Hong Kong police remove more Mongkok barricades

Image: @galileo44 [25/11/14]

Channel News Asia [25/11/14]:

Authorities in Hong Kong on Tuesday tore down barricades at a protest site in Mongkok, the scene of some of the more violent clashes to take place during nearly two months of pro-democracy sit-ins.

Dozens of bailiffs, backed by more than 100 police officers, stood guard as workers cleared makeshift barriers obstructing part of a busy shopping street in Mongkok, one of three main protest sites where thousands of demonstrators have camped out demanding free leadership elections.

Instructed by police to vacate the area, protesters, some wearing goggles, helmets and gas masks, responded with jeers, shouting "we want real universal suffrage" and raising a large yellow banner with the same slogan.

"I am not going to move. I will let them arrest me," Ng Pun-tuk, a 78-year-old protester wearing a helmet told AFP. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve democracy. I am prepared to go to jail," Ng, who was one of about 200 protesters at the site, declared.

"People at the scene, please leave as soon as possible in accordance with the court injunction," a police spokesman ordered the crowd - which included a scrum of journalists - over a loudspeaker before the clearance action.

...

Let them eat cake.

Naharnet [25/11/14]:

President Barack Obama said he is in love, though he was not speaking about Michelle -- but he swears she understands.

"I've said it publicly: I love Meryl Streep. I love her. Her husband knows I love her. Michelle knows I love her. There's nothing either of them can do about it," he said at the Presidential Medal of Freedom awards Monday.

Obama endowed 18 people, including Streep, musician Stevie Wonder, Chilean-American author Isabel Allende, journalist Tom Brokaw and composer Stephen Sondheim, with the award, the highest civil honor in the United States.

A smiling Obama showered Streep with praise, complimenting the "Out of Africa" actress for her ability to embody the characters she plays.

"She inhabits her characters so fully and compassionately," he said of the three-time Oscar winner at the ceremony at the White House.

He also applauded her musical capabilities and her impressive ability to speak with any accent.

"She's sung ABBA, which, you know, that's something. She learned violin, wore a nun's habit, faced down a charging lion, mastered ever accent under the sun.

"Meryl is truly one of America's leading ladies."

Streep won an Oscar in 2012 for her role as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady." She took home her first golden statue in 1980 for "Kramer vs. Kramer" and another in 1983 for "Sophie's Choice."

Obama also honored Motown legend Wonder, whose album "Talking Book" was the first he ever bought.

"I was 10 years old. maybe 11. With my own cash. I didn't have a lot of it. And I listened to that thing -- that thing got so worn out."

"What really defines Stevie's music is the warmth and humanity that resonates in every note. Some of his songs helped us to fall in love. Others mended our hearts. Some motivated us on the campaign trail," he said.

The economist Robert Solow and John Dingell, the longest-serving member of U.S. congress, were also awarded.

"No justice, no peace!" #Chicago protesters head north on MLK Dr. #Ferguson ...

Image: @ChipMitchell1 - @WBEZ reporter [24/11/14]

Times Square right now. #Ferguson

Image: @iSpeakComedy [24/11/14]

Oakland stands with #Ferguson tonight.

Image: @NinaLisss [24/11/14]

Oakland protesters shut down westbound I-580 [San Francisco Chronicle - 24/11/14]

Hundreds of protesters in Oakland marched onto Interstate 580 in the Grand Lake area just after 8 p.m. Monday, bringing westbound traffic to a standstill as police officers moved in.

The demonstrators gathered after the announcement that a grand jury in Missouri had decided not to indict a police officer in the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

Police ordered the protesters to clear westbound 580 as they walked between cars and refused to move near Lakeshore Avenue. At least two people were detained by police.

Some of the demonstrators jumped onto eastbound 580 as well, briefly blocking traffic.

Huffington Post [25/11/14]:

Thousands of people across the nation turned out Monday night to show solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who shot Michael Brown.

Crowds of people gathered in Times Square, outside the White House gates and in downtown Philadelphia.

Many protesters were shouting, "Hands up, don't shoot" -- a phrase that has become linked to protests over the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

...

Grand Jury Does Not Indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for Killing Unarmed Mike Brown [Kevin Gosztola - 24/11/14]:

... It put the community on edge reinforcing the fear that protesters would not be calm after a grand jury decision. However, the reality is that many of the actions of officials and law enforcement prior to the decision were more frantic or hysterical than protesters.

Protesters were mostly calm, prepared to de-escalate any unruly situation that occurred after they heard the news so long as they could remain in the streets exercising their right to assemble. The governor, on the other hand, declared a state of emergency a week before the decision.

...

Data On Transfer Of Military Gear To Police Departments [Popular Resistance - 20/8/14]:

Since President Obama took office, the Pentagon has transferred to police departments tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

In May, The New York Times requested and received from the Pentagon its database of transfers since 2006. The data underpinned an article in June and helped inform coverage of the police response this month in Ferguson, Mo., after an officer shot Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager.

...

Queensland police shootings to be reviewed after four deaths in two months

Guardian [25/11/14]:

Queensland’s corruption watchdog plans to conduct an urgent review of police shootings, which have caused four deaths in two months.

Six people have been shot in the past eight months – the last of them fatally, just hours after civil libertarians called for an independent inquiry on Monday – eclipsing the long-term yearly average for police shootings in the whole of Australia.

