Where is the leadership?

Why are Australia's politicians silent?

8 children dead in Cairns massacre [The New Daily - 19/12/14]:

... Residents, along with family and friends of the deceased, took refuge together near a children’s playground at a small park on the street.

Just metres away forensic experts were sifting through a crime scene detectives have described as one of the most shocking and distressing they have encountered.

People young and old wept, put their arms around each other and shook their heads in disbelief.

Neighbour Bessie Mareko said she did not know those in the house but would say hello when they were in the street.

Ms Mareko said she saw the woman and a number of children at 2:00am this morning cleaning up their home and putting unwanted items on the street.

“I’m really shocked. I just saw her this morning on the verandah with her kids,” she said.

Residents in the housing commission suburb of Manoora in the far north Queensland city of Cairns are used to commotion – it’s an area that’s been described as a ghetto, a suburb that historically has suffered a bad reputation and high crime rates.

In June, media revealed the suburb was at the centre of a secret government report into youth sexual abuse and domestic violence.

The first police to attend the scene – inexperienced, junior officers – have been given counselling.

...

Information for Queensland public housing tenants:

What happens if I receive 3 strikes?

If you receive 3 strikes within a 12-month period, we may take action to end your tenancy. You will be given written advice when each strike is issued and we will discuss the consequences with you.

Refugee in Darwin concentration camp would rather starve to death than return to Iran

ABC [19/12/14]:

An Iranian asylum seeker on the 49th day of a hunger strike has told refugee advocates he has no choice but to continue starving himself, even if it means dying.

The 33-year-old man, who is being held in the Wickham Point Immigration Detention Centre near Darwin, refused to eat after being denied refugee status.

Ben Pynt, from the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network, described the man as being weak, emaciated and a shadow of his former self.

"He's shaking, he's pale, his eyes are bloodshot and he's finding it more and more difficult to walk," he said.

"He's sore, aches all over, aches in muscles joints and bones and he's feeling very defeated by what's going on."

Mr Pynt said the asylum seeker has been repeatedly told by Immigration officials that he must either return to Iran voluntarily or stay in indefinite detention in Darwin.

"He feels he can't return home and this is his only way out," he said.

"I've seen a number of people who were contemplating suicide in detention over the six years I've been working with refugees and asylum seekers. I've never seen somebody in this condition before, with this resolve."

...

Minister for Immigration says children will be released from Christmas Island concentration camp by next Thursday [ABC, World Today - 19/12/14]

The following letters, written by asylum seekers on Nauru in the past three months, were provided to the Monthly. They are accounts of conditions in the detention centre on the island and the state of mind of those detained in it. ... [The Monthly - 19/12/14]

Manus asylum seekers sue Australian government for negligence [The Age – 19/12/14]

UN torture report criticises Australia’s refugee policies [WSWS – 19/12/14]

US drone strike kills eight on Khyber Agency border

Dawn [19/12/14]:

At least eight suspected militants were killed in a US drone strike in the Nazyan district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, on the zero line bordering Khyber Agency.

Intelligence sources said the drone targeted a militant compound in Cort Village of Nazyan, completely destroying the compound. Aside from the eight dead, scores of others were reportedly injured on the zero line, which has been serving as a safe haven for the Mullah Fazllullah led Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

According to security officials, militants based in the Nazyan district had planned the devastating attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, which left over 140 children and teachers dead and scores injured.

Soon after the attack in Peshawar, army chief General Raheel Sharif in an unscheduled visit to Kabul had been given assurances by the Afghan government as well as the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (Isaf) for action against a Kunar-based Taliban splinter group which is believed to have been behind the attack.

The strikes against militants have increased on both sides of the border since the attack.

Pakistani security forces have also been carrying out ground offensives in Khyber Agency, particularly the Tirah Valley of Bara which borders Nazyan.

A military operation titled 'Khyber One' which was launched in October by security forces and aimed at targeting militants in Khyber Agency’s Bara area is also underway in the northwestern tribal region.

Eighteen militants were killed in the ground offensive last night in Khyber Agency, while early Friday morning, an operation killed at least 32 terrorists in the Wurmagai and Spurkot areas of Tirah valley while they were moving towards Afghanistan. The militants fled leaving behind the dead bodies of their companions – photos of which have been circulating on social media.

Three security personnel were also injured in the gun battle.

The Punjab government is amending the Prisons Rules 1978 to allow execution of a convicted terrorist a day after his black warrant is issued.

The move is part of concerted efforts being made by the federal and provincial governments and law-enforcement agencies to hunt down terrorists. A presidential moratorium on death penalty was lifted after a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.  ... [Dawn - 20/12/14]

Tribune [22/2/11]:

As American newspapers lifted a self-imposed gag on the CIA links of Raymond Davis, in place on the request of the US administration, The Express Tribune has now learnt that the alleged killer of two Pakistanis had close links with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). ...

Iraqi Kurds break Mount Sinjar siege, free Yazidis

Al Akhbar [19/12/14]:

Kurdish peshmerga fighters have fought their way to Iraq's Mount Sinjar and freed hundreds of people trapped there by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters, a Kurdish leader said on Thursday.

"The peshmerga have managed to reach the mountain. A vast area has been liberated," said Masrour Barzani, the intelligence chief for the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG), adding that 100 ISIS fighters had been killed.

"Now a corridor is open and hopefully the rest of the (Sinjar) region will be freed from Islamic State," Barzani said, using an alternative name for ISIS.

The assault ended the months-long ordeal of hundreds of people from Iraq's Yazidi religious minority, who had been besieged on the mountain since ISIS stormed Sinjar and other Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Iraq in August.

...

Israel shoots 2 Palestinians as number of settler attacks hit 313 in West Bank

Al Akhbar [19/12/14]:

Israeli forces shot two Palestinians in two separate incidents in Nablus, Ma’an news agency reported Thursday, as UN put at 313 the number of violent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank.

Two Palestinians were injured after Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition at Palestinians as they raided their villages east of Nablus Thursday.

Munadel Hanini, member of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front's central committee, said Tawfiq Hamad Khatatbeh, 16, was shot in the leg in the village of Beit Furik after clashes erupted between Israeli soldiers and dozens of Palestinians in the area of al-Judou.

Hanini said that Khatatbeh was rushed to the Rafidia Public Hospital.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed the incident, claiming that there were "30 rioters hurling stones at forces” who “subsequently responded.”

She said that one "hit" was confirmed and that he "left the scene" and "wasn't evacuated" in an ambulance, adding that Israeli forces were merely conducting a "routine patrol."

Meanwhile in a separate incident, Israeli soldiers shot and injured 22-year-old Ahmad Jamil Sharqawi during an arrest raid in the Nablus refugee camp of Askar early Thursday, Palestinian security officials said.

Several Israeli military vehicles stormed the camp and ransacked the home of Nour Abu Hashya, who stabbed and killed an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv back in November.

Sharqawi was shot in the hand by Israeli forces and was also rushed to the Rafidia Public Hospital.

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) repeatedly use excessive force against peaceful protests in the occupied West Bank and annexed Jerusalem.

Early December, Israeli troops shot and wounded two 14-year-old Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Raouf Hussein Snubar was hit in the head with a live bullet during clashes at Jelazoun refugee camp. According to medical sources, had multiple skull fractures.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Mazin was shot and injured by Israeli troops in clashes east of Nablus.

According to a report published Monday by the Ahrar Center for Detainees' Studies and Human Rights, the IOF killed nine Palestinians in November alone, while tens of Palestinians, including children, have been wounded in protests or during Israeli incursions in Jerusalem and West Bank.

Since September 2000, following the Second Intifada, at least 9,100 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis, including 2,053 Palestinian children, the equivalent of one Palestinian child being killed every three days for the past 14 years.

...

US Marine in Philippine murder case makes first court appearance

Reuters [18/12/14]:

A United States Marine accused of killing a transgender Filipino appeared in a Philippine court for the first time on Friday, as his lawyers sought the suspension of the trial, in a case that could test the strength of security ties between the two allies.

The Marine, Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is being held at a U.S. facility at the main Philippine army base, was charged with the murder of Jeffrey Laude, who was found dead on Oct. 11 in a hotel in Olongapo City, northwest of Manila.

A handcuffed Pemberton appeared in court wearing a black suit and striped tie. He sat quietly, flanked by U.S. security officers, as his lawyers asked the court to suspend proceedings, in a standard trial tactic.

Laude's sister, Marilou, had mixed emotions on seeing Pemberton for the first time. "I wanted to ask him why he killed my brother," she told Reuters. "I wanted to bang his head against the wall. I wanted to be angry, but I am also afraid."

The lawyers argued that the justice department should first decide on their appeal to reverse the decision to indict Pemberton. Authorities will need time to resolve the issue, but the court will decide on the defense bid at a hearing on Monday.

"There was an appeal to reverse the prosecutors' resolution to charge Pemberton with murder for the death of Jeffrey Laude," Virgie Suarez, a lawyer for the victim's family, told reporters, who were barred from the court.

"There was no arraignment today, but the court now has jurisdiction over Pemberton. We are not aware of his appeal. We will oppose it. He should be detained in a local facility."

The U.S. embassy this week rejected a foreign ministry request to hand Pemberton to Philippine authorities, citing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Legal rules on the treatment of erring servicemen are laid out in the 1998 pact signed by Manila and Washington to allow U.S. forces to hold military drills in the Philippines to test the readiness of the allies.

A small group of anti-U.S. activists gathered outside the court to demand justice for Laude. Dozens of news cameramen and photographers also waited for Pemberton, who was brought to court in a convoy of heavily-tinted SUVs.

Human Rights Watch denounces Egypt military trials

Press TV [18/12/14]:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has censured Egyptian authorities over referring hundreds of civilians to military courts based on a decree by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

“Curtailing the use of military courts to try civilians was one of the few tangible gains of the 2011 revolution, but that’s out the window now,” the HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson said in reference to the uprising three years ago that ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak.

She added, “Al-Sisi’s administration is methodically reversing the reforms achieved in 2011, while the United States and other governments resume arming the government as if none of it matters.”

“Militarizing the trials of civilians, including children, is taking Egypt in the wrong direction, and doing so retroactively compounds the abuse,” Whitson stated.

On October 27, Sisi issued a decree that placed all “public and vital facilities” under military jurisdiction for the coming two years.

Whitson said, “President Al-Sisi should repeal his October decree before more damage is done if he has any concern for preserving Egypt’s reputation and the new constitution he has sworn to protect.”

