Prime Hospital Bills For Malnutrition, But Patient Says She Wasn’t Treated

California Watch [16/12/11]:

SHINGLETOWN – As far as Medicare knew, Darlene Courtois fell ill last year with kwashiorkor, a dangerous form of malnutrition usually seen among starving children during African famines. At least that’s what her hospital claimed in the bill it sent to Medicare, records show.

But Courtois, 64, says she wasn’t treated for malnutrition during the five days she spent at Shasta Regional Medical Center after she was hurt in a fall. She’s overweight, not emaciated, she said. And she said she never heard the word for the malady – a virulent illness with symptoms including emaciated arms, a distended belly and distinctive swelling of the feet or legs – until asked about it by a reporter.

“It blew me out of the water when I heard they diagnosed me as that,” Courtois, a retired teacher’s aide, said in an interview at her home west of Mount Lassen.

“I never heard a doctor or nurse or any other medical personnel tell me I have kwashiorkor.”

The former patient’s account is supported by Medicare and hospital records reviewed by California Watch, but disputed by Prime Healthcare Services, which owns 14 California hospitals, including the 246-bed facility in Redding.

In an analysis of more than 50 million Medicare patient records over the past year, California Watch has found thousands of cases for which Prime has aggressively billed for treating unusual conditions.

Medicare pays providers significant bonuses for treating patients diagnosed with hundreds of major complications, including kwashiorkor.

Reports of kwashiorkor at Shasta Regional Medical Center exploded after Prime acquired the hospital in November 2008. That year, the hospital reported only eight cases of kwashiorkor. But in the two years that followed, 1,030 cases were billed to Medicare – more than 70 times the statewide rate for general hospitals.

In Courtois’ case, the hospital’s reimbursement from Medicare increased by more than $6,700 – from $4,708 to $11,463 – by noting kwashiorkor on the bill, according to a California Watch analysis of billing information obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act. ...

Panel Votes To Approve New Charter Schools

NY1.com [14/12/11]:

Protesters came to Queens with socks puppets on their hands Wednesday. They were meant to symbolize what demonstrators think of the appointed education panel that is controlled by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Most of the protesters were loosely affiliated with and inspired by Occupy Wall Street. They call themselves “Occupy the DOE.” In October, they shut down another meeting about the curriculum by chanting over Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and speakers.

This time there was a large police presence, but the protesters said they never planned to derail the meeting. Instead, they just wanted to make it clear how unhappy they are with how Bloomberg runs the schools.

“We feel very strongly that this is a panel that does not listen to the public. Does not listen to parents, teachers or students. That's why we call it a puppet panel. They do not think for themselves,” said Gloria Brandman, a special education teacher.

The Panel for Educational Policy was voting on several proposals that would result in separate schools sharing the same buildings. One involved a gifted school in Harlem, where parents said their kids would be squeezed if another school in the building was allowed to expand.

“Unlike the other gifted and talented schools, we are constantly asked to do more with less,” said one protester.

Another controversial proposal was to put a new charter school into a building in Cobble Hill that already houses three other schools. The charter will be part of a network of high-performing schools called “Success,” which is run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz.

Parents and teachers came to say the community doesn't need another school and that it would overcrowd the building.

The Occupy protesters supported the fight against the charter school, but after more than two hours, they said they'd had enough.

“None of these things would be happening if this was an elected panel. So we know what this is. There is no democracy in whatever we say. We could come up here and we could testify all night long. We've been through this before with Klein, with Cathie Black at three o'clock in the morning. You’re going to vote no matter what we say,” said one protester.

After the protesters left, parents continued to address the panel. Ninety-five had signed up to speak, but in the end, DOE officials said there was room for all of the schools to expand.

As always, the panel voted to approve all of the proposals.

Occupy The Food System

Huffington Post [16/12/11]:

Thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement, there's a deeper understanding about the power that corporations wield over the great majority of us. It's not just in the financial sector, but in all facets of our lives. The disparity between the top 1 percent and everyone else has been laid bare -- there's no more denying that those at the top get their share at the expense of the 99 percent. Lobbyists, loopholes, tax breaks... how can ordinary folks expect a fair shake?

No one knows this better than family farmers, whose struggle to make a living on the land has gotten far more difficult since corporations came to dominate our farm and food system. We saw signs of it when Farm Aid started in 1985, but corporate control of our food system has since exploded.

From seed to plate, our food system is now even more concentrated than our banking system. Most economic sectors have concentration ratios hovering around 40 percent, meaning that the top four firms in the industry control 40 percent of the market. Anything beyond this level is considered "highly concentrated," where experts believe competition is severely threatened and market abuses are likely to occur.

Many key agricultural markets like soybeans and beef exceed the 40 percent threshold, meaning the seeds and inputs that farmers need to grow our crops come from just a handful of companies. Ninety-three percent of soybeans and 80 percent of corn grown in the United States are under the control of just one company. Four companies control up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of beef in the U.S.; four companies dominate close to 60 percent of the pork and chicken markets.

Our banks were deemed too big to fail, yet our food system's corporations are even bigger. Their power puts our entire food system at stake. Last year the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Justice (DOJ) acknowledged this, hosting a series of workshops that examined corporate concentration in our farm and food system. Despite the hundreds of thousands of comments from farmers and eaters all over the country, a year later the USDA and DOJ have taken no action to address the issue. Recent decisions in Washington make clear that corporate lobbyists have tremendous power to maintain the status quo.

In November, the Obama administration delivered a crushing blow to a crucial rule proposed by the USDA (known as the GIPSA rule), which was meant to level the playing field for independent cattle ranchers. The large meatpackers, who would have lost some of their power, lobbied hard and won to leave the beef market as it is -- ruled by corporate giants. In the same month, new school lunch rules proposed by the USDA that would have brought more fresh food to school cafeterias were weakened by Congress. Food processors -- the corporations that turn potatoes into French fries and chicken into nuggets -- spent $5.6 million to lobby against the new rules and won, with Congress going so far as agreeing to call pizza a vegetable. Both decisions demonstrate that corporate power wins and the health of our markets and our children loses.

Despite all they're up against, family farmers persevere. Each and every day they work to sustain a better alternative -- an agricultural system that guarantees farmers a fair living, strengthens our communities, protects our natural resources and delivers good food for all. Nothing is more important than the food we eat and the family farmers who grow it. Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, destruction of our soil, pollution of our water and health epidemics of obesity and diabetes.

We simply can't afford it. Our food system belongs in the hands of many family farmers, not under the control of a handful of corporations.

Willie Nelson, Singer/Songwriter, President of Farm Aid

Bradley Manning Heads For Trial; No One Charged For Murdered Civilians [VIDEO]

BBC [16/12/11]:

A military officer overseeing the hearing of the US Army analyst accused of leaking government secrets has rejected a request to recuse himself.

The request was made by a defence lawyer for Private Bradley Manning, 23, as he appeared at a military court. He faces 22 charges of obtaining and distributing government secrets - which he allegedly leaked to anti-secrecy site Wikileaks.

The Article 32 hearing will determine whether Pte Manning is to stand trial. During the hearing, which is expected to last around five days according to the defence team, prosecution and defence lawyers will each make their initial cases and are permitted to cross-examine witnesses. Friday's session has adjourned and the hearing is due to resume on Saturday.

Proceeding to trial

The hearing offers the first opportunity for Pte Manning's defence team to present their case since he was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 and placed in military custody.
It is taking place under tight security at an army base at Fort Meade, Maryland.

Pte Manning sat in the courtroom dressed in military khaki and wearing black-rimmed glasses. But his defence team quickly switched focus by asking for the investigating officer - equivalent to a judge in a civilian court - to withdraw from the case.

Defence lawyer David Coombs said Lt Col Paul Almanza, the investigating officer, was "biased".

For almost everyone present, this is our first glimpse of the man accused of the biggest leak of confidential material in American history. Private Manning sat in uniform, wearing thick-rimmed glasses, hands clasped before him. In his only remarks so far, he said he understood his rights and confirmed the identities of the one civilian and two military officers representing him.

But the focus of attention was the investigating officer. Manning's civilian lawyer demanded he recuse himself, arguing that as prosecutor for the Department of Justice, Lt Col Paul Almanza works for an organisation actively pursuing a separate case against Wikileaks.

Mr Coombs said Lt Col Almanza's decision to reject defence witnesses, as well as the government's alleged reluctance to put forward witnesses to explain the damage done by the leaks suggested Almanza was biased.

"Where's the damage? Where's the harm?" Mr Coombs demanded, in an early indication of part of his defence strategy.

Lt Col Almanza announced a recess to consider the defence plea.

It could last some time.

Lt Col Almanza is a former military judge who now works for the Department of Justice, which has its own investigation into Wikileaks. His refusal to accept all but two of 38 defence witnesses meant the defence could not adequately make their case, Mr Coombs said.

Following two recesses and arguments by the prosecution and the defence, the investigating officer refused to recuse himself and the hearing continued.

Afterwards, recommendations will be made to a military general, who will decide whether to proceed to a full trial.

The BBC's Paul Adams says the soldier's defence team is likely to argue that little harm came of the leaks, and that their release was in the greater public interest.

Assange link?

Pte Manning has also been charged with "aiding the enemy", a charge that could carry the death penalty. However, reports say prosecutors will only seek a prison sentence.

He is accused of the unauthorised possession and distribution of more than 720,000 secret diplomatic and military documents.

"If it is the case that Bradley Manning is indeed the source of this and other Wikileaks materials, Manning would have single-handedly changed hundreds of thousands of people's lives for the better," Wikileaks said in a statement.

"This material has contributed to ending dictatorships in the Middle East, it has exposed torture and wrongdoing in all the corners of the world and it has held diplomatic bodies and politicians accountable for the words, deals and pacts held behind close doors," Wikileaks said.

