Believe. Or think.
... So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. ...
Remarks by the US President at the Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize [10/12/09]
Washington Post [29/3/15]:
President Obama escaped the persistent cold spell in Washington this weekend with a private golf retreat here in Florida, where his cadre of partners on the green included notable sports personalities and prominent business executives.
The president arrived in Florida on Saturday for a weekend stay at the members-only Floridian National Golf Club. Aside from his arrival in Fort Pierce, Fla., the president made no public appearances.
Joining Obama on the course Sunday were Floridian owner Jim Crane, an energy executive who also owns the Houston Astros; private equity mogul Glenn Hutchins, a co-owner of the Boston Celtics; and energy titan Milton Carroll, who sits on the Halliburton board of directors.
All three have golfed with the president in the past.
On Saturday, Obama golfed with former Miami Heat player Alonzo Mourning and former sportscaster Ahmad Rashad. Cyrus Walker, cousin to senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, also joined.
Obama’s trip comes ahead of a potentially grueling week for the White House, with an imminent deadline on nuclear negotiations with Iran and an increasingly unstable situation in Yemen demanding intense focus.
While the temperature in Washington on Sunday morning was a chilly 28 degrees, Palm City hovered in the upper 60s and lower 70s.
Obama is scheduled to return to Washington on Sunday evening.
Don’t See Evil: Google’s Boycott Campaign Against War Photography and Alternative Media [Antiwar - 29/3/15]:
... On the morning of March 18, Eric Garris, founder and webmaster of the site, received a form email from Google AdSense informing him that all of Antiwar.com’s Google ads had been disabled. The reason given was that one of the site’s pages with ads on it displayed images that violated AdSense’s policy against “violent or disturbing content, including sites with gory text or images.”
Of course the images in question were not “snuff,” or anything intended for titillation whatsoever. They were the famous images of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib US military prison in Iraq. Those images are important public information, especially for Americans. They are the previously secret documentation of horrific state violence inflicted in our name and funded by our tax dollars.
They are also eminently newsworthy because they show the government wantonly generating insecurity for the American public. Such abuse fuels anti-American and anti-western rage that can culminate in acts of terrorism. For example, it did just that in the case of Chérif Kouachi, who took part in one of the Paris terror attacks of early this year after becoming radicalized by learning about the Abu Ghraib abuses.
Indeed many apologists for such abuse fully acknowledge this blowback effect, since they expressly cite it as the main reason for blocking the release of abuse photos. Of course they ignore the fact that this danger they acknowledge is an excellent reason not to commit such abuses in the first place. And they are naïve if they really think word wouldn’t get out about such abuses among Iraqis and Muslims in general even without the photos. The dissemination of such photos chiefly serves to ultimately make terrorist attacks less likely by driving a disgusted American public to demand an end to such terrorism-inducing abuses.
The newsworthy nature of the photos made no difference to Google; or it made altogether the wrong kind of difference. Either way, they were considered non-compliant, and so Antiwar.com’s AdSense account, along with its revenue, were suspended immediately.
This struck Garris as odd. In all his years administering web sites, he had previously run into content policy issues with AdSense around half a dozen times. Each time, Google had not immediately disabled the ads, but instead gave the customer 72-hours to fix the violation. In fact, he had never heard of AdSense suspending an account without warning until this incident. Why the suddenly draconian response this time? Also, the Abu Ghraib page had been public for 11 years. Why the sudden concern about it only now?
In so many ways, this action struck Garris as radically unfair and quite possibly politically motivated. So he took to the Antiwar.com blog and wrote post raising hell about it. You can’t survive a decades-long career in anti-war activism (including an ongoing legal battle with the FBI over that agency monitoring Antiwar.com without cause) without developing a pugnacious streak. He remarked that the timing of the out-of-the-blue enforcement was highly suspect: coinciding as it did with the US gearing up for a re-invasion of Iraq, which will surely be accompanied by yet another wave of ugly violence and abuse.
Second blogger hacked to death this year in Bangladesh
Daily Star [30/3/15]:
A blogger was hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka Monday, the second attack in five weeks on a critic of religious extremism in the Muslim-majority South Asian nation.
Washikur Rahman, a secular blogger, was attacked by young religious students on a busy street in the center of Dhaka Monday morning, a police official said.
"Police on duty near the spot caught two attackers red-handed with three machetes as they were fleeing the scene after the incident," police official Humayan Kabir told Reuters.
The killing comes just weeks after U.S. secular blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death while returning with his wife from a book fair in Dhaka. His wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, suffered head injuries and lost a finger in the Feb. 26 attack.
The attacks come amidst a period of political turmoil in the country, with the government and main opposition group locked in a months-long standoff that has created a sense of deepening insecurity across the country.
In recent years, a string of secular-minded writers have been targeted by religious militants in Bangladesh as the government has tried to crackdown on hardline Islamist groups seeking to create a Sharia-based state in the nation.
Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed in 2013 near his home in Dhaka after he led a protest demanding capital punishment for Islamist leaders convicted of war crimes during Bangladesh's war for independence.
In 2004, Humayun Azad, a secular writer and professor at Dhaka University, was also attacked by militants while returning home from a Dhaka book fair. He later died in Germany while undergoing treatment.
Roy's wife, Ahmed, blamed her husband's murder in February on religious fanatics, and acccused police on duty of not doing enough to stop the attack.
Roy's father also told reporters last week that "apparently no progress" had been made in resolving the case.
