United States continue bombing Iraq, Syria

Centcom [21/11/14]:

Military airstrikes continue against ISIL in Syria and Iraq. U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Nov. 19-21 using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct seven airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted 23 airstrikes in Iraq Nov. 19-21 using fighter, attack, bomber and remotely-piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.

In Syria, six airstrikes near Kobani destroyed four ISIL staging areas, two ISIL-occupied buildings, two ISIL tactical units, and suppressed an ISIL fighting position. Near Ar Raqqah, an airstrike damaged an ISIL barrack.

In Iraq, six airstrikes near Bayji destroyed three ISIL buildings, a bunker, two ISIL transport vehicles, five ISIL tactical units, an ISIL checkpoint and damaged another ISIL building.

Near Sinjar, four airstrikes destroyed two ISIL barracks, an ISIL bunker and storage facility, an ISIL guard post, at least eight ISIL armored vehicles and a truck in a vehicle storage yard, as well as two tactical ISIL units.

West of Kirkuk, three airstrikes destroyed five bunkers, two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL tactical unit.

Near al Asad, four airstrikes destroyed four ISIL vehicles, an ISIL building, and struck three ISIL tactical units. Near Mosul, three airstrikes destroyed an ISIL guard post, an ISIL vehicle and two ISIL tactical units.

Near Ramadi, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL tactical unit, while also damaging an ISIL armored vehicle and an ISIL-occupied building. Finally, in Tal Afar, an airstrike damaged an ISIL-occupied airfield.

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


@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [21/11/14]:

Baghdad: The government's forces have stormed Sikhrijia Gharbiya in Rasheed nahiya ,assaulted on citizens ,and destroyed contents of homes under the pretext of looking for weapons.....

The shelling of government's army on Fallujah has continued since morning till now......

Anbar: 6-12 years children are the targets of government's army shelling in Fallujah..... .... http://fb.me/1qi3wyJfP

Tony Blair was last night recognised for his humanitarian work at a glamorous gala to raise funds for a global children's charity – in front of guests including Lassie the dog.

The controversial former Prime Minster received the Global Legacy Award at the Save the Children Illumination Gala 2014, which was held at The Plaza in New York City. ... [Independent - 20/11/14]

Obama signs order expanding US Afghanistan role: NYT

Reuters [22/11/14]:

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing a broader military mission in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The decision ensures a direct role for American troops in fighting in Afghanistan for at least another year, it said, adding Obama’s decision was made during a White House meeting with national security advisers in recent weeks.

In May, Obama said the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year. Missions for the remaining 9,800 troops would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the "remnants of al Qaeda", he said.

Obama’s new order lets American forces execute missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening U.S. troops or the Afghan government.

The new authorization also allows U.S. air strikes to support Afghan forces on combat missions and U.S. troops occasionally to accompany Afghan troops on operations against the Taliban.

The Times did not mention if the change would affect the number of American troops deployed to Afghanistan.

The change emerged from debate over two imperatives: Obama's promise to end the war in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon demand to let American troops fulfill their remaining missions there, the Times reported.

Some civilian aides have argued against risking American lives next year in operations against the Taliban, saying there should only be a narrow mission against al Qaeda, it said.

But generals urged Obama to define the mission more broadly if intelligence showed extremists threatening American forces.

Two issues shifted the debate, the Times said.

Obama's Afghanistan strategy faces stiffer criticism after the advance of Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, it said, while Afghanistan's new president has been more accepting of a broader American military mission than his predecessor.

Asked about the report, a senior administration official said the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan would be over by year-end, as Obama had announced in May.

"Safety of our personnel is the president’s first priority and our armed forces will continue to engage in operations in self-defense and in support of Afghan security forces," the official said.

"While we will no longer target belligerents solely because they are members of the Taliban, to the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al Qaeda, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe."

Lockheed, Pentagon ink $4.7 billion deal for eighth batch of F-35 fighters [Reuters - 21/11/14]

Magnetic bomb kills 1 civilian, injures 2 others in Nangarhar [Khaama - 22/11/14]

19 Taliban militants killed, 4 wounded in counter-terrorism operations [Khaama - 22/11/14]

5 Afghan army soldiers martyred in roadside bomb explosion [Khaama - 22/11/14]

Running with the hare and hunting with the hound

First Post [21/11/14]:

Stressing that terrorism perpetrated and supported from "outside" is the main challenge for Afghanistan, its former president Hamid Karzai on Friday criticized dualism in American policy towards Pakistan saying he had told Barack Obama that US should should not run with the hare and hunt with the hound.

Karzai also asked New Delhi "to do more" in defence cooperation with Afghanistan and hoped that New Delhi will adopt a "more proactive" policy in the future.

He said India and China should join hands to fight extremism in the region.

The former Afghan President rued that he had made 20 trips to Pakistan but was unable to succeed completely in improving ties with that country, which he has often accused of promoting terror in Afghanistan.

When asked about his earlier comment on asking a house owner to catch a thief and leaving the door open for the thief while describing US policy on Pakistan, Karzai, who was speaking at HT Leadership Summit in New Delhi, said it was a Persian proverb and there was a similar meaning English proverb of "running with the hare and hunting with the hound".

