“The free expression of the hopes and aspirations of a people is the greatest and only safety in a sane society.”
Fascism 101: Ignore the human rights atrocity.
UN finds Australia tortures refugees. National broadcaster explores the possibility of sustainable farming on Christmas Island. [ABC - 16/3/15]:
... Mark Bennett is the director of Christmas Island Hidden Garden Farms, based on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, which has just started a 21-year lease of 54 acres of crown land from the Australian Government with the aim of supplying the local community with fresh fruit and vegetables at an affordable price.
"What we intend to do is set up a diversified sustainable farming model, which would include a number of different growing strategies, from traditional open-row cropping to greenhouse strategies, aquaponics, chickens. We want to harvest eggs, honey," he said.
"Basically, we want to get as much as we would find in a normal supermarket growing in a field on Christmas Island, so that the local community can experience what we have here."
United States, “allies” continue bombing Iraq and Syria
The United States and coalition partners carried out seven air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and four in Syria since Saturday, the U.S. military said.
The raids in Iraq hit Islamic State tactical units, vehicles, excavators and staging areas near al Asad, al Hawayja, al Qaim, Falluja, Ramadi and Tal Afar, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement on Sunday.
The air strikes in Syria were focused near Kobani, at the border with Turkey, and destroyed nine Islamic State combat positions and a vehicle, the statement said.
@ANA_Feed - ANA PRESS [15/3/15]:
At least 30 people were killed and more than 150 were wounded by five air strikes carried out since early morning by the Syrian Air Force on residential buildings in the Duma suburb of Damascus, activists said. Among the victims also women and children.
Dr. Natalie Roberts, medical coordinator of MSF programs in Syria in 2014, talks about 4 years of war in Syria. [Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – [VIDEO - 13/3/15]
@IraqiSMCEn -Iraqi Spring Media Center [15/3/15]:
Anbar: The coalition planes have targeted sites in Garma northern east of Fallujah and sources reported that ISIL elements have advanced towards Samarra......
Ta'ameem: The civilians in the southern west of Kirkuk are arrested by Peshmerga without memo of arrest .......
Ta'ameem: Internet networks and communication means have been disconnected in Haweeja west of Kirkuk................
Ta'ameem: Haweeja and Riyadh nahiya people flee as they expect military operation ............
NZ PM dismisses Iraq deployment accusations [RNZI - 16/3/15]:
Prime Minister John Key dismissed Opposition accusations that the Government's decision to send troops to Iraq is based on superficial advice.
Mr Key said nothing should be read into papers, obtained by Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act, because most of the advice he received has been withheld.
The advice from the Security and Intelligence Group was heavily censored but said most commentators blamed the rise of Islamic State on the previous Iraqi Government for excluding Sunnis from positions of influence.
The Labour and Greens parties said that advice was skewed and wrong.
But Mr Key said that was nonsense.
"What gets released under the Official Information Act is a very tiny amount of the advice I get and so much advice is withheld because in that instance it's highly classified and.. it would be inappropriate to release it.
"So you simply can't take one document and says that's the level of advice we get," he said.
But in his public statements on the threat of Islamic State in Iraq Mr Key has consistently repeated the line blaming the former Iraqi government.
Labour and the Greens say that ignores the part the American invasion in 2003 played in creating the conditions for the rise of Islamic State.
Labour's foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer said he could not understand why so much of the advice had been withheld.
"We've got a document which is supposedly unclassified yet there's page after page after page which is completely blank and it seems to me that's, that's ridiculous and begs the question: one, whether there's something to hide or two, their analysis is so, is so weak that they didn't want to release it," he said.
Most of the advice that has been made public repeats much of what has been reported in the world's newspapers.
The senior research fellow at London's Royal Institute of International Affairs, Claire Spencer, also disagreed with the analysis that most commentators blamed the previous Iraqi Government for the rise of Islamic State.
Dr Spencer told Parliament's foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee the United States invasion and its decision to remove Sunni officers from the Iraqi army had also played a part.
"The Sunnis have not only been, you know, disorganised by this but they've also in the course of the last decade fought back, you know in 2006, 2007 and this is where the first elements of what's now become ISIS (Islamic State) crept into the equation," she said.
Dr Spencer told Radio New Zealand she was interested that Mr Key's advisers appeared to give that no consideration.
Mr Shearer said unless there was reference to it in the material which had been deleted from the released papers, then there were significant omissions in the advice Mr Key received.
"Some of the redacted parts might have more in-depth analysis but on the basis of what I've read it is a very superficial analysis on which we have based the decision to deploy troops."
The Green Party's international affairs spokesperson Kennedy Graham is also not impressed with the advice given to Mr Key.
"They do simply become descriptive of the rise of ISIL (Islamic State) in 2014 and to the extent they have any analysis it's simply to blame it all on the Iraqi Prime Minister and if that's all the assessments that have been done I think the advice to Prime Minister John Key is dangerously skewed."
Dr Graham said Mr Key should have released more of the advice he had received.
"Their argument for redacting so much is that making it available to the media and to Opposition in Parliament might prejudice the defence of New Zealand, international relations of New Zealand or the confidential trust of another club member's intelligence agency. But if you accept that then it follows that the New Zealand Government is sharing more information and places greater trust in foreign officials than it does its own citizens," he said.
But Mr Key said there was good reason to withhold the advice.
Radio New Zealand requested other information and advice about the deployment to Iraq and is still waiting for a final response from the Minister of Defence, Gerry Brownlee.
Afghanistan: 9 abducted civilians freed by kidnappers in Ghazni
Nine civilians abducted in Ghazni province have been freed by the kidnappers.
Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, Deputy Governor of Ghazni province told Khaama Press that the kidnappers released nine civilians out of ten they kidnapped from the jurisdiction of Jaghori District today.
He said one civilian is still in the custody of Taliban together with a Saracha vehicle.
He added that the man with Taliban might be a government official or Taliban had pre-information about his travel.
Explaining the situation, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi said that the civilians were traveling to the capital city of Ghazni province from Jaghori District who were stopped on the way by Taliban and kidnapped on gunpoint.
He further said that Taliban occasionally establish check posts on this way and harass people.
Answering the question, have security forces taken any action against it?
He said “Security forces have only established security check points on the way but they are either not available in the check points or not caring.”
“Either they have hands with Taliban or assisting them.” he said.
He further said that the area where the kidnapping took place today is a Taliban area where only today they have searched people in three points.
Deputy Governor also said that this was not the only incident on this way.
He said several incidents of hostages and robberies have taken place on this way and the destructive activities continue.
Global arms exports on rise: SIPRI
Deutsche Welle [16/3/15]:
The United States has widened its lead as the world's major arms exporter, says the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which has just published new data on international arms transfers.
Overall, the volume of international weapons transfers between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014 went up by 16 percent, according to an annual update of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database, published on Monday.
The reports claims that US exports of major weapons increased by 23 percent between the periods of 2005-2009 and 2010-2014. The share of exports from the US was 31 percent in 2010-2014, SIPRI said, compared with 27 percent for the next largest exporter, Russia. Exports of major weapons from the Kremlin increased by 37 percent during the same period.
The findings were confirmed by Amnesty International. "As the main arms supplier to Egypt, the US authorized the sale of small arms, millions of rounds of ammunition and chemical agents for riot control, despite the security forces' violent crackdown on protesters," a spokesperson for the international human rights organization told DW in a statement.
"The US has long seen arms exports as a major foreign policy and security tool, but in recent years exports are increasingly needed to help the US arms industry maintain production levels at a time of decreasing US military expenditure," said Aude Fleurant, director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Program.
The US and Russia, though the world's largest exporters by volume, were surpassed by China with regard to weapons export growth. According to SIPRI, Chinese exports of major arms increased by 143 percent, making it the third largest supplier in 2010-2014.
Arms imports to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states increased by 71 percent from 2005-2009 to 2010-2014, accounting for 54 percent of imports to the Middle East in the latter period. Since 2010, Saudi Arabia has become the second largest importer of major weapons worldwide, increasing the volume of its arms imports four times compared to 2005-2009.
"Mainly with arms from the US and Europe, the GCC states have rapidly expanded and modernized their militaries," said Pieter Wezeman, senior SIPRI researcher.
"The GCC states, along with Egypt, Iraq, Israel and Turkey in the wider Middle East, are scheduled to receive further large orders of major arms in the coming years."
Five of the top 10 global importers of major weapons in 2010-2014 are in Asia: India (15 percent of global arms imports), China (5 percent), Pakistan (4 percent), South Korea (3 percent) and Singapore (3 percent).
These five nations accounted for around 30 percent of the total volume of weapons imports worldwide. India accounted for 34 percent of the volume of arms imports to Asia, well over three times as much as China. Beijing's arms imports decreased by 42 percent between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, according to SIPRI.
Putin in film on Crimea: US masterminds behind Ukraine coup, helped train radicals [RT – 15/3/15]
45 villagers killed in central Nigeria: Police
At least 45 villagers were killed in a dawn raid Sunday by suspected herdsmen in Nigeria's central Benue state, a police spokesman and a legislator said.
"I confirm that 45 people, including women and children, were killed this morning in an attack on Egba village of Benue state by suspected herdsmen," state police spokesman Austin Ezeani told AFP.
"Several others were injured in the gun and machete attack," he added.
Hundreds of people have been killed in attacks and reprisal attacks between farmers and ethnic Fulani herdsmen in the past few years in Benue state.
A state parliamentarian from the local area, Audu Sule, gave a death toll of about 50 from the attack.
"Around 50 people were killed in Egba village in my constituency in an early morning attack. The gunmen came in large numbers, all armed with AK47 rifles," he told AFP.
He also said women and children were among those killed.
"They opened fire on the sleepy village, killing residents, including women and children," Sule added.
No arrest has been made yet but police are on the trail of the attackers who fled into the bush after the deadly raid, Ezeani said.
"It was an unexpected attack, the reason for which we still do not know. The attack happened around 6.00am (0500 GMT). Policemen are on the trail of the assailants and we are hopeful to nab them," he stated.
"This area has been volatile for some time following farmers-herdsmen frequent clashes," he added.
Herdsmen and farmers in the state and neighbouring states often engage in bitter dispute over grazing rights that often result in deadly clashes.
