submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but it was referred back to police.

"The case has been completely investigated and submitted to the office of the DPP for decision, he referred the case docket back to us with one query and that was the submission of specific medical reports on the victim."

Ben Groenewald says he hopes the file will be resubmitted in a few weeks.




Italian cruise ship captain gets 16-year jail sentence

Al Jazeera [12/2/15]:

The captain of the capsized Costa Concordia luxury liner has been given a 16-year prison sentence for manslaughter for his role in a 2012 shipwreck near an Italian island.

Francesco Schettino broke down and could not finish his statement to the three-judge panel immediately before it retired to begin deliberations on Wednesday's verdict.

He had told the court trying him for 32 shipwreck deaths that his "head was sacrificed" to safeguard economic interests.

Schettino had been accused of manslaughter, causing the shipwreck and abandoning the Costa Concordia while many of the 4,200 passengers and crew were still aboard.

Investigators severely criticised his handling of the disaster, accusing him of bringing the 290 metre-long vessel too close to shore when it struck rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio, tearing a hole in its side and setting off a chaotic night evacuation of passengers and crew.

Schettino had also been accused of delaying evacuation and losing control of the operation during which he abandoned ship before all the 4,200 passengers and crew had been rescued.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 26 years in prison for Schettino, who had admitted some responsibility as captain of the ship but denied blame for the deaths that occurred during the evacuation.

He was left alone in the dock to answer for the disaster after the ship's owners Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, paid a $1.13m fine to settle and prosecutors accepted plea bargains from five other officials.

Lawyers for Schettino appealed to the court to consider malfunctioning equipment and mistakes by other crew when it began deliberations.

Donato Laino, one of the lawyers, contended that prosecutors built their case "around one person, not the facts".




Jeffrey Sterling's trial by metadata: Free speech stories

BBC [11/2/15]:

Call it guilt by metadata.

When a Washington, DC, area jury convicted Jeffrey Sterling of multiple counts of espionage, the smoking gun wasn't a key bit of classified information found in the former CIA officer's possession; it was a trail of phone calls and emails of unknown content.

The information about where those calls and emails went, however - to a New York Times journalist - was enough to convince a jury to send Sterling to prison for up to 80 years.

According to the US Justice Department, Sterling was providing national security reporter James Risen with details of a failed CIA attempt to undermine Iran's nuclear programme by having a Russian scientist code-named Merlin pass along intentionally flawed blueprints. Risen then exposed the operation in his 2005 book, State of War.

Sterling's motivation, prosecutors said, was to get revenge on his employer after he had unsuccessfully sued it for discriminating against him as one of the agency's only black officers.

"The defendant's unauthorised disclosures of classified information compromised operations undertaken in defence of America's national security," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement after the verdict was announced. "The disclosures placed lives at risk."

Some free speech advocates who covered the case warn that while Risen has become a cause celebre among journalists, Sterling's prosecution and conviction - which received much less coverage - could have a chilling effect on the willingness of government whistleblowers to share what they know.

The CIA, they say, sought to punish Sterling in part because he had told a Senate Intelligence Committee about his concerns with Merlin in 2003. Senate staffers, Sterling's defence attorneys insisted, could have just as easily been the source of Risen's reporting.

The government constructed a case based purely on circumstantial evidence, according to Marcy Wheeler, a freelance reporter who covered the trial. She says this has set a dangerous precedent for free speech rights in the US.

Sterling's conviction means the government can convict leakers without proving they revealed actual classified information. Instead, she contends, they only need to show that a leak allowed a journalist to unearth national security secrets at some later date.

"Sterling was convicted for the most part entirely on phone and email records with no content attached," she says. "There was no guarantee that it had to do with classified information."

Vague hints and insinuations are part and parcel of the Washington trade in information, Wheeler says, as reporters with stories to write and government officials with agendas to drive engage in a symbiotic relationship in the corridors of power.

A prime example is the famous episode in Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal, where a high-place source (Mark Felt, aka "Deep Throat) told Washington Post reporters to "follow the money" without providing specific details of the president's wrongdoing.

Now, Wheeler says, the Justice Department has received "de facto approval" to expand the reach of the Espionage Act - a World War 1 era law meant to target spies who help foreign governments - to include non-secret tips to reporters.