"That is what I believed they did and that is what they should not be doing," he said.

Asked if he had conveyed the same to the US, Karzai said he had told American President Obama during a video conference and the response he got was "silence".

"We moved to other subjects," he quipped.

Karzai said US should have gone after the terror sanctuaries in Pakistan.

Thanking India for the continued support to his country, Karzai said, "we need India to do more as to engage in bringing stronger capacity to the Afghan forces, Afghan military".

He said India is well suited to train Afghan officers and civil services.

"India is also industrially, in terms of production of military equipment, well placed to fulfill Afghanistan's need and India now has the ability to do that," he said.

NDTV [VIDEO - 21/11/14]:

Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai was delivering the inaugural address at the HT Leadership Summit 2014 in New Delhi on 'Is this Afghanistan's moment of reckoning?'.

The session was chaired by NDTV's group editor Barkha Dutt.

Saudi signs blank cheque to build $100m Islamic University in Kabul [Khaama - 21/11/14]

UN presses Myanmar over Rohingya rights

Channel News Asia [22/11/14]:

The United Nations adopted a resolution on Friday urging Myanmar to grant citizenship to its Rohingya Muslim minority, ramping up pressure on Yangon to scrap a controversial identity plan.

The measure was adopted by consensus in the General Assembly's rights committee following some wrangling with countries from the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which had sought stronger language.

The resolution expresses "serious concern" over the plight of the Rohingya in Rakhine state, where 140,000 people live in squalid camps after violence erupted between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012.

Under a controversial government-backed plan, the Rohingya would be forced to identify themselves as Bengali - a term seen as disparaging - in order to apply for citizenship. Those who refuse would be forced to live in camps.

Many in Myanmar's government and local Buddhists view Rohingya as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, but the community maintains it has ancestral roots in the country.

The resolution urges the government to protect the rights of all inhabitants of Rakhine state and allow "equal access to full citizenship for the Rohingya minority," to "allow self-identification" and ensure equal access to services.

Myanmar's representative voiced opposition to the use of term "Rohingya" in the resolution and warned this would stoke tensions in Rakhine state. "Use of the word by the United Nations will draw strong resentment from the people of Myanmar, making the government's effort more difficult in addressing this issue," said the delegate. The representative emphasised that the government was seeking to address the issue.

The measure drafted by the European Union now moves to the full Assembly, where it is likely to be adopted again by consensus. A vote is held if the country targeted by the resolution requests it.

Despite criticism of the Rohingya's treatment, the resolution welcomes "continued positive developments in Myanmar" toward reform and notes that the government is making efforts to address the "complex situation in Rakhine state."

It calls for an office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to open "without delay" in Myanmar.

Israeli forces open fire on Palestinian protests across West Bank

Maan [21/11/14]:

Israeli forces opened fire and injured dozens of Palestinians across the West Bank on Friday, as hundreds marched in a number of cities and villages in protest against the Israeli occupation and recent Israeli violence in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli soldiers opened fire on rallies in Nabi Saleh, central Hebron, at Qalandia checkpoint and in al-Bireh near Ramallah, in Kafr Qaddum, al-Masara, Jalazun refugee camp, Aida refugee camp, and in other villages across the West Bank, injuring dozens.

Two Israeli soldiers were also reported injured in clashes that erupted following the protests.

The protests came after a night of violence in Jerusalem, where two different hate attacks were reported against Palestinians on the basis of their ethnicity, in addition to two other such incidents inside Israel.

On Friday afternoon, meanwhile, a Palestinian woman was run over by a Jewish settler near Shufat in East Jerusalem, and later in the evening a brawl erupted as a group of Jewish settlers passed through the Palestinian neighborhood of al-Tur, resulting in the stabbing and light injuring of two Jews.

The violence follows escalating tensions in the holy city, where the long-term dispossession and discrimination by Israeli authorities who have occupied the city since 1967 has combined in recent months with a series of heavy-handed security operations and right-wing politicians' religious provocations to form a combustible mix.

Nightly protests in Jerusalem by Palestinians have been met by heavy police force, while a series of attacks with cars or by stabbing undertaken by individual Palestinians against random Israelis has been countered by right-wing Jewish mob violence across the city.

Despite this, protesters across the West Bank held more than a dozen marches condemning the violence of Israeli authorities and calling for end to the occupation.


Ahram [21/11/14]:

The University of California at Los Angeles’s undergraduate student union passed a resolution Tuesday night calling on the University of California to divest from American firms that are engaged in violence against Palestinians, reported UCLA's student-run newspaper Daily Bruin.



Canberra Times [21/11/14]:

Eminent Aboriginal elder Patrick Dodson has lashed the Abbott government's decision to cease funding for essential services in remote communities, a move that has contributed to one state government proposing to close 150 communities.

Professor Dodson, known as the father of Aboriginal reconciliation and who authored a review of small communities known as outstations or homelands, for the NT government in 2009, said the move would make Aboriginal people refugees in their own country and threaten ancient living cultures.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said that his state might need to cut essential services such as power and water from more than half the state's Aboriginal communities after the federal government's decision to withdraw from funding these services in remote indigenous settlements from next July.

