Media still protecting the government and authorities

The gun licence is irrelevant -  but Australia does have a journalism crisis.

IRNA [16/12/14]:

... BBC TV and radio channels as well as its internet website on Monday morning just pointed out that the man involved in the hostage taking incident was identified as an 'Iranian'.

It failed to mention that Iran has been requesting the Australian government via the Interpol to extradite the culprit.

The US-affiliated 'Radio Farda' followed an identical style in covering the news, just saying that the police sources in Australia have identified the hostage taker as a 50-year-old Iranian refugee who had a record of multiple offenses with the Australian police.

Like BBC, however, it refused to mention that the hostage taker was by the time of the incident an Australian national who fled Iran over two decades ago and was not extradited to Iran because of the support he received from the Australian government.

Despite all information provided to the Australian government about the mental and spiritual status of the hostage taker who arrived in Australia nearly two decades ago, the Australian government decided to support him and even release him from detention when he was charged with murder of his former wife.

Iran has vigorously condemned the hostage-taking incident in Sydney.


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.


Al Jazeera [17/12/14]:

... Three people were killed, including Monis, when heavily armed police stormed a cafe in downtown Sydney early on Tuesday morning to free terrified hostages held at gunpoint for 16 hours.

Police are investigating whether the two captives were killed by Monis or died in the crossfire.


Court Orders New York Times Reporter James Risen To Testify

Huffington Post [16/12/14]:

A New York Times reporter will be subpoenaed to answer questions ahead of an upcoming trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information, though a Tuesday hearing indicated there is much confusion about what the journalist may be asked to reveal.

Prosecutors say they will not ask James Risen if ex-CIA man Jeffrey Sterling was his anonymous source for part of the 2006 book "State Of War" that detailed a botched CIA effort to cripple Iran's nuclear program. However, they do want to know if the two had a prior, on-the-record source relationship.

Risen's lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, said at Tuesday's hearing that he is not sure whether his client is willing to answer the questions that prosecutors want to pose.

Furthermore, defense attorneys indicated they may also have their own questions, which puts Risen at risk of being found in contempt of court if he refuses to answer.


The USA: Australia's Dangerous Ally

Malcolm Fraser - ICH [17/12/14]:

It is time for Australia to end its strategic dependence on the United States. The relationship with America, which has long been regarded as beneficial, has now become dangerous to Australia’s future. We have effectively ceded to America the ability to decide when Australia goes to war. Even if America were the most perfect and benign power, this posture would still be incompatible with the integrity of Australia as a sovereign nation. It entails not simply deference but submission to Washington, an intolerable state of affairs for a country whose power and prosperity are increasing and whose national interests dictate that it enjoy amicable, not hostile, relations with its neighbors, including China.


Australia’s 5th Column (1941) [ASO]:

This clip opens with type scrolling over a background screen declaring that Australia is at war and threatened by a ruthless enemy. The enemies, according to the newsreel, are ‘agents of Germany’ or ‘Hitler’s 5th columnists’ who attempt to undermine Australia’s freedom and sovereignty.

This clip begins with the re-creation of DJA radio in Berlin which broadcast Nazi propaganda. It also shows the shadow of a swastika being cast across a map of Australia and shows the bombed and burning towns of war-torn Europe.

US To Attack Russia in 2015 [VIDEO - ICH]:

A coup d´état under the guise of an 'Orange Revolution' is being prepared in Russia. The big picture and the details are given by Evgeny Fedorov, a deputy in the Russian parliament, and coordinator of the People's Liberation Movement. The coup facilitator is the fifth column, which dominates the mass-media and public servants all the way up to government ministers, a point barely known within Russia, never mind outside. However, the people's insurrection in Ukraine could wake up enough people in Russia to restore national sovereignty. In the next few years it will come to a head, with only two possible outcomes : the destruction of Russian civilization or the collapse of the American empire.

First posted May 31, 2014 - Reposted December 15, 2014

Tutu Urges Pope to Rethink Decision Not to Meet Dalai Lama

Jakarta Globe [17/12/14]:

South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Monday appealed to the Pope to reconsider his decision not to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to Rome.

I am deeply saddened and distressed that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, should give in to these pressures and decline to meet the Dalai Lama,” Tutu said in a statement.

