PNG agrees to relocate 50 of Australia's exiled refugees from Manus death camp to Lorangau East concentration camp

PNG Loop [15/12/14]:

Papua New Guinea has granted refugee statuses to 50 asylum seekers at the Lombrum Processing Centre.

This brings to 60 the total number of asylum seekers processed and granted permission to live in PNG.

The first ten men were granted refugee status in November. Most are from Pakistain, Iran, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Foreign Minister, Rimbink Pato made the announcement after discussions with Australia Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop at the Airways Hotel in Port Moresby today.

This means the 50 men will be transferred from Lombrum to another facility at Lorangau East. While they are yet to be resettled they will learn how to speak Pidgin, English and the different cultures in PNG.

Pato says at this staged they cannot be resettled because the policy is still being worked on.

He says although the policy is not finalized, the process has started. Minister Bishop is in the country for the 23rd PNG – Australia ministerial meeting.

#UltimOra #SAR #MarinaMilitare rifornitrice Etna soccorre imbarcazione con 106 migranti tutti uomini

Image: ‏@ItalianNavy [15/12/14]

Australia for UNHCR [VIDEO - 15/12/14]:

Saransika got on board an asylum seeker boat with her mother and brother from Indonesia to Australia. Now Saransika lives alone in Indonesia - not knowing when she may be reconciled with her father in Australia.

Sudden death, Port Douglas

QPS Media [15/12/14]

An 18-year-old Mossman man has died after sustaining a shark bite off Port Douglas this morning.

The man was fishing off Rudder Reef at around 11am when he was bitten by a shark on his leg.

Friends who were travelling with the man on a private vessel alerted authorities and performed emergency first aid.

The man was pronounced deceased shortly after the vessel returned to shore.

Police will prepare a report for the coroner.

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.

Queensland Police Service [15/12/14]:

Delays Cunningham Highway. Truck roll over 3k south of Mutdapilly. Driver is okay but traffic down to one lane alternating direction and will be for some time. ‪#‎qldtraffic‬

Anti rights arrests, Gold Coast [15/12/14]

Warkworth mine expansion project unlawful

Lock The Gate [15/12/14]:

The law firm acting for Rio Tinto, Minter Ellison, told the State Government last year that it believed re-lodging an application for the extension of the Warkworth mine in the Hunter Valley after approval for it had been overturned by the Land and Environment Court would be "unlawful."

Despite this advice, Rio Tinto went ahead and lodged a new application for the project in June this year. The new application is for a virtually identical project to the one rejected by the Court.

A public hearing into the project is scheduled to be held on Thursday and Friday this week, in Singleton in the Hunter Valley.

Documents obtained under Government Information Public Access laws now reveal that Rio Tinto’s own lawyers questioned the lawfulness of re-applying for the project in an advice provided to then-Premier, Barry O’Farrell.

Spokesman for the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association, John Krey, said, "Our community has been dragged through the wringer by Rio Tinto and the State Government who simply cannot accept the umpire’s decision and uphold the Land and Environment Court’s judgement that this project is not in the public interest."

"Now it’s revealed that they are willing to go to any lengths, even to taking action they themselves believe to be unlawful, to expand the Warkworth mine towards Bulga."

Lock the Gate NSW Coordinator Georgina Woods said, "Approval of this project would burn away what little remaining faith people in New South Wales hold in the objective application of planning laws and processes when it comes to coal mining projects. The former Premier got advice saying this new Warkworth project is unlawful.

"We’re calling on the current Premier to step in and stop this farce, restore balance to the planning system and uphold the rule of law against the mining giants.

"There is a vacuum of leadership from the Premier when it comes to coal mining: the coal industry are currently walking all over due process, the public interest, and the village of Bulga, and it’s got to stop."

...

Come to the rally and support the community in their ongiong battle against the mine on Thursday 18 December.

Mithaka people seek help from United Nations

CAAMA [VIDEO – 15/12/14]:

The Mithaka people of South West Queensland are seeking assistance from the United Nations over fracking in the Lake Eyre Basin. Scott Gorringe a Mithaka man and director of an Aboriginal consulting agentcy argues the Newman Government has broken international law by failing to consult with them about the use of their land. Scott had a chat with Kyle Dowling regarding the proposed oil and gas development plan.

Kerry to meet Netanyahu ahead of Palestinian push for UN resolution

Al Akhbar [15/12/14]:

US Secretary of State John Kerry was to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, two days before Palestinians push for a draft United Nations resolution to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem.

Amid a high-stakes diplomatic drive by the top US diplomat, Palestinian leadership upped the ante late Sunday by revealing in a surprise move they would put the draft text before the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

It would set a two-year deadline for Israeli troops to withdraw from the West Bank – a timetable which the United States has already opposed.

"The Palestinian leadership took a decision to go to the Security Council next Wednesday to vote on their project to end the occupation," senior Palestine Liberation Organization member Wassel Abu Yousef told AFP Sunday after a meeting in Ramallah.

"We want a clear and specific resolution for a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, resolving all the final status issues, releasing all detainees and refugees and labeling settlement activity illegal and should be stopped immediately, including in Jerusalem," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

State-run Palestinian news agency WAFA said Sunday that the draft resolution will be submitted after an "upcoming meeting between Arab foreign ministers, US Secretary of State John Kerry and European ministers."

During a meeting discussing the draft resolution, the Palestinian Authority also stressed the importance of expediting the formation of an international committee to investigate the death of senior Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein, according to WAFA.

Moreover, it called for "expanding all forms of peaceful popular resistance against [Israeli] occupation to combat the settlement expansion and defend national rights."

...

Hong Kong police clear last pro-democracy protest site

Reuters [15/12/14]:

Hong Kong authorities arrested several pro-democracy activists on Monday as they cleared the last of three protest sites, marking the closure of demonstration camps in the city that have blocked streets for more than two months.

About 100 police swept into Causeway Bay, a shopping district popular with mainland Chinese tourists, to remove barricades as protesters scrambled to pack up their belongings from the smallest of the three main sites.

One protester played drums next to a cardboard cut-out of Chinese President Xi Jinping as onlookers stood by. Police arrested more than a dozen protesters, including some elderly people, after they sat down and refused to move.

"I don't think it's a failure. This is not the end," said protester K.T Tang, a legal executive. "I hope the next time when we gather in the streets, we will be celebrating, instead of shedding tears for achieving nothing."

Authorities dragged away tents and other belongings and dumped them in trucks and the site was mostly clear by noon. Police had announced on the weekend they would take action to clear the area.

The mainly peaceful protests have represented one of the most serious challenges to China's authority since the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations and bloody crackdown in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

On Thursday, police cleared most of the main protest site in the Admiralty district next to government headquarters, arresting scores of activists in a largely peaceful operation.

That followed the clearance in late November of a site in Mong Kok, a gritty residential across the harbor from the main business district, a move that sparked several nights of clashes between demonstrators and police.

Hong Kong, a former British territory, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that gives the city more autonomy and freedom than the mainland and a goal of universal suffrage.

The protesters are demanding open nominations in the city's next election for chief executive in 2017. Beijing has said voters will only be able choose from pre-screened candidates.

Protest leaders have said they will consider other forms of civil disobedience, given Beijing's refusal to grant any concessions.

As the dust settles on the protests, China is likely to embark on a sweeping but covert campaign across the territory's judiciary, media and universities to ensure there is no recurrence, activists and politicians say.

Belgium siege: Armed men enter Ghent apartment

BBC [15/12/14]:

Four armed men have entered a flat in the Belgian city of Ghent and police have sealed off the surrounding area.

Unconfirmed reports suggested that the four had taken a man hostage and police urged residents to remain indoors for their own safety.

The men burst into the flat in the Dampoort area of the city, in northern Belgium.

"They're in the building but it's not clear what's going on inside," a police spokesman said.

Local prosecutors said there was no indication of any link to terrorism or jihadist group Islamic State.

"This isn't the same sort of incident as the events in Sydney," spokeswoman Annemie Serlippens said.

The head of Ghent police Filip Rasschaert told De Standaard website that they were carrying out the operation carefully because of the potential involvement of a hostage.

Federal authorities were now in control of the siege, he said.

 

What does this mean?: ... The hostage suspect is “known” to Australian police and media ... [Independent - 15/12/14] Other than censorship i.e. they've known who the hostage was all along and chose to tell the public in the middle of the night.

Martin Place, Sydney siege gunman identified as Man Haron Monis [The Age - 16/12/14]

Today the Australian media proudly proclaimed their subservience to (and collaboration with) authorities to keep us in the dark.

 

Report this Australian media, you lying sacks of shit

NSW Police, here's the threat, arrest the people who made it. #MartinPlace

Image: @BoyCalledAnn [15/12/14]

 

Manus refugee death camp bears blame for PNG murders, families say

Guardian [15/12/14]:

Jo Chandler on Manus Island

The relatives of two local men killed on Manus Island by members of the Papua New Guinean police mobile squad have blamed the presence of the detention centre on the island for their deaths.

The squad is deployed to the island by the PNG government but subsidised by Australia. Its tactics, and the failure of Australian authorities to control it, were identified in a Senate committee report released last week as key contributors to February’s riots [attacks] in which the Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati died.

Raymond Sipaun, 21, was savagely beaten in public view at the Lorengau market by mobile squad officers in July 2013. His father found him unconscious in a police cell. He could not be revived.

“The occurrence of my son’s death is due to this asylum seekers program in Manus,” James Sipaun told Guardian Australia.

He and his wife had “a very deep grief, and these mobile squad police they are still enjoying the privileges from the Australian government, the free housing, the allowances. This makes us very, very upset.”

The detention centre is at Lombrum, a 45-minute drive from Lorengau, the Manus provincial capital. Squad members continue to drive up and down the Lorengau road in their Land Cruisers several times a day. The Senate report confirms that all costs relating to their deployment have been met by Australia.

Sipaun said he did not understand why the squad – which has a fearsome reputation in PNG and is usually enlisted to protect resources projects in highly volatile regions – was in Manus province. Regular police could more appropriately do the job, he said.

“I am not against the law,” said Sipaun, who works for the Lorengau works department and is chairman of the Catholic parish council. “My son was drunk. They could arrest him and lock him up, but not kill him.”

Five officers were charged over Raymond’s death. Adjourned twice, the case is listed for February.

No Australian officials have contacted the Sipaun family or the relatives of 17-year-old Kisawen Pokas, who was run over and killed by an allegedly drunk mobile squad officer while walking home from school in Lorengau on 19 June.

Before the accident, witnesses said, the driver and another taskforce officer had been riding around with local girls. They were drinking “and not fully clothed”, Kisawen’s mother, Siwa Sinek, told Guardian Australia.

“The taskforce, the mobile squad, I don’t really blame them,” Sinek said. “I will blame the driver himself. His conduct wasn’t right. He was on the liquor. If he was following his rules, his code of ethics, it wouldn’t happen.

“But my question is – should they be operating here, in Lorengau town? Is it right for them to be running around here? They should be there – at Lombrum.”

Other islanders have raised concerns about the squad’s brutal tactics in quelling local protests about the impact of the resettlement [refugee exile] program on the island, and warned that the influx of police and contractors has led to an increase in underage prostitution in Lorengau.

Father Justin Aminio, the Catholic Dean of Manus, said: “Those people who don’t have any chances of getting a job [at the detention centre] or even selling something, they sell themselves. A lot of girls who are still in school, that is how they get their money.”

The mobile squad was deployed to Manus in October 2012 after the Gillard government revived the use of the centre for offshore processing. The Lombrum centre operated under the Howard government’s “Pacific solution” from 2001 to 2008.

Its task, according to evidence to the Senate inquiry by the centre’s former security contractor G4S, was “to deal with unrest from local landowners demanding greater economic benefits from the centre for local people”. This included a blockade of the airport.

The 2012 disputes were resolved through negotiation, according to the G4S submission, but the mobile squad remained despite the misgivings of G4S, which raised concerns with the immigration department “about the suitability of the police mobile squad given its propensity to use disproportionate force to maintain order”.

The Senate committee report put much of the blame for the riots [attacks], which also injured 70 detainees, on the actions of the mobile squad on 17 February, when members “forcefully entered the centre and put down the protests with extreme and excessive force”.

The report said “the department clearly failed to respond to the strong concerns raised by G4S” about the squad’s behaviour.

“Australia was effectively financing the PNG police mobile squad deployed at the centre, both prior to and during the events in which its members assaulted transferees and enabled other locals and service provider staff to enter the centre and do likewise,” the report said.

The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, who is due to visit Manus on Tuesday, did not respond to questions about whether Australia continued to underwrite the costs of the squad.

Reporting on this story was made possible by an independently awarded grant from GetUp’s Shipping News project

Blood on many hands in CIA-torture scandal [Sydney Morning Herald – 15/12/14]

... There is no suggestion that Australian officials used torture. Instead, we were complicit in the US torture program. In contrast to the UK, which successfully demanded the return of its citizens from Guantanamo Bay, Australia failed to take action to protect Habib and Hicks, despite emerging evidence of their mistreatment.

The problem was not merely one of silence and acquiescence. Australia's political leaders, including Prime Minister John Howard, were some of the strongest international supporters of US actions at Guantanamo Bay. Despite irrefutable evidence of what occurred there, this support has never been retracted.

In other nations, the harm done to citizens at the hands of the US has led to wide ranging inquiries. By contrast, Australia's leaders have shown no appetite to investigate these matters. Both sides of politics have resisted any inquiry that could determine whether Hicks was tortured, and whether Australian officials bear responsibility for the treatment of him and Habib. ...

Libya clashes force oil port closure

Al Jazeera [15/12/14]:

Libya's eastern Es Sider oil export port has stopped working due to clashes nearby, according to an oil official.

The Ras Lanuf port, east of Es Sider, is still working, the official told Reuters news agency on Sunday, but al-Waha Oil Company which runs the Es Sider port had halted work.

Armed groups on Saturday launched an attack against al-Hilal, a key oil region in the country.

Fighters from Fajr Libya, an anti-government coalition, attacked al-Hilal from three sides on Saturday but the air force repelled them, Brigadier-General Saqr Jarushi said.

"Air force jets and helicopters struck the fighters as they advanced on Al-Sidra oil terminal," he said, adding that the air raids had caused "a large number of casualties".

There was also fighting on the ground in which five government soldiers were reported wounded.

Earlier Fajr Libya said it had launched an operation to "liberate oilfields and terminals" and that two of its fighters were killed and several wounded.

Al-Hilal is the location not only of Al-Sidra but also of the Ras Lanuf and Brega terminals.

The attack comes as rebel forces in the eastern town of Derna say they have formed a new coalition before an expected assault by pro-government forces.

