@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [18/4/15]: Baghdad: Agencies: 17 persons have been killed and wounded as a car bomb has exploded in Sadr city in east of Baghdad......
Police shoot man at Gosford
A man has been shot by police after he allegedly lunged at an officer with a knife on the New South Wales central coast.
Early this morning two officers chased the 20-year-old man who reportedly had been threatening people at the Gosford Railway Station.
Police said the officers chased him through the nearby Watts Street and will allege the man turned and tried to attack the officers with a knife.
Assistant Commissioner Jeff Loy said one officer then shot the local man in the torso and he was given first aid by police before paramedics arrived.
He was taken to Gosford Hospital and was in a critical but stable condition.
"At this stage, [we know] only one police officer has discharged a fireman, there were no injuries to police at this time," Assistant Commissioner Loy said.
"We hope there is a full recovery by the offender."
Graham Foster who works and lives at the Hotel Gosford, said he heard about five or six shots.
"I heard the gunshots from my room and I came down, I ran to the manager of the building, he was down here and there was police cars coming from everywhere," Mr Foster said.
"I could smell the smoke from the gunshots."
He said he could see police officers running "and the next thing you know, the guy was down".
Mr Foster said he witnessed the officers trying to revive the man after he was shot.
Assistant Commission Loy said it had been a very emotional incident for the police officers involved.
"We are not designed to harm people. We are there to protect people," Assistant Commissioner Loy said.
"[The officers] were put in a position to protect themselves and others. They did that with dignity and a lot of strength."
Assistant Commission Loy said a critical incident team would investigate the incident, led by Tuggerah Lakes investigators and overseen by the Professional Standards Command.
Police shoot 16-year-old protester dead in Indian Kashmir [Express Tribune - 18/4/15]
The truth fumbles for its socks and shoes.
5 arrested. 3 released and 2 remain in custody? [Canberra Times - 18/4/15]:
Police have charged an 18-year-old man with conspiring to plan a terrorist attack on Anzac Day following multiple raids across Melbourne on Saturday morning.
Sevdet Besim, of Hallam, appeared briefly in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Saturday afternoon.
In the hearing, which only lasted minutes, Besim, who was dressed in casual clothes, remained silent.
No application for bail was made and he was remanded in custody until a hearing on April 24.
Mr Besim was one two men, the other an 18-year-old from Hampton Park, who police allege were planning an Islamic State-inspired attack at a Melbourne Anzac Day event targeting police officers.
He was among five teenagers arrested in raids on Saturday morning.
The 18-year-old Hampton Park teenager remains in police custody. A Narre Warren man, 18, was released on Saturday afternoon and is expected to be charged on summons with prohibited weapon offences.
Two other Narre Warren men, aged 18 and 19, were released without charge pending further inquiries. ...
In what has been widely described in the media as the breakup of an “ISIS-inspired” plot, on April 2 the Department of Justice announced that Noelle Velentzas, 28, and Asia Siddiqui, 31, both of New York, had been arrested and charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.
The defendants “plotted to wreak terror by creating explosive devices” for use in New York City and sought “bomb-making instructions and materials” for an attack, the Justice Department statement said.
Like other recent sensational “terror plots,” however, the criminal complaint unsealed yesterday demonstrates the key role of an undercover law enforcement informant in both formulating and facilitating the alleged plot.
It doesn’t appear that Velentzas or Siddiqui actually planned or attempted to bomb any target, nor is there any evidence of discussions about how to create a bomb before the introduction of the informant into their lives.
It was only after the informant provided the pair with a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook – a manual with instructions on how to create an explosive device — that their amateurish efforts gained any traction.
The Sting: How the FBI created a terrorist [The Intercept - 16/3/15]
Al Jazeera Investigates - Informants [VIDEO – 20/7/14]:
Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit takes you inside the shadowy world of FBI informants and counterterrorism sting operations. Following the 9/11 attacks, the FBI set about to recruit a network of more than 15,000 informants. Al Jazeera's investigative film tells the stories of three paid FBI informants who posed as Muslims as they searched for people interested in joining violent plots concocted by the FBI.
Refugees on Nauru hold another protest
Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney [18/4/15]:
... The rally was just the latest in the on-going refugees’ campaign of non-cooperation with the detention regime on Nauru.
Alongside calls for “Justice,” the rally also declared, “Cambodia, never ever.”
Immigration officers have been approaching both refugees and asylum seekers but there is still no confirmation that any refugee has signed to be sent to Cambodia.
“The demonstration is a very strong indication of what the vast majority of refugees on Nauru think of Cambodia as any destination for refugees,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“The government has wasted $40 million just to get Cambodia to sign an agreement with Australia. It is money that could have been spent resettling refugees and providing needed services in Australia that could have been used by the whole community.”
