Tamil family removed from Perth refugee concentration camp will not be sent to Nauru death camp

Tamil Guardian [29/12/14]:

A Tamil family who were removed from an asylum centre in Perth, Australia will not be sent to a government detention centre in Nauru, announced Australian authorities.

The Tamil couple and six month old baby girl were being held at Darwin, from where they were to be sent to Nauru detention centre, where they were originally being held. The young couple were moved to Perth for the woman to give birth.

Following the birth of their daughter, the whole family were to be sent to Nauru detention centre. Their removal from Perth sparked protests, as activists blockaded the driveway of the Perth centre where they were being held.

Since then, the Australian government has announced that 31 babies, including the girl born in Perth, and their families would not be sent back to Nauru.

The decision was welcomed by the Refugee Rights Action Network with spokesperson Victoria Martin, saying,  “This family delivered their baby here – a gorgeous little girl. This is a family that has survived war, torture, injury and grief.”

“They are ecstatic, over the moon and in tears not to go back to Nauru but they should have never been moved from Perth in the first place.”

UC Berkeley alumna released from prison in East Timor

The Daily Californian [28/12/14]:

A UC Berkeley alumna who has been detained in East Timor since September as a suspect in a drug trafficking crime she says she did not commit was released from prison last Thursday.

On Sept. 5, Stacey Addison was arrested on her way to Dili, the capital of East Timor, when the taxi she was in was stopped by police, who had received a tip that the other passenger in the taxi — a stranger to Addison — was allegedly holding a package containing methamphetamines.

After four nights in jail, she was released on conditional liberty, requiring her to stay in the country for the duration of an investigation which could last up to a year. Her passport was held pending further investigation. In late October, Addison was imprisoned a second time after the case’s prosecutor filed an appeal to have her conditional release rescinded.

The papers for Addison’s release were signed by a judge Thursday, but her passport was not returned.

Addison is currently staying at the guesthouse of former president of East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta. Addison’s mother, Bernadette Kero, said Addison was ill while in prison and has been making visits to the local clinic.

Following Addison’s initial arrest in September, she was not questioned until Dec. 9, Kero said, after a new prosecutor was assigned to the case. Kero said the first prosecutor has since been found to have been involved in unrelated cases of gross negligence.

Kero said she was told that the questioning went well and provided the basis for the attorney representing Addison, Paul Remedios, to file a petition of release.

In November, Oregon senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden urged a confirmation vote for the nomination of Karen Stanton as the U.S. ambassador to East Timor to speed up Addison’s release. Stanton’s appointment was confirmed Nov. 17.

In an email, Remedios said that the release request submitted to the judge was approved “not because of any political lobby or victory from any senator or ambassador” and that he has not communicated with the U.S. ambassador or senators during the entire process.

According to Kero, though Addison feels safe to be released, she remains “very anxious” over when she will receive her passport.

“(We) met part of our goal of having Stacey released from prison,” Kero said, in an email. “But we are still fighting to have her passport returned.”

Palestinians to submit resolution for UN statehood bid

Reuters [29/12/14]:

Palestinians plan to submit a final draft of a statehood resolution to the United Nations on Monday calling for a peace deal with Israel within a year and an end to occupation of Palestinian territories by the end of 2017, officials said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas informed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by phone that he would press ahead with the initiative despite Israeli and U.S. opposition, the official Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.

Several European countries had been pushing for a less stringent timeline that might win broader support.

"Today the Arab group will meet in New York, and we will submit the original draft resolution to the Security Council hoping to conclude the vote by tomorrow or the day after," senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told Reuters.

Palestinian officials said the proposal calls for negotiations to be based on the territorial lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war.

"The draft resolution calls for the resumption of negotiations to solve all final status issues by no later than 12 months after the adoption of the resolution and ensures the end of the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will come no later than the end of 2017," the Palestine Liberation Organisation said.

"It calls for two sovereign, democratic and secure states, Palestine and Israel."

Israel, which pulled troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, has said its eastern border would be indefensible if it withdrew completely from the West Bank.

A Palestinian draft, submitted to the Security Council by Jordan on Dec. 17, had called for Jerusalem to be the shared capital of Israel and a Palestinian state.

The final proposal reverts to a harder line, saying only that East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine, the officials said. It also calls for an end to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel has said a Security Council vote, which follows the collapse in April of U.S.-brokered talks on Palestinian statehood, would only deepen the decades-old conflict. It supports negotiations but rejects third-party timelines.

"We will continue to rebuff vigorously attempts to force terms that would jeopardize our security," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, referring to the Palestinian U.N. bid, said in public remarks to his cabinet on Sunday.

Nine Security Council votes are needed to adopt a resolution, which would then force the United States, Israel's closest ally, to decide whether to veto it.

Israeli settler runs over 7-year-old Palestinian child near Hebron [Maan – 28/12/14]

3 Palestinians injured after Israeli forces fire at protesters in Gaza [Maan – 28/12/14]

Four killed in US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan

Press TV [29/12/14]:

At least four people have been killed in a US assassination drone strike in Afghanistan’s eastern Nuristan Province.

Local government officials said on Monday that the airstrike hit Nuristan’s Mandish village overnight.

According to provincial governor Hafiz Abdul Qayum, the US-led forces in the Wanat Wigal district carried out the attack.

Qayum also said that the victims were all Taliban militants. He added that a commander, Syed Izam, was also among those killed in the attack.

This comes shortly after a similar US strike targeted an area in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, which killed five people, including another Taliban commander. Six others were also wounded.

The United States regularly uses drones for assassination strikes and spying missions in Afghanistan, as well as in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border.

US drone strike kills 4 in Nangarhar [Khaama – 29/12/14]

Unknown gunmen kills civilian in Kandahar [Khaama – 29/12/14]

‏@wikileaks [28/12/14]:  Spiegel releases NATO 'kill list' (assassination list) but redacts all the names, so the people are free to die. http://www.spiegel.de/media/media-35508.pdf …  [Obama's Lists: A Dubious History of Targeted Killings in Afghanistan - Spiegel – 28/12/14]

All around the world: Straight up: Deported - one-way flight to Kabul

Copenhagen Post [20/12/14]:

On an outbound Turkish Airlines flight, two Afghan boys are making a commotion. They are shouting at the top of their lungs. The passengers are concerned, and the pilot is called in.

The boys, sandwiched between two white officers, make their case to the pilot: they are being forcefully transported to Afghanistan. The pilot always has the final word. The boys cannot fly on his plane. The boys and their escorts are let off the plane.

That was the scene at Copenhagen Airport on December 2. The two boys were Mustafa and Zekrya.

Their white escorts were Danish police officers. You see, Zekrya and Mustafa are refugees from Afghanistan. They arrived in the country in 2010 as unaccompanied minors. At the time, Zekrya was 15, Mustafa was just 11. The Convention of the Rights of the Child requires that such children be granted protection if they seek refugee status or any other humanitarian help as may be needed.

As it often happens, the authorities did not believe these young kids. So later in 2010, Zekrya was sent off to take a controversial age test. The test, which notable high-ranking scientific journals consider dubious, suggested that Zekrya was 18. The authorities ran with that result. In a matter of hours, a 15-year-old kid had ‘transformed’ into an adult – and was being treated as such. In the meantime, Zekrya converted to Christianity.

After a long, winding case and appeals, the boys received a final rejection. Sometime in November 2014, they were locked up in the notorious Ellebæk Prison awaiting deportation. On December 2, flanked by police officers, they were put on a one-way trip to Kabul.