A crime and corruption commission (CCC) spokesman told Guardian Australia it was seeking approval for a “high priority” research project into police shootings which would be “comprehensive and conducted in the public interest”.

Police commissioner Ian Stewart has launched a separate internal review of training and other policies in light of the shootings, briefing police minister Jack Dempsey on Tuesday.

The same morning the CCC gave the attorney general, Jarrod Bleijie, “a draft research plan which includes a proposed research project relating to police shootings” for approval, its spokesman said.

On Monday night a Gold Coast man in his 30s became the third person to die in a week after confrontations with uniformed Queensland police. The assistant commissioner, Steve Hollands, said the man was shot and died of a heart attack after he allegedly ran at two dog squad officers with a knife.

The rash of shootings highlights the failure of stun guns as a non-lethal alternative since they were introduced in Queensland in 2009. Stun guns were first floated as a key step in changing police gun culture 21 years ago, following a spate of shootings in Victoria.

The president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, Terry O’Gorman, earlier renewed calls for an urgent public inquiry by the CCC into all the shootings. O’Gorman said coronial inquests would take up to two years and there would be more shootings and possibly deaths in the meantime.

“Something urgent has to be done now because clearly there’s a problem and it’s a serious problem,” he told ABC radio.

A report by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) last year found there were 105 police shootings nationwide between 1989 and 2011, or an average of 4.7 a year.

The CCC spokesman said the agency’s investigative powers could be used only when there was “a suspicion of police misconduct or corrupt conduct”. In this case the CCC’s research team, which has been depleted under the Newman government, would be responsible for a broad inquiry into gun use.

Bleijie was given veto power over the CCC’s research agenda under recent legislative changes. Comment has been sought from his office.

Bond University criminologist and former police inspector Terry Goldsworthy said a recent “focus on lethal force options” for police had risked creating a “siege mentality”.

Goldsworthy said there had been “a push from the highest level for police to be armed” after an escalation in perceived threats from domestic terrorism attacks, the G20 meeting in Brisbane and a crackdown on bikies.

Goldsworthy said the gun continued to be the weapon of choice for police to defend themselves in close range violent situations. The effectiveness of stun guns had been “misrepresented”, he said. “By advancing with a Taser, you are going well and truly into a range where you will not get your gun out in time to defend yourself if you miss them with a Taser.”

A stun gun was used without effect before the police shooting of a Capalaba man who threw an officer through a window after a domestic dispute in April.

Victorian police began training to minimise use of force after nine fatal shootings in 1994. Queensland police dropped the annual training requirement for handguns from two sessions a year to one about five years ago.

Among other recent incidents, a 51-year-old man who allegedly took a metal pole to a police car after officers were called to a domestic dispute, was shot dead at Tewantin on Sunday.

Kippa-Ring man Laval Zimmer, 33, whom friends said struggled with mental health problems, was shot dead a week ago in his home after allegedly lunging with a knife at police, who tried to subdue him with pepper spray.

Eight weeks ago, Inala man Shaun Kumeroa was shot dead after a four-hour siege that ended when he allegedly threatened armed police with a gun.

Last month police investigating a stolen lawnmower shot Mitchell Jovic, 29, in the head after he allegedly drove a car at officers.

Boys, teenagers charged after police pursuit which ended in a crash, Hamilton

QPS Media [25/11/14]:

Four juveniles have been charged after allegedly ramming a stolen car into a police car at Windsor and later crashing it at Hamilton yesterday afternoon.

It will alleged around 4:40pm police attempted to intercept the car on Somerset Street, Windsor when it rammed a police vehicle before driving away.

Police were preparing to deploy a tyre deflation device on Kingsford Smith Drive at Hamilton when the car crashed after attempting to force its way between stationary cars at traffic lights.

A 15-year-old Deception Bay boy has been charged with two counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and one count each of unlawful use of a motor vehicle, break and enter and obstruct police.

A 14-year-old girl from the Grange has been charged with two counts of burglary and one count of unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

Two boys aged 12 and 13 from Deception Bay have been charged with unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

All four juveniles will be dealt with under the provisions of the Youth Justice Act.

Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Queensland Parliament Hansard [29/10/13]:

Mr CRANDON: My question without notice is to the Minister for Police and Community Safety. Can the minister outline to the House how this government is cracking down on criminal motorcycle gangs and their associates?

Mr DEMPSEY: Following on from what the Premier said and in answer to the question from the member for Coomera, the people of Queensland wanted this government to get tough on crime. I am so glad that we have a can-do attitude to make sure that we achieve that and listen to the people of Queensland—unlike those opposite, who were in government for the last 20 years and sat on their hands.

The people of Queensland know that criminal motorcycle gangs are parasites who prey on the most vulnerable people in our society. This government has made it absolutely clear that their criminal activities and networks will no longer be tolerated. We have vowed to smash them, and that is exactly what we are doing. If they congregate together, we will hunt them down. If they gather in their clubhouses, we will be waiting for them. We will use the full power of our new laws to ensure that they are removed from our society and inside prison they will be subjected to the country’s toughest prison regime, reflecting society’s outrage at their activities. Criminal gangs can run, but they cannot hide. If they continue their criminal activities, we will crush every last one of them.

