"Don't kill us. Don't kill us."

Video via @sallymcmanus - Secretary Australian Services Union NSW & ACT

 

 

 

... Photographs obtained by the ABC appear to show at least two men with minor injuries to their heads and blood on their shirts, though the images cannot be independently verified.

An asylum seeker from the detention centre told the ABC that "local guards" and "Wilson guards" threw stones at the men in Delta compound, referring to contractor Wilson security.  ...

ABC [16/1/15]

 

 

The Australian government (with the full support of the ALP) is in the process of fomenting a massacre at the refugee death camp on Manus Island

Refugees peacefully protest.  Ask for the United Nations. Sit around quietly dying.  Australian government evacuates staff, sends in goon squad. Media reports as "clash".

 ABC [16/1/15]:

Papua New Guinea police have reportedly clashed with asylum seekers at the Manus Island detention centre, after days of self-harm protests by detainees.

No injuries have been reported after the incident.

Photos obtained by the ABC show the security contractor's Incident Response Team in riot gear and other security staff outside the fence at Delta compound.

Another photo shows security staff carrying a man on a stretcher away from the area, but it is not clear if he is an asylum seeker.

An asylum seeker from another compound told the ABC that "local guards" and "Wilson guards" threw stones at the men in Delta compound, referring to contractor Wilson security.

"They start throwing the stone from outside the compound," he said.

"Maybe many people will die more, other than Reza Barati and Hamid Kehazaei, our brothers."

...

Immigration sources have told the ABC that some non-essential staff at the Australian-run centre had been evacuated over concerns of possible violence.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been approached for comment.

...

SBS [16/1/15]:

... The Refugee Action Collective has claimed that security guards began “attacking and beating protesters” around 4pm, Manus Island time.

Collective spokesman Chris Breen provided SBS with photos, which he claimed showed guards, police, locals and the Transfield Emergency Response Team attacking detainees.

“Manus Island is not safe for asylum seekers,” he said.

“It must be shut and the asylum seekers and refugees brought to Australia.” ...

 

Let us fight for you. Our government, our responsibility

Darwin vigil.

Image: @HRP [16/1/15]

 

US Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC): Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, 2015 [US Embassy Port Moresby – 6/1/15]:

Following their successful 2014 recovery and repatriation mission in Papua New Guinea, teams from the U.S. Joint POW/MIA (Prisoner of War/Missing in Action) Accounting Command (JPAC) will return to Papua New Guinea and will also travel to the Solomon Islands this month to begin investigative missions and potential recovery operations. These JPAC missions will continue operations in both PNG and Solomon Islands throughout several months.

...

Protest, self harm escalates on Manus Island

Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney [16/1/15]:

Manus Island detention centre is engulfed in the largest protests in a year, as more asylum seekers join the hunger strike.

Sudanese asylum seekers in Mike Compound joined the hunger strike protest late yesterday (Thursday 15 January) – video on request. There are now around 300 on hunger strike in Mike Compound alone. And around 170 in Foxtrot.

Between 30 and 40 people have now stitched their lips together. Four Pakistani asylum seekers were taken to the medical centre after swallowing washing powder. Last night another two Iranian asylum seekers swallowed razor blades.

The Egyptian man who swallowed razor blades on Wednesday was medivacced to Port Moresby hospital yesterday (Thursday, 15 January) afternoon.

There have been some attempts by guards to force people out of the compound shelter back into their rooms in an attempt to break the solidarity of the protest – but they have been unsuccessful.

“Everybody worries about the safety here,” one asylum seeker in Mike Compound told the Refugee Action Coalition, “No one forgets that night [that Reza Barati was killed].”

The protests have come to a head as the Immigration Department threatened to forcibly move 50 people determined to be refugees to insecure accommodation at the Lorengau settlement on Manus.

The refugees are not allowed to work and would live for up to a year on Manus before being relocated elsewhere in PNG.

“The Immigration Department tried to hide the fact that there were protests on Manus Island. But the department can’t hide the fact that there is a gaping hole at the end of its offshore processing policies. PNG is not safe and the PNG government has no political will to allow secure resettlement in PNG,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The government should call off the threat to forcibly move refugees on 22 January. All the asylum seekers and refugees should be brought to Australia where their processing and resettlement can be guaranteed.”

 

 

 

#BREAKING Tonight Aboard #ItalianNavy ship Libra, assisted by #ItNavy medical staff, a woman gave birth to a child. both are in good health

 

#UltimOra Nave Libra #MarinaMilitare inserita in #Triton ha imbarcato stanotte (60MN Tripoli) 204migranti soccorsi da cp905 @guardiacostiera

"tweeted" by @ItalianNavy [16/1/15]

 

 

 

Imaginary Australian journalist to the Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton: Refugees on Manus Island have requested to be handed to the United Nations. Will you facilitate this?  And if you're so concerned about our borders, why haven't you sent a ship to the Southern Ocean?

Why don't you just withdraw from the UN Refugee Convention you FUCKING FASCIST?

 

Imaginary Australian journalist to the UNHCR:  Are you endeavouring to access/contact refugees on Manus, Nauru and Christmas Island, and if not, why not?

 

Imaginary Australian journalist to Greens, Wilkie, Palmer: Do you have ANYTHING to say about the current situation on Manus Island?

 

Australia's Minister for Immigration says "non compliant behaviour" is unacceptable in his refugee death camps  [ABC - 16/1/15]

 

 

Guardian [16/1/15]:

Hunger-striking asylum seekers on Manus Island have begun to collapse after three days without food and water, while others have reportedly swallowed detergent and razor blades in protest.

Unrest has seized the entire Manus detention centre, with detainees vowing not to break their demonstration until their demands are heard.

They want to be released from detention, and many have asked to be handed over to the United Nations.

In Mike compound, where the protest started, men have begun falling unconscious.

One asylum seeker told Guardian Australia overnight: “It is too much, too much to see. My friends, they fall down, one by one they need us to die, please God, make it easy for us.”

Another said the hunger-strikers were unafraid to die.

 

End mandatory detention; let them in! ...

Image: ‏@MelbSMC [16/1/15]

Lonsdale Street shutdown in support of hunger strikers on Manus Island.

Image: @MelbSMC [16/1/15]



The small sacrifice we make standing in the sun for 30 mins is nothing to what asylum seekers must do.

Image: ‏@MelbSMC [16/1/15]

 

Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network [16/1/15]:

Vigil

Today from 4pm until sunrise

Outside the Immigration Office: 40 Cavenagh Street

Help us show them they are not alone!

We are holding this vigil to demonstrate to people in detention, both within Australia and on Manus and Nauru that there are people in the Australian community who care enough about the injustice they are suffering to fight hard on their behalf.

We are highly distressed that there are reportedly hundreds of asylum seekers in Manus participating in a hunger strike, along with a man right here in Darwin who continues to refuse food at great risk to his life.

These vulnerable people who are already detained and suffering significant infringements on their human rights, should not have to become desperate enough to cause harm to the only thing over which they feel they have power - their own bodies.

We wish to show them that we are here to fight for them, and to request of them that they please stop hurting themselves. They are already suffering enough.

...

 

Bomb squad called to pharmacy after man sprays staff with chemical, leaves device on counter

ABC [16/1/15]:

The bomb squad has been called to a chemist on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane after staff were attacked by a man.

A man entered the Twin Waters Chemist on Ocean Drive after 12pm (AEST) wearing a white plastic hazmat suit and sprayed a number of staff members with an unknown chemical.

Authorities said he left a device on the pharmacy counter, threatening to blow up the shop if the staff tried to move.

He then left on foot with a quantity of drugs.

Police said the man was described as in his 40s, Caucasian in appearance, of a slim build, with grey brown hair.

Emergency services have surrounded the scene.

...

Police have declared an emergency situation

Police negotiators at the scene of Kingaroy siege

Morning Bulletin [16/1/15]:

Police negotiators are attempting to safely end a siege in Kingaroy which began after a man began making threats overnight.

Streets around the Haly St house where the man in holed up have been closed to traffic.

Officers were called about 10pm on Thursday after threats were made at the house.

By 3.40am, police had declared the area off-limits while they attempted to calm the situation.

Police haven't asked any homes to be evacuated.

It's understood the man is in the house by himself.

Armed robbery, Goodna

QPS Media [16/1/15]:

Police are investigating after a mechanical business was robbed at Goodna last night.

Around 10.10pm a man entered the Mill Street business and approached a worker before producing what is believed to be a firearm.

After taking property and cash, the man left the business on foot.

Noone was physically injured during the incident.

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.

Dengue outbreak in North Queensland

Yahoo [16/1/15]:

A dengue outbreak in Queensland's tropical north has spread, bringing to eight the total number of cases in Cairns.

Health authorities say the most recent case of the mosquito-borne virus was confirmed this week at Trinity Beach, north of the city.

Seven others have contracted the virus in the suburb of Edmonton.

Director of Tropical Public Health Services Dr Richard Gair says residents need to be extra vigilant to stop the spread of dengue, which can cause fever, severe headaches, vomiting and diarrhoea.

"These confirmed cases show we can't be complacent," he said.

"Only a small amount of water can make areas perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes."

Last dengue season, 136 people were infected with the virus in Cairns.

This is NOT an apology. [Yahoo - 16/1/15]:

... Political correctness should not get in the way of addressing the difficult issue, Dr Rudd said.

...

Australia: Muslim man charged with travelling on false name

 Certain media outlets label him a "hate preacher" who "voiced support for the Charlie Hebdo massacre" just because he expressed an opinion.

WA Today [16/1/15]:

Controversial Muslim preacher Junaid Thorne has been ordered to appear before a Perth court after his home in western Sydney was raided on Thursday.