Sterling's case, says Norman Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy, is part of a larger effort by US President Barack Obama's administration to crack down on government employees who provide reporters with access to national security information without authorisation.

There have been eight such prosecutions so far - compared to only three in previous administrations. Sterling was the first to go to a jury trial, however. Six others reached plea bargains, and the seventh - Chelsea Manning, who gave diplomatic documents to Wikileaks - was convicted by court martial.

President Barack Obama. President Barack Obama has stepped up prosecution of government leakers

One of those who reached a plea bargain was John C Kirakaou. The first CIA officer charged with leaking information to the media, he was released on Monday after serving two years prison. He says he was singled out by the government because he exposed the agency's use of waterboarding during interrogations.

"My case was about torture," he told the New York Times. "The CIA never forgave me for talking about torture."

That the government is not only watching but aggressively cracking down on national security leakers, has forced reporters to be increasingly careful about how and when they contact potential sources. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, 64% of investigative journalists believe the US government "probably collected data about their communications".

Some media outlets are taking extra measures not only to secure their reporters' data but to provide a safe means for potential government whistleblowers to reach out to them. The Intercept, which has published and analysed extensive excerpts of documents provided by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, is one of around a dozen media outlets that allow new sources to send files anonymously via a open-source service called SecureDrop.

"I think that awareness is growing," says Micah Lee, who helped set up and oversees the Intercept's security systems. "It used to be that journalists and people in general didn't really consider a lot of things. They just assumed that if they were having a phone conversation with a source and didn't tell anyone about that conversation, that meant that it was a secret. But you know, really it's not secret."

According to Solomon, the fact that journalists now have to take such extensive precautions is a reflection of a government that is becoming increasingly undemocratic.

"The flow of information in the national security arena is in lockdown under the Obama administration," Solomon says. "Democracy requires the informed consent of the governed. A clear aim of this administration is to have the uninformed consent of the governed."

The Sterling episode is another post-9/11 case of security versus freedom, Wheeler says, and once again the perceived interests of security are coming out on top.

"Throughout the trial there was this whole pretence that the government knows what's best for us, and anybody who would question it is at the very least interfering with security of the country," she says.

Sterling will be sentenced in April, although his lawyer tells the BBC that an appeal is in the works.



Japanese journalist condemns passport confiscation

Naharnet [12/2/15]:

A Japanese journalist accused the government of muzzling the press Thursday after officials confiscated his passport to stop him from travelling to war-torn Syria.

Freelance photographer Yuichi Sugimoto, 58, said he will file an appeal over the move, and was prepared to take legal action to get his travel documents back.

"Losing my passport means losing my job as a freelance photographer," Sugimoto told reporters at a Tokyo press conference.

In the first such action against a journalist since Japan's modern constitution came into force seven decades ago, the foreign ministry last week took Sugimoto's passport to prevent him travelling, after learning of his plans to visit refugee camps in war-ravaged Syria.

The move came with Japan still reeling from the brutal murder of two citizens -- war correspondent Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa -- by Islamist extremists in Syria.

Sugimoto, who lives in Niigata, north of Tokyo, said he has two decades of experience in major conflict zones, including the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

He said he had planned to visit Kobane, a Syrian town near the border with Turkey, where Kurdish forces have recently pushed Islamic State militants out.

"I do not push myself to cross my red lines, which I have learned from my 20-year experience," he said.

"Not only do I want to get my passport back but I also worry that this could set a bad precedent for other journalists, and mean they might have their passports confiscated, which curtails the freedom of the press."





Egypt court releases Al Jazeera journalists on bail [Al Jazeera - 12/2/15]:

An Egyptian court has released two detained Al Jazeera journalists on bail.

The judge ordered the release of all defendants at the retrial's opening Thursday. 

Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have been unjustly jailed since December 29, 2013.



Egypt retrial for Al-Jazeera journalists starts minus Greste

Ahram [12/2/15]:

The retrial of two Al-Jazeera journalists is set to start in Cairo on Thursday in a case that has stirred international outcry.

Three journalists at Al-Jazeera English – Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed – were convicted last year on charges of spreading false news and aiding a the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

In early February, Greste was released and deported to his native country, under the provisions of a newly issued law allowing foreign nationals to be deported to serve their sentence or be retried in their own country.