The Dalai Lama arrived in the Italian capital Friday for a summit of Nobel peace laureates.

The event was moved to Italy from South Africa after the Pretoria government, anxious to foster economic ties with Beijing, declined to issue a visa for the 79-year-old Tibetan leader.

Tutu said he was aware of the “dilemma in which so many have been finding themselves with regard to their relationships with His Holiness and the People’s Republic of China.”

It was revealed on Thursday that the Pope would not be meeting the exiled spiritual leader.

Tutu has previously criticized the South African government for blocking the Dalai Lama’s visits.

He said the Dalai Lama was “a holy man who speaks about peace, co-existence and compassion.”

The outspoken Nobel Peace Prize laureate last week canceled all his travel plans for the rest of the year to embark on a new treatment for the prostate cancer he’s been living with for the past 15 years.

Tutu had also been scheduled to attend the Rome gathering, but said he would have boycotted meeting the Pope if given an opportunity.

I would not have been able to do so [meet the pope] in solidarity with someone held in such high regard by so many people across the world.”

How the US administration used a powerful nun to gain intelligence on Cuba


A prominent Rome-based nun who is on good terms with Fidel Castro told Ambassador about her recent trip to Cuba, Fidel's health, improving conditions for religion in Cuba, and relations with Cardinal Ortega.


EU court takes Hamas off terrorist organisations list

BBC [17/12/14]:

A top court of the European Union has annulled the bloc's decision to keep the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on a list of terrorist groups.

The decision had been based not on an examination of Hamas' actions, but on "factual imputations derived from the press and the internet", judges found.

The court said the move was technical and was not a reassessment of Hamas' classification as a terrorist group.

It said a funding freeze on the group would continue for the time being.

Hamas dominates Gaza and fought a 50-day war with Israel earlier this year. Under its charter, the movement is committed to Israel's destruction.

Responding to the ruling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas was a "murderous terrorist organisation" which should be put back on the list immediately.

Israel, the United States and several other nations have designated Hamas a terrorist organisation due to its long record of attacks and its refusal to renounce violence.

Hamas, which was founded in 1987, won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and reinforced its power in Gaza the following year after ousting its Fatah rivals.

Its supporters see it as a legitimate resistance movement against Israel, with whom it has fought for years.


Where is the evidence?

Children incarcerated in Christmas Island refugee concentration camp will be released by Christmas [SBS – 11/12/14]:

Federal Attorney-General George Brandis says all asylum seeker children in detention on Christmas Island will be released by Christmas.

Mr Brandis made the announcement at the Australian Human Rights Awards ceremony in Sydney last night.

He says the Coalition government deserves credit for tackling what he calls the shameful fact that there were almost two-thousand asylum seeker children in detention when it was elected.

"In 2014 most of those children have been released. There is still too many. At the end of November there were 702. But I can tell you this evening that between now and Christmas, in other words in the next two to three weeks, all of the children in detention on Christmas Island will be released from Christmas Island and will be returned to the community as soon as possible."



It's not a refugee resettlement facility if the UNHCR has no involvement - it's an alternative concentration camp.

Minister for Immigration Media Release [17/12/14]:

The East Lorengau resettlement facility on Manus Island has been officially opened by Minister for Immigration and Border Protection the Hon. Scott Morrison, as part of his visit to Papua New Guinea.

'This is a further positive step forward in our offshore policy arrangement with refugees to move into this new facility on Manus Island soon,' Minister Morrison said.

'On Monday, the Australian Government welcomed the Papua New Guinean government's announcement that a further 40 refugee status determinations have been signed, bringing total determinations to 50.

'The Government of PNG has advised me that those transferees found to be refugees will be given visas and moved from the Lombrum Regional Processing Centre to the new East Lorengau resettlement facility.

'These determinations are further evidence that the Abbott Government is working constructively and in partnership with the government of PNG to salvage and implement the regional resettlement arrangement that was little more than a blank sheet of paper when we were elected just over a year ago.'

The Minister also inspected the progress of key aid projects on the island that formed part of the original commitment, launching the roads and bridges project, inspecting construction works at Lorengau Market, and officially gifting the new wing of the Harbourside Hotel.

Formal employment has increased by more than 70 per cent on the island with around 1,000 jobs being taken up by local Manusians either in the operations of the centre or in related construction works.

