May 2015 be the year Australians stop taking our elected representatives seriously

When Prime Minister W.M. (Billy) Hughes spoke about conscription at the Stanthorpe Railway Station in 1917, the station master started the train and Hughes had to run to catch it.

Celebrations steaming ahead for Q150 Train visit [9/7/09]:

... The Q150 celebrations will hit full steam at the Warwick Railway Station on Saturday evening, when the train arrives at 5pm. Residents and visitors are invited to revisit history with an ‘egging’ re-enactment.

In what became a flashpoint in Queensland and Australian political history, two local brothers expressed their opposition to conscription during World War One by 'egging' the Prime Minister, Billy Hughes.

Outraged at what he considered to be the inaction of the Queensland Police against these brothers, the Prime Minister created the Commonwealth Police, now known as the Australian Federal Police.

...

... It can only be truth and justice; and, then, the public interest.

Democracy, majority rule, are not good in themselves.  They are merely means towards goodness; and their effectiveness is uncertain.  For instance, if, instead of Hitler, it had been the Weimar Republic that decided, through a most rigorous democratic and legal process, to put the Jews in concentration camps, and cruelly torture them to death, such measures would not have been one atom more legitimate than the present Nazi policies (and such a possibility is by no means far-fetched).  Only what is just can be legitimate.  In no circumstances can crime and mendacity ever be legitimate. ...

On the Abolition of All Political Parties [Black Inc. - 2013]:

‘Political parties are a marvellous mechanism ... If one were to entrust the organisation of public life to the devil, he could not invent a more clever device.’

Here Simon Leys translates for the first time into English an essay by the remarkable Simone Weil – philosopher, activist, mystic – which makes a case for the corrupting effect of political parties on political life, and calls for their abolition. This is a dazzling account of the perils of political conformity, written with brilliant clarity and wit.

It is combined with an essay by the Nobel Prize-winner Czeslaw Milosz ‘on the importance of Simone Weil’ and an essay by Leys on the influence of Weil, especially on Albert Camus. The result is a jewel-like volume which showcases some of the finest minds of the last century.

Simone Weil (1909–43), a brilliant student of philosophy and classics, in her short life was a factory worker, farm labourer and teacher, as well as volunteering for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War and assisting the Free French in London.

Her books include Gravity and Grace, The Need for Roots and Waiting for God.

Albert Camus described her as ‘the only great spirit of our time’; the New York Times as ‘one of the most brilliant and original minds of twentieth-century France’; and Susan Sontag wrote in the New York Review of Books that ‘anything from Simone Weil’s pen is worth reading.’

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [24/12/14]:

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Dec. 24 using fighter, bomber, and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct ten airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted seven airstrikes in Iraq Dec. 24 using fighter, bomber, and attack aircraft against the ISIL terrorists.

The following is a summary of those strikes:

Syria

* Near Kobani, eight airstrikes destroyed five ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL building, an ISIL staging position, and also struck three ISIL tactical units, an ISIL tactical vehicle and an ISIL fighting position.

* Near Dayr az Zawr, an airstrike struck a crude oil collection point.

* Near Ar Raqqah, an airstrike struck an ISIL weapons stockpile.

Iraq

* Near Al Qaim, three airstrikes destroyed eight ISIL tactical vehicles and an ISIL storage container.

* Near Sinjar, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle and struck an ISIL fighting position.

* Near Fallujah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

* Near Tal Afar, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL technical vehicle.

Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

...

Serious traffic crash following police pursuit, Townsville

QPS Media [26/12/14]:

Police are investigating a serious traffic crash that occurred overnight.

Around 7.15pm, police patrolling North Shore Boulevard have observed a quad bike with three people travelling on it heading south.

Police have attempted to intercept the bike, but the bike has evaded police and driven onto the wrong side of the road.

Police pulled their vehicle over and the bike has come to a stop in bushland a short distance away.

As police have approached the bike, it appeared that the bike has driven through a barbed wire fence.

The rider, a 44-year-old man, sustained serious neck injuries, a 30-year-old passenger sustained facial injuries and an 11-year-old boy was unharmed.

The man has been taken to Townsville Hospital in a serious but stable condition.

Investigations into the crash 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.

Serious traffic crash, Elanora [QPS Media – 26/12/14]

Queensland Police show the world how to criminalise a suburb and impose martial law on Christmas Day

QPS Media [25/12/14]:

Police have charged a 36-year-old man following an incident that began last night in Southport.

It will be alleged that about 11.30pm last night, the man fired a shot at a vehicle in Anne Street and then left the scene.

A declaration under the Public Safety Preservation Act was made at 2.10am after officers were called to an address in Anne Street after reports of a disturbance. Police blocked off areas around a unit complex in White Street.

Police will allege the same man was armed and fired one shot inside a unit complex on White Street. The man surrendered himself, without harm, to police just before 11am.

The 36-year-old Southport man has been charged with one count each of attempted murder, deprivation of liberty, assault occasioning bodily harm and unlawful possession of a weapon.

He is scheduled to appear in the Southport Magistrates Court tomorrow.

Police are continuing to investigate the matter and would like to thank the Southport public for their patience and assistance during the course of this incident.

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

Police taser man following traffic crash, alleged assault, Myrtle (near Proserpine) [QPS Media – 25/12/14]

Charges: Unit fire, Robertson


QPS Media
[25/12/14]:

Police have charged a 45-year-old man following investigations into a unit fire that occurred earlier this morning in Robertson.

It will be alleged the man was involved in a disturbance at the property at around 2am in which he has assaulted a 37-year old woman and damaged a large amount of property.

The woman along with a child and another woman have subsequently fled the unit and contacted police.

Police will allege the man has then set fire to the unit and has then fled the scene.

Following further investigations a man was detained and arrested later in the day.

A 45-year-old Robertson man was charged with one count each of arson and assault occasioning bodily harm.

He is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court tomorrow.

The 37-year-old woman was transported to hospital suffering facial injuries. The unit was destroyed by the fire.

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.

Teenage Worker injured, Goomburra

Warwick and Southern Downs News [24/12/14]:

A teenage worker has been airlifted by RACQ CareFlight to Toowoomba Base Hospital in a stable condition from a property near Goomburra after a large round bale of hay fell on him yesterday afternoon.

The man suffered multiple injuries to his chest and pelvis as a result of the accident.

The Toowoomba RACQ CareFlight crew attended to the scene just after 2 pm, after the patient was initially treated by the Queensland Ambulance service.

Judge: Oklahoma Can Proceed With Lethal Injections

NBC News [23/12/14]:

Oklahoma's controversial lethal injection protocols are constitutional and the state can proceed with the scheduled executions of four death row inmates early next year, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot denied a request for a preliminary injunction that was requested by a group of 21 Oklahoma death row inmates who argued the use of the sedative midazolam as the first drug in a three-drug combination the state administers risks subjecting them to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

The inmates sued after the April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed on the gurney, mumbled and lifted his head during his 43-minute execution that the state tried to halt before it was over. Lockett's execution was the first in Oklahoma using midazolam, which also has been used in problematic executions in Ohio and Arizona.

Arizona meanwhile is scrapping its lethal injection protocol, used in the execution of Joseph Wood, which lasted nearly two hours and took 15 doses. Officials announced the change Monday after a state-commissioned review of the troubling July execution, even as they insisted it was "handled appropriately."

The three-drug protocol that Arizona now plans to use — midazolam, the paralytic vecuronium bromide and the heart-stopper potassium chloride — is the same combination that Oklahoma used in the botched execution of Lockett.

An investigation found improper placement of the IV, and not the drugs themselves, caused that debacle, in which Lockett regained consciousness.

Witnesses to Wood's execution described him gasping for more than an hour, and an emergency hearing on whether to stop the procedure and try to resuscitate him was under way when the inmate was finally pronounced dead. In a statement Monday, Corrections Director Charles Ryan said an outside review of the execution showed it was "done appropriately and with the utmost professionalism."

"This independent review concluded that at all times following the administration of the execution protocol the inmate was fully sedated, was totally unresponsive to stimuli, and as a result did not suffer," he added. "In fact, the Pima County medical examiner is cited as reporting that the breathing pattern exhibited by the inmate prior to his death is a normal bodily response to dying, even in someone highly sedated."

Dale Baich, a lawyer for Wood, said the probe did not explain why the drugs did not work the way prison officials intended.

"The state should release all of the documentation and witness reports that went into this review. Only through discovery in a court of law will there be a truly independent and comprehensive examination of what went wrong during Mr. Wood's nearly two-hour execution," he said.

...

Australian government ends the year reaffirming its commitment to refugee death camps

Fraudulent media and "opposition" silent

All the torturers and apologists for Australia's refugee policy bound for The Hague - Merry Christmas you lying fascist assholes!

Senator Ian MacDonald Media Release [23/12/14]:

Government members of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, which has been inquiring into events surrounding the death of Mr Reza Berati at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (MIRPC) in February 2014, have challenged the Labor/Greens committee’s report that was tabled out-of-session today.

Deputy Chair Senator Ian Macdonald and his government colleague Senator Linda Reynolds have characterised the Inquiry as an “attempt to re-write history”.

“The evidence presented to the committee over the course of the Inquiry overwhelming indicated that any serious problems at the MIRPC can be traced back to the way in which the former Labor government re-opened the centre.

“Inevitably it was a knee-jerk reaction to a political problem caused by their own neglect. They never had a plan of any substance in mind,” said Senator Macdonald.

In their Dissenting Report Senators Macdonald and Reynolds question the jurisdiction of an Australian Senate committee to properly investigate events in another sovereign nation.

The Dissenting Report notes that investigations into events at the MIRPC are being conducted in the proper fashion by local police and other authorities with assistance from government when requested.

“A committee of the Senate, however, is limited in this case by distance and the completeness of evidence before it and so will never be able to conduct a thorough investigation or provide a definitive conclusion,” said Senator Macdonald.

The government members of the committee have rejected many of the committee report’s conclusions and allegations as being partisan and contrary to a proper evaluation of the facts and evidence.

“The suggestion that Australia is somehow frustrating access to the MIRPC is simply nonsense. Permission to access to the MIRPC can only be granted by the relevant Paua New Guinean authorities and Australia is not in a position to influence these decisions.

“I would note, however, that the UNHRC, Comcare and Amnesty International have all in fact made multiple inspection visits to the site ,” said Senator Macdonald.

Senator Reynolds said she was disappointed the inquiry appeared to place a strong focus on discrediting the current Coalition Government while disregarding the mistakes of the previous Labor Government and its failed border protection policies.

“A significant deficiency in the report is its failure to acknowledge the substantial and demonstrable progress made by the current Government in addressing the shortfalls identified in the report,” Senator Reynolds said.

“This is a point that was addressed in the Government members' Dissenting Report.

"Ultimately our goal is to protect human lives by stopping the boats, because if there are no maritime arrivals there is no need for regional processing," she said.

The Government members’ Dissenting Report also speaks to issues of human rights, health and safety at the MIRPC.

“The current Australian Government is unambiguously committed to its human rights obligations, and to promoting the health and safety of any persons who come under its care, however it is the government of Papua New Guinea who have effective control of the MIRPC,” said Senator Macdonald.

“The Australian government and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection do everything we are empowered to do under the Regional Resettlement Arrangement signed between Papua New Guinea and the Rudd government to assist in ensuring the well-being of transferees,” he said.

“Since taking office in September 2013 the Abbott government has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to infrastructure upgrades in and around the MIRPC sites.

“It is abundantly clear from the tone of the Greens/Labor report, however, that the References Committee is dominated by members of the Greens political party and Labor and that they have cynically used this Inquiry as an opportunity to attempt to re-write history,” said Senator Macdonald.

Still no proof families, children have been released from Australia's refugee concentration camp on Christmas Island. [Scott Morrison To Be Visited By The Three Ghosts Of Christmas Island – SBS – 24/12/14]

 

... What is this place? ...

Samar Alzeiny, sister of refugee incarcerated at Australia's refugee death camp on Manus Island.

... When planes started arriving with transferees we were not allowed to go to the airport, and to this day we are not allowed to go into the centre, and we don't know what is actually happening there. ...

Ruth Mandrakamu - Mayor, Lorengau, Manus Island


Strangers in Paradise [VIDEO - East 101 - Al Jazeera - 24/10/14]

 

WA government to provide $1.4 million to fund evangelical proselytisers in public schools [West Australian – 24/12/14]

 

Just took the streets in NYC! #justiceforEricGarner #ShutDownFifthAve

Cops used a line of mopeds to force us back onto the sidewalk. ...

Image: @JennaBPope [23/12/14]

 

New York’s Mayor de Blasio’s Call for a Moratorium on Black Protest is Disingenuous, Self-serving, and Wrong [Dissident Voice – 23/12/14]

Bush and Cheney Should Be Charged with War Crimes says Former Aide to Colin Powell

Democracy Now [VIDEO – 23/12/14]:

Calls are increasing for the prosecution of George W. Bush administration officials tied to the CIA torture program. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor who would investigate the crimes detailed in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the program. On Monday, The New York Times editorial board called for a full and independent criminal investigation. We put the question about prosecution to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005.

...

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [23/12/14]:

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Dec. 23 using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct seven airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted three airstrikes in Iraq Dec. 23 using fighter, bomber, and attack aircraft against the ISIL terrorists.

The following is a summary of those strikes:

Syria

* Near Kobani, six airstrikes destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL building and struck several ISIL fighting positions.

* Near Barghooth, an airstrike struck ISIL oil collection equipment.

Iraq

* Near Sinjar, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle and struck a mortar and an ISIL tactical unit.

 * Near Al Asad, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

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

...