“He should also annul all verdicts against civilians that military courts have handed down since his government took power and order their retrial before civil judges,” she said.

Egypt has been experiencing unrelenting violence since Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president, was ousted in July 2013 in a military coup led by Sisi, Egypt’s current president and the then army commander.

Since then, the North African country’s military-backed government has launched a heavy crackdown on Morsi’s supporters, arresting thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members, including the party’s senior leaders.

Boko Haram kills dozens in northeast Nigeria

Al Jazeera [18/12/14]:

Boko Haram fighters have killed 32 people and kidnapped scores of others in a northeastern Nigerian village, according to local officials and a witness, while neighbouring Cameroon has said that its troops killed 116 Boko Haram fighters in a far north region.

The Nigerian officials, who requested anonymity, said locals in the village of Gumsuri were still counting those abducted in the attack on Sunday in a remote, isolated area in the Borno state, adding that the figure could pass 100 and included women and children.

"After killing our youths, the fighters have taken away our wives and daughters," Mukhtar Buba said on Thursday, after fleeing Gumsuri to the Borno state capital Maiduguri.

Details took four days to emerge because the mobile phone network has largely collapsed in the area roughly 70km south of Maiduguri, and many of the roads are impassable.

Gamsuri is located on the road that leads to Chibok, where Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from a school in April.

Meanwhile in Cameroon, the fighters have attacked an army base in Amchide on the border with Nigeria on Wednesday, but soldiers repelled them, inflicting heavy losses, the Cameroon defence ministry said.

"A column made up of a military truck and four pick-ups from the BIR [elite Rapid Intervention Battalion] were caught in an ambush that began with an explosion of a roadside bomb," the army said.

"There are 116 of the assailants dead on Cameroonian territory and undetermined casualties on the Nigerian territory from our artillery fire," the statement said.

"There is one dead on the Cameroonian side and one officer missing."

According to the army, the Boko Haram fighters destroyed a pick-up and a troop truck, as well as managing to capture another military truck.

Boko Haram has grown in power in the area, where Cameroon and Nigeria are linked by a bridge.

One of the local Nigerian officials said the Gumsuri had previously been protected against Boko Haram violence by a strong vigilante force, but that they were overpowered in Sunday's attack.

BBC [17/12/14]:

A Nigerian court martial has sentenced 54 soldiers to death for refusing to fight Boko Haram Islamist militants.

The soldiers, who were found guilty of mutiny, were accused of refusing to help recapture three towns that had been seized by Boko Haram in August.

A lawyer for the soldiers said the 54 would face a firing squad. Five others were acquitted.

Troops have complained that they are not being given enough weapons and ammunition to fight Boko Haram.

The group has been waging an insurgency since 2009 and is seeking to create an Islamist state in north-eastern Nigeria.

More than 2,000 people have died in attacks blamed on Boko Haram so far this year and thousands more have been displaced by the fighting.

The court martial began in October and was conducted behind closed doors. Military officials were not available for comment afterwards.

Defence lawyer Femi Falana said the soldiers were all accused of "conspiring to commit mutiny against the authorities of 7 Division, Nigerian Army".

All the soldiers had denied the charges and the sentence is subject to approval by senior officers.

In a similar case in September, 12 soldiers were sentenced to death for mutiny and the attempted murder of a commanding officer in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri.

Ebola: Regrettable loss caused by warehouse fire in Guinea

UN Media Release [18/12/14]:

A fire engulfed a United Nations warehouse in Guinea today that contained medicines and laboratory materials used for the fight against Ebola, causing no casualties but “a regrettable loss” in supplies, which the UN mission there vowed to quickly replace. An investigation into the fire was underway.

"This is a regrettable loss, but no one was hurt and we will move quickly together with our partners to replace the lost supplies", said Anthony Banbury, Head of the UN Mission for Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER).

"We certainly won't be deterred in our fight against Ebola," he said.

UNMEER reported that the fire in the warehouse, mainly containing medicines and laboratory materials, was discovered around 8:00 a.m. local time when workers arrived at facility in the main humanitarian logistics base of the airport and of the city of Conakry, the capital of Guinea – one of the three most affected countries by Ebola in West Africa.

No casualties had been reported, the mission said, and added that the personal protective equipment stored in tents next to the warehouse had not been touched by the fire.

The exact amount of property and material damaged as a result of the fire is not yet known, and an investigation into the fire was underway, according to UNMEER.

The UNMEER warehouse is used by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Red Cross, the World Food Programme (WFP), and Pharmacie Centrale de Guinée to store supplies for their Ebola Emergency Response.

The fire in Guinea comes ahead of the trip by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who is on his way to West Africa, where he will visit the Ebola-affected countries over the next few days.

...

Turkey: Workers lock themselves in mine to protest colleagues' dismissal

Hurriyet Daily News [18/12/14]:

Some 350 workers have begun a protest by locking themselves inside a mine in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak in reaction to the dismissal of their 60 colleagues.

When the workers arrived at the mine early Dec. 18, they learned that their colleagues had been laid off by the company that runs the mine, Hema Coal Mining, which is under Hattat Holding, and which had previously dismissed 29 workers.

The company hung a notification at the entrance of the mine with a list of the dismissed miners, saying it had annulled their labor contracts on the grounds that an economic problem occurred due to the mine’s reserves.

The mine has 4-4.5 megatons of reserves, not the 12 megatons that was cited in the tender when the company rented the mine from the Turkish Coal Institute (TTK) in 2005, the company said. The company also said it would hire the dismissed workers at other facilities in different provinces if they so choose.

However, the miners gathered inside the mine and refused to leave, saying their protest would continue until a solution was found.

General Mine Workers Union (GMİS) Armutçuk district head İsa Mutlu said the problem between the company and the TTK would not be solved for at least six months.

Mutlu has expressed the union’s support for the miners’ protest, calling on authorities to intervene and find a solution.

The miners working during the night shift will join the protest when they arrive and 600 people will continue to keep themselves locked underground, he added.

İbrahim Ergün, one of the laid off miners, said they knew the company would continue to fire people.

The mining industry has become a hot topic in Turkey amid debates about working conditions, after the country was shaken by two mining disasters in 2014.

A total of 301 coal miners were killed in a disaster in the western town of Soma in the Manisa province on May 13, the worst industrial accident in Turkey’s history.

Six months later, 18 miners were killed after being trapped inside the galleries of a mine in Central Anatolia after an underground flood.

This is the boat Minister Morrison needs to stop

Greens Media Release [19/12/14]:

Greens spokesperson for Fisheries, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson is calling on the Federal Government to apprehend the notorious pirate vessel MV Thunder which is currently being pursued by the Sea Shepherd in the Southern Ocean.

After years of being pursued by Australia and other nations, the MV Thunder was arrested and impounded by Malaysian authorities in May of this year. Inexplicably it has been sighted by Sea Shepherd, poaching Patagonian toothfish near the Australian territory of Heard Island.

Senator Whish-Wilson says “The Australian government is in full knowledge that a notorious toothfish pirate vessel is off the coast of the Australian territory of Heard Island. They need to act now.

“The coalition broke a pre-election promise to send the ice-rated Customs vessel ACV Ocean Protector to patrol for illegal fishing last summer.

“After a tri-partisan recommendation from the Southern Ocean Senate Inquiry, the government has promised to carry out two forty-day Customs patrols in the Southern Ocean. But where are these patrols, it is nearly Christmas already.

“This is the government’s one chance to apprehend the MV Thunder. Finding illegal fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean is like finding a needle in a haystack. While the Government knows where this pirate vessel is, it needs to deal with it.

“In January 2004, as part of a special Southern Ocean naval operation (Operation Celesta*), the HMAS Success warned off a foreign fishing vessel from almost exactly the same location as the Sea Shepherd has located the MV Thunder this week.

“Is Scott Morrison going to act to rein in piracy in our Southern Ocean or is he going to let this lawlessness endangering our resources, environment and life at sea continue?**

“I continue to call for an investigation into how this boat was allowed free by authorities in Malaysia in the first place.

“The MV Thunder has been pursued by global authorities for almost a decade now. It was finally detained and now inexplicably is out fishing illegally again. We need to know how this failure occurred,” Senator Whish-Wilson concluded.

New Zealand: Oil spill in Whangarei Harbour

RNZI [19/12/14]:

The oil supplier Refining NZ says oil is spilling from a crude carrier discharging its cargo at the Marsden Point wharf in Whangarei Harbour.

Refining NZ could not say exactly how much oil had leaked, but said it was a small amount that was being contained around the vessel.

It said it had identified where the leak was coming from and would begin pumping the oil off the surface - a process that would take until the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Plumber dies at building site in Cherrybrook, in Sydney's north-west

ABC [19/12/14]:

A plumber and father of two has been killed after falling into a collapsed trench at a building site in Sydney's north-west.

Workers at the West Pennant Hills Sports Club desperately tried to dig the 47-year-old man out of the three-metre trench just after midday, but he died at the scene.

Distraught colleagues were in tears at the worksite on Friday as Fire and Rescue workers tried to free the body.

The ABC was told the man was the head of a family plumbing business and has two young daughters.

The construction union said it was concerned safety standards are slipping at sites across the country, claiming workers are being rushed before Christmas.

The CFMEU said four workers had died in New South Wales in the past fortnight.

Police and Workcover are investigating the incident.  

Man jailed for prolonged and violent bashing of priest, fracturing his jaw

Father Bendotti said while he felt like he was going to die that night, he had forgiven Thorne.

ABC [19/12/14]:

A 35-year-old man has been sentenced to five and a half years in jail for breaking into the home of a Catholic priest in Bunbury, Western Australia, and bashing and robbing him.

Arron Jack Thorne, a father of seven, was high on amphetamines when he used a knife and scissors to break into the presbytery at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in November 2013.

Father Wayne Bendotti, 43, disturbed Thorne who then repeatedly punched, knocked to the ground and robbed the priest before driving off in his car.

After the second punch, the priest pretended he had been knocked unconscious in an attempt to get Thorne to leave.

Father Bendotti suffered two fractures to his jaw and had to have metal plates inserted in two separate surgeries.

The District Court heard Thorne had a 12-page criminal record and had prior convictions for burglary, assault and stealing cars.

Judge Simon Stone said Thorne had subjected Father Bendotti to a "prolonged" and "violent" assault.

...

Man who hit and killed pedestrian during police pursuit in 2012 dies in custody

ABC [19/12/14]:

A man who was jailed for killing a woman by crashing into her in a stolen car in 2012 has died in custody.

