More refugees rescued by Italian coastguard
Al Jazeera [2/1/15]:
A cargo vessel carrying hundreds of migrants is being towed to Italy after it was abandoned by smugglers and left drifting without a crew in the second such case in just a few days.
Italian Coast Guard Commander Filippo Marini said on Friday that after several hours of struggling in rough seas, rescue teams managed to secure the Ezadeen for towing toward the southern Calabrian region.
An Icelandic ship, part of a European new European patrol force to aid migrants at sea, was doing the tow.
Children and pregnant women were among an estimated 450 migrants on board, most of who were believed to be Syrian, said Marini. The Sierra-Leone-flagged cargo ship apparently set sail from Turkey, he said.
The engines of the ship were left on autopilot by fleeing crew and shut down due to malfunction late on Thursday.
One of the estimated 450 people on board the Ezadeen was able to operate the ship's radio and informed the coastguard that the crew had jumped ship.
The Italian air force sent a helicopter to lower rescuers on to the vessel as bad weather conditions made it impossible to board the ship other than from the air.
The latest high-seas drama came two days after Italian sailors intercepted a freighter carrying more than 700 mostly Syrian migrants which had been heading for the rocks of Italy's southeastern shore on autopilot.
The vessel had been abandoned by the people smugglers who had navigated it from Turkey via Greek waters.
In that incident, the Moldovan-registered Blue Sky M cargo ship got to within 8km, or 45 minutes sailing time, of a disaster before six navy officers were lowered on to the ship by helicopter and succeeded in bringing it under control.
Those on board included 60 children and two pregnant women, one of whom gave birth on board as the boat steamed towards catastrophe, according to the Italian Red Cross.
Many of the migrants on the ship were treated for hypothermia and broken limbs.
Italy has had to deal with a massive surge in migrants - many of them from the Middle East and the Horn of Africa - hoping to reach Europe by boat.
More than 170,000 people have been rescued in the last 14 months but an estimated 3,000 have perished trying to make the crossing.
United States continue bombing Syria and Iraq
U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria, Jan. 1, using fighter, bomber, and attack aircraft to conduct 12 airstrikes.
Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted 11 airstrikes in Iraq, Jan. 1, using fighter, attack, and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.
The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:
* Near Kobani, nine airstrikes struck a large ISIL unit and an ISIL fighting position and destroyed four ISIL buildings, 10 ISIL fighting positions, and an ISIL tank.
* Near Ar Raqqah, two airstrikes destroyed 20 ISIL armored vehicles.
* Near Al Hasakah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL armored vehicle.
* Near Taji, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
* Near Al Asad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
* Near Fallujah, three airstrikes struck a large ISIL unit and two ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a mortar system, an ISIL building, and a bunker complex.
* Near Bayji, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL building and an ISIL fighting position.
* Near Al Qaim, three airstrikes struck an ISIL shipping container and destroyed an ISIL shipping container, a front end loader, and an armored vehicle.
* Near Mosul, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL weapons cache and a VBIED.
Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.
Daily Star [2/1/15]:
Activists say the U.S.-led coalition has carried out more than a dozen airstrikes in and around the de-facto capital of the "Islamic State" in northeastern Syria.
The air raids struck several areas overnight on the outskirts of the city of Raqqa along the Euphrates River. It was the heaviest round of coalition strikes on the city since ISIS militants captured a Jordanian pilot after his F-16 jet went down near Raqqa on Dec. 24.
The anti-ISIS activist group called Raqqa is Silently Being Slaughtered reported on Friday at least 13 coalition strikes. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees activist collective also confirmed the air raids.
There was no immediate word on casualties.
@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [2/1/15]:
Anbar: Fallujah Hospital received 20 dead bodies -including three cchildren and woman- and 4 wounded civilians - 5 women and 9 children included- injured in the random and intended bombing of government's army in Fallujah.....
Anbar: The impacts of random shelling of government's army in Fallujah are shown below...... [VIDEO - 31/12/14]
Afghanistan: Azizi Bank employees among 4 killed in Helmand explosion
At least four people were killed following an explosion in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan this evening.
A local security official said the incident took place around 5:00 pm local time in Lashkargah, the capital city of Helmand province.
The official further added that the bank’s branch manager was killed along with two other bank employees and a police officer.
Eyewitnesses in the area are saying that the blast took place due to a magnetic improvised explosive device explosion which was planted in the vehicle of the bank employees.
No group including the Taliban militants has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.
Helmand is among the volatile provinces in southern Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups are actively operating and frequently carry out insurgency activities.
Taliban delegation visited China to start stalled talks [Pajhwok – 2/1/15]
Palestinian shot dead by Egyptian forces near Gaza border
Egyptian military forces late Friday shot and killed a Palestinian at the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza, witnesses and an official said.
Witnesses told Ma'an Egyptian soldiers opened fire at four Palestinians in the al-Salam neighborhood of Rafah, killing one and arresting the other three.
Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said in a statement that a 23-year-old Palestinian was shot dead and taken to Abu Yusif al-Najjar hospital in Rafah.
The motive behind the shooting was not immediately clear.
Egypt and Israel maintain a blockade on Gaza, keeping borders largely closed and limiting imports, exports, and the freedom of movement of its residents.
The Egyptian government, which has actively destroyed smuggling tunnels underneath the border since the military coup in the summer of 2013, has also promised the creation of a buffer zone on its side.
The border area used to host hundreds of tunnels which Gazans used to import goods to circumvent the seven-year-old siege of the territory.
Palestinians deliver to UN documents to join International Criminal Court [2/1/15]
Armed tribesmen clash with troops in Yemen [Al Jazeera – 2/1/15]
Sudan Troops Battle Darfur Rebels for Strategic Area [Naharnet - 2/1/15]
Anti fascist rallies in Sweden follow trio of mosque fire attacks
The Local [2/1/15]:
Thousands of people turned up to anti-racism rallies in Sweden's major cities on Friday afternoon following three arson attacks on mosques.
The crowds in Stockholm waved placards and listened to speeches from leading figures within the city's Muslim community as they gathered on the cobbled streets outside the Royal Palace in the Swedish capital's Old Town, known as Gamla Stan.
The largest banner at the demonstation read: "Don't touch my mosque".
Anti-racism campaigner Yasin Ahmed, 43, told The Local he was "surprised and thrilled" that so many people had turned out for the event on a cold January 2nd.
"I came here because I am against the mosque attacks. They are not only attacks on mosques but also against Swedish democracy. I am a Swedish citizen first and I am also a Swedish muslim seeking to protect my rights and to show solidarity with others to deal with this Islamophobia".
"We want to send the message that these attacks on mosques are a problem for all of society and not just Muslims," Mohammed Kharraki a spokesman for Sweden's Islamic Association told news the AFP news agency.
After Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhne took to the stand, she spoke to The Local and said that Sweden should still be seen as "a paradise" for immigrants from different nations despite the current tensions.
"The most important thing that we can do now, as a government, a people, and a country, is to really put the effort into making an action plan to change this," she said.
Other rallies took place in Malmö and Gothenburg.
Swedish police are still searching for suspects linked to the third arson attack against a mosque in a week, which took place in Uppsala on Thursday amid growing tensions over the rise of a far right anti-immigration movement.
The mosque has since been covered in paper hearts from people pledging their support to muslims.
Murdoch, Scaife and CIA Propaganda [ICH – 31/12/14]
Ten lies we're told to justify the slaughter of 20 million in the First World War [Stop The War Coalition – 12/11/14]
#BLACK LIVES MATTER 2015 *KEEPING FOCUSED IT'S STILL ABOUT JUSTICE!** Justice for Eric Garner Justice for Them and US ALL!
We see you 1% We See You Wall Street!
This rally and speakout follows the die-in shutdown and boycott of The NY POST/ Fox News and will the focus on the Black Lives Movement and in support of Justice for Mike Brown, Eric Garner and countless others who have been murdered by police departments across the country.
The NO INDICTMENT of the Officer who helped to murder Eric Garner as well as Wilson in the Mike Brown case only crystallizes the issue of BLACK LIVES ((NOT)) mattering!
This action is also being held to counter the primitive, reactionary and backward view and propaganda of those rising up in Ferguson and New York City are somehow responsible for the murder of 2 police officers in Brookln on 12.20.14.
We say that the REAL criminals and those behind MAJOR crime on the streets happening to people are on Wall Street and ultimately the NYPD answers to and works for the 1%/
Following this action there will also be a organizing assembly to continue efforts to build the movement for justice at 60 Wall Street( right down the block) at 7:00pm.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Papua: Three Killed at US giant Freeport's mine
Three security personnel were found dead with bullet and machete wounds at a U.S.-owned Freeport-McMoRan copper and gold mine in eastern Indonesia, local police said Friday.
The three -- one security employee and two police officers on duty at the mine -- were on patrol at the huge Grasberg complex in Papua province before they were found dead late Thursday.
Police found deep gashes on the three bodies as well as bullet wounds on one of them, Papua police spokesman Patrick Renwarin said.
"We still don't know the cause of the deaths yet as we are still waiting for the full report," Renwarin said.
Freeport Indonesia said the area where the patrol vehicle was found had been sealed for police investigation.
Pro-independence militants have waged a low-level insurgency against Indonesian rule in Papua, which is off-limits to foreign journalists without special permission.
Grasberg, one of the biggest copper and gold mines in the world, has been plagued by accidents and production problems in recent years.
In May 2013, a training tunnel collapsed killing 28 miners as they took part in a safety course in one of Indonesia's worst-ever mining accidents.
In 2011 a three-month strike crippled production at the mine, and workers only halted the industrial action once Freeport agreed to a huge pay rise.
Shanghai New Year crush victims mainly young women
Channel News Asia [2/1/15]:
China on Friday mourned the 36 dead from a New Year's Eve crush on Shanghai's famed waterfront, as the city government revealed the victims were mainly young women.
The incident was Shanghai's worst since a fire in a high-rise residential building killed 58 people in 2010 and tarnished the commercial hub's international reputation.
On Friday morning, around 100 people gathered in front of a statue of Shanghai's first communist mayor Chen Yi near the accident scene, some laying flowers in a government-approved show of mourning.
The youngest of the 32 victims identified so far was a 12-year-old boy, the oldest 37. All but four were aged 25 or under, according to a list released by the city government on Friday, and 21 were female.
University student Chen Xiaohang placed white chrysanthemums at the site in memory of the sister of a high-school classmate who died. "I feel very sad about this and I hope the government will offer better safety controls for events like this," she told AFP.
Shanghai residents were questioning why the city government did not control the crowds, though police said a "more than normal" 700 police officers were present.
"The Shanghai government should take responsibility for the incident. Most of the young victims must be the only child of their families," taxi driver Xu Jianzhong said.
Authorities at first removed flowers after the incident but later set up crowd barriers to allow them to be laid in a controlled area. On Thursday evening, mourners lit candles including an arrangement in the shape of a heart.
Internet postings and media reports initially blamed US dollar-like notes - actually promotional items from M18, a glitzy Bund nightclub - thrown from a building for setting off a scramble and causing the carnage. But police said the "money" throwing occurred 12 minutes after and 60m away from the crush in a plaza.
"This happened after the stampede incident," police said in a statement that cited surveillance video, adding it did not cause crowding pressure.