During the joint ministerial forum held in Port Moresby with the Minister's PNG counterpart, the Ministers agreed to extend the Regional Resettlement Arrangement.

'Offshore processing and resettlement is an important component of the Government's successful border protection strategy. We welcome the significant progress we have made in the past year,' Minister Morrison said.

'However we also know that without turn backs and temporary protection visas, both opposed by Labor, this important element of our strategy would not be sufficient to stop the boats or keep them from returning. You have to work these policies together to stop the boats and that's exactly what we have done.

'The Coalition government is getting on with the job and achieving the results we said we would,' Minister Morrison said.

#UltimOra la corvetta Chimera è arrivata in porto ad Augusta per sbarcare 418 migranti #SAR

Image: @ItalianNavy [17/12/14]

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

US Department of Defense [17/1/14]:

U.S. and partner-nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported.

Officials provided details of airstrikes conducted Dec. 15 through today.

Airstrikes in Syria

In Syria, five airstrikes near Kobani destroyed an ISIL building, an ISIL staging area, an ISIL bunker, and an ISIL mortar and struck two ISIL tactical units, two additional buildings and two ISIL fighting positions. Near Abu Kamal, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Separately, U.S. and partner-nation military forces conducted 61 airstrikes in Iraq using fighter, bomber, attack, and remotely-piloted aircraft:

-- Eight airstrikes near Mosul destroyed two ISIL heavy machine guns, three ISIL buildings, one ISIL mortar position, one ISIL bulldozer and an ISIL bunker and also struck a large ISIL unit and an ISIL tactical unit;

-- Two airstrikes near Tal-Afar destroyed an ISIL building and three ISIL bridges and also struck an ISIL tactical unit;

-- Two airstrikes near Sinjar destroyed two ISIL vehicles, two ISIL guard towers, three ISIL containers and one ISIL storage container;

-- An airstrike near Hit destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle and an excavator;

-- An airstrike near Rawa destroyed an ISIL building and a storage container;

-- An airstrike near Irbil destroyed an ISIL vehicle and struck an ISIL tactical unit;

-- An airstrike near Ramadi destroyed an ISIL building; and

-- An additional 45 strikes were conducted in support of the Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces operating in the region. Precision airstrikes from 15 coalition aircraft destroyed approximately 50 targets, to include bulldozers, vehicles, checkpoints, enemy fighting positions, enemy fighters, and equipment.

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


Al-Sweady Inquiry finds British troops mistreated nine Iraqi detainees but dismisses claims of murder and torture

Channel 4 [17/12/14]:

The long-running al-Sweady inquiry, which has cost the taxpayer almost £25m, concluded in its final report that the conduct of some soldiers towards detainees breached the Geneva convention.

But it was highly critical of the claims it was initially set up to investigate - that Iraqi detainees had been murdered, mutilated and tortured following the 2004 Battle of Danny Boy, near Al Amarah in southern Iraq.

It found that British forces responded to an ambush by insurgents with "exemplary courage, resolution and professionalism".

It said some of the detainees - all described as members or supporters of the Mahdi Army insurgent group - deliberately lied about the most serious allegations to discredit the British armed forces.

The inquiry, chaired by Sir Thayne Forbes, was named after Hamid al-Sweady, a 19-year-old student whose father Mizal Karim al-Sweady claimed he was unawfully killed after being detained by British troops.

Lawyers for the Iraqis originally claimed that some of them had been unlawfully killed, but after 300 witnesses had given evidence during a year of public hearings in London, they admitted there was "insufficient evidence" to substantiate these allegations.

But they stood by claims that detainees had been mistreated at Camp Abu Naji, near Majar-al-Kabir in southern Iraq, and later at Shaibah Logistics Base.

The al-Sweady inquiry was ordered by former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth in 2009 and has cost the taxpayer almost £25m.

According to the inquiry's website, investigation and expert services costs have run up to £7,332,477.

Running costs, including IT and accommodation, are £6,475,324, counsel and legal services £5,612,484, witness costs £2,990,251 and general staffing £2,187,836.

During the inquiry, lawyers for the British soldiers and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the allegations were part of a "conspiracy" by a number of Iraqis to pervert the course of justice and force compensation payments.

The MoD has conceded that there were "some instances" where the conduct of troops fell below expected standards, such as a detainee being shouted at and plasticuffs being applied incorrectly.