Justin Monfries, 26, was fleeing police and ran a red light when he hit two women outside Canberra Hospital.

Linda Cox, 38, died and the other woman was injured in the crash.

Monfries was sentenced to 13 years jail for the crime.

It is believed Monfries died on Wednesday, but it is unclear how or where he died.

The incident will be investigated by the coroner as a death in custody.

Missing persons, Lota

QPS Media [19/12/14]:

Police are continuing to appeal for public assistance into the disappearance of a man and his two sons who left Brisbane to travel to Cairns but have not been seen since last week.

Steven Van Lonkhuyzen, 37-years-old, and his children seven-year-old Ethan, and five-year-old Timothy left their home at Lota at around midnight on Thursday December 11.

It is believed the trio were expected to take an inland route to Cairns, travelling via Miles, Dingo and Charters Towers. They were expected to arrive in Cairns on December 15 but have made no contact with family or friends since last week.

Police have released CCTV images of the last sighting of the man at a service station at Miles on December 11.

Police hold concerns for their whereabouts as it is out of character for them not to make regular contact with family.

They are travelling in a 1995 model white Mitsubishi Pajero, Queensland Registration 426 MCZ (pictured), and they are towing a silver trailer.

Anyone who may have seen the family or the vehicle in the last week is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Hidden cameras used by SA Health to monitor pathology staff

ABC [19/12/14]:

SA Health has admitted using cameras hidden in smoke detectors to monitor its staff at SA Pathology premises in Adelaide.

Two cameras were installed in October in offices in Frome Road as part of an investigation into processing delays for pathology reports.

SA Health clinical support services director Ken Barr said the covert cameras were dismantled this month and regular cameras installed, and the investigation was continuing.

"The allegations were that there were significant delays to patients' results that could have impacted on urgent treatment and, as a result, our concerns about timely patient care resulted in authorising this investigation for use of covert cameras," he said.

A staff member, who did not want to be identified, said it did not take staff long to notice something suspicious.

"The staff felt violated, there's also a microphone attachment to it so [we do not know] whether they were listening in or conversations were being recorded," they said.

South Australian Opposition Leader Steven Marshall expressed anger at the revelations.

"These are explosive allegations and the Government needs to come clean with the people of South Australia Are they spying on public servants? If so, why are they spying on public servants?," he said.

Female detainees stage protest on prison roof

Canberra Times [19/12/14]:

A group of female detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre have climbed a roof in protest of living arrangements on Friday afternoon.

The five women have staged a protest on the roof of the prison's women's community centre.

A Justice and Community Services spokeswoman said the detainees were unhappy about recent separation arrangements.

The changes were put in place to manage poor behaviour.

"Corrections staff are speaking with the women and encouraging them to come down from the roof to work through the issues in a more appropriate way," the spokeswoman said.

It is understood divisions between groups of female prisoners has been a problem in recent months, with a number of confrontations occuring at the prison.

Four Murdoch Press readers attempt to disrupt Martin Place memorial

Canberra Times [19/12/14]:

Sydneysiders paying their respects to siege victims at Martin Place have shouted down a group of anti-Islamic protesters who appeared at the memorial on Friday afternoon.

Four men waving Australian and Southern Cross flags shouted slogans including "Islam is evil" and "not all cultures are evil - Islam is inferior".

The four men were shouted down by members of the public who had gathered in Martin Place.

The men also accused Muslims of being "murderers" and supporting female genital mutilation, according to a witness.

The group bore signs proclaiming: "Muslim terrorists not wanted here - neither are their leftist supporters", "Tony Abbott - Will you protect us from multiculturalism?" and "We didn't start the fire!"

One of the men was Nick Folkes, who has previously been associated with the fringe Australian Protectionist Party and is now the chairman of the "Party for Freedom", which calls for an end to Muslim immigration and "state-sanctioned multiculturalism".

A post about the siege on the group's website calls for a "tribute to remember the fallen" at 5pm on Friday, referring to Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, who were killed in the siege.

Mr Folkes told the Fairfax Media the demonstration was peaceful and that he received support from some members of the public.

"We saw it as a tribute, mate, but it turned into a heated exchange with different groups," he said.

"The police moved us on. They wanted to move us on because some of the Muslims and lefties didn't want us there."

A witness said the crowd booed the men's speeches and was universal in its condemnation of the tirade. A member of the public confronted the men at about 6.20pm and the altercation was broken up by police, a witness said.

There has been a high police presence at Martin Place since Monday.

Mr Folkes denied he was a racist or white supremacist.

"Islam is not a race. We're criticising a political ideology that is totalitarian in nature," he said.

Logan bookstore owner bailed on extortion charge, remains in custody because of tenuous links to "terror group"

Brisbane Times [19/12/14]:

A Brisbane man charged with extortion and terror-related offences has been granted bail, but he will remain in custody.

Omar Succarieh was granted bail on Friday in relation to the alleged extortion of a cafe owner in March.

However he will remain in the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre because of his alleged involvement in funding terror group Jabhat al-Nusra.

Mr Succarieh is planning to make a bail application for the terror charges in the Supreme Court next month.

He was arrested in September during a series of terror-related raids in Logan.

The terror and extortion charges are unrelated, his lawyer James Wallace said.

...

Rupert Murdoch's 'Courier-Mail' targetted the Logan bookstore before the police raids.

Yahoo [19/12/14]:

Omar Succarieh, 31, and Agim Kruezi, 22, had their matters mentioned in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday.

Both were arrested in September in counter-terrorism raids in the Brisbane and Logan areas. Both are accused of preparing for incursions into war-torn Syria.

Kruezi is also accused of recruiting others to join incursions into foreign states, and Succarieh is accused of providing funds to the terrorist organisation Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front, in Syria.

Lawyer James Wallace, for Succarieh, told Magistrate Wendy Cull his client and Kruezi, had spent "far too long" waiting for their matters to proceed while behind bars.

"Our client is very, very keen to defend the charges and clear his name," Mr Wallace then told reporters outside court.

"And we look forward to receiving the brief so that we have something to actually respond to in relation to these charges."

In court, Mr Wallace said he had only received some evidence, including audio discs and statements, while Kruezi's representatives, Lawyers Corp, who he spoke on behalf of in court, had received nothing.

Succarieh appeared relaxed in the dock and could be seen occasionally smiling at supporters.

Prosecutor Daniel Caruana said police were still sifting through the evidence, which included phone intercepts and other covert material, and would provide it directly to Kruezi's Sydney-based lawyers.

"Given the nature of the material, it simply wasn't going to be put in the post, if I could put it that way," he said.

Ms Cull adjourned the matters until January 22 and ordered the entire brief be made available by January 30.

Succarieh was granted bail on a separate extortion charge, which involved him allegedly threatening a Brisbane cafe owner, but he'll remain behind bars on the terrorism-related charges.

The extortion matter was adjourned until January 12.

US citizen faces Adelaide court for methamphetamine importation

Joint media release with SA Police and AFP [19/12/14]:

A 35-year-old US citizen from the Dominican Republic has appeared in Adelaide Magistrates Court later today charged with drug importation offences following a joint Australian Federal Police (AFP), South Australia Police and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) operation.

On 15 December 2014, ACBPS officers at Melbourne International Mail intercepted a package from the United States of America addressed to a residence in Prospect, South Australia.

The consignment, containing two large plastic containers labelled as containing protein powder, was selected for further examination by the ACBPS officers.

Examination of the containers found a top layer of cotton wool with coffee sprinkled throughout. Approximately 3 kilograms of white crystals were located inside the containers, beneath the cotton wool and coffee.

Presumptive testing provided a positive result for methamphetamine, and the consignment was referred to the AFP

Yesterday, police conducted a controlled operation and executed a search warrant in the suburb of Prospect.

The woman was subsequently charged with attempting to possess a prohibited import.

...

United States continue bombing Syria and Iraq

Centcom [18/12/14]:

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Dec. 18 using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct six airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted five airstrikes in Iraq Dec. 18 using fighter, bomber, and attack aircraft against the ISIL terrorists.

The following is a summary of those strikes:

Syria

• Near Kobani - six airstrikes destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL building and also struck an ISIL tactical unit.

Iraq

• Near Tal Afar- two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL excavator and an ISIL vehicle.

• Near Mosul- two airstrikes struck two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL Tactical unit.

• Near Ramadi- an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

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

...

The bodies of 230 people killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group have been found in a mass grave uncovered by their relatives in Syria's eastern province of Deir Ezzor, a monitoring group said Wednesday. ... [Al Akhbar - 18/14/14]

@IraqiSMCEn -Iraqi Spring Meda Centre [18/12/14]:

Anbar: Tariq and Mazra'a camps were shelled by Grad missiles after 24 hours of visiting of senior delegation to Amiriyat Fallujah represented by ministry of defense and Abadi to discuss armament ,Amiriyat Fallujah demans and new tribal regiment.......

South of Baghdad: More than 100 civilians were arrested today in Sakhrijiya Gharbiya ,Tal Sammar and Khiyamat in Rasheed nahiya south of Baghdad taking them enchained to division 17 headquarter in Mahmoudiya .........

Japan and Australia to maintain US killing machines in the Pacific region [US Department of Defense -17/12/14]:

Japan and Australia will be sharing maintenance and upgrade duties for the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter based or operating in the Pacific region, the program executive officer for the aircraft announced today.

F-35 heavy air frame maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade capabilities will be provided by Japan in the northern Pacific and Australia in the southern Pacific, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher C. Bogdan told reporters. Both countries are expected to have their facilities operational no later than 2018.

...

Family of Toddler Injured by SWAT Grenade Faces $1M in Medical Bills

ABC News [18/12/14]:

Alecia and Bounkham Phonesavanh never imagined their family would be at the center of a controversy over the militarization of police. But that’s exactly where they found themselves when their toddler was seriously injured by a SWAT team, also leaving them with a $1 million medical bill they have no hope of paying.

“They messed up,” Alecia Phonesavanh told ABC News' "20/20." “They had a faulty search warrant. They raided the wrong house.”

In the spring of 2014, the Phonesavanh’s home in Janesville, Wisconsin, was destroyed by fire.

Homeless with four young children, they packed one of their last remaining possessions – their minivan – and drove 850 miles to the home of Bounkham’s sister in Cornelia, Georgia.

The family crowded into a former garage converted into a bedroom: parents Bounkham and Alecia, 7-year-old Emma, 5-year-old Mali, 3-year-old Charlie and 18-month-old Bounkham Jr., known as “Bou Bou.”