@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media [VIDEO - 23/12/14]:

Anbar: The shelling of government's army which has targeted the civilian homes in Fallujah.......

Over 1,000 killed in US air strikes in Syria [Yahoo – 23/12/14]

UN: 300 cultural heritage sites destroyed, looted in Syria [Al Akhbar – 23/12/14]

Afghanistan: Child among three injured in Kunduz explosion

Pajhwok [23/12/14]

Three civilians, including a child, were wounded when a magnetic bomb went off in northern Kunduz province on Tuesday northern.

The device was attached to a vehicle of the Afghan National Army (ANA, police spokesman Syed Sarwar Hussaini told Pajhwok Afghan News.

He said the explosion took place around 2:30pm in front of Arz Begi mosque in the provincial capital, wounding two passersby.

But Naqibullah, giving a witness account, said an 11 year old child and two men were wounded in the blast.

On Monday, a civilian was killed and six others, including three policemen, were wounded in a similar incident.

 More than 10 magnetic bomb attacks targeting police and ANA vehicles in Kunduz have taken place during the last few months.

Wave of bombings hit Yemen's Sanaa, kills one

Al Akhbar [23/12/14]:

Five bombs exploded on Tuesday in Sanaa's old quarter, where many supporters of the Houthi movement live, killing a member of the group and wounding another person, a senior security official said.

One of the bombs was placed near the home of Ismail al-Wazir, a professor at Sanaa University, state news agency Saba quoted the director general of the Sanaa police, Brigadier General Abdelrazzaq al-Mo'ayad, as saying.

Wazir, who is close to the Houthi group, escaped an assassination attempt in April when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle, killing two of his security guards.

No one has claimed responsibility for the April attack or Tuesday's bombings, but the Houthis have been fighting the al-Qaeda and allied tribesmen since its gunmen took control of Sanaa in September and forced the resignation of a government they had long accused of corruption.

The blasts occurred early in the morning when only a few people were on the streets, witnesses said. One said he saw a man on a motorbike place the bomb outside his house and it exploded almost immediately.

Another bomb exploded when a member of the Popular Committees, a local force set up by the Houthis after they captured Sanaa, was trying to dismantle it, police said.

Several houses and some cars were damaged from the explosions.

The instability in Yemen has raised fears that the country, next to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and key shipping routes from the Suez Canal to the Gulf, could become a failed state along the lines of Somalia.

Yemen has been in turmoil since mass protests in 2011 forced long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

Israel issues demolition orders to East Jerusalem homes

Maan [23/12/14]

Israeli forces on Monday issued five demolitions orders to Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, the owners said.

Akram al-Shurafa told Ma'an that his home in al-Tur, which was built in 1938 and inherited from his grandparents, was slated for demolition.

The property has all the required legal documents and is registered in his mother's name, he said.

Al-Shurafa says the demolition order is a way of targeting him after he was recently exiled from the city of Jerusalem for five months, together with four other Palestinian community activists.

No reason was given for the exile of Faris Abu Ghannam, Daoud al-Ghoul, Majd Darwish, and Salih Dirbas.

Meanwhile, Israel issued two other demolition orders to Talal al-Sayyad and Basil al-Sayyad despite the fact neither of them own any properties.

Another man, Abdullah al-Hadera, also received a demolition order for his al-Tur home, which was built over 50 years ago, and Nadia al-Moghrabi, who was recently detained with her daughter, also received a demolition order for her home in al-Tur.

The Israeli municipality last Wednesday distributed demolition orders to 11 houses, some as old as 30 years, in the Silwan neighborhood for "building without permits."

Israel rarely grants construction permits to Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and regularly demolishes structures built without permits.

Israeli bulldozers have demolished at least 359 Palestinian structures in the West Bank so far in 2014, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

During the 1967 war, Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan, occupied it, and later annexed it in a move never recognized abroad.

Israel challenges natural gas developers over monopoly [Daily Star – 23/12/14]

Sri Lanka President promises war crimes investigation

Naharnet [23/12/14]:

Sri Lanka's president, under pressure from his main opponent in upcoming elections, on Tuesday promised a judicial inquiry into allegations that his troops killed thousands of Tamil civilians at the end of the civil war.

But President Mahinda Rajapakse reiterated that he would not cooperate with a U.N.-mandated investigation into the government's 2009 crushing of the Tamil Tiger rebellion.

"If any rights have been violated (during the war), justice will be ensured through a transparent domestic judicial mechanism," Rajapakse said in his election manifesto.

It did not say how this would differ from an inquiry he ordered in July, following intense foreign pressure to account for the 2009 killing of Tamil civilians.

A 2011 United Nations report cited estimates from "credible sources" that up to 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final months of the war.

...

Terror raids, arrests in  Sydney and Brisbane

ABC [24/12/14]:

Two men have been arrested by police in Sydney as part of an ongoing counter-terrorism operation.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said members of the Joint Counter Terrorism Team made the arrests with New South Wales Police as part of Operation Appleby.

Police will hold a press conference at 9:00am (AEDT) on the arrests.

Operation Appleby is a joint operation involving NSW Police, AFP and ASIO.

In September, 15 people were detained in counter-terrorism raids across suburbs in Sydney's west and north-west.

Properties were also raided in Brisbane involving a further 70 police officers.

At the time, police said the Sydney raids foiled a plot to "commit violent acts" in Australia, including a plan to behead a member of the public.

Just last Friday, NSW and AFP raided several Sydney homes, including one of the properties targeted during the September raids.

Two Queensland men arrested for "grooming children" online [QPS Media - 24/12/14]

Shooting incident, Chermside

QPS Media [24/12/14]:

Police are investigating after a man was shot at Chermside last night.

Police were called to the undercover car park of a residential unit block in Eastliegh Street at about 11pm.

A 41-year-old Chermside man was transported to hospital with a gunshot wound to the lower back. I

t is believed his injury is non-life threatening and he remains in a stable condition.

A crime scene has been declared and 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.

Armed robbery, Springwood

QPS Media [24/12/14]:

Police are investigating the armed robbery of a Springwood takeaway last night.

Around 9pm, a man armed with a knife entered the Fitzgerald Avenue store and demanded money.

The staff member complied, handing over a sum of money, before the man fled the store on foot.

The man has dark brown hair and brown eyes and was wearing an anonymous mask.

He was dressed in a white hoodie jumper, long dark blue or navy pants with purple shoes with a black stripe on the outside of the shoe.

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.

Homebush houses on Welfare Street sold after tenants strong-armed out

Canberra Times [23/12/14]:

Bruce Begnell is 80, legally blind and deeply distressed that his home was sold on Saturday.

He is one of five families who are refusing to vacate houses on Welfare Street and Flemington Road in Homebush after a property development group sold the block for double what it bought it from the state government for just six months ago.

The residential block was purchased from the Sydney Park Olympic Authority in June for $5.8 million. The houses were sold to individual buyers for a total of $10.5 million at auction on Saturday.

Bruce and Lyn Begnell, as well as neighbour John Higgins, 66, believe that they own their houses on Welfare Street.

"My husband bought his home in 1966 and paid it off in 1984," Mrs Begnell told Fairfax Media.

"He is 80 years old and legally blind so if we moved to a new home, he'd be disoriented. He is not a well man and this is depressing him even more."

Documents obtained by Fairfax Media show Mr Higgins and the Begnells signed an ongoing lease agreement for the houses on Welfare Street in the 1960s.

The Begnells' neighbours, Gerald and Grace Donnelly, and two other tenants, are standing by the contract for the latest saleand a letter from previous owner SOPA obtained by Fairfax Media, both of which specified the existing tenancy agreements were part of the sale.

"Importantly, SOPA does not intend to end any existing tenancy arrangements and does not intend to offer vacant possession of the properties should a successfully tenderer be selected," a letter from the organisation sent in April 2014 reads.

Despite SOPA's assurances, the 12 families on the block were sent tenancy termination notices in November by Strathfield Partners, which gave them 30 days to move out.

Seven families relocated but five remain. Representatives from each attended the auction on Saturday, which dissolved into a shouting match to which the police were called.

Some of the remaining families, including the Begnells and the Donnellys, have launched legal action contesting the sale.

...

Why don't Australia's "middle east correspondents" interview Peter Greste?

Mohamed Fahmy, Canadian imprisoned in Egypt, pleads for Harper's help [CBC - VIDEO – 22/12/14]:

Imprisoned Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to personally ask Egypt's president to release him before an appeal court closes his chance at a retrial.

Fahmy, who made the comments in an exclusive interview with CBC's the fifth estate, was arrested last December along with two other Al-Jazeera journalists. He was sentenced in June to seven years in prison on charges of undermining Egypt's security and supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. His appeal is scheduled for Jan. 1.

The interview marks the first time the Canadian-Egyptian dual citizen has spoken about his conviction and his belief that the Canadian government can do more.

"We are at the finish line, we’re two weeks away from the appeal and that phone call I desperately need from the Canadian government I need now," Fahmy said.

Fahmy said the government should intervene because he is a Canadian citizen with no criminal record. "I've paid my taxes, I have a proven track record of 15 years of journalism and I've acted with complete decency throughout the whole trial," he said.

"And my dialogue with the media has never outright attacked or critiqued the Canadian government's stance. But now I'm a desperate Canadian citizen that needs the government to stand by me as much as they can."

To protect Fahmy, the fifth estate cannot reveal how it obtained the interview.

...

Qatari-owned Al Jazeera suspended broadcast of its Egypt-focused channel on Monday, citing a product restructuring, as Doha and Cairo seek to mend ties that deteriorated last year after the army toppled elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi. … [Reuters – 22/12/14]

Ukraine parliament takes historic step toward NATO

Daily Star [23/12/14]:

Ukraine's parliament took a historic step toward NATO membership Tuesday by overwhelmingly voting to revoke the nation's neutral status, which it adopted under Russian pressure in 2010.

The Verkhovna Rada parliament voted 303-8 in favour of dropping the ex-Soviet state's "non-aligned nation" status, which prevents states from joining other military alliances.

President Petro Poroshenko has said he will apply for NATO membership due to the danger posed by Russia to Ukraine's territorial integrity.

‘Counterproductive’: Ukraine seeking NATO membership ‘a false solution’, says Russia  [RT - 23/12/14]

A Ukrainian air force Su-25 combat jet took off from an airbase in eastern Dnipropetrovsk carrying air-to-air missiles and returned without them on the day a Malaysia Airlines plane crashed in eastern Ukraine in July, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported, citing an airbase employee. ... [Sputnik News - 23/12/14]

US State Department's Guantanamo envoy resigns

Reuters [23/12/14]:

The State Department envoy responsible for negotiating prisoner transfers from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is resigning, officials said on Monday, even as President Barack Obama is promising a stepped-up push to close the facility.

The surprise announcement of Clifford Sloan’s departure followed a flurry of detainee repatriations and resettlements, though officials at the State Department and White House had made clear their frustration with the slow handling of such moves by outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Sloan assumed the post in July 2013 and the State Department said he was stepping down and returning to his Washington law practice after finishing an 18-month commitment.

A senior U.S. official said another factor in Sloan's decision was that the Pentagon “certainly hasn't been as helpful as they could have been” in speeding up the process of sending prisoners home or resettling them in other countries.

Still, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Sloan’s “skillful negotiating” led to the transfer of 34 detainees and “with more on the way.”

With the detainee population whittled down to 132, several more are expected to be transferred by year-end and that figure could reach low “double digits” as further moves involving “various nationalities” take place in following weeks, the senior official said.

Sloan’s resignation, which takes effect Dec. 31, is not likely to affect transfers already in the pipeline, but it remains to be seen what kind of impact it will have beyond that.

“I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it,” Obama told CNN in an interview broadcast on Sunday, renewing a pledge he made to shut the internationally condemned prison when he took office nearly six years ago.

He said keeping the prison open “continues to inspire jihadists” around the world and is “wildly expensive.”

But he faces obstacles posed by the U.S. Congress, not least of which is a ban on the transfer of prisoners to the U.S. mainland,

Sloan forged agreements that led to the repatriation of four Afghans last weekend and the resettlement of six prisoners in Uruguay in mid-December, but both deals faced delays at the Pentagon, which by law must give final approval.

Differences over the pace of transfers, the U.S. official said, added to friction between Hagel and Obama's inner circle that culminated in the defense secretary's resignation last month.

Obama has not decided on a replacement for Sloan.

Guantanamo was opened by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, to house militant suspects rounded up overseas. Most of the detainees have been held for a decade or more without being charged or tried.

Sixty-four prisoners have been cleared by an interagency review but the problem remains finding ways to send them home or identify other countries that will accept them.

Weaponising Health Workers: How Medical Professionals Were a Top Instrument in US Torture Program [VIDEO- Democracy Now - 23/12/14]

Physicians for Human Rights Releases Expert Analysis of CIA Torture Report, Calls for Federal Commission to Hold Health Professionals Accountable [Media Release - 16/12/14]

Medical practitioner who received healthcare training in refugee camps charged in Cambodia HIV outbreak

Al Jazeera [23/12/14]:

An unlicensed doctor accused of causing an outbreak of HIV in a small community in Battambang province has been charged with murder.

Since late November, more than 100 people in Roka commune in northwestern Cambodia tested positive for HIV, including children as young as six years old.

On Monday, the provincial court issued three charges against 55-year-old Yem Chrin, whom many in Roka have accused of spreading the infection.

"He is charged with one count of spreading HIV. The second charge is committing cruel murder," Heng Luy, deputy provincial prosecutor, told Al Jazeera.

"He is also charged with violating medical ethics."

Yem Chrin is local medical practitioner who received healthcare training in refugee camps in the 1980s and for the past 20 years has treated a vast array of illnesses for a large number of people in this community.