Deputy Commissioner Brett Pointing is the overarching commander of Operation Resolute, which has been the spearhead of our war against criminal motorcycle gangs. Since the creation of Operation Resolute and through a state-wide coordinated approach, police have charged 184 criminal gang members and their associates with 362 offences, executed 47 warrants, issued 102 traffic offence infringement notices against criminal motorcycle gang members or associates and carried out over 4,106 street checks, including licensed establishments and businesses connected to associates of criminal gang members.

On 12 October 2013 a national day of action against criminal motorcycle gangs was undertaken and nationally 57 criminal gang members and associates were charged with offences. On 24 October Task Force Maxima closed a protracted operation targeting Hells Angels criminal motorcycle gang members, with 21 of those members and associates being charged with 57 offences, quantities of illicit substances including amphetamines, steroids, ecstasy and fantasy being found and seizure of assets including three Harley-Davidson motorcycles and a motor vehicle.

We are also providing $5 million to Crimestoppers—which has received record calls to get rid of this scourge of society—as rewards for information that assists prosecution of motorcycle gang members. A range of legislative amendments have been passed and further opportunities are being pursued to enhance enforcement capabilities. Let me make it clear to all members of criminal gangs: we intend to wipe you out of existence. The people of Queensland have asked us to get tough on law and order. We make no apologies. We are listening to them. We have enacted the legislation giving the police and other departments the resources.

(Time expired)

‘Peace process hangs from a thread,’ UN warns ahead of Day of Solidarity with Palestinians

UN Media Release [24/11/14]:

United Nations officials today voiced their solidarity with the people of Palestine, while calling on both sides involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to cease acts of violence, overcome their differences, and resume peace talks with a clear framework towards resolving the decades-long dispute.

“Regrettably, as we meet here today, the path towards a durable peace remains uncertain,” said Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly, during a special meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People held this morning at UN Headquarters in New York to mark the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

“The peace process now hangs from a thread and the process of rapprochement seems to be slipping away. The lack of progress and the renewed tension require sustained attention,” he added.

The special meeting comes ahead of the International Day, observed annually on 29 November. The Day marks the date in 1947 when the General Assembly adopted a resolution partitioning then-mandated Palestine into two States, one Jewish and one Arab.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr. Kutesa noted with sadness that this year did not bring hoped-for progress in ending the conflict, as the direct peace talks were suspended.

Recounting the failure of the latest round of negotiations and the intensification of violence in the region, Mr. Kutesa underscored that conditions on the ground remain “volatile” and the situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank is “still a source of serious concern.”

“In light of the recent violent incidents that led to civilian deaths and injuries, I strongly condemn all acts of violence against civilians and attacks against religious sites,” Mr. Kutesa declared.

“I call on all parties to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions and incitement. All acts of violence must cease,” he added.

Mr. Kutesa also highlighted that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains critical, with high rates of poverty and unemployment. The long-standing restrictions on the movement of people and goods continue to undermine the living conditions of the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza and, therefore, the blockade should be lifted, he stressed.

In this context, he stressed that the time is “particularly opportune for the UN to play a more decisive role in supporting the parties in their efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive negotiated settlement in the Middle East. Such negotiations should be based on a two-State solution, with the State of Israel and the State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, he emphasized.

Equally important is the support of the international community to the Palestinian refugee population, the General Assembly President said.

Indeed, more than 5 million Palestinian refugees continue to experience exceptionally difficult circumstances, he noted. While the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has played a “vital role in providing basic services to alleviate the suffering of the growing Palestinian refugee population,” the recurring cycle of violence and the scarcity of funds hamper the agency’s ability to provide basic humanitarian services, Mr. Kutesa said.

Concluding his remarks he highlighted that the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA is scheduled to meet on 3 December.

Taking into account that 97 per cent of UNRWA’s funding comes from voluntary contributions, he also reiterated an appeal to Member States and other international partners to make additional efforts to fully fund the agency’s core budget, in addition to urging new donors to make financial commitments to the agency’s work.

“As we commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I invite Member States, the United Nations system and all relevant stakeholders to strengthen their valuable support and assistance to the Palestinian people to ensure the full realization of their inalienable rights and the establishment of a durable peace in the region,” Mr. Kutesa said.

Also speaking at the special meeting was Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, who noted that the Day was also an important date for UNRWA, as it marked 65 years since the agency had been created.

“Our ongoing existence is a reminder both of what has been achieved for the refugee communities over these years, and what happens when no political solution is found to address the underlying causes of the conflict and the occupation,” Mr. Krähenbühl said.

Noting the “immense” pressures that Palestinians and Palestine refugees are living under, the Commissioner-General also said that the Palestinian people are continuously suffering from threats to their lives, livelihood and future.

“Hope is desperately needed somewhere on the horizon,” he said. “We all know, of course, that hope in this most unstable region can only be brought about by resolute political action,” he added.

While he welcomed the efforts being made to facilitate the entry of building materials into Gaza, Mr. Krähenbühl stressed that the reconstruction process needs to be speeded up. If not, with winter approaching, little progress would be made in repairing and rebuilding the homes of those people who are still displaced.

“This is not a time for wait-and-see attitudes. Time is actually running out. Tempers are rising, and people are very desperate,” he emphasized.

Also attending the special meeting were Fodé Seck, Chairman of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; Gary Francis Quinlan, President of the Security Council; and Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN.

