Remember Remember: #Anonymous group photo at the conclusion of its #Brisbane March and rally

Image: @replica_watch [5/11/14]

Maronite Patriarch Al-Rahi calls on Australian government to take a larger role in Syrian refugees crisis

Naharnet [5/11/14]:

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi held talks on Wednesday with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as he continued his pastoral visit to Sydney.

“We pray for the election of a new president in Lebanon and for peace in the world, in particular, in the Middle East,” al-Rahi said.

The patriarch said that the election of a new head of state would organize the legislative work.

The Lebanese parliament is tasked by the constitution to select a president, a decision that has already been put off more than a dozen of times as the war in Syria continues to divide rival political blocs.

During his meeting with Abbott, al-Rahi stressed that “terrorist organizations are anti-religions, including Islam.”

He called on Australia to have a larger role in aiding Lebanon to end the Syrian refugees crisis, which is draining the country's resources and powers.

For his part, the Australian PM said that he is “closely” following up the situation in Lebanon and the region.

Al-Rahi visited earlier on Wednesday the New South Wales Parliament in Sydney, attending a session for 10 minutes.

“The friendship between Australia and Lebanon requires us to carry out a tremendous effort in the benefit of two countries,” al-Rahi told lawmakers.

“We should cooperate to end the political crises and wars in Lebanon and the Middle East.”

The patriarch traveled to Australia at the end of October on a two-week pastoral visit.

The "free market" will stop Ebola: Australian government outsources its responsibilities again [Sydney Morning Herald - 5/11/14]

Israeli forces displayed ‘callous indifference’ in deadly attacks on family homes in Gaza

Amnesty International Media Release [5/11/14]:

Israeli forces have killed scores of Palestinian civilians in attacks targeting houses full of families which in some cases have amounted to war crimes, Amnesty International has disclosed in a new report on the latest Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip.

Families under the Rubble: Israeli attacks on inhabited homes details eight cases where residential family homes in Gaza were attacked by Israeli forces without warning during Operation Protective Edge in July and August 2014, causing the deaths of at least 104 civilians including 62 children.

The report reveals a pattern of frequent Israeli attacks using large aerial bombs to level civilian homes, sometimes killing entire families.

“Israeli forces have brazenly flouted the laws of war by carrying out a series of attacks on civilian homes, displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

“The report exposes a pattern of attacks on civilian homes by Israeli forces which have shown a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians, who were given no warning and had no chance to flee.”

The report contains numerous accounts from survivors who describe the horror of frantically digging through the rubble and dust of their destroyed homes in search of the bodies of children and loved ones. In several of the cases documented in the report, possible military targets were identified by Amnesty International.

However the devastation to civilian lives and property caused in all cases was clearly disproportionate to the military advantages gained by launching the attacks.

“Even if a fighter had been present in one of these residential homes, it would not absolve Israel of its obligation to take every feasible precaution to protect the lives of civilians caught up in the fighting. The repeated, disproportionate attacks on homes indicate that Israel’s current military tactics are deeply flawed and fundamentally at odds with the principles of international humanitarian law,” said Philip Luther.

In the single deadliest attack documented in the report, 36 members of four families including 18 children were killed when the three-storey al-Dali building, was struck. Israel has not announced why the building was targeted, but Amnesty International has identified possible military targets within the building.

The second deadliest attack appears to have targeted a member of the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, who was outside the Abu Jame’ family home. The house was completely levelled killing 25 civilians including 19 children.

Regardless of the intended targets, both of these attacks constitute grossly disproportionate attacks and under international law, they should have been cancelled or postponed as soon as it was evident that so many civilians were present in the house.


Russian Taliban arrested in Afghanistan appears in US court

Khaama [5/11/14]:

A Russian member of the Taliban group in Afghanistan appeared in court on Tuesday in the United States on overseas terrorist attack charges against the United States military during the War in Afghanistan.

The Russian citizen, Irek Ilgiz Hamidullah is the first military detainee from Afghanistan who has been brought to the US for trial.

The suspect who is believed to be about 55-year-old was arrested following clashes with the Afghan border police and US forces in 2009.

Hamidullah was reportedly held for five years at Bagram air base before being sent to United States.

According to reports, Hamidullah was a former officer and tank commander in the Soviet military and worked alongside the Taliban from 2001 through 2009.

