Sydney International: Bernard Tomic confident in straight-sets win over Philipp Kohlschreiber

ABC [14/1/15]:

Bernard Tomic's positive start to 2015 has continued, with the Australian booking his place in the Sydney International quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over third-seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber.

The 22-year-old, who reached the last eight at the Brisbane International last week where he lost to US Open finalist Kei Nishikori, impressed again on Wednesday night on Ken Rosewall Arena as the world number 24 struggled against his big serve.

Tomic, who won this tournament in 2013 and reached the final last year, gave a signal of his intent by slamming down eight aces in the 58-minute match and winning 75 per cent of his service points.

After closing out a close-fought opening set, Tomic began the second with a sizzling forehand return from the baseline on his way to breaking Kohlschreiber's serve.

Having opened up a 2-1 lead, Tomic found himself 30-0 down on serve but he managed to hold his nerve to win the game before closing out the match on his fourth match point and seal a first ever victory over the German.

He will now face big-serving Luxembourg left-hander Gilles Muller for a place in the last four.

"I went for my shots and did the right things and I am very happy with how I played," Tomic said.

"He's a very experienced, quality player who has been in the top-20 for a long time."

Australian diplomat returned from posting after husband charged over child-sex allegations

Canberra Times [14/1/15]:

One of Australia's top diplomats has returned early from an overseas posting after her spouse was arrested and charged with child sex offences.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed that Jane Hardy ceased duty as Australia's ambassador to Spain on November 3, 2014, less than two years into what would normally be a three-year appointment.

A DFAT spokesperson declined to answer Fairfax Media questions about the precise circumstances leading to the ambassador's return to Australia, only saying Ms Hardy "returned by mutual agreement with the department."

However it is a matter of public record that the Australian Federal Police arrested Ms Hardy's husband, artist Vytas Kapociunas, on September 20, 2014, in relation to an allegation of sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia.

Mr Kapociunas, now aged 71, appeared before the ACT Magistrates Court in Canberra on October 3 in relation to one charge of sexual intercourse with a child outside of Australia. Two additional charges of sexual intercourse with a child outside of Australia were laid against Mr Kapociunas in December. He has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

The sculptor and painter first came to police attention after the girl told her mother that she had a secret to tell her.

"I need to tell you a secret," the child said, according to court documents. "I think Vytas really likes me, because he keeps kissing me."

The AFP say the mother questioned her daughter further, and the girl allegedly said: "He kisses me on the lips, and here," pointing to her groin.

The mother contacted the AFP who opened an investigation and interviewed the girl.

Mr Kapociunas was informed of the allegations on September 17 and was met by AFP officers at Canberra Airport three days later. He agreed to an interview in which, according to police, he acknowledged he had met the girl three times and had physical contact with her including kissing. However he denied he had committed any child sex offences, saying he was "unsure" why the girl would say such things. He was then arrested.

Born in Lithuania in 1943, Mr Kapociunas studied at the South Australian School of Art and spent his early post-graduate years in Spain, France and Britain . He married Ms Hardy in 1982 and accompanied her on diplomatic postings to Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Washington DC and most recently Madrid. In 2008 his sculpture Passage through Fire was exhibited at the Australian embassy in Washington.

Ms Hardy's identity and position were subject to a temporary court suppression order, now no longer in force.

DFAT has emphasised that "no allegations of inappropriate or illegal behaviour" have been made against Ms Hardy who assumed duty as ambassador to Spain in January 2013.

"Ms Hardy performed creditably in her role in Spain and, following her return, has taken up a suitably senior position in Canberra," a departmental spokesperson said.

DFAT's organisation chart shows Ms Hardy is now in charge of the department's arms control and counter-proliferation branch.

Her executive assistant told Fairfax Media she is not currently in Canberra and cannot be contacted.

A new ambassador to Spain has not yet been appointed.

Mr Kapociunas's solicitor, Chloe Preston, declined to comment. His case is listed for a further procedural hearing in the Magistrate's Court on January 15.

Spain: Socialist government approved secret plan against jihadism in 2010 [El Pais – 13/1/15]

Major naval operation underway in Southern Ocean

RNZI [14/1/15]:

A major naval operation is underway against three ships suspected of fishing illegally for toothfish in Antarctic waters.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said crew from the navy ship Wellington have tried to board two of the vessels but both captains refused to allow them aboard.

Mr McCullly said overnight Equatorial Guinea agreed the three vessels - located in the Southern Ocean - were operating illegally and agreed New Zealand should board the vessels to verify their flagged status.

He said patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington attempted to exercise its legitimate right to board the Yongding and the Songhua earlier today but the vessels' captains refused to cooperate.

The minister said, due to the conditions and the evasive tactics of the masters, it was not possible to safely board them.

Mr McCully said earlier that Equatorial Guinea, under whose flag the ships are operating, had granted permission to board the boats.

He said the commander of the Wellington was informed this morning the right to board had been granted.

"It's a matter for the judgement of the officers in charge of the vessel as to whether it's actually safe to do so. It's a difficult and dangerous part of the ocean. We don't know what evasive action the vessels might now take."

The navy ship has intercepted two foreign fishing boats in the area - the Kunlun and the Songhua. They were thought to be taking toothfish.

It has also caught a third ship, the Yongding, to the west of the Ross Sea, which it believed was part of the same fishing syndicate.

Mr McCully told Summer Report Equatorial Guinea would take steps to rescind the flag of any ship involved in illegal fishing.