FM: UN resolution on Israel occupation postponed [Maan - 24/11/14]

Israel’s policy on statehood merits the same scrutiny as Hamas gets, Tristan Dunning [UQ News - 21/11/14]

United States continues bombing Syria, Iraq

Centcom [24/11/14]:

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Nov. 21-24 using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct nine airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted fifteen airstrikes in Iraq Nov. 21-24 using fighter, attack, bomber and remotely-piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.

In Syria, seven airstrikes near Kobani destroyed three ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL staging areas, damaged another ISIL staging area and suppressed four ISIL fighting positions. Near Ar Raqqah, two airstrikes struck an ISIL headquarters building.

In Iraq, five airstrikes near Mosul destroyed an ISIL checkpoint, three ISIL HMMWVs, a large ISIL unit, two tactical ISIL units and a heavy weapon.

Near al-Asad, two airstrikes destroyed a mortar position, a ISIL artillery piece, an ISIL vehicle and a tactical ISIL unit and damaged an ISIL-occupied building and an ISIL vehicle.

Near Baghdad, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL-occupied building, three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL HMMWV and two tactical ISIL units, one of which was emplacing IEDs.

Near Ramadi, two airstrikes destroyed two ISIL vehicles. Near Tal Afar, two airstrikes suppressed a mortar position. Near Fallujah, an airstrike struck an ISIL obstruction near Fallujah Dam. Near Hit, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

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

...

Iraq is taking assertive steps to "liberate" every inch from ISIS, says U.S Lt-Gen. Austin [IraqiNews.com - 25/11/14]

@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [24/11/14]:

Diyala: The government's army and militias continue in provoking people by calling of the owners of homes and shops after they burnt their properties saying that your home or shop has been blazed ......

Agencies:Amir Majma'i -Diyala governor- has blamed the governmet about the people which are killed by militias with the consent of security forces everyday .........

Baghdad: Agencies:10 persons were killed and wounded as a roadside bomb exploded in Mahmoudiya south of Baghdad.....

Unidentified jet targets airport in Libya's Tripoli: witnesses

Reuters [24/11/14]:

At least one unidentified jet carried out an air strike on Monday targeting Mitiga airport in the Libyan capital Tripoli, but the extent of damage was not clear, witnesses and local television said.

Libya is caught up in a conflict between rival political factions, one of which has set up an alternative government after taking over the capital in fighting over the summer.

Pissweak

MYGC [25/11/14]:

Gold Coast women and families affected by domestic violence will be able to more easily access specialist advice and support over the phone.

Communities Minister Tracy Davis said the Government will provide an additional $100,000 to DVConnect to extend domestic violence support and counselling through its Womensline phone service.

...

Victorian election 2014: Rosie Batty endorses Greens [The Age - 25/11/14]

... Ms Batty, whose 11-year-old son Luke was murdered by his father at cricket practice in Tyabb in February, said the Greens had the best plan to tackle family violence.

"Family violence is finally on the agenda, and this election could make a big difference on this urgent issue, if we get the right people in parliament," she said.

"It is important for people to question the candidates in this area and ask them their response to family violence."

Ms Maltzhan, who has worked for 25 years as a women's rights campaigner, said she was honoured and humbled by the endorsement.

...

The Greens plan would prioritise tackling family violence in government, expand prevention programs and invest more in support services.

Min Tae Kim murder: Defence lawyers await autopsy report

Brisbane Times [24/11/14]:

Queensland police are yet to give defence lawyers an autopsy report detailing how alleged murder victim Min Tae Kim died, a court has heard.

Mr Kim, a 28-year-old South Korean national, went missing in Brisbane in December last year.

He was last seen leaving for a meeting to exchange a large sum of currency after advertising his desire to swap cash online.

His body was exhumed a few days later from a shallow grave at Algester in Brisbane's south.

Another South Korean national, Sanghyun Hwang, 29, has been charged with his murder.

His case was mentioned on Monday in the Brisbane Magistrates Court, where the crown was given until mid-January to disclose outstanding material to the defence.

The court heard this included an autopsy report, ballistics and entomology reports, and phone records.

The matter will be mentioned again on February 2.

Hwang did not appear.

... They dismantled the bar and seized premix bottles of spirits, beer, fridges, eskies, cash, pool tables, glassware, furniture and documents. ... [Police raid Tweed Heads bikie clubhouse - Tweed Daily News - 24/11/14]

No conviction recorded over leak of Frances Abbott scholarship

Guardian [25/11/14]:

No conviction will be recorded against a 21-year-old whistleblower for accessing confidential files that revealed the prime minister’s daughter, Frances Abbott, received an undisclosed $60,000 scholarship.

Freya Newman, a former part-time librarian at the Whitehouse School of Design, was given a two-year good behaviour bond.

Newman appeared in Sydney’s Downing Centre local court on Tuesday after pleading guilty in September to one count of unauthorised access to restricted data.

Newman accessed student records that showed Frances Abbott had attended the design school on a “managing director’s scholarship” at the recommendation of the college’s chairman and Liberal party donor, Les Taylor.

Abbott was only the second recipient of the prize, which was not advertised to other students. Whitehouse has declined to detail the application process and criteria for awarding the scholarship.