More than three years after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed Muammar Gaddafi, Libya remains awash with weapons and powerful militias, and has rival governments and parliaments.

Self-declared Islamist groups have seized Tripoli and second city Benghazi in the east, and forces loyal to Abdullah al-Thinni, Libya's internationally recognised prime minister, are fighting to regain control of them.

US Marine charged with murder of Filipino

AP [15/12/14]:

A Philippine government prosecutor says a detained U.S. Marine has been charged with murder in the killing of a Filipino transgender.

Prosecutor Emily de los Santos said Monday there was "probable cause" that Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton killed Jennifer Laude, whose former name was Jeffrey, in a motel room, where the victim's body was found in October in Olongapo city, northwest of Manila. She had apparently been drowned in a toilet bowl.

The emotional case reignited a debate over custody of American military personnel accused of crimes. But the looming irritant between the treaty allies over Pemberton's custody was eased after Washington agreed to move him from a U.S. warship to a Philippine camp, where he remained under American custody with an outer ring of Filipino guards.

16,369 civilians killed in #Iraq so far this year.

"tweeted" by @iraqbodycount [15/12/14]

US-led air attacks kill 18 near Mosul [IraqiNews.com - 14/12/14]:

On Sunday, a local source in Nineveh province stated, that 18 ISIS militants have been killed and tens others were injured in air strikes in northern Mosul.

The source informed IraqiNews, “The international coalition warplanes conducted a number of offensive air strikes against ISIS shelters and facilities in the area surrounding Mosul dam, located 40 km north of Mosul. The air strikes resulted in killing 18 ISIS elements and wounding tens others in the targeted area.”

Noteworthy, the US-led international coalition, consisting of around 60 countries, has carried out hundreds of air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria since mid-September 2014.

@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media [14/12/14]:

Baghdad: Agencies/security source: Two persons were killed and 6 wounded as a roadside bomb exploded near popular cafe in Jihad hay west of Baghdad.....

South of Baghdad: 100 young men have been arrested:

A campaign of arresting has continued for the second day in Rasheed nahiya south of Baghdad-Khuteimiya,Albu Etha ,Ubeid ,Dainiya ,the centre of nahiya ,Arab Jbor ,Sakhreeja Gharbiya and Sharqiya-resulted in arresting more than 100 young men without accusations ,these arrestings have focused on specified names including young men and the officers of former army and the forces have blackmailed their familes by throwing weapons far from their homes and the same forces came to take to release whom gave the weapons to supply the militias after losses in revolted provinces ......

It is worth mentioning that the criminal campaigns of arresting and kidnapping have continued in south of Baghdad areas and all Baghdad belt areas ......

Insurgency to continue if US forces stay in Afghanistan: Ex-ISI chief

Khaama [14/12/14:

The former Pakistani military intelligence – Inter-service Intelligence (ISI) chief, Gen. Hamid Gul, has said that the Taliban-led insurgency will continue to persist if the American forces stay in Afghanistan.

In the an interview with the local newspaper, The News International, the former ISI chief, said the complete withdrawal of the US forces is “the first and foremost prerequisite for peace in Afghanistan”.

“First, it announced to keep 9,800 troops but now it has increased the number to 10,800 troops. This is not withdrawal. Peace would not come in Afghanistan. I always say that two fs — freedom and faith — are an integral part of the Afghan psyche,” Gen. (retd) Hamid Gul said.

He said the Afghan people will never tolerate occupation of their land and will fight back. So, if American troops stay in Afghanistan, attacks will [continue to] happen. Nothing can stop it. The military operation in North Waziristan is a success so far but it would not be able to serve the purpose unless the US leaves Afghanistan,” he added.

The remarks by Retd. Gen. Hamid Gul comes as the US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said earlier this month that up to 10,800 US troops would remain in Afghanistan for the first few months of next year.

Hagel said the original plan to cut the troop levels to 9,800 by the end of this year was abandoned since the planned troop commitments by US allies for the NATO non-combat mission – Resolute Support mission starting in January have been slow to materialize.

The new government of Afghanistan signed a bilateral security agreement with Washington late in September, providing a legal frame work for the presence of US forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

A similar agreement – Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was also signed by the Afghan government with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to pave the way for the presence of NATO troops in the country to implement the new non-comabt mission.

Zie [14/12/14]:

Seven students were wounded when a ground mine exploded in front of a school in the Behsud district of the eastern Nangarhar province, Sunday.

An injured student recalled that he and another student saw a “metal thing” with a phone in it; when his classmate touched it, the mine exploded injuring the boy and six others.

The Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on tribal elders and clerics to assist halting the recent surge of violence, after Kabul alone was hit by 12 suicide bombs within the last month.

UN envoy in Syria for Aleppo truce talks

Al Arabiya [13/12/14]:

A senior U.N. official arrived in Syria Saturday for talks on a plan to suspend fighting between government and rebel forces in the country’s second city Aleppo.

Ramzi Ezzedine Ramzi, deputy to the U.N. envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is to hold a series of meetings in Damascus, their spokeswoman, Juliette Touma, told AFP via the Internet.

At the start of the week, De Mistura held what Touma termed "constructive" talks on Aleppo with rebel groups in Gaziantep, Turkey.

In late October, he had announced a plan for a "freeze" in fighting, following a series of failed international efforts to negotiate an end to the Syrian conflict, which erupted in March 2011.

He has since said the northern city of Aleppo is a "good candidate" for the bid.

The city has been divided between regime control in the west and rebels in the east since mid-2012.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem has called for rebels to hand over their heavy weapons and allow the return of local administration officials to Aleppo under any deal.

For their part, the rebels want guarantees of an effective freeze on the ground and that government forces are not redeployed from Aleppo to the flashpoint Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus.

Death toll spikes in DRC boat tragedy

Al Jazeera [14/12/14]:

At least 129 people have drowned after a boat capsized on Thursday night on Lake Tanganyika in the southeast of Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a new official death toll, the AFP news agency said.

"Rescue workers recovered a total of 129 bodies," an official told AFP.

On Saturday, the provincial government said at least 26 people had died after the boat packed with passengers and goods capsized.

The vessel, which was travelling north from Kalemie in Katanga province to Uvira in South Kivu province, sank in the early hours of Friday, survivors speaking by telephone from Katanga's capital Lubumbashi said.

Deadly shipwrecks are frequent on the lakes and rivers of DRC, where boats are often overloaded, life jackets frequently missing and many people cannot swim.

Lake Tanganyika is the longest freshwater lake in the world and also borders Tanzania, as well as Burundi and Zambia.

Erekat: UN resolution by Monday

Maan [14/12/14]:

PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday that a resolution to end the Israeli occupation will be submitted to the UN Security Council "in the coming few hours, or maybe on Monday."

Erekat told the official Palestinian radio station that he would meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in a European capital in the coming two days.

"We want a clear and specific resolution for a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, resolving all the final status issues, releasing all detainees and refugees and labeling settlement activity illegal and should be stopped immediately, including in Jerusalem," Erekat said.

Kerry left early Sunday for a series of meetings in Europe seeking to head off an end-of-year UN showdown over the Palestinian bid for statehood.

His first stop was to be Rome where he will meet separately with both Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Diplomats say negotiations on a UN resolution to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects are making little headway, with Europeans waiting for a US response to proposals.

Jordan last month circulated a draft Palestinian text to the Security Council setting November 2016 as a deadline for the end of the Israeli occupation.

But the text ran into opposition from the United States, which has veto power, and other countries that felt it lacked balance, diplomats said. It was never put to a vote.

France stepped in last month to try to cobble together along with Britain and Germany a resolution that would win consensus at the 15-member council.

And the Palestinians have said they would like a draft resolution to go to a vote before the end of the year.

The text would call for a return to negotiations with a view to achieving a two-state solution by which Israel and a Palestinian state would co-exist.

Negotiations have hit hurdles over whether to include a two-year deadline for talks on a final settlement to be completed.

France is also proposing to host an international conference to launch the new peace track.

...

It's a country smaller than Sderot, yet it opposes an Israeli withdrawal from the territories. How Micronesia sets its Middle East policy. … [Haaretz – 12/7/06]

Turkey: Zaman releases statement in 7 languages protesting pressure on media

Todays Zaman [14/12/14]:

The Zaman media group, whose editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı was among those detained on Sunday during an ongoing government crackdown on critical media, has released a press statement in seven languages stressing that it will not stop producing independent journalism or bow to government pressure.

Sunday's police operations have attracted widespread attention from the world media, with many commentators expressing their dismay at the situation of the freedom of the press in Turkey.

The press statement was released in Turkish, English, German, French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese.

The detentions came as part of recent police operations that have targeted TV screenwriters and former police officers in addition to journalists. The suspects are variously accused of "forming, leading or being a member of an armed terrorist organization," "forgery" and "slander," according to a statement released by the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office.

The detentions came days after a government-sponsored bill made it possible to arrest suspects based on "reasonable doubt" alone was signed into law. An earlier document had revealed that suspects in the recent spate of detentions were being accused of taking over the sovereignty of the Turkish Republic by pressure and threats, establishing an illegal gang, faking documents, restricting people's freedom and libel.

The police officers detained are reportedly those who carried out raids against the Tahşiye group in 2009, which is alleged to have links to al-Qaeda. Five police officials who are accused of being part of an illegal gang are currently behind bars from a separate investigation and are waiting to be brought to a courthouse to be interrogated by prosecutors.

The English text of Zaman's press statement reads as follows:

“Today is an extremely sad day for Turkish democracy and freedom of the press. Colleagues including our Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanli have been detained on unfounded allegations.

Turkey's record on press freedoms has recently been on a steep decline. Freedom House has downgraded Turkey's ranking to 'not free' earlier this year. Today's mass detentions mark another major step back.

Since 1980's our media group has been a strong voice for freedom, Turkey's integration with advanced democracies, and domestic and international peace. Despite government orchestrated intimidation and legal harassment to journalists and news organizations in especially last few years, we continued doing our job consistently at all costs.

Our only crime is going after major corruption incidents and authoritarian tendencies. The pressure on Zaman and other members of the free media has been consistently on the rise from media bans to intimidating, even deporting reporters and pressuring companies not to advertise with them. Today's vicious attack on us and other colleagues reaffirms the accuracy of our reporting.

Our readers, Turkish nation and the world must rest assured; we will not give in to fear and bullying. We are confident Turkey will one day leave this dark chapter behind and ultimately become a better democracy where press is totally free from suppression.”

Papua Remains a Killing Field Even Under New Indonesian President Jokowi

TIME [12/12/14]:

The vivid images that emerged from Indonesia’s Papua province this week are pretty gruesome: teenage boys in school uniforms lie in a pool of blood, surrounded by shell-shocked residents.

They are a grim reminder of the ongoing human-rights abuses in the country’s easternmost corner, wracked by a low-level armed separatist movement and heavy-handed military crackdown for about half-century.

On Monday, five high school students, aged 17 to 18, died in the town of Enarotali after security forces allegedly shot at a crowd of about 800 Papuans — many of whom were pupils — protesting on a soccer field, not far from the military and police offices.

At least 17 civilians were wounded, including women and children. A sixth victim died on Tuesday, Papuan media reported.

...

Rally in Adelaide, Australia today outside parliament house to protest the massacre of six West Papuans last week. END THE GENOCIDE AND POLITICAL FRAUD IN WEST PAPUA!!  ... [Free West Papua Campaign - 15/12/14]

It was a set-up, claims Sydney woman arrested at KL airport

Sydney Morning Herald [14/12/14]:

A Sydney mother of four facing the death penalty in Malaysia claims she was innocently carrying a bag that allegedly contained methamphetamines.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 51, of Liverpool, told lawyers she was asked to carry a soft-bag containing documents from Shanghai for a US army soldier in Afghanistan.

Her Malaysian lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, says Mrs Pinto appears to have a strong chance of proving her innocence and that she was "used by unscrupulous people".

Mrs Pinto was remanded in custody at a Kuala Lumpur court on Sunday pending a further court appearance on December 19.

The court was closed to the public.

Mr Shafee told journalists outside the court that Mrs Pinto told him it was her understanding the US soldier wanted the documents taken to Melbourne so he could arrange his retirement.

She said she was told that someone would be waiting at Melbourne airport to receive the bag.

Airport Customs director Chik Omar Chik Lim earlier said Mrs Pinto arrived at Kuala Lumpur airport around 5pm on December 7 from Shanghai and was to have taken a connecting flight to Melbourne.

"While passing through the scanner at the arrival hall we found syabu [methamphetamines] wrapped in plastic and stashed inside a secret compartment in her travel bag," he said.

"She was later handed to police for questioning."

The amount of the drug allegedly seized is worth the equivalent of $93,000 in Malaysia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says it is " providing consular assistance to an Australian woman who has been detained in Malaysia".

Mrs Pinto's sons told Channel Nine: "We all love our mum. And we are all worried for her and all praying for the best."

Under Malaysia's decades-long campaign against drugs the death sentence by hanging is mandatory if the accused is found guilty of carrying more than 50 grams of methamphetamines.

More than 440 people have been hanged in Malaysia since 1960.

...

Evidence/facts are soo last century. The Daily Tele's 2pm edition.

Image: ‏@jessradio [15/12/14]

The Siege That Has Stopped A Nation: 10 Predictions From Martin Place [New Matilda - 15/12/14]:

As a siege that is being watched around the world unfolds at the Lindt chocolate store in Martin Place, Sydney, little is known about what is actually going on. But that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate. Wildly.

We don't actually know anything about what is going on at the Lindt Shop in Martin Place, beyond the fact there's a siege, some hostages, and a flag in the window.  But why should that stop us from bringing you the news? 

So, in the spirit of Australian mainstream news reporting, New Matilda brings you 10 predictions (which we're parading as fact) that will either definitely, probably, possibly, or possibly not unfold over the next few days.

...

This is what #WAR [Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance] thinks of the 15 million dollar @RecogniseAU campaign for assimilation #RecogniseWhat

Image: ‏@clayton_dixon  [14/12/14]

All smile for your photo with the fascist from down under who helps Uncle Sam plunder PNG resources, runs a death camp and exiles Australia's refugees

 

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to address concerns on Bougainville

Image: ‏@BougainvillNews [14/12/14]

You can count on the Australian media to airbrush, omit and mislead for the benefit of fascism: ... Ms Bishop will go on to visit the autonomous PNG region of Bougainville, where Australian Defence Force personnel recently helped clear unexploded ordnance left over from the long civil war.  [Foreign Minister Julie Bishop backs summit to plan new regional architecture in Pacific – The Age – 14/12/14] The ADF cleared ordnance from WW2, not the civil war.