Australian Federal Police raided his Bass Hill home and served him with a notice to front a court as part of an inquiry into allegations he used false names to travel between Sydney and Perth.

Mr Thorne, 25, lists his name on Facebook as Mohammed Junaid Thorne. He also refers to himself as Ustadh and Sheikh Mohammed Junaid Thorne.

He moved to Sydney in November and has received backlash for comments made in recent weeks suggesting the terror attacks in Paris were justified.

He highlighted the hypocrisy of the West when it comes to freedom of speech and said "when you provoke an enormous number of people, or degrade the followers of a religion by insulting something or someone they hold sacred, don't expect to be left alone".

Mr Thorne will face two charges when he appears in court: using a carriage service to book a ticket under a false name and using that ticket to travel interstate.

Mr Thorne, an Aboriginal man born in Perth, spent several years in Saudi Arabia before being deported in 2013 for protesting the four-year prison term given to his brother Shayden for terrorism offences.

The West Australian has reported that two other close supporters of Mr Thorne were arrested in December for travelling under false names while in company with Mr Thorne.

It is not known if the charges against Mr Thorne relate to those trips.

Federal authorities may cancel Mr Thorne's passport as a result of the alleged offences.

Rupert Murdoch attempts to clarify 'jihadist cancer' comments following Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris [Independent - 15/1/15]

Sun’s military source had highest level of security clearance court told

Hacking Inquiry [15/1/15]:

A jury at the trial of four Sun journalists has heard that a civil servant accused of leaking information to the newspaper had the highest possible security clearance.

Belinda Vern the former head of the army’s secretariat testified that one of her senior staff, Bettina Jordan-Barber had been subject to “developed vetting” so she could access the information she needed to brief government ministers about military matters.

The prosecution say that civil servant received £100,000 for giving stories to reporters at the tabloid newspaper while it was being edited by Rebekah Brooks.

Asked about the impact of unauthorised information being given to the press, which was often about issues of sexual misconduct the civil servant said it could “prejudice disciplinary investigations and lead to a “loss of confidence in our department and in the Ministry of Defence generally”.

However cross-examining the witness Trevor Burke QC, who is representing senior Sun journalist John Kay, raised a story about female army recruits allegedly suffering sexual harassment asking “Your hope was that the press would never find out about this” and argued the story was clearly in the “public interest”.

Burke told the jury that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led to increased press interest in army matters and that the “public right to know what is happening in a war zone,” adding that the press and media had a duty to “hold the government to account”.

The defence barrister also suggested that it was well known that The Sun was “the favourite paper in the army”. A statement he later amended after being, “’court martialled’ by the judge” to “The Sun describes itself as the forces favourite paper”.

As well as Kay also in the dock are the paper’s deputy editor Geoffrey Webster; executive editor Fergus Shanahan; Royal editor Duncan Larcombe and an army officer and his wife, John and Claire Hardy.

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

Beyond parody: MacKenzie and Murdoch cast themselves as consumer champions [Hacking Inquiry – 15/1/15]

 

 

Grand Central Now #NYC4MLK #THISSTOPSTODAY #MLKSTRIKE #J15MLKSTRIKE

Image: ‏@BorisRorer [15/1/15]

 

 

The Wikileaks Files: The World According to US Empire [Verso, 2015]

by Wikileaks

Introduction by Julian Assange

What Cablegate tells us about the scope of US foreign policy around the world

When WikiLeaks first came to prominence in 2010, releasing millions of top secret State Department cables, the world saw for the first time what the US really thought about national leaders, friendly dictators, and supposed allies.

It also discovered the dark truths of national policies, human rights violations, covert operations, and cover-ups done in your name.

The WikiLeaks Files is the first volume that uses experts to collate and analyze the most important cables and show their historic importance. An essential book for anyone who is interested in America’s role in the world and the history of the twenty-first century.

Regional expert contributors include Tim Shorrock, Richard Heydarian, Russ Wellen, Conn Hallinan, Michael Busch, Robert Prince, Stephen Zunes, Peter Certo, Francis Nesbitt, Phyllis Bennis, and Gareth Porter.

 

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [15/1/15]:

On Jan. 14, U.S. and Coalition military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria, using attack, bomber, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct 11 airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and Coalition military forces conducted 11 airstrikes in Iraq, using attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists. All strikes took place between 8 a.m., Jan. 14, and 8 a.m., Jan. 15, local time.

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

Syria

* Near Kobani, five airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL building and destroyed four ISIL fighting positions.

* Near Ar Raqqah, three airstrikes struck an ISIL weapon storage facility and an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed five ISIL buildings and an ISIL vehicle.

* Near Al Hasakah, three airstrikes destroyed an ISIL checkpoint, an ISIL fighting position, and three ISIL vehicles.

Iraq

* Near Bayji, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units.

* Near Al Qaim, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL shipping container.

* Near Tal Afar, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL buildings and an ISIL fighting position.

* Near Taji, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

* Near Ar Rutbah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

* Near Al Asad, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL building and seven ISIL boats.

* Near Mosul, three airstrikes struck an ISIL building, an ISIL tactical unit, and an ISIL armored vehicle, and destroyed an ISIL mortar system, an ISIL armored vehicle, and an ISIL fighting position.

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

Meetings on US Train and Equip Program for “Moderate Syrian Opposition” [Centcom – 14/1/15]:

As part of U.S. Central Command's efforts to implement the congressionally-approved train and equip program for the moderate Syrian opposition forces, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, Combined Joint Interagency Task Force - Syria Director, and U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein, met Jan. 12-13 with a broad spectrum of Syrian opposition and civil society leaders in Istanbul, Turkey.

These meetings provided an important opportunity to introduce and discuss the U.S. train and equip program with members of the moderate political and armed opposition and to gain a better understanding of conditions on the ground in Syria. All participants recognized the need for continued focus on this important program and the need for further discussions.

@IraqiSMCEn – Iraqi Spring Media Centre [15/1/15]:

Anbar: Civilian homes have damaged in aerial shelling targeting Alus ,Albu Hayyat and Khasfa in Hadeetha......

Suicide bombing injures 6 citizens in Baquba [IraqiNews.com – 15/1/15]

Building a Camp: a measured response to Iraqi displacement [UNHCR Media Release – 15/1/15]

UNHCR chief urges action to tackle rising poverty of Syrian refugees [Media Release – 14/1/15]:

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres appealed on Wednesday for a huge increase in financial support to Syrian refugees and the countries hosting them, as a new report revealed large numbers slipping deeper into poverty.

The UNHCR report, entitled "Living in the Shadows," showed that two-thirds of Syrian refugees across Jordan are now living below the national poverty line, and one in six lives in extreme poverty with expenditure of only around US$1.30 per day. The findings are based on the largest ever survey of refugee living conditions, involving nearly 150,000 individuals.

"The problem is that the assistance that is currently provided is insufficient to be able to guarantee a dignified life to all the Syrians living in Jordan, as well as in Lebanon or any of the other neighbouring countries," Guterres told a news conference in Amman.

"This creates a situation in which the Syrian people are suffering a double jeopardy, first of all as victims of a conflict with no end in sight – and the despair that generates – and then being forced to live in extremely poor conditions," he added. ...

HMAS Launceston's mercy dash

Navy Daily [16/1/15]:

Initiative, training and the rapid response by Armidale Class Patrol Boat crew Assail Four has saved the life of a Chinese mariner, critically injured at sea, 80 nautical miles south-east of Christmas Island.

The merchant seaman had suffered a serious fall aboard the vessel MV Peng Hu Wang on New Year’s Day, breaking an ankle and sustaining a life-threatening puncture wound to the chest.

Embarked in HMAS Launceston, Assail Four conducted the high speed mercy dash at the request of the Rescue Coordination Centre Australia. At the crew’s initiative, the patrol boat transferred a specialist medical officer from a nearby Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Vessel.

Less than two hours later Launceston received the casualty, together with an English-speaking Chinese chaperone. Launceston’s Primary Health Care Provider, Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Luke Miller took charge of the evolution.

“I was surprised to see the casualty was strapped to an un-hinged door and the crew of the Peng Hu Wang were preparing to lower him over the side in a cargo net by crane,” he said.

“We were able to safely receive him into Launceston’s boat despite the rough sea conditions.”

The patient was transferred to a stretcher and taken to the wardroom where the doctor and the ship’s medical emergency team, including Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics-Chef Stephen Yarroll and Able Seaman Maritime Logistics-Chef Benjamin Coulter, immediately went to work, dressing the wound, placing the patient on saline and generally stabilising his condition.

“The patient was in a bad way, with very low blood pressure, a rapid heart rate and in a great deal of pain. The wound in his chest was deep and ‘wheezing’ with each shallow breath,” Petty Officer Miller said.

“We practise for these kinds of medical emergencies all the time, but I was amazed at how the training really kicked in. We were calm and at no point did I second guess what we were supposed to do,” he said.

On arrival back at Flying Fish Cove, Christmas Island, HMAS Launceston was met by paramedics on a Pusher Barge who took the casualty to the Christmas Island Medical Centre for further treatment.

Dr Peter Lovell, the medical officer who embarked in Launceston said he felt part of a well trained team.

“I was impressed by the skill of the coxswain, Seaman Boatswains Mate James Fry, in receiving the patient and the calm and proficient manner displayed by ship’s medical emergency team who proved to be excellent assistants.”

The doctor later stated that if it wasn't for the actions of Launceston and the medical teams, the merchant seaman would have surely died.

Commanding Officer of Assail Four, Lieutenant Commander Mark Graichen said the crew’s initiative and enthusiasm may have saved the mariner’s life.

“I think the crew are quietly proud of their efforts. A merchant sailor, who earns his living on the brine, and thus a brother, can now return to his wife and children as a result of their significant efforts.”