One of the key questions is expected to be whether Pte Manning had any kind of relationship with Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, our correspondent at Fort Meade says.

Mr Assange is also embroiled in a legal battle, facing extradition to Sweden from the UK to face sexual assault charges. As Pte Manning was preparing for his own court appearance on Friday, the UK Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from Mr Assange against his extradition ruling.

Detention conditions

Pte Manning was arrested after a computer hacker went to US authorities with details of an online exchange he had had with Pte Manning in which he allegedly confessed to the data theft.
The conditions of Pte Manning's confinement since his arrest have been denounced in the US and abroad.

State department spokesman PJ Crowley resigned after publicly criticising the detention conditions of Pte Manning, and British politicians and members of the European Parliament have also spoken out on the subject.

Pte Manning was brought to the maximum security prison at Quantico in July 2010, where he was held in isolation and was reported to have had his clothing removed at night as a suicide-prevention measure. But in April 2011 Pte Manning was moved to a lower-security prison at Fort Leavenworth, where his lawyers say conditions are better.

Local Wag Gives Broadwater Fish Sculptures Santa Hats

Harley Park, Labrador [16/12/11]

Mini Trojan Horse Sculpture

Constructed from dunny rolls, he's headed to a nearby financial precinct to make a stand for the 99%

Inspired by Occupy Sydney's efforts earlier this week [see below]

Brief Analysis Of The Cartoon Representations Of Femininity

From: @OccupySaltLake

Why Are We Waiting? Access To Healthcare In Queensland:

HQCC Media Release December 2011]

A new report from Queensland’s independent health watchdog shows delays caused by poor coordination of health services are resulting in significant patient harm, according to complainants.

The Health Quality and Complaints Commission (HQCC) analysed all 337 healthcare access complaints received between 1 July 2009 and 30 June 2011.

The report, Why are we waiting? – A spotlight report on access to healthcare in Queensland [PDF] explores what patients, families and carers have told the HQCC about the problems in accessing healthcare in Queensland.

Chief Executive Officer Cheryl Herbert said the ability to access health services when needed is fundamentally important and the report highlights opportunities for improvement.

“Failure to provide timely access to health services is one of the most significant barriers to quality healthcare, and can increase the risk of adverse outcomes for healthcare consumers [I think you mean patients - Ed], including significant deterioration of health, increased permanent harm or death.

“In the report, we analyse complaint information and provide case studies and excerpts from client [isn't a person who accesses health services a patient? - Ed] complaints to illustrate the problems in accessing healthcare in Queensland,” Adjunct Professor Herbert said.

The top three barriers to accessing healthcare reported in complaints received from consumers [again, when it comes to health care, this weasel word, neoliberal terminology is unacceptable - Ed], their families and carers were:

1. Delay due to inadequate coordination and management
People who were ‘in’ the health system but who could not access timely care because of process breakdowns or other system failures during their treatment. This issue was associated with the highest level of harm to healthcare consumers [aaaarrrrrggghhh !!!!!!!!?????? - Ed], suggesting that priorities for quality improvement in healthcare also need to focus on areas such as best practice referral pathways, triaging practices, protocols for follow-up test results, earlier recognition and management of the deteriorating patient and clinical handover.

2. Waiting/waiting lists
People who had ‘entered’ the health system, but had been placed in a queue or on a waiting list for future care. The second most frequently complained about access issue and was also associated with considerable harm.

3. Withdrawal/refusal to treat
People who had difficulty ‘entering’ the health system, negotiating entry or receiving the health service they were seeking. Most complaints about this barrier were made about the private sector – in particular general practice and specialist private practice.

This may be expected given private sector practitioners can exercise discretion in their choice of clients [patients please!!!!!!! - a client is a person at a hairdressing salon - Ed]. However, this cannot be readily said for public hospitals, which were also identified in a considerable proportion of these complaints. This issue was most frequently associated with the areas of general practice, general medicine, emergency care, mental health and dentistry.

Complaints about these three barriers accounted for 93% of healthcare access complaints.

Key statistics from the report

* Access complaints made up an average of 7% of all complaints received in the 2009-2011 financial years.

* Access is not only a concern for healthcare consumers [FFS - PATIENTS!!!!!!!!! "Consumers" buy chocolate bars - Ed] themselves, but for a high proportion of their carers and family members, who made almost a third of all access complaints.

* Public hospitals and general practice are the healthcare settings most frequently identified in access complaints. We recognise that public hospitals and general practices are often people’s first point of contact with the health system when they fall ill or are injured.

* The majority of health services that received access complaints were located in Brisbane and the Gold Coast (59%). The high proportion of complaints about health services in south east Queensland is consistent with the proportion of the Queensland population residing in this area and the concentration of health services in this part of the state.

* The Wide Bay-Burnett, Darling Downs, Sunshine Coast and Far North were the next most frequently reported health service locations.

The HQCC is an independent body dedicated to improving the quality and safety of health services in Queensland. Established in July 2006, the HQCC resolves complaints, investigates serious healthcare issues and monitors the quality of health services across the state. The report can be viewed online at www.hqcc.qld.gov.au

Universal health care will only become a reality in Queensland when we get our democracy back.

Until then, the Government will continue funnelling public money to private health providers at the expense of public services, and ensuring private health companies have captive markets. [Eg Self-funded retirees with cancer and top shelf private health insurance who live on the Gold Coast].

Donors Pledge $482 Million For UN Efforts To Help Displaced, Stateless People: UN Media Release [15/12/11]

Donor governments today pledged $482 million for the United Nations refugee agency’s operations in 2012 to help forcibly displaced and stateless people worldwide.

An additional $122 million was pledged for 2013 and beyond, according to a news release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), whose total budget requirements for the next two years are $3.59 billion and $3.42 billion, respectively.

“This funding is vital for our work in ensuring the protection and well-being of millions of individual refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced and stateless people,” High Commissioner António Guterres said, thanking donors for their support.

This funding is vital for our work in ensuring the protection and well-being of millions of individual refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced and stateless people.

“Given the pressure that donors face in the current uncertain economic environment, we are particularly gratified to see this level of support.”

The 2012 budget is $260 million lower than this year’s budget, which had to be revised upwards during the course of 2011 because of a succession of crises such as those in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, the Horn of Africa, Sudan, and the floods in Pakistan.

As in previous years, the agency’s global refugee programme remains the largest component of its requirements – amounting to $2.7 billion of the $3.59 billion needed for 2012.

Almost half of the $2.7 billion is for operations in Africa. Projects for internally displaced persons (IDPs) amount to $575.7 million while global reintegration activities total $246.4 million. Programmes such as combating HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation, green energy projects, together with headquarters and regional support will require $329 million in 2012.

The 2012 budget also includes $268 million for operational reserves, intended for new emergencies and other unforeseen needs. There are more than 43.7 million forcibly displaced people and an estimated 12 million stateless around the world. Nearly 34 million of them receive protection and assistance from UNHCR.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the largest recipient of UNHCR assistance, accounting for 45.6 per cent of the total needs in 2012, followed by 15.7 per cent for the Middle East and North Africa and 14 per cent for Asia and the Pacific.

The annual pledging conference is an occasion for UNHCR to ask donors to support its work, which is almost entirely funded by voluntary contributions, mostly from governments.

Bahrain: Independent Commissioners Urge Prisoner Release:

HRW Media Release [15/12/11]


(New York) – The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, in its recommendation to review convictions of people for exercising their basic rights, intended that the government should free them and void their convictions, Human Rights Watch said today.

Sir Nigel Rodley, one of the commissioners and a former UN special rapporteur on torture, told Human Rights Watch that the commissioners, in calling on authorities to review convictions and commute sentences of persons charged for attempting to exercise their basic political rights, intended that they be released and their criminal records expunged of these charges.

“I can confirm that our collective understanding was that the purpose of the review would be to exonerate from criminal responsibility those who have acted peacefully in the pursuit of the internationally recognized rights of freedom of expression and assembly,” Rodley said in a statement to Human Rights Watch.

“In the absence of any prior criminal charges, or any other charges, such persons should be released from all criminal responsibility and their records expunged.”

Human Rights Watch has called on Bahrain to immediately release hundreds of people wrongfully convicted and void all verdicts against persons convicted of speech-related offenses, including leading opposition activists like Ibrahim Sharif, Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, and Abdul Wahhab Hussein.

New Beef Exports Record Set

The Beef Site [14/12/11]:

US - October was another excellent month for US beef exports, which were valued at $452 million for the month, pushing the 2011 total to a new annual record of $4.49 billion. This is 37 per cent ahead of the then-record pace established during the first 10 months of 2010.


“Establishing a new annual value record just 10 months into the year is an extraordinary accomplishment, and one that the US beef industry should be very proud of,” said Philip Seng, president and CEO of the US Meat Export Federation, a beef checkoff contractor. “Sustaining an aggressive export pace is critical for maintaining and creating American jobs and a positive balance of trade.”

October beef export volume was about 233.5 million pounds, or about 10 per cent higher than October 2010, pushing the 10-month 2011 volume total of nearly 2.4 billion pounds a full 24 per cent ahead of last year’s pace.

For the month of October 2011, beef exports equated to 11 per cent of beef muscle-cut production and 13.9 per cent of total production, including variety meat. That was consistent with the year-to-date ratio, and is up from nine per cent of beef muscle cut production and 11.7 per cent of beef plus beef variety meat production exported last year. Exports were valued at nearly $210 per head of fed slaughter in October, pushing the 2011 total to $202.82 per head -- nearly $50 per head higher than last year’s average of $153.09!

A few country-by-country highlights:

Despite being down slightly in October, Mexico remains this year’s leading volume destination for US beef at about 470 million pounds (up six per cent over the first 10 months of 2010). In terms of value, Mexico was the US export leader in the month of October, at $85.3 million, which pushed the 10-month total for the year – $818.2 million – about 25 per cent ahead of 2010.