President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), Dr John Momis says any attempt by the national government to control mining in Bougainville could cause people to lose all faith in the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).  ... [PNG Loop - 13/12/14]

Bougainville’s President Momis teams-up with Filipino execs slammed in human rights scandal [PNG Mine Watch - 13/12/14]

 ... Teenagers are also held in solitary. Six 19-year-olds have been placed in Chauka. …

[Manus Island asylum seekers put in solitary confinement at a rate of three a week – Guardian – 12/12/14]

Two psychologists' role in CIA torture program comes into focus [LA Times – 14/12/14]

In the "Salt Pit," a then-secret CIA prison in Afghanistan, John "Bruce" Jessen watched carefully in late 2002 as five agency officers rushed into a darkened cell and grabbed an Afghan detainee named Gul Rahman..

"It was thoroughly planned and rehearsed," Jessen later explained, according to a CIA investigator's report. "They dragged him outside, cut off his clothes and secured him with Mylar tape," before beating him and forcing him to run wearing a hood. When he fell, they dragged him down dirt passageways, leaving abrasions up and down his body.

Jessen added a critique. "After something like this is done, interrogators should speak to the prisoner to give [him] something to think about," he told the investigator.

On Nov. 20, 2002, Rahman was found dead in his unheated cell. He was naked from the waist down and had been chained to a concrete floor. An autopsy concluded that he probably froze to death.

...

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has questioned Turkey’s possible role in the CIA’s torture program after the 9/11 attacks, after last week’s Senate report on the U.S. intelligence agency’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques. … [Hurriyet Daily News – 14/12/14]

US Embassy in Port Moresby awards two new grants totalling US$1 million to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)

PNG Loop [15/12/14]:

The US Embassy in Port Moresby has awarded two new grants totalling US$1 million (about K3.5 million) to its partner, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to combat the global threat of human trafficking in PNG and Solomon Islands.

“These two grants will empower the people of the South Pacific by providing populations at risk of being trafficked with access to information and justice,” says US Ambassador to PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Walter North.

The first grant awards $500,000 to IOM for a two-year project which will provide technical assistance to strengthen legislation, prosecution efforts, and protection measures to combat trafficking in persons in PNG.

Ambassador North said the grant is to award Papua New Guinea’s observance of ‘Stop Human Trafficking Day’, as part of the 20 days of Human Rights Activism campaign, and building on the PNG Criminal Code Amendment Act of 2013 to combat the global threat of human trafficking.

“There is perhaps no greater threat to human dignity, and no greater attack on basic freedom, than the evil of human trafficking,” said Ambassador North.

The second project provides $500,000 to IOM for a two-year project that will focus on strengthening coordinated efforts to combat trafficking in person in the Solomon Islands.

The project will also support Solomon Islands law enforcement to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of trafficking in persons.

Ambassador Walter said more than 20 million people estimated to be victimized around the world by the 150 billion US dollar criminal industry that traffics in human beings, making the struggle against modern slavery can seem daunting.

...

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Recommendations re "Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014" [December 2014]:

...

4.70 In specific evidence about actual incidents of encouragement to return home, a former employee of Playfair suggested that staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) were 'speaking to transferees, trying to convince them of the benefits of returning home'.

4.71 In contrast, government representatives re-confirmed their view that any returns from Manus Island RPC were strictly voluntary. For example Lieutenant General Campbell stated that '[i]t is really important to note these are voluntary returns'.

 4.72 In terms of the number of returns from the Manus Island RPC, the department provided information that:

As at 1 August 2014, 203 transferees have been voluntarily returned from an Offshore Processing Centre (OPC) and 174 transferees from the Manus OPC since 18 February 2014 with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

...

Australian High Commission, Hela provincial government and ExxonMobil PNG announce a partnership to support and expand community safety

Australian High Commission PNG Media Release [11/12/14]:

Hela Governor, Mr. Anderson Agiru, ExxonMobil PNG (EMPNG) Managing Director Peter Graham and Australian High Commissioner, Her Excellency Ms Deborah Stokes, signed a Statement of Principles committing support for community safety through the PNG-Australia Law and Justice - Transition Program. A Memorandum of Understanding was subsequently signed between the Australia High Commission and EMPNG enabling joint funding of a full-time Tari-based community safety adviser.

“This is an excellent example of how business and development partners can work together to improve the lives of Papua New Guineans. Our partnership affirms our joint commitment to supporting and expanding community safety, and to the economic development of Papua New Guinea,” Ms Stokes said.

The placement of a Community Safety Adviser in Tari will support the Hela government’s efforts to strengthen local justice delivery, improve collaboration with national agencies and assist in reporting justice outcomes. Of particular focus will be support for Village Courts and reducing and preventing family and sexual violence.

Governor Agiru extended his full support to the initiative.

“The placement of a full-time law and justice advisor in Hela is welcomed, as it builds upon the work already done by the PALJP team in the province. My administration fully supports this initiative, and we appreciate the willingness of the PNG national government, the Australian government and ExxonMobil to support Hela’s development priorities.”

ExxonMobil PNG Managing Director Peter Graham noted during the signing ceremony that development challenges require ongoing collaboration between the public sector, industry and civil society.

“ExxonMobil remains committed to helping develop human, social and economic capacity in PNG. We are pleased to support the Law and Justice Partnership and commend the PALJP -TP team and the Hela Provincial Government for moving this initiative forward.”

Mark Davis' report on Manus Island [VIDEO - SBS - 28/5/14]:

… Just days before Prime Minister Gillard's arrival in Port Morseby, the Australian High Commissioner, Deborah Stokes, made a flying visit to the refugee centre, not expecting to be bugged, it would seem, by the presence of any journalists on the island.

REPORTER: Ma'am, it's Mark Davis from SBS TV, can I ask you how your trip was to the facility?

DEBORAH STOKES, AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER: It was a very straight forward trip to the facility.

REPORTER: Are you concerned - I mean there's been various rumours published about the place. Are you concerned about those rumours of inadequate facilities for children and mistreatment of adults?

DEBORAH STOKES: I've had a good look at the facility and that's all I can say at this point.

REPORTER: Could I ask you one question - why is the place so obsessively secretive - no access to journalists, NGOs, lawyers?

DEBORAH STOKES: It's run by the Papua New Guinean Government and that's their decision.

REPORTER: The Papua New Guinean Government says it's not, the Prime Minister says he's happy for journalists and others to go there because he's worried the rumours are growing to such a degree no-one can verify them or otherwise.

DEBORAH STOKES: We will have a discussion with the PNG Government about that.

REPORTER: So as far as you're aware, the Australian Government has no problem with access?

DEBORAH STOKES: The PNG Government is the administrator of the centre and it is on their land, and we will have a discussion with them about that.

REPORTER: So theoretically if they're happy with it, it shouldn't be a problem?

DEBORAH STOKES: Yes.

...

PNG: 3 police suspended over shooting

PNG Loop [14/12/14]

Three policemen in Kimbe have been suspended over the shooting of a young man on Wednesday this week.

The youth was shot after police gave chase to some suspects who took cover at Morokea Village.

Provincial Police Commander (PPC), Superintendent Samson Siguyaru said the matter had been referred to the Police Independent Investigation Unit in Kokopo who are already in Kimbe working on the case.

The relatives of the dead man have also demanded K100,000 as ‘bel sori’ money.

Governor Sasindran Muthuvel, Talasea LLG President Victor Narere, Provincial Administrator Williamson Hosea, along with other dignitaries visited the ‘haus krai’ (mourning place) negotiating means for peace and understanding as the law takes its course on the death.

The governor also personally gave K2000, a pig and food items to the mourning relatives and thanked the Morokea people for allowing the traffic to flow.

COP20 draws to a close

Greens Media Release [14/12/14]:

Senator Christine Milne

COP 20 has drawn to an close after an exhausting two weeks here in Lima. We have a document, the Lima Climate Action Plan, which has been agreed after last minute negotiations between the President of the COP and each of the negotiating blocs.

It does not go far enough to engender confidence for an ambitious global agreement in Paris next year but it has pulled the negotiations back from the brink of collapse and provides a text on which to take the negotiations forward elevating adaptation to the same level as mitigation and inserting reference to 'loss and damage'. A pathway for building the Green Climate Fund remains a stumbling block to be dealt with in the coming year.

If this UN process is to change for the better, there will have to be a fundamental rethink about the two realities of the world that are being lived by rich and poor nations. It will also need everyone of us who know what is at stake to redouble our efforts to get countries, like our own, to step up and stop being miserly, minimalist and obstructive.

During the long plenary on Saturday morning, it was obvious that the divide between developed and developing countries is not getting smaller with time but it is expanding. Whereas developed countries, like the United States and Australia, want to focus on mitigation, the developing world, like our Pacific Island neighbours, wants as much focus on climate finance, adaptation and loss and damage. It really highlights what Sir Nicholas Stern and so many others have pointed out for decades, namely that the longer action is delayed the more expensive it will be.

Because the world has not reduced greenhouse gases in line with what the science demands, temperatures and sea levels are rising and extreme weather events are more intense and frequent. The impacts of climate change are now biting.

But it is the poorest and least developed vulnerable countries which did nothing historically to cause the problem, which have virtually no capacity to cope with the effects. No wonder they want "loss and damage" (how and who will pay for responding to the effects of climate change that were not prevented by mitigation or adaptation efforts) recognised in the text, as well as a pathway towards the $100 billion a year climate finance they were promised.

For these countries, it is about justice and historical responsibility. The UNFCCC recognised this with the idea of "common but differentiated responsibility" and removing this from the text was seen by many as a breach of the Convention.

This is also the time to rethink the Presidential, top down, style of negotiating that has become the norm since Copenhagen when the leaders of rich countries swept in and developed their own agreement and tried to impose it on the rest of the world. It didn't work then and it won't work now and it is one of the reasons that the talks here in Lima almost derailed. We need to return to the pre Copenhagen norm where inclusion of all points of view was the modus operandi and text was thrashed out until consensus was reached.

Following the gridlock this morning, the President this afternoon met with all the country blocs for 10 minutes each, listened to their concerns and has come back with a new text which he returned to the Plenary.

Frankly, inclusion of representatives of all blocs should be the norm. The spirit of the UN system is democratic with one vote, one value. The majority of people on this planet live in the developing world and they are tired of being treated as less worthy than the more powerful nations.

As Malaysia said today, and I paraphrase, you colonised us, so we start from different points. You did not take our issues at this COP seriously, no notes were taken and our concerns were ignored. Do you want us on bended knees?

There will be disappointment, sadness, frustration and anger in civil society that these talks have resulted in a small step rather than the solid foundation everyone of us hoped for and which country after country said they knew was required to stop going beyond 2degrees and beyond the tipping points. But we must never, ever give up.

Whilst the lack of political will is a problem, it can't stop the revolution in renewable energy that is underway globally. It can't stop the campaigns to save forests and our Great Barrier Reef or our farmlands and river systems.

It won't slow the divestment campaign or the redesign of cities, the roll out of electric cars, the take up of batteries, the deployment of solar, the new technologies that will transform our way of life as we move to a low carbon future and drag the politics along behind. The Australian Greens will be right there leading all the way to Paris in 2015.

Henley Brook and Brabham residents were allowed to return home last night after a bushfire tore through Whiteman Park.

But a large section of Lord Street remained closed as firefighters fought the 2km fire front throughout the night.

Properties were evacuated in Perth's north-eastern suburbs yesterday afternoon as more than 100 firefighters battled the blaze. They were bolstered by several water-bombing planes and helicopters.

The fire started about 1pm and was contained at 9pm. … [West Australian – 15/12/14]

One dead in house fire at Barney Point

Gladstone Observer [15/12/14]:

A body has been found inside a house that was destroyed by fire at Barney Point, Gladstone, overnight.

Police are treating the fire as suspicious and have declared the house a crime scene.

Police and emergency services were called to the Callide Crescent home around 9.30pm, where they found the house well alight.

The house was destroyed by the blaze.

The body of the person, who is yet to be identified, was located inside the house.

All occupants of the house who were not home at the time of the fire have been accounted for.

Investigations by Gladstone detectives and forensic officers are continuing.

Fatal traffic crash near Gin Gin

QPS Media [15/12/14]:

Police are investigating a single vehicle fatal traffic crash that occurred at Bungadoo last night.

Initial investigations suggest that around 11.00pm a vehicle was travelling toward Bundaberg on the Bundaberg-Gin Gin Road when the vehicle left the road and hit a tree.

The driver and only occupant, a 28-year-old male, has died as a result of injuries received from the crash.

The Forensic Crash Unit are currently investigating.

Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Rimas, 1 month old, born in Turkey during journey to Europe. Will riot cops use teargas w/her here?#SyrianRefugeesGR

 

Image: @mkhalili [14/12/14]

In Syntagma Square : Syrian Refugees Fight Back [Samos Chronicles – 9/12/14]:

... Despite their circumstances the students – indeed all those we met – were confident about their abilities to re-build their lives in Europe. They just wanted to be given a chance to move freely with rights to work and study.

But without exception every Syrian we spoke with had suffered pain and fear. In the midst of stories being exchanged we got to hear how many had been in Syrian jails and police stations. There was the final year medical student whose strapped hand and wrist was a legacy to being suspended by his wrists while in a police cell. Many had lost close relatives and friends either killed or wounded. Constant fear was their companion in Syria. So was hurt, as they saw much loved cities and towns pulverized and cleaned of their people. And on top, the daily uncertainty, never knowing when or where the violence would strike next.

...

ISIS beheads four men for blasphemy in Syria [Al Arabiya – 13/12/14]

 

An Iranian asylum seeker is 43 days into a hunger strike as the Immigration Department tries to force him to return voluntarily to Iran or stay in detention indefinitely, which his lawyers describe as being trapped in a "Kafkaesque nightmare" . ... [Sydney Morning Herald - 14/14/14]



Photographer Salgado tells AFP planet near extinction

France 24 [14/12/14]:

World renowned Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado has crisscrossed the globe to document the extremes of globalisation, migration and unchartered territories, but is most troubled by mankind's reckless plundering of the planet, which he says is lethally short-sighted.

On a visit to Hong Kong to promote "Genesis", an exhibition of images which is a result of an epic eight-year worldwide expedition, the 70-year-old said humankind's drive to tame nature was taking the world to the brink of extinction.

"If we don't come back to our planet we won't be here for too long," Salgado told AFP in an interview. "We are not part of our planet anymore, we have become aliens."

The documentary photographer has travelled to more than 100 countries, including Rwanda, Guatemala and Bangladesh, documenting some of the most gruesome horrors of the modern world: starvation, war, poverty and displacement.

