A Natural Occurrence

 

Maria Freij

[Published in the November 2014 edition of 'Southerly'- Vol 74 No 2]

 

 

In the rise and fall of the tide:

glimpses of the other life -

 

 

the other homeland; the memories

of other shores, calmer seas.

 

No birds today; the storm

is long gone. Last year,

 

a spate of shearwater birds

washed up on the beaches -


A natural occurrence, the paper called it -

said the birds, exhausted by their migration

 

from the northern hemisphere, ran out

of steam only hours from shore.

 

After thousands of kilometers,

the hunger and thirst overbearing,

 

their bodies gave in, though land was so close

they would have been able to taste it.

 

They were shearwaters: flesh-footed, fluttering, sooty -

what most call mutton birds, generic

 

names for generic birds, black bodies

ruffled feathers, mouths closed

 

as their bodies, hundreds of them,

littered the high-water mark.

 

They were only there for a day: the Council collected

them in plastic bags in the tentative light of dawn,

 

before the runners and the families arrived.

The beach, swept clean, was even brighter

 

 

than before: not a black feather remained.

The coal ships waited again on the horizon

 

 

to load and bring their hullfuls of coal to Asia.

Children played on the water's edge.

 

Today, the paper reports they have called off

the search for survivors: another boat

 

has succumbed on its way to Christmas Island.

The ship carried fathers and sons

 

leaving behind mothers and daughters.

Desperate men desperately seeking

 

the other life, the one that glimpses

for an instant, before the wave falls into itself


and becomes a mirror of a mirror

in which all joy is infinite, and all sorrow.


Surfers Paradise, October 2013

Satellite images: Three powerful storms—Phailin, Nari, and Wipha—menace Asia at the same time [QZ - 12/10/13]

 

Refugees exiled on Nauru say they want to return to Australia's concentration camp to flee violence

Guardian [31/12/14]

Refugees on Nauru say they have pleaded with Australian immigration authorities to return them to detention centres because of violence and harassment from some members of the local population.

Some women living in camps for refugees say they sleep wearing jeans because they are afraid of being raped by local men.

The release of hundreds of refugees since May has caused turmoil in the tiny Pacific nation. Many Nauruans support the refugees and treat them with kindness.

But a section of the community has declared its deep antagonism toward the new arrivals.

An Iranian who asked to remain anonymous said refugees lived under constant threat of physical and verbal abuse.

“They attack the refugees,” he said. “You are walking in the street, they say ‘fuck you, go back to your camp’. They throw rocks. They spit at you. This is normal.”

...

Miami Herald [30/12/14]:

The Pentagon freed five Guantánamo prisoners to resettlement in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, a day after they left on a U.S. Air Force cargo plane that had to circle back to the base in Cuba with a mechanical problem.

The transfers of three Yemenis and two Tunisians demonstrated the far-flung nature of the State Department’s resettlement deals as it tries to chart new lives for cleared captives whose home nations are too unsettled for repatriation.

It was also the latest in a surge of transfers that has reduced the prison camp population to 127.

But it got off to a shaky start for the captives who, though cleared for release years ago, typically depart as they arrived — in shackles with blindfolds and ears muffled.

...

Australia's Foreign Minister builds on yesterday's media lies to dogwhistle her special brand of bigotry

Brisbane Times [31/12/14]:

Foreign minister Julie Bishop has urged relatives or friends to blow the whistle on anyone taking children abroad to undergo female genital mutilation. …

 

... FGM was practiced not too long ago in the West including Britain and the US around the early part of the 20th century. ... [Foreign Policy Journal - 11/11/14]

Medicare-funded labiaplasty on the rise [ABC, World Today - 4/10/12]

Labiaplasty Thailand

Woman to seek bail over murder bid against children

Nine MSN [31/12/14]:

A woman who allegedly tried to kill two children in a house fire north of Brisbane will apply for bail next week, a court has heard.

The 58-year-old woman, who cannot be identified, appeared briefly via telephone link in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court today.

She is facing four counts of attempted murder involving the two boys, aged nine and 11.

Police allege they were deliberately trapped in a fire at Morayfield, north of Brisbane, in early 2014.

The boys escaped the fire, but one suffered burns to his legs.

The woman has been charged with two counts of attempted murder and one of attempted arson in relation to the blaze, and also faces two additional attempted murder charges stemming from other alleged incidents.

Police allege she tried to kill one of the boys on two separate occasions, but they have not provided details of the other incidents.

She also faces a charge of interfering with a corpse in relation to the death of a seven-month-old baby from the same family.

During the brief hearing today, the court was told she would seek bail on Monday.

She was remanded in custody until then.

Police incident, Milton

QPS Media [31/12/14]:

Police are investigating an incident which occurred at a stadium in Milton last night, during a football match.

A 60-year-old woman was treated for burns to her legs and a 31 year old man was treated for burns to his fingers, after a flare was ignited during the game.

A 16-year-old boy has been spoken to and dealt with under the provisions of the Youth Justice Act in relation to the incident.

...

Strike against Aurizon planned for Rockhampton depot

Morning Bulletin [30/12/14]:

Further strike action against rail operator Aurizon will take place at the Rockhampton depot next week, as an 18-month pay dispute continues.

Rail, Trams and Bus Union state secretary Owen Doogan announced the plan to members this afternoon.

The 24-hour stoppage is expected to run from noon on January 6.

Overtime bans at the Bluff and Stanwell depots will also be implemented from 1am on January 4 until 1am on January 7.

Today, The Morning Bulletin reported a 24-hour stoppage would take place at Sarina, as well as an overtime ban at Pring (Bowen), Coppabella (near Moranbah) and Callemondah (Gladstone) depots from Saturday.

"We have been forced to take industrial action to try and encourage this employer to participate positively in negotiations to reach amicable agreements," Mr Doogan said.

"This industrial action does not need to occur, as we offered to suspend all industrial action if they (Aurizon) withdrew their application to seek to terminate the current agreements and enter into meaningful discussions."

...

 

 

 

… Don't if feel like the wind is always howlin'?

Don't it seem like there's never any light?

Once a day, don't you wanna throw the towel in?

It's easier than puttin' up a fight. ...

 

'It's the hard knock life' [1977]

 

Annie is a Broadway musical based upon the popular Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie, with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and the book by Thomas Meehan. ...

 

 

QPS Media [31/12/14]:

Four people have been charged after an incident at a Goodna address yesterday afternoon.

It will be alleged around 5:30pm three women and a teenage boy were involved in an altercation at a Redbank Plains Road address in which a 44-year-old man was shot in the shoulder with an air rifle.

The injured man was transported to the Princess Alexandra Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

A 44-year-old local woman was treated at the scene for minor injuries. A 19-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy at the address were not injured.

A 30-year-old Leichhardt woman and two women from Bundamba, aged 39 and 41 have been charged with one count each of enter premises with intent to commit indictable offence, acts intended to maim, shortening firearms, going armed so as to cause fear, possession of a knife in a public place and two counts each of wilful damage and common assault.