Canada holds its position as the top value market for US beef in the first 10 months of 2011, with US beef exports valued at $861.9 million, a new annual record and up 46 per cent over the 2010 pace. Volume to Canada for the 10-month period is up nearly 30 per cent, to 351.4 million pounds, also a new record. Monthly results for October were impressive, too, as Canada imported about 31.3 million pounds of US beef, valued at just under $74 million.

For the 10-month period, Japan ranks as the third-largest individual export market for US beef, both in terms of volume (295.1 million pounds) and value ($726.9 million). These totals exceed last year’s pace by 30 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively. October export volume was down slightly from last year, at about 27.8 million pounds, but the value of US beef exports to Japan was up 13 per cent for the month, to $73.7 million.

Beef exports to South Korea maintained a very strong pace in October, pushing the 2011 volume to 286.2 million pounds (up 43 per cent from last year) valued at nearly $575 million (up 36 per cent).

“The continued rebuilding of consumer confidence in US beef in both Japan and Korea is essential as these key markets recover sales volume and value that was lost in the post-BSE years,” said Mr Seng.

“The ‘We Care’ campaign in Japan and the ‘To Trust’ campaign in Korea have sown seeds that continue to yield positive results for the US industry.”

Strong exports to Egypt helped push the Middle East to an impressive 10-month 2011 volume of 320.7 million pounds valued at $287.7 million – increases of 39 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively, over last year’s pace and setting new annuals records both for volume and value.

Exports to Russia set a new value record at $222.3 million during the first 10 months of 2011, surpassing last year’s pace by 66 per cent. Strong export performance in Russia means the United States has already filled its 2011 tariff rate quota of 94 million pounds for beef muscle cuts.

Exports to the Central and South America also have set new annual volume and value records, with exports of US beef to the region totaling of 47.2 million pounds valued at $66.3 million, led by strong growth in markets including Chile, Peru and Guatemala.

Times Dog Of The Year: Rebel Dog

If you barricade the citzenry out of their public square, what do you suppose they might do? Syntagma, Athens [6/12/11]

Palm Beach [15/12/11]

Twenty bucks this artwork is gone next time we check. It seems that some self-appointed (Council and Murdoch Press endorsed) arbiters of what is right and wrong approve of derelict buildings and vacant lots in their neighbourhoods - as long as they haven't been embellished with any form of creative self-expression.

Hence the selective obliteration of the more insightful street art, while the run of the mill graffiti remains.


THEN AND NOW – Police Wireless Transmission Station 1941 – 1951: Queensland Police Media [15/12/11]



The old Police Radio Station, on Petrie Terrace, 1955

On May 30, 1935 Police Commissioner C.J. Carroll, directed that an application to the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs for utilisation of the services of an experimental wireless station (VK4DR) owned and operated by Mr. David Andrew Laws. This application was approved on June 17, 1935 and the Call sign VKR was allocated by the licensing authority, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, for the station to operate on 140 meters, with 25 watts input power. This allowed one-way wireless radio communication in patrol cars.

In 1941, just prior to the outbreak of war, a permanent two-way wireless transmission station was established at Petrie Terrace, on the site of the old Drill Instructors Residence. In conjunction with the wireless station, an aerial was erected on the top of the southern end of the Barrack building. Two-way radio communication with wireless patrol cars had been established and the station was linked to the interstate wireless police telegraphy service. During the second world war, military police attached to the Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, United States Army, Royal Australian Air Force, United States Air Patrol and the Royal Navy also utilised the police wireless transmission station at Petrie Terrace. In 1951 Brisbane’s Central Communications Room at the Criminal Investigation Branch in the city, came into operation and took over the handling of police radio communication.

The Police Wireless Transmission Station building still stands today and has been home to the Hog’s Breath Café since the early 1990s.

Hog’s Breath Café has been in the old Police Radio Station since the early 1990s.

This information has been supplied by the Queensland Police Museum from the best resources available at the time of writing.

Contact: E: museum@police.qld.gov.au

The Police Museum is open 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 3pm on the last Sunday of the month (Feb-Nov) and is located on the Ground Floor of Police Headquarters at 200 Roma Street, Brisbane.

“Police Wireless Transmission Station 1941 – 1951” by the Queensland Police Service is licensed under a by the Queensland Police Service is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY) 2.5 Australia Licence. Permissions may be available beyond the scope of this licence.


Reports Of Villages Razed, Homes Torched In West Papua
:

Greens Media Release [14/12/11]

Senator Richard Di Natale, Greens spokesperson for West Papua, has expressed his concern at reports of the razing of villages and forced evacuations in the Paniai region of West Papua yesterday during a campaign by Indonesian security forces against local members of the Free Papua National Liberation Army.

Though the area is not open to journalists, reports from human rights organisations suggest that Brimob paramilitary police and elite counter-terrorism troops from Detachment 88, consisting of units armed, trained, and supplied by the Australian Government, were deployed.

“It is very worrying to hear of dozens of villages being torched and helicopters dropping large numbers of Indonesian ground troops into the Paniai region,” said Senator Di Natale.

“If these reports from the region are accurate they indicate a very heavy handed military presence.

“Australia and the rest of the world is watching West Papua right now after the recent violent crackdown at the West Papua People’s Congress. This is yet another very concerning move by the Indonesian military in a region where human rights and democratic freedoms are not being upheld.”

Fairfax Stands By The Age And Its Journalists On The Age's Reporting On ALP Database: Media Release [15/12/11]

Fairfax CEO, Greg Hywood said today: "This morning, a team of six Victorian police arrived at The Age at Media House in Melbourne. The police have served search warrants and are presently conducting searches of electronic and hard-copy files in relation to The Age’s reporting of information on an ALP database prior to last year's Victorian election.

"We absolutely stand behind our journalists on this story. They are ethical professionals, and I am completely confident that they investigated and reported this story in an entirely proper way. It would be extremely disappointing if quality journalism, the public interest in the story and the integrity of what we stand for including protecting our sources at all costs suffers because powerful individuals didn't like what we revealed."

The Editor-in-Chief of The Age, Paul Ramadge said: "While we are cooperating with police, we have expressed our grave concerns over the risk that our sources for the report may be identified. We protect our sources at all costs. It is a code that cuts to the heart of everything we do as journalists. It is about trust. It is about ethics. If the sources for this report are identified through the police searches, even inadvertently, it will be a dark day for journalism.

"The reporters who wrote the story – published on November 23 last year – acted entirely appropriately. They were approached by someone with legitimate concerns about the content of the database. That source provided authorised access to the database.

"This was a story with significant public interest – a powerful, highly influential organisation (the ALP) collecting private information on voters without their knowledge and giving campaign workers, including, it seems, volunteers, access to it.

"The Age discovered, via a whistleblower, that the ALP was collecting and storing personal information about members of the public, unbeknown to those individuals, and we reported, carefully and precisely, what those files contained without breaching any person’s privacy. The files included personal health and financial information – the sensitivity of which we respected.

"The Age rejects any suggestion that its journalists have breached the law.

"We also reject any assertion that The Age obtained or sought to obtain information on individuals that could be used at a later date. The Age sought simply to verify the claims from our sources about the extent and nature of private information held by the ALP and accessed by campaign workers and others.

"No one on the database was identified without their consent.

"This was, in every way, a report in the public interest.

"We will continue to defend the freedom of the press to investigate matters in the public interest.

"If any member of the public is in any doubt as to the importance of the story, I strongly urge them to read the original report again, consider its content in the light of any reasonable public-interest test, and fully reflect on The Age’s obligation to inform the public."

Mic Check Chicago Board of Ed Meeting [VIDEO]

On December 14, 2011 Parents, community members, and educators took over the monthly Chicago Board of Education meeting. After years of not being heard, they stood up and took it back.

Script:

Parents, teachers, students and communities reject CPS failed reforms. In 2004, then-CPS CEO Arne Duncan introduced the first Renaissance Schools, soldiering Daley's initiative to close 60 failing schools in order to open 100 new schools. In 2006, Duncan introduced turnarounds, as an answer to communities' outrage over the displacement of students. In turnarounds, students stay in the building (some of them) while all adults have to reapply for their jobs. Since then, communities have been thrown into a turmoil every year as school closings and turnarounds are announced. Now Jean-Claude Brizard continues this tradition, proposing to turnaround 10 schools, close 2, phase out two and shutter a few more. But has this approach worked? The answer is [together] NO! We now know that only 18 percent of the replacement schools (those schools that are located in buildings where schools have been turned around or closed) were considered high performing. Of those schools, more than half are selective enrollment or magnet schools run by CPS. Nearly 40% are performance level 3, the lowest rating CPS gives. The Chicago Tribune reported that since Renaissance 2010 was initiated, 1/3 of the schools perform better, 1/3 are the same and 1/3 of the schools are worse than traditional neighborhood schools. Mr. Mayor, Mr. Vitale, Mr. Brizard and the rest of the board; you should be ashamed of yourselves. The definition of insanity is to repeatedly do the same thing and expect a different result. You have ignored community voice, community proposals and have operated schools as a foreign institution in our neighborhoods. You know how to make good neighborhood schools; they exist in CPS. You don't care to. These are our children, not yours. Your job is not to broker the responsibility of running public schools. It is a violation of the civil rights of African American and Latino children to deny them the same resources, expectations and opportunity as children from more affluent communities within this city. These are our children, not yours. We are taking our fight to the mayor! We are taking our fight to the courts! We are taking our fight to the schools! We are taking our fight to the streets! These are our children, not corporate product. These are our children, not corporate product. These are our children, not corporate product!

Gingrich Mic Checked Again! [VIDEO]

Raw Story [14/12/11]:

Protesters affiliated with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement on Wednesday interrupted Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich during a speech at the University of Iowa.

“Mic check,” the protesters shouted. “We are here to protest your speech today. We object to your callous and arrogant attitude toward poverty and poor people.”