He is also accused of providing material support to terrorists, conspiracy and attempt to destroy an aircraft of the US armed forces, and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Afghan Yar, the police officer who defused 6000 bombs [Khaama - 5/11/14]

US drone strikes kill 10 in Yemen

Reuters [4/11/14]:

U.S. drone strikes killed a least 10 suspected al Qaeda militants on Tuesday in central Yemen, where fighting between members of Ansar al-Sharia and Shi'ite Muslim rebels also killed 10 people, local tribesmen said.

Fighting has been taking place in central and western Yemen since the Houthis, officially known as Ansarullah, captured the capital Sanaa on Sept. 21, propelling the group into power brokers in the U.S.-allied country next door to Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter.

Tribesmen said the drones targeted positions held by Ansar al-Sharia in the town of Radda in al-Bayda province and a vehicle used by the group. They said at least 10 suspected Ansar al-Sharia fighters died in the strikes, the largest number of casualties in such attacks since the Houthis advanced in the area in mid-October.


US pressure prompts S Korea pullout of China airshow

Channel News Asia [5/1/14]:

South Korea on Wednesday scrapped its plan to send a pair of supersonic military jets to a Chinese airshow next week, citing pressure from the United States.

The South's air force had planned to dispatch T-50 trainers to the Nov 11 to Nov 16 airshow in China's southern city of Zhuhai, as part of a military exchange between the two countries, a defence ministry spokesman said.

But the plan was cancelled at the last minute following consultations between South Korea and its key military ally, the United States, he said.

"We decided to cancel our participation in the Chinese airshow after the US cited its law concerning exports and trade of key US military technology," the spokesman said, explaining that core technology used in the aircraft came from the US.

"South Korea maintains a mutual defence pact, and we need US consent about some military issues," he added.

T-50 is South Korea's first homegrown supersonic aircraft jointly developed by Korea Aerospace Industries and US defence giant Lockheed Martin.

After developing it into combat and multi-role variants, Seoul has sought to open up new markets for military exports beyond Southeast Asia, Europe and South America. China, North Korea's sole major ally, has gradually strengthened military cooperation and exchanges with the South.

The United States, in its "pivot to Asia", has boosted its military presence in the region, a move that has alarmed China and emboldened its rivals.

China, meanwhile, has been rapidly modernising its military amid maritime territorial disputes with regional neighbours.

Separatists say Ukraine has violated peace deal

Daily Star [5/11/14]:

Separatist leaders in east Ukraine accused President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday of violating a peace deal by deciding to suspend a law giving their regions a "special status" and signalled they would no longer abide by it.

The self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics in the Donbass region said the decision undermined a protocol agreed at talks on Sept. 5 in the Belarussian capital, Minsk, under which a ceasefire went into effect in east Ukraine.

Poroshenko, who accuses the rebels of violating the Minsk agreement by holding leadership elections on Sunday, said on Tuesday that he wanted parliament to scrap the law offering "special status" to the eastern regions.

The law would have given Donetsk and Luhansk limited rights to run their own affairs and shield separatist fighters from prosecution.

"Kiev's cancellation of the special status for Donbass causes serious damage to the Mink peace process," the pro-Russian separatists said in a joint statement.

Signalling they believed this nullified the Minsk agreements, they added: "The DNR and LNR cannot act on the basis of a document from which Poroshenko has removed fundamentally important points."

They said they were ready to renegotiate the Minsk agreement, intended to help end a conflict in which more than 4,000 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the separatists rose up against Kiev's rule in mid-April.

Poroshenko has said he will propose a new law to provide a "special economic zone" for the Donbass region and set a new date for hoped-for Ukrainian-run local elections, originally planned for early December.

The crisis in Ukraine has caused the biggest rift in relations between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

Russia's Gazprom Confirms Arrears Payment of $1.45 Billion from Ukraine's Naftogaz [RIA Novosti - 5/11/14]

Civil claim against Kathy Jackson postponed

WA Today [5/11/14]:

The civil claim against controversial unionist Kathy Jackson, who is being sued for $1.4 million for fraud and theft, has been delayed for a number of months due to her mental health problems.

The Federal Court on Wednesday heard evidence of Ms Jackson's health problems - certain details of which were suppressed by Justice Richard Tracey.

