HK protester at Twelve Apostles in Victoria, Australia

Image: ‏@Garvey_B [28/12/14]

Slowly but steadily increasing in number. Average age 50+ tonight. #9Wu #OccupyHK

Image: @breakandattack [27/12/14]

California school bans 'I Can't Breathe' shirts at tournament

Chicago Tribune [27/12/14]:

A high school basketball tournament on the Northern California coast has become the latest flashpoint in the ongoing protests over police killings of unarmed black men after a school was disinvited because of concerns its players would wear T-shirts printed with the words "I Can't Breathe" during warmups.

The athletic director at Fort Bragg High School informed his counterpart at Mendocino High School this week that neither the boys nor girls team would be allowed to participate in the three-day tournament hosted by Fort Bragg High starting Monday, Mendocino Unified School District Superintendent Jason Morse said.

The boys were reinstated after all but one player agreed not to wear the shirts inspired by the last words of Eric Garner, the New York man who died after an officer put him in a chokehold, while on the Fort Bragg campus during the Vern Piver Holiday Classic tournament, Morse said. Too few girl players accepted the condition for the team to field a tournament squad, he said.

...

St. Louis Post-Dispatch [27/12/14]:

About 125 people protesting officer-involved shootings marched through downtown Saturday to the Gateway Arch, prompting park police to close the national monument a couple of hours early and briefly blocking some streets.

The protest, called United We Stand Silent March, started at Union Station around 3 p.m. and involved a racially diverse group of young and old. The marchers held signs with slogans that included “Black Lives Matter” and “We are in this together.”

Participants were handed a list of 90 names titled “Victims Killed by Police” dating to 1999.

...

Japan plans law to speed up overseas deployment of troops

Channel News Asia [28/12/14]:

Japan plans to draw up a law to speed up the deployment of troops overseas for peacekeeping operations and to support allies, reports said on Sunday, in a move that could strain relations with neighbours wary about Japan's wartime history.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) plan to draw Bills early next year aimed at facilitating administrative processes to deploy Japanese troops abroad, the leading business daily Nikkei and other media reported.

The move would overwrite the past practice of ad-hoc legislation each time Japanese Self-Defense Forces were deployed abroad, except in UN peacekeeping operations and in emergencies in Japan's neighbourhood - cases for which Japan already has permanent laws.

The Bills would govern the dispatch of Japanese troops overseas in logistical support of multinational forces or key ally the United States. But the LDP still needs to convince its junior coalition partner Komeito party to support the plan as Komeito remains reluctant to enact such a law, the Nikkei and Kyodo News said.

Abe, fresh from a parliamentary re-election this month, is seeking to expand the role of Japan's powerful military under the country's post-war US-imposed pacifist constitution. He wants the military to have the power to come to the aid of allies such as the United States if US forces are attacked.

Abe and the LDP even want to amend the constitution, but their efforts have proved divisive at home and strained already tense relations with China, which regularly accuses Japan of failing to face up to its history of aggression in Asia.

Tokyo enacted temporary Bills in the early 2000s which enabled its navy to refuel multinational forces engaged in the war in Afghanistan and that deployed its troops in relatively safe southern Iraq on a non-combat reconstruction mission.

The gradual expansion of the role of Japanese forces in global affairs came partly from US pressure. Japan has made limited military contributions in war-zones, citing constraints under its pacifist constitution.

The United States has sent a second missile defense radar system to Japan, the Pentagon said Friday.  ... [Yahoo - 26/12/14]

Fire on Italian Ferry in Bad Weather Off Greece Forces Evacuation

Naharnet [28/12/14]:

A rescue operation is under way in high winds in Greek waters for an Italian ferry carrying 466 people that has caught fire, Greek officials said early Sunday.

Vessels close to the stricken "Norman Atlantic", located 33 nautical miles off the small Greek island of Othonoi, rushed to give assistance after picking up its distress signal, the Greek coast guard said.

Around 55 passengers have been transferred to one ship, while 150 others were in a lifeboat.

Seven vessels were next to the ferry to take passengers on board. Two Greek firefighting ships were on their way, while Italian and Greek aircraft circled overhead.

The fire was said to have broken out in the ferry's parking bay, which can hold some 200 vehicles. Greek television network Mega said there were tankers holding olive oil in the bay.

Greek Defence Minister Nikos Dendias told the channel that Italian authorities had responded to a Greek plea for assistance and had now taken charge of the rescue operation.

"Our shoes were melting while we were in the reception area," one passenger told Mega.

The "Norman Atlantic" had left the Greek port of Patras at 05:30am (0330 GMT) with 411 passengers and 55 crew on board and had been heading to the Italian port of Ancona when the fire took hold.

The evacuation of the ferry was occurring in difficult conditions, with passengers saying gale-force winds were lashing the vessel.

Afghanistan: US drone strike kills 6

Khaama [28/12/14]:

A US drone strike has killed six Taliban insurgents in Chaparhar district of eastern Nangarhar province.

Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, spokesman for the provincial police headquarters says Nawab, a Taliban commander in the area was among the ones killed.

He said that the attack took place in Trili area of the district last night.

Mashriqiwal added that there were no civilian casualties in the strike.

Rocket attack on volleyball game leaves 3 dead, 5 injured in Wardak [Khaama – 28/12/14]

Explosion in Kabul city injures 3 people [Khaama – 28/12/14]

39 killed in aerial bombardment by Pakistan Army

GEO.tv [27/12/14]:

An aerial assault by the Pakistan Army in Datta Khel area of Northern Waziristan accounted for 39 terrorists including 2 important commanders.

According to ISPR Army jet fighters attacked the area killing 2 important terrorist commanders and destroying a large cache of ammunition.

ISPR also said that the destroyed cache of ammunition was so large that the blasts could even be heard in the jet fighters.

Egypt prepares to destroy 1,200 homes for Rafah border zone

Maan [27/12/14]:

An Egyptian committee has finished surveying the homes of individuals living between 500-1,000 meters of the Gaza border in preparation for the extension of a buffer zone on the border to a width of 1,000 meters, Egyptian military sources said Friday.

The move comes after the destruction of hundreds of homes inside the 500-meter area previously, as part of a wider effort to ensure that the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip be fully carried out.

The technical engineering committee that carried out the survey examined around 1,200 homes in the area in preparation for their demolition in the 13-kilometer long stretch of border territory.

Work on the buffer zone on the Egyptian side began in Feb. 2014, but was at the time slated to extend only about 300 meters in urban areas and 500 in rural areas.

After a bombing killed more than 30 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai in October, however, the military stepped up the campaign to build the buffer zone amid accusations of Hamas support for the group that carried out the attack, which Hamas has strenuously denied.

Both sides of the border are densely populated as the city of Rafah originally extended in both directions, a growth that was the result of the Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula for more than a decade following the 1967 war.

In the early 2000s Israeli authorities demolished thousands of homes in Palestinian Rafah in order to create a 300-meter buffer zone on the Egypt border, but after the pull-out in 2005, many moved back into the area.