4am today 6 families& 3 men were handcuffed &taken by force from Wickham Point camp to #Nauru. 3 little babies included in transfer
2 Iranian babies and I Nepalese baby aged 3 months back to #nauru to hot tents,mice,rats, flies, no water- monsters in Canberra demand it
"tweeted" by @pamelacurr - Refugee Rights Detention Rights Advocate Asylum Seeker Resource Centre [18/4/15]
*UPDATE* Australia's lying Immgration Department: The goon squad pacified refugees in the usual manner but we didn't forcibly exile them from Wickham Point concentration camp to Nauru. [ABC - 18/4/15]
If what the Department of Immigration are saying is true they would let the media, advocates and lawyers in to Wickham Point to verify.
In the meantime, Dutton remains protected and unaccountable as the "opposition's" silence allows torture, abuse and exile of refugees to continue.
The public has much to fear from politicians who haven’t flinched before the sadism of their refugee policies. We must speak up now. ... Nick Riemer [The Guardian - 19/1/15]
Families incarcerated in Wickham Point refugee concentration camp forcibly exiled to Nauru early this morning
Families at the centre of protests inside a Darwin detention centre have been transferred to Nauru in the early hours of Saturday morning, advocates and detainees say.
The reports of the transfer follow a week which saw dozens of people protest inside the Wickham Point facility, and numerous instances of self harm and alleged suicide attempts.
Spokesman for the Darwin asylum seeker support and advocacy network (DASSAN), Ben Pynt told Guardian Australia that after protests began for the second time on Thursday transfers to Nauru were cancelled.
People who had been separated were returned to their usual accommodation in the family compound at Wickham Point, a claim also made by a detention centre source.
However on Saturday morning they told Guardian Australia several people including families with at least one three-month-old baby were put on a flight out sometime after 5am.
It’s not known how many people may have been transferred out of Darwin, but a flight from Brisbane to Nauru left at 7am.
The centre had been on lockdown on Friday night, Guardian Australia was told. Guards were not allowing anyone to leave their rooms, which has not been the case during the past year at least
One person reported hearing a woman screaming and items being smashed somewhere in the centre in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The immigration department did not respond to a request for comment.
An NT police spokesman told Guardian Australia: “police assisted in an operation out there, but the nature of the operation or what it was all about needs to come from the immigration department.”
He could not confirm whether the assistance related to further protests or not. Police media have been previously able to confirm details about call outs to the protests.
Would you obediently go to your death, or would you put up a fight?
Stop lying about "resettlement" Australian media. What the government is doing is forcible deportation and exile of refugees to danger - possibly death.
Courage: The Walter Suskind Story:
Walter Suskind was a German Jew who fled from the Nazis to the Netherlands with his wife and daughter. When the Germans invaded Holland, Suskind was put in charge of a deportation center in Amsterdam while his wife, Hannah and daughter, Yvonne were held hostage in Camp Westerbork, a way station from which Jews were later sent to their deaths in the concentration camps of Germany, Poland and neighboring countries.
The deportation center, which Suskind supervised, was called the Hollandsche Schouwburg, a gutted theatre located in the Jewish section of Amsterdam. Directly across the street from the Schouwburg there was a childcare center (a crèche). A streetcar ran between the two buildings. Seizing upon the opportunity to save human life, Walter Suskind devised a plan enabling him and his accomplices to smuggle children from the confines of the crèche to freedom and safety.
During the 1-1/2 years that Suskind was in charge of the Hollandsche Schouwburg and with the help of four separate groups of resistance workers, Suskind was able to save almost one thousand infants and children and many more adults. The infants and children were placed in a network of safe houses in the countryside.
Afghanistan suicide blast kills 33, injures more than 100
A suicide bomb blast in Afghanistan's eastern city of Jalalabad killed 33 people and injured more than 100 outside a bank where government workers collect salaries, the city's police chief said on Saturday.
Police were investigating whether there was a second explosion after people rushed to the scene to help, the police chief, Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, told a news conference.
"It was a suicide attack," Sherzad said, adding that police had yet to determine if the attacker had worn the explosives or had placed them in a car. "It is early to say what kind of suicide bomber."
Taliban insurgents denied responsibility, although they have claimed earlier killings in a wave of attacks coinciding with the sharp drawdown of foreign troops.
"It was an evil act. We strongly condemn it," the Islamist militants' spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Reuters.
For the first time since the hardline Islamist Taliban movement was ousted from power in 2001, Afghan forces are fighting with little support from NATO troops.
NATO, which at its peak had 130,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, has only a few thousand left, involved mainly in training and special operations.
Police said a third blast that shook Jalalabad was a controlled detonation after experts discovered another bomb close to the scene of the first explosion.
One person killed, two wounded in 2nd attack in Nangarhar [Khaama – 18/4/15]
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani is expected to visit northeastern Badakhshan province of Afghanistan, a week after 23 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were slaughtered following an attack by the anti-government armed militants. ... [Khaama - 17/4/15]
“Bad habits never die:” Zarif says in response to US general
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday reacted to the latest comments made by US General Martin Dempsey about using military options against Iran and said “Bad habits never die.”