Justice Tracey said that the evidence of her psychiatrist Irwin Pakula was that Ms Jackson would not be able to deal with her legal issues until mid-January 2015 at the earliest. Justice Tracey said Ms Jackson was in a medical facility under the care of her psychiatrist as a voluntary patient.

The Federal Court had previously heard Ms Jackson was unable to give advice to her lawyers.

Associate Professor Pakula had said Ms Jackson was on medication which made her drowsy but that was over time her condition and ability to concentrate expected to improve, Justice Tracey said, although certain "stressors" such as dealing with legal issues could make it worse.

A mention hearing is set for February 6.

Ms Jackson, who rose to prominence for exposing the corruption of Michael Williamson in the Health Services Union, is now being pursued by the union for corruption herself through this civil action.

That trial had been set for December 1.

Ms Jackson has also had the Royal Commission into union corruption recommend charges against her for making a "false claim" to the Peter MacCallum cancer hospital. The maximum penalty is 10 years in jail.

Ms Jackson's union No. 3 branch received $250,000 from Peter MacCallum to settle a back-pay dispute in 2003 and it was then used as seed money for a bank account personally controlled by her. Workers at the hospital did not receive any back-pay.

Her fall from grace has been dramatic after she was hailed as "heroic" by Tony Abbott and received an apology from federal parliament earlier this year.

The union's lawyer Mark Irving told the Federal Court that it wanted a guardian appointed to represent Ms Jackson's interests - a request Justice Tracey did not agree to at this stage. Mr Irving also told the court the union was concerned Ms Jackson was trying to sell her house.

Barrister David Pritchard, for Ms Jackson, said this was not relevant to the case. "People sell houses all the time."

Justice Tracey rejected a bid by lawyers for News Limited for the evidence of Professor Pakula to be reported in the interests of open justice. He said there was a "significant risk" to Ms Jackson's personal safety if that were allowed, due to links outlined by her psychiatrist between her health and publication.

The civil case against Ms Jackson has been affected by Ms Jackson not abiding by court orders. Justice Tracey has previously described her conduct as "inexcusable".

New Zealand: Decision a 'win for women' - Teachers union

NZ Herald [5/11/14]:

Teachers entitled to 24 months' maternity leave can take another two years off if they fall pregnant again while on leave, according to a decision called a "win for women" by their union.

Under the secondary teachers' collective agreement, teachers are entitled to 24 months unpaid maternity leave and six weeks' full pay.

In a new decision, the Employment Relations Authority says that teachers who fall pregnant while on maternity leave are entitled to take a further 24 months maternity leave without returning to work.

The authority also found that in these cases the teacher would be eligible for another six weeks' maternity allowance.

The authority's ruling comes after a dispute emerged between the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) and the Secretary for Education about how the Ministry of Education interpreted and applied maternity grant provisions in the collective agreement.

Between 2010 and 2012 six teachers applied for a maternity grant in such circumstances, the authority said.

In each instance, except one which the ministry said was granted in error, such applications were declined.

The ERA outlined the dispute, with the ministry saying a teacher was not entitled to a second maternity grant when she had not returned to work from an earlier period of maternity leave. If a teacher were to be paid a grant on a second period of maternity leave, the amount would be nil as the teacher would not be generating income at the time.

The PPTA contested this and said the collective agreement contained no requirement that a teacher must return to work before entitlement to a second period of maternity leave was available. It also said the payment of a maternity grant was not dependent on a genuine return to work between periods of unpaid maternity leave.

Authority member Michelle Ryan said the issue that needed to be determined was whether the ministry correctly interpreted and applied the provisions of the collective agreement. She said she regarded the PPTA to be correct and said the ministry's approach was "mistaken". She also ordered that the ministry calculate payment of a maternity grant according to the salary appointed to the position held by the teacher at the date of birth.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said the decision was a win for women.


Voting machine, ID problems in US elections

Reuters [4/11/14]:

Voting machine and voter identification problems emerged in some U.S. states on Tuesday when Americans went to the polls in midterm elections that will shape the final two years of Barack Obama's presidency.

Although a full picture of the problems was not yet clear, officials and voting rights advocates reported machine failures in North Carolina and Texas, polling breakdowns in a key Florida county and an overall increase in the number of people reporting they were turned away for lack of proper identification.