The protesters also denounced his “vilification of people as shiftless and unwilling to work” and his “disgusting suggestions that we bring back child labor.”

Some of the protesters were escorted out of the room but were not arrested, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The “mic check” is a reference to the system of communication used by the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters in New York City’s Zuccotti Park.

Unable to use microphones because they lack the proper sound permits, the protesters repeat in unison what a speaker says. The speaker begins by saying “mic check.”

The “mic check” later evolved into a form of protest. Wisconsin Gov.

Scott Walker, President Barack Obama, Republican strategist Karl Rove, and Republican presidential Ron Paul have all recently been interrupted by the “99 Percent” movement.

Gingrich was previously “mic checked” by protesters in Florida and Massachusetts.

Watch video, courtesy of CBS News, below:

Accept Pay Rise Or Set Own Salary - Mayor:

GCCC Media Release [14/12/11]

Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke has urged councillors wishing to reject the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal’s (LGRT) salary rise to negotiate their own remuneration with the Chief Executive Officer.

Mayor Clarke said he agreed there was no justification for the pay increases in the current economic conditions.

“At least four councillors have been saying Council must protest as there is no justification for these rises in the current economic climate. While I agree with them, protesting to the Tribunal about the rise is just playing politics,” said Cr Clarke.

“Under the prescribed conditions, councillors or mayors may lodge a submission for consideration by the Tribunal within 90 days if they believe the recommendations are too low.

“If any councillor believes he or she is overpaid, the solution is simple - sign a binding agreement with the CEO specifying the amount they believe is fair. As long as the figure is less than the Tribunal’s recommendation, the CEO can implement the agreement and the city will save the money.

“Or they can do as I did during my terms as Mayor. I authorised the deduction of a substantial weekly sum to a charitable trust which then distributed the money to various city charities, such as the Autistic Kindergarten in Arundel.

“It is unfortunate that we have certain councillors protesting loudly every time the LGRT announces an increase to their remuneration, threatening to reject it, but never actually doing so.”

The Mayor also pointed out the proposed 7 per cent increase to his salary was in fact far less.

“For those concerned about my 7 per cent rise for the three months of my remaining term, I am in fact losing the 12 per cent superannuation that all councillors receive, because I turn 75 in February. So my salary actually goes down by around $5,000 p.a.”

More Cool Art Ideas!

Occupy Sydney's Trojan Horse made a brave (and hilarious) attempt to storm the Reserve Bank of Australia yesterday [14/12/11]

Occupy Sydney [14/12/11]:

Some Occupy Sydney protest posters and banners will be appearing at The Archetype Gallery in Paddington in the show Capture 2011.

Opening Friday, 16 December at 7pm, level 2 Chauvel Cinema in Paddington, crn Oxford St and Oatley Rd Paddington.

Come down and support some OS works as well as works by artists from the UK, France, Samoa and New Zealand. All welcome.

All are welcome to opening night drinks, see the art, mingle and spread the message of human need not corporate greed.

Farmers Paying The Price While GM Companies Profit

True Food News [14/12/11]:

Inevitable contamination is one of the many risks of growing genetically modified (GM) crops.
Currently, non-GM farmers bear all of the costs of GM contamination. Even if they didn’t choose to grow GM, they are forced to pay clean-up costs and lose their non-GM premium if their land becomes contaminated by surrounding GM crops. Contaminated farmers could also be forced to pay GM seed royalties at silo under the End Point Royalty Treaty. This is not fair.

Contamination is inevitable

Genetically modified crops can’t be contained. Whether it’s through wind, floods, cross-pollination or basic human error, it is inevitable that GM crops will spread to conventional farmlands and roadsides, becoming worse year on year.

Dividing communities

Currently the only option a non-GM farmer has for compensation is to sue their neighbour. The result is an expensive legal battle that is dividing local communities. There has to be a better way.

‘Farmer Protection’ Law

Greenpeace is working with Western Australian farmers to promote a ‘Farmer Protection’ law. This law would take liability for GM costs off individual growers and return it to GM companies. It would work to protect both GM and non-GM growers, who don’t need to be dragged through the courts. Now that GM companies are pushing to grow GM wheat, providing protection for farmers in cases of GM contamination is even more urgent.

A Farmer Protection Law would:

• Establish a publicly managed fund, paid into by GM companies, to compensate non-GM landholders for contamination by GM crops.

• The fund would be administered by an independent Government administrator.

• To get compensation, applicants would have to prove the presence of GM crops on their land and declare that they did not plant GM crops.

• Money for the fund would be raised by putting an annual levy on GM companies, which make billions from patents on GM seeds.

• The fund would allow compensation for costs and losses to be paid quickly and easily.

• No individual grower would have to go to court.

Sing Up At St Pauls

On December 21st at 6.30 pm hundreds of sympathetic singers will meet on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral to sing out their support for the Occupy movement in front of St. Paul's and WORLDWIDE .

The mass sing will involve choir members, musicians and sympathisers in a one-off concert which will inevitably be rough but promises, if enough people turn up to participate, to be joyful, heartfelt and effective in swaying public opinion at this crucial time. Christmas time is incredibly busy for most people and participants are coming from all over the country, so we can only organise one rehearsal. It will be on SUNDAY DECEMBER 18TH, 3-6pm at The Bank of Ideas. Watch this space as they may too be evicted before the rehearsal happens - the first court hearing is on Monday 5th December, in which case an alternative rehearsal venue will be published ASAP.

Meanwhile, please go to the 'Songs tab' and listen, pick your part, print your words, learn them, pack a picnic and arrive on time for the only rehearsal. If you and your friends, choir, band, family (children very welcome) cannot make this, organise a singing party in your front room and just turn up at St. Paul's on the day.

On December 19th, the City Of London Corporation is taking the St Paul's occupiers to court to have them removed, reneging on its original agreement to allow them to stay until the New Year. This is its first and only response to the OCCUPYLSX demands for the CLC to publish its financial activities. All other local authorities in the land are obliged to do this under the Freedom of Information Act . We want to know why the City Of London is exempt from this obligation and therefore from public scrutiny. It is a reasonable demand for transparency and accountabilty and the majority of British citizens support the demand to know where taxpayers money goes.

We believe that singing raises consciousness, moves ideas into action, unites the movement beyond language and offers uplifting moral support to those sacrificing so much for the interests of 99% of the population. Although, of course, many of us support the aims of the OCCUPY movement, this one-off event is specifically designed to highlight the legal battle at St. Paul's. We believe that if it can be won, it will set a significant gain for the movement worldwide.

TELL EVERYONE! SHARE THIS LINK! JOIN US! SING OUT!

 

What Are You Afraid Of?

Hippies in Northern NSW? Hoons? Flying Foxes [and nature in general]? People who aren't christian? Public Transport? Public Hospitals? Public Schools? Teachers? Workers standing up for their rights? Men in white vans? Environmentalists? Refugees? Artists?

 

The Future For All Beaches?

Kuta, beach of trash: A tourist walks along Kuta Beach, which is covered by a sea of plastic garbage on Tuesday [13/12/11]. The rubbish, which is brought in from other coasts on the island, totals 500 to 1,400 cubic meters a month. (Jakarta Post /Agung Parameswara)

Nurses Put Patients First

ANF Tasmanian Branch [14/12/11]:

In response to Acting CEO Jane Holden’s email which was circulated on 13 December 2011, ANF makes the following comments:

The reason ANF members across the State voted unanimously to proceed with Industrial Action, including a 48 hour ban on overtime and double shifts, is to expose that there are insufficient nurses rostered, resulting in double shifts and overtime which again relies on the good will of nurses.

This is at a time when many nurses are on fixed term contracts with threatened ongoing employment, there are nursing vacancies and Human Resource controls results in this mismanagement.

Staffing with double shifts places patient care at risk by expecting nurses to work excessive hours, which is unsustainable. In the face of so many nursing job losses this does not make sense and is not cost effective.

The Government expect front line services to be maintained at high standards while they continue to remove front line health professionals.

ANF members, as always, will continue to put patient needs as a priority. This overtime ban would not be required if safe staffing was managed.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact the ANF Information Office on 6223 6777, 1800 001 241 (outside Hobart area) or email info@anftas.org.

Man on Roof to Challenge Bank Sale Of Community Centre

Workers Bush Telegraph [13/12/11]:

Friends of Ahimsa House Press Release

At 10am on the morning of Wednesday 14th December Friend of Ahimsa House activist Bernie Neville will climb onto the roof of Ahimsa (peace) House, 26 Horan Street, West End and hang a banner in opposition to the impending sale of this community space, slated to be finalised this Thursday the 15th December.

Ellen and Carl (Ross) Taylor had a dream: to use their life savings to buy a community house. This was made a reality in 2003 and over the next 6 years hosted social, cultural and political events, rented out office space and housed a library, bar, kitchen etc.

Now it’s up for sale, why?

*Because of massive fraud by Ross’ “friend” who had power of attorney, in cohorts with a tenant of Ahimsa House. The embezzlement was over $2million of Ross’ cash and assets. This was reported to the fraud squad but no action has been taken.

*Because of unconscionable and unethical behaviour by Challenger Bank (now owned by National Australia Bank) granting a $1.3million loan to Ross when he was in no position to pay back that money, nor able to make decisions in his own interest having lost his wife and suffered a series of strokes and a major heart condition.

*Because Ross’ capacity to understand the loan transaction (required by Challenger Bank as a condition) was declared by none other than a life-long solicitor friend of the power of attorney; a.k.a Ross’ embezzling “friend”.

*Because of inaction by the Public Trustee, who took over Ross’s affairs on the 12th October, 2009 and continuing inaction following the two and a half year period after Ross was declared without legal capacity. This is despite both the Public Trustee and the Bligh government more generally having been made aware of the shonky dealings of Ahimsa House as they have come to light.