The Egyptian government, which has actively destroyed smuggling tunnels underneath the border and directly targeted Hamas since a military coup in summer 2013, has now promised to uproot as many as possible to ensure the creation of a buffer zone on its side.

The border area used to be host to hundreds of tunnels which Gazans used to import goods to get around the seven-year-old Israeli siege of the territory.

Ireland: Gardaí warn residents to stay indoors as fire releases toxic materials in Carlow

Irish Examiner [27/12/14]:

Locals in Carlow town are being warned to stay indoors as emergency services battle a fire at a disused factory due to the toxic materials burning and rising into the air.

The fire at the disused Armor Salmon/Erin Foods factory beside Dr Cullen Park broke out at around 4.30pm this evening.

Gardaí are warning residents to stay indoors with the doors and windows locked and securely fastened, as the factory has an asbestos roof, which is highly toxic.

Pets should also be kept inside.

Units from Carlow and Bagenalstown fire service are currently battling the blaze.

Any residents in the area who are not at home are being told they will not be able to return to their houses for the time being.

Oak Park Road/Drive and Oakpark itself are all closed, while the roads between the Athy Road Roundabout and Dr Cullen Park Roundabout are also closed.

Diversions are in place.

Scotland: SNP block Craig Murray general election candidacy

Scotsman [28/12/14]:

A former UK ambassador who was sacked by Tony Blair’s government a decade ago has been blocked from standing as an SNP candidate at the next general election because of a “lack of a commitment to group discipline”.

SNP members in the party’s branch in the Airdrie and Shotts constituency, held by Labour’s Pamela Nash, had nominated Craig Murray to fight the key target seat for the Nationalists at the 2015 general election.

Murray, who was withdrawn from his role as the UK ambassador to Uzbekistan in 2004 after the Foreign Office became frustrated with his vociferous criticism of human rights abuses in the former Soviet country, said he had also been approached about standing in other constituencies, such as Falkirk.

However, Murray told Scotland on Sunday that SNP officials confirmed on Christmas Eve that he would not be allowed to stand for the party in 2015, after he went through a vetting process, which all potential Nationalist candidates have to go through.

The former diplomat said he was interviewed about how he would campaign and behave if elected as a parliamentarian over issues such as accepting group discipline and following the party whip in votes at Westminster.

Murray said he was “depressed” and “shocked” by his experience and did not know whether he would remain as a member of the party.

...

Elderly man run over by own car in Rookwood

Sydney Morning Herald [28/12/14]:

An 86-year-old man has been run over and killed by his own car at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney's south-west on Sunday morning.

The elderly man was visiting his wife's grave with his son at around 11am on Penola Street when the incident occurred.

He fell over in front of the pair's Honda Accord, which then rolled over him, police say.

The elderly man's son attempted to perform CPR on his father until paramedics arrived, but the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officers from the Metropolitan Crash Investigation unit are at the site and are trying to figure out exactly what transpired and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Police would not say whether the incident was a case of a hand break not being applied properly.

Three bodies found in freezer of fishing boat off PNG

ABC [28/12/14]:

Three human bodies have been found packed amongst tuna in the freezer of a fishing vessel that ran aground on a remote island of Papua New Guinea.

The suspected illegal fishing vessel was found on December 10 at Paona Island, a 45-minute boat ride from Fead Island, which is 200 kilometres north of Bougainville.

Due to the remote location, authorities had only begun launching an investigation mission to the area.

"Local reports coming from the area are that there are three dead bodies in the ship's fridge with some fish they have caught," said Franklin Lacey, Bougainville disaster coordinator, who is leading the investigation team.

Mr Lacey said the deceased were of Asian appearance and may have been crew members.

The identities of the bodies or the ship had not yet been established.

"The occupants of the boat, when it ran aground, they tried to burn it but it did not get ablaze – it's only the top part of the ship that's been burnt," Mr Lacey said.

Mr Franklin said the freezer containing the corpses was still working.

"We've been giving a warnings to the locals not to get the fish from the fridge, which they normally do with other ships that run aground," he said.

Illegal tuna fishing is common in the area and the crew was believed to have fled to a "mothership", acting as a hub for smaller vessels.

An assessment team was expected to leave Bougainville for the remote island on Monday and hand a report to the country's National Maritime Safety Authority, which will lead the recovery of the bodies and the vessel.

"We'll leave it to the NMSA to do the rest, because they could get the fish and dead people off and bury them somewhere," Mr Lacey said.

Indonesian navy blows up foreign boats for poaching fish [Independent - 22/12/14]

 

Turkey Shoot:  A 1982 Australian dystopian futurist film about a concentration camp

Turkey Shoot, also known as Escape 2000 and Blood Camp Thatcher, is a 1982 Australian dystopian futurist exploitation film directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith and starring Steve Railsback, Olivia Hussey and Michael Craig. The entire cast is a mix of international actors and Australian soap opera stars and television personalities.

The film is notable for its extreme violence and sadistic prison sequences, and it features plot elements of The Most Dangerous Game, but rather than having human targets hunted for sport by a madman on his own island, the story features a concentration camp known as "The Establishment", which offers the opportunity to rich adventurers with legal immunity.

Turkey Shoot Trailer

New Ireland drifters spend Christmas in FSM

PNG Loop [26/12/14]:

The two New Irelander drifters rescued by a fishing vessel in the Federated States of Micronesia are yet to receive confirmation on when they will be sent home.

The duo have been in FSM for over a month now after spending five (5) months at sea.

New Ireland Disaster Coordinator, Michael Lamusang, says if arrangements for repatriation were handled between the two governments the men would have already arrived in PNG.

Travel arrangements for those lost at sea in the Pacific is being handled by the International Organisation for Migration.

Lamusang says families are also awaiting confirmation on the whereabouts of the body of the third drifter.

He says families are starting to become frustrated as they want to complete customary obligations for the loss of their family member.

5 months on rainwater and raw fish: 2 men rescued after 1,000-mile drift in Pacific [RT – 5/12/14]

US Embassy in Port Moresby awards two new grants totalling US$1 million to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) [PNG Loop - 15/12/14]

Can NASA also see if families and children have really been released from Australia's refugee concentration camp on the other (Indian Ocean) Christmas Island?

NASA Satellite Sees Christmas (Island) from Space [Space.com – 23/12/14]:

A NASA satellite has snapped a picture of Christmas from space, Christmas Island, that is.

The space agency's Aqua satellite, responsible for monitoring Earth's water in its many forms, caught sight of the Kiritimati Island (sometimes called Christmas Island) in the Pacific Ocean, capturing this colorful photo on Nov. 11.

Despite its festive Christmas holiday name, Christmas Island, is relatively tiny at 150 square miles (388 square kilometers) in area, according to NASA.

The island is part of the Republic of Kiribati.

"It [Christmas Island] is located about 141 miles (232 km) north of the Equator and 4,160 miles (6,700 km) from Sydney, Australia," NASA officials said in a statement.