All three women are expected to appear in the Ipswich Magistrates Court today.

A 16-year-old local boy will be dealt with under the provisions of the Youth Justice Act.

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 charged after motorbike becomes "stuck" during WA police chase

West Australian [31/12/14]:

A police dog has nabbed a suspected drug dealer who fled after his motorbike became stuck in bushland in Western Australia.

Mako found the motorcyclist shortly after he'd fled when his bike became stuck near Rockingham Road, Naval Base, south of Perth, at 9.30pm on Tuesday during a police chase.

The suspected dealer surrendered without incident.

A search of the man turned up amphetamine and cash, and the bike was found to have been stolen.

A 33-year-old Bedfordale man has been charged with steal motor vehicle, possess amphetamine with intent to supply or sell and traffic offences.

Mandatory blood tests for WA "police biters" [West Australian - 31/12/14]

SA police engage in two pursuits overnight

West Australian [31/12/14]:

Two men have been charged after separate police pursuits in the northern suburbs of Adelaide.

The first was terminated following a short pursuit just after 10.30pm on Tuesday in the Hillbank area.

Police later saw the car drive into a private driveway at Davoren Park.

The driver, an 18-year-old man from Elizabeth North has been charged with engaging in a police pursuit and a number of traffic offences.

He has been bailed to appear in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court at a later date.

Then, just before 4am on Wednesday, police chased another car until it stopped at Sefton Park.

The driver, a 33-year-old Enfield man was arrested and is being interviewed by police.

He is expected to be charged with a number of traffic offences.

Woman critically injured during traffic incident, Middlemount

QPS Media [31/12/14]:

A 44-year-old woman has been critically injured during a traffic incident in Middlemount overnight.

At around 1.30am, the woman, who was a passenger in a utility, fell from the vehicle while travelling along the Fitzroy Development Road.

She was transported to Dysart Hospital, before being airlifted to Townsville Hospital.

The 35-year-old man who was driving the vehicle is currently assisting police with their enquiries.

The circumstances around the incident are being investigated by police.

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 in critical condition after being crushed by vehicle, Mackay [Daily Mercury – 30/12/14]

Toowoomba police have charged five people after a search of a Glenvale residence turned up a range of illicit drugs, cash and drug utensils. ... [Chronicle - 30/12/14]

Suspicious house fire, Giru (Townsville)

QPS Media [31/12/14]:

Police are investigating after a fire destroyed a Bartlett Road home at Giru around 7.20pm last night.

Two occupants, a man and woman were reportedly treated at the scene for minor smoke inhalation after attempting to extinguish the blaze.

A crime scene has been established with investigations into the cause of the fire continuing.

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.

Family reeling after home burns down on Christmas

Sunshine Coast Daily [31/12/14]:

… Doonan's Carol Smith and her mother, Margaret White, were in Toowoomba on holidays with extended family when their home on Eumundi-Noosa Rd was destroyed by fire on Christmas Day morning.

Speaking to the Daily from Toowoomba yesterday, Ms Smith spoke about the priceless family heirlooms lost in the flames and the state of uncertainty she and her elderly mother, for whom she was the primary carer, had found themselves in.

"Everything's gone, there's nothing left," Ms Smith said. "We each had a small suitcase of clothes and I had my laptop when we left - that's it.

"Everything that she (Margaret, 85) has ever had in her entire life - old black and white photos from before her and dad were married, cross-stitched tapestries, antiques, old engagement and wedding presents - it's all gone."

The blaze began about 4.30am and soon engulfed and gutted the home.

Only the outdoor toilet her father built years ago stood untouched.

"It was Mum and Dad's house. The kids, grandkids - they all grew up visiting the house," Ms Smith said.

Sadly, her father, who passed away in 2013, had hand-made a lot of the furnishings and tables in the home - memories reduced to ashes.

Ms Smith and her mother are staying with Ms Smith's sister at her pub in Kingsthorpe, near Toowoomba, for the time being.

The cause of the fire has not yet been established.

Firefighters bring Hazelwood coal mine fire under control

ABC [31/12/14]:

Firefighters have brought a fire under control in the Hazelwood coal mine in Morwell, in Victoria's east, where a blaze burned for more than a month earlier this year.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) was called to the blaze just before 6:00am (AEDT).

The fire is burning in an inaccessible part of the mine, called 'the knob', but the operators are helping firefighters construct an access track.

Firefighters are going in on foot to battle the blaze which is about 20 square metres.

A helicopter was earlier called but has since been cancelled as the blaze is now under control.

In February, a fire broke out in the mine which burned for 45 days, covering Morwell with thick, acrid smoke.

In the first week of the fire about 20 firefighters were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, while vulnerable residents were advised to leave the town weeks later.

Victoria Police are still investigating the cause of the February fires.

NSW Police charged in with stun grenades and guns blazing. They could have negotiated.

Sydney Morning Herald [31/12/14]:

..."This man is not violent," Mr Habib told Fairfax Media. "I know him very well."

He believes 50-year-old Monis was "sick and disturbed" and desperately seeking attention over his grievances with government officials that had nothing to do with terrorism, particularly his failure to gain access to his two children. But Mr Habib does not accept that Monis was so mentally deranged that he meant to harm anyone.

Other Muslim leaders also offered to help police during the siege in Martin Place on December 15.

They included the Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, and Rebecca Kay, who has previously told Fairfax Media: "We felt the only people that could get through to him on a religious level or a cultural level was a member of the community."

None of these offers was accepted and it appears police were unwilling to allow untrained civilians to have any contact with the gunman. However, asked why they did not – or could not – accept the offers, NSW Police said no comment could be made while its "major critical incident investigation" continued with the oversight of the State Coroner.

...

... After receiving the call from Infosys, the Reddys called their daughter-in-law, who reportedly said the hostages had been allowed to take lunch. ... [NDTV - 15/12/14]

Mackay's Centrelink 'bomb' a box for injured animal [Daily Mercury – 31/12/14]

Mary keeps cruising. She has food stamps. And the card will get her what she needs.

Jeff Sharlet [30/12/14]:

…“Bring me in close,” says Mary. Right up to the door. She has her choice of motorized shopping carts. She carries the plant, Bandit, with one hand and hangs on to my arm and hops on her good foot from cart to cart, peering at the plugs, studying seats, until she picks the right one. Bandit up front. She wishes there was a seat belt. There isn’t, so he’d better hold on—because Mary is off! Full speed. Laps round the lobby. Like the real Bandit. Like Burt Reynolds in his black and gold Trans Am. Nobody catches him. Nothing slows Mary down. There’s a speed bump at the help desk—the Walmart gift card through which her case worker keeps her on a leash is worth $50, not $150. Mary keeps cruising. She has food stamps. And the card will get her what she needs. A microwave! She used to have one. She’ll have one again. Tonight’s the night. She has the card, she has me to carry the machine. “Let’s go check them out,” I say. “We will,” she answers. No rush. So much to see. “I like the light here,” she says. It’s always on. She likes the space. “Room,” she says. She stretches her long arms, condor-wide. Warming up. Grips the handles. Ready to roll. Past the jewelry, beaming like it’s hers. Past the Christmas sweaters—“looks great,” she says of a blue one with two snowmen. Past a stock clerk who fails to answer her questions about chocolate milk. “Nice boy," she says, but he doesn't get it. She needs her brands. Here, she can have them. Here, Mary chooses. Everything’s new here. There’s no case worker, no motel lady, no stalker ding dongs. No ghosts. Here her money—stamp, card, cash—is as good as yours, and she’s as good as you. Maybe even better. “I’m a shopper,” she says. Here--with a thousand constraints, under the roof of a corporation that makes little pretense of caring about anything but her money--she sets the terms.