Thanks to other passengers on that flight, a handful of activists who turned up at Copenhagen Airport, and the kind-hearted pilot (peace!), the boys escaped that deportation. They were sent back to Ellebæk while the authorities figure out another way to deport them.

Hundreds of asylum-seekers are locked up at Ellebæk and other prisons awaiting deportation. While deportation in certain specific cases may be justified on grounds of crime or national security, the deportation of unaccompanied kids who arrive in Denmark to seek asylum beats any reason.

It doesn’t help that the authorities buy their time by keeping these kids in camps until there are 18 to justify deporting them. The case of these kids is but the tip of a widespread infringement of children’s rights. In the last couple of years alone, the authorities have deported hundred of failed asylum-seekers – among them children.

These deportations end up putting the deportees in more danger than ever before. The police officers escort the deportees to their home countries. Once at the airport in their foreign countries, the officers take their flight back, leaving the deportees at the mercy of the authorities of the same countries they had run from. Most end up jailed, tortured and killed.

Army Opens Fire in Air to Disperse Protesters in Arsal's Wadi Hmeid

Naharnet [29/12/14]:

The army opened fire in the air on Monday to disperse protesters near Arsal's Wadi Hmeid crossing, demonstrating against the measures in the area.

The state-run National News Agency reported that Lebanese and Syrian nationals held a sit-in near Wadi Hmeid crossing to protest the army's upped security measures along the outskirts of Arsal.

NNA said that a spat occurred between the protesters and the army, prompting troops to open fire in the air to disperse them.

Military sources told LBCI that some 150 protesters from Arsal intentionally quarreled with the troops despite facilitating their movement to their jobs.

Five people were wounded in the dispute and the army detained five others, LBCI reported.

On Sunday, some 200 Arsal residents protested the army's measures in Arsal, however, the military clarified in a communique that its new, strict measures on the roads leading to the outskirts of the town aim at protecting the villagers.

Ever since the Syrian revolt erupted in March 2011, Arsal has served as a key conduit for refugees, rebels and wounded people fleeing strife-torn Syria.

It was overran in August by gunmen belonging to the two al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who withdrew from the town by taking several soldiers and policemen hostage. Four have been so far executed.

One Killed as Bangladesh Opposition Calls for Strike

Naharnet [29/12/14]:

Bangladesh opposition activists clashed with police during a nationwide strike Monday, leaving one woman dead and several people injured, as tensions grew ahead of the first anniversary of controversial elections.

Police said a female school teacher succumbed to her injuries after she was hit on the head by a rock thrown by an opposition protester in the coastal district of Noakhali.

"She was declared dead after being brought to a hospital," local police chief Anwar Ali told Agence France Presse.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and 19 allies, including Islamist outfits, called the strike to protest a crackdown against their leaders and supporters by the security forces.

BNP spokesman Rizvi Ahmed told AFP at least 400 party officials and activists have been arrested since Wednesday to thwart protests to mark the first anniversary of the January 5 elections that the party boycotted.

A senior member of BNP's main decision-making body and the head of its youth wing are among those to have been arrested while other officials have gone into hiding.

The opposition boycott of the polls meant there was no contest in the majority of the parliamentary seats, allowing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League party to retain power by a landslide.

Hasina has ruled out any election before the end of her new term in 2019.

The streets in the capital was largely deserted during Monday's strike. Offices and schools were closed and there were buses or lorries on national highways.

In Dhaka four people were injured, including a young man who was hit by shotgun pellet after police fired shotguns and tear gas to disperse opposition protesters, police inspector Shahab Uddin told AFP.

"Three policemen were also injured as the protesters attacked us with cocktail bombs. They have been taken to a police hospital," he added.

Three people also suffered burns injuries and two buses were torched in violence on Sunday night, police said.

Bahrain opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman arrested

BBC [28/12/14]:

Bahrain's main opposition movement, al-Wefaq, says its leader has been arrested after a day of questioning at the interior ministry.

Sheikh Ali Salman was summoned for questioning about "violating certain aspects of law," the ministry said.

His lawyer says he has been accused of "inciting hatred against the regime".

Mr Salman joined thousands of Shia Muslims at a protest in the capital Manama on Friday, demanding the dismissal of government and parliament.

Shia-dominated demonstrations against the Sunni monarchy, have been continuing for the past three years, with thousands arrested.

The questioning of Mr Salman is likely to be connected with the legal status of al-Wefaq, which was banned after it announced it was boycotting last month's parliamentary elections, says BBC Middle East editor Sebastian Usher.

The divisions between the Shia majority and the ruling Sunni elite remain as sharp and unresolved as ever, he adds.

In a statement, al-Wefaq described Mr Salman's arrest as "a perilous and arbitrary adventure which will seriously complicate the political and security scene in Bahrain".

Clashes between his supporters and security forces erupted outside his house near Manama after his arrest was announced.

The interior ministry says his case is being referred to the public prosecutors.

The 49-year-old secured a fourth term as head of the opposition group at its general congress on Friday.

Al-Wefaq was founded in 2002, a year after Bahrain announced political reforms in which the country became a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament and an independent judiciary.

Yemen general escapes bombings

Al Arabiya [28/12/14]:

A Yemeni general escaped unscathed on Sunday in a bombing that killed his driver in the southern city of Aden, one of his bodyguards told AFP.

“General Farej al-Atiqi, commander of the 31st armoured battalion, was unhurt when a device that had been hidden in his car exploded,” the man said.

But the blast in the Khor Maksar district of the port city killed Atiqi’s driver and wounded two other bodyguards, he added, and blamed Al-Qaeda for the attack.

The bomb was detonated by remote control, the bodyguard said.

Members of the security forces in Yemen are often the targets of attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which the United States regards as the deadliest branch of the global extremist network.

AQAP has exploited the weakened central authorities in Yemen since the 2012 departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh following a year-long popular uprising.

The jihadist group’s presence is strongest in the south and southeast of the impoverished country, but it has also launched attacks in the capital itself.

No shit Sherlock: UK government favoured Rupert Murdoch's propaganda empire, says outgoing Ofcom chief

Independent [29/12/14]:

Media power in Britain must not be allowed to fall into “too few hands”, the retiring head of Ofcom has warned – as he accused government representatives of showing favouritism to Rupert Murdoch’s companies.

In a rare interview, Ed Richards said he was “surprised” by the informality, closeness and frequency of contact between executives and ministers during the failed bid by Mr Murdoch’s News Corp for BSkyB in 2011. News Corp abandoned the deal when it emerged that journalists at Mr Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid had hacked the phone of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The communications regulator, who stands down at the end of this month, told The Independent that communications between politicians’ offices and News Corp lobbyists released at the Leveson Inquiry in 2012 showed the process had not been even-handed.

“What surprised everyone about it – not just me – was quite how close it was and the informality of it and the extent to which it featured certain companies a lot more than others. There was a widespread concern about the balance.”

During the attempted takeover, Ofcom resisted what Mr Richards described as “intense pressure from the participants in that bid, particularly from the acquirer”. Its recommendation that the proposed deal be referred to the competition authorities was one of the defining moments of Mr Richards’ eight-year tenure as Ofcom chief executive.

He said: “I’m very pro-market and I’m very pro-competition. But any country has to be very mindful of letting too much power in the media into too few hands, and I say that without reference to any individual or company.

