Australia donates former navy vessels to Philippines to help them push back refugees
The Navy on Thursday commissioned into service the two ships donated by Australia in a development seen to boost the Philippines's disaster response capabilities.
The two Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) vessels were formally handed over to the Philippines in a ceremony held in Cairns, Australia, Navy public affairs chief Commander Lued Lincuna said.
A memorandum of understanding transferring the two ships to the Philippines was signed by Navy chief Vice Adm. Jesus Millan and Royal Australian Navy chief Vice Adm. Tim Barret.
The LCH vessels are expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first week of August.
In his acceptance speech, Millan thanked the Australian Navy for donating the ships to the Philippine military, one of the weakest in the region.
The two LCH vessels are expected to enhance the Philippines's capability to transport personnel, equipment and aid during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
"The vessels will also be useful in transporting troops from one operational area to another,” Lincuna said.
The two ships will be named after indigenous tribes of the Philippines. It is a tradition of the Navy to name landing craft ships after tribes.
One of the ships will be named BRP Ivatan after an indigenous group in Batanes while the other will be called BRP Batak after a tribe in Palawan. The two former vessels of the Royal Australian Navy used to be known as HMAS Tarakan and Brunei.
In an earlier interview, Millan said the Navy has five LCH in its inventory but only three of them are operational.
The Australian government announced its plan to provide the two transport ships to the Philippines in January. The donation will include a package of spare parts, according to the Australian defense ministry.
The two vessels were turned over to the Philippine Navy after being refurbished with new safety and navigation equipment.
The vessels were decommissioned from Australian service at a ceremony in Cairns on Nov. 19, 2014.
The Australian Embassy previously said the lack of sealift capability hampered efforts to help Philippine coastal areas hit by typhoon "Yolanda" (international name "Haiyan") in 2013.
The Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to disasters because of its location. About 20 typhoons, five to seven of which are destructive, enter the country every year.
Philippines backtracks from initial pledge to help Rohingya refugees [Rappler.com - 1/6/15]:
... The Philippines, for its part, did not commit material aid during Friday's meeting, even as it influenced its neighbors to help the refugees.
It also did not discuss a proposal by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to send rescue ships for the Rohingya.
In Monday's media briefing, Jose explained that the Philippines' broad policy statement is to help refugees, based on its obligations under a 1951 UN convention.
Jose, however, said that when the Philippines released this policy statement around two weeks ago, "it was tempered" by other considerations. These include the need to rehabilitate areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013, and to consider the Philippines' huge population.
He added: "The situation has changed. Countries are now open to accepting these refugees. So I think there's, at the moment, no need for the Philippines to accept them."
Regional leaders appear to resile from rescuing Rohingya following the Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean on 29 May.
Channel News Asia [22/5/15]:
The Philippines government has held a series of high level meetings with UNHCR to formalise plans to temporarily house the Rohingya refugees.
Earlier this week, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said the government is open to sheltering up to 3,000 refugees. Some analysts say such preparation is key for the plan to be successful.
"They are already scouting around for several venues, but the venue is the least of our concern,” said Clarita Campos, political science professor, University of the Philippines.
“It’s more important to figure out the medical needs of the migrants, as well as other health and food requirements first.
"Then later on, we need to think about education and job requirements. All of this has to be planned out and planned well."
While it is unlikely the boats carrying the refugees will reach Philippine shores, the government has said they are looking forward to being part of the solution to this regional humanitarian crisis.
Fatal traffic crash, Edmonton
QPS Media [23/7/15]:
Police are currently at the scene of a fatal two vehicle traffic crash two kilometres south of Edmonton.
Initial information suggests at 1.55pm, a utility and garbage truck collided head-on on the Bruce Highway.
The male driver and sole occupant of the utility, a 75-year-old man, was pronounced deceased at the scene.
The male driver and sole occupant of the garbage truck was not physically injured.
The Bruce Highway is closed near Wrights Creek between Gordonvale and Edmonton, with diversions in place.
Motorists are being advised to avoid the area as delays are expected to continue for some time.
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.
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, Linthorpe
QPS Media [23/7/15]:
Police are investigating a fatal traffic crash that occurred on the Gore Highway at Linthorpe last night.
Initial investigations suggest that just after 10.30pm, a single vehicle failed to negotiate a bend and rolled off the road.
A 34-year-old Westbrook man was pronounced deceased at the scene.
The Gore Highway was closed for four hours due to the incident.
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating the cause of the crash.
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 crash closes Brand Highway [West Australian – 23/7/15]
Serious traffic crash, Chermside
QPS Media [23/7/15]:
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating a serious traffic crash which occurred on Webster Road, Chermside this evening.
Initial investigations suggest at around 5.30pm a vehicle travelling east on Hamilton Road has impacted with a traffic island before hitting another vehicle which was stationary on Webster Road at the approach to a roundabout.