In 2011, a separate inquiry found that Iraqi detainee Baha Mousa died with 93 injuries in British army custody in Basra in 2003.

Its chairman, Sir William Gage, blamed "corporate failure" at the MoD for the use of banned interrogation methods.

Corporal Donald Payne admitted inhumane treatment of a prisoner and was jailed for a year and dismissed from the army.

Afghanistan: Drone strike kills 11 in Nangahrar province

Khaama [17/12/14]:

Officials in eastern Nangahrar province on Wednesday said that a drone strike had killed 11 insurgents in the Quram area of Shirzad district of the province.

Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, spokesman for Nangarhar police says the insurgents were riding in a pick-up vehicle when came under attack on Tuesday.

He added that one of the insurgents was a key commander of the group.

There were no civilian casualties in the attack” Mashriqiwal said.

Taliban yet to comment on the report.

Six Killed in Taliban Suicide Attack on Afghan Bank [Naharnet – 17/12/14]

EU parliament backs compromise resolution on Palestinian state

Reuters [17/12/14]:

The European Parliament adopted a resolution supporting Palestinian statehood in principle on Wednesday in a compromise motion that did not follow some European national legislatures in backing immediate recognition of a Palestinian state.

Following a deal among the main parties, the motion that was carried stated: "(The European Parliament) supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced."

Social Democrat, left-wing and Green members of the European Parliament had initially put forward motions for a symbolic vote on Wednesday to call on the EU's 28 members to recognize Palestine statehood now without conditions.

This follows Sweden's decision in October to recognize Palestine and non-binding votes since then by parliaments in Britain, France and Ireland in favor of their recognition that demonstrated growing European impatience with the stalled peace process.

Some European countries have grown increasingly vocal in expressing frustration with Israel, which since the collapse of the latest U.S.-sponsored talks in April has pressed on with building settlements in territory the Palestinians want for their future state.

However, the center-right European People's Party, the largest group in parliament, and the fourth largest group, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, said recognition should only form part of a negotiated agreement with Israel.

Iran: Extradition of Sydney attacker refused

Al Jazeera [17/12/14]:

Iran's police chief has said his country had demanded the extradition of Man Haron Monis, the Sydney hostage taker, 14 years ago over charges of fraud, but the request was rejected by the Australian authorities.

Three people were killed, including Monis, when heavily armed police stormed a cafe in downtown Sydney early on Tuesday morning to free terrified hostages held at gunpoint for 16 hours.

Police are investigating whether the two captives were killed by Monis or died in the crossfire.

In 1996, Monis established a travel agency, but took his clients' money and fled, Iran's police chief, General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, told the country's official IRNA news agency on Tuesday.

Australia accepted him as a refugee around that time.

The police chief said Iran tried to have Monis extradited from Australia in 2000, but that it did not happen because Tehran and Canberra did not have an extradition agreement.

Iran's foreign ministry said it had warned Australia about Monis, who fled his homeland claiming persecution.

"We have repeatedly communicated to the Australian government the hostage-taker's psychological and criminal background since he fled Iran two decades ago and sought refuge in Australia, and that country was fully aware of his identity," state-run IRINN TV news channel quoted foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham as saying on Tuesday.


UK: Shefford cafe's singing polar bear investigated over noise

BBC [15/12/14]:

A six-foot mechanical polar bear that dances and sings Christmas carols is being investigated after a council received a noise complaint.

The bear - named Bernard - bursts into song when people walk past Loft Café in Shefford, Bedfordshire, where he has stood since 1 December.

An enforcement officer told owners Rob and Teresa Farndon there had been a complaint about "noise nuisance".

Central Bedfordshire Council said there was an "ongoing investigation".

Bernard sings snippets of five or six Christmas songs, including Andy Williams' It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and is activated either by movement or by pressing a button.

He stood outside the cafe in North Bridge Street every day last December with no complaints and has been put away at 16:00 GMT every day so far this year.

The owners' son Connor Farndon said the complaint was "so petty".

"We put the bear outside for the kids to get them in the Christmas spirit and all the kids love him," he said.

"You can't even hear him over the traffic when it is standing stationary at the traffic lights outside.

"It's not the council's fault - they're just following up a complaint. It's the person who's complained who is ridiculous."