The South Australian government has also raised the possibility of closing up to 60 indigenous communities, which are home to more than 4000 Aboriginal people.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has argued that the delivery of municipal and essential services was a state and local government responsibility, and the closure of any communities would be a matter for state governments.

But Professor Dodson rejected this argument, saying the emphatic success of the 1967 referendum, which gave the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal people, reflected the nation's aspiration that the federal government provide resources to address the appalling living conditions faced by indigenous people at the time.

"I think that the Commonwealth has got a clear responsibility," Professor Dodson said.

Western Australia has accepted a one-off payment of $90 million from the Commonwealth to take over the responsibility, while the South Australian Labor administration has rejected an offer of $10 million, which is equivalent to three years of funding.

Professor Dodson, a Yawuru man from the Kimberley, urged Senator Scullion to work with state governments and Aboriginal people to find inventive solutions, such as using solar power to deliver energy.

"The Federal Minister has to understand that the states have got their own unique issues and problems," he said.

"[Mr Barnett] now has to face up to the reality that these citizens in Western Australia need to be dealt with properly and he needs a proper financial, strategic plan that copes with their cultural and social aspirations.

For that the feds ought to give him a bit more time and help phase in a better budget to enable this to happen."

Speaking in state parliament this week, Mr Barnett said that of the state's 274 Aboriginal communities, more than 100 had an average of five residents, and another 70 communities had an average of 15 people.

"They are not viable it goes beyond water and power supplies," Mr Barnett said.

"What are the opportunities for young people? There is no work. There is no opportunity to succeed in life. That is the issue that has been forced upon us by the federal government decision."

He said people would not be forced to leave their homes, and no decisions had been taken about which communities might lose services.

Professor Dodson said the consequences of relocating people from their traditional lands would be disastrous, increasing access to drugs and alcohol and exacerbating social tensions, which would flow on to antisocial behaviour and incarceration.

"The immediate consequences would be to create an internal refugee problem for the indigenous people," he said.

"You'd have displaced Aboriginal people from their homelands or their traditional country, relocated on to lands and into places that are not necessarily country that they identify with or have an affiliation [with] and to be mixed among peoples who they may or may not have good or lasting relationships with."

"There's some kind of assumption that by a process of osmosis, people will be absorbed into the mainstream of Western-life ways and be successful."

"We're talking about human beings who have come from a different culture, butting up a mainstream monoculturalist perspective on how you should live and making very little concession to the diversity and the distinction of other cultures in the main."

He said breaking people's connection to land would threaten the survival of Aboriginal knowledge and culture, because in towns people were restricted from camping, lighting fires, hunting and fishing.

"We've got to weigh up the odds and give priority to things we value and if we value anything about Aboriginal culture and tradition and languages, then let's put some resources to that."

"We value the arts, we buy all these paintings from overseas by some famous artists, hang them up on walls and maybe 10 or 20 people see them – we're talking about a living culture here," he said.

A spokesman for Senator Scullion said the Western Australian government had been discussing the closure of these communities with the Commonwealth for a number of years, long before the state agreed to take responsibility for municipal services in these locations.

"Providing essential and municipal services in towns and cities across Australia has always been the responsibility of state and local governments and it should be no different in indigenous communities," the spokesman said.

Stop the closure of the homelands. State and Federal governments must fund services in remote Aboriginal communities. [PETITION]

Accused terrorists battle to clear names

Examiner [20/11/14]:

A former St Patrick’s College teacher says she and her partner are living a nightmare eight months after they were accused of planning to blow up a Middle Eastern consulate where they worked.

Fiona Sheehan and Mark Anstee are locked in a battle to clear their names after a colleague accused Mr Anstee of wanting to build a bomb and attack the Australian consulate in Dubai earlier this year.

The couple, who now live in Canberra, vehemently deny the terrorism allegations.

Mr Anstee, who worked at the Immigration Department in Hobart before a stint in Dubai, was sacked from his job as a visa officer just days after the complaint.

Government documents released under Freedom of Information laws show the Australian Federal Police were instructed to list Mr Anstee as a person of interest and was described on an official security report as a ‘‘budding terrorist’’.

Ms Sheehan, the daughter of the late, long-serving Tasmanian Senator Brian Harradine, was also listed as a person of interest and co-conspirator in the security report.

They believe the complaint was motivated by a workplace dispute.

Mr Anstee fled the country soon after responding to the allegations in fear of the Dubai justice system.

‘‘As soon as you draw attention to yourself it’s very serious over there,’’ Ms Sheehan told The Examiner.

Ms Sheehan said they were never given a copy of the allegations, and had to fight bureaucracy to receive them.

‘‘It’s just dreadful and unbelievable,’’ Ms Sheehan said.

‘‘I have no doubt this will be on my record forever,’’ she said.

The couple have written thousands of words of complaints and requests to the ombudsman and various government departments.

An internal report by the Immigration Department found there was no basis for Mr Anstee to be considered a ‘‘budding terrorist’’, but the witness who made the allegation was ‘‘credible’’.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said the agency had undertaken a thorough investigation of the allegations made by Mr Anstee regarding his sacking.