It was a tight squeeze but only temporary. After two months the family had found a new house in Wisconsin and was planning to return home.

At approximately 2 a.m. May 28, the family awakened to a blinding flash and loud explosion in their bedroom. A Special Response Team (aka SWAT team) from the Habersham County Sheriff's Office burst unannounced into the bedroom where they were sleeping.

According to police reports, Habersham Deputy Charles Long threw a “flash-bang” grenade – a diversionary device used by police and military – into the room. It landed in Bou Bou’s pack-and-play.

“Bou Bou started screaming,” recalls Alecia Phonesavanh. “I immediately went to grab him.”

But Alecia says Habersham Deputy Jason Stribling picked up the child before she could reach him.

“I kept telling him, ‘Just give me my son. He's scared. He needs me. The officer wouldn't. And then he walked out of the room with [Bou Bou] and I didn't see him again.”

What they didn’t realize at the time was that the blast from the flash-bang grenade severely burned Bou Bou’s face and torso and collapsed his left lung. Alecia says the officers wouldn’t allow her to see her child before he was whisked away in an ambulance.

“I asked if he got hurt. And they said, ‘No, your son is fine. He has not sustained any serious injury,” Alecia Phonesavanh remembers. “They ended up telling us that he had lost a tooth.”

But her husband became alarmed after seeing a pool of blood and the condition of the crib. “Burnt marks on the bottom of the crib where he sleep[s],” recalls Bounkham Phonesavanh. “And the pillow blown apart.”

Bou Bou was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta where doctors placed him in a medically induced coma. “His chest wall had torn down to muscle,” says Dr. Walter Ingram, head of Grady’s burn trauma unit. “And it tore his face down to bone, down to his teeth.”

Bou Bou’s parents say they were detained by the police for nearly two hours. When they arrived at the hospital they were shocked to learn the truth about their son’s injuries. “Why couldn't [the police] just be honest with us and tell us what happened?” asked Alecia Phonesavanh.

...

Russia not attacking west, just defending its interests - Putin

RT [18/12/14]:

Russia is protecting its national interests, but it not attacking any western nations politically, Russian President Vladimir Puitn said.

Putin said that the only contribution Russia made toward the current period of tension “is an increasingly strong stance in defending its national interests.”

“We are not attacking anyone in the political sense,” he said. “We are only defending our interests. The displeasure of our Western partners, particularly the Americans, comes from that.”

Russia’s actions, described as aggressive in the West, are a response to what Western nations are doing, Putin said.

“Russia in the 1990s completely stopped the long-range bomber flights that the Soviet Union used to carry out,” he said. “But American strategic bombers with nuclear weapons still flew. Why? Against whom? Who was being threatened?”

Putin’s comments came in response to a question from the BBC’s veteran world news editor, John Simpson, who asked Putin whether the current crisis in relations between Russia and the West was a result of Russia’s aggression.

Simpson cited the increased patrols of the Russian Air Force in international airspace as an example of such aggression. The exchange happened at Putin’s annual Q&A session in Moscow.

The US has been ignoring Russian interests despite Moscow’s complaining about this many times, the president said.

“Take the anti-ballistic missile system. Who unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty, which was a cornerstone of the international security system? Was that us? No, the US did it. They unilaterally withdrew and are creating threats toward us,” Putin said.

Unlike the United States, which has dozens of military bases around the world, Russia has only two, Putin said. And those are in places where Russia’s national security is directly threatened, in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the president said.

“And you are telling now that we have an aggressive policy? Do you have common sense? Do we place our troops at US borders? Who is placing NATO troops, military infrastructure closer to us? Does anyone listen to us, talk to us about it? No, nothing. There is always the same response: it’s not your business,” Putin said.

Putin added that Russia simply wants to be treated as equal partners by the West.

“We want to develop normal relations on security, counterterrorism. We will work together on nuclear non-proliferation. We will work on threats like illegal drugs, organized crime, dangerous infectious diseases, including Ebola. We will do it all together as we will cooperate on the economy, as long as our partners want that,” Putin said.

Castro urges US to lift embargo on Cuba

Al Jazeera [18/12/14]:

Cuban President Raul Castro has hailed the mutual decision to re-establish the US-Cuban diplomatic relations, but urged Washington to lift the five-decade-long embargo against his country.

On Wednesday, the countries agreed to restore diplomatic ties that were severed more than 50 years ago, and US President Barack Obama called for an end to the economic embargo against its old Cold War enemy.

"President Obama's decision deserves the respect and acknowledgement of our people," Castro said in a televised address, while warning that the embargo, which he calls a "blockade", must still be lifted.

"We have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations, but this does not mean the principal issue has been resolved: The blockade which causes much human and economic damage to our country should end," he said.

He challenged Obama to modify the policy, which is rooted in US law, with executive action.

...

Eight children dead after incident in Manoora home

ABC [19/12/14]:

Eight children have been killed in Cairns in far north Queensland.

The victims were aged from 18 months to 15 years and it was believed a number of them were stabbed.

A crime scene has been set up at an address in suburban Manoora.

A 34-year-old woman has been taken to hospital with a chest wound.

Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said she was helping police with their enquiries.

"As it stands at the moment, there's no need for the public to be concerned about this other than the fact that it's a tragic, tragic event," he said.

"The situation is well controlled at the moment.

"There shouldn't be any concern for anyone else out of this environment."

Emergency crews were called to the address in Murray Street around 11:20am (AEST).

ABC reporter Sharnie Kim says there are about a dozen police vehicles at the scene, as well as the region's most senior detective inspectors.

"Part of the road has been blocked off and a police paddy wagon with lights flashing is at the property as well," she said.

"The media are about 30 metres away from the property.

"I guess the most confronting thing is just seeing relatives and friends of the victims arriving on the scene and learning about these terrible events and being comforted by police, just sounding so unbelievably distressed.

"It's going to be a little bit of time, police have told us, before forensic police finish gathering evidence inside the house and some more details can be released."

Kim said police were still working to establish the relationship between the children and the injured woman.

Alleged victim of VIP paedophile ring lived on grounds of Australian High Commission in London

The Age [19/12/14]:

The son of a former chauffeur to the Australian high commissioner may have been murdered by a VIP paedophile ring in London more than three decades ago, according to shocking claims being investigated by British police.

Martin Allen was 15 when he disappeared on November 5, 1979. His body has never been found.

He lived with his parents on the grounds of the Australian high commission in London – his father was chauffeur to the then high commissioner, Sir Gordon Freeth.

A key witness has come forward to police, with allegations about sexual abuse and murder by a paedophile ring with links to government, spy chiefs and prominent military figures.

The witness said he was abused at a luxury block of flats in Pimlico that was popular with MPs – and he has reportedly given details of three murders.

He said he watched a boy being strangled to death by a Conservative MP.

Another child, he said, was deliberately run over and a third killed in front of a government minister.

Scotland Yard issued an appeal on Thursday to the public for help in tracking down possible suspects, witnesses or victims, relating to new allegations of serious and organised sexual abuse, and the alleged murder of three young boys.

As part of the investigation they have spoken to the Allen's family - though at this stage they cannot be sure there is a connection.

Officers from the Homicide Command began their investigation last month after the new allegations were reported to police.

"The abuse is believed to have taken place over at least a decade, at various locations across London and the Home Counties, including military premises," police said in a media statement.

Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, who is in charge of the investigation dubbed Operation Midland, said no bodies have been recovered.

He appealed to other young boys, now men, who had been subject to abuse at the hands of the paedophile ring.

"I would ask you to trust me. I will support you, and do everything in my power to find those responsible and bring them to justice. I need your accounts to help me do that," he said.

One witness, known as Nick (not his real name), had told police he was abused from the age of seven until he was 16, from 1975 to 1984.

Nick told police that a car would be sent to collect him and he would be driven to a flat on the Dolphin Square estate.

"At this stage in the investigation, it is not possible to say if Martin's disappearance is linked [to the organised sexual abuse]," Superintendent McDonald said. "However, officers will keep the family updated on the progress of their investigation."

In 2009 Allen's parents made a fresh appeal for information about their son's fate – he was last seen by a friend at King's Cross Station on his way home from school.

Tom and Eileen Allen said they had lost hope of seeing him alive and feared they would die before his body was found.

"We just want to know what happened," Mrs Allen said. "Somebody must know something. Please tell us so we can move on."

Mr Allen, then 85, told UK media he still cried on the anniversary of the day his son disappeared, his birthdays and when he heard music his son loved.

Despite a previous, huge police operation – detectives interviewed 50,000 people, collected 600 statements and ruled out 200 possible subjects – the disappearance was never solved.

CIA report warned assassination programme might backfire

Drawing on the CIA-assisted capture of Nelson Mandela and the ANC leader's 27-year sentence, which he served in an Apartheid prison, the report concludes that: "Capturing leaders may have a limited psychological impact on a group if members believe that captured leaders will eventually return to the group [...] or if those leaders are able to maintain their influence while in government custody, as Nelson Mandela did while incarcerated in South Africa.

WikiLeaks Press Release [18/12/14]:

WikiLeaks today, Thursday 18 December, publishes a review by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of its "High Value Target" (HVT) assassination programme. The report weighs the pros and cons of killing "insurgent" leaders in assassination plots. After the report was prepared, US drone strike killings rose to an all-time high.

The report discusses assassination operations (by various states) against the Taliban, al-Qa'ida, the FARC, Hizbullah, the PLO, HAMAS, Peru's Shining Path, the Tamil's LTTE, the IRA and Algeria's FLN. Case studies are drawn from Chechnya, Libya, Pakistan and Thailand.

The assessment was prepared by the CIA's Office of Transnational Issues (OTI). Its role is to provide “the most senior US policymakers, military planners, and law enforcement with analysis, warning, and crisis support”.

The report is dated 7 July 2009, six months into Leon Panetta's term as CIA chief, and not long after CIA analyst John Kiriakou blew the whistle on the torture of CIA detainees. Kiriakou is still in prison for shedding light on the CIA torture programme.

Following the politically embarrassing exposure of the CIA's torture practices and the growing cost of keeping people in detention indefinitely, the Obama administration faced a crucial choice in its counter-insurgency strategy: should it kill, capture, or do something else entirely?

...