While being questioned by police, Yem Chrin admitted to using the same syringe on two or three patients before discarding it.

"He will be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty," Heng Luy said, adding that some of the patients under Yem Chrin's care had already died from AIDS.

Neither Heng Luy nor Seng Luch, Battambang's deputy penal police chief, would elaborate on how Yem Chrin allegedly infected more than 100 people with HIV.

Cambodia has had success in battling HIV/AIDS since emerging from under the rule of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Partner charged with murdering missing woman

ABC [23/12/14]:

Danny Deacon has been charged with murdering his partner, missing Northern Territory woman Carlie Sinclair, after being held by police for five days.

Northern Territory Police on Tuesday formally charged 44-year-old Deacon with murdering Ms Sinclair, who disappeared on July 18 last year.

Deacon will appear in the Darwin Magistrates Court on December 24. The charges come after police on Friday said they had a suspect who had been found at an area described as a "grave site".

The man was arrested when he went to visit the site, NT Police Commissioner John McRoberts said at the time.

"He was surprised. It was clearly not something that he expected," he told media. Police excavated the area but did not immediately find a body. On Tuesday an NT police spokeswoman was unable to say whether any human remains had been found at the site.

"Following the formal interview of a 44-year-old male in police custody, Major Crime Detectives have now charged that person with the murder of Carlie Sinclair," police said in a short statement.

After the charges were laid the mother of Mr Deacon, Jaqueline Larosa, told the ABC she felt for the relatives of Ms Sinclair.

"Our hearts go out to Carlie's family," Ms Larosa said by phone from her home in Western Australia.

The disappearance of Ms Sinclair, who was a devoted mother to her young son Alex, stunned the Northern Territory and led to a large campaign by police trying to find out what happened to her.

Tasmanian DPP gets suspended jail sentence, driving ban over fatal crash

ABC [23/12/14]:

Tasmania's Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis has been given a four-month suspended jail sentence and a two-year driving ban over a fatal car crash.

In June, Ellis was found guilty of causing the death of 27-year-old Launceston woman Natalia Pearn on the Midland Highway in March last year through negligent driving.

Earlier this month, Ellis lost an appeal against the guilty verdict.

The appeal judge rejected 59-year-old Ellis's argument that he was asleep at the wheel at the time and that the crash was caused by his sleep apnoea, not negligence.

Ellis's car crossed onto the wrong side of the Midlands Highway for up to 1.5 kilometres before colliding head-on with the victim's car.

Ellis was suspended from his $500,000 a year job on full pay after the crash.

...

E.Coli outbreak closes dam to public

Chronicle [23/12/14]:

Perserverance Dam has been closed to the public as a precautionary move because of elevated numbers of E.Coli bacteria.

The number of E.Coli bacteria exceeds primary and secondary recreational contact guideline limits as set in the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality 2000.

Toowoomba Regional Council Parks and Recreation Services portfolio leader Cr Sue Englart said officers were satisfied that the increased bacterial numbers were because of an environmental phenomenon rather than contamination of the dam water.

"The risk to humans from direct contact with large numbers of these bacteria is uncertain and the dam has been closed to protect the health of users as a precaution," Cr Englart said.

"The bacteria represent no risk to drinking water supplies as they are removed by the water treatment and disinfection process.

"Additional testing will be carried out on a regular basis to monitor the numbers of E.Coli bacteria. Perseverance Dam will remain closed for recreational use until further notice."

Recreational activities are unaffected at Cooby Dam and Lake Cressbrook.

Shannon Solutions earthmoving doors close on 30 jobs

Chronicle [23/12/14]:

In what could only be the worst Christmas "gift" for a number of Toowoomba families, a city company has closed its doors leaving up to 30 people without jobs.

Shannon Solutions earthmoving business which is based in Carrington Rd closed its doors last week because of financial difficulties stemming from the problems of a national company with which it did business.

Shannon Solutions had been contracted by ITAC Services to provide equipment to move drill-rigs and was ITAC's preferred contactor in the Surat Basin.

Melbourne-based ITAC was placed in voluntary administration on December 9, claiming it had fallen victim to a slump in crude oil prices which had affected its cash flows as customers quit projects.

The Chronicle believes Toowoomba contractors like Shannon Solutions were owed hundreds of thousands of dollars which in turn put its business in jeopardy.

Calls to owner Bill Shannon went unanswered yesterday, but a former employee, who asked not to be identified, said Mr Shannon was devastated in having to close the doors to his business.

"Bill Shannon has worked hard over 20 years to build up the company and is well respected in Toowoomba," the former employee said.

A number of other contractors in Toowoomba have also been left with outstanding debts because of ITAC Services going into voluntary administration.

One transport company owner told The Chronicle he was owed more than $300,000 and that, because he hadn't been paid, up to seven people he had sub-contracted were out of pocket as well.

"They had a meeting the other day and they said ITAC would eventually pay us, but when?" he asked.

A media report at the weekend claimed ITAC Services' appointed administrator Ferrier Hodgson had said "the firm has received 'really good interest' from prospective buyers in the sale process for ITAC, giving confidence the business can be sold as a going concern rather than be liquidated for a sell-off of assets".

The report went on to say expressions of interest in ITAC Services were open until yesterday and that a result from the sale process was expected in January.

Bushfires hit Gold Coast

Brisbane Times [23/12/14]:

Firefighters have two bushfires under control and are investigating a third in the Gold Coast hinterland.

Twelve units are tackling the blazes in the suburb of Guanaba, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service says.

Reports suggest at least one fire was started by a car fire about 2pm on Tuesday.

One blaze is being extinguished and another is under control, a QFES spokeswoman says.

A third is being investigated by crews.

Crews are conducting structural protection but it's not believed any properties are at risk.

 

Public urinals in Cavill Avenue, Surfers Paradise are not controversial or newsworthy - intimidatory policing, a lack of traffic calming and the screeching Gold Coast Light Rail are

...They are so lost yearning madly for a clear light  ...

'The Temple Of Lies',  Hocico [1998]

#GCPolice reporting lots of party goers out in Broadbeach & Surfers. Having fun & well behaved

Image: @QPSmedia [28/9/13]

This report is bullshit --->  Railway Institute solves Gold Coast light rail noise issues [Monash University – 29/9/14]

Try standing outside Chevron Renaissance or Centrepoint Arcade (on Surfers Paradise Boulevarde) as the light rail travels past.

The unbearable screeching is getting worse by the day.  

Meanwhile, Seasons fucking greetings as authorities maintain focus on criminalising Southport public transport commuters [QPS Media - 23/12/14]:

Joint enforcement operations were conducted on the Gold Coast Light Rail on Wednesday and Friday last week with police from Southport Station working alongside G:link customer service officers and enforcement officers from Translink. The joint operation focused on fare compliance, passenger behaviour and also persons of interest to the QPS.

The operation was focused on the Southport and Southport South light rail stops which involved the screening of all passengers exiting the light rail vehicles (LRV’s) with uniform police officers riding the LRV’s between the Broadwater Parklands and the Gold Coast University Hospital stop for the duration of the operation.

Acting Inspector Ray Vine from Southport Police said “this is the first joint operation we have conducted on the light rail and it was very successful in terms of reinforcing our commitment to ensuring a safe public transport network”. “It is also very important for the general public to understand the G:link customer service officers have a range of enforcement powers under legislation’ said Acting Inspector Vine.

Future operations between the three agencies are currently being planned.

Tourists critical after being hit by car in Surfers Paradise [MYGC – 21/1/14]

Two women have been rushed to hospital in a critical condition after they were struck by a car in Surfers Paradise.

It’s understood the women, aged 40 and 77, were crossing Ferny Ave (Gold Coast Highway) near the Towers of Chevron Renaissance around 8pm on Thursday when they were hit by a dark coloured hatchback travelling south.

They suffered a range of injuries and were rushed to Gold Coast University Hospital where they remain in a stable condition.

“Both women were transported to the Gold Coast University Hospital in a critical condition with what appeared to be head injuries and fractures,” a police spokesperson said.

Police said both women were from overseas.

Southbound lanes of the Gold Coast Highway were closed while the scene was examined, creating delays through the area.

Investigations by the Gold Coast Forensic Crash Unit are continuing.

 

Imaginary Australian journalist to Immigration Minister: Where can we obtain proof families have been released from the Christmas Island refugee concentration camp, and when can we interview them?

The last asylum seeker children being detained on Christmas Island have been moved to the mainland. [ABC - 21/12/14]

 

Nowhere Line: Voices from Manus Island - Interview with Lukas Schrank [Right Now – 19/12/14]:

Born and bred in London, Lukas Schrank is a filmmaker and animator. Trained as a designer, he has slowly shifted his focus towards the moving image.

Lukas’ work deals with subtle and sensitive themes such as isolation and confinement. In 2009 he created an animation for the BBC children’s television series Blue Peter for a special episode, which was aired on Holocaust Memorial day, that followed the life of WWII holocaust survivor Freda Wineman.

Currently based in Melbourne, Lukas spoke with Right Now about his new short film Nowhere Line which uses animation as a powerful storytelling tool to address the challenging and contentious subject of mandatory detention.

...

 

If Mary and Joseph tried to reach Bethlehem today, they would get stuck at an Israeli checkpoint

Mehdi Hasan [New Statesman - 22/12/14]:

’Tis the season of Nativity scenes. But here’s a question to consider: would Joseph and Mary even have been able to reach Bethlehem if they were making that same journey today?

How would that carpenter and his pregnant wife have circumnavigated the Kafka­esque network of Israeli settlements, roadblocks and closed military zones in the occupied West Bank? Would Mary have had to experience labour or childbirth at a checkpoint, as one in ten pregnant Palestinian women did between 2000 and 2007 (resulting in the death of at least 35 newborn babies, according to the Lancet)?

“If Jesus were to come this year, Bethlehem would be closed,” declared Father Ibrahim Shomali, a Catholic priest of the city’s Beit Jala parish, in December 2011. “Mary and Joseph would have needed Israeli permission – or to have been tourists.”

Three years on, nothing has changed. Bethlehem today is surrounded on three sides by Israel’s eight-metre-high concrete wall, cutting it off from Jerusalem just six miles to the north; the city is also encircled by 22 illegal Israeli settlements, including Nokdim – home to Israel’s far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman (the only foreign minister in the world who doesn’t live inside the borders of his own country).

...

Following up on 'Last Christmas'

Deutsche Welle [VIDEO - 21/12/14]:

The song 'Last Christmas' by the British band Wham! is one of the most played Christmas hits ever. The world famous music video was filmed in the Swiss ski resort of Saas-Fee in 1984. Many residents still remember witnessing the video shoot.

Policy Changes Needed: Clive Palmer

PUP Media Release [23/12/14]:

The federal leader of the Palmer United Party and Member for Fairfax, Clive Palmer, said Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s cabinet reshuffle won’t have any effect unless the government changes its policy.

Mr Palmer said reshuffling the pack of cards does not mean a new deal.

“Australians need policy that puts the needs of their families before anything else,” Mr Palmer said.

“Changing the faces won’t change the results.

“The Abbott government needs to stimulate and expand the Australian economy rather than create a false impression that Australia has a high debt level.”

Mr Palmer said Australia’s debt is only 12 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP).

“The OECD average is 73 per cent and Australia’s debt during the Menzies years was 40 per cent of GDP,” Mr Palmer said.

“The Abbott government should tell Australians the truth and take action to make their lives better.”

There must be no manufacturing in Australia

News Mail [23/12/14]:

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority's (CASA) decision to place operating limitations on Jabiru engines has been labelled "despotic" by Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt.

Mr Pitt said CASA had formally issued Precautionary Operational Limitations on Saturday on all aircraft with Jabiru engines, preventing them from flying at night or over populated areas.

CASA has given Jabiru owners until January 31 to move their aircraft to airfields with unpopulated flight paths.

Last month, the NewsMail reported on the CASA proposal to limit operations on Jabiru aircraft after more than 40 engine failures in the past 12 months.

The limitations, to be implemented before the end of the week, include a restriction of flights to daytime under the visual flight rules, for aircraft to be flown so they can at all times glide clear of a populous area, a requirement for passengers and trainee pilots flying solo to sign a statement saying they are aware of and accept the risk of an engine failure and trainee pilots to have recently and successfully completed engine failure exercises before solo flights.

Jabiru could not be reached yesterday for comment due to the Christmas holidays.

Mr Pitt said while he recognised CASA was best placed to make decisions about aircraft safety, its handling of this particular matter had been "absolutely appalling".

"After much criticism from the manufacturer, flight training schools and aircraft owners, CASA extended the consultation period by a week," he said.

"CASA received an astounding 632 responses in 14 days. I find it unlikely that CASA could properly process and assess all of the submissions within three weeks.

"I've been working very closely with Rodney Stiff from Jabiru and the Deputy Prime Minister's office on this matter and have received briefings from CASA."

A CASA spokesman said the reason behind the limitations was to appropriately manage the safety issues that have arisen due to a number of engine failures and power loss incidents, some of which resulted in aircraft forced landings.

"It is simply an interim measure while Jabiru and ourselves work together to find the cause of the problem and then a solution," he said.

Causes being investigated include design and mechanical issues, how aircraft are flown and maintenance-related issues.

Fascists charged over brawl in Lakemba, Sydney

ABC [23/12/14]:

The head of an anti-Islamic group has been charged over a brawl in Sydney's south-western suburb of Lakemba.

Police had to separate about 10 men fighting in Haldon Street shortly after 8:30pm AEDT on Monday.

Ralph Cerminara, 36, who is the leader of the Australia Defence League (ADL), and another member of the group, Zane Commins, 19, have been charged with affray and behaving in an offensive manner.

Both will face Parramatta Bail Court today.