Dempsey, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US had said that the US option to attack Iran remains “intact.”
Dempsey made the remarks to downplay the impact of Russia removing a long-standing ban on sale of S-300 missiles system to Iran
Zarif made the remarks in a joint press conference with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop who arrived here Saturday morning.
Refuting efficiency of any military option against Iran, Zarif urged the US officials to avoid making such statements stressing that Iranian officials too “do not take those comments serious.”
“The only option about Iran is to recognize its right and work based on mutual respect in order to get to a better outcome,” said the foreign minister.
Secret Details of Drone Strike Revealed As Unprecedented Case Goes to German Court
The Intercept [17/4/15]:
On Aug. 31, 2012, a top-secret U.S. intelligence report noted that “possible bystanders” had been killed alongside militants from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in a drone strike in eastern Yemen two days earlier.
The source of the intelligence, a Yemeni official described in the cable as “reliable,” identified two of the dead as Waleed bin Ali Jaber and Salim bin Ali Jaber, “an imam of a mosque who had reportedly preached a sermon that had insulted AQAP.”
The source believed that Salim and Waleed “had been lured to the car by the two AQAP militants when the airstrike hit.”
Salim and Waleed’s deaths sparked protests in their village, and the incident was later well-documented by international media and human rights groups.
Their family representative, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, has met with Yemeni and U.S. national security officials and members of Congress. But the United States still has not formally acknowledged or apologized for the incident.
The previously unreported intelligence report, viewed by The Intercept, indicates that the U.S. government knew soon after the strike that it had killed two civilians. It could add fire to a lawsuit that Faisal bin Ali Jaber has launched in Germany, as further evidence that U.S. strikes put innocent Yemenis at risk.
Jaber will testify next month in front of a German court, alleging that Germany is violating a constitutionally enshrined duty to protect the right to life by allowing the United States to use Ramstein Air Base as part of its lethal drone operations.
It is the first time a victim of a U.S. drone strike will air his grievances in court, lawyers for the case told The Intercept. The lawsuit could put Germany in the awkward position of having to publicly defend its role in the U.S. drone program.
As The Intercept reported today, the U.S. military sees Ramstein as an essential node in the technical infrastructure for its armed and unarmed drone operations. A budget request for the Ramstein station stated that without the facility, “weapon strikes cannot be supported.”
The administrative court in Cologne where Jaber’s suit is filed recently granted him the chance to present evidence, a sign that it will allow the case to move forward. At that hearing, scheduled for May 27, Jaber will describe the 2012 incident and argue that he and his family are still in danger from drone strikes.
“We’re asking the German government to take measures to stop the U.S. from using German soil in their illegal and immoral drone war,” said Kat Craig, legal director for Reprieve, an international rights group that is representing Jaber along with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
'Where are Aborigines, where are Redskins?' Turkish PM asks West
Hurriyet Daily News [17/4/15]:
Warning that decisions like the European Parliament’s motion calling the mass killings of Anatolian Armenians during World War I as a “genocide” will lead to enmity and prejudice against Turkey and Muslims, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also asked about the fate of the Aborigines in Australia and Native Americans in the United States.
“If a contribution is to be made to peace, if European culture is to preserve its multicultural and multi-religious structure, it must not make decisions that will cause enmity against any religious or national group on the basis of history. This is a situation which will provoke anti-Islam and anti-Turkish [sentiments], which have been on the rise recently in Europe. From now on, the ‘Turkey-Armenia’ [issue] has moved beyond the ‘Turkish-Armenian’ issue. It is a reflection of racism in Europe,” Davutoğlu said on April 17, responding to reporters.
The European Parliament’s motion came on April 15, only a few days after Pope Francis triggered fury in Turkey by using the same term.
The prime minister argued that both the European Parliament’s resolution and the pope’s statement were “a new reflection of racism.”
Davutoğlu went on the offensive as he mentioned Aborigines and Native Americans.
“I told [European Parliament President Martin] Schulz yesterday. If we are to open the history of Europe, what was done in Africa during colonialism? What was done in Asia? What was done in Australia and where have those authentic tribes disappeared to? Where are the Aborigines, where are the Redskins?” he said.
Referring to American Indians, "redskins" is a term still widely used in Turkey despite the fact that the English-speaking world stopped using it over its racial connotations. Changing the name of the Washington Redskins NFL franchise remains a matter of debate in the United States due to the objections of Native Americans.
Noting that the resolution and the statement about history delivered by a spiritual authority were both invalid, Davutoğlu then said, “We could open files of Catholic history and bring up an issue by talking about those who fled the Inquisition, came to our country and how they have lived in peace here for centuries.”
His quote refers to the arrival of the Sephardic Jews, who were exiled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition and found refuge in the Ottoman Empire in 1492.