The secret assessment also goes into what it calls “The Pruning Approach”, where individuals within the insurgency group are selected for killing so as to affect the organization. Rather than killing senior commanders, it is sometimes more effective to kill individuals who are important to core functions. The Pruning Approach, CIA analysts state, can be “used to remove effective mid-level leaders, protect incompetent leaders or restore them to positions of authority, separate insurgent personalities from potential sources of government sponsorship, or protect human sources that are collecting intelligence on networks.”

...

The media lied: No evidence of Martin Place beheading plot in alleged terrorism case, court told

Guardian [19/12/14]:

There is “absolutely no evidence” that a 22-year-old Sydney man arrested in raids in September planned to behead a civilian in Martin Place, a court has heard.

Omarjan Azari was arrested in the largest counter-terrorism raids in Australian history and charged with preparing to commit a terrorist attack.

Speculation by some media on the day suggested Azari had planned to snatch a random civilian and film their execution in the central Sydney landmark.

“Despite media reports of the alleged plot, it’s emerged yesterday that the crown have absolutely no evidence of such a thing or who is responsible for it,” Azari’s lawyer, Steven Boland, told the court in a bail hearing on Friday.

The prosecution denied ever claiming such a plot existed, arguing it had only ever alleged that Azari planned a “gruesome act” without giving details or mentioning a location.

It is unclear where the beheading rumours originated. On the day of the raids Tony Abbott was asked in a press conference about “news that there are people willing to conduct public beheadings in Australia”.

The prime minister replied: “That’s the intelligence we received. The exhortations, quite direct exhortations, were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in Isil [Islamic State] to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country.”

Azari is being held in solitary confinement at the state’s super maximum security prison in Goulburn. He appeared via video link and remained silent throughout.

Fresh charges were laid against the Guildford man on Monday for allegedly making $15,000 available to a terrorist organisation to finance the travel of Australians to Syria and Iraq.

Azari declined to apply for bail, but his lawyer indicated an application for his release would be made when he appeared in court again on 24 February.

Instead of doing journalism, the Murdoch led Australian media have created a lynch mob

This is very dangerous

@dailytelegraph continues campaign to whip up racist panic. ...

Image: ‏@xBorderOps  [18/12/14]

ABC [19/12/14]:

The New South Wales Bar Association has expressed concern that members of the judiciary have received death threats in the wake of this week's siege in Sydney.

Gunman Man Haron Monis held 17 hostages for 16 hours earlier this week in a siege at the Martin Place Lindt Chocolate Cafe that ended with the deaths of cafe manager Tori Johnson, barrister Katrina Dawson and Monis himself.

Monis, an Iranian-born cleric, was out on bail for a string of violent offences, including being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.

The magistrate who released Monis and lawyers who previously represented him have been subjected to personal attacks.

New South Wales Bar Association president Jane Needham said the community's reaction was "understandable but wrong-headed" and that making death threats and asking for judges to be stood down was inappropriate.

"The jobs of the judiciary are very difficult, they're very complex and magistrates in particular deal with many cases which come before them and they have to make their decisions on the basis of what is before them at the time and the operation of the law," Ms Needham told AM.

"Given that most magistrates and most bail decisions are clearly right because people do turn up for their trials, I think the better reaction is to support the judiciary and look at the wider system of the granting of bail at a time when all of the information is in.

"As to the lawyers, it's very important to remember that lawyers are just doing their job.

"Barristers in particular have an ethical obligation to appear for whoever seeks their services within their expertise. That's known as the cab rank rule.

"To make death threats, as has been done against members of the profession for doing a job is, I think [is] really an unfortunate reaction."

Ms Needham said members of the Bar Association had been personally shaken by the Martin Place siege, particularly by the loss of Ms Dawson.

"There is a lot of distress. The Lindt cafe was a centre of people's lives here and there is a real feeling additional to the grief and shock and fear of it could have been anyone," she said.

"In saying that, it was Katrina and Katrina was a very much valued member of our bar.

"I've made a statement earlier this week saying how much she was loved and valued and how much she will be missed."

Ms Needham would not be drawn on the particular circumstances of Monis's bail or reports he had been on a terror watchlist at some point because she did not want to comment in "a vacuum or a vacuum informed by press reports".

Police raid homes in Sydney [ABC – 18/12/14]:

NSW Police and Australian Federal Police are carrying out raids on several Sydney homes, including one of the properties targeted during large-scale counter-terrorism raids in September.

NSW Police said officers were conducting search warrants as part of an ongoing operation, but the action was not connected to Monday's Martin Place siege.

It has been reported one of the properties being raided is a unit block in the north-western suburb of Marsfield.

It is also understood that at least one of the properties was targeted during large-scale counter-terrorism raids in September.

An AFP spokesman said they would release further information when it was safe to do so.

"As this activity remains ongoing, and to ensure the safety and security of the operation and the members involved, it is not appropriate to provide further details at this time," the spokesman said.

"We will endeavour to provide further information as the AFP and NSW Police are in a position to do so."

Logan teenagers to spend Christmas in jail, millions of dollars of police resources continue being spent chasing boys in cars (in certain suburbs) [Nine MSN – 18/12/14]

A 70-year-old truck driver has been jailed for a minimum of two-and-a-half years for crashing into a train, killing one passenger and injuring others. … [Nine MSN – 18/12/14]

Eddie Obeid, former Labor NSW minister, granted unconditional bail after facing court on misconduct charges [ABC - 18/12/14]

Queensland's anti rights (bikie) taskforce detain Palmer United Party's media advisor

If you think this is amusing, credible or it doesn't bother you at all - YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT

ABC [19/12/14]:

Clive Palmer's media adviser and confidant Andrew Crook has been detained by Queensland Police as part of an investigation into the alleged kidnapping of a National Australia Bank executive on an Indonesian island.

Police have also issued a warrant for the arrest of multi-millionaire property developer and former Sydney Swans AFL player Tony Smith, who lives in Bali. The ABC understands the house of another man has also been raided this morning.

Mr Crook was detained during a raid at his home this morning. He was then taken to his Brisbane CBD office where police carried out further searches.

Officers also raided another Brisbane premises and seized documents.

The ABC understands Queensland Police will allege Mr Crook and Mr Smith were involved in a January 2013 attempt to coerce a witness in a $70 million civil case involving Mr Smith to recant his evidence, using subterfuge and threats of violence.

They have been investigating claims Mr Crook and Mr Smith lured the witness, an employee of the National Australia Bank, to Singapore and on to Batam Island in Indonesia using the pretence of a possible job offer from Clive Palmer.

Mr Palmer is not thought to have had any involvement in, or knowledge of the plot.

It will be alleged that once on Batam Island, the witness was strip-searched, threatened and forced to make a statement recanting his evidence.

Brisbane-based Mr Crook has been Mr Palmer's media adviser and spokesman since before the tycoon entered politics.

Since becoming a federal MP, Mr Palmer has retained the services of Mr Crook and his PR firm, Crook Media, to handle his political media relations.

Mr Palmer said he knew nothing of the allegations.

"I don't know very much other than to say that Crook Media and Andrew Crook are responsible for all our media in Australia, was responsible for the Palmer United Party winning the last federal election," he said.

"And of course, the LNP, the Liberal Government - Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott - don't like the opposition we've been giving them in the Senate, they don't like that sort of thing and I think this is a black day for Australia if any of this, which I don't know anything about at the moment, has anything to do with political freedom in this country.

"I think it's very important that there's freedom of speech in Australia, that there's diversity of opinion. I'm personally very concerned because Mr Crook is our media adviser and if they wanted to attack me or our party they can do that."

Mr Smith made his fortune in the tourism industry after his AFL career.

Since 2009 he has been embroiled in legal action against the National Australia Bank, claiming the bank caused him to lose $70 million at the height of the global financial crisis.

He began building the biggest mansion on the Gold Coast, on Hedges Avenue at Mermaid Beach, but was later forced to sell it unfinished and at a loss.

Mr Smith then shifted his businesses to Bali, where he has developed luxury holiday accommodation. He also has interests in New Zealand and has re-invested in Gold Coast real estate in the past couple of years.

It is understood detectives from the Queensland police anti-bikie taskforce Maxima stumbled on evidence of the alleged January 2013 plot earlier this year.

Over a 9 year period that Sun "journalists" conspired to pay public officials, the picture desk’s budget ranged from £2.9 to £4m

Hacking Inquiry [17/12/14]:

The Sun’s picture editor, John Edwards, was simply acceding to requests from a longstanding colleague when he responded to emails from a reporter asking for money to pay his sources, his lawyer said today.

Mr Edwards is charged with one count of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office arising from his response to two emails sent to him by Jamie Pyatt, the paper’s Thames Valley reporter and former news editor Jamie Pyatt. He received another two emails by Mr Pyatt requesting payment but did not respond to them.

In her closing speech at the two-month Sun corruption trial at Kingston Crown Court, Sasha Wass QC, Mr Edwards’ barrister, said that his working life was frantic, daily dealing with a demanding editor, dozens of staff photographers and freelancers and thousands of pictures.

She pointed out that while every count at the trial involved payment for information for stories, none of the pictures accompanying those stories had been sourced from a public official – and her client was the picture editor.

Over the nine year period the Crown alleged Sun journalists had conspired to pay public officials, the picture desk’s budget ranged from £2.9m to £4, Miss Wass said, yet the total paid by the picture desk to Jamie Pyatt’s sources was £1,625.

That meant 0.005% of Mr Edwards’ £36 million budget over nine years was related to the single charge before the jury: “A tiny dent of £1,625 out of a £36 million budget over the nine years we are considering.”

“Why is John Edwards here at all?” asked Miss Wass. “The answer is Jamie Pyatt.”

“Over the nine years of this indictment Jamie Pyatt copies John Edwards into four emails.” John Edwards had only responded to two of them.

Miss Wass told the jury: “Four emails over nine years. The prosecution say that is enough to make you sure that John Edwards is guilty.”

There was no evidence, she said, of any direct contact between Mr Edwards and the two officials paid by Mr Pyatt – Broadmoor assistant Robert Neave and Surrey police officer Simon Quinn.

The email evidence in the case was a “drop in the ocean of his [Mr Edwards'] overall work.”

And most of the emails from Mr Pyatt had arrived at 8am in the morning or soon afterwards when Mr Edwards’s working day was hectic preparing for the morning editorial conference.

Miss Wass reminded the jury that Mr Edwards had said that had he known everything he knew now, he would have done things differently.

The barrister told the 12 jurors: “What he was saying in the nicest possible way was that he wish he had been less trusting of Jamie Pyatt.”