Mohammad Habibur Rahman, secretary of the Bangladesh Police Association and Superintendent of Police of Dhaka, said the police had been unfairly criticised over their handling of the crime.
"There are plenty of examples where our police force come forward to save people, risking their own lives," he said.
Media group Reporters Without Borders rated Bangladesh 146th among 180 countries in a ranking of press freedom last year.
ABC, Lateline [30/3/15]:
... EMMA ALBERICI: ... where you're obviously also from and I know that you know him. He has now left the Labor Party. Annastacia Palaszczuk suggests he should leave the Parliament. What's your view?
NOEL PEARSON: I think that's a matter for the electors of Cook to decide. It's not up to the Premier or the Speaker or the Opposition to demand his resignation from Parliament. He has obviously fallen foul of the rules of the Labor Party in respect of disclosure of his personal history and so on. That's a matter for the Labor Party. But the question as to whether he's entitled to remain, as elected by the people of Cape York, is up to the electors of Cape York at the next poll. I - you know, I was a young boy when the first Indigenous member of Parliament was elected in 1974, from my home community, the late Eric Deeral, and it was a moment of great happiness and joy in my community that we finally had one of our own in the state Parliament and it's been a kind of desert ever since. So Billy Gordon's recent election was again the subject of great enthusiasm amongst people in the Cape and in the Torres Strait. I feel that they have thrown him under a very brutal bus and, you know, the - I don't think that he's been afforded all of the natural justice that he should've been afforded. And I think it's up to the electors of Cook to decide whether he should resign from the Parliament. ...
Gordon should stay:
Cape York mayors
… "All the indigenous communities voted for him so we better get behind him and support him until we find out which way this is going to go with the police," Kowanyama Mayor Robert Holness told AAP.
"It's really a bit of a witch-hunt at the moment. The man's innocent until proven guilty - don't crucify him for something that hasn't been investigated yet."
Mr Holness brushed off the MP's past convictions because "all of us do stupid things when we're young fellas".
He also stressed Mr Gordon could have reformed since the alleged abuse occurred.
"People who have been involved in domestic violence and changed are actually great advocates against it," he said.
"Never discount the ability of people to change over time."
Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher wanted to see the evidence.
"We need to see if these accusations of domestic violence are valid or not," he told AAP.
"That's really the make or break for Billy."
Hope Vale Mayor Greg McLean said that as an independent MP, Mr Gordon would be "the most powerful man in parliament" and it was his choice whether or not to stay or go.
"The people have gone to the polls and voted Billy Gordon for the seat of Cook," Mr McLean told AAP.
"It's his decision at the end of the day."
Australia's Minister for Immigration lines up another candidate for the International Criminal Court [Media Release - 30/3/15]:
Major General Andrew Bottrell CSC and Bar, DSM has been appointed as the new Commander for Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB). ...
Australia tortures refugees.
Australia's Immigration Minister remains protected and unaccountable.
A refugee at the East Lorengau transit centre has told me that @PeterDutton_MP was just there. He says there were PNG reporters with him.
An asylum seeker has told me that @PeterDutton_MP and @PM_GOV_PG were at #Manus today to open a new medical centre
"tweeted" by @shanebazzi [30/3/15]
Phnom Penh Post [30/3/15]:
Refugees who met with Cambodian immigration officials last week on the Pacific island of Nauru were told they would be given permanent visas and travel documents but would have to pay for English-language education and would lose all but emergency financial support after a year, a refugee said.
Two men attended the meeting where Cambodia explained how the resettlement program signed between Australia and Cambodia in September 2014 would work, but according to a refugee in the meeting, attendees only went out of curiosity and were not interested in moving to the Kingdom.
“We are traded like slaves between two corrupted governments. One wealthy but obsessed by the boats, the other one hungry enough to commit any crime [for] money”, the refugee, who cannot be named for security reasons, said.
“These two [countries] have created a great torture machine to reach their nasty political, economic purposes and are blessed enough to have the support of the all international organisations like [the] UN.
“Many people have died. Many children [have been] sexually abused. Many women [have been] raped and everybody [is] calling for investigations instead of any real, practical help. We don’t need your investigation. We don’t need your sympathy. We don’t beg any fake respect. We just don’t want to be slaves anymore.”
According to the agreement signed by the two countries on September 26, Australia would cover all the costs of resettlement and later said it would also give Cambodia an additional $35 million in aid to sweeten the deal.
General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, and Kerm Sarin, director of the ministry’s Refugee Department, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The International Organisation for Migration, which has agreed to help facilitate the “voluntary” transfer of refugees from Nauru as long as a number of conditions are met, was also present at last week’s meeting, according to IOM’s Asia Pacific spokesman Joe Lowry.
“We would have had no talks with anyone unless they had expressed an interest in relocating. That hasn’t happened, to the best of my knowledge,” he said.
A spokesperson for Australia’s Minister of Immigration could not be reached yesterday.
The refugee on Nauru said the community felt criminalised, as other groups who arrived by boat at the same time had been allowed to move to Australia.
“Being [a] refugee is not [a] crime. We are [neither] criminals nor slaves. We are ordinary people who are fighting for their right to live.”
THIS is refugee resettlement as defined by the UNHCR - anything else is EXILE.
Australia already resettles refugees. IN AUSTRALIA. Close the concentration camps and bring the refugees HERE.