Afghanistan: gunmen kidnap 3 health NGO workers, Uruzgan

Pajhwok [30/12/14]:

Unidentified gunmen abducted three workers of health sector NGO in central Uruzgan province, the governor’s spokesman said Tuesday.

Dost Muhammad Nayal told Pajhwok Afghan News the employees of the Afghan Health Development Services (AHDS), an NGO had been kidnapped two days back from Shalai, a locality in Khas Uruzgan district.

The NGO was working in health sector, he added, adding that two doctors, a vaccinator and their driver were abducted when they visited the area to treat patients there.

He said officials received the news 26 hours after their kidnapping and police had started investigation to ensure early release of the men.

Mullah Niamatullah, police chief, said he was unaware of the incident because no one had filed report into the incident.

Another worker of the NGO wishing not to be named told Pajhwok Afghan News that gunmen kidnapped three employees. He said militants severely beaten up the vaccinator and then set him free.

However, tribal elders had been tasked to ensure release of the men without further delay.

 

A woman is dead after her two-year-old child accidentally shot her inside an Idaho Wal-Mart. ... [AOL - 30/12/14]

 

Last month, when oil magnate Harold Hamm was ordered to pay his ex-wife $1 billion in their divorce, he called the ruling "fair and equitable,” publicly thanked the judge and said he was happy to have the case behind him.

Now, with his estimated $19 billion personal fortune having fallen by half amid a rout in oil prices, the chief executive of Continental Resources has changed his mind.

Hamm has appealed the divorce ruling, which he now considers “erroneous and inequitable,” according to filings in Oklahoma County Court. ... [Reuters - 30/12/14]

Canadian Frigate to Join NATO Forces Off Ukraine

Naharnet [30/12/14]:

A Canadian frigate with 250 marines on board set off from Halifax on the Atlantic coast Tuesday to join NATO forces in the Mediterranean Sea monitoring the Ukraine crisis.

HMCS Fredericton, which is carrying a Sea King helicopter and an air detachment, will replace HMCS Toronto, which joined the permanent NATO forces in July.

In its support for Ukraine, Ottawa has imposed sanctions on Russian politicians and on the country's oil and gas sector, as well as against Ukrainian separatist leaders.

Canada's Defense Minister Rob Nicholson said the frigate would "help bring peace to Eastern and Central Europe.

"Canada is proud to make a strong contribution to NATO's assurance measures and demonstrate our steadfast support for our allies," he added.

Canada has already deployed six F-18 fighters as part of the NATO air mission.

Italy takes control of refugee ship on collision course

Yahoo [30/12/14]:

Italian authorities took control Tuesday of a cargo ship carrying hundreds of migrants after the crew disappeared and set it on a programmed route to crash into a coast, officials said.

The alarm was first raised about the Moldovan-flagged Blue Sky M after a passenger sent a distress call earlier Tuesday when the ship was off Greece.

Greek authorities scrambled a navy frigate and helicopter, but the captain said the vessel wasn't in distress and didn't require assistance.

The ship then headed on its own toward Italy. As it neared Santa Maria di Leuca, on the southernmost tip of the "heel" of boot-shaped Italy, Italian port authorities dispatched two helicopters as a precaution and boarded the ship with a team of six coast guard officials.

Coast guard spokesman Cmdr. Filippo Marini said the team took control of the ship after determining there was no crew to be found. He said the Italians "avoided disaster" by interrupting the programmed route that would have had the ship crash into shore.

He said the motor had been blocked, and that the Italian crew was trying to unblock it so that it could be safely brought into port.

Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees, most fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, attempt to reach the European Union each year, most heading by sea to Italy or Greece.

The smugglers who organize the trips often abandon the ships before they reach shore to avoid arrest.

The operation came two days after a Greek-operated ferry caught fire between Greece and Italy with the loss of at least 11 lives, prompting a two-day search and rescue effort.

Why does Australia always vote against UN resolutions supporting the Palestinian state and an end to Israeli occupation?

Why does Australia's media never interview our representatives at the UN?

 RT [30/12/14]:

The UN Security Council has failed to adopt the Arab coalition’s bid calling for the creation of a Palestinian state and an end to Israeli “occupation”. The US and Australia voted against the move with 5 abstentions.

The draft resolution gathered only 8 votes in favour, so it was automatically defeated. The US however still used its veto power and voted against the resolution. Another veto power state, the UK, along with Lithuania, Nigeria, Korea and Rwanda have abstained from the vote.

...

Explanation of Vote by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations [30/12/14]

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [30/12/14]:

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria, Dec. 30, using fighter aircraft to conduct seven airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted eight airstrikes in Iraq, Dec. 30, using fighter, remotely piloted and attack aircraft against the ISIL terrorists.

The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:

Syria

•Near Kobani, six airstrikes destroyed three ISIL buildings, damaged an ISIL building, and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

•Near Dayz ar Zawr, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL shipping container.

Iraq

•Near Al Qaim, two airstrikes destroyed four ISIL excavators and two ISIL fighting positions.

•Near Fallujah, three airstrikes destroyed four ISIL buildings and three ISIL tactical vehicles and struck an ISIL tactical unit and a large ISIL unit.

•Near Ramadi, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

•Near Bayji, one airstrike struck two ISIL buildings.

•Near Mosul, one airstrike destroyed two ISIL tactical vehicles and two ISIL checkpoints and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

...

 A man was shot and killed by police after he allegedly tried to run them over with his car in Delaware County Tuesday. ... [NBC - 30/12/14]

Video: Man Dances Near Police Officer in New York, Gets Shoved To The Ground [Gothamist - 30/12/14]

Entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty [Foreign Minister Media Release – 24/12/14]

Libya: UN mission condemns terrorist bombing against Parliament amid uptick in violence

UN Media Release [30/12/14]:

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has strongly deplored a terrorist attack against a hotel in the city of Tobruk where the country’s House of Representatives was in session just days after the Mission had warned that further violence risked plunging the country into “all-out war.”

According to media reports, a suicide bomber detonated a car equipped with explosives earlier today wounding at least 11 people. The bombing appears to be the biggest attack against the Libyan parliament since it moved to the eastern city of Tobruk, along the border with Egypt, to escape the unprecedented levels of violence afflicting the country.

