Disappeared Vietnamese asylum seekers possibly being interrogated at police-run detention centre
Sydney Morning Herald [23/4/15]:
... Trong Doan, a Vietnamese Australian refugee advocate and former community leader, said it was no secret that detention centres and re-education camps were used across Vietnam to interrogate suspected political subversives.
He said it was likely that security officials would be sent to Binh Thuan from Hanoi, the Communist Party capital in the north of the country.
"What usually happens is people are asked the same question again and again and again. If people are charged they will go to prison. The Communist Party runs the courts. They run everything, all the newspapers and all the NGOs," he said.
Mr Doan said Vietnamese Australians were concerned at the secrecy that has surrounded the hand-back.
"This type of secrecy is normally reserved for terrorism and national security not for a group of people who are tired and weak on a boat journey."
Amnesty International has said that the asylum claims of the Vietnamese cannot have been adequately assessed and determined by government officials at sea.
One Nauru refugee agrees to be exiled to Cambodia
Phnom Penh Post [23/4/15]:
Only one refugee on the Pacific island of Nauru has so far taken up the Australian government’s offer of resettlement in Cambodia, an Interior Ministry official has said.
General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the ministry, said on Thursday that an ethnic Rohingya man from Myanmar, which has seen a series of deadly anti-Muslim riots since 2012, had accepted the “support package” offered by Australia, which includes thousands of dollars in cash payments.
“I received the information that … only one volunteer, a Rohingya … wants to resettle in Cambodia,” he said, adding that more may yet take up the offer in the coming days.
Sopheak could not confirm when the first refugees were expected to fly to Phnom Penh but said that it could take "some time" before the arrangements were finalised.
Australia creates stateless babies
Three Australian-born children could be in danger of becoming stateless when they are deported to Malaysia from a Darwin detention centre, a human rights lawyer says.
The children, aged five, four, and two, were born in Queensland while their Malaysian parents were on a bridging visa.
After the visa expired, the family was moved to Darwin's Wickham Point Detention Centre
The ABC has seen a notice which says they will be deported to Malaysia next week.
Human rights lawyer David Manne said the children will lose basic rights after they are deported.
"Look these three children face the very real risk of not being recognised as Malaysian citizens, of remaining stateless," he said.
The family is concerned the boy has a skin infection that has not been treated in detention and would no be cared for if the children are not citizens in Malaysia.
"Including not being able to go to school or get an education or even have access to basic medical care that they need ... that would be a terrible fate," he said.
Mr Manne said it will take time and money for the children to be acknowledged as citizens in Malaysia because of the country's lengthy application process.
"Having been born here, these children now face a very uncertain and potentially very bleak fate back in Malaysia," he said.
"The Australian Government has the discretion to allow them to stay, and it should show some heart by letting them stay."
The Minister for Repugnant has another announcement.
Feel safe Australia?
New security measures at international airports [Minister for Immigration Media Release - 23/4/15]:
The Australian Government today announced the roll out of new SmartGates to provide stronger security measures at Australia’s international airports.
Ninety two new SmartGates will be installed at the nation’s eight international airports over the next year as part of the Government’s measures to counter terrorism.
SmartGates use facial biometric technology to confirm the identity of a traveller by scanning a passport image and matching that to the person at the airport arrival or departure gate.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton today announced the awarding of an $18 million contract to Vision Box, a leading international provider of automated border systems, to supply the new SmartGates.
Serious traffic crash, Burleigh Heads
Police are investigating after a serious traffic crash on the Pacific Motorway, Burleigh Heads this morning.
Around 10.50am, a pantec truck has struck a 45-year-old man on the northbound lanes of the Pacific Motorway near exit 87 at Burleigh Heads.
The man had earlier parked a motorhome bus in the emergency stopping lane and at the time of the incident was walking down the driver’s side of the motorhome.
The driver of the truck immediately stopped following the impact.
The motorhome driver was treated at the scene and transported to the Gold Coast University Hospital in a serious but stable condition.
Investigations are continuing.
Woman's body found in boot of car after driver runs from police on NSW south coast
A woman's body has been found by police in the boot of a car near Bermagui on the south coast of New South Wales.
It is understood police are investigating whether the body is that of Canberra woman Daniella D'Addario, 35, who has been missing since April 20.
Her partner, 27-year-old Josaia Vosikata, was reported missing to ACT police at the same time.
NSW Police stopped a blue Hyundai Getz at Cuttagee Point about 8:30pm last night, but the driver fled into nearby bushland.
Officers found the body of a woman believed to be in her 30s in the car.
Police set up a perimeter around the area and are searching for the driver.
He was last seen wearing dark clothing.
"We've been searching constantly for the last 14 hours in rugged bushland with assistance from helicopter, tactical operations unit, police, our local police resources to no avail," Detective Superintendent Peter O'Brien said.
"It was raining non-stop, windy and cold and with the land mass and the land terrain down there it was very difficult for the searchers. But we covered a fair distance and I'm confident a comprehensive search was done in that area."
At 12:00pm today NSW Police released a statement saying the woman had not been formally identified.
"However police are investigating possible links to this incident and reports of a missing couple from the ACT," the statement read.
Man arrested after woman's body found in car boot at Bermagui [Canberra Times – 23/4/15]
Department of Defence employee sentenced to two months behind bars for possessing more than 2000 child pornography images and videos [Canberra Times - 23/4/15]
WikiLeaks shows Sony concerned by IDF's use of its cameras in Gaza bombings
Sony Pictures Entertainment executives were concerned about a news report that showed one of its cameras being used to guide Israeli rockets bombing Gaza, company correspondance.
Correspondence about the situation from last August was part of the release by WikiLeaks last week of more than 173,000 emails and more than 30,000 company documents.
The story was first reported by the Electronic Intifada.
The correspondence among Michael Lynton, the company’s CEO; Stevan Bernard, its head of corporate security; and David Diamond, executive assistant to the company chairman, included a link to an Iranian Press TV report in which the reporter held up a part of a bomb fired by Israel on Gaza during last summer’s conflict and said it contained a camera marked Sony.
Sony has told Japanese media that it does not design, manufacture or sell any products intended for use in weapons, according to Electronic Intifada.
The document dump also includes correspondence showing actress Natalie Portman hosting an event last year for J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group.
US acknowledges January operation killed American, Italian hostages
One American and one Italian who had been held hostage by al Qaeda in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan were killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in January, the White House said on Thursday.
The operation in which American doctor Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto were killed also resulted in the death of an American al Qaeda leader, Ahmed Farouq, the White House said.
Another American al Qaeda member, Adam Gadahn, also was killed, likely in a separate operation, the White House added.
U.S. President Barack Obama was scheduled to make a statement on the incident.
In a written statement, the White House expressed "tremendous sorrow" over the hostage deaths and said the United States had no reason to believe hostages were at the al Qaeda related compound targeted in the operation.
"Analysis of all available information has led the intelligence community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages," the statement said.
"No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy," the statement added.
Weinstein was abducted in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2011 while working for a U.S. consulting firm. Al Qaeda had asked to trade him for members of the Islamist militant group being held by the United States.
Weinstein was seen in videos released in May 2012 December 2013, asking for Obama to intervene on his behalf and saying he was suffering from heart problems and asthma.
Italian aid worker Lo Porto has been missing in Pakistan since January 2012.
The White House did not describe the operation, but the Wall Street Journal reported that it was a the first known instance in which the United States has accidentally killed a hostage in a drone strike.
The White House said Obama "takes full responsibility for these operations and believes it is important to provide the American people with as much information as possible about our counterterrorism operations, particularly when they take the lives of fellow citizens.
"The uniquely tragic nature of the operation that resulted in the deaths of two innocent hostages is something we will do our utmost to ensure is not repeated," the statement said.
It said that while the operation "was lawful and conducted consistent with our counterterrorism policies, we are conducting a thorough independent review to understand fully what happened and how we can prevent this type of tragic incident in the future."
Italian media said Lo Porto, who was from Palermo, Sicily, was kidnapped three days after arriving in Pakistan on Jan. 19, 2012, to work for a German organization building houses for victims of a 2010 flood.
Another man was kidnapped with him but later separated and freed in October 2014 by German special forces.
When Murdoch controls your media, police and politicians, hypocrisy and double standards abound
A Perth police constable has been charged over the alleged release of official information about the arrest of fallen AFL star Ben Cousins to a television journalist.
Cousins was arrested last month following a late night incident in Perth's south.
He was released in the early hours of the following morning, when the female journalist tried to interview him.
Acting Commissioner Stephen Brown told Fairfax Radio the journalist and the police constable were in a relationship.
He said the officer had no connection to the case and no right to share information about it.
"In the remit of this officer's role he had no right to do that," Acting Commissioner Brown said.
"He had nothing to do with that case, that investigation, that response, yet he provided [information] to somebody who he was in a relationship with."
He said the journalist's presence sparked internal concerns.
"There was a female journalist by herself," he said.
"Nobody else was around there at the time which we thought was suspicious."
An internal investigation resulted in a 29-year-old police constable, first class, from the south metropolitan district being charged with four counts of disclosing official secrets, an offence under the Criminal Code.
The officer has been stood down from all duties, and will appear in a Perth Magistrates Court on May 5.
WA policeman charged over disclosing Ben Cousins secrets to journalist girlfriend [WA Today - 23/4/15]
... Red, white, blue's in the skies, summer's in the air and baby, heaven's in your eyes ...