“There’s always a danger if you have too concentrated a media because of the relationship that creates with the political system and public opinion.”

Mr Richards also complained of the “unhelpful” legal battles Ofcom has fought with BSkyB as the satellite broadcaster has sought to challenge in the courts a series of rulings by the regulator on competition issues.

“My regret is that we have spent years and years in court and millions and millions of pounds in a court battle which takes too long, costs too much and I don’t think is particularly helpful.”

He said he felt vindicated by court rulings in the regulator’s favour and said Ofcom was right to press for greater consumer choice in the pay-TV sector, including changes to the terms on which Sky shares its sports content with other companies.

“What we set out to do was promote competition in the context of what was then a highly concentrated market and I think we have achieved that. I think there is now more choice, more competition and more retail innovation.”

He claimed that the litigation system was “out of kilter” and allowed large companies to exploit their financial and legal muscle to challenge Ofcom rulings. “It’s a bit too easy to appeal the decisions, it’s a bit too easy to delay the effective decisions, a bit too easy for very large companies to throw money at litigation as a tactic, and I think that skews things against smaller companies,” he said.

Mr Richards, 49, will be succeeded by the former Treasury official Sharon White in March. He said that he left the regulator in “good shape”.

In terms of digital infrastructure, the UK was “the best in the EU big-five economies”, he said. “I think we have made great progress to create a competitive infrastructure market around broadband and mobile where UK consumers enjoy among the lowest prices and the best choice anywhere in the world.”

Fukushima mothers compile booklet addressing radiation safety

Asahi [29/12/14]:

Mothers living near the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have compiled a booklet offering basic knowledge about radiation and explanations addressing safety concerns arising from the disaster.

The booklet, titled “Yoku Wakaru Hoshasen Kyoshitsu” (Radiation and Health Seminar), is available in both Japanese and English and was created by the Veteran Mothers’ Society, which consists of five mothers from the city of Minami-Soma.

The members, some of whom are former high school classmates, decided to create the booklet “for children’s sake.”

The information incorporates lessons learned from doctors at seminars the group organized following the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011.

Amid the confusion and fears over radiation after the disaster unfolded, the mothers convened their first seminar for children and guardians in December 2011.

They invited Masaharu Tsubokura, a doctor of hematology from the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science who had been providing consultations at the Minami-Soma municipal general hospital.

Other physicians later joined the effort to spread accurate information about radiation, and the mothers have held the sessions once or twice a month.

In the seminars, the children peppered Tsubokura with questions, such as “Can I touch my pets?” and “Is it OK to lick the snow?”

Ikumi Watanabe, the society’s 54-year-old vice chairwoman, recalled that Tsubokura’s explanations “were spoken in an easy-to-understand manner so the information popped straight into our heads. It was nice that we could talk with him on the same level and in person.”

Even now, the nature of the questions has not changed much.

“People have felt pressured not to talk about radiation, and some mothers have finally gotten the information only now, more than three years after the accident,” Tsubokura said. “I hope I can help them make decisions without thinking negatively about themselves or losing their self-confidence.”

In addition to basic knowledge, such as the differences between external and internal radiation exposure and between becquerels and sieverts, the booklet answers questions like: “Can radiation be transmitted from one person to another?” and “Is the tap water OK?”

According to the Veteran Mothers’ Society, 20,000 copies of the Japanese version were distributed to schools, companies and other organizations. The English version has been ordered by international schools, international exchange organizations and other groups.

Inquiries to the Veteran Mothers’ Society can be made via email (beteranmama0808@gmail.com).

Ukraine's US backed parliament approves austerity budget

Reuters [29/12/14]:

Ukraine's parliament backed a budget for 2015 on Monday that it had been under pressure to approve to secure the next tranche of financial aid under a $17 billion International Monetary Fund loan package, the Interfax news agency reported.

Before the budget vote in the early hours of the morning, deputies approved a series of austerity laws, including an amendment to impose additional duties on imports, that Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned could prove unpopular with Ukraine's foreign trade partners.

Foreign currency reserves have more than halved since the beginning of the year to a 10-year low, due to gas debt repayments to Russia and efforts to support its struggling currency, the hryvnia.

Yatseniuk said the budget could still be amended following talks with Ukraine's Western backers.

"A series of articles will change depending on what we agree with international lenders," Interfax quoted him as telling parliament. He said these discussions would start on Jan. 7.

Voting was delayed as deputies debated the merits of the law amendments required for the budget, with some arguing they unfairly increase prices for Ukrainians, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet as the economy teeters on the edge of bankruptcy.

Ukraine's remaining foreign currency reserves stand at just under $10 billion, barely sufficient to cover two months of imports.

One new law will add 10 percent duty to taxes on food imports and an extra 5 percent on other imports excluding strategic imports such as gas.

"Problems could arise with our trade partners," Yatseniuk told parliament, advising that the law should only come into effect once the government had consulted on it with international partners.

He said one of the main focuses of the new budget was defense and security spending, which will amount to 90 billion hryvnia.

A year of revolution and war with pro-Russian separatists has pushed the hryvnia to record lows and crippled the economy, which is forecast to shrink 4.3 percent next year.

This month, Kiev said it needed the IMF to expand its bailout program due to the worsened economic outlook, but the Fund and Ukraine's other Western backers have made it clear any further financial assistance will hinge on Kiev's ability to implement the long-promised reforms.

Infratil, Superfund buy $670m Australian retirement firm

NZ Herald [29/12/14]:

Infratil and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund will buy Australia's fourth-biggest retirement village operator RetireAustralia for A$640.2 million to tap into the ageing demographic across the Tasman.

The Wellington-based infrastructure investor and government pension fund will spend A$429.5 million in cash with the balance funded through existing bank debt on RetireAustralia's balance sheet, they said in a joint statement.

The Australian retirement village operator reported underlying earnings before interest and tax of A$34.3 million in the year ended June 30, and is forecast to report underlying Ebit of A$35 million to $40 million in 2015, giving the deal an earnings multiple of 18.6 times. The transaction is expected to settle on Dec. 31.

"RetireAustralia provides a strong platform in an Australian sector that offers very attractive long-term growth prospects," Infratil chief executive Marko Bogoievski said.

"We have spent a considerable amount of time evaluating the sector in Australia and identified RetireAustralia as a high quality access point given the profile of the assets and the capability of the management team.

"Infratil and the Super Fund bought the downstream assets of Shell New Zealand, rebranding the petrol station chain into Z Energy and later listed the company on the stock market, and more recently jointly took separate cornerstone stakes in local retirement village operator and developer Metlifecare.

The RetireAustralia investment will be managed by Infratil's manager HRL Morrison & Co, which has held an investment mandate with the Super Fund since 2006.

Infratil affirmed its guidance for March 2015 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and fair value adjustments at between $475 million and $500 million, with the transaction increasing forecast net interest to a range of $170 million and $180 million from $165 million to $175 million.

The investment firm said the acquisition will increase its asset allocation to growth infrastructure as it rejigs its portfolio for the next round of long-term returns, with the retirement sector "developing as an emerging line of business for Infratil with significant opportunities to deploy capital in the future."

The sale price includes estimated transaction costs of A$23.5 million. RetireAustraila is currently owned by Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investment and the JP Morgan Global Special Opportunities Group.

Shares of Infratil last traded at $3.03 and have climbed 42 percent this year, outpacing the 17 percent gain in the benchmark NZX 50 Index over the same period.