... The Report recommends that the minimum age of criminal responsibility be twelve years, not ten as it is in Australia. It also says that children should be charged as minors until they are 18 years, not 17 as is current practice in Queensland. Further, the Report notes that detention should be limited to exceptional cases and alternatives to detention should be favoured. Children should only be detained for the shortest possible period of time, and only if is in their best interests.
“Some jurisdictions in Australia, like NSW where two child offenders are imprisoned without even the possibility of being granted parole, are clearly in breach of their human rights obligations. Queensland is also in breach given the previous Government removed the legislative provision that said that prison should only be used on children as a last report. As the report reminds us, children are different to adults; they are less emotionally and psychologically developed, and are less culpable for their actions,” said Ms Barson.
... [UN Report a reminder that Australia’s youth justice practices are failing to meet international standards - Human Rights Law Centre Media Release - 17/4/15]
In a victory for campaigners, the organisation behind Formula One racing has done a 180-degree policy reversal in the runup to the contentious Bahrain Grand Prix and agreed to formulate a human rights policy.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has previously been reluctant to be drawn on human rights issues, saying in 2013: “We don’t go anywhere to judge how a country is run. I keep asking people, ‘What human rights?’ – I don’t know what they are. The rights are that people who live in the country abide by the laws of the country, whatever they are.”
The change of heart comes after the UK government agreed to investigate a complaint from international human rights organisations who argued that between 2012-14 the Bahrain Grand Prix led to increased human rights abuses, and helped to “present an international image of Bahrain at odds with a reality of ongoing human rights abuses”.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said: “During previous F1 races, we have seen people killed and their corpses thrown on rooftops, villages enclosed in barbed wire, children chased down and detained and homes flooded with tear gas. This crackdown continues after the spotlight leaves the country through reprisals against anyone who voices an opinion. The abuses in the country are noticeably heightened during the race inevitably leading to local calls for a boycott.” ... [Guardian - 17/4/15]
PNG Court orders police officer detained
PNG Loop [18/4/15]:
The Waigani District Court yesterday ordered the detention of the policeman accused over the Tatana shooting of a suspect that took place on January 17 during a police raid in the village.
Charged for the wilful murder of a Tatana man (Charlie Naime), the accused, Sergeant Philip Pokop, was ordered by the district court to be detained so police prosecutors can conduct a recorded interview with him.
Appearing before Magistrate Mekeo Gauli, prosecutors said the accused refused to go in for a recorded interview with investigators despite an official letter sent requesting him to do so.
Magistrate Gauli said the accused cannot refuse a recorded interview however he can choose to remain silent during the interview.
In ordering his detention, Magistrate Gauli said Pokop can be released again on bail once that recorded interview with police prosecutors is completed. The matter returns to court on May 4th.
NZ leads call for end to fossil fuel subsidies
New Zealand has today led a coalition of governments urging an end to fossil fuel subsidies.
The memorandum, signed by Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland as well as New Zealand, has been presented in Washington as part of the lead-up to a major climate conference in Paris in December.
The 196 nations at the conference will be working on a fresh agreement to reduce carbon emissions - the first major deal on the matter since Kyoto.
Today's memorandum calls for the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, citing environmental, economic and social grounds, and has the full support of the United States and France.
Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said the end of subsidies was the missing piece in the climate change jigsaw with more than a third of global carbon emissions between 1980 and 2010 believed to be driven by subsidies.
He said keeping prices artificially low encouraged wasteful fuel consumption and discouraged the development of new, greener technologies.
Prime Minister John Key has welcomed the agreement saying the memorandum was significant.
"It's one thing to have actually a price on emissions, like New Zealand has through our ETS, but some countries actually are going the other way, they're actually subsidising those fossil fuels, our argument is that if they were made to pay the real price it would have some impact on demand."
Meanwhile American government scientists said last month was the hottest March worldwide since record-keeping began 135 years ago.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the average global temperature was 0.85 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average.
It said the three-month period from January to March was also the warmest on record.
Obama to get fast-track authority for TPP
The White House is a step closer to signing the Trans Pacific Partnership, which involves 12 Asia-Pacific nations including New Zealand.
If the deal is successfully completed, it would be one of the largest free trade deals in history.
The US Congress has agreed to give President Barack Obama the authority to fast-track its signing.
However, the US commitment still has hurdles to overcome.
The agreement, struck by the leaders of the tax-writing committees, will grant the president so-called trade promotion authority, which will limit lawmakers to taking only a 'yes' or 'no' vote on any eventual trade deal without any power to amend it.
The Republican chairs of the Senate's Finance Committee and Ways and Means Committee had to agree to stringent requirements for the trade deal to win over the ranking Democrat on the finance panel.
These concessions have still failed to win over many Democrats, who are opposing the deal.
The other countries involved in the deal include Canada, Australia and Japan.