"In the Kiribati language, the name 'Kiritimati' is a spelling of the English word 'Christmas.'"

...

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [27/12/14]:

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Dec. 27 using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct six airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted six airstrikes in Iraq Dec. 27 using fighter, attack aircraft, and remotely piloted aircraft against the ISIL terrorists.

The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:

Syria

* Near Kobani, six airstrikes destroyed two ISIL buildings, five ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL vehicles and struck an ISIL fighting position.

Iraq

* Near Al Asad, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL building and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

* Near Mosul, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle.

* Near Fallujah, an airstrike destroyed two ISIL technical vehicles and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

* Near Al Qaim, two airstrikes struck an ISIL refinery and an ISIL tactical vehicle.

* Near Bayji, an airstrike struck three ISIL buildings.

Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

...

Volunteer forces in Iraq fighting against ISIL said U.S. military aircraft dropped weapons in areas held by the terrorist group, Press TV reported on Saturday. ... [Kayhan - 27/12/14]

@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [27/12/14]:

Haweeja: The aircrafts of international coalition have shelled Bakkara checkpoint at the southern entry of Haweeja further details unknwon.....

Salah-il-deen: The building of Youth Center in Samarra becomes a shelter to dozens of the displaced families as there are no places for them to live .......

Salah-il-deen: Agencies/security source: A civilian was killed and 6 wounded and homes damaged as mortars fell in the middle of Balad district today...........

Salah-il-deen: Violent blasts have been heard since early morning ;some of these sounds have been resulted from aerial shelling in the surrounding areas of Dhelo'iya......

Baghdad: Agencies/security source :Two persons were killed and 10 wounded as an adhesive bomb attached to oil tanker exploded in Zufuraniya today afternoon......

AirAsia Flight From Surabaya to Singapore Loses Contact

Jakarta Globe [28/12/14]:

 An Air Asia flight carrying 155 passengers from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control over the Java Sea, authorities say.

Flight QZ 8501, which left Surabaya at 05.20 a.m. and was scheduled to arrive at its destination at 08.30 a.m. Singapore time, lost contact with the Jakarta air traffic control tower at 6:17 a.m.

“Up until now, we’ve lost contact with the plane,” Wisnu Darjono, director for safety and standards at the State Enterprise for Aviation Navigation Services in Indonesia, told news portal Tempo.co.

The plane is carrying 155 passengers, including 138 adults, 16 children, one infant, two pilots, four cabin crews and one technician, media have reported. The pilot has been named as Capt. Irianto.

Five people stabbed in Washington restaurant

Reuters [27/12/14]:

Five people were stabbed early on Saturday in a restaurant in Washington, D.C., police said.

The incident occurred around 12:30 a.m. at McFadden's, a popular restaurant and nightclub on Pennsylvania Avenue, eight blocks from the White House in the nation's capital.

All five victims were taken to hospital with knife wounds, a police spokesman said Saturday. Their identities have not been released.

Police said the stabbing happened inside the bar. Photos posted on Twitter Saturday show a blood-splattered sidewalk.

Calls to McFadden's requesting comment were not returned.

 Kidnapped Mexican priest found shot dead in Guerrero state

BBC [27/12/14]:

A priest who was kidnapped in Mexico's south-western state of Guerrero on Monday has been found shot dead, officials say.

The body of Father Gregorio Lopez was discovered near the city of Ciudad Altamirano.

A group of priests later rallied in the city to condemn the murder.

Father Lopez was seized by gunmen from Ciudad Altamirano's seminary, where he taught. The motive for the killing remains unclear.

A friend of the priest told local media that Father Lopez was kidnapped after he accused drug gang Guerreros Unidos of the abduction and alleged murder of 43 students in September.

He is the third priest to be killed this year in Guerrero state, which has been at the centre of drug-related violence in Mexico.

Last month, forensic experts identified the body of a Ugandan Catholic priest among the remains found in a mass grave. Father John Ssenyondo had been missing since being kidnapped in April.

The grave was located by federal police looking for the missing students.

On Friday, demonstrators in several Mexican cities commemorated the disappearance of the students on 26 September - exactly three months ago.

Police in the town of Iguala allegedly detained them following a clash that left six people dead.

Authorities say the police turned the students over to members of a drug gang who killed them and burned their bodies.

So far, the authorities have only identified the remains of one of the students.

Cointelpro 101 (2010)

COINTELPRO may not be a well-understood acronym but its meaning and continuing impact are absolutely central to understanding the government’s wars and repression against progressive movements.

COINTELPRO represents the state’s strategy to prevent movements and communities from overturning white supremacy and creating racial justice.

COINTELPRO is both a formal program of the FBI and a term frequently used to describe a conspiracy among government agencies—local, state, and federal—to destroy movements for self-determination and liberation for Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous struggles, as well as mount an institutionalized attack against allies of these movements and other progressive organizations.

COINTELPRO 101 is a 56-minute educational film that will open the door to understanding this history. This documentary will introduce viewers new to this history to the basics and direct them to other resources where they can learn more.

The intended audiences are the generations that did not experience the social justice movements of the sixties and seventies.

The National Security Agency on Christmas Eve day released twelve years of internal oversight reports documenting abusive and improper practices by agency employees. 

The heavily redacted reports to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board found that NSA employees repeatedly engaged in unauthorized surveillance of communications by American citizens, failed to follow legal guidelines regarding the retention of private information, and shared data with unauthorized recipients. ... [Intercept - 26/12/14]

China jails 4 for 2013 fatal fire at poultry plant

ENCA [27/12/14]:

Two fire chiefs and two poultry farm bosses have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms of up to nine years in relation to a fire at a plant in northeastern China last year that killed 121 people and injured 76 others, state media reported Saturday.

The June 2013 fire in Jilin province was China's deadliest industrial accident in five years and highlighted continuing violations of safety regulations despite recent improvements in the country's work safety record.

Survivors at the time described workers, mostly women, struggling through smoke and flames in the poultry processing plant to reach doors that turned out to be locked or blocked after an electrical short ignited flammable goods.

On Friday, two district courts in Changchun city sentenced two bosses of the plant and two fire officials, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The chairman of Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Co., Jia Yushan, was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined 1 million yuan ($160,000) for not ensuring the working environment was safe, and former general manager Zhang Yushen was sentenced to four years for installing substandard equipment, Xinhua said.

Lyu Yandong, the former chief of the local fire department, and his deputy Liu Guicai were convicted of abuse of power and sentenced to prison terms of up to 5 1/2 years. Prosecutors previously said they had failed to carry out any serious inspections of the plant and falsified information after the fire to try and cover that up.

Indonesia: Floodwaters start to recede, aid distribution lacking

Jakarta Post [27/12/14]:

The floods in Bandung, West Java, and Cilacap, Central Java, have begun receding, but a large number of evacuees have yet to receive assistance from local administrations.