The HMNZS Wellington intercepted the Yongding, which was found fishing illegally to the west of the Ross Sea.

Government officials were examining carefully structured commercial deals for evidence of the ships' ownership.

Mr McCully said there had been links in the past to a prominent Spanish sydicate operating vessels in the region.

Regulations on harvesting toothfish are managed by international organisation CCAMLR (Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources).

The commision was established by international convention in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life and its 25 member nations agree to strict rules including catch limits and reporting fishing data,

Equatorial Guinea is not a member of the commission, and uses gillnets up to 25 kilometres long in length to fish, which have been banned under CCAMLR since 2006.

The commission's stance is that any non-member state fishing in the area is doing so illegally.

Maritime law expert Peter Dawson had said earlier he doubted the captains of the fishing boats would put up resistance to officials boarding their vessels.

At most, the captains may question the extent of the navy's powers, he said.

Sydney siege: Inquest into deaths of victims and gunman to open January 29

ABC [14/1/15]:

An inquest into the deaths of the Sydney siege victims and gunman will open on January 29, the New South Wales Coroners Court says.

Barrister and mother of three Katrina Dawson, 38, and Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, were killed during the Martin Place siege, along with 50-year-old gunman Man Haron Monis.

State coroner Michael Barnes will preside over the inquest.

There will be no witnesses called on the opening day, but counsel assisting Jeremy Gormly SC will outline issues the investigation and inquest will look into.

He will also reveal what authorities know so far and will outline the way forward for the inquest including future hearing dates.

The coroner's court has consulted closely with the victims' families over the past few weeks and has notified them of the opening date.

The aim of the inquest will be to determine how the deaths occurred, the factors that contributed to them and whether they could have been prevented.

...

Man acquitted for killing his wife 10 years ago is under investigation over his father's death [Sydney Morning Herald -14/1/15]

Fatal Sydney police pursuit: Katy Tuite refused bail over car chase which resulted in death of toddler Tateolena Tauaifaga [ABC – 14/1/15]

NT Police Commissioner John McRoberts resigns; formal investigation underway [ABC – 14/1/15]

$35 million in criminal profits seized by SA Police shows 'unfairly balanced' laws, civil libertarian says [ABC – 14/1/15]

Albuquerque police officers charged with murder of homeless man

Al Jazeera [12/1/15]:

Two Albuquerque police officers were charged with murder Monday in the March killing of a homeless camper, a shooting that generated sometimes violent protests around the southwestern city and brought new scrutiny to the police department amid a federal investigation.

The shooting occurred during a year when police tactics came under intense scrutiny around the U.S., fueled by the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of another unarmed man in New York City. Grand juries declined to charge officers in those cases, leading to protests.

Albuquerque police said SWAT team member Dominique Perez and former detective Keith Sandy fatally shot 38-year-old James Boyd after a four-hour standoff in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. Video from an officer's helmet camera showed Boyd, who authorities say was mentally ill, appearing to surrender when officers opened fire.

Accused of illegally camping, Boyd was armed with two small knives, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

"Unlike Ferguson and unlike in New York City, we're going to know. The public is going to have that information," said District Attorney Kari Brandenburg. She said she decided to bring murder charges and avoid a grand jury to heighten transparency.

Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public.

The shooting prompted protests critical of the Albuquerque police department, which the federal government found has used excessive force against civilians. The city is now subject to federal monitoring.

Monday's filing also comes amid a national debate over police use of deadly force, especially against black men.

"Keith, as a police officer, had not only the right, but the duty to defend a fellow officer from a mentally unstable, violent man wielding two knives," defense attorney Sam Bregman said in a statement. "Keith did nothing wrong. To the contrary, he followed his training and probably saved his fellow officer's life."

Bergman added that the officer had absolutely no criminal intent when he encountered the knife-wielding homeless man. He said the officer followed training procedures outlined by the police department.

Luis Robles, an attorney for Perez, said he was "confident that the facts will vindicate Officer Perez's actions in this case."

Boyd can be seen in a helmet camera video, released by the police department, attempting to comply with orders to come down from a location before the officers fire a flash grenade at him, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

An officer with a dog and another with a rifle then appear to close in on Boyd while ordering him to get down, later firing six rounds after Boyd appears to pull out small knives in both hands.

Concerns over synthetic cannabis use in the Mackay area

QPS Media [14/1/15]:

A number of recent incidents in the Mackay area, including the death of a man yesterday, have police and health officials concerned due to possible links to the use of synthetic cannabis.

Detective Acting Inspector Sam Bliss, Mackay Crime and Support Services said the ability to purchase materials over the internet or in suburban shops does not make their possession legal in Queensland, nor does it make them harmless or safe to consume.

“The chemical compounds found in these drugs are dangerous and are not herbal or natural alternatives to ‘real drugs’. They contain synthetic compounds which are toxic and extremely dangerous.

“Synthetic cannabinoidomimetic drugs are included in Schedule 2 of the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987 and offences exist for possessing, producing, supplying and or trafficking in dangerous drugs, which includes so-called synthetic products containing these substances.”

Detective Acting Inspector Bliss said police were investigating the death of a 33-year-old man yesterday, as well as the circumstances surrounding an earlier admission to hospital of a 41-year-old man with a life threatening medical condition.

Mackay Hospital and Health Service Executive Director Clinical Services Dr David Farlow said the Mackay Base Hospital had seen an increase in the number of presentations for synthetic drug use.

“People need to be cautious about consuming these products where the ingredients are unknown.