‘‘The issues raised by the ex-employee are complex and involved a number of lines of inquiry,’’ the spokeswoman said.

The department commissioned an independent investigator in August, and released a confidential report at the end of last month.

The spokeswoman said the department was implementing its recommendations and acknowledged there were some ‘‘process issues’’ during the course of the initial investigation into Mr Anstee.

Mr Anstee has not worked since the allegations.

‘‘We can’t believe eight months on after such a serious allegation we are still living a nightmare,’’ Ms Sheehan said.

‘‘Mark will never get a job our lives have been ruined,’’ she said.

Ms Sheehan said the couple were considering legal action, and have been told they will receive a ‘‘letter of regret’’ from the department.

‘‘A letter of apology won’t put us back in the position we were eight months ago where we had this wonderful future where we would live happily ever after together,’’ she said.

Madagascar plague outbreak kills 40, says WHO

BBC [21/11/14]:

An outbreak of plague in Madagascar has killed 40 people and infected almost 80 others, the World Health Organization has said.

The WHO warned of the danger of a "rapid spread" of the disease in the capital, Antananarivo.

The situation is worsened by high levels of resistance among fleas to a leading insecticide, the WHO added.

Humans usually develop the bubonic form of the plague after being bitten by an infected flea carried by rodents.

If diagnosed early, bubonic plague can be treated with antibiotics.

But 2% of the cases in Madagascar are the more dangerous pneumonic form of the disease, which can be spread person-to-person by coughing.

The first known case in the outbreak was a man in Soamahatamana village in the district of Tsiroanomandidy, about 200km west of Antananarivo, at the end of August.

There have been two confirmed cases in the capital, including one death.

"There is now a risk of a rapid spread of the disease due to the city's high population density and the weakness of the healthcare system," the WHO said.

A task force has been activated to manage the outbreak.

Last year health experts warned that the island was facing a plague epidemic unless it slowed the spread of the disease. It said that inmates in Madagascar's rat-infested jails were particularly at risk.

Cyclist dead in fatal Sydney crash

Nine MSN [22/11/14]:

A cyclist has died after being struck by a car in Sydney’s north.

A Subaru driven by a 17-year-old male collided with a cyclist on McCarrs Creek Road in Church Point just before 10am.

The male cyclist died at the scene. His age is not yet known.

The Subaru driver was unhurt but has been taken to hospital to undergo mandatory blood and urine testing.

Police are investigating the incident and have called for witnesses to come forward.

A report will be prepared for the Coroner.

Preschooler mauled by dog, Stanthorpe

Yahoo [22/11/14]:

A four-year-old girl has undergone surgery to her face after being attacked by a dog in southeast Queensland.

A statement from RACQ CareFlight Rescue says the girl was bitten on the face by a dog on Friday evening in the town of Stanthorpe in the Southern Downs region.

The girl was taken to a local hospital before being flown to Brisbane's Mater Children's Hospital in a stable condition later that evening.

She underwent surgery for cuts to her nose and cheek.

The dog was not the family pet but had been spotted in the Stanthorpe area by the girl's family before the attack.

Serious traffic crash, North Maclean

QPS Media [22/11/14]:

The Mount Lindesay Highway is currently closed in both directions following a serious traffic crash at North Maclean this afternoon.

Initial information indicates around 1.30pm two cars collided head-on near Wearing Road.

At least one person has sustained life-threatening injuries.

Mount Lindesay Highway is expected to be closed for several hours while police and emergency crews remain on scene.

Diversions are in place via Greenbank Road.

There is no further information available at this time.

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.

Serious traffic crash, Dundas

QPS Media [22/11/14]:

Police are investigating following a serious traffic crash involving two vehicles at Dundas this morning.

Initial information suggests around 10.30am, a car and a motorcycle collided on Northbrook Parkway, at Dundas.

A 19-year-old man was critically injured and airlifted to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
Officers from the Forensic Crash Unit are at the scene.

Motorists should prepare for delays and seek an alternative route if possible. 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.

Will Senator Chris Ketter hold true to his word about a motion in the Senate regarding LNP senators bringing parliament into disrepute at the inquiry?

LNP took donations from coal seam gas companies, Senate inquiry told [Guardian - 22/11/14]:

... Barry O’Sullivan – one of four federal government senators leading the open sabotage of a federal inquiry into the Queensland government told a hearing in Brisbane on Friday that the Liberal National party had received “zero” contributions. ...

Yahoo [21/11/14]:

PUP senator and former footballer Glenn Lazarus has been referred to as a one-eyed brick during a heated inquiry into the Queensland government.

The comment by LNP senator Ian Macdonald was a reference to Senator Lazarus' days as a rugby league player when he earned the moniker "the brick with eyes".

The second sitting of the Palmer United Party-led federal parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of the Queensland government kicked off on Friday amid fury and red faces.

The inquiry's last sitting, widely seen by Liberal National Party committee members as a farce, was marked by constant interjections and political sniping from both sides.

The public hearing in Brisbane, which is looking into changes to industrial relations laws, also infuriated committee members.

LNP senators, led by Senator Macdonald, began interjecting from the get-go, questioning the legitimacy of the witnesses, making points of order and talking loudly amongst themselves as evidence was being given.