Worshippers killed in Pakistan church bombings [Al Jazeera – 15/3/15]
Israeli soldiers violated on Saturday night the Blue Line that demarcates the border between Lebanon and Israel, announced the army in a statement on Sunday. ... [Naharnet - 15/3/15]
Power of Ten: How Neocons and the Fake-left Took Over British Establishment, Neil Clark [ICH – 15/3/15]:
... Genuinely conservative writers - who reject endless war and crony capitalism - have also been marginalized. Instead we’ve got a political commentariat dominated by a smug, mutually-adoring clique of neocons and fake-leftists, all espousing the same Pentagon-friendly, crony capitalism-friendly views, and supporting the same “humanitarian” military “interventions.” We saw this new establishment orthodoxy in the way the “Iraq has WMDs which threaten the world” propaganda was peddled in the lead up to the illegal 2003 invasion, and we see it today in the promotion of a non-existence “threat” from Russia and the relentless demonization of Vladimir Putin. In 1975 we had a state that didn’t go to war, but which generously funded public libraries, today, in the words of Andrew Murray of the Stop the War coalition, we have a state that is big enough for a war, but too small to keep public libraries open.
Anyone who dares step out of line and who challenges the “extreme center” faces attack from the cozy elite club that rules Britain today. The pressures on free-thinking journalists and politicians to conform to this new neocon/fake left “consensus” are enormous: a pernicious new McCarthyism worse than anything which took place in Britain in the old “Cold War” is at large. Tweet or say the wrong thing - and you’ll have the Extreme Center’s Thought Police on to you within minutes. And this harassment is carried out by people who claim to be “democrats” and who say they are opposed to “censorship” and totalitarianism. ...
Over 1 million Brazilians protest Rousseff, economy, corruption
Buenos Aires Herald [15/3/15]:
Over one million demonstrators marched in cities and towns across Brazil to protest a sluggish economy, rising prices and corruption - and to call for the impeachment of leftist President Dilma Rousseff.
The marches across the continent-sized country come as Brazil struggles to overcome economic and political malaise and pick up the pieces of a boom that crumbled once Rousseff took office in 2011.
Rousseff, now early into her second four-year term, is unlikely to resign or face the impeachment proceedings called for by many opponents. A fifth year of economic stagnation and a multibillion dollar corruption scandal at state-run energy company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras has fueled their anger.
But for a president narrowly re-elected just five months ago, the protests are a sign of a polarized country increasingly unhappy with its leadership. Rousseff has recently been jeered at public appearances and Brazilians in some cities banged pots during a televised speech she made earlier this month.
Today's larger than expected demonstrations also promise to embolden opposition parties and restive allies who are nominally part of Rousseff's ruling coalition, but nonetheless hindering efforts, along with staunch leftists in her own party, to pass reforms intended to help jumpstart the economy.
In a statement posted online Sunday, Aecio Neves, a centrist who was defeated by Rousseff in October and is the leader of Brazil's main opposition party, said the demonstrations marked a day when Brazilians "went to the streets to reunite with their virtues, their values and also with their dreams."
Rousseff in a statement Saturday said that she supported the rights of the marchers. She said she hoped the demonstrations, timed to coincide with the thirty year anniversary of the end of a two-decade military dictatorship, would illustrate Brazil's "democratic maturity."
Indeed, Sunday's gatherings were mostly calm and festive, with little of the violence that tarnished a wave of massive demonstrations in 2013, when Brazilians protested billions of dollars of spending, even as the economy stumbled, to host the 2014 World Cup of soccer.
But if less vehement, the rallies surprisingly matched those of two years ago in scale. In Sao Paulo alone, more than a million people, according to state police, weathered a drizzle to march along skyscraper-lined Avenida Paulista, the heart of Brazil's financial capital and biggest city by late afternoon.
"People feel betrayed, said Diogo Ortiz, a 32-year-old advertising worker, who called the ongoing scandal at Petrobras "a national and international disgrace."
Earlier, thousands of residents of Rio de Janeiro poured onto the Copacabana waterfront of Brazil's second-largest city. Most dressed in the blue, green and yellow of Brazil's flag. Crowds sang the national anthem and shouted "Dilma, Out!"
Data Retention Press Conference - Parliament House
Senator Scott Ludlam Press Conference [AUDIO - 16/3/15]:
Scott speaks to the media at Parliament House about the need for the Government to delay debate on their mandatory data retention legislation, amid growing concern about the regime, including from media and legal organisations.
Telco chiefs ramp up pressure over cost of metadata retention amid silence from ministers [Sydney Morning Herald – 16/3/15]
A Sri Lankan man, jailed for seven years for a vicious hammer attack, has been told he can stay in New Zealand because it would be too dangerous for him to be sent home. ... [RNZI - 16/3/15]
Refugee Rights Action Network WA [16/3/15]:
RRAN has received allegations that recent removals of asylum seekers back to Nauru have involved use of handcuffs and chemical restraints.
In one instance a teenage girl was sedated to ensure she was complaint for the trip after it became clear she was deeply distressed at being forcibly returned.
Australia urged to allow refugees to appeal ASIO ruling [Sydney Morning Herald – 16/3/15]:
... Australia has been urged to comply with a United Nations ruling and allow more than 30 refugees to challenge the secret ASIO assessments used to justify their indefinite detention.
Harvard University law specialist Gerald Neuman, who recently completed a four-year elected term on the UN's top human rights expert panel, said Australia's refusal to reveal the reasons for detention was shocking.
"No one questions the ability of Australia to take steps to protect its security in proper ways," Professor Neuman said on Monday.
"[But] I don't understand Australia to have ever said these men, women and children were a threat to the security of Australia."
Professor Neuman, who served as the United States' representative on the UN Human Rights Committee until December last year, contributed to a scathing UN ruling against Australia's "cruel and degrading" practice to lock up refugees indefinitely without a right of appeal.
Crossbench Senator Ricky Muir says he's concerned genuine refugees could be sent back to persecution under the Migration Amendment (Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2014 [VIDEO - Senate - 16/3/15]:
Senator Ricky Muir outlines his position on the Migration Amendment (Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2014.
He indicates support for schedules three and four of the Bill but not schedule two.
The Senator thanks the ALP for their amendments to schedule one.
Finally he details his concerns in relation to schedule two and why he is unable to support it, in its current form and will be supporting the ALP's amendments to remove schedule two.
Prime Minister responds to Andrew Wilkie MP's question with "stop the boats" lie.
Australia still torturing refugees.
Government thinks some kids more precious than others [Andrew Wilkie MP Media Release [ 16/3/15]:
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, will ask the Prime Minister the following in Question Time in Federal Parliament this afternoon.
``Prime Minister, the Government claims asylum seeker children in detention in Australia are being freed. But in fact more than half of these children are being sent to the Republic of Nauru which is just 21 square kilometres, has a population less than 10,000 people and a 90 per cent unemployment rate. Prime Minister, why does the Government think that some kids are less precious than others?’’
Mr Wilkie said that last month 126 children were locked up in immigration detention in Australia and 116 on Nauru.
But Mr Wilkie added that half of the 126 children in Australian detention centres - many receiving treatment for mental health problems - were due to be returned to Nauru rather than be released in Australia.
``In a cruel sleight of hand, the Government would have the public believe that asylum seeker children in detention in Australia are being released into the community,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
``But the truth is more than half of these children – many suffering mental health problems due to their treatment at the hands of the Australian Government – will never be free in Australia and will instead be sent back to the misery of Nauru.
``It will not be acceptable for the Government to defend its position by saying these children will be released into the community on Nauru when that country is an island of just 21 square kilometres, with less than 10,000 people and a 90 per cent unemployment rate.’’
Mr Wilkie has requested the International Criminal Court investigate, in accordance with Article 15(1) of the Rome Statute, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet for crimes against humanity in relation to asylum seekers.
Actions such as forced transfers to other countries, detention without trial, detention of children and conditions of detention clearly constitute breaches of Article 7 of the Statute.
The Government’s policies are in violation of fundamental principles of international law including, inter alia, those contained in the Refugee Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
These are breaches in their own right, and also form a foundation for several contraventions of Article 7.
An 'Obvious and Conspicuous' Injustice, says Assange on Asylum
In an exclusive interview with teleSUR, Julian Assange talks about why he chose Ecuador for asylum and the ongoing U.S. investigation into WikiLeaks.
Swedish authorities announced Friday their willingness to finally interview WikiLeaks' editor-in-chief Julian Assange, but a secret U.S. investigation has trapped the insurgent publisher without charge in Ecuador's London embassy.
Monday, March 16 will mark 1,000 days since Assange sought asylum there. In an exclusive interview with teleSUR English, Assange said there is growing recognition that the situation is unjust.
Assange spoke with teleSUR editor Chis Spannos.
1,000 Days: Julian Assange, Ecuador and the US War on Truth [teleSUR - 15/3/15]
Acts intended to maim charge, Mount Isa
QPS Media [16/3/15]:
Police have charged a 44-year-old man with acts intended to maim or disfigure following an incident on Friday night.
It will be alleged by police that they were called to the Mount Isa Hospital in relation to a 31-year-old woman who had attended with serious burns.
Following investigations into the matter police will allege a man has on two occasions, at an address in Healy on Friday night, poured boiling water on to the woman.
It will be further alleged the man has refused to call or allow the woman to seek medical assistance following the attack on the Friday night.
The man is due to appear in the Mount Isa Magistrates Court today.
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.
Teen cyclist hit by car, Gungahlin
Canberra Times [16/3/15]:
A 15-year-old cyclist has been taken to hospital with a head injury after being involved in a crash with a car on Gungahlin Drive on Monday morning.
The boy was not wearing a helmet, emergency services said.
He was assessed by intensive care paramedics after he crashed with a car while cycling near the Burgmann Anglican School in Gungahlin.
Emergency services said the boy was treated for multiple abrasions as well as a head injury.
The crash occurred around 8.40am, according to police.
He was taken to the Canberra Hospital in a stable condition.
Fatal motorcycle crash claims life of Queensland man in Murwillumbah [MYGC – 16/3/15]
Man drowns, four rescued as rough surf pummels the Gold Coast [MYGC – 15/3/15]
Man jailed for raping his daughter and filming it
Brisbane Times [16/3/15]:
A Queensland man has been jailed after filming himself raping his daughter.
He pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court on Friday to rape, producing child exploitation material and indecent assault, The Queensland Times reported.
The Ipswich man, who can't be identified to protect his daughter's identity, was sentenced to seven years and three months in jail.
The Queensland Times reported Crown Prosecutor Deborah Holliday said the man had filmed himself committing various sex acts, including penile rape, on his daughter while she lay on a bed.
"His former partner [not the girl's mother] was doing something on his computer one day in October, 2012 and came across the video," she said.
"She reported it to police.
"Early the following year he showed his current partner the video and she told him to destroy it.
"The next day she reported it to police and he was subsequently arrested."
The court was told the offences occurred between 2010 and 2011 and the man had been on the police radar for a while before his arrest.
Judge Michael Rackemann told the court the any violence towards the girl would have resulted in a much higher sentence.
The Ipswich man will be eligible for parole on August 12, 2017.
Ben Cousins apprehended inside secure perimeter of Perth's SAS barracks
Former AFL star Ben Cousins has been apprehended inside the secure facility of Perth's Special Air Service Regiment.
