... Muslim & Christian leaders offer deepest condolences #sydneysiege victims @ Kuraby mosque #illridewithyou

Image: @peterbranj [17/12/14]

 

Murder charge, Yarrabah

QPS Media [17/12/14]:

A 20-year-old woman has died following an alleged assault at Yarrabah on Sunday morning.

Police attended a location on Pine Creek Yarrabah Road on Sunday morning where a woman was found with head injuries.

The woman was transported to the Townsville Based Hospital with severe head injuries where she died on Monday night.

As a result of the woman’s death, a 37-year-old Yarrabah man has had a previous charge of grievous bodily harm upgraded to murder.

He remains in custody and is scheduled to appear before the Cairns Magistrates Court this morning.

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

Woman found dead in bathtub at Shoalhaven Heads

Illawarra Mercury [17/12/14]:

Police are treating as suspicious the death of a 41-year-old woman whose body was found in a bathtub in a home at Shoalhaven Heads.

Emergency services were called to the home on Wells Place about 10pm on Tuesday.

Shoalhaven Local Area Command attended and set up a crime scene, which is being inspected by detectives and special forensic officers.

Police would not confirm whether the woman was in her own home, or whether there was water in the bathtub when she was found.

Wallsend aged-care deaths: nurse arrested in Lake Macquarie

Sydney Morning Herald [17/12/14]:

A male nurse has been arrested over the alleged murders of two elderly nursing home patients and the attempted murder of a third at a Wallsend aged care facility.

Strike Force Correa detectives arrested the 27-year-old man at Redhead, a Lake Macquarie suburb 16 kilometres south of Newcastle, on Wednesday morning before taking him back to Newcastle police station for questioning.

The strike force was set up to investigate the alleged murders of Gwen Fowler, 83, and Ryan Kelly, 80, in October last year.

They were also looking into the alleged attempted murder of Audrey Manuel, 91.

It will be alleged that all three patients were injected with high amounts of insulin at the SummitCare Wallsend facility within a day of each other.

None were diabetic and it is alleged the injections caused them to become hypoglycemic.

Mrs Fowler died on October 18, while Mr Kelly succumbed on October 30.

The male nurse is expected to be charged later on Wednesday with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder later.

Queensland police officer hit by car during police pursuit

Yahoo [17/12/14]:

A police officer has been injured after a dramatic car chase south of Brisbane. 

Queensland Police were pursuing two stolen cars on the Logan Motorway.

 One was stopped with stingers and the driver was arrested at the scene.

The other car continued along Waterford West, driving erratically.

It mounted the footpath and struck a 58-year-old police officer, who has suffered a suspected hip injury.

The car was abandoned near a park and the two offenders fled on foot.

They were arrested shortly afterwards at nearby bushland.

Armed robbery – Rochedale

QPS Media [17/12/14]:

Police are investigating the armed robbery of a bottleshop at Rochedale overnight.

Around 7.55pm a man has entered the Underwood Road premises producing a knife and making demands for money from the store employee.

A sum of cash was stolen before the offender fled the scene.

No one was injured during the incident.

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

Man critical after being run down on the Gold Coast

MYGC [16/12/14]:

A man has been rushed to hospital with serious injuries after he was run over by a car on the Gold Coast.

The man was struck at the intersection of Smith Street and Kumbari Avenue at Southport about 7.30pm on Tuesday.

It’s understood he’s been taken to Gold Coast University Hospital in a critical condition.

...

Unlawful wounding, Caboolture

QPS Media [16/12/14]:

Police are investigating an unlawful wounding in Caboolture early this morning.

Initial inquiries reveal at about 5am a 48-year-old Bongaree man was in Glenwood Drive Morayfield when he was asked by an unknown male to drive him to a Morayfield Road residence.

The unknown man went into the Morayfield Road residence then returned and got into the back seat of the car. He then threatened the 48-year-old man with a knife, a struggle ensured and the 48-year-old man received a cut to the hand.

The 48-year-old man has then ran away and was located a short time later by police. A search failed to locate the man with the knife.

Police have released an image of the man they wish to speak to in relation to this incident. He is described as 165cm, solid build, Maori or islander in appearance, 30 to 35 years with short black hair and was wearing a white polo shirt with other colours scattered throughout and a pair of denim shorts.

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

North Queensland Rescue Helicopter Service misses out on government funding again

North West Star [16/12/14]:

The North Queensland Rescue Helicopter Service has been snubbed from $300 million in state government funding allocated to other helicopter rescue services.

A 10-year contract with helicopter rescue services including RACQ CareFlight Queensland will be used to buy more aircraft.

North Queensland Rescue Helicopter Service chief executive Alex Dorr was not surprised his service missed out on funding.

“We certainly knew we were not going to be a part of it,” he said.

Funding winners like RACQ CareFlight Queensland had been negotiating with the state government for about two years, Mr Dorr said.

North Queensland’s service was not part of the negotiations and is still not government funded.

The government uses the service but pays a fee each time.

Mr Dorr said the payments did not cover the service’s annual operating costs of $1.5 million.

He could not explain why the government was not funding the service. He said their reasons seemed to change weekly.

In July Emergency Services Minister Jack Dempsey told The North West Star paying the service on a needs basis was based on information provided by Queensland Health.

“From our aspect, what we’re doing is getting the best value for the tax-paying dollars in Mount Isa,” Mr Dempsey said.

He said Mount Isa also had the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

On Sunday, Mr Dempsey and Premier Campbell Newman released a statement outlining the positives that funding would bring to Queensland.

“It means young children requiring emergency medical transfers and boaties requiring assistance on our waterways can have peace of mind that help is available,” Mr Newman said.

“To further enhance these vital services, the LNP will be increasing funding by $3 million in the first year to go toward upgrades of helicopters and bases.”

Mr Dempsey criticised the former Labor government for not investing enough in emergency services.

“Our commitment to helicopter services means that whether you require help on Horn Island or in the Gold Coast hinterland, we are there to assist.”

 Queensland police launch second chopper to harass certain suburbs in the middle of the night and for 'Gold Coast Cops' PR [ABC - 2/7/14]

Climate Change: Gold Coast City Council sprays for mosquitoes again

GCCC Media Release [17/12/14]:

City of Gold Coast is targeting a rise in mosquito activity in the southern and northern ends of the city in a treatment program covering more than 1800 kilometres.

Mayor Tom Tate said heavy rains and high tides had seen a surge in mosquito breeding.

“Tugun, Kirra and Currumbin along with the suburbs north of Nerang are likely to be affected. We are targeting those areas with misting treatments from now until Christmas,” he said.

“These treatments are part of our ongoing control program to keep the number of Ross River incidences down and ensure our outdoor lifestyle isn’t impacted by mosquitoes.”

Mayor Tom Tate added pest management was everyone’s responsibility.

“As a precaution, we recommend residents in the affected areas apply mosquito repellent frequently when outdoors and everyone should be taking steps to remove breeding sites from around their homes,” he said.

Residents have an important role to play in helping eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites by emptying containers and other receptacles filled with stagnant water.

What residents can do:

• Remove all pot plant bases or alternatively empty them weekly

• Ensure gutters are not blocked and are free of leaves

• Screen all openings on rainwater tanks

• Ensure absorption trenches and septic tanks are covered

• Keep ponds and dams stocked with fish

• Empty bird baths and pet bowls regularly

• Keep swimming pools chlorinated.

The City carries out an average of 11 aerial treatments of saltmarsh mosquito breeding areas each year. This is in addition to regular monitoring of the city's freshwater sites, parks, drains, open areas and creeks.

Find out more in our Pest plants and animals page.

Perth woman who was stabbed to death attempted to get her son admitted into a mental health unit hours earlier

ABC [17/12/14]:

A 52-year-old woman who was stabbed to death in the southern Perth suburb of White Gum Valley had attempted to get her son admitted into a mental health unit hours earlier.

Sources told the ABC Joan Hendry took her 19-year-old son to the Alma Street mental health centre in Fremantle on Monday night but it had closed at 8:00pm (WST).

He was reportedly having a psychiatric episode.

She then took him to the emergency department at Fremantle Hospital but he was not seen and left after waiting for some time.