Countdown to tragedy at Bund celebration [Shanghai Daily - 2/1/15]
Oil tanker and Singapore-registered bulk carrier collide off Pedra Branca
Channel News Asia [2/1/15]:
A Singapore-registered bulk carrier Sinar Kapuas and Libyan-registered oil tanker Alyarmouk collided about 11 nautical miles north-east of Pedra Branca, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said on Friday.
MPA said it received the report of the collision on Friday at 6am, with the Alyarmouk reporting that one of her cargo tanks sustained damage, resulting in some spillage of crude oil. The two vessels are currently safely anchored and in stable condition, and there is no report of injury, the press release stated.
MPA deployed a helicopter to assess the situation once it was notified, and activated oil spill response resources. As part of the procedure for joint oil spill combat in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, MPA notified the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities, it added.
MPA has issued navigational broadcasts for ships to navigate with caution when in the vicinity of the incident site, though traffic in the port and the Strait of Singapore remains unaffected.
MPA is investigating the cause of the collision, it added.
This incident follows an incident also at Pedra Branca on Wednesday, when a Singapore-registered barge ran aground at the island [due to adverse sea conditions].
Economist Thomas Piketty refuses France’s top honour
France 24 [1/1/15]:
French economist and best-selling author Thomas Piketty on Thursday refused France’s highest honour – the Légion d’Honneur.
Piketty, whose 2013 book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” was a global best-seller, told AFP: "I refuse this nomination because I do not think it is the government's role to decide who is honourable."
"They would do better to concentrate on reviving (economic) growth in France and Europe," added Piketty, who was once close to the Socialist Party but has distanced himself from the policies of President François Hollande.
Piketty was named in a list traditionally published on New Year’s Day in the government’s “Journal Officiel” alongside Nobel prize-winning economist Jean Tirole.
His book, which focuses on wealth and income equality since the 18th century, shows that the gap between rich and poor is accelerating. It has sold 1.5 million copies since it was first published in French in 2013.
“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” has proved particularly popular in the United States where Piketty has met with President Barack Obama’s economic advisors.
However, despite strong sales in his native France his book has not made a similar impression on Hollande’s Socialist government, which he has criticised for failing to enact reforms to its tax system.
Piketty is not the first person to turn down the prestigious Légion d’Honneur. In 2013 French cartoonist Jacques Tardi refused the award, saying he wanted to remain “a free man”.
Other notable refuseniks include composer Hector Berlioz, radiology pioneers Pierre and Marie Curie, philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre and singer Georges Brassens.
Queensland airline Skytrans shuts down
Brisbane Times [2/1/15]:
Queensland airline Skytrans has flown its last passenger after it suddenly ceased operations on Friday afternoon.
Skytrans lost its government-subsidised routes to New South Wales-based Regional Express, which began its services on Thursday, in a decision announced by Transport Minister Scott Emerson in October last year.
Skytrans managing director Simon Wild said that decision, coupled with a falling Australian dollar, meant the airline, which had flown since 1990, was no longer viable.
"I will seek legal and financial advice over the next few days regarding options for the business moving forward, but to be clear, it does not include the recommencement of flights in the short to medium term," he said on Friday.
"…This is not only a sad day for the business, but more importantly for our staff and indeed the passengers and communities of north Queensland.
Toowoomba: Workers clear trees for planned Eastside Village
Protest group Friends of The Toowoomba Range spokeswoman Reverend Kate Powell has expressed dismay at news that work has begun around the site of the proposed Eastside Village development on Cohoe St.
Workers were removing trees on land around the site today.
The project involves the construction of fast food restaurants in a medical and residential precinct near the top of the Towoomba Range.
"It's hugely sad that works have begun," Rev Powell said.
She said the group had given up the fight against the development.
"The only way we could have continued to fight would have been a Supreme Court appeal which would have incurred great financial risk on top of the $330,000 that we have already spent."
Rev Powell said traffic issues were behind the group's opposition against the project.
"We feel there is so much danger in that location for pedestrians and motorists.
"We can't believe the Department of Transport and Main Roads supported the intersection design in court."
The project's developer JM Kelly Group Pty Ltd was contacted for comment regarding the works but was unable to be reached.
Jailed Australian journalist asks to be deported from Egypt
ARY News [2/1/15]:
Jailed Australian journalist Peter Greste has applied to be deported from Egypt, his family said Friday, describing it as the “best option” after a court ordered a retrial of the Al-Jazeera reporter and two colleagues.
Greste and Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in jail, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed for 10 years, for defaming Egypt and aiding banned Islamists in a case which sparked international uproar.
All three remain in custody pending a new hearing, which analysts said could be a step towards the release of the journalists after more than a year in prison.
Australia and the US have led calls for the three to be released, but hopes have grown as diplomatic relations have thawed between Egypt and Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based.
Greste’s brothers Mike and Andrew said the decision by Egypt’s Court of Cassation on Thursday was a “positive step in the legal process and one step closer to justice being served”.
But they added that a decree from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in November allowing him to deport foreigners sentenced to prison or on trial was “the best option to get Peter home”.
“Peter’s Egyptian lawyer lodged an application with the Egyptian attorney-general’s office to have Peter deported pursuant to a presidential decree that was issued in November,” the brothers told reporters in Brisbane, adding that the application was made several weeks ago.
“Now that Peter is an accused person, we will be making an amendment to this application seeking his deportation.”
Andrew Greste said the family hoped a decision would be reached within the next few days, but that they did not expect to speak to Peter until Sunday.
“We just see the next couple of days as a pivotal point in the case and a perfect opportunity for the (Australian and Egyptian) governments to exchange information and views and hopefully come to a decision on a deportation,” he said.
Mohamed’s wife Jihan welcomed the retrial as a “small but positive step towards my husband being freed”.
“This past year has been the worst year of my and my children’s lives,” she added.
Fahmy’s fiancee Marwa Omara said before Thursday’s ruling that a request had been filed to deport him to Canada if a retrial was ordered.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Greste could be transferred back to Australia under the decree, although it had yet to be tested.
“The law is not very clear. It is a new law. But it does provide for a couple of options for prisoners to be transferred back to their home country — in this case, Australia,” Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“As I understand it, the law would operate such that he would come back to Australia to face legal proceedings in Australia.”
Andrew Greste said the lack of a precedent for the decree meant his brother’s legal situation was in “uncharted waters”, but added: “I would like to think that the decree was enacted for a reason to be used.”
If the deportation application fails, the brothers said Greste’s lawyer would apply for bail at the retrial, which they had been advised could start in 45 days.
Suspicious death, Heatley
QPS Media [2/1/15]:
Townsville detectives have declared a crime scene after a woman was located deceased at a residence in Heatley this afternoon.
Around 2.20pm police were called to the Dalrymple Road address where they discovered the body of a woman.
The death is being treated as suspicious and a crime scene has been set up at the location.
Investigations are ongoing and there is no further information available at this time.
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.
Detectives investigating a serious traffic incident in which a woman was critically injured at Middlemount on December 31 are appealing for witnesses to contact them. ... [QPS Media - 2/1/15]
Australia: Kill Kill Kill. Torture and destroy anything beautiful that you don't understand, you can't conquer, or you perceive to be a pest
A dingo has been destroyed after lunging at an 11-year-old girl swimming in the popular tourist spot Eli Creek, on Fraser Island off south-east Queensland.
Her mother managed to scare it off and the child was not injured. The incident was the latest in a string of near-attacks over Christmas.
A spokesperson for the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service said the male dingo was destroyed humanely on New Year's Day after a series of aggressive incidents.
Rangers had been monitoring the Eli Creek area following reports of a dingo displaying aggressive behaviour.
Why did NSW police charge into the Lindt Café with stun grenades and guns blazing?
... That’s the problem with simply labelling Monis a “terrorist”: it can be a way of shoehorning the Martin Place events into the same tired narrative we’ve been hearing for 13 years, the one in which Australia must perpetually confront catastrophic danger directed by super villains from across the ocean.
In reality, this remains one of the safest countries in the world. Statistically, in the list of dangers that ordinary Australians face, terrorism doesn’t even rate – and anyone who suggests otherwise is a liar.
In the end, we forget the anarchists, bombers and 'lone wolves'. But the hysteria they provoke stays with us, Jeff Sparrow [The Guardian - 2/1/15]
3 People, Including Gunman, Killed In Sydney Cafe Siege [NPR - 15/12/14]:
... Update at 9:53 a.m. ET. Police Name Suspect: Local media say police in Sydney have named the suspected hostage taker as an Iranian, self-styled cleric named Man Haron Monis.
Update at 10:16 a.m. ET. Police Storm Cafe: Television images showed police storming the cafe, while a sixth hostage was carried out.
The images showed police, in tactical gear, using what appeared to be stun grenades, before moving into the building.
Update at 10:22 a.m. ET. Paramedics Move In: Television images are now showing paramedics removing at least four people on stretchers from the building. Some people ran from the building with their hands up, while others were escorted to safety by police.
It's still not clear why police made a move into the cafe.
It is now 2:24 a.m. on Tuesday in Sydney.
Al Jazeera [17/12/14]:
... Three people were killed, including Monis, when heavily armed police stormed a cafe in downtown Sydney early on Tuesday morning to free terrified hostages held at gunpoint for 16 hours.
Police are investigating whether the two captives were killed by Monis or died in the crossfire.
City to Pay $1.6 Million in Fatal, Mistaken Raid [New York Times – 29/10/03]
... BBC TV and radio channels as well as its internet website on Monday morning just pointed out that the man involved in the hostage taking incident was identified as an 'Iranian'.
It failed to mention that Iran has been requesting the Australian government via the Interpol to extradite the culprit.
The US-affiliated 'Radio Farda' followed an identical style in covering the news, just saying that the police sources in Australia have identified the hostage taker as a 50-year-old Iranian refugee who had a record of multiple offenses with the Australian police.
Like BBC, however, it refused to mention that the hostage taker was by the time of the incident an Australian national who fled Iran over two decades ago and was not extradited to Iran because of the support he received from the Australian government.
Despite all information provided to the Australian government about the mental and spiritual status of the hostage taker who arrived in Australia nearly two decades ago, the Australian government decided to support him and even release him from detention when he was charged with murder of his former wife.
Iran has vigorously condemned the hostage-taking incident in Sydney.
Shoot first and inquire afterwards, and if you make mistakes I will protect you.
Image: @QPSmedia [3/12/14]
Queensland police shootings linked to patrolling in groups, says former whistleblower [Guardian - 2/1/15]
Counter-terrorism law changes unnecessary, say top criminal lawyers: Changes to threshold from belief to suspicion ‘would allow police to be a little more trigger-happy’ [Guardian - 24/9/14]
If we think you look shifty expect to be singled out for harassment and intimidation - and don't flinch - we might shoot you: Queensland Police [ABC - 24/9/14]:
There will be more armed police in public and pat-downs will become more frequent as part of a new state of "reduced tolerance" for suspicious behaviour in Queensland.
The Queensland Police Commissioner's warning comes after a "known terror suspect" was shot dead last night by police in Melbourne, as well as a number of counter-terrorism raids which took place south of Brisbane a fortnight ago.
Commissioner Ian Stewart said his officers would be nervous after last night's shooting and it was his duty to protect them, as well as the public.
"You will see officers regularly carrying their firearms more often than you would have seen in the past," he told 612 ABC Brisbane.
"It means when they pull people up or speak to people, they are probably going to ask people to submit to pat-down searches much more regularly.