When Mr Edwards replied “OK, Jamie” to Mr Pyatt’s email about Broadmoor, Miss Wass said, he had not analysed its contents. “The reality is he just said yes to get this email off his books and get on with his work,” she said.

“He’s not the type of man who would cross a line to further his career.”

Instead, Miss Wass told the jury, her client was “a man under pressure trying to deal with simple requests, for modest funds, from a man he had worked with for 14 years and who he trusted.”

Mr Edwards, Mr Pyatt and four other current and former Sun journalists deny conspiring to commit misconduct in public office. The final closing speeches, for Graham Dudman, The Sun’s current Editorial Development Director, and John Troup, former East Anglia reporter, are scheduled to take place tomorrow.

You lied - and in Australia that's News Ltd.'s domain. [Brisbane Times - 16/12/14]:

... Confession time. In my Facebook status, I editorialised. She wasn't sitting next to me. She was a bit away, towards the other end of the carriage. Like most people she had been looking at her phone, then slowly started to unpin her scarf. ...

Poor old Queensland Greens. Sad ALP lite.

Mount Nathan residents advised not to drink water supply

Gold Coast City Council Media Release [18/12/14]:

Routine water quality tests have indicated a possible microbiological contamination within the Mount Nathan drinking water supply system.

Director of Gold Coast Water, Paul Heaton advised that about 600 properties in the Mount Nathan area could be affected.

“As a precaution, we have asked residents in the Mount Nathan area not to drink from the water supply system until further notice and ensure all members of their household are aware of the issue he said.

“Protection of public health and safety is the City’s highest priority. Queensland Water Supply Regulator and Queensland Health have been notified and immediate steps are being taken to rectify the problem and restore high quality drinking water.

“A personally delivered letter and bottled water is currently being organised for residents within the affected areas. We are advising affected residents to boil water for two minutes to ensure that water is safe to drink.

“This is a localised problem; no other areas in the Gold Coast water supply area are affected.

“We are taking actions to confirm the results of the tests and to investigate the cause of the potential contamination.

“City of Gold Coast will continue to monitor drinking water quality in line with strict quality guidelines. We will issue further advice once we are satisfied the water meets Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, however the current situation is likely to remain until at least until Sunday”.

Affected residents in the Mount Nathan area include households on town water off Maudsland Road at Tuxedo Junction, Guanaba Creek Road, Nathanvale and Burley Griffin Drive, and the Nerang-Beaudesert Road off Crystal Springs, Venn Court, and The Oval Drive and Nathan Valley Road are all affected.

If residents are concerned about their health they should contact 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84), local doctor or local hospital and advise them of concerns.

Further updates will be posted on the City of Gold Coast website. Alternatively contact Gold Coast Water on 1300 366 692.
...

The Gold Coast Magic Millions meeting will become Australia’s richest race day when $10 million prizemoney is offered in 2016.

Magic Millions and Racing Queensland made the ground-breaking announcement on Friday.  ... [Racenet - 19/12/14]

New York state to ban fracking over 'red flags' to public health

Guardian [18/12/14]:

The state of New York said it would ban the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing on Wednesday because of “red flags” about its risks to public health.

The ban puts one of the last great areas of untapped potential in the Marcellus Shale off-limits to the oil and gas industry.

The decision was reached after a two-year study into the effects of fracking on the state’s air and water, and announced at a cabinet meeting in Albany.

“The takeaway that I get from the data is that there are serious questions about public health,” the governor, Andrew Cuomo, said.

New York state has had a moratorium on fracking for the past five years – and more than 120 towns across the state have outlawed the practice.

But Wednesday’s decision for a frack-free zone across an entire state was the biggest obstacle to date to an industry that has had rapid growth across a number of other states.

New York’s two-year review raised multiple concerns about the effects of fracking on public health.

...

Pregnant woman reportedly hit by car, WA

West Australian [19/12/14]:

A man was taken into custody after reportedly running down a pregnant woman in Parmelia last night.

At about 9pm on Parmelia Avenue near Joiner Place a man tried to drive away after being involved in a domestic dispute with a woman.

He was taken into police custody.

Murder charge, Roma

QPS Media [18/12/14]:

Police have charged a man with murder following a disturbance overnight in Roma.

Police were called to an address on Chrystal Street around 5pm following reports of a disturbance.

On arrival, police have discovered a 33-year-old local man with an apparent stab wound to his chest.

He was transported to the Roma Hospital, but was pronounced deceased a short time later.

Police took a man into custody at the scene.

A 30-year-old Roma man has been charged with one count of murder and is due to appear in the Roma Magistrates Court today.

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.

Boat fire, Gold Coast Broadwater

Brisbane Times [18/12/14]:

A person has [been] rescued after reportedly having to jump from a burning boat on the Gold Coast Broadwater.

The fire began about 9.30am, with thick plumes of black smoke bellowing from the boat.

A police spokesman the one person on board was accounted for, after the blaze on the western side of Wave Break Island.

Water police, paramedics and two fire crews were called to the scene.

PNG provincial governor slams Australia's neo-colonialist refugee policies

Mr Juffa accused the PNG government of "aiding and abetting what I would call an international crime" by agreeing to a deal which he argues breaches Australia's obligations under the Refugee Convention.

Radio Australia [19/12/14]:

A Papua New Guinea provincial governor has launched a scathing attack on Australia's "neo-colonialist" refugee deal with PNG, claiming it will foster social divisions and heighten security risks in the Pacific nation.

"It's very neo-colonialist of Australia to just come and say, 'Look, here's a bag of money. Accept what we're telling you to do and we'll give you this and that,'" Gary Juffa, the governor of Oro province, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.

"The message that it sends to the rest of the world and the Pacific is that we can be used as a deterrent factor.

"We are basically allowing ourselves to grovel at the feet of Australian neo-colonialism."

Earlier this week, PNG announced that it had approved 50 refugee applications from the 1,000 asylum seekers detained on Manus Island, in line with an agreement made with former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd in July 2013.

At the time, Australia agreed to provide an extra $420 million of aid funding to PNG over four years.

Mr Juffa accused the PNG government of "aiding and abetting what I would call an international crime" by agreeing to a deal which he argues breaches Australia's obligations under the Refugee Convention.

He urged Port Moresby to "tell Australia that they should meet their international obligations as they signed up to do so in 1954," he said.

"What is the United Nations doing anyway? Why can't they enforce that law, that agreement? Why can't they say, 'Look, this is not right. You cannot sub-contract your responsibilities to a developing country?'"

...

Cambodian health authorities on Tuesday said more than 80 people -- including children and the elderly -- who tested positive for HIV/AIDS in a single remote village may have been infected by contaminated needles. ... [Yahoo - 16/12/14]

Villawood Chinese asylum seeker faces Friday deadline

Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney [17/12/14]:

The Refugee Action Coalition will hold, a protest Thursday 18 December, 12.30pm at Sydney Immigration office, Lee Street (near Railway Square) to protest against the government’s program of forced removals.

Gulistan, a Hazara asylum seeker yesterday became the third Afghan asylum seeker to be forcibly deported to Afghanistan since August. Gulistan is the latest victim of concerted efforts by the government to intimidate and coerce.

“We are calling on the Minister to urgently intervene to stop the removal of a Chinese asylum seeker, scheduled for Friday 19 December.

“And we are calling for him to urgently intervene in the case of an Iranian asylum seeker who has been on hunger strike for 46 days,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

Wei Lin, a professional athlete in China, has already faced persecution and harassment in China after exposing the use of performance enhancing drugs in Chinese sport in the late 90s.

He told the Refuge Action Coalition, “I feel that my forced deportation into danger is an act of violence and a violation of my human rights, against which I have no choice but to struggle in any way I can.”

Legal moves are underway to try to prevent Wei’s removal. “If the removal goes ahead, the Minister will be complicit in the human rights abuses of the Chinese government.”

...

International Migrants Day: 18 December 2014

Happy International Migrants Day! Migration is part of life, and always has been.  ...

Image: @MigrantRightsIR -  Migrant Rights Centre Ireland  [18/12/14]

On 4 December 2000, the UN General Assembly, taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed 18 December as International Migrants Day. On 18 December 1990, the General Assembly had adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

UN Member States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are invited to observe International Migrants Day through the dissemination of information on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, and through the sharing of experiences and the design of actions to ensure their protection.

At the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in October 2013, Member States unanimously adopted a Declaration in which they recognized the important contribution of migration to development and called for greater cooperation to address the challenges of irregular migration and to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration. The Declaration also emphasized the need to respect the human rights of migrants and to promote international labour standards. The Declaration strongly condemns manifestations of racism and intolerance and stresses the need to improve public perceptions of migrants and migration.

In his report to the General Assembly in October 2013, the Secretary-General put forward an ambitious eight-point agenda to “make migration work” for all: migrants, societies of origin and societies of destination alike. “Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family,” the Secretary-General said in his remarks.

Hunger striking asylum seeker in Darwin centre instructs that he not be revived

ABC [18/12/14]:

An asylum seeker in the 48th day of a hunger strike in a Darwin detention centre gives written instruction that he not be revived if he loses consciousness.

The 33-year-old Iranian detainee at Wickham Point detention centre has not eaten since November 1 because he was denied refugee status.

His lawyer John Lawrence says his client has lost more than 25 kilograms and is rapidly deteriorating.

"He had particularly blood shot eyes, he was weaker," he said.

"His limited English was abandoned and he used an interpreter.

"He was complaining of aches in his joints and limbs."

Doctors must seek Immigration permission to force feed

The asylum seeker's refusal to be revived poses a dilemma for doctors, who legally need a directive from the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's office to force feed him.

"If something happened, doctors would wait to hear from the Immigration Department, which of course is problematic on weekends and public holidays, with no-one at Immigration to give directive," Dr Parker said.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Immigration and Border Security Scott Morrison said it would be inappropriate to comment for privacy reasons.

The President of the Australian Medical Association NT Rob Parker said the symptoms were concerning.

"Well, the fact is if he's unable to speak [and] he's getting weakness, that probably indicates a certain degree of organ failure," he said.

"It probably indicates his brain is not getting the blood sugar and nutrients to function effectively."

The detainee wrote a note to his lawyer, signed with his name and the number of the boat on which he came, refusing treatment.

"I do not want to break my hunger strike. I do not want to be resuscitated," he wrote.

"Please resist any attempts to medically treat me should I fall unconscious, or should my wish to refuse treatment be overridden."