The 50-year-old woman driver and a 20-year-old male passenger in the stationary vehicle were seriously injured and were transported to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital with serious injuries.
The 26-year-old male driver of the other vehicle was also transported to hospital with a minor injury.
Police investigations are continuing.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Victorian woman feared reporting order breaches
Nine MSN [23/7/15]:
A woman feared her children would be taken away if she reported her abusive partner's breaches of his intervention order.
The Royal Commission into Family Violence also heard her partner's threatening behaviour increased after the order was imposed, and that he followed her in his car and turned up at the family home.
In one harrowing incident, the man is said to have smashed a window and then cut the home's phone line to stop the woman from calling police.
"I thought he would kill me," the woman, who cannot be identified, told the commission on Thursday.
"The intervention order did nothing and it made him worse."
Before their relationship ended, the man's discipline of their children included running over their toys with the car, push-ups and sit-ups, and picking up leaves one by one, she said.
After the intervention order, his controlling and abusive behaviour escalated to "absolutely nuts".
"I was scared that if child protection knew how often he was breaching, they would try and take away the kids," the woman said.
"We're living in a virtual prison and he's free to breach as much as he wants, nothing stops him."
She said online harassment was still occurring but in-person breaches stopped once she joined a Victorian trial of the safety card - a wearable device that, when activated, opened a recorded line of communication to an operator, who could immediately alert police.
The commission was also told of a US-based initiative that brought police, legal and other family services under one roof.
Safe Futures Foundation chief executive Janine Mahoney said this allowed a woman to "come to one location and share her story once".
"San Diego, where the first justice centre was set up, had the highest level of domestic homicide in America ... down to one homicide last year," Ms Mahoney said.
"I think that's very telling."
House fire, Farleigh (Mackay)
QPS Media [23/7/15]:
A house has been destroyed and a man is unaccounted for after a house fire in Farleigh this afternoon.
The fire occurred at a residence at Ridgewood Road at around 5.15pm.
When emergency services officers arrived on the scene, they found the home well alight and a man residing at the house was unaccounted for.
A crime scene has been declared and due to the extensive damage and the structural integrity of the building further investigations and a search of the house will be undertaken tomorrow.
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. Crime Stoppers is a registered charity
Unlawful wounding, Fortitude Valley
QPS Media [23/7/15]:
Detectives have charged a 24-year-old woman following an incident in Fortitude Valley last night.
Police were called to a residence on Bonney Lane at around 11.45pm following reports of an alleged altercation.
Officers will allege they attended and located a 42-year-old Fortitude Valley man with a stab wound to his shoulder.
He was transported to the Royal Brisbane Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
A 24-year-old Sunnybank woman was taken into custody and subsequently charged with unlawful wounding.
She is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Sydney Roosters and Kiwi international rugby league star Shaun Kenny-Dowall is being treated in a private mental health facility after he was charged with a host of domestic violence offences. ... [Nine MSN - 23/7/15]
A disabled transgender woman used her iPad to secretly film her stepfather while he raped her, a Melbourne court has heard. … [Nine MSN – 23/7/15]
A Brisbane teacher's aide arrested on child pornography offences has walked free from court on conditional bail.
The 40-year-old, employed by Education Queensland from 2007, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with making and possessing child exploitation material and indecently treating a child under 16. ... [Yahoo - 23/7/15]
Taxpayers could foot the hefty legal bills of several former bikies due to a prosecution bungle in the Gold Coast brawl case.
Four former Bandidos involved in the 2013 punch-up have applied for an order requiring the Queensland government pay their legal costs, after their riot charges were either downgraded or dropped. ... [Yahoo - 23/7/15]
Victorian construction worker winched to safety after falling two metres into concrete pit [Nine MSN – 23/7/15]
Police appeal for information about death of four-year-old boy, Gold Coast
QPS Media [23/7/15]:
Detectives from Gold Coast Child Protection Investigation Unit in conjunction with detectives from State Crime Command Homicide Investigation Unit and Child Trauma Taskforce have been continuing their investigations into the suspected murder of four-year-old Tyrell Cobb at Biggera Waters in 2009.
Around 9:30pm on May 24, 2009 police were called to a Biggera Waters residence where Tyrell Cobb was located unconscious. He was transported to hospital where he died.
After the withdrawal of a prosecution case in 2010 new information has come to light resulting in a team of detectives commencing a comprehensive re-investigation of Tyrell’s death.
Detective Inspector Mark White, of the Gold Coast Child Protection Investigation Unit said that detectives were determined to solve the death of Tyrell Cobb.
“This is an innocent four-year-old boy who has died under suspicious circumstances. It is a terribly heartbreaking and we as police are determined to solve this.
That is why we are appealing for anyone who may have any information that could assist with the investigation into the circumstances leading up to the death of the young boy to come forward.