"Our police are going to be noticeably alert and request people to be very compliant with their dealings with a lower tolerance to policing.
"Any little thing might be a key to how someone is about to react in a potentially bad way and our police will be on guard for those signs."
Commissioner Stewart said the hyped-up measures would not stop after the November G20 summit in Brisbane.
He again confirmed there had been no specific threat to Queenslanders or state assets.
Officers were also invited on Monday to apply to take their firearms home, however each application would be assessed individually.
"I'd be very sympathetic if there was a heightened risk for certain officers," he added.
Give police fascist powers and they will behave like fascists: I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me. [Washington Post - 19/8/14]
Welcome to Queensland! ---> Bikers protest nighttime curfew in Lebanon
Daily Star [1/1/15]:
A group of bikers gathered in Downtown Beirut Thursday to protest the recent bike curfew in the country imposed by the Interior Ministry, arguing that such a decision impacted the lives of many residents.
Dressed in their biker gear, the protesters gathered near Martyrs' Square in protest of the nighttime ban on motorcycles across the country that went into effect Thursday.
Sam Hasna, an organizer of the gathering, lashed out at the ministry's decision and urged Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk to withdraw or amend the curfew.
"They are blaming bikers for theft and crimes but such bikers are not us. We are people who use the bikes to go to work, to go to school and run our errands," Hasna told The Daily Star.
Hasna suggested that authorities should erect checkpoints to check the validity of identification and registration documents of the biker to filter suspects and allow law-abiding citizens to ride freely.
He said the bike was the most appropriate means of transportation for many, especially in Beirut.
"I am a restaurant consultant in several locations and I have to travel from Tyre [south Lebanon] to Beirut on a regular basis. The bike saves me time and money."
He also said that tourists from Europe and the Gulf come to Lebanon to join bike tours around the country.
"Do they want me to turn them [the tourists] away because we cannot travel back to Beirut at 7 p.m.?"
A ministry statement earlier this week said riding motorcycles between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. would be prohibited in order to avoid security incidents and that the decision would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
The decision came after “an increase in robberies, acts of pickpocketing and other activities that harm order in all governorates.”
The ministry had announced a similar decision in June limited to the capital, but the curfew was never enforced, largely due to meetings held between officials and motorcycle activists.
This week's decision allows certain bikers to travel at night, including those who work for restaurants, media and paper distribution companies.
Hasna said he wrote a letter and sent it to several officials including Speaker Nabih Berri and Machnouk, asking them to reverse the decision.
“I will not settle for this and we are waiting for the response of authorities,” he said.
Medical ethics Australian style: Cameroonian woman dies at İzmir repatriation center after being refused treatment
Hurriyet Daily News [31/12/14]:
A Cameroonian refugee that recently gave birth in captivity died late Dec. 30 at a processing center in İzmir after being forced to reside in difficult conditions despite serious health issues, according to lawyers.
“Because several people being held in jails, observation centers and repatriation centers are not sent to hospital [when necessary], they are dying and being killed. Those that shot dead [Nigerian migrant] Festus Okey killed Amina by keeping her in the basement of the repatriation center and not treating her despite her serious illness,” the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD) said in a statement.
Amina Tou Cady had applied to be allowed to remain in Turkey, but she was nevertheless apprehended in August 2014 by police before being placed in detention.
Officials soon determined that Cady was pregnant, but the woman was forced to remain in the basement of İzmir’s repatriation center instead of being held in a hospital following her pregnancy.
The health of the woman, who was suffering from tuberculosis and was also carrying HIV, subsequently deteriorated in the intervening months.
A delegation from the ÇHD recently visited Cady at the facility and demanded that she immediately be transported to hospital after they learned that she could not speak and observed saliva drooling out of her mouth.
“She’s just acting like she’s sick; there’s no need to take her to hospital,” lawyer Emine Sarı quoted officials at the center as saying.
Cady was finally taken to hospital around three weeks ago, but succumbed due to the advanced stage of her illness.
Imaginary Queensland journalist to Premier or Ministers for Housing, Health, Communities: Do you think your policies are disenfranchising people and driving them to despair?
... Children are the most wonderful of our society, whose innocent lives deserve the greatest of love and care.
Cherish them. ...
QPS Media [VIDEO - 27/12/14]:
A family spokesperson, Mr Rod Willie, spoke to the media on Wednesday, December 24, in relation to the multiple homicide in the Cairns suburb of Manoora earlier this month. ...
Is there no journalist who will ask the Newman Government:
Will there be a full investigation and/or urgent reporting into every aspect of government involvement in the Manoora tragedy i.e. housing, family and welfare services, mental health?
And report the response - or lack thereof?
Queensland Govt Media Release [4/4/13]:
Rogue public housing tenants will soon face stricter penalties for bad behaviour with the Newman Government today launching a “three-strikes and you’re out” policy.
Minister for Housing Tim Mander said the new policy would see problem tenants evicted if they failed to curb their behaviour. ...
The Queensland Government's tougher policy on public housing tenants comes into effect today.
The so-called 'three strikes and you're out' policy will prohibit evicted tenants from reapplying for public housing for three months.
The member for the far north Queensland seat of Cairns, [and former Editor of Murdoch's 'Cairns Post'] Gavin King, says some tenants have been getting away with too much.
"Some public housing tenants have to get eight or nine breaches before the department and the court considers an eviction," he said.
"Often a public housing tenant will cause significant damage to their property, cause hell to their neighbours, and will get evicted.
"The trouble is they'll just be moved across town into another public housing tenancy."
Man stabbed at Logan, unlawful wounding Innisfail
Brisbane Times [2/1/15]:
Police are investigating a stabbing at Logan Central, south of Brisbane.
Emergency services were called to a house on Blackwood Street around 5.30am after reports of an apparent domestic dispute.
A 22-year-old man was taken to hospital with non life threatening stab wounds to his lower back and chest.
Meanwhile a 56-year-old woman has been charged with unlawful wounding after an incident in far north Queensland on Thursday afternoon.
A 50-year-old man was taken to Innisfail hospital with non life-threatening wounds after the incident at East Innisfail around 4.20pm.
The woman will face Cairns Magistrates Court on Friday.
Arrests following Rockhampton street fight [Morning Bulletin - 2/1/15]
Axe attack reported last night at Woorabinda [Morning Bulletin - 2/1/15]
Another crash on Gladstone Benaraby Rd
Gladstone Observer [2/1/15]:
Quick reflexes saved Jacob Keogh and his mother from serious injury in a car accident on Sunday.
The two were in Jacob's Ford Falcon waiting to turn right into their driveway on the Gladstone Benaraby Rd when he saw the car behind them not slowing down.
Jacob said he flashed his brake lights to alert the driver, but knew it was going to end badly when the driver didn't slow down.
"Lucky for my quick reactions to accelerate and get a bit of momentum forwards or it would have been a lot worse," he said.
"When the car slammed into us, I knocked my head. I was lucky I didn't lose consciousness because he pushed us across into oncoming traffic."
He said he knew someone would eventually have an accident trying to get into their driveway.
"It was bound to happen, I just didn't want it to happen to me," he said.
"Something has to be done about that driveway entrance. It doesn't matter which way you're coming from people are going too quickly and are right up your rear.
"If another driver is not paying attention this happens." Jacob and his mother were recovering from bruising and whiplash, and expected to make a full recovery.
Serious traffic crash, Nerang
QPS Media [2/1/15]:
A man has died after the car he was driving overturned on the Pacific Motorway at Nerang yesterday afternoon.
At around 6pm, the car was travelling northbound between the Smith Street and Nerang exits when the crash occurred.
The man, aged in his 60’s was pronounced deceased at the scene.
The highway was reduced to one lane for a period of time but has since re-opened.
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Serious traffic crash, Coomera
QPS Media [1/1/15]:
Police are investigating after a serious traffic crash in Coomera today.
At around 12.50pm, a car was travelling along Foxwell Road, when the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into another car travelling in the opposite direction.
A 25-year-old man has been transported to Gold Coast University Hospital in a serious condition.
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Fatal crash, Bundaberg
QPS Media [1/1/15]:
One man has died and five others injured in a serious traffic crash at Bundaberg tonight.
Initial information suggests two cars collided around 8.50pm at the intersection of Branyan Street and Woondooma Street, Bundaberg.
The injured have been transported to the Bundaberg Hospital with what is believed to be non-life threatening injuries.
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.
There is no further information available at this time.
Shark sighting clears Mooloolaba beach [Sunshine Coast Daily - 2/1/15]
Shark fears prompt Bondi Beach evacuation [ABC - 2/1/15]
"Jaws" at 30: Film Stoked Fear, Study of Great White Sharks [National Geographic - 15/6/05]
Where are the children Minister Dutton?
The last asylum seeker children being detained on Christmas Island have been moved to the mainland. [ABC - 21/12/14]
United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria
Al Arabiya [1/1/15]:
The United States and its allies staged 29 air strikes on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets in Syria and Iraq on Wednesday, the Combined Joint Task Force said on Thursday.
The action in Syria included 17 strikes near the cities of Al Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr and Kobane. A variety of ISIS buildings, fighting positions and units were hit.
In Iraq, 12 strikes targeted ISIS buildings, fighting positions and units near the cities of Mosul, Fallujah and Sinjar.
Fighters, bombs and remotely controlled aircraft were used against ISIS, which has taken parts of Syria and Iraq in a bloody campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate.
Syria and Iraq suffer record death tolls in 2014 [France 24 – 1/1/15]
Israeli jets fly over Beirut at low altitudes
Daily Star [1/1/15]:
Israeli jets flew at very low attitudes over the Lebanese capital as well as the Bekaa Valley and the south of the country Thursday, breaking the sound barrier at least once.
The sound of low-flying jets over Beirut was clearly audible twice Thursday morning, while some local media outlets reported that Israeli military planes conducted aerial maneuvers over the capital throughout the day.
The National News Agency said Israeli jets flew at very low altitudes over the southern region and the Bekaa Valley.
A Lebanese Army statement said an Israeli reconnaissance plane violated Lebanese airspace Wednesday, entering Lebanon above Alma Shaab and conducting aerial maneuvers above Riyaq, Baalbek and the south.
The plane entered Lebanon at 6 a.m. and left 17 hours later.
Israel repeatedly violates Lebanon’s airspace in contravention of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701. Lebanese officials have filed complaints against Israel at the U.N. over such violations.
While Israeli conducts “training maneuvers” over Lebanon on a regular basis, it is also suspected of using the country’s airspace to carry out bombing raids on Syria several times since the Syrian civil war began.
Israel’s anti-African dragnet tightens [Electronic Intifada - 31/12/14]
Saudi Beheaded in First Execution of Year
A Saudi convicted of drug trafficking became the first person executed in 2015 in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom which beheaded 87 people last year, according to an Agence France Presse tally.
Malik bin Said al-Sayaari was put to the sword in the Al-Hasa district of Eastern Province after a repeat conviction for hashish smuggling, the interior ministry said.
Saudi Arabia has stepped up its use of the death penalty despite repeated appeals from the United Nations and human rights watchdogs.
Last year's tally marked a significant increase on the 78 executions recorded in 2013.
Rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery as well as drug trafficking are punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of Islamic sharia law.
Suicide attack hits Nigeria's Gombe
Al Jazeera [1/1/15]:
A suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of a church in Nigeria's northeastern city of Gombe during a New Year service, wounding at least eight people, according to an official for the country's Red Cross.