According to its website, Whitehouse “does not currently offer scholarships to gain a place”, but the college has maintained it offers a variety of scholarships and all “are discretionary and awarded on merit”.

Newman was not able to argue that the disclosure was in the public interest as Whitehouse is a private institution and falls outside public-service whistleblower protections.

Man seriously hurt in Darling Downs traffic crash

Chronicle [25/11/14]:

Emergency services are at the scene of a serious traffic crash 20km west of Dalby on the Western Downs.

The crash on the Dalby-Kogan Rd near the intersection of Kumbarilla Ln was reported about 750am.

One person, a man aged in his 40s, has been seriously injured after the car they were driving crashed into a tree.

The RACQ CareFlight Helicopter has been called to the incident.

Emergency services are closing Dalby-Kogan Rd. Motorists are urged to avoid the area.

Why is the media only alerting us to the Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 today?

Why do they never report on proposed fascist legislation when it's introduced to parliament - if not beforehand?

Guardian [25/11/14]:

People could be denied Australian citizenship or have their citizenship revoked, under certain conditions, if they are ordered to undertake drug rehabilitation or a residential program for the mentally ill, under legislation that passed the House of Representatives on Monday.

The Australian citizenship and residential amendment bill will face a challenge in the Senate, where Labor and the Greens oppose it.

The legislation lists a number of clauses that the immigration minister can use to revoke or deny citizenship, including a pending, current or previous criminal conviction, or a court-ordered confinement to a psychiatric institution due to criminal offences.

It also states that people who have court orders to undertake a residential drug rehabilitation scheme or a residential program for the mentally ill, can be barred from becoming Australian.

The bill would expand the immigration minister’s powers in deciding who can be granted citizenship, and legislates a good character requirement for applicants.

Guardian Australia contacted the office of the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, to obtain an outline of what constitutes good character, but did not receive a response.

...

Black triangle (badge):

The symbol originates from Nazi concentration camps, where every prisoner had to wear one of the Nazi concentration camp badges on their jacket, the color of which categorized them according to "their kind." Individuals deemed "asocial" had to wear the Black Triangle. Many Black Triangle prisoners were either mentally disabled or mentally ill. The homeless were also included, as were alcoholics, the habitually "work-shy," prostitutes, and others (including draft dodgers and pacifists).

Also today, Queensland Parliament is set to pass the Recreation Areas Management and Another Act Amendment Bill - which will further commercialise and remove protection for national parks.

Australia builds another concentration camp in PNG

The National [24/11/14]:

An immigration transit facility will be built in Port Moresby to cater for illegal immigrants and over-stayers, it has been revealed.

Chief Migration Officer Mataio Rabura said it was increasingly important to tighten security and properly manage the borders “in line with modern and best practices”.

“We recognise that there is a need to manage those foreign nations who are refused entry to PNG, or who are detected having overstayed or having entered the country illegally,” he said.

He said the Immigration Citizenship Security Authority had been planning the facility for some time.

The facility will be built at Bomana. He signed an agreement last week with Correctional Institutional Service Commissioner Michael Waipo.

“It will enhance PNG’s national security and will allow for the detention of such persons, separate from the prison population,” he said.

He said it was part of the amendments to the Migration Act approved by Cabinet and to be tabled in parliament shortly. He said the amendments would “properly define immigration detention, enhance powers to detain and remove those unlawfully in the country”.

Waipo said they would ensure that the security at the facility was maintained and “will allow better management of foreigners released from prisons after serving their sentences”.

Rabura said the Australian Immigration and Border Protection department would fund the construction of the facility to begin early next year.

Papua New Guinea on Friday voted against the resolution to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty globally, Amnesty International said. ... [The National - 24/11/14]

Hela update: Troops move in

PNG Loop [24/11/14]:

Today will see the start of the two week joint police and defence call-out operation in the tribal fight zone areas in the resource-rich Hela Province.

A confident Hela police commander Chief Inspector Mark Yangen tells PNG Loop he hopes to quell tensions and stamp out any resistance in the eight fighting areas.

Commander Yangen says the real victims are the women and children who have to deal with threats and intimidation on a daily basis.

“This operation is for them to bring back law and order into an area that has been ravaged by tribal fights.”

To date 80 police and 56 defence force soldiers have been enlisted to form the first wave of troops to be deployed into the area.

Highlands Regional police commander Teddy Tei said Mobile Squad (MS) 9 which is stationed in the province is at Mount Kare while MS 4 and MS 16 are on the ground at the LNG sites.

24 military police are at Komo, with the 56 troops deployed to go in and provide additional support.

The situation in the area is tense and has been prone to small pockets of in-fighting that have been taking place over the weekend.

The Law Institute of Victoria said the ATO's independent review process was as democratic as the North Korean dictatorship.

Sydney Morning Herald [25/11/14]:

Small business taxpayers have been intimidated, made bankrupt and some have suffered mental breakdowns and contemplated suicide after drawn-out disputes with the Tax Office, according to evidence given to a parliamentary inquiry.

The inquiry into tax disputes has heard from dozens of small business owners and tax advisers across the nation that say despite Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan's efforts to bring in cultural change, the Tax Office lacks staff with technical expertise and retains a "revenue bias".

Junior officers try and please their superiors by banking revenue, rather than listening to genuine complaints by individuals and small businesses that the assessment issued was wrong.