“Any piece of information, no matter how small can have a significant impact on our investigation,” Detective Inspector Mark White said.
“Information can be provided anonymously to Crime Stoppers. We want to determine exactly what happened in the time leading up to the Tyrell’s death,” said Detective Inspector Mark White.
Fire at Doll and Teddy Hospital in Brisbane may have burned hundreds of toys
Brisbane Times [23/7/15]:
Hundreds of valuable dolls and teddy bears may have been ruined when a time-honoured Brisbane business went up in flames on Thursday.
Smoke was seen billowing from the Brisbane Doll and Teddy Hospital on Logan Road, in Stones Corner, about lunchtime.
Occupants of the building were evacuated but hundreds of toys inside the second-floor shop are likely to be destroyed or damaged.
The business, which repairs dolls, teddy bears and soft toys, has operated since 1935. The "hospital" puts the count at 40,000, according to its website.
Master doll fixer George Georgiou had run the store since the 1970s, but in a 2013 interview with Fairfax Media, said he had found an apprentice in his friend Laki Augustakis.
"You hear a story about a doll and how much it means to a person and when they get it back, the thing that they love is back with them. It's always a happy moment," Mr Augustakis said at the time.
On Thursday, witness Mario Massapo was having lunch down the road when he saw smoke coming from the building. He raced across the road and began filming the scene.
He said one man was trying to run back into the building and had to be stopped.
"There were flames coming out of the windows. It was pretty intense," Mr Massapo said.
"As I approached the scene, there were people definitely evacuating surrounding businesses, if not that business itself."
Fire investigators will be called in to determine the cause of Thursday's blaze.
A Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman said the fire was contained to the front section of the top floor, but other areas of the building were water damaged.
Crews began leaving the scene about 3.30pm after conducting atmospheric testing.
Ikea issues safety warning for millions of chests and dressers after deaths of two boys last year [Independent - 23/7/15]
Property offence charges, Kingaroy [QPS Media – 22/7/15]
Greek parliament approves prior actions, Tsipras gains more support from SYRIZA MPs
Greek Parliament passed early on Thursday two more prior actions demanded by lenders, paving the way for talks on a third bailout to begin.
A total of 230 MPs vote for the bill, which included the adoption of a European bank resolution scheme and the change of the civil procedure code. The legislation was opposed by 63 lawmakers, while five abstained.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras saw support from his SYRIZA MP increase slightly as 36 of his lawmakers failed to support the legislation against 39 who did not back the first round of reforms last week.
Ex-Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who opposed last week’s prior actions, voted in favour of the bill but issued a statement saying that he was only doing so to help the government buy time as he believes the agreement with creditors is set up to fail.
Tsipras urged lawmakers to endorse the bailout in order to stop Greece’s opponents forcing it out of the euro.
“Conservative forces within Europe still insist on their plans to kick Greece out of the euro,” Tsipras told legislators in the early hours of Thursday. “We chose a compromise that forces us to implement a program we don’t believe in and we will implement it, because the choices we have are tough.”
Tsipras pledged his government would never allow banks to seize the primary residences of Greeks as parliament prepared to vote on a bill that toughens rules on foreclosures.
"There will be no foreclosures of primary homes," Tsipras said in a speech to parliament ahead of the vote on the second package of reforms required to seal a bailout agreement.
"The protection of primary residences, by this government, was, is and will be lasting."
With demonstrators milling around in the square outside parliament and riot police in white helmets disturbed by a solitary petrol bomb, lawmakers spent more than an hour arguing over the procedure Tsipras has employed as he tried to rush through the legislation as the timing for the vote, initially set for midnight, was pushed back.
The 977-page bill up for debate from Wednesday night will simplify the process required for courts to reach a decision and write European Union rules for handling failing banks into Greek law.
The new rules will, in theory, shield taxpayers from the cost of bank failures and stipulate that unsecured depositors -- those with more than 100,000 euros with an individual bank -- will face losses before taxpayers. Shareholders, senior and junior creditors will be in line to take a hit before depositors.
However, the law won’t come into effect until the start of 2016 and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos told lawmakers that banks will already have been recapitalized by then. Greek lenders are in line for as much as 25 billion euros of new capital under the outline terms of the new bailout program.
Crisis in Greece overshadows campaign in Portuguese poll [Financial Times - 23/7/15]
French government pledges 600 million euros to aid protesting farmers [RFI – 22/7/15]
A man with a group of protesters en route to an anti-Islam rally in Melbourne was found with a pistol in his bag.
Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton said his NSW counterparts seized the firearm from protesters who were travelling to Melbourne from Sydney to attend last weekend's Reclaim Australia rally.