Bandung Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Marlan said floods triggered by the overflowing Citarum River in Baleendah and Dayeuhkolot districts in Bandung regency had begun to recede.

“Based on observations, the water level has dropped to around a meter. We hope rainfall will not be too high in the upper reaches of Citarum River,” Marlan was quoted as saying by Antara news agency at the Baleendah flood disaster command post.

According to Marlan, the drop in flood levels was quite significant as pools of water along the Baleendah-Bojongsoang roads have receded.

“The pools of water have receded, hopefully they will not rise again,” said Marlan.

The Baleendah-Dayeuhkolot highway is still cut off as it is still engulfed by more than a meter of water.

Around 36,000 homes, formerly occupied by about 12,500 people, are still inundated and inhabitants were forced to evacuate as their homes were engulfed by more than two meters of water.

“The latest water level in Andir and Cieunteung is 3.1 meters. The water has subsided today and we hope it will further subside,” said Marlan.

Despite that, most of the residents remain at home, especially those living in two-story houses.

“They remain at home and its difficult to make sure whether aid has been distributed. We have set up public kitchens at a number of points. Some of the evacuees have set up public kitchens and we distribute basic foodstuffs to the locations,” said Marlan.

“We cannot force them to evacuate because they regard the floods as normal, but we are continuing to monitor the situation. When the water level rises we will fetch them,” said Marlan.

Around 400 volunteers have been mobilized to distribute aid and man the public kitchens.

The police and Indonesian Military (TNI) have boosted the number of personnel to transport residents by rafts and rubber boats as well as secure the situation, as the floods further expand.

...

4 children in Fukushima test positive for possible thyroid cancer

Japan Today [26/12/14]:

Fukushima prefectural health officials say that four children have been diagnosed with possible thyroid cancer after a health check.

The test was conducted by an investigative commission comprised of oncologists and experts from Fukushima Prefectural Medical University, TBS reported Friday.

Approximately 385,000 children were tested, all of whom were either under the age of 18 at the time of the 2011 disaster or born within the following year.

The researchers’ goal was to test the potential effects of radiation in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. In particular, the researchers examined the patient’s thyroid glands for any signs of cancer.

Following the initial examination, the researchers called approximately 61,000 patients back who had originally tested negative for any signs of thyroid cancer, for a second examination which began in April of this year and continued until the end of October. Of this second group, four children aged 6 to 17 at the time of the disaster tested positive for possible signs of thyroid cancer.

However, the investigative committee voiced its hesitation in linking the test results to the possible effects of the radiation in the aftermath of March 2011, TBS reported. They noted that the overall level of radiation within the region including the area where the four children were from, was far less than what had been present during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

Fukushima Prefectural University researchers said they plan on continuing to study the potential effects of radiation on citizens within the affected area for the next five years.

Statement of Mountain View Organics milk

Australia Alliance for Raw Milk (AUS-ARM) [12/12/14]:

Hi All,

I just saw the news this morning. I haven't read the paper, don't know what it says. Will get a copy this morning.

I do want to tell you that the little child that passed away was seriously ill, and as I understand, his mother was advised by an alternative therapist, to give him the milk to help his condition. There was no evidence to suggest that the milk caused him to pass away.

Our milk has tested by the Health Department have tested our milk and results have come back clear, for ecoli, salmonella, lysteria, campylobactor. They have notified me and have said they would continue to test.

Apparently the paper quoted me as saying that parents are irresponsible, giving their children raw milk. I did not say this. I cannot talk about the milk being consumed, and as you know, always have to say that it is for cosmetic purposes.

All of our milk is tested weekly, by the Food Lab in Melbourne, for ecoli and lysteria, bacto and cell count, and tests come back negative.

Mountain View Organic Dairy:

We have chosen to voluntarily recall our Mountain View Bath Milk this is to give us time to discuss with the heath department in regards to reviewing the labelling.

We are happy to review the labels together with the Health Department.

Victoria to introduce tough raw milk laws [The Age - 28/12/14]

Fast food outlet KFC has lodged an appeal against a payout for a child who was left severely brain damaged after eating a chicken wrap.  ... [ABC - 19/12/14]

Man hit by bullet at Victorian shooting range

West Australian [28/12/14]:

A man has been seriously injured by a ricocheting bullet at a Victorian shooting range.

Ambulance crews were called to the Little River shooting range west of Melbourne on Sunday morning after a bullet hit the man, who's in his 20s, in his upper body.

He was airlifted to the Alfred Hospital in a serious but stable condition, Ambulance Victoria spokesman John Mullen said.

Fire at Canberra halal markets deemed suspicious

Nine MSN [28/12/14]:

A recent fire at halal markets in Canberra was suspicious, police say.

Several people noticed smoke coming from the roof cavity of the Kippax Halal Markets in Holt in the early hours of December 15.

Firefighters put out the blaze, which had broken out in an office area at the centre.

ACT police say they want to talk to anyone who noticed people or cars around the markets at the time of the fire.

Australian media continue publicising the fascist cause of a minority group of religious bigots. [Canberra Times - 28/12/14]

Death investigation, Raby Bay

QPS Media [28/12/14]:

Police preparing a report for the Coroner following the death of a woman at Raby Bay on Saturday are appealing for public assistance.

Initial inquiries indicate sometime after 4am the 64-year-old Thornlands woman was with a man known to her at Raby Bay marina when they both fell into the water from a jetty.

The man was able to swim to shore with the woman however she died at the scene.

As part of compiling their report for the Coroner police are appealing for anyone who may have spoken to the man as he sought assistance or who may have seen the man or woman in the Raby Bay marina area between 4 and 6.30am yesterday morning.

Police would also like to hear from any residents or business holders that may have CCTV of the Raby Bay marina which was operating at that time.

If anyone has any information that could assist investigators they are asked to contact Crime Stoppers or Cleveland Criminal Investigation Branch on 3824 9333.

Serious assault charges, Palm Beach

QPS Media [28/12/14]:

Two men have been charged following a serious assault early this morning in Palm Beach.

It will be alleged that about 6.30am three men were driving home from Broadbeach when they stopped at a carpark on the Gold Coast Highway at Palm Beach. An altercation between the men ensued and it will be further alleged that two of the men began to punch and kick the other man.

The two men then fled the scene in a vehicle, where they were intercepted by police on Palm Beach Avenue a short while later.

The 28-year-old Burleigh Heads man sustained non-life threatening injuries and was admitted to the Robina Hospital.

A 27-year-old Nerang man and a 24-year-old New South Wales man were both charged with one count each of grievous bodily harm. Both are scheduled to appear in the Southport Magistrates Court tomorrow.

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.

Fun fun fun with media and police at the Festival of Bob Hawke

On duty @QPSmedia @WoodfordFF @abcnews @612brisbane ...

Image: @kathymcleish1 [28/12/14]

John Bjelke-Petersen named Queensland PUP leader

West Australian [28/12/14]:

The son of former Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen will lead the Palmer United Party into next year's state election.