Kalimantan: BHP Billiton coal project in doubt following withdrawal of support for railway construction

Jakarta Globe [24/12/14]:

Australian miner BHP Billiton’s controversial Indomet coal project in Kalimantan is in doubt following a reported decision by the minister for national development planning to withdraw support for the construction of a railway that would transport coal from the remote mine sites to port.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment, or Walhi, says Minister Andrinof Chaniago told members of the group at a meeting this month that the rail project, an initiative of the previous government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, will not be included in the national 2015-2019 Medium-Term Development Plan and will not receive public-private partnership status or government guarantees.

The decision follows an inquiry by the National Development Planning Agency, or Bappenas, into the Central Kalimantan railway project, and comments by the agency’s deputy head of Infrastructure, Dedy Priatna, that it was aimed only at exploiting natural resources and had the potential to be “devastating” to people in the area.

According to Walhi, the policy of the current administration of President Joko Widodo is to prioritize the use of coal and gas to benefit domestic households and industry.

The Central Kalimantan “coal railway” was part of a planned increase in coal exports from Kalimantan that a report by Greenpeace last year labeled one of “the worst of the worst” fossil fuel projects around the globe, which together would push the global climate change beyond the point of no return.

Walhi has welcomed the reported shelving of the railway plan, claiming the decision casts doubt on the viability of Indomet — a joint venture between BHP Billiton and its Indonesian partner Adaro Energy to mine an estimated 1.3 billion metric tons of coking and thermal coal from a series of seven coal contracts of work across Central and East Kalimantan provinces.

The 350,000-hectare project area falls within the Heart of Borneo conservation zone.

BHP Billiton declined to comment on the implications of the reported rejection to its plans, but the company is believed to be considering transport alternatives.

The rail project, worth tens of trillions of rupiah, was written into the Yudhoyono administration’s Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI) and was awarded to a Chinese-led consortium earlier this year but had not been finalized.

Bastary Panji Indra, the public-private partnership director at Bappenas, would neither confirm nor deny that the rail project had been scrapped, saying his agency was discussing the matter with the Central Kalimantan administration.

The central government’s qualms, he said, were over the coal mining plans and not the railway as such.

“There is already approval for a railway line from the Forestry Ministry [in December 2012],” he told the Jakarta Globe. He added that the Transportation Ministry had also signed off on the project in March 2013, but stressed that the approval was for a general rail line and not a coal freight line specifically.

Asked whether the Joko administration planned to continue the project, Bastary said he did not know. He said the government, through the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, should focus on limiting coal exports, including building coal-fired power plants in Kalimantan, “so that what comes out of Kalimantan is electricity” rather than coal.

What have we become?

3 News [29/12/14]:

A hippo that panicked while being transported by truck in Taiwan jumped from the vehicle, breaking a leg and causing confused residents to report spotting a dinosaur on the loose.

Television footage showed the enormous animal lying on the road with a white fluid oozing from its eyes after it jumped through a truck window and landed on a parked car before falling onto the road on Friday.

The sound of the collision startled people nearby who flocked to see the animal and contacted the police in central Miaoli county.

One woman was quoted by the United Daily News as saying that she ran out of her house after hearing the crash and thought she saw "a dinosaur" lying on the road.

The truck driver was quoted by the newspaper as saying that he saw the hippo "flying out" of the vehicle after getting spooked during the drive.

The injured animal, named "A Ho" after the Chinese name for hippo Ho Ma, lay on the road for a few hours before being put into a cargo container and taken back to its farm in central Taichung city, officials said.

Taiwanese authorities said Saturday that the animal's owner could face a fine of up to Tw$75,000 (US$2,400) for violating animal protection laws after the hippo suffered a broken leg and damage to its teeth.

Local media said the hippo was a star attraction at its farm and had even appeared in a popular television soap opera several years ago.

German Defense Minister von der Leyen's fingerprint copied by Chaos Computer Club

Deutsche Welle [28/12/14]:

A speaker at the yearly conference of the Chaos Computer Club has shown how fingerprints can be faked using only a few photographs. To demonstrate, he copied the thumbprint of the German defense minister.

Jan Krissler, also know by his alias "Starbug," told a conference of hackers he has copied the thumbprint of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Speaking at the 31st annual conference of the Chaos Computer Club in Hamburg, Krissler highlighted the dangers in relying on security technology.

Krissler explained that he didn't even need an object that von der Leyen had touched to create the copy. Using several close-range photos in order to capture every angle, Krissler used a commercially available software called VeriFinger to create an image of the minister's fingerprint.

Along with fellow hacker Tobias Fiebig, Krissler has been working at the Technical University of Berlin on research into weaknesses of biometric security systems. Krissler pulled a similar stunt in 2008 with a fingerprint of then interior minister and current Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Krissler intends to show how systems which use these prints or iris scans to verify identity, which are becoming more prevalent and popular, can be outsmarted. He gave the example of facial recognition software that can be fooled by a person's photograph, as well as showing how his fake fingerprint can trick the iPhone fingerprint sensor.

In 2013, Krissler made a comment about how he trusted his passwords far more than his fingerprints, according to Spiegel Online. Spiegel also reported another security hole from the conference: reading a user's PIN code from reflections in their pupils while taking selfies.

The Chaos Computer Club, or CCC, is the largest hacker organization in Europe.

My 82 year old mother held a prayer #candle_light #vigil in hospital for  @PeterGreste  

@MFFahmy11

#FreeAjStaff #sisi

Image: ‏@Frank_Moshfeghi [29/12/14]

Meanwhile, hate propagandist Alan Jones is as free as a bird [Yahoo - 29/12/14]:

Broadcaster Alan Jones has been ordered to pay a Muslim community leader $10,000 over a radio segment that was found to be ‘gratuitously insulting and offensive’ to Lebanese men.

The segment has been at the centre of a nine-year legal battle between Mr Jones and Muslim community leader Keysar Trad.

The Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Mr Jones' comments broadcast on 2GB in April, 2005 ‘portrayed Lebanese males as criminals and as posing a threat to the Australian community’, Fairfax reports.

Mr Trad complained of racial vilification over the comments, which the tribunal upheld.

Mr Jones had argued the comments were a letter from a listener.

The tribunal found that the opinions in the letter were not relevant to any argument about the public interest, that Jones used ‘contemptuous and hateful language’ and the broadcast was ‘gratuitously insulting and offensive to Lebanese males’.

"The words, in context, urged or stimulated listeners to hatred or, at least, serious contempt of Lebanese males. In our view, there can be no doubt that it would have reached the mind of the audience as something which had that effect,” the tribunal found.

Jones and Harbour Radio, which holds the radio licence for 2GB, were ordered to pay the damages, along with part of Mr Trad's legal costs.

Harbour Radio has also been ordered to review its policies in preventing racial vilification.

The case had been in and out of court over the past nine years, with Jones originally ordered to pay $10,000 to Mr Trad before he launched two bids to overturn the decision.

After a successful appeal, Trad was ordered to repay Mr Jones the $10,000 and the matter was sent back to the tribunal before the most recent decision was finalised.

Man hospitalised, charged with firearms offences following police pursuit and crash, Tugun

QPS Media [29/12/14]:

A man has been charged after two firearms were located in a car following a crash in Tugun last night.

Just before midnight, a car allegedly failed to stop for New South Wales Police at the Kennedy Drive on-ramp to the Pacific Motorway at Tweed Heads.