"A few groups came down from Sydney. NSW police searched the bus of one of those groups, found a firearm, found a knife," he told 3AW radio on Thursday. ... [Nine MSN - 23/7/15]
Bigots threaten Kalgoorlie-Boulder councillor for approving mosque and attending Eid festival
West Australian [22/7/15]:
Deborah Botica answered the phone twice in 24 hours this week to find a stranger at the end of the line.
The men who called her house warned she should be careful or she might end up at the bottom of a disused mine shaft, have her windows broken, or wake to find a dead pig on her veranda.
Mrs Botica, a City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder councillor for close to two decades, believes the threats came from right-wing Christian fundamentalists, who were upset with pictures she posted on social media, showing her smiling with members of the Muslim community and celebrating the Festival of Eid.
The situation is not new for Mrs Botica or her fellow councillors-several elected members were threatened in the lead-up to a council meeting which decided the fate of a mosque on Park Street.
The issue enticed the biggest public turnout to a Kalgoorlie council meeting in a decade.
"I'm going to support the mosque no matter what anyone says because it's the right thing to do," Mrs Botica told the Kalgoorlie Miner yesterday.
"The thing to remember is that under the Local Government Act, all of us have to act without fear or favour.
"We cannot actually gain from something when we vote on something and we can't lose from it either."
Mrs Botica was invited to attend the Festival of Eid as a council representative and described the occasion as "a really wonderful day" and "an amazing experience".
She called on the community to rally against racism.
"It's no different to any of the Christian groups, Hindus, Buddhists, Jewish people coming to us for a synagogue; they have every right to have somewhere to pray," she said.
"No matter what death threats come, (the mosque) is going to go ahead because it meets town-planning approval."
The City modified the Park Street facility's planning approval this month, signing off on a maximum capacity of 40 people at all times.
Singapore, Australia further defence science and technology cooperation
Channel News Asia [23/7/15]:
Singapore and Australia have renewed cooperation in defence science and technology, announced the Republic's Ministry of Defence.
The Chief Defence Scientists of Australia and the Republic on Thursday renewed the Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in Defence Science and Technology (S&T MOU) in Singapore, said MINDEF. Second Minister for Defence Lui Tuck Yew and Australia's Assistant Minister for Defence Mr Stuart Robert witnessed the renewal of the agreement.
The renewed S&T MOU will enhance defence technology cooperation between the Defence Science and Technology Group of Australia and the Defence Technology Community of Singapore, said MINDEF.
It will include areas such as research, systems engineering and integration. The S&T MOU has thus far provided a framework for both countries to carry out collaborative science and technology projects, said MINDEF.
Singapore’s defence technology cooperation with Australia began in the 1990s, and continued to grow with the inauguration of the Australia-Singapore Science and Technology Forum and the signing of the S&T MOU in October 2005, said MINDEF.
Mr Robert is in Singapore for an official visit from Jul 22 to 24. He called on Mr Lui earlier on Thursday and reaffirmed the close and long-standing defence relations between Singapore and Australia, said MINDEF.
Mr Robert will also be visiting DSO National Laboratories, the Defence Science & Technology Agency, ST Kinetics, the Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning Programme Office, the Temasek Laboratories at the National University of Singapore, as well as the Multi-Mission Range Complex.
... In 1965, when Singapore declared its independence, its first prime-minister (and, for many years, its virtual dictator) Lee Kuan Yew asked Israel to design, set up, and supervise its military machine. Israel did precisely that. How successfully? Just this month, the Bonn International Center for Conversion published a world-wide survey ranking Israel the world's most militarized nation -- and Singapore the second-most. ... [Huffington Post - 17/11/12]
Refugees on boat which made it to Australia being held on prison ship off WA coast
Refugee Rights Action Network WA [23/7/15]:
Baby, Y Nhu and four year olds, Khoi and Chuong are amongst those on board the Vietnamese asylum seeker boat intercepted by WA Water Police off the coast of Western Australia on Monday.
At least eight children and around thirty adults, both men and women are now being held by Border Force.
They are on board a Navy boat, possibly the HMAS Choules which was used in April of this year to hand back another group of asylum seekers from Vietnam.
Despite assurances by Peter Dutton that no harm would come to these desperate people, Refugee Rights Action Network members are aware of ongoing harassment and repeated interrogations of those returned in April.
Children from that boat are now being refused access to education. We know of at least one man who is still in jail and whose mother (who hadn't attempted to leave Vietnam) has been intimidated by police.
This same fate is what awaits the parents of little Khoi and Chuong and baby Y Nhu and all the other adults on board the "Dampier Boat".
Border Force will interview them while they are being held at sea, following a journey of around two weeks crammed into a tiny boat.
They will be surrounded by officials, many in uniform and some carrying weapons.
This will be extremely intimidating.
Vietnamese officials are often corrupt and police and military personnel are instruments of government persecution.
The asylum seekers will not trust them and will be unlikely to articulate their claims because they will be too afraid of what information will get back to Vietnamese authorities.