Ahimsa House Not For Sale!

WE DEMAND: an injunction on the sale of Ahimsa House, the winding back of the loan transaction, a fraud investigation, a completed audit on Ahimsa House and the rightful return of Ahimsa House to the community.

How Much Can It Cost?

Tiger Ploughshares Media Release [12/12/11]:

Peace activist Bryan Law will make a brief appearance in Rockhampton Magistrates Court this Wednesday 14 December at 2.00 pm.

Mr Law has been charged with seven offences arising out of the damage he inflicted on a Tiger attack helicopter belonging to the Australian Army.

The incident took place at Rockhampton airport on 21 July 2011, during the Talisman Sabre war-games.

Mr Law, 57 of Cairns, and his co-accused Graeme Dunstan, 69 of Peace Bus, describe the incident as a “nonviolent ploughshares action” and claim their actions were inspired by the biblical prophecy of Isaiah:

“They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not rise up against nation, nor shall they study war any more”. Isaiah 2:4

Mr Law struck the helicopter with a garden mattock, causing an 8 cm tear in an external panel of the helicopter, serial no A38-006.

The “Through Life Support” contractors for the aircraft, Australian Aerospace (a subsidiary of Eurocopter based in Brisbane) quoted $100,854.31 AUD plus 61,433.50 Euros for repair of the 8 cm tear, making a grand total of approx $180,000 AUD (+ GST) at contemporary exchange rates.

“This sum is just plain ridiculous, and I’ll be challenging it before I enter a plea” Mr Law said today.

“Arms manufacturers on defence contracts are notorius for over-charging, and for gouging the taxpayer. I’m keen to see how they can possibly justify $180,000 for such a tiny repair.”

“It’s a sad reality of today’s world that arms dealers profiteer from the human misery of war.”

Mr Dunstan will be represented at the mention by Legal Aid, but will not be attending in person.

Mr Law expects the matter will be adjourned to allow for conferencing, in the hope that a sum for repairing the damage can be agreed between the parties.

There are also issues to be dealt with relating to bail conditions, and the disposition of a charge arising out of his peace preaching activities on 20 June 2011 at the East St Mall.

Palestinian Flag Flies At UNESCO To Mark Admission As New Member

Palestinian flag raised at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France

United Nations [13/12/11]:

The Palestinian flag was raised for the first time at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today as the UN agency marked Palestine’s admission as a full member.

Senior UNESCO officials and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the ceremony, which follows the decision of the agency’s General Conference on 31 October to admit Palestine as UNESCO 195th member.

Membership took effect on 23 November after Palestine signed and accepted the agency’s constitution in London. UNESCO thus became the first UN agency to admit Palestine as a full member.The Palestinian people, as all peoples, must be able to preserve their culture and heritage. They must benefit from quality education, education for peace.

In remarks welcoming Palestine to the agency, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova noted that membership “goes beyond raising the flag” and includes critical rights and responsibilities, as well as the sharing of universal values such as tolerance and respect for others.

“Membership allows a country to bring to the world that which it cherishes most – the wealth of its culture, the resonance of its dreams for mutual understanding,” she said.

“The Palestinian people, as all peoples, must be able to preserve their culture and heritage. They must benefit from quality education, education for peace. A strong educational system teaches respect for human rights. A vibrant culture respects the culture of others. In this connected world, healthy societies flourish through ties with others. UNESCO stands for all of this.”

Ms. Bokova stressed that “multilateralism has never been so important. This must be a chance for all to join together around shared values and renewed ambitions for peace.”

In his address to assembled delegations and guests, Mr. Abbas said the admission to UNESCO was “a tremendous source of pride to us… Palestinian writers, artists and researchers have played a vital role trying to preserve the culture and identity of our people. UNESCO has also played a fundamental role – and has been a loyal partner.”

Today’s ceremony was also attended by Katalin Bogyay, the President of UNESCO’s General Conference, and Alissandra Cummins, the Chairperson of the agency’s Executive Board.

Busted For Tweeting
Molly Knefel, Salon [13/12/11]:

Monday morning marked yet another Day of Action for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Eight cities on the West Coast attempted to shut down ports. (The hashtag #PortShutdown on Twitter is moving a mile a minute.) In New York City, there was a solidarity march targeting Goldman Sachs that began at 7:30 a.m. The march was well attended, peaceful and culminated in a street-theater Vampire Squid press conference held in front of the Goldman Sachs building. Everyone was laughing and having a great time, and my brother John and I were there to tweet and take pictures. As things calmed down after the fake press conference, word began to spread that protesters should reconvene at the Winter Garden, a nearby public atrium owned by Brookfield Properties (the same company that owns Zuccotti Park).

John and I walked over with a couple of other media people. He covered the Zuccotti Park eviction for Salon, live-tweets most of the OWS events in the city, and has gotten to know many of the independent journalists who document the movement. We arrived at the designated area, which felt like an enormous common space in a mall. The main floor was decorated with Christmas trees, festive lights and public tables and chairs, with a wide marble staircase leading up to a balcony that overlooked the space.

The protesters — maybe 100 or so — had gathered in the center of the floor and were dancing and chanting, “Occupy Brookfield!” A long line of police began to form in the periphery, and John and the other media people dispersed to take pictures. As the police formed an outer circle to surround the large group, the crowd began to disperse. Many of the protesters headed up the marble staircase away from the cops, and a small group bolted up a nearby escalator.

That was when everything escalated completely out of control. The escalator was stopped. Suddenly, the outer circle of cops was swarming in and violently pushing people away. John had been standing near the crowd, taking video. I was about 20 feet from him, and when I looked back in his direction, I saw his blue hood on the ground. I ran toward him and slid to the ground, leaning in between people’s knees to take pictures. John was face down on the ground being handcuffed, his glasses flung across the floor and people screaming, “Stop, stop, he didn’t do anything!”

A cop pulled me up by my shoulders and told me to step back. I said, “He’s my brother.” Several cops pushed me away as I asked, “What is he being arrested for? He was taking pictures.” A cop said, “He didn’t produce an official press pass, so that means he was resisting arrest.” I quite literally didn’t understand, so I said, “What?” At that point, the same cop said, “If you don’t step back immediately, you will be arrested too.”

I was pushed behind a line of police. I stood there, several inches from them, and heard myself saying,

“Why are you doing this?”

A protester next to me was yelling at the cops, something about free speech or unnecessary force or any number of logical things to say at a time like this; I was too distracted to pay attention. But then, an officer said to him, “Get out of my face. I have a gun, and I don’t need people up in my face like this.”

I said, “What did you just say?”

“I don’t like people in my face,” he said.

“I just saw my brother thrown to the ground by you guys,” I said.

“That wasn’t me,” he said.

“But it was the police. And now you just threatened to take out your gun?”

Another officer approached me and said, “Stop talking to him that way.”

I turned to him. “I’m talking to him because he told me about his gun. Why did he say that?”

The second officer just said, emphatically, “I don’t know why he said that,” which made me smile for a second. But that didn’t last long, because all around me, the arrests were still happening. Cops were literally chasing people into corners.

I went up to one and again asked, “Why are you doing this?”

“This is private property,” he responded.

“But this is a public area,” I said back.

“Get out,” he told me.

Another cop passing by told him, “Stop talking to her, you don’t have time for this shit,” and pulled him toward a group of cops making arrests.

In a massive push, everyone was forced from the building, shoved out the doors by police in riot gear, who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. In moments, the building was barricaded and anyone left inside was trapped.

Outside, the cops formed a line in front of the glass building, and inside, the arrested were lined up in chairs against the windows, their hands behind their backs. My brother was taken to the 7thPrecinct, along with 17 others arrested at the Winter Garden. According to his tweets from the paddy wagon, eight out of the 10 people in there had cameras or iPhones out or were livestreaming. To quote his tweet, “Lots of eyes arrested today.”

The role independent journalists have played in documenting and disseminating Occupy is one of the things that makes the movement so powerful and unique. After the media blackout during the Zuccotti raid, the significance of citizen photographers and citizen tweeters became even more clear. Today felt like a blatant crackdown on the individuals who were documenting the behavior of the police. But whether it was a tactical decision or a wild coincidence, the police were unable to silence the cacophony of voices. The entire morning was still captured in pictures, in video, in livestreams. Lots of eyes were arrested today, but thankfully, many more eyes saw it happen.

Molly Knefel is a New York writer.

The Gold Coast Has So Much Beauty

Much of it is natural.

In other cases,

It must be applied!

 

POAGS Lockout Of 100 Workers Is “Industrial Extremism”:

Greens Media Release [13/12/11]

More than 100 workers in Fremantle and Bunbury locked out of their workplaces today are the targets of an unacceptable campaign of industrial extremism by stevedoring company POAGS, the Australian Greens said today.

Greens transport spokesperson, Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam, said the workers were being targeted after using work bans to protest about safety concerns and POAGS dragging out Agreement negotiations for 12 months.

"Under current law workers must give 72 hours notice of a strike, but the bosses can go on strike without warning. We saw this extremism from Alan Joyce at Qantas, now we're seeing it from POAGS.

"These workers have legitimate concerns about safety and a legitimate grievance over the company's unreasonable delay in reaching an Enterprise Agreement."

"The work bans, voted on and endorsed MUA members in accordance to the Fair Work Act, would have seen work continuing at the ports but with measures taken to minimise the risk of further injuries on site. POAGS unsuccessfully attempted to have the work bans removed at a Fair Work hearing over the weekend and, having lost that bid, have resorted to industrial extremism."

POAGS is owned by Chris Corrigan's company Qube Logistics. Mr Corrigan shot to notoriety with his attempt to smash the Maritime Union in 1998, which was ruled illegal by the High Court.

"The Greens Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt recently introduced a bill to compel companies to give 72 hours notice of a lock-out, and prevent them using extreme industrial action as a legal tactic. The actions of POAGS reinforce the need for this bill." said Senator Ludlam.