Eighteen defendants in the case, including the three journalists, were sentenced in June 2014 last to jail terms ranging from seven to 10 years. Eleven were tried in absentia.

In early January 2014, the Court of Cassation had overturned the sentences and ordered a retrial.

Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian, recently renounced his Egyptian nationality in order to qualify for treatment similar to that received by Greste.

Fahmy's lawyers and advocates have been lobbying the Egyptian authorities for his release.

In the reasoning for ordering a retrial, the country’s highest appeal court said not enough evidence was presented by the prosecutors to support the charges against the journalists.

The criminal court’s ruling was “generalised and convoluted,” relying only on some witnesses and reports of a technical committee, the reasoning statement said.

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had told German newspaper SPIEGEL on Monday he is considering a presidential pardon for the two journalists saying “humanity means compassion and peace.”

El-Sisi reiterated that he “never wished these problems [took place at all]” and that he would have asked them to leave the country if he were in charge when they were arrested in December 2013.

A presidential pardon, which can only be issued after all legal proceedings are consumed, is the only hope of release for Baher who holds Egyptian citizenship.


France directed to meet nuclear compensation appeal

RNZI [12/2/15]:

A Tahiti court has directed the Ministry of Defence to offer compensation to the widow of a former electrician who worked at France's Pacific nuclear test sites in French Polynesia.

The applicant says her husband, who died in 1983 of lung cancer, should have been compensated as recommended by the Compensation Committtee for the victims of the tests.

The Ministry of Defence has twice previously rejected the widow's appeals.

It considered the possibility the tests caused the man's cancer was negligible but the Papeete Administrative Court rejects this.

It is also ordering the State to pay the widow's legal costs.



Queensland urgently needs ICAC and Upper House

PUP Media Release [12/2/15]:

Palmer United Senator for Queensland and Leader of Palmer United in the Senate, Glenn Lazarus, today called for the immediate establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the restoration of an Upper House in Queensland.

Senator Lazarus is also the Chairman of the Senate Inquiry into the Queensland Government Administration and the spokesperson for the Inquiry Committee.

“The Senate Inquiry into the Queensland Government has received hundreds of submissions from people and organisations across Queensland,” Senator Glenn Lazarus said.

“Public hearings have been held across Queensland to give people the opportunity to talk about their issues with the Newman Government.

“The extent and severity of the issues being raised is alarming. Many people are alleging corruption, negligence, flawed decision making on major projects to benefit mates of the Newman Government, conflicts of interest, mismanagement, and much more.

“Issues also relate to legislation that was rammed through Parliament by the Newman Government with minimal or no consultation with the community which has hurt everyday Queenslanders.

“An Upper House in Queensland Parliament would have provided the checks and balances to stop this from happening.

“Many people tried to consult with the Newman Government to put forward their genuine concerns without success. According to many Queenslanders, serious matters of alleged corruption were put to the Crime and Corruption Commission without action.

“Despite election results in Queensland on the weekend, the Senate Inquiry is moving forward and will deal with the issues submitted to the Inquiry.

“It is imperative that these issues are heard so they can be addressed and rectified once the new Government is sworn in.

“The Senate Inquiry is giving Queenslanders a voice and the opportunity to have their issues heard under Parliamentary Privilege.

“It is more important than ever, now the Newman Government has been voted out, that the new incoming Government is made aware of these issues so they can be fixed.

“The issues being uncovered by the Senate Inquiry are shedding light on the questionable actions of the Newman Government and will assist the incoming Government to put in place measures to prevent these types of issues ever happening again.

“The only way to ensure Queenslanders are provided with the appropriate safeguards is for the incoming Government to immediately establish an ICAC and move to restore an Upper House in Queensland.

“Queenslanders should not have to wait three years to deal with issues through an election. They should have confidence that the Government is acting in the best interests of the people at all times and that there are honest and independent mechanisms in place to ensure issues are dealt with quickly and effectively. The Government should be held to account for its actions.

“An ICAC and restoration of an Upper House will deliver these safeguards to the people of Queensland.

“Queensland is the only state in Australia without an Upper House and we also need an independent commission to deal with corruption.

“I call on all independent and micro party Queensland members of Parliament currently negotiating with Labor to form Government to ensure these things are included in arrangements moving forward.

“Transparent, open, honest and accountable Government is what Queensland needs and deserves and an ICAC and Upper House will deliver this.”