After crossing into Queensland, the car crashed at Tugun.

The male driver was taken into custody by QPS officers and police will allege following a search of the vehicle, a loaded shot gun was located in the rear foot well, along with a rifle in the boot.

Spare ammunition was also allegedly located in the man’s pocket.

The 26-year-old male driver from Tugun was transported to Gold Coast University Hospital.

He has been charged with one count each of unlawful possession of weapons, offence in relation to unauthorized and prohibited explosives (shot gun cartridges and air rifle ammunition) and driving without a licence.

He is due 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.

... Take me to a place they say the dreaming never ends ...

'Dreamland', Midnight Oil [1987]

Artists get busy in Surfers Paradise!

[29/12/14]

 

Wow! Feel safe Queensland?

Gold Coast police use chopper to chase teenager into the bushes [Brisbane Times - 29/12/14]:

Police are questioning a teenager after a police pursuit on the Gold Coast on Monday morning.

The Polair helicopter was activated just before 9am after a stolen vehicle failed to stop for police on the M1 at Mudgeeraba.

The chopper followed the car relaying information back to police on the ground, who were able to deploy stingers on Mudgeeraba Road forcing the car to pull over.

The male driver and sole occupant fled on foot, but the Polair tracked him to nearby bushes, where officers then found him hiding.

 A 17-year-old man was arrested without incident, and is now assisting police with inquiries. 

Robbery, Keperra

QPS Media [29/12/14]:

Police are investigating a robbery at a Keperra convenience store last night.

Around 11.45pm a man entered the store on Dawson Parade threatening the store attendant and demanding money. The attendant complied and the man then left the store with a quantity of cash.

The attendant was not physically injured during the incident.

The man is described as Caucasian, of slim build, and approximately 175cm tall.

He was wearing a black balaclava, long sleeve black jumper, dark long pants, black and white running shoes with a black and grey coloured backpack on his back and carrying a dark coloured draw-string bag.

Police believe the man may have been riding a white and orange bicycle.

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.

[Insert unfortunate headline here]

Sunshine Coast Daily [29/12/14]:

Burning bacon has caught out drug users in a Mountain Creek unit.

Firefighters were called to Cootamundra Drv following several reports of smoke coming from inside a unit about 9am.

The minor fire was found to have been caused by burning bacon on the stove, but the police were called when evidence of drug use was found.

A police media spokeswoman said officers were continuing to investigate the matter and were being helped with their inquiries.

In other news passengers and two drivers were lucky to escape injury following a two-vehicle collision on busy Brisbane Rd in Mooloolaba yesterday.

Police attended the scene at Pengelly's Bridge just after midday and although the cars sustained minor damage, all occupants were uninjured.

Traffic signals were also disrupted briefly yesterday morning after a car hit a traffic light pole on Currie St in Nambour.

The single-vehicle crash happened just after 6am.

The sole occupant of the vehicle was taken to Nambour Hospital as a precaution but was not injured.

The traffic lights were quickly restored.

Confidential informant blows whistle on fatal drug raid by Tampa SWAT team [Tampa Bay Times - 26/12/14]

Police pursuit and dog savagery result in crash, arrests, Fremantle

WA Today [28/12/14]:

Two men have been charged with strings of offences after separate police chases overnight.

A 27-year-old man was charged over a police pursuit through Perth's riverside suburbs on Saturday night.

Around 9.45pm detectives saw a Holden Statesman drive through a stop sign at the corner of Watkins and Carrington Street in Fremantle, and the car continued to speed along Carrington Street.

Police gave chase through several suburbs, and a short time later the Holden collided with a silver Toyota Camry and a green Ford Falcon on Canning Highway in Como.

The offender has been charged with a number of offences including stealing a motor vehicle, no authority to drive, possessing a prohibited drug and possessing drug paraphernalia.

The Greenfields man is also a person of interest in an alleged domestic violence incident last month and faces a number of charges including threatening to kill, being armed in a way that may cause fear and aggravated common assault.

The offender was refused bail and will face court on Sunday.

Meanwhile, detectives have charged a man who tried to evade officers in a stolen vehicle on Sunday morning.

Just after midnight officers in a police truck detected a stolen Holden Commodore travelling on Leach Highway, Bull Creek, but were unable to attempt an interception and called for backup.

Other police vehicles were deployed to the area and a police helicopter monitored the suspect vehicle from the air.

A police vehicle tried to stop the Commodore on North Lake Road, but the driver allegedly failed to stop and tried to escape them through a number of suburbs, ending up in Wandi where a stinger device was successfully deployed.

The stinger disabled the vehicle on the Kwinana Freeway and its two occupants, a man and a woman, ran into nearby bush land.

Police Dog Rumble was deployed and, with the assistance of the Police Air Wing crew, both suspects were taken into custody.

A 21-year-old man has been charged with stealing a motor vehicle, reckless driving, failing to stop for police and driving without a licence.

He has also been charged with theft, car theft and driving without a licence in relation to a separate incident in Success earlier this month.

The accused was refused bail and is due to appear in the Fremantle Magistrates Court on Monday.

 Newman Government continues taking Queensland back to the 1950s

Students sitting their final exams in the Cloudland Ballroom in 1964

 

Minister for Education, Training and Employment Media Release [29/12/14]:

Students in Queensland will benefit from new assessment and tertiary education systems under proposals unveiled by the Newman LNP Government today.

Education, Training and Employment Minister John-Paul Langbroek said “reform” was long overdue to better reflect the opportunities open to today’s school-leavers.

“When it comes to education, the Newman LNP Government is determined to give Queensland students every opportunity to get a great job and enjoy a bright future,” Mr Langbroek said.

“The OP system has served Queensland well since its introduction in 1992, but it is becoming less relevant as education evolves.

“It’s a 20-year-old system that should have been reviewed by Labor after 10 years – but wasn’t.

“Last year we commissioned an independent review of the Queensland system by the Australian Council for Educational Research – including extensive consultation with teachers, universities, parent associations and unions.

“The Newman LNP Government wants Queensland to be a world leader in education and to achieve this we must have a modern tertiary entrance system.”

The Australian Council for Educational Research made 23 recommendations and the Queensland Government published its response to the review today.

“Our draft response supports key recommendations of the review, which include moving away from the Overall Position tertiary entrance rank and the Queensland Core Skills Test,” Mr Langbroek said.

“The proposals also suggest that results in each senior subject should come from three school-based assessments plus one external assessment.

“The external assessment would be common to all schools and developed and marked by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority.”

...

Compliments of the season as Queensland government airs its campaign (based on no statistical evidence) discouraging citizens from using their health system.

Minister for Health Media Release [30/8/14]:

A new marketing campaign aims to improve Emergency Department wait times by encouraging patients to visit their GP, instead of hospital Emergency Departments.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said Queensland Health had begun planning the campaign to reduce the thousands of unnecessary ED presentations to Queensland hospitals every year.

“We have a strong commitment to improving frontline health services and ensuring that Queenslanders get the very best of care,” Mr Springborg said.

“In Queensland on average, approximatelya third of people visiting an ED could be seen by a GP without compromising their health outcome.

“This campaign is important as part of our ongoing reform of health and will continue the progress we have already made to rebuild the health system, left in a mess by Labor. “

Mr Springborg said in 2013-14, nearly 33 per cent of all visits were GP-type presentations – more than 430,000 people – who wanted to see a specialist emergency doctor, when there were after hours GP clinics closing because there were no patients.