Hours later Ms Hendry was stabbed to death in her home on Stevens Street.

The 19-year-old was taken to Fremantle Hospital with a serious injury, believed to be self-inflicted.

Another man and a woman, understood to be Ms Hendry's partner and daughter, were also taken to hospital with cuts to their hands and are recovering in Royal Perth Hospital.

Katrina Dawson protected pregnant colleague during Sydney siege

Daily Mail [16/12/14]:

... A barrister who is 19 weeks pregnant escaped from the Sydney siege only to hear the heartbreaking news that her friend and colleague had tragically not survived.

Julie Taylor worked with another barrister Katrina Dawson, 38, at Eighth Floor Selborne chambers in Phillip Street near to where the hostage crisis took place inside the Lindt Chocolat Cafe.

It is believed that the two were getting coffee together in the cafe when Man Haron Monis, 49, entered and suddenly brought Sydney to a standstill.

Taylor survived the terrifying ordeal only to later hear the devastating news that her colleague at the law firm and mother-of-three, Dawson, 38, had suffered a heart attack and died in hospital after the siege.

...

West Australian [17/12/14]:

... The women were barristers working for Eight Selborne Chambers, which was based in Phillip Street - about 550m from the cafe where they were enjoying a morning coffee when terror struck.

Ms Taylor, aged in her mid-thirties, specialises in commercial law and was admitted to the NSW bar in 2007.

She grew up in WA, excelling during her studies at Presbyterian Ladies College.

When she graduated in 1996, Ms Taylor won an academic excellence prize, the John Stewart prize for History and the Agnes Robertson prize for Citizenship as well as being the national winner in the Plain English-Speaking Award.

She was also listed in the 1996 PLC yearbook as the runner-up champion gymnast and a member of the debating team.

Ms Taylor took those debating skills to the University of WA, where she graduated with first-class honours in law.

She had a keen interest in helping refugees and in the early 2000s was a member of the Coalition Assisting Refugees After Detention and worked for CASE for Refugees, a community legal centre that helped refugees renew their temporary protection visas.

...

3 People, Including Gunman, Killed In Sydney Cafe Siege [NPR - 15/12/14]:

...

Update at 9:53 a.m. ET. Police Name Suspect: Local media say police in Sydney have named the suspected hostage taker as an Iranian, self-styled cleric named Man Haron Monis.

Update at 10:16 a.m. ET. Police Storm Cafe: Television images showed police storming the cafe, while a sixth hostage was carried out.

The images showed police, in tactical gear, using what appeared to be stun grenades, before moving into the building.

Update at 10:22 a.m. ET. Paramedics Move In: Television images are now showing paramedics removing at least four people on stretchers from the building. Some people ran from the building with their hands up, while others were escorted to safety by police.

It's still not clear why police made a move into the cafe.

It is now 2:24 a.m. on Tuesday in Sydney.

...

New York Times [17/5/03]:

A 57-year-old Harlem woman preparing to leave for her longtime city government job died of a heart attack yesterday morning after police officers broke down her door and threw a concussion [stun] grenade into her apartment, the police commissioner said. They were acting on what appeared to be bad information about guns and drugs in the apartment.

Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly apologized to the family of the woman, Alberta Spruill, and said he had ordered an investigation of the entire incident and suspended the use of the grenades, which are meant to stun and disorient people with a loud noise and a flash. He said that he had reassigned the lieutenant who made the decision to use the grenade to administrative duties, pending the investigation, and that he would review how the grenades were used and search warrants carried out.

...

City to Pay $1.6 Million in Fatal, Mistaken Raid [New York Times – 29/10/03]

66 journalists killed, 119 abducted in 2014 — Reporters Without Borders

TASS [16/12/14]:

A total of 66 journalists have been killed while on duty across the world this year, a report released on Tuesday by the Paris-based press freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RWB), says.

Syria, where 15 journalists have been murdered, remains the most dangerous country to work for the second year in a row. Seven reporters died when covering events during the Middle East conflict, while six others were killed in Ukraine and another four in Iraq, and also four in Libya.

The deaths this year are 7% fewer than in 2013, when 71 journalists were killed.

Meanwhile, the number of those kidnapped due to journalist activities has been on the rise. A total of 119 reporters have been abducted this year around the world, with most cases reported in Ukraine (33), followed by Libya (29), Syria (27) and Iraq (20).

This figure is a 37% increase, year-on-year. Last year, a total of 87 journalists were abducted.

The report says 178 journalists have been sentenced in 2014 due to their professional activities. A total of 29 reporters are serving jail terms in China, 28 - in Eritrea, 19 - in Iran, 16 - in Egypt and 13 - in Syria.

The report notes that although the fatalities among journalists have decreased, some violent actions against them, including the recent releases of videos showing the beheading scenes, have taken different shapes.

'Don't forget the original goal': new pro-democracy banner slung on Hong Kong's Victoria Peak

South China Morning Post [16/12/14]:

An impressive feat of mountaineering today saw yet another giant banner hung up in Hong Kong, this time on Victoria Peak.

Sporting the wording 'Don't forget the original goal' - in reference to protesters ongoing push for universal suffrage - the giant yellow sign is the fourth to have been put up by Occupy supporters over the last couple of months.

Measuring six metres long by a metre wide, the yellow and black banner was held to the cliff by several cables.

Monday saw the dismantling of Hong Kong’s last occupied zone in Causeway Bay, bringing an end to the movement that has made headlines across the world.

Last Saturday a banner of similarly large proportions - measuring six metres by two metres - was hung from Devil's Peak near Kowloon, bearing a message calling for Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung to resign.

And previously, on two separate occasions, the distinctive banners were hung from Lion Rock in the New Territories.

The first appeared in October, a few weeks after the so-called Umbrella Movement got underway.

Bearing the words “I want real democracy”, the huge banner struck a chord with Hongkongers on social media, prompting a glut of related memes featuring Lions and yellow cats with the caption “spirit of Lion Rock” to go viral.

Erected by a group of rock climbers calling themselves “The Hong Kong Spidie” - after comic hero Spiderman - it was taken down a day later after the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong vowed to remove it.

In a video that appeared across social media, a man dressed as Spiderman cited the motivations behind the original Lion Rock banner.

"The chief executive only cares about the rich people living on Victoria Peak. We think the spirit of Lion Rock isn't just about money.” he said.

"The people fighting for real universal suffrage all over Hong Kong have shown great perseverance. This kind of fighting against injustice, strength in the face of troubles, is the true Lion Rock spirit."

New Zealand: Novopay to cost $35m to run

RNZI [17/12/14]:

The Government says the school payroll system Novopay has improved, but its running costs are still too high.

A Crown-owned company took over the troubled system in October, and the Government said there had been fewer errors than last year in the most recent pay runs.

It said it had budgeted $35 million for operating costs in the current financial year, which is $8 million less than the previous year - but still more than it would like.

The Government said it wants the system to cost about the same as the projected future cost of the Datacom pay service Novopay replaced. Between $18 and $23 million a year.

Wickham Point hunger strike enters 47th day

The New Daily [17/12/14]:

An asylum seeker on his 47th day of a hunger strike has begun physically shaking and is said to be in “complete and utter despair”, according to his lawyer.

The Iranian man is being kept in permanent detention in a Darwin facility, and has refused to eat since November 1 after he was denied a visa, according to an ABC report.

Lawyer John Lawrence said the man had nowhere else to go and was coming close to “seriously dangerous territory” in terms of his health. He has lost 23 kilograms since beginning the hunger strike.

“He was visibly shaking, his speech was slower and his general physical health seemed to have deteriorated since the visit on Saturday,” Mr Lawrence said.

“He remains in permanent detention, so he has got nowhere to go”. “He is in complete and utter despair”.

The 33-year-old man told Fairfax he was in fear for his life and said he would be murdered if he returned to Iran.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said he would not comment on individual cases for privacy reasons, but that the department was meeting its duty of care for all people in detention.

BBC [16/12/14]:

Three G4S security guards have been found not guilty of the manslaughter of a man who died during an attempted deportation at Heathrow airport.

Jimmy Mubenga, 46, suffered a fatal heart attack after being restrained on a flight, in October 2010.