Mr Farndon said he thought the only thing the council could do was "tell us to take it away".

A council spokesman confirmed the premises had been visited "on a number of occasions" but that "Bernard has not been deemed a nuisance".

"We have written to both parties, explaining the situation as part of an ongoing investigation," he said.

"The council takes noise complaints seriously and has a legal obligation to fully investigate them, but we also want everyone in Central Bedfordshire to enjoy themselves over the Christmas period and would urge residents and business owners alike to be mindful of their neighbours when planning festivities."


Australia: Free, open, generous, and safe … as long as you're doing roughly what they tell you to

Russell Brand The Trews (E212) [VIDEO - 16/12/14]:

Analysis of the media and government's reaction to the siege in Sydney, as a lone gunman seized dozens of hostages on Monday.


IT News [17/12/14]:

Australia's police forces say they are unable to actually quantify how helpful metadata is to criminal investigations and convictions, despite today repeating their argument for a two-year period of mandatory data retention by telco providers.

The country’s three largest law enforcement and national security agencies today fronted a parliamentary committee investigating the Government’s draft data retention bill to plead their case for the scheme, arguing it is necessary to protect the nation against 21st Century security threats.

Representatives from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), spy agency ASIO, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Crime Commission outlined several cases in which access to historical telecommunications metadata had proved crucial in law enforcement efforts, and aided in thwarting attacks and capturing dangerous individuals.

But despite asserting that the failure of the bill would throw law enforcement ‘into the dark ages’, the majority of Australia’s police agencies said they couldn't quantify how helpful metadata had been in operations and convictions.


Former Hutchins School headmaster charged with child sexual assault

ABC [17/12/14]:

The former headmaster of a Hobart private boys school who investigated claims of paedophilia occurring at the school in the 1960s has himself been charged with child sexual assault.

John McDonnell Blore Bednall has been charged with two counts of indecently dealing with a child under 13.

The offences allegedly occurred in Western Australia where Bednall, aged in his late 60s, now lives with his wife.

He has been remanded to reappear at the Magistrates Court in Perth in March.

Bednall was headmaster at Hutchins School in Hobart between 1987 and 1996, when he investigated accusations one of his predecessors had sexually abused a former student in the 1960s.

The school's response to victims of child sexual abuse in the 1960s is now the subject of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Bednall gave evidence to the royal commission hearings in Hobart last month, saying his investigations found no proof to back up the former student's claims.

The inquiry into Hutchins is set to resume in Sydney tomorrow.

Another former student will give evidence and a former teacher has been recalled.

Since the November hearings, former Hutchins music teacher Ronald Thomas, who former students said had abused them and who was believed to have died, has been found alive in New Zealand.

The commission has decided not to call him as a witness.

Feel safe Queensland?

Woorabinda residents say a teenager went to hospital suffering dehydration yesterday after town water system broke

"tweeted" by @MarlinaWhop - ABC journalist [17/12/14]

Third world apartheid Australia [ABC - 17/12/14]:

A central Queensland Aboriginal community has not had drinking water for more than 24 hours after lightning damaged its water treatment plant.

Toilets and showers have stopped working at Woorabinda, south-west of Rockhampton, where about 1,000 people live.

Childcare centres, businesses and aged care homes have had to close, with residents moved to the local hospital.

Water has been trucked in from Rockhampton and bottled water handed out, but supplies are running low.

The council's chief executive, Lew Rojahn, said he hoped the water system could be fixed today.

"My biggest concern is the children," he said. "We've got a fairly high percentage of children here in town and they're the ones who are going to suffer."

Resident Fiona Richardson said everyone was trying to stay hydrated, and had been going to the creek to keep cool and to wash. Others had been seeking refuge in their air-conditioned cars.

"It's been hard especially in this heat," Ms Richardson said. "A lot of the people are angry and frustrated, a bit upset especially with these little tiny babies and stuff , you can't get them cool and wet without any water."

Teenagers charged (one with attempted murder) after police pursuit and police dog savagery [Brisbane Times - 17/12/14]

Anti rights arrests, Sunshine Coast [QPS Media - 17/12/14]

Anti rights arrests, Gold Coast [QPS Media - 17/12/14]


Australian media continues to comply with government censorship and information control

Hostage John O'Brien describes relief at leaving Lindt cafe; pays tribute to those killed [ABC - 17/12/14]:

... Mr O'Brien said he was still talking to NSW Police about what happened inside the cafe and as such could not go into details. ...