The Minister said the campaign was inspired by overseas and interstate advertisements, including the National Health Service in the UK, and the West Australian government.

“These campaigns have managed to explain the importance of getting it right, even in a humorous way. With the number of non-urgent presentations to EDs, we need to look at doing something similar,” Mr Springborg said.

“When you look at the type of complaints some people are presenting with, there may also be many people underestimating what type of cases their GP can actually handle.

“For example, thousands of Queenslanders have presented with a toothache, finger strain or sprain, constipation, a headache, or neck pain.

“Parents have even brought in a child with nappy rash, and some people complain of not being able to sleep.

“Others have simply come looking for a medical certificate to get off work or get their prescription refilled.

“This is simply not acceptable anymore. An Emergency Department is for people with serious, life-threatening or potentially life-threatening conditions, who need urgent medical assistance.”

Myths versus facts in emergency department overcrowding and hospital access block [Medical Journal of Australia - 2009]

Drew B Richardson and David Mountain

... Overcrowding has been described as the most serious problem and most avoidable cause of harm facing our hospital systems. Yet, given the severity of the problem, myths are still rife about causes, effects and possible solutions for emergency department (ED) overcrowding. Finding real solutions and formulating policy cannot progress without a true understanding of the underlying issues, and this is actively hindered when myths are propagated or left unanswered by research and the facts.

Wherever human beings gather, there are fluctuations in their numbers and, if uncontrolled, these occasionally exceed the efficient maximum for a given purpose. EDs are designed largely for a continuous flow of patients, with some diagnosis and treatment provided, rather than for gathering or storage. However, even in systems designed purely for flow (such as roads) there are peaks and troughs of activity, and occupancy sometimes exceeds the number able to move safely and smoothly, leading to traffic jams.

Overcrowding to the point of dysfunction has gradually become the norm in Australasian EDs since the mid 1990s. The greatest contributing factor has been access block. This is the inability of patients who need to be admitted to the hospital to be allocated appropriate beds in a timely fashion.

Additionally, there has been an increase in patient numbers, the complexity of their conditions, and the need for their admission. Demand growth has resulted from an enlarging, ageing population, expansion of diagnostic and therapeutic choices and improved survival with severe diseases. This has not been properly matched by growth in other services, especially outside working hours, further increasing the burden on EDs.

...

Importantly, there is no evidence for the often-proposed myth of “general-practice-type” or “inappropriate” patients leading to ED overcrowding. Discretionary presentations by patients with low-complexity conditions, who might reasonably be managed elsewhere, constitute an insignificant workload in most EDs.

These patients are uncommon in major EDs, and the most frequent reason for them to attend an ED is because they were referred by a GP. They rarely require admission or even use of trolleys, they use minimal ED resources (less than 3% of all costs or resources in most EDs), are easy to deal with, and do not impose on the key functions of the ED (assessment of sick patients, complex treatments and resuscitation).

They may attend an ED because no other options are available and, importantly, they often feel their medical needs are urgent. They may spend a lot of time in waiting rooms, but this does not affect overall ED function.

 This myth is particularly problematic in that, if allowed to continue to be given credence, it continually diverts attention to solutions that cannot deal with the key issue causing dysfunction in the ED — that is, excessive numbers of admitted patients.

...

John Bjelke-Petersen has questioned the amount of taxpayer money the Newman government is spending on advertising ahead of the next state election.

The Palmer United Party Queensland leader and candidate for Callide, said in the lead up to the March 2015 election Queenslanders have been bombarded with endless amounts of political advertising from the Newman government.  ... [Sunshine Coast Daily - 29/12/14]

Stress on parents from mining job losses transfers to kids

Morning Bulletin [29/12/14]:

Job losses in the Central Queensland mining industry was one of the big factors causing family dysfunction and distress in local children seeking help, according to a local expert.

Thousands of young people have sought help in 2014 at Headspace centres around the country.

Headspace clinical psychologist Dr Phillip Stacey said most children came in to get help amid the pressures of adolescence - "the time of the greatest life transitions and expectations".

Dr Stacey said the most common problems young Mackay and Central Queensland children had were high levels of anxiety from schoolwork, peer relationships and family breakdowns.

"And particularly for a regional area, the mining downturn has impacted families - it has significantly increased the level of family dysfunction and distress," he said.

"When the parents are struggling, it is the most vulnerable in the family that feel that distress: the children.

"But it's not just mining, things like the drought or any stressor on the family affects the parents and when children see their parents struggling, often they'll take that on themselves."

More than 700 children asked for help in Mackay.

Dr Stacey said many young people did not initially present with self-harming or thoughts of suicide, but it was revealed through talking about their struggles.

"The first intervention is just getting it out in the open and talking about it, but there's no special process, anything that isn't harming and reduces distress is going to have a positive impact," he said.

To help deal with problems, Dr Stacey recommended children talk to parents, or a close relative, teacher of friend.

"And for parents, actually listening to them, taking them seriously and finding out what the issues are is the best way to deal with it."

 

A Saraji mine employee who fought against disciplinary action has won part of his case at the Fair Work Commission. ... [Daily Mercury - 29/12/14]

 

... I have observed the capitulation of backbenchers in this government into becoming hand-waving drones that do as their party leadership tells them or else they get shown the door as four members were in this term.

I would say that backbenchers and even some ministers have less clout then someone who asserts themselves on the crossbenches.

At the very least, we are able to actually voice what our electorate wants in parliament without the overwhelming fear of retribution rendering you almost useless in parliament. ... State Member for Mt Isa, Rob Katter [North West Star - 28/12/14]

 

What a marvellous international reputation Australia has these days

NDTV [28/12/14]:

Virat Kohli says he enjoys the on-field banter with Australia but he let his bat do the talking on Sunday with a Test-best 169 to help India fight back in the third Test.

Kohli claimed his third century of the series and his fifth against Australia as he joined Ajinkya Rahane (147) in a 262-run fourth-wicket stand. They reduced the home side's lead to 68 with two wickets left and two days to play in Melbourne.

The spiky Kohli relishes his verbal clashes with the far from reticent Australians.

He proved a constant irritant to the Australian bowlers in his stay of more than six hours at the crease, confirming his stature as India's pre-eminent batsman after the departure of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman.

Kohli was just as forthright at his post-day press conference as he fired some verbal bouncers at the Australians.

"I like playing against Australia because it's very hard for them to stay calm," he said.

"I don't mind. I will give it on the field. It really excites me and brings the best out in me.

"They don't seem to be learning the lesson."

Kohli, who scored twin centuries in the first Adelaide Test and has amassed 445 runs at 89 in the series to date, had a running battle with Australia's main strike bowler Mitchell Johnson.

At one stage he even blew kisses at Johnson when he hit him back over his head for four.

"It was going on throughout the day," Kohli said.

"They were calling me a spoilt brat and I said 'Maybe that's the way I am -- I know you guys hate me and I like that'.

"So I don't mind having a chat on the field and it worked in my favour, I guess."

At one time Johnson hurled the ball at Kohli, hitting him on the back.

Johnson quickly apologised but the mood soured, with the umpires intervening to ease tensions between the pair.

"I was really annoyed with him hitting me with the ball and I told him 'That's not on: try to hit the stumps next time, not my body'," he said.

Kohli said he was backing himself against Johnson, Ryan Harris and Australia's other bowlers in the four-Test series.

"His (Johnson's) job is bowl and get wickets and he was going at 4.7 runs an over today," he said.