A 43-year-old man from Wiley Park, who is not an ADL member, has been granted bail after also being charged with affray and resist or hinder police in the execution of duty.

Two men suffered minor injuries in the brawl while an officer sustained fractures to his left shoulder and is undergoing hospital treatment.

Superintendent Michael McLean said it would be alleged that the men charged intended to cause trouble.

"Two men attended Haldon Street, Lakemba last night and we are satisfied that they did so to cause unrest in Haldon street," he said.

"We're satisfied that they did make religiously motivated comments towards those in the community and we're certainly satisfied that those comments did cause a degree of unrest in the community.

Thousands of fascists rally in Germany [Yahoo – 22/12/14]:

A record 17,000 anti-Islamic protesters rallied for their tenth demonstration in as many weeks Monday in eastern Germany, celebrating the rise of their far-right populist movement by singing Christmas carols.

...

French prosecutor rules out terror link in Dijon car rampage

France 24 [23/12/14]:

A driver who rammed a crowd of pedestrians while shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) in France's eastern city of Dijon had a history of severe mental illness, a prosecutor said Monday, ruling out a "terrorist act".

“This is absolutely not an act of terrorism,” Prosecutor Marie-Christine Tarrare told reporters during a press conference, adding that the man had a "long-lasting and severe psychological disorder" and had been hospitalised over 150 times since 2002.

She also said he had acted alone and did not have any religious motives when he ran down 13 pedestrians in Dijon on Sunday.

Coming just two days after a suspected Islamist attack on police officers in central France, the prosecutor's words eased concerns the Dijon attack may have been inspired by Islamic extremism.

According to police, the man had targeted groups of passersby at five different locations in the city in a rampage that lasted around half an hour.

Tarrare said the suspect’s motives were “relatively vague and unclear” but that he was upset at the treatment of Chechen children.

According to Tarrare, the suspect told police he had cried “Allahu Akbar” to give himself the courage to act.

“He doesn’t deny deliberately ramming pedestrians,” she said, adding that he “hasn’t expressed any regrets.”

The prosecutor said the driver, the 40-year-old French-born son of North African immigrants, had only begun to shown interest in religion a few days prior to the attack.

Police said they had found no sign of extremist Islamist affiliation after searching his car and home.

“What we are dealing with here is an isolated act of a mentally unstable person, who has been ill for more than 10 years and who has received care for that, and who – until now – has not been known for violent acts,” Tarrare said.

The suspect is still being held by police. Eight people remained in hospital on Monday, none of whom were said to be in a serious condition.

...

In order to knife Robertson, manless pie faces and stooge media suggest politicians shouldn't help their constituents

1. What's a "constituent file"?

2. Who is leaking confidential corrrespondence between politicians and their constituents to the media?

Sydney Morning Herald [22/12/14]:

... Mr Robertson dodged a question about whether he would review his practice of making representations on behalf of constituents without running background checks. He said he received hundreds of such requests each week.

"I did what any other MP does," he said. "This man was a constituent of the Blacktown electorate.

"It is the role of a local MP to forward requests to the relevant agencies."

He declined to say whether there were any constituents for whom he would decline to write a letter: "I'm not going to get into hypotheticals," he said.

...

And while we can read all about Man Haron Monis's book of poetry, we still don't know why NSW police charged into the Lindt Café throwing stun grenades and shooting.

3 People, Including Gunman, Killed In Sydney Cafe Siege [NPR - 15/12/14]:

...

Update at 9:53 a.m. ET. Police Name Suspect: Local media say police in Sydney have named the suspected hostage taker as an Iranian, self-styled cleric named Man Haron Monis.

Update at 10:16 a.m. ET. Police Storm Cafe: Television images showed police storming the cafe, while a sixth hostage was carried out.

The images showed police, in tactical gear, using what appeared to be stun grenades, before moving into the building.

Update at 10:22 a.m. ET. Paramedics Move In: Television images are now showing paramedics removing at least four people on stretchers from the building. Some people ran from the building with their hands up, while others were escorted to safety by police.

It's still not clear why police made a move into the cafe.

It is now 2:24 a.m. on Tuesday in Sydney.

...

New York Times [17/5/03]:

A 57-year-old Harlem woman preparing to leave for her longtime city government job died of a heart attack yesterday morning after police officers broke down her door and threw a concussion [stun] grenade into her apartment, the police commissioner said. They were acting on what appeared to be bad information about guns and drugs in the apartment.

Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly apologized to the family of the woman, Alberta Spruill, and said he had ordered an investigation of the entire incident and suspended the use of the grenades, which are meant to stun and disorient people with a loud noise and a flash. He said that he had reassigned the lieutenant who made the decision to use the grenade to administrative duties, pending the investigation, and that he would review how the grenades were used and search warrants carried out.

...

City to Pay $1.6 Million in Fatal, Mistaken Raid [New York Times – 29/10/03]

Chemical spill at Toowoomba depot

Chronicle [23/12/14]:

Emergency services crews are at the scene of a chemical spill at a Toowoomba work site this morning.

A Queensland Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said crews were called to Toll NQX in Mansell St near the Toowoomba Aerodrome in Wilsonton about 6.30 this morning.

Early indications were that a 1000ltr container had been pierced by a forklift.

About 200ltr of a corrosive liquid had been spilled and crews were working to contain and clean up the site.

Anti rights arrests, Broadbeach [QPS Media - 23/14/14]

Boy dies after being crushed by concrete slabs at Sydney building site

ABC [23/12/14]:

An eight-year-old boy has died after he was crushed by concrete slabs at a construction site in Sydney's south-west.

Police were called to the Leppington site at 1:30pm (AEDT) after reports the boy had been knocked unconscious.

A church is being built at the location and police said initial inquiries suggested the boy was playing on a pile of concrete slabs when some slipped and fell on top of him.

A rescue helicopter took a trauma team to the site to treat the boy before he was taken by ambulance to Liverpool Hospital.

He was pronounced dead a short time later.

Police will prepare a report for the coroner.

...

Black Saturday class action: Judge approves $494m Kilmore East bushfire settlement

ABC [23/12/14]:

Victoria's Supreme Court has approved a $494 million payout to victims of the deadly 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, in what is considered to be the biggest class action in Australia's legal history.

The blaze killed 119 people, destroyed 125,000 hectares and more than 1,000 homes.

The action involves about 5,000 people and was taken against power distributor SP AusNet, and asset managers Utility Services Group. The defendants have denied liability.

The case came about after the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission found the Kilmore East-Kinglake bushfire was caused by an ageing SP AusNet power line.

Parties including SP AusNet and the Victorian Government had agreed to the $500 million settlement but it required the court's approval.

In his summary, Supreme Court Justice Robert Osborn said the decision to approve the settlement was taken, in part, because it would result in substantial compensation for group members.

"The settlement offers group members a series of material advantages by the way of finality, minimisation of further stress and anxiety, advancement of payment and containment of costs," he said.

Justice Osborn said the agreement was "in the range of reasonable settlements".

He also said only two "relevant" objections to the deal were received out the 5,000 people involved in the class action.

"Those objections do not demonstrate by any evidence or otherwise that the settlement should be rejected," he said.

The settlement is more than double the previous highest Australian class action settlement of $200 million.

SP AusNet has agreed to pay $378.6 million, while Utility Services Corporation Ltd will pay $12.5 million.

The Victorian Government, which includes Victoria Police and the Country Fire Authority, have agreed to pay $103.6 million.

Rory Walsh, from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, said the settlement would bring justice to many.

"While we can never compensate people for what they've lost, particularly those who've lost loved ones, we have recovered in this proceeding $494 million," he said.

"We hope that that money can help people alleviate some of the hardships that they continue to experience today."

A total of 10,500 individual claims and 1,750 personal injury claims have been made.

The claims are largely split into two broad categories, property loss and personal injury losses.

We must tackle the evil of arson, vows Rudd [Sydney Morning Herald – 10/2/09]

Minister Cripps must release report on bore explosion

Lock The Gate [22/12/14]:

A State Government CSG officer has told concerned Queensland farmers that a report on a serious water bore explosion may remain confidential.

The water bore on a property at Hopeland, near Chinchilla on the Western Downs let out a loud bang last month (Nov. 20) and water and gas reportedly spouted metres into the sky.

The leak continued the next day, leaving a left thin white crust around the bore, the eerie sound of gas rushing out of it and a side-to-side movement to the casing.

A team from the government’s Coal Seam Gas Compliance Unit investigated the incident and other private bores in the area are also recording gas flows.

Natural Resources and Mines Minister, Andrew Cripps told ABC radio on November 25 that it was too early to determine if CSG activities on neighbouring properties were a contributing factor to the bore’s destabilisation.

Mr Cripps said: “I will make sure, as the Government will, that once the investigation to determine the cause is finalised, the appropriate action is taken.”

But Shay Dougall, spokesperson of the Hopeland Community Sustainability Group said they are worried they won’t be told the results of the investigation and that any “appropriate action” would remain secret.

Mrs Dougall said 32 locals attended a meeting with the unit’s Groundwater Investigations and Assessment Team last week (Dec 17) to learn more about the impact CSG may be having on stock and domestic underground water resources.

“We were all stunned when we were told it was unlikely there would be any report written about the investigation into the bore explosion and if it were, it was unlikely to be made public,” she said.

“We’re shocked and disappointed with the lack of transparency from the government and CSG companies.

“Bores are the lifeblood of farming out here and we’re worried we’ll lose our livelihoods, homes and intergenerational farms.”

She said the government was “going out of its way to make things easy for mining companies by creating a “one-stop shop” and rushing through new laws, but it was making life almost impossible for farmers.

“We were told many times at the meeting ‘that’s not our department, you’ll have to ask another department about that’ and we’re sick to death of getting the run-around.”

Mrs Dougall said two clear messages came out of the meeting:

1. CSG mining WILL impact farmers’ stock and domestic bores;

2. Farmers should monitor their bores to ensure any impacts are identified early for action.

Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton said locals needed to stick together to get any action from the government.

“Landowners and farmers should lock their gates to coal seam gas because the government and the mining companies can’t be trusted.

“If the government has nothing to hide about CSG and this bore incident, then Minister Cripps must release the details of the investigation.”

Milwaukee shooting: Federal investigation for Dontre Hamilton death

BBC [23/12/14]:

The US justice department says it will review the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in April in Milwaukee.

The decision came after a local prosecutor said he would not bring charges against the officer.

He ruled that Christopher Manney had acted in self-defence when confronted in a park by Dontre Hamilton.

The launch of the federal investigation follows protests across the US over the shootings of two other black men.

In both cases grand juries decided not to indict white police officers.

One of the incidents occurred in New York, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for the city to heal after the subsequent fatal shooting of two police officers.

In Milwaukee, Mr Hamilton's family had reacted with anger to the decision by County District Attorney John Chisholm not to charge Mr Manney, and appealed for peaceful protests.

Mr Hamilton was shot after workers at a Starbucks cafe called police to complain about him sleeping in a park.

According to Mr Manney, Mr Hamilton resisted arrest when he tried to frisk him, and hit him on the neck after the two exchanged punches. Mr Manney then shot him 14 times.

Mr Hamilton's family said he had suffered from schizophrenia and had recently stopped taking his medicine.

His death triggered a series of protests in Milwaukee and Mr Manney was dismissed over the incident - a decision the former officer has appealed against.

Explaining his decision in a written statement, Mr Chisholm said: "Officer Manney's use of force in this incident was justified self-defense and that defense cannot be reasonably overcome to establish a basis to charge Officer Manney with a crime."

The federal review will seek to determine whether there was any violation of civil rights law.

Queensland's media have allowed politicians like Peter Dutton to rise without scrutiny.

No joke.

Bashed Peace Activist Abandoned By The CMC [March 2007]:

This is a photo of peace activist Jim Dowling the night he was arrested. He lives in ex-policeman Peter Dutton's Queensland electorate. A year and a half ago Jim Dowling was assaulted by police at a public meeting at Queensland University of Technology. This week he received a letter from the Queensland Police informing him that he was wrong in his assessment that the police had acted unlawfully.

He says the Assistant Commissioner of Police informed him:

These enquiries revealed that the allegations subject of your complaint could not be substantiated. Therefore I do not propose to take any further action and I now consider the matter to be finalized.”

Mr Dowling says that at no stage has he been interviewed or questioned about what happened by the police or anyone from the CMC (Crime and Misconduct Commission).

He says, "After a day or two of recovering from a small dose of self pity I dutifully filled out a CMC complaint form available online. There were only a few lines to explain my complaint so I attached the short article I had written about the event... I naively thought this was just the start of my complaint process rather than the only thing the CMC would ever want to hear from me."

The police told him they wouldn't investigate the matter until the charges against him were heard and determined. It was to be six months before this occurred and a further two months of deliberation before the Magistrate ruled that he had done nothing for which the police could detain him and the charges were dismissed.

"She said the evidence of all my witnesses (who included lawyers and former federal attorney general Michael Lavarch) was credible. She declined however to state the obvious: that the contradictory police and security guards' evidence was therefore not credible, and that they had therefore perjured themselves," said Mr Dowling.

He then informed the CMC in writing of the outcome of the trial and said that his complaint now also included the allegation that the police and security guards had perjured themselves in court.

"This was in June 2006, immediately after the Magistrate had ruled police acted illegally in arresting me. It was to be a further five months before a friendly “investigating” police officer contacted me. His name escapes me because, other than that few minutes of conversation, I never heard from him again....I asked him when he was going to interview me. He told me that would not be necessary, as he had enough information from my initial complaint and a transcript of the court case of charges against me...

"When I insisted he at least try to interview Peter Dutton’s assistant (she was present at my assault, but police had tellingly declined to produce her as a witness), he reluctantly took details...