The first two witnesses were Australian Council of Trade Unions President Ged Kearney and Queensland Council of Unions policy analyst and Labor candidate John Martin.

The pair gave evidence about how workers' compensation laws had made workers worse-off and other changes had made it harder for workers to take collective industrial action.

Senator Macdonald's first question was to ask whether Mr Martin was a Labor candidate and why hadn't he declared it.

At one point LNP Senator Matt Canarvon walked out to make a phone call.

When Senator Lazarus later tried to hurry the LNP senators along, Senator Macdonald took umbrage.

"You're referred to the as the `brick with eyes', but I see you're now showing you are a one-eyed brick," Senator Mcdonald thundered.

LNP Senator James McGrath shouted and turned red in the face, prompting Senator Ludwig to tell him to calm down or he'd burst his bubble.

Only Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters seemed to remain calm during the hearing.

She apologised to witnesses for the conduct of the inquiry.

"It's not a normal inquiry," Senator Macdonald remarked.

The hearing continues.

Inquiry hears evidence of political donations, gifts and mine approvals [Lock The Gate - 21/11/14]

Cross benchers, minor parties vital to a democracy [The Saturday Paper - 22/11/14]

... “This motion is about ensuring that significant legislative change is made in a way that is consistent with proper parliamentary and democratic process,” said [Senator Ricky] Muir, who had hitherto been considered part of the Palmer United Party’s voting bloc.

“I have heard both sides of the story about the changes to FOFA, but I would like to be clear about one thing. I am not interested in hearing about whether the government thinks this is all about the industry super funds and the union movement, nor am I interested in hearing about whether the opposition thinks this is all about keeping the big banks happy.

“What I am interested in is protecting consumers and protecting my constituents. This disallowance motion ensures that any proposed changes to financial advice laws that impact on consumers are properly scrutinised by the parliament.”

Now, senate procedure may not be a topic to excite the masses but, in a parliament with such a motley crossbench, it matters. The insistence by Muir, and the other senators who joined him in the so-called Coalition of Common Sense, that significant changes be made via legislation, rather than regulation, was a blow to the government.

Already the government has flagged that it would consider using regulation to overcome senate opposition to some contentious budget measures, including possibly the GP co-payment. Regulation is easier for the government to implement than legislation, requiring a majority of senators to vote it down, rather than a majority to vote it into law. But it is also more precarious. Now the government has been warned by the senate that it will not be tolerated.


Nine MSN [21/11/14]:

Federal Labor statesman Martin Ferguson has taken the unusual step of urging NSW colleagues to support Liberal Premier Mike Baird's plan to sell off the state's electricity assets.

Addressing a business lunch in Sydney today, the former Federal Energy Minister caused a stir when he went toe to toe with party colleague John Robertson.

"I am proud to stand before you this afternoon and give my support to the sale of the NSW and Queensland electricity grids," he said.

"He's nailing his future to opposing privatisation the electorate will decide."


More politicians should follow this example: ... Mr Lazarus refused to answer questions from a 'Courier-Mail' "journalist" about the inquiry. ... [Queensland Times - 21/11/14]

Phone-hacking editor Andy Coulson released from open prison to serve home detention [Independent - 21/11/14]

Clive Palmer claims interview storm out was dramatic attempt to boost ABC ratings [Nine MSN - 21/11/14]

Mastermind behind uni cheating business hits back at media jackals [Nine MSN - 21/11/14]

Arizona is first US state to sue GM over delayed recalls

Reuters [20/11/14]:

In the first lawsuit brought by a state against General Motors Co over recalls relating to a defective ignition switch, Arizona has accused the company of putting the public at risk by concealing safety issues and delaying the recalls.

The suit, filed Wednesday, seeks civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation and affects hundreds of thousands of vehicles, suggesting a total potential penalty against GM of billions of dollars if courts rule in the state's favor.

A GM spokesman said in a statement Thursday the lawsuit "misrepresents the facts, the performance of our vehicles and our work to ensure the safety of our customers."

GM has been hit by a slew of civil lawsuits since it widened a global recall to 2.6 million vehicles late in March because a defective ignition switch could slip out of position in some situations, cutting power to air bags and brakes.

Documents produced to U.S. Congress and federal safety regulators suggest GM may have been aware of issues with the switch for at least a decade before ordering recalls.

The recalls have expanded to encompass 60 serious defects affecting 27 million vehicles, the suit said.

GM said in October it was being investigated by 48 states. Representatives from several states involved said Thursday the investigations were ongoing.

Though the company produced many of the affected cars before it went bankrupt in 2009, Horne said "New GM" - following a government bailout - should pay penalties because the alleged cover-up stretched back more than a decade.

GM has argued it should not face lawsuits based on safety issues on cars made before its 2009 bankruptcy.

The company has asked a Manhattan judge to rule on whether it must face claims arising from the conduct of pre-bankruptcy "Old GM." A decision, not expected until next year, could affect a significant portion of the lawsuits over deaths, injuries and economic losses that are pending against it.

The company has set up a compensation program for victims of the faulty ignition switch.