The 36-year-old was found inside the SAS Campbell Barracks in Swanbourne on Saturday night, but it is not known why he was there.
Cousins was taken to hospital, where he is believed to be undergoing assessment at a mental health ward.
Police were still investigating whether to charge Cousins with an offence.
The former West Coast Eagles captain is due to appear in court on April 8 on reckless driving charges stemming from a police pursuit in Perth last week.
Police allege the former midfielder was driving erratically in the southern Perth suburb of Bicton about 10:30pm on Wednesday when he failed to stop for officers.
He was arrested after a short chase that ended at the intersection of Gill and Solomon streets in the nearby suburb of Mosman Park.
Cousins was charged with reckless driving, failing to provide a breath test and failing to stop.
Cousins has had a long and public battle with drug addiction and abuse.
During his 11 years with West Coast, he won several of the league's highest individual awards, including a Brownlow Medal.
Cousins had his contract terminated by the Eagles in October 2007 and a month later was banned from the AFL one year for bringing the game into disrepute.
He was cleared to return to football in 2009 and was drafted by Richmond Football Club, before ending his career at the end of 2010.
Terror accused to remain in custody
West Australian [16/3/15]:
Two men charged with planning a terrorist act will remain in custody after their case was mentioned briefly in a Sydney court.
Omar al-Kutobi and Mohammad Kiad, both in their 20s, were allegedly about to target a member of the public with a knife when they were arrested at the 11th hour at their granny flat in western Sydney on February 10.
Their lawyer Adam Houda did not apply for bail at Central Local Court on Monday and the case was adjourned until May 6.
Mr Houda told the court he had only recently been assigned to the case and had met the pair for the first time on Friday.
He indicated outside the court that the pair planned to plead not guilty.
Police allege a machete, a hunting knife and an Islamic State flag were seized from the pair's home in Fairfield.
A video showing one of the men vowing an attack in the name of IS was also allegedly found.
Mr Houda said he had watched the video, which he described as "the essential feature of this case".
"It's not convincing to me," he told reporters on Monday.
Sword removed in counter-terrorism raids a common plastic decoration, owner reveals [Sydney Morning Herald - 7/10/14]
Woman sues ABC over Media Watch comments on her trip to Syria
Sydney Morning Herald [16/3/15]:
A Sydney woman of Syrian heritage is suing the ABC's Media Watch for depicting her as a backer of, and a PR mouthpiece for, the brutal regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
In a politically-sensitive case that will test alleged bias in media coverage of the Syrian civil war, Reme Sakr, 27, claims the ABC defamed her by saying she omitted crucial information in a personal account of her journey to her homeland.
Her defamation action will go before a jury in the Sydney District Court after Justice Judith Gibson allowed Ms Sakr to proceed with four allegations.
In a lengthy feature article in Fairfax's Good Weekend in March, 2014, freelance journalist Chris Ray accompanied Ms Sakr on the dangerous journey to convince her elderly father, Malek, to come back to Sydney.
The pilgrimage climaxed in a tearful reunion after which Malek, a member of the minority Druze community who returned to Syria when he retired as a painter in Sydney, said he wanted to stay and defend his homeland.
Media Watch said the article did not say that Sakr was actually a pro-government activist who received special favours from the government on her trip.
Host Paul Barry also said the article side-stepped the brutality of the Assad regime, its war crimes and its use of chemical weapons.
Ms Sakr is a member of the Hands Off Syria group and has spoken at rallies in Sydney to protest foreign intervention in Syria.
The group backs Assad and refuses to admit he has used chemical weapons, Media Watch said.
Mr Barry also said Ms Sakr was not in Syria simply to visit her father. She was a member of a controversial and heavily-criticised delegation of Wikileaks Party and Hands Off Syria members who met Assad, posed for photos with him and "served as useful propaganda for the Syrian government".
The Good Weekend piece was largely a personal account of Sakr's journey and the Syrian conflict from the perspective of the Druze, a small sect with historic links to Shiite Islam.
It made a passing mention of the meeting with Assad, describing Sakr as a translator for the "solidarity delegation of academics and activities".
It also said that she had paperwork from the Syrian government to allow her past checkpoints.
Ray told the program it was a personal story, so politics weren't relevant. Good Weekend editor Ben Naparstek said he commissioned a personal account and that's what was published.
Ms Sakr initially complained to Media Watch, saying "you unfairly tried to paint me as some sort of dictator-worshipping extremist with an agenda to push".
"Because my views on Syria are opposed to yours and the set media agenda, you chose to vilify the article and I," she said.
In the District Court, Ms Sakr's lawyer, Tom Molomby, SC, argued that the defamation was further aggravated because Media Watch didn't give her the same right of reply as Ray and Naparstek.
Her complaints were then "buried" in the public comments section on the show's website and truncated, Ms Sakr said.
A jury will determine whether the ABC defamed Ms Sakr by implying that she willingly backs a regime led by a war criminal, received special favours in return for her support and deliberately created "powerful PR" for Assad.
The matter returns to court next month.
Formal Complaint to ABC re Matt Brown’s AM Report on ‘Moderate’ Rebels [Australians for Reconciliation in Syria - September 2014]
Senator Lazarus reaffirms his opposition to deregulation
Media Release [15/3/15]:
Independent Senator for Queensland, Glenn Lazarus, today reaffirmed his opposition to the Abbott Government’s higher university measures.
“I have consulted widely with stakeholders across the sector. The feedback has been unanimous, universities want funding increased not cut,” Senator Lazarus said.
“If the higher education measures bill is introduced into the Senate this sitting, Australia can be assured I will be voting it down.
“The Abbott Government’s higher education measures are not about anything other than budget cuts.
“Deregulation will give the Abbott Government the green light to cut funding to the sector. Universities will be forced to increase the price of degrees in order to meet operating costs.
“The latest proposal being put forward to regulate deregulation of regulation is just plain stupid and demonstrates how desperate the Abbott Government is.
“I have made my position clear. I do not support the Abbott Government’s higher education measures.
“The Abbott Government didn’t consult with stakeholders across the sector before they announced the policy and yet they want to consult with cross benchers like myself to get the measures up in the Senate.
“The measures will significantly change the higher education funding system in Australia and push degrees beyond the reach of most Australians.
“Such a significant structural change to the higher education system will have far reaching and negative consequences for our country.
“Once this switch is turned, it will be impossible to turn it back. Australia will be well on its way to an Americanised system where only the wealthy get ahead and the poor are laden with debt or simply just left behind.
“No government has the right to make these changes without the consent and support of the people. The Abbott Government needs to take this issue to the people at the next election.
“I do not support the measures. I will continue to block the measures.
“The future of our country depends on our ability to innovate, create and lead in the areas of scientific, technological and medical breakthroughs. The world will pay for these advancements and innovations. We can’t compete against countries in Asia with lower production costs so we need to lead in other areas. This requires a commitment to higher education and development and advancement of our people.
“All successful societies prosper through investment in education.
“I represent the people of Queensland and the people of Queensland do not want cuts to higher education.
“I am not prepared to horse trade. Given my position, there is no point in meeting with Christopher Pyne. He is concerned about his own future.
“Australians should be angry that the Abbott Government is threatening to hurt people by cutting more jobs including research and scientific positions in order to try and black mail the Senate into supporting deregulation.
“This is disgusting behaviour and demonstrates the appalling ethics of this Government.”
Proposed legislation formalises guidelines for violence against refugees in Australian concentration camps. [New Matilda - 15/3/15]
Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015:
On 3 March 2015, the Senate referred the Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015 to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report.
The closing date for submissions is 7 April 2015. The reporting date is 12 May 2015.
Now's a great time to turn around.
A short film which portrays an Australian prime minister having an out-of-body experience as an asylum seeker won best film at the 2015 Lights! Canberra! Action! festival.
Filmmaker Hew Sandison told Guardian Australia he saw film as a way to participate in activism on an issue which Australia had 'dehumanised'.
@rranwa - Refugee Rights Action Network WA [15/3/15]: TRIGGER (Lifeline 131114) Just been told #asylumseeker on #Manus who attempted suicide last night has tried again tonight. ...
Rupert Murdoch's secret dealings with KGB agent still suppressed
The Age [15/3/15]:
The British Government has suppressed the release of secret documents relating to Rupert Murdoch's dealings with a French-Australian conman and KGB operative four decades ago.
The British Cabinet Office, which includes Prime Minister David Cameron, last week blocked the release under British freedom of information laws of a security classified file dealing with the Australian political controversy known as "The Iraqi money affair".
The affair nearly cost Gough Whitlam the leadership of the Labor Party, but ended with the newspaper proprietor paying the former prime minister a massive defamation settlement.
The British file, created in early 1976 by the office of former British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson is entitled "Claim by Rupert Murdoch (businessman and media magnate) that Gough Whitlam (Australian Prime Minister 1972-1975) was asked by Iraq about dealings between the USA, Syria, Israel and Egypt".
According to the Cabinet Office, declassification of the file nearly four decades later would still "have an adverse effect on and severely damage" Britain's relations with several countries.
The National Archives has advised Fairfax Media that the Cabinet Office took the view that "the possible damage to UK interests is significant and of a high degree of likelihood".
The British decision is surprising given that the National Archives of Australia has released a large number of records relating tothe affair, a controversy focused on Whitlam's unsuccessful attempt to secure a massive political donation from the Iraqi Baath Party to fund Federal Labor's 1975 election campaign.
At the urging of a prominent left-wing member of Labor's federal executive, Bill Hartley, Whitlam agreed to use a French-Australian businessman and anti-Israeli publisher, Henri Fischer, as an intermediary to raise funds from Arab governments.
Soviet intelligence records released in Britain last year have now revealed Fischer was a KGB operative, codenamed "Kirk".
According to notes by the former KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin, Fischer approached the Soviet embassy in Canberra in 1970 and "a secret trip to Moscow was organised for him where he spoke of American corporations secretly funding the anti-Soviet operations of various organisations in the USA and other countries".
At the time the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation detected Fischer's clandestine contact with Ivan Stenin, the senior KGB officer in Canberra, but a subsequent counter-espionage investigation proved inconclusive.
However, ASIO later found that Hartley, a strident political advocate for Palestine, was paid thousands of dollars by the Iraqi intelligence service which then worked closely with the KGB.
Fischer travelled to Baghdad in November 1975 with a letter of introduction written by Whitlam and returned to Australia with two Iraqi officials who met the Labor leader in the week before the December federal election.
Fischer, then in financial difficulty, subsequently stole $US500,000 (more than $2.8 million in today's value) that the Iraqis transferred to a Hong Kong bank with the intention that the businessman would launder it to help pay off Labor's campaign debts.
To protect himself Fischer moved to muddy the waters by contacting Murdoch at News Corporation's London headquarters and leaking what he described as the "major scandal" of Whitlam's dealings with the Iraqis.