The criticisms come as the Tax Office has just lost 3000 staff due to Abbott government budget cuts, with another 1700 to follow in coming years. Hundreds of senior officers, including from the audit team, have exited, further raising concerns that the Tax Office lacks qualified staff.

The inquiry has held a series of hearings across the nation over the past few months. In one in August, the Law Institute of Victoria said the ATO's independent review process was as democratic as the North Korean dictatorship.

The inquiry heard that while big business taxpayers have the time and money to fight tax bills in court, small business were made to comply by being threatened with garnishee notices requiring them to make immediate debt payments to the Tax Office, even while those debts are the subject of a dispute.

"For a small business, that can be quite an unpleasant experience, to say the least, because they may face insolvency," said Clayton Utz tax partner Niv Tadmore. Others said the taxpayer would rather settle an incorrect assessment than face going bankrupt.

Tax lawyer David Hughes said there were still too many ATO officers that were zealots "who seem to approach their duties as auditors or objection officers or debt collectors". He said one client spent eight years in court and was still roughly $1 million out of pocket by the time the legal fees had been reimbursed. In most cases taxpayers were not entitled to compensation.

Grahame Pilgrim was the subject of a $550,000 tax audit by the ATO between 2007 and 2010. The bill was later reduced to $96,000, but Mr Pilgrim spoke about the incident caused him a mental breakdown.

Another taxpayer, Joanne Hambrook, who had been a director of several companies that were issued assessments dating back 15 years – which were all incorrect and later amended – said her life had been "destroyed" by the Tax Office.

"I really want the Tax Office to be brought to account when they do something wrong – not only wrong in making a mistake, but if they knowingly persecute or prosecute or harass or intimidate a taxpayer to the point where it all seems to be a planned exercise to force you to give up your position," she told a hearing in Brisbane last month. "It has almost driven me crazy to be fighting the Tax Office from 2003."

...

Obedience is the True Character Flaw [ICH/ZNet - 23/11/14]

Will the obstructive, unparliamentary behaviour of LNP senators at previous hearings of the Queensland Inquiry be addressed before the next public hearing [28/11/14]?

Senator Glenn Lazarus [24/11/14]:

Due to the HIGH volume of submissions being received for the SENATE Inquiry into the Qld State Government - the submission date has been EXTENDED to the 27th of February 2015.

Senate Hansard [24/11/14]:

COMMITTEES

Certain Aspects of Queensland Government Administration Committee

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee

Health Committee

Meeting

The Clerk: Proposals to meet have been lodged as follows: by the Select Committee on Certain Aspects of Queensland Government Administration related to Commonwealth Government Affairs, otherwise than in accordance with standing order 33(1) during the sitting of the Senate today, for a private meeting, from 12.45 pm; by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, otherwise than in accordance with standing order 33(1) during the sitting of the Senate today, for a private meeting from 1.50 pm, to take evidence for the committee’s inquiry into the provisions of the Customs Amendment (Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement Implementation) Bill 2014 and related bill; and by the Select Committee on Health, otherwise than in accordance with standing order 33(1) during the sitting of the Senate today, for a private meeting from 10 am.

The PRESIDENT (10:06): I remind senators that any questions may be put to the Senate at the request of any senator.

Senator FIFIELD (Victoria—Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (10:06): I so request in relation to the Select Committee on Certain Aspects of Queensland Government Administration related to Commonwealth Government Affairs.

The PRESIDENT: The question is that the Select Committee on Certain Aspects of Queensland Government Administration related to Commonwealth Government Affairs to meet during the sitting of the Senate today, other than in accordance with standing order 33(1), be agreed to.

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:06): Mr President, to be absolutely clear: are you effectively moving the negative or the positive motion?

The PRESIDENT: I am putting the question and if senators vote in the affirmative, then that means that the committee can meet. If senators vote in the negative and that is the majority, then the committee cannot meet. It is a standard motion, as it would ordinarily be put.

Question agreed to.

Gladstone man used sword to kill mum, court told

Gladstone Observer [25/11/14]:

A Samurai sword was the weapon of choice for a Gladstone man who allegedly murdered his mother and dumped her body near the Calliope River, Rockhampton Supreme Court heard yesterday.

Horace Lorenzo Lyken Jones was only 19 when the body of his mother, Roxane Gilbert, was found wrapped in a blue tarpaulin in the backseat of her car on June 29, 2012, with 31 stab wounds.

On Monday he pleaded not guilty to her murder.

Prosecutor Todd Fuller said Ms Gilbert, who was also known as Roxane Jones, had fallen out with her eldest son because of her "erratic behaviour and lifestyle choices".

But apparently the final straw came on June 29, 2012, when Ms Gilbert hung up on one of Jones's friends who called the house.

As Ms Gilbert, 38, sat on the couch, Jones allegedly struck her in the head with the ornamental sword, which was on display in his bedroom.

As she stood up he allegedly slashed her neck, before slitting her throat when she fell to the ground, pleading for him to stop.

The court heard Jones then began cleaning up the mess before Gilbert began to move again, which led him to allegedly stab her twice in the chest with the sword and another knife.

An autopsy revealed her skull had been chipped and her lung punctured.

When Jones went to his house later that day and allegedly told his friends he had killed her, they thought he was joking.