No group has caimed responsibility for the overnight attack.
"There was an explosion outside the ECWA church this morning. A suicide bomber who was restrained from getting into the church blew himself up," Abubakar Yakubu, who heads the Nigeria Red Cross in Gombe, said.
"Luckily no one was killed but some people were mildly injured."
A witness said the man arrived during the service at the Evangelist Church of West Africa and refused to park his motorcycle outside a security barrier set up by volunteers.
"He insisted on riding through the barrier," Dahiru Badamasi, who lives in the neighbourhood, was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.
"It was while he was arguing with the volunteers that his suicide belt exploded."
Police, opposition protesters clash in Bahrain
France 24 [1/1/15]:
Anti-riot police and protesters demanding the release of Bahrain's main Shiite opposition leader clashed Thursday for the fifth day in a row, witnesses said.
Predominantly Shiite Iran, across the Gulf from Washington's ally where the US Fifth Fleet is based, has joined calls for the immediate release of the kingdom's main opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman.
The witnesses said Thursday's clashes erupted in central Manama after prayers at the capital's Mumen mosque, whereas previous unrest has centred on Shiite villages in the suburbs.
Police used tear gas and batons against the protesters, and some injuries and arrests were reported.
"Dozens of people... including women and children, were arrested," said a statement from the Bahrain Observatory for Human Rights.
Salman, 49, heads the Al-Wefaq movement. He was arrested Sunday and charged the next day with seeking to use force to change the regime.
The prosecutor said Salman had been questioned again Thursday, and confronted with recordings he had made. It said his lawyers had been present, and that Salman had also been allowed a visit by relatives.
In one recording, Salman tells of how, while abroad, someone proposed to him "militarising" the opposition movement, a proposal he rejected.
The prosecution did not explain why it highlighted this incident, which could undermine its assertion that he was seeking a violent overthrow of the regime.
Meanwhile, the interior ministry announced that it had banned an opposition demonstration called for Friday in a Shiite suburb of the capital.
Sweden Hit by Third Mosque Arson Attack in a Week
Swedish police were hunting Thursday for at least one suspect following what is believed to be the third arson attack on a mosque in a week.
"Someone threw a firebomb, a Molotov cocktail at the building," Torsten Hemlin a spokesman for Uppsala police told Swedish news agency TT, adding that the bomb did not set the mosque in eastern Sweden alight.
"They also wrote some vulgar racist words," he said, adding that no one was in the building at the time of the attack.
Police in Sweden's fourth largest city Uppsala were alerted by passers-by who reportedly saw a man throw a burning object at the mosque at around 0430 GMT.
"The crime has been classed as attempted arson, vandalism and incitement to hatred," the police said in a statement appealing for eyewitnesses to come forward.
Thursday's attack came just three days after a late night blaze at a mosque in Esloev in southern Sweden which police suspect was also arson.
On Christmas Day five people were injured when a petrol bomb was thrown through the window of a mosque in Eskilstuna, east of the capital Stockholm.
Today. Fascists. Kiev.
Image: @alexander_vch [1/1/15]
Thousands of Ukrainian nationalists held a torchlight procession across Kiev on Thursday in honour of a 1940s anti-Soviet insurgent branded by Moscow as a Nazi collaborator whom Europe must reject.
The march on what would have been Stepan Bandera's 106th birthday moved along the same streets on which hundreds of thousands rallied for three months last winter before ousting a Moscow-backed president.
Some wore World War II-era army uniforms while others draped themselves in the red and black nationalist flags and chanted "Ukraine belongs to Ukrainians" and "Bandera will return and restore order".
Flash Floods, Mudslides Kill at Least 39 in Sri Lanka
Scientific American [1/1/15]:
Flash floods and mudslides in Sri Lanka have killed at least 39 people and more than 1 million have had to flee their homes in the past two weeks, data from the island's Disaster Management Center showed on Thursday.
At least another 20 people have been injured and two are still missing after torrential rain, mostly in central Sri Lanka, the data showed. Thousands of hectares of crops, mainly the food staple rice, have been destroyed in the agricultural heartland of the North Central and Eastern provinces.
In October, a landslide in a hilly tea plantation caused by heavy rains killed at least 16 people and left over 100 missing.
The October to January monsoon tends to bring heavier rains than the March to May season, but does not routinely cause landslides.
Sri Lanka's opposition Thursday accused the government of deploying thousands of troops to deter ethnic minority Tamils from voting against President Mahinda Rajapakse in next week's election. ... [Naharnet - 1/1/15]
Fukushima contamination arrives off Canadian coast
The radioactive effects of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster appear to have arrived on North American shores this year, with their full impact expected to be felt in 2015, according to a new report.
And while a radioactive plume that has spread across the Pacific Ocean since the disaster is now just off the coast of British Columbia, experts say there is little reason to panic.
A new report published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) notes that radioactive materials cesium-137 and cesium-134 have arrived off North American shores.
It reached the West Coast by air just days after the initial disaster, but it took until just recently for the material to make the 8,000-kilometre journey by water.
According to the study, the oceanic effects of Fukushima were reported 1,500 kilometres off shore of British Columbia in 2012, but it took until this year for the presence of cesium-137 to be detected on the continental shelf.
It notes that the impact off the North American coast will peak in 2015-2016, before declining below today’s levels by 2021.
There’s a Gene for That
Pankaj Mehta [Jacobin Mag - January 2014]:
... If the philosophical and scientific bases of genetic determinist claims are so problematic, why is such sloppy thinking rewarded with front-page articles in the New York Times Science section? To answer this, we must consider not just science, but politics.
We live in an era in which corporations make unprecedented profits, an elite few accumulate enormous wealth, and inequality is reaching levels approaching those of the Gilded Age. The contradictions between neoliberal capitalism and democratic impulses are continually exposed. The claims of equal opportunity underlying much of liberal thinking are becoming farce. The incongruity between what capitalism professes to be and the reality of capitalism is becoming increasingly apparent.
The appeal of biological determinism is that it offers plausible, scientific explanations for societal contradictions engendered by capitalism. If Type II diabetes is reduced to the problem of genetics (which it surely is to some degree), then we don’t have to think about the rise of obesity and its underlying causes: the agro-business monopoly, income inequality, and class-based disparities in food quality. Combine this with the prevalence of drug-based solutions to disease pushed by the pharmaceutical industry and it is no surprise that we are left with the impression that complex social phenomena are reducible to simple scientific fact.
The Genocide of Gary Johns [First Nations Telegraph – 2/12/14]
Cancer often due to bad luck, not genes, study finds [Canberra Times – 2/1/15]
El Pais [31/12/14]:
Karim Khan, editor of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, recently tweeted the following imaginary conversation:
Player: Will stem cells cure my back pain?
Doctor: Lie = “Yes”
Doctor: Truth = “No idea, highly unlikely. Do you want to be a guinea pig?”
The Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal would probably not find that funny, as he is a staunch believer in the curative powers of stem cells.
Yet the efficiency and safety of the treatment are still a matter of controversy in the scientific community, especially since The New York Times reported that baseball pitcher Bartolo Colon saved his career after getting his own bone marrow stem cells re-injected into his shoulder and elbow in May 2011.
India: Banned pesticides detected in NCR farm produce: JNU study
Indian Express [1/1/15]:
Over 20 banned pesticides under the category of organochlorines (OCPs) have been found in produce in Delhi-NCR in quantities that exceed the internationally defined permissible limits, a study conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on 52 vegetable samples found.
The study, published in the international journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research, also measured health risk on the basis of annual vegetable consumption, age and body weight. The study found a high lifetime cancer risk in children and adults, which authors said was “serious concern for Delhi population”.
Vegetable samples including radish, radish leaf, cauliflower, brinjal, okra, and smooth gourd were collected from Najafgarh, Mehrauli, Shahadra, Alipur, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Kanjhawala in 2012, to identify pesticide exposure in root, leafy and fruit type vegetables.
Professor P S Khillare, the corresponding author of the study, said, “The highest contamination was detected in cauliflower, followed by radish leaf, okra, radish, brinjal and smooth gourd in decreasing order. Cauliflower, had the highest exposed area as it is in direct contact with pesticide sprays. It had the highest residual concentrations of these compounds.”
The mean concentration of all 20 OCPs in cauliflower was significantly higher than radish leaves but the levels in the next three vegetables were comparable. This, Dr Khillare said, was possibly because all three are grown identically.
Among the 20 investigated OCPs, 17 were detected in all the vegetable samples with HCH — a combination of pesticides called hexachlorocyclohexane which is a banned category of pesticides — and DDT, which is banned in agricultural products.
“HCH was much higher than DDT because of indiscriminate use of the cheap pesticides,” Sapna Chourasiya, the research scholar who has worked in the study, said.
She said in a survey of pesticides and fertilizers in shops in the areas where the vegetable samples were collected, none of the banned pesticides were identified.
Researchers said direct spray or atmospheric deposition is the most common pathway for contamination. “Vegetables grown in winter have lower photodegradation of pesticides,” Dr Khillare explained.
The cancer risk attributed to OCP exposure is considerable, authors said. Exposure and health risks for children was found to be double that of adults, authors said.
Researchers said more government action is needed on the ground. “The ban seems to be only on paper. Environmental and health safety is directly linked to poverty and the government needs to act on the root cause,” Khillare said.
No dead human bodies found on illegal fishing vessel off Bougainville
PNG Facts [1/1/15]:
Reports of dead bodies being stored in a wrecked fishing boat off Bougainville have been found to be erroneous, Papua New Guinea investigators say.
The bodies discovered in the freezer of the fishing vessel were in fact large tuna, a team of officers from the National Fisheries Authority, National Agricul-ture and Quarantine Inspection Authority, Health Department, environmental officer, police and the Bougainville disaster relief office has found.
They have just completed their assessment on the alleged illegal fishing vessel that ran aground on Paona Island in Bougainville.
The island is one of the many smaller islands in the remote Nuguria atoll areas and is used as the wildlife sanctuary for the people who live on the other mainland island about 45 minutes by boat and an eight-hour boat ride and 264 kilometres from Buka.
The abandoned vessel, Liao Yuan Yu 68 was first discovered by locals on December 17 when they went to dive for turtles in preparation for the opening of their new health centre.
Paramount chief Robinson Himata of the Perulani clan, which is responsible for looking after the Paona wildlife area, said the 54m vessel has been torched before being abandoned, leaving behind its tuna catch. Village youths who went to investigate reported seeing human-like figures in the freezer compartment which was reported to the Bougainville disaster relief office.
The assessment team which travelled to the island on Monday has found that the suspected bodies on the freezer trays were large yellow fin tuna that were the size of adult humans.
The top of the vessel was completely burnt out from the wheel house to the rear of the ship and still contained diesel and oil that the locals were taking from the front tanks but the rear fuel tank is mixed with sea water, which the youths cannot take and this will pose a risk to the environment.
Tumor Boise of the National Fisheries Authority said the vessel hasd been engaged in illegal fishing and is an illegal unreported unregulated (IUU) long liner fishing vessel and is not listed to fish in Papua New Guinea waters.
PNG: 33 prisoners escape Baisu prison
PNG Facts [1/1/15]:
A joint operation will be carried out between the police and Correctional Services today to recapture the 33 prisoners who are on the run after walking out of the Baisu jail in Western Highlands Province in the early hours of Wednesday.