Terence Hughes, 53, Colin Kaler, 52, and Stuart Tribelnig, 39, denied acting dangerously or negligently during the incident, on a British Airways flight.

They had been accused of restricting Mr Mubenga's breathing.

...

Another refugee death camp or a cemetery?

Scott Morrison's office has confirmed the mew immi detention centre at Bomana is going ahead. #PNG

"tweeted" by @Liam_Cochrane ABC PNG correspondent [17/12/14]

Bomona War Cemetery, PNG

Why are journalists not pushing the Minister for Immigration on this basic recommendation from the Senate Manus Inquiry [December 2014]?

8.49 The committee recommends that, in the interests of transparency and accountability, the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea take measures to facilitate appropriate access to the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, including:

• allowing United Nations representatives full access to the centre and transferees;

• permitting qualified lawyers, including lawyers certified to practice in Australia, access to the centre in order to meet with transferees and provide legal assistance;

• allowing the Australian Human Rights Commission to regularly inspect the centre and meet with centre staff and transferees; and

• permitting journalists to visit the centre and speak freely with centre staff and transferees.

Why is the IOM offlimits to Australian journalists?

...

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

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

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

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

...

Here Comes The King!

Australian media blackout on Minister for Refugee Death Camps' visit to Manus Island

Did he meet with the IOM? Perhaps he dined with Australian journalists currently on Manus? Maybe he tortured some folks? How would we know?

Scott Morrison arrives at Manus Island today

Humanitarian Research Partners [16/12/14]

 

… Soar above the battle sown
Leave all behind
Wake into a world unknown
To peace and find
The Queen is kind

The life of rule is never quite completed
But it knows itself defeated
To equality of men

If oppression had a mirror
Would liberty be used?
When the quest had been abused
The reflections cracked and shattered

If freedom was a tyrant
Who roamed above the land
Would a people live in freedom?
Would the tyrant understand? …

'The Queen', stringmansassy [2004]

 

Day 3 of Senate Inquiry into the "incident" on Manus Island [June, 2014]:

Former Salvation Army employee Nicole Judge being questioned by Senator Ian McDonald [AUDIO via Paul Farrell]

 It seems everyone except the Department of Immigration is under the impression the Department of Immigration controls Australia's detention centre on Manus Island.

Giving evidence to the inquiry, former G4S guard Martin Appleby said he believed the asylum policy of both parties is responsible for what happened on Manus.

Two former salvation workers Nicole Judge and Christopher Iacono spoke of their experiences working on Manus where they say asylum seekers were "treated like animals", and the main threat to their safety was that they were being detained.

They dismantled many of the talking points the political and media establishment has used to draw attention away from atrocities being committed in the name of the Australian government.

If you still believe what happened on Manus was a "riot" (it was a violent and brutal attack which the media dishonestly describe as a riot), read the Hansard.

Ms Judge referred to a "Here comes the King!" protest against Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison during his visit to Manus in September 2013 which highlighed the asylum seekers acute awareness of their predicament and that our politicians are to blame for it.

Migration Agent Liz Thompson told the inquiry that what she was instructed to do during her time on Manus was contrary to her professional obligations.

It was made clear to migration staff on 5 February that there was no intention to conduct RSD interviews - only CAPS (which is the first stage of refugee assessment).

Daniel Webb from the Human Rights Law Centre told the inquiry that more people had been killed or injured on Manus than have been assessed or resettled in PNG.

Essentially, the Manus Island detention centre is a place of illusory process and open ended imprisonment, where asylum seekers can choose where/how their human rights are violated i.e. it is a concentration camp.

Senator Ian MacDonald's "performance" was more than just a disgrace, it was creepy.

This is a man with no humanity.

Police dragged about 20 protesters out of the road and removed Gulistan for deportation to Afghanistan

 "tweeted" by @VanessaJDodd

Police broke the line, and deported Gulistan. Some small, non serious injuries reported and dealt with. [VIDEO - 16/12/14]

They tried to remove a man with his head covered and in handcuffs. We blocked the road.

Image:  @benjaminsolah [16/12/14]

Afghanistan: 40 insurgents killed, fighting extended to 3rd day in Kunar [Khaama - 16/12/14]:

Officials in eastern Kunar province say 40 insurgents have been killed and as many injured so far in the fighting that is extended to 3rd day in Dangam district.

Afghan National Army commanders in the east say 5 of their soldier also lost their lives in the battle and 6 others injured.

Police have not released the current report of their casualties but yesterday 4 policemen were injured.

Officials say the insurgents have also burned a number of the civilian houses who upraised against the Taliban insurgency in the district and currently in the side of the security forces.

In the meantime the civilians who have taken their weapons against the insurgents urge the central government to send more aid to the district to defeat the insurgents.

Although local officials are saying that the insurgents belong to the group of the Taliban of Pakistan but Afghan Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Dangam district to the east shares a border with Pakistan. The information provided by the local officials indicates that insurgents cross border for terrorist activities in the province.

84 killed as Taliban attack Pakistan military school

The Hindu [16/12/14]:

A Pakistani minister has said 84 people have died in Taliban attack on school in northwestern city of Peshawar.

Earlier reports said, Taliban gunmen stormed a military school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing 20 students and one soldier, the highest-profile militant attack to hit the troubled region in months.

The attack began in the morning hours, with the gunmen entering the school, a military-run facility with students in grades 1—10 and shooting at random, said police officer Javed Khan.

Army commandos quickly arrived at the scene and exchanged fire with the gunmen, he said.

Outside the school, shooting was initially heard along with one loud bang of unknown origin. Details were sketchy in the unfolding situation and it was unclear what was going on inside and if there were any hostages among the students.

Pakistani television showed soldiers surrounding the area and pushing people back.

Jamil Shah, a spokesman for Lady Reading Hospital, says 20 students were killed along with one paramilitary soldier. It was not clear whether the soldier was already on the scene when the violence began or was part of the troops who arrived later. The spokesman said that 36 people were also wounded, including two teachers. The rest of the wounded were students, he said.

The Pakistani military said in a statement that a rescue operation was underway and that most of the students and the staff had been evacuated. The school is located on the edge of a military cantonment in Peshawar, but the bulk of the students are civilian.

Later, one of the wounded students, Abdullah Jamal, said that he was with a group of 8th, 9th and 10th graders who were getting first—aid instructions and training with a team of Pakistani army medics when the violence began for real.

When the shooting started, Jamal, who was shot in the leg, said nobody knew what was going on in the first few seconds.

“Then I saw children falling down crying and screaming. I also fell down. I learned later that I have got a bullet,” he said, speaking from his hospital bed.

“All the children had bullet wounds. All the children were bleeding,” Jamal added.

Taliban spokesman Mohammed Khurasani claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to media, saying that six suicide bombers had carried out the attack in revenge for the killings of Taliban members at the hands of Pakistani authorities.

Peshawar has been the target of frequent militant attacks in the past but has seen a relative lull recently.

... A Reuters journalist at the scene heard heavy gunfire from inside the school as soldiers surrounded it. Helicopters swooped overhead and a fleet of ambulances ferried wounded children to hospital. ... [Reuters - 16/12/14]

Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian during Ramallah arrest raid

Maan [16/12/14]:

Israeli soldiers shot and killed a young Palestinian man during a dawn detention raid in Qalandiya refugee camp near Ramallah, medics said Tuesday.

Mahmoud Abdullah Udwan, 21, was shot in the head while standing on the rooftop of his family home in the camp, medics said.

He was hit as Israeli soldiers ransacked homes to make arrests at around 3 a.m.

Clashes broke out as a result of the raid, with youths throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.

Despite the confrontations, Israeli soldiers managed to detain 26-year-old Mujahid Hamad, who works with the Palestinian football federation as a security guard at stadiums.

Four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers in Qalandiya refugee camp this year during arrest raids.