'National Anthem' Lana Del Rey 
Legislation to give the White House "fast track" authority to nail down a Pacific trade pact cleared its first hurdle in the U.S. Congress on Wednesday as a committee backed the bill and sent it to the full Senate for consideration.
Approved by the Senate Finance Committee on a 20 to 6 vote, the legislation would prohibit Congress from amending trade deals, instead allowing for just up-or-down votes.
It is vital to closing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that would link a dozen economies and cover a third of global trade. TPP is central to President Barack Obama's strategic shift toward Asia.
Fast-track authority could now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as next week, just as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due in Washington to address lawmakers at a joint meeting of Congress, but it needs to be approved by the House of Representatives as well.
On Tuesday, Japan's top trade negotiator sounded an optimistic note on reaching a deal with the United States.
"Tonight’s Committee action marks a pivotal moment for international trade policy and reflects years of true bipartisan work," said committee chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican.
After lively debate in the committee, senators rejected an amendment that would have exposed nations that manipulate their currencies to sanctions, although it could be resurrected in the House of Representatives. Japan has warned that tough currency provisions in fast-track could kill the TPP.
The panel instead backed two other provisions beefing up rules against currency manipulation in a separate bill accompanying the fast-track legislation.
Senators defied warnings from the Obama administration and backed a change opening the door to import duties against countries found to be manipulating their currencies.
The other provision, supported by the administration, would allow the United States to consider restricting government purchases from currency-cheating nations or even block them from future trade deals.
The bill was approved along with measures to extend both trade preferences for African nations and aid to workers who lose their jobs due to trade.
Many Democrats fear new trade deals will cause a repeat of the factory closures and job losses seen after the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico was approved in 1993.
Democratic senator Bob Casey, who voted against the bill, said it was a "fast track to fewer jobs and lower wages."
But the bill is backed by mainstream Republicans, farmers and business groups who think trade deals in the pipeline will cut tariffs on U.S. exports and set higher standards for U.S. intellectual property.
The White House sees the TPP as a counterweight to China's influence in the Asia-Pacific and has warned that the Asian giant will set the rules for trade if the United States does not move ahead with the TPP, which is near completion.
TPP must pass Congress this year to avoid being bogged down in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. elections, where it could put Hillary Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, in a difficult spot.
Clinton, who championed TPP as secretary of state under Obama, has been cautious in her stance. On Tuesday, she said any trade deal had to "produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security."
The bill will likely face a tougher fight in the House of Representatives than the Senate, where Republicans would need to pick up only six Democratic votes to avoid delaying tactics, assuming there are no defections from the Republican side.
Research done from a new Toowoomba laboratory will help support the world's cotton industry following Monsanto Australia's multi-million dollar investment.
The purpose-built centre in McDougall St will develop cutting edge biotechnology solutions and resistance systems to increase growers' productivity and long-term viability.
Monsanto Australia managing director Daniel Kruithoff said the decision to establish the centre in Toowoomba was based on the region's strong agricultural reputation and the city's proximity to key growing areas.
Mr Kruithoff said Monsanto would also develop school-based programs to help encourage young people into agricultural study areas.
"We see agriculture as a positive industry to invest in," he said.
"We see it as a consistent and growing performer for the Queensland economy.
"One of the visions we have for the facility is to make it accessible for schools in Toowoomba.
"They can come through and take a tour and understand a bit more about the industry and cotton and entomology." ... [Chronicle - 22/4/15]
Monsanto sued in Los Angeles County for false advertising [Examiner.com - 21/4/15]
The commencement of a $92 million Waste Water Treatment Plant at Rubyanna will be a cornerstone for economic growth, according to the Bundaberg Regional council. ... [News Mail - 22/4/15]
... Buderim-based civil marine and dredging company Hall Contracting Pty Ltd was awarded the work with its tender of $7,442,029.93. ... [News Mail - 6/11/14]
Santos CSG wastewater to top 1 million litres a day – with nowhere to go [Sydney Morning Herald - 28/3/15]
The war on Australia's first nations people continues
West Australian [23/4/15]:
... One man was arrested, others were hit with warnings and a police officer was knocked to the ground as tempers flared when about 200 protesters marched on Parliament House this afternoon.
The spark came when police attempted to move-on Aboriginal leader Herbert Bropho, who had shortly before addressed the crowd to denounce the Barnett Government's decision to close dozens of remote communities across the State.
A friend of Mr Bropho's and fellow speaker at the rally, Mervyn Eades, confronted the police and pushed an officer before being arrested and taken to a police van.
The incident prompted ugly scenes as protesters remonstrated with police and accused officers of inflaming tensions.
Earlier, the crowd had marched from Forrest Place in the city to Parliament in a bid to hand over a petition seeking to overturn the community closure decision.
Aboriginal activist Marianne Mackay said while the focus of the protest was aimed at the move to close the communities, she was also deeply unhappy about the Government's handling of other indigenous issues.
Among them was the closure of a camp that had been set up on Heirisson Island on the Swan River – a move she said was illegal – and an imminent native title settlement for the South West.
"We want them to pull back on their decisions and, when they're talking about funding, we want a Parliamentary inquiry," Ms Mackay said.
"There is no area that is not going to be targeted – it's right across the State.
"We're trying to stop them."
Ms Mackay also criticised the actions of the police at today's protest, saying their decision to issue Mr Bropho was a move-on notice had been inflammatory and unnecessary.
"That's what the police do – they wanted an arrest," she said.
"This is what they do to us all the time.
"We're never violent so I don't know why they do this all the time."
Events planned worldwide to support Aboriginal communities on May 1st [Maori Television – 23/4/15]
Ethiopia: Potesters condemn regime for being cause of national humiliation [VIDEO - Ethiomedia - 22/4/15]:
Police on Wednesday unleashed violence on protesters who were mourning the killings of Ethiopians in Libya by ISIS over the weekend.
The protest rally, which the government organized and tried to use for its gains, turned into a protest rally where the youth called for the removal of the regime chanted down by the protesters as: "The lion at home is a carcass abroad."
Open Letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry [Shengo Press Release/Ethiomedia - 22/4/15]:
The Ethiopian People’s Congress for United Struggle (Shengo) joins millions of Ethiopians and independent human rights organizations such as Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Rivers and others in expressing our disbelief and outrage concerning the untruthful, harmful and misinformed statements Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Department of State Wendy Sherman made while on official visit to Ethiopia on April 16, 2015.
As you know, the US Department of State has reported consistently over the past several years that human rights conditions in Ethiopia are replete with “arbitrary arrests, disappearances, torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners, deplorable prison conditions, suffocating political, social and religious space,” human trafficking at a massive scale and other forms of human rights abuses. You witnessed the imprisonment of journalists and bloggers and had demanded that these prisoners be released.
Ms. Sherman’s statement that “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible and open and inclusive in ways that Ethiopia has moved forward in strengthening its democracy” is not shared by the vast majority of the Ethiopian people; and we do not believe that it is shared by the American people or the government of the United States.
Despite the fact that opposition parties have been crushed and political space closed completely, her statement that “Every time there is an election it gets better and better” is groundless.
It demeans the Ethiopian people and harms America’s long-term interests not only in Ethiopia but also in the rest of Africa.
22 dead after Angolan police raid religious sect: Media [Ahram - 22/4/15]:
Twenty-two people died after police clashed with members of a religious sect in central Angola last week, local media reported on Wednesday, quoting police sources.
On April 16, police raided a village in the Huambo region to arrest Julino Kalupeteca, the leader of the Seventh Day Light of the World Church, police chief Paulo Gaspar de Almeida told local news agency ANGOP.
Clashes broke out as the sect's members tried to resist the arrest of their leader leaving nine policemen dead along with 13 members of the sect, the police chief said, adding that Kalupeteca was eventually arrested.
The religious group is considered illegal in Angola.
"The 13 dead civilians are the people who opened fire. They were a part of the leader Kalupeteka's security detail and aimed to neutralise and destabilise the police operation," Almeida said.
The sect, which predicts the end of the world in 2015 and encourages its followers to live in seclusion, is a dissident branch of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and has 3,700 followers in Angola, according to ANGOP.
While the Angolan state officially recognises 83 Christian churches, there exist nearly 1,200 other religious organisations, including many cults, according to the culture ministry.
The country with a population of around 24 million is majority Catholic, a legacy of Portuguese colonisation.
But evangelical churches are gaining more and more followers as evidenced by the building of giant cathedrals, like those seen in Latin America.
Nigerian forces backed by warplanes invaded Islamist group Boko Haram's last known stronghold, the Sambisa forest, on Wednesday, in an effort to finally defeat their six-year-old insurgency, two military sources said. ... [Yahoo - 22/4/15]
Nigeria summons South Africa ambassador over attacks on immigrants [Reuters – 22/4/15]
3 Eritrean asylum seekers deported from Israel were executed by ISIS [Haaretz - 21/4/15]:
The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants reported on Tuesday that three asylum seekers who left Israel for a third country over the past year have been executed by the Islamic State in Libya.
According to the report, the victims were identified by family members and friends.
The three Eritrean asylum seekers were probably kidnapped together with a group of Christian Ethiopians.
The group's gruesome execution was filmed and distributed by ISIS on Sunday. ...
Libyan journalist shot dead in Benghazi [Naharnet – 23/4/15]:
... Muftah al-Qatrani, director of the private production company Al-Anwar, was killed by a gunshot to the head on Wednesday, an interior ministry official told Agence France Presse.