Updated Rescue at sea guidance now available [International Maritime Organisation - 14/1/15]:

The updated and revised Rescue at Sea: A guide to principles and practice as applied to refugees and migrants is now available. It has been prepared jointly by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It provides guidance on relevant legal provisions, on practical procedures to ensure the prompt disembarkation of rescued persons, and on measures to meet their specific needs, particularly in the case of refugees and asylum-seekers. More information on this topic can be found here.

...

Ignoring the Victims of State Crimes: The Selective Compassion of the Media and Human Rights Establishment [Counterpunch - 12/3/12]:

... Of course, the reason for the difference in the treatment of these cases by the U.S. government, the media and even by human rights has nothing to do with human rights at all.   Rather, the difference boils down to the U.S. government’s perceived geo-political interests and goals (certainly centered around oil in the cases of Syria, Libya and Colombia), and the general acceptance of these goals (or at least of the U.S.’s professed moral superiority even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary) by the media and human rights organizations. ...

Sea Shepherd Announces Plans To Take Over Chase From New Zealand Navy

Sea Shepherd Media Release [15/1/15]:

Captain Sid Chakravarty of the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon, has announced plans to intercept three illegal fishing vessels that fended off the New Zealand Navy yesterday.

The announcement comes after reports that the New Zealand Navy has now abandoned its operation to intercept the poachers in the Southern Ocean, and is returning to port.

Captain Chakravarty said, “With three criminal boats on the loose and the Navy on its way back, the Sam Simon is now the only vessel with the intentions and the capability to locate the poachers once again. We have an intimate knowledge of these seas, we have an ice-strengthened vessel and we have the will to directly intervene and physically shut down their criminal operations.”

The HMNZS Wellington intercepted the three poaching vessels, engaged in illegal fishing activity in the Southern Ocean.

Reports from the New Zealand government stated that the vessels were intercepted west of the Ross Sea, however their exact position was not released.

The three vessels, the Songhua, Kunlun and Yongding, are confirmed to be registered in Equatorial Guinea and are known to have links to the infamous Spanish crime syndicate, Vidal Armadores. All three vessels have now been listed with Interpol Purple Notices.

Despite the fact that a request by the New Zealand government to board the vessels was granted by Equatorial Guinea, two of the ship's captains refused to allow New Zealand Navy to board. The poachers then engaged in evasive manoeuvring, and subsequently fled.

Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, has criticised the Australian government for leaving the New Zealand government stranded.

He said, “Last year, the Australian government failed to deliver on their promise to send a customs vessel to the Antarctic to monitor the whaling fleet. This year, the Australian government budgeted for two, forty-day Southern Ocean patrols. Still, New Zealand was left to single-handedly tackle the poachers – one vessel up against three. With the New Zealand Navy ship en route back to Wellington, and the Australian government nowhere to be seen, Sea Shepherd is now the only sheriff in town.”

Since December 26, the Sam Simon has been involved in mammoth operations to extract illegal gillnets, left by the poaching vessel Thunder, from the Southern Ocean. More than 60 kilometres of illegal gillnet has been retrieved so far, with over 1,000 toothfish and numerous non-target marine species found dead in the nets.

“For the past three weeks, my crew and I have been retrieving illegal gillnets left by the poaching vessel, Thunder, from the Antarctic waters. We have a responsibility to see the retrieval operations through to the end. Once this is complete, we will set our sights on these three new targets,” said Captain Chakravarty.

The Bob Barker continues its record-breaking pursuit of the Interpol-listed Thunder, which today runs into its 29th day.

 

 

"We just found our Auschwitz"

 

MARK DENBEAUX [Professor at Seton Hall University School of Law]: ...  General Dunleavy has, under oath, said that he got his marching orders directly from the president of the United States requiring him to meet in person once a week with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Dunleavy and his successor General Miller have both repeatedly characterized Guantánamo as America’s battle lab.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what does that mean?

MARK DENBEAUX: Well, the best thing that we have been able to figure out when we started looking — that phrase caught everyone’s attention. And so, the first thing that we looked into was, what were the experiments there? And we were able to find and discover some of the laboratory experiments were there, including giving them drugs that would cause psychotic breaks for up to 30 days as soon as they arrived, and a variety of other things that were given to them over a long period of time.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Which had never been used in any context before.

MARK DENBEAUX: The drug they used, they claim, was to used to help with malaria. However, there is no malaria in Guantánamo, there is no malaria in Cuba and every person who was brought there had already had a medical examination in Afghanistan and was proven to have no contagious diseases. So, it was a psychotic, really, inducing drug, which had been used for considerable period of time by other sources in order to break down the state of mind of the people. ...

 

Did Gitmo "Suicides" Cover Up Murder? U.S. Sgt. Speaks Out on Deaths & Prison’s Secret CIA Site [Democracy Now - 15/1/15]

 

 

Image: ‏@iranian_naur012 [15/1/15]

 

 

It's all a big lie: Landowners of Los Negros Island are against the re-settlement of asylum seekers in Manus Province. … [PNG Loop – 15/1/15]

This is the statement the guys on Manus sent me yesterday to pass on to media which I did. Here's their full statement. ...


Murder at Camp Delta: A Staff Sergeant’s Pursuit of the Truth About Guantanamo Bay By Joseph Hickman [Simon and Schuster – 2015]:

The revelatory eyewitness account about Guantánamo Bay—detainees murdered, a secret CIA facility for torture, and the US government cover up—by the Staff Sergeant who felt honor-bound to uncover it.

Staff Sergeant Joe Hickman was a loyal member of the armed forces and a proud American patriot. For twenty years, he worked as a prison guard, a private investigator, and in the military, earning more than twenty commendations and awards. When he re-enlisted after 9/11, he served as a team leader and Sergeant of the Guard in Guantánamo Naval Base. From the moment he arrived at Camp Delta, something was amiss. The prisons were chaotic, detainees were abused, and Hickman uncovered by accident a secret facility he labeled “Camp No.”

On June 9, 2006, the night Hickman was on duty, three prisoners died, supposed suicides, and Hickman knew something was seriously wrong. So began his epic search for the truth, an odyssey that would lead him to conclude that the US government was using Guantánamo not just as a prison, but as a training ground for interrogators to test advanced torture techniques.

For the first time, Hickman details the inner workings of Camp Delta: the events surrounding the death of three prisoners, the orchestrated the cover-up, and the secret facility at the heart of it all. From his own eyewitness account, and a careful review of thousands of documents, he deconstructs the government’s account of what happened and proves that the military not only tortured prisoners, but lied about their deaths.

By revealing Guantánamo’s true nature, Sergeant Hickman shows us why the prison has been so difficult to close. This book opens an important window onto government overreach, secrecy, and one man’s principled search for the truth.

 

Refugees In Nauru Starting Business, Using Skills In Community [PIDP – 15/1/15]

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

… Theresienstadt served an important propaganda function for the Germans. The publicly stated purpose for the deportation of the Jews from Germany was their "resettlement to the east," where they would be compelled to perform forced labor. Since it seemed implausible that elderly Jews could be used for forced labor, the Nazis used the Theresienstadt ghetto to hide the nature of the deportations.

In Nazi propaganda, Theresienstadt was cynically described as a "spa town" where elderly German Jews could "retire" in safety. The deportations to Theresienstadt were, however, part of the Nazi strategy of deception. The ghetto was in reality a collection center for deportations to ghettos and killing centers in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe.

Succumbing to pressure following the deportation of Danish Jews to Theresienstadt, the Germans permitted the International Red Cross to visit in June 1944. It was all an elaborate hoax. The Germans intensified deportations from the ghetto shortly before the visit, and the ghetto itself was "beautified." Gardens were planted, houses painted, and barracks renovated. The Nazis staged social and cultural events for the visiting dignitaries. Once the visit was over, the Germans resumed deportations from Theresienstadt, which did not end until October 1944.

...

 

Pope on Charlie Hebdo: There are limits to freedom of expression when faith is insulted

Times Colonist [15/1/15]:

Pope Francis says there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone's faith.

Francis spoke Thursday about the Paris attacks while en route to the Philippines.

He defended freedom of expression as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one's mind for the sake of the common good.

But he said there were limits.

By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasparri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side.

He said: "If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It's normal. It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."

 

 

On a morning from a Bogart movie

In a country where they turn back time

You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre

Contemplating a crime ...

'Year of the Cat', Al Stewart [1976]



When will the hypocrisy end?

Reuters [14/1/15]:

 U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed a united front on Wednesday against the threat posed by Islamist extremists and their "distorted ideology."

In a joint opinion article that appeared in Thursday's Times of London newspaper and released on Wednesday night in Washington, Obama and Cameron outlined the principles of the U.S.-British alliance ahead of two days of White House meetings.

The two leaders are to have a working dinner on Thursday night and hold more talks on Friday.

Obama and Cameron, noting the Paris attacks last week against a satirical newspaper, said extremists would not muzzle freedom of speech.

"Whether we are facing lone fanatics or terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda, Islamic State or Boko Haram, we will not be cowed by extremists. We will defeat these barbaric killers and their distorted ideology," the leaders wrote.

Obama and Cameron were also firm in their resolve to stand up against Russia's aggression in Ukraine. They pledged to maintain diplomatic pressure on Moscow.

The United States and Europe have imposed a variety of sanctions against Russia in retaliation.

"If we allow such fundamental breaches of international law to go unchecked, we will all suffer from the instability that would follow. Our strong and united response has sent an unmistakable message that the international community will not stand by as Russia attempts to destabilize Ukraine," they wrote.