“These drugs pose a major risk to an individual’s physical and mental health and the community,” Dr. Farlow said.

 

 @MayorTomTate finished his hot lap - everyone safe!

Image: @Kendall_Gilding - Reporter, Channel 7 [14/1/15]

 

Injured sailor evacuated off tanker, Gold Coast

MYGC [14/1/15]:

An injured sailor had to be evacuated off an oil tanker sitting just off the Gold Coast this afternoon.

A dramatic rescue mission was launched after the skipper advised water police that the situation was urgent, but officers were less then impressed after discovering his injury was only minor.

It’s understood he had only sustained a minor foot injury and is now recovering in Gold Coast University Hospital.

The patient was said to be a Turkish man working on board the international tanker which was bypassing the coast.

Beach-goers reported spotting the large tanker off Main Beach.

...

Worker injured, Jellinbah mine

Morning Bulletin [14/1/15]:

The RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service is currently on their way to a Blackwater coal mine after a man was injured in an accident.

According to emergency services the man was injured after a haul truck rolled at the Jellinbah Mine.

His condition is unclear, and emergency services are yet to establish his injuries.

...

Thiess awarded Jellinbah Plains Contract [Media Release – 3/12/14]

Truck hits car in Bruce Highway crash

Sunshine Coast Daily [14/1/15]:

A car has been hit by a truck on the Bruce Highway's northbound lane just past the Wild Horse Mountain service station.

Early reports indicate the car was t-boned by the truck and police have attended the scene of the crash, which happened just after 2.30pm.

The southbound lane was also closed when a four-wheel drive caught fire after rolling into a gully.

The male driver was taken to hospital with a back injury.

There are reports the southbound lane is at a standstill because of fire trucks, while the northbound land is crawling.

...

Caravan rolls, Dalby

Chronicle [14/1/15]:

A Cooyar couple's road trip took a turn for the worse when their car and caravan crashed about 10km east of Dalby.

Dalby police officer Constable Richard Eisentraut said a 65-year-old woman was driving when the car and caravan left the Dalby Cooyar Rd and rolled about 1.35pm.

A 71-year-old man and a dog were also in the car which was bound for Broken Hill in New South Wales.

The man and woman received a few cuts and bruises but did not require hospitalisation.

Const. Eisentraut said the driver reported the caravan swaying in the wind before she braked.

"It is quite windy today," Const. Eisentraut said.

The vehicles were towed back to Dalby.

Tractor rolls, man receives minor injuries, Mackay [Daily Mercury – 14/1/15]

Brisbane Airport crash victim awarded $1.3 million damages [Brisbane Times – 13/1/15]

Robbery charge, Inala

QPS Media [14/1/15]:

Police have charged a man after a robbery at Inala today.

Around noon a man entered a financial institution on Inala Avenue demanding cash and making threats.

The female teller complied and handed over a sum of money. The man fled the building on foot.

No one was physically injured as a result of the incident.

Police arrested the 30-year-old Marsden man a short time later. He was charged with one count of robbery and is due to appear in the Richlands Magistrates Court on January 21.

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.

Accused denies robbing Westpac Bank at Stockland Rockhampton [Morning Bulletin – 14/1/15]

Jellyfish, bluebottles wash up on Tannum, Bundaberg beaches

Gladstone Observer [14/1/15]:

Tannum Sands beaches are covered in hundreds of jellyfish, with a number of different species spotted.

Resident of 25 years Colleen Platten posted a number of photos to Facebook, warning beachgoers to be aware of the danger.

She said there were dozens of blubbers and bluebottles at Second Beach, but estimated there would be hundreds from the main beach up to Canoe Point.

...

Bundaberg region beaches also have been inundated by large numbers of jellyfish in the ocean and along the foreshore.


Regional operations manager of Surf Lifesaving Queensland Craig Holden said the catostylus, which are commonly referred to as blubber jellyfish, are on the move around Australia, with huge numbers first spotted in Moreton Bay.

...

Police investigating after suspicious blaze destroys Sydney primary school

Nine MSN [14/1/15]:

Detectives are investigating a suspicious fire that gutted a primary school in Sydney's west overnight.

Firefighters were called to Badgerys Creek Primary School about midnight after the building was engulfed by flames.

A police spokesman said the school had been broken into, along with several other buildings on the property.

He said forensic and Rural Fire Service investigators are now at the scene and the fire is being treated as suspicious.

Much of the school building was gutted by the blaze.

The school has been empty since the start of last year when it was permanently closed.

Homemade bomb found outside Bundaberg primary school detonated by police [ABC – 14/1/15]

Winton man faces court after Mount Isa siege

North West Star [13/1/15]

A Winton man alleged to have threatened police with a firearm appeared in the Mount Isa Magistrates Court yesterday.

Dannan Pearce, 21, remained in the police watch-house while the matter was adjourned to today.

No application for bail was made.

Mr Pearce will face four charges of assaulting police, one charge of unlawful possession of a firearm and unauthorised possession of ammunition.

The court heard that Mr Pearce was in hospital before being moved to the watch-house.

Police prosecutor acting Sergeant Paige Barrow requested Mr Pearce appear handcuffed and accompanied by three police officers at the next mention.

Acting Sergeant Barrow described the defendant’s behaviour when the alleged offences happened as “fairly unpredictable”.

There was concern as to how he would behave in court, she said.

Legal representative Murray Lehmann objected to his client being handcuffed because it might prejudice the views of others in the court room.