"These workers want to work and to work in safety. Denying them that right is a disgrace."

Judge Overturns Arbitrary Unsatisfactory Rating For Bronx Science Teacher

Ed Notes Online [12/12/11]:

In an oral bench decision Wednesday, December 7th, New York State Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman granted the petition to overturn a 2009 Unsatisfactory rating for Peter Lamphere, former math teacher and UFT chapter leader at the Bronx High School of Science. The decision is a small step in restoring some of the damage done to the careers of numerous teachers at the prestigious Bronx school, where a deteriorating relationship between Principal Valerie Reidy and faculty has dramatically increased staff turnover accompanied by a decline in the school's national ranking (New York Magazine, December 12, 2011, New York Times, September 15, 2011, Daily News, March 29, 2011, attached).

The decision rejects the Department of Education's attempt to ignore scrutiny of Principal Reidy's administrative actions. The DOE disregarded a fact finding ruling by an independent arbitrator last April upholding claims of harassment by 20 math teachers at the school, including Lamphere (New York Times, April 28, 2010). Even after Valerie Reidy abandoned the 2009 Unsatisfactory rating by refusing to contest Lamphere's administrative appeal, the DOE arbitrarily upheld the rating.

"This is an alert to the Department of Education that they need to examine more closely what's happening at Bronx Science," was Lamphere's first response to the news. "It's outrageous that they have chosen to look the other way while the school adminstration at Bronx Science has undermined the learning environment at what should be one of the crown jewels of the city's educational system."

Lynne Winderbaum, former UFT High School District Representative, commented: "It is a shame that teachers have to use the court system to get fairness. But justice will be done whenever the abusive tactics of principals such as Valerie Reidy are exposed to an unbiased hearing.

Mark Kagan, who voluntary transferred from Bronx Science as part of the exodus of 40% of the Social Studies faculty this year, added, "It was understood at Bronx Science that Valerie Reidy used U-ratings and denials of tenure for non-pedagogical reasons. I'm glad to see that the court saw this clearly. But it's too bad for the students that Peter and other good teachers were forced out of Bronx Science."

Former Bronx Science teacher Mark Sadok said, "I am delighted to hear the news, as it not only vindicates Lamphere, but also paves the way for a return to teaching for those of us whose dismissals were based on observations that violated the UFT-DOE contract."

Megan Behrent, of the activist group Teachers' Unite, pointed out how this case "exposes the way teacher evaluations are used for political rather than professional reasons and how the 'the bad teacher' narrative provides cover for retaliation against activists. It also shows why tenure is so important. Without tenure, this victory would never have happened as Lamphere would have been dismissed without any due process at all."

Brian Jones, activist with the Grassroots Education Movement, stated that "Peter Lamphere is a dedicated and highly intelligent educator; and yes, he's also a union activist. Unfortunately the national campaign to scapegoat and punish teachers has meant that the former fact mattered less than the latter. I'm glad to see that Peter received some small measure of justice. Let's hope that this reversal reverberates through the halls of power and gives our highest officials reason for pause.

Jonathan Halabi, chapter leader of neighboring High School for American Studies, commented that "This unjustified U-rating should have been overturned much earlier. Today's decision shows that the DOE's current internal hearings and appeals are unfair and rigged against the employee. New Action/UFT remains deeply concerned by the problem of abusive administrators. A victory, especially by a chapter leader who had been targeted for abuse, is a victory for all of us. "

Another arbitrary U-rating for Lamphere, from 2008, remains the subject of another case before Judge Paul Wooten, with a decision expected soon. But, regardless of the outcome of this individual case, the recommendations of the independent arbitrator's 2010 fact-finding report will still not have been implemented, and the struggle to replace the current administration at Bronx Science with one that can work together with Bronx Science teachers to rebuild a positive environment and a commitment to educational excellence has a long way to go.

NYPD Shred Kids' Paper Hearts Commemorating Occupy Arrestees Before Their Very Eyes [VIDEO]

Boing Boing [12/12/11]:

Occupy protesters and their kids made 5,000 paper hearts, one for each of the arrests at the Occupy Wall Street protests. They made a mosaic of these at the gates of New York's City Hall, only to have the police literally rip down and shred them.

Parents for Occupy Wall St. March against police brutality. Children created 5,000 paper hearts one for every peaceful protestor arrested on behalf of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the three month period leading up to the march. The children delivered them to New York City Hall for Mayor Bloomberg only for the NYPD to aggressively tear them down and apart in front of the children. Children cried and the NYPD did yet another action against peaceful protestors. We as a country should not stand for this, get involved, speak up, do something for our children's futures.
It's predictable but weird how many of the YouTube commenters criticize the parents for involving their kids with a protest. I grew up on protest marches and demonstrations with my parents, and I take my daughter to them, because I think that parenting is (partly) about imparting values to your children. Growing up amid a critical discourse about issues of social justice and freedom helped make me who I was, and my parents were always available to debate these subjects with me, encouraging me to listen to arguments on either side without hiding which side they were on.

If We Don't Get Our Democracy Back - We're Screwed - And So Is The Planet

Today’s challenge, yesterday’s solutions: the draft energy white paper: ACF Media Release [13/12/11]

The draft energy white paper released today consigns Australia to a future of higher pollution and will leave us lagging behind smarter countries on clean renewable energy, according to the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

“This isn’t a policy framework, it’s a straightjacket,” said Claire Maries, ACF climate change campaigner.

“We’re facing today’s challenge and tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s solutions.

“Instead of looking to the future, this would lock in Australia as the largest enabler of the world’s addiction to dirty fossil fuels.”

Ms Maries says the white paper “presents a vision of Australia as a major fossil fuel exporter and uranium producer.

“Funding for renewables, which is the future of energy supply and security, is considered in this report as a competitive disadvantage. This completely overlooks the $11 billion in funding that goes to polluting industries every year,” she said.

“The energy minister says that renewables will be too expensive. Meanwhile, General Electric is on the record as saying that solar energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels within five years.”

Disappointingly, the paper announces the abandonment of a key election commitment; the introduction of emissions standards for new power stations.

“This will lead to a pollution free-for-all by Australia’s biggest polluters,” she said.

“It’s uncertain what, if anything, this document has to do with a Clean Energy Future for Australia.

“It completely ignores the fact that global investment in renewable energy has outstripped investment in fossil fuels each and every year since 2008. Yesterday’s technology will not be tomorrow’s saviour,” said Ms Maries.

Record of Police Violence During D12 Actions

West Coast Port Shutdown [12/12/11]:

This morning San Diego's picket line at the port was held for three hours until broken by police, after which longshoremen crossed picket lines and went to work. Several people were violently snatched and arrested.

Also this morning in Houston marchers were snatched by police, handcuffed and lain out on the ground. The fire department covered them in a giant red inflatable tent to conceal what they were doing to them from the rest of the protesters. Many cops had tape covering their names and badge numbers. In the hours following police repression increased, mounted police attacked protesters followed by more arrests, and there was one report of a gun being pulled on someone parking their car near the protest.

Denver, Longmont, Boulder and Greely gathered at the WalMart distribution center in Loveland Colorado this morning to blockade the trucks in solidarity with the West Coast Blockade. Protesters were dragged away by police and arrested.

Seattle's blockade this evening, after being brutally beaten back at one terminal is currently being tear gassed, and flash grenades are being deployed. Some arrests have been made, but no word on the number.

Both San Diego and Seattle have requested an extension of the blockade, in solidarity with them for the police repression they have endured.

Reflections On My Visit To Australia

Dr. Janet Cotter, Senior Scientist, Greenpeace International [12/12/11]:

I recently visited Australia to examine the situation with genetically modified (GM) crops. I was stunned by what a beautiful country Australia is and wondered why anyone would want to grow GM crops here. Australia has very little to gain and much to lose by growing GM crops.

What are the risks of GM crops?

There are many risks with GM crops. There are those associated with the trait, such as herbicide tolerance or insect resistant. There are both environmental and health risks. Fundamentally it’s the insertion of genes into the genome of an organism that can give rise to unexpected and unpredictable effects. This can cause many effects. Of significance, it can alter the protein profile – for examples producing new proteins or modifying existing ones. This is important, as most allergens (the compounds that cause allergies in us) are proteins

The more we know about how genes and genomes function, we more we realise how complex and tightly controlled their operation is. GM crops belong to an outdated and over-simplistic concept of how genes function. For example, the “new generation” of GM crops include those that employ a process known as RNAi (interfering RNA). This includes CSIRO’s GM wheat for altered starch composition. Recent scientific publications suggest that some of these small RNAs (produced by genes or DNA), might not degrade on cooking and eating as previously thought, but could be taken up into our bodies via food. The evidence further suggests they could affect gene expression in humans [PDF]. It’s too early to know what the full implications are, but it demonstrates quite clearly that we don’t have a full picture of how genes or DNA and their products that occur naturally in the food we eat affect us. Using genetic modification to introduce new and novel gene products into our food means we just don’t know if GM foods are safe to eat.

GM contamination of conventional crops will happen

There’s a real risk that experimental field trials of GM wheat in Australia could contaminate Australia’s lucrative wheat industry. Not only does this pose a risk to human health, but it should be of large concern to Australian farmers. Contamination happens, and it’s expensive. There are now several cases of GM contamination from experimental field trials [PDF]. Many, if not most of these contamination cases tend to be from human error, mix-ups or mistakes, rather than cross-pollination. This means that even if cross-pollination is unlikely (wheat for example is self-pollinating), contamination is still a significant risk.

The experiences with canola contamination that farmers are already having in Australia are very distressing. There are many studies from North America confirming that GM canola can escape and form “feral” populations (introduced plants growing wild without cultivation) along roadside verges. These feral populations can act as a reservoir of GM genes that contaminate conventional canola (1). Japan, which doesn’t grow conventional canola, has feral populations of GM canola around the sea ports and roadsides just from spillages of imports (2). GM simply cannot be controlled.