Palmer United Party federal leader Clive Palmer confirmed John Bjelke-Petersen will replace Alex Douglas, who quit the party earlier this year.

Mr Palmer says Mr Bjelke-Petersen was the obvious candidate for the leadership.

"Mr Bjelke-Petersen is just the person the party needs, he is a real leader who will be able to deliver real results for all Queenslanders," Mr Palmer said in a statement.

Mr Bjelke-Petersen had already been endorsed as the party's candidate for the seat of Callide, where he'll stand against Liberal National Party (LNP) incumbent and Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney.

Mr Bjelke-Petersen quit the LNP earlier this year, citing disgust at the Newman Government's lack of support for regional Queensland.

He said he was excited to take on the challenge of leading PUP into the 2015 Queensland election.

"[Premier] Campbell Newman and his government have failed Queensland and Queenslanders," he said.

"It is time that Queenslanders were represented by a government who is focused on building the state's economy, creating jobs and providing opportunities for local industries."

PUP has been without a leader in Queensland since October, when its two state MPs - Dr Douglas and Carl Judge - quit the party.

Dr Douglas cited concerns over the selection process for candidates, while Mr Judge said he could better serve his electorate as an independent.

Mr Bjelke-Petersen's father, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, was Queensland's longest serving premier, holding office from 1968 to 1987.

Operation Bastard busts more than 2500 over Christmas

Morning Bulletin [28/12/14]:

More than 30 people have been hurt, 70 boozy drivers were busted and 2500 speedsters were nabbed over the past six days in central Queensland.

From December 23 to 12.01am December 28, the region's police nabbed 75 drink-drivers and gave out 2522 speeding fines.

They also attended 19 crashes where 31 people were injured.

Twenty-five people were busted not wearing their seat-belts and 41 drivers were caught using mobile phones.

There were 569 other road offences and police completed 14,172 random breath tests done across the central police region in the same period.

The statistics are part of Queensland Police's Christmas road safety campaign, Operation Crossroads, which kicked off on December 23 and ends on January 3.

The region covers Mackay, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast and Gympie.

Emergency services on way to traffic crash in Rockhampton [Morning Bulletin - 28/12/14]

No shit Sherlock: .... Mr Hughes said he thought the graffiti spree might have been the result of disgruntled fishers being told not to fish there. ... [Willies, swastikas painted on Quay Street pontoon, Bundaberg - News Mail – 25/12/14]

Cages installed over benches in French city to discourage homeless from sleeping rough [Independent – 27/12/14]

Appeal launched for house fire family

Chronicle [27/12/14]:

Somerset Regional Council has launched a special fundraising appeal to support an employee and her family after they tragically lost their home and all of their belongings in a house fire.

A trust fund has been set up to accept cash donations to help council employee Debbie Chandler, her husband Richard and their family get back on their feet.

The fire completely destroyed their home at Atkinson Dam about 5.45pm on Monday.

Somerset Regional Council Mayor Graeme Lehmann said Mrs Chandler was a valued and well respected member of the council team.

"It would be absolutely heartbreaking to lose your home and your belongings at anytime, but for this to happen just a few days before Christmas is absolutely devastating," Cr Lehmann said.

"Council has set up a trust fund to support Debbie and her family during this very difficult time."

Mrs Chandler said she had lost "absolutely everything" in the blaze.

"I certainly did lose everything, all the Christmas presents for my kids and grandson and birthday presents for the kids too," she said.

Assist Mrs Chandler and her family

Account Name: Somerset Regional Council Trust account

BSB: 084 648

Account Number: 75 332 6689

Reference: Chandler

Bank: National Australia Bank, Esk Branch, Ipswich Street, Esk 4312

Queensland and NSW border hit with close to 300mm of rain in 24 hours

ABC [28/12/14]:

Areas surrounding the Queensland and New South Wales border have been hit with a deluge of rain, with close to 300 millimetres falling in some areas in the past day.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), in the 24 hours to 9:00am Duranbah recorded 291mm, 278mm fell at Kingscliff and Tweed Heads saw 292mm.

Heavy rainfall was also experienced on the northern side of the border - with neighbouring Coolangatta receiving 153mm in the same period.

Currumbin Creek recorded 100mm and Upper Springbook had 116mm.

Floodwaters have closed some roads around Tweed Heads, and several flights have been diverted from the Gold Coast Airport due to the rain.

Jetstar diverted two domestic and two international flights this morning and turned another flight back to Sydney.

Across the south-east, the State Emergency Service were called out to 11 properties to help cover leaky roofs.

...

... According to the Qships website, Methane Rita Andrea will remain at the wharf until December 29 while final commissioning of the LNG delivery mechanism is completed and the ship is filled with its 140,000 cu m payload.  ... [Gladstone Observer - 27/12/14]

Third World Queensland: TV still dropping out months after digital retune

News Mail [27/12/14]:

Bundaberg residents are still having television reception issues more than two months after the digital retune for the region.

In October, many of the region's free-to-air channels changed frequency to free up the broadcasting spectrum so it could be used for new services such as mobile broadband.

North Burnett Mayor Don Waugh said regions such as Eidsvold, Monto and Mundubbera continued to have issues since the retune and the North Burnett Regional Council was working to address these problems after being inundated with calls.

Cr Waugh said the council had investigated the Eidsvold Transmission Tower and found that on Saturday, December 13, the Channel 7 antenna sustained damage causing the surrounding area to lose Channel 7 reception.

It has also investigated the Bancroft-Bukali transmission tower and found there were ongoing issues with it that have been remedied.

"Monto has been worked on and seemed to improve the situation out there," he said.

"The engineers have checked the tower at Eidsvold and found no issues."

Bundaberg Home Theatre owner Tony Buckholz said he has had a few call-outs with some residents unsure how to retune their TV.

"I'm finding at the moment that the issue is tending to be with people's antennas," he said. "Some of the older antennas, the signal starts to roll off at the VHF channel 11 mark."

Mr Buckholz said faults with antennas and cabling should be checked by a qualified technician.

The NewsMail asked its Facebook friends if they were still having issues with TV reception and the answer was a resounding yes.

"No ABC at all. Kids miss ABC 4 Kids," Mitchell Grotherr said.

"(In the) Avenell Heights area, can barely watch TV most days, it's so pixelated or sometimes I just get no signal at all," Malissa Ferrara said.

"We keep losing Channel 7 every afternoon," Emma McCarthy said.

Cr Waugh said he could understand residents' frustrations.

"There is nothing worse of course than watching a show and have it drop off in the middle of it," he said.

Cr Waugh advised Monto residents still having issues with the Bancroft-Bukali transmission tower to phone 1300 696 272 to lodge a service request.

Residents must provide name, address, contact number, channels impacted and when the issues are happening.

The Munduberra transmission tower is not managed by council and residents should contact the TV networks responsible.

...

 

Feel safe Queensland?

A rabbit.