"Friends who visited his office found him dead on a chair, covered in
blood," the official said, adding that an inquiry had been launched into the
Retrial of Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt postponed [Al Jazeera – 22/4/15]:
... Fahmy showed his new temporary Canadian passport, issued on Wednesday, to the media after he renounced his Egyptian citizenship last year as a condition of any future release from Egypt. ...
Kiev lashes out at Elle cover
A Louis Vuitton dress featured on an Elle magazine cover has caused a scandal in Ukraine, accused of being sponsored by Russian President Putin.
Activists say it’s no coincidence that the dress’s colors are those of Russia’s symbol of Victory Day.
Black and orange dress from Louis Vuitton recent collection has become the cause of the whole kerfuffle as it indeed matches colors of the Georgian Ribbon, a symbol of annual Victory Day celebrations since 2005, when, the highest military decoration in Imperial Russia in the past, it has adopted a new cultural usage.
In the banner featuring the new issue of Elle, 34-year-old actress Michelle Williams is posing in the orange-and-black striped dress.
But MPs and activists in Kiev have come up with their vision of Elle’s cover. They suspect a Kremlin ploy to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.
The magazine, translated into Russian, as well as plenty of other languages, is now under attack for – quote unquote – how “Putin’s money transforms global consciousness.”
This phrase came from the MP Aleksandr Briginec of the Batkivshina (Fatherland) Party, who joined many Ukrainians expressing outrage on social media.
Afghanistan: Four children among seven killed in Nimroz explosion
Four children [are] among seven civilians [who] lost their lives after their three-wheeler run over a landmine in southwestern Nimroz province on Wednesday.
A statement issued by the provincial media office states that the incident took place in Khashroad District in the afternoon.
According to the statement a Rickshaw three-wheeler in which seven civilians were traveling ran over a roadside landmine leaving all seven dead.
The statement adds that the dead comprised four children, a woman and two men including the driver of the Rickshaw.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the explosion.
The explosion is taking place at time United Nations have expressed strong concern over the loss civilian lives in Afghan War.
A fresh report by UN suggests that the number of civilian casualties had increased by eight percent in the first quarter of 2015 compare to that of the first quarter of 2014.
Three soldiers embraced martyrdom and 19 militants were killed in separate military operations across the country in past 24 hours, General Zahir Azimi spokesman for the Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday morning. ... [Khaama - 23/4/15]
Aeromedical evacuation team flies injured US Army soldiers to top tier medical services around the world. [Centcom - 22/4/15]:
A team of airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron here traveled to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sunday to provide in-flight medical care to three servicemembers.
The U.S. Army soldiers sustained multiple injuries after their mine resistant ambush protected vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. ...
Pakistan has hanged 19 prisoners in the past two days, officials said Wednesday, bringing the total number put to death since executions resumed in December to nearly 100. ... [Tribune - 22/4/15]
Pakistan conducts airstrikes in North and South Waziristan killing 35 of its own citizens [Tribune - 22/4/15]
Pak Tribune [23/4/15]:
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday departed for the Saudi capital Riyadh on a daylong visit to meet Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz over prevailing Yemeni crisis.
The premier is accompanied on his visit by Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif; Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif; Special Assistant to PM Mr Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Mr Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry
The decision to visit Saudi Arabia was made yesterday at a high-level meeting chaired by the prime minister to discuss the crisis in Yemen.
A source privy to preparations for the trip said that the purpose of a joint visit by the civil and military leadership was to reassure the Saudis that Pakistan remained fully committed to Saudi Arabian security.
The trip is aimed at limiting the damage caused by Islamabad’s wavering over the issue of committing troops for the Saudi-led offensive against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
US drone strike kills Seven in eastern Yemen [Antiwar.com - 22/4/15]
Pak Tribune [21/4/15]:
Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, has strongly opposed the use of American military aid to fight extremists in Pakistan and said instead it will fuel conflict in South Asia.
The Obama administration announced this month to sell almost $1 billion worth of attack helicopters, missiles and other equipment to Pakistan.
Mr Haqqani said that: “Pakistan’s failure to tackle its jihadist challenge is not the result of a lack of arms but reflects an absence of will.
He said: “With nuclear weapons, Pakistan no longer has any reason to feel insecure about being overrun by a larger Indian conventional force.
For the US to continue supplying a Pakistani military that is much larger than the country can afford, will only invigorate Pakistani militancy and militarism at the expense of its 200 million people, one-third of whom continue to live at less than a dollar a day per household.”
The former ambassador said that unless Pakistan changes its worldview, American weapons will end up being used to fight or menace India and perceived domestic enemies instead of being deployed against jihadists.
US backed rebels launch new offensive in northwestern Syria
Daily Star [23/4/15]:
Several hard-line rebel groups have launched a new offensive in northwestern Syria, less than a month after seizing control of the provincial capital.
The conservative Islamic opposition factions, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, are coordinating the multi-pronged campaign whose primary target appears to be Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib province.
Opposition fighters are also attacking government checkpoints in a plain south of the town and nearby military facilities.
The Islamic rebel groups taking part in the operation posted a statement online late Wednesday announcing the start of the offensive, which they call "Battle of Victory."
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday the rebels have taken five checkpoints since the offensive began, including two near Jisr al-Shugur.
The new offensive comes some three weeks after rebels captured Idlib city.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister urges quick US action on Syrian refugee crisis [Daily Star - 23/4/15]:
… It said Hariri also met with the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senator John McCain, Representative Mike Pompeo and Representative Ed Royce.
“During the meeting, members of the committee asked [Hariri] a number of questions about the aspects of the Iranian interference in the Arab countries and their negative impact on the situation in the region in general,” the statement said.
Hariri’s visit, according to the statement, is “related to providing elements of protection for Lebanon from the regional repercussions.”
“The meeting tackled the importance of the support that the United States could offer to the Lebanese Army,” it added.
It was about a week after Tyus Byrd made history by being elected the first black mayor of this rural hamlet that things started getting weird.
Just hours before her swearing in last Tuesday, she got a call from a local television reporter saying that four of Parma’s six police officers had quit. As had the town’s wastewater manager and clerk, who was supposed to administer the oath of office.
Ms. Byrd, 40, wondered whether she would even be able to take office. The hamlet’s staff had been whittled to five from 11. ... [New York Times - 22/4/15]
The family of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old killed in Ferguson last summer by a white police officer, will file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, attorneys for the family said on Wednesday. ... [Reuters - 23/4/15]
United States, "allies" continue bombing Iraq and Syria
U.S.-led forces targeted Islamic State militants in Syria with seven air strikes from Tuesday to Wednesday morning and conducted 11 strikes against the group in Iraq, the U.S. military said.
Six of the strikes in Syria hit targets near Kobani, destroying Islamic State fighting positions and a vehicle and damaging tactical units, according to a military statement released on Wednesday.
In Iraq, the strikes were concentrated near Bayji, where they hit a tactical unit and a command-and-control facility and destroyed a dump truck, motorcycle and armored vehicle.
Coalition forces also conducted air strikes near Fallujah, Ramadi, Rawah and Tal Afar.
At least 10 people were killed and 35 others wounded in two bomb attacks in central Iraq on Wednesday, a police source said, APA reports quoting Xinhua.
A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest blew himself up near a bus stop in southern Samarra, 120 km north of Baghdad, leaving at least eight people killed and 17 others wounded, "all the victims are Shiite pilgrims forward to the shrine of Imam Ali al-Hadi," the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Earlier, the source told Xinhua that a booby-trapped car detonated near a restaurant in Talbiyah district in eastern Baghdad, leaving two people killed and 18 wounded. ... [APA - 23/4/15]
Car bomb kills 2, injures 8 including two soldiers in eastern Baghdad [IraqiNews.com – 22/4/15]
BP‘s president in the Middle East, Michael Townshend, has said that the company has extended an agreement with the Ministry of Oil to boost production at the Kirkuk oilfield. ... [Iraq Business News - 22/4/15]
US backed Saudi-led coalition continue bombing Yemen [Reuters -22/4/15]:
Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed Yemen on Wednesday despite an announcement by Riyadh that it was ending its campaign of air strikes, while renewed fighting erupted on the ground between rebels and forces loyal to the exiled president.
The hostilities illustrated how difficult it will be to find a political solution to a war stirring animosities between rival Gulf powers Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Tuesday's announcement by Riyadh that it would end almost a month of air strikes against the Iranian-allied Houthis drew positive responses from both the White House and Tehran.
But hours later, air strikes and ground fighting resumed and the International Red Cross described the humanitarian situation as "catastrophic."
The rebel Houthi movement said it wanted a return to United Nations peace talks, but only after a complete halt to air strikes.
Houthi fighters, meanwhile, captured an army base loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the city of Taiz. A Saudi air strike hit the headquarters shortly afterwards, residents said. Coalition planes later hit rebel positions in southern Yemen with 12 more air strikes, residents said.
Also in southern Yemen, pro-Hadi militiamen fought against the Houthis and their army allies loyal to powerful former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and residents in the port of Aden reported tank shelling and automatic gunfire.
Oil prices diverged on Wednesday with Brent closing up on renewed fighting in Yemen while U.S. crude fell after another weekly rise in inventories despite slower production. ... [Reuters - 22/4/15]
A Saudi prince has promised to give brand new luxury cars to fighter pilots who took part in Riyadh’s latest airstrikes in Yemen.