Some refugees cannot go home or are unwilling to do so because they will face continued persecution. Many are also living in perilous situations or have specific needs that cannot be addressed in the country where they have sought protection. In such circumstances, UNHCR helps resettle refugees in a third country as the only safe and viable durable solution. Of the 10.5 million refugees of concern to UNHCR around the world, only about 1 per cent are submitted by the agency for resettlement.
Only a small number of states take part in UNHCR resettlement programmes. The United States is the world's top resettlement country, while Australia, Canada and the Nordic countries also provide a sizeable number of places annually. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of countries involved in resettlement in Europe and Latin America.
The resettlement country provides the refugee with legal and physical protection, including access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals. It should allow for refugees to become naturalized citizens.
In 2011, UNHCR submitted the files of some 92,000 refugees for consideration by resettlement countries. By nationality, the main beneficiaries of UNHCR-facilitated resettlement programmes were refugees from Myanmar (21,300), Iraq (20,000), Somalia (15,700) and Bhutan (13,000). Ten per cent of all submissions were for women and girls at risk, the highest percentage of the last six years.
In the same year, almost 62,000 individuals departed to 22 resettlement countries with UNHCR's assistance. The largest number of resettled refugees left from Nepal (18,150), followed by Thailand (9,570) and Malaysia (8,370). Resettlement is a life-changing experience. It is both challenging and rewarding. Refugees are often resettled to a country where the society, language and culture are completely different and new to them.
Providing for their effective reception and integration is beneficial for both the resettled refugee and the receiving country. Governments and non-governmental organization partners provide services to facilitate integration, such as cultural orientation, language and vocational training as well as programmes to promote access to education and employment.
Greece says not backing down on debt relief goal
Greece has not given up on its aim to renegotiate its debt to render it manageable, the country's deputy finance minister said on Monday as talks between Athens and its lenders on reforms to unlock aid continue.
"The government has not abandoned any claim regarding its aim to make the country's debt viable," Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas told financial daily Naftemporiki.
Greece's public debt burden reached more than 177 percent of national output last year. The country's new government came to power in January promising to demand that its euro zone partners let it write off a large part of that debt.
But it has said little about the issue in recent weeks, as Greece struggles to cope with a cash crunch and the government focuses on reaching agreement with its lenders on reforms that would unlock the remaining funds of the country's bailout.
"The solutions are known -- either there will be a haircut or it will be extended, or (repayment) will be linked to an increase in output or exports, or there will be lower interest rates," Mardas told the paper.
He reiterated a plan to link the repayment of Greece's 318 billion euros of debt with economic growth or exports, along the lines of a deal applied for post-World War Two Germany.
Representatives from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- informally called the Brussels Group -- discussed Greece's reform proposals over the weekend. Lenders said it could take several more days before a proper list was ready.
Cash-strapped Greece will run out of money by April 20 if it does not secure funding from its European partners, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras chaired a cabinet meeting late on Sunday which approved the reforms list and targets for a primary budget surplus of 1.5 pct of national output this year and growth of 1.4 percent, a government official said.
Officials in Athens and Brussels are continuing talks in hopes of making enough progress for euro zone finance ministers to reconvene soon to discuss the reforms.
Tsipras is due to speak on the reforms package in parliament later on Monday.
Australia military boasts coalition forces have killed 9,500 IS fighters: Coalition forces have killed more than 9,000 Islamic State fighters, and the forces will soon be joined in Iraq by 400 more soldiers to train local troops, the Australian military says. ... [ABC - 30/3/15]
And "we" call "them" a "death cult"?
Since 2003 Iraq has suffered systematic terrorist operations,
Arab Summit final statement
The Arab Summit’s final statement said on Sunday, that Iraq suffers from systematic terrorist operations, noting that the terrorist groups have extended their control over all the territory, while rejected to link any terrorist groups to Islam, pointing to the importance of forming a joint Arab force for the maintenance of Arab national security.
Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi said in the final statement of the 26th Arab Summit held in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh, that, “Iraq has been suffering from a systematic terrorist operations since 2003.”
Arabi added, “We reject to link the terrorist groups to Islam,” indicating that, “Hazm Storm came after the failure of all attempts to end the Huthi coup.”
Fighting grips Aden as Houthis continue to push south
Al Jazeera [30/3/15]:
Fierce fighting has been reported in Yemen's coastal city of Aden as Houthi rebels continued their push south despite a fifth night of Saudi-led airstrikes against the group's positions.
Clashes were reported in the Dar Saad district of Aden on Sunday as fighters loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi battled Houthis trying to push their way to the city's northern gate.
Hadi loyalists told Al Jazeera they had recaptured the airport, which has changed hands several times in recent days, as a gun battle raged in Aden's central Crater district.
Nearly 100 people are reported to have been killed in the violence in Aden in recent days.
Heavy fighting was also reported in Shabwa province, with local tribes in Beihan telling Al Jazeera that at least 40 Houthi fighters were killed in battles there.
The clashes came as Nabil el-Araby, the head of the Arab League, said Saudi-led airstrikes would continue until the Houthis layed down their weapons and withdrew.
"Yemen was on the verge of collapse which prompted a reaction from Arab states and the international community," el-Araby said.
"The [airstrikes] came after all other means to achieve a peaceful solution were exhausted. The [strikes] will continue until the Houthis hand over their weapons."
Meanwhile, Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, said the kingdom was keeping its options open over whether to send ground troops to Yemen.
"I don't know that anyone wants to go into Yemen but we don't rule anything out," Jubeir was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying. "Right now the objective is being achieved through an air campaign,"
In some of the latest airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition, raids targeted the Houthis' main stronghold of Saada in the north and also hit ammunition depots and airports.
Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen will continue until rebels there “withdraw and surrender their weapons,” a summit of Arab leaders decided Sunday, as they also agreed in principle to forming a joint military force. ... [Daily Star - 30/3/15]
Shape of permanent Arab military force to be decided within 4 months: Egypt FM [Ahram - 29/3/15]
Pakistan has sent a jumbo jet and a naval frigate to evacuate its citizens and diplomatic staff stranded in war-torn Yemen, as Saudi-led air strikes hammered Shiite Huthi rebel targets, officials said Sunday. ... [Naharnet - 29/3/15]
A bomb wounded four civilians and four policemen outside Cairo University Saturday, Egyptian police and health officials said. … [Naharnet – 29/3/15]
A nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is "doable," Tehran's lead negotiator said in crunch talks in Switzerland on Sunday, with "two or three" issues still to be resolved.
Abbas Araqchi however ruled out sending Iran's nuclear stocks abroad, a key demand of world powers, while insisting that all U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions must be lifted. ... [Naharnet - 29/3/15]
Afghanistan: 2 killed in Kabul suicide attack
At least two persons were killed and eight others wounded in a suicide attack in capital Kabul this evening.
The target of the suicide attacker is said to be Member of Parliament Gul Pacha Majidi who is also among the ones wounded.
There is no claim of responsibility for the attack until filing this report.
Soon after the attack security forces arrived at the scene in Shah Shahid area of 8th police district and cordoned off the area.
Tunisians march against extremism after museum massacre
Tunisia said it killed the leader of the jihadists accused of organizing the massacre at its national museum, as thousands took to the streets Sunday in a march against extremism.
Authorities said Lokmane Abou Sakhr -- an Algerian who was singled out as the organizer of the museum attack -- was killed along with at least eight others from the notorious Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade.
Officials had accused Abou Sakhr and his group of organizing the attack on the Bardo Museum that left 21 foreign tourists dead, despite a claim of responsibility from the Islamic State group.
Tunisian forces "were able yesterday (Saturday) to kill the most important members of the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade including its head Lokmane Abou Sakhr," Prime Minister Habib Essid told reporters.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui earlier told Agence France-Presse that security forces had killed "nine terrorists" in an operation in the west-central area of Sidi Aich against Okba Ibn Nafaa.
"We are very pleased the nine were among the most dangerous terrorists in Tunisia," he said.
Authorities say Okba Ibn Nafaa has been behind a series of attacks on security forces that have left some 60 dead since late 2012.
Some 12,000 people set off on Sunday for the march "against terrorism" in Tunis, waving Tunisian flags and chanting: "Tunisia is free! Terrorism out!"
The march was to go from Tunis's Bab Saadoun Square to the museum, where a stone tablet was to be dedicated to the memory of the 21 foreign tourists and Tunisian policeman killed in the attack.
President Beji Caid Essebsi hosted foreign dignitaries including his counterparts from France, Francois Hollande, and Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, as well as Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Algeria's premier, Abdelmalek Sellal, as well as the foreign ministers of Spain, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, and the Netherlands, Bert Koenders, were also expected.
Arab Israeli MPS march in solidarity with Bedouin community
A four-day march led by Arab Israeli MPs in solidarity with Israel's impoverished Bedouin community wound up on Sunday at the Jewish state's presidency.
President Reuven Rivlin's office said Arab representatives delivered a report on the hardships faced by Bedouin villages to his wife, Nechama, as the head of state was in Singapore for the funeral of its founding father Lee Kuan Yew.
She would hand over the report to the president on his return.
Israel's top Arab MP, Ayman Odeh, began the 100-kilometer (60-mile) march on Thursday with several dozen supporters, saying their aim was to put a spotlight on the "human misery" faced by the Bedouin.
The march started in the Bedouin village of Wadi al-Naam near the southern Israeli city of Beersheba but not recognized by the authorities.
Odeh has pledged to secure formal recognition for more than 40 Bedouin villages which have no running water, are not connected to the electricity grid and lack basic infrastructure because of their unrecognized status.
He visited several of the largest villages on the march to Jerusalem.
Around 260,000 Bedouin live in Israel, more than half in unrecognized villages without utilities.
Many live in extreme poverty.
PNG: Officers expose visa, passport racket
The National [30/3/15]:
A joint operation by officers from the immigration, labour and police departments has exposed an alleged scam involving the production of fake passports, visa and work permits by foreigners.
Police, accompanied by labour and immigration officers, raided a home in Port Moresby on Thursday night and confiscated computers and printers they suspect were being used to produce fake PNG passports and work permits.
Also discovered were hardcover papers used as covers of passports. Foreign passport labels such as US passports were confiscated.
Chief Migration Officer Mataio Rabura told The National last night that he was aware of the raid and was expecting a report from his officers today.
Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Donald Yamasombi said that he was awaiting a briefing and report from the officers involved.
One of the officers who asked not to be identified said four foreigners had been questioned and placed under house arrest.
The officer said they raided the premises after receiving an anonymous tip-off.
“We suspect that this syndicate is producing counterfeit foreign passports, visas and work permit for clients,” he said.
The raid was conducted at about 8pm on Thursday. People living inside the house were caught by surprise when the officers entered the premises tucked away in a back street of Hohola in the capital city.
They caught a male foreigner watching a pornography video with a local girl.