"A Corporate Trojan Horse": Critics Decry Secretive TPP Trade Deal as a Threat to Democracy [Democracy Now – 16/4/15]:
Senate Finance Committee leaders Republican Orrin Hatch and Democrat Ron Wyden are expected to introduce a "fast-track" trade promotion authority bill as early as this week that would give the president authority to negotiate the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and then present it to Congress for a yes-or-no vote, with no amendments allowed.
On Wednesday, more than 1,000 labor union members rallied on Capitol Hill to call on Democrats to oppose "fast-track" authority.
We speak with two people closely following the proposed legislation: Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, and Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida.
Doctors call for disclosure of all clinical trial results as governments spend millions on pharmaceuticals [ABC – 17/4/15]
Bipartisanship can work. The old flawed formula for physician reimbursement in Medicare (SGR) will finally be permanently canceled and replaced, so that physicians will no longer be looking at roughly 20 percent cuts in reimbursement every year, absent one-year congressional fixes.
That’s the good news about the bill recently passed by the House of Representatives (HR 2); the Senate will vote on it right after the current recess. Now here’s the bad, alarming news: The bill contains provisions intended to undermine and eventually destroy traditional Medicare, and replace it with progressive privatization.
This bill requires the payment of deductibles not coverable by Medigap policies, expands means-testing of Medicare premiums and imposes burdensome new documentation requirements on physicians in traditional Medicare.
The results of these provisions will make Medicare more costly for everyone, restrict access and choice of physician in Medicare, and preferentially benefit private insurance plans, including Medicare Advantage plans. ... [Santa Fe New Mexican - 10/4/15]
A month after Cyclone Pam, Vanuatu continues to face health challenges [WHO Press release - 15/4/15]:
Working with the Ministry of Health of Vanuatu and other partners, the World Health Organization (WHO) has made significant progress in addressing the health needs of the more than 160 000 people affected by Cyclone Pam. However, a month after the Category 5 storm ravaged the Pacific island country, many pressing health challenges remain.
“The impact of Cyclone Pam will be long lasting,” said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “We will continue to respond to the urgent needs of the people, as we use this tragedy as an opportunity to help rebuild a stronger health system.”
Ex-IMF chief filed for 2012 tax amnesty [El Pais – 15/4/15]
Support for Norfolk denial of rights claim
A New Zealand academic says the people of Norfolk Island have a case in saying Australia's changes to the island's status do not recognise their democratic rights.
Canberra is about to pass legislation that will end years of autonomy for Norfolk, but large numbers on the island say they have not had a say.
The director of Massey University's Pasifika Centre, Malakai Koloamatangi, says it is a legitimate argument.
"It has had its own cultural history, traditional practices and so on, so the best approach when dealing with a separate entity or separate people, as it were, is to go about it in a transparent and consultative way. It sounds like the Australian government hasn't done that in this case."
He says if the people of Norfolk Island were to approach the United Nations, as has been mooted, they will most likely be directed to sort it out directly with Australia.
The island's government is currently preparing a referendum, asking the people if they believe they should have a right to determine their own political future.
of hosting Australia's refugee death camp on Manus Island mean remote areas of
PNG reliant on missionary medical care
PNG Loop [18/4/15]
The Youth with a Mission (YWAM) medical ship, MV YWAM PNG is set to depart Cairns, Australia this afternoon for its maiden voyage to PNG.
After its arrival into the country, a national commissioning of the vessel will take place in Port Moresby next week Tuesday, April 21 on board the ship.
YWAM MSA’s managing director Ken Mulligan says it will be a historic and very special occasion as the vessel is deployed into PNG’s waters for the first time.
“So many people helped us make this a reality, it’s taken a lot of hard work and investment to get to this point.
“This is a new and exciting chapter. Eventually we’ll be able to operate the ship in PNG for 11 months of the year in six provinces, reaching thousands of people in isolated communities. This is a time of great celebration,” Mulligan said.
The vessel will be in the country doing clinical outreaches starting from April 23rd in the Western Province and anticipates finishing off in the Morobe Province by June 28th 2015.
MV YWAM PNG’s first official deployment will see the delivery of primary health care, dentistry, optometry and training services in Western, Gulf, Central, Oro, Milne Bay, and Morobe provinces.
“Head of Department Apple Bob Challenge was the funniest event to watch,” Leading Seaman James Pendergast said.
Executive Officer HMAS Choules, Lieutenant Commander Doherty, competes in the apple bob event during Australia Day celebrations. [Navy Daily - 1/2/15]
... On the evening of June 21, 1981, 99 men women and children aboard a small boat were waiting to die.
Their vessel was adrift in storm-tossed waters of the South China Sea, 250 nautical miles east of Vietnam. The overloaded boat was leaking badly, the engine broken, and drinking water was contaminated.
Both Buddhists and Christians began to pray that when the end came, it would be mercifully swift.
They had escaped Vietnam four days earlier under the command of the redoubtable Captain Tam Van Nguyen.