Australian Immigration will therefore "screen out" these desperate people and not allow them due process.
This is called refoulement.
All of these actions are against the International Refugee Convention. Regardless of how much the Australian Government plays with our laws around these issues,
Australia is a signatory to this Convention and should honour it.
They are not people to be feared, just human beings looking for a safe life. Baby Y Nhu, Khoi, Chuong and their families deserve to be given that chance.
Executive Officer HMAS Choules, Lieutenant Commander Doherty, competes in the apple bob event during Australia Day celebrations. [Navy Daily - 1/2/15]
did journalism [Buzzfeed - 23/7/15]:
… As the questions were thrown over to the media… we asked out first question to Dutton:
BuzzFeed News: “Can we ask you about the boatload of asylum seekers that are currently off the coast of Dampier in WA, does it exist? And if you’re going to say “on water matters” as the reason why you won’t, why don’t you think the Australian public deserve an explanation of what’s going on, off the coast?”
Dutton: “Just a bit of context here. We know that 50,000 people arrived when Labor was in government, 1,200 people tragically lost their lives at sea. We’ve been able to stop the boats since we’ve been in government…” (continues to waffle for several more minutes).
BuzzFeed: “If there is a boat do you not concede that ‘stop the boats’ is not a line you could use, as a successfully policy proposition?”
Dutton: “So the point that I’m making is that we make comment in relation to operational matters when it’s appropriate to do so. I’m not going to put lives of our personnel at risk. I’m not going to put the lives of people who try to come to Australia by boat at risk…”
BuzzFeed: “What’s going to happen with those Vietnamese asylum seekers though? Are they going to be taken to Nauru? Or are they going to be sent back to Vietnam? Or Indonesia? Where are they going to be sent to?”
Dutton: “…The other point that I would make is that we settle 13,500 refugees a year through the humanitarian program which makes us one of the most generous countries in the world and I think people need to recognize that and be reminded by it. Because we welcome people who come here the right way but we don’t want to see people smugglers back in business. Now we turn back boats where it’s safe to do so. We have good bilateral relations with countries including Vietnam and elsewhere, where if it’s safe to do so, we’ve met our international obligations and we don’t owe people protection, those people will go back to their country of origin. People who seek an economc outcome are not true refugees and just because someone is on a boat doesn’t mean someone is a refugee. People understandably would seek a better life for their kids if they’re on a low income in a country somewhere within our region, but we settle people through the right way and we settle them in record numbers. That number of 13,750 rose to 18,750 within a couple of years.” [Australia stopped accepting UNHCR refugees in October 2014]
BuzzFeed: “How can the government with a straight face say that you’ve stopped the boats when there are actually boats arriving, you just won’t talk about them?”
Dutton: “Well if there are other questions I’m willing to come back to you…”
BuzzFeed: “Why won’t you answer that question though?”
Dutton: “I’m happy to come back to that but there are others who might have questions.”
BuzzFeed: “It doesn’t seem like there are any other questions.”
Dutton: “Are there any other questions?”
There were other questions, to be fair. Dutton was clearly pissed off. After several more questions… we tried again:
BuzzFeed: “Do you think that Australian taxpayers deserve an explanation about the Vietnamese asylum seekers that are off the coast of WA?”
Dutton: “If there are any other questions, I’ll take those and I’m happy to come back to you.”
Dutton was leaning on this tactic of giving other reporters a chance. Again, a few other questions were asked. But we went back there:
BuzzFeed: “What’s going to happen to the Vietnamese asylum seekers that are currently off the coast of WA?”
Dutton: “Well I don’t have any comment to make when it comes to operational matters. But the long standing obligation of the Australian government, is that if we owe protection to somebody we’ll meet our international obligations in affording that person protection. If people are here because they’re seeking a better life then they’re not true refugees. They’re economic refugees, then they won’t be coming to our country. I’ve been very clear that screening takes place, if people need to be afforded protection, they’ll be afforded that protection. If it is deemed they are not to be afforded that protection then we will make arrangements to return them back to their country of origin. That is the way that the law has operated for a long period of time and nothing changes today or into the future.”
Maybe by talking about “economic refugees” he was actually speaking about those on board the boat. Worth having another ask:
BuzzFeed: “Are they economic refugees, the Vietnamese asylum seekers?
Dutton: “I don’t have any comment to make in relation to that.”
That was it. Press conference over. After repeated questions we were no clearer about the existence of the asylum seeker boat or where it was being towed by the Australian navy.
UN official resigns amid scandal over handling of sex abuse report
A top UN official who was allegedly informed of a sex abuse scandal before it became public is resigning, a spokeswoman for the United Nations said on Wednesday.
Flavia Pansieri, the number two at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva is stepping down for health reasons, UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci said.
Her resignation comes as the global body faces criticism over how it reacted to the allegations of child sex abuse in the Central African Republic.