Her body was found in the backseat of her car the next day with a plastic bag over her head and her hands zip-tied, wrapped in a plastic sheet and then covered in a blue tarpaulin.

The car had been dumped in a swampy area near the Calliope River, about 100m from a dirt road, with its nose partly in the water.

The court heard Ms Gilbert struggled with mental health issues and was an alcoholic who at times had an "explosive temper".

At the time of the murder Jones was living with Ms Gilbert's former partner, Svend Nexo, who took him in after his mother kicked him out.

Ms Gilbert was living in Bundaberg, but would also stay at Nexo's house when she was in Gladstone, and had been there for several weeks at the time of the attack.

Witness Damien Martin, who alerted the police, recalled how he found the body in the car after an afternoon of fishing and felt the tarpaulin in the backseat, mistaking the covered body for a tent.

Senior Constable Benjamin Miles recalled trying to move the tarpaulin, but soon realised "it was fleshy and soft to the touch".

Police cut a hole in the tarp to see inside, which is when they realised it was a body.

The trial continues today.

Man who tricked prostitute into sex pleads guilty to rape charge

Canberra Times [24/11/14]:

A man who tricked a sex worker into giving him free sex has pleaded guilty to a rape charge just before his trial was due to start.

Akis Emmanouel Livas, 51, was due to face trial in the ACT Supreme Court on Monday for scamming the self-employed sex worker out of $850 for sexual services.

Livas initially had sex with the woman in October 2010, but didn't have enough money to pay the entire fee.

He promised to pay the outstanding $50 on his next visit, which he booked later that month at a price of $800.

But instead of paying the woman, he handed over a sealed envelope.

She went to check for the money, but, according to court documents, he said:

"No, no, no, don't open it now, it's - you have to trust me on this, it's part of my fantasy that it's all about the romance and I need you to trust me."

Livas, however, had lied. The envelope simply contained a card with a folded-up paper bag inside, designed to give the appearance of money.

The pair had sex, and the woman became increasingly uncomfortable about the contents of the envelope.

She checked it once they stopped and found no cash inside.

Distressed, the sex worker tried to grab a phone, but Livas stopped her.

She was shaking, crying, and telling him he had betrayed her trust.

Livas replied, "I'm sorry, I always intended to pay you, I was going to get the money out of the bank."

She later told friends what had happened, and reported it to police.

Livas originally pleaded guilty to the rape charge, before withdrawing the plea in October last year.

His former lawyer argued he had been charged with the wrong offence, although agreed he had not paid the prostitute.

The case was then remitted back to the ACT Magistrates Court for a committal hearing, before coming back to the ACT Supreme Court for trial.

Livas appeared before Justice Hilary Penfold on Monday morning, switching his plea back to guilty.

He pleaded guilty to one charge of having sexual intercourse without consent.

Livas is on bail, but will be sentenced for the crime in February next year.

Tasmania's former police commissioner to appear before royal commission into child sexual abuse

ABC [25/11/14]:

Former Tasmanian Police Commissioner Richard McCreadie will front the royal commission investigating child sexual abuse at Hutchins School in the 1960s.

Mr McCreadie was a last-minute addition to the witness list yesterday and will appear this morning.

A royal commission into how institutions responded to child sexual abuse is examining Hobart Hutchins School's handling of allegations of sexual abuse by staff in the 1960s, including headmaster David Lawrence, who has since died.

The commission had already heard from 10 witnesses over four days.

They included four former pupils who spoke of their abuse at the hands of school staff, as well as a former teacher who claimed the school covered up the activities of a paedophile ring to protect itself.

Mr McCreadie retired in 2008 after more than a decade as the state's top cop.

The current school headmaster Warwick Dean, who issued an apology to a victim of Mr Lawrence about a month ago, will also give evidence.

The inquiry hearings resume today at Hobart Federal Court at 11:00am AEDT.

Abuse inquiry told boys' school did not apologise because of Hobart Mercury [Guardian - 24/11/14]

Greens call for inquiry into abuse of people with disability in institutions [Media Release - 24/11/14]

Yooralla chief Sanjib Roy departs as the State Coroner looks into a death in care [Sydney Morning Herald - 24/11/14]

Man airlifted to Brisbane after rescued from Mt Morgan wreck

Morning Bulletin [24/11/14]:

A 24-year-old male has been transported to Brisbane by air after being rescued from a wreck at Mount Morgan this morning.

The vehicle the man was trapped in had crashed about 9pm last night but was only discovered at 6.30am.

It had rolled down the side of the Mount Morgan Road.

The RACQ Capricorn Rescue Helicopter retrieved the man from the scene and transported him to Rockhampton Hospital before he was transported by air by another service to Brisbane.

He had suspected spinal injuries.

...

Car on fire after truck collision at Midgee on Bruce Highway

Morning Bulletin [24/11/14]:

A car is on fire after a collision with a truck on the Bruce Highway, south of Rockhampton.

Reports indicate the accident occurred outside the Kangaroo Caravan Park at Midgee.

It is believed there are no injuries.

Radioactive material being used at CSG drilling sites in NSW and Queensland

Sydney Morning Herald [24/11/14]:

Radioactive material is being used at some coal seam gas drilling sites in NSW and Queensland, raising concerns about potential health and environmental impacts.