Murdoch's notes of meetings with Fischer in February 1976, which he later passed to the Australian government, state that "Fischer told me that two Iraqi officials had come to Australia – the chief of Iraqi Intelligence together with a personal emissary of the dictator [Saddam Hussein] … [The] Arabs had asked for top-secret information on the Kissinger-Rabin and Kissinger-Assad talks, that Whitlam had arranged for them to receive this ... Fischer also alleged that Whitlam gave them reassurances relating to [strongly pro-Israel ACTU president Bob] Hawke's prospects in the Labor Party".
Murdoch's subsequent reporting in The Australian newspaper generated a political furore that nearly cost Whitlam the Labor leadership, but the News Corporation chief overreached when his newspapers reported Fischer's unsubstantiated claim that the Iraqi money had been received by the Labor Party when in fact it had not.
Fischer's claim that Whitlam agreed to provide the Iraqis with secret information on Middle East peace talks was also a fabrication. The still secret British file shows that this allegation, which was not immediately made public, also found its way to the British government – either via Murdoch or the Australian government.
The British Cabinet Office says the still secret file contains "unsubstantiated claims" involving several countries.
Murdoch eventually settled a defamation action by Whitlam for what was reported at the time as a "six figure sum".
Wren, John (1871–1953) [Australian Dictionary of Biography]:
... Wren speculated patiently and profitably in large tracts of marginal land in Sydney and Melbourne. He partnered Edward Theodore, Patrick Cody and (Sir) Frank Packer in three lucrative Fiji gold-mines. Great Boulder Mines (Western Australia), Golden Plateau (Queensland) and a colliery at Newcastle were also successful, though not Roma oilfields with his friend Archbishop (Sir) James Duhig, nor Watut goldfields in New Guinea.
Wren bought the Brisbane Daily Mail with Benjamin Nathan in 1915 and merged it with Sir Keith Murdoch's Courier in 1933 as the Courier-Mail. On behalf of his and Cody's United Distillers Ltd, he lobbied 'patriotically' and successfully with James Scullin's government for duties on fiercely competitive Scotch whisky. Australian Food Exporters Ltd (AFEX) and Barrett/Rowlands soft drink company were 'disasters'; Effron Yeast Pty Ltd was not.
Woman's body found in car outside home in south Adelaide
A woman has been found dead in south Adelaide in what police have described as a "domestic situation".
Officers were called to the home on Blueridge Road at Hackham West at about 8:30am (local time).
When they arrived, they found the body of a 27-year-old woman in the front passenger seat of a car parked in the driveway.
Acting Detective Chief Inspector Paul Lightfoot said police had not determined the cause of death.
"There are no significant major injuries visible," he said.
"We don't believe there are any weapons involved at this stage.
"We're following a positive line of inquiry and we believe the incident is related to a domestic situation."
Police said the woman lived with her partner and her two children and said two children were home at the time of the incident.
No arrests have been made.
Police have asked anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Woman found dead in WA Kimberley region with injuries consistent with dog bites [ABC - 15/3/15]
Fatal traffic crash, Beenleigh
QPS Media [15/3/15]:
Police are investigating after a pedestrian died after being struck by a vehicle on the Pacific Motorway at Beenleigh early this morning.
Initial investigations indicate the man was in the southbound lanes around 2.20am when the incident occurred.
The driver of the vehicle involved was not physically injured.
The Pacific Motorway is closed at the scene with traffic being diverted over Exit 35 and back onto the motorway.
Forensic Crash Unit are investigating.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should
contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au
24hrs a day.
13 people rescued from Movie World rollercoaster on Gold Coast after wheel fault
More than a dozen people have been rescued from a rollercoaster at Movie World on Queensland's Gold Coast, after one of the ride's wheels dislodged.
Firefighters arrived at the theme park in Oxenford about 1:10pm to investigate an issue with the Green Lantern Coaster where 13 people were stuck.
Six people taken off the ride have been transported to Gold Coast University Hospital in a stable condition. Witness Caleb Rehua said he immediately noticed something unusual about the ride.
"When we got off all we heard was two big bolt things just fall down and then everyone went crazy," he said.
"It was like a real movie. We all had to get off the carriage was falling and then they stopped the ride straight away."
A spokesman for Movie World said the issue with the wheel occurred approximately 12:50pm.
"Warner Brothers Movie World and Queensland Fire have trained for this type of evacuation," the spokesman said.
"The safety and wellbeing of our guests is our top priority. "Our team of engineers and technicians will investigate the cause of this mechanical issue before the ride is reopened."
According to the Movie World website, the coaster features the "steepest drop in the southern hemisphere", is 33 metres tall and can reach a top speed of 66kph. It was opened in December 2011.
Odin’s Warriors Criminal Motorcycle Gang arrests in Central Queensland by Task Force Maxima [QPS Media - 15/3/15]
Australia's deal with Cambodia and the IOM to exile and enslave refugees shrouded in doubt
05MAR2015: Women were dragged into the jail by Nauruan police and corrections.
Cambodia Daily [14/3/15]:
... According to a statement released by Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Friday, following a one-day visit to meet with government officials in Phnom Penh on Thursday, arrangements for the first group of refugees to be relocated “are expected to be finalized in coming weeks.”
During his visit, Mr. Dutton also met with representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a global body that counts Cambodia, Australia and Nauru among its 157 member states and that has agreed to facilitate the resettlement of any refugees who volunteer to come.
“Together with IOM, Australia and Cambodia are advancing the arrangement and committed to its smooth and successful implementation,” Mr. Dutton said in the statement.
After the U.N.’s refugee agency refused to facilitate the deal, the IOM agreed to step in, saying its primary concern was upholding the dignity of the refugees.
However, refugee advocate Ian Rintoul called the organization’s involvement “a joke,” pointing to the fact that it played a major role in the controversial Pacific Solution, running the detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island under the Howard government.
It has not administered the centers since 2008, but maintains a presence on the islands.
Mr. Rintoul, from the Sydney-based Refugee Action Coalition, said the IOM is driven largely by economic considerations and has little credibility with asylum seekers, who view it as untrustworthy as a result of its connection to the Pacific Solution.
“The IOM has been around a long time, but effectively they are hired by the governments to implement their policies,” Mr. Rintoul said. “They try to associate themselves with the U.N. and the UNHCR; it’s a complete myth.”
Asylum seekers on both islands are wary, he said, of IOM staffers who have worked in tandem with Australia, offering them money on the government’s behalf to return to their countries of origin.
“They trawl the compounds essentially coercing people to go home; they operate as an extension of the immigration department,” Mr. Rintoul said.
IOM regional spokesman Joe Lowry, who is based in Bangkok, denied Mr. Rintoul’s account but said in an email that “the option of Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) is available to the majority of asylum seekers should they wish to avail of it.”
According to the IOM’s website, the program includes “awareness-raising for AVRR” in host nations, assistance with travel arrangements, and “socio-economic support” for returnees once they reach their country of origin.
The IOM has stressed that it has only one staff member on Nauru, whose job it is to accommodate those who decide to take up AVRR, and that it would not be discussing the Cambodian resettlement option with refugees.
“Our role is neither to encourage nor discourage people from coming but to provide services for them if they decide to come,” Mr. Lowry said.
“IOM’s involvement starts after voluntary decision by refugees to settle to Cambodia. We believe our involvement will provide for improved settlement outcome for the refugees who volunteer to settle.”
Yet when Cambodian officials traveled to Nauru in January, just three of the 400-odd refugees living in the community there even agreed to meet with them.
According to Mr. Dutton’s statement, another Cambodian delegation is expected to travel to Nauru “within weeks” to speak to the refugees about settlement options in Cambodia.
And Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said on Thursday that the governments had agreed to test the waters by sending a group of five families here ahead of any other volunteers.
However, an Iranian refugee, who has been on Nauru for 17 months, including three months living outside the detention center after she was determined to be a “genuine refugee,” said in interviews conducted online over the past week that no one there wanted to come to Cambodia.
“We thought [the] Australian government is going to accept us with open arms. We have not come through this journey to go [to] Cambodia,” said the woman, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of her situation.
“We had some issue with [our] government, otherwise we wouldn’t leave our country to go to a poor country,” she added.
The refugee said that the situation on Nauru was “very poor.” Hundreds of refugees took to the streets there last week to demonstrate against “slave-like” conditions on the island, according to Australian media reports.
Nearly 200 people were arrested over the protests, including women and children, before charges were laid against 174 people, the Guardian Australia reported.
A U.N. report released last week found that Australia is in violation of the international Convention Against Torture due to its detention of children in immigration centers.
The Australia-Cambodia deal has been strongly criticized by opposition lawmakers and rights groups in both countries, who note that Cambodia has a poor track record with protecting the human rights of its own citizens, let alone refugees.
Australia’s Mr. Dutton, however, said in Friday’s statement that he sees things differently.
“In particular, I recognize Cambodia’s progression within a single generation from a devastating civil war, through the rebuilding and reconstruction of their society, to a member of the international community taking a leadership position in protecting the vulnerable,” he said in the statement.
Mr. Rintoul, the refugee advocate, said he believed that not only were the refugees hoping the deal would flounder, but that both governments were also banking on the deal falling through.
“The Australian government is not serious. It is entirely for domestic purposes,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone expects [the refugees] to go, least of all the Cambodian government. They’ll just take the $40 million [in Australian dollars] and put it in their pocket, and say, ‘Okay, next.’”
"It is often safer to be in chains than to be free."
The Federal Court has dismissed an Iranian man's appeal against a decision to reject his bid for asylum because of discrepancies found in his claim.
The 33-year-old had been on a two-month hunger strike in Darwin's Wickham Point Immigration Detention Centre since late last year after losing his application for a protection visa.
His application was lost after an Independent Merits Reviewer for the Immigration Department ruled there were discrepancies in his case for asylum.
The man subsequently launched an appeal against that decision in December, which was first heard in the Federal Court in Melbourne last month.
On Friday in Darwin, Judge Philip Burchardt rejected the appeal and said the man had no risk of being returned to Iran.
The man can either stay in indefinite detention in Australia or voluntarily return to Iran, since the country will not accept people forced to return.
The court heard the man claimed he fled Iran in 2010 because he was under threat of an honour killing by militia members for having a sexual relationship with their unmarried sister, breaking sharia law.
But the review found several discrepancies in the case, which it said added up to an implausible story and revoked his refugee status late last year.
The review said the man had first told an Immigration Department interviewer that he had sex with his girlfriend two weeks after meeting her.
Two years later, he told another interviewer that it was after three or four weeks.
The man's lawyer, Julian Burnside QC, told the Federal Court in Melbourne last month that these differences were minor, but the Crown said it showed the story was untrue.