“This despicable act will only increase the determination of those Libyans seeking a political solution to forge ahead with their efforts to bring stability and security to Libya,” UNSMIL said in a statement released today.

The attack – the latest spell of violence to rattle the beleaguered nation following the beginning of its civil war in 2011 which resulted in the ouster of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi –comes on the heels of last week’s militant aggression against an oil installation in Sidra which left numerous storage tanks ablaze and at least 20 soldiers dead and last weekend’s Government air strikes against militant positions in the city of Misrata.

At the same time, recent fighting in the neighbouring Nafusa mountains has left 170 people dead. In addition to the casualties, the fighting has also caused a humanitarian crisis with at least 120,000 people forced to flee their homes, resulting in consequent shortages in both food and medical supplies.

Meanwhile, in the eastern city of Benghazi, an uptick in violence has seen 450 people killed since October as residents continue to face shortages in medical care. Moreover, upwards of 15,000 families – some 90,000 people – have been displaced.

In its statement, UNSMIL stressed that violence “will not solve Libya’s problems” and urged all Libyans “to desist from violence and to seek to resolve their political and security crises through dialogue.”

An attempted coup by a group of Gambian soldiers while the country's longstanding president was abroad has been foiled, military and diplomatic sources have said. … [Al Jazeera – 30/12/14]

Philippines: ‘Seniang’ kills 31 in South

Inquirer [31/12/14]:

Tropical Storm “Seniang” triggered floods and landslides in a two-day sweep across Mindanao and the Visayas, leaving at least 31 people dead, seven missing and more than 40,000 in evacuation centers.

Packing peak winds of 65 kilometers per hour, the storm, internationally called Jang-mi, toppled electric posts and washed away houses as it slammed into Surigao del Sur province on Monday and barreled west toward Palawan province, where it was expected Wednesday.

The highest death toll was reported from Barangay (village) Mercedes in Catbalogan, Samar province, where a landslide buried two vans on a mountainside highway, Mayor Stephanie Uy-Tan told radio station dzMM.

“The rains were really strong and people thought the storm won’t be too strong based on the news,” Tan said. “Rescuers reported hearing voices from the rubble,” she said. Tan feared that the toll of lives could still rise.

According to the Associated Press, flash floods and landslides triggered by Seniang left at least 31 people dead and seven missing, including in areas still recovering from last year’s Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).

Inquirer bureaus reported 8 deaths in Rondo town in Cebu province; 5 in Tanauan and 4 in Mahaplag, both in Leyte province; 4 in Loon and Baclayon in Bohol province; 1 each in Tobias Fornier in Antique province and San Francisco in Cebu and 1 in Butuan City. Two fatalities were earlier reported in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, and in Compostela town.

However, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council put the death toll at only 21, its executive director, Alexander Palma, said.

At least 19 others were reported missing as of Tuesday afternoon, including a pump boat that disappeared en route from Barangay San Roque in the Southern Leyte coastal town of Macrohon to Limasawa.

The Philippine Coast Guard deployed search and rescue teams to look for a pump boat missing since Monday night, PCG Cmdr. Armand Balilo said in a text message.

The Coast Guard said nearly 15,600 passengers were stranded in various ports in the Visayas, Mindanao and the southern Luzon region.

Philippine Airlines Express and Cebu Pacific canceled 14 domestic flights on Tuesday to and from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Tagbilaran in Bohol, Masbate province, Roxas City, Legazpi and Kalibo, according to the Manila International Airport Authority.

...

Ukraine denies radioactive leak on Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant

Reuters [30/12/14]:

Ukrainian authorities denied on Tuesday a report in pro-Kremlin media that a radioactive leak had taken place at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, Europe's largest.

Life News newswire published documents which it said came from Ukraine's emergencies ministry and showed that a leak at the power plant had led to a spike in radiation over the past two days exceeding permitted norms by 16 times.

Three officials from Ukraine's emergencies ministry, energy ministry and the plant itself told Reuters there had been no leak.

"The plant works normally, there have been no accidents," said an energy ministry official. The officials could not comment if documents published by Life News were authentic. Reuters was not able to verify the documents independently.

Russia and Ukraine are going through one of the worst phases in relations after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and was accused by the West of sending troops to east Ukraine to support a rebellion against Kiev.

In the nuclear sphere, Moscow and Kiev are at odds over supplies on nuclear fuel after Ukraine said it wanted to replace some Russian supplies with fuel from U.S. firm Westinghouse. Moscow said the move would put the safety of Ukrainians and Europe in general in danger.

Earlier this month, Ukrainian authorities reported an accident at the plant but said it represented no danger to health or the environment.

An explosion and fire at Ukraine's Chernobyl power plant in 1986, the world's worst nuclear accident, was caused by human error and a series of blasts sent a cloud of radioactive dust billowing across northern and western Europe.

Call made for asylum to be granted to Kurdish Iranian rescue hero Homayon Hatami [Canberra Times – 31/12/14]

 

“I think that is the greatest loss: when you lose your country and you lose your place where you belong.”

Fleeing persecution, a group of ethnic Hazaras set out for Australia by sea. One of them documented the harrowing voyage with a camera. Barat’s story [UNHCR - 29/12/14]

 

Commander Faizullah who was fighting Taliban since 2012 in Moqar district of Ghazni province has been killed in a landmine explosion.  ... [Khaama - 30/12/14]

 

Turkey has issued new regulations that grant Syrian refugees secure legal status in the country for the first time, clarifying and expanding rights for more than a million people who are rapidly assimilating into Turkish society.

After spending nearly four years under temporary protection, in recent weeks the refugees have begun to receive new identification cards under a measure passed by the Council of Ministers in October granting them access to basic services like health care and education.  ... [New York Times - 29/12/14]

 

Customs staff to be armed at airports, new Immigration Minister announces Customs staff to be armed at airports, new Immigration Minister announces [Sydney Morning Herald - 30/12/14]

 

The New Robber Barons

Bill Moyers [VIDEO – 19/12/14]:

We’ve just watched the Senate and the House — aided and abetted by President Obama — pay off financial interests with provisions in the new spending bill that expand the amount of campaign cash wealthy donors can give, and let banks off the hook for gambling with customer (and taxpayer) money.

What happened in Washington over the past several days sounds strikingly familiar to the First Gilded Age more than a century ago, when senators and representatives were owned by Wall Street and big business. Then, as now, those who footed the bill for political campaigns were richly rewarded with favorable laws.

Bill’s guest this week, historian Steve Fraser, says what was different about the First Gilded Age was that people rose in rebellion against the powers that be. Today we do not see “that enormous resistance,” but he concludes, “people are increasingly fed up their voices are not being heard. And I think that can only go on for so long without there being more and more outbreaks of what used to be called class struggle, class warfare.”

Steve Fraser is a writer, editor and scholar of American history. Among his books are Every Man a Speculator, Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace and Labor Will Rule. His latest, The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power, will be published early next year.