GM crops aren’t needed

Several times I was asked “but don’t we need GM crops to feed the world”? The answer is no. GM crops are not designed to give greater yield than conventional crops. Currently, they are designed to be resistant to toxic herbicides such as Round-Up, or contain the pesticide itself.

Desired crop traits tend to be complex traits such as drought and salinity tolerance [PDF]. These complex traits are better suited to non-GM breeding techniques such as Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) or “smart” breeding. MAS utilises our knowledge of DNA and genomes to produce complex traits using conventional breeding, and without producing a GM crop. Solutions to sustainable agriculture are needed but GM crops are not part of that solution.

I hope farmers and consumers say “No!” to GM wheat. GM crops aren’t wanted in many parts of the world. The majority of GM crops are isolated to the Americas and European consumers simply don’t want to eat GM. There is a large demand for GM-free commodities. Growing GM crops in Australia risks contaminating Australia’s exports and losing important trade markets.

Why would you take the risk?

(1) Schafer, M.G., Ross, A.A., Londo, J.P., Burdick, C.A., Lee, E.H., Travers, S.E., Van de Water, P.K. & Sagers, C.L. 2011. The establishment of genetically engineered canola populations in the U.S. PLoS ONE 6: e25736. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025736.

Knispel, A.L & McLachlan, S.M. 2010 Landscape-scale distribution and persistence of genetically modified oilseed rape (Brassica napus) in Manitoba, Canada. Environmental Science Pollution Research 17: 13–25.

(2) Saji, H., Nakajima, N., Aono, M., Tamaoki, M., Kubo, A., Wakiyama, S., Hatase, Y & Nagatsu, M. 2005. Monitoring the escape of transgenic oilseed rape around Japanese ports and roadsides. Environmental Biosafety Research. 4: 217–222.

Occupy Oakland: THEY DID IT!!! Port is SHUT DOWN

Daily Kos [12/12/11]:

They shut down the Port of Oakland. The union arbitrator just ruled that a "health and safety" concern condition exists and that therefore the ILWU workers should go home. Game. Set. Match.

alyssa011968 Alyssa
#OccupyOakland we did it longshoremen sent home. All power to the rank and file. campl.us/g42g

occupyoakland Occupy Oakland
#occupyoakland morning #portshutdown pickets are a success! arbitrator rules in our favor! COME BACK FOR EVENING SHIFT #d12 #oo #ows

Despite all the naysaying, despite all the warnings from the one-percent, despite the ridicule from the mainstream media, despite lukewarm (at best) support from the union leadership, despite even the Daily Kos front page railing against them, despite the cold and the wet, a ragtag bunch of crazies meeting out in the freezing cold for the last three weeks managed to once again demonstrate that

The Whole World is Watching (Occupy Oakland)

Now it's all gravy. A rally this afternoon at Frank Ogawa Plaza / Oscar Grant Park, followed by what is expected to be an even larger march on the Port for the evening shift.
Come out and be a part of history.

Occupy Wall Street:

NYC will Target the Vampire Squid- Goldman Sachs In solidarity with the West Coast Port Shutdown on December 12th, the NYC Occupy Movement vows to disrupt business as usual for the those that exploit our nation's ports – and profit from the exploitation of tens of thousands of working people laboring behind the scenes ...of the international trade system.

In New York, Occupy Wall Street is descending upon a single Wall Street giant – the owner of half of one of the planet's largest transportation and shipping outfits – Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs is the vampire squid who sucks the blood of workers.

Goldman Sachs' shipping companies throughout the United States, specifically in LA, cynically pit thousands of citizens and undocumented immigrants against each other -- for low wage jobs with unreliable hours -- Goldman Sachs and its shipping companies reap record profits off the backs of workers.

In recent weeks, the working class and the Occupy Movement have borne nationally coordinated attacks backed by the 1%. In turn, from the ports to the highways, the Occupy Movement is launching a nationally coordinated attack on the amoral profiteering of the 1%.

Occupies from coast to coast have joined with longshoremen and truckers in the fight against the exploitation of workers. On December 12th, the 99% will take action in support of these workers and their successful mobilizations, unifying around key strategic targets engaged in indulgent control of our economy and government.

Courage In South Africa

Photo by Julian Koschorke

Dec 3rd – At the halfway point of the talks, thousands of South Africans joined by global youth, flooded the streets to call for climate justice. 350's banner could be seen far and and wide, as could signs like "Stop Climate Polluters" and "We are the 99%."

350.org:

While the latest round of UN climate negotiations failed to demonstrate the kind of ambition and urgency we need to take on the climate crisis, youth and civil society showed an incredible amount of courage. We saw more kinds of risky, creative, powerful activism than we've seen at any prior UN summit. We're pretty sure that's worth celebrating, not forgetting.

On a real gut level, Durban's disappointment reminded us of an important lesson. If we're going to win on the UN stage, we've got to win over our home countries first. And to do that, we've got to bring more of this kind of courage back to all the places we call home. ...

Hey Bernard! Gold Coasters Love Ya, And When They Happen To Read The Hate Media They Know It's All Lies

Bernard Tomic Website [17/11/11]:

Bernard has returned to the Gold Coast in time to see the Australian Open Trophy tour visit his hometown.

The Queensland teenager got his hands on the Sir Norman Brookes Challenge Cup during the trophies visit to the Gold Coast on Friday.

Tomic finished his 2011 season last week at the ATP Paris Masters, where he fell in the first round of qualifying to Frenchman Nicholas Mahut.

His breakthrough year included a stunning run through qualifying to the last eight at Wimbledon, quarterfinal appearance in Tokyo and third round showings at the Shanghai Masters and the Australian Open.

Tomic will begin his 2012 campaign at the Brisbane International in January.

National Media Inquiry Transcript [produced by Merrill Corporation - 8/11/11]:

... PROFESSOR MANNE: There's nothing that can be done about one newspaper. I did say that there is something to be done about the Murdoch problem, which is to break it up. It's not fair to say that I said there's nothing to be done. I said what can be done is for people to criticise.

MR FINKELSTEIN: I think you meant in a prescriptive sense.

PROFESSOR MANNE: Yes, in a prescriptive sense. I feel those are very blunt instruments, and they often either don't achieve their objects or lead to such a reaction that in a way the situation becomes more difficult, if anything.

I think the answer is for people to express their distaste, in a way. I do think that the degree of hostility that is generated from some parts of media has a chilling effect on people. They are frightened. They are frightened that if they say certain things their life will be made miserable, and they are not used to it. I've had a lot of batting practice in that sort of defamation, but most reasonable people haven't. I think they intuit that if they say certain things they are likely then to be defamed and vilified, so they take the reasonable option of not saying much.

I think that one of the few things that might improve the situation is for individuals, and also I think corporations or other broadcasting bodies, to enter the fray more, to call things that are untenable by their true names. ...

Going Outback: The Mount Isa Mail

Chapter 2, 'Come The Revolution: A Memoir' by Alex Mitchell [NewSouth Publishing 2011]:

... Mount Isa is one of those towns that attract migrants and men willing to work in the toughest conditions to earn a small nest egg and then move on. In mid-1961 the attention of these shiftless miners, as well as the town side community, became focused on the outcome of negotiations between the company and the unions over the weekly bonus which had been paid to employees since 1937. Although called a 'bonus' - giving rise to the widespread belief that it was a charitable payment by a magnaniomus employer - the weekly loading was compensation for the hot, harsh, primitive conditions endured by the workforce. Based on the company's buoyant profits for the financial year 1960-61 and rising world copper and lead prices, the workers anticipated a rise in the £8 a week bonus and, in good faith, they submitted their claim. All hell broke loose when the company flatly rejected any increase. Miners joined forces with the skilled craftsmen to impose an overtime ban which had a slow but paralysing impact on production. The company retaliated by shutting the mine down on 25 September 1961; the men were effectively locked out, with no income. It galvanised the miners in an epic industrial struggle which submerged differences in race, religion and politics. It was my first experience of class warfare and it left an indelible impression.

The workers quickly discovered they were not simply fighting MIM management, a hard-nosed triumvirate consisting of chairman (Sir) George Fisher, managing director (Sir) Jim Foots and industrial relations manager 'Stewie' Tuck, but also the Liberal Party federal government in Canberra, the National Party Queensland government, their own union bosses (based 1800 kilometres away in the state capital of Brisbane) and almost the entire media. Chief among their tormentors was the leadership of the Australian Workers' Union, the largest and oldest in the country, which had exclusive rights to sign up miners as members and negotiate on their behalf. The AWU's newly-appointed Queensland branch secretary was Edgar Williams, whom I had encountered in Townsville, and I needed no introduction to his capacity for treachery and for doing the dirty work of the bosses. Cornered, surrounded and outgunned, the mineworkers fell back on their only remaining resource - union solidarity. Turnbull threw open the pages of the paper [the Mount Isa Mail - then owned by Rupert Murdoch] for letters and we published dozens of them, from all points of view. When the company wanted to make a statement to the workforce, it was obliged to pay for advertising space in the paper to relay its message. ...

Australian Media: It's Time You Stopped Dressing Up Your Bullshit As News

World War Three is NOW, and it's about resources.

Like all wars - truth is the first casualty.

West Papua Information Kit:

Some of the world's largest transnational mining corporations have been active in exploiting West Papua's oil and minerals, including Union Oil, Amoco, Agip, Conoco, Phillips, Esso, Texaco, Mobil, Shell, Petromer Trend Exploration, Atlantic Richfield, Sun Oil and Freeport (USA); Oppenheimer (South Africa); Total (France); Ingold (Canada); Marathon Oil, Kepala Burung (UK); Dominion Mining, Aneka Tambang, BHP, Cudgen RZ, and CRA (Australia). The international dispute over West Papua during the years after 1949 can be understood in light of the natural resources in the territory, which were far better known to the transnationals than revealed publicly.