Georgia puts to death Vietnam War veteran in first US execution of 2015

Yahoo [13/1/15]:

A decorated Vietnam War veteran convicted of murdering a Georgia sheriff's deputy in 1998 was put to death on Tuesday, state officials said, becoming the first death row inmate executed in the United States this year.

Andrew Brannan, 66, was executed by lethal injection at 8:33 p.m. EST at a prison in Jackson, Georgia, the state Attorney General's Office said in a statement.

The Georgia Supreme Court rejected a stay of execution on Tuesday afternoon, and the U.S. Supreme Court later denied two petitions to block his execution.

Brannan's lawyers did not dispute he shot Laurens County Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Dinkheller, 22, nine times during a traffic stop recorded by the deputy's patrol car video camera.

Kirk Dinkheller, the slain deputy's father, changed his Facebook profile picture on Tuesday to a photograph of his son's headstone.

"Nothing will ever bring my son back, but finally some justice for the one who took him from his children and his family," he wrote on the social media site earlier this month.

Brannan's attorneys sought to have his life spared, arguing the severe physical and mental toll from his service in Vietnam as an Army forward artillery observer was not fully explained to a jury.

Brannan had suffered from combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and was prone to flashbacks of the war, his attorneys said.

Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday refused to commute Brannan's sentence to life in prison without parole.

His attorneys said in court papers filed with the high court that Brannan had no criminal record before killing the deputy.

"Mr. Brannan's case makes clear that it is time for this court to recognize a categorical exemption from execution for American combat veterans whose service to this country resulted in severe mental trauma" that contributed to their crime, the attorneys wrote in a failed petition.

Brannan's attorney Joe Loveland said in a phone interview that Brannan was told on Tuesday his case had drawn interest from veterans.

Loveland said his client responded, "I am proud to have been able to walk point for my comrades, and pray that the same thing does not happen to any of them.”

Georgia's governor does not have the power to grant last-minute clemency to a death row inmate.

Brannan received Army commendations and a Bronze Star, one of the highest individual military awards, according to his lawyers.

Oklahoma to resume executions after 9-month delay [LEX18.com -15/1/15]

In overturning a death sentence this week of a Korean War veteran whose lawyer failed to inform the jury about the man’s combat-related traumatic stress disorder, the Supreme Court drew cheers from veterans’ groups and death-penalty opponents. But it also raised a question: Is selective empathy better than no empathy at all? ... [New York Times - 3/12/09]

Pakistan: US drone attack kills six in North Waziristan

Dunya News [15/1/15]:

At least six people were killed a US drone strike in North Waziristan tribal region on Thursday morning, Dunya News reported.

According to sources, a US drone fired missiles on a house in Wacha Dhaara area of Shawal Valley, killing six people.

The deceased were foreigners, sources told.

...

Pakistan: Armed men open fire at Swabi school

Tribune [15/1/15]:

With the country still reeling from the Peshawar school massacre, a school in Swabi was fired at Thursday morning.

Unidentified armed men opened fire near Government Girls High School Lahore just around the time the school session was due to end. The watchmen guarding the school retaliated, however, the assailants managed to escape.

No casualties have been reported so far.

Confirming the incident, Swabi police officials said more security personnel were dispatched to the site while the area was cordoned off. Police said they are trying to track down the attackers.

According to the residents of the Lahore East area, three men riding on a motorbike opened fire when they reached close to the main gate of the school.

Also in Peshawar, senior police superintendent Mian Saeed dismissed reports of an attack on al Noor Public School near Asia Gate.

The short-lived rumour, however, led to frantic parents rushing to schools and taking their children back home.

Afghanistan: Taliban governor killed in airstrike

Pajhwok [15/1/15]:

Taliban’s deputy governor for central Kapisa province was killed along with four other militants during an airstrike, an official said on Thursday.

Police spokesman Humayun Rashidi told Pajhwok Afghan News the rebels were killed by Afghan forces in the Pashkali area of Tagab district last night.

He said the Taliban’s deputy governor Abdul Ghaffar -- also known as Shafaq -- and his four associates were eliminated in the operation.

The security situation would get better with the death of the Taliban members, he hoped.

Corpses of 16 men discovered in northern Iraq

Reuters [15/1/15]:

A search team has discovered 16 corpses in an area of northern Iraq formerly controlled by Islamic State militants, a local official said late on Wednesday.

"The joint excavation crews have discovered 16 bodies of men who were blindfolded and had their hands tied behind their backs," said the district chief Mohammed Mulla Hassan, from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.

"They were found in the Kobachi area, which is part of Saadiya District, and they were executed in the past few months," he added.

A joint search team from the Kurdistan regional government in northern Iraq and Baghdad's human rights ministry made the discovery.

Hassan put the blame for the killings on the Sunni jihadists of Islamic State, who controlled the area until late November when they were forced out by Shi'ite militias fighting on behalf of the Baghdad government.

Shi'ite militias have also been accused of atrocities when retaking land from Islamic State, which swept across northern Iraq last summer as the Iraqi army collapsed.

Amnesty publishes before and after satellite images of Boko Haram Nigeria attacks

Deutsche Welle [15/1/15]:

Amnesty International has released satellite images showing the "devastation" in areas attacked by Islamist group Boko Haram. The human cost has so far proved far more difficult to document, with hundreds believed dead.

The satellite images released by human rights group Amnesty International on Thursday showed more than 3,700 damaged or destroyed buildings in the towns of Baga and Doron Baga.

"These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days," said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty.

The group says the images would appear to corroborate accounts suggesting hundreds of people were shot by the militants.

The UN says over 11,000 people have fled Nigeria's border near Chad and Cameroon following the attacks in Nigeria's Borno state, which started on January 3 and lasted for four days.

The "before" images published by Amnesty as part of a report on the atrocities were taken on January 2, while the aftermath was documented in pictures taken on January 7.

In the densely populated town of Baga, some 620 "structures" were damaged or completely destroyed by fire while in neighboring Doron Baga, more than 3,100 structures fell prey.

Many of the fishing boats along the shoreline of Lake Chad were no longer visible in the January 7 photograph, which would tally with witness accounts that residents used them to flee across the water.

A similar picture of destruction in that attack was apparent in an image tweeted by the group Human Rights Watch. It marked buildings destroyed in the attack on Doron Baga, which is also known as Doro Gowon, in red.

Amnesty called on the governments of Nigeria and neighboring Chad, where many of those who escaped fled, to ensure humanitarian assistance was provided.

The group's report featured a witness report from one man who said he was "stepping on bodies" for some five kilometers (three miles) as he fled though the bush.

Among the more harrowing accounts was one claiming that a woman had been shot while giving birth as rebels, believed to have been targeting civilian vigilantes helping the military, also opened fire indiscriminately on residents in Baga. Children were also said to have been gunned down in the same incident.

Nigeria's military, which often plays down the numbers killed in attacks, said this week that 150 people had died. It dismissed as "sensationalist" claims that 2,000 people may have lost their lives.

Security analysts have said the exact number of people killed may never be known, with the town and surrounding area still in rebel control.

Israeli troops open fire at Palestinian farmers across Gaza border
Maan [15/1/15]:

Israeli troops stationed in towers along the borders with the southern Gaza Strip near Khan Younis opened fire on Thursday at Palestinian fields while farmers were tending their lands, witnesses told Ma’an.

The Israeli soldiers reportedly fired from heavy machine guns at Palestinian fields in the outskirts of Khuza, al-Farahin and al-Qarara in eastern Khan Younis. No injuries have been reported but the farmers were forced to immediately leave their fields.

Israeli soldiers open fire across the borders almost every day because Palestinians allegedly come too close to a border fence. In many cases Palestinian farmers have been killed or injured.

Separately, Israeli soldiers at Erez crossing in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip detained a Gaza merchant as he tried to pass through the crossing. Locals identified him as Hassan Shirafi.

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed a 20-year-old Palestinian with Israeli citizenship late Wednesday during clashes with Bedouin protesters in the southern Negev region, sparking anger from Palestinian communities in the area.

Meanwhile in the West Bank, the IOF shot dead a 30-year-old Palestinian and arrested another for allegedly attempting to steal a vehicle.  ... [Al Akhbar - 15/1/15]

Israeli troops shot and injured a young Palestinian man during a raid on Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank at early Thursday morning. ... [Maan - 15/1/15]

Turkish PM Compares Netanyahu to 'Paris Terrorists' [Naharnet - 15/1/15]
US court dismisses lawsuit against India's Narendra Modi
BBC [15/1/15]:

A US judge has dismissed a lawsuit charging Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with crimes against humanity during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The New York-based judge upheld the US government's contention that Mr Modi was entitled to immunity as a sitting head of government.

A rights group filed the civil suit against Mr Modi in September on the eve of his maiden visit to the US.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the religious riots.

The riots were sparked by a fire on a train at Godhra in Gujarat that killed 59 Hindu pilgrims.

Mr Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time of the riots, came under intense criticism for his handling of the riots. Human rights groups say he failed to take measures to prevent retribution against Muslims

Mr Modi has denied any wrongdoing and Indian courts have cleared him of all charges.

In September, The American Justice Centre filed a lawsuit against Mr Modi, which claimed that he did nothing to stop the riots.

The 28-page complaint also charged the prime minister with "committing crimes against humanity, extra-judicial killings, torture and inflicting mental and physical trauma on the victims, mostly from the Muslim community".

Judge Analisa Torres's dismissal of the lawsuit comes ahead of a planned visit to Delhi by US President Barack Obama to attend India's Republic Day celebrations on 26 January at Mr Modi's invitation.

The US and European countries boycotted Mr Modi for more than a decade after the riots, but have largely embraced him after he led his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide election win last year.

Mr Modi visited the US in September and held talks with Mr Obama, where the two leaders called for a "new agenda" between the two countries.