“I can confirm that Flavia Pansieri has resigned and she cited health reasons for her resignation,” Maestracci said.
Pansieri, a long time UN worker named to her position three years ago, was informed of allegations of child sex abuse carried out by French soldiers in CAR in the summer of 2014.
A Swedish diplomat working for the commissioner who authored the report was punished for not respecting the body’s protocols.
The UN’s handling of the incident, brought to light by The Guardian newspaper, was widely criticized by aid groups.
The United States and several aid agencies called for the United Nations to carry out a thorough investigation into the sex scandal, and the global body set up an independent commission last month to conduct an internal review.
France is also conducting an investigation.
Maestracci said she could not confirm if Pansieri testified to the UN commission, which is expected to report its findings in September.
Over a dozen French soldiers sent to the Central African Republic to help restore order in 2013 after a coup are accused of sexual abuse of children as young as eight years old who were begging for food.
The soldiers were not under the control of the United Nations.
The UN report also accused soldiers from Chad and Equatorial Guinea, an aid group that saw the report said.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the appointment of Major General Arthur David Gawn, of New Zealand, as Head of Mission and Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO). ... [Media Release - 21/7/15]
US Interior Department grants final two permits to explore for oil in the Arctic
The U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday granted Royal Dutch Shell its final two permits to explore for oil in the Arctic this summer, but said the company cannot drill until required emergency equipment arrives.
The department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) conditionally granted Shell permits for oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. But Shell must have emergency equipment to contain a potential blown out well deployable within 24 hours before drilling into the oil zone, the office said.
Shell discovered weeks ago that the Fennica icebreaker that holds the required equipment, called a capping stack, had a 3-foot gash in it.
"Without the required well-control system in place, Shell will not be allowed to drill into oil-bearing zones," BSEE Director Brian Salemo said.
Shell last week sent the Fennica, which it is leasing, to Portland, Oregon, for repairs. Fixing the gash and returning the vessel to the Artic could take weeks.
The company said then it did not expect to require the capping stack until August and that it could proceed with preliminary drilling.
Shell did not immediately return a request for comment on Wednesday.
Environmentalists have criticized Shell's drilling plans in the Arctic, which is home to sensitive populations of whales, walrus and polar bears.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the decision on where the processing plant for the Elk-Antelope (Papua LNG) plant will be located is a “commercial” one made by developer Total. ... [The National - 22/7/15]
From January to June 2015, the globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces was the hottest for such period on record, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported today, citing new highs across the planet in June, with heatwaves across South Asia, Europe and pockets of the United States. ... [Media Release - 21/7/15]
Beached whale calf at Palm Beach on the Gold Coast dies
A whale calf beached on the Gold Coast has died.
The whale washed up on Palm Beach shortly after 1:30pm.
Lifeguards, surfers and staff from the Environment Department tried to move the whale into deeper water but it died a short time later.
Gold Coast Lifeguard superintendent Peter Miller said lifeguards responded to the initial call.
"We were called to a possible whale stranding in the net off Currumbin," he said.
"We sent a jet ski out and found that there was no stranded whale there, however on returning to the base at Currumbin Alley they found a very small calf in a bit of distress right near Currumbin Rock and it ended up beaching itself on the Palm Beach side of Currumbin Creek."
Stephen Okumu, the deputy head teacher at Senator Obama Kogelo Primary School, said: “We feel disappointed because when he became president we thought more things would come, but up to now nothing has come. We are expecting exchange programmes between American schools and our school.” ... Obama's Kenya trip won't include visit to father's village [EURO News - 22/7/15]
United States, "allies" continue bombing Iraq and Syria
US Department of Defense [22/7/15]:
U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place yesterday, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.
Airstrikes in Syria
Fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 15 airstrikes in Syria:
-- Near Hasakah, 10 airstrikes struck eight ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL vehicles, five ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL staging area, two ISIL bunkers, an ISIL excavator and three ISIL check points.
-- Near Raqqah, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL excavator.
-- Near Kobani, four airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL mortar position, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL heavy weapon and an ISIL fighting position.
Airstrikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter-attack, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 15 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
-- Near Beiji, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Fallujah, one airstrike destroyed two ISIL bridges.
-- Near Habbaniyah, one airstrike destroyed eight ISIL rocket rails.
-- Near Haditha, two airstrikes struck an ISIL large tactical unit and ISIL terrain denying ISIL a tactical advantage and destroyed an ISIL sniper position and an ISIL mortar position.
-- Near Makhmur, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL heavy machine guns.
-- Near Mosul, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL heavy machine gun and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Ramadi, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL excavator, an ISIL building and an ISIL vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
-- Near Tal Afar, four airstrikes struck an ISIL rocket firing position and destroyed six ISIL bunkers.