His dramatic portraits of remote, decimated landscapes and vulnerable or exploited communities -- including ship breakers in Bangladesh and gold mineworkers in Brazil -- profoundly shaped the medium of black and white photography and inspired generations of photographers.

Raised in a rural part of central Brazil, Salgado was trained as an economist before turning to photography. He first picked up a camera loaned to him by his wife in his mid-twenties, and though he came to the profession later in life than most, he knew then his calling had come.

"For the first time I saw through a viewfinder and from this moment on, my life changed," Salgado said.

He turned professional in the early 1970s, and has since won an avalanche of prestigious awards, with his photographs hanging on the walls of the Barbican Gallery, London and the International Center of Photography in New York.

In the late 1990s, he was forced to take a hiatus after covering the Rwandan genocide, where he documented countless deaths, an experience that took a heavy psychological toll.

Salgado recalls the overwhelming stench of human decay as he watched piles of bodies being dumped in the ground by bulldozers, a sight that seared itself into his memory.

"I started to die, my body started to be sick," he said.

To recuperate, he decided to return to the farmland in Brazil where he spent his boyhood.

"I grew up in the hilly area. I remember my father walked with me in the big farms, we would walk to the highest part of the farm and sit there for hours seeing these incredible clouds, the lights crossing in between, it was enormous," he said.

But to his horror, the lakes had dried up and much of the rainforest had been lost to deforestation.

As his body and mind began to heal, he decided with his wife, Lelia to replant the rainforest that was there.

"Today we plant more than 2.5 million trees, it's all rainforest again. (We) saved the jaguars, we have more than 170 different species of birds," he said.

The husband-and-wife team run Amazonas Images, which handles the research, production and publishing of Salgado's photographs.

Salgado's stunning wildlife images -- penguins skidding across icebergs, a lone baboon crossing sand dunes, water dripping from the tail of a whale -- are matched by his robust criticism of humans, who he describes as "profound predators".

His stunning array of images is widely perceived as a call to arms for humans to preserve what they have.

"We start to destroy everything, we start to domesticate the cattle and put cattle in prison, we create them by the tens of thousands and millions so we can eat them," he said.

Sunshine Coast artist's portrait of Nelson Mandela to be displayed in Canberra

Sunshine Coast Daily [14/12/14]:

The sixth day of December 2013 is one that local artist and South African migrant Meloney Steyl will never forget.

It was the day Nelson Mandela died, and the day she painted a portrait that will soon take up residence at the South African High Commission in Canberra.

"It was done within a two-hour space of time - something that has never happened before and probably never will again," she said.

Ms Steyl said the feeling of complete "flow" signalled an artist's peak achievement.

"As artists it's something we yearn for and wait for, that creative flow. And it's something incredible and unforgettable," she said. "It was in reaction, I guess, to the grief. To hearing about his death."

The news of Mr Mandela's death had a profound effect on Zimbabwean-born Ms Steyl, who grew up in South Africa and moved to Australia 11 years ago.

"He really offered up his life for democracy," she said.

"The ideals he stood for, where blacks and whites could come together as equals and there would be unity, he stood for human rights for everybody. He was against black domination and he was against white domination - he was for everything that was right and just."

Black and white acrylic was used on pre-textured canvas for the portrait, which was titled "Madiba", a term of endearment for Mr Mandela.

Ms Steyl was delighted to learn her painting would depart in the new year for the South African High Commission.

"It's a very big honour, and who would have thought?" she said.

Child deaths investigation: Family say police targeting wrong person

ABC [14/12/14]:

The mother of four boys at the centre of a murder and attempted murder investigation north of Brisbane say police are trying to build a case from something that does not exist.

Homicide detectives are probing the alleged murders of a three-year-old boy in July 2013 and his seven-month-old half brother in September this year.

Both died in the same house.

It was initially thought the three-year-old died from complications from a virus, and the baby died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Police are also investigating whether there was an attempt to kill two other children in a house fire in February.

A woman was named as a person of interest and questioned by police earlier this month and is helping with investigations.

The mother of the children, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said police are wrongly targeting her mother-in-law.

"All I can say from my gut feeling is they are looking at the wrong person," she said.

"I can't see her doing it - most of her furniture was there. I can't see the intention of burning her own."

Meanwhile, the father of the seven-month-old who died in September said police are making a terrible mistake by targeting his mother.

"I am absolutely appalled and disgusted," he said.

"I am the youngest out of six children that she raised, plus she had two foster children in her care. She is a fragile lady - I can't see her doing anything like this."

A police reconstruction of the February fire revealed it may have been deliberately lit and the children's escape was deliberately blocked.

On Friday, police announced they would investigate the two murders and the two attempted murders, throwing all resources at the case until a person was brought to justice.

Robbery, Carrara

QPS Media [14/12/14]:

Police are investigating following the robbery of a convenience store in Carrara last night.

At about 7.55pm a man entered the store on Elysium Drive and demanded money and cigarettes from the attendant, who complied. It is believed the man then fled the scene in a small blue car.

The attendant wasn’t physically injured as a result of the robbery.

Police have released a photo of a man they would like to speak to in relation to the matter.

He is described as 185cm tall and speaking with a New Zealand accent. He was wearing a black T black pants, blue and white runners and a red cap.

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.

Mackay teenager charged with murder over roadside attack on elderly man

ABC [14/12/14]:

A 72-year-old Mackay man who was left unconscious on the side of the road by a teenager who allegedly threw a rock though the windscreen of his four-wheel drive yesterday has died in hospital.

The man was driving to work in Mackay about 4:00am (AEST) on Saturday when the teenager allegedly threw the rock, causing glass to cut his face.

It is alleged the man was then assaulted by the 18-year-old outside the car, where he sustained major head and facial injuries.

The teenager, from Slade Point, will face the Mackay Magistrates Court tomorrow charged with murder.

...

Robbery, Brisbane City

QPS Media [13/14/14]:

Police are investigating following the robbery of a man in Brisbane City this afternoon.

Around 5.30pm, the man was asleep in his vehicle in a driveway on Quay St when he awoke to the sound of his car door opening and a man stealing his laptop computer.

He chased the man down the street and demanded his property back which he received.

While he was taking back possession of his laptop, a second man removed his passport and wallet from the car.

The first man is described as 23-years-old, 180 centimetres tall, thin build, dark complexion, scarring on his face and neck, clean shaven, short dark hair wearing a black and white horizontal striped shirt with possibly a French accent.

The second man is described as 23-years-old, 183 centimetres tall, thin build with a fair complexion, light brown curly hair, wearing a red and black horizontal striped shirt and dark shorts.

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.

Pedestrian killed by car on Victoria Road, Rozelle

Sydney Morning Herald [14/12/14]:

A male driver believed to have been involved in an accident which killed a pedestrian in Rozelle on Sunday morning was subjected to a "citizen's arrest" at the scene, police say.

About 11am on Sunday, a white Holden Commodore ute mounted the kerb on Victoria Road, hitting a female and a male pedestrian.

The woman died at the scene, while the injured male has been taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He is in a critical condition. Their ages are unknown.

The 22-year-old driver was also taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, for mandatory drug and alcohol testing.

Police say a number of other drivers stopped when they saw the incident, and tried to administer CPR to the injured pedestrians. It is believed the driver of the ute fled on foot, but was apprehended by witnesses.

Fatal traffic crash, Cannonvale

QPS Media [14/12/14]:

An 18-year-old Townsville man has died following a motorcycle crash at Cannonvale this morning.

Initial information indicates around 11.15am the man was riding the motorcycle on Palm Drive when he lost control of the vehicle, causing him to fall off the motorcycle and crash into a stationary trailer.

The man was transported to Proserpine Hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.

Forensic Crash Unit investigators from Bowen attended the scene and have commenced an investigation.

There is no further information available at this time.

Fatal traffic crash, Buaraba

QPS Media [13/12/14]:

A child has died following a traffic crash at Buaraba, south of Esk, this evening.

Initial investigations indicate around 7.50pm two cars travelling in opposite directions collided on the Gatton Esk Road near the intersection of Buaraba Creek Road.

A three-year-old girl from Esk died at the scene.

A 25-year old female has been airlifted to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital with serious injuries.

A 24-year-old male has been transported to the Princess Alexandra Hospital with serious injuries.

A four-year-old boy has been transported to Gatton Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The driver of the other vehicle, a 24-year-old male, has been transported to Gatton Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The intersection remains closed whilst the Forensic Crash Unit conducts their examination of the scene.

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.

Train challenge rejected

North West Star [14/12/14]:

The state Transport Minister has been dared to take a 20-hour train journey across North Queensland.

Mount Isa City Council made the challenge to prove a political point about how much hardship the removal of the Inlander Rail’s sleeping carriages and dining car will cause the regular traveller.

But it seems Scott Emerson has declined to take the 977-kilometre journey from Townsville to Mount Isa, saying he had no time for political stunts.

He flipped the challenge back at Mount Isa councillors, encouraging them “to travel on the Inlander as I have”.

“As Transport Minister, my top priorities are the safety of passengers and services for Queenslanders – not political stunts,” Mr Emerson said.

He said the carriages were being retired due to safety reasons.

But the Inlander service will remain in operation, which the Newman government would continue to subsidise by more than $2000 a passenger.

Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady countered the second challenge with: “I will match the number of times he [Mr Emerson] travels from Townsville to Mount Isa on the Inlander during 2015.”

Last week Mount Isa City councillors expressed concern that removal of comfort carriages would decrease travellers on the service, eventually leading to the Inlander’s closure.

Deputy Mayor Brett Peterson made the challenge that Mr Emerson and his political advisers should travel the train if the comfort carriages were removed in the new year.

Cr Peterson said refurbished sleeper carriages were needed, and the removal of Inlander comfort carriages affected six cities and shires.

These were Mount Isa, Cloncurry, McKinlay, Richmond, Flinders and Charters Towers.

The motion was supported by Cr Jean Ferris.

Cr Ferris said the Inlander was used for senior citizens and for school camping trips.

“Without facilities for food it will be chaos for staff and teachers,” Cr Ferris said.

Children would have to travel up to 20 hours without a place to sleep.

“It’s an absolute slap in the face for us,” she said.

Cr Kim Coghlan said Mount Isa needed to back the challenge.

Removal of Inlander services meant cuts to employment of freight carriers, drivers and cleaners.

“We’ve got to make a lot of noise for this one,” she said.

Mount Isa City Mayor Tony McGrady said the Department of Transport’s decision to remove Inlander comfort carriages came about the same time as an announcement to upgrade the Roma Street Transit Facility, which is believed to cost $60 million.

“There’s one rule for the city and one rule for the bush and I think that typifies that,” Cr McGrady said.

State MP for Mount Isa Robbie Katter believed the council’s motion was “an excellent idea” which he was happy to support. “I have had discussions with the minister’s office about the cancellation of the sleeper carriages and dining car on the Inlander and they are well aware of my position,” he said.

He said the government should be careful how it treats people in rural and regional Queensland if there was a balance of power after the next election.

Privatise the profits, socialise the losses. Abandon the citizenry. [ABC - 8/12/14]:

Mobile phone companies can now start bidding for government money to build new phone towers in blackspot areas.

The Federal Government has pledged $100 million to improve mobile coverage and earlier this year published a list of 6,000 locations with inadequate reception. ...

Inpex sheds 1,400 jobs in Darwin

ABC [14/12/14]:

Oil company Inpex has shed around 1,400 jobs from its Icthys construction project near Darwin, forcing many families to brace for a tough Christmas season.

The number of job cuts was planned, with the civil works phase of the LNG project nearing completion.

But unions are upset at the abruptness of the job cuts, saying it is flooding the local market with unemployed blue collar workers.

Sacked worker Kylie Wright said it was a terrible time of year to have no income.

"Over the holiday season, you're kids are going to be let down, your grandkids are going to be let down," she said.

The 43-year-old mother of two said she was angry at the company for the way they handled the layoffs.

"The way they've done it I thought it was wrong. You hop on a bus, go to work, get a tap on the shoulder, back on the bus, off you go home."

More than half of the 1,400 laid off are local tradesmen, such as concreters, plumbers and steel fixers.

...

Coca-Cola Amatil to axe 260 jobs [West Australian – 8/12/14]

NRA head signals massive release of tainted water to help decommission Fukushima site

Asahi Shimbun [13/12/14]:

The head of Japan's nuclear watchdog said contaminated water stored at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant should be released into the ocean to ensure safe decommissioning of the reactors.

Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, made the comment Dec. 12 after visiting the facility to observe progress in dismantling the six reactors. The site was severely damaged in the tsunami generated by the 2011 earthquake.

"I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of tanks (holding water tainted with radioactive substances)," Tanaka told reporters, indicating they pose a danger to decommissioning work. "We have to dispose of the water."

With regard to expected protests by local fishermen over the discharge, Tanaka said, "We also have to obtain the consent of local residents in carrying out the work, so we can somehow mitigate (the increase in tainted water)."

Tanaka has said previously that to proceed with decommissioning, tainted water stored on the site would need to be released into the sea so long as it had been decontaminated to accepted safety standards.

"While (the idea) may upset people, we must do our utmost to satisfy residents of Fukushima," Tanaka said, adding that the NRA would provide information to local residents based on continuing studies of radioactive elements in local waters.

The inspection tour was Tanaka's second since he became NRA chief in September 2012. He last visited in April 2013.

During his visit, Tanaka observed work at a trench on the ocean side of the No. 2 reactor building, where highly contaminated water is being pumped out. He also inspected barriers set up around the storage tanks to prevent leaks of tainted water.

Tanaka praised the completion in November of work to remove all spent nuclear fuel from the No. 4 reactor building, as well as changes to work procedures that he said allows for the completion of the work at the No. 2 reactor trench.

Iraq torture claims: New allegations against British soldiers to go to the International Criminal Court

Independent [14/12/14]:

Hundreds of new cases accusing British soldiers of abusing – in many cases torturing – Iraqi men, women and children, aged from 13 to 101, are to be considered by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Britain is already under scrutiny for alleged war crimes committed by its forces in Iraq. The ICC is currently examining a dossier of claims presented by lawyers and human rights campaigners earlier this year that could lead to a full investigation.

The fresh details come on the eve of the publication of an official report into allegations that British soldiers mistreated and unlawfully killed Iraqis in 2004. The report, to be released on Wednesday, is expected to criticise the abuse of Iraqi prisoners captured after a battle. A number of "warning letters" have been sent to individuals believed to face criticism in the report.

The revelations will fuel the row surrounding official British knowledge of the use of torture to obtain intelligence from suspected insurgents and terrorists. Pressure is mounting on David Cameron to order a full judicial inquiry into what Britain knew about torture by America's CIA and other allies fighting al-Qaeda-inspired terror.