Woman, 36, found dead in Broome

WA Today [12/2/15]:

Police are investigating the death of a 36-year-old woman in Broome on Thursday morning.

Police found the woman on Male Oval, Napier Terrace around 3.45 and took her to Broome Hospital.

She died a short time later.

Anyone with any information regarding this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Update – charges over wounding, Coomera

QPS Media [12/2/15]:

Police have charged two men over the alleged stabbing of another man at a house at Buccaneer way at Coomera Monday afternoon, February 9, 2015.

It is alleged the injured man sustained wounds to his chest.

He was transported to the Gold Coast University Hospital in a serious condition.

A 26-year-old man from Coomera and a 23-year-old man from Carrara have been charged with armed robbery in company, wounding, grievous bodily harm, burglary and unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

Both men will appear in the Southport Magistrates Court tomorrow.

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.

Unlawful wounding, Mermaid Beach

QPS Media [12/2/15]:

A woman was allegedly assaulted and stabbed in the back following an altercation with a group of teenagers who were loitering in the pool area of an apartment complex at Mermaid Beach last night.

Police will allege that around 6.10pm a 36-year-old female resident of a Seashell Avenue unit complex spoke to four teenagers who were inside the enclosed pool area.

After a verbal argument the teens left the complex with the woman following to keep track of them.

A physical disturbance took place between the woman and teens a short time later resulting in the woman sustaining a single puncture wound to her back.

Police arrested two boys, aged 15 and 16, at a nearby high school. Two other teens are still being sought by police.

A 16-year-old Logan boy has been charged with trespass and common assault.

A 15-year-old Springwood boy has been charged with trespass. He has also been charged with several offences in relation to an alleged break-in of a Marsden property on June 21, 2014.

These include enter premises and commit an indictable offence, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, driving without due care and attention and unlicensed driving.

Both boys will be dealt with under the provisions of the Youth Justices Act.

The woman received medical treatment including suturing of her back injury.

Police investigations are continuing.

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.

Armed robbery, Warwick

QPS Media [12/2/15]:

Detectives are investigating the armed robbery of a service station in Warwick early this morning.

Initial enquiries indicate that about 3am, a man entered a service station on Wallace Street as the main door was unlocked for another customer.

Armed with a rifle, he demanded that the customer lie on the floor and that the attendant give him money and cigarettes. The attendant complied and the man left the scene with a sum of cash and a quantity of cigarettes.

Upon police arriving they conducted a search of the area, however were unable to locate the man.

He is described as being Caucasian in appearance and around 160cm to 170cm tall. He was last seen wearing dark pants and a dark sweatshirt, multi-coloured beanie and white gloves.

There is no further information available at this stage. Investigations are continuing.

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.

Teenager fined $500 for larrikinism

Sunshine Coast Daily [12/2/15]:

A teenager scaled McDonald's family restaurant at Currimundi for the sake of a photo.

Tristan Sean Ferguson told the Maroochydore Magistrates Court that he climbed on to the roof of the restaurant on January 21 because he wanted to get a photo with the "big M".

Ferguson, 18, of Caloundra, said he was drunk, with his mates, and "pumped up."

Police prosecutor Sergeant Shane Raison said officers spotted Ferguson on the roof about 1.15am while searching the area for someone involved in another matter. Officers approached him after he jumped down and began walking away with two other people.

Ferguson told the officers "it seemed like a fun thing to do" and he was showing off to his mates.

Ferguson was charged with unregulated high risk activity. He pleaded guilty and was fined $500 without a conviction being recorded.

Magistrate John Hodgins said he did not encourage the behaviour but "I'm not going to lecture you about safety."



The "right" kind of McDonald's "selfie". ----> ‏@McDonalds [11/2/15]: Say Cheeseburger! If chosen, you could pay for your order with a selfie. ...





Driving while diqualified lands repeat offender in jail [Daily Mercury – 12/2/15]






LNG tanker not 'stuck in the mud'

Gladstone Observer [12/2/15]:

Rumours that an LNG tanker became stuck in the mud during low tide on Thursday are completely false, according to a spokesperson from the Gladstone Harbour Masters office.

The tanker, Neo Energy, is currently moored at Curtis Island.

Several sources have confirmed the tanker has not run aground.