An example of the level of profits involved is that of Petromer Trend and Conoco, which have produced 300 million barrels of oil from the field at Sele near Sorong, valued at $4.5 billion.

Areas where mining concessions are situated, most notably in the Ertsberg and Grasberg mountains, the Paniai and Wissel Lakes region, Fak Fak, the Baliem Valley, the "Bird's Head" western tip and the PNG border area, are where dislocation and suppression of the Papuan peoples has resulted in the most powerful uprisings and the most brutal reprisals by the Indonesian military.

Located in the Western Highlands is the massive Freeport Indonesia mining operation. Freeport's Mt Ertsberg mine is the second largest copper mine in the world, and also contains the largest proven gold deposit in existence, valued in excess of $US 40 billion. The latest estimate for the Mt Grasberg lode is one billion tonnes of ore and it is expected to have a thirty year life. The region around the mine is closed off to outsiders, as well as to the traditional land owners who have been dispossessed.

Freeport has concessions totalling 3.6 million hectares in West Papua following the recent granting of a 2.6 million hectare concession, and in March 1995 it was announced that the world's biggest mining company, RTZ of the UK, had bought an 18 per cent stake in the company, a $1.8 billion deal enabling a massive expansion of Freeport's existing operations. The Freeport company is Indonesia's largest taxpayer. Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, sits on the board of directors of the parent company, Freeport McMoRan, USA, based in New Orleans. (In 1993, the US Environmental Protection Agency released its 1993 pollution statistics for the entire USA. For the second year in a row, Freeport-McMoRan was the largest polluter of land, air and water, both in terms of volume and toxicity, in the whole of North America).

RTZ, the mining partner of Freeport in West Papua, is the parent company of CRA, the Australian mining company which operated the huge Bougainville Copper Mine. This mine was established by RTZ in the 1970s while Papua New Guinea was still an Australian protectorate. (A guerrilla movement campaigning for compensation for Bougainville's traditional land owners dispossessed by the company's operations and who suffer the effects of massive pollution, has been engaged in an on-going war since the 1980s, a war the PNG military has been fighting using Australian equipment. As a landowner, Perpetua Serero told a reporter in 1988, "We don't grow healthy crops anymore, our traditional customs and values have been disrupted and we have become mere spectators as our earth is being dug up, taken away and sold for millions." Estimates of civilians killed by the war or disease on Bougainville since fighting escalated in 1994 is put at over 5000.)

Freeport Indonesia's mining operation at Mt Carstenz has led to the construction of the modern dormitory town of Tembagapura for its workforce. It has led to great disruption to the lives of the local people, the Amungme, who are prohibited from Tembagapura and are being relocated at Timika near the airport which serves the complex, and which is one of eight Transmigration settlements in the Freeport area. Freeport is building a $US500 million "new town" with an Indonesian partner near Timika on the flatlands near Grasberg, which will provide housing for up to 20,000 workers and their families. (Freeport uses Cairns as a supply base, for workers, food, machinery and as an R and R location. Freeport contributes substantially to the Cairns economy, and is actively seeking Australian investment. It already has the support of some superannuation funds in Australia).

Recently Freeport moved the 1,000 inhabitants of the village of lower-Waa to the coastal lowlands. In one month alone, 88 people died from malaria. 14,000 people are now settled; plans are for a total of between 25,000 and 40,000 people to be resettled. In February 1995 it was announced that 2000 people living in the vicinity of the Waa, Arwaa and Tsinga valleys were to be moved in March. This is the region from which reports have filtered out of fighting in late 1994-early 1995 involving the deaths of about 40 civilians and the disappearances of up to 200 others.

Freeport mines 78,000 tonnes of ore/day, plus additional overburden. Virtually all of this is dumped as mine waste and tailings into the rivers surrounding Freeport, making the water toxic and thick with silt, smothering and killing all plant life along the previously fertile river banks. (Other mines like Bougainville and Ok Tedi in PNG have had similar effects). The Komoro people in the Koperapoke area have been ordered to stop consuming sago, their staple food. Freeport has distributed 78 drums to families to catch rainwater for drinking since the water has been contaminated. Plans to expand Freeport's operations within a recently granted additional 2.6 million hectare concession causes great concern for other communities and their environment.

Areas within some mining concessions have questionably been designated "earthquake zones", requiring the mass resettlement of tribes such as the Hupla of the central highlands, an unnecessary and destructive practice. Communities are often coerced into moving to lower sites, where they are more prone to diseases such as malaria and where traditional mountain foods such as pandanus trees do not grow.

The Chairman and Chief Executive of Freeport, James "Jim-Bob" Moffett in March 1995 said of his company's projects: "The potential is only limited by the imagination. Every other mining company wants to get into Irian Jaya. Bougainville and Ok Tedi don't hold a candle to Grasberg". (Ok Tedi is the gold mine in Papua New Guinea owned and operated by the Australian mining company, BHP. BHP is fighting a $4 billion law suit in the Victorian Supreme Court brought by the local land owners for environmental damage). An Indonesian group, Indonesian Forum for the Environment, (WALHI), has begun court proceedings against Freeport on environmental grounds.

State Of The Environment Report Sounds Urgent Alarm:

ACF Media Release [12/12/11]

The new State of the Environment Report released today has sounded an urgent alarm to all Australians about the health of the country’s environment.

The time has come for Australia’s leaders to act on its recommendations.

"The Report itself states that 'the prognosis for the environment at a national level is highly dependent on how seriously the Australian Government takes its leadership role'," said Denise Boyd, campaigns director at the Australian Conservation Foundation.

"The release of the Report should serve as a catalyst for major improvement. It’s now up to the Federal Government to take a serious leadership role, particularly in working to deliver appropriate resources that can arrest the decline of our environment," she said.

"The report states in its findings climate change poses ‘the largest future threat to our inland water systems’ and that land clearing averaged about 1 million hectares per year for the past decade. It states that since 2006, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Australia’s Antarctic territory, is losing ice at about 60 billion tonnes each year and that the upper layers of the Southern Ocean are warming is faster than elsewhere in the world."

"The government should turn its attention to subsidies that promote pollution and wasteful consumption, like the Fuel Tax Credits scheme. This costs Australian taxpayers $5 billion a year, around $1.7 billion of which goes to big mining companies. Australia instead needs to invest in the natural capital sustaining our country," said Ms Boyd.

Oil On Canvas [VIDEO]

Greenpeace NZ:

The oil prints featured in this exhibition were made with birds killed by the Rena oil spill.

They are just two of an estimated 20,000 birds killed after the shipwrecked Rena spilled 350 tonnes of oil into the Bay of Plenty.

The images are a stark reminder of the devastation an oil spill can cause.

Yet if the government’s recent decision to open NZ waters to deep sea oil drilling is not reversed, future spills could be more than a thousand times worse.

These works were created in a collaboration between Greenpeace and Publicis Mojo using oil from the shipwrecked Rena and birds killed by that oil.

We wish to acknowledge Nga Hapu o te Moutere o Matakana as the iwi with Mana Tanagata over the Matakana beach where the birds were found.

It is our hope this memorial to these animals will act as a warning against risking a much greater disaster in the future.

Occupy Wellington Looks To The Future: “It’s Not Just About The Tents”

Occupy Wellington [12/12/11]:

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for the enormous support you’ve shown since Occupy Wellington began on October 15th.

After two months of camping in Civic Square, we’re extremely excited to announce Occupy Wellington’s vision for the next phase of the movement.

The Civic Square camp has provided an incredibly successful vehicle to open public discussion about economic inequality. But the global Occupy movement is about much more than a collection of tents. The next phase is about moving forward to more effectively engage with the enormous support shown in the wider community from a more sustainable indoor base.

The camp was never intended to be permanent. Because so many supporters of Occupy Wellington have jobs and other commitments, we’re focusing on activities that allow the participation of people who are not able to physically camp.

Although Occupy Wellington is no longer based in Civic Square, clearly some individuals may continue to exercise their right to remain there.

Recognising the limitations of a temporary camp has led to in-depth discussion about the best way of moving forward. Similar discussions are taking place in Occupy sites all over the world. Occupy supporters in New Zealand are participating in international web-based conferences, to collaboratively develop a collective global vision for the future of the Occupy movement, dubbed “Occupy 2.0”.

This means some big changes locally, in the transition to the next phase.

Plans are underway to start a ‘Bank of Ideas’ in central Wellington, modeled on the Occupy London initiative of the same name. The Bank of Ideas will promote the non-monetary trade of ideas to help solve pressing economic, social and environmental problems, and encourage transformative change towards a system that works for all.

The Bank of Ideas will provide a space for the collaboration of like-minded individuals and groups in Wellington working on different facets of the same basic problem, including environmental groups, unions and other workers’ rights groups, activist networks, community groups, academics, professionals, students and faith-based groups.

The space will be used to continue the ‘Free University’ community-based education initiative, community workshops and events, and to host public General Assemblies.

As we transition into this next phase, we will need a great deal of support. It has become increasingly apparent that Wellington contains a huge number of people who support the global Occupy movement but have not seen a clear way of contributing locally.

Our vision for the next phase is to restructure the movement to enable the participation of all individuals and organisations that share a basic desire for a more equitable and sustainable future.

We want all of these groups and individuals to benefit from being linked in to a global movement simultaneously taking place in 3,000 cities, utilizing the media appeal and public awareness and excitement associated with the Occupy movement to further their diverse campaigns for positive change.

The first thing we need to secure is a suitable indoor space – we’re exploring some promising options, but we need as much help as we can get. If you have any ideas for possible spaces, or contacts for other people who might have relevant information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by email [occupy.wellington@gmail.com] or phone [0223150958].

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