Mr Burnside applied for a judicial review of the Iranian man's revoked refugee status on four grounds.
One of those was that the departmental reviewer made an error of law by not considering the applicant's claim he was at risk of persecution as a failed asylum seeker.
But Judge Burchardt found the man "has no political profile and the reviewer roundly rejected the prospect of risk on the basis of the alleged sexual episode which the reviewer did not accept had occurred".
Darwin lawyers acting for the Iranian man said they were in discussions with him about his options.
Australia's Torture of Refugees: Well it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it, and it's pretty lucrative. ...
… She opened strange doors
That we'd never close again ...
'Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)', David Bowie 
UN finds Australia tortures refugees. National broadcaster talks up the concentration camp business with Transfield Services chair. [ABC - The Business - 12/3/15]:
Transfield Services has the contracts with Defence to service detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.
That's helped a downturn in its more traditional services - maintenance and construction in mining, energy and infrastructure.
Late last year, the board batted off a takeover from Spanish construction giant Ferrovial. Diane Smith-Gander speaks to Ticky.
Greece: Technical talks to resume with lenders
Greece embarks on a second week of technical discussions with its lenders from Monday with the aim of agreeing on a first batch of reforms but also securing a concession, possibly from the European Central Bank, that would help it overcome its pressing liquidity problems.
There was contact between Greek officials and representatives of the country’s lenders in Athens and Brussels this week.
The Greek side was informed by its creditors that they need the latest data on Greece’s public finances in order for discussions to progress.
The Greek delegation returned from Brussels to prepare the information, while technocrats sent to Athens by the institutions began receiving paperwork on Friday.
Sources in Brussels told Kathimerini that there was little progress in the discussions that took place in the Belgian capital due to the lack of technical data and because of an apparent insistence on the Greek side on discussing the seven reform proposals that Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis had submitted before the last Eurogroup.
Athens will be hoping that discussions can advance next week because the government is running short of money. It is hoping for either an early disbursement of some of the 7.2 billion euros in remaining bailout loans or an increase in the 15-billion-euro limit on T-bills that the state can issue.
The latter would need the approval of the ECB as Greek banks would likely be the only buyers of the T-bills. At the moment, though, the Frankfurt-based lender does not seem willing to budge on the issue.
An ECB official told Kathimerini that Greece’s funding difficulties will only last until August, which means the pressure on the government to carry out reforms must be exercised now.
Speaking at an economic conference in northern Italy, Varoufakis insisted that the government had “made all the necessary provisions to ensure there is no accident” but Greece’s partners would also have to play their part.
“I’ve no doubt the ECB is going to do what it takes to smooth cash flow problems which are very small in the grander scheme of things,” he said at the gathering in Cernobbio, near Lake Como.
Presenting an agenda for Europe at AMBROSETTI (Lake Como, 14th March 2015) [Yanis Varoufakis]
Greek PM warns of far-right threat in Europe [Daily Star - 14/3/15]
Schools, hospitals, courts and state offices across Portugal were hit by a day-long strike on Friday called by civil servants fed up with austerity-linked salary and job cuts. ... [Naharnet - 14/3/15]
Poroshenko: 11 EU states struck deal with Ukraine to deliver weapons, including lethal [RT – 14/3/15]
Sierra Leone vice president seeks asylum at US embassy [Al Jazeera – 14/3/15]
Fidel Castro and Evo Morales Condemn US Sanctions on Venezuela [teleSUR – 10/3/15]
Egypt sacks 41 judges for supporting the Brotherhood: sources
An Egyptian disciplinary court ordered 41 judges into compulsory retirement on Saturday for supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, judicial sources said, the latest move in a sweeping crackdown on political dissent.
The government has implemented a harsh crackdown on Islamists as well as secular political opponents since then army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule.
The Disciplinary Council headed by judge Nabil Zaki did not immediately release the reason for its decision, but the judicial sources said 31 of the judges were sent into compulsory retirement for signing a statement that condemned the removal of Mursi.
Another 10 were removed from their posts for joining "Judges for Egypt" group which used to be supportive of the Brotherhood even before Mursi's removal, the sources added.
Egyptian law prohibits judges from engaging in politics, but critics and human rights groups say the judicial disciplinary court has turned a blind eye to judges who openly support the government of Sisi, who was elected president last year.
The government says the judiciary is independent and it never intervenes in its work.
"The decision is shocking and it is a massacre of the judges," Ahmed El-Khatib, one of the punished judges told Reuters. He made no comment about whether he supported the Brotherhood.
The judges have the right to appeal against the decision.
Separately, security forces arrested 63 middle-level Brotherhood leaders who face charges of attacking police headquarters and inciting violence, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Another 13 Brotherhood supporters were arrested on suspicion of possessing arms and ammunition, it added.
The government has banned the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, and Sisi says it is a threat to national security. The group says it is committed to peaceful activism.
Egyptian security forces face a militant insurgency that has killed hundreds of soldiers and police since Mursi was ousted.
The attacks are mostly concentrated in North Sinai, center of an insurgency by militants seeking to topple the government.
But frequent small-scale attacks in Cairo and other regions have damaged Egypt's efforts to project an image of stability after four years of turmoil triggered by the 2011 uprising that deposed veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak.
A homemade bomb wounded four people outside an HSBC bank branch east of the costal city of Alexandria on Saturday, security sources said.
The attack came on the second day of an investment conference in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, that Egypt hopes will project an image of stability and attract billions of dollars.
Thousands gather across Canada to protest proposed anti-terror legislation
Toronto Star [14/3/15]:
Dozens of rallies were held across the country Saturday to protest Bill C-51, which opponents say would allow the government to stifle dissent.
Thousands of Canadians came together to loudly denounce the Conservative government's proposed anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51, in scores of rallies held across the country on Saturday.
In Toronto, a large crowd gathered in Nathan Phillips Square, where NDP MPs Peggy Nash and Andrew Cash spoke, as well as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
In a park in Montreal's north end, a few dozen of the hundreds of demonstrators taped their mouths shut in protest of the bill, which opponents say would allow the government to stifle protest and dissent.
As they marched toward the office of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, many of the large contingent waved signs bearing messages such as “Stop Harper,” and “Activism is not a crime.”
The Conservative government introduced the wide-ranging bill in January. It would give police much broader powers and allow them to detain terror suspects, as well as give new powers to Canada's spy agency.
Organizers of the nationwide protest say the bill would infringe upon Canadians' civil liberties and right to privacy, especially online.
Groups such as Amnesty international have also argued that the bill’s powers to limit “threats to the security of Canada” are too broad and may allow the government to shut down legitimate dissenters and protest groups who do not go through official channels.
In Ottawa, hundreds of chanting protesters clogged the street outside Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office.
They then marched onto the grounds of Parliament Hill.
A protest in Edmonton similarly drew hundreds of angry marchers.
In Vancouver, a crowd of about 700 to 800 people, according to a police estimate, gathered in front of the city's art gallery. Aboriginal leaders and civil liberties groups spoke to the crowd through a megaphone, while onlookers cheered and waved signs.
Protester Larry Johnny said he feared that First Nations protesting mines in the province could be labelled “terrorists” for speaking out, if the bill is passed.
“These rights affect me today, but they're also going to affect my grandnephews and nieces,” he said. “I'm here for them, because they're the ones that are going to be growing up with these bills.”
In Antigonish, N.S., protesters marched past the constituency office of federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay. Other rallies targeted the offices of Labour Minister Kellie Leitch and Industry Minister James Moore.
In Montreal, the demonstrators were joined by New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair, who climbed onto a milk crate and reiterated his intention to vote against the bill.
“C-51 is a bill that could seriously endanger our right to protest peacefully, to stand up against a government or an infrastructure or an economic policy,” he said. “Mr. Harper has never been able to give a single example of why this bill is necessary.”
Protesters in Montreal also directed criticism at Trudeau, shouting “Harper terrorist, Trudeau complicit,” as they marched toward the Liberal leader's constituency office. Trudeau has said that his party will support Bill-C51.
The Conservative government has said the bill will make Canadians safer and give police and security forces the tools they need to meet terrorist threats.
But many of Saturday's protesters remained unconvinced by the government's assurances that the bill would not infringe on Canadians' civil liberties and right to protest.
“I'm really worried about democracy; this country is going in a really bad direction,” said Toronto protester Stuart Basden.
“Freedom to speak out against the government is probably at jeopardy. Even if you're just posting stuff online you could be targeted, so it's a really terrifying bill.”
Fascist political duopoly sells out Australians once again. [The Saturday Paper - 14/3/15]:
… Labor does not want to fight on the battlefield of national security, although the voters now are calmer about it. Even when the government is out of step with public opinion, Shorten Labor remains in lockstep with the government.
To cite one recent example: when the prime minister announced the commitment of another 300 troops to Iraq a couple of weeks ago, Shorten happily concurred, saying: “the commitment most certainly likely accords with Labor’s principles and the scope of activities that we’ve outlined.”
The public isn’t going along with it, though. The most recent Essential Media survey of voter opinions found just 36 per cent approved. Fifty per cent were against it. Just 12 per cent of people thought it would make Australians more safe. Thirty per cent thought it would make us less safe. Forty-seven per cent thought it would make no difference.
But Labor wants the punters to see nothing between them and the government in this area.
It drives civil libertarians to despair.
CITIZENFOUR is a real time thriller, giving audiences an exclusive front-row seat to the moment Edward Snowden changed history with his revelations of widespread government surveillance around the world. ... [Currently screening at Dendy Portside in Brisbane.]
Children safe as police stand-off ends safely in Newcomb near Geelong
The Age [15/3/15]:
A 14-hour police stand-off near Geelong has ended peacefully with two children being released and a man taken into custody.
The two children had been caught up in the incident when the man, believed to be their father, barricaded himself inside a Gibbs Street home in Newcomb and wouldn't let them leave the property.
The stand-off, which began around 11.30pm on Saturday, dragged on for hours as police negotiators tried to convince him to release the children and surrender.
Police blocked off the entire street, urged residents to stay away, and called in heavily-armed officers when it couldn't be ruled out if the man was armed.
A Facebook user in Newcomb had written public posts about the ongoing "siege", stating he was armed and ready to die, local radio station Bay FM reported, but police did not confirm if the posts were genuine.
The two children were finally released from the home just after 1pm on Sunday with the man taken into custody a short time later, a police spokeswoman said.
No one was injured
Man charged with murder of father during Murwillumbah home invasion [ABC -15/3/15]:
Police have charged a man with the murder of his father, who was killed during a home invasion in far northern New South Wales last year.
Michael Martin, 46, was stabbed to death during an early morning break-in at his Murwillumbah apartment last June.
The fatal attack came after another home invasion at the same flat in April left Mr Martin seriously injured.