Bahraini protest continue as another opposition leader arrested

RT [15/1/15]:

Crowds of protesters took to the streets in the Bahraini capital, Manama, calling on the monarchy to release Sheikh Ali Salman, leader of the Al-Wefaq opposition party, and expressing outrage over the arrest of his close ally, Jameel Kadhim.

Hundreds of protesters could be seen marching and waving Bahraini flags and placards as police kept a vigilant watch on the rally.

The ongoing protest movement intensified following the arrest of Jameel Kadhim, the president of Al-Wefaq's consultative council.

Kadhim was arrested outside party headquarters in Manama and taken to prison on Wednesday.

In the press briefing prior to his arrest, Kadhim told his followers to continue a “peaceful and civilized movement until victory” is reached, promising to continue his fight in prison.

Al-Wefaq issued a statement condemning his arrest as “security and judicial tools to punish opponents.”

Sayed Yousif al-Muhafda of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights told RT that change will never come as long as the ruling family cracks down on the opposition.

“The government, they don't want any dialogue at all. For the last two to three years they are just lying to the international community that there is a progress, there is a dialogue, but this is the reality. People who should be in the dialogue are in jail right now,” Al-Muhafda said.

As a member of Bahrain's main Shiite opposition group, Kadhim was sentenced Tuesday to six months in jail after making an allegation about election bribery on his Twitter page in October.

Bahrain’s Lower Criminal Court found him guilty of disrupting the elections and ordered him to pay a 500 Bahraini dinar ($1,300) fine in addition to serving his jail sentence. Kadhim’s lawyer, Abdullah Al Shamlawi, said his client would appeal against the conviction at the High Criminal Appeals Court.

The sentencing comes as Al-Wefaq leader Sheikh Ali Salman after arrested on December 28, still remains in prison amid ongoing clashes between protesters and security forces. He is also facing a jail sentence and is in custody pending an investigation on charges of inciting violence.

Bahrain, ruled by King Hamad, was rocked by protests in 2011 by the country’s majority Shiite Muslim population, calling for more freedoms in the minority Sunni-ruled country.

Although the government, backed by Saudi Arabia, managed to suppress the protests very quickly, clashes between security forces and protesters still occur almost daily.

Five Yemenis transferred from US custody at Guantanamo: Pentagon
Reuters [14/1/15]:

The Pentagon transferred five Yemenis held at Guantanamo prison to foreign custody on Wednesday in the first handover of detainees in 2015, sending four to Oman and one to Estonia despite Republican calls for a moratorium on the resettlements.

U.S. officials said all five Yemenis, held for a dozen or more years at the military prison at a U.S. Navy base in Cuba, had been cleared for release nearly five years ago by a multi-agency task force that included intelligence, diplomatic and military officials.

The transfer took place just a day after several Republican U.S. senators, including Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, proposed legislation to place a moratorium on the release of most of the Guantanamo prisoners, saying they posed too much danger to the United States and its allies.

President Barack Obama has promised to close the internationally condemned detention center, which was opened in 2002 to house detainees in the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda.

His efforts have been blocked by lawmakers who reject the plan, including Senator John McCain, his Republican opponent in the 2008 presidential election, who said this week 30 percent of the released detainees have re-entered the fight against the United States.

Obama recently pledged to step up the closure effort, and the administration moved 28 prisoners from Guantanamo in 2014, the most since 2009.

The transfer on Wednesday leaves 122 detainees still at the facility. Fifty-four of those, including 47 Yemenis, have been approved for "resettlement", while the rest are considered too dangerous to release.
...

New York Times [12/1/15]:

The Cuban government has released 53 dissidents it had promised to free under the accord with Washington to restore diplomatic relations and step up economic exchanges, United States officials said Monday.

The release of the last prisoners on the list was seen as an important indicator of the Cuban government’s commitment to carrying out the agreement, which was announced by President Obama and the Cuban president, Raúl Castro, on Dec. 17.

Yet it was received with skepticism by Cuban opposition figures, who said the government had released fewer prisoners than the numbers suggested.

It came less than two weeks before Roberta S. Jacobson, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, is to arrive in Cuba for talks on Jan. 21 and 22. The discussions are to focus on migration issues but will also be used to discuss the restoration of full diplomatic relations.
...

Declaration of a terrorist incident: Government acts to ensure payment of insurance claims for Lindt Café incident
Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia Media Release [15/1/15]:
Following the tragic events at the Martin Place Lindt Café in December 2014, I have today declared the siege a “terrorist incident” for the purposes of the Terrorism Insurance Act.
Prior to making this decision, appropriate consultation was undertaken with the Attorney-General and a number of stakeholders, including the Insurance Council of Australia.
The Government has taken this action to ensure businesses that suffered damages from the incident will not be denied claims due to terrorism exclusions in their insurance policies.
The effect of this ministerial declaration is that insurers will be prevented from refusing claims from affected businesses on the basis that their policies exclude losses from acts of terrorism.
Advice from the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation (ARPC) indicates the three insurers that have registered claims to date have stated they will not apply terrorism exclusion clauses. I am pleased to see these companies acting so responsibly at this difficult time.
Individual insurers have different payment thresholds before they can claim from the ARPC, depending on their size. ARPC has reported the current estimate for the total insured is just over $600,000.
Losses from this incident are well short of the limit at which the Commonwealth may become liable for payments.

The Australian Government is doing everything it possibly can to keep Australia safe and disrupt terrorist planning and activity in Australia.
The review into the Martin Place siege currently being conducted by the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments will tell us what lessons can be learned from the events leading up to and surrounding the siege.
At the same time, our law enforcement and security agencies continue their work to prevent and disrupt any individuals who may seek to do us harm.
Last year, we committed more than $630 million in additional funding to help our agencies monitor individuals of interest and disrupt terrorist attacks.
We also introduced a broad range of new counter-terrorism laws that give our law enforcement and security agencies the tools they need to disrupt and combat terrorism, including the threat posed by returned foreign fighters.
Our efforts will continue as we do all we can to prevent such a terrible incident from happening again.
Martin Place hostage Marcia Mikhael records exclusive interview with Channel Seven's Melissa Doyle [Canberra Times – 15/1/15]
Case against Logan "terror suspects" (whose bookstore was targetted by Murdoch's 'Courier-Mail' before the September raids) delayed again [Brisbane Times – 15/1/15]

‘Five Eyes’ states to meet next month

Al Arabiya [14/1/15]:

The five nations that make up the world's leading intelligence-sharing network will meet in London next month to confer on strategies to fight terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks, Canada said on Tuesday.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the so-called Five Eyes - the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand - had scheduled a meeting for Jan 22.

A Canadian government official later said the five would actually meet in London some time in February.

Blaney's comments were unusual, since members of the Five Eyes network rarely talk about its activity.

"We're going to have a meeting with our Five Eyes allies in London and this is serious stuff. Terrorism will be there" on the agenda, he told CTV television.

U.S. intelligence officials have shared with their French counterparts information related to the travel history of those suspected of involvement in the Paris attacks, in which a total of 17 people died, a White House spokesman said on Tuesday.

Blaney gave no more details of the London meeting, save to say that U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson would be present.

Separately, the Canadian government official said the London event had been scheduled before the Paris attacks.

"The Five Eyes regularly meet to discuss shared concerns and approaches," he said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that the fight against terrorism would be "a major focus" of the meeting but declined to give more details.

The five nations that comprise the group divide the world into eavesdropping target sectors and share the results.

France Arrests a Comedian For His Facebook Comments, Showing the Sham of the West’s “Free Speech” Celebration [Intercept – 14/1/15]

‏@pasalavida  También son Charlie, por @moir_alan aquí más trabajos.  [13/1/15]

"Eco-Terrorist" Freed 10 Years Early After Feds Withhold Evidence on Informant’s Role [Democracy Now – 14/1/15]:

... AMY GOODMAN: OK, Ben Rosenfeld in San Francisco, can you talk about what has taken place in this case? I mean, here you have Eric McDavid, who was supposed to serve 19 years in prison. He’s being released a decade early. Why?

BEN ROSENFELD: Eleven years early, actually. And this was about as egregious a case of entrapment as I’ve seen in my entire legal career. And I should point out, too, that what they’ve done to Eric, they visit a thousandfold on Muslims in this country, so it’s very important that we raise public awareness about this.

...

UK: Sun Four trial, defence barrister warned over “political comment”

Hacking Inquiry [14/1/15]:

The defence counsel for the former deputy editor of The Sun was warned about making “political” comments in court.

The presiding judge, Mr Justice Saunders was responding to a remark about cuts in the royal navy made by Vincent Coughlin QC “not being exclusive to anyone”, and reminded the barrister not to express such opinions “especially with a general election coming up”.

The Old Bailey trial, which relates to alleged payments to public officials by staff at the tabloid newspaper, had earlier seen the jury being read a number of articles from The Sun which the prosecution allege had been sourced from a MoD civil servant Bettina Jordan-Barber in return for cash payments totalling £100,000.

The articles, which included stories about sexual harassment in the army and the private lives of military staff were published between 2004 and 2012.

Shanahan’s lawyer suggested, however, that his client had only approved two payments to Jordan-Barber with the majority having been authorised by the paper’s then editor Rebekah Brooks.

The court also heard about a dispute between the defence and the prosecution about material relating to Brooks that had been removed from the initial evidence folder given to them by the prosecution.

Mr Justice Saunders assured the jury that “there is nothing underhand going on, the prosecution had removed material they thought was irrelevant and the defence wishes you to have it because they think it is relevant. That will be a matter that is entirely for you to decide”, adding “and I may have something to say about it later”.

Also on trial with Shanahan are The Sun’s former Chief Reporter John Kay, deputy editor Geoffrey Webster, Royal editor Duncan Larcombe as well as an army officer and his wife, John and Claire Hardy.