"It all points to problems we need to solve," said Wendy Weiser, director of the non-partisan Brennan Center Democracy Program.

In North Carolina, where a strict election law barring provisional voting outside a voter's normal precinct was upheld last month by the U.S. Supreme Court, voting was briefly halted at one precinct after officers responded to an altercation between voters and election officials, according to the state's Democratic Party.

There were also reports of voting machines in Columbus County that were down but later fixed, said Election Protection, a non-partisan voting rights group. Nearly 15,000 calls had come in to the group from voters across the country reporting problems as of 5 p.m. EST, a spokesman said, up from fewer than 13,000 such calls on election day in 2010. Many of those were from people reporting voter ID issues, the group said.

In Texas, Common Cause, which is monitoring about 45 to 50 polling places in Harris County, which is home to Houston, said some voting machines had outages that resulted in polling places opening late. In Florida, the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial challenger Charlie Crist petitioned unsuccessfully to extend voting hours in the Democratic Party stronghold of Broward County by two hours, citing polling breakdowns.

Among the concerns cited by the Crist campaign were voters unable to update their addresses in order to cast ballots in newly redrawn precincts. And in Chicago, more than 2,000 election judges - a fifth of the total - failed to show up at polling places after automated phone calls beginning on Saturday falsely informed them that they were unqualified without additional training.

Officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties in the city denied involvement in the calls, which an election board official said appeared to target a particular party that he declined to identify.

Gates Foundation grants go to 'rich nation NGOs': report

Nine MSN [5/11/14]:

The bulk of the roughly three billion dollars given over the past decade by the Gates Foundation to foster agriculture in poor countries has been given to aid groups based in rich nations, said a study published today.

The foundation - set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to fight poverty and disease in impoverished nations -- awarded 610 agricultural development grants worth $3.11 billion between 2003 and September 2013, the study by the Barcelona-based research group Grain found.

Roughly half of this amount went to international organisations such as the World Bank or United Nations agencies, as well as global agriculture research networks, Grain said in a report.

"The other half ended up with hundreds of different research, development and policy organisations across the world," the group said. "Of this last group over 80 percent of the grants were given to organisations in the United States and Europe, 10 percent to groups in Africa and the remainder elsewhere."

The main recipient nation for agricultural grants was the United States followed by Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, according to the study.

Grain, which works to support small farmers and social movements that favour biodiversity-based food systems, said the "North-South divide is most shocking when we look at" the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which the foundation supports.

"One would assume that a significant portion of the frontline work that the foundation funds in Africa would be carried out by organisations based there," it said. "But of the $669 million that the Gates Foundation has granted to NGOs for agricultural work, over three quarters has gone to organisations based in the United States. Africa-based NGOs get a meagre four percent of the overall agriculture-related grants to NGOs."

Grain acknowledged that the organisations based in rich nations that received funding from the Gates Foundation used the money to develop technology to aid agriculture in poor nations.

US universities for example received money to produce crop varieties and biotechnology research for farmers in Africa. But while African farmers supply around 90 percent of the seeds used in farming on the continent, Grain said it "found no evidence of any support from the Gates Foundation for programmes of research or technology development carried out by farmers or based on farmers' knowledge."


US multinationals are buying up what remains of Australia's funeral industry.

Meanwhile, Gold Coast media jackals do a one-sided hit job on an Australian, family owned business - Alex Gow Funerals

ABC [5/11/14]:

A Gold Coast couple is being sued by a funeral company for refusing to pay a $7,195 bill for a funeral prepaid by the man's mother.

More than 19,000 Queenslanders who signed up to funeral plans after World War II could be affected by the outcome of the court case on Thursday.

Beryl May Turner had agreed to what she thought was a pre-paid funeral plan in 1948 when she was only 16 years old.

"It was after the war, they had seen a lot of people who did not have access to a proper send-off so I think they were very mindful that you should put things in place," her son Gavin Turner told 7.30 [Reportland].

In exchange for £25, paid for in small contributions over more than three decades, Alex Gow Funerals was to provide a funeral service for Ms Turner.

After making her final contribution in 1980, she was presented with a certificate stating she was entitled to a funeral service "without further payment".