An international rescue effort is underway to free a damaged Tasmanian fishing ship trapped in Antarctic ice. ... [ABC - 12/2/15]





Dozens of workers at Fremantle Ports were almost flattened by a massive mobile crane dropped by unqualified workers in a loading accident on Tuesday. ... [WA Today - 11/2/15]



Baby boy in hospital after vaccinations

Morning Bulletin [12/2/15]:

When Kellie Evans bought her 10-week-old baby into a Rockhampton medical centre, she didn't think twice about giving him his routine vaccinations.

But within minutes of young Brooklyn receiving two immunisations, he stopped breathing.

After being resuscitated by doctors at the clinic he started having seizures and stopped breathing twice more in that hour.

Kellie and her husband Darren have been with Brooklyn in a Brisbane hospital since Friday, when he was taken from Rockhampton Hospital by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Darren, who is a local jockey, said Kellie has been by Brooklyn's side 24/7 since he was hospitalised.

"He was pretty much dead," he said.

"They had to close the medical centre down and call the ambulance.

"We're pretty much shell-shocked the worst part is just waiting."

Darren said doctors still don't know what caused Brooklyn to stop breathing or start having seizures, which have returned each day.

So far all he knows is they don't believe the vaccinations caused it.

"No one knows what it is, they're not sure what caused it," he said.

Darren said their only theory is a possible hole in his oesophagus which is sending air into his stomach and food into his lungs, but so far all tests results haven't shown anything wrong.

Darren and Kellie have been staying with family, while Darren's mother looks after their four-year-old daughter Chanel.

Brooklyn was initially taken to the medical centre last Tuesday to have medical staff assess an umbilical hernia, and while there they decided to give him his two-month check-up.

A friend has set up a Go Fund Me page to help raise money for his treatment.

The National Jockey Trust has also lent a hand with counselling and accommodation closer to the hospital so they don't have to worry about paying for car parking, which has cost them $30 a day.

Anyone wishing to donate can do so at www.gofundme.com/m5723g.




BP cuts 160 jobs at Kwinana refinery

West Australian [12/2/15]:

Energy giant BP has slashed the workforce at its Kwinana oil refinery in Perth's south by 20 per cent.

Of the 800 positions at the refinery, about 70 BP staff and 90 contractor roles have been cut.

The company said on Thursday the cuts were necessary to ensure the facility could continue to operate in a highly competitive environment.

"BP remains committed to the future of Kwinana refinery however the Australian refining environment remains challenging and these changes are necessary to ensure Kwinana refinery's continued long term operation," the company said in an emailed statement.

"This is aligned with the work we are doing to simplify and increase efficiency across BP globally.

"We believe this is a prudent and necessary response to the currently challenging market environment in which BP operates."




Fatal traffic crash, Cowley (near Innisfail)

QPS Media [12/2/15]:

A woman has died following a two vehicle traffic crash at Cowley, near Innisfail, this morning.

Preliminary investigations suggest around 10.50am, a sedan and a truck have collided on the Bruce Highway near the Liverpool Creek Crossing.

A 50-year-old Innisfail woman was pronounced deceased at the scene and was the sole occupant of the northbound sedan.

A 51-year-old man driving the southbound truck didn’t suffer any major physical injuries.

The Bruce Highway was shut for a number of hours while emergency services attended the scene, but has since been re-opened to all traffic.

The Forensic Crash Unit investigation is continuing.

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.




Algae level at unprecedented levels in Mount Isa water supply

North West Star [11/2/15]:

… The city is 15 months into what is described by the Mount Isa Water Board as “potentially the largest blue-green algae bloom recorded in a Queensland water supply system”.

The board’s chief executive Stephen Farrelly said the cell count of the non-toxic strand Pseudanabaena “exploded” in Clear Water Lagoon since December 29.

University testing laboratories were receiving test results, but very little research had been done on the strand. “We don’t understand fully how it impacts us,” Mr Farrelly said. “It’s not toxic, it’s just choking us to death.”

A graph provided by the Mount Isa Water Board showed blue-green algae’s cell count levels in Clear Water Lagoon had tripled from late December to January 27.

But the most recent test taken on February 2 showed a decrease from 3.6 million cells a millilitre to 3.178 million, which was “slightly down but not enough data to know the trend.”