A stocky no-nonsense fisherman and former member of the South Vietnamese Navy's Riverine Forces, Captain Tam knew every twist of the vast Mekong Delta.
He was part of a syndicate that had secretly constructed the 14-metre vessel at a hidden location on the banks of the Mekong. It resembled a fishing boat to fool the authorities, but was built for one purpose – to escape.
Ninety-nine put to sea in the dangerously overloaded boat designed to carry just 60. Captain Tam wouldn't turn anyone away. Yet those aboard hardly knew each other: they came from all over South Vietnam; there were family groups and individuals, rich and poor, urban and rural, Catholic and Buddhist, Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese.
As the boat slowly disintegrated under the blows of a fading storm, Captain Tam wanted to turn back, but other syndicate leaders over-ruled him.
Stephen Nguyen, one of the refugees on board, recalls the heated debate between leaders.
"They say, (if you) go back there, you and me, the other syndicate (members), it is easy to be executed. To die here, we die freely."
Passing merchant ships had ignored the boat's distress flares. And as dusk fell on the fourth day, many believed it would be their last. But then Captain Tam spotted a strange aircraft on the horizon.
"It was the last flare Mr Tam shot up there, and (at) that time the Tracker fly over and he spotted us," Stephen Nguyen recalls.
The Tracker was a surveillance patrol aircraft from the Royal Australian Navy aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne; the plane had been preparing to land after its last mission of the day.
The Melbourne and its destroyer escort HMAS Torrens had been participating in international war games, while keeping a watchful eye on a Soviet intelligence-gathering ship that had been closely trailing in their wake for days.
"They were Soviet-converted trawlers, and they in fact would remain just out of sight, normally astern," recalls John Ingram, who was HMAS Melbourne's logistics officer.
The Melbourne had a reputation as an unlucky ship. Twice in the 1960s the carrier had been involved in collisions with destroyers. The two accidents claimed 156 lives. In both incidents the destroyers had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. For many sailors the Melbourne was 'jinxed'. Now, the old warship's luck was about to abruptly change.
"We were recovering our last aircraft when they detected what they thought initially was a small fishing vessel on fire. They then did one or two more sweeps over the fishing vessel and discovered in fact that it was a flare," says John Ingram.
Stephen Nugyen says at first the refugees feared they'd been spotted by a Soviet aircraft. Moscow was an ally of Vietnam. To be rescued by a Soviet ship meant a passage home to certain imprisonment and possible execution.
But the aircraft that swept in low over the boat carried strange markings: a picture of a kangaroo. And the English word 'Navy' stencilled on the side. They were saved.
Soon the vast bulk of the Melbourne loomed up out of the darkness.
"I never seen a big ship like that. It's so huge, and I still remember. We had a very warm welcome by all sailors," recalls Stephen Nguyen.
Commander John Ingram had been going to sea for more than 20 years, and knew the odds.
"It was a miracle that they were discovered, okay. Just having the Tracker in that position, late in the afternoon in deteriorating light conditions. And to pick up a flare on the horizon, the last flare that they had. They had been ignored by other vessels. And to have an admiral and a captain (on board) who said, 'investigate'."
In an era before instant global communication, there was no upward referral to Navy headquarters or the Australian government about what to do next.
"The concept of turning a boat back, expecting sailors to turn a boat back, and maybe sending men, women and children innocently to a watery grave is absolutely abhorrent," John Ingram says.
"Drowning is a terrible way, dying of dehydration is a terrible way to die. And the sea is a very lonely place."
The refugees were to be rescued. The carrier's photographers, who usually recorded aircraft movements, were there to capture the dramatic operation.
In the 1960s John Ingram had served on the troopship HMAS Sydney, making several runs to Vietnam ferrying Australian soldiers to and from the war. He says his compassion for refugees was motivated by guilt.
"A sense of guilt that I'd been part of Australia's contribution into a war which was pretty unpopular at home. I had mixed feelings, my family had mixed feelings over Vietnam. In fact the Vietnam War had in fact split our family quite badly."
Commander Ingram was on an exchange posting in the US when Saigon fell in 1975.
He immediately volunteered to help transform an abandoned military base in Pennsylvania into a vast emergency reception centre for 25,000 Vietnamese. ...
Burns victims rushed for treatment in Lampedusa after high seas ordeal [UNHCR Media Release – 17/4/15]
The UN refugee agency on Friday welcomed government efforts to contain a wave of xenophobia in South Africa but said it was "extremely concerned" about the attacks in the past three weeks that have killed six people and displaced more than 5,000 foreigners. Those uprooted include refugees and asylum-seekers. ... [UNHCR Media Release - 17/4/15]
More than 8,000 Burundians flee the country to escape pre-election violence [UNHCR Media Release – 17/4/15]
US 'handed Cambodia to butcher', ambassador recalls [Bangkok Post – 17/4/15]
Vietnam War spotlighted at Hanoi photo exhibition [VOV -15/4/15]:
As many as 40 outstanding photos featuring the Vietnamese people’s resistance war against US aggression are being displayed at an exhibition at the French Cultural Centre L' Espace in Hanoi on April 14.