But when Gavin and Fiona Turner approached Alex Gow Funerals with the certificate, they were told Beryl May Turner’s £25 had been placed in a Queensland Government trust, accrued little interest and was now only worth $390.

Fiona Turner, Beryl's daughter-in-law, said they were offered a discount to that value but were told they would have to pay the remaining costs.

"All of this happens at a time when you're at your most emotionally distraught, straight after you've lost someone," she said.


First they came for the blackfellas ...

Then they came for the bikies ...

unionists, protestors and Muslims ...

Now the cyclists ...

Feel safe Queensland?

Brisbane Times [5/11/14]:

A Queensland police officer has likened cyclists to "cockroaches" in an online row involving the state's top cop.

The war of words erupted after Victorian-based advocacy group posted comments on its Facebook page about a truck driver's breach of Queensland's one-metre passing laws. president Edward Hore has claimed five Queensland police officers responded with comments criticising cyclists.

"Riding bikes on the road is not a 'right', it's stupid," one officer allegedly wrote.

A Senior Sergeant also allegedly wrote: "Cockroaches on wheels. Should have to pay rego, insurance and adhere to road rules and single file only."

Mr Hore said he feared the comments from the five officers were reflective of wider contempt for cyclists among Queensland police.

He lodged a complaint with the Crime and Corruption Commission about the officers' public comments on Monday.

"This is a disgusting example of police overstepping their role," he said.

"If these police had made derogatory comments about a particular religious group or racial group then they would would face disciplinary action. This should be no different.

"How can cyclists have confidence in police, when they are calling cyclists to cockroaches?

"We have always felt that there was contempt for cyclists among police but this goes to show that it does really exist and that it's wider than we first thought."


Toowoomba man fined $1000 for calling police officers "white dead ***s" [Chronicle - 5/11/14]

Australian "journalists" wage war on cycling [MacroBusiness - April 2014]:

... Yesterday in Brisbane we had some coverage of the new 1m passing law. Madonna King calls it “a hostile and unworkable law”

That’s why there are so many spats even before the laws commence; sharing the road already requires motorists to cross the middle lane, to safely pass a cyclist.

But despite the law being introduced to try and diffuse arguments, it’s only going to escalate tensions.

In this article it is implied that it is difficult to drive with cyclists on the road and that the rights of motorists are superior. Similarly, The Australian’s Michael Saunders and Robyn Wuth [Gold Coast Bulletin] covered the law with an article about how the new 1m law will be unworkable, with a helpful link embedded to a Courier Mail article by Chris Bartlett entitled 14 reasons we hate cyclists, which is so bad I just can’t tell whether it is satire (though the reader comments suggest not).


Queensland Parliament Hansard [29/10/13]:

Mr CRANDON: My question without notice is to the Minister for Police and Community Safety. Can the minister outline to the House how this government is cracking down on criminal motorcycle gangs and their associates?

Mr DEMPSEY: Following on from what the Premier said and in answer to the question from the member for Coomera, the people of Queensland wanted this government to get tough on crime. I am so glad that we have a can-do attitude to make sure that we achieve that and listen to the people of Queensland—unlike those opposite, who were in government for the last 20 years and sat on their hands.

The people of Queensland know that criminal motorcycle gangs are parasites who prey on the most vulnerable people in our society. This government has made it absolutely clear that their criminal activities and networks will no longer be tolerated. We have vowed to smash them, and that is exactly what we are doing. If they congregate together, we will hunt them down. If they gather in their clubhouses, we will be waiting for them. We will use the full power of our new laws to ensure that they are removed from our society and inside prison they will be subjected to the country’s toughest prison regime, reflecting society’s outrage at their activities. Criminal gangs can run, but they cannot hide. If they continue their criminal activities, we will crush every last one of them. ...

Police search for men who firebombed Keperra home

Yahoo [5/11/14]:

A man has chased three men who firebombed his Brisbane home.

The fire started when they hurled what police say may have been a bundle of fireworks through his front window.

The trio managed to get away but the man doused the fire at the Keperra home with a garden hose.

Police are at the scene.

Police arrest man accused of handgun home invasion, Toowoomba [Chronicle - 5/11/14]

Pregnant woman punched in Melbourne road rage attack

Nine MSN [5/11/14]:

A man has allegedly punched a pregnant woman in the stomach and attacked a policeman after a car accident in Melbourne.