The local girl tried to fight off a police officer when he wanted to question her.
A female foreigner collapsed when she saw the officers. She was later revived after cold water was poured on her face.
The work permits had various PNG company labels. Information on the work permits in the passports were the same but with photos of different persons.
Fake PNG and foreign passports were produced in a similar fashion.
The officer said the discovery explained the increase in the number of non-English speaking foreigners entering the country.
“We have confiscated documents and computers that produce the false work permits,” he said.
“Two prerequisites to get a work permit to enter PNG are that you must speak good English and be in a management position to train locals.
“When you meet those requirements, immigration officials can grant you a visa to enter PNG. But some of them, when they produce their work permits, immigration officers cannot say no because their work permits are in order. So visa is granted for them to enter PNG.”
The officer said the Labour department and Immigration office had often been blamed for the high influx of foreigners especially from Asian countries.
“But it is such syndicates that are producing false work permits and passports for them to come here,” he said.
The personal details of world leaders at the last G20 summit were accidentally disclosed by the Australian immigration department, which did not consider it necessary to inform those world leaders of the privacy breach.
The Guardian can reveal an employee of the agency inadvertently sent the passport numbers, visa details and other personal identifiers of all world leaders attending the summit to the organisers of a football tournament. ...
Tsunami threat in PNG waters lifted
The Pacific Tsunami Center says the threat in the wake of an earthquake off Papua New Guinea (PNG)'s New Ireland has largely passed.
A quake measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale was at a depth of 33 kilometres, sparking fears of a tsunami affecting PNG and to a lesser extent, much of the rest of the Pacific.
But the centre says the threat has now largely passed.
It says any remaining threat should be evaluated by local authorities in the impact areas.
The earthquake struck late this morning (PNG time), and its epicentre was near the town of Rabaul.
The acting director of the National Disaster Office in Papua New Guinea, Martin Mose, said there had been no reports of any damage from the quake.
"Up to now, we have not received any [reports of] impact so I would assume that there was not any significant impact at all," Mr Mose said.
"But we are still working closely with the Rabaul Vulcanological Observatory just to give us any recording, if there was any impact at all, together with the Geophysical Observatory on that."
Residents in East New Britain contacted by Radio New Zealand International also reported a strong tremor but no damage.
WA Premier's chief of staff to take position in Paris with OECD
The Federal Government is poised to announce the appointment of West Australian Premier Colin Barnett's chief of staff to a plum European posting.
The ABC understands Brian Pontifex will become ambassador to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The announcement is expected as early as this week.
Mr Pontifex has been Mr Barnett's chief of staff since February 2010 and before that was the general manager for corporate affairs with Woodside on its Browse LNG development.
Earlier this year it was reported that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had recommended to Prime Minister Tony Abbott that Mr Pontifex be appointed to the ambassador role.
It is understood Mr Pontifex has now decided to take on the role.
The position is currently filled by Chris Barrett who served as a chief of staff to then-treasurer Wayne Swan.
Mr Barnett's office would not comment on whether Mr Pontifex had quit his role as chief of staff.
Ms Bishop's office also declined to comment.
While no replacement has been decided for Mr Barnett's chief of staff role, a few names have been floated.
They include ExxonMobil executive Richard Ellis, who was Mr Barnett's chief of staff when he was opposition leader, and Willie Rowe, who owns a management consultancy firm.
Both have extensive experience in government relations and corporate communications.
NT Government sought advice on abortion for teenager in care without her knowledge [ABC - 30/3/15]
Jordan Rice receives posthumous bravery medal
The selfless actions of a Toowoomba teenager have been recognised with a bravery medal more than four years after he perished in a flood disaster.
Jordan Rice did not survive being washed from the roof of his family's car at the intersection of James and Kitchener Sts on January 10, 2011.
The 13-year-old was stranded with his mother Donna and younger brother Blake after their car stalled in rising floodwater.
Two men entered the fast flowing water to provide assistance. However, given the strong current, both encountered difficulties.
Only one of the men reached the vehicle and had to be helped by the family in doing so.
Showing great selflessness and presence of mind, Jordan put his brother first which enabled the man to safely extract Blake from the vehicle.
With the help of the second man, he was able to take Blake to safety.
In hazardous conditions, Donna and Jordan exited the vehicle.
As it began to move in the current, they managed to grab hold of a light pole.
However, the current was too strong and they were swept away.
Donna and Jordan's bodies were recovered later that afternoon.
Triple-0 operator chastises flood victims [ABC - 19/4/11]:
ALI MOORE: The Queensland flood inquiry has heard a triple-0 operator chastised a mother and her son, shortly before they were swept to their deaths.
Two emergency calls made by Donna and Jordan Rice were played to the inquiry as their family wept quietly in the courtroom.
Francene Norton reports from Toowoomba.
FRANCENE NORTON: Survivor Blake Rice and his father John Tyson were surrounded by family, as they prepared themselves to hear the final recordings of their loved ones.
The calls were made on the 10 January as floodwaters swept away their car in Toowoomba's CBD. In the first call, the police operator demanded three times: "Why did you drive through floodwaters?"
"You shouldn't have driven through floodwaters in the first place."
The family of Donna and Jordan Rice wiped away tears as they listened to the rising panic in the second emergency call. In the background, Donna Rice could be heard yelling at her sons to jump on the roof, while Jordan Rice pleaded with the operator to hurry up because they were about to drown.
The female operator shouted: "If you don't tell me where you are we can't help you."