The commitment by the billionaire Saudi prince – Alwaleed bin Talal, to give each of the 100 fighter pilots a brand new Bentley was made on social media.
Bin Talal is the owner of Saudi Arabia’s largest companies, Kingdom Holdings, and owns a $300m stake in Twitter and with a fortune estimated at around $23 billion and investments in Apple, Time Warner and Citigroup.
He is the grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founder Ibn Saud and one of the richest men ion the world,
Further clashes in Tripoli [Libya Herald – 22/4/15]:
There has been fresh unrest in Tripoli today, this time in central district of Zawiat Al-Dahmani. It saw local residents hurrying for the safety of their own homes.
Trouble broke out when a security guard at the Wataniya TV headquarters just beyond the foreign ministry on Al-Shat road was shot and killed by another military man belonging to the security authority known the Sixth Force. It is headquartered nearby.
Family and friends of the dead man this afternoon attacked the headquarters and set it on fire.
There are reports that the initial attack was linked to revenge for last weeks events in neighbouring Fasloum but this has not been confirmed.
The situation in Fashloum and in Tajoura is still very tense.
In Fashloum, where many homes and shops were damaged because of the clashes, the Tripoli government has promised compensation but there is a weariness that the promises will not materialise.
Meanwhile, the closure of the coastal highway to Zawia triggered queues at petrol stations in Tripoli; supplies come to the capital along the route.
This evening residents across the city are were returning early to their homes and closing the doors behind them.
“The best thing to do is to stay at home since the early evening with my kids away from any danger,” one resident has told the Libya Herald.
More than 400 migrants rescued off Libyan coast, arrive in Italy [albawaba - 22/4/15]:
Another 446 rescued migrants docked in Augusta, southeast Sicily, on Wednesday morning (April 22), Italian officials say.
The arrival comes amid reports 115 people have been rescued from a small, inflatable boat some 70 kilometres off the coast of Libya.
Libya stops boats packed with hundreds of refugees leaving for Europe -official [22/4/15]
Tripoli: we won’t allow you to bomb our coast [Times of Malta – 23/4/15]:
Libya’s Tripoli government will not accept Europe bombing sites presumed to belong to Libyan people smugglers and would “confront it”, the Salvation Government’s Foreign Minister is warning.
Muhammed El-ghirani told Times of Malta that nobody from the EU had consulted Tripoli about such plans and he insisted such action could not be taken unilaterally.
“We have been doing our best to get Europe to cooperate with us to deal with illegal immigration but they keep telling us we’re not the internationally recognised government. Now they cannot just decide to take this action, they have to speak to us,” he said.
Moreover, he questioned the very method being contemplated.
“You cannot just decide to hit. Let’s say you strike a particular site, how will you know that you did not hit an innocent person, a fisherman? Does Europe have pinpoint accuracy? So we are saying, let’s do this together,” Dr El-ghirani said.
EU to hold emergency summit as migrant crisis escalates [Al Jazeera – 23/4/15]
Al Jazeera [22/4/15]:
Italy has called on the European Union and UN to set up operations in African countries south of Libya to help stem the flow of migrants heading for Europe.
The call came just days after at least 800 migrants trying to enter Europe drowned in the Mediterranean when their overloaded boat capsized, only 28 survived.
"We have to go to the root [of the problem] and discourage these men and women from leaving their countries," Matteo Renzi, Italy's prime minister, told deputies in a statement to parliament on his objectives for Thursday's emergency EU summit on the Mediterranean migrant crisis.
"There has to be a strong presence of the international organisations in the area south of Libya. It is vital that the EU as a bloc tries to go into these areas along with the United Nations."
While Renzi did not give details of what UN agencies should do in the African states, a number of European countries have raised the idea of asylum-seekers having their requests for refuge in the EU assessed before they get to the point of embarking on life-risking crossings.
Officials have also raised the idea of a pilot scheme to provide funds for migrants deemed to have no claim to enter the EU to be fast-tracked back to their countries of origin.
Carrying out triage operations of this kind in Libya is not feasible at the moment because of the security situation in the country, which has resulted in many Western governments withdrawing nearly all of their diplomats.
Renzi said the EU also had to step up rescue operations at sea to reduce the loss of life among those who do attempt the crossing.
He did not refer to the idea of "targeted interventions" against people traffickers which he had floated earlier this week.
Libya detention centre is flip side of Europe’s immigration crisis [Bellingham Herald - 22/4/15]:
In the heat of a Libyan afternoon, in a makeshift detention center outside the coastal town of Misrata, a young woman lay on the ground, suffering from severe dehydration.
Her friend Fatima, 21, cradled her head, and waited for the ambulance that the guards said they’d called. The detention center’s lone doctor made a brief inspection. Two hours later, the ambulance still hadn’t come.
It would be easy to lament the fate of 18-year-old Zahra, lying sickened in the midday sun hundreds of miles from home, except for this: She’s alive. Hundreds of others who share her story are dead, drowned in the Mediterranean, where their overcrowded boat foundered Sunday as it made its way toward Italy and, its passengers had hoped, a better life in Europe.
Zahra and Fatima each shelled out $1,500 to traffickers for a grueling three-month journey that took them from their homes in Mogadishu, Somalia, across Sudan and Libya’s eastern desert before they were caught near here two months ago. Now their future is uncertain.
This squalid camp is the other side of what’s unfolding as a global refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions. More people are on the move now – fleeing wars in Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan – than at any other time since World War II, the United Nations refugee agency says.
The refugees are straining the economies of the countries to which they’ve fled – Jordan and Lebanon and Turkey, for example – where few can find work, and they’re boarding boats all along the Mediterranean coast in often ill-fated leaps toward the more robust economies of Europe.
In the past week alone, more than 1,000 have drowned, including 850 on the boat that sank Sunday when its captain accidentally crashed into a nearby cargo vessel. The boat had departed Tripoli on Saturday, the 28 survivors told the U.N. refugee agency. So far this year, according to the United Nations, more than 36,000 migrants have arrived by boat in Europe.
What Europe can do to ease the refugee crisis is the topic in that continent’s capitals, but whatever decisions are made there are likely to have little impact here. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has no international staff in the country – the U.N. closed its Libya mission months ago, as militia fighting raged – and it won’t send anyone here under the current security conditions, the U.N.’s refugee chief, António Guterres, told McClatchy this week.
Libya has two warring governments, one in Tripoli and one in Tobruk, and neither controls much. So the response to the thousands of refugees who come here is left to an underfunded coast guard and the overwhelmed officials who run this detention center under the auspices of the Department for Combating Illegal Migration.
The evening before, guards said they’d sped an Eritrean woman in labor to a private clinic and paid for her care themselves. With little government support, the detention center relies on private donations and charities to house the migrants. The woman and her newborn now are recuperating in a parking lot trailer before they’ll be moved back to their dank and overcrowded jail.
“Nobody has died so far,” said the center’s security chief, Salah al Budabus, gesturing to Zahra.
“The problem is if we take them to the hospital in our personal cars, they probably won’t be admitted.”
The detained men take turns sitting up and sleeping in a small, dark and airless room. The 100 or so women and children sit and lie on dirty mattresses in the narrow corridor. There are only four toilets for the hundreds of people housed on the ground floor.
Abdul Hakim, a 25-year-old computer worker from Mogadishu, was apprehended at sea after forking out $600 for a ride to Europe on a large rubber dinghy. “We are running away from soldiers at home straight to other soldiers here,” he said in fluent English.
The prisoners here are primarily Eritreans and Somalis, but there also are Ethiopians, Bangladeshis, Egyptians and many from West African nations – Niger, Chad, Nigeria, Gambia and Senegal.
The detainees haven’t seen anyone from their embassies. “How can we see our embassy when we don’t have a government?” asked Hamda, a 22-year old Somali.
Regional trafficking networks and the hazardous journey for migrants through Libya are not new. The late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi talked about them during a June 2009 visit to Italy. “Millions of people are attracted by Europe, and are trying to get here,” he said.
But in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution that toppled Gadhafi, with Libya consumed by competing powers and militias, there’s been little funding for training, policing of borders, detention centers or stopping criminal networks that smuggle people toward Europe.
Migrants who enter Libya through the desert and trafficking hubs of Kufra and Sebha often find themselves the victims of kidnapping, forced labor and extortion before they reach the coast and take boats to Europe.
“We find it difficult to justify that it is legitimate to assist people like Syrian refugees in a refugee camp in Lebanon, but ignore them while they are drowning at sea,” said Hernan del Valle, the humanitarian adviser to the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders, which plans to begin on May 1 dispatching volunteer doctors to a search and rescue boat plying the Mediterranean.
In Misrata’s port, the Libyan coast guard employs two patrol boats to cruise along nearly 375 miles of coast looking for vessels carrying migrants, from Khoms, next to the historic ruins of Leptis Magna, to Brega in Libya’s central oil crescent.
Tawfeek al Skare, a coast guard commander in Misrata, thinks most migrant boats leave from Zuwara in Libya’s northwest, as well as areas around the coastal towns of Sabratha, Qarabouli, Khoms and Zliten. The coast guard caught three boats last week, he said, two of which had left Khoms with over 100 people on each.
“Before the revolution, the government was able to crack down on the traffickers themselves,” he said. But most of Libya’s naval boats were destroyed during the 2011 fighting, so there’s little that can be done to counter the smuggling.