Police say the man hit the 26-year-old woman in the face and abdomen and then punched the policeman after the crash in Broadmeadows on Tuesday night.

It's alleged the man's car crossed four lanes of traffic at a set of traffic lights and collided with the woman's oncoming car.

Police used capsicum spray to subdue him after the attack.

The pregnant woman and policeman are being treated in hospital.

The alleged attacker, who also suffered minor injuries, is being questioned.

Serious traffic crash, Laidley

QPS Media [5/11/14]:

Police are at the scene of a serious traffic crash on Rosewood Laidley Road in Laidley.

Initial investigations suggest that just before 10am a car and a truck have collided.

Diversions are in place from Rosewood via Long Gully in Grand Chester. Motorists are asked to avoid the area.

There is no further information at this time.

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 24hrs a day.

Fatal traffic crash, Davies Creek (near Mareeba)

QPS Media [4/11/14]:

A man has died following a single vehicle traffic crash at Davies Creek near Mareeba on October 23.

Around 11am, a car travelling west on the Kennedy Highway left the road and rolled.

A 77-year-old Trinity Beach man was transported to Mareeba Hospital before being conveyed to Cairns Base Hospital.

His condition deteriorated and was taken to Townsville Hospital the next day.

Police were advised the man passed away this morning.

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

Cruelty: It's what we're paid to do in Australia

News Mail [5/11/14]:

Bundaberg Regional Council have denied claims that a worker mistreated an injured animal by driving erratically after it was collected from a hit and run.

Twenty-two year old Brooke Fox took to social media to inform the community of what she described as a "cruel and disgusting" act..

Miss Fox said last Thursday she noticed a council vehicle turning on to the Tallon Bridge and as it passed her she saw a caged dog in the back.

"It drove past me - driving like a fool," Miss Fox said.

"I was sitting there, stopped in the turning lane; I saw the dog went flying from one side of the cage to the roof then to the other side.

"It was a black puppy which looked like it was only about four to five months old."

"I tried to follow the car but lost it shortly after."

Miss Fox said she was very upset by what she had witnessed and took to Facebook to see if she could find the owner of the dog to notify them of what had occurred.

"I posted on the local classifieds page and had a big response from that with over 300 comments," she said.

"Even a person who knew the worker posted on Facebook before the worker himself fully admitted it was him.

"It was only that I took notice of the dangerous driving and I was gobsmacked at the treatment of the dog that I posted something.

"You just don't let that sort of thing happen."

Miss Fox said she reported the matter to the council and was informed it would be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

Health and Regulatory spokesman Wayne Honor said the council had investigated the matter after being notified by a concerned resident.

"After speaking with staff and assessing other systems we were unable to validate these claims," Mr Honor said.

"It has been identified that Council had been contacted by a community member after a wandering dog was backed over by a vehicle. A contract worker had attended the scene with the assistance of a Council Officer before the animal was transported to a veterinarian clinic to receive treatment.

"The council officer who assisted was able to confirm that the employee in question was driving at a reasonable and safe speed."

Miss Fox said if she owned the dog she would definitely want to know about the behaviour she witnessed.

"I was disgusted by the treatment of the dog," Miss Fox said.

"I was really upset so vented on Facebook and that's when it went from there with the support from locals.

"If it was my dog I would go to more lengths with the situation."

Charters Towers: Flying foxes return to what remains of their habitat after being cruelly dispersed [ABC - 3/11/14]:

... Bat conservationist Liz Downes said most removals were expensive and did not achieve lasting results.

Instead, councils should be using the money to find ways to co-exist with the animals, she said.

"They're a native mammal and they have been here for many thousands of years, so we cannot remove them," she said.

"Trying to just boot them out from one place, they will either come back or they'll just move somewhere else which may be equally problematic."

Brisbane City Council dismiss coal dust concerns

Chronicle [5/11/14]:

Calls to cover coal trains from south-east mines running through Ipswich and Brisbane suburbs raised before the Brisbane City Council have been dismissed as a Queensland Government concern.

Clean Air Queensland campaign coordinator Michael Kane addressed the council on Tuesday where he said increasing coal activity outside Toowoomba and Ipswich would have health impacts for the entire south-east corner.

Mr Kane called on the council to declare Brisbane a coal-dust free city and ensure coal trains were covered.