"Tell the woman beside you to stop yelling."
Donna Rice's widower John Tyson read a statement to the court about the impact the tragedy has had on his family's lives. And in response to the triple-0 calls, Mr Tyson said: "I fail to see what part of the call wasn't panic."
"What gave someone the right to decide that I have to bury half my family?"
Earlier the court heard from the chief executive officer and Mayor of Toowoomba Regional Council about whether an SMS alert to residents before the flash flooding hit would have helped. Both told the inquiry that given the waters rose so quickly, an SMS may have created more panic.
KEN GOULDTHORP, TOOWOOMBA COUNCIL CEO: Would they have rushed outside? Would they have jumped into their cars and drive home? Would that have made it more dangerous?
PETER TAYLOR: We want to hear all of the good ideas that might come out of such a commission inquiry.
FRANCENE NORTON: The inquiry heads to Dalby tomorrow.
Francene Norton, Lateline.
Risking his safety to save a stranger has changed Helidon man Gary Wasson's life.
The bravery he displayed on September 10, 2013, has cost him his ability to work due to injuries which give him chronic pain.
His selfless act has earned him a Commendation for Brave Conduct in this year's Australian Bravery Decorations.
Mr Wasson, 46, was driving behind a B-Double loaded with sorghum in a 100kmh section of the Leichhardt Hwy between Wandoan and Miles at Gurulmundi when an oncoming ute crossed into the truck's path. … [Chronicle - 30/3/15]
Feel safe Queensland?
QPS Media [30/3/15]:
Police have charged two people with a number of offences after officers intercepted a vehicle at Strathpine last night.
At around 7.50pm, officers attended a Dayboro address where it will be alleged a vehicle drove at speed toward police vehicles before driving away.
A short time later, POLAIR2 identified the vehicle, again allegedly travelling at speed towards Warner.
A tyre-deflation device was successfully deployed on all four tyres on Winn Road at Cashmere, however the vehicle continued to travel on its rims through Warner, Bray Park and Lawnton.
The vehicle was intercepted by police while travelling on the incorrect side of Gympie Road at Strathpine.
The three occupants of the car, two men and a woman were apprehended by police at the scene.
Footage has emerged of a police officer breaking a driver's window when the motorist fails to get out of his car.
The video posted on YouTube by "Bodhi Sattva", shot from what appears to be a bodycam, shows the officer getting increasingly angry when the unidentified driver fails to comply with his demands.
“Open this door. I am not playing this game,” the officer is heard saying. “You’re under arrest."
The driver is then heard repeatedly asking “Why have you pulled me over?” to which the policeman at first does not answer.
A short while after the officer tells him that he is under arrest because he can smell marijuana, warning that he will break the window "in two seconds" if the driver doesn't get out of his car.
The officer then smashes his car window.
On a separate blog that is linked to the YouTube page, "Bodhi Sattva" writes: "I was physically assaulted and it has left me emotionally traumatized. I do not feel safe anymore.
"The officers found marijuana in the vehicle, I am prescribed cannabis for medical purposes."
Vancouver, Canada police say the driver was being charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession for the purposes of trafficking and obstructing a police officer.
The case is currently being heard in court.
Coomera construction site fire extinguished
A fire that sent thick black smoke across the suburb of Coomera has been extinguished.
Emergency services were called to the scene near Yaun St, Coomera around 10.35am after reports an explosion had occurred.
Police said the fire was sparked by workmen using a grinder on a construction site.
QCLNG flare set to be smokier as tank is purged
Gladstone Observer [30/3/15]:
The QCLNG flare will be smokier than usual from today until Wednesday.
For safety, an LNG storage tank will be purged with nitrogen, to remove any oxygen, ahead of cooling for LNG storage.
The purged gas will cause greater flaring, which the company says is the most environmentally friendly way to manage gas releases.
The facility shut down for two weeks on March 10 as part of the commissioning process of Train 1.
An increase in flaring activity and associated smoke emissions was anticipated for a few days at the beginning and end of the shutdown.
Cancer cases in Queensland triple in the past 30 years, statistics show [ABC - 16/2/15]
Queensland Health employee jailed for illegally claiming overtime during IBM payroll debacle
A former Queensland Health employee has been sentenced to two years' prison, to be suspended after three months, for fraud.
Karma Elms, 36, pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for illegally claiming $39,000 worth of overtime and penalty payments.
The court heard Elms was working long hours during the Queensland Health pay debacle when she claimed the overtime.
Magistrate Wendy Cull said the fraud was planned and systematic, but she noted Elms had an economically and socially disadvantaged childhood and now supports her mother.
Elms was hired by Queensland Health in the March 2010 to help manage the increased workload following the introduction of the department's flawed payroll system.
The former Labor Government's $1.2 billion payroll system debacle saw thousands of Queensland Health workers underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.
The Salt Lake Tribune [17/3/15]:
Nearly 12 years after it was filed, a lawsuit against IBM Corp. that riled the open-source computer code community is back on the federal court docket in Utah.
The nearly defunct Utah company SCO Group Inc. and IBM filed a joint report to the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City saying that legal issues remain in the case, which was initiated in 2003 with SCO claiming damages of $5 billion against the technology giant, based in Armonk, N.Y.
That likely means that U.S. District Judge David Nuffer, who now presides over the dispute, will start moving the lawsuit — largely dormant for about four years while a related suit against Novell Inc. was adjudicated — ahead.