While the last few days of the case have consisted of documents being read to the jury Mr Justice Saunders told them “tomorrow we will be doing what normally happens in court, witnesses appear and barristers ask questions. We will be reverting to type”.

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

Where is the Australian government in all this?

RNZI [15/1/15]:

New Zealand First says the navy needs to use its firepower in the standoff with vessels fishing illegally in the Southern Ocean.

Equatorial Guinea gave permission for New Zealand to board three fishing ships to verify their flagged status, after agreeing they were illegally fishing for toothfish in Antarctic waters.

Yesterday, crew on HMNZS Wellington were refused entry to the vessels by the captains, and did not forcefully enter because it was deemed to be too dangerous.

New Zealand First defence spokesperson Ron Mark said a shot across the poachers' bows would show the Navy was serious and force the poachers to comply.

Mr Mark said if it was perceived that the New Zealand Navy was "toothless" and the Government "gutless" it would be open season on the country's resources.

"How we behave right now will determine how poachers and pirates treat us in the future.

"Quite frankly right now, a burst of gunfire would end it all."

Meanwhile, Captain of the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said the poachers were trying to outlast the Wellington's fuel supply.

He said the New Zealand ship was outnumbered three-to-one and Australia needed to send a vessel to help.

"Where is the Australian government in all this? We do know that the Australian government committed to, earlier this year, sending down a customs vessel, they have not done so to date.

"Now is the the time for the Australian government to send the New Zealand vessel the support it needs."

Mr Hammarstedt also said more needed to be done to punish the poachers.

"Enough will be when these vessels are taken into custody, these vessel have been operating illegally for the past ten years now in the Southern Ocean.

"We can't have them just getting a slap on the wrist. The New Zealand Government has to slap the cuffs on them, take them back to port and detain these ships permanently."

HMNZS Wellington intercepted two foreign fishing boats in the area last week- the Kunlun and the Songhua.

The Wellington also caught another ship this week - Yongding - which was thought to be part of the same fishing syndicate.

Fishing company Sanford has welcomed the navy's monitoring of the three vessels.

Sanford is one of two New Zealand companies licensed to catch toothfish in the Ross Sea.

Chief operations officer Greg Johansson said illegal fishing posed a threat to the environment, fish stocks and also the crew on the poaching vessels.

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

The commission was established by international convention in 1982 with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life.

Its 25 member nations agreed to strict rules including catch limits and reporting fishing data,

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

 

 


... Ali told SBS the asylum seekers wanted to be handed over to the United Nations.
"Australia doesn't want us, that is OK," he said. "We just ask that they give us to the United Nations.
"We didn't come to PNG, we didn't enter PNG soil and we haven't done anything in this country so we shouldn't be in jail in this country."

...

A government spokesperson yesterday said "media reporting that transferees are refusing food and fluid is incorrect." [Australian government confirms self-harm at its refugee death camp on Manus Island - SBS – 15/1/15]

 

 

What is the UNHCR Regional Office for Australia, New Zealand, PNG and the Pacific doing about the desperation of refugees in Australia's concentration camps?

Who will liberate these people?

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

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

 

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

 VOICE FROM MANUS: statement issued regarding the hunger strike

 

ABC [15/1/15]:

At least two of the 15 asylum seekers who sewed their lips together yesterday have passed out at the Manus Island detention centre, a detainee says.

The ABC has obtained photos from the centre of two men being treated by medical staff.

An asylum seeker says they were among those who stitched their lips together in protest at their lengthy detention, poor conditions and the prospect of resettling in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

"Two person before today they sewed their lips, they fall down and the medical they come very emergency [sic] and they took them from here," a detainee told the ABC.

An asylum seeker who spoke to the ABC yesterday said 15 people had sewn their lips together and 400 men were on a hunger strike.

An Egyptian asylum seeker is also believed to be undergoing medical treatment on Manus Island after swallowing three razor blades yesterday in a protest against his detention.

...

Workers at Australia's refugee concentration camps exposed to psychological injury as well as ethical hazards and possible future liability for committing crimes against humanity. [Brisbane Times - 21/8/14]:

The mental health crisis inside the detention centre on Christmas Island is now taking its toll on those who guard the asylum seekers, with one female employee attempting to take her life and a male considered at serious risk of self-harm.

The two Serco employees, whose distress was prompted by prolonged exposure to depressed and self-harming asylum seekers, have been flown to the mainland.

Workers at the centre fear the situation will deteriorate further following the news that young children in mainland detention centres are to be released into the community, while those on the island face eventual transfer to indefinite detention on Nauru.

Sources said the two employees had been ''on constant'', meaning they were required to prevent asylum seekers on suicide watch from self-harming for the duration of their 12-hour shifts. ''It really does their heads in because they're watching people trying to kill or harm themselves all the time,'' one insider told Fairfax Media.

''The pressure of being with clients, at arm's length, for 12 hours a shift with no relief and seeing slashings and attempted hangings is taking a toll,'' said another.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who was alerted to the situation by a Serco employee, said the plight of the guards represented ''a new chapter of misery'' in Australia's treatment of boat arrivals.

''These attempts by people to take their own lives on Christmas Island are not moral blackmail, as the Prime Minister has previously said. They are the result of the government's cruel and inhumane refugee policies,'' she said.

While a Serco spokesman would not comment on individual cases, he said precautions were taken where there were concerns.

''For our employees on Christmas Island, this might include supporting them to seek medical help, putting them on paid special leave, and flying them home from the island. We recognise that our staff do a difficult job in circumstances which are sometimes challenging, and we have a range of measures in place to support them.''

The removal of the workers comes after a recent spike in self-harm incidents on Christmas Island. Last month the Australian Human Rights Commission and a team of medical experts described a ''mental health crisis'' on the island, confirming multiple suicide attempts and self-harm incidents.

Commission president Professor Gillian Triggs said there were 13 mothers on suicide watch and their condition was deteriorating during her visit to the island as part of the commission's national inquiry into children in immigration.

For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit beyondblue.org.au

Medicare rebate changes scrapped.

Will the AMA also use their significant political strength to close Australia's refugee death camps?

ABC [15/1/15]:

Health Minister Sussan Ley has announced the Government will scrap plans to cut the Medicare rebate for short doctor visits.

The rebate for GP consultations less than 10 minutes was due to be cut by about $20 from next Monday.

However, the move was set to be struck down by the Senate.

"I am deeply concerned by the misinformation that is causing confusion for patients and confusion for doctors," Ms Ley said.

"As a result, I'm announcing today that the changes to level A and B Medicare consultation items will not commence on Monday as planned.

"The Government is taking them off the table."

But she said the Government remained committed to a GP co-payment as a price signal in the health system.

"It remains critical that we implement changes to ensure quality care for Australians and a secure future for Medicare," Ms Ley said.

The Federal Government has announced it will shelve plans to cut the Medicare rebate. Have your say.

The changes would have meant doctors no longer received a $37.05 rebate for Level A consultations, but instead received only $16.95 – a cut of $20.10.

This amount would have been further reduced (to $11.95) from July 1 when cuts to rebates for longer consultations would have also kicked in.

The Government planned to leave it to individual doctors as to whether they passed on the shortfall to patients.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Brian Owler welcomed the decision to dump the changes.

"I'm pleased for grassroots GPs and particularly for their patients because they were the ones that were going to bear the brunt of these changes and I think clearly common sense has prevailed," he told the ABC.

"I'm very pleased it's not going ahead with these level A and B rebate changes on Monday.

"What we will be doing is going through with the Minister a process of consultation, the process which should have happened previously to come up with ways that we can actually enhance general practice and make our healthcare system more sustainable in the future."

Professor Owler said he was pleased the prospect of a Senate showdown over the changes had been avoided.

"I think at the end of the day the fact it was going to go through this parliamentary process of disallowance of the new regulations would have been an awful thing to go through for the GPs and patients," he said.

"I think common sense has prevailed and the Minister and PM have ended the uncertainty about these changes and now are going to embark on the process of consultation that the AMA has requested all along they do."

Primary Health Care hit by ‘material’ funding cuts: analyst [Sydney Morning Herald - 9/1/15]

AMA letter to Tony Abbott

 

Refugee advocates dispute Minister's claim there's adequate medical care care in detention centres [ABC - 5/9/14]

Time to close Australia's refugee concentration camps [RACGP Media Release - 31/7/14]

Dr John-Paul Sanggaran: Public Health, Human Rights and Asylum Seeker Detention [VIDEO - May 2014]

... Australia's peak medical bodies are alarmed by evidence doctors are being forced to compromise clinical and ethical standards and put their patients' health at risk as they struggle to deliver basic care to traumatised children. ... [ABC - 2/8/14]

 

What kind medical professional/health worker derives satisfaction from providing unethical, sub standard care?

The kind that pokes fun at their patients and implies they are all fat, violent drunks draining the economy?

Queensland Election: Fighting obesity at top of AMAQ's election wish list Queensland Election [Brisbane Times - 15/1/15]

[Queensland doctors release funny ads to tackle obesity - News-Mail - 31/7/14]:

... AMAQ President Dr Shaun Rudd said rural and regional Queenslanders were facing a burgeoning obesity epidemic.
"On average, 67 per cent of regional Queenslanders are overweight or obese," Dr Rudd said.
"The statistics are even higher around Townsville and Mackay regions with 75% overweight or obese. That's 226,000 adults carrying too much weight.
...

In August 2014, the Australian Human Rights Commission National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014 heard evidence from a doctor who had worked on Nauru and Christmas Island.

She pointed out that it is the detention itself which causes the majority of health problems that doctors are presented with.

One boy lost 10kg because of hopelessness and depression.