Magistrate Stephen Guttridge allowed the prosecution’s application for handcuffs.

The matter was not being heard in a higher court where handcuffs could affect the views of a jury, he said.

The charges relate to an incident in which police were called to a Pioneer house at 12.20pm on Monday.

An emergency situation was declared about 12.45pm after a man allegedly made threats.

Police forcibly removed the man from the address shortly before 5pm.

No one was injured during the incident.

Wife of Saudi blogger calls for his release

Naharnet [13/1/15]:

The wife of a Saudi blogger who was publicly flogged for "insulting Islam" called for his release Tuesday.

"My husband, Raef Badawi, is imprisoned for simply expressing liberal ideas," Ensaf Haidar, who sought asylum in Canada with her three children after Badawi was arrested, told a news conference in Montreal.

In September, a Saudi court upheld a sentence of 10 years in prison as well as the 1,000 lashes for Badawi, who has been behind bars since June 2012.

The 31-year-old received a first installment of 50 lashes last Friday and is expected to have 20 weekly whipping sessions until his punishment is complete.

"We're here so that he won't have to endure another 50 lashes next Friday," said Beatrice Vaugrante of Amnesty International.

"We talk a lot about freedom of speech nowadays: I am Charlie, I am Raef Badawi," she said. "This concerns Canada, it concerns all Western nations that advocate freedom of expression."

The Canadian government has called the public lashing "inhumane" but said it was limited in what it could do for Badawi beyond expressions of outrage as the blogger is not Canadian.

Kenyan journalists protest over detained colleagues

Salon [13/1/15]:

A group of Nairobi-based journalists was ejected from a reception area at the United Nations complex in Kenya’s capital on Tuesday after launching a protest over Al-Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt.

Egyptian Foreign minister Sameh Shukri was attending the reception.

About a dozen journalists were removed from the reception by U.N. security after waving placards written “#FREEAJSTAFF,” with their mouths covered by black masking tape— symbolizing the muzzling of the press.

Three Al-Jazeera English journalists — Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed — have been held for more than a year in Egypt on terror-related charges. The case has sparked widespread condemnation from international rights groups and other media outlets, who say the journalists have been unjustly jailed for doing their job.

Earlier this month, an Egyptian court ordered a retrial, after Greste and Fahmy had been sentenced to seven years in prison and Mohammed to 10 years last June. Greste’s family said they have also applied for deportation.

Shoukry told The Associated Press Tuesday the retrial shows the capability of the Egyptian judicial system to address issues in an impartial and fair manner.

He said he is in Kenya to strengthen economic and trade relations between the two countries, and to lobby for Egypt being a candidate for a non-permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council.

And as the Australian media blackout on Nauru, Manus and Christmas Island continues, taxpayers fund the ABC to intrude on a Kenyan funeral and mock it for the purpose of broadcasting colonialist propaganda.

Can someone please tell the Australian media --->  "WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS AND WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE FREE"

"... You let your government kill us ... we are begging you to help us ... please help us ... " [VIDEO - Guardian - 14/1/15]

 VOICE FROM MANUS: statement issued regarding the hunger strike

 

No Way But Nauru, Vlad Sokhin

We travel to remote Manus Island in Papua New Guinea to investigate Australia's refugee detention programme. ... [VIDEO - Al Jazeera - 24/10/14]

 

We often wonder what kind of planet we will leave to our children - but what kind of children will we leave to the planet?

Pierre Rabhi

 

On The Way To School:

Jackson is a young Kenyan from the Sumburu tribe. Every day he risks his life to get to school, 15 kilometres away from his home. To get there he walks with his 6-year-old sister Salomé.

During the dry season it is not uncommon for them to leave home on an empty stomach.

This land is dangerous. Armed gangs attack villages, and elephants are very aggressive, often chasing and sometimes killing whomever they encounter.

At the age of 11, Jackson already manages the family’s income, and sometimes relations with neighbours - which can be tricky.

On the way to school, Jackson sets a fast pace. When Salome gets tired or frightened he holds her hand, reassures her, tells her stories or sings to her - but only in open terrain.

Jackson and Salome are very close. He has looked out for her for years. Jackson wants Salome to study like he does so she will be able to take care of herself and choose her own future. He is always there for her if she has a problem - in school too.

Despite difficult family circumstances, Jackson’s resolve to go to school is unshakable. Risking his life every day doesn’t stop him from being an A grade student.

He has managed to secure a grant thanks to his impressive results. Each year he has to buy his uniform and pencils. His uniform is his most precious possession and he takes great care of it.

Even though Jackson has never seen an airplane he dreams of becoming a pilot and discovering the world.

...

They live in all four corners of the planet and share a thirst for knowledge. Almost instinctively they know that their wellbeing, indeed their survival, depend on knowledge and education. From the dangerous savannahs of Kenya to the winding trails of the Atlas mountains in Morocco, from the suffocating heat of Southern India to the vast, dizzying plateaux of Patagonia, these children are all united by the same quest, the same dream. Jackson, Zahira, Samuel and Carlito are the heroes of “On the Way to School”, a film that interweaves the four pupils forced to confront and overcome countless, often dangerous obstacles – enormous distances over treacherous territory, snakes, elephants, even bandits – on their journey to the classroom. By setting foot on their extraordinary path, by embarking on this adventure littered with traps and challenges, they will begin to leave their childhoods behind. Pascal Plisson’s film recounts the journey of initiation that will change their lives forever.