Arizona argued that consumers lost money because GM vehicles fell in value. It also said GM Chief Executive Mary Barra, while head of product development, was informed in 2011 of a safety defect in the electronic power steering of several models.

Shares of GM were down 0.5 percent at $31.99 on the New York Stock Exchange. They have slumped about 24 percent since hitting a high of $41.85 on Dec. 26, 2013.

The case is State of Arizona v. General Motors LLC, the Superior Court of the State of Arizona, County of Maricopa, No. CV2014-014090.

When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all ...

'Kodachrome', Paul Simon [1973]

More volunteers wearing lanyards (and bearing red frogs) than schoolies at Surfers Paradise today [22/11/14]

Day one of Gold Coast Schoolies 2014 [QPS Media - 22/11/14]:

Thousands of school leavers began arriving on the Gold Coast last night [really????] with many more expected to arrive today as the traditional Schoolies Week celebrations officially begin tonight.

Queensland Police will today be monitoring the influx of teenagers arriving and booking into their accommodation.

Overnight there were no schoolies arrested or fined on the Gold Coast.

There were 16 people arrested on 17 charges which were non-schoolies.

The majority of the non-schoolies arrested related to public nuisance and good order offences.

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.

Feel safe Queensland?

More surveillance on the Gold Coast. [Gold Coast City Council Media Release - 21/11/14]:

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate today switched on nine new permanent safety cameras.

The cameras, four in Southport, three in Coolangatta and two in Surfers Paradise, bring the City’s total number of cameras to 190 and make the network one of the largest monitored public safety camera systems in Australia.

Mayor Tate said the aim of the City’s safety camera network was to crack down on crime and build safer suburbs.


“We’re investing $2.4 million on a range of public safety initiatives, with almost $1.6 million going towards monitoring 24/7 our safety camera network. It’s a key investment in public safety, confidence and crime prevention,” he said.

For more information visit cityofgoldcoast.com.au/safetycameras.

... Once a TV was connected and placed in front of the jury, Detective Senior Constable Phillip Parker walked the jury through five hours of CCTV footage that was condensed to 80 minutes, assisted by Crown Prosecutor Lee Carr. ... [Tweed Daily News - 20/11/14]

Ever seen the party police at Hamilton or Ascot? [Chronicle - 21/11/14]:

Thinking of throwing a party?

Well, unless you take steps to ensure things don't get out of hand, it could end up a very expensive event as a Toowoomba woman discovered.

Under legislation introduced in February, those convicted of "organising an out-of-control event" can face maximum penalties of $12,100 or a year in jail.

Less than two months after that legislation came in, Janine Mary Duncan, 45, invited a dozen or so people to her Kearneys Spring home to celebrate her son's 18th birthday on May 10.

However, unknown to her, someone texted others about the party and before she knew it a large crowd had gathered outside her home.

About 8.50pm, three police officers responding to a noise complaint arrived to find 40 to 50 partygoers outside, Toowoomba Magistrates Court heard.

The crew called for back-up and further police soon arrived to find an unruly mob out front.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Karen Hall told the court some of the mob turned on police, shouting obscenities.

Police were then subjected to rocks and bottles being hurled at them and police cars sustained damage.

The sergeant in charge had a camera installed in his chest jacket and stood his ground as bottles and rocks were thrown in his direction.

Unfortunately, the camera malfunctioned and potential evidence of those throwing projectiles was lost, Snr Const. Hall said.

When further police arrived, most of the mob jumped fences and ran off, the court heard.

Snr Const. Hall said Ms Duncan had fully co-operated with police and agreed with police she had not been able to control matters.

She admitted to being the event organiser and as such pleaded guilty to the new offence of organising an out-of-control event.

Snr Const. Hall said in total 32 police officers had attended the scene and under the legislation $3879 was sought for costs of the time of those officers.

Defence solicitor Peter Sloane told the court his client was caught by the legislation but she was as surprised as anyone when the crowd turned up.

She had tried to calm things but some of the uninvited guests were drunk and out of control, he said.

Mr Sloane said in the circumstances he couldn't argue the request for police costs.

Snr Const. Hall said police did not seek costs for the damage to the police cars but just the time incurred by police at the scene.

Taking into account all circumstances and because of the costs order, Magistrate Graham Lee said he would reduce the fine to $1000 and ordered Ms Duncan pay police costs of $3879.

The Ettamogah Pub is no longer the Ettamogah Pub [Sunshine Coast Daily - 22/11/14]

New York police officer fatally shoots unarmed man

CNN [21/11/14]:

A rookie police officer shot and killed an unarmed 28-year-old man in an unlit stairwell of a housing project in what New York's top cop said Friday was "a very unfortunate tragedy involving an accidental discharge."

The victim, identified as Akai Gurley, was a "a total innocent who just happened" to run into Officer Peter Liang in a "pitch black" stairwell at the Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn late Thursday, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton told reporters.

Shot once in the chest, Gurley died at a hospital later.

Liang, with less than 18 months on the job and on probationary status, has been placed on modified assignment and stripped of his gun and badge pending an investigation.

"A life was lost and my heart goes out to the family of the young man," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "It does appear to have been an accident."