Yesterday, the SNP called for a full judicial inquiry to examine the UK government's role in extraordinary rendition and for the findings of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war to be made public.

...

Dozens of cases detail mock executions, while many others describe how dogs were used to attack or threaten detainees. There are also allegations of sexual assault or rape by British soldiers.

Many victims have been left scarred for life. One government worker, 34, reported to have been "repeatedly beaten" and "electrocuted", suffered "severe psychological injuries as a result of his treatment. He set himself alight and killed himself approximately one year after his release".

One document says the wife and daughters of a fireman aged 60 "were punched, slapped and beaten with rifles" during a raid on his home in December 2003 in which he was beaten unconscious.

And a 20-year-old man, arrested in April 2003, "was repeatedly punched in the face by a soldier who sang as he hit him. He noted the soldier enjoyed hitting him." He then spent time in a "guest house" where detainees "were made to kneel and put their head on the floor he was repeatedly hit and threatened at gunpoint by one soldier who would check on him every three or four hours and ensure that detainees had not moved".

In another case, a 29-year-old Iraqi police officer died after his home was raided in June 2008. The document says that his family saw how soldiers "forced his head into a bucket of cold water a number of times. He stopped breathing and died. His wife and children witnessed the soldiers killing him". It adds: "The head of the police department requested an explanation. British forces admitted they mistakenly killed the deceased," the statement says.

Civilians claim they were repeatedly electrocuted. A 20-year-old fisherman, arrested in June 2004, tells how "his back was electrocuted a number of times; the pain ran through to his genitals which began to bleed. He lost consciousness and woke up inside his cell." Others were abused in their homes. After they broke into his home in April 2006, soldiers took a 31-year-old man to the bathroom where he was "beaten, urinated on, interrogated and waterboarded more than five times".

Another of the claims concerns a man of 28 who was found outside Camp Bucca a month after being arrested by British forces in April 2003. "He had head injuries, a broken leg, his arm was paralysed and his speech became impaired so that he now speaks much like a young child."

Phil Shiner, a solicitor with the law firm PIL (Public Interest Lawyers), which is handling the claims, said:

"These cases involving the most serious human rights violations imaginable pose immensely difficult questions. The UK mindset in Iraq appears to be one of savage brutality and a sadistic inhumanity, irrespective of whether it was women, children or old men being tortured, abused or callously subjected to lethal force. The systemic issues must now be dealt with in public."

...

UK poll shows voters believe UKIP is to the left of the Tories [Independent – 14/12/14]

Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014 [Senate Report]:

Events of the night of 17 February

5.49 Correspondence between G4S and the department indicates that on the night of 17 February, the PNG police force present at the centre was 46 officers, comprising 36 mobile squad members and ten dog squad members (with four dogs).

...

Australian fascists arrive in PNG to do deals and deny human rights

The LNP and ALP really appreciate "refugee advocates" diverting blame from them on to the crossbenchers. 

No opposition and a lack of of journalism means our Foreign Minister can travel to PNG to continue the fascist project with impunity.

Australia will encourage Papua New Guinea to set up a sovereign wealth fund to take advantage of revenues from a new LNG project.  ... [West Australian - 14/12/14]

PNG Loop [14/12/14]:

A strong team of Australian Government ministers are due to touch down at Jacksons Airport in a short time for major talks with PNG counterparts. They are Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and a team of ministerial heavyweights including Scott Morrison and David Johnston.

Ms Bishop is the high-flyer of the Tony Abbott team and is being openly mentioned as a possible replacement for Mr Abbott if his popularity continues to fall in polls.

Mr Morrison is the strong face of the Government’s hardline response on asylum seekers, while Mr Johnston ran into domestic politics strife recently with remarks about the capacity of local ship builders.

Ms Bishop will co-chair the annual Australia-Papua New Guinea ministerial forum and business dialogue at which she will be joined by Immigration Minister Morrison, Defence Minister Johnston and Justice Minister Michael Keenan, the report from Australian blogger Keith Jackson says.

The arrival of the team was confirmed a short time ago by PNG government officials.

“The participation of four senior members of the Coalition reflects the strength and depth of the relationship the Australian government shares with our closest neighbour,” Ms Bishop said in a statement.

Discussions are to focus on defence, policing, asylum seeker "resettlement", strengthening PNG’s public service and Australian assistance for PNG’s hosting of APEC in 2018.

The business community will also be able to join the ministers to discuss trade and investment links between the two countries.

Ms Bishop will later travel to Bougainville to discuss the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and visit Australian-funded projects in Buka and Arawa. It is the first visit to Bougainville by an Australian foreign minister since 2000.

She will then visit Goroka to participate in a meeting focusing on women’s economic empowerment and family and sexual violence.

A woman found dead in Deer Park this morning in a suspected murder-suicide overnight had taken out an intervention order against her husband that expired just four days earlier. ... [The Age - 14/12/14]

Police are investigating an incident in which a 20-year-old woman was seriously assaulted at Yarrabah this morning.  ... [QPS Media - 14/12/14]

A seven-week-old baby has been found after the boy's father allegedly abducted him from a Canberra home.  ... [Nine MSN - 14/12/14]

 

Bella Ciao 

(For Peace And Freedom)

'Violin Lessons', Arnold Zable [The Text Publishing Company – 2011]:

...

So it continued, day after day, dawn to dusk, week after week. Autumn was giving way to winter. The first snows were falling, the picking season was coming to an end, and Thomas was away on an errand. We lit a fire, passed round the grappa, and stamped our feet to keep warm while the fire was building. And, as if responding to an innate signal, the voices of the women began rising – a makeshift choir finding its way to the melody and, finally, the lyrics:



One morning when I awakened

O bella, ciao! Bella, ciao! Bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!

One morning when I awakened

I found invaders all around



Oh partisan, come take me with you

O bella, ciao! Bella, ciao! Bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!

Oh partisan, come take me with you

Because I feel ready to die



If I die fighting as a partisan

O bella, ciao! Bella, ciao! Bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!

If I die fighting as a partisan

You must come and bury me



To this day I remember the expressions on the women's faces: the knowing eye, the acute sharpness, tempered by a glint of mischief, a touch of radiance. The women had been steeled during the war in mountain hideouts, and on clandestine missions as partisans in the anti-fascist resistance. They were at ease with the physical world, their feet firmly planted on the earth, an anchor to their yearning. The moved through their days step by step like slow whirling dervishes, biding their time, conserving energy, and by nightfall they were on the truck fr the journey back to the workers' quarters.

A blessed weariness descended. The women huddled together, murmuring in conversation. Gil and Idir were dozing. Miro and Issen lying back in silence, cigarette butts glowing, and Paolo was seated between them, holding his knees to his chest, staring blankly. The moon had broken clear, and seemed to close we were tempted to reach up and touch it. We lay back on the tray, our eyes diverted by a flock of birds in V-formation embarking on their annual migrations.

...

… If Australia, as an advanced and democratic country, fails in its international obligation towards refugees, this opens the floodgates for other countries to do the same. Abdul Karim Hekmat [The Age - 14/12/14]

No Deportation to Death in Afghanistan

 

#Hazara community standing for their own at immigration building in Melbourne

Image: @pamelacurr – Refugee rights detention rights advocate [14/12/14]

[Taliban targets Afghan family as Scott Morrison stalls – The Saturday Paper – 13/12/14]:

... A year passed. Still nothing. Shaima and her advocates had thought the rigmarole was satisfied. But inquiries were met with bland apologies and vagueness. More than a year had passed since the interviews; more than three years since Shaima first made the application. Then in August this year, the Department of Immigration declared further changes to split family visas. “Those who arrived prior to 13 August 2012, while eligible to propose applications for the Special Humanitarian Program, the applications will receive the lowest priority.”

Less than two months after this announcement, with Shaima’s application still in limbo, her young brother walked to a local bakery to buy bread for the family. He didn’t return. He was 14. “I can’t prove it,” Shaima’s advocate says. “But I have wondered if someone in the embassy released the whereabouts of the family to their enemies. The family provided everything to them, including their address.”

...

A story about the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Australia's exiled refugees - which doesn't mention the IOM once. ---> [Iraqi refugees’ visas deliberately delayed by immigration department – Guardian – 13/12/14]

The ALP and LNP are beyond reform.

To free the refugees we have to kick the ALP and LNP out of parliament.

... Australia's position is despicable. No other country behaves as we do. We discriminate on the basis of their mode of arrival and target the poorest and most desperate.  ...  Alastair Nicholson [The Age - 14/12/14]

Locked in limbo: Australia's forgotten asylum seeker babies [The Age – 14/12/14]

Iran extends visas for 450,000 Afghan refugees

Daily Star [13/12/14]:

Iran said it had agreed to extend temporary visas for 450,000 Afghan refugees for six months, lifting a threat to send them back home to a country facing attacks by resurgent militants.

Afghanistan - struggling to cope with hundreds of thousands of people left homeless inside its own borders by a wave of violence - this month asked its neighbor not to expel the Afghan refugees who did not have the right documents.

Kabul said 760,000 refugees were at risk and it was not immediately clear what would happen to those who did not receive extensions.

"[Temporary visas] have been extended for six months based on the brotherly relations between our two countries," Iran's Foreign Ministry said in a statement released late on Friday.

Afghanistan had agreed to come up with a plan on how to help the refugees within two months, the ministry added.

The United Nations expects 765,000 people displaced inside Afghanistan to need its help by January 2015, up from 631,000 the previous year.

There are almost 1 million registered Afghan refugees in Iran, according to the United Nations, most of whom arrived before 2001 when U.S.-led troops toppled the Taliban Islamist regime.

Those who arrived afterwards have to get their permits assessed on an individual basis, making it harder for them to obtain the paperwork needed to be officially registered, according to the United Nations' refugee agency.

400 Syrian refugees rescued after six-day ordeal

Reliefweb [10/12/14]:

A total 408 migrants, mainly Syrians, have been rescued after spending six days adrift on a boat in the Mediterranean, Spanish officials said Wednesday.

The boat carrying the migrants was intercepted by a Spanish oceanographic vessel on Tuesday about 150 nautical miles east of the Sicilian port of Augusta, said the Spanish National Research Council which operates the research vessel said.

The vessel, the Sarmiento de Gamboa, plucked 194 migrants from the ship, including 61 children and 54 women, and gave them water, juice, fruit, yoghurt and blankets.

"They showed signs of dehydration but are otherwise in good health," its captain Maria Angeles Campos told the research council.

The remaining passengers were rescued by an Icelandic coast guard ship taking part in Triton, a European Union coastal patrol operation aimed at helping Italy cope with an influx of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from north Africa.

Operation Triton is supposed to replace "Mare Nostrum" the Italian navy's search-and-rescue mission.

The Mediterranean has become "the deadliest route of all" for migrants, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR announced earlier on Wednesday.

UNHCR reported 3,419 deaths in the Mediterranean in attempted crossings this year amid the more than 207,000 people who have attempted the sea crossing since the start of January.

That is nearly three times the previous known high of about 70,000 in 2011, when the Libyan civil war was in full swing, the agency said.

Nearly half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million people has been forced to flee since the conflict in the country began in March 2011 as an uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Fighters killed in Egypt air raid on Sinai

Al Jazeera [13/12/14]:

At least 10 fighters have been killed in an air raid on Egypt's North Sinai governorate, state news media has reported.

MENA news agency, quoting security sources, reported on Saturday that the men were killed when their hideouts south of Sheikh Zuweid and El Arish in the Egyptian Sinai were targeted.

The raids also destroyed a vehicle thought to be used by the fighters in launching attacks on the military and police.

The army has launched a massive crackdown against armed groups in Sinai Peninsula that has killed scores of policemen and soldiers, since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi last year.

It has demolished hundreds of homes along the border with the Gaza strip, stoking tensions with area residents.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced the demolition plan, and issued a state of emergency there, after fighters killed 31 Egyptian troops in an assault on a checkpoint 30km from Rafah.

In November, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a prominent Sinai-based group, which claimed responsibility for that attack, announced its allegiance to the ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Armed groups have been battling security forces in Sinai for a decade, but the violence particularly spiked after Morsi's overthrow, spreading to other parts of the country.

Egypt's top prosecutor referred 439 people to military tribunals on Saturday for acts of violence including the killing of three policemen last year, while authorities denied entry to a prominent American scholar arriving at Cairo's international airport, the latest incidents in the country's sweeping crackdown on dissent. ... [Yahoo - 13/12/14]

Libyan conflict parties clash over control of eastern oil ports

Reuters [13/12/14]:

Air strikes by forces loyal to Libya's recognized government on Saturday hit targets near the eastern oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Es-Sider to stop an advance by a rival force, officials said.

The clashes are part of a struggle in the North African country between competing governments allied to armed factions, three-and-a-half years after the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi. At stake are control of Libya's government and the country's vast oil reserves.

The recognized prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, has been forced into eastern Libya since a group called Libya Dawn seized the capital of Tripoli in August and set up its own government and parliament.

The oil ports Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, two of Libya's biggest, accounting for more than 300,000 barrels a day of exports, were working normally, an oil official said.

Forces loyal to the rival government in Tripoli have launched an operation to take the oil ports and expel the forces of former army general Khalifa Haftar allied to Thinni, its commander Tarek Eshnaina told Reuters.

"We are a third force commissioned by the chief of staff Abdulsalam Jadallah and commander-in-chief Nouri Abu Sahmain," he said. Abu Sahman is head of the General National Congress (GNC), the rival parliament based in Tripoli.

"We were about one kilometer from the main gate of Es Sider oil port, but we had to withdraw about two kilometers after Haftar's planes carried out air strikes, which killed two of our members and wounded three," he said.

Saqer al-Joroushi, Haftar's air force commander, said his forces had attacked positions near Sirte, a central costal city, which was confirmed by residents.

He said a rival force coming from Misrata, a city west of Sirte and the ports, had advanced towards the terminals with a large number of cars.

The House of Representatives, elected in June and also now based in the east, said the attackers had been joined by the Islamist group of Ansar al-Sharia, which is fighting Haftar's troops in a separate battle in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Last month, Libya Dawn took El Sharara oilfield, which produces more than 340,000 bpd, in the south after a force allied to Thinni had withdrawn.

The eastern oil ports are controlled by Ibrahim Jathran, who could be seen directing troops during Saturday's clashes, according to a video posted on websites close to his group. Jathran, also allied to Thinni, has threatened to call for eastern secession should world powers recognise the GNC.

Joroushi also said his forces had bombed targets near Zuwara west of Tripoli. The town is home to a gas and oil port.

The Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Still Silent One Year on From Deadly Yemen Drone Strike

News Week [12/12/14]

A year on from a U.S. drone strike in Yemen that hit a wedding convoy, killing 12, the United States government have refused to formally recognise the attack, or publicly acknowledge that unarmed civilians died as a result of the strike. However, recent investigations have found that they have secretly paid a record sum of over $1 million in compensation to the families of the victims.