The Mount Isa Water Board was having increasing difficulty in filtering water because of the algae.

Previously a toxic algae strand called Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii dominated Lake Moondarra and Lake Julius, but could be controlled by chlorine.

State member for Mount Isa Rob Katter discussed water shortages with the director-general of the Department of Energy and Water Supply Dan Hunt on Wednesday.

Mr Katter was told the new strand could be toxic if there were attempts to treat it with copper sulphate and powdered activate carbon.



Nine years jail for PNG drug mule

Yahoo [12/2/15]:

A woman caught trying to import up to $5 million worth of methamphetamine from Papua New Guinea has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years jail.

PNG woman Mary Ruby Yawari was arrested at Cairns Airport in October 2013 after she was found with 3.9kg of the drug stashed in a bag.

She pleaded guilty in the Cairns Supreme Court on Thursday to importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs.

Justice Jim Henry said Yawari was a "naive mule" who must have known she was importing an illicit substance, although she might not have known exactly what it was and how much was in the bag.

He described Yawari, the former wife of a PNG governor, as the "most unlikely candidate as an international drug trafficker".

The court heard Yawari's passport and flights were paid for by a man she barely knew.

Other than flights to Cairns and the opportunity to go shopping in the city, she was not offered any financial reward for importing the drug.

Yawari has been in custody since her arrest and will be eligible for parole in early 2018.


Robert Richter QC says statements by Tony Abbott could prejudice future trial of two accused men

ABC [12/2/15]:

A prominent Australian barrister says statements made by the Prime Minister about two men accused of a terror plot could prejudice a future trial.

Tony Abbott alleged in Parliament that one of the men arrested in Tuesday's terrorism raid in Sydney made a video threatening violence under an Islamic State (IS) flag.

He quoted detailed threats made by the man in the video, shown to the Prime Minister in a briefing this morning by the AFP and ASIO, that have not been aired in court.

Robert Richter QC accused Mr Abbott of using parliamentary privilege in an attempt to influence the judicial process "in a calculated political gambit".

Mr Richter said the statements might have a highly detrimental impact on the case.

"It's highly theoretical and the question depends entirely on what course the legal proceedings will take," told the ABC.

"For all I know there may be an application at some stage to stay proceedings on the basis that things were published which ought not to have been published which prejudiced a proper trial.

"I know that it's a long way down the track, but someone in a responsible position needs to be able to consider the fact that they should watch what they say, especially when, for a blatant political purpose, they are disclosing information that ought not at this stage be disclosed."

Mr Richter said if the statements had been made outside of Parliament, Mr Abbott would have been in contempt of court.

"To make those sorts of inflammatory utterances is calculated to influence the judicial process and it's being done for a political purpose," he said.

The Prime Minister's office has been contacted for comment.



Bill Shorten's leadership ballot under scrutiny after Sam Dastyari's office redirected papers

Sydney Morning Herald [12/2/15]:

The integrity of the vote that installed Bill Shorten as federal Labor leader is under scrutiny after an ALP tribunal found the mailing addresses for dozens of ballot papers were altered at the request of a staff member of senator Sam Dastyari.

The mailing addresses of at least 20 ALP members were changed to the home address or post office box of disgraced Auburn councillor Hicham Zraika, who has been suspended from the Labor party for six months after branch stacking charges were brought against him.

A tribunal decision obtained by Fairfax Media says changes to the addresses of 50 members were authorised by NSW Labor Right assistant secretary Kaila Murnain at the request of Michael Buckland - a former Young Labor president who at the time worked for Senator Dastyari.

The tribunal found Cr Zraika should have alerted the party when he received the 20 ballot papers destined for other party members.

"If in fact he had no prior knowledge of the change in address, the arrival of more than 20 ballot papers must have been quite alarming," the tribunal said.

"It required positive action both because it was necessary to preserve the integrity of the [federal Labor] leadership ballot and it was also necessary to ensure that all other ALP correspondence was sent to the correct address."

The October 2013 national ballot to elect the federal Labor leader pitted Mr Shorten, who is aligned with the party's Right faction, with Anthony Albanese, of the Left.

Rank and file members and federal labor MPs were each given 50 per cent of the vote. Mr Shorten lost the rank and file vote but won the caucus vote to defeat Mr Albanese by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.