“Every year there are more boats than the last,” he said, referring to smugglers, “and no one is stopping them now.”
"It was worth risking my life, my freedom": Campaign reform activist on flying gyrocopter to capitol [Democracy Now - 22/4/15]
A Republican Congressman from Utah said Wednesday that the pilot of a gyrocopter who landed the small aircraft on a Capitol building lawn last week "is lucky to be alive" and "should have been blown out of the air."
Florida mailman Doug Hughes, 61, triggered a security scare when he piloted the gyrocopter through restricted airspace and onto the West Lawn on April 15.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz told reporters following a briefing on the incident that Hughes traveled roughly 30 miles in restricted airspace, and he said he was frustrated that Congress wasn't notified of the breach sooner. He called the breach "totally unacceptable" and "startling."
"He is lucky to be alive because he should have been blown out of the air and very well could have been. He wasn't," Chaffetz, who is chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said after the closed-door, 45-minute briefing with the Secret Service and Capitol Police.
Hughes flew his United States Postal Service-branded gyrocopter to the Capitol to deliver 535 letters — one for each member of Congress — calling for campaign finance reform and end to the influence of money in politics. …
US Congressman Jason Chaffetz visited Port Moresby on Saturday, February 15 to see the progress of the new U.S. embassy construction in Harbour City, Port Moresby. ... [US Embassy, Port Moresby - February 2014]
Lawyer seeks access for another visit to Australia's refugee death camp on Manus
PNG Loop [22/4/15]:
Lawyers for the 25 asylum seekers detained at the Australian-run processing center on Manus have been told to file and serve applications seeking access to another visit to their clients on the island.
Lawyer Ben Lomai appeared before Chief Justice Salamo Injia today (Wednesday) at the Supreme Court where he was told to file and serve an application seeking request for another access to the center.
He told the court he and his team were in Manus for 14 days (6th -17th March) before returning to Port Moresby on Sunday.
He said whilst in Manus they were able to see some 300 clients apart from their initial 25.
Lomai said he is seeking the court to grant him and his fellow Australian Human Rights lawyer another one or two weeks with their clients.
Chief Justice Injia ordered Lomai to file and serve the application before Friday 24 April.
He is also expected to discuss the matter with counsel representing the PNG Chief Migration Officer.
The matter returns before the Chief Justice on April 30 for directions to be made.
The asylum seekers involved are from Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria and Lebanon.
They initially made contact with Lomai through an intermediary while they were being detained without charge at the Manus Island provincial prison, accused of stoking protests at the detention center in January this year.
Lomai told PNG Loop the first visit early this month was to see if there has been a breach of the detainees’ rights under section 58 of the Constitution.
He [said] if there was, they will push for compensation or damages to be paid.
... "TO AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT. STOP TORTURING US. IF YOU THINK WE DON'T DESERVE AUS. THEN HAND OVER ALL OF US TO THE UN. WE DON'T WANT YOUR HELP!" ... [CNN - 21/1/15]
"We are 58 people, they beat the shit out of all of us" #Manus via @shanebazzi
A world-class Hilton Hotel will be built in Port Moresby before APEC 2018, Chief Secretary Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc says
He said the hotel would be built on Wards Road, Hohola, opposite the Holiday Inn and next to the PNG Forest Research Institute.
It will be the major venue for world leaders and the Hilton Hotel Convention Centre would host the gala cultural dinner.
“That’s a hotel put together by the landowners of Ok Tedi, Fly River provincial government, and Petroleum Resources Kutubu,” Sir Manasupe said.
The Hilton Hotel will be in the Waigani Precinct, one of six precincts in Port Moresby that will be established especially for APEC 2018. ... [The National - 23/4/15]
PNG Ports to take on private sector partnerships [EMTV – 20/4/15]
[adj] Extremely distasteful; unacceptable ...
With OSB Commander MAJGEN Andrew Bottrell at Manus RPC yesterday ...
Image: @PeterDutton_MP [31/3/15]
Australia continues torturing refugees while Australian politicians maintain their silence re the demented "stop the boats", deterrence lie.
UN finds Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers violates the Convention Against Torture [Human Rights Law Centre – 9/3/14]:
The United Nations Special Rapportuer on Torture has found that various aspects of Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The findings from the Special Rapportuer, Juan Mendez, will be formally submitted to the UN Human Rights Council today in a report prepared by the independent UN expert tasked with investigating breaches of the Convention around the world.
Human Rights Law Centre Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, said that the report’s findings made it clear that the Australian Government’s actions breach international law.
“The Government always assures the Australian people that it complies with its international human rights obligations. But here we have the United Nations once again, in very clear terms , telling the Government that Australia’s asylum seeker policies are in breach of international law,” said Mr Webb.
The report finds that Australia’s indefinite detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island, the harsh conditions, the frequent unrest and violence inside the centre and the failure to protect certain vulnerable individuals all amount to breaches of the Convention.
“The Torture Convention prohibits subjecting people to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The report confirms that by leaving people locked up indefinitely in appalling conditions on a remote island, Australia is failing to meet this basic standard,” said Mr Webb.
The report also finds that the recent amendments to the Maritime Powers Act, which give the Government unprecedented powers to detain and return asylum seekers intercepted at sea, also violate the Convention.
“Under international law, Australia can’t lock people up incommunicado on a boat somewhere in the middle of the ocean. Nor can we return people to a place where they face the risk of being tortured. Yet these are precisely the powers the Government has sought to give itself through recent amendments to its maritime law,” said Mr Webb.
The report notes that Australia repeatedly breached the obligation to fully cooperate with the UN Special Rapportuer in their investigations and criticises the Australian Government for providing inadequate responses to the complaints made against it.
“Australia needs this system of international law and order. Our Government often relies on it to protect our own national interests. So it’s incredibly short-sighted for the Government to start thumbing its nose at the UN system just because it doesn’t like what it’s being told,” said Mr Webb.
Mr Webb also said that, more broadly, the report confirmed that Australia’s asylum seeker policies were of growing concern internationally and were clearly damaging Australia’s hard-won reputation as a decent, rights-respecting nation.
“Australia signed up to the Convention Against Torture 30 years ago. We did so because as a nation we agreed with the important minimum standards of treatment it guaranteed. Yet here we are 30 years on, knowingly breaching those standards and causing serious damage to our reputation,” said Mr Webb.
Mr Webb said Australia needed to focus on developing genuine regional solutions to provide safe ways for asylum seekers to apply for protection.
“Being called out as a nation that breaches the Torture Convention should be a wake-up call for Australia. Rather than persuing costly, cruel and unlawful policies, Australia should work with the United Nations and regional partners to develop safe pathways to protection for refugees,” said Mr Webb.
A copy of the Special Rapportuer’s findings can be found here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session28/Documents/A_HRC_28_68_Add.1_AV.doc
Imaginary Australian journalist to the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton: What's the difference between Karen refugees and the refugees you incarcerate, torture, deport and exile?
Victorian town gets $41m benefit from resettling Burmese Karen refugees [Guardian – 23/4/15]:
A small town in Victoria has gained an economic benefit of $41.5m from resettling refugees, a report has found, pointing to the possible gains available to other local communities.
The town of Nhill is nestled halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, and has a population of just under 2,300. Since 2010, 170 Karen refugees from Burma have been resettled in the largely agricultural town.
A report commissioned by the resettlement agency Ames and undertaken by Deloitte Access Economics has found the resettlement of the refugees has created 70 full-time jobs, mainly in local poultry producer Luv-a-Duck.
“Fifty-four Karen are directly employed in Luv-a-Duck, and seven employed in businesses that supply Luv-a-Duck. Beyond this, the increased population has enabled the creation and filling of additional jobs across a number of broader community businesses and services,” the report said.
The creation of the jobs and the flow-on effects of having a larger population have resulted in a $41.5m boost to the economy, according to the report, which will be released on Friday.
“The resettlement of the Karen in Nhill has had a specific and sizeable economic impact on this agricultural town,” the director of Deloitte Access Economics, David Wright, said.
“It has eased a capacity constraint on local production and at the same time boosted demand for local service provision. This has resulted in a 4%-plus lift in regional production in 2013-14.”
The chief executive of Ames, Cath Scarth, said she hoped the report would pave the way for policy change.
“We at Ames hope that this research report ... will inform in some way policy and practice in the settlement of refugees and, for that matter migrants; and, that the lessons we’ve learned from this experience will be shared widely to improve outcomes both in the fields of refugee settlement and regional development.”
The head of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia, Joe Caputo, said the report could help stop the spread of misinformation about refugees and asylum seekers.
“Refugees historically have added so much to this country,” Caputo said. “There are a lot of myths around the place and often they’re not based on facts.
“Reports like this will dispel a lot of those myths.”
Caputo said refugees tended to be courageous risk-takers who made good employees. “I see people really making an effort and doing well,” he said.
The Karen people are from the mountainous region of Burma. Many fled the country during the country’s civil war, saying they were persecuted by the ruling military junta.
Up to 150,000 Karen live in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border.
The last census showed there were 21,760 people in Australia who were born in Burma.
Parliamentarians call on ASEAN to address Rohingya crisis [Mizzima - 22/4/15]:
... “The growing risk of atrocity crimes in Myanmar represents a direct threat to ASEAN nations, both because of the security risks and economic strains it poses for all ASEAN member states, and because it undermines our shared commitment to protecting all people from persecution and violence,” said Charles Santiago, APHR’s Chairperson and a member of the Malaysian Parliament, in the organisation’s press release.