By not questioning or explaining why Mr O'Brien "could not go into details", the Australian media are working with authorities to censor and control the narrative.

Did the police tell him he couldn't "go into details"? Did ASIO tell him? Perhaps he doesn't feel up to it.  Whatever the case may be, it's an important question.

 As far as I can tell there is no reason why a released hostage is not able to talk about their experience.

Evidently the Indian media aren't as obsequious to authority.

Big Relief, Says Infosys Techie's Family After he is Rescued [NDTV - 16/12/14]:

... Ankireddy's father, a government employee, said that he had received a call from the company informing him about his son being taken hostage. He said he then talked to his daughter-in-law in who told him that the hostages had been allowed to have lunch. He had also talked to the Australian police, Mr Reddy said, who "assured me that everything will be fine and there is nothing to worry." ... 


An eye for an eye will leave everyone blind.

Guardian [17/12/14]:

The Pakistan military has launched massive air strikes in its remote border region against the Taliban in retaliation for the massacre in a Peshawar school on Tuesday morning that left at least 141 dead, 132 of them children.

The attack in Peshawar was one of the most horrific incidents in the country’s troubled history of the last decade, prompting an outcry at home and abroad – mainly because so many children were killed.


... Just in case it matters, President Obama was entertaining the CEO of Lockheed Martin (a weapons manufacturer) at exactly the same time when Mr Rahman and his children were narrating the injustice meted out to them all thanks to a botched execution of an American weapon. ...  A Tale of Two Girls: Malala and Nabeela, Sufyan bin Uzayr [ICH – 16/12/14]

Civilians flee US bombing of Mosul [16/12/14]:

On Tuesday, a security source in Nineveh province said, that dozens of families in Mosul have begun escaping from the city, fearing from being bombed by the international coalition warplanes.

The source informed IraqiNews, “Dozens of residents of the city of Mosul began to leave and go to al-Raqqa, an ISIS-seized city in northeast of Syria,” noting that, “Mosul families began to escape fearing from being bombed by the international coalition warplanes, especially after the ISIS group militants started digging a ditch around the city.”

Noteworthy, officials in the Kurdistan Democratic Party revealed earlier this week, that ISIS militants started digging a ditch around Mosul and Baashiqa for the purpose of resisting offensive operations by the government forces.

@IraqiSMCEn – Iraqi Spring Media Centre [16/12/14]:

Fallujah Hospital has recieved 3 wounded persons in the government's shelling during the last 24 hours.......

Anbar: The impacts of random shelling which targets Fallujah...... [VIDEO – 15/12/14]

Afghanistan: NATO drone strike kills 8 in Nuristan

Khaama [16/12/14]:

At least eight Taliban insurgents were killed following a drone strike by NATO-led coalition forces in eastern Nuristan province.

According to local government officials, the airstrike was carried out late on Monday night in Want Waigal district.

The district administrative chief, Mawlavi Rhmatullah Rahmat, confirmed that eight Taliban insurgents were killed in the air raid.

Rahmat further added that the airstrike did not incur any casualties to the local residents.

The anti-government armed militant groups have not commented regarding the report so far.

Nuristan is among the relatively volatile provinces in eastern Afghanistan where anti-government armed militants are actively operating in a number of its districts and often carry out insurgency activities.

At least six suspected militants were also killed following a drone strike by NATO-led coalition forces in the same district nearly ten days ago.

NATO doubles number of flights near Russian borders

RT [16/12/14]:

NATO has boosted the number of intelligence flights near Russian borders, Russian Air Force chief Viktor Bondarev said.

Over 3,000 flights have been registered in total in the border zone in 2014, thus doubling the figures of 2013.

The routes are very close to the border which allows taking intelligence from areas almost 500 km over the border, Bondarev said.

The statement comes shortly after a Russian plane was accused of a dangerous approach with a Swedish civil plane last Friday.

The Air Force Chief stressed that such reports are used to divert attention from NATO concentrating its forces near Russia.