Strike Force Areae, a joint operation between the State Crime Command's Homicide Squad and Tweed-Byron Local Area Command, was established to investigate the death.
Mr Martin's 25-year-old son, Michael Martin Junior, who had said he suffered head injuries in the June attack, was arrested at Tweed Heads after a nine-month investigation.
Last weekend, the man had appealed through the media for information about his father's death.
He was refused bail when he appeared in court in Lismore on Sunday.
Calls to better support women with acquired brain injuries caused by domestic violence [ABC - 15/3/15]
Afghanistan: Roadside explosion leaves 3 children dead in Nangarhar province
At least three children were killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.
According to local security officials, the incident took place late on Saturday afternoon in Sherzad district.
A spokesman for the 201 Silab Military Corps for eastern Afghanistan, Gen. Mohammad Naeem Hatefi, said at least six civilians were also injured.
Gen. Hatefi further added that the incident took place after a civilian car struck an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Hashem Khel area.
He said the injured civilians were shifted to hospital and their health condition has been reported as satisfactory.
No group including the Taliban militants has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.
Taliban militants and insurgents from the other militant groups frequently use Improvised Explosive Device (IED) as the weapon of their choice to target the security forces which normally lead to civilian casualties.
The Obama administration is considering to allow many of the 9,800 American troops to remain in Afghanistan into next year by abandoning plans to cut the number to 5,500 by the end of the year. … [Khaama – 14/3/15]
Afghanistan, Pakistan and UNHCR agree on adopting new approaches to assist the voluntary return of Afghans from Pakistan [UNHCR Media Release - 11/3/15]
Report: Accused Chilean Torturer Taught for Pentagon for 13 Years [Democracy Now - 13/3/15]:
McClatchy Newspapers reports an accused torturer who served as a member of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s secret police force worked for the Pentagon’s top university for 13 years.
Jaime García Covarrubias returned to Chile last year.
He remains there under a Chilean judge’s order amid a probe into his alleged masterminding of the murders of seven people in the weeks after the U.S.-backed coup that brought Pinochet to power September 11, 1973.
An alleged victim of García Covarrubias said he used to wield a horsewhip while presiding over sexual torture and electric shocks.
Despite repeated complaints over García Covarrubias’ past, officials with the State Department and Pentagon let him teach at the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, while immigration officials let him remain in the United States.
Palestinian activist sentenced to 18 months for US immigration fraud [Reuters - 12/3/15]
60 Minutes speaks with Australian man accused of abduction, abuse and torture of children on trial in Philippines [Nine MSN – 15/3/15]:
He’s the Australian accused of carrying out some of the most horrific crimes imaginable, including abducting children as young as 18 months old, subjecting them to sustained sexual abuse and torture on camera and in one case killing a girl when things got out of control.
But when confronted with his alleged crimes, Peter Gerard Scully – who is now awaiting trial for a string of child sex crimes in the Philippines - didn’t seem phased at all.
“He was smug, he was a smart Alec – but he never, ever denied it,” 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown said, after she interviewed the accused pedophile shortly after his arrest on February 20.
“He did not apologise – he said he was remorseful but at no point did he say at what point in these crimes did he start to feel remorse.
“I think there’s a lot of faux Peter Scully in there when he was speaking to me, I don’t know if he was trying to control the interview or push his side of the story.”
Brown spoke with the Australian as part of a 60 Minutes special exploring what some authorities are calling the most shocking case of child exploitation they have ever seen.
Last month Philippines police uncovered the body of a 12-year-old girl underneath a house in Malaybalay, Bukidnon which was once rented by the Melbourne man.
Police said Scully’s former partner told them he had accidently killed one of his victims in 2013 and buried her under the building in a desperate effort to hide his growing and lucrative pay-per-view child sex business.
Scully is accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing numerous children, as well as allegedly filming the activities and distributing the footage to pedophiles on the internet.
“For me, this is where it started – with the exhumation of a 12-year-old girl’s bones in the Philippines,” Brown said.
“That’s certainly something that stays with you but for me, it was the fact that children were put into this man’s charge because he’d promised financial support, to send them to school and take care of them.
“That’s just another world, you don’t see that every day.”
Police allege he abused more than a dozen children during his three years in the Philippines, distributing videos of his sick crimes to a network of international pay per view clients who allegedly fed him instructions and personal fantasies.
In one of the graphic videos titled “The Destruction of Daisy”, the young victim was allegedly subjected to whipping, torture and a range of sexual acts.
Philippines police have described the video as the most shocking piece of child pornography they have ever encountered.
The U.S. government is appealing a federal court ruling that reduced the potential penalty BP Plc must pay for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill by almost $4 billion. ... [Reuters - 14/3/15]
The Hague Rules against Chevron in Ecuador Case [teleSUR - 13/3/15]
Imagine if Australia had spent millions building cyclone shelters throughout the pacific instead of torturing refugees:
@NauruBwiema - President of Nauru, Baron Waqa [15/3/15]: My heart goes out to all those affected by #tcpam. #Nauru will take all possible measures to assist with relief efforts in the affected area
@AFP [15/3/15]: #BREAKING Vanuatu cyclone has damaged up to 90% of capital's houses, Oxfam says
It is feared the death toll in Vanuatu from Cyclone Pam will rise significantly once relief workers make their way to remote areas. ... [RNZI - 15/3/15]
Cyclone Pam approaches NZ [RNZI - 15/3/15]
Spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Office, Mishaen Lulu Garae, said the capital Port Vila had been completely destroyed.
Pam wreaks havoc in Port Vila [RNZI - 14/3/15]:
Whole villages in Vanuatu are reported to have been blown away by Cyclone Pam, with unconfirmed deaths being put at 44.
Six deaths have been confirmed in Port Vila, home to about 40,000 people, but aid agencies say the death toll is likely to climb.
The official death toll stands at six, but authorities say it is likely to be significantly higher.
The worst cyclone in 12 years has left devastation in the capital, with disaster officials saying 80 per cent of the houses have been seriously damaged.
Government offices and other infrastructure have been destroyed, along with part of the main Vila Central Hospital.
Tom Skirrow, of Save the Children, said people were wandering the streets looking for help.
How bad things are in the northern islands is not known because all communications have been cut.
And there is no contact with Tanna island in the south which the cyclone is pounding now. Twenty thousand people live on Tanna.
Emergency services in Vanuatu are preparing to mount a massive search and rescue operation in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam.
Spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Office, Mishaen Lulu Garae, said the capital Port Vila had been completely destroyed.
He said communication with the northern provinces was impossible, but he assumed the area was devastated and it could take days to get damage assessments from those areas.
Vanuatu's council of ministers held an emergency meeting this afternoon and international assistance is likely to be requested.
Cyclone Pam reportedly generated gusts of up to 330 kms/hr and Metservice said it was the worst Pacific storm since cyclone Zoe in 2003.
The gales extended up to 380 kilometres from the centre of the storm - slightly longer than the distance between Wellington and Taupo.
New Zealand will contribute $1 million in initial funding to Pacific nations battered by the cyclone.
The funding includes $200,000 in response to specific requests for help in Vanuatu, Fiji, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands.
NGOs in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands will get $400,000 to help with their aid efforts.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said an Air Force Orion is already in the region, conducting a damage assessment flight over Tuvalu.
He said the government will continue to watch the situation and will give more aid if needed.
UN regional director Sune Gudnitz, who is in Fiji, said the immediate concern was that there will be a very high death toll in Vanuatu but also an enormous amount of destruction and devastation.
UNICEF urges dialogue with Islamic State to ensure access
France 24 [13/3/15]:
Countries should seek dialogue with the Islamic State group in war-torn Syria to help aid workers gain access to areas under its control, the UN children's agency said Friday.
The militants have so far refused to talk with a range of United Nations agencies trying to send aid into areas under their control, making it difficult to help or even estimate the needs.
UNICEF representative in Syria, Hanaa Singer, insisted Friday that countries and political actors should help aid workers gain the access they need.
"It is not the responsibility only of the humanitarian agencies," she told reporters in Geneva.
"This is a political responsibility for the political parties to talk and to put pressure and to start a dialogue with ISIS," she added.
Asked if she meant that nation states should try to talk to the group, she said: "Other state parties, yes."
UNICEF and other agencies have managed to get some aid into areas held by the jihadist militants through local groups and partners on the ground, but far from enough, they say.
Singer stressed the need to establish a dialogue with the jihadist militants who control large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq "at least to protect the children."
The UN agency estimates that 14 million children are paying the price for warfare in Syria and Iraq, with as many as two million children living in parts of Syria largely cut off from humanitarian aid.
Around 2.6 million children are out of school in the country.
Syria's conflict has left more than 210,000 people dead and 11.4 million displaced since it began in March 2011 with peaceful anti-government protests, eventually escalating into a full-blown civil war after the regime brutally cracked down on the demonstrations.
United States, “allies” continue bombing Iraq and Syria
On March 12, U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria, using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct five airstrikes.
Separately, U.S. and Coalition military forces conducted six airstrikes in Iraq, using attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.
All strikes took place between 8 a.m., March 12, and 8 a.m., March 13, local time.
The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:
•Near Kobani, five airstrikes destroyed 10 ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL vehicles.
•Near Al Asad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
•Near Fallujah, two airstrikes struck an ISIL anti-aircraft artillery piece.
•Near Kirkuk, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL armored vehicle.
•Near Mosul, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL excavator.
•Near Rawah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL excavator.
Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports. All aircraft returned to base safely.
US, "allies" have undertaken 2,800 airstrikes in the latest invasion of "our region" i.e. Iraq, Syria. [Centcom - 13/3/15]
Report: US-Led Strikes in Syria Killed Over 100 Civilians [Democracy Now – 13/3/15]
US soldier slightly wounded by gunfire at Iraq training base [IraqiNews.com – 13/3/15]:
The Pentagon said “A U.S. soldier was wounded slightly when fired upon by an unknown person outside Besmaya Military base of southeastern Baghdad in central Iraq where U.S. troops are training Iraqi soldiers.”
A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Steve Warren, said “This marked the first time an American military member has been wounded by ground fire since the U.S. began training Iraqis as part of the coalition effort to defeat the Islamic State group.”
Warren added “The incident happened on Wednesday.”
The spokesman said the soldier at the Besmaya training site received a “non-life threatening laceration” on his face, where he was treated and returned to duty.
Warren mentioned the wound may have been caused by a ricochet off a concrete wall on the base’s perimeter.
Warren said “The U.S. soldiers returned fire.”
The United States military has voiced concern over reports that Shiite militia have set fire to homes as they advance on the Iraqi city of Tikrit, although they have not yet confirmed cases of abuse during the major push against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.
Last month, former U.S. central command advisor Ali Khedery said that the U.S. was complicit in the abuses committed by Baghdad-sponsored militia groups.