 

2014: The Year Propaganda Came Of Age - The Automatic Earth [26/12/14]

 

We're cracking down on your New Year's Eve celebrations [Brisbane Times - 28/12/14]:

Increased terror chatter in the wake of this month's Sydney siege, in which two hostages were killed, has prompted heightened security measures for Queensland's New Year's Eve celebrations.

A police spokesman confirmed there would be an increased police presence at all public events in Queensland, including New Year's Eve celebrations on Wednesday night.

As always, the epicentre of celebrations in Brisbane will be the South Bank parklands, where tens of thousands of people are expected to line the river for fireworks displays at 8.30pm and at midnight.

As with September's Riverfire, which was held under the same terror alert level, revellers could be subjected to random bag checks in crowded areas.

...

We're cracking down on imaginary smokers on school and hospital grounds [Acting Minister for Health Media Release - 28/12/14]:

... Those who smoke on, or within five metres of health facilities and school grounds will face on-the-spot fines of at least $227 from 1 January, 2015.

Acting Health Minister Mark McArdle said the changes to the Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1998 aimed to make Queensland a healthier place to live and raise a family.

...

Crackdown, crackdown .... 'til there's nothing left to crackdown on ... Man arrested at Big Bash cricket derby as authorities crack down on 'pitchsiding' [Sydney Morning Herald – 28/12/14]

We're making shit up about Queenslanders fighting in Syria [Murdoch via Yahoo 7 - 28/12/14]:

Queensland police are closely monitoring a number of people who have fought in conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart says a number of Queenslanders are on the force's anti-terrorism radar.

However, police have declined to reveal how many are being watched.

Mr Stewart says a handful of former Islamic State fighters are among those under scrutiny from intelligence agencies.

"Obviously you don't go off fighting in foreign lands not as a member of the Australian Defence Force and come back and think you are not going to be on our radar," he told The Courier Mail.

"And that's because of the experiences that they have, and the skill set that they pick up by being involved in fighting elsewhere."

He said authorities were on the "highest state of alert" for terrorism than they have been since World War II.

Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars [ICH/Consortium News - 26/12/14]

We showed the world how to criminalise a suburb and impose martial law on Christmas Day [Brisbane Times - 26/12/14]:

A man who allegedly sparked a Christmas Day siege on the Gold Coast has appeared in court on charges of attempted murder and keeping a rabbit.

Anthony Shane Randall, 36, was arrested on Christmas morning after a lengthy stand-off with police during which he allegedly fired gunshots in Southport.

...

Death investigation, Mount Isa

QPS Media [28/12/14]:

Police are investigating after a man died following an altercation in a park at Mount Isa yesterday.

Initial investigations indicate the man was involved in a fight with a second man around 4pm at a park on Gardener Drive.

The 38-year-old Doomadgee man collapsed at the scene and later died in hospital.

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.

Three men charged following Chermside shooting

QPS Media [28/12/14]:

Three men have been charged following a shooting in Chermside on December 23.

Police were called to a unit block on Eastleigh Street around 11pm, and on arrival found a 41-year-old man in a carpark with a gunshot wound to his lower torso.

He was taken to hospital with non-life threating injuries.

Detectives yesterday charged a 45-year-old Beachmere man with acts intended to maim, dangerous conduct with weapon, discharge weapon public place, unlawful possession of weapon, extortion, burglary and commit indictable offence and wilful damage.

He is expected to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on December 29.

Two other men were charged on December 24 and 25 and appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on December 26.

A 26-year old Aspley man was charged with one count each of acts intended to maim, extortion and burglary.

A 37-year-old Morayfield man was charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a weapon and one count each of acts intended to maim, extortion and burglary.

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

Fatal traffic crash, Cunnamulla

QPS Media [27/12/14]:

Police are investigating a double fatal traffic crash west of Cunnamulla this morning.

Initial investigations suggest at about 8.30am two vehicles travelling on Adventure Way, five kilometres west of Cunnamulla have collided head-on.

The 23-year-old male driver of one vehicle and a 78-year-old female passenger of the other vehicle were pronounced deceased at the scene.

The driver of the other vehicle, a 40-year-old woman, was flown to the Princess Alexandra hospital with serious internal injuries.

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.

Poor telecommunications infrastructure leaving outback Queensland shires behind

ABC [28/12/14]:

Two outback Queensland shires say they are being left behind because of poor telecommunications infrastructure.

Local council leaders said their remote communities would find it hard to survive unless there was Federal Government support for significant upgrades.

Almost all of the Barcoo and Diamantina Shires in Queensland's far west have no mobile phone coverage, and the councils said satellite internet was not enough for telehealth and education needs.

The two councils are working on a $21 million plan to lay fibre optic cables to the towns in the shires, but need about $8 million in federal funding.

The Queensland Government has confirmed just over $5 million for the plan, with the councils and industry also contributing.

The councils said they had applied for federal funding under the National Stronger Regions Program, due to be announced in early 2015.

Windorah cattleman and former mayor Bruce Scott has been lobbying governments for improvements for a decade.

"If this project doesn't fly, it could be the end of these small communities," Mr Scott said.

"I think we will struggle to get people to come and live in remote areas, unless they have the digital services and telecommunications services that people in other higher population areas have.

"The national debate talks about delivering high speed broadband services.

"We talk about having access to telecommunication services that are taken for granted in other areas."

"We are being treated as second class citizens, in such a first-class or first world economy, that we should have such a divide between the haves and the have nots."

...

The free market will fix it ---> Mobile phone companies can now start bidding for government money to build new phone towers in blackspot areas.  ... [ABC - 8/12/14]

Happy New Year and suck it up losers: As an unaccountable government we can do whatever we like eg celebrate the shutting down of a rail service

Assistant Minister for Public Transport Media Release [28/12/14]:

The final Sunlander service from Brisbane to Cairns will leave Roma St Station today before being retired on New Year’s Day.

Assistant Minister for Public Transport Steve Minnikin said the Sunlander had been a favourite among local, interstate and international travellers for many years.

“The Sunlander has had a tremendous career dating back to 1953, when the air-conditioned carriages started running up the north coast of Queensland three times per week, giving people a whole new perspective on regional rail travel,” Mr Minnikin said.

“The Sunlander’s retirement marks a significant milestone in Queensland Rail’s history, as one of Australia’s longest running and most spectacular rail journeys, servicing more than 3.5 million customers.

“There have been couples that have spent their honeymoon on the train more than 50 years ago and people that have grown up on the train travelling up and down the coast to see their families.

“People have made lifelong friends on the Sunlander, so it is no surprise with such a rich history that the Sunlander became one of Australia’s most popular train holidays.

“On her final journey customers will become part of rail history, celebrating New Year’s Eve on board in style.

“Party poppers will be popped on board at midnight, as we farewell the Sunlander and welcome a new era in rail travel.”

...

Heritage Train Rides - Every Sunday:

Come and ride a train straight out of the good old days, when life was simpler and train services were an essential part of rural life.

Our restored heritage trains "take you for a ride" through the beautiful scenic countryside and forest of the Central Highlands, to the highest operating railway station in Victoria.