 

 Hungry for help: refugees in Kenya feel the effects of recent food cuts [UNCHR Media Release – 9/1/15]

 

These people are Australia's exiled refugees.

They are NOT being "resettled"  because the UNHCR has no involvement.

RNZI [14/1/15]:

The new agency helping to resettle [exile Australia's] refugees on Nauru says its familiarisation sessions will help deal with isolated cases of violence against refugees on the island.

There have been reports of violence directed against some of the asylum seekers who've had their refugee status approved and been released into the community from the island's Australian-run detention centre.

Belinda McLennan of the Australia-based agency Ames says violence against refugees is not unusual and promoting understanding is an important part of the job.

"Once people get to know each other some of those concerns they might have had about these unknown people start to be broken down and friendships start to develop and mutual respect and recognition takes over. From our limited experience at this stage, the episodes of violence as they've been portrayed in the media while they're real, they're isolated, and generally the Nauruan community is a very welcoming community."

Belinda McLennan says the agency's staff are trained to deal with trauma and torture and they'll provide ongoing counselling for the resettled [exiled] refugees.

 

 

... If Australia doesn't want us, that is OK, just give us to the United Nations and they will decide ...

 

Protest sweeps Manus Island – mass hunger strike protest; no running water [Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney - 14/1/15]:

Hundreds of asylum seekers in Mike Compound are on hunger strike and refusing to return to their compounds as a wave of protest sweeps Manus Island detention centre from Tuesday morning and into the night.

Watch video of the protest here

Other compounds are expected to join the hunger strike on Wednesday as chants of “Freedom, What do we want, Freedom” were going back and forward between Mike, Foxtrot and Delta compounds Tuesday night.

At least one asylum seeker in Mike Compound has stitched his lips in protest.

The protest began on Tuesday morning as running water stopped on Manus Island –meaning there is no water for the showers or to wash. Hundreds of plastic bottles are piling up in shower blocks.

Threats by guards to send in PNG police to disperse the protesters and force the asylum seekers in Mike Compound back to their rooms have only added to the fears and the tensions in the detention centre.

Tensions have been rising in recent days as most of the asylum seekers approach 18 months of detention on Manus Island.

There have also been threats that those who have been determined to be refugees will be taken by force into insecure accommodation at Lorengau, where they fear they will be vulnerable to attacks by locals.

The anniversary of the savage attacks in which Reza Barati was killed in Mike Compound is only a month away. Fears have been heightened in recent days by the actions of locals smashing the kitchen in Foxtrot Compound on Saturday, January 10, while more locals massed outside the compound fence.

The first group of refugees is expected to be moved to Lorengau on 22 January. The lack of security and the enforced stay on Manus Island without the possibility of work has highlighted the farce of resettlement in PNG.

One message from Mike Compound said, “If we are sent to Lorengau, they [the locals] will kill us. Please help us.”

Concerns for the future have also come to a head as the hundreds of asylum seekers who have refused to be processed on PNG have been told that unless they sign to be processed in PNG, they will be forcibly deported to their home countries.

An audio file of a message from one asylum seeker on Manus Island is here.

 

Guardian [14/1/15]:

.. Adding to the air of disquiet among detainees, local security guards have told Guardian Australia that they have not been paid for several weeks and several have gone on strike, often leaving detainees without any guards.

...

The office of the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has not returned calls. The department of immigration and border protection has refused to respond to Guardian inquiries.

...

 

‘Someone died trying to have a life like mine’

Image: ‏@SaraIrannejad [4/1/15]

 

Alex Seton 'Last Resort':

In collaboration with McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery Linden presents a solo exhibition of Alex Seton's marble sculptures and a new soundscape installation. The works in this exhibition explore Australia's response to migration.

Artbites: Alex Seton [VIDEO]

Millions of children face ‘untold misery’ as powerful winter storm sweeps Middle East

UN Media Release [13/1/15]:

At least seven million internally displaced and refugee children are in desperate need of assistance as bitter winter snows and torrential rains continue to batter the Middle East, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) urged today.

Briefing the press in Geneva this afternoon, UNICEF’s Christophe Boulierac warned that the number of children who need clothes and winter items is increasing exponentially. Six children have already died due to the extreme weather. Temperatures in parts of Syria are currently reaching -11 degrees Celsius.

Living in tents, unfinished buildings and inadequate shelters, more and more children are being exposed to sub-zero temperatures, heavy snow and strong winds. This leaves them vulnerable to respiratory tract infections and other illnesses associated with cold weather.

To respond to the dire needs, UNICEF is delivering warm clothing, blankets, heating supplies, cash and vouchers to 916,000 children in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey of the 1.3 million target children. In Syria, where war nears its fourth year, winter supplies have reached 350,000 children.

The rain and heavy snow have caused havoc and “untold misery” for so many, Mr. Boulierac said. In the Idleb governorate 300 tents were swept away by floods, affecting about 1,000 people. Fires have started in some dwellings because people do not have security lights or have burned plastic to stay warm.

Most families do not have access to fuel or electricity, or simply cannot afford to buy it. In recent weeks for example, the cost of diesel increased by a further third, 16 per cent of gasoline. The price of fuel had increased 350 per cent since the beginning of the crisis.

In Syria, UNICEF and its partners have distributed winter clothing for 350,000 children as well as tents and hygiene kits. The UN agency is also supporting Syria’s Ministry of Education in providing fuel tanks and radiators in 65 schools for 40,000 children and 1,400 teachers.