According to the victims, on 12th December 2013, Abdallah Mabkhut al-Ameri, his new wife and about 60 of their friends and family, were travelling in a wedding procession outside the city of Rada’a when four Hellfire missiles hit the convoy, resulting in the deaths of more than 10 people, including the groom’s son from a previous marriage, and injury of 24 more.

Al-Ameri recalled the events, in an interview with human rights organisation Reprieve: “That day, we had lunch, ate and drank water and headed to pick up the bride. We were around 60-70 people and around 12 cars. The mood was joyful and I was so pleased. I was surrounded with friends and family. I was so happy. It was my wedding party. Then we were hit.”

...

This Yemeni says US drone strikes are actually helping al-Qaeda [PRI – 11/12/14]

Ukraine conflict toll tops 4,600: UN

Daily Star [13/12/14]

Fighting between government troops and pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine has left more than 300 people dead in less than a month, taking the overall toll to 4,634, the UN said on Saturday in its latest report on the conflict.

Some 10,243 people have been wounded since the conflict erupted in the ex-Soviet republic's east in April, UN's humanitarian agency OCHA said in a statement.

More than 1.1 million people have been displaced - 542,080 internally and 567,956 fleeing to neighboring countries, the vast majority, 465,721, to Russia, it said.

Some 5.2 million people live in conflict-afflicted areas, it said.

OCHA's last report on the Ukraine crisis on November 20 had put the toll at 4,317.

...

In the wake of the latest ceasefire in war-torn eastern Ukraine, commanders from both sides of the conflict met and shook hands at the wrecked Donetsk airport, agreeing that they do not want the “fraternal” conflict to continue, according to a report. … [RT – 13/12/14]

IMF deputy impressed by Ukraine's move toward “reform” [France 24 – 14/12/14]

Thousands protest election results in Poland

Centre Daily [13/12/14]

Thousands of supporters of a conservative opposition party in Poland marched on Saturday to protest the results of recent local elections, which party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski says were falsified.

The November elections were marred by problems, with a computer glitch delaying results and many ballots declared invalid because voters apparently were confused and marked them incorrectly.

However, there is no indication they were falsified. Kaczynski's critics accuse him of making false claims about the election outcome to motivate his base ahead of national elections next year.

His supporters marched in Warsaw under the slogan "in the support of democracy," chanting "repeat the elections."

Kaczynski's party, Law and Justice, won the most votes in recent elections but got fewer seats in local assemblies than the governing Civic Platform due to the way seats are apportioned. Exit polls had shown Law and Justice with a larger margin than it ended up getting.

"The current authorities have begun a media campaign against everyone who says that falsification occurred," Kaczynski told protesters in a speech, calling this a "disgrace."

Law and Justice led the government from 2005 to 2007, with Kaczynski as prime minister for part of the time. Kaczynski has failed to win any national elections since then.

His critics say that his claim of falsified elections results are the second major "lie" he has promoted. Kaczynski has also said that a plane crash in Smolensk, Russia, in 2010 that killed his brother, President Lech Kaczynski, and 95 others, was not an accident. He accuses Russian leader Vladimir Putin and former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk of conspiring in an assassination.

A Polish state investigation said the plane crashed due to a confluence of problems, including bad weather, pilot error and the rudimentary state of the Russian airport in Smolensk.

Saturday's protest was held on the 33rd anniversary of martial law, the 1981 crackdown by communist rulers against Solidarity. Marchers also remembered those killed by the authorities.

The march, at its largest, was 19 city blocks long! #MillionsMarchNYC

 

Protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge leaving the Manhattan Skyline behind. #MillionsMarchNYC #ShutItDown #ICantBreathe

Image: ‏@grasswire [13/12/14]

Operation Socialist: The Inside Story of How British Spies Hacked Belgium’s Largest Telco

The Intercept [13/12/14]:

When the incoming emails stopped arriving, it seemed innocuous at first. But it would eventually become clear that this was no routine technical problem. Inside a row of gray office buildings in Brussels, a major hacking attack was in progress. And the perpetrators were British government spies.

It was in the summer of 2012 that the anomalies were initially detected by employees at Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, Belgacom. But it wasn’t until a year later, in June 2013, that the company’s security experts were able to figure out what was going on. The computer systems of Belgacom had been infected with a highly sophisticated malware, and it was disguising itself as legitimate Microsoft software while quietly stealing data.

Last year, documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters was behind the attack, codenamed Operation Socialist. And in November, The Intercept revealed that the malware found on Belgacom’s systems was one of the most advanced spy tools ever identified by security researchers, who named it “Regin.”

The full story about GCHQ’s infiltration of Belgacom, however, has never been told. Key details about the attack have remained shrouded in mystery—and the scope of the attack unclear.

Now, in partnership with Dutch and Belgian newspapers NRC Handelsblad and De Standaard, The Intercept has pieced together the first full reconstruction of events that took place before, during, and after the secret GCHQ hacking operation.

Based on new documents from the Snowden archive and interviews with sources familiar with the malware investigation at Belgacom’s networks, The Intercept and its partners have established that the attack on Belgacom was more aggressive and far-reaching that previously thought. It occurred in stages between 2010 and 2011, each time penetrating deeper into Belgacom’s systems, eventually compromising the very core of the company’s networks.

Lawyers representing the credit card processor used by WikiLeaks are suing Visa and MasterCard in the United States over the 2010 banking blockade that kept the anti-secrecy group from receiving funds. ... [RT - 12/12/14]

UN peacekeepers fire into air, police teargas Haiti protesters

Al Jazeera [13/12/14]:

Haitian police and UN peacekeepers have clashed with protesters as several thousand opposition supporters tried to march on the presidential palace, demanding new leadership.

The Associated Press reported that UN troops fired in the air as police used tear gas to disperse protesters. The demonstrations started off peacefully but shots were fired after protesters burned tires and threw rocks at police.

Friday's march in the capital, Port-au-Prince, was only the latest in a series of demonstrations by opposition supporters demanding the resignation of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

It came just days after a government-appointed commission recommended that the country's prime minister resign.

As the protests were still going on, the president said on Friday evening that Lamothe was ready to step down to help end the country's political impasse.

"The prime minister is ready to resign," Martelly said in a national address.

"I acknowledge this decision he is making to help find a solution to the crisis. I commend him for his courage and determination to help Haiti."

Portuguese parliament calls on government to recognise Palestine

Maan [12/12/14]:

The Portuguese parliament adopted Friday a recommendation calling on the government to recognize the Palestinian state, drawing votes from the majority and opposition.

The motion, filed jointly by the ruling center-right majority and the opposition Socialist party, proposes "recognizing, in coordination with the European Union, the state of Palestine as independent and sovereign."

Palestine's Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement in response to the motion saying Palestinian diplomacy had achieved another victory.

He said the Palestinian leadership was pushing for more of such achievements.

Al-Maliki expressed his gratitude to Portugal and the Portuguese people for the recognition, thanking all parties.

The statement said the recognition was "a great achievement" led by the guidance of President Mahmoud Abbas and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The vote came after France's upper and lower houses urged their government to recognize Palestine, as European countries sought alternative ways to restart the stalled Middle East process.

Over 1,000 Palestinians clash with Israeli forces in Hebron [Maan – 12/12/14]

Israel must curb continuous stream of protest fatalities in Occupied Palestinian Territory [UN Media Release - 12/12/14]

A London court has sentenced a pro-Israel British man to 16 months in jail for attacking British lawmaker and Press TV presenter George Galloway earlier this year. … [Press TV – 12/12/14]

‘Grievous Censorship’ By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed’s Blog  [Medialens - 8/12/14]

ICC prosecutor shelves Darfur war crimes inquiries

BBC [12/12/14]:

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor says she has suspended her investigation into war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region because of a lack of action by the UN.

Fatou Bensouda said there needed to be "a dramatic shift" in the UN Security Council's approach.

The Hague-based court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2009 for alleged war crimes.

But he remains at large and has refused to recognise the court's authority.

Other Sudanese officials have been charged by the ICC, but none has been arrested.

Darfur has been in conflict since 2003 when rebels took up arms.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to appear before you and purport to be updating you when all I am doing is repeating the same things I have said over and over again," Ms Bensouda told the Security Council.

"Given this council's lack of foresight on what should happen in Darfur, I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases."

Analysts say action by the Security Council is unlikely because China - which wields a veto - has traditionally supported Sudan.

"We find ourselves in a stalemate that can only embolden perpetrators," Ms Bensouda said.

"What is needed is a dramatic shift in this council's approach to arresting Darfur suspects."

Last month, Sudan asked the UN-African Union force in Darfur (Unamid) to close its human rights office in the capital, Khartoum.

The move came amid tensions over the mission's attempt to investigate claims of mass rape by Sudanese troops in the Darfuri village of Tabit.

Ms Bensouda told the UN that the allegations should "shock this council into action".

However, Sudan has said it carried out its own investigation and had found no proof that anyone was raped.

Turkey: Worker killed in coal mine collapse in Zonguldak

Hurriyet Daily News [12/12/14]:

A worker was killed after a private coal mine collapsed in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak on Dec. 12.

The 33-year-old man, identified as Selami Yalçın, was trapped beneath rocks after the mine’s roof collapsed at around 11.00 a.m.

Yalçın was recovered from the rubble by his colleagues and taken to a nearby hospital by paramedics, but he could not be saved.

An investigation has been launched into the accident.

 

Legalise Democracy (2014)

Legalise Democracy is a documentary film by Dennis Trainor, Jr. about the movement to amend -- why it is needed, and how you can get involved. ...

 

John Rabe, the Nazi who saved Chinese from Japanese atrocities in Nanjing

South China Morning Post [22/5/14]:

In 1993, Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List told the story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and Nazi party member credited with saving the lives of more than 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.

Sixteen years later, the man described as the Oskar Schindler of China was the subject of a German-Chinese-French co-production written and directed by German filmmaker Florian Gallenberger.

John Rabe was the director of operations at Siemens China in Nanking (aka Nanjing) when the Japanese attacked Shanghai in 1937.

Sent out east by his company more than 27 years previously, Rabe, who was also the head of the Nazi Party in Nanking, was due to be transferred back to Germany just a few days before the Imperial Japanese Army invaded the city and perpetuated the massacre known as the Rape of Nanking.

But he ended up staying on to assume the role of chairman of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone and, in that time, showed that he was capable of compassion and decency, despite his Nazi affiliations.

Based on the Siemens executive's wartime diaries, John Rabe chronicles his efforts — along with a multinational group of foreigners, including an American doctor and the French head of a girl's college — to help protect, feed and save more than 200,000 Chinese by setting up a demilitarised zone along the lines of one that had been established in Shanghai.

German actor-musician Ulrich Tukur portrays Rabe as someone who, in peacetime, could be short-tempered, demanding, and critical (at one point pronouncing that certain Chinese workers are "idiots [who] are no use whatsoever"), but whose courage, generosity and principled humanity came to the fore after Nanking was transformed into a hell on earth by the Japanese.

Steve Buscemi, Daniel Brühl and Anne Consigny have prominent roles in the film as fellow members of the Nanking Safety Zone committee. In addition, mainland star Zhang Jingchu appears as Langshu, a schoolgirl who risks her life to take photos of victims of the atrocities and sneaks food to her family members unable to get into the safety zone.

The personal story of the German man described as "The Living Buddha of Nanking", and whose tombstone has a place of honour at the massacre memorial site in the southern Chinese city, deserves to be seen.

...

Chinese President Xi Jinping has presided over his country's first state commemoration of the Nanjing massacre. ... [BBC - 13/12/14]

Two landslides strike Indonesia

BBC [13/12/14]:

At least 11 people have died and more than 100 are missing after a landslide on Indonesia's main island of Java.

Heavy rain caused the landslide near Jemblung village in central Java.

Hundreds of rescuers are searching for survivors but a lack of heavy equipment is hampering efforts, with many forced to dig with their bare hands.

Disaster agency officials said rescue teams had taken about 40 people to hospital, of whom four were said to be in a critical condition.

The body of a landslide victim being carried in Indonesia A landslide on Thursday killed one man in a nearby village

The country's national disaster agency said hundreds of houses had been destroyed by the landslide.

"Conditions on the ground are pretty tough and we need heavy machines to clear the road that has been covered by the landslide," agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

A landslide in a nearby village on Thursday killed one man and forced hundreds to evacuate.

Flash floods and landslides are common in Indonesia, triggered by seasonal downpours.

Many of the inhabitants of the chain of 17,000 islands live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.

UN meeting urges critical improvements to health systems of Ebola-affected countries

UN Media [12/12/14]:

The international community must help Ebola-affected countries reboot their health systems so that they emerge from the current crisis more resilient and more focused on prevention efforts than ever before, a high-level meeting coordinated by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva heard today.

“People in Ebola-affected countries are dying – not only from Ebola but also from other causes – because the majority of health facilities in these countries are either not functional or people are not using them for fear of contracting Ebola,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General of Health Systems and Innovation, in a news release.

“A health system has to be able to both absorb the shock of an emergency like Ebola, and to continue to provide regular health services such as immunization and maternal and child care.”

At the meeting, participants – which included Ministers of Health and Finance from countries at the epicentre of the Ebola epidemic as well as international organizations and development partners – discussed methods of integration for health services spanning clinical care to surveillance, health promotion, disease prevention and management and palliative care.

In particular, noted the WHO news release, areas of improvement included “significantly strengthening” the health workforce; enhancing community trust, engagement and ownership; and ensuring the development of resilient sub-national health systems. In addition, the movement of people across the borders of the Ebola-affected countries spotlighted the “important” need for a greater coordination of trans-national health plans and an alignment of surveillance systems.

Participants agreed that such efforts would require “substantial external financing” and include all sectors of Government, including health, finance, and education.

At the same time, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced an “expanded fight” against the Ebola virus in West Africa over the next six months.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, UNICEF spokesperson, Sarah Crowe, explained that the ramped-up efforts would cost an estimated $500 million, of which $200 million had already been secured. The new funding would also permit the agency to continue tackling what Ms. Crowe described as the “two major drivers” of the virus – the lack of early isolation of patients and unsafe burials – while also promoting “life-saving behaviours” and training 60,000 community volunteers.

Elisabeth Byrs, a spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP), meanwhile told the press about her agency’s increased response in meeting the basic food and nutrition needs of affected families and communities across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Since April 2014, she said, more than two million people had received WFP food assistance, far surpassing the initially stated goal of 1 million.