“We are standing on the precipice of a great tragedy. ASEAN as a grouping as well as individual national leaders have the responsibility, both morally and under international law, to act to prevent atrocity crimes and crimes against humanity from taking place.” ...
Today's fascists pressure their persecuted targets to close places of worship themselves
Al-Furqan Press Release [22/4/15]:
This statement is to announce that, effective immediately, Al-Furqan Islamic Centre is ceasing its activities and closing its doors.
This decision has not been taken lightly.
We believe that given the constant harassment, pressure and false accusations levelled against the centre – particularly by media and politicians – this is the best course of action for the protection of the local community, its members, and the broader Muslim community that is often implicated in these insidious campaigns.
April 1927 A vandalized synagogue in Munich, Germany
Fascist politicians never criticise propagandists (no matter how repugnant they are) because they need them.
Julius Streicher: Biography [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]:
... In 1938, Streicher's Stürmer reached its highpoint in terms of circulation; his successful publishing house of the same name (Stürmer-Verlag) produced among other works, a host of antisemitic children's literature, including the infamous Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom).
Despite the “success” of his Stürmer and his strong personal association with Hitler, who valued him as a protégé, Streicher was often viewed as volatile and mercurial by leading officials, however useful he proved as a purveyor of virulent and often prurient antisemitism to the German masses.
His disagreeable temperament, reckless ambition, and overzealous self-enrichment, principally from Jewish property seized or “purchased” during “Aryanization” efforts, made him enemies in party circles, and after a 1939 incident in which he tried publicly to humiliate Reich Marshall Hermann Goering, the Supreme Nazi Party Court pronounced Streicher “unfit for leadership” and stripped him of his party posts.
Streicher's Stürmer, which was not technically a party publication, continued to be published. ...
How the Murdoch press keeps Australia's dirty secret [John Pilger - 12/5/11]
Of course the Queensland "phone hacking scum" media jackals won't report how the police investigation is progressing. [Yahoo - 23/4/15]:
Queensland MP Billy Gordon's former partner has broken her silence on domestic violence allegations she's made against him. ...
Billy Gordon MP [23/4/15]:
I note the kangaroo court known as "A Current Affair" will air a segment about me tonight.
Unlike that program and other media outlets, I respect the current police investigation in to certain allegations against me, I will thus make no comment until it is completed.
Meanwhile I will continue to work hard on the issues that matter to my constituents.
Meanwhile, a former politician and his wife have criticised Queensland "phone hacking scum" media jackals. [Yahoo - 23/4/15]:
The wife of former Queensland MP Peter Dowling says she has forgiven him but not the media after he was caught out sending his mistress a picture of himself while dipping his penis in a glass of wine.
Helen Dowling says she can't forgive the other woman or the media's reporting of the scandal.
Mr Dowling was dumped as the Liberal National Party candidate in his seat of Redlands for January's state election after his mistress wrote to parliament revealing they had had sex in his parliamentary office and he'd texted her the photo of his penis.
Speaking publicly about the affair on Thursday, Mrs Dowling said she had forgiven her husband but that's where her generosity ended.
"There are two people I haven't forgiven," she told ABC Radio.
"One is that person, the female, and one is the media - that person who wrote the story, maybe his partners in crime."
Mr Dowling also had a shot at the media, saying he was disappointed in himself but didn't need forgiveness.
"I don't know that I needed forgiveness and that sounds so arrogant," he said.
"I am so apologetic and sorry for what spun out of it.
"Part of me is so incredibly angry that something that had absolutely nothing to do with the world became so public and it was for the edification of a journalist who thought the had a `gotcha' moment."
He said it was unlikely he'd ever run for public office again and was yet to see what impact the scandal would have on his ability to find another job.
The Independent [21/4/15]:
Rupert Murdoch berated journalists on his tabloid papers for not doing enough to stop Labour winning the general election and warned them that the future of the company depended on stopping Ed Miliband entering No 10.
The proprietor of Britain’s best-selling tabloid warned executives that a Labour government would try to break up News Corp, which owns The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.
He instructed them to be much more aggressive in their attacks on Labour and more positive about Conservative achievements in the run-up to polling day, sources told The Independent.
Mr Murdoch is understood to have made his views clear on a visit to London at the end of February, during which he met with senior Tories including the Conservative chief whip and former Times executive Michael Gove.
The News Corp boss, who has made no secret of his dislike of the Labour leader, told the editor of The Sun, David Dinsmore, that he expected the paper to be much sharper in its attacks on Labour.
Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is in no doubt that James Murdoch is ready to take a much bigger role at Twenty-First Century Fox, by far the largest part of the media empire that James' father Rupert Murdoch built.
"James is a giant!" said Alwaleed, a Murdoch family ally and one of Fox’s top shareholders with a 6.6 percent voting stake, in an interview. In particular, Alwaleed points to what he says is James' ability to grasp the digital world and understand how it is transforming the media landscape, adding: "I really love him!" ... [Reuters - 21/4/15]
Police Liaison Officer dismissed, Northern Region
QPS Media [23/4/15]:
A Police Liaison Officer (PLO) from the Northern Region was dismissed from the Queensland Police Service yesterday.
The officer, a 27-year-old man, was the subject of a disciplinary proceeding relating to an allegation of dangerous driving.
In keeping with our commitment to high standards of behaviour, transparency and accountability, we have an undertaking to inform the public when a member is dismissed from the Service on disciplinary grounds.
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.
Accused Gold Coast balcony killer Gable Tostee has failed in a bid to reduce his sentence over a separate drunken, high-speed police pursuit.
Tostee was on bail for the alleged murder of New Zealand tourist Warriena Wright when he was jailed for 10 months in early February for the serious traffic offence.
He led police on a pursuit in July while travelling back to the Gold Coast from the Splendour in the Grass music festival at Byron Bay. ... [ABC - 23/4/15]
85yo woman dies after being accidentally run over by husband in Brisbane shopping centre car park
An 85-year-old woman has died after being run over by her husband in a Brisbane car park.
The woman was struck in the car park of the Brookside Shopping Centre at Mitchelton, in north-west Brisbane, just before 10:00am.
Paramedics said the woman was hit when she was helping to navigate her 87-year old husband park.
They tried to revived her but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her husband is being treated in hospital for shock.
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.
Fatal traffic incident, Roma
QPS Media [23/4/15]:
A man has died following a traffic related incident yesterday afternoon on the Warrego Highway, 5 kilometres west of Roma.
About 5.15pm, a 43-year-old Injune man was preparing to attach a trailer to a prime mover when the vehicle moved, trapping him under the trailer.
The man was transported to Roma Hospital where died from the injuries he sustained.
The Forensic Crash Unit and Workplace Health and Safety will investigate the incident.
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, Townsville
QPS Media [23/4/15]:
Police are investigating after a truck crash claimed two lives 15km south of Townsville early this morning.
Initial investigations indicate the B-double truck was travelling north on the Bruce Highway when it left the road and crashed into trees around 1am.
At this stage it is believed no other vehicles were involved. A man and a woman in the truck died at the scene.
The Bruce Highway was closed but reopened around 3am. The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.
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.
Driver flees burning truck on Perth's Tonkin Highway [ABC – 23/4/15]
Serious traffic crash, Hope Island
QPS Media [22/4/15]:
Police are investigating a serious traffic crash that occurred at Hope Island early this morning.
Initial information suggests that around 5.30am this morning a vehicle travelling on Helensvale Road lost control and collided with a light pole.
The 24-year-old male driver was transported to the Gold Coast University Hospital with head and internal injuries and remains in a serious condition.
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.
Car tumbles off Gold Coast hinterland road [MYGC - 22/4/15]
Woman cut from wreckage of Glenvale crash [Chronicle – 22/4/15]
Unlawful wounding charge, Biggera Waters
QPS Media [22/4/15]:
Police have charged a 43-year-old woman with unlawful wounding overnight following investigations into a disturbance at Biggera Waters yesterday.
Officers were called to an address on Loder Street around 3.10pm following reports of an argument between a man and a woman.
Police located a 45-year-old man with a stab wound to his back inside the unit.
He was taken to the Gold Coast University Hospital in a stable condition.
A 43-year-old Biggera Waters woman has been charged with one count of unlawful wounding and is due to appear in the Southport Magistrates Court today.
Police have requested more time to compile evidence against a Byron Bay woman accused of trying to kill a Murwillumbah man last year. ... [Tweed Daily News - 22/4/15]
A father of four has been found guilty of murdering his wife and battering his son as he tried to save his dying mother, and has been jailed for life with a minimum of 17 years.
Messaoud Chiha, 52, had pleaded not guilty on the basis he was insane at the time he repeatedly stabbed his wife Souad Benhammadi, 45, at their Canning Vale home in 2013.
But today, Justice John McKechnie rejected that claim, convicting Chiha of murder and of unlawfully wounding his teenaged son Youcef by smashing a vase over the boy's head as he attempted in vain to save his mother's life. ... [West Australian - 22/4/15]
Police search for third person in relation to shooting
Sunshine Coast Daily [22/4/15]:
Police are searching for a third person of interest allegedly involved in the a shooting in Caboolture linked to a Gympie siege.
23-year-old Gympie man, Tallen Steven Hames, may be able to assist police with their enquiries.
Police believe Tallen Hames may be in the Gympie, Sunshine Coast or Maryborough areas.