The prevailing harsh winter and snowstorm has created untold miseries amongst the displaced population. A hospital in the area has reported increased respiratory and infectious diseases in children. And it is reported that five people died in or near Damascus due to the bad weather. Another child died, with his father and another adult in Lebanon while crossing the Syrian-Lebanese border into Lebanon.

In preparation for winter, UNICEF in Lebanon had stored 28,000 winter kits, but is saying now that may be insufficient as the number of vulnerable children has spiked. UNICEF Lebanon’s winter items and vouchers had been provided to 200,000 children in the most exposed areas of the country, including in elevated areas such as Aarsal and it aimed to reach a total of 478,000 children in the coming weeks.

In Jordan, UNICEF is providing them with winter kits and cash assistance to some 100,000 Syrian refugee children and their families. In Turkey, the winter response had reached 62,000 children, including 22,000 children from Kobane aged three to 11 years in Suruc. And in Iraq, winter clothing kits had been distributed to over 200,000 children in over 100 hard-to-reach and high altitude areas.

Despite all these humanitarian operations, major challenges persist, Mr. Boulierac stressed, emphasizing that the number of vulnerable children grows on a daily basis and that they often move around making planning very difficult. He appealed to donors for funding so that UNICEF could continue its work.

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [13/1/15]:

On Jan. 12, U.S. and Coalition military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria, using bomber and fighter aircraft to conduct four airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and Coalition military forces conducted seven airstrikes in Iraq, using attack, fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.

All strikes took place between 8 a.m., Jan. 12, and 8 a.m., Jan. 13, local time.

The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:

Syria

* Near Kobani, three airstrikes destroyed five ISIL fighting positions.

* Near Dawr az Zawr, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL tank.

Iraq

* Near Tal Afar, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL building.

* Near Sinjar, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL tactical unit.

* Near Mosul, three airstrikes destroyed an ISIL tactical unit, two ISIL bunkers, an ISIL heavy machine gun, two ISIL mortar positions, an ISIL armored vehicle and an ISIL excavator.

* Near Baghdad, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL tactical unit and struck another, destroyed an ISIL fighting position and two ISIL heavy machine guns.

Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports. All aircraft returned to base safely.

...

@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [13/1/15]:

Anbar: Falahat crossing point -east of Ramadi- has been closed by government's forces for two weeks and people's suffering has been increased due to the shortage in food ......

Anbar: The war planes have targeted by missiles Sajjariya -east of Ramadi- resulted in causing damages to civilian homes.......

Anbar: The civilian homes in 5Kilo area have been shelled by mortars of government's army and militia swarms randomly .......

Anbar: 6 civilians have been killed in Fallujah in shelling of government's army ........

French lawmakers extend military action in Iraq

Naharnet [13/1/15]:

French lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved continuing air strikes against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq as part of a U.S.-led coalition.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged parliament to extend the operation saying "our mission is not over we are faced with a war against terrorism."

While the vote is routine, required to extend any French military intervention after four months, it comes as the country is in mourning after being struck on home soil in a series of jihadist attacks that left 17 dead last week.

France joined the coalition in September and has carried out a handful of strikes on the militants but has not joined the United States in its air war against IS in Syria.

President Francois Hollande said in December the country's action had "allowed indisputable progress and military and therefore political success."

Lawmakers agreed to extend the operation 488 for, one against and with 13 abstentions, with political consensus reinforced after the attacks first on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo then on a Jewish supermarket in Paris. A policewoman was also separately gunned down by one of the attackers.

General Austin sends peculiar letter to servicemembers, families following youtube, twitter hack [Centcom – 13/1/15]

Anti-Muslim acts escalate after Paris terrorist attacks

France 24 [13/1/15]:

France has seen an alarming rise in violent anti-Muslim acts across the country following last week’s string of terrorist attacks, carried out by three Frenchmen claiming links to foreign Islamist groups.

In a stirring speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France must combat growing anti-Semitism and protect “our Muslim compatriots”, days after terrorist attacks that left 17 people dead in Paris, including four at a kosher supermarket.

“France is not at war with religion. France is not at war with Islam or Muslims. France will protect, as it always has done, all of its citizens. Those who are believers and those who are not,” Valls told lawmakers.

“Anti-Muslim acts that are unacceptable and intolerable have taken place in recent days. Attacks on a mosque, a church, any religious building, cemetery, are an assault on our values,” the prime minister added.

...

The first anti-Muslim attacks were registered just hours after brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi stormed the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on January 7, shooting 12 people dead.

That evening four gunshots were fired at a mosque near the southwestern city of Albi. Another mosque in the central-eastern town of Aix-les-Bains was burned down that night, in what police suspect was a criminal attack.

The words “assassins” and “dirty Arabs” were spray-painted on the walls of a mosque in the coastal city of Bayonne, while a pig's carcass was left outside a Muslim prayer room in the Corsican town of Ghisonaccia.

The words "Arabi Fora", meaning "Arabs go away" in Corsican, were also scrawled on a building of the Council of the Muslim Faith in the suburbs of the city of Ajaccio.

In northern France, similar graffiti was found at the site of a future mosque in the city of Bethune, and Nazi swastikas and a pig’s head were discovered outside a mosque in the city of Lievin.

France’s Interior Ministry, which had already announced extra police protection for Jewish schools and temples, indicated on Tuesday that additional security forces would also be sent to guard Muslim places of worship.

US brands as 'terrorist' Pakistani Taliban head behind massacre

Reuters [13/1/15]:

The United States on Tuesday declared Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah a "global terrorist," making it a crime to engage in transactions with the man behind the Dec. 16 attack in which 134 children at a Peshawar school were killed.