The shooting comes amid strained police/community relations after the July death of Eric Garner at the hands of police on Staten Island. The chokehold death of the unarmed 43-year-old man sparked street protests, a review of police procedures and calls for a federal civil rights investigation. A grand jury will decide whether to bring charges against the officer.

A few weeks later, the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, of unarmed teenager Michael Brown thrust into the forefront the issue of law enforcement's use of deadly force. A grand jury decision on whether to charge Officer Darren Wilson is expected soon.

"What happened in Ferguson is different than what happened on Staten Island is different than what happened in Brooklyn," de Blasio said. "Each of them has their own dynamic."

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, in a statement, said the shooting was "deeply troubling and warrants an immediate, fair and thorough investigation."

"Many questions must be answered, including whether, as reported, the lights in the hallway were out for a number of days, and how this tragedy actually occurred," Thompson said.

Liang and his partner were part of a "violence reduction overtime detail" at the Pink Houses, where a spate of serious crimes have been reported in recent months, including two robberies and four assaults, Bratton said.

The officers had taken an elevator to the building's top floor to check on the roof and were taking the stairs down from the 8th floor, Bratton said, when the gun discharged. There were no lights in the stairwell leading up to the roof.

Liang drew a flashlight and his weapon "for safety reasons," the police commissioner said. The other officer did not draw his gun.

In the darkened stairwell, Liang's gun discharged about the same time that Gurley, the father of a 2-year-old child, and his girlfriend were entering the seventh-floor landing, Bratton said.

The lights on the seventh and eighth floors were not working, Bratton said.

The police commissioner said the decision on when to draw a weapon is the discretion of officers "based on what they are encountering or believe they may encounter. So there is not a specific prohibition against taking a firearm out. But again, as in all cases, an officer would have to justify the circumstances that required him to or resulted in unholstering his firearm."

The shooting also is being investigated by police internal affairs.

"This is a tragic situation," de Blasio said. "It does appear to have been a very tragic accident."

CNN's Daniel Verello and Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this report.

Lunch time police gun raid and arrests in east Banora [Tweed Daily News - 20/11/14]:

Residents were shocked when Tweed Byron LAC Police apprehended a man and a woman in Banora Point on Laura St today.

Residents said a highway patrol car parked on the street about half an hour prior to the police pulling over a white Ford Falcon XT sedan with Queensland plates.

"They obviously knew the car was expected to come down the hill before the police stopped the vehicle," Fiona Barnett said.

"Like something out of Gold Coast Cops, all these marked and unmarked police cars swarmed around the vehicle."

A woman who appeared to be in her 20s and was the passenger of the vehicle complied with officer requests to alight the vehicle. She was hand cuffed as she exited the car.

At the same time, police were heard screaming out to the male driver of the vehicle: "Down on the ground, get down on the ground, get on your knees, put your hands up," as several officers pointed their guns at the man.

Once the man was apprehended police blockaded the street as they carried out detailed forensic searches on the vehicle, the woman and the man.

Witnesses allege they saw officers take out more than one firearm out of the Ford Falcon during the search.


Drug charges: Surfers Paradise

QPS Media [21/11/14]:

Detectives from the Northern Crime Group executed a search warrant at a Surfers Paradise address this morning.

About 11.15am, police attended a unit on Laycock Street, where it will be alleged that they located a quantity of methamphetamine and drug utensils.

A 17-year-old Upper Coomera woman has been charged with one count of possession of a dangerous drug and two counts of possession of utensils. She is scheduled to appear in the Southport Magistrates Court on December 3.

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.

Inmate arrested after Barwon Prison lockdown

The Age [21/11/14]:

An inmate who made threats causing the lockdown of a Victorian prison has been taken into custody.

Police negotiated with the 44-year-old man at Barwon Prison, near Geelong, for about two hours before he surrendered on Friday.

"The man surrendered without incident around 11.30am and was returned to custody," police said.

He reportedly had a device, believed to be ground-up match heads, strapped to himself.

Police are assessing the device.

Corrections Victoria said the incident was resolved safely and without injury.

"The situation has been peacefully resolved after a 44-year-old prisoner surrendered to authorities," it said in a statement.

A spokesperson would not comment on the nature of the device, saying this was part of the police investigation.

Boy died soon after release from Mater Children's Hospital

Yahoo [21/11/14]:

The mother of a nine-year-old boy who died after being discharged from hospital says she trusted staff who said he was well enough to go home.

Ormeau boy Hunter Marr died on January 6, 2014, 19 hours after being released from Mater Children's Hospital in Brisbane.

He was admitted four days earlier with breathing difficulties.

The first day of an inquest into Hunter's death on Friday was told he had suffered asthma symptoms and been hospitalised with an asthma attack in 2011.

His mother, Michelle Marr, told the court she was surprised when Hunter was discharged on the afternoon of January 5 because he had been coughing that morning and seemed pale and sickly.

"I was concerned but you have to trust that the people who are doing what they're doing know what they're doing," she told the court.

"I had to trust that they were doing the right thing."

Mrs Marr became emotional when she described how Hunter was given asthma medication during the night but the following morning took a turn for the worse.