The walkout was the result of armed men cutting the jail’s perimeter fence and accessing the prison grounds in an attempt to free a lone prisoner. In the process, they released 33 high-risk prisoners and shot a warder in the leg.
Assistant police commissioner divisional commander for Highlands region Teddy Tei said yesterday that investigations were continuing into the breakout.
He said from intial information they received, the armed men had cut through the fence of the prison at 3am on Wednesday to free an accomplice.
"In the process they opened a cell block with 33 prisoners who walked to their freedom. Five CS officers who were on duty were overpowered by the rascals," Mr Tei said.
"The rascals were armed with high-powered weapons while the CS officers had only two guns, this enabled the men to simply walk in and shoot a guard in the leg, and shot off the locks to open the cells."
The 33 prisoners were all remandees, awaiting National Court appearances and decisions for various serious offences.
Mr Tei said as soon as word of the breakout reached the police, investigations were carried out and police were in the Dei council hunting the escapees.
He urged the public in the Western Highlands and neighbouring provinces to be on the lookout for the prisoners.
"Due to the notoriety of the prisoners, I am urging the public in the province to be on the lookout," he said.
... The Richmond progressives won by imagining that the status quo was not inevitable, no less an eternal way of life. They showed up to do the work to dent that inevitability. The billionaires and fossil fuel corporations are intensely engaged in politics all the time, everywhere, and they count on us to stay on the sidelines. If you look at their response to various movements, you can see that they fear the moment we wake up, show up, and exercise our power to counter theirs. ...
Challenging the Divine Right of Big Energy, Rebecca Solnit [TomDispatch.com - 23/12/14]
Massive industrial projects such as Wheatstone will be free to pollute until at least next year after the Barnett Government said it would not reimpose greenhouse gas conditions removed because of the carbon tax. ... [West Australian - 2/1/15]
New decor on #LAPD HQ.. #BlackLivesMatter #EzellFord
Image: @pentagonista [1/1/15]
Protest over police killings, racism held in downtown Kalamazoo to raise awareness in new year [Mlive – 1/1/15]
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has stepped down from all of his corporate and non-profit boards, US media reported Thursday, in another sign that he is gearing up for a White House run. ... [Ahram - 1/1/15]
The inside story of how an Idaho toddler shot his mom at Wal-Mart - The Washington Post Veronica Rutledge and her husband loved everything about guns. They practiced at shooting ranges. They hunted. And both of them, relatives and friends say, had permits to carry concealed firearms. Veronica typically left her Blackfoot, Idaho, home with her gun nestled at her side. So on Christmas morning last week, her husband gave her a present he hoped would make her life more comfortable: a purse with a special pocket for a concealed weapon. ... [Washington Post - 31/12/14]
Maryland governor cancels death sentences of four inmates [Irish Times – 31/12/14]
Japan: Emperor stresses importance of learning from World War II
Japan Today [1/1/15]:
Emperor Akihito in a New Year statement on Thursday stressed the importance of learning from World War II.
“I think it is now extremely important that at this opportunity we fully learn from the history of this war in thinking about the way Japan should be in the future,” Akihito, 81, said in a statement released by the Imperial Household Agency.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and the emperor and empress are hoping to visit Palau—one of the most brutal battlefields in the Pacific during World War II—in April to mourn for the war-dead.
“Those who died on the battlefields, those who died in the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those who died in the air raids on Tokyo and other cities - so many people lost their lives in this war. I think it is most important for us to take this opportunity to study and learn from the history of this war, starting with the Manchurian Incident of 1931, as we consider the future direction of our country,” the emperor said.
In his statement, he also touched on the many natural disasters in Japan in 2014.
“Last year many lives were lost to natural disasters such as heavy snow, torrential rains, and the volcanic eruption of Mt Ontake, and my thoughts go out to those who lost their loved ones and their homes in those disasters.
“This is the fourth winter since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and it pains me to think that there are still so many people who cannot return to the places they used to live because of radioactive contamination and so many who face the prospect of a cold, harsh winter in temporary housing. These conditions have made me reflect on the importance of people becoming concerned about and involved in disaster prevention in their respective regions and being prepared to protect their own localities,” he said.
Lingering impact of British nuclear tests in the Australian outback [BBC – 31/12/14]
The onset of war interrupts the lives of Walter Gilchrist and Billy Mackenzie, young men who have been friends since childhood. Billy and Walter form a pact: if one enlists, so will the other.
The drama that unfolds involves both Walter and Billy's experiences fighting at Gallipoli and the problems and anxiety faced by their families and lovers struggling to cope at home.
World War I was the first time Australia went into battle as a federated country with the troops keen to prove themselves to Britain and establish a true national identity.
Based on the Roger McDonald novel of the same name, the award-winning seven-part drama 1915 originally screened to critical acclaim in 1982.
The series featured a brilliant who's who of Australian film, television and theatre including Scott McGregor, Scott Burgess, Sigrid Thornton, Jackie Woodburne, Bill Hunter and Lorraine Bayly.
After only a few weeks at Gallipoli, the overwhelming stench of the dead soldiers strewn around the rocky coast triggered a most unusual event. A ceasefire in order to allow each side to bury their dead.
The recruiting drive is on and throughout the bush there are more than enough young men willing to drop everything for the adventure of war. Billy (Scott Burgess) and Walter (Scott McGregor) have been waiting for this moment with barely suppressed excitement.
Episode 1, Disc 2, "Soldiers of the King"
India: Police in Gujarat stage anti-terrorism exercise featuring militants dressed up as Muslims
Daily Star [1/1/15]:
Police in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat faced widespread criticism Thursday after staging an anti-terrorism exercise featuring "militants" dressed up as Muslims.
A video of the drill, which was broadcast on Indian media websites, shows five policemen capturing and then pinning down three men in white knitted skullcaps before bundling them into jeeps.
The exercise earlier this week was in preparation for a January 11-13 investment summit in Gujarat, whose speakers will include US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as Modi himself.
Modi, who is leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, was chief minister of Gujarat during an outbreak of communal violence in 2002 which killed more than 1,000 people. Most of the victims were Muslims.
Kamal Faruqui of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board termed the mock drill "atrocious and highly condemnable".
"It is profiling the Muslim community which is very bad. They should apologize, otherwise they should be taken to the court," Faruqui told NDTV news channel.
The former ruling Congress party called the incident an act of religious intolerance by a "failed administration."
Police initially tried to brush off the criticism, saying the skullcaps were used "to give them a different look". But they later apologized for an "avoidable situation."
"This was a mistake and should not have happened," local police chief Pradeep Sejul told AFP, adding that an inquiry had been ordered.
Concerns about religious intolerance in secular India have grown since Modi came to power in May, fueled by reports of Muslims and Christians being forced or induced to become Hindus in mass conversions.
Afghanistan: Civilian among 6 dead in Nangarhar offensive, blast
Five militants have been killed and eight others wounded in anti-insurgents offensive launched in Srarud district of eastern Nangarhar province, police spokesman said Thursday.
Maj. Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal told Pajhwok Afghan News that Afghan security forces conducted anti-rebels operation late Wednesday in Krrako area of the district.
The militants were involved in attacks on security forces in the area, he said, adding that a number of bombs had been defused during the course of offensive.
Separately, a bomb fixed to a police vehicle in Jalalabad, the provincial capital, went-off, leaving one person dead and another wounded.
A doctor at the hospital confirmed receiving one dead and another injured.
Kabul police headquarters confirms that a son of General Deen Mohammad Jurat has been killed in a gun fight with the supporters of Haji Rahim Puri in Kabul. ... [Khaama - 1/1/15]
Philippines: Huge waves destroy 60 houses in Zamboanga City village; no one hurt
More than 60 houses were destroyed while at least 17 others were damaged when they got hit by huge waves in Barangay (village) Labuan here on New Year’s eve.
“Typhoon Seniang still hit our village as it left the country last night (Wednesday night, Dec. 31). So many families were left homeless. They are staying in covered courts, Islamic school or with relatives,” Ronald Maravilla, the village chief of Labuan, said.
Resident Radeem Ali said the strong waves started pounding the houses at around 7 p.m..
At 9 p.m., Ali and the other residents decided to leave their homes as the waves grew bigger.
Maravilla said the waves were 20 to 30 feet high, destroying and washing out shoreline houses.
Maria Socorro Roxas, the city social welfare officer, told the nquirer that about 60 houses were destroyed and 17 others were damaged.
“We are on our way to bring food packs and other non-food items. We are bringing food stuff good for 120 families,” Roxas said.
Maravilla said no one was reported hurt by the waves as residents were able to evacuate when they observed the unusual tide movement.
Egyptian court orders retrial of Al Jazeera journalists
Egypt's highest court canceled jail sentences against three journalists working for Al Jazeera television on Thursday and ordered a retrial, a defense lawyer said, in a case that has provoked an international outcry.
Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed were serving seven- to ten-year sentences on charges of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and publishing false news about Egypt.
Speculation has been growing that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi could pardon or deport the men.
"They will not be released until they appear before the new chamber, which will decide whether to release them or not," said defense attorney Mostafa Nagy.
The journalists say they were merely reporting the news when first arrested in December 2013. The case has raised questions about Egypt's democratic credentials.
"We need some time to process. It's not as positive as we had hoped," Greste's mother, Lois, said of the court decision.
Human rights groups say repression has been growing in Egypt since then army chief Sisi toppled President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July of 2013 after mass protests against him.
Mursi's ouster damaged ties between Egypt and Qatar, which backed the Brotherhood. But tensions appear to be easing, raising hopes that the Al Jazeera journalists could be freed.
Saudi Arabia has brokered an effort to repair relations between the two countries after agreeing with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to end an eight-month diplomatic dispute over Qatar's support for the Brotherhood and promotion of "Arab Spring" revolts.
4 charged with illegal protesting against Mubarak verdict aquitted [Ahram - 31/12/14]:
Four were acquitted on Wednesday from charges of illegal protesting against deposed Mubarak’s verdict last month.
On 29 November, Cairo Criminal Court acquitted Mubarak of corruption charges and dropped charges of aiding in the murder of protesters in the 2011 revolt that ended his 30-year rule.
Following the verdict, over 1000 went to Tahrir Square, the cradle of the Egyptian 2011 uprising, to protest. However, the Square was closed by security forces, so protesters took to the nearby Abdel-Moneim Riyad Square instead.
A controversial protest law, passed last year, mandates protesters notify authorities at least three days before protesting or else face heavy fines and prison terms.
The police violently dispersed the protest, two protesters died and nine were injured.
Around 85 were arrested during the dispersal. All protesters were released except for four who were referred to trial and acquitted on Wednesday.
Australia's fun police out in force during New Years Eve targetting certain areas and looking for trouble
... One of the riots was sparked when police were called to the Pingelly Hotel, 160 kilometres south-east of Perth, after a drunk refused to leave the premises. ... [ABC - 1/1/15]
“Out of control event”, Brassall [QPS Media – 1/1/15]:
A man has been arrested after police were forced to shut down an out of control party in Brassall overnight.
Police were called to an address on Glenelg Drive just before midnight where it will be alleged around 100 people had spilled onto the street and a number of small fights had broken out.
Police declared the event ‘out of control’ upon arrival and shut down the party.
A 21-year-old man from Brassall has been charged with one count each of public nuisance and obstruct police officer. He is due to appear in the Ipswich Magistrates Court on January 23.