“The United States is now acting as the air force, the armory, and the diplomatic cover for Iraqi militias that are committing some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet,” Khedery wrote in Foreign Policy magazine. ... [Al Arabiya - 13/3/15]
'Dirty Brigades': US-Trained Iraqi Forces Investigated for War Crimes [ABC News -11/3/15]
The U.S. State Department said on Friday it was working with Congress to provide nearly $70 million in new foreign support to the moderate Syrian opposition fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. ... [Al Arabiya - 13/3/15]
US: We don't know who we killed, but we conducted another drone strike in Somalia. [New York Times - 13/3/15]
"A great national achievement": Pakistan test-fires its own drone so it can assassinate its own citizens. [Reuters - 13/3/15]
It was one of the most notorious private armies of the late apartheid era: a company of South African mercenaries who fought brutal wars to crush African rebels on behalf of governments and private corporations.
The company, Executive Outcomes, was disbanded in 1998 after criticism from Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid government, but some of its former members have now surfaced in northern Nigeria, where they are reported to be among hundreds of mercenaries fighting Boko Haram for $400 (U.S.) in cash per day. … [The Globe and Mail – 12/3/15]
Japan, France Sign Joint Military Research Pact [Naharnet – 13/3/15]
US, Bulgaria to hold Balkans military drills amid Ukraine crisis [RT – 13/3/15]
China has summoned the Myanmar ambassador in Beijing after a warplane belonging to Myanmar military killed four people in China's southwestern frontier region. ... [Press TV - 14/3/15]
Bahraini forces clamp down on anti-regime demos
Press TV [13/3/15]:
Bahraini regime forces have attacked protesters marking the fourth anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s military intervention to crush the uprising in the Persian Gulf country.
On Friday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of al-Daih, al-Musalla, Bilad al-Qadeem, and Diraz to denounce the occupation of Bahraini land by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The angry demonstrators chanted slogans against the Saudi monarchy and demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Saudi Arabian and UAE forces from the country.
Several people were injured after the Al Khalifa forces fired teargas and birdshots to disperse protesters in several villages near Manama.
Similar protest rallies were also held elsewhere across Bahrain.
The protesters also called for the release of the country’s main opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman and all political prisoners detained in the government crackdown.
The demonstrators pledged to continue their protests until their demands are met.
On March 13, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Bahrain's opposition has frequently said it considered any foreign military intervention to be an occupation. It has also called on the international community to act to ensure the protection of the people of Bahrain from the danger of foreign military intervention.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations on the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa family to relinquish power.
Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on peaceful demonstrations.
The regime’s crackdown on peaceful protests has been intensified over the past months since the arrest of top opposition leader Sheikh Salman last December.
Amnesty International and several other human rights organizations have repeatedly called on Bahraini officials to observe the citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Maldives: Nasheed Calls for Mass Protests; Wishes Mercy for his Jailers
Media Release [13/3/15]:
The Maldives Criminal Court on Friday 13 March sentenced former President Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail on charges of ‘terrorism’, for the detention, while he was still president in 2012, of a criminal court judge who had been accused of corruption, abuse of power and who had refused to obey police summons.
In a blatantly politicised trial, which has lasted less than three weeks and been widely condemned in the Maldives and abroad, President Nasheed was repeatedly denied legal representation, denied the right to appeal, his defence witnesses were prevented from taking the stand, and prosecution witnesses were routinely coached by the judges and the police.
Nasheed’s legal team resigned earlier this week, stating that the court had refused them proper time to prepare a defence. The three judge bench that passed down the sentence included two judges who had acted as witnesses for the prosecution.
Standing in court – without lawyers – President Nasheed issued the following, heartfelt, statement:
“Beloved citizens of Maldives, I appeal to all of you today to stay courageous and strong; to confront the dictatorial power of this regime. To change this government and work towards forming a government that would pave the way for the people’s development and prosperity; to not be afraid of being arrested or facing a long sentence; to take all of your lives in your hands and to go out onto the streets in protest. Do not consider either the security of your personal lives or the transitory happiness of your wives, husbands, children, parents and relatives; for the security of all of your children and their children is in jeopardy.
“Why am I calling for such a sacrifice? Know this for sure: it is not for my own well being . I am not staying in jail, a captive, because I have no way out. I could easily secure my freedom and happiness by agreeing to stop the work I am doing, and falling at President Yameen’s feet. I could choose to live in riches, in comfort, and in joy. But if I choose that path, Maldivians will reach a tragic end. Maldivians will be deprived of what they rightfully deserve: freedom, dignity and democracy. They will never be allowed to stand tall. Forever, they will be forced to cower before this dictatorial regime.
“I accepted the results of the 2013 presidential election in good faith. I believed President Abdulla Yameen’s government would uphold the noble principles of Islam. I accepted the results in the hope that this would be a government that would respect democratic norms.
“But consider how things have transpired in the year and a half since the election. The Maldivian judiciary is full of corruption and disgrace. Judges are routinely accepting the vile money of bribery. These judges have no fear of the day of judgment, and no shame in this world. The consequence of their actions is injustice to the public, and the thwarting of this country’s development.
“But in this time of profound injustice, I harbour no hatred. And to those who seek to destroy me, I say: I wish upon you good grace and blessings. I wish for good blessings upon us all, in this world and the next.”
New Greek president pledges to combat crisis 'for Europe'
New Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Friday pledged to combat poverty and unemployment in the crisis-hit country in a battle "for Europe itself."
"We must all contribute to the fight against the scourges of poverty and unemployment," Pavlopoulos, a 64-year-old professor of constitutional law and former conservative minister, told reporters after his investiture.
After a six-year recession, Greece last year had a jobless rate of 26.4 percent and a poverty rate of 23.1 percent, according to the state statistics agency.
"The fight being waged by Greece is not just for its people, it is for Europe itself," France-educated Pavlopoulos said.
"Sadly, the crisis has caused Europe to take steps backwards in recent years," he said.
A staunch pro-European, Pavlopoulos was elected to a five-year term by a wide parliamentary majority last month.
He was handpicked by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose radical left government is trying to negotiate a new austerity-free economic blueprint with its international creditors, amid resistance from Germany and other eurozone nations.
Pavlopoulos' candidacy puzzled some within the ruling Syriza party, as his career has not been entirely devoid of controversy.
As interior minister from 2004 to 2009, Pavlopoulos was criticised for filling thousands of public sector jobs with friends and supporters of the conservative New Democracy party.
His reputation was bruised again by youth riots that broke out on his watch in 2008 after a 15-year-old Greek pupil was fatally shot by police in Athens.
More recently, the mild-mannered Pavlopoulos was criticised for not lifting a finger to help a female Communist lawmaker, who was struck in the face by a neo-Nazi politician during a morning talk show in 2012.
But supporters applaud Pavlopoulos's diplomatic finesse and legal expertise.
Queensland police say they shot a man because he attempted to crash his car into a police vehicle. No charges laid.
A man has been shot in the arm by police in central west Queensland after he attempted to crash his car into a police vehicle.
The incident occurred on the Landsborough Highway, approximately 130km north of Longreach, about 7:30pm on Friday, the Queensland Police Service (QPS) said.
Officers had been on the lookout for a car linked to earlier offences at Winton and Barcaldine.
When they spotted the vehicle on the highway travelling towards Winton, the driver started to move towards officers.
"Initial enquiries suggest that the vehicle attempted to crash into the police car. During the incident, a police firearm was discharged," QPS said in a statement.
"The Ethical Standards Command will investigate the incident."
The driver was transported to Longreach Hospital for treatment to a wound to his arm.
The female passenger of the vehicle was not injured.
No charges have been laid.
Cyclone Pam devastates Vanuatu
The United Nations says there are reports 44 people have died in Vanuatu's Penama Province as a result of Tropical Cyclone Pam.
The category five cyclone has battered Vanuatu's northern provinces, however communication is down and the extent of the damage is not known, but there are reports of deaths in the outer islands.
Some news media are reporting gusts of up to 330 kilometres an hour and it is reported to be the strongest storm globally since 2013.
Metservice says it is the worst Pacific storm since cyclone Zoe in 2003.
The gales extend up to 380 kilometres from the centre of the storm - slightly longer than the distance between Wellington and Taupo.
Humanitarian agencies said the storm was as severe as they feared but attempts to contact people on outlying islands were being hampered by communications lines being down.
The UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs its Pacific team is preparing to support the government-led response to the cyclone.
The UN's regional director Sune Gudnitz, who is in Fiji, said the immediate concern was that there will be a very high death toll in Vanuatu but also an enormous amount of destruction and devastation.
The centre of the cyclone is now about 30 kilometres to the east of Port Vila as it moves south southeast.
Residents in the capital are already reporting powerful winds and rough seas.
The Vanuatu Meteorological Service is forecasting very destructive hurricane-force winds as the storm moves past in the next six-to-12 hours.
It also warned of torrential rain, flash flooding and huge storm surges.
UNICEF spokesperson Alice Clements said the storm had gone on far longer than any one expected and it was terrifying.
"I stayed in a concrete hotel that was three storeys high, and even so I'd lost the sliding doors from my room, I had all the wind howling through the room."
She said the wind was still incredibly strong, but not as strong as it was at midnight (local time).
"It was 15-30minutes of absolute terror for everybody in this country."
She said there had already been reports of some deaths.
"We have some very unconfirmed reports of casualties from the outer islands as well but we're waiting to get official confirmation on those, which is very sad news if it's true."
Up to 4000 people across Vanuatu have taken refuge in shelters like concrete churches and schools.
Local disaster and emergency officers in West New Britain Province are unable to assess the extent of damage caused by strong winds and heavy rains in areas outside Kimbe.
Assistant Director Leo Porikura says there has been wide spread damage to houses, food gardens, schools, roads and bridges but he cannot dispatch a team because of raging floods and damaged bridges linking Kimbe to outside LLGs. ... [PNG Loop - 13/3/15]
PNG: Doctors walk off jobs in protest
The National [13/3/15]
Doctors at the Goroka Provincial Hospital walked out yesterday after Health Minister Michael Malabag failed to respond to their request to address patient care issues at the hospital.
They regretted leaving patients behind but said they could not work without the support of nurses and others.
They had given Malabag 72 hours on Monday to respond to their concern that they were performing the duties of nurses and community health workers who were on strike.
The doctors had raised their concern with Malabag about the disrupted services at the hospital. Malabag had directed the Provincial Health Authority to reinstate the sacked hospital workers.
A statement issued by the doctors said: “Sub-standard care is being provided to patients at this hospital due to the ongoing impasse between the staff and Provincial Health Authority.
“We can no longer practice medicine safely for which we are trained and took oath to do.
“The practice of medicine involves a multidisciplinary approach consisting of many team members working together to provide safe treatment options for patients.”