"Not a few weeks, but four months later, the only “report” I have received is the abovementioned sentences from the assistant commissioner. It is interesting to note that the commissioner had still watered down my complaint to, 'Essentially you complained that police assaulted you and used excessive force during the course of your arrest and detention. Further that handcuffs were applied too tight and that police had accused you of stealing oxygen.' I had never complained that handcuffs were too tight, but rather that Constable Jennings had lifted me up by my handcuffs behind my back as he was dragging me. This had caused my wrist to bleed. I also was not complaining about feeling insulted by police accusing me of 'stealing oxygen' but was merely mentioning his smart-alec reply when I told him I could not breathe with his hand on my neck forcing my head between my legs.

"There is no mention of most of the assault, no mention of illegal arrest, perjury, police collusion in evidence etc. The 'investigating' police obviously think there is nothing wrong with police officers having word for word the same personal recollection of events in their sworn statements, including the same spelling mistakes.

"Oh well, maybe it was all a dream………Not sure if I want to wake up to the real world though…."

Are Queensland’s police out of control? [Crikey - 6/9/05]:

... A seasoned political protester, Jim Dowling, was also there, standing at the back of the room with a placard resting at his feet that read “Peter Dutton Supports Terrorism.” According to a lawyer who was among the 50 or so people who attended the debate, just as questions were being taken from the floor several police “jumped the quiet protester and pulled him into the next room and gave him some rough treatment.”

Dowling says it was actually two security guards who showed him towards the side doors, and when the “doors swung open…there were the police.”

“They grabbed me painfully without a word or explanation,” says Dowling and “Constable Bruce Jennings pushed my head onto the solid (concrete?) floor and jammed his knee … into the back of my head. Though the blood flowed freely from this action, it was the simultaneous bending of my wrists by his friends in blue that caused me to scream in pain,” says Dowling.

“There was no help in sight as the police threw my jacket around my head to cover the bloody face while pushing it down towards my knees.”

...

Does that include racist media propagandists?

Murray St is not a tourist destination, please stay away unless you're visiting friends or family, to grieve or to seek support. #Manoora

"tweeted" by @QPSmedia - Queensland Police Media Unit [23/12/14]

 

Someone takes photos of women's breasts at Queensland's State Library and suddenly Brisbane Times care about sexism and surveillance.

Give us a break.

Trapwire: not the Panopticon, but a signpost on the way [Crikey – 22/8/12]:

The saga of the Trapwire surveillance system continues to bubble away at the fringes of the mainstream media here and in the US.

Trapwire, the product of a company by the same name, is a software tool designed to analyse multiple CCTV video feeds for certain patterns that might trigger alarms about, well, name your fancy — terrorism, common-or-garden street crime, legitimate political protest. It is one of many such pieces of software developed by IT vendors and the cyber security industry in the lucrative chase for War on Terror contracts.

What distinguished Trapwire recently, however, was the release by WikiLeaks of emails from the intelligence company Stratfor. Company vice-president and former State Department official Fred Burton enthusiastically spruiked the system to clients, colleagues and anyone who would listen for a commission. “We have the Pentagon, Big Army and the USMC on the system now,” Burton boasted in an email last year. And he claimed the system was being used in New York, Los Angeles and in Washington DC.

...

Sydney Morning Herald [13/8/12]:

... While it appears that TrapWire does not operate in Australia, its parent company Cubic holds several large Commonwealth, NSW and Queensland government contracts. It operates in Australia as Cubic Transportation with offices in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. In 2008 it also opened a defence subsidiary based in Queensland, Cubic Defence Australia, run by Mark Horn.

...

Suspect Nation [2006]:

Since Tony Blair's New Labour government came to power in 1997, the UK civil liberties landscape has changed dramatically. ASBOs were introduced by Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and first used in 1999. The right to remain silent is no longer universal. Our right to privacy, free from interception of communications has been severely curtailed. The ability to travel without surveillance (or those details of our journeys being retained) has disappeared.

Indeed, as Henry Porter (the Observer journalist famous for his recent email clash with Tony Blair over the paring down of civil liberties) reveals in this unsettling film, our movements are being watched, and recorded, more than ever before.

Your taxes.

Huge blast hits Nigeria market

Al Jazeera [22/12/14]:

A massive explosion has rocked a market in northeast Nigeria's Bauchi city, causing "heavy casualties" and setting the entire area ablaze with rescue workers struggling to reach the scene, the Red Cross said.

"There was an explosion in the market with a large number of women traders at around 16:00 GMT," said Adamu Abubakar of the Red Cross on Monday. "There are heavy casualties of course, but for now we can't do anything until the fire is put out."

Earlier on Monday, another explosion killed at least 20 people at a bus station in Gombe city, not far away from Bauchi.

"There was an explosion at the Dukku motor park. The Red Cross mobilised with 20 body bags and they have all been exhausted. We are still looking for more bodies among the carnage," said Abubakar Yakubu Gome, the Red Cross secretary for Gombe state.

The bomb was planted near a bus that was parked and filling up with passengers, said Mato Yakubu of the National Orientation Agency, a government body responsible for the media.

He said the blast occurred at 09:50 GMT at the station on the outskirts of Gombe city.

Gombe shares a border with Borno and Yobe state, two of the areas hit hardest during Boko Haram's five-year uprising which has cost more than 13,000 lives.

No group has claimed responsibility yet for the attack, but Boko Haram has claimed a number of attacks at bus stations, often targeting people who are heading to Nigeria's mainly Christian south.

More than 1,500 people have been killed in Boko Haram attacks this year, according to Amnesty International.

Clashes on Monday between pro-government forces and Islamist militiamen in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi killed 16 people and wounded dozens, security sources and medics said. … [Naharnet – 22/12/14]

A civilian was killed and another injured Monday in clashes when police intervened to disperse protesters observing a day of civil disobedience in the formerly independent region, witnesses and a medic claimed. … [Al Akhbar – 22/12/14]

 

He said it was concerning lawyers arrived within 15 minutes of Mr Rudd's home being searched but the media was already there.

RNZI [22/12/14]:

A team of international lawyers is working to find out what damages they believe AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd should receive for a charge dropped due to lack of evidence.

Rudd, 60, was charged with threatening to kill and possession of cannabis and methamphetamine after his Tauranga home was raided last month.

He was also initially charged with attempting to procure a murder but that charge was later dropped because there was not enough evidence.

His lawyer, Craig Tuck, said there appeared to be inept and irresponsible policing which had damaged Mr Rudd's reputation on a global scale.

He said it was concerning lawyers arrived within 15 minutes of Mr Rudd's home being searched but the media was already there.

Full statement from Phil Rudd's lawyer

AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd is now back in court 23 February 2015.

His lawyer, Craig Tuck, said the initial charge of attempting to procure murder was dropped immediately [when] lawyers got involved and the remaining charges would be defended.

Mr Tuck said it remains concerning that in spite of lawyers arriving within 15 minutes of the search commencing at Mr Rudd's home, the media were already there.

Mr Tuck said that the damage to Mr Rudd's reputation, especially at this age and stage of his life and career, had been significant - on a global scale.

"Whatever happened to giving people a fair go?"

A team of international lawyers is working to ascertain the extent of damages and appropriate reparation and relief to Mr Rudd's 40-year career.

"We are looking into what appear to be inept and irresponsible policing practices," Mr Tuck said.

 

...  Who cares if straightlaces

Sneer at us in the street?

Fine airs and fine graces

Don't have to sin to eat.

...

'It's A Fine Life'

Oliver! is a British musical, with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart.  ...

Armed robbery charge, Parkhurst [QPS Media - 22/12/14]:

Police have charged a 16-year-old boy after an alleged armed robbery in Parkhurst today.

It is alleged that around 12pm the boy entered a Yaamba Road business armed with a knife and demanded cash. The male attendant compiled and the boy ran away on foot.

No one was physically during the incident.

The 16-year-old Parkhurst boy was charged with one count of armed robbery and will 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.

 

How would Mary, Joseph and Jesus have fared if they were seeking asylum in Australia today?

Image: @lovemakesaway [22/12/14]

 

... A mother and child, the baby maybe two months old

Prepare themselves for sleep and feeding.

The shadow of the Capitol dome slides across his face

And his heart is racing with the urge to freedom.  ...

'Trailways Bus', Paul Simon [1997]

 

Nauru court ruling worrying for democracy

RNZI [22/12/14]:

The opposition MPs who remain suspended from Nauru's parliament say the Supreme Court's decision upholding their suspension sets a worrying precedent for democracy.

Earlier this year five MPs were stripped of their entitlements, offices and salaries for speaking out against the current government but they challenged the ruling, arguing in court it was a breach of the constitution.

A spokesman for the group, Roland Kun, says the court's decision that it must respect the right of parliament to regulate the conduct of its own affairs has deep consequences.

"What the decision is effectively saying is that the government of the day can do whatever they want to do in terms of excluding elected members of parliament if they are uncomfortable with what the members of parliament are expressing inside and outside parliament."

Mr Kun says the ruling means that in the aftermath of future elections, any group that forms government could indefinitely suspend opposing members for what they have said during campaigning.

Nauru MPs plan to continue legal fight [RNZI – 23/12/14]

Sydney Morning Herald [22/12/14]:

... Transfield shares had been trading well below Ferrovial's original offer of $1.95 after the slump in the oil price, which has raised concerns over its earnings outlook. At the weekend Ferrovial raised its offer price to $2, which was rejected by Transfield.

Ferrovial said it had ceased discussions now with Transfield.

"Ferrovial Services has undertaken the limited due diligence available and concluded that there were a number of issues that impacted value," it said.

"Ferrovial Services took a very long-term view on value and proposed a revised price of $2 per share, which has been rejected by [Transfield] and therefore discussions have ceased."

Ferrovial said it was a disciplined investor and would continue to investigate options to grow its business internationally.

As well over doubts about Transfield's earnings outlook, the company has two large contracts with the Department of Immigration that are up for renewal in the second half of the year, and there are concerns that even if the contracts are renewed it will be at significantly lower profit margins.

A fund manager with one of Transfield's largest shareholders, Simon Mawhinney, of Allan Gray, said there was "information asymmetry" between the boards of Transfield and Ferrovial over the view of the value of Transfield shares.

Allan Gray valued Transfield shares at more than $2.50, which was significantly higher than the revised Ferrovial offer, Mr Mawhinney said.

"We would like to know what Ferrovial has seen that produced that outcome," he said.

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

[PNG Loop - 22/12/14]

Image: @danielflitton - Senior correspondent, The Age [2012]

... "I will be focussing on gender equality matters not only because of the basic principle that men and women are equal," Ms Gillard said, pointing out that she is the only female leader taking part in the Forum. ...  [Cook Islands lays out the welcome mat for Pacific Islands Forum - Radio Australia – 30/8/12]

Bishop possible new Cooks PM

RNZI [22/12/14]:

The leader of the One Cook Islands Movement, Teina Bishop, stands to become prime minister if the opposition coalition removes the ruling Cook Islands Party.

The coalition holds 12 seats compared with the Cook Island Party's 11, after a minister lost his seat and a by-election was ordered.

Cook Islands News reports the coalition has formulated a document of priorities which includes a commitment that Mr Bishop becomes the prime minister if there is a change of government.

The Democrats' leader, Wilkie Rasmussen, says their priorities focus on political reform, the taxing of pensioners and increases in Value Added Tax.

Mr Rasmussen said while both One Cook Islands and the Democrats believed prime minister Henry Puna will not give in to the majority of MPs, their approach would be steady, responsible and transparent, with the ultimate aim of acheiving a change of government in the very near future.

IMF policies blamed for weak Ebola response

Telegraph [22/12/14]:

International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies left healthcare systems in the African countries worst affected by Ebola underfunded and lacking doctors, hampering a co-ordinated response to the outbreak, researchers said on Monday.

Links between the IMF and the rapid spread of the disease were examined by researchers from Cambridge University's sociology department, with colleagues from Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

They found IMF programmes held back the development of effective health systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries at the epicentre of an outbreak that has killed more than 7,370 people.

“Reform” advocated by the IMF hampered the ability of the health systems to cope with infectious disease outbreaks and other emergencies, the researchers found.

Alexander Kentikelenis, Cambridge sociologist and lead author, said: "A major reason why the Ebola outbreak spread so rapidly was the weakness of healthcare systems in the region, and it would be unfortunate if underlying causes were overlooked.

"Policies advocated by the IMF have contributed to underfunded, insufficiently staffed, and poorly prepared health systems in the countries with Ebola outbreaks."

The researchers examined policies enforced by the IMF before the outbreak, using information from IMF lending programmes from 1990 to 2014, and analysed their effects on the three countries.

They found the healthcare systems were weakened by IMF demands for economic reforms that cut government spending, capped the public sector wage bill and decentralised healthcare systems.

On the requirement to reduce government spending, researchers found that "such policies have been extremely strict, absorbing funds that could be directed to meeting pressing health challenges".

Lawrence Kind, Cambridge sociologist and co-author of the study, said: "In 2013, just before the Ebola outbreak, the three countries met the IMF's economic directives, yet all failed to raise their social spending despite pressing health needs."

The public wage cap meant the countries were unable to hire nurses and doctors and pay them adequately, while decentralised healthcare systems made it hard to mobilise co-ordinated responses to outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola.

...

Supporters Flock To Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy Amid Reports Of Attempted Eviction

New Matilda [22/12/14]:

Dozens of supporters descended on the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy this afternoon, amid reports on social media that NSW Police were trying to evict activists.

Shortly after 1pm, the call went out from the Embassy’s Facebook page for the troops to rally.