Yemen twin car bombs kill 25, including 15 children

Al Akhbar [16/12/14]:

At least 25 people, including 15 children, died when two car bombs exploded in Radaa city in Yemen's central province of al-Bayda, local and medical sources said Tuesday, a day after Houthis accused the president of promoting corruption and demanded access to oversee state funds.

The first car bomb exploded near a checkpoint manned by Houthi fighters while a female primary school bus was passing, killing 15 children, sources said.

The second car exploded near the house of an official in the area rumored to support Houthis killing ten, they said.

Radaa is a bastion of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is considered by Washington as the most dangerous al-Qaeda branch.

Houthis established themselves as Yemen's new power brokers when they took control of the capital Sanaa on September 21, facing little resistance from residents or from the weak administration of Western-backed President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Their ascendance has angered al-Qaeda, which views Shias as heretics and Houthis as pawns of Iran.

Meanwhile, in a fresh show of power, Houthi fighters prevented Yemen's new army chief from entering the defense ministry Tuesday.

General Hussein Khairan, the army chief appointed by Hadi last week over Houthi objections, was barred from entering his office by Houthis, witnesses said.

The escalation of tension between Houthis and Hadi raises the prospect of open confrontation after months in which Hadi tried but failed to engage Houthis in the government.

Houthi leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi, in a speech to tribal leaders late on Monday at his northern Saada stronghold, said Hadi was a leading player in the country's corruption.

"During the popular revolution and the popular escalation, President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi was at the forefront of the forces of corruption," he said, referring to anti-government protests led by the group before it took over the capital.

"The Yemeni people will not be indifferent forever," he added.

A senior aide at the president's office said the speech showed Houthis, who have penetrated state institutions since seizing Sanaa, were plotting to bring down Hadi's administration and "complete their takeover of the state."

"We expect that the group has prepared another plot similar to the one it had when it captured Sanaa," the alleged official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

Houthi said committees he had set up to oversee ministries since Sanaa's fall had uncovered attempts by unidentified officials to conduct an inventory of state assets and to "divide billions" of Yemeni Rials among themselves in the process.

He also demanded that the 2015 state budget be subject to "close review" and that the government turn over control of state bodies to "rebels to monitor, follow up and ensure that people's funds are not wasted."

"Fighting corruption is a primary issue and there is no wavering from that," he said.

"Abdel Malik al-Houthi's speech points to an impending confrontation with the authorities. No one knows exactly where it may lead," said Ali Saif, a Yemeni analyst.

In addition to the rise of AQAP and the Houthis’ control of Sanaa, Yemen, an impoverished country of 25 million people, faces a secessionist movement in the south.

Yemen has been in political turmoil since an uprising in 2011.

The widespread and growing instability has alarmed neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, and other Gulf Arab states.

Separatists demand autonomy for the south and the annulment of a 1990 unification agreement that merged the South with the North. They failed in a civil war in 1994 to reverse the unification.

Moreover, the separatists have allied with AQAP militants to halt the advance of Houthi fighters, who have extended their control to coastal areas and regions beyond the capital.

AQAP has exploited instability in the impoverished country since a 2011 uprising forced president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

The militants remain active in southern and eastern regions of Yemen despite several military campaigns by government forces.

Yemen, a key ally of the United States, has been allowing Washington to carry out a longstanding drone war on its territory against AQAP.

According to rights groups, at least 33 civilians were killed in a total of 35 US drone attacks last year alone.

Palestine, France in final touches to UN bid

Maan [16/12/14]:

Fatah central committee member Mohammad Shtayyeh said Tuesday that Palestine and France were coordinating and putting final touches on a UN resolution to end the Israeli occupation.

Shtayyeh told Ma'an that the Palestinian and French missions to the UN were finalizing the resolution, which was set to be presented on Wednesday to the UN security council.

Speaking to reporters in Beit Jala, the official said that "the United States does not want a Palestinian state, and does not want to use the veto either. It is avoiding it by preventing us from collecting nine votes."

Also Tuesday, foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki told Ma'an that Palestine will submit the French initiative if amendments are made to the text.

Al-Maliki said he would meet with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday to convince France to accept suggested amendments to their bid to align it with the Palestinian and Arab positions.

He did not elaborate on the suggested amendments.

The PLO has said they will submit an Arab-backed draft text to the UN as early as Wednesday.