US Navy may base ships in Australia, admiral says

Canberra Times [11/2/15]:

The United States is considering basing navy vessels in Australia, its main South Pacific ally, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said.

"We're doing a study together with the Australian Defence Force to see what might be feasible for naval co-operation in and around Australia, which might include basing ships," Admiral Greenert said during a speech on Tuesday at a university in Canberra.

While Australia has no formal US naval bases, it hosts marines in its northern port city of Darwin and the two countries regularly hold joint military drills.

The US is bolstering its presence in the western Pacific as China expands its military reach and presses its claims to the South China Sea, where shipping lanes carry more than $US5 trillion ($6.4 trillion) in goods each year.

The US has "forward deployment" bases in nations including Italy, Bahrain and Japan, with talks between the US and Australia in "the early stages", Admiral Greenert said.

"Right now it's at the stage of, well what's the art of the possible?," he said. "What kind of infrastructure exists? What would it take to do that? What sort of support measures and how that would fit into the two nations' common strategic desires, if you will, into the future."




A top naval advisor to the United States President Barack Obama is in the country to build a closer working relationship between the United States and New Zealand. ... [RNZI - 12/1/15]


The ALP incarcerated refugees on Nauru, Manus and Christmas Island.


The LNP keeps them there. 


It is ludicrous to blame cross bench senators for their plight.



"Offshore processing is playing a vital role in seeing an end to the deaths at sea, and that is obviously a good thing," he said.

ALP Immigration spokesman Richard Marles

[ABC - 12/2/15]



Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney [12/2/15]:

... “The children and their families detained on Nauru are as much the responsibility of Australia as those still detained in mainland detention centres.  They are the victims of the deal done with the Palmer United Party Senators who supported the re-introduction of temporary protection visas last year.

“They were arbitrarily selected for transfer to Nauru. The inquiry reveals that the ‘pre-transfer assessment process’ and the “best interests assessment” are a farce. Now they are arbitrarily detained in appalling conditions.” ...



Palmer United Party federal leader and Member for Fairfax, Clive Palmer, has called for the immediate closure of immigration detention camps because of their huge human and financial cost.  ... [Media Release - 20/8/14]



The British and French governments have temporarily closed their embassies in Sanaa as unrest grows in Yemen. It comes after the US embassy in the Yemeni capital shut down for the second time in month on Tuesday. ... [Deutsche Welle - 11/2/15]




Afghanistan: School torched in eastern Kunar province

Khaama [11/2/15]:

Insurgents have torched another school in eastern Kunar Province.

Abdul Qahar, Deputy of the Education Department of Kunar Province says that the incident took place in Dangam District last night.

He said insurgents went to a school in Sawan area of Dangam District and set it on fire, adding that 150 girls and boys were studying in this school.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

This is 2nd school being torched by insurgents in Kunar Province and fifth being attacked in eastern Afghanistan in less than 20 days.

On the night of February 6, insurgents set bombs to a Girls School in Naray District of this province where Holy Quran and school books were also burned in the fire caused by the explosions.

A clinic was also blown up by the insurgents in this district on the same night.

Also, on the night of February 8, a group of insurgents went to a school in the neighboring Nangarhar Province and set it on fire.

The incident took place in the Koz Basawal area of Momand Dara District.

On the night of January 28, two schools were attacked in Haska Mina District of Nangarhar Province.

Perpetrators of all five attacks are not yet identified with security officials saying that they are still investigating.

No war = No refugees



At least 218,000 people, including both migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean in 2014 and this trend is expected to continue in 2015.


UNHCR Media Release [11/2/15]:

The UN refugee agency is shocked at new information emerging on the actual scale of the tragedy in the Mediterranean after Monday's rescue attempts by the Italian Coast Guard. Reports gathered by UNHCR from the Italian Coast Guard and the survivors in Lampedusa now suggest some 300 people are confirmed missing.

They were among migrants and refugees mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa who had left the coast of Libya in four dinghies.

"This is a tragedy on an enormous scale and a stark reminder that more lives could be lost if those seeking safety are left at the mercy of the sea. Saving lives should be our top priority. Europe cannot afford to do too little too late," said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Europe Bureau Director.