"(I) was trying to give him ventolin but he wasn't taking it and that's when I went to get (husband) Matthew and said, 'I don't know what to do'," she said through tears.

"He came in, saw his mouth had gone blue, went to phone triple 0 and while he was on the phone to triple 0 (Hunter) just collapsed," she sobbed.

Under cross examination Mrs Marr agreed she had been given an asthma action plan at the hospital.

She also recalled being told to bring Hunter back to the Mater if he needed ventolin more than every three hours.

Mrs Marr told the inquest several times she didn't believe her son had been an asthmatic, but that he had suffered "seasonal asthma" exacerbated by cold weather.

"He was someone who, when he got a bad cold, would need a little extra help," she said.

The inquest continues.

Lansvale factory fire contained, other buildings saved

Nine MSN [21/11/14]:

More than 100 firefighters have managed to contain a raging inferno at a waste management factory in Sydney's south west.

The fire broke out at Donmar Industries in Day Street, Lansvale just after 3.30pm.

It burned quickly and intensely, fuelled by wooden pallets and other combustibles at the site.

Scores of workers were evacuated from neighbouring businesses and firefighting reinforcements were called in from across Sydney to focus on property protection.

As a result, the damage was confined to the factory where the blaze started.

Paramedics were at the scene as precaution, but so far, there have been no reports of injuries.

At the peak of the fire, swirls of thick, black smoke blanketed the suburb, seriously reducing visibility.

On the Hume Highway traffic was reduced to a crawl in both directions for several hours.

Firefighters will remain at the scene throughout the night to put out any flare ups.

Bakery franchise Pie Face in administration

Nine MSN [21/11/14]:

National bakery franchise Pie Face has been placed into voluntary administration, but promises to keep operating while administrators review its operations.

The company issued a statement this evening saying administrators Jirsch and Sutherland had been appointed.

Earlier, two franchisees confirmed to 9NEWS that a letter had been sent from head office today announcing the move.

The company said it was a voluntary administration and the company would continue trading.

"The move comes as part of a wider company review, which will see the company focus on supporting the growth of its franchise-operated stores as well as the wholesale business," the statement read.

"The international businesses are not affected."

Established in 2003, the company owned and operated 20 stores in the first five years, before moving to a franchise model, adding 60 stores.

Last year, the Australian business faced legal action by a group of franchisees over allegations they had been misled with regard to potential profits and costs.

The Australian Financial Review reported a trio of franchisees, Prit Dutta, Aleks Trajceski and Tom Bulmer, believe they collectively missed out on $2 million in projected earnings.

The most recent sign of trouble was the closure of seven Pie Face stores in New York. Despite being featured on popular program, the Late Show with David Letterman, and a reported $15 million investment from casino mogul Steven Wynn, sales in the US market did not meet expectations.

The company was still promoting its wares via its Twitter and Facebook until last week.

Yeppoon bakery taken to court over workplace injury [Morning Bulletin - 20/11/14]

John Setka Statement re penalties for Grocon Wall Collapse

CFMEU Victoria [21/11/14]:

Today Grocon was fined just $250,000 after pleading guilty to its role in the deaths of three innocent people.

When a wall on Grocon’s Swanston St development toppled on 28 March 2013, brother and sister Alexander and Bridget Jones as well as French researcher, Marie-Faith Fiawoo were crushed to death.

The tragedy occurred opposite the CFMEU’s office and our officials and staff were among the first on the scene.

Our officials are all too aware of the dangers faced by construction workers every day but the deaths of Bridget, Alexander and Marie-Faith were particularly traumatic.

As one of the first on the scene CFMEU Assistant Secretary Shaun Reardon said: “The images of that day still haunt me and will remain with me forever. As a father, all I can think of is the impact that this tragedy has had on the families. This is something no parent should have to bear.”

Having spent time with Bridget and Alexander’s parents, I know they will never recover from their loss.

The tragic events are a shocking reminder of the need to fight every day to make the construction industry safe.

Today’s sentence also brings into stark contrast the approaches our governments take to industrial disputes and criminal liability for workplace fatalities.

Our industrial dispute with Grocon has always been about safety.

When we fight to protect the safety of building workers and the public, Liberal politicians call for our deregistration.

Yet when Grocon pleads guilty to its role in the deaths of three young people, the same politicians are silent. Tony Abbott embraces Daniel Grollo as a member of his Government’s Business Advisory Council.

Three young lives were lost because of the failures of Grocon to properly ensure workplace safety and the company was fined $250,000. In contrast, the CFMEU was fined $1.25 million over a dispute with Grocon about serious safety breaches.

Grocon’s guilty plea would bring more comfort to the families of the deceased if it wasn’t cheapened by comments made by Mr Grollo’s wife, who suggested this week the wall collapse was due to sabotage.

Our staff and officials will never forget that day.

Our thoughts are very much with the families of Alexander and Bridget and Marie-Faith, and all those whose lives have been scarred forever.

John Setka
CFMEU Secretary

Hastings Deering workers reject company proposal [CQ News - 21/11/14]

Yellow umbrellas and Christmas lights. Admiralty tonight. #OccupyHK #UmbrellaRevolution

Image: @breakandattack [21/11/14]


22 November 2014