The photos are taken by four Vietnamese war correspondents, namely Doan Cong Tinh, Chu Chi Thanh, Mai Nam, and Hua Kiem.
They describe the severity of the war as well as the bravery of Vietnamese soldiers through historical photos.
The exhibition will run until May 10.
Here are some photos at the event.
Four members of Britain's Royal Navy have been accused of gang raping a woman at CFB Shearwater in Nova Scotia.
Speaking outside provincial court Friday, Crown attorney Scott Morrison said the sailors are alleged to have participated in a "group sexual assault" against the civilian woman in the barracks at the Halifax-area military base late on the evening of April 9 or early April 10. ... [CBC - 17/4/15]
US backed Saudi airstrikes continue in Yemen [Daily Star - 18/4/15]:
... Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif submitted a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlining a four-point peace plan for Yemen.
The plan calls for an immediate cease-fire and end of all foreign military attacks, humanitarian aid, a resumption of broad national dialogue and “establishment of an inclusive national unity government.” ...
The Lebanese Army will receive its first shipment of French weapons Monday, part of a $3-billion military aid package funded by Saudi Arabia to assist the poorly equipped military in its war against jihadi militants. ... [Daily Star - 18/4/15]
Australian media keep pretending refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean aren't escaping US aggression and colonialism.
Libya Herald [17/4/15]:
The capital witnessed a night of heavy fighting as clashes broke out on the outskirts of Tripoli, lasting from the early hours of this morning until dawn.
Several loud explosions were first heard shortly after midnight and one local resident identified them as being loudest in the east of Tripoli, coming from the direction of Tajoura. After around 1 am, intermittent rounds of anti-aircraft guns could be heard being fired from the same area, with further explosions.
Fighting was still ongoing at 5 am. One man returning to central Tripoli from his farm near Tajoura said he had moved off the coastal road in search for cigarettes, and was terrified by a huge explosion which shook his car.
Although he did not see any fighting or military persence, he said he could hear missiles and heavy weaponry and, at one point, thought that his car was being targeted. Speeding back into the capital, he noted with surprise that there were no checkpoints.
Clashes were also reported on the other side of the capital. One resident in west Tripoli said he heard further fighting from the direction of the Al-Aziziya side of Janzour, describing the sound of heavy artillery fire as “frighteningly loud”.
The clashes came after an extraordinarily loud evening of fireworks, especially in districts known to be sympathetic to the Libyan National Army (LNA), aligned with Operation Dignity, both of which operate under the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk.
Although many assumed these were normal wedding celebrations, several local people posted on social media saying they represented a show of support to the LNA, who have gained ground at Al-Aziziya and now appear to be working on strengthening allied positions near Tajoura.
This morning, skirmishes were reported in several central districts, allegedly between pro-HoR local residents and Libya Dawn security personnel. Although it remains unclear whether anyone was killed or injured in the fighting, it sparked a number of road closures and blockades.
Libya Dawn has accused Tabour forces for being responsible for the surprise raid earlier this week on the Wadi Rabia military base east of Tripoli International Airport in which four, possibly five Dawn fighters were killed.
United States "allies" continue bombing Iraq and Syria
Coalition military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria and Iraq between 8 a.m., April 16, and 8 a.m., April 17, local time.
In Syria, Coalition military forces conducted eight airstrikes using attack and bomber aircraft. Separately in Iraq, Coalition military forces conducted 13 airstrikes approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense using fighter, attack and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.
“Air strikes were conducted yesterday throughout the breadth of Iraq and into Syria, as the coalition continues the fight against Daesh,” said CJTF-OIR Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley.
“The steady, continuous pressure being applied by ground forces and coalition airstrikes is degrading Daesh and clearly inhibiting their operational freedom, span of control, military capacity and fighter morale.”
The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:
Near Al Hasakah, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL armored vehicle.
Near Kobani, six airstrikes struck four ISIL tactical units, destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions, five ISIL vehicles and two ISIL motorcycles.
Near Al Asad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroyed two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL excavator.
Near Bayji, five airstrikes struck five ISIL tactical units, destroyed four ISIL vehicles, three ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL heavy machine gun.
Near Fallujah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
Near Hit, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
Near Mosul, an airstrike struck an ISIL large tactical unit.
Near Ramadi, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL excavator and an ISIL vehicle.
Near Sinjar, an airstrike struck an ISIL fighting position and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
Near Tal Afar, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL building.
Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports. All aircraft returned to base safely.
A car bomb at the entrance to the US consulate in the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Erbil, has killed at least three people and wounded eight others. ... [Al Jazeera - 18/4/15]
@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [17/4/15]:
Large groups of miserable-looking displaced families from Ramadi has gathered in the streets after opening of the road linking Habaniya and Amiriyat Al-Fallujah ...................