The State Department said in a statement the formal designation also allows the U.S. government to seize any of his property or interests in the United States, including those under the control of U.S. citizens.

Fazlullah and the Taliban claimed responsibility for the school attack that resulted in the deaths of "at least 148 individuals, mostly students," the department said.

Fazlullah also was behind the 2012 assassination attempt on Pakistani schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai, who last year was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Fazlullah was elected leader of the Taliban in 2013.

The Pakistani Taliban was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in 2010.

How to Be a Terror "Expert": Ignore Facts, Blame Muslims, Trumpet US Propaganda [Democracy Now - 13/1/15]:

... AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring in Professor Lisa Stampnitzky. Again, your book is called Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented "Terrorism." What do you mean by "disciplining terror"? You carried out one of the first empirical studies of these so-called terror experts on television.

LISA STAMPNITZKY: That’s right. So, "disciplining terror" has a dual meaning. On the one hand, it refers to the attempts of states to get control over the problem of terrorism. On the other hand, it refers to the attempt to develop a discipline of terrorism studies. And that problematic field is the story that I’m telling in the book.

AARON MATÉ: What’s your assessment of the merits of this field in terms of its level of expertise and its seriousness?

LISA STAMPNITZKY: I mean, one of the conclusions I draw is that it’s a very peculiar field in terms of fields of expertise, because there is no strict boundary around it, there is no control according to who can be an expert. There’s no credentialing. And so, you have people coming on TV who are just sort of spouting hysteria and not drawing on any real expert knowledge. And even those who are more serious in the field have no ability to regulate who gets called an expert.

...

Australian offers of help Nigerian government find kidnapped schoolgirls

Brisbane Times [13/1/15]:

Australia has repeatedly offered help to the Nigerian government to find hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, but the offers have not been taken up.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Tuesday that the government had made no fewer than four offers to help the Nigerians find the schoolgirls, who were kidnapped by the radical Islamist group in April last year.

"Nigeria has welcomed our offers but hasn't made any request for specific assistance," Ms Bishop said. "The international community stands ready to work with the Nigerian government to assist in its efforts to counter terrorism and implement counter-radicalisation programs."

She was speaking in the wake of reports that at least one girl as young as 10 has been used as a suicide bomber by the extremist group Boko Haram and that as many as 2000 people have been killed in and around the town of Baga in the country's north - though the Nigerian has denied the figure is anywhere near that high.

Ms Bishop said: "The government is deeply concerned by the ongoing terrorist attacks and I am appalled by the recent massacre in Baga and the reports of young girls being used as suicide bombers."

The Nigerian government of President Goodluck Jonathan has been criticised internationally for its failure to effectively address the scourge of Boko Haram, which has emerged as one of the most vicious and enduring jihadist organisations of the past decade.

Ms Bishop said Australia had achieved some broader counter-terrorism cooperation with Nigeria, such as by providing money directly and through global organisations towards education, sports and art, which helped prevent radicalisation.

Lebanon: US firm to conduct onshore gas survey

Daily Star [14/1/15]:

U.S.-based NEOS GeoSolutions will conduct an onshore oil and gas survey in Lebanon to complete its data acquisition despite the lack of political will to remove all hurdles before launching a licensing round, insiders and a lawmaker said.

“The U.S. company intends to conduct a 2-D seismic onshore survey in some Lebanese regions within 10 days after [it] completed [its aerial] survey. This process will continue until we gather good data on the possible size of oil and gas,” a source told The Daily Star.

In December 2014, U.S. NEOS GeoSolutions completed its aerial oil and gas survey of most Lebanese territories with the support of its local partner Petroserv.

The company, which deployed two Cessna planes fitted with sophisticated sensors, covered 6,000 square kilometers, including the onshore northern half of the country and the transition zone along the Mediterranean coastline.

The U.S. firm said it would provide the data to the Lebanese authorities and interested parties in May of this year after the experts analyze the information the planes collected.

But despite the enthusiasm of the U.S. firm and the Petroleum Administration to put Lebanon on the map of oil producing countries, some powerful political groups seem reluctant to authorize their ministers in Cabinet to pass two crucial decrees that set the number of blocks for auction and establish a mechanism for revenue sharing.

“We have 24 ministers in this Cabinet and if one of them refuses the two decrees under a different pretext then we will go back to square one,” lawmaker Mohammad Qabbani told The Daily Star.

He added that the failure to elect a president has further complicated the oil licensing issue.

Prime Minister Tammam “Salam can’t put this issue of the two decrees to a vote in the Cabinet. We have to run from one powerful political party to another to persuade them that Lebanon cannot afford further delays in approving the two decrees,” Qabbani said.

A person familiar with the offshore gas licensing round argued that the politicians were wrangling over the oil file in a bid to secure a share from this wealth.

“We are talking about tens of billions of dollars and some politicians seem eager to take a [slice] from this cake,” he added.

The person said political discord and greed were among the main reasons delaying the approval of the two decrees.

“Regrettably, this political class, or some of them, are not too concerned about the well-being of the Lebanese,” he added.

Salam’s media adviser told The Daily Star that the prime minister had not put the two decrees on the agenda of the next Cabinet meetings.

“I still have no idea if the premier will raise the issue of the two decrees anytime soon. Salam is preoccupied with other important matters but he will bring up the subject of gas in due time,” the adviser explained.