...

Fire destroys vintage rail carriage at North Wagga stables [Riverina Leader – 27/12/14]

Peter Greste pens letter about journalism

Al Jazeera [26/12/14]:

... Sometimes it is easy to forget why we need it at all. Journalism can, at times, look pretty sordid, and few of us who work in it can claim to have never succumbed to the more base instincts of our trade.

And in the wired world of the internet, with its citizen reporters and millions of sources, it is tempting to wonder why we need professional journalists at all.

But that noise is the reason itself. Never has cleared-eyed, critical, sceptical journalism been more necessary to help make sense of a world overloaded with information.

We should never forget that journalism is not a science. It is a human craft as vulnerable to biases and inaccuracies and flaws as any other. And, at its worst, it can be quite destructive.

But the reason we still buy newspapers, listen to the radio or switch on the evenings TV news bulletin is to find context and understanding; a sense of perspective.

The best journalism puts a frame around an issue. It helps define it, clarifies it, makes sense of it. And, above all, it challenges authority.

...

Peter Greste’s Keynote Speech for the Frontline Club 2014 Awards Ceremony [16/10/14]

Freedom: Song, music, and lyrics by: Japreet Lehal (Columnist | Scholarship Student | Singer & Musician)

Gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed an Egyptian policeman and wounded a second who were guarding banks in a busy commercial district of the capital Cairo on Saturday, Egypt's state news agency said. ... [ABC News - 27/12/14]

Al-Monitor [10/12/14]:

The long-term spending bill that Congress is expected to adopt this week would allow the State Department to resume military aid to Egypt despite ongoing concerns with the country's human rights record.

The bill specifies a number of requirements before the $1.3 billion in annual military assistance can resume but allows Secretary of State John Kerry to bypass them for "national security" reasons.

The decision to reinstate that waiver authority, which was absent from the previous spending bill, marks a victory for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his regional allies and a blow to human rights advocates.

...

Free #Manning, Free #Assange at #31c3

More: http://www.chelseamanning.org/ | https://freeassangenow.org/

Image: @SomersetBean [27/12/14]

@SomersetBean [27/12/14]:  #FreeBB at #31c3 in Hamburg | Join the campaign in the lead up to sentencing on Jan 22: https://freebarrettbrown.org/

Fires spread to five oil tanks at key Libya terminal

Ahram [27/12/14]:

More storage tanks were ablaze Saturday at one of Libya's main oil terminals after a rocket attack by Islamist militiamen, officials said as the UN denounced attacks on oil installations.

The rocket was fired on Thursday by militiamen from Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn), a coalition of Islamist fighters.

One oil tank was hit, said the region's security spokesman Ali al-Hassi, before the fire spread on Friday to two other full tanks at Al-Sidra terminal.

On Saturday the flames engulfed another two storage tanks at Al-Sidra, which is in the eastern region known as the "oil crescent" and home to other key terminals, he said.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement on Saturday that it "strongly condemns" attacks on Libya's oil installations.

"The mission warns of the environmental and economic consequences as a result of this violence and destruction in the oil crescent area, and urges the forces on the ground to cooperate in order to allow the fire crews to extinguish the blaze," it said.

Hassi said the national fire department refused to extinguish the fires, prompting volunteer firefighters to come forward to fight the flames with the help of oil installation guards.

"They are doing their best to extinguish the fire and are working under difficult conditions," Hassi said.

A technician for Waha, the company responsible for running Al-Sidra, said there are 19 storage tanks at the terminal with a total capacity of 6.2 million barrels of oil.

The source, who declined to be named, estimated the amount of crude lost to the fire so far at more than 1.6 million barrels.

In its statement, UNSMIL called attacks on oil installations a "clear violation" of UN Security Council resolutions on Libya.

"Libyan oil belongs to all the Libyan people and is the country's economic lifeline," it said, urging all sides to "desist from any action that endangers this strategic national asset".

Kurdish clashes in south Turkey turn deadly

Al Jazeera [27/12/14]:

Two people have died and three others wounded in clashes between Islamists and Kurdish youths in Turkey's southeastern town of Cizre, the government has said.

Security sources said clashes erupted on Saturday after midnight between members of the Islamist Free Cause Party (Huda-Par) and youth groups linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The two groups are historically fierce rivals. Huda-Par draws support from sympathisers of Turkey's Hizbullah group which fought the PKK in the 1990s.

Tensions were still high in the town bordering Syria after the clashes, which the Turkish police had difficulty in containing, the security sources said.

The office of the governor of Sirnak province, which announced the two deaths, said in a statement: "Necessary work

is still being carried out in the region with the help of our security forces, armoured vehicles and helicopters."

Thirty-five people died in early October after Kurds rioted in several southeastern cities over what they perceived as the government's refusal to help Syrian Kurds fighting Islamic State fighters in the besieged town of Kobani across the border.

The violence, the worst seen in the region in many years, was partly driven by intense clashes between Kurds and the Islamists.

Calm in the region is key to a shaky peace process in which the government is negotiating an end to a 30-year insurgency with the jailed leader of the outlawed PKK who called a ceasefire last year.

Afghanistan: US forces apologise for Logar civilian deaths

Pajhwok [27/12/14]:

US forces on Saturday apologised y to the families of five Afghan civilians killed in an overnight coalition airstrike in central Logar province, a senior public representative said.

Habibullah Stanikzai, the provincial council head, told Pajhwok Afghan News the US force commander in Logar met family members of the victims at the Afghan National Army’s 203rd Thunder Military Corps Headquarters and apologised to them for the tragic incident

He said the US commander told the families they had been provided wrong intelligence report.

The Friday’s airstrike also left another five civilians wounded in the Baraki Barak district. Acting Governor Niaz Muhammad Amiri said: “Foreign forces wanted to target a group of militants but unfortunately they hit a house inflicting causalities on civilians.”

Police chief Brig. Gen Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai also said the US troops had tendered apology over the incident.

However, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul has not commented yet on the incident.

US to transfer MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles from Afghanistan to Ukraine [RT - 27/12/14]

Hundreds Protest against China-Backed Mine in Myanmar

Naharnet [27/12/14]:

Around 500 people including dozens of Buddhist monks protested near the Chinese consulate in Myanmar's central city of Mandalay on Saturday demanding the closure of a flashpoint copper mine.

It was the largest protest since the fatal shooting of a woman demonstrating against the Letpadaung mine in the northwestern town of Monywa -- a Chinese backed venture dogged by complaints of land grabbing and environmental damage.

Khin Win, in her 50s, was killed last Monday when police opened fire on protesters trying to stop the mine company building a fence in territory disputed with local farmers.

The mine -- run by Chinese firm Wanbao as part of a joint venture with a major local military conglomerate --- has raised questions about Myanmar's reliance on investment from neighboring China, which gave crucial political support to the former junta.

"We want the truth of what happened in Letpadaung as Khin Win was killed. We want the authorities to take appropriate action," Thein Aung Myint, a protest organizer from Movement for Democracy Current Force (MDCF) told AFP.