The doctor said there were instances where doctors ran out of anti-depressants and antibiotics (eg amoxicillin, which is used to treat simple infections).

The inquiry also heard from former a Save the Children employee who worked on Nauru.

As there is no child protection legislation on Nauru, there are no background checks on people who are working with children on Nauru.

Children are referred to by their boat ID and not their name.

Toys and books are not available and one child "begged for any book just to read something".

Unaccompanied children displayed signs of self harm and suicidal behaviour.

 

Any way involved in Australia's sadistic treatment and outsourcing of refugees?

Good Germans never imagined Nuremberg either.


Thinking about the hunger-strikers on Manus. Recalling that last wave of protests there were met with horrific, lethal violence.

"tweeted' by @xBorderOps [15/1/15]

 

Please spare a thought for the 167 children still imprisoned on Nauru, we won't forget you.

Image: @HelpRefugeesOZ [21/11/14]

 

ABC [15/1/15]:

An Egyptian asylum seeker is believed to be undergoing medical treatment on Manus Island after swallowing razor blades in a protest against his detention.

The 39-year-old asylum seeker was said to be part of Egypt's minority Christian community, fleeing religious persecution.

The ABC spoke to an asylum seeker who said he translated for health workers treating the man.

"He go and swallow four razor [blades]. He vomit one and three [are] still inside his body," the Middle Eastern man said.

"I was there, I was with him, I went with him to the medical, to IHMS [contractor International Health and Medical Services] to translate for him because he refused to get anyone with him."

The Egyptian man's health began to deteriorate rapidly, according to the witness.

"His body become white, his skin become totally white... and his leg... become blue, so terrible."

The claim could not be independently verified but it came as other asylum seekers sewed their lips together in acts of increasing desperation.

Asylum seekers said hundreds were participating in a hunger strike and the ABC had obtained photographs of eight different men with their lips sewn together.

The Egyptian asylum seeker reportedly stitched his lips together on Tuesday, but health workers convinced him to remove the stitches and accept medical treatment in exchange for a phone call to his sister in Sydney.

An asylum seeker who spoke to the ABC said 15 people had sewn their lips together and 400 men were on a hunger strike.

"They start begging him and they made a deal with him, they said we'll let you call your sister if you get your lips out."

The asylum seeker who spoke to the ABC said the three razor blades remained inside the Egyptian man.

"All of them are still inside his body. When I was there they were telling him that they would make [an] X-ray to him."

The Middle Eastern man translating was sent back to his compound and the current condition of the Egyptian asylum seeker was not known

Officials from the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government were not available for comment.

Australia's Immigration Department released a statement on Wednesday.

"The Government is advised by the department that a number of transferees have engaged in a peaceful protest and that media reporting that transferees are refusing food and fluid is incorrect," a department spokesman said.

"Centre staff are engaging with the group.

"Limited water restrictions are in place at the centre, but water production is meeting the centre's needs.

"Supplies of bottled water are readily available."

A notice posted on social media said equipment providing water to the Regional Processing Centre had broken down.

"For transferees, this means that you can't have showers today but you can continue to use the washing machines [which use a different system to provide water]."

It noted that staff would not be able to wash clothes or shower until the problem was fixed.

Another problem adding to tension on the island was the reported lack of pay for locally-hired guards, under the control of Wilson Security. [<----- Where is Australia's "Union Movement"?]

Almost a year ago, local guards, support staff, police and residents stormed the detention centre, beating Iranian Reza Barati to death and injuring dozens of other asylum seekers.

As of 31 December 2014, 1,035 men remained in detention at the Australian-run facility on Manus Island.

The processing of applications was taking place and the PNG government had said 50 men had been given refugee status and would soon be moved to a separate transit centre on Manus Island for language lessons and job placement.

However, some asylum seekers said they did not feel safe resettling in PNG and feared attacks by locals.

They had vowed to fast to the death.

Cambodia: Arrests threatened for aiding refugees

Phnom Penh Post [13/1/15]:

Eight ethnic minority Jarai villagers in Ratanakkiri province have been told to sign an agreement pledging not to provide aid to Montagnard asylum seekers or face possible arrest, villagers have said.

The villagers from Kveng village in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district helped to shelter several Montagnards who were hiding in the forest there until they were assured of safe passage to Phnom Penh last month. They are currently being interviewed in the capital as part of their asylum claims.

The police presence in the area has been stepped up following the arrival of five more Montagnard asylum seekers, with police searching the area around another village in the same district.

Yesterday, police armed with pistols and allegedly led by Borkeo district police chief Mao Sun accused villagers in Kveng of harbouring illegal immigrants.

“They accused us of hiding five Vietnamese immigrants. To correct our mistake, they ordered us, along with 48 families, to thumbprint a document promising to not do such things in the future, or else they would arrest us,” Sal Vuth, one of the villagers, said yesterday.

As a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Cambodia is obligated to assess asylum seekers’ claims to refugee status without penalty.

The eight villagers refused to immediately sign the document presented by police yesterday and requested help from local rights group Adhoc.

Chhay Thy, Adhoc’s provincial coordinator, said that the police’s actions amounted to “intimidation and a violation of the individuals’ rights”, adding that Cambodia should do more to meet its obligations under the 1951 treaty.

Police chief Mao Sun could not be reached for comment, but the provincial police chief, Nguon Keun, denied there was a policy to pressure villagers into turning their back on future Montagnard asylum seekers.

“We have no policy to do that,” he said.

Where is the UNHCR?  [Cambodia Daily - 14/1/15]:

... The U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed that its representatives had also arrived in Nauru with Cambodian and Australian officials.

“We are there as an observer of the meetings between the Cambodian, Australian and Nauru governments,” Joe Lowry, a spokesman for the IOM, said via telephone from Bangkok.

Mr. Lowry said Leul Mekonnen, who heads the IOM’s Cambodia office, was leading the organization’s delegation.

The IOM has been considering since October whether to play a part in the resettlement program, which was negotiated by Cambodia and Australia in secret and without the participation of aid agencies or non-government groups.

Cambodian and Australian officials contacted Tuesday would neither confirm nor deny the visit.

Cambodian immigration czar Sok Phal declined to comment and referred questions to Interior Ministry Undersecretary of State Ouk Kimlek, who referred questions back to General Phal. Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he knew nothing about a trip to Nauru.

A spokesman for Australia’s Immigration Department declined to comment. The Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh did not respond to a request for comment.

Australia’s The Age newspaper reported Tuesday that Australian officials joining the visit include Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, who heads the Australian government’s Operation Sovereign Borders, and Mark Cormack, Australia’s deputy secretary of immigration.

The Age also reported—without citing any sources—that “a number” of Rohingya refugees were expected to take up the offer of "resettling" in Cambodia.

The Rohingya have been violently oppressed in Burma, whose government refuses to legally recognize them as an ethnic group even though many have lived in the country for generations.

Though Cambodia insists that it will only "resettle" those refugees who volunteer, rights groups and opposition lawmakers have lambasted Australia for shirking its own responsibilities for the asylum seekers in Nauru and trying to shunt them off to one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the region.

Police are still searching for suspects after an alleged attack on a Free Trade Union (FTU) leader in Kampong Speu last month, while union officials are pointing the finger at the management of the factory they were attempting to organise. ... [Phnom Penh Post - 14/1/15]

Spanish maritime rescue of refugees jumps 55% in 2014

Yahoo [15/1/15]:

Spain's maritime rescue services last year came to the aid of 3,500 migrants found on boats off the country's coast, the government said Wednesday, a 55-percent increase from the previous year.

A total number of 2,253 people were rescued in 2013, according to a spokesman for the maritime service.

Despite the dangers involved, thousands of migrants fleeing war and hardship try to cross the 15-kilometre (nine-mile) Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco to Spain on makeshift boats and inflatable dinghies each year, making Spain one of the main entry points into Europe for illegal migrants.

A record 348,000 migrants and refugees took to leaky boats in 2014 in search of a better life in Europe, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Middle East, 4,272 of them dying in the process, according to the UN refugee agency.

Most of these were in the Mediterranean, where more than 207,000 made the crossing since January 2014, almost three times the previous high of 70,000 during the Libyan civil war in 2011. A record 3,419 lost their lives.

For the first time in decades, almost half of those hoping to make it to Europe are refugees rather than economic migrants, including 60,051 Syrians and 34,561 Eritreans.

...

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [14/1/15]:

On Jan. 13, U.S. and Coalition military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria, using bomber and fighter aircraft to conduct six airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and Coalition military forces conducted 12 airstrikes in Iraq, using attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.

All strikes took place between 8 a.m., Jan. 13, and 8 a.m., Jan. 14, local time.

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

Syria

* Near Kobani, six airstrikes struck an ISIL fighting position and destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL armored vehicle.

Iraq

* Near Bayji, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL artillery system.

* Near Taji, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

* Near Ar Rutbah, two airstrikes struck an ISIL checkpoint and an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

* Near Baqubah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL building, an ISIL vehicle, and an ISIL recoilless rifle system.

* Near Al Asad, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL VBIED.

* Near Sinjar, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL excavator.

* Near Mosul, four airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units, two ISIL excavators, and an ISIL bunker, and destroyed an ISIL armored vehicle and an ISIL vehicle.

* Near Baghdad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

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

...

Afghanistan: 3 civilians killed in roadside explosion in Paktya

Khaama [14/1/15]:

A roadside bomb explosion has killed three civilians in Paktya province.

Local officials confirm the incidents.

The office of the district governor of Zurmat says that the incident took place between the main Bazaar of the district and Muqribkhil village yesterday afternoon.

He said that civilians were traveling in a vehicle that ran over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) as a result of which the vehicle was completely damaged and it’s passenger killed.