Germany donates funds to rebuild Gaza while financing Israeli warships [Al Akhbar – 15/12/14]

Future of Israeli-Palestinian peace more uncertain than ever, warns senior UN official [Media Release – 15/12/14]

Interesting comment [Australia on fire  -  SNAFU! A Marine Corps centric blog, with a view on all things military...  - 15/12/14]:

and with that you saw the difference between pro's and amateurs...even if they look the part you can still tell the mall commandos from the guys that actually rip it up. i'd love to know what unit these guys are with. but did you take a look at their kit? same thing i noticed in Ferguson. all of it shiny and new. none it having training marks or hard use marks on it.

maybe they bring out new stuff when they actually deploy but that alone would make me wonder if it would work when i needed it before actually testing it.

the whole thing seems off. i'll hold fire and just comment instead of putting up a post but the after action on this is going to be fascinating.

Accusatory Islamophobia goes unchecked at ABC [A republished opinion piece by Rachael Kohn from 2009]: ... Yet in Australia, the Muslim community missed an opportunity to expose, denounce and shut down the antics of a religious extremist ...

Lebanon, UN seek $2.14B for refugees

Daily Star [16/12/14]:

Stabilizing Lebanon amid a deluge of 1.2 million Syrian refugees was the focus of a joint response plan launched Monday which highlighted support for host communities and public institutions.

The government and the United Nations are asking the international community for a record $2.14 billion in funds to finance next year’s refugee response plan, which uniquely emphasizes investing in Lebanese services, communities and institutions, reaching 2.9 million people in the poorest parts of the country.

On hand to launch the plan alongside Prime Minister Tammam Salam was United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.

“[The plan] is meant to draw the contours of what needs to be done to mitigate the negative effects of the multifaceted and protracted crisis we have been suffering from as a result of the events in Syria,” Salam said, addressing a gathering of government representatives, U.N. officials and civil society at the event, held at the Grand Serail.

“Despite unified expressions of concern over the unavoidable security consequences of this situation and the threats it poses for the stability of the country and beyond, few practical measures have been effectively decided upon by the international community to defuse these threats,” Salam said, exempting Saudi Arabia’s $3 billion grant to support the Lebanese Army.

The prime minister expressed hope that the plan would serve as a road map enabling donors to focus their funding on key government sectors and communities affected by the influx of Syrian refugees. “New concerns with extremist attacks and terrorism are intensifying.”

“There is no doubt that worsening socioeconomic parameters are a catalyst, drawing greater numbers of desperate young people into the illusory and paradoxical realm of finding hope in violence.”

Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said the adoption of the plan by the Cabinet was the outcome of lengthy deliberation by the Crisis Cell, headed by Salam.

Eliasson said the “innovative” plan was designed to reinforce stability while directing resources to vulnerable areas and institutions. “The plan promotes priorities for stabilization identified by the government,” he said. “It will put in place arrangements for the government to lead the response. It clearly reflects government priorities, consistent with internationally recognized norms.”

The response will continue to deliver humanitarian assistance to displaced Syrians and other vulnerable groups while expanding plans to invest in Lebanese services and institutions. It incorporates three main strategic objectives, including providing basic assistance and protection, strengthening service delivery capacity and reinforcing public institutions.

Last year’s record appeal of $1.89 billion was only 46 percent funded as of early December, prompting concern among NGOs about diminishing funds in the face of growing needs of both refugees and host communities.

Speaking to The Daily Star, UNHCR country representative Ninette Kelly said this year’s response aimed to broaden the scope and reach out to more donors.

“It’s not just a humanitarian appeal,” she said. “Through this plan we are trying to cast the net wider and to attract more support from the development community and donors that bring support to public institutions in a manner that we haven’t been able to do to the extent necessary before.”“There have been significant investments in institutional support,” she said, citing the over $93 million channeled to host communities last year.

“These are important investments but they are simply not enough to help Lebanon withstand the very serious shocks that it continues to take as a result of the Syrian crisis.”

Drafting this year’s plan, Kelly added required partners to identify areas specifically designed for stabilization as opposed to those meant to facilitate humanitarian response such as waste and water management which benefits entire communities.

Chronic underfunding last year prompted the UNHCR to make “heart wrenching” cutbacks in education and health care services. “There are many people who are literally scraping to get by, who send their children out to work because they have no other means of support,” she said. “We simply don’t have enough income support to provide to keep them from having to resort to those very desperate measures.”

“In 2015 Lebanon faces delivering electricity, water, waste collection, education and health care services to a population that has grown by a third in just four years,” U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ross Mountain said. “No country in the world could be expected to manage such a situation on its own – not even the most highly developed.”

Amid ongoing hostilities, UN warns of life-threatening conditions for Ukraine’s civilians

UN Media Release [15/12/14]:

As the conflict in eastern Ukraine heads into its tenth month, continued fighting and bitter cold temperatures are placing more than five million people at risk, the top United Nations human rights official warned today as he described conditions for those still living in conflict-affected areas as becoming “increasingly dire.”

“The situation of many people, including those held against their will, in areas under the control of the armed groups may well be life-threatening,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a news release following the presentation of the UN rights office’s (OHCHR) latest report on the situation in the European country.

In late February 2014, the situation in Ukraine transcended what was initially seen as an internal Ukrainian political crisis into violent clashes in parts of the country, later reaching full- scale conflict in the east. A cease-fire and peace plan for eastern Ukraine was signed in the Belarussian capital of Minsk on 5 September, but remains fragile. The situation has since continuously deteriorated, with serious consequences for the country’s unity, territorial integrity and stability.

According to the news release, the OHCHR report – the eighth in a series by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission and covering the period from 1 to 30 November – cautions about a “breakdown in law and order” in Ukraine’s eastern regions fuelled by the inflow of heavy and sophisticated weaponry and foreign fighters, including from the Russian Federation. In particular, the report notes, such an influx of military materiel and personnel is having a “direct impact on all fundamental human rights, including the security, liberty and well-being, of individuals living there.”

The latest figures from OHCHR and the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) paint a stark picture of the reality on the ground for millions of people living in the regions directly affected by the conflict, such as Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk, where hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) remain trapped.

From mid-April to 12 December, at least 4,707 people were killed and 10,322 wounded by fighting. Since the tenuous ceasefire began, at least 1,357 fatalities were recorded.

Amid the continued fighting, significant damage to infrastructure, economic breakdown, and disruption of social and medical services, Mr. Zeid observed that human rights issues were steadily being exacerbated but urged the Ukrainian Government to amplify its range of assistance to those civilians in need. Meanwhile, following the 2 November elections organized by armed groups in the areas under their control, thousands of citizens now find themselves bereft of any social services. Their situation, the report pointed out, remained of “great concern.”

For its part, the report adds that Government efforts to safeguard Ukraine’s territorial integrity and to restore law and order in the conflict zone had been accompanied by “arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and ill-treatment of people suspected of separatism or terrorism.” Nonetheless, Ukraine has been in the process of elaborating a five-year human rights strategy due to be completed by 1 January 2015 – a “welcome” development, according to the OHCHR.

“The Government of Ukraine remains responsible for protecting the human rights of all Ukrainians, including the right to health, education and social security, in all its territory, including areas it does not fully control,” Mr. Zeid continued, as he urged all parties to bring the hostilities to a definitive halt. “I urge the Government to carefully consider the human rights impact of this decision.”

Kiev must stop provoking Donbas detachment – Russian FM [RT – 15/12/14]:

Russia’s foreign minister urged Kiev to refrain from taking steps that would provoke the detachment of the southeastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions from Ukraine. In an interview with Interfax, the FM expressed the hope that Ukraine’s leadership will “switch its course to dialogue with Donbass and the achievement of agreements that will ensure equality and respectful living for all citizens and all regions of Ukraine.” This can only be accomplished through comprehensive and transparent constitutional reform involving all regions and all political forces, he added. According to the UN, the death toll in the Ukrainian conflict that started in April is over 4,700.

Mackay police officer convicted of covering up bashing granted appeal

Daily Mercury [16/12/14]:

A Mackay police officer accused of helping to cover up the bashing of a woman at an Airlie Beach watchhouse in 2008 has had a small win in court on a technicality.

But Detective Senior Sergeant Anthony Lee, who oversaw the investigation into the police bashing of tourist Renee Toms in January 2008, will have to wait to see if he faces any disciplinary action over his role in the cover-up of the sordid affair.