He added that some ministers were still going through the details of the two decrees and would not pass them until they got satisfactory answers from the Petroleum Administration.

Speaker Nabih Berri has warned that Israel is siphoning off gas from one of the offshore reserves within Lebanese territorial waters, and has urged officials to speed up the launch of the gas licensing and demarcate the Free Economic Zone.

The licensing round was scheduled for Feb. 14 of this year but Energy and Water Minister Arthur Nazarian will most likely delay it for at least another six months.

A source involved in efforts to expedite the approval of the two decrees said the Petroleum Administration was about to complete the tax proposal for gas and oil wealth.

“The Petroleum Administration is coordinating with the Finance Ministry to complete the tax proposal, which will hopefully be done in a couple of weeks,” the source said.

He added that the Public Works Ministry had asked the Petroleum Administration to push back the oil platforms 5 kilometers off the Lebanese coast instead of 3, according to the original proposal.

The source stressed that a single block of gas off Lebanon’s coast could potentially meet all of Lebanon’s needs for years to come.

“Apart from the revenues the country will get from exports, the gas can change the face of Lebanon if all the power plants, cars and households are run on this substance. This will bring in investments and growth to all sectors,” the source said.

He added that the licensing round would be delayed for at least another six months if the two decrees are passed, brushing off arguments that international oil companies would not invest any more money due to the drop in the price of crude.

“Oil firms work on long-term projects. The oil price could rise again by the time Lebanon starts drilling for gas seven years from now.”

 

Potsdam activists call on Congress to reject Keystone XL pipeline.

Image:  ‏@davidncpr [13/1/15]

As Senators in Washington wrangled over the Keystone XL pipeline bill Tuesday, environmental activists rallied across the country to keep the pipeline from becoming reality. ...  [NCPR – 13/1/15]

 

11 killed, 13 injured as shell hits bus near Donetsk, E. Ukraine - reports

RT [13/1/15]:

Eleven people died and 13 more were injured as a bus was shelled in the eastern Donetsk region, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said. Denis Pushilin, Donetsk People’s Republic representative at Minsk talks, said the attack may have been staged by Kiev.

The incident took place near a Ukrainian military checkpoint near the town of Volnovakha on Tuesday, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry in the Donetsk region, Vyacheslav Ambroskin, said. He posted the information on his Facebook page.

Initially, 10 people were killed in the shelling. A woman reportedly died in hospital later in the day, according to the Donetsk regional administration which cited health officials. The regional administration also reported that 18 people had been injured.

Ambroskin said the checkpoint was shelled from the direction of the town of Dokuchaevsk, which is under the control of local militia forces. The town of Volnovakha is under Kiev’s control.

Ukraine’s Donetsk Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into the shelling, qualifying the case as a terrorist act, according to its press service. It said that the attack was “targeted" and “carried out by a Grad multiple rocket launcher using over 40 shells.”

The site of the shelling was “deep in Kiev-controlled territory” and the Donetsk militia could not have reached it, the spokesman for the DNR People’s Council, Andrey Purgin, told Donetsk media.

“We don’t have the capability to shell this checkpoint either from the side of Telmanovo or Elenovka. The Ukrainian side has to figure out what has happened deep in its territory. It’s very far from the contact line,” Purgin said.

Denis Pushilin also told RT that the shelling occurred near Volnovakha at a Ukrainian army checkpoint that is "out of the operational range of the artillery of our militia."

“I don’t rule out the possibility that [the attack] could be the Ukrainian army’s provocation, to attempt to put the blame for what has happened on local militia,” Pushilin said. He added that according to his data the closest DNR artillery crew was stationed 50 kilometers from the site, which makes it technically impossible for the local militia to have shelled it.

The DNR Foreign Ministry called for an independent investigation into the incident in a statement published on its website.

...

UK: Sun source briefed other staff not to speak to the media court told

Hacking Inquiry [13/1/15]:

A senior Ministry of Defence civil servant who made over £100,000 selling stories to The Sun told other staff not to speak to the media a jury heard today.

Bettina Jordan-Barber, who worked for the MOD’s secretariat, was responsible for producing briefings on newsworthy incidents in the army.

However, the prosecution allege, despite instructing other staff not to speak to the newspaper, Jordan-Barber was secretly in contact with a Sun journalist and passing on confidential information.

The revelation came during the fifth day of the trial of senior Sun journalists John Kay, Duncan Larcombe, Fergus Shanahan and Geoffrey Webster at London’s Old Bailey, where the jury was shown copies of “news brief” documents produced by the civil servant and the stories produced by the Sun as a result of the information she supplied.

In one brief, the prosecution say, Jordan Barber advised all MOD staff not to say anything about the private life of an army officer as this would breach his right to confidentiality, yet at the same time she was speaking to the Sun – leading to a story entitled “Mucky Major and his swinging Mrs”.

The civil servant also allegedly passed information on British military casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq allowing the newspaper to beat its rivals in publishing the names of those killed and wounded.

The prosecution told the jury that Jordan-Barber had considerable access to confidential information and had “excellent relations with Clarence House and St James’s Palace”, the official residences of the Prince of Wales and the Queen

The jury have also been shown emails between reporter John Kay and the then Sun editor Rebekah Brooks where he asks for payments for his “ace military contact” which were quickly agreed by Brooks.

The former editor was acquitted of charges relating to these payments in last year’s phone hacking trial after insisting she did not know that Kay’s source was a public official.

All of the defendants deny all of the charges. The trial continues.

 

 

14 January 2015

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