SWAG Ministries Sydney [30/12/14]:

 TODAY WE WERE ASKED TO GO TO FITNESS FIRST BANKSTOWN TO COLLECT A DONATION THEY TOOK UP FOR SWAG $325 SO FIRST THANK YOU WILL AND THE TEAM !!! Well while we were there we saw a man going through the bin looking for food now this we didnt expect !! THERE WERE PEOPLE EVERYWHERE AND THEY JUST WALKED PASSED LIKE HE WASNT THERE !!So when we approach ed this man we told him not to go through the bin lunch was on us !!! We went to offer him a coles card he wouldn't take it he said that if he walked in he would get kicked out !! Anyway the reason we share this is that if you are ever in a position to help someone Do it !! It might just be enough to make a difference !AS SOON AS WE DID THAT OTHER PEOPLE WALKED OVER TO BLESS HIM !!

Queensland Police don't shoot anyone during an incident in Mt Isa

North West Star [30/12/14]:

Mount Isa Police have taken a 50-year-old male into custody after he barricaded himself in a Webb Street residence for four hours on Tuesday.

Police informed the media that the man was taken into custody around 5:15pm.

District Officer Acting Superintendent Trevor Kidd said the situation was resolved and no one was harmed.

“The man was taken into custody as he stepped out of the house,” he said.

“It was an excellent job by police and emergency services at the scenes and we want to thank the community for their patience and support while the situation was being resolved.”

“It is an ongoing investigation to determine what offences may have occurred.”

“The [PSPA] declaration has been revoked and people can now move around those areas.”

The incident unfolded around 1.20pm on Tuesday when police were called to the Webb Street home after reports of a man allegedly armed with a knife making threats. Police made an emergency declaration under the Public Safety Preservation Act about 2:10pm on Tuesday.

An officer in protective gear was present at the scene while police negotiated to resolve the situation.

Acting Superintendent Kidd said the man was known to police and had not injured himself or anyone else.

Ambulance officers who were first on scene approached the man who allegedly made threats before barricading himself in the house and police were called.

The area quarantined off in relation to the incident was between Webb, East, Hilary and Marian streets.

A woman has been charged with trying to kill two young boys in a house fire in southeast Queensland.

The 58-year-old woman was charged on Tuesday with two counts of attempted murder and one count of arson in relation to the fire at a house at Morayfield, north of Brisbane, in February. ... [Yahoo 7 - 30/12/14]

A man was charged with sexually assaulting three children, all relatives aged between five and seven, in Newcastle on Monday. … [The Herald – 30/12/14]

Toowoomba man, 30, back in custody after court revokes bail [Chronicle – 30/12/14]

Boat and car destroyed in shed fire at Dingo overnight [Morning Bulletin – 30/12/14]

Pedestrian seeks $1.7m damages [Daily Mercury – 29/12/14]

Guam's prison almost double its capacity, inmates held in conditions similar to Australia's refugee death camp on Manus Island

RNZI [30/12/14]:

A report by Guam's public accountability office says the island's prison is almost double its capacity, and has no plan to deal with anticipated population growth.

The report says there are over 700 inmates, with four prisoners being held in cells designed for a single inmate.

It also found prisoners housed in "temporary canvas-like structures", as well as in the library, classrooms and offices.

The Pacific Daily News says the report also found the Department of Corrections lacks any clear plan or strategy to address anticipated population growth, reduce recidivism and encourage the reintroduction of prisoners into society.

The report says the department is putting itself at risk of lawsuits and federal receivership, while jeopardising the welfare of employees, prisoners and the general community.

In response, Republican Senator Brant McCreadie says he plans to introduce a bill to build another prison for Guam.

Inmates at a prison in southern Brazil have taken seven staff hostage in the latest in a series of mutinies at penitentiaries in recent months, Brazilian media reported. ...  [France 24 - 30/12/14]

Police officers shot at in American Samoa, one injured [RNZI – 30/12/14]

Papua: Human Rights Group Questions Impartiality of Paniai Shooting Investigation

Jakarta Globe [30/12/14]:

A total of 53 people are being questioned over the fatal shootings of at least five young civilians by security forces in Papua earlier this month, police say, but there are doubts about the credibility and impartiality of the investigation.

Papua Police spokesman Adj. Sen. Cmr. Patridge Renwarin said the witnesses included civilians, members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and police.

He told Antara news agency that the National Police were questioning their officers and the TNI was conducting its own investigation into possible involvement of its soldiers.

The announcement comes just days after President Joko Widodo told a crowd in Papua that the civilian killings were deplorable and he wanted the case solved immediately.

Security forces opened fire on about 800 peaceful demonstrators, including women and children in Enarotali in Paniai district on Dec. 8. Five protesters were killed and at least 17 others — including elementary school students — were injured, according to a report from Human Rights Watch. Local media reported another died of gunshot wounds on Dec. 10.

Patridge said no suspects had been named and police had not figured out who was behind the shootings. A key part of the investigation seems to revolve around a bullet fragment found at the scene.

“We have to wait for the bullet fragment to be examined,” he said “the whole investigation depends on the result.”

Victims and activists have said the incident was prompted with the beating of a 12-year-old boy from Ipakiye village, five kilometers from Enarotali, when the boy confronted a group of men in an SUV for driving at night with their headlights off.

The beating resulted in villagers marching to the capital to demand an explanation the next day. At around 10 a.m. the crowd spotted the same SUV and began attacking it. Police then opened fire on the unarmed crowd, witnesses said.

But the National Police chief, Gen. Sutarman, gave a different account of what happened, claiming the victims were planning an attack against the local military base, where locals suspected the SUV driver was hiding. Police stopped the crowd from advancing by setting up a barricade.

Sutarman has previously suggested the shootings could be the work of gunmen affiliated with the Free Papua Movement (OPM).

Human Rights Watch Indonesia has called on Joko to form a joint fact-finding team to ensure a credible, impartial investigation into the deadly shootings.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), police and military should all be involved, it said.

Komnas Ham is conducting its own enquiry into the incident, but the military has refused to cooperate and the Indonesia’s 1997 Law on Military Courts prevents civilian investigators from speaking with military personnel at the scene of crimes, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Papua inquiry has been stymied because civilian investigators can’t interview the soldiers who were at the scene,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at the organization said. “A joint probe with police, military, and human rights investigators is crucial to ensure that all information is collected and that the findings will be taken seriously.”

Human Rights Watch has also said numerous witnesses are afraid to speak out about the incident for fear or reprisals.

The Paniai shootings were one the worst acts of state violence in years. Hostilities between Papuan civilians and the security forces have frequently turned deadly since Indonesia annexed the region in 1969.

Cheese police get busy

CBS [29/12/14]:

A recall has been issued by the FDA in the metro Detroit and Grand Rapids areas for Michigan-based Farm Country Cheese House for its Raw Milk Cheddar due to a potential contamination by the infectious bacteria Listeria Monocytogenes.

The Raw Milk Cheddar in question is packaged under two different labels. The first label will have Farm Country Cheese House logo on the far left hand side, and the product name (Raw Milk Cheddar) will be written on top of the label. This product is sold as an 8 oz block.