IEDs claim lives of hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan every year.

According to a recorded count by UNAMA, last year nearly 5000 civilians were killed in IED explosions and ground engagements.

Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian at Gush Etzion

Maan [14/1/15]:

Israeli forces opened fire at two Palestinians near the Gush Etzion Junction between Bethlehem and Hebron in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday evening, killing one.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Ma'an that two Palestinians "were involved in a criminal incident" in the area, and one was shot by Israeli soldiers after he attempted to flee the area.

The man was "injured seriously and died in the evening," he told Ma'an, adding that the other was arrested.

Israeli news website Israel National News, which is known for its right-wing leanings, said that incident occurred as the 30-year-old victim was "attempting to steal a car in the parking lot of the Rami Levy supermarket branch" in the area.

The supermarket, while located inside the Jewish-only settlement, is located immediately beside the junction and is thus open to Palestinians as well.

The Israeli news site said that military police had launched an investigation into the incident.

Egyptian Army Kills 17 Militants in Sinai After Kidnapped Officer’s Death [Al Akhbar – 14/1/15]

US Begins Trial Against PLO for Alleged Role in Decade-Old Attacks [Al Akhbar – 14/1/15]

Japan approves record defence budget

Al Jazeera [14/1/15]:

Japan's cabinet has approved the country's largest defence budget, with plans to buy surveillance aircraft and F-35 fighter jets to improve defences of disputed islands amid China's increasing assertiveness in the region.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet endorsed on Wednesday a nearly $42b defence budget for the year beginning in April, a two percent rise. The budget must still be approved by parliament, but Abe's coalition holds majorities in both houses.

The military outlays were included in a record $814b total budget for the coming fiscal year.

Japan's military budget is rising for a third year in a row under Abe, who took office in December 2012 and ended 11 straight years of defence budget cuts.

The increase mainly covers new equipment, including P-1 surveillance aircraft, F-35 fighter jets and amphibious vehicles for a new unit to boost island defences.

The 2015 budget also covers cost of purchasing parts of "Global Hawk" drones, planned for deployment in 2019, and two Aegis radar-equipped destroyers, as well as missile defence system development with Washington.

Chinese patrol boats often visit waters near uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.

Abe favours a stronger role for Japan's military, despite a commitment to pacifism enshrined in the US-inspired constitution drawn up after the country's defeat in World War Two.

Japan's defence guidelines were revised in December 2013 as tensions rose over the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

In July, the Abe government adopted a new interpretation of Japan's war-renouncing constitution to allow its military to defend American and other foreign troops under attack.

Journalism after ‘Charlie’: in Paris, UNESCO hosts day of reflection, free speech debate

UN Media Release [14/1/15]:

In the wake of last week’s attack against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the United Nations agency mandated to protect free expression today hosted at its Paris headquarters a day of reflection and held a wide-ranging debate on press freedom.

“The attack against Charlie Hebdo was an attack against freedom of expression, a pillar of this shared vision, whose flag bearers are journalists,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as she opened the proceedings.

Participating in the event were members of French and international media, UNESCO Member States, opinion-makers and journalism schools. The programme was opened by Ms. Bokova and leading French cartoonist Plantu.

This event follows last week’s deadly terrorist assault on the editorial staff at Charlie Hebdo, and the subsequent hostage siege at a kosher supermarket in Paris. Seventeen people were killed in those attacks.

In her remarks, Ms. Bokova expressed alarm at the deliberate attack on journalists.

“The numbers are staggering. Every seven days, one journalist is killed for doing his or her job. Nine of ten cases go unpunished. This is simply unacceptable,” the Director-General said.

“As the United Nations agency mandated to protect freedom of expression and press freedom, UNESCO stands up every time a journalist is killed and we call for effective justice,” she said.

Today’s event included two roundtable discussions with media companies on the safety of journalists, and on the vital role played by media in nurturing public debate, promoting dialogue and building bridges.

The first discussion featured several media officials, including Swedish journalist Magnus Falkhed, Janine Di Giovani, Middle East Editor of Newsweek, Georges Malbrunot from the French daily Le Figaro, John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, Omar Belhouchet, a journalist with El Watan and Ernest Sagaga, head of Human Rights and Safety at the International Federation of Journalists.

The second round table on “Intercultural Dialogue and Fragmented Societies” examined ways to advance respect for diversity and freedom of expression and how to build mutual understanding and tolerance across different media.

Participating in that dialogue was President of the French Constitutional Council Robert Badinter, Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia, the Rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris Dalil Boubakeur, and Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun.

On Sunday, Ms. Bokova along with UNESCO staff participated in the 1.5 million-strong Paris solidarity march with French President Francois Holland and some 40 other heads of State and Government. Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy, represented the UN at the march and joined in expressing the Organization's revulsion for terrorism.

Syria's Assad Says West to Blame for France Attacks

Naharnet [14/1/15]:

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Western "shortsightedness" and "support for terrorism" in the revolt against his rule were to blame for last week's attacks in Paris, state media reported Wednesday.

In his first reaction to the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket which killed 17 people, Assad said he had repeatedly warned Western governments that their support for rebel groups in Syria risked a blowback of violence at home.

"We need to remind many in the West that we have warned of such incidents since the beginning of the crisis in Syria," he told Czech newspaper Literarni Noviny in an interview to be published on Thursday.

"We kept saying you must not support terrorists or give them political cover, or else this will impact your countries and your peoples," he said in excerpts carried by the Syrian Arab News Agency.

Ever since a revolt broke out against Damascus in 2011, Assad has made no distinction between peaceful and armed opponents.

He has also used the term "terrorist" to refer to all armed rebels, both the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and the jihadist groups that now dominate the revolt.

Assad said that Western leaders, like those of Syria's former colonial ruler France, who had championed his removal had been "short-sighted and narrow-minded".

"What happened in France has proven that everything we said was right," he said.

Mexican mayor faces charges in kidnapping of 43 students

Reuters [14/1/15]:

The former mayor of the southwestern city of Iguala has been charged with last year's kidnapping of 43 students who are feared to have been killed, a top security official said on Tuesday.

Tomas Zeron, director of criminal investigations at the federal Attorney General's office, said that prosecutors had obtained an arrest warrant for former mayor Jose Luis Abarca and 44 others on charges of kidnapping the 43 students.

President Enrique Pena Nieto is facing his deepest crisis over the government's handling of the investigation. Anger over the case spurred sometimes violent demonstrations around the country late last year.

Zeron did not specify when the warrant was obtained, but it appeared to be the first charges filed against Abarca that are directly related to the students' disappearance even though authorities have said the mayor and his wife were the masterminds of the kidnappings since October.

Zeron spoke to reporters after meeting with family members of the missing students.

The students were allegedly abducted by police working with a local drug gang in the southwestern city of Iguala on the night of Sept. 26. On Monday, the federal courts authority said a judge had ruled Abarca's wife will stand trial for links to organized crime.

Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda were captured by federal police in Mexico City in November.

Abarca was already facing charges of links to organized crime as well as kidnapping and murder charges related to other cases besides the students.

Floods Kill at Least 40 People in Malawi and Mozambique

Naharnet [14/1/15]:

Flooding from heavy rains have killed at least 40 people in Mozambique and neighboring Malawi, where a state of natural disaster was declared Tuesday in nearly a third of the country.

In Mozambique, where some waters have risen to over double flood thresholds, a group of 25 school children was swept away by torrents Monday, and 18 others have been reported missing.

Malawi officials said at least 19 people have died there, and nearly 3,900 homes have had to be abandoned.

Flooding in the two East African neighbors has left much of Malawi's center and western border region under water, and large eastern swathes of neighboring Mozambique swamped.

The region is likely to face at least two more days of torrential rain carried by late summer storms, according to meteorologists.

Roads and rail lines have been cut by flooded rivers, which according to officials have also swept away surprised bystanders, people seeking to flee rising waters in canoes and sleeping families whose homes were suddenly overcome by rushing torrents.

Pope emphasizes post-war healing in Sri Lanka with rare Buddhist visit

Reuters [14/1/15]:

Pope Francis paid a surprise visit to a Buddhist temple on Wednesday, capping a trip to Sri Lanka where he told huge crowds that religions must unite to heal the country's war wounds.

The only other visit by a pope to a Buddhist temple was made by Pope John Paul during a trip to Thailand in 1984.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope briefly stopped at Colombo's Mahabodhi temple to meet Banagila Upatissa, a Buddhist leader who had invited him when they met on Tuesday at an inter-religious meeting.

"The pope listened with great respect" as the monks were singing and praying, Lombardi said. He said that in honor of the occasion, the monks opened a container holding Buddhist relics that is normally unsealed only once a year.

The spokesman said that during the pope's 20-minute visit, which was not on his schedule, Francis listened intently as the monks explained aspects of their religion in a room where there was a statue of Buddha.

Francis, who has made inter-religious dialogue a plank of his papacy, has already been to mosques during trips to Istanbul and Jerusalem.

During his two-day trip to Sri Lanka - which is about 70 percent Buddhist, 13 percent Hindu, 10 percent Muslim and 7 percent Catholic - the pope has stressed the role of religion to help reconciliation after the 26-year civil war that ended in 2009 and killed up to 100,000 people.

Earlier, Francis gave Sri Lanka its first saint at a seafront Mass for more half a million people in Colombo, calling 17th century missionary Joseph Vaz a model of reconciliation.

He held up Vaz as an example of tolerance as Sri Lanka recovers from the war between mainly Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils.

Vaz was born in 1651 in India's Goa, then a Portuguese colony. He traveled south at the age of 36, dressed as a beggar after hearing about the persecution of Catholics by the Dutch. He worked for years under the protection of a Buddhist king.

...

 

15 January 2015

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