Former officer Benjamin Price was found guilty in 2010 and sentenced to 27 months behind bars for assaulting many handcuffed tourists, including Ms Toms, in a case that made headlines across the country.

Det Snr Sgt Lee was tasked with investigating the initial allegations Ms Toms made against Price soon after the incident happened, but quickly became the focus of the then Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission over his handling of the investigation.

The CMC found he did not even interview Ms Toms or any witnesses other than his disgraced colleague during his investigation.

The corruption watchdog's report said Det Snr Sgt Lee obtained the watchhouse CCTV footage of the assault on Ms Toms, but reported to his superior officer that the footage did not support the allegation and instead corroborated Price's version of events.

The CMC recommended in December 2012 that Det Snr Sgt Lee be charged with serious misconduct offences, but the Queensland Police Service ignored the recommendation.

Instead, he chose to participate in an internal police Administrative Consensual Disciplinary Process in June 2013 to answer the allegations of fraudulent handling of the investigation.

But in a letter to his superiors revealed at the disciplinary hearing, Det Snr Sgt Lee told them he would not consent to the internal disciplinary process if it led to his demotion.

The ACDP imposed a fully suspended demotion on June 19, 2013; on the condition he did not commit any further misconduct in the 12 months following the order.

Det Snr Sgt Lee then appealed the disciplinary process, claiming during a Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing in September this year that the "charge" against him was not properly defined because it did not set out the prescribed grounds of misconduct.

The detective, who enlisted the services of top barrister Peter Davis, argued the charge was essentially of  "inadequacy of investigation" and that it did not encompass any more serious allegations.

In his decision last month, tribunal member James Thomas agreed the misconduct charge was too broad and granted Det Snr Sgt Lee's appeal.

Mr Thomas ordered the matter be referred back to Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett, who represented the police service at the hearing, for reconsideration and further decision.

It is not known if the police service will continue disciplinary action against Mr Lee.

Police officer escapes conviction over assault on student during fatal arrest

Nine MSN [16/12/14]:

A police officer who assaulted Brazilian student Roberto Curti during his fatal arrest in Sydney's CBD has escaped a conviction.

It has been more than two years since Mr Curti died in the early hours of March 18, 2012, after a chase and violent struggle with police in which he was tasered, handcuffed, hit with capsicum spray and knelt on.

Following an inquest into his death and a lengthy local court hearing into the matter, Senior Constable Damian John Ralph was the only officer out of three cops to be found guilty of his assault on Tuesday.

Shortly after handing down this decision, Magistrate Claire Farnan placed him on a two-year good behaviour bond with no conviction recorded.

Ralph's lawyer Roy Hood told the court the serving officer, who has been on restricted duties since December 2013, had been a "troubled soul" since Mr Curti's death.

In finding Ralph guilty of assault on Tuesday, Ms Farnan said the senior constable had used at least two cans of capsicum spray on Mr Curti.

It was deployed within 15cm of the 21-year-old's face, while he was lying stomach down and being knelt on by other officers.

"While I accept in the heat of the moment he may have thought it was appropriate it's obvious it was not," she said.

But she found Ralph was a man of good character, who was unlikely to reoffend and suffered from post-traumatic stress as a result of the incident.

Ralph, along with his colleague Chin Aun Lim, were charged with Mr Curti's assault, while fellow officers Scott James Edmondson and Daniel David Barling were charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The court heard Mr Curti became increasingly afraid after taking the drug LSD before his death.

When he stole two packets of biscuits from a convenience store, it was incorrectly reported as an armed robbery involving two men.

When Mr Curti was later spotted by police, he had no shirt and shoes on.

He was tackled twice by police on Pitt Street before being brought to the ground on the third attempt.

He died at the scene.

Brisbane man jailed for life for murdering ex-wife with hammer

ABC [16/12/14]:

A Brisbane man has been sentenced to life in jail for murdering his ex-wife with a hammer three years ago.

Lawrence Alfred Gaskell, 72, had pleaded not guilty to the offence, saying he had acted in self-defence.

He admitted to repeatedly hitting Katarina "Rina" Gaskell with the hammer in October 2011 at a Zillmere house they co-owned.

The couple divorced in 2010 after 30 years of marriage and on the day of the alleged attack Ms Gaskell had come over to the house, in Brisbane's north, to collect some traditional Fijian dresses, the Supreme Court was told during the trial.

The jury retired early this afternoon and had reached its verdict before 4:00pm (AEST).

There were gasps in the courtroom from friends and family of Ms Gaskell as the verdict was read out.

Justice James Douglas sentenced Gaskell to a mandatory minimum term of 20 years.

askell wiped his eyes as he heard the decision.

He had argued that his estranged wife had come at him with a knife and he acted in self-defence.

Several victim impact statements were read to the court after the verdict was handed down.

"The most paralysing thing is the guilt that I felt at not being there," said the victim's son, John Gaskell.

"I do not have a right to forgive. That belongs to mum."

Rina Gaskell's partner Billy Eakin said he felt lost and lonely without his soulmate.

Earlier in the trial, the jury was shown police footage from the night in which Gaskell describes a violent struggle.

Sergeant Mark Ashton told the court he and his partner arrived at the house minutes after receiving a radio call.

He said when they arrived a man at the screen door told them: "Come in, she's in here".

Sergeant Ashton said they told the man they now know as Gaskell to come outside and they handcuffed him.

He told the court he saw Ms Gaskell lying in the front entranceway with blood on her torso and head and moving around.

He said he also noticed a knife and a hammer nearby.

The court heard Ms Gaskell was taken to hospital but she died the next day.

Fatal Barney Point blaze was third fire in same street in four years

Gladstone Observer [16/12/14]:

The fire in Barney Point in which a man died on Sunday night was the third fire in the same street in four years. Another fire also was fatal.

Queensland Fire and Rescue Services were called to the house fire in Callide Cres, Barney Point, a suburb of Gladstone, at 9.30pm on Sunday.

It took an hour to put out the blaze, by which time the house was destroyed.

It has been confirmed the deceased man was not a permanent occupant of the house.

Police have identified the 39-year-old man, but his name has not been released.

The house has been declared a crime scene.

The blaze was the third fire on Callide Cres in four years, with an earlier fatal fire on the block next door.

Gladstone Criminal Investigation Branch's Detective Senior Sergeant Luke Peachey said this was not the first fire on Callide Cres.

"We have had a number of calls there in regards to other fires at that street," he said.

"It's very concerning anytime a house has been engulfed by flames, let alone the same street as other fires."

He said a grandmother and granddaughter were permanent residents of the home and other people used the house to stay in occasionally.

"We are now conducting inquiries into how this person came to be at this address," Snr Sgt Peachey said.

"The room the person was found in would indicate he wouldn't have been able to escape as there was no external exit," he said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Housing and Public Works said the occupants were currently staying with family.

"We have organised a new home for them," the spokesperson said.

"When they are ready to go they will have a home to move into."

...

Restricted zone in place ahead of LNG ship arrivals

Gladstone Observer [16/12/14]:

A new restricted zone has been introduced in Gladstone harbour that will operate when LNG ships are in port.

Boaties that breach new water regulations could be fined up to $8500.

With the impending arrival of the first LNG vessels in Gladstone harbour, Gladstone Ports Corporation has put in place new waterside restricted zones for safety reasons.

The first LNG vessel is expected to arrive at the Queensland Curtis LNG facility later this month.

GPC safety, environment and risk general manager John Sherriff said there would be serious consequences if zones were breached.

"It is an offence for a person, vessel or thing to unlawfully enter a waterside restricted zone when it is active," he said.

"If you do, you may be prosecuted or receive an on-the-spot fine of up to $8500."

The restricted zone is an area of water where ships may berth, moor or anchor, where access is restricted and unauthorised entry is classed as an offence.

The zone extends below the water level to the seabed and under any wharf adjacent to the zone.

The special zoning will become active one hour before the arrival of an LNG vessel and remain in place while it is berthed, and until it departs 400m from the berth.

VTS broadcasts can be monitored using VHF channels 13 or 15.

Phone 4976 1350 for more details.