Small but near-daily protests against Wanbao have been held in Yangon and Mandalay.

"We are not against China. We are neighbors. But we are worried that relations between China and Myanmar may be damaged," by the mine dispute, Thein Aung Myint added.

Mandalay police confirmed the protest, saying hundreds were in attendance but no arrests were made.

Keen to prevent the issue snowballing, Wanbao has recognized the woman's "senseless death" as "painful and poignant", while China's foreign ministry on Wednesday also expressed its regret.

The Letpadaung copper mine has triggered several rounds of fierce opposition from local villagers.

In November 2012 a botched police raid using phosphorus on a protest at the mine left dozens of people, including monks, with burn injuries.

That crackdown, the harshest since the end of outright army rule in 2011, sparked fury in the Buddhist-majority country.

Earlier this year two Chinese workers were kidnapped at the site by activists, though they were later released unharmed.

A new quasi-civilian government has implemented headline-grabbing reforms in recent years, including releasing political prisoners and allowing opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi into parliament.

But land disputes and battles for nation's rich mineral resources are posing an increasingly serious challenge.

Wanbao on Monday said Myanmar would receive $140 million a year in tax from the project.

In July 2013 the country revised the terms of the mine deal with Wanbao, giving the nation a share of the profits in an apparent attempt to allay public anger.

Ban condemns Sudan’s decision to expel UN officials, urges immediate reversal

UN Media Release [26/12/14]:

United Nations Secretary-General has today condemned the Government of Sudan’s decision to expel two senior UN officials from the embattled nation.

Ordered to leave the country are UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ali Al-Za’tari, and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Country Director Yvonne Helle.

In a statement released by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said the sanctioning of UN personnel sent to Sudan to carry out their duties in accordance with the UN Charter is unacceptable.

The Secretary-General called on the Government of Sudan to reverse its decision immediately and urged it to cooperate fully with all UN entities currently present in the country.

Sudan’s decision to expel UN personnel comes amid a worsening security climate and dire humanitarian crisis in the Sudanese region, with ramped-up hostilities between Government forces and armed movements.

Briefing the UN Security Council on the situation earlier this month, Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), had urged Council Members to rethink their approach to the crisis in Darfur and fully pursue those individuals deemed responsible for atrocities.

ICC Judges had already concluded that certain individuals in Sudan must be brought to the Court to answer charges, including Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, for whom a warrant of arrest had been issued, Ms. Bensouda stressed as she briefed the Council on 12 December 2014.

However, until the Council applied “a dramatic shift” to its approach to arresting Darfur suspects, it would be increasingly difficult for her and the ICC to continue doing their work.

“Given this Council’s lack of foresight on what should happen in Darfur, I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases, especially those in which trial is approaching. It should thus be clear to this Council that unless there is a change of attitude and approach to Darfur in the near future, there shall continue to be little or nothing to report to you for the foreseeable future.”

The ICC Prosecutor added, not only was the situation in Darfur deteriorating, but the brutality with which crimes are being committed there has become “more pronounced.” In particular, she warned that women and girls were continuing to bear the “brunt of sustained attacks.”

According to UN estimates, the number of people displaced by conflict has increased to more than 430,000 since the beginning of the year, with close to 300,000 remaining displaced in addition to the more than two million long-term internally displaced persons, or IDPs.

#AkaiGurley march at the NYPD precinct of the officer who killed him (@NYPD75Pct). #BlackLivesMatter

Image: @KeeganNYC [27/12/14]

@apadillafilm6 [27/12/14]: #AkaiGurley protesters turn backs on the 75th precinct and demand justice for his murder #Brooklyn #NYC  

Syria ready to attend Moscow peace talks

France 24 [27/12/14]:

Syria said on Saturday it is willing to participate in “preliminary consultations” in Moscow aimed at restarting peace talks next year to end its civil war.

But members of the Western-backed Syrian opposition dismissed the Russian plan on Saturday, saying there was “no initiative.”

Syrian state television quoted a source at the foreign ministry saying “Syria is ready to participate in preliminary consultations in Moscow in order to meet the aspirations of Syrians to find a way out of crisis.”

Moscow, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has pushed to restart talks that collapsed in Geneva in February.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this month that he wanted Syrian opposition groups to agree among themselves on a common approach before setting up direct talks with the Damascus government.

But Lavrov did not specify which opposition groups should take part. Some opposition groups are tolerated by Damascus but shunned by the opposition in exile.

Hadi al-Bahra, head of the Turkey-based opposition National Coalition, met with Arab League Chief Nabil Elaraby in Cairo on Saturday and told a news conference that “there is no initiative as rumoured”.

“Russia does not have a clear initiative, and what is called for by Russia is just a meeting and dialogue in Moscow, with no specific paper or initiative,” he was quoted by Egyptian state news agency MENA as saying.

Russia has long backed Assad, including with arms supplies for Syria, but he has become a more important ally for Moscow since the 2011 Arab Spring protests toppled several autocrats in the Middle East, some of whom had close ties with Moscow.

Moscow to supply coal, electricity to Ukraine without prepayment [RT – 27/12/14]

Malaysian Prime Minister forced to defend golf with Obama

The Hill [27/12/14]:

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday was forced to defend his recent golf outing with President Obama after coming under fire back home.

Razak golfed with Obama in Hawaii on Wednesday, triggering an outcry in Malaysia, which is contending with floods that have forced more than 100,000 people from their homes.

Obama himself often comes under criticism from opponents for his frequent golf outings, but now most of the scrutiny is on his golfing companion, the prime minister.

After touring the flooded areas on Saturday, Najib said at a news conference that golfing with Obama was "golf diplomacy," according to state news agency Bernama.

Obama travelled to Malaysia in April, and Najib said the golf outing was long planned.

"Actually, during President Obama's visit to Malaysia, he had said that if coincidentally I were in Hawaii together with him, he would like to play golf with me," Najib said.

"Every day when I was there, I received the latest report on the flood situation," he added. "As it became more serious, I decided to return to the country as soon as possible and went directly to Kota Baharu [the affected region]. I have not even returned home yet."

Najib cut short his trip on Friday to return to Malaysia amid headlines such as the Malaysia Chronicle's "Stop Playing Golf, Najib," which appeared above images of the flooding and of Najib on the golf course with Obama.

"The President and Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia enjoyed golf together today," a White House official said on Wednesday after the outing.

"The two leaders took the opportunity to discuss the growing and warming relationship between the United States and Malaysia," the official added. "The President said he looked forward to working with Prime Minister Najib in 2015, during Malaysia's chair year of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations."

Malaysia is battling some of the worst floods in decades along its east coast, which have killed at least five people.

More than 100,000 people have been forced from their homes, and Prime Minister Najib Razak has returned early from holiday in the US. ... [BBC - 27/12/14]

Obama Golf Counter matches US President's golf outings with US casualties in Afghanistan.

 

29 December 2014

HOME