Initial reports had suggested some 29 refugees and migrants died on Sunday on one dinghy. More than 80 survivors have landed in Lampedusa, after being rescued by Italian coastguards and a merchant vessel. They confirmed to UNHCR that they had left on Saturday from Libya on rubber dinghies and had been at sea for days, without food and water.

Only two out of 107 passengers survived on a dinghy, and 7 out of 109 people on another one. The fourth one was reported to UNHCR by survivors, which is still missing. The youngest of the missing was a 12 year old boy.

UNHCR reiterates its concern about the lack of a strong search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean. Europe's Triton operation, which is run by the European border protection agency Frontex, is not focused on search and rescue and is not providing the necessary tools to cope with the scale of the crises. Saving lives must be a priority for the European Union.

At least 218,000 people, including both migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean in 2014 and this trend is expected to continue in 2015.




Corrupt Australian media ignores --->  US President submits draft resolution to Congress authorising use of force against "ISIL".



White House [11/2/15]:

… The resolution we’ve submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war, like Afghanistan or Iraq. The 2,600 American troops in Iraq today largely serve on bases -- and, yes, they face the risks that come with service in any dangerous environment. But they do not have a combat mission. They are focused on training Iraqi forces, including Kurdish forces.

As I’ve said before, I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East. That’s not in our national security interest and it’s not necessary for us to defeat ISIL. Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL -- and that’s what they’re doing.

At the same time, this resolution strikes the necessary balance by giving us the flexibility we need for unforeseen circumstances. For example, if we had actionable intelligence about a gathering of ISIL leaders, and our partners didn’t have the capacity to get them, I would be prepared to order our Special Forces to take action, because I will not allow these terrorists to have a safe haven. So we need flexibility, but we also have to be careful and deliberate. And there is no heavier decision than asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives on our behalf. As Commander in Chief, I will only send our troops into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary for our national security.




Obama Asks Congress to Authorize War That’s Already Started [The Intercept - 11/2/15]:

... The draft’s actual language is vague, allowing for ground troops in what Obama described as “limited circumstances,” like special operations and rescue missions.

The authorization would have no geographic limitations and allow action against “associated persons or forces” of the Islamic State. It would expire in three years. ...






Of the 2,800 US troops deployed to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, only 100 will remain after April 30, the Pentagon has announced.

While careful not to say that the crisis has been overcome, the Obama administration praised the sharp decline in cases of the virus as a clear sign that international efforts had succeeded. ... [Deutsche Welle - 11/2/15]




Corrupt Australian media also ignores ---> Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).


CETA: What government doesn’t want you to know about ISDS lawsuits [The Newfoundland and Labrador Independent - 10/2/15]:

… ISDS fulfills three central purposes. First, it allows transnational corporations to sue governments for increasingly huge amounts of money in biased, corporate-friendly offshore tribunals where governments can’t use arguments of accountability to the public. Secondly, ISDS, in bypassing national court systems, renders a huge blow to the judicial independence that is fundamental to our democracy.

And finally, ISDS effectively straitjackets and undermines regulatory flexibility. The effect on new legislation is chilling, as everything begins to be looked at through the prism of potential lawsuits. The result of all of this is that ISDS facilitates gains in transnational corporate power that are going to be, in the long term, enormous. So too will be the losses to national sovereignty and democracy.

Transnational corporations themselves cannot put ISDS sections into trade agreements between countries — so who does? In the case of CETA, the answer is clearly Prime Minister Harper and his government. It was the Harper government that pushed for ISDS to be included in CETA right from the start. It’s time to face the unpleasant probability that our side may be playing for the other team — not the EU team, but the transnational corporate team.






Australia's self appointed gatekeepers of human rights do not speak for me.





By allowing politicians to use refugees in a game of partisan point scoring, the Australian media are facilitating crimes against humanity and are accessories to the murder of refugees. ---> Tony Abbott labels Human Rights Commission report into children in detention 'blatantly partisan politicised exercise' [ABC - 12/2/15]




But not the UNHCR?  Sector leaders have called for a bipartisan commitment to permanently end the policy of mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seeker children and families following the release of the Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry report. ... [Australian Human Rights Law Centre - 12/2/15]





Close the camps and send the IOM back to where they came from.

Anything else is despicable partisan point scoring.



 ‘Locking up children taints us all’, says Commission President [Media Release - 12/2/15]




12 February 2015