 

The secrecy hides the dishonesty

We sent the following email to Scott Morrison:

 Dear Minister,

When you made your announcement that mothers and babies who had not given birth prior to today would be returned to Nauru, were you aware a mother had gone into labour at Darwin Hospital this afternoon?

If so, I consider this to be vindictive and sadistic.

Regards,

 

... 'Pregnant IMAs who were transferred to Australia but who had not given birth, prior to today, will also be returned to Nauru, with their babies, at an appropriate time. ... [Minister for Immigration Media Release  - 18/12/14]

 

...  They sought to portray the deportations as a "resettlement"  ...  [Deportations to Killing Centres - US Holocaust Memorial Museum]

 

Australia's Minister for Refugee Death Camps says 31 babies born to asylum seekers will not be sent to Nauru and everyone believes him

It is possible he made this announcement as a woman went into labour

Still no proof families, children have been released from Australia's refugee concentration camp on Christmas Island.

... A jubilant Senator Muir welcomed the announcement, but expressed regret that the agreement would not apply to other children, possibly including one whose mother went into labour late on Thursday in the Royal Darwin Hospital.  ... [Sydney Morning Herald - 18/12/14]

SBS [18/12/14]:

Thirty-one babies already born to asylum seekers who were transferred from Nauru to Australia before December 4 will be allowed to remain in Australia, Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday.

They will have their protection claims assessed as part of the legacy caseload under a deal with Motoring Enthusiasts Party Senator Ricky Muir, whose vote secured the passage of new migration laws through the Senate this month.

In a statement, Mr Morrison said the agreement was a “special one-off arrangement” which will allow the babies and their immediate families to remain in Australia.

“This includes their mothers, fathers and siblings,” he said.

“That is, around 80 family members, all of whom are already in Australia having been transferred from Nauru, for the birth of their child.”

Senator Muir said the announcement should bring relief to some of the affected families. "I still have concerns for the children and families that are currently on Nauru and Manus Island, " he said.

"I intend on discussing these concerns in early 2015."

But the arrangement will not extend to expecting asylum seekers. Mr Morrison said pregnant women who had been transferred to Australia but who had not given birth prior to Thursday would be returned to Nauru with their babies.

"Illegal maritime arrivals currently at and being processed at a Regional Processing Centre (RPC) must not think this decision gives them a ticket to Australia," he said.

"It does not. They will remain and be processed at the RPC."

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young welcomed the announcement, but voiced concerns over those not included.

“It’s good that these babies will get to stay in Australia, for now, but I hold grave concerns for the pregnant women, children and families who will be left on Nauru as a result of this deal,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“The other babies and children, who are on Nauru right now, should be brought to Australia immediately.”

Freed refugees tricked into re-incarceration at Wickham Point

Adnan Shirwani, 36, with his 6-months-pregnant wife Maryam, 33, from the Kurdistan region of Iran. They spent one year in the detention centre and were given refugee status and released to the community based camp in June 2014. ...

Photographed by Vlad Sokhin, October 2014

... Few other official avenues are open to the refugees to lodge their concerns. Earlier this year, five Nauruan opposition MPs – Roland Kun, Mathew Batsiua, Dr Kieren Keke, Squire Jeremiah and former president Sprent Dabwido – were suspended for talking to the international media.

Kun, speaking from New Zealand, agrees that the refugees are far from free.

“It is still pretty much an incarceration situation,” he says. “Nauru is not in a position economically or physically to resettle anyone … and don’t call it resettlement if it is temporary.” ...

 'On Nauru the scarcest commodity is freedom, for refugees and residents alike' by Nick Olle and Vlad Sokhin [Guardian - 5/12/14]

 

This story features Adnan and Maryam, who protested in Darwin earlier this week. Maryam (and another woman) were dragged off the bus - Adnan was physically restrained by four guards. [Tricked and abused: pregnant women were forced off Darwin bus - Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney - 3/12/14]

Nauru: Dream Turned Nightmare for Boat Refugees Seeking Asylum in Australia [RIA Novosti - 2/11/14]

Feel safe Queensland?: Online Predator Taskforce ensnares possible pedo after entrapment

QPS Media [18/12/14]:

A 47-year-old man has been charged by police after travelling from Victoria to Queensland allegedly for the sole purpose of engaging in sexual activity with, what he believed to be, a 14-year-old girl.

The man was arrested and charged after detectives from State Crime Command’s Task Force Argos intercepted him after his arrival in Brisbane overnight.

As part of Operation Mike Beau, Argos investigators identified the man as he allegedly used the internet to attempt to coordinate a meeting for sexual activity with the child. The man was unaware that he was in fact engaging with a Task Force Argos investigator posing as the child.

The 47-year-old man was arrested and charged with twenty charges including using a carriage service to ‘groom’ a child under 16 years of age, using a carriage service to transmit indecent material to a person under 16 years of age and using a carriage service to procure a person under 16 years of age.

He was refused bail and will appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court this morning.

...

Submissions by NSW government lawyers to fight abuse compensation claim will be made at Royal Commission today

SBS [18/12/14]:

Lawyers tasked by the NSW Crown Solicitor's Office to fight an abuse compensation claim, which was drawn out for years, will explain all at an inquiry in Sydney.

Barristers Patrick Saidi and Paul Arblaster and solicitor Evangelos Manollaras have already been in the witness stand at a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearing into Bethcar, a foster home for Aboriginal children at Brewarrina in remote NSW.

In the 1970s and '80s, children at the home were terrorised and abused by the couple running the home, Bert and Edith Gordon, and their son-in-law Colin Gibson.

At a hearing in October, the commission explored how the NSW Department of Community Services and the Crown Solicitor's Office responded when the survivors sought compensation in 2008.

The commission heard that claimants were put though a legal mill that breached rules of fairness and added to their suffering.

Questions were asked by the commission about an attempt by the CSO to have the case struck out because key witnesses were dead or could not be found.

It was revealed that relevant witnesses had been found by the state, but in an alleged breach of legal rules, the court being asked to make the decision to strike out was not told.

Submissions on Thursday are expected to address this issue.

During the October hearing, Mr Manollaras, who managed the civil claim for the CSO apologised to the survivors for the legal trauma as did Crown Solicitor Ian Knight and the secretary of the social services department, Michael Coutts-Trotter.

Canberra man sentenced to jail for incest against stepdaughter [ABC – 18/12/14]

Actor Jeremy Kewley arrested over 100 child sex offences [ABC – 18/12/14]

Melbourne man jailed for killing young daughters [Yahoo – 18/12/14]

Serious assault charge, Maroochydore “Safe Night Out Precinct”

QPS Media [18/12/14]:

Detectives from the Sunshine Coast CIB have overnight charged a young male following an incident at a bus terminal on Horton Parade, Maroochydore on December 14.

It will be alleged around 1.30am three men have become involved in a verbal argument with a 33-year-old man at the bus terminal.

During which time the man was allegedly punched causing him to fall to the ground and strike his head on the concrete footpath.

The 33-year-old man received bruising and a laceration to the head requiring stitches.

Following investigations a 19-year-old man was arrested and charged overnight with one count of assault occasioning bodily harm. As the incident occurred within the Maroochydore Safe Night Out Precinct an application for a banning order will also be made.

The man is due to appear in court on January 19.

...

Teenagers arrested, capsicum sprayed following police pursuit, Tweed Heads South [Tweed Daily News - 17/12/14]

A man who pulled a replica gun on a teenager at a Bundaberg shopping centre has been jailed for 12 months. ... [ABC - 17/12/14]

Pedestrian injured, Caboolture

QPS Media [18/12/14]:

An 85-year-old man has been airlifted to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital after being struck by a utility at Caboolture last night.

Preliminary information indicates the Caboolture man was crossing Matthew Terrace around 7.15pm when the incident occurred.

He was transported to the Caboolture Hospital before being airlifted to Brisbane in a critical condition.

The 53-year-old driver of the utility, also a man from Caboolture, was not injured and investigations by the Forensic Crash Unit continue.

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.

Fatal traffic crash, Pomona

QPS Media [18/12/14]:

A 59-year-old woman from Gympie has died following a serious traffic crash on the Bruce Highway, north of Pomona, yesterday.

At around 5.45pm yesterday evening police received calls about a tree across the highway and upon arrival came across a two vehicle traffic crash in the southbound lanes.

The highway was closed in both directions between Pomona and Federal but reopened shortly after midnight.

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.

Powerful winds roll B-double truck, knock walls out of home in central-west Queensland

ABC [18/12/14]:

A fierce wind storm in central western Queensland has caused a B-double truck to roll on its side and torn the walls out of homes.

The truck was travelling on the Capricorn Highway about 20 kilometres east of Barcaldine about 3:00pm (AEST) yesterday when the storm hit.

Nearby in Muttaburra, a drought-stricken town with a population of less than 100, wild weather overnight and early this morning damaged about 10 homes.

Some had walls blown in and some had the roofs ripped from their buildings.

Longreach police Inspector Mark Henderson said a crane worked last night to get the truck back on the road.

He said it was not unheard of for trucks to roll in wind storms because the landscape was so flat.

"It's something that does happen from time to time out here," he said.

"We do have B-doubles and in fact big road trains fall over from time to time due to the high winds.

"It's very flat out here so when the winds get up it's not uncommon for a large semi-trailer to be knocked over."

A police spokesman said the driver of the tipped truck was taken to hospital with shoulder injuries and suspected broken bones.

...

 

Water is back on in Woorabinda, good news after two days without tap water

"tweeted" by  ‏@MarlinaWhop - ABC journalist [18/12/14]

 

Woman airlifted after quad bike crash

News Mail [17/12/14]:

A woman in her 60s has been airlifted by RACQ CareFlight Rescue after sustaining serious injuries in a quad bike rollover on a property at Mount Tom.

She suffered suspected head and multi-trauma injuries.

The Bundaberg RACQ CareFlight Rescue helicopter was called to the accident north of Bundaberg shortly before 10.30am, landing on scene within 40 minutes.

Emergency services on the ground worked with the QAS flight intensive care paramedic on board CareFlight's helicopter to assess and treat the woman's injuries.

She was flown to Bundaberg Hospital in a stable condition.

...

Poetry Professor Barry Spurr Resigns From Sydney University

New Matilda [18/12/14]:

Professor Barry Spurr has this morning resigned from the University of Sydney after the publication of a string of racist and misogynistic emails he wrote to University colleagues and friends.