Armed robbery charge, Clayfield
QPS Media [1/1/15]:
A man has been charged after investigations into the robbery of a Clayfield convenience store this evening.
It will be alleged shortly after 11pm a man armed with a knife threatened staff at a Sandgate Road business before fleeing with a sum of cash. A man was arrested by police nearby.
No one was injured during the incident.
A 20-year-old Scarborough man has been charged with armed robbery and is expected to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today.
Police investigations are continuing.
Armed robbery charges, Currumbin
QPS Media [1/1/15]:
Two men have been charged after the armed robbery of two men at a bus stop in Currumbin last night.
It will be alleged shortly after 9.30pm two men were waiting at a bus stop on Tomewin Street when they were approached by two men in a vehicle.
One of the men allegedly produced a knife and demanded that the victims hand over cash or drugs. The second man then stole property from the pair.
The victims managed to detain one of the men before police arrived at the scene.
The man was taken to hospital with minor injuries.
The second man was arrested by police later in the night.
A 28-year-old man from Wilsonton Heights and a 27-year-old man from Drayton were both charged with two counts of armed robbery.
They are due to appear in the Southport Magistrates Court this morning.
... On the Gold Coast, two men aged 35 and 36 were taken to hospital with non-life threatening stab wound injuries following an altercation around Lakes Circuit at Burleigh Waters at about 9.30pm (AEST).
A 24-year-old Enoggera man was later charged with two counts of unlawful wounding.
He is due to appear in Southport Magistrates Court today.
Also on the Gold Coast, a 25-year-old man suffered head and leg injuries after falling from a balcony at Varsity Lakes about 3am.
About an hour later in Townsville, a man was badly injured when he was hit by a car.
Just over the border, in northern New South Wales, a woman died after being hit by a car at Banora Point.
New South Wales police said the 79-year-old was struck by the vehicle in the car park of a services club about 9.30pm.
She was taken to Tweed Heads Hospital, but died a short time later.
The driver of the car, a 54-year-old woman, and her male passenger were not injured, but the driver was taken to hospital for mandatory blood and urine tests.
Girl run over by car near Esk
Queensland Times [1/1/15]:
A young girl is being rushed to hospital after being crushed under a vehicle on a property at Mt Hallen, about 10km south of Esk.
Emergency services are at Gloucester Ct, Mt Hallen, where a four-year-old is suffering possible internal injuries after being run over by a car.
A call for help was made about 9am Thursday.
Ipswich police are investigating the cause of the accident.
Two people treated after boat fires, Jacobs Well
Two people aged in their 50s have been treated at the scene of a boat fire at Jacobs Well, north of the Gold Coast.
Witness Laura Griffiths said two boats were outside Harrigan's Drift Inn when the fire started about 2:05pm (AEST).
"The fires have been put out now, but the boats are still in the water smoking with the boats pumping water on them," she said.
"Everyone at Harrigan's was out on the shore watching."
Another witness, Mags Bell, said she was sitting at her usual spot by the boat ramp when she spotted smoke, then flames.
"I looked up at the VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue) tower to see that a few of their people were on the balcony looking out as they had obviously seen the danger," she said.
"A few boaties jumped in their boats and sped off to help."
A man and a woman were treated by paramedics, one for smoke inhalation and the other for shock.
The cause of the fire is not yet known.
Body found in Hindley Street hotel in Adelaide
The death of a woman found in a Hindley Street hotel in Adelaide this morning is being treated as suspicious by police.
Police said they were called to the Grand Chancellor Hotel just after 8:30am (ACDT) after a woman's body was found in one of the rooms.
Two cars were towed away from the scene.
Guests have been emerging from the hotel, unsure of what happened.
Major Crime investigators are at the scene but no further details are yet available.
Heritage home destroyed by fire, Tuckurimba
Northern Star [31/12/14]:
... Mr McCaughey and his wife Jacqueline were in Lismore having lunch with their son and his partner, who were visiting over Christmas, when the fire in their Tuckurimba home began on Monday afternoon.
"They came home first and just got to the house and they could feel the heat," Mr McCaughey said.
"They opened the door and (it was) just full of smoke.
"It went up like a bomb. There's was just nothing they could do.
"They got hoses and things like that and rang the fire brigade straight away, and the fire brigade and ambulance and police were wonderful."
About 20 fire-fighters responded from NSW Fire and Rescue and Rural Fire Service crews from Woodburn, Wyrallah, Caniaba, Tomki and Casino as well as police and paramedics.
Fire-fighters fought to extinguish the blaze from about 4pm to 6pm Monday evening and again yesterday, when the fire reignited and crews were called at 10.15am.
RFS Northern Rivers operations manager Daniel Ainsworth said it was difficult to determine the cause of the blaze, given the speed and extensive damage.
"It was just a freak accident that's unfortunately left someone without a home," he said.
Toodyay bushfire started in a faulty water pump
WA Today [31/12/14]:
The fire that destroyed a house and threatened lives and other homes in Toodyay on Tuesday started in a water pump.
A Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman told Fairfax Media the fire started by accident, when a malfunction occurred in water pumping infrastructure on private land.
While firefighters were able to get the fire under control overnight, about 50 firefighters remain at the scene and are expected to work throughout Wednesday mopping up and making the area safe.
The fire, which was reported to authorities just after 1.30pm on Tuesday, burnt approximately 141 hectares of land.
An unoccupied house believed to be used mainly for storage, three sheds and a free standing carport were destroyed in the fire.
A bushfire advice remains for people in the southern part of Toodyay bounded by Toodyay Road, Clackline Toodyay Road, Hoddy Well Road and Salt Valley Road in the Shire of Toodyay.
There is no longer a threat to lives or homes but there is a lot of smoke in the area.
Although there is no immediate danger, people in the area need to be aware and keep up to date in case the situation changes.
Another broken window at $700 million ASIO headquarters
Canberra Times [31/12/14]:
The near-empty headquarters of spy agency ASIO has lost another glass panel.
The Department of Finance, which oversaw the complex's construction, is yet to determine the cause of the broken 2.4-metre by 2.2-metre panel facing Parkes Way.
Monday's broken window is another blow for the $700 million building after a tall panel almost four metres high broke in January.
Almost three years ago another 19 panes, each of which cost $3500, "progressively failed", according to the department, and fell off. These windows had not been fixed permanently to the building at the time.
A spokeswoman for the Finance Department said an engineer would inspect the latest break on Monday, January 5 to determine what happened.
"What caused the glass to break we don't know yet," she said.
"The broken glass panel was located on the south side of the Parkes Way facade. The glass panel will be repaired as soon as possible."
The monolithic office was formally opened in July last year and many of the intelligence agency's 2000 staff were expected to move in two months later.
But the building still remains close to empty, with sources saying only a small team of staff have moved in.
Elderly Tuckombil resident without landline for almost a month
Northern Star [31/12/14]:
A Tuckombil resident, whose home phone or internet hasn't worked for almost a month, has slammed Telstra for its poor customer service and continued inaction.
Julia Evans' internet and home phone services stopped working on December 8 and the 75-year-old is still waiting for repairs, which have been promised several times.
"I can't ring anyone, pay bills, use the internet - anything. It's so frustrating, especially at this time of year," Ms Evans said.
"Every time I call I get put through to the Philippines for hours on end and nothing happens," she said. "They keep saying they'll ring back, or that it'll be fixed tomorrow, but I'm still waiting.
"It's ruined my Christmas because I couldn't call relatives. One of my sister's husbands had a heart attack on Christmas Eve and I couldn't even call them.
"In this day and age I can't see why it would take this long to get fixed."
Ms Evans said she would have been more understanding of the delay if Telstra had informed her exactly why her services were down.
"All they've told me is it's the main cables. That's it," she said.
Ms Evans said the outage made for a frustrating Christmas, especially as her mobile phone contained little call credit and few saved contacts due to her preference for a landline.
Meanwhile, Robert and Gillian Prikulis, aged 67 and 65, from Coorabell, said they lost their phone and internet on Christmas Eve and, like Ms Evans, have been waiting days for repairs.
"At the end of the day, all Telstra does is promise and not deliver," Mrs Prikulis said.
"It's been incredibly frustrating at this time of year and it's worse for my husband, because he's legally blind and has trouble with mobiles.
"There's a real inefficiency in the way this major corporation operates," she said.
It is unknown whether the technical problems are more widespread.
Telstra were contacted for comment yesterday morning, but had not responded by publication deadline.
Australia: New Year austerity measures to impact young disability support pensioners, seniors, students and travellers
Young disability support pensioners will face tougher restrictions from today, under one of several changes to the social security system coming into effect for the new year.
Recipients under the age of 35 will have their impairments reassessed against new, tougher criteria.
The new arrangements will also cut off payments to disability support pensioners if they spend more than four weeks a year overseas.
Maree O'Halloran from the Welfare Rights Network said she was concerned the changes could leave 1,500 vulnerable people worse off.
"One of the consequences could be extreme poverty for people living in disability," she said.
"If they're pushed from the Disability Support Pension down to what's called the Newstart [unemployment] allowance ... it's $170 per week less than the pension.
"People do it tough on the pension – imagine trying to live on $170 per week less than the pension."
January 1 also brings changes that limit access to the Seniors Health Care Card.
Having the card gives self-funded retirees cheaper medicines and other concessions on health, travel and education expenses.
From today, tax-free superannuation income will be considered in the means test for the first time.
That means the income threshold of around $80,000 per year for couples or $50,000 per year for singles applies, regardless of how that money is earned.
But the changes only apply to new applicants or current cardholders who make significant changes to their finances.
Ian Yates from the Council of the Ageing said it was a reasonable change that would make the system fairer.
"It will mean that people with the same levels of income will be assessed in the same way," he said.
Michael O'Neill from National Seniors Australia pointed to other positive changes to the Seniors Health Care Card coming into effect today.
"You can be away for up to 19 weeks without having to reapply for your Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card when you return – that is certainly a welcome move," he said.
"The previous government had brought it back to seven or eight weeks, and that certainly was quite impractical for folks who were able to travel or needed to travel or perhaps return to their homeland for an extended holiday."
Student payments – Youth Allowance, Abstudy and Austudy – will go up by a little over $6 a week.
But Ms O'Halloran said they were still very low rates that made it "extremely difficult to make ends meet".
"We would like to see that indexation be twice a year as it is for all other payments," she said.
Fees for passports and visas will also rise, with anyone wanting their foreign-born spouse to live with them in Australia facing a hefty fee increase.
The base fee for a permanent partner visa will increase from $4,575 to $6,865.
Tariffs on textile, clothing and footwear imports will drop from 10 per cent to 5 per cent, and in some cases, to zero.
Banks will now have to comply with more stringent liquidity rules.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority will require banks to hold enough liquid assets to be able to withstand 30 days of stress.
Those changes bring Australia into line with the Basel III banking rules agreed upon internationally after the Global Financial Crisis.
Thousands protest Peru labour laws
Al Jazeera [31/12/14]:
Thousands of people have rallied in the Peruvian capital against a new labour law that discriminates against young people.
At least 5,000 people marched against 'The Youth Employment Law' in Lima on Tuesday, new legislation that allows employers to reduce employment benefits for those aged between 18 and 24.
Under the new provision, bonuses, social
security and life insurance will be affected, and holiday entitlement will be
cut from 30 to 15 days.
Despite opposition by various student groups and labour unions, the government claims the new law will reduce youth unemployment and help the poorest people with little experience.