War crimes documentation center has shown the suffering of 38 arrested persons from Hasan Shami village in Hamdaniya district in Nineveh which they were arrested 7 months ago because they are Arabs in the areas controlled by peshmerga since2003....... The details are shown below ...
Australia needs a Syriza style party.
We need experts and humanitarians in parliament.
REJECT BIPARTISAN FASCISM AND THE INFANTILE MEDIA.
Greece Releases Migrants from 'Barbaric' Detention Centres [teleSUR - 17/4/15]:
… The Greek government said Thursday it was releasing detainees in its neglected immigration centers.
“The people that were there, were living an indescribable barbarity,” said Greek Immigration Minister Tasia Christodoulopoulou.
According to Christodoulopoulou, many of the detainees were illegally being held indefinitely.
The decision to release migrants is a stark contrast to the former conservative government of Antonis Samaras, which oversaw mass round-ups of undocumented migrants in 2012.
According to Christodoulopoulou, Samaras' hardline anti-immigrant policies were both expensive and inhumane.
“The center(s) did not (fulfill) basic needs,” she explained.
Critics of the new government have argued that released migrants have nowhere to go, and no support from the state. However, Christodoulopoulou said the government has no other choice.
"It's true the infrastructure does not exist but it's not the fault of those being held, and nor can they face this agony for the rest of their lives," the minister said.
Greece is a major transit route for migrants from Africa and the Middle East heading to Europe. According to a 2011 European Court of Justice finding, as much as 90 percent of undocumented migrants that arrive in Europe do so through Greek borders.
The Greek economy and its global partners: A conversation with Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis [VIDEO – Brookings Institute – 16/4/15]
The Cypriot parliament delayed voting Friday on controversial foreclosure legislation demanded by international lenders after protesters scuffled with police outside parliament.
Amid tight security, around 250 protesters had gathered to shout down the bill, chanting "No homes in the hands of bankers" and "Stop the country being sold off." ... [Naharnet - 17/4/15]
... On Thursday, journalist Glenn Greenwald described NBC News’s conduct in the Engel case to be more troubling than the Brian Williams scandal. Greenwald wrote, quote, "[T]he NBC story was quite likely to fuel the simmering war cries in the West to attack (or at least aggressively intervene against) Assad. That’s a far more serious and far more consequential journalistic sin than a news reader puffing out his chest and pretending he’s Rambo," he wrote. ...
Did NBC Cover Up Role of U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army in 2012 Kidnapping
of Richard Engel? [Democracy Now – 17/4/15]:
NBC News is at the center of a new controversy, this time focused on its chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Back in 2012 he and five other members of an NBC News team were kidnapped by armed gunmen in Syria. They were held for five days.
Just after his release Engel spoke on NBC News and said this about his captors: "This is a government militia. These are people who are loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. They are Shiite."
Well, earlier this week, a New York Times investigation prompted Engel to revise his story and reveal he was actually captured by Sunni militants affiliated with the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army.
In an article published on Wednesday, Engel said the kidnappers had "put on an elaborate ruse to convince us they were Shiite Shabiha militiamen."
According to the Times investigation, NBC knew more than it let on about the kidnappers.
We speak to As’ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He runs the Angry Arab News Service blog.
He expressed serious doubts about the circumstances surrounding Engel’s captivity and release when the story first broke in December 2012. ...
Sorry Australian police, politicians and media, but I just don't believe you lying, war mongering, anti muslim bigots anymore.
Victorian Police press conference dogwhistle this AM: At the outset it's important to emphasise these people are NOT representative of any religious group or organisation. ... We must continue our efforts to prevent these young people from being radicalised. ...
Five men have been arrested after a major joint counterterrorism team operation in Melbourne.
Two of the men, an 18-year-old Hallam man and an 18-year-old Hallam Park man, were arrested for allegedly planning a terrorist act in Australia, which included targeting police officers.
Two men arrested in counter-terrorism raids were planning to target an Anzac Day ceremony, Australian Federal Police say. ... [The Age - 18/4/15]
Morning Star [17/4/15]:
... Canberra’s fanatically anti-immigration government signed a deal with Cambodia in 2014, which will cost Australia more than AU$10 million (£5m) a year.
The deal stipulated that refugees accepting deportation from Australia to Cambodia could apply for Cambodian citizenship after seven years.
The government has vowed that no boat arrivals will ever be resettled in Australia.
But advocacy group Refugee Action Collective spokesman Ian Rintoul said that he had heard of no-one in the detention camp on Nauru accepting the deal.
“They spoke to Somalis yesterday and said it was the last day for them to agree and none of them agreed,” Mr Rintoul said.
“They’re pushing pretty hard but, as far as I know, they’ve got no-one yet,” he added.
Nauruan refugee shot with air gun pellet and then beaten by locals [Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney - 15/4/15]
18 April 2015