Nevertheless, the agency still required $213.2 million to provide food and common humanitarian services until April 2015 with only $180 million having been received.

General strike hits Italy as unions protest labor reforms, austerity

Deutsche Welle [12/12/14]:

A general strike called by two major Italian trade unions on Friday hit schools, hospitals, airports, highways, ports and public transport across the country, as public and private sector workers protested against unpopular reforms to the labor market and cuts to public spending.

The strike was initiated by Italy's first and third-largest unions, CGIL and UIL, with the second-largest labor confederation, CISL, refusing to participate.

More than 50 rallies or protest marches at various locations were expected to accompany the walkout, held under the motto "Cosi non va!" (approximately: "This is not the right way").

Railways staff are among those taking part in the strike, despite having been initially banned from participation by the government.

The protests are directed mainly at the so-called Jobs Act, which in principle received parliamentary approval last week but has yet to be implemented.

The legislation will make it easier for companies to fire employees without giving them high severance payments. It would, however, also expand benefits and job-hunting services for the unemployed.

The unions are also outraged by planned cuts to public spending in the 2015 budget, proposed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in a bid to boost an economy enmired in a three-year-long recession.

Unions want "to improve the labor law and the budget law, giving priority to labor, industrial policies, crisis-stricken manufacturing sectors, the defense and relaunch of public sectors and the creation of new and good jobs," said Susanna Camusso, head of the CGIL union.

In a recent sign of how fragile the Italian economy is, unemployment rose to 13.2 percent in October, the highest rate since records began to be kept in 1977.

The number of jobless youth is more than three times that, standing at a massive 43.3 percent.

Shooting Near Oregon School Sends 3 to Hospital

ABC News [12/12/14]:

A suspected gang member opened fire on a group outside an alternative high school Friday, sending three young people to the hospital in what Portland police said appeared to be a gang-related shooting.

The victims are students at Rosemary Anderson High School or in affiliated job training programs, police Sgt. Pete Simpson said. A 16-year-old girl was in critical condition, and two males - ages 17 and 20 - were in fair condition, police said. A fourth person - a 17-year-old girl - was grazed by a bullet but not hospitalized.

Witnesses told police there may have been a dispute outside the school before the shooting occurred at a street corner.

The assailant and two other people fled, and the wounded students went to the school for help, the spokesman said.

"Based on the investigation thus far, the shooting appears to be gang-related," Simpson said Friday night in a statement.

That gang link was stronger than police suggested earlier in the day.

Police gang investigators "feel comfortable saying this is a gang-related shooting based on some of the people involved," Simpson said in an interview. He declined to say which victims might be related to gangs.

The spokesman said police were still gathering details on the reported dispute.

"There was some kind of dispute between the shooter and some people," Simpson said. "We don't know if it was (with) all the victims or one of the victims."

Police identified the hospitalized victims Friday night as Taylor Michelle Zimmers, 16, who was in critical condition, David Jackson-Liday, 20, and Labraye Franklin, 17.

...

United States continue bombing Syria and Iraq

US Department of Defense [12/12/14]:

U.S. and partner-nation military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq over the last three days, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported.

Fighter and bomber aircraft have conducted seven airstrikes in Syria since Dec. 10, officials said. Five airstrikes near Kobani destroyed five ISIL fighting positions and struck another ISIL fighting position.

An airstrike near Aleppo struck five ISIL-occupied buildings, and near al-Qaim, on the Syrian border, an airstrike destroyed two ISIL fortifications.

Separately, U.S. and partner-nation forces have conducted 20 airstrikes in Iraq since Dec. 10, using fighter, bomber, attack, and remotely-piloted aircraft against the ISIL terrorists, officials said, providing the following details:

-- Four airstrikes near Sinjar destroyed an ISIL armored vehicle and two ISIL storage containers and also struck another ISIL armored vehicle and an ISIL checkpoint.

-- Near Ramadi, four airstrikes destroyed an excavator and five ISIL vehicles and also struck an ISIL-occupied building and three ISIL units.

-- Three airstrikes near Rutbah destroyed two bulldozers and an ISIL storage container.

-- Near Mosul, three airstrikes destroyed a bunker and a bulldozer and also struck an excavator.

-- Three airstrikes near Qaim destroyed four ISIL vehicles, two ISIL-occupied buildings, an ISIL storage container and an ISIL guard tower and also struck an ISIL bunker.

-- Near Samarra, an airstrike struck a large ISIL unit.

-- An airstrike near Rawah destroyed an ISIL guard shack.

-- An airstrike near Asad struck an ISIL staging area.

All aircraft returned to base safely, officials said, noting that airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

...

@IraqiSMCEn – Iraqi Spring Media Center [12/12/14]:

Nazzal and Risala have been shelled by rockets .....

Three civilians were wounded as a mortar fell on a home near Khatib Secondary west of Samarra today night.....

Aftermath of massiacre in Fallujah : *GRAPHIC*

Children killed during shelling [10/12/14]

Warplanes targetted civilians [10/12/14]

Syrian rebels kill 300 civilians: monitoring group

Hurriyet News Daily [12/12/14]:

Syrian rebels using improvised mortar bombs made of cooking gas canisters killed 311 civilians between July and December this year, a monitoring group said on Dec. 12, condemning the use of the wildly inaccurate weapons.

Two-thirds of the deaths, or 203 people, were in the northern city of Aleppo where the so-called "hell cannons" have been fired on government-held districts of Syria's second city.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the violence using sources on both sides, said that 42 children and 25 women were among the dead in Aleppo. It said more than 700 people had also been wounded during that time.

Syria's official news agency SANA said on Thursday that "terrorists" fired 11 of the improvised bombs in the southern city of Deraa, wounding several civilians.

The canisters are packed with explosives, fitted with a guide fin and fired by large cannons.

Syria's war started with a pro-democracy movement that grew into an armed uprising and has inflamed regional confrontations. Some 200,000 people have died, the United Nations says.

Chemical weapons have been used, the international chemical weapon watchdog says, and the United Nations says that President Bashar al-Assad's forces have dropped improvised and indiscriminate barrel bombs on Aleppo.

US Congress approves plan to train Syrian rebels in defense bill  [RT - 13/12/14]

Afghanistan:  NATO airstrike leaves 17 dead in Parwan

Khaama [11/12/14]:

At least 17 suspected militants were killed in two separate airstrikes by NATO-led coalition security forces in northern Parwan province late on Wednesday.

“While performing reconnaissance on an area known to be used by enemy combatants, Coalition aircraft identified militants travelling in an open area. After ensuring they were well clear of any civilians, the aircraft engaged them with precision munitions,” the alliance said following a statement.

This comes as earlier reports suggested at least five civilians were killed following the NATO airstrike in Siyagerd area of Ghorband district.

However, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said “ISAF is aware of the allegations that civilian casualties were caused by this strike. We take these allegations seriously and will conduct an investigation.”

In the meantime, a local government official speaking on the condition of anonymity said at least 12 militants were killed in a separate airstrike in Shenwari district.

Parwan is among the relatively volatile provinces in northern Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups are actively operating in a number of its districts and frequently carry out insurgency activities.

Police: Taliban Shoot Dead Supreme Court Official in Kabul [Naharnet – 13/12/14]

...  social media activists and users have started sharing a set of photos showing the teenager suicide bomber who attacked the French Institute in Estiqlal high school on Thursday evening. The authenticity of the photo has been not ascertained, but the activists and social media users appears to criticize the former President’s approach towards the militants, particularly the child suicide bombers who were pardoned and were released by him. ... [Khaama - 13/12/14]

A suicide attack targeted a theatre show in Estiqlal high school in Kabul city this evening, leaving one foreign nation dead and ten Afghan civilians injured. … [Khaama – 11/12/14]

At least 17 militants were killed following military operations in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, local security officials said Friday. ... [Khaama - 11/12/14]

Twin blasts hit market in Nigeria's Jos

Al Jazeera [12/12/14]:

Twin bomb blasts have hit a market in the central Nigerian city of Jos, killing at least 17 people and injuring 25 others, media reports say.

Thursday's attack took place shortly after 6pm local time (17:00 GMT) near the site where a similar attack killed scores in May. It happened on the same day that the ruling party and the opposition officially named their presidential candidates.

The blasts occurred as store owners were shutting their shops and Muslims were preparing for evening prayers.

The National Emergency Management Agency confirmed 17 deaths but several media outlets quoted officials giving higher death tolls.

A spokesman for the agency, Abdulsalam Mohammed, said staff were combing through the areas where the explosions occurred for IEDs that may have been planted by the perpetrators.

Witnesses told the AP news agency that one blast went off at an outdoor food stand and the other at the nearby entrance to the Terminus market in the centre of the city.

The Nigerian medical association put out a call on radio and television calling on doctors off duty to go to the three hospitals where victims were admitted to assist their colleagues.

Twenty-five people were injured, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

There has been no claim of responsibility for Thursday's attack.

At least 118 people died in an attack on the same area last May.

The city, which is the capital of Plateau state, lies in Nigeria's "Middle Belt" where the mainly Muslim north meets the mostly Christian south.

It has been targeted by Boko Haram fighters in the past but is also a hotbed of ethnic and sectarian tensions that frequently boil over into deadly violence.

#stand #unite #FightForJustice #JusticeForMikeBrown #justiceforEricGarner #wewillnotbesilent #Ferguson #NewYork

 

Image: @St_Wou [11/12/14]

New York protesters 'blow the whistle' at police stations [Reuters - 12/12/14]:

Demonstrators staged mass "whistle-blowing" rallies outside police stations across New York City on Friday to start a second weekend of planned protests against the killing of an unarmed black man by a white patrolman.

In Harlem, about three dozen protesters marched past public housing projects where they say police abuse is particularly pervasive before rallying outside a local police station house. There, the crowd blew metal whistles, piercing the cold air with the high-pitch shrill.

"We are here because out of this precinct, regularly, routinely, they abuse people in these housing projects," organizer Kevin Lee, 59, told the throng of protesters.

The idea was to "literally blow the whistle on killer cops in the communities most affected by police brutality," according to a statement by Stop Mass Incarceration Network, which organized similar protests in the boroughs of Bronx and Queens to be held on Friday.

The whistle-blowing was part of a wave of protests that have swept the city since last week, when a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July chokehold death of Eric Garner.

While recent demonstrations have drawn fewer people, and the number of arrests has dropped, a poll released on Friday shows that many New Yorkers agree that justice has not been served in the Garner case.

Nearly two-thirds of New York adults believe that the grand jury should have brought criminal charges against Pantaleo, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll released on Friday. The poll of 760 adults was conducted from Dec. 4-10.

Earlier, as thousands of tourists and shoppers bustled through Times Square, protesters held up stark black and white signs bearing the names of more than 100 people who organizers say were victims of police violence. Some of them read out the name and a short narrative about each.

The artists, members of a Brooklyn-based collective called We Will Not Be Silent, organized the "language project" with the help of a Facebook event page.

"We try to take the language we hear on the street, the language of rage and sorrow," said Laurie Arbieter, one of the organizers. "We make complex thought come alive in the hands of the protesters by having it read boldly in black and white."

In Lower Manhattan, more than 100 people gathered in the cold on the steps of City Hall for a more traditional rally, some carrying homemade banners demanding an end to police violence.

Queensland Police don't shoot man, Marcoola

Yahoo [12/12/14]:

A resort on the Sunshine Coast has been evacuated after a man made threats involving a gas bottle.

Police made an emergency declaration around the Marcoola resort around 1pm (AEST) on Friday.

All guests were ordered out of the building and police negotiators are speaking with the man.

A 400-metre exclusion zone is in place and police say the man is by himself inside a unit.

They have not released any specific details about his threats, except to say they "involved a gas bottle".

Around 3pm police advised the siege had been resolved and the emergency declaration had been lifted.

The man has been taken to the Nambour Hospital.

Nobody was injured.

Police investigate burglary with violence, Burleigh Waters

QPS Media [12/12/14]:

Police are investigating the robbery of a 71-year-old man in a home at Burleigh Waters in the early hours of this morning.

Around 1.45am the elderly man was awoken by three men inside a Newstead Street residence. Two of the men were armed with knives.

The men made demands for money from the elderly man who handed over an undisclosed amount of cash.

The men left through a front security screen that had been dislodged to gain entry to the house.

The man received minor abrasions and bruising as a result of the incident and was given first aid at the scene.

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.

Serious assault investigation, Peachester

QPS Media [12/12/14]:

Detectives are continuing to investigate the serious assault of a 40-year-old man at a timber mill in Peachester yesterday afternoon.

Initial inquiries indicate around 2pm the man was operating a front loader at the rear of the Commissioner’s Flat Road premises when he was confronted by a group of around four people before being kicked and assaulted.

The man sustained head and facial injuries and was transported to Nambour General Hospital where he remains in a stable condition.

Police are currently speaking with a number of witnesses to the incident as investigations continue.

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.

Audio leaked of NZ tourist falling from apartment balcony

Brisbane Times [12/12/14]:

Audio has been posted online detailing the moment New Zealand tourist Warriena Wright fell to her death from Gable Tostee's Gold Coast apartment balcony on August 8.

A copy of the 199-minute audio recording was discovered on Mr Tostee's phone the day after Ms Wright's death, and is expected to be a key piece of evidence for police and Mr Tostee's defence in his impending murder trial.

Fairfax Media can reveal a clip was uploaded anonymously to a Canadian file-sharing website on December 6.

The audio recording is yet to be formally tendered to the courts as evidence in the murder case.

But written transcripts of the recording were submitted to the Brisbane Supreme Court by prosecutors and defence lawyers during a recent bail application.

As detailed in the transcripts, the clip contains conversations between Mr Tostee and Ms Wright during their Tinder date, the violent struggle in the apartment, the scream of Ms Wright as she falls from the balcony and Mr Tostee speaking to his father after the incident.

The audio file appears to be genuine, with events in sync with the written police transcript.

Superintendent David Hutchinson said police were aware that the audio file had been published.

"We are making inquiries to confirm who the author is," he told Fairfax Media.

"If it is Mr Tostee, we don't believe he has breached any conditions of his bail."

Mr Tostee's lawyer Terry O'Gorman declined to comment.

It comes a day after a person purporting to be Gable Tostee used an online bodybuilding forum to write a lengthy post denying any wrongdoing over Ms Wright's death.

The post was made from an account used on the forum by Mr Tostee for a decade.

Mr Tostee - who is fighting the murder charge laid by police - was not on the balcony at the time Ms Wright plunged to her death from the 14th floor of the Avalon Apartments.

However prosecutors believe he could be convicted of murder because Ms Wright was reportedly in fear of her life and was trying to flee him to the apartment below.