“Everyone in Sydney get to the block asap. We need 100s like on blockade day. Right now. [Aboriginal Housing Company] and redfern police planning to evict us. Share and come down asap pls”

The Embassy was established in May, in opposition to Aboriginal Housing Company plans to develop the Block not for Aboriginal housing, but for office blocks and university student accommodation (the land was gifted to Aboriginal people specifically for the provision of housing for some of the state’s most disadvantaged residents).

Embassy activists have occupied the iconic Aboriginal site ever since, despite repeated attempts to convince them to leave, and despite the ongoing harassment of embassy protestors.

This afternoon, more than 50 supporters descended on the Embassy within an hour of the call for help being broadcast. The Embassy remains in tact, but one resident was effectively evicted from the site.

Embassy leader and Gamillaroi elder Jenny Munro cannot return to the Embassy, after this morning being charged by Redfern Detectives with assault, following an altercation at the Embassy the previous week.

Aunty Jenny strongly denies the allegations and asserts that like a number of other Embassy activists in the recent past, she was the victim of an attack. But while police gave her bail, one of the restrictions they imposed prevents her from residing at the protest site.

It was a clever play by police - Embassy lawyers are unable to challenge the appropriateness of the bail conditions until January 9, when Aunty Jenny will appear in the Downing Centre Local Court.

Until then, she’ll have to reside at her home in a nearby suburb.

...

Man granted bail after serving 20 years in prison for murder of his fiancée

Nine MSN [22/12/14]:

A man convicted of drowning his fiancee in the bathtub of their Adelaide home has been freed on bail after an appeal court granted him a retrial.

Adelaide man Henry Keogh has been released after serving nearly 20 years behind bars for the murder of his fiancée.

Justice John Sulan imposed a number of bail conditions on Keogh, including ordering him not to leave the state and he will not be able possess firearms.

He will also not be allowed to contact the relatives of Anna Jane Cheney, the woman he is accused of murdering in March 1994 at their Adelaide home.

The Court of Criminal Appeal ruled on Friday that Keogh should be granted a retrial, saying there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice.

A forensic pathologist who conducted Ms Cheney's autopsy had recanted on aspects of the evidence he provided at Keogh's trial, the court heard.

Prosecutors did not oppose the granting of bail, which will see Keogh home for Christmas for the first time in 20 years.

Gordon Wood, who was acquitted of killing girlfriend Caroline Byrne after spending three years in jail, attended the hearing as an advocate for Mr Keogh.

Sydney siege gunman's partner has bail revoked

ABC [22/12/14]:

The partner of the Sydney siege gunman has had her bail revoked after being deemed an "unacceptable risk" by a magistrate.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had asked for Amirah Droudis's bail conditions to be reviewed following last week's siege at Martin Place.

The gunman, Man Haron Monis, and two hostages died when armed police stormed the Lindt cafe after a 16-hour standoff.

Droudis is charged with murdering Monis's ex-wife, Noleen Hayson Pal.

Ms Hayson Pal was stabbed multiple times and set alight at a western Sydney apartment block last year.

Monis had been on bail charged with being an accessory to murder.

The DPP argued Droudis's bail should be reviewed in light of new circumstances, which included the siege and videos posted online.

A number of videos posted by Droudis in 2009 allegedly echoed the teachings of Monis, including support for the Bali bombing and 9/11 attacks.

The prosecution said the videos were evidence of Droudis's willingness to act on Monis's behalf.

The DPP also said views expressed by Droudis in the videos were seen by many as extremist in nature and her views had not changed since they were recorded.

In court prosecutors admitted to "failings" when they opposed Droudis's bail in 2013, conceding that evidence proving her tendency to follow Monis's instructions was not put before the court.

But Droudis's legal team today told the court the bail review was frivolous and argued it should be refused.

Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson adjourned the court twice so he and both legal teams could watch video evidence presented to the court.

"There is a need not to be overborne of emotion and that justice in a democratic society should be applied to all," Mr Henson said.

But after viewing the videos, Mr Henson determined they had nothing to do with the bail review.

The content of the videos cannot be reported for legal reasons.

Droudis was swarmed by media when she stepped out of a taxi to face Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney this morning.

Wearing a white beanie and sunglasses, she said nothing to reporters and her stepbrother asked for them to be left alone.

After the magistrate announced his decision, Droudis was surrounded by security guards who took her personal belongings before she was taken into custody.

She was originally given bail in December 2013 after being charged with murder as a magistrate deemed the case against her to be weak.

It is alleged Droudis committed the murder at Monis's request.

NSW Premier Mike Baird issued a statement welcoming the decision to revoke Droudis's bail.

"The NSW Government expects community safety to be front and centre of all bail decisions and that is why the Attorney General expressed concern and requested a review of the case," he said.

"As the matter is before the courts I will be making no further comment."

Droudis is due to appear in court on February 22, 2015.

Serial armed robber has life term quashed, eligible for immediate release  [ABC - 22/12/14]

Gas ship arrives at Fairway Buoy

Gladstone Observer [22/12/14]:

The LNG ship Methane Rita Andrea arrived at Fairway Buoy this morning.

The ship, which will deliver the first liquefied natural gas from the QCLNG plant on Curtis Island, arrived at the buoy at 8am.

It is expected to move to the QCLNG wharf on December 24 where, according to Qships.com it will be loaded with the first shipment and leave on its way to Singapore on December 29.

AGL's fracking wastewater dumped into sewers

Herald [18/12/14]:

Potentially contaminated wastewater used to frack AGL's Gloucester coal seam gas project has been dumped unlawfully into the Hunter's sewer system by the private company hired to treat it.

Transpacific, one of the nation's largest wastewater management firms, has been fined $30,000 by Hunter Water for releasing treated "flow-back" fluid from the gas project into the region's sewer network.

It comes after AGL and Transpacific were both explicitly warned by the water regulator that releasing the flow-back fluid was a breach of its wastewater criteria.

Hunter Water asked Transpacific for a please explain after the Newcastle Herald revealed on Thursday that it was the company treating flow-back water for AGL.

Both AGL and Transpacific had refused to state what was happening to the water once it was treated, but when approached by Hunter Water, the company admitted to dumping the water into the sewer network.

Flow-back fluid produced from coal seam gas extraction often contains a range of fracking and drilling chemicals and heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, lead and cadmium. It is also typically highly saline.

The water being dumped into the sewer had already been treated by Transpacific and in a previous statement, the company said that process "includes removing any residual chemicals".

The company ignored specific questions put by the Herald, and in a one-line statement, a spokesman said it worked "with all parties to deliver safe and sustainable outcomes though the flowback water retrieval and treatment process".

But the Herald understands Transpacific had previously been refused a request to discharge extra water into the sewer network.

Hunter Water said it told Transpacific that "any further breach" would see the "immediate termination" of the commercial agreement that allows it to access its wastewater treatment plants, a move that would severely hamper its ability to operate in the region.

AGL has tried to distance itself from the breach, saying it places "the highest priority on minimising impacts from its operations and this includes the safe disposal of flow-back water".

"The decision about where the treated water goes is a decision made by contractor, Transpacific," a company spokesman said.

But the Herald has accessed correspondence from Hunter Water to the gas producer from as recently as September 30 this year explicitly requesting AGL to inform its contracted firms not to release the water into its system.

"Please communicate to all tanker companies engaged by AGL that Hunter Water is not to be approached as a potential disposal source for groundwater from the Gloucester Gas Project," the letter read.

"AGL has previously been advised that the groundwater from hydraulic stimulation activities does not meet Hunter Water's criteria for tankered waste water."

In a statement to the Herald, Hunter Water said it was "extremely disappointed" by AGL's "seeming inability to control flow-back water originating from its CSG mine".

"AGL has also previously committed to having measures in place to ensure that waste management companies would not attempt to discharge flow-back water into the Hunter Water sewer system," chief customer services officer Jeremy Bath said.

Jennifer O'Neill from Gloucester Groundswell said the revelations showed AGL was "either incompetent or deceitful or both".

"AGL is making a mockery of Minister Anthony Robert's claims that coal seam gas is being well regulated," she said. "Their blatant disregard for Hunter Water's directives show they're not a fit company to hold a CSG licence.

"The community has been asking about the destination of flow-back fluid for months and AGL has refused to give us answers."

Serious traffic crash, Goondiwindi

QPS Media [22/1/14]:

Police are investigating a three vehicle traffic crash on the Cunningham Highway, Goondiwindi last night.

Initial investigations suggest that around 11.45pm a 17-year-old man was on the shoulder of the highway at Yelarbon changing a flat tyre on his utility. Another vehicle had stopped to assist when both vehicles were struck by a truck.

Four people were injured as a result of the crash.

The 17-year-old male driver of the utility was flown to the Princess Alexandra Hospital with serious injuries.

Three people in the second vehicle were also injured. A 15-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy were taken to Goondiwindi Hospital for observation and discharged a short time later. And a 39-year-old woman was also flown to the Princess Alexandra hospital with serious injuries.

The male truck driver and the man who stopped to assist with the flat tyre were not physically injured.

Police are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the incident to contact Crime Stoppers.

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.

... The crash involved a prime mover and two utility vehicles. ... [Chronicle - 22/12/14]

Two stolen trucks found torched near Dalby

Chronicle [21/12/14]:

Police from Toowoomba and Dalby are investigating the discovery of two stolen flat bed trucks which appeared to have been deliberately set alight west of Dalby.

Police and fire crews were called to the report of a two trucks on fire on the Dalby/Kogan Rd about 9.30pm Saturday.

When fire crews arrived the vehicles were fully engulfed in flames and both were ultimately completely destroyed by the fire.

Further investigations found that two trucks had been stolen from a Carrington Rd business in Toowoomba's western suburbs which was broken into late Friday night.

Anyone with any information that could help with the police investigation into this incident are asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1300 333 000.

Man charged following Gold Coast drug and anti rights raid

MYGC [22/12/14]

A drug raid at a home in Varsity Lakes has seen more than half a million dollars worth of ice, ecstasy and cocaine seized.

Police raided the Pontoon place home around 1:30pm Sunday finding the drugs hidden in walls of the kitchen and garage.

A 32-year-old man has been charged and will appear in Southport Magistrates court this morning, with a 41-year-old man due to face court in January.

It is alleged the accused has links to the Black Uhlans Bikie group.



... ‘Must go before the magistrate now, sir,’ replied the man. ‘His worship will be disengaged in half a minute. Now, young gallows!’

This was an invitation for Oliver to enter through a door which he unlocked as he spoke, and which led into a stone cell. Here he was searched; and nothing being found upon him, locked up.

This cell was in shape and size something like an area cellar, only not so light. It was most intolerably dirty; for it was Monday morning; and it had been tenanted by six drunken people, who had been locked up, elsewhere, since Saturday night. But this is little. In our station-houses, men and women are every night confined on the most trivial charges—the word is worth noting—in dungeons, compared with which, those in Newgate, occupied by the most atrocious felons, tried, found guilty, and under sentence of death, are palaces. Let any one who doubts this, compare the two.

The old gentleman looked almost as rueful as Oliver when the key grated in the lock. He turned with a sigh to the book, which had been the innocent cause of all this disturbance. ...

 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens [1838]

 

Armed robbery charges, Murarrie [QPS Media - 22/12/14]:

Police have charged a man and two boys after an alleged armed robbery in Murarrie yesterday evening.

It will be alleged that around 8pm the trio threatened two men with star pickets and demanded property. The men complied with demands and the trio ran away.

The two men were not physically injured during the incident. Police located the three males a short time later.

A 17-year-old boy was charged with one count of armed robbery in company, attempted robbery and stealing. He is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrate’s Court today.

A 13-year-old and a 12-year-old boy were both charged with one count each of armed robbery in company, attempted robbery and stealing. They 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.

Robbery, Strathpine

QPS Media [22/12/14]:

Police are investigating a robbery at a Strathpine grocery store yesterday afternoon.

Around 4pm a man entered the Gympie Road store and made his way into the back area. When he was confronted by a female attendant he kicked in an office door and removed a quantity of cash from a safe. The man ran away on foot.

The attendant was not physically injured during the incident.

The man is described as Caucasian, aged between 20-25 years-old, approximately 180cm tall with short blond hair and a solid build. He was wearing white t-shirt with a black print, navy blue sport shorts and white runners.

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.

Sexual assault charges, Ashmore

QPS Media [22/12/14]

Police have charged a man after an alleged sexual assault in Ashmore yesterday.

It will be alleged that sometime around 5pm a man unlawfully entered an Ashmore residence. When the 29-year-old female resident entered the dwelling it is alleged the man struck her on the back of the head and sexually assaulted her.

It will be further alleged that the man then left the residence in the woman’s vehicle with some of her property. The woman sought refuge with a neighbour and called police.

Police located the man sometime later and will allege that when they attempted to detain the man he failed to comply with police direction at which time a taser was deployed.

The man was arrested without further incident.

A 27-year-old Surfers Paradise man has been charged with burglary, assault with intent to rape, rape, deprivation of liberty, armed robbery, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, serious assault police and wilful damage.

He is due to face a hearing later 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.

Adelaide man sentenced to life for murder of former partner

ABC [22/12/14]:

An Adelaide man has been sentenced to life in prison with a 23-year non-parole period for the murder of his former partner.

Lana Towers, 25, died after a "protracted and brutal beating" at the hands of Michael Suve McDonald, 34, in May 2013.

Towers was hit about 50 times in what the prosecution described as a "relentless and prolonged" attack in her Ocean Street home in Aldinga Beach.

McDonald, was previously charged on two occasions for assaulting the mother of two.

In October a Supreme Court jury unanimously found McDonald guilty of Towers' murder.