They said they had tried their best to keep the hospital operation going. The letter was signed by 15 doctors.
The doctors talked to the striking hospital workers before they left after 4pm.
The nurses and community health care workers followed them out.
Malabag urged the doctors and the workers to return to work yesterday.
Five killed, 100 trapped in Bangladesh factory collapse
At least five people were killed and another about 100 feared trapped after a cement factory collapsed in Bangladesh on Thursday, police said.
Soldiers and sailors in the port town of Mongla helped emergency services search through the rubble and pull out more than 40 survivors, officials told Reuters
The factory, run by a subsidiary of the Bangladesh army, was still being built in the town 335 km (210 miles) southwest of the capital, Dhaka, they added.
"Most of the people inside the building were the construction workers including the people who recovered alive. The recovery efforts are going on very carefully to avoid further risk" Khulna district police chief Nizamul Haque Mollah said.
Just now a group of locals have thrown large rocks at the refugee accommodation for families in Anibare. The local police were called but no arrests were made. No refugees were injured. Nauru is not safe for refugees.
Refugees on Nauru [13/3/15]
Anibare Lodge Home to Nauru Visa Refugees-forever ...
Image: @pamelacurr [20/5/14]
Aurasian Minerals bids farewell to Manus Island; Wamum sale goes through [Proactive Investors - 13/3/15]
Heirisson Island activists say they won't be going anywhere
Canberra Times [13/3/15]:
A bitter struggle for Aboriginal rights descended on Perth as up to 100 people gathered at a site sacred to indigenous Australians, Heirisson Island, in protest of plans to shut down communities.
They had been at the small island on the Swan River, not far from the CBD, for more than a week, camped with tents, billies, and fires - some adorned traditional paint from the sacred red ochre rock which forms on the banks of the River just metres from the demonstration.
They say their ancestors have gathered at the site for thousands of years, but Perth City Council said they had until noon Friday before the camp would be shut down.
The police arrived in their dozens a few hours after that deadline had passed.
As the authorities ripped down the tents, the demonstrators gathered around a sacred fire they were determined to protect.
"We're not here to remove any people, just the tents and fires," one police officer told Fairfax Media.
But there was one fire the police, firefighters and council workers decided to leave alone. A sacred fire - the centrepiece of the demonstration.
And both sides claimed a victory, for now.
The demonstrators say they will not give up. They say they will take the fight to the courts and are trying to get international support, writing to Ban Ki-moon in an attempt to get the United Nations Secretary General to stand up for their rights.
The West Australian Government plans to shut down 150 of the state's 174 communities, an act which has already seen many flee, with some ending up homeless on the streets of Perth and others protesting on Heirrison Island.
Marianne Headland Mackay, a member of the Noongar Tent Embassy, has described the government's plan as an act of "genocide", worse than the horrors associated with the Stolen Generation, when aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their parents.
"I think the government's action towards us is disgusting," she said.
She said attempts to forcibly break up the gathering would constitute a violation of international and national laws.
"Under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, that legislation allows us to camp and engage in cultural activities," Ms Headland Mackay said.
But Perth City Council also claimed a victory.
"A successful operation has been conducted to remove one vehicle and two truckloads of camping gear from Heirisson Island," according to a spokeswoman for the Council.
Aboriginal elder Bella Bropho, who belongs to the Swan Valley Nyungah Community, was one of those demonstrators.
"That was the first community to be demolished and closed down," she said.
Since the closure, she says many from the community are now living on the streets of Perth, homeless.
She says the closure of dozens more will leave hundreds of people displaced, refugees in their own country.
"It will affect us," Ms Bropho said.
"People choose to live that life style. They've been living it for thousands of years.
"And for us, it's forcing us to integrate into the suburbs and be people that we're not.
"I mean it's a disgrace that we're being forced away from our cultures and our backgrounds and everything.
"We're coming here to make a stand on Heirisson Island, because if we don't make a stand now, we never will."
The demonstrators say their fight will continue plan to gather again on Monday.
1000+ protesters shut down Melbourne's CBD to rally against planned closure of remote Indigenous communities in WA [The Age - 13/3/15]
Growing contingent ahead of the protest ...
Images: @ahmedyussuf10 [13/3/15]
Members of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force tracked the time and location of a Black Lives Matter protest last December at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, email obtained by The Intercept shows.
The email from David S. Langfellow, a St. Paul police officer and member of an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, informs a fellow task force member from the Bloomington police that “CHS just confirmed the MOA protest I was taking to you about today, for the 20th of DEC @ 1400 hours.” CHS is a law enforcement acronym for “confidential human source.”
Jeffrey VanNest, an FBI special agent and Joint Terrorism Task Force supervisor at the FBI’s Minneapolis office, was CC’d on the email. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces are based in 104 U.S. cities and are made up of approximately 4,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officials. The FBI characterizes them as “our nation’s front line on terrorism.” ... [The Intercept - 13/3/15]
Julian Assange lawyer: 'This is a great victory'
Swedish prosecutors have offered to travel to London to question Wikileaks founder Julian Assange over sex assault allegations.
Sweden sought Mr Assange's arrest in 2010.
Prosecutors had previously insisted on questioning him in Sweden.
Mr Assange denies the assault claims and has been living at the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012.
He fears that if he is sent to Sweden he could then be extradited to the US to face charges over leaking material.
A lawyer for Mr Assange, Per Samuelson, welcomed the move, describing it as a chance for Mr Assange to clear his name.
State of emergency in Tuvalu
A state of emergency has been declared in Tuvalu after tidal surges caused by Cyclone Pam to the southwest washed away houses and crops.
A spokesperson for the Red Cross in Tuvalu, Claire Shave, said the situation on the outer islands was very bad with a large number of people affected.
"Some of the outer islands have had a very bad couple of nights indeed. They've had water washing away houses, buildings, community halls, that sort of thing.
"In addition, because the land is very flat they've had disturbance to some grave sites which is causing a great deal of distress."
Ms Shave said the Red Cross had begun its emergency response and was distributing emergency supplies to those affected.
She said it was possible international assistance would be requested by the Tuvalu Government.
New York Times [16/10/12]:
... During World War II, as fighting between the United States and Japan raged across the Pacific, the British government granted the United States military the use of its colony on what is now Tuvalu but was then known as the Ellice Islands. Massive antiaircraft guns, the concrete base of at least one of which still stands a lonely vigil in the surf, were quickly erected. But for the islands to reach their full wartime potential, they needed an airstrip. Large quantities of coral were dug up and carted off to be crushed and mixed for the tarmac. The gaping pits that were left behind across Funafuti, called “borrow pits,” were never filled and eventually began to be used for refuse. Add to this the doubling of Tuvalu’s population since 1980, and it is easy to understand why, as usable land dwindled, homes like Ms. Uilese’s started to stretch across the pits.
Cyclone Pam: Huge storm heading for tiny South Pacific island of Vanuatu [Independent - 13/3/15]
Police shoot man in Leanyer in Darwin's north
Northern Territory Police fired multiple shots in Darwin's northern suburbs after being called to a domestic dispute.
Police said they discharged a firearm while apprehending an alleged offender in Leanyer about 6:10pm on Friday.
The injured man was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital with gunshot wounds to a hand and thigh.
The 20-year-old is in a stable condition but may undergo surgery.
Acting Crime Commissioner Tony Fuller said the man was armed.
"He had weapons, and look I'm not going to go further into that, but he was armed at the time and members were called upon to discharge a firearm," he said.
Police say the shooting is being treated as a "major custody incident", and the Major Crime Unit was investigating the matter.
A crime scene was declared and roadblocks were put in place, but police said the area was now safe.
Tomic, Kokkinakis help Oz Davis Cup progression
Neos Kosmos [10/3/15]:
Davis Cup legend Tony Roche believes a youthful Australian team can be title contenders as early as this year after Bernard Tomic inspired an impressive first-round win over heavyweights Czech Republic.
Australia, 28-time champions in the prestigious team competition, completed a 3-2 World Group win over the competition's top seeds in Ostrava on Sunday to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in almost a decade.
In-form Tomic won his second singles match of the indoor hardcourt tie, defeating Czech number one Lukas Rosol 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) to give Wally Masur's side an unassailable 3-1 lead, before Sam Groth fell to Jan Mertl 6-3, 6-2 in a dead rubber.
Czech Republic, 2012 and 2013 champions, badly missed big guns Tomas Berdych (sitting out) and Radek Stepanek (injured), but Australia also had to overcome the absence of their highest ranked player, Nick Kyrgios (injured).
The teen sensation will return for a last-eight meeting with surprise packets Kazakhstan, which Australia will host in July - likely on a grass court.
And with Tomic adding to his impressive Davis Cup resume in Ostrava, teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis earning a surprise singles win on day one, and two-time winner and captain-in-waiting Lleyton Hewitt adding invaluable experience in his final playing campaign, Australian team coach Roche feels the nation's glory days are about to be restored.
Roche, a four-time Davis Cup winner whose involvement in the competition stretches back half a century, likened the emergence of Australia's new brigade to that which saw the likes of Pat Rafter, Mark Philippoussis and Hewitt lift the title in 1999.
"When John Newcombe and myself took over the team (in 1994), we had to start over from scratch and it did take us a few years to develop a good culture in the team," said Roche, a coach with the current squad.
"But I think we're at that point right now with these three guys.
"With Lleyton being there as the elder statesman, I can see us winning the Davis Cup in two or three years time, if not this year if we have a few matches at home."
Tomic and world number 133 Kokkinakis gave Australia a 2-0 lead with day-one singles wins before Hewitt and Groth suffered a five-set doubles defeat on Saturday.
Kyrgios's back injury left Tomic shouldering much of the responsibility in Ostrava and the world number 38 did not disappoint.
Unaffected by the big occasion and the incessant blaring of Czech drums and horns, the laid back 22-year-old improved his Davis Cup singles win-loss record to an impressive 14-2.
"It's huge. I've never been in a position like this, playing to get into a Davis Cup quarter-final and it's an amazing thing," said Tomic, who has not dropped a set in his past three ties - all away from home.
Australia's performance in the eastern Czech city ensured a winning start to Masur's temporary reign as captain, with the retiring Hewitt to take the role next year.
Masur's bold gamble to play 18-year-old Kokkinakis on day one paid off as the world number 133 came from two sets down to defeat Rosol, before Tomic beat Vesely in straight sets.
Kazakhstan beat Italy 3-2 in a thrilling tie in Astana on Sunday to reach the last eight.
Should Australia overcome a squad featuring top 100 players Mikhail Kukushkin and Andrey Golubev, they could meet Andy Murray's Great Britain or France in the semis.
Australia's last appearance in the quarter-finals was in 2006 when they beat Belarus before losing to Argentina in the last four.
13 March 2015