...

5 modern diseases grown by factory farming [Yahoo – 7/11/13]

Japan culls 42,000 chickens after second bird flu outbreak [Japan Today – 30/12/14]

 US court approves Condé Nast $5.85 million intern pay settlement

Reuters [29/12/14]:

Condé Nast on Monday won a federal judge's preliminary approval to pay $5.85 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by thousands of former interns who claimed the magazine publisher underpaid them.

The settlement, made public on Nov. 13, applies to roughly 7,500 interns who had worked at magazines including Vanity Fair, Vogue and the New Yorker.

Former interns who worked at Condé Nast from June 2007 to the present are expected to receive payments from $700 to $1,900.

In granting preliminary approval, U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman in Manhattan said the payout appeared reasonable, citing an estimate by the interns' lawyers that it exceeded 60 percent of estimated unpaid wages.

"Given defendant's size and stature in the publishing world, I assume it could withstand greater judgment," Pitman wrote. "This fact, by itself, however, does not render the proposed settlement unfair."

The law firm Outten & Golden, which represents the interns, plans to seek legal fees of $650,000, or 11.1 percent of the settlement fund.

Pitman scheduled a June 22, 2015, fairness hearing to consider final approval of the settlement.

The lawsuit is one of many accusing media and entertainment companies of paying interns little or nothing for their work.

Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal reached a $6.4 million settlement of a similar lawsuit in October.

Condé Nast canceled its internship program soon after it was sued in June 2013.

The case is Ballinger et al v. Advance Magazine Publishers Inc d/b/a Condé Nast Publications, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-04036.

Refugees incarcerated in Australia's death camp on Manus Island put in "medical isolation" at rate of one a day

“It’s really an evil policy, they are saying publicly they want to crush these people so others don’t come. To deliberately harm another human being, that is completely unacceptable, it is morally wrong and just indefensible.”

Dr Richard Kidd, Queensland representative for the Australian Medical Association and co-founder of Doctors for Refugees

Guardian [30/12/14]:

Manus Island detainees are being placed in medical isolation at a rate of nearly one a day, and almost a quarter have required quarantine, hospitalisation or other medical treatment over the past eight months, official statistics show.

And the asylum seekers themselves said their care is getting worse. Detainees beaten in February’s unrest said they were still suffering with their injuries, and others said they have had medication taken from them, been given expired drugs, or waited months for treatment.

...

Imaginary Australian journalist to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton: Where can we obtain proof families have been released from the Christmas Island refugee concentration camp, and when can we interview them?

The last asylum seeker children being detained on Christmas Island have been moved to the mainland. [ABC - 21/12/14]

#PeoplesMonday has begun now in Grand Central NYC with 11 minute die-in for 11 times #EricGarner said #ICantBreathe

Image: @OccupyWallStNYC [30/12/14]

A 25-year-old black man killed by police in Los Angeles was shot three times, including in the back at close range, a post-mortem report has found.  ... [BBC - 30/12/14]

Australian media report that Man Haron Monis has been glorified in an IS propaganda mag.

Who gives a fuck?

Why did NSW police charge into the Lindt Café with stun grenades and guns blazing?

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.

...

And as Murdoch-driven racist propaganda flourishes, the Queensland Premier and Ministers remain unaccountable [ABC - 29/12/14]:

A funeral service for the eight children found dead in a home in Cairns in far north Queensland will be held in early January. ...

Is there no journalist who will ask the Newman Government:

Will there be a full investigation and/or urgent reporting into every aspect of government involvement in the Manoora tragedy i.e. housing, family and welfare services, mental health?

And report the response - or lack thereof?

Queensland Govt Media Release [4/4/13]:

Rogue public housing tenants will soon face stricter penalties for bad behaviour with the Newman Government today launching a “three-strikes and you’re out” policy.

Minister for Housing Tim Mander said the new policy would see problem tenants evicted if they failed to curb their behaviour. ...

ABC [1/7/13]:

The Queensland Government's tougher policy on public housing tenants comes into effect today.

The so-called 'three strikes and you're out' policy will prohibit evicted tenants from reapplying for public housing for three months.

The member for the far north Queensland seat of Cairns, [and former Editor of Murdoch's 'Cairns Post'] Gavin King, says some tenants have been getting away with too much.

"Some public housing tenants have to get eight or nine breaches before the department and the court considers an eviction," he said.

"Often a public housing tenant will cause significant damage to their property, cause hell to their neighbours, and will get evicted.

"The trouble is they'll just be moved across town into another public housing tenancy."

United States bombs Somalia

Al Jazeera [29/12/14]:

The United States has launched an air strike targeting a senior leader of Somalia's al-Shabab group, the Pentagon has said.

The US Defence Department did not identify the leader or say whether the strike was successful.

"The strike took place in the vicinity of Saacow, Somalia," spokesman Mark Wright said in a statement on Monday.

"At this time, we do not assess there to be any civilian or bystander casualties.

"We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information, when appropriate, as details become available."

Al-Shabab fighters are fighting to overthrow the Somali government, regularly launching attacks against state targets and in neighbouring countries that contribute to an African Union force operating in the country.

Cameroon's air force has bombed Boko Haram positions in the Far North province of the country for the first time after the armed group from neighbouring Nigeria seized a military camp, the government has said. ... [Al Jazeera - 29/12/14]

United States continues bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [29/12/14]:

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Dec. 29 using fighter, attack and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct 12 airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted six airstrikes in Iraq Dec. 29 using fighter, remotely piloted and attack aircraft against the ISIL terrorists.

The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:

Syria

* Near Kobani, ten airstrikes destroyed eleven ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL buildings, an ISIL storage container and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

* Near Day az Zawr, an airstrike struck several ISIL buildings.

* Near Ar Raqqah, an airstrike struck several ISIL buildings.

Iraq

* Near Al Asad, two airstrikes destroyed two ISIL vehicles and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

* Near Sinjar, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

* Near Mosul, two airstrikes destroyed two ISIL buildings and struck a large ISIL unit.

Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [29/12/14]:

Baghdad: The aircrafts have continuously shelled Yusfiya , Rasheed ,Mahmoudiya and Latifiya south of Baghdad since yesterday morning .......

Baghdad: The war planes have shelled mistakenly the government's forces and militia swarms near Dewelibiya west of Baghdad resulted in killing and wounding of elements ......

Baghdad: Agencies/security source :15 persons have been killed and 30 wounded at the initial outcome of explosive belt blast in funeral in Hamamiyat village in Taji.......

Anbar: Fallujah Hospital has recieved 6 dead bodies of civilians including child and woman and 5 wounded ones - a child included-injured in the random and intended bombing of government's army in Fallujah........

Anbar: Two civilians have been killed in mortars shelling on their home in Albu Hayyat in Hadeetha.......