He is described as being of Caucasian appearance, 180cm tall, of a slim build with dark brown hair.
Anyone who has seen Tallen Hames, or knows of his whereabouts is urged to contact police.
Update: Attempted murder charges, Caboolture [QPS Media – 22/4/15]
Counterfeiting charges, Woody Point [QPS Media – 22/4/15]
Taskforce Maxima affray and drug arrest, Greenslopes [QPS Media – 22/4/15]
SA hospital workers to walk off the job
West Australian [23/4/15]:
Support workers at Adelaide's Lyell McEwin Hospital will walk off the job in a protest over proposed health reforms across South Australia's hospital network.
The United Voice union says it has concerns about what the changes, including the closure of one public hospital, will have on job security.
It says negotiations over the proposed transforming health reforms have stalled, forcing its members to take industrial action.
United Voice branch secretary David Di Troia says the government has offered no commitment on job security.
Thursday's action will include a stopwork meeting at the hospital before workers march on the office of local Labor MP Lee Odenwalder.
Indonesian court rejects final appeal for French citizen on death row
France 24 [21/4/15]
Indonesia's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by a Frenchman on death row for drug offences, taking him and a group of other foreigners closer to execution by firing squad.
Serge Atlaoui, 51, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy and was sentenced to death two years later.
Imprisoned in Indonesia for a decade, the father-of-four has always denied the charges, saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory.
He is one of several foreign drug convicts on death row in Indonesia who recently lost appeals for presidential clemency, typically a last chance to avoid the firing squad. They are expected to be executed once final legal appeals are resolved.
In a further bid to avoid execution, Atlaoui filed a request for a judicial review of his case at the Supreme Court.
However Suhadi, one of the judges assessing his case, said the court rejected his application on Tuesday.
"A panel of three judges has rejected (the request) for a judicial review from Frenchman Serge Atlaoui," said Suhadi, who goes by one name and is also the Supreme Court spokesman.
He said there was no new evidence presented -- a requirement for a judicial review -- and the reasons put forward were not sufficient.
But some say that Atlaoui could still have a chance.
A diplomatic source told FRANCE 24 Tuesday that it’s still possible to win time, and that the Indonesian President Joko Widodo “can recognize new elements in the case, or request that the all of the convicted be executed at the same time, given that the appeals of the other convicts are still ongoing”.
Several other death row convicts have their legal bids outstanding, including two high-profile Australian drug traffickers who have lost several appeals but are now taking their case to the Constitutional Court, although authorities insist they have no more options.
A Ghanaian among the group is appealing to the Supreme Court.
"Our family calls on President François Hollande and the European Union to do everything possible to save Serge Atlaoui from the firing squad," his brother Andre told AFP after the appeal was rejected, describing their "dismay", "suffering" and "lack of understanding" over the court's decision.
The French ambassador to Indonesia warned last week that executing Atlaoui would have "consequences" for relations between Paris and Jakarta.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday that he hoped for a “gesture of clemency”.
Australia has issued a similar warning.
"Neither France nor Australia can tolerate the death penalty being imposed on our citizens at home or abroad," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in Paris after meeting her counterpart Laurent Fabius.
"We respectfully request that he (President Joko Widodo) show the same clemency towards the French and Australian citizens as Indonesia seeks other countries to show towards Indonesian citizens who are facing death row in other countries."
Drug laws in Indonesia are among the world's toughest.
Widodo, who took office in October, has been a vocal supporter of putting drug traffickers to death, saying the country is facing a narcotics emergency.
However Indonesia has been actively trying to save its own citizens on death row abroad -- Jakarta last week protested at the execution of two Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia.
Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia uses his diplomatic finesse to get Bali 9 reprieve. [Jakarta Post - 22/4/15]:
Australian Ambassador Paul Grigson cooks Australian meat for the media and guests of the Indonesia Cattle Production and Services Expo at the Novotel Hotel in Tangerang, Banten, on Thursday. The one-day expo featured 20 companies from Australia and Indonesia operating in the livestock sector and showcases products and services to importers, exporters and policymakers. Australia is a major supplier of livestock to Indonesia and the exhibition is well-timed, allowing industry players to see the support available for the Indonesian cattle industry. ...
Hong Kong puts electoral reform package to legislature
Channel News Asia [22/4/15]:
The Hong Kong government unveiled a long-awaited electoral blueprint for selecting the city's next leader to lawmakers on Wednesday, in a plan that reflected China's desire for a tightly controlled poll that is likely to rile democracy activists.
The controversial government proposal comes after massive pro-democracy protests rippled across the financial hub last year, and analysts said the blueprint - which will be voted on by lawmakers in early summer - could once again stir political tension after a lull of several months.
"As of now, we see no room for any compromise," Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters ahead of the official unveiling and as hundreds of flag-waving protesters - both for and against the proposal - gathered outside the Legislative Council.
The blueprint for the proposal that the public votes on two to three
candidates pre-selected by a 1,200 member pro-Beijing nominating committee was
first outlined by China's parliament, the National People's Congress, last
University of Queensland course tackles climate myths and exposes techniques used to mislead the public
UQ News [21/4/15]:
Researchers from around the world have contributed to a new University of Queensland course that uncovers why the topic of climate change is so controversial, exploding a number of climate myths along the way.
The free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) includes renowned researchers from universities in Canada, USA and the UK – and even Sir David Attenborough lends his support.
UQ Global Change Institute Climate Communication Fellow and MOOC coordinator John Cook said the course tackled climate myths and exposed techniques used to mislead the public.
“97 per cent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming, however, less than half of Australians are aware of humanity’s role in climate change, while half of the US Senate has voted that humans weren’t causing global warming,” he said.
“This free course explains why there is such a huge gap between the scientific community and the public.”
He said removing this gap was an important step in ensuring science supported policy development, leading to maximum benefit for communities, economies and the environment.
The course, Making Sense of Climate Science Denial, is a seven-week program featuring interviews with 75 notable scientific experts.
"The key to understanding the controversy is the science of science denial,” Mr Cook said.
“Our course looks at what's driving climate science denial and the most common myths about climate change.
“We’ll also examine what the science says about how to respond to science denial, equipping participants with the tools they need to see through the fog of denialism."
Mr Cook interviewed leading scientists and researchers in England, the USA, Canada and Australia, with Sir David Attenborough a stand-out star.
Other scientists interviewed for the MOOC include Merchants of Doubt author Naomi Oreskes, and Katharine Hayhoe, who has been named one of Time Magazine’s “100 most influential people”
The course incorporates climate science and the psychology of climate change to explain the most common climate myths and to detail how to respond to them.
"This isn’t just a climate MOOC. It’s a MOOC about how people think about climate change," Mr Cook said.
The seven-week course begins on 28 April.
The UQx course is offered via the edX not-for-profit online learning platform. Enrolments can be made at: http://edx.org/understanding-climate-denial
Thousands of students from more than 130 countries have already enrolled.
Here we go again: Lying about people driving into flooded waters
In the face of an increasing threat of more and more climate change related extreme weather events, Australian politicians have done nothing but blame the victims and encourage personal responsibility for things that are beyond their control.
All our so called leaders and authorities and media can do is shake their fists at the citizenry.
In the wake of NSW's weather crisis the political and media establishment will not inform the public about what is going on, or give basic information about support services.
Social media will again fill the void as politicians, media and authorities predictably concoct lies about folks driving through flooded roads, looting and rubbernecking.
This will excuse further lashing out and the punishment of helpless people.
We wrote this in 2013. It is just as applicable today.
There Are No "Rubbernecking Sightseers" Or "Curious Residents" Hampering Emergency Rescue Efforts, But There Are An Awful Lot Of Personal Responsibility Crusaders Who Have Learned Nothing From The 2010/2011 Queensland Floods
Reportage of the current extreme weather event in Queensland appears to indicate media, politicians and some authorities have learned nothing.
Do you understand that mixed messages, withholding of vital information, fear mongering and beatups (eg broadcasting extensive footage of canoeists in Bundaberg) are intended to provoke anger, keep you confused and deflect attention from who the real fraudsters, vultures, looters, scammers, rumour mongers, profiteers and rubberneckers are?
Are you fooled by politicians making strong warnings
about driving through flooded roads and swimming in stormwater drains as they
sell off your schools, hospitals and underfund emergency services?
If you can get people to hold two contradictory ideas in their head (eg when a media outlet says send us your images/videos and stories then says don't go anywhere, stay at home, 'rubber-neckers' are evil), you can get people to believe anything.
You can get them to hate their neighbours and you can get them to support wars of aggression on a lie.
If you practise logical consistency, you might start demanding logical consistency from your politicians and they might have to start governing rather than managing.
A well informed, united and unafraid electorate is the enemy of the neoliberal juggernaut.
Are you going to allow Queensland's politicians and media continue their war on rationality and the ability of the citizenry to critically analyse?
Triple-0 operator chastises flood victims [ABC - 19/4/11]:
ALI MOORE: The Queensland flood inquiry has heard a triple-0 operator chastised a mother and her son, shortly before they were swept to their deaths.
Two emergency calls made by Donna and Jordan Rice were played to the inquiry as their family wept quietly in the courtroom.
Francene Norton reports from Toowoomba.
FRANCENE NORTON: Survivor Blake Rice and his father John Tyson were surrounded by family, as they prepared themselves to hear the final recordings of their loved ones.