Bushfire threatening properties in Barossa Valley

Nine MSN [16/12/14]:

A bushfire that is threatening properties in South Australia's famed Barossa Valley winemaking district has been downgraded to a watch and act alert.

The fire broke out in a paddock near Angaston just after 11.30am (ACST), with the flames driven by 60km/h winds.

More than 200 firefighters are battling the blaze at Moculta near Mount Karinya Road and Pipeline Road.

The front burnt towards several wineries and homesteads, but the efforts of Country Fire Service (CFS) volunteer firefighters have so far prevented and major property loss or injury.

The CFS issued a bushfire emergency warning at 1pm (ACST), advising residents of the risk to people living, working and travelling in the area.

Fire crews are fighting the blaze on the ground, while aerial bombers have also joined the attack on the front.

For information about bushfires, check the CFS website www.cfs.sa.gov.au or call the Bushfire Information Hotline on 1300 362 361.

Obscene: Gold Coast Mayor announces junior golf scholarship as ratepayers squeezed

Gold Coast City Council Media Release [15/12/14]:

... Three young Gold Coast golfers are being offered the rare opportunity to win flights to watch the 2015 British Open, play a round at the famous St Andrews and receive three months of mentoring from the PGA.

The prizes are all part of the inaugural Mayor’s Junior Golf Development Scholarship, open to applicants aged between 16 and 19, with a handicap of 10 or less.

Mayor Tom Tate has announced details of the scholarship, which aims to inspire promising young golfers to pursue a professional career.

...

Indonesia: Explosion at Krakatau Posco Plant leaves 7 injured

Jakarta Globe [15/12/14]:

An explosion at Krakatau Posco’s steelmaking plant in Cilegon, Banten, on Monday afternoon left seven workers injured, according to media reports.

“The explosion was big. After the explosion there was a big smoke coming from the factory, accompanied by a chemical-like smell,” Muhamad Sudarajat, a nearby resident, told Sindonews.

Cilegon Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Defrian Donamindo confirmed the accident took place and that seven people were injured. The explosion took place at around 1 p.m.

“Two are in critical condition, and five are mildly injured,” he told Metrotvnews.

Christiawaty Ferania Kaseger, the company’s corporate secretary, said the incident occurred during the factory’s usual operations of pouring iron.

“The incident started when the machine poured liquid iron into the converter. Usually it all goes well,” she was quoted as saying by Sindonews.

“The explosion is quite big. There was no casualty. One victim suffered burns on 70 percent of the body and has been sent to Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta. We’re investigating the cause.”

Krakatau Posco is a joint venture company between Krakatau Steel and Posco Korea that processes iron before it becomes steel.

Australia's  Foreign Minister doesn't talk about imperialism, war, resource plunder or refugees at launch of Radio Ples Lain

 Minister @JulieBishopMP being interviewed at launch of Radio Ples Lain #Bougainville ...

 ‏Images: @BougainvillNews [16/12/14]

New Dawn On Bougainville [31/10/14]:

... The FM radio similar to the one used by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, Radio Free Bougainville during the height of the Bougainville conflict will be moved from locations to locations to carry their awareness program.

According to reports gathered by New Dawn FM this is funded with TWO MILLION KINA by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (AUSAID) (DFAT).

The new radio CALLED “Radio PLES LAIN” will be launched at the BEL ISI PARK on November 6 and 7th, 2014. ...

The political and media establishment don't want Australians to see through the wall.

Once you see, you can never go back.

Calling all you thinkers ...

Stand With Us (Remix), Scattered People (2005)

Flowers in the fence along Martin Place. #sydneysiege

Image: ‏@Matt_Macklin7 - Journalist PRIME 7 [16/12/14]

#sydneysiege : Floral tributes grow min by min in #MartinPlace ...

 Image:  ‏@pdwnews -  Paul Walker -  Cameraman, Channel 7 [16/12/14] 

Scare campaign continues as Martin Place siege ends [Solidarity.net – 16/12/14]:

... The gunman, Man Haron Monis, is an Iranian originally known as Ayatollah Manteghi Boroujerdi. The media has made a point of describing him as a refugee, but he is not a typical asylum seeker and did not arrive by boat. He was initially in Australia on behalf of the Iranian regime, and later became a defector from Iranian intelligence. He was seen as a possible source of information about Iran.

...

Iran condemns hostage taking in Sydney [IRNA – 15/12/14]:

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson condemned hostage taking in Australia and said resorting to inhuman methods and creating fear, under the name of religion, is by no way acceptable in any circumstances.

According to the report of Foreign Ministry Media Department, Marziyeh Afkham expressed surprise over 'unclear and imperfect news about the Iranian refugee' who has been reported as the hostage taker, adding that psychological conditions of the person, who took refuge in Australia two decades ago, had been discussed several times with the Australian officials.

Afkham said that situation of the hostage taker had been completely clear to the Australian related officials.

Islamophobic US stooge opinionators bemoan insufficient censorship by Australian media outlets

Sheikh Haron's website: The Sydney hostage taker's site is down. We saved a copy [Vox - 15/12/14]:

The hostage-taker in the Sydney cafe siege has been identified as the self-styled "sheikh" Man Haron Monis. Below is a screenshot of his personal website, sheikhharon.com, which went offline shortly after his name was publicized. On his site, he refers to himself as "Sheikh Harun" and accuses "America and its allies including Australia" of terrorism. "Islam wants peace on the Earth, that's why Muslims want to stop terrorism of America and its allies," he writes.

 The full web site is preserved below.

WARNING: The page contains a graphic, disturbing image of dead children. (Vox has blocked their faces.)

...

United States continue bombing  Syria and Iraq

US Department of Defense [15/12/14]:

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

Officials provided details of airstrikes conducted Dec. 13 through today.

Airstrikes in Syria

In Syria, eight fighter and bomber airstrikes near Kobani destroyed nine ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL buildings and two ISIL staging positions and also struck another ISIL fighting position. A strike Near abu-Kamal destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted nine airstrikes in Iraq using fighter, bomber, attack and remotely-piloted aircraft:

-- Three airstrikes near Mosul destroyed an ISIL fighting position, struck three tactical ISIL units and suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun position.

-- Near Sinjar, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL compound and struck a second ISIL compound.

-- An airstrike near Hit destroyed an ISIL vehicle, a trailer and an excavator.

-- Near Qaim, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL excavator.

-- An airstrike near Ramadi struck two ISIL vehicles.

-- Near Samarra, an airstrike stuck a tactical ISIL unit.

-- An airstrike near Kirkuk destroyed an ISIL vehicle and bunker and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

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

...

Naharnet [15/12/14]:

At least 2,700 people, mostly soldiers, are missing as a result of attacks by the Islamic State group in Iraq, the human rights ministry said on Monday.

More than half of those registered as missing by the government are soldiers who were at the Speicher base which the jihadists captured six months ago near Tikrit.

"The number of missing from Speicher base has reached 1,660, from Badush prison 487, in addition to 554 from other areas, including 38 women," the ministry said in a statement.

Badush is a prison outside the northern city of Mosul, which IS has used as its main hub in Iraq.

The ministry said those numbers are based on applications filed by relatives and subsequent checking with the relevant ministries.

"The number of missing is likely higher than this," ministry spokesman Kamel al-Amin told AFP.

He said some families who have been displaced by the violence or live in areas under jihadist control were not able to report a missing relative.

He added that the ministry had asked the families of those confirmed to be missing to provide DNA samples "in order to identify victims who might later be found in mass graves".

According to Human Rights Watch, IS gunmen executed up to 600 inmates from Badush prison on June 10, forcing them to kneel along a nearby ravine before pushing them in and setting fire to the bodies.

The following day, they seized the Speicher base and claimed to have executed 1,700 Shiite troops. The rights group was able to find evidence that at least 560 had been killed.

Major attacks on army bases in the western province in September are also believed to have left hundreds of troops dead or missing.

Rights organizations say the fate of hundreds of women and girls from the Yazidi minority who were abducted by IS during an August attack is still unknown.

US Spends One Trillion USD on Afghan War

TOLONews [15/12/14]:

The United States has spent nearly $1 trillion of U.S. taxpayer dollars on the war in Afghanistan, 80 percent of which has taken place during the presidency of Barack Obama, according to a Financial Times (FT) investigation.