The pair met on dating app Tinder and spent the hours before Ms Wright's death drinking in the apartment.

But when a fight broke out, Mr Tostee alleged he needed to lock Ms Wright outside because she was trying to hit him with a metal object.

Canada police can search phones after arrest

BBC [11/12/14]:

Canadian police can search the contents of a mobile phone after arrest, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

In a 4-3 decision, the court said a warrant was not needed as long as the search is directly related to the suspected crime and records are kept.

The dissenting judges argued phones were an "intensely personal and uniquely pervasive sphere of privacy".

The outcome is opposite from a similar case decided in the US Supreme Court in June.

In a unanimous decision, the US high court said searches of mobile phones must require a warrant, with few exceptions.

Canada's lower courts were previously divided on the issue.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the case of Kevin Fearon, who was convicted of robbery with a firearm after police searched his phone.

The search was made after he was arrested but before police had a warrant to search his vehicle and other belongings.

They found a draft text message in his phone with a picture of a gun and the words "We did it".

The high court dismissed Fearon's appeal against his conviction, but outlined rules for how police should handle mobile phone searches.

"In my view, we can achieve that balance with a rule that permits searches of cell phones incident to arrest, provided that the search - both what is searched and how it is searched - is strictly incidental to the arrest and that the police keep detailed notes of what has been searched and why," Justice Thomas Cromwell wrote in the opinion.

The three judges in the minority said existing law "already provides flexibility where there are exigent circumstances" for a warrantless search, including safety of the public or to prevent destruction of evidence, and should be limited to these instances.

"The intensely personal and uniquely pervasive sphere of privacy in our personal computers requires protection that is clear, practical and effective," Judge Andromache Karakatsanis wrote for the minority

The majority had provided an "overly complicated template" for police to follow, she added.

Papua deaths spark inquiry call

RNZI [12/12/14]:

A human rights group wants an independent investigation into why Indonesian security forces fired at peaceful protestors in the Papua region, killing six.

Four teenagers were among the dead.

At least 17 more people, including five primary school children, need hospitalisation for their injuries.

The 7 December protest, outside a police station in the central Panai regency, was sparked by a 12-year-old boy being assaulted by security officials.

Human Rights Watch Asia Division deputy director Phelim Kine said there was no sign any warning shots were fired.

"There was absolutely no indication that the protesters were violent in any way. This was, by all accounts, a peaceful, non-violent protest which the security forces responded to with unjustifiable, lethal force."

Queensland government opens trade office in Jakarta

Treasurer and Minister for Trade Media Release [10/12/14]:

Queensland businesses will benefit from a boost in trade with South East Asia following the official opening of the new Jakarta Trade office.

Treasurer and Minister for Trade Tim Nicholls said the State’s already strong relationship with Indonesia would grow even further with the Trade and Investment office set to make a key contribution to growing local export and investment opportunities across the region.

...

Native animals trapped in Buru’s exposed fracking tailings dams

Greens Media Release [11/12/14]:

Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple MLC has slammed Buru Energy’s Yulleroo operations after disturbing images have surfaced showing the decaying remains of a wild dingo trapped in a water pond.

Mr Chapple said this was just one of many animals found dead or rescued from Buru’s tailings dams since operations began in the area several years ago.

“It’s not just dingoes but also reptiles, birds and various small marsupials that have been found trapped in these ponds,” he said.

“These tailings dams contain a toxic mixture of chemicals from the fracking process and also often include heavy metal traces and hydrocarbons drawn up from deep underground as a part of fluid recovery.

“They are clearly not addressing the reality that native animals will see these ponds and assume they are a safe water source.”

Mr Chapple said Buru’s fracking operations in the Kimberley should be immediately halted until such time as they have received proper and thorough environmental assessment.

“Buru energy have proven time and again that they are not fit to manage, nor have they properly assessed, the potential environmental impacts of this invasive mining process,” he said.

“Until such time as they can guarantee that precious groundwater reserves won’t be contaminated, local ecosystems won’t be affected and native fauna won’t continue to die horrible deaths in their toxic ponds then they should not be allowed to continue operations.”

Cleaners at Australia's parliament seek an extra 85 cents an hour

Canberra Times [11/12/14]:

Luzia Borges has been cleaning the prime minister's office since the days when Tony Abbott was voting Labor.

The grandmother from Angola and her 41 fellow cleaners on $21.17 an hour at Parliament House head into bargaining negotiations on Monday.

They seek an extra 85 cents an hour.

Ms Borges would already have the extra money if the Abbott government had not scrapped a set of guidelines governing workers in her sector earlier this year but she has only good words for the prime minister.

"(Mr Abbott) really appreciates our work," said Ms Borges, who has served six prime ministers.

"It was good he acknowledged the cleaners in his speech to Parliament (last week).

"We are on the bottom of the pile."

Ms Borges said all prime ministers she has worked for respected the cleaners and the first was Bob Hawke 26 years ago.

To give an idea of how dramatically politics can change in less than three decades, she started working at Parliament about the same time Mr Abbott voted for Labor in the NSW state election for one of the extremely rare occasions in his life.

A week ago parliament's cleaners sent a Christmas card to the people who work in the building - politicians included - which said: "We're approaching Christmas with some anxiety about what 2015 will hold for us and our families."

The cleaners' Christmas wish list set out in the card included "more cleaners" and "our first pay rise since 2012".

There are 42 cleaners keeping parliament's 4700 rooms and other common spaces clean and there were more than 100 when the building first opened, the United Voice union said.

Parliament's cleaners work for an outsourced company, Limro Cleaning Services, and will be represented in negotiations by the United Voice union.

...

Groups call for rejection of "Healthy Welfare" Card

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) Media Release [13/12/14]:

JOINT STATEMENT

Australia's community welfare sector and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations are calling on the Federal Government not to proceed with the implementation of the Forrest Review proposal for a cashless welfare card which would apply to everyone - people who are unemployed, carers, single parents and people with disability - except veterans and people on the aged pension.

We recognise the urgent need to open up opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and support many of the employment and education measures in the Forrest Report which would go some way to help move people out of poverty.

Specifically, we support the Review's call for increased investment in early childhood education, comprehensive case management for vulnerable families, increased engagement between schools and parents and demand-led employment approaches. These initiatives should be implemented in way which strengthens the capacity of community-controlled organisations.

However, we are united in our strong opposition to the proposal contained in the Andrew Forrest Review of Indigenous Training and Employment Programmes for a Healthy Welfare Card, which we believe would be demeaning, invasive, unworkable and bureaucratic, creating an entire sub-class of millions of people in the Australian community.

The welfare card is modelled on the Basics Card currently used to manage the income of people in disadvantaged communities and locations around Australia. This income management scheme has failed to effect long-term changes in behaviour or outcomes, despite the high cost of the policy.

Beyond some limited success with people who have entered into income management arrangements voluntarily, the evidence points to the scheme being unsuccessful in achieving the stated aims of preventing people from spending the money alcohol, gambling and drugs, or getting people to buy healthy and fresh food. Progress in encouraging school attendance appears to have stalled.

The welfare card also has significant logistical and practical challenges for individuals forced to live without cash in communities in which the cash economy continues to be significant. These individuals may have difficulty making small purchases without cash (many retailers require a $10 minimum spend), will be limited to shopping at retailers with EFTPOS facilities (which will exclude many smaller and second-hand retailers), will make payment of small expenses associated with children's education difficult (payment for excursions, purchases at the school canteen) and will preclude individuals from accessing services or products requiring cash (parking metres, shopping trolleys, laundromats). In short, it will constrain choices and make life more difficult. It would send a message that income support recipients cannot be trusted with cash.

The objectives of welfare reform should be to ensure payments are adequate to meet basic living costs, support employment participation, target assistance according to need and to ensure that the administration of payments respects the dignity of people relying on income support.

The welfare review should be looking to reform which is grounded in evidence of what works. If people have chronic alcohol or drug addictions, or children are at risk, they need intensive case management and intervention based on the best professional advice.

We share the concerns expressed by the Australian Bankers' Association and many others in their submissions to the Forrest review about blocking access to cash or proscribing the purchase of goods and services to people on income support that are available to other members of the community.

We particularly note the concern of the Australian Bankers' Association about the costs and technological and infrastructure limitations associated with implementing the card, which would require ‘changes to be made throughout the payments system at all levels, to retail banking systems and product offerings and to the Government' s Centrelink and payment administration systems'. According to the ABA this simply would not be possible, and ‘undermines the implementation of a workable, efficient and effective scheme'.

We believe that the starting principle for any changes should be to ensure that our income support and employment systems are non-discriminatory in design and implementation. Any changes should be based on evidence about the best way to assist people to participate economically, socially and culturally.

This welfare card fails that test.

...

Greens call on Government to release key evaluation as opposition to healthy welfare card grows [Media Release - 13/12/14]

'Recognising' The Artful Con That Is The Constitutional Reform Debate, Amy McQuire [New Matilda - 12/12/14]:

The great academic Noam Chomsky once wrote: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum”.

This quote perfectly encapsulates the current debate around constitutional reform – where there is a bipartisanship backed by reams of PR spin as a “positive”, while in reality it demonstrates one of the most insidious developments in black policy today – a dangerous “Canberra consensus”, as described by Indigenous policy expert Jon Altman.

How can two white leaders agreeing on the best way to shortchange blackfellas, at the expense of Aboriginal opinion, be a good thing?

The debate around ‘Recognise’ is made worse by the fact even the Greens are snuggly in the fold, leaving the opposition to a growing chorus of disenchanted and disenfranchised Aboriginal people, who are vilified for their justifiable and commendable cynicism.

...

10 years in jail. No prosecution. No trial. [AUDIO - ABC - Law Report - 9/12/14]:

Last week a report of the Australian Human Rights Commission was tabled in Federal parliament. It found that because the Australian government has signed various international conventions upholding the rights of people with disabilities, Canberra has an obligation to work with the government of the Northern Territory to uphold their rights. But Attorney General George Brandis says criminal justice systems are the responsibility of State and Territory governments, not the Commonwealth. He recognises that the detention of people with cognitive impairment presents huge challenges, but ultimately Canberra has no obligation under international law to get involved. But locking up people with intellectual disabilities without trial is not just a problem in the Northern Territory. Marlon Noble is one former WA prisoner with cognitive impairments who was released after spending 10 years detained without trial who still leads a very restricted life.

Shut it down

RISE (Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees) [12/12/14]:

Even after two deaths, no proper medical treatment is given to Asylum seekers and cruel and degrading treatment continues in the Australian government's internment camp on Manus Island, PNG run by private company Transfield services

This year an asylum seeker Reza Barati, detained in this camp died after being killed allegedly by the detention centre employees, yet no one has been charged while there are credible allegations that another detained asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaie died of medical negligence.

A senate inquiry report released yesterday by Greens, ALP and Liberal/National Coalition senators said that the violence that led to the death of Reza Barati was 'eminently foreseeable'. The substance of this report is questionable, with none of the senators recommending the camp be closed down.

Meanwhile, there are continued reports of asylum seekers suffering cruel and degrading treatment in this concentration camp funded and by the Australian government and run for profit by a private Australian company Transfield Services, conveniently outside Australia's jurisdiction.

For example:

*An Iranian man has had an ear infection for over four months.

*An asylum seeker has had a low white blood cell count and has not had proper treatment since he was deported from Australia and held in this camp from August 2012. He is at risk of infection due to the low blood cell count.

*A Syrian man transferred to Australia for medical treatment earlier this year was returned to Manus Island in February. When symptoms recurred on Manus Island, doctors said told the man they could not send him back to Australia because he had already been there once.

Lastly there are disturbing reports that asylum seekers in this camp are being put in solitary confinement in a notorious, secret punishment cell called ‘Chauka’ unit at a rate of 3 a week.

The Manus Island camp has to CLOSE DOWN.

It is disingenuous for Australia's cross party Parliamentary enquiry committee to recommend anything less than this.

 

Two weeks until Christmas.

When are the children going to be released from Australia's refugee concentration camps?

How'd you like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island? ...

 

Christian protesters against child detention consider legal action over alleged strip search [Sydney Morning Herald – 12/12/14]:

Eight Christian leaders are considering legal action against West Australian police after they were allegedly strip-searched and forced to "squat naked".

The group, part of the Love Makes A Way movement, was arrested after refusing to leave Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's office in Perth where they were conducting a prayer vigil against children being held in immigration detention.

One of the protesters, Westcity Church of Christ pastor Jarrod McKenna, said police conducted a strip search at the Perth watchhouse despite pleas from the protesters that they were unnecessary.

"While I stood there naked in front of those two police officers they asked, 'Lift up your testicles'. I was informed this was to check I wasn't hiding a weapon," Pastor McKenna said.

"While the thought that anyone would think I could conceal a weapon under my wedding tackle would normally be flattering, I seem[ed] to be in a situation where humiliation and intimidation seemed to be the intention."

Pastor McKenna said the group was taking legal advice. "This abuse must be challenged and, with lawyers from around Australia volunteering their services, we will [challenge it]," he said.

Executive director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Hugh de Kretser, said reports of peaceful protesters being strip-searched were "deeply concerning".

"Police can't strip search someone unless it's reasonably necessary and even then they need to do the strip searches in the least intrusive way," he said. "It would be clearly unlawful if police used the strip searches to humiliate or punish peaceful protesters."

WA police declined to confirm whether strip searches were conducted. "The group were fully advised they would face charges and as such undergo standard procedures at the Perth watchhouse if they did not comply," a spokesperson said.

Another protester, Anglican priest Reverend Lorna Green, said while she was angry about being searched, it allowed her to empathise with the asylum seekers for whom she was advocating.

"I was outraged to be stripped naked to be searched for drugs and firearms, but I'm even more outraged at the way our government is treating helpless babies [in detention]," she said.

Reverend Green was undeterred by the repercussions of her actions. "If it means being arrested or being strip-searched and possibly getting a criminal record, then that's the price that I [am] prepared to pay," she said.

Love Makes A Way says it will continue to protest against the government's policies until all children are released from immigration detention in Australia and Nauru.

The group was formally charged with trespass and will appear in court.

Refugees incarcerated in Australia's death camp on Manus put in solitary confinement at a rate of three a week [Guardian - 12/12/14]

Save The Children will no longer provide "services" to refugees released from concentration camp and exiled on Nauru [New Matilda - 12/12/14]

 

Refugee Blues

WH Auden

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there's no place for us, my dear, yet there's no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you'll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can't do that, my dear, old passports can't do that.

The consul banged the table and said,
"If you've got no passport you're officially dead":
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
"If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread":
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying, "They must die":
O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren't German Jews, my dear, but they weren't German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren't the human race, my dear, they weren't the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.

 

13 December 2014

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