Car bomb targets gas plant in Homs [Daily Star - 30/12/14]

ANA PRESS [29/12/14]:

Prisoners of the Homs Central Prison went on hunger strike on Saturday and continue it for the third consecutive day insisting that they would go on with the hunger strike until their release as they consider their detention as illegal. A footage shot inside the prison shows how prisoners have gathered food in the yard and call for their release, and slogans as "We want our freedom" and "We do not want food" are written on the walls.

UN Mission condemns rocket attack against its camp in northern Mali

UN Media Release [29/12/14]:

The United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) strongly condemned today’s rocket attack on its camp in the northern city of Tessalit.

David Gressly, the Mission’s Office-in-Charge, said the perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice and reaffirmed the UN’s determination to continue its work for peace and stability in Mali.

According to preliminary reports, at least 9 rockets were fired at the camp, which the UN Mission shares with Malian army and French Barkhane troops.

No casualties were reported.

Arabs endorse Palestinian UN draft urging end of Israel occupation

Reuters [29/12/14]:

Arab U.N. delegations on Monday endorsed a Palestinian proposal to forge a peace deal with Israel within a year and end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by late 2017, despite Israeli and U.S. opposition.

The timing for a U.N. vote was unclear.

Several Western council diplomats told Reuters they had been surprised by the Palestinians' sudden push to submit a final draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council on Monday and put it to a vote on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Jordanian U.N. Ambassador Dina Kawar, the sole Arab representative on the council, told reporters Arab delegations had endorsed the Palestinian proposal, and the Jordanians and Palestinians would consult about when to call a vote.

Kawar previously said she would like a resolution that was backed by all 15 council members including the United States.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said the Palestinian draft resolution was not constructive and failed to address Israel's security needs.

Nine Security Council votes are needed to adopt a resolution, which would then force the United States, Israel's closest ally, to decide whether to veto it. Washington would be expected to vote against it, diplomats say.

Israel has said a Security Council vote, following the collapse in April of U.S.-brokered talks on Palestinian statehood, would deepen the conflict. It supports negotiations but rejects third-party timelines.

Palestinian youth shot dead by Israeli forces south of Nablus [Maan – 29/12/14]

Murdoch brings the hate

Why do so called alternatives to the Murdoch Press continually insult the intelligence of their readers/audience by repeating hate propaganda?

West Australian [30/12/14]:

A girl has reportedly been taken from her Brisbane home to undergo female genital mutilation in Africa.

Australian Federal Police confirmed to AAP on Tuesday that they had received a referral to investigate the matter.

A spokeswoman said they were unable to reveal details of the case at this stage.

They could not confirm reports from another media outlet that the girl was believed to have travelled to Gambia with her father to undergo the procedure.

Female genital mutilation is illegal in Australia, as is removing children to undergo the procedure.

Queensland girl 'taken to Africa for genital mutilation' [Nine MSN – 30/12/14]

Same reason so called alternatives to the Murdoch Press didn't report on the 'Sun' corruption trial?

More regurgitated Murdoch hate propaganda - this time in the 'Sunshine Coast Daily' [30/12/14]:

... Gary Johns, writing in The Australian, opens his opinion piece with the provocative [fascist] statement: "If a person's sole source of income is the taxpayer, the person, as a condition of benefit, must have contraception. No contraception, no benefit." ...

The Victory of ‘Perception Management’, Robert Parry [ICH/Consortium News - 29/12/14]

Suspected arson in Swedish mosque, second in days

RT [29/12/14]:

Police suspect arson in another Swedish mosque fire that came just four days after another fire at a Muslim place of worship left five people injured.

The blaze happened in the southern Swedish town of Eslov, just after 3 am local time. No one was injured.

"We are working under the assumption it is arson," police officer Marie Keismar told the TT news agency.

"There is no possible natural explanation for this type of fire to break out by itself,” fire department spokesman Gustaf Sandell also told public radio.

In autumn, the same mosque was vandalized, local newspaper, the Expressen reported.

The imam of the local Islamic Cultural Association told the media outlet that he is “scared and worried”, and feels “vulnerable.”

There are between 80 and 150 active members in the association, he said.

On Christmas day, a mosque in the town of Eskilstuna was set on fire, and five people were injured in the blaze.

These events are happening as the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats are winning votes from center right and center left parties. The Sweden Democrats intend to reduce the number of asylum seekers by 90 percent.

"Other people struggling actually have jobs but are just under-employed."

Chronicle [29/12/14]:

Almost 40% of Toowoomba's householders are struggling to make ends meet as high rents and rising utility bills hit hard.

A special APN investigation found 59,589, or 37% of families in the Toowoomba council area were unable to raise $2000 cash in a week to cover a crisis.

Of the area's 160,251 residents, 26,688 have had cash flow problems in the past 12 months.

University of Adelaide figures reveal 36,968 people relied on government incomes to survive over the past two years.

Toowoomba Salvation Army Major Kevin Holland said the statistics didn't surprise him and seemed consistent with what he'd seen.

He said there were all sorts of reasons why people found themselves in hard times

"Some professional people may have had a downturn in financial arrangements and lost income, or the breadwinner in the family may have died," Major Holland said.

"Other people struggling actually have jobs but are just under-employed."

Major Holland said sections of the community had an attitude of resignation and had given up on Christmas.

He said people reacted in three general ways to financial stress, categorising them as victims, survivors and enterprising people.

"Victims can never see their way forward and they will move into a lifestyle of blaming because they don't know how to get out of it," Major Holland said.

"Then you have your survivor, who gets very streetwise and takes a bit of responsibility for things.

"They will get stuck into their problems and make the most of it.

"Survivors live from week to week, but it's not hard for them to go into the victim world if something goes wrong.

"Finally you have enterprising people who have developed skills of saving and scrimping.

"They will eat baked beans every day to make sure they have a bank balance and will use all the resources available to get through."

St Vincent de Paul Society National Council chief Dr John Falzon said some residents were taking drastic measures to cut costs.

"We've recently seen huge increases in the costs of gas so many of the homes our members visit have people huddled together freezing in the dead winter, unable to afford heating, and we find people going to bed early so as to conserve electricity," Dr Falzon said.

"People are even reducing the number of times they'll use the stove top because they're worried about the cost."

Low income support specialist Maree O'Halloran said people in areas like Toowoomba went without fresh food and medications just to pay the rent.

"What we see is a lot of debt," the National Welfare Rights Network president said.

"It certainly needs all levels of government to be looking at their policies."

The figures come on the back of national consumer advocate Choice's latest Pulse Report, which says nine out of 10 householders have higher bills compared to last year.

Number of people affected by Ebola tops 20,000

UN Media Release [29/12/14]:

The head of the United Nations Ebola emergency response mission is set to open a treatment facility in Liberia near the Sierra Leonean border during a visit to review where the UN can do more to help, as the World Health Organization (WHO) today reported that more 20,000 people have now become infected by the virus.

According to the latest WHO update, as of 27 December, 20,081 people have been reported infected with 7,842 deaths.