A radiation management licence issued to US-based drilling company Halliburton shows it is permitted to use caesium-137, a radioactive isotope, for drilling by AGL at Gloucester, in the northern Hunter Valley and for Santos in the Pilliga forests near Narrabri.

Drillers deploy devices containing CS-137 to measure the composition of gas and water deep underground, with the isotope emitting gamma rays to operate like a miniature X-ray. Produced in nuclear reactors, the material is potentially deadly and among the main radiation concerns at failed power stations at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Only small amounts are used in coal seam gas drilling, and the NSW Environment Protection said the isotope was also sometimes used in mining and construction, and strict rules were in place about its use.

"The EPA is not aware of any incidents or accidents involving caesium-137 and CSG in NSW," said the EPA's chief environmental regulator, Mark Gifford.

Concerns about CS-137 surfaced earlier this year when a container of the material was found unattended on a site in the Pilliga.

A spokesman for Santos said the storage and handling of CS-137 was done in accordance with the appropriate regulations.

"CS-137 is securely kept onsite inside a lead and concrete-lined container," he said. "The use of CS-137 is registered individually, as are the engineers who are responsible for handling it.

"Safe and sustainable practices are Santos' paramount concern and we have full confidence in our contractor managing this process to the highest possible standard."

A spokeswoman for AGL said: "The density measuring device [using CS-137] is fully licensed for use in NSW. It is important to note that at no time does the CS-137 source come in contact with the fracturing fluid or any parts of the ground in the vicinity of a natural gas well," she said.

Environmental groups say the use of the radioactive material is not disclosed in the CSG projects' Review of Environment Factors (REF) and Environmental Impact Statements, nor does it appear by name in Materials Safety Data Sheets.

An anti-coal seam gas campaigner at Gloucester, Jennifer Schoelpple, said AGL had played up the use of much more benign chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing – fracking – but had downplayed the role of caesium.

"No matter how thoroughly you search 'under your kitchen sink' or how scrupulously you check the ingredients of your condiments and 'household products', you are highly unlikely to lay your hands on any CS-137 in your family home," Ms Schoelpple said.

"If they are so transparent, why don't they document the most dangerous thing they use?"

Vicki Perrin, from Lock the Gate in Queensland, said farmers allowing CSG drilling on their land and the neighbouring communities should be made aware of the risks: "Farmers need to know there is a radioactive source on their site."

Ms Perrin, who worked for three years as an occupational health technician at Olympic Dam in South Australia, said communities should be told where the radioactive material is being stored, what the arrangements are to ensure devices aren't lost and for long-term monitoring.

"It particularly worries me that there are exposure standards for workers but no exposure standards for the community," she said.

... Put bluntly, healthism entails seeing health as an individual matter, a primary value, and a moral index: basically, if you get sick, it's your fault. ... [“Healthism”: A Neoliberal Version of Wellness - Solidarity-US - 9/12/12]

Government must release damning income management report

Greens Media Release [24/11/14]:

The Australian Greens have called on the Government to immediately back down from plans to implement a healthy welfare card, with the Evaluating New Income Management in the Northern Territory report showing the regime has failed to meet its objectives.

"I find it incredible that the Government has had The Evaluating New Income Management in the Northern Territory report for nearly two months, yet the Minister hasn't read it despite the Government advocating the healthy welfare card," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services said today.

"The Healthy Welfare Card is income management on steroids. This evaluation appears to be another in a series of reports that indicate income management is ineffective.

"It sounds like this is a damning report for the Government.

"Researchers involved in the evaluation have confirmed that income management doesn't meet its objectives and that the way people manage money is not changing. Issues such as school attendance, alcohol consumption and better nutrition are not improving.

"What more evidence does the Government need about the failures of punitive, top-down policies?

"During Senate Estimates, it was confirmed to me that the draft evaluation was seen during the Forrest Review process. I'm deeply concerned that despite this evidence, the review strongly supports a healthy welfare card. It is unbelievable, given what is reportedly in the evaluation, that the Government is so committed to the healthy welfare card.

"Income management has been a wasteful, ineffective exercise under the last three Federal Governments. Millions of dollars have been thrown away because Governments have failed to listen to the community and listen to the evidence.

"Income management and plans for a healthy welfare card should be abandoned as a matter of urgency. The Government should work on collaborative, community driven policies to target the underlying causes of disadvantage, rather than remaining committed to bad policies.

"The Minister should read and release the full evaluation report immediately," Senator Siewert concluded.

Public Health Agency of Canada Ebola vaccine development taken over by Merck

CBC [24/11/14]:

Merck & Co Inc on Monday said it would buy worldwide commercial rights to NewLink Genetics Corp's experimental vaccine against the Ebola virus.

NewLink, whose subsidiary licensed commercial rights to the rVSV-EBOV vaccine in 2010, said it would receive $50 million US plus royalties from Merck.

Large late-stage trials of the product could begin early next year, said Merck, the No. 2 U.S. drugmaker and one of the world's biggest makers of vaccines.

Merck, which will be able to speed up and significantly boost production, will take over development of the vaccine and any follow-on products.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, which originally developed the vaccine, will retain non-commercial rights to it.

The deal between Merck and NewLink, a tiny biotechnology company based in Ames, Iowa, comes as other drugmakers are also racing to test and scale up production of treatments and preventive vaccines for Ebola, which has killed more than 5,400 people this year.

...

 

25 November 2014

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