France is putting together a more nuanced version setting a two-year timetable for concluding a peace treaty, without mentioning the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

Earlier US Secretary of State John Kerry called for caution in Middle East talks, saying there was a need to "carefully calibrate" any steps taken.

"Many of us share a deep sense of urgency (but) we have to carefully calibrate any steps that are taken for this difficult moment in the region," he said ahead of talks in London.

Meanwhile a Palestinian official told Ma'an that a meeting between Kerry and PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat was "tough."

The source said Erekat rejected Kerry's dictates on the issue.

Another source told al-Mayadeen TV that Kerry threatened Erekat with a US veto if the Palestinians go to the Security Council.

Erekat responded, "We have nothing to lose," according to the report.

"If you use the veto we will respond by going to all international organizations for membership, and on top of them the ICC," the Beirut-based TV network quote him as saying.

Kerry also threatened to impose sanctions on the Palestinians, to which Erekat responded that the Palestinians have nothing to lose, al-Mayadeen said.

EU lawmakers renege on unconditional support for Palestinian statehood [Al Akhbar – 16/12/14]

Over 10,000 people on Tuesday afternoon participated in the funeral procession of Mahmoud Adwan who was killed hours earlier during an Israeli raid on Qalandiya refugee camp.

Over 30 Palestinians were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets in clashes that broke out near Qalandiya checkpoint. Most of the injured were taken to Ramallah medical complex while the rest were treated on the scene. ... [Maan - 16//12/14]

Israel and the United States on Tuesday tested Tel Aviv's Arrow 3 ballistic missile interception system, the defense ministry said, with local media reporting the trial was cut short. … [Naharnet – 16/12/14]

1,000 DRC ex-Rebels Break Out of Uganda Camp

Naharnet [16/12/14]:

About 1,000 former fighters from a former Democratic Republic of Congo rebel group broke out Tuesday from a camp where they being held in Uganda just as soldiers were about to repatriate them, the Ugandan army said.

"A thousand rebels from the M23 (group) have escaped" from the camp in Bihanga, about 300 kilometers (190 miles) southwest of the Ugandan capital Kampala, a spokesman for the Ugandan army said on the official Twitter account.

"They said they were worried about their safety if they were sent back to the Democratic Republic of Congo."

US terrorism insurance bill killed by objections in Senate

Reuters [16/12/14]:

A bill to extend an expiring federal terrorism insurance program effectively died on Tuesday when the U.S. Senate failed to reach an agreement to hold a vote before Congress wraps up its business for the year.

The program, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that provides a federal insurance backstop for owners of skyscrapers, sports stadiums and other large projects that could face terrorism threats, is now expected to lapse at year-end.

Congress will need to reintroduce the measure in January in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the bill was "killed" because retiring Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn had wanted to make last-minute changes and would not drop his objections.

"We all know if we change the bill, it's gone," Reid said on the Senate floor, adding that any changes would mean that it would have to be sent back to the House of Representatives.

The House passed the measure last week, but has left Washington for a holiday break until Jan. 6.

"They're gone, they're not going to change anything in the bill. We've been told that many times," Reid said.

In a final act as a Senator, Coburn had objected to a section of the bill that creates a licensing program to allow insurance agents to sell across state lines.

Coburn said he wanted states to be able to opt out of the program and wanted the measure to expire in two years. The House-passed bill would extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act for six years and double the threshold for losses at which the backstop kicks in to $200 million.

Lawmakers created the terrorism insurance program after the 2001 attacks, when insurers lost money and threatened to stop offering insurance against the chance of similar attacks.

The program has enabled developers of large projects such as shopping malls to build and gain coverage at lower costs. The federal backstop has never been triggered.

While the House and Senate could act quickly in January to take up renewal of the program, its lapse could cause delays in financing approvals for large development projects.

"We hope the House will pass a bill quickly because billions of dollars of projects and hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk," said Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat who has pressed for the program's renewal.

House Republicans included in the bill language tweaking the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law to exempt ranchers, energy businesses and other so-called "end users" of derivatives from certain requirements.

Many Democrats, who lost a battle last week over including Dodd-Frank changes in a $1.1 trillion government spending package, were bitterly opposed to changing the law again in the terrorism bill.

The White House had said it opposed including Dodd-Frank modifications in an unrelated bill but stopped short of threatening to veto the insurance extension.


18 December 2014