"He didn't get a wicket throughout the day (until the last over) and I knew -- I back myself that I can take him on, even if I keep talking to him.

"That's important, you can't back off after saying a few words and then not show it with your skill.

"So I decided when he comes onto bowl, I'm going to back myself and take him on as well. I don't mind giving a word back and neither does he. So it kept going on."

It was a bruising day for Johnson, who finished with one for 133. The last time he had been punished as severely was 0-104 against England at the Gabba in 2010.

India: Chennai woman killed in Bengaluru blast

The Hindu [29/12/14]:

In yet another terror act in the city, suspected terrorists set off a low-intensity blast using an improvised explosive device (IED) on the crowded Church Street at 8.35 p.m. on Sunday, claiming the life of a woman and injuring three others.

The police identified the dead as Bhavani Devi, 37, from Chennai. The injured, Karthick, Sandeep and Vinay, have been admitted to Mallya Hospital and HOSMAT Hospital.

Director-General and Inspector-General of Police Lalrukhoma Pachau said intelligence reports warning of terror strikes had come in for the city, but they were not specific.

City Police Commissioner M.N. Reddi has said that “we have certain leads” about Sunday’s blast in the city, which could not be disclosed now.

“It appears like an act of terror essentially to cause panic and fear,” he said.

No organisation has claimed responsibility for the blast.

The improvised explosive device (IED) that went off on Church Street here, claiming the life of a woman, was kept wrapped in a piece of cloth behind a flower bush in front of Coconut Grove, a popular joint.

Those injured in the blast were pedestrians, one of them being thrown to a distance of over five feet, witnesses said.

People ran helter-skelter after the blast, while some others thought it was a firecracker burst.

An alert autorickshaw driver, Narasimha, swung into action and shifted a critically injured Bhavani Devi, who died of injuries around 10.45 p.m., and others to hospital immediately.

The police cordoned off the area, clearing vehicles parked on the street and scouring for any unattended objects in the vicinity.

 

 

 

We are not just journalists, we are human too, men with families.  My patience is at an end!

Letter from Al Jazeera's Mohamed Fahmy on his 300th day in Egyptian prison [24/10/14]

 

 

Riversharks live in Brisbane River: Shock

Oh the shark has pretty teeth dear,

And he shows them pearly white

Just a jack-knife has Macheath dear

And he keeps it out of sight. …

"Mack the Knife" or "The Ballad of Mack the Knife", originally "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer", is a song composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper, or, as it is known in English, The Threepenny Opera.  ...

Mack the Knife performed by Kurt Gerron.

Gerron was among the last people to be executed at Auschwitz.  His life and work are documented in the 2003 film 'Prisoner of Paradise'.

Mack the Knife performed by Bob Downe.

Fishing at West End, December 2013

This is what they were catching.

Sharks in the Brisbane River [Wildlife of Greater Brisbane – A Queensland Museum Wild Guide – 2007]:

People who enjoy swimming or water-skiing in the Brisbane River may be interested to know they could often be sharing the water with sharks that can reach more than 3 m in length. The Bull Shark, or River Whaler, (Carcharhinus leucas) is probably the world's most dangerous shark. Although mainly a coastal marine and estuarine species, it is known to penetrate long distances into freshwater. It has been recorded hundreds of kilometres frm the sea in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia and more than 3700 km upstream in the Peruvian Amazon. The Bull Shark occurs in tropical to warm temperate waters worldwide.

Unlike almost all other sharks, the Bull Shark is equally at home in salt, brackish and freshwater and is able to move rapidly between these conditions. Small groups are often seen feeding on mullet in the lake immediately above Colleges Crossing, a lower freshwater reach of the Brisbane River. The opportunity for the shark to inhabit freshwaters has been restricted by the construction of weirs and dams, which present a barrier to upstream migration. Before the construction of the Mt Crosby Weir on the Brisbane River, there were reports of large Bull Sharks as far upstream as Lowood. It is now highly unlikely the sharks could traverse the fish ladder at the foot of the weir to migrate upstream.

The Bull Shark is the only shark likely to be encountered upstream of about Indooroopilly. However, during dry periods, the lower reaches downstream from around Hamilton may occasionally harbour Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), Dusky Whalers (Carcharhinus obscurus) and Pigeye Whalers (Carcharhinus amboinensis), all of which are considered dangerous. Close to the mouth, Lemon Sharks (Negaprion acutidens), Hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini), Milk Sharks (Rhizoprionodon acutus) and Black-tipped Whalers (Carcharhinus sorrah) and (Carcharhinus brevipinna), may also be found. These five species are generally not considered dangerous.

...

Death investigation, Goodna

QPS Media [29/12/14]:

Police are investigating after a man died following an incident in Goodna last night.

Initial investigations indicate the man had been involved in a disturbance at a residence in Woogaroo Street at around 11.25pm.

Police arrived at the scene and found a man collapsed and not breathing. Attempts by police and emergency services to revive a 71-year-old man were unsuccessful and he was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Occupants of the residence are assisting police with their investigations.

There is no further information available at this stage.

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, Eastern Heights

QPS Media [29/12/14]:

Police are investigating an armed robbery that occurred in Eastern Heights early this morning.

At around 2.45am, two men attended a service station on Robertson Road and threatened the attendant with a firearm, demanding cash.

The men fled the scene on foot with a sum of money and goods from the store.

No one was physically injured during the incident.

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.

Australian fronts Fiji court over heroin case

Fiji Times [29/12/14]:

Australian national Ethan Kai appeared before the Lautoka Magistrates Court this morning, charged with one count of unlawful importation of illicit drugs.

He is alleged to have been involved in a large shipment of heroin found inside quad bike tyres intercepted by authorities over a week ago.

This morning, his counsel Janend Sharma said the accuseds constitutional rights were breached as he was in police custody since last Monday, and produced in court more than 48-hours after his arrest.

The matter will be called again this afternoon by Magistrate Peni Dalituicama.

Relocation considered in Fiji sewage aftermath

RNZI [29/12/14]:

Relocation is being touted as a possibility for families living in Maravu if a sewage spillage is declared a national disaster in Fiji.

The Fiji Times reports that the National Disaster Management Office says people living in Maravu Settlement 1 and 2 are likely to be moved to evacuation centres if the problem persists.

The office director says if a state of disaster is declared people will be advised to move to a safe area until the situation is addressed, then they can move back to their homes.

A broken pipe has poured millions of litres of raw sewage into the Samabula River and infected the waterways and waterfront around the capital of Suva.

The NDMO says they haven't determined the cost of damage yet.

The Water Authority has pumped pro-biotic enzymes into the water to reduce the impact of the sewage on marine life and to the systems.

In the meantime, about 6000 residents that live in the affected areas are being told to refrain from using the rivers and sea for up to three weeks.

500 tonnes of liquid nickel spill from Koniambo plant in New Caledonia

RNZI [29/12/14]:

Initial assessments from last week's nickel spill at New Caledonia's Koniambo plant put the damage at more than three million US dollars.

The incident on the day after Christmas prompted the evacuation of all staff from the seven-billion US dollar plant in the territory's north and led to a temporary stop to production.

There are no reports of any injuries.

About 500 tonnes of liquid nickel was spilled from one of the furnaces for reasons yet to be determined.

According to the territory's public broadcaster, the first results of a probe of the incident are due by tomorrow.

The plant, which was officially opened by the French president Francois Hollande last month, experienced a blast just before Christmas, briefly affecting production.