The case involves SCO's claims that IBM misappropriated code from the Unix computer operating system software, owned by SCO. The company claimed that IBM used that code to make the fledgling Linux open source code into a competitor to Unix.
Qld Health Payroll Commission of Inquiry Report, July 2013 [PDF]:
In 2002 the then Queensland Government established the “Shared Services Initiative” (SS Initiative, or the Initiative), the purpose of which was to amalgamate and rationalise government services across a number of departments and agencies.
The Initiative was based on the Shared Services Model, an organisational approach which had been embraced by large corporations in the United States of America in the 1980s and had apparently been applied to the public sector with some success.
The Initiative promised to deliver high quality and cost effective corporate functions across the whole-of government.
It was considered by the Service Delivery and Performance Commission to be “the largest organisational reform undertaken within the State Government”
Arena Organisational Consultants (Arena) in its Strategic Review of the Initiative described it as “one of the most significant projects of its type undertaken in the southern hemisphere”.
The Initiative was intended to produce a higher standard of corporate service functions at a lower cost to government in providing them. A centralised agency was to take on services such as collecting monies and paying debts, purchasing goods and services, recording those financial transactions and managing and paying public servants from individual departments and agencies covered by the SS Initiative.
By centralising the workforce the number of employees engaged in those activities could be reduced or redeployed, and by developing and implementing a uniform set of business rules a common set of computer technology and programs could be deployed for all the agencies and departments thereby reducing acquisition and licensing costs, bringing about simplification in systems and applications.
Such, at least, was the theory, which was not unique to Queensland. It was essayed in other States at about the same time. In June 2011 the Economic Regulation Authority of Western Australia brought down its fifthand final report into “ ... the Benefits and Costs Associated with the Provision of Shared Corporate Services in the public sector”.
The report noted the Western Australian Initiative had incurred costs of $401M “and achieved minimal benefit in terms of savings ... ”
It concluded that:
The history of shared corporate services projects in the public sector in Australia shows that it is a complex process with uncertain and distant returns. While there is some evidence of successes in the corporate sector, there has not been one fully successful implementation in the public sector of any Australian jurisdiction.
It recommended the dismantling of the Shared Services experiment in Western Australia. With the benefit of that State’s experience the Economic Regulation Authority explained:
[A]ttempting to service multiple agencies with differing needs by using a single system is very costly, fraught with challenges, and potentially unachievable. Servicing agencies with a system that is modified to meet all needs results in a system that is expensive, costly to maintain and prone to error, while the alternative of servicing agencies with a standardised product results in large integration costs being imposed on agencies.
Stay in parliament Billy Gordon.
Be an independent voice for First Nations Queenslanders.
Billy Gordon MP [29/3/15]:
I am presently weighing up my options after the advice I have received from the Premier that she has asked for my expulsion from the Labor Party.
I am very concerned that I should be afforded natural justice in any determination that my tenure as the Member for Cook should be terminated because of her move to see me expelled from the Labor Party and her wish for me to resign as a Member of Parliament.
The Premier has previously requested that the Police Commissioner investigate whether I have transgressed any law and that process should be allowed to continue its natural course.
Any other attempt to remove me from the Parliament and force me to resign is a denial of natural justice.
I have a serious eye operation tomorrow and I need further time to consider my options, seek further legal advice and have ongoing discussion with my family and my supporters.
I will therefore make no further media comment at this time.
I am very concerned at the impact this situation is having on my children who I love very much.
Apartheid Queensland: Police don't shoot man, Cherbourg [QPS Media - 30/3/15]
Armed robbery, Bald Hills [QPS Media - 30/3/15]
Russell Brand lends weight to Occupy London protest against Rupert Murdoch
Comedian Russell Brand today championed the latest protest by the Occupy Movement which last night attempted to “reclaim” The Sun newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Yesterday evening protesters blockaded the entrance to the News UK headquarters opposite the Shard.
Writing on social networking site Twitter Brand said: “Congratulations to all at #OccupyMurdoch - The S*n should be taken from Murdoch and run as a REAL paper for the people.”
The Revolution author has been helping the movement “re-Brand” newsagents advertising The Sun, with banners instead reading The Trews.
Occupy Murdoch participants have been peacefully protesting in the piazza between London Bridge Underground and the News Building all week, but moved to stage a sit-in protest outside the office in London Bridge Street on Saturday evening from about 8pm.
Images shared on social media showed police officers blocking the entrance to the headquarters with a large crowd of demonstrators in front of them.
The crowd can be seen carrying megaphones, placards and banners.
An event on the Occupy London Facebook page called ‘Occupy Rupert Murdoch’ described the protest as reaching a “peak” on Saturday, starting with a mass rally protest at 2pm.
A spokesperson for News UK said: "As a leading media organisation we respect the right to protest and free speech, and there have been peaceful protests throughout this week outside The News Building.
"We have continued to operate without disruption since the protests began last Monday. This evening the protesters approached the main entrance and are currently protesting directly outside the doors, obstructing access so the doors have been closed.
"Met police officers are on site in control of operations and we will continue to liaise with them. This evening's protest has had no effect on our operations and the public will be delighted to know that the first editions of The Sunday Times and Sun on Sunday have gone to print ".
Reports on social media claimed Mr Murdoch was inside the building, but a spokeswoman for News UK confirmed this was not true.
@indyrikki [29/3/15]: pic of #occupymurdoch trial yesterday ...