The calls were made on the 10 January as floodwaters swept away their car in Toowoomba's CBD. In the first call, the police operator demanded three times: "Why did you drive through floodwaters?"
"You shouldn't have driven through floodwaters in the first place."
The family of Donna and Jordan Rice wiped away tears as they listened to the rising panic in the second emergency call. In the background, Donna Rice could be heard yelling at her sons to jump on the roof, while Jordan Rice pleaded with the operator to hurry up because they were about to drown.
The female operator shouted: "If you don't tell me where you are we can't help you."
"Tell the woman beside you to stop yelling."
Donna Rice's widower John Tyson read a statement to the court about the impact the tragedy has had on his family's lives. And in response to the triple-0 calls, Mr Tyson said: "I fail to see what part of the call wasn't panic."
"What gave someone the right to decide that I have to bury half my family?"
Earlier the court heard from the chief executive officer and Mayor of Toowoomba Regional Council about whether an SMS alert to residents before the flash flooding hit would have helped. Both told the inquiry that given the waters rose so quickly, an SMS may have created more panic.
KEN GOULDTHORP, TOOWOOMBA COUNCIL CEO: Would they have rushed outside? Would they have jumped into their cars and drive home? Would that have made it more dangerous?
PETER TAYLOR: We want to hear all of the good ideas that might come out of such a commission inquiry.
FRANCENE NORTON: The inquiry heads to Dalby tomorrow.
Francene Norton, Lateline.
Five New Orleans policemen were sentenced Wednesday to prison terms in connection with a shooting in the days after Hurricane Katrina which left two civilians dead and four others injured, prosecutors said.
The sentencings in New Orleans conclude the prosecution in the so-called Danziger Bridge incident in the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina, in which police opened fire on a group of residents on September 4, 2005, and then covered up the incident.
The Justice Department said federal Judge Kurt Englehardt ordered a sentence of 65 years for officer Robert Faulcon, one of the policemen who opened fire with assault rifles and a shotgun at an unarmed family walking on the east side of the bridge and later shot a man running from the scene.Sergeants Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius were sentenced to 40 years in prison and officer Anthony Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years. They were all accused of direct involvement in the shootings.
Sergeant Arthur Kaufman, a supervisor who was not involved in the shootings, but who helped the other officers cover up what they had done, was sentenced to six years in prison.
"We hope that today's sentences give a measure of peace and closure to the victims of this terrible shooting, who have suffered unspeakable pain and who have waited so patiently for justice to be done," Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez said.
"The officers who shot innocent people on the bridge and then went to great lengths to cover up their own crimes have finally been held accountable for their actions. As a result of today's sentencing, the city of New Orleans can take another step forward."
Bowen, Gisevius, Faulcon and Villavaso were convicted in connection with the shootings of multiple victims, including 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison, who died on the bridge.
Those four officers and Kaufman also were convicted of obstructing justice during the subsequent investigations.
Five other officers pleaded guilty before trial and cooperated with the investigation.
According to prosecutors, police gunfire struck the victims multiple times, wounding a New Orleans couple, their daughter, and their nephew, and killing family friend Brissette.
A second shooting occurred several minutes later, when officers traveled to the other side of the bridge to chase two men, brothers Lance and Ronald Madison.
Evidence indicated Faulcon used a shotgun to shoot Ronald Madison in the back as the man with severe mental and physical disabilities was running away.
Hurricane Katrina smashed through the city's poorly maintained levees on August 29, 2005, causing Gulf of Mexico waters to flood in. Eighty percent of the city was under water at the height of the storm, and thousands were stranded on rooftops.
Reports of widespread looting and armed gangs roaming the city shifted the government's already botched response to the disaster from humanitarian aid to a military operation.
The Looting Lie
Generation Progress [16/1/10]:
By Cord Jefferson
It’s been three days since an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale devastated the small island nation of Haiti, leaving tens of thousands dead and many survivors homeless. Sadly, the images and stories emerging from the disaster—including dead children and aid shortages—are all too reminiscent of those that followed Hurricane Katrina. So is an unfortunate media talking point: looting.
Already, tales of “machete wielding gangs” looting Haiti’s rubble are widespread, from news outlets on the left and the right. Similar stories surfaced after Hurricane Katrina, but we now know of a large body of evidence proving that the media greatly exaggerated reports of post-Katrina New Orleans being overrun with violence and theft.
To discuss this troubling media phenomenon, and to better understand what happens in the immediate fallout of massive natural disasters, Campus Progress spoke with Dr. Kathleen Tierney, professor of sociology and behavioral science and director of the Natural Hazard Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Campus Progress: Can you give some background on the history of disaster reporting?
Kathleen Tierney: Social scientists began studying disasters in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A lot of this research was sponsored by the military and defense establishment, and the kinds of things they wanted to know about were related to nuclear war. They wanted to know how people would behave if Russia dropped the bomb on us—would they panic; would they engage in criminal behavior; would they engage in antisocial behavior; would they be able to pick themselves up and rebuild society? So, from the very beginning, researchers put a lot of emphasis on crime, deviance, looting—that sort of behavior—because that’s what their funders cared about. And there was a lot of field work done in disasters, where researchers go out in disaster areas and take a look at what’s happening.
And what did the early research discover?
If you go back to the 1950s and you look at some of those writings, a lot of it’s about disaster myths—what people say happens in disasters versus what really happens. What these researchers discovered was that the media—even way back in the 1950s and 1960s—approached huge disasters with certain frames. When the media reports on disasters, they’re inevitably going to focus on the dramatic and antisocial, even if it’s one percent of the population committing these acts. And even back then, the looting myth always came to the fore of media reports.
As it has in Haiti.
Yes. For example, the day after this earthquake in Haiti, it was reported that a prison had collapsed and prisoners had gotten away—the presumption being that they had escaped to go and loot. The prisoners didn’t go to check on their mothers or their sisters, they went to loot. And we presumably know this, because they’re bad people, they’re criminals. The bad people frame reached its nadir with Katrina.
Do you think that because the victims of both Haiti and Katrina were poor and black, the media approached the stories with a certain perspective?
Definitely. There is an institutionalized racism in the way these poor black disaster victims are treated. The victims of Katrina were treated with so much presumption, as if you could assume they were going to loot, because they were black. Just like we know that the people in Haiti are bad because they’re black. Black men especially are demonized. During Katrina, the media picked up on every rumor—whether it was raped 4-year-olds in the Superdome or people shooting each other. Actually, for a paper me and a couple of my graduate students wrote called “Metaphors Matter,” we found some transcripts of TV programs in which members of the media expressed regret. They were saying, “We really blew it during Katrina; we acted on all of these rumors.” I myself was on Jim Lehrer’s show, where they were asking about the looting [in Katrina], and I got into it with a police officer, and he ended up agreeing with me that it was a myth. It’s not real. I thought the media would have learned something after Katrina, but evidently they haven’t. Here we go again.
One article I was reading reported that people were “stealing rice.” And I thought, even if these people were prepared to pay money for that rice, how would they? I’m sure the store owners are gone trying to help their families. I’m sure the electricity is down, meaning cash registers may not be working properly.
I think there are two things that are important to emphasize: The first is that when we look at footage of someone carrying something around or taking something, it is impossible to know the circumstances under which they got those things. Is it their stuff that they’re carrying? Did someone give them something? Did a store owner say, “Go to my store and take some stuff, because what good is it to me now? Money is meaningless for now.”
I mean, perhaps these so-called looters left money at the counter for the rice. A greater question is why are people so quick to demonize people who are living in abject poverty, people whose everyday life is a disaster. And now that they’ve experienced a new catastrophe, why are we focusing on this? It’s incomprehensible to me.
The way that highfalutin academics talk about it is that there are changes in societal norms about property in very, very severe disasters. For example, I was watching CNN, and there was a CNN reporter that was talking about a Haitian hotel that brought a hose out for people to take water from if they came by. Were those people looting water? I’d say no. The norms changed. What if people are together in a group and they decide that they need to go get some rice. Is it looting to get rice and feed your family in desperate situations? No. It’s a new norm developing in the midst of a very extreme situation.
And perhaps we shouldn’t care if they are stealing. I think I might do the same in such a scenario.
Exactly. And that store from which you steal rice could collapse tomorrow, because of aftershocks. And then what do we have? A whole bunch of wasted food that could have been used for good. What if you didn’t know if help was coming? What if you were starving? I have no idea why it’s so hard for the viewers and the media to put themselves in these situations. This is an absolute low point in disaster reporting. This is as low as you can get without being Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson. So if these media organizations want to descend to that level, at some point they have to be held accountable.
When is it appropriate for a news organization to call what’s happening in a disaster “looting”?
Why don’t they just call it surviving? Appropriating goods to survive, maybe. Otherwise, it’s just victim blaming. It’s picking on the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere, who also happen to be black.
And what’s to be said of the people you see in these disaster areas who aren’t taking rice, but instead taking TVs and DVD players?
Again, norms of various kinds emerge in disaster situations, sometimes antisocial norms. But to report these incidents as if they’re common—without nuance—it’s a departure from journalistic integrity, and they should be called out on it. I’ve seen these Twitter postings saying, “We’re all Haitains.” And the thing is, no, we’re not all Haitians, and to say that is offensive. It is impossible for those of us in the United States to understand what it’s like to live in Haiti, and to pretend that we do, especially with such lazy journalism, is wrong.
23 April 2015