Protester Leonardo Rojas said: "We cannot allow the government, through their inaction and the few measures they have taken to reactivate our economy, to claim it has an effect on us young people with this package [law], with these abusive measures that violate the labour rights of the young."
Marco Aguirre, another protester, said: "Unfortunately the fundamental rights of young people are being assaulted, many young people, this law is affecting all the young people in the country."
According to official figures the unemployment rate for those aged between 18 and 24 is four times higher than those aged 30 to 65.
Ambac sues Bank of America over Countrywide mortgage bonds
Ambac Assurance Corp sued Bank of America Corp to recoup hundreds of millions of dollars of losses from insuring roughly $1.68 billion of securities backed at least in part by risky mortgages from the bank's Countrywide Home Loans unit.
In a complaint filed on Tuesday in a New York state court in Manhattan, Ambac accused Countrywide of lying about how well it underwrote so-called "pay option adjustable-rate mortgage negative amortization" loans that backed the securities.
The securities were issued in eight transactions between 2005 and 2007, Ambac said.
Ambac said it faced potential claims exceeding $600 million as of Oct. 31, and that pools of loans supporting its insured certificates had suffered $3.07 billion of losses by Nov. 30. It also said it would have never guaranteed payments had it known of Countrywide's deception.
"Countrywide's fraud is borne out by the transactions' dismal performance," said Ambac, which in September 2010 had filed a similar lawsuit against Bank of America. The second-largest U.S. bank acquired Countrywide in July 2008.
"We have resolved our significant legacy mortgage-related exposures, and we will analyze and address these most recent assertions by Ambac," Bank of America spokesman Lawrence Grayson said on Wednesday.
Ambac Assurance is part of Ambac Financial Group Inc.
The lawsuit shows how Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America might still face legal liability over shoddy mortgage practices predating the 2008 financial crisis, even after agreeing in August with federal and state authorities to pay a record $16.65 billion penalty to settle civil fraud charges.
Chief Executive Brian Moynihan said at a Nov. 12 conference that the bank's major regulatory and litigation costs tied to the financial crisis, including the purchases of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch & Co, were "largely behind us."
Ambac filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2010 and emerged from bankruptcy 2-1/2 years later.
On Dec. 23, the New York-based company said Co-Chairman Nader Tavakoli would become interim chief executive officer on Jan. 1. He will replace Diana Adams, who is resigning "by mutual agreement" with the board after 3-1/2 years as CEO, Ambac said.
The case is Ambac Assurance Corp et al v. Countrywide Home Loans Inc et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 653979/2014.
Argentine government takes US$13bn from Central Bank for debt payments
Buenos Aires Herald [31/12/14]:
The Economy Ministry has emitted two Treasury titles worth almost 13 billion dollars, which will be subscribed to wholly by the Central Bank, according to an announcement released in the Official Gazette.
The two bonds will be used in order to service debt payments with international financial organisations, as well as bolstering the Argentine Debt-cancelling Fund.
One of the titles, worth US$3.04bn, will pay the Central Bank an interest rate equal to what the entity's reserves yield in the same period up to the annual Libor rate, minus one percentage point.
The note has an emission date of August 25 2014 and expires on the same date in 2024, with the entire sum payable at that point.
The second title, worth US$9.85bn takes the same form, but with an emission date of January 30 of this year. The funds have been earmarked for the servicing of public debts to private creditors, according to the text of the resolution signed by Economy minister Axel Kicillof.
In the event of funds being left over from debt payments, they would be used to finance capital expenses.
RUFO clause expires at midnight [Buenos Aires Herald – 31/12/14]
Canada: Edmonton mass killings an extreme case of domestic violence, police say
The killings of six adults and two children in Edmonton were committed by a suspect with a stolen 9mm handgun, police chief Rod Knecht said in a news conference Tuesday night.
The victims were found in two separate residences in Edmonton Monday night. The man police believe responsible was found dead by suicide in a restaurant in the nearby city of Fort Saskatchewan on Tuesday morning. Knecht said the man had a criminal record dating back to 1987.
"It appears to be an extreme case of domestic violence gone awry," he said, stressing that there was no evidence of gang links.
He said the slayings were planned and deliberate.
Knecht said the first body found by police, now identified as Cyndi Duong, 37, was found by police officers responding to a weapons complaint in south Edmonton around 6:53 p.m. Monday. A man entered the home and shot the woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.
Police then received a call to check on the welfare of a man at a home located at 83rd Street and 180 Avenue in north Edmonton.
"According to family, the male seemed depressed and overly emotional," Knecht said. "The family was concerned that the male may be suicidal."
When police arrived, the man wasn't there, Knecht said. Then at 12:23 a.m., police went back to the home and discovered the bodies of seven people: three women, two men and two children – a boy and a girl.
The adults found dead were between the ages of 25 and 50, with the children under the age of 10.
At 2:20 a.m., police went to a restaurant in Fort Saskatchewan. There they found a vehicle matching the description of the one owned by the suicidal male. The SUV was the same vehicle seen in the south Edmonton neighbourhood on Monday night, and was missing from the north Edmonton home.
The man was found dead inside when police entered the restaurant at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday. Knecht said the man died in an apparent suicide. He said police are not looking for other suspects in the slayings.
Autopsies on the remaining victims and the suspect are scheduled for Jan. 1.
Police have not described the relationships between the victims and the man who committed suicide. Knecht said this was the biggest mass murder in Edmonton since six people were slain in 1956.
The gun used in the slaying was registered in British Columbia in 1997 and stolen from Surrey in 2006. Knecht said the suspect had a business interest in the restaurant where he was found dead.
The suspect was known to Edmonton Police. Knecht said officers had gone to the north Edmonton home twice: once this year, and once in November 2012, where a man was charged with domestic violence, sexual assault and uttering threats.
Knecht also explained why police didn't enter the north Edmonton home when police were first called there. He said officers walked around the house but couldn't get in.
“They looked in windows, they checked a door and they weren’t able to get a response," he said.
Later, they received a call from someone which gave them grounds to enter the home. That's when they found the seven bodies.
"It was chaotic. It's horrific," Knecht said.
"This is a horrific event for the city in my 39 years of policing, I've never seen anything like it."
Sign at #NYE2015Protest in #NYC! #BlackLivesMatter #ThisStopsToday #ShutItDown #Icantbreathe
Image: @AshAgony [31/12/14]
Protest moving to Times Sq
Image: @DefendWallSt [31/12/14]
Happy New Year.
Time for Grey Matter over Brute Force.
We are all united on NYE. #OccupyHK #UmbrellaMovement
Image: @kenq689 [1/1/15]
Queensland Symphony Orchestra open their 2015 season with Beethoven Symphony No.9
Queensland Symphony Orchestra:
Sat 14 Feb 7.30PM
In an electrifying opening to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 Season, featuring Beethoven's epic 9th Symphony and The Trillion Souls.
You won’t just hear Beethoven’s Choral Symphony featuring the famed Ode to Joy, you will feel it as new-generation maestro Gergely Madaras reveals contemporary meaning within its ancient truths.
Widely considered one of Beethoven’s greatest works and one of the most well-known works in the classical repertoire, this symphony will feature an all-star cast with Soprano Dominique Fegan, Mezzo Soprano Nicole Youl, Tenor Henry Choo and Baritone David Wakeham.
Sir Gilbert Levine conducts Beethoven Symphony No. 9, Mvt. 4 "Ode to Joy" [VIDEO]
The incident at Broken Hill was to have even further repercussions. At the instigation of the Attorney General, Billy Hughes, all ‘enemy aliens’ in Australia were interned for the duration of the war."
"The Great War", Islam Australia Network:
... Attitudes towards Muslims were affected by the war. War propaganda in the press against the Caliph of Islam, the Sultan of Turkey, wounded many Muslims but physical assaults against Muslims do not appear in the record. Even when two "Turks" who were in fact Afghans, shot up a picnic train in Broken Hill on 1 January 1915, there was no actual anti-Muslim or anti-Afghan pogrom, although it came close. The Melbourne Argus carried a six level headline on the day after the shootings: "Turks Attack Train; Entrenched near railway; Broken Hill Sensation; Four Picnickers Killed; Seven others Wounded; Police Shoot Murderers." An ice-cream cart with a Turkish flag flying on it, and two men crouching with rifles pointing at the train, had been noticed by a passenger just as the train passed them. They fired 20 or 30 shots, killing Elma Cowie and three men and wounding six, including four women, one of whom was a 15 year old girl, Lucy Shaw.
Mulla Abdullah, who was killed in the subsequent gun-fight, was about 60 years old and acted as imam at the Broken Hill mosque. Just a few days before the attack on the train."…Chief Sanitary Inspector Brosnan had taken him to court for slaughtering sheep at the Ghantown when he was not a licensed member of the Butchers’ Union." This was in fact an act of religious persecution for it was well known that the Muslims would only eat animals slaughtered in accordance with Islamic requirements and unions at that time had racially discriminatory policies. Muslims were thus placed in an impossible situation. Mullah Abdullah said in his last letter that he was dying for his faith and in obedience to the order of the Sultan "…but owing to my grudge against the inspector it was my intention to kill him first. Beyond this there is no enmity against anybody, and we informed nobody." The translation of his letter which appeared in the Melbourne Argus included the statement "I have never worn a turban since the day some larrikin threw stones at me, and I did not like it. I wear the turban today." Gool Mahomed, now an ice-cream vendor, was most likely an ex-cameleer who had worked in the mines after the railways had moved in. Many men, including Afghans who had sought work in the mines, were retrenched when the price of silver fell with the onset of war. The letter he had in his waistbelt, certain he would die, stated that he was a subject of the Sultan and that "I must kill your men and give my life for my faith by order of the Sultan."
That night a crowd of patriotic Australians burnt down the German Club in Broken Hill. Heavily booted soldiers and police searched the mosque in the Ghantown for a constable the Afghans had supposedly imprisoned and then as the searchers were leaving, a mob from the burning of the German Club arrived. The police and soldiers guarded the camp until the mob departed. "By the following day Broken Hill mines had rid themselves of all employees deemed under the 1914 Commonwealth War Precautions Act to be ‘enemy aliens’. Further south, two days after the Broken Hill massacre, there was a demonstration outside the Adelaide Mosque in Little Gilbert Street. When the demonstrators pulled down a Muslim flag attached to a metal pole on the minaret, they bent the pole. This remained untouched as a reminder of the incident for many years afterwards. Fortunately the police came and protected the mosque, so it was not invaded. The incident at Broken Hill was to have even further repercussions. At the instigation of the Attorney General, Billy Hughes, all ‘enemy aliens’ in Australia were interned for the duration of the war."
From the misreporting of a picnic “massacre” almost a century ago to SIEV4 and beyond, the Muslim population of Australia has been lumped together and misunderstood. The Global Mail begins an ongoing series. ... [The Global Mail - 6/2/12]
He in his madness prays for storms, and dreams that storms will bring him peace.
Leo Tolstoy [The Death Of Ivan Ilych]
United States continues bombing Iraq and Syria
U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria, Dec. 31, using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct seven airstrikes.
Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted three airstrikes in Iraq, Dec. 31, using fighter and remotely piloted aircraft against the ISIL terrorists.
The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:
* Near Al Hasakah, two airstrikes destroyed four oil derricks.
* Near Kobani, five airstrikes destroyed five ISIL buildings and six ISIL fighting positions.