Earlier in the trial, prosecutor Brian Nitschke described the couple's relationship as dysfunctional.

They met at a party at Mount Isa in Queensland when Towers was 18, but over the following years family and friends noticed cuts and bruises on her.

Once, McDonald was seen to hit her across the face, which knocked Towers off her feet.

Demolish the house: Murdoch driven propaganda continues.

Queensland Premier and Ministers still protected by the media.

A great night at The Gap Community Christmas Carols! - with Jane Prentice and Cr Geraldine Knapp - The Gap Ward — at The Gap State High School.

Campbell Newman Facebook [19/12/14]

Simple Question: Will there be a full investigation and/or urgent reporting into every aspect of government involvement in the Manoora tragedy i.e. housing, family and welfare services, mental health?

ABC [1/7/13]:

The Queensland Government's tougher policy on public housing tenants comes into effect today.

The so-called 'three strikes and you're out' policy will prohibit evicted tenants from reapplying for public housing for three months.

The member for the far north Queensland seat of Cairns, [and former Editor of Murdoch's 'Cairns Post'] Gavin King, says some tenants have been getting away with too much.

"Some public housing tenants have to get eight or nine breaches before the department and the court considers an eviction," he said.

"Often a public housing tenant will cause significant damage to their property, cause hell to their neighbours, and will get evicted.

"The trouble is they'll just be moved across town into another public housing tenancy."

What crimes against humanity?: Australia's self proclaimed welfare advocates welcome Morrison's ruthlessness

Crawly Bum Lick A snitch, brown noser, grass.

Person One: I really like your dress, brings out your eyes!

Person Two: Ahh thanks!!!

Person Three: * mutters* What a crawly bum lick!!!

ACOSS Media Release [22/12/14]:

New Cabinet: Opportunity to reset unfair Budget policies and work together on major reforms

 ... "We look forward to working constructively with Minister Morrison and the Government in the coming year to ensure effective policy and service delivery, including as it prepares its new families package.

"The Social Services portfolio is critical to ensure adequate support to people and communities facing poverty and inequality across Australia, and to supporting employment participation. Minister Morrison, and other Minister's responsible for health, education and employment, will play a critical role in determining how the Government best meets the needs of the many people outside the labour market.

...

ABC, AM [22/12/14]:

... CRAIG WALLACE [President of People with Disability Australia]: All of us want people with disabilities in work. We all think that 800,000 is a very high number of people to be on the disability support pension.

This is not the kind of issue that a crash through approach will actually work with. You need to understand the problem, get into the detail of it and have a series of nuanced measures that is all of the levers, not just sticks, but carrots as well, to insure that people with disabilities can take up meaningful work.

Australia ranks as one of the lowest countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) for employment of people with disability.

I'd like to see some of that action man persona that Minister Morrison has actually coming through on some of those issues.

...

The Undeserving Disabled [New Left Project - 23/7/10]

Mission Australia bonds with Murdoch gang to attack the most defenceless of us all. What have we become?

Image: @chrismurphys [8/4/13]

Refugee in Darwin concentration camp ends hunger strike after 51 days

ABC [22/12/14]:

An Iranian asylum seeker in Darwin has ended a hunger strike after 51 days without food.

Last night the asylum seeker, who is being housed at Darwin's Wickham Point Detention Centre, told advocates he would begin to eat again, after being on a hunger strike since November 1.

The 33-year-old man's lawyer, John Lawrence, said the asylum seeker made the decision to end his protest after an appeal was lodged over the weekend in the Federal Circuit Court against an earlier decision to refuse him a refugee visa.

"We have discovered in the last week a procedure of appeal which was always open to him, which will now be pursued," he said.

Mr Lawrence has been the man's lawyer for around one week.

"It will be an appeal against the decision by the Independent Merits Review to refuse him a protection visa," Mr Lawrence said.

"His case will be argued before a federal judge, I would like to think within the next few weeks."

Mr Lawrence said the lodging of the appeal gave the man hope that his application for asylum might be approved.

But he noted, "it's far from guaranteed".

The man had been refusing to eat for more than seven weeks and his lawyer said his condition had deteriorated rapidly over the past few days.

The man had given written instruction that he not be revived if he lost consciousness.

"Two days ago he hobbled into the interview room on crutches, today he entered the interview room on a wheelchair," Mr Lawrence said.

Mr Lawrence said the man was suffering from a range of physical ailments as a result of the hunger strike.

"His deterioration was manifesting in a very rapid way in the last 48 hours," he said.

He said the man was now eating supplement drinks and soup.

Mr Lawrence said the man felt he had no choice but to go on a hunger strike after the Refugee Review Tribunal rejected his application for a protection visa.

He said the only options he had were to return voluntarily to Iran or remain in detention indefinitely.

The asylum seeker was adamant in his belief that he would be killed if he returned to Iran voluntarily, Mr Lawrence said.

The Australian Government cannot force the man to return to Iran, as the Iranian government will not accept asylum seekers who are returned against their will, he said.

"The politics and the diplomacy at the moment prevent the Australian Government from returning him involuntarily, because the Iranian government won't accept him. So he was between a rock and a hard place, so to speak."

It will now be up to a federal judge to decide the outcome of the appeal, which Mr Lawrence said could take place within the coming weeks.

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Reuters [21/12/14]:

U.S.-led forces attacked Islamic State targets on Sunday with 13 air strikes in Iraq and three in Syria, using fighter, bomber and other aircraft, the U.S. military said.

Four of the Iraq strikes were near Sinjar in the north of the country, which destroyed Islamic State buildings, tactical units and vehicles, while other Iraqi cities targeted included Tal Afar, Ramadi, Mosul and Baiji, according to the Combined Joint Task Force.

The strikes in Syria over the weekend were focused around the contested city of Kobani near the Turkish border, it said in a statement. There were five air strikes near Kobani on Saturday followed by the three on Sunday.

In Iraq, U.S. and partner nations conducted eight air strikes on Saturday, including near Tal Afar, Ar Rutba, Mosul and Baiji, the task force said.

@IraqiSMCEn  - Iraqi Media Centre [21/12/14]:

Anbar: The civilian homes have been shelled by planes in Ghawasil and Jabhat nahiya Al-Wafa'a to kill people of expel them......

 Anbar: Two women and three children have been killed in mortars shelling of government's army on civilian homes in Jubeil hay south of Fallujah.....

Baghdad: Agencies:11 persons were killed and wounded as a roadside bomb exploded in Amin area east of Baghdad.......

Baghdad: Agencies/security source :A person was killed and 7 wounded as a roadside bomb exploded in Mushahda nahiya in Tarmiya north of Baghdad today noon...............

Libya's official government targets rival forces trying to seize ports

Reuters [21/12/14]:

Military planes loyal to Libya's recognized government attacked on Sunday an opposing force that is seeking to seize the country's two biggest oil ports, officials said.

The advancing force, which is allied to a rival government based in Tripoli, moved east a week ago to try take the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf ports. The adjacent terminals have since closed, halting exports of an estimated 300,000 barrels a day of oil.

The recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni was forced to relocate to the east after losing control of Tripoli in August to a group called Libya Dawn, which installed a new administration in the capital city.

On Sunday, pro-Thinni forces sent aircraft to bomb the advancing fighters some 40 km (25 miles) west of Es Sider and also inside Sirte, a large city further along the coast, said a military spokesman in Es Sider.

He said the planes had bombed military targets, but Ismail al-Shukri, a spokesman for the rival force said civilian targets had been hit in Sirte.

There was no immediate word of any casualties.

The fighting is part of a wider struggle for control of the North African country which sits on Africa's largest oil reserves. Former rebel groups which helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011, NATO-backed uprising now fight each other.

Western powers fear the conflict could lead to the break-up of the OPEC producer. The United Nations had planned to launch a new round of talks to defuse the crisis last week, but the latest fighting delayed the negotiations. The U.N. said on Wednesday the venue and date for the meeting were still unclear.

A Reuters reporter visiting Es Sider saw Thinni's forces building up a defensive line with tanks and anti-aircraft gun mounted on trucks some 10 km (6 miles) west of the terminal.

"We are in contact with the airforce and the coastal guards to coordinate," said a commander. The reporter saw a helicopter and MiG jet standing ready at an airport at Ras Lanuf, which is normally used by oil firms.

Fighting in Libya’s Benghazi kills 25 in eight days [Times of Malta – 20/12/14]

US delivers 10 Apaches to Egypt

No1 in a campaign of awareness for @PeterGreste thanks to all who have initiated acts of support #sydneybuses

Image: ‏@AndyroosteG - Andrew Greste [22/12/14]

Naharnet [21/12/14]:

The United States has delivered 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt in recent weeks after lifting part of a freeze on aid to the north African nation, a U.S. official said Saturday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had been promising Cairo's new leadership that the aircraft -- aimed to join counter-terrorism operations in the Sinai peninsula -- would be delivered soon.

"They got there a few weeks ago," a U.S. senior administration official told AFP.

Kerry announced in June that he was "confident" Egypt would receive the helicopter gunships soon, and reiterated that in a phone call to Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

The United States annually allocates some $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, including $1.3 billion in military assistance.

That was frozen in October 2013 on condition that democratic reforms be enacted after the July 2013 military-led overthrow of Islamist elected president Mohamed Morsi and a vicious crackdown on his followers.

Washington said in April it planned to resume some of the annual aid for counter-terrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday and expressed concern over mass trials and the continued detention of journalists and peaceful activists.

During a telephone call, the White House said, Obama encouraged Sisi to "invest in the political, economic, and social aspirations of the Egyptian people."

"President Obama also expressed concern about mass trials, the status of NGOs, and the continued imprisonment of journalists and peaceful activists in Egypt," the statement said.

Egypt's military has been battling an insurgency on the peninsula since it overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year and cracked down on his supporters.

The government declared a state of emergency in parts of North Sinai after an October 24 suicide attack near El-Arish killed 30 soldiers in the deadliest assault on security forces since Morsi's ouster.

Militant groups claim their attacks are in retaliation for a government crackdown targeting Morsi's supporters that has left hundreds dead and thousands jailed.

Sisi brings back Egypt’s police state with a vengeance [Al Akhbar – 20/12/14]

Jordan hangs 11 after lifting execution ban

Al Jazeera [21/12/14]:

Jordan has executed 11 men convicted of murder by hanging, the interior ministry said, as it ended an informal eight-year moratorium on the death penalty.

"Eleven criminals convicted in different cases of murder were executed at dawn," the official Petra news agency quoted a ministry spokesman as saying on Sunday.

Authorities said the men were all Jordanians convicted on murder charges in 2005 and 2006.

Jordan's last previous executions were in June 2006 and 122 people have since been sentenced to death.

Interior Minister Hussein Majali suggested recently that the moratorium might end, saying there was a "major debate" in Jordan on the death penalty and that "the public believes that the rise in crime has been the result of the non-application" of capital punishment.

A number of countries in the Middle East continue to impose the death penalty for serious crimes, including Jordan's neighbour Saudi Arabia which has executed 83 people so far this year.

China by far carried out the most executions last year, numbering in the thousands, followed by Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States, human rights group Amnesty International said in a report in March.

Peshawar school attack aftermath: Pakistan hangs 'terrorists' as executions resume [Independent - 20/12/14]

UN Asks Israel to Pay Lebanon $850 M for Oil Spill

Naharnet [21/12/14]:

The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution Friday asking Israel to pay Lebanon over $850 million in damages for an oil spill caused by an Israeli air force attack on oil storage tanks during its war with Hizbullah in July 2006.

The assembly voted 170-6 in favor of the resolution, with three abstentions.

Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia, Micronesia and Marshall Islands voted "no."

General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion.

The resolution says "the environmental disaster" caused by the destruction of the tanks resulted in an oil slick that covered the entire Lebanese coastline and extended to the Syrian coastline, causing extensive pollution.

Israel's U.N. Mission said in a statement late Friday that the resolution is biased against Israel.

"Israel Immediately responded to the oil slick incident by cooperating closely with the United Nations Environment Program, as well as other U.N. agencies and NGOs, addressing the environmental situation along the coast of Lebanon," the statement reads.

"This resolution has long outlived the effects of the oil slick, and serves no purpose other than to contribute to institutionalizing an anti-Israel agenda at the U.N.."

The assembly acknowledged the conclusions in an August report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that studies show the value of damage to Lebanon amounted to $856.4 million in 2014. It asked Israel to provide "prompt and adequate compensation."

The assembly also asked Ban to urge U.N. bodies and other organizations involved in the initial assessment to conduct a further study, building on the work conducted by the World Bank, to measure and quantify the environmental damage sustained by neighboring countries.

The resolution notes that "the secretary-general expressed grave concern at the lack of any acknowledgment on the part of the government of Israel of its responsibilities vis-a-vis reparations and compensation" to Lebanon and Syria for the oil spill.

It notes that Ban concluded that the spill is not covered by any international oil spill compensation funds and therefore recognizes "that further consideration needs to be given to the option of security the relevant compensation from the government of Israel."

Lebanon's U.N. Ambassador Nawaf Salam said his country considers the resolution to be "major progress" because it puts forward a figure for compensation, acknowledges the conclusions of the secretary-general's report, and reaffirms the General Assembly's commitment to justice.

"We affirm that Lebanon will continue to mobilize all resources and resort to all legal means to see that this resolution is fully implemented, and that the specified compensation is paid promptly."

Cuba says US must respect its sovereignty

Reuters [20/12/14]:

… Castro said he is open to discussing a wide range of issues but that they should also cover the United States and he insisted Cuba would not give up its socialist principles.

"In the same way that we have never demanded that the United States change its political system, we will demand respect for ours," Castro told the National Assembly.