Car bombings and suicide attacks kill dozens in Iraq [Al Jazeera - 22/7/15]
Nine civilians killed in Saudi air raids on Yemen [Press TV - 22/7/15]
A Saudi military plane landed in Aden on Wednesday as the airport reopened in Yemen's second city after four months of fighting, the transport minister said. … [Naharnet – 22/7/15]
Deadly bomb blasts rip through Nigerian bus stations [Al Jazeera - 22/7/15]
15 dead in suicide bombings in Cameroon [Business Standard - 23/7/15]
South Sudanese government troops crushed fleeing civilians with tanks, then reversed to check they had killed them, carried out public gang rapes and burned people alive, a rights group said Wednesday.
The report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has shocking allegations of atrocities committed by government forces in the ongoing 19-month-old war, documenting "deliberate attacks on civilians" that it said constitute war crimes. ... [Naharnet - 22/7/15]
Palestinian shot dead by Israeli forces during West Bank arrest mission [Haaretz - 22/7/15]
Palestinian prisoner held in solitary confinement for over 4 years [Maan - 22/7/15]
A Georgia man who was having relationship troubles with his wife killed her, two of her sons and himself Wednesday, less than a day after police had visited the home on a domestic violence call, authorities said. ... [ABC News - 22/7/15]
On July 10, 28-year-old Sandra Bland was arrested and charged with assaulting a public servant. She was taken to the Waller County Jail; three days later, she was found in her cell dead from what officials called suicide. Both the FBI and the Texas Rangers launched investigations trying to find out what happened.
Dashboard camera footage from Bland’s traffic stop was released on Tuesday. (Note: The video was uploaded to YouTube Tuesday evening; it has since been taken down, after people pointed out errors and inconsistencies in the video, which led many to believe it had been edited. A DPS spokesman denied editing the video, and said this morning they would re-upload the footage without errors or omissions.)
Questions, in the wake of the video: What are the rules? Not policies or politeness – specifically, what are your rights when you’re pulled over by police? … 10 things about the Sandra Blad traffic stop every Texan should know [Texas Standard - 22/7/15]
UN human rights experts renew calls to visit US to advance criminal justice reforms [Media Release - 21/7/15]:
... “I look forward to working with the US Department of Justice on the special study commissioned by the President on the need to regulate solitary confinement, which affects 80,000 inmates in the United States, in most cases for periods of months and years,” Mr. Méndez said in a press release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“The practice of prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement inflicts pain and suffering of a psychological nature, which is strictly prohibited by the Convention against Torture,” he continued. “Reform along such lines will have considerable impact not only in the United States but in many countries around the world.” ...
The Australian media: Withholding information from the citizenry for their own good: Audience members at the Edinburgh Fringe show hosted by the controversial medic known as Dr Death will be ‘gassed’ as they model how “a peaceful and reliable means of death” is carried out. ... [Independent - 22/7/15]
In an unprecedented move, a professional misconduct hearing against Umno lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah was held at the Sungai Buloh prison's meeting room yesterday, due to security concerns for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the complainant. ... [The Malaysian Insider - 23/7/15]
China artist Ai Weiwei gets his passport back [BBC – 22/7/15]
@wikileaks [22/7/15]: UK won't reveal knowledge of #Assange assassination plots due to possible prejudice to relations with another state ...
Regarding judicial cooperation between Ecuador and Sweden [Media Release – 17/7/15]
Nauru opens innovative, lawyer free (Australian funded) court facility to "deal with refugee cases" [RNZI - 23/7/15]:
There are hopes a newly opened court facility in Nauru will speed up the legal process on the island.
The facility includes a courtroom, judges chambers, a training room and a staff office.
The Chief Justice Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi says the new courts will allow them to deal with refugee cases.
At the opening the Minister for Justice and Border Control, David Adeang, also released the departments strategic plan.
He says a key part of the plan is improving public access to the courts and he says to this end the government has, in principle, agreed to provide legal aid services.
The New Zealand Government has funded the development of the justice sector's strategic plan while the court building was funded by Australia.
Australia's High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea [Deborah Stokes] has concluded her posting early, with Canberra declining to give a reason why. ... [RNZI - 23/7/15]
Corruption, fraud, breaches of privacy and ethics regarding the medical care of refugees still "a bit too newsy" for the Australian media? [Guardian - 23/7/15]:
... The briefing document, written by a senior IHMS clinician, outlines the way that the immigration department has sought access to confidential medical records of asylum seekers for what he describes as “political purposes”. ...
An independent review of Fiona Stanley Hospital has confirmed a number of issues with patient care and clinical services, revealing failures to prioritise urgent surgery and cope with excessive emergency department demand.
The report, released yesterday, is also highly critical of the FSH contract with private operator Serco, which it states “has proved challenging at a number of levels”. ... [West Australian - 23/7/15]
Greens denounce Bill Shorten's move to back Abbott's turnback policy [Greens Media Release - 23/7/15] Turnbacks? Try: Greens denounce yet another bipartisan stitchup which facilitates crimes against humanity.