It follows a long-running saga in which Professor Spurr vowed never to resign, tried to sue New Matilda in the Federal Court, and challenged his treatment by Sydney University in the Fair Work Commission.

In October, New Matilda published details of the emails, in which Professor Spurr railed against Aboriginal Australians, Asians, Muslims and women.

This morning, Sydney University announced that Professor Spurr had resigned from the institution.

...

Indigenous recognition co-chairman surprised by contract

News Mail [18/12/14]:

The Liberal co-chairman of parliament's indigenous recognition committee was "surprised" to learn Prime Minister Tony Abbott's department issued a $33,500 contract to the Cape York Institute to research Constitutional reform.

The contract was issued earlier this year to the Institute after its director, indigenous figure Noel Pearson, wrote to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet seeking financial support.

The research helped develop Mr Pearson's ideas for a recent essay in which he reversed his long-standing support for a ban on racial discrimination to form part of Constitutional recognition for indigenous Australians, in an effort to quell conservative concerns about the prohibition.

Joint Select Committee co-chairman, Indigenous MP Ken Wyatt, has confirmed neither Mr Abbott's office nor the department told the committee of the contract before it was revealed earlier this month.

Mr Wyatt said he was "somewhat surprised that a contract had been given to a specific group, given that we as a committee are working on a multi-party solution".

"Normally, that doesn't happen, however in this instance it has, and I suspect the power of persuasion was involved to undertake the work," Mr Wyatt said.

"Noel's very influential in persuading people about a way forward and he seeks either support or funding to do so."

Mr Wyatt told APN while Mr Pearson had a standing invitation to speak at a public hearing for the committee's inquiry he had not yet chosen to do so.

Rather, Mr Wyatt said Mr Pearson would attend a "private meeting" with committee members this week to discuss the issue and he could not comment on private talks.

While several other committee members have asked Mr Abbott to publicly explain the matter, Mr Abbott's office has not responded to questions.

Neither Mr Pearson nor the Cape York Institute responded to questions and the department has previously said the research did not breach government procurement rules.

But Mr Wyatt said while he was surprised, he was not "perturbed", as the committee's report would have "greater standing" in the parliament and wider community.

"I've thought about Noel's report and the more information we have, the better for public debate, we've got to acknowledge the key leaders in our community," he said.

"However, from the committee's perspective, he's just one other group or person contributing and we don't give any extra weight to any one group."

Poisoned fruit triggers security alarm at Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill mine

WA Today [18/12/14]:

Executives at Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill mine in Western Australia have asked the police to investigate an attempted poisoning at the mine's construction site in the Pilbara.

The company said in a statement that on December 15 that a contractor working at the site notice an "unusual discolouration" inside a piece of fruit from the mine site's dining hall.

Laboratory testing of the fruit has confirmed the presence of a dangerous chemical, although Roy Hill says the incident appears to be isolated, with no other reports of contamination of other food at the site.

Roy Hill chief executive Barry Fitzgerald the company has now handed the matter to the police.

"Our first and foremost priority is the safety and well-being of our people. We have tightened our food security as a means of ensuring no further incidents occur; and are working closely with the police in their investigation."

Roy Hill will be the crowning jewel in Gina Rinehart's mining empire, as it will be the first mine she will independently own and operate.

In March the project secured a massive $US7.2 billion financing package and production is slated to start late in 2015.

Around 2,500 people are involved in the building of the mine.

Goon squad unleash sniffer dogs on FIFO workers, Gladstone [Gladstone Observer]

Sunshine Coast lawyer charged over $400,000 fraud

Brisbane Times [18/12/14]:

A Queensland lawyer has been accused of defrauding a woman of $400,000 using an illegal power of attorney.

The 63-year-old's law firm, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Maleny, is now under the administration of the law society.

Police charged her after a search warrant was carried out at the business.

The victim is understood to be 70.

The accused woman will appear in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court on January 30, charged with one count of fraud.

...

Aquis Resort approved by Queensland Coordinator General

Deputy Premier, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Media Release [18/12/14]:

The $8.15 billion Aquis Resort near Cairns has today cleared another hurdle with Queensland’s independent Coordinator General approving the project’s Environmental Impact Statement.

Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney welcomed the approval and said the Government remained committed to seeing the development go ahead.

The Queensland Government continues to work with Aquis to make this exciting proposal a reality and today’s approval of the project’s EIS is another step in that process,” Mr Seeney said.

This proposed resort has the potential to create more than 20,000 new jobs for the Cairns region and provide a major boost for North Queensland and the state’s tourism and construction industry.

This is a world-class proposition that could draw hundreds of thousands of domestic and international visitors to Far North Queensland, and spread economic benefits right across the Cairns community.

The Coordinator General has thoroughly assessed the environmental, economic and social impacts of the Aquis project, and has decided it can proceed with the conditions set out in his evaluation report.”

...

A Yandina business found guilty of dumping contaminates into a stormwater drain has had its bid to have the crime overturned rejected in the state's highest court.  ... [Sunshine Coast Daily - 18/12/14]

Blah, blah, resilience, outcomes, weasel words blah - where's the actual report?

Censoring the impact of neoliberalism and climate change on a community?

Final disaster report stands as a case study for recovery [Bundaberg Regional Council Media Release - 16/12/14]

The road to recovery for the Bundaberg Region following the mini tornadoes and flood of 2013 has been carefully and comprehensively documented in a 148 page report adopted at today’s Ordinary meeting of Council.

The report, produced under the hand of Acting Mayor David Batt in his role as Recovery Coordinator of the Local Disaster Recovery Group, provides an insight into the group dynamics and fundamental workings of the four pillars associated with the region’s disaster recovery.

Cr Batt said that following the devastation that flowed from the effects of ex Tropical Cyclone Oswald, four community based groups were established under the chairmanship of local Councillors to process information and to deliver recommendations and outcomes to assist with community recovery.

The four sub groups or pillars of recovery were Environmental, Economic, Human and Social and Infrastructure.

The success of these sub-groups is remarkable – to think recovery of this Region could be so far advanced in such a short time seemed unlikely.

Whilst we are proud to have achieved so much in a short time, we acknowledge that recovery of the social networks and individual well-being can take many years and relies upon a great many contributing factors. With that knowledge, recovery will continue across the Region,” Cr Batt said.

Now this document has been adopted it will be forwarded to the State Government to Minister for Local Government, Community Recovery and Resilience David Crisafulli.

This report is a strategic document, a case study relating how successful outcomes were achieved in the wake of a natural disaster.

There is great insight into how challenges were met and overcome. How recovery was underpinned by great people doing great things.”

Mayor Mal Forman said the flood and tornado events that struck the Bundaberg Region in January 2013 impacted on a community already vulnerable from a flood event experienced in 2010/11.

The natural disaster was brutal, terrifying for many and an event that left emotional scarring still carried by traumatised local residents."

In offering his gratitude to the members of the recovery sub-groups canvassed in the report Cr Forman said networks established during the operational life of these groups has provided invaluable experience that can be called upon in future disaster events.

We are now better prepared, better resourced and have a far greater understanding of the processes to be swung into action should disaster again strike our region.”

I must also congratulate our community which has demonstrated a connectivity and desire to assist one another that showed the compassion and resilience of the people of the Bundaberg Region,” Cr Forman said.

Bundaberg council votes to axe councillor divisions

ABC [17/12/14]

The Bundaberg Regional Council has voted to abolish councillor divisions.

The council will ask the Local Government Minister to forgo the 10 divisions in favour of direct election of all councillors.

Acting Mayor David Batt told the council meeting, there was community support for all residents having a direct say in the election of each councillor.

However, Division Five representative Greg Barnes said three community surveys since amalgamation called for the divisions to be retained.

"Why go to the community consultation and ask a very pointed question and that question by the way was actually worded unanimously by council, so it's a very carefully worded motion so that it wasn't going to be leading, it wasn't going to be ambiguous and yes unfortunately we've had the result that we have," he said.

"So I just hope that the Minister shows more respect for the community consultation than we do."

The motion to scrap the divisions was carried eight votes to three.

New Zealand: Documents released to Nicky Hager's lawyers

RNZI [18/12/14]:

A High Court judge has today ruled on which documents police have to disclose to author Nicky Hager's lawyers relating to a raid on his Wellington home in October.

The raid was part of the police investigation into the hacking of blogger Cameron Slater's computer.

Mr Hager has asked the High Court to review the issuing of the search warrant and the subsequent search.

Information from Cameron Slater's computer obtained by the hacker known as Rawshark was published in Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics, and Mr Slater filed a complaint with the police about the hacking.

Mr Hager has asked the High Court to declare that steps taken in issuing the warrant and searching his home were unlawful and for orders that his property be returned.

Justice Dobson has ordered that several documents should be released to Mr Hager's lawyers, including those relating to journalistic privilege claims by Mr Hager and those looking at whether the hacker could be identified from another source.

The case will be heard in March.

Barrett Brown sentencing delayed

Boing Boing [16/12/14]:

Barrett Brown, the American Journalist accused of computer crimes after linking to material posted online by anonymous hacktivists, will have to wait a few more weeks to learn his fate. His sentencing was moved to January 22, 2015, according to court observers posting on Twitter.

The "court has too much to review to decide," wrote @FreeBarrett_, a supporter of Brown, from outside the ongoing hearing.

Brown originally faced more than a century in prison on a swathe of charges relating hacks targeting corporations. He admitted lesser crimes to reduce his possible sentence to 8½ years.

Published in Vanity Fair, The Guardian and elsewhere, Brown is often described as an "unofficial spokesperson" for the Anonymous collective, which he denies. He founded Project PM, a website intended to collate publicly-leaked information for use by journalists and activists.

Among the secrets exposed were collaborative efforts between the government and private contractors to monitor social networks, and to develop online surveillance systems.

Brown, 33, was arrested in 2012 after his and his mothers' homes were raided and he used "threatening" language toward FBI officers in a response posted to YouTube. He was subsequently accused of working with the hackers whose efforts yielded a huge tranche of embarrassing and revealing information concerning misbehavior and sleaze at U.S. government contractors.

Among the charges was the claim that merely linking to the leaked information was illegal—an alleged crime for which prosecutors sought decades in prison and which roused the interest of press freedom groups.

He ultimately signed a plea deal on three lesser charges: transmitting a threat, trying to hide a laptop computer during a raid, and to being "accessory after the fact in the unauthorized access to a protected computer." He spent a year awaiting trial in federal prison, and was subject to a 6-month gag order prohibiting him from discussing his case with the media.

 

19 December 2014

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