The Koniambo plant is widely seen as the key industrial site to advance the economy of the mainly Kanak northern province.

Jokowi joins Christmas celebration in Papua amid shooting uproar

Jakarta Post [28/12/14]:

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo attended the national Christmas celebration in Papua on Saturday, marking the first time the country’s easternmost province played host to the event.

Jokowi, accompanied by First Lady Iriana, their children, Kahiyang Ayu and Kaesang Pangarep, as well as Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel and Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto, arrived at Sentani Airport, Jayapura, at 2:30 p.m. local time.

Upon arrival in the province’s capital, Jokowi received a traditional welcome as artists performed a traditional Papuan dance.

Local officials who welcomed Jokowi included Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe, Papua provincial legislative council (DPRD) speaker Yunus Wonda and Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Yotje Mende.

Shortly after, Jokowi and his entourage visited the Prahara traditional market in Sentani, Jayapura, where they attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of two markets in Jayapura and Sentani.

In a speech, Jokowi said he visited the traditional market to show his commitment to supporting the development of traditional markets in Papua.

...

Jokowi also finally broke his silence on the recent shooting incident, allegedly committed by military personnel, in Paniai Regency, Papua, which claimed the lives of five civilians.

“For me, the most important thing is not to let such incidents happen again because I want to start building here,” he said.

Earlier, a number of church leaders in Papua urged Jokowi to cancel his plan to visit the province on account of their disappointment over the government’s slow response to the incident, which also left 21 others injured.

Jokowi’s public statement on Saturday was his first since the shooting incident occurred. He said he wanted to get a comprehensive account on the incident before issuing a statement.

“I was not in a rush to comment on the incident because violence occurs a lot in Papua. If I make a comment but it doesn’t solve [the problem] then my comment serves no purpose,” Jokowi said.

He also called on the local government to continue holding talks with the central government to prevent violence in the future.

“Dialog is important so that the central and the regional [government] are in sync. No more violence in Papua,” Jokowi said.

On Saturday evening, Jokowi attended the national Christmas celebration at Mandala Stadium, Jayapura.

More than 400,000 participants took part in the celebration, which was estimated to cost Rp 20 billion.

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Reuters [28/12/14]:

U.S.-led forces on Sunday conducted eight air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and five strikes on IS targets in Iraq, the U.S. military said in a statement.

In Syria, air strikes centered on the town of Kobani near the Turkish border, the Combined Joint Task Force said.

The strikes in Iraq included IS positions near Sinjar and near Mosul, the task force said.

An airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS militants in Aleppo province targeted a meeting of the group Sunday evening, killing and wounding dozens of militants according to local sources. ... [Daily Star - 29/12/14]

Children among 6 Dead in Syria Kurdish Area Blast [Naharnet - 28/12/14]

Libya's US puppet "internationally recognised government" bombs its own people

France 24 [28/12/14]:

Forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government carried out their first air strikes on Sunday against the country's militia-held third city of Misrata, a spokesman said.

Colonel Ahmed Mesmari said the raids were a response to a renewed attempt early Sunday by the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) militia to seize the key Al-Sidra oil export terminal.

Residents said the strikes targeted a flying school close to Misrata airport, the port and a steel plant.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Mesmari said the strikes took place after Fajr Libya launched an air raid on Al-Sidra using a Mig-23 jet that took off from the aviation school in Misrata.

"That is why we targeted it and other positions of the militia," he said.

The UN mission in Libya, UNSMIL, issued a statement condemning the air strikes, warning that failure to take steps "towards de-escalation" will lead to "all-out war" in Libya.

"This cycle of violence if continued, will lead the country to chaos and all-out war," it said, urging the warring sides to take "courageous steps" to end the fighting.

Fajr Libya has been trying to take Al-Sidra and the nearby Ras Lanuf terminal since Thursday when it killed at least 22 soldiers in a surprise attack by speedboat.

Seven oil storage tanks at Al-Sidra were set on fire as a result of the fighting.

On Sunday firefighters managed to extinguish four of the fires, an oil official said, adding that blazes still raged in three tanks.

Since clashes first erupted around the export terminals on December 13, Libya's oil production has dropped to less than 350,000 barrels per day compared with 800,000 previously, industry experts say.

More than three years after dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed revolt, Libya is awash with weapons and powerful militias, and has rival parliaments and governments.

As well as Misrata, the capital Tripoli and second city Benghazi are largely in the hands of militias, and the internationally recognised government has taken refuge in the remote east.

Elsewhere, a Tripoli court on Sunday delayed yet again the trial of some 40 members of Kadhafi's ousted regime, including his son Seif al-Islam, a judicial source said.

The accused, who also include Kadhafi's former spy chief Abdullah Senussi, have been charged over their roles in suppressing the 2011 uprising that eventually toppled Kadhafi.

All of the defendants are accused of murder, kidnapping, complicity in incitement to rape, plunder, sabotage, embezzling public funds and acts harmful to national unity.

Only 31 of the accused appeared in court on Sunday, including Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, Kadhafi's last premier, an aide to the prosecutor said.

Seif al-Islam was not present as he has been held since his capture by rebels in November 2011 in the hilltop town of Zintan, west of Tripoli.

Seif, 42, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity relating to the bloody repression of the 2011 uprising.

On December 10, the ICC referred Libya to the UN Security Council for not handing him over for trial.

A new hearing in the case of the 40 is due to take place on January 11, when defence lawyers are due to speak.

Afghanistan: President sacks 30 officials in Herat

Pajhwok [28/12/14]:

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has sacked at least 30 civil and military officials in western Herat province and referred them to judicial organs, officials said on Sunday.

Earlier on Saturday, Ghani traveled to Herat to assess recent spike in insecurity and apprise himself of governance related issues. He also met the officials, elders, provincial council and civil society members.

Officials fired by the president, included Attorney General, heads of custom, education, electricity, fuel, and 15 district police chiefs following complaints by locals of their inefficiencies.

Speaking to journalists last night, Ghani said locals had serious reservations about the officials who had been made on the go. “If they were pleaded guilty in court they would be punished otherwise they would be set free.”

The president was accompanied by a number of acting ministers and members of the National Security Council. Ghani’s trip comes three days after he dismissed governor Syed Fazlullah Wahidi.

A week ago, civil society activists in Herat took out protest rallies against growing insecurity, prompting the central government to send a high-powered delegation to Herat on Tuesday to probe the situation.

He pledged new officials would be appointed after passing certain exams. After every three months, all the local officials, including mayor would also be evaluated by people, he said.

Ghani assured residents that work on various projects like industrial town, electricity and creating job opportunities were underway to minimize the scale of joblessness and ensure development.

He said the government was planning to transform Herat into international trade and transit hub.

Ships in deadly collision off Italy coast

Al Jazeera [28/12/14]:

Two people have drowned and some others were missing at sea after two merchant ships collided in rough seas off the Italian Adriatic coast, the Italian coastguard has said.

A Turkish ship sank after colliding with a vessel carrying a Belize flag in poor visibility about a mile from the Italian Adriatic port of Ravenna, a coastguard official said on Sunday.

Rescuers have saved four of the 11 crew members aboard the Turkish ship and have located and are trying to assist four others, the coastguard said.

He said the cause of the collision had not yet been determined, and that the Coast Guard was concentrating on rescue efforts.

Strong winds and choppy seas were complicating the search mission.

 

30 December 2014

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