Where's "change the policy from within" Melissa Parkes and Sue Lines today? No turn-backs; no offshore processing: An appeal to delegates of the national conference of the Australian Labor Party [Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney - 23/7/15]
Bipartisan refoulement policy is NOT pandering to the "politics of fear" [Refugee Council of Australia Media Release - 22/7/15]. Try: Pandering to interests beyond our democracy .
Anti refugee propagandists seriously think they'll never be held to account for reinforcing lies about mandatory detention, exile and refoulement? ---> Choreographed faux combative "gotcha" on the necessity of refoulement (masquerading as journalism) [VIDEO - ABC 7.30 Report - 22/7/15]
... “I can no longer escape the conclusion that Labor, if we form a government, needs to have all the options on the table,” Shorten said on the ABC’s 7.30 program. He also flagged that he would propose a bigger refugee intake. ... [The Conversation - 22/7/15]
The talking point "there is no alternative" to refoulement, and that it allows for a bigger refugee intake is a LIE.
Australia stopped accepting UNHCR refugees in October 2014. The political and media establishment are playing us for fools.
Australia closes door on refugees, Myanmar opens door to Woodside and the ABC
Rohingya kids in the rain during the rainy season in Sittwe's Muslim Quarter, now effectively a sealed ghetto.
Image: @andreapitzer [16/7/15]
A burst of $US3.6 billion ($A4.85 billion) invested in Myanmar's oil and gas sector in the past year is a green light for Australian companies involvement, Australian business representatives say.
In 2014, the Myanmar government awarded 40 onshore and offshore oil and gas licences and Australia's Woodside Petroleum is exploring two offshore areas in the Rakhine Basin.
US consultancy firm McKinsey and Co says Myanmar's economy is set to report strong growth with national output of $US200 billion ($A269.63 billion) by 2030, up from US$50 billion at present.
Myanmar's mining sector remains relatively undeveloped. New legislation to boost foreign investment and improve equity sharing with local communities was recently delayed in parliament until after the November general elections.
Glen Robinson, chairman of the Australian-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce, says "across the board" Australian companies have a potential role to play through "a significant number of support activities for the mining industry".
"The miners have to have people, people have to eat, be transported and so on. There's no reason that Australians should not be involved in those areas," Mr Robinson said.
Australian Embassy in Myanmar [22/7/15]:
... The Ambassador and Embassy staff meet with Australian Broadcasting Corporation representatives in Yangon on 20 July, to discuss media training initiatives in Myanmar. Pictured left to right are Mr Charles Prestidge-King, Second Secretary, Ms Cheri Mangrai, ABC, Ambassador Nicholas Coppel, Mr Nick Cumpston, Counsellor, and Mr Mark Bowling, ABC.
A court in Myanmar has sentenced 153 Chinese nationals to life imprisonment for illegal logging, a court official said on Wednesday.
A court in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State in the north of the country, handed down sentences to 155 Chinese citizens. Two of the convicted escaped life sentences and were served with 10-year prison terms. ... [Reuters - 22/7/15]
More than 10,000 Rohingya refugees are living in India where authorities are working hard to portray them as a security threat [Economic Times 22/7/15]
IOM (with "special "psychological and physical treatments") assists in forced deportation of Bangladeshi refugees captured by Myanmar navy [bdnews24.com - 22/7/15]
The Slow Genocide Against the Rohingya, Archbishop Desmond Tutu [Newsweek - 29/5/15]:
... In the context of rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar, many Buddhists, particularly in Rakhine state, regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants.
More than 100,000 Rohingya are trapped in internment camps.
They may not leave “for their own protection.” They hold only temporary identity cards. In February, they lost all voting rights. ...
In the midst of the Rohingya refugee boat crisis, Richard Marles ("opposition" border spokesman) visited Myanmar to reassure "stakeholders" that the ALP will maintain the LNP's policy of refusing refugees.
@RichardMarlesMP [19/5/15]: Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon early this morning. Breathtaking. ...
@RichardMarlesMP: The people you meet in Yangon - Kieran Gorman-Best of IOM who hails from my hometown of #Geelong.
Presumably during the height of the Rohingya refugee boat crisis in May, politicians - especially those with portfolios/roles related to migration - were aware Australia stopped accepting UNHCR refugees in October 2014?
South East Asia
Spain rescues 58 refugees, arrests 3 "traffickers" [teleSUR - 23/7/15]
Over 18,000 refugees rescued in Turkey’s Aegean since January [Hurriyet Daily News - 21/7/15]
@MSF_Sea [22/7/15]: "I used to be a teacher and my husband was an accountant. Look at us now!" - Jailan, 28, from #Syria in #Lesvos
23 July 2015