The report states that the Afghan war has been the longest and most expensive war in America's history; however, Afghan analysts believe no convincing security and stability has been achieved during the past 13 years.

According to FT's calculations and independent researchers, Washington intends to spend several hundred billion dollars more after the withdrawal at the end of this month.

The report stated that approximately $104 billion of that money has gone to reconstruction efforts that have included hundreds of projects.

Financial Times reports that about $500 million has been spent on fighter planes that are now scrap metal and $80 million on consulate buildings.

Moreover, a base in southwestern Afghanistan cost $34 million, patrol boats cost $3 million, industrial incinerators cost $5.4 million and trucks equipped to broadcast live sports games still under cover in Kabul cost $3.6 million.

On the other hand, reports suggest the Taliban have also spent a large amount of money in their fighting. Drugs production and smuggling, funds from Pakistan and Gulf States, illegal mining and extortions from people are said to be the major financial sources for the Taliban.

But according to the Afghan analysts, despite that billions of dollars have been spent in the war against the Taliban, the Afghan people have yet to achieve peace and stability.

"Although, the war in Afghanistan has been America's longest and most expensive war, unfortunately it has had no positive outcome due to lack of a genuine strategy," analyst Malik Setez said. "Pakistan has played the most destructive role during this war."

Others believe the wastage of U.S. funds have also caused widespread corruption in Afghanistan. They link Afghanistan's fourth position in the list of the world's corrupt countries to the wastage of U.S. funds during the past 13 years.

USAID to invest $125 million on Gas-to-Power project in Afghanistan [Khaama – 15/12/14]

Civilian Killed in Laghman Roadside Mine Blast [TOLONews – 15/12/14]

People of South Sudan living in tinderbox after year of conflict, warns UN rights chief

According to UN figures, there are 1.4 million displaced people within the country, and another half a million taking refuge in neighbouring countries. More than 97,000 people remain in compounds of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in very difficult conditions.

UN Media Release [15/12/14]:

 Highlighting the “dreadful” situation of civilians in South Sudan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned today that there are deeply worrying indications that fighting would intensify now that the dry season had begun, and urged all parties to practice restraint, engage in meaningful dialogue and work to restore calm.

“The people of South Sudan are living in a tinderbox, with emotions high, an abundant flow of weapons and with both sides recruiting fighters, often forcefully and including children,” Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement issued to draw global attention to the increasingly desperate living conditions for the country’s people after a year of conflict.

The High Commissioner also warned that inflammatory rhetoric is the rise and there has been sporadic fighting in which civilians have been killed and displaced and their property looted.

With talks between the Government and opposition set to resume this week, Mr. Zeid urged “both sides to use the talks to restore calm and avert another human catastrophe in the country.”

Currently, the high level of mistrust between communities, based on perceived support for either the Government or the opposition, means that violence is easily triggered. Reports of gross abuses of international human rights law are “all too common”, he added.

“The hopelessness in the camps of internally displaced people is palpable,” Mr. Zeid said. “These are women, men and children who spend their days in terrible conditions – at the height of the rainy season, they sometimes had to wade through waist-deep mud. Children have not gone to school for a year now, and may not be able to for a long time. Healthcare is basic at best. They have no freedom of movement, and live in dread, with violence always just around the corner.”

According to UN figures, there are 1.4 million displaced people within the country, and another half a million taking refuge in neighbouring countries. More than 97,000 people remain in compounds of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in very difficult conditions.

“Even after the conflict ends, it will take months – if not years – for these families to be able to bring a semblance of normalcy to their lives. Their homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. They have missed the planting season. They have witnessed and experienced violence. The conflict has already taken a very heavy toll on civilians – it is time for both sides to acknowledge this needless suffering, and to make a serious, concerted effort to bring it to an end, without further delay or prevarication.”

The High Commissioner called on political leaders to make clear, unequivocal public statements that the targeting of civilians is not permitted and will not be tolerated.

“Impunity emboldens the perpetrators of abuses – and has most likely accentuated the brazen nature of the human rights violations that have occurred during this conflict,” he said. “It is crucial that justice and accountability are visibly made a top priority.”

...

 It's quite clear where Murdoch's priorities lie.

Image: @cyenne40 [16/12/14]

As an aside, the 'Australian' is reporting that families and children are being released from the refugee concentration camp on Christmas Island.

So far, I have yet to see any reliable source for that claim - most likely more pro-government Murdoch propaganda and lies.

Perth woman dies in domestic dispute

West Australian [16/12/14]:

A 52-year-old woman has died in a home in Perth's southern suburbs.

Police were called to the home on Stevens Street in White Gum Valley just after 11.30pm on Monday and found the woman's body.

A 19-year-old man, who is known to the woman, was seriously injured and taken to Fremantle Hospital where he will have surgery on Tuesday.

Feel safe Queensland?: Fun police target imaginary beach crime at Mooloolaba

QPS Media [16/12/14]:

Neighbourhood Watch has branched out of the suburbs and onto the sand in a trial program aimed at reducing theft and other crime in the Mooloolaba Beach area.

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart and Member for Maroochydore Fiona Simpsons joined Neighbourhood Watch Australasia (NHWA), Surf Lifesaving Queensland and the Sunshine Coast Council members to launch the Beach Watch program.

Commissioner Stewart said thieves often took advantage of people enjoying themselves in beach activities and target their valuables while they are having a swim or when they have moved away from their area.

“Most opportunistic crime is preventable and can be deterred by following simple crime prevention strategies such as keeping your valuables in a safe area and keeping a look out for suspicious behaviour,” Commissioner Stewart said.

“Beach Watch aims to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour at Mooloolaba. Members of the public are encouraged to report crime and suspicious activity so there is more detection, apprehension and prosecution.

“So when the surf’s up we can keep crime down.”

Beach Watch has been funded by Neighbourhood Watch Australasia, as part of its annual Community Funding Program, with the Sunshine Coast Council providing support.

...

Man interviewed over "threats" after being chased by police helicopter and dog squad

Yahoo [16/12/14]:

Brisbane police have found a man who allegedly made violent threats at a boat ramp north of Brisbane.

The police helicopter and dog squad officers searched an area near Uhlmann Road at Burpengary, about 35km north of Brisbane.

A member of the public reported hearing a man making threats at a boat ramp at Burpengary early on Tuesday morning, police told AAP.

There were reports he could be armed, police said.

President of the Children’s Court of Queensland has grave concerns about new laws affecting young offenders

North West Star [15/12/14]:

The president of the Children’s Court of Queensland has grave concerns about new laws affecting how young offenders are dealt with, saying they do nothing to encourage rehabilitation.

Judge Michael Shanahan said Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie had not adequately considered concerns he had raised about the Youth Justice and Other Legislation Act 2014, which came into effect in March.

The new provisions include ‘‘naming and shaming’’ repeat offenders and abolished the sentencing principle that detention is a last resort.

It also got rid of sentence reviews, allows judges to consider juvenile records when sentencing an adult, and sends children on lengthy sentences to an adult prison when they are 17.

In his annual report released yesterday, Judge Shanahan said he had ‘‘grave concerns’’ about many aspects of the legislation, and urged the government to repeal the changes.

He said the ‘‘naming and shaming’’ provision was ‘‘particularly ill advised’’.

Similar regimes in the Northern Territory and the United Kingdom had been abandoned because they hindered rehabilitation, he said.

A system weighted towards detention also ignored statistics about rehabilitation.

‘‘Rehabilitation is a fundamental aspect of a juvenile justice system as it is clear that the earlier rehabilitative steps are taken, the better are the prospects of turning a person from a criminal path and particularly from developing into an adult criminal,’’ Judge Shanahan said.

While figures showed there had been an increase in the past 10 years in the number of offences being committed, he said the number of juvenile offenders was decreasing.

The report shows the proportion of indigenous juvenile offenders on community-based orders and in detention continues to rise, with indigenous children making up around 66 per cent of the detention population.

Australian politicians pass racist laws then lecture on "tolerance".

Any wonder bigots are empowered?