Anthony Banbury, the Head the UN Mission for the Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) was to begin his two-day visit to Liberia today “as part of his final tour of the three countries most affected by the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. In each country, he will review progress in the fight against Ebola and areas where the UN can do more to help,” UNMEER reported.

While in Liberia, Mr. Banbury‘s will travel to Grand Cape Mount County for the opening of a new 50-bed Ebola Treatment Unit in an area that has reported six confirmed cases near the Sierra Leone border this month. UNMEER has been working closely with the Governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone is coordinating cross-border efforts to fight Ebola.

Appointed in September, Mr. Banbury is ending his tour of duty on 3 January 2015. He will be succeeded by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) today announced that the so-called “CommCare” technology has been chosen to support the Guinean Government Response Plan against Ebola in order to obtain timely and reliable information as well as facilitate contact tracing.

UNFPA said the innovative and time-saving application will be used to locate the contacts and to transfer, in real time, the data collected by the community workers.

Until now, 158 community workers use these phones to retrieve the data collected in the field.

“Previously, contact tracing was done with data sheets. We would go from house to house with writing material. Once the information was collected, we would give the sheets to the supervisors for typing and transferring to the coordination. This process used to take two to three days,” UNFPA quoted community worker Alpha Sow Midiaou as saying.

The UNFPA office in Guinea has been organizing training sessions for community workers and supervisors throughout the territory.

Ebola response workers continued their fight against the virus throughout the holiday period with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) delivering supplies to remote areas of West Africa while the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners organized social mobilizers to engage the population of a pair of quarantined and neighbouring villages in Liberia following two separate outbreaks.

And in Guinea, UNMEER reported that a field hospital donated by Israel will be established as an Ebola Treatment Unit.

UNMEER, meanwhile, said West Africa's fight to contain Ebola has hampered the campaign against malaria, which is a fully preventable and treatable disease. For example in Guéckédou, Guinea, doctors have had to stop pricking fingers to do blood tests for malaria.

Guinea’s 40 per cent drop in reported malaria cases this year is likely because people are too scared to go to health facilities and are not getting treated for malaria, UNMEER quoted a malaria expert as saying.

“Nets for Life Africa, a New York-based charity that provides insecticide-treated mosquito nets, said some 15,000 Guineans died from malaria last year,” according to UNMEER.

IMF policies blamed for weak Ebola response - Telegraph International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies left healthcare systems in the African countries worst affected by Ebola underfunded and lacking doctors, hampering a co-ordinated response to the outbreak, researchers said on Monday.  ... [Telegraph - 22/12/14]

 

The International Monetary Fund said Monday it was suspending financial aid to Greece under its huge rescue program until a new government is formed after elections slated for late January.  ...  [Naharnet - 29/12/14]

Armed robbery, Acacia Ridge

QPS Media [30/12/14]:

Police are investigating the armed robbery of a food outlet at Acacia Ridge last night.

Around 7.45pm a man entered the store on Beaudesert Road and threatened the shop assistant with a knife and demanded money.

After taking a sum of cash the man fled on foot.

No one was physically injured during the robbery.

The man is described as Caucasian, approximately 185cm tall and of slim build. His face was covered with a yellow bandanna and he was wearing a cap, a dark shirt and long dark pants.

Investigations are continuing.

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.

Counterfeit $50 notes located, Surfers Paradise

QPS Media [29/12/14]:

Gold Coast detectives have arrested two men in possession of a number of counterfeit $50 notes in Surfers Paradise.

The men, from Sydney, were located in a holiday unit on Sunday afternoon after police were alerted by suspicious traders.

It will be alleged the pair were in possession of more than twenty fake $50 notes.

They have both been charged with possessing counterfeit currency as well as fraud offences and will be appearing in the Southport Magistrates Court on February 18.

Although a reasonable likeness, the paper used to print the notes was described as poor in quality with the watermark being more prominent than usual.

Retailers and traders are reminded to check the quality of bank notes offered for payment and if they have any suspicions, retain the suspicious note and call police.

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.

Urgent reform of Australian food labelling needed

Palmer United Party Media Release [30/12/14]:

The federal leader of the Palmer United Party and Member for Fairfax, Clive Palmer, has again called for urgent reform of Australian food labelling to keep profits at home and protect local jobs.

Mr Palmer said the Palmer United Party is committed to ensuring uniform food-labelling reform in Australia to promote the endeavours of local producers and boost employment.

“Under the current laws, it is impossible to determine the breakdown between ingredients and packaging when an item is labelled Australian-made,” Mr Palmer said.

“People may think they are supporting Australian producers when in fact only a very small percentage of what they spend may be staying in the country.”

Mr Palmer said clarity in labelling on all packaging remains one of the priorities of the Palmer United Party.

“We want to introduce a coloured tag system to properly inform consumers of the origins of the products they buy,” he said.

“If a product contains more than five percent of the product including packaging not originating in Australia, it would carry a red tag and if an item has 95% or more of its content made in Australia then we would be proposing a green and gold tag.

“The aim of this kind of food labelling reform would enable consumers to be able to make informed decisions about their purchases and to promote and protect truly Australian goods and services for the betterment of everybody in this country.”

Raw milk regulations to remain in SA for now, Government says

ABC [29/12/14]:

The South Australian Government says it has no current plans to follow Victoria in making it harder to sell so-called raw milk for human consumption.

The Victorian Government has introduced new rules requiring dairy farmers to either pasteurise the milk or add a bittering agent to make it unpalatable.

Earlier this month, a three-year-old boy died in Victoria after drinking unpasteurised milk sold for cosmetic purposes.

It is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption but legal loopholes have allowed some South Australian dairy farmers to continue to distribute the product.

Food Minister Leon Bignell said he would keep an eye on the impact of the changes in Victoria and may revisit the issue.

...

Fun police strike again

Whatever happened to: Stay home if you want "family friendly" -  New Years Eve is an adult activity?

A militarised police force empowered to go looking for trouble in certain suburbs?  What could possibly go wrong? [Sydney Morning Herald - 29/12/14]:

... And while terminology can sometimes confuse - "alcohol free zones" affect roads and "alcohol prohibited areas" affect parks and open spaces - the rules are the same.

"They give police the power to intervene where there is an issue so that they can give a warning, ask people to move on and they can also tip out the alcohol," said Mr Coffey.

With an extra 3000 police on duty on New Year's Eve, the message from authorities is clear.

"It's still well and truly possible to have a drink on New Year's Eve, there's just nowhere to take your own alcohol," said Mr Coffey.

The temporary no-drinking zones have been approved alongside a slew of new permanent alcohol restrictions across Kings Cross, Leichhardt, Redfern, Newtown, Surry Hills and Sydney city. 

...

The Norden - Police [VIDEO]:

Published on Dec 2, 2014

Police captain Peter Whittingham from LAPD visits Finland, Sweden and Norway. How are suspects treated? What equipment do Nordic police officers carry, and how are they allowed to use it? What role does the police have in the Nordics? English subtitles. Host: Joakim Rundt.

 

31 December 2014

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