He again praised Obama for the policy change in a speech that became a partly defiant, partly celebratory show of pride for resisting five decades of U.S. aggression.

Despite the markedly improved tone in relations, Castro said Cuba faces a "long and difficult struggle" before the United States removes a decades-old economic embargo against the Caribbean island, in part because influential Cuban-American exiles will attempt to "sabotage the process".

Obama has pledged to remove economic sanctions against Cuba but he still needs the Republican-controlled Congress to lift the embargo.

Castro confirmed he will take part in a Summit of the Americas in Panama in April, potentially setting up a first meeting with Obama since they shook hands at Nelson Mandela's funeral a year ago.

That brief encounter drew wide attention. Unbeknownst to the world at the time, the United States and Cuba were already six month into secret talks set up with the help Pope Francis and the Canadian government.

Castro's older brother and retired leader Fidel Castro, 88, has not been seen or heard from since Obama's announcement and he was not at the National Assembly on Saturday. Raul Castro ended his speech with an energetic "Viva Fidel!"

The Assembly gave a long standing ovation to Cuba's five "anti-terrorist heroes," intelligence agents who spent between 14 and 16 years in U.S. prison for spying on Cuban exiles.

Two had been released after serving their terms and the United States freed the final three on Wednesday as part of a prisoner swap.

In return, Cuba freed U.S. aid subcontractor Alan Gross, who had been held for five years for bringing in banned telecommunications equipment, plus a Cuban who had spied for the United States and dozens of other unidentified prisoners.

The CIA’s Covert War Against Fidel Castro [Bill Moyers & Co – 20/12/14]

TEPCO completes removal of all fuel rods from Fukushima No. 4 reactor

Japan Today [21/12/14]:

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) on Saturday completed the removal of the last four fuel rods from a cooling pool high up in the badly damaged No. 4 reactor building at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The operation began last year on Nov 21 and was completed one year ahead of schedule, TEPCO officials said. In total, 1,535 fuel rods were removed from the pool, of which 204 were unused. The rods were transferred to a safer storage pool.

The completion of the operation is considered a major step in the plant’s decommissioning process.

However, TEPCO officials said the same process at reactors No. 1-3 will be much more difficult. Radiation levels are higher because of core meltdowns.

Carefully plucking the damaged fuel assemblies from the reactor building is being seen as a test of TEPCO’s ability to move ahead with decommissioning the whole facility - a task likely to take decades.

The removal has to be conducted under water. If the rods are exposed to air or if they break, huge amounts of radioactive gases could be released into the atmosphere. Each assembly weighs around 300 kg and is 4.5 meters long.

TEPCO has been slowly pulling the assemblies out of the submerged racks by crane, before transferring them to a heavy steel cask, designed to shield workers from radiation during the operation.

Greece: Political upheaval sharpens after bribe claims with threats and insinuations

ekathimerini.com [20/12/14]:

Greek MPs are to vote Tuesday in the second ballot of a three-phase presidential election amid a growing political crisis that has been sharpened by the bribery allegations of Independent Greeks MP Pavlos Haikalis and a slew of threats and counter-threats in Parliament.

The government is still far from the 180 votes it needs for next week’s third and final presidential vote, making the prospect of snap polls increasingly likely.

There had been hopes that the vote Tuesday, when the minimum threshold for votes is 200, would give an indication of the government’s chances of garnering the 180 votes it needs in the final round. But the tensions that mounted over the weekend, amid suggestions of attempted bribery, made it clear that some lawmakers will go to the polls under extreme pressure.

Independent MPs Spyros Lykoudis and Christos Aidonis said they would sue fellow independents Odysseas Voudouris and Theodoros Parastatidis after the latter two suggested that the stance of independent MPs who voted against next year’s budget but in favor of the president in the first round is suspicious.

The move came after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras heralded legal action against the Independent Greeks over a video featuring Haikalis and an alleged middleman purportedly offering the MP a bribe to back the coalition’s presidential candidate, Stavros Dimas.

Members of Parliament’s ethics committee decided over the weekend not to view the video, deeming that it was an illegal product. However, the panel summoned Voudouris and Parastatidis who are Monday to explain their insinuations.

As Parliament pushed for a judicial probe, new information and claims complicated the affair over the weekend. Haikalis revealed that several months prior to the alleged attempt at bribery, the purported mediator had borrowed 5,000 euros from him.

The alleged mediator, Giorgos Apostolopoulos, vehemently denied his implication in the affair over the weekend. His professional career, however, raises several questions. He was an adviser to Deutsche Bank with connections to virtually all the main political parties including New Democracy and more recently with Independent Greeks.

In another revelation over the weekend, independent MP Chrysoula Giatagana, formerly with Independent Greeks, claimed that Apostolopoulos was still an adviser to Independent Greeks. She also claimed that Apostolopoulos telephoned her to convince her to return to the party.

As New Democracy and leftist SYRIZA traded barbs about the incident, it appeared that some independents were seeking a way to resolve the impasse.

Vassilis Oikonomou, an independent and former Democratic Left (DIMAR) MP, said an effort was under way by “a significant number” of lawmakers to propose an agreement on a president and a date for elections next year; he said a new candidate could replace Dimas, namely DIMAR leader Fotis Kouvelis.

Turkey: Editor-in-Chief Dumanlı returns to Zaman HQs after release

Todays Zaman [20/12/14]:

Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı arrived at the daily's headquarters in Yenibosna on Saturday after having been released pending trial in a government-orchestrated police operation.

Dumanlı, who was released pending trial together with seven police officers by a court designed by the government following two major graft probes last December, is charged with forming and leading an armed terrorist organization.

Four of the 12 suspects who were referred to court for arrest as part of the operation to silence the media were arrested on charges of terrorism, one of whom is Samanyolu Broadcasting Group Chairman Hidayet Karaca.

Dumanlı was welcomed by a crowd of Zaman staff who chanted slogans supporting press freedom.

Addressing the Zaman staff, Dumanlı thanked those who stood in solidarity with him during his detention by the police. The journalist also called on Turkish journalists to raise their voice against increasing pressure on the media and unite against oppression. “Despite our differences, journalists should unite against oppression,” he said.

“If I failed to answer single question [by the judge and the prosecutor], I would have been too ashamed to return here,” he said during his speech.

He also slammed the arrest of Karaca, saying he was arrested for airing a completely fictional soap opera.

“My colleague Hidayet Karaca is a political captive,” he said.

Dumanlı was asked during the judicial process why he had published two columns in the paper that were written by two contributors and one news story that featured a speech made by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Dumanlı had responded to the charges by saying he has been professionally managing the newspaper for the last 13 years and cannot interfere with critical articles written by columnists that are regular contributors to the paper. He said columnists have the right to freedom of speech and expression.

As for the news story in 2009 which featured a warning by Gülen about the activities of the al-Qaeda-affiliated armed Tahşiyeciler (Annotators) group, Dumanlı said Gülen's public speech was posted on the Islamic scholar's own website -- Herkul.org -- and carried newsworthy items that deserved coverage on the relevant page in the newspaper. He said other newspapers, such as the Hürriyet and Vatan dailies, also covered Gülen's speech.

Man killed in crash during police pursuit, Perth

ABC [22/12/14]:

Perth police have launched two separate investigations into a fatal crash during a high-speed pursuit.

A man, believed to be aged in his 30s, died when his car hit a tree at high speed in the northern Perth suburb of Ballajura about 10:30pm (AWST) on Sunday.

Police said they suspected the Suzuki Swift was stolen, but are yet to reveal why they were pursuing it.

Ambulance officers and firefighters turned up at the scene on Illawarra Crescent but were turned away when police confirmed the driver had died.

The area remained cordoned off for more than seven hours as police from Major Crash conducted inquiries.

The fatality is also being investigated by officers from the Police Internal Affairs Unit, which is standard practice when anyone dies in a pursuit.

It is understood they will check whether the pursuit was authorised and if the officers involved followed correct procedures.

They will also investigate what safety measures, if any, were taken to ensure public safety during the pursuit.

Victorian police interview good ol' boy in relation to “Saturday night prank” pipe bomb explosions

Nine MSN [21/12/14]:

Victoria Police Arson and Explosive Squad detectives are interviewing a Maiden Gully man in relation to home made explosives detonated in Bendigo overnight as part of a dangerous prank.

The 24-year-old handed himself in to police at around 3.30pm today and is assisting police with their enquiries.

Parts of the CBD were cordoned off as a bomb response unit and arson chemist worked to remove a third undetonated pipe bomb this morning.

Police received numerous calls after residents heard loud explosions around 10pm.

One had been detonated at the intersection of Myrtle and King Street and the second outside the library in Hargreaves Street.

At 2am, an unexploded device was found in a bag in Chancery Lane.

No one is believed to have been injured in either of the two explosions.

Detective Sergeant Steve Rainey described it as a "moronic" Saturday night prank.

"It could have had catastrophic effects for anyone," he said.

Sgt Rainey said he suspected it was a prank that could have caused serious injury.

CIA Travel Advice to Operatives

WikiLeaks Press Release [21/12/14]:

Today, 21 December 2014, WikiLeaks releases two classified documents by a previously undisclosed CIA office detailing how to maintain cover while travelling through airports using false ID – including during operations to infiltrate the European Union and the Schengen passport control system. This is the second release within WikiLeaks' CIA Series, which will continue in the new year.

The two classified documents aim to assist CIA undercover officials to circumvent these systems around the world. They detail border-crossing and visa regulations, the scope and content of electronic systems, border guard protocols and procedures for secondary screenings. The documents show that the CIA has developed an extreme concern over how biometric databases will put CIA clandestine operations at risk – databases other parts of the US government made prevalent post-9/11.

The CIA manual "Surviving Secondary", dated 21 September 2011, details what happens in an airport secondary screening in different airports around the world and how to pass as a CIA undercover operative while preserving one's cover. Among the reasons for why secondary screening would occur are: if the traveller is on a watchlist (noting that watchlists can often contain details of intelligence officials); or is found with contraband; or "because the inspector suspects that something about the traveler is not right".

The highlighted box titled "The Importance of Maintaining Cover––No Matter What" at the end of the document provides an example of an occasion when a CIA officer was selected for secondary screening at an EU airport. During the screening his baggage was swiped and traces of explosives found. The officer "gave the cover story" to explain the explosives; that he had been in counterterrorism training in Washington, DC.

Although he was eventually allowed to continue, this example begs the question: if the training that supposedly explained the explosives was only a cover story, what was a CIA officer really doing passing through an EU airport with traces of explosives on him, and why was he allowed to continue?

...

Afghanistan: IED kills 7, including children in Kunar province

Khaama [21/12/14]:

At least seven civilians, including children were killed following an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion in eastern Kunaar province.

According to local security officials, the incident took place late on Saturday afternoon after an IED planted by militants targeted a civilian vehicle.

The officials further added that the vehicle was travelling from Asabad to Nari district when the incident took place.

The district police chief, Mohammad Yousuf, confirmed that two two little girls were among those killed following the explosion.

No group including the Taliban militants has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

The local officials are blaming the Taliban group for the incident, as Taliban fighters frequently use Improvised Explosive Device (IED) as the weapon of their choice to target Afghan and coalition security forces which normally lead to civilian casualties.

The civilian deaths in Kunar comes as UN report released on Friday said civilian casualties hit a record high this year, with 3,188 civilians killed and 6,429 injured by the end of November.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report warned that civilian casualties were expected to exceed 10,000 by the end of the year.

Afghan journalist wounded in French centre attack dies

Daily Star [21/12/14]:

An Afghan journalist who was seriously injured during a suicide attack on a French cultural center died of his wounds in hospital on Sunday, officials said.

One German man was also killed and 20 other people wounded in the attack on December 11 during a performance in the packed auditorium of the French Institute of Afghanistan in the capital Kabul.

The performance was entitled "Heartbeat, The Silence After The Explosion". The dance and music show condemned the regular suicide attacks in Kabul and across the rest of Afghanistan.

Zubair Hatami, a journalist and cameraman for local Mitra TV in Kabul, was seriously injured and died after 10 days in a coma.

Adul Jabar Aryayee the head of Mitra TV, told AFP the journalist died at around midnight.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying the performance was "desecrating Islamic values" and was "propaganda against jihad" -- particularly against suicide attacks.

The cultural centre is located in the centre of Kabul, not far from the presidential palace. It shares its grounds with the Istiqlal school, a French-financed institution that has taught generations of Afghan children.

India: 3 Killed, 4 Injured in Manipur Blast

NDTV [21/12/14]:

Three labourers were killed and four others seriously injured in a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Imphal today.

Police said the IED planted by the roadside near Imphal market exploded killing three labourers and injuring four others.

The injured have been rushed to the hospital

The labourers, all non-Manipuris, had gathered for tea in Khoyathong area, which is about one km away from Imphal city police office in the main market complex when the IED exploded around 6 am.

The dead have been identified as Shiv Yadav(35), Lalan (35) and Kusum Pandit (60).

The four injured have been admitted to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) Hospital where the condition of one of the injured is stated to be critical.

With today's incident, the number of non-Manipuris killed in the state this year has gone upto nine.

Chief minister O Ibobi Singh and deputy chief minister Gaikhangam, who also holds the home portfolio, have condemned the incident and ordered strict action against the culprits.

Sri Lanka: VP’s man helped kill T’chelvam

Colombo Gazette [20/12/14]:

Geocoordinate information provided by a former bodyguard of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran (VP) contributed to an accurate Sri Lankan military bombing raid that killed LTTE political spokesman S.P. Thamilchelvan and other LTTE leaders on 2 November 2007, a WikiLeaks document has revealed.

The document contains information from a classified report of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), one of the principal intelligence-gathering agencies of the United States.

...

 

22 December 2014

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