Brisbane Times [16/12/14]:

Police are interviewing a group of men who allegedly climbed onto the roof of a Townsville shopping centre and waved a racist sign in response to the Sydney siege.

Officers were called after the group were spotted on the roof of the Willows Shopping Centre about 3.15pm Monday.

A photo of the four men holding up a cardboard sign with the words: "DEATH TO ISIS. GET OUT YOU RAG-HEADED F---S. ANTI-TERROR" has emerged on social media.

Three of the four men attempted to disguise their identity by covering their faces.

A police spokeswoman said the men and the sign were located near the shopping centre shortly after the reports were made.

Officers are interviewing the men over alleged trespassing.

No charges have been laid.

Queensland government announces new dams

Minister for Energy and Water Supply Media Release [16/12/14]:

... Mr McArdle said the prefeasibility study narrowed the flood mitigation options down from nine to three that were worthy of further consideration, including:

• increasing the flood mitigation compartment of Wivenhoe Dam by raising the dam wall;

• a new dam on the Brisbane River upstream of Linville; and

• a new dam on the Lower Warrill Creek near Willowbank.

...

Austerity down under: MYEFO further weakens social safety net

Greens Media Release [15/12/14]:

The Australian Greens said today that MYEFO shows the Federal Government's ongoing commitment to flawed, unfair policies that weaken our social safety net.

"MYEFO lacks all credibility, with the Government remaining committed to flawed budget measures, including cuts to parenting and family payments, the increase in the retirement age and moves to deny jobseekers under 30 access to income support for six months a year," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services said today.

"By retaining these measures in MYEFO despite the clear political and public opposition to them, the Government is sending a clear signal that they do not care about the impact these cuts will have on the most vulnerable. They're also taking things a step further by including new and recently announced measures in the budget outlook.

"FTB freezes will be extended for another year, because that they've been unable to get these flawed unfair policies through Parliament. These policies should have been abandoned. They are unfair, target the most vulnerable and are not supported by the community.

"New details have emerged about the disability support pensions assessment crackdown announced last week, which requires applicants to be assessed by a Government appointed doctor, rather than their own GP. MYEFO gets even worse, as a Job Capacity Assessor could now make the assessment.

"MYEFO says that the Government contracted doctor or Job Capacity Assessor will review the claimant's medical records and may contact their treating doctor for further information. This highlights the ineffective and intrusive nature of the Government's approach, which is designed to do nothing more than make it harder for people to access income support.

"A significant amount of money is being used for the ‘reform' of the Remote Jobs and Communities Program, which will see the Government enforce year-round work for the dole requirements. It is concerning to see money continue to be wasted on ineffective and punitive programs, while at the same time important funding is removed from other areas as a result of the Government's budget cuts and chaotic Indigenous Advancement Strategy funding process. There is no community-driven cooperation at play here, just more of the top-down policy making that is being implemented without any effort to work with communities.

"Despite the growing issue of unemployment, it is disappointing to see the Government cease payments to apprentices under Support for Adult Australian Apprenticeships. This undermines efforts to help older jobseekers retrain and re-enter the workforce. There are significant barriers faced by older Australians and investments in these program areas are critical.

"It is also concerning to see that a number of aged care bodies and those working on dementia and disability issues will be affected by the Government's so-called ‘smaller government' approach. Cutting the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement permanently is a very significant cost cutting measure that will increase pressure on the aged care sector and affect care provided to people with dementia.

"Rather than remaining committed to a deeply flawed regime of cuts, it's time the Government ensured polluters and the wealthy pay their fair share.

The NDIS is a neoliberal scam. [Disability support provider Liviende goes into voluntary administration  - ABC - 15/12/14]

US: 6 Dead, 1 Wounded and Gunman on the Loose in Montgomery County Shooting Spree

NBC [15/12/14]:

A manhunt is underway for a former Marine reservist who prosecutors say went on a shooting spree early Monday killing six family members, including his ex-wife, and wounding a teen in three towns across Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Bradley William Stone, 35 of Pennsburg, is considered armed and dangerous. Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said police are actively searching for him and residents of one town are being asked to lock themselves indoors.

Stone stands 5-feet-10-inches tall, weighs 195 lbs., has a red beard and mustache and close-cropped hair. He is known to use a cane or walker to assist in moving, Vetri Ferman said. He may also be wearing military fatigues — either green or brown.

The man served more than eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and was deployed to Iraq, according to a Marine Corps spokesman. During his time, he earned several medals and his specialty was Artillery Meteorological Man — effectively a meteorologist that monitors weather conditions to ensure military fire accuracy.

SWAT officers used military-grade vehicles and equipment to search Stone's home in the town of Pennsburg and the surrounding area. But so far have no idea where he might be.

...

Siege follows stabbing in Altona North

The Age [16/12/14]:

A man who has been on the run since the fatal stabbing of a good Samaritan at the weekend is holding police at bay at a house in Melbourne's west.

A tip from the public led the fugitive task force to an Altona North home owned by the parents of the wanted man's girlfriend, where police found him at 2am.

The man, aged in his early 20s, is wanted over the death of an Altona North man, who died after being stabbed early on Sunday afternoon.

Police went to the house after receiving intelligence a wanted man may be there.

The scene of the killing was Blackshaws Road, the same road where police were negotiating with the man on Tuesday morning.

Homicide squad Detective Senior Sergeant Stuart Bailey said the girlfriend's parents had been safely removed from the house, but she had voluntarily remained inside with the man to support him.

Negotiators had been speaking with the girlfriend through the morning, Detective Senior Sergeant Bailey said.

"At this stage they're still refusing to come out," he said.

"We're certainly hopeful for a peaceful resolution."

Detectives do not know whether the man is armed. They did discover a weapon while conducting a line search on Monday, which Detective Senior Sergeant Bailey said might be linked to the death.

Police are keeping residents away from the scene and traffic is being diverted at Angus Street. An ambulance is on standby.

Detectives believe the couple had been arguing on the intersection of Grieve Parade and Blackshaws road on Sunday and when a stranger tried to intervene, he was fatally stabbed.

"He stopped, left his vehicle and has approached the two and was fatally stabbed as a result," Detective Senior Sergeant Bailey said.

Passers-by performed CPR on the injured man before paramedics arrived but he died at the scene.

An abandoned tray truck was found near the scene.

 

There was no gunfight.

Militarised police stormed the café and shot people.

They could have negotiated.

They chose spectacle.

 

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

Abraham Maslow

 

ABC [16/12/14]:

Two hostages and the gunman at the centre of a 16-hour siege at a cafe in Sydney's CBD have been shot dead, police have confirmed.

Police stormed the building after explosions and yelling were heard from inside the Martin Place Lindt cafe about 2:10am (AEDT). [Is this true? How will we ever know?]

The hostages who died have been identified as Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, and Sydney lawyer Katrina Dawson, 38.

It is not clear if they were shot by the gunman or killed in the crossfire.

Fox News' Uses Sydney Hostage Crisis To Defend Torture - Australian media continues to lie.

Who shot the hostages?

Huffington Post [15/12/14]:

Well, it didn't take long for a Fox News host to use the hostage situation in Australia to justify the use of torture by the United States.

During the network's coverage of an Iranian-born gunman holding 17 men and women hostage at a cafe in Sydney Monday, "Fox & Friends" co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck used the crisis to defend the CIA and bash the Senate Intelligence Committee's recently-released report on the agency's interrogation techniques.

"Meanwhile, the actual individuals here at home who have been looking into and trying to stop attacks like this and perhaps future hostage situations, as we are still at war indeed with ISIS and terrorism, are the CIA, and they have been painted as the bad guys at home,” Hasselbeck said, as images from the scene in Syndey -- accompanied by the words "terror down under" -- flashed across the screen.

After showing a clip of former Vice President Dick Cheney battling NBC News' Chuck Todd on waterboarding during Sunday's "Meet the Press," Hasselbeck continued to find parallels between the situation in Sydney and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“When you see what’s happening in Australia, today, right now, in a chocolate shop, and you understand the real war with ISIS that we’re in, and the sharp contrast with the accusations of the CIA really just trying to do their job and keep America safe for the past 13 years, startles you, any day,” she said.

 

16 December 2014

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