Occupy Murdoch – Saturday Rally, Trial and Occupation [indyrikki - 29/3/15]
I dont care (murdochs gunna cop it)
Refugee torturing Australian government ramps up PNG propaganda effort as pressure to close death camps rises. [PNG Loop - 30/3/15]:
Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Deborah Stokes said the Australian Government will spend over K4.5 million in assistance for the Enga College of Nursing. ...
15,000 protested refugee policy in Melbourne yesterday. Australian politicians and officials remain protected and unaccountable. [PNG Loop - 29/3/15]:
Magistrates from around the country sharpened their skills in a Magistrates Orientation Program funded by the Australian Government last month, to help promote the delivery of fair, impartial and consistent justice.
Eighteen magistrates attended the orientation program coordinated by the Centre for Judicial Excellence and facilitated by the New South Wales Judicial Commission, which supported two Australian magistrates and a representative from the NSW Judicial Committee to facilitate the course.
The program covered topics including recognising biases, self-analysing, principles of sentencing and upholding best practice standards.
In closing the workshop, Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Ms Deborah Stokes, said: “Professional development opportunities are vital to ensure that best practices are exchanged, and brought back to the courts and their communities. This approach will greatly contribute to strengthening justice in Papua New Guinea, supporting safer communities and stronger economic development.” ...
Fluffy Morrison: ... The Council of Ageing said it is encouraged that the minister is open to discussion about pension policy.
"We have said we are prepared to look at ideas which help strengthen the pension sustainability for the future but only if the government includes all related retirement issues in the discussion, the council's chief Ian Yates said. [SBS - 29/3/15]
Lawyers representing 25 detainees at the Manus Island detention centre have been allowed access to their clients to pursue a case against their detention.
Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court last week issued a directive from the country's chief migration officer Rabura Mataio to allow private law firm Lomai and Lomai Lawyers access to the centre.
Mr Lomai said his lawyers would have access to the detention centre from April 6 - 17. The matter returns to court on April 22.
Global action against mandatory detention for #asylumseekers - Paris #justice4refugees ...
Image: @noirruby [29/3/15]
Global Call to End Mandatory Detention in Australia - Paris vigil
"Let my people go" - Canberra
Refugee protestor invades anthems at Cricket World Cup Final [VIDEO - 3 News - 29/3/15]
@akaWACA [29/3/15]: Crew outside #AUSvNZ #CWC15Final call on crowd to Play Fair - time to #CloseNauru, #ShutDownManus. ...
Full statement released by #Refugee activists who invaded the #CWC15Final pitch earlier this afternoon [29/3/15]:
A cape-wearing man has disrupted play during the final match of the 2015 ICC World Cup between Australia and New Zealand by running onto the field at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the second time in two months.
The man was wearing a shirt bearing the slogan ‘I [Heart] Refugees’ and a cape with the words ‘End Offshore Detention’.
The same man also ran onto the field at the Australia versus England match in February to raise awareness about the plight of asylum seekers in Australia’s onshore and offshore immigration detention centres.
“People around the world should boycott Australia in order to show their opposition against the Australian Government’s illegal and unjust treatment of asylum seekers, in the same way that nations, including Australia, boycotted South Africa during its Apartheid era,” said the man in a statement released this afternoon.
“Governments around the world must condemn Australia’s actions because they break international human rights agreements and conventions. They should impose economic sanctions to force Australia to abide by its obligations, as well as support the push to bring Australia to account at the International Criminal Court. Also, companies should refuse to do business with the Australian government or else risk being complicit in its violations,” he continued.
The pitch invasion took place at the same time as the Palm Sunday ‘Walk for Justice for Refugees’ demonstrations which occurred in major cities across Australia and saw thousands of people marching in the streets in support of asylum seekers’ rights and condemning their treatment by the Australian Government.
Similar demonstrations are also taking place in cities around the world this weekend under the banner ‘Global Call to End Mandatory Detention’.
Australia still torturing refugees.
Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney [29/3/15]:
On Thursday, 26 March, Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton compared medical facilities on Nauru to hospitals in regional Australia or a field hospital in Afghanistan.
Neither regional Australia, nor troops in Afghanistan would accept the shocking level of medical care on Nauru.
In the last week two incidents have raised more questions about the safety of refugees on Nauru and the quality of medical care. Last Tuesday, 24 March, a Pakistani refugee broke his forearm in a motorcycle accident but has been left waiting a week for surgery to set the break.
Yesterday, Saturday 28 March, a 50 year-old Iranian refugee required hospital treatment after she was attacked by dogs.
The woman, who has two children, was knocked over and left with numerous serious bites after three dogs attacked her as she was walking near one of the main supermarkets. (See photos)
Nauru dog attack 2Wild dogs are a major safety problem on Nauru, where rabies is also endemic. It is not known if asylum seekers or refugees on Nauru are routinely vaccinated for rabies.
The Pakistani refugee whose forearm was fractured in the motorbike accident on Tuesday 24 March, had been told to return to the hospital for the bone to be set on Wednesday 25 March. (See photos)
On Wednesday, he was told the hospital was too busy and told to come back on Thursday when he was told to come back on Friday.
When he went to the hospital on Friday, he was told that the hospital had run out of water and that he should come back on Monday 30 March.
“It is anyone’s guess whether the refugee will finally get surgery to set his broken arm tomorrow,“ said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “But it clear that the medical facilities are not up to standard. Perhaps Peter Dutton would like to reveal which Australian regional hospitals and which military hospitals have run out of water recently.”
30 March 2015