* Near Fallujah, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units.
* Near Mosul, one airstrike struck one ISIL fighting position, destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, and struck one ISIL tactical unit.
Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.
@IraqiSMCEn – Iraqi Spring Media Center [31/12/14]:
Anbar: Alus people -east of Hadeetha- flee due to the random shelling of artillery and planes of government's army .........
Anbar: An elementary school has been targeted by artillery of government's army in Zankora west of Ramadi causing major damages to the building........
More than 3,000 internally displaced Iraqis are living in Arbat camp three months after it opened to shelter to some of the 2 million people uprooted by conflict in northern and central Iraq in 2014. ...
"We are in a race against the clock here," says UNHCR Representative in Iraq Neill Wright. "We are making substantial progress, but the sheer numbers of those in need, and the fact that they are spread out across some 2,000 sites across Iraq, makes it a daunting challenge." ... [UNHCR - 30/12/14]
Afghanistan: Noor angrily reacts on his inclusion in NATO targeted killings list
Ata Mohammad Noor, an influential political figure and the governor of northern Balkh province, raised questions regarding the assassination of political figures in Afghanistan following reports on inclusion of his name in NATO targeted killings list.
Speaking during a press conference in Mazar-e-Sharif city on Wednesday, Noor said the foreigners are apparently involved in assassination of political figures, if NATO had included his name in targeted killings list to eliminate him.
Noor pointed towards the assassination of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gen. Daud Daud who were both killed in separate suicide attacks.
He said the commander of the coalition forces Gen. John Campbell has spoken with Dr. Abdullah Abdullah in this regard and clarified that the addition of a name in the list did not necessarily mean that NATO was looking to assassinate that specific individual.
Noor said he has remained committed in war against terrorism with the international community and criticized the German magazine for publishing the report, insisting that he will seek clarification in this regard.
According to the Germany’s week news magazine, Der Spiegel, Noor was added to the list of Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL) in 2010, among the candidates who were only listed as being under observation or to be taken into custody.
Der Spiegel, citing the classified intelligence files from the NSA, GCHQ, and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden, reported that in October 2008 the NATO defense ministers made the momentous decision that drug networks would now be “legitimate targets” for ISAF troops.
The report said “Narcotics traffickers were added to the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL) list for the first time.”
According to the report, Noor had become wealthy through smuggling in the turmoil of war, and he was seen as someone who ruthlessly eliminated his enemies.
He was listed as number 1,722 on the NATO list and given a priority level of three, but NATO merely collected information about Noor, rather than placing him on the kill list.
A rocket fired during fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters has killed at least 26 wedding guests in the southern province of Helmand, officials have said.
Most of the victims of the attack late on Wednesday in Helmand's Sangin district were women and children. ... [Al Jazeera - 31/12/14]
Heavy gunfire causes panic among Kabul residents [Khaama – 31/12/14]
At least 26 killed in Yemen suicide bombing: security official
A suicide bomber killed at least 26 people in central Yemen on Wednesday when he blew himself up at a cultural center where students were celebrating the Prophet Mohammad's birthday, a security official said.
At least 48 people were also wounded, including many women and children, the official said, according to state news agency Saba. The celebration, in the city of Ibb, was organized by the Houthis, the Shi'ite Muslim group that controls most of Yemen.
No one claimed responsibility for attack, but similar bombings have been carried out by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which operates in Yemen and regards Shi'ites as heretics.
Tensions have increased in Yemen since the Houthis captured the capital Sanaa in September and expanded south and west. The Western-allied country, which shares a long border with the world's top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, had been trying to overcome an al Qaeda threat before the Houthi advance.
The official said the bomber mingled with guests as they arrived at the cultural center and detonated his suicide belt at the back of the hall.
The official told Saba that all local government officials escaped unharmed, except for the director of the culture department, who suffered serious injuries.
A local resident had earlier said the director general of the Ibb governorate was among the dead.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in a condolence message to the Ibb governor and families of the victims, condemned "the terrorist and criminal" attack and instructed the government to ensure the wounded receive full medical attention, Saba said.
Residents reported a second explosion occurred outside one of the two hospitals, al-Thawra. But security sources later said that security forces had been firing in the air to disperse residents who had gathered in front of the hospital.
Pakistan airstrikes kill 23
Al Arabiya [31/12/14]:
At least 23 militants were killed on Wednesday when Pakistani fighter jets bombed their hideouts in the country’s trouble northwest bordering Afghanistan, military said.
The attacks also destroyed four militant hideouts in Shawal, in the North Waziristan tribal district, where the military has been mounting an offensive against Taliban strongholds since June.
The Pakistan military said in a statement late Wednesday that “23 terrorists were killed and four hideouts were destroyed through effective and precise aerial strikes in Shawal”.
It was not possible to independently verify the casualties as journalists are banned from visiting the far-flung mountainous area during the ongoing offensive, but a local security official confirmed the airstrikes.
The army has intensified its offensive after the massacre of 150 people, 134 of them children, in a school in Peshawar in December, a carnage which Pakistan described as its own “mini 9/11” and a game-changer in the fight against extremism.
The Pakistani military says it has killed more than 1,700 militants so far in its heavy offensive in the tribal zone, with 126 soldiers having lost their lives.
22 killed in Burundi-DRC border clashes
Al Jazeera [31/12/14]:
At least 22 people have been killed in clashes between Burundi's army and members of an unidentified rebel group near the Democratic Republic of Congo border, sources have said.
"The security forces are still combing the area where there was fighting and the valleys where the members of this armed group are hiding," a top Burundian army official told AFP on Wednesday, the day after the rebel group launched the attack on the central African nation.
Burundian officials and witnesses said the group of around 200 rebels crossed into Cibitoke province north of the capital Bujumbura overnight on Monday.
The rebels crossed into the country from Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern Kivu region, an unstable and resource-rich area that is home to dozens of rebel groups.
Security forces then fought to prevent the group from reaching the Kibira forest, an area used in the past by rebel groups as a base to stage further attacks inside Burundi.
Previous attacks in Burundi's border region have been claimed by a splinter faction of the National Liberation Forces (FNL), whose full name is Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People.
Emotional graduation ceremony triggers memories of Burundian scholar's journey [UNCHR - 24/12/14]
Expulsion of UN officials will constitute serious loss for Sudan, warns Ban
UN Media Release [31/12/14]:
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reiterated his strong opposition to Sudan’s decision to expel from the country two senior UN officials, calling on the Government to reconsider the ruling and allow for essential work to be carried out.
“Departure of these key senior United Nations officials would constitute a serious loss for the humanitarian and development community in Sudan at a time when humanitarian needs are growing and the country faces significant development challenges,” Mr. Ban said in a note issued to reporters.
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC), Ali Al-Za’tari, and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Country Director Yvonne Helle were ordered late last week to leave the Sudan by 2 January.
Since then, the Sudanese Government has agreed to extend the deadline for the RC/HC's departure from 2 January until the end of the month. The UN continues to engage the Government at several levels to obtain a reversal of its decision.
“It is essential that the United Nations can continue to carry out its crucial duties in the country,” Mr. Ban said, reiterating UN commitment to a productive and fruitful working relationship with the Government of Sudan for the benefit of its people, on the basis of respect of sovereignty.
To that end, the UN counts on the full cooperation of the Sudanese Government in enabling all UN entities and their leadership to carry out their work.
Palestinians join International Criminal Court
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed on to 20 international agreements on Wednesday, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a day after a bid for independence by 2017 failed at the United Nations Security Council.
The move, which angered Israel and the United States, paves the way for the court to take jurisdiction over crimes committed in Palestinian lands and investigate the conduct of Israeli and Palestinian leaders over more than a decade of bloody conflict.
"They attack us and our land every day, to whom are we to complain? The Security Council let us down -- where are we to go?" Abbas told a gathering of Palestinian leaders in remarks broadcast on official television.
The Palestinian U.N. observer mission initially announced it would deliver on Wednesday to the United Nations the signed documents to accede to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC. But the mission later said the delivery had been postponed and would likely take place on Friday.
According to the Rome Statute, the Palestinians would become a party to the court on the first day of the month that follows a 60-day waiting period after depositing signed and ratified documents of accession with the United Nations in New York.
In the months leading up to Tuesday's failed U.N. bid, Sweden recognized Palestinian statehood and the parliaments of France, Britain and Ireland passed non-binding motions urging their governments to do the same.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas's action would expose the Palestinians to prosecution over support for what he called the terrorist Hamas Islamist group, and vowed to take steps to rebuff any potential moves against Israel.
Israel and Hamas fought a July-August war in which more than 2,100 Palestinians, 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed.
"We will take steps in response and defend Israel's soldiers," Netanyahu said in a statement.
The United States said the was of deep concern and unhelpful to peace efforts in the region.
"It is an escalatory step that will not achieve any of the outcomes most Palestinians have long hoped to see for their people," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement. "Actions like this are not the answer."
Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem - lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.
Momentum to recognize a Palestine has built up since Abbas succeeded in a bid for de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood at the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, which made Palestinians eligible to join the ICC.
Israel Hails Highest Jewish Immigration Figures in a Decade [Naharnet – 31/12/14]
Putin sends New Year's message to Obama
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said in a New Year's message to U.S. President Barack Obama that Moscow is looking for equality in bilateral relations next year.
The Kremlin on Wednesday published several dozen New Year's messages addressed to heads of states and international organizations such as the Olympic Committee and FIFA.
Putin reminded Obama of the upcoming 70th anniversary of the allied victory in World War II and said that it should serve as a reminder of "the responsibility that Russia and the United States bear for maintaining peace and international stability." Moscow is anxious for the relations to advance but only as long as there is "equality and mutual respect."
Conspicuously absent from the list of the recipients of New Year's messages was Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
A former military doctor who participated in missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan has asked the Czech Defense Ministry to take back his NATO medals, calling the North Atlantic alliance a "criminal organization" with "atrocious interests." ... [RT - 30/12/14]
Ukraine: UN kicks-off campaign to reach displaced persons with humanitarian aid [Media Release – 31/12/14]
The armed coup in Kiev is painfully similar to CIA operations to oust unwanted foreign leaders in Iran, Chile and Venezuela, said US filmmaker Oliver Stone after interviewing Ukraine’s ousted president for a documentary. ... [RT - 31/12/14]
The new European 'arc of instability' [RT – 10/12/14]
Around 50 Sub-Saharan immigrants make it to Spanish enclave of Melilla after 800 attempt to scale border fence
Shanghai Daily [31/12/14]:
Around 50 Sub-Saharan immigrants were able to cross the frontier wire to force their way into the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Wednesday morning.
The assault on the frontier which divides Melilla from Morocco comes just 24 hours after around 100 immigrants were able to cross into what is officially Spanish territory and make their way to the Temporary Immigrant Resident Center (CETI) in the middle of the town.
According to police sources the early hours of Wednesday saw around 800 people divided into different groups launch a series of attempts to scale the frontier fence, which in places is six meters high and divided into three different barriers.
Those who were able to cross the fence then went to the CETI singing songs and chanting. On reaching the building they were given blankets toiletries and a meal.
Around 5,000 Sub-Saharans have been able to successfully enter into Melilla during 2014, with some 2,100 doing so after scaling the frontier, while the rest arrived by sea.
Their arrival has placed considerable strain on resources with around 1,400 immigrants currently housed at the CETI which has a capacity for just a third that number.
1 January 2015