"The technology and infrastructure to substantially mitigate the serious health risks posed by coal dust already exists, we aren't really asking that much," he said.

"The Brisbane City Council urgently need to show leadership on this issue as the coal industry refuses to admit there is a problem and the State Government is ignoring the problem even though Premier Campbell Newman has previously been supportive of covering coal trains."

Mr Kane said he represented other concerned groups including the Oakey Coal Action Alliance, Rosewood and District Protection Society and Clean Air Toowoomba.

A Queensland Resources Council spokesman said the Queensland Environment Department monitored coal dust and its impact had been studied numerous times.

After Mr Kane's submissions, which were made before a packed public gallery, environment committee chair Cr Matthew Bourke said the issue was a State Government issue and outside council jurisdiction.

However, Mr Kane said the council had a "moral responsibility" to end coal dust which more trains from mines outside Brisbane were causing.

Despite the council dismissing the issue, Mr Kane said some councillors supported his submission.

Douglas Shire Council bans CSG

Yahoo [5/11/14]:

A far north Queensland council has banned future coal seam gas mining in the region amid fears it will affect water quality.

Douglas Shire Council lies to the north of Cairns and includes the towns of Mossman, Port Douglas and takes in the Daintree area.

Councillors voted on Tuesday to ban any future coal seam gas projects in the region.

Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu said there had been no CSG sites proposed in the area but the council wanted to take a proactive stance against the industry.

"Communities that really pull together make it far more difficult for mining companies to enter our shire boundaries when they know that the community is opposed to that," she told ABC Radio.

"We're very concerned about the impact on water quality and we do have some of our rivers and streams that do have origin from outside of our shire."

Ms Leu said the council would encourage neighbouring shires to oppose the CSG industry, including calling on them to back efforts by the anti-CSG lobby group Lock the Gate.

"We're going to be encouraging people to sign what's called a call to country, which is found on the Lock the Gate website," she said.

"We're also sending letters to our local state and federal members and petitioning the prime minister."

Mate's death leads to cancer cluster investigation

West Australian [5/11/14]:

The best mate of a firefighter who died after working at the Success fire station says a recent fourth kidney cancer diagnosis at the station convinced him his workplace needed to be investigated.

Cian Evans and Rob Reed worked together at the Hammond Road station for nine years until Mr Reed died in October 2009, 10 months after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

The station was temporarily closed on Monday because of fears that it could be a cancer cluster site.

Four firefighters who worked there were diagnosed with kidney cancer within six years. Mr Reed was the first to be diagnosed.

The United Firefighters Union of WA yesterday raised concerns about a Water Corporation water treatment plant near the fire station and called for an investigation into whether it could have caused the cancers.

Mr Evans, who still worked at the Success station until this week when its firefighters were moved to the Hope Valley station as a precaution, said he was relieved that they had been relocated.

He said he and his colleagues did not want to work again at the Success station, which opened in 2000, until they got answers.

"From a statistical point of view, it just seems too high and without testing all the guys in the fire service, it appears it is currently isolated to Success fire station," Mr Evans said.

"That is the basis of our fear at the station - that prompted us to request to be relocated."

Mr Evans said Mr Reed had his kidney removed and went back to work but secondary cancer later killed him.

"He was my best mate," he said. "We were thick as thieves and it was just a shock, there was no thought that it was something that would continue on.

"I guess I got on with life but there was another diagnosis not long after that. We certainly raised concerns at that point with the medicos, saying the time frame was pretty tight.

"They settled us down and allayed those fears by saying it was just a coincidence but subsequently this year we've had one in May and another just last week confirmed as kidney cancer."

A Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman said extensive testing by an independent contractor at the Success station to determine whether there were any possible exposures, including water or soil, would start this week.

UFU WA secretary Kevin Jolly said the Jandakot water treatment plant was of concern and needed to be analysed vigorously but other possible causes included the soil in the area.

A Water Corporation spokeswoman said the fire station received water from the integrated water supply scheme - not directly from the Jandakot treatment plant - and water-quality testing was carried out both within the plant and the scheme.

She said the fire station was not within the plant's 200m buffer zone.

Hit-and-run suspect charged in Northern Territory

Nine MSN [4/11/14]:

A man has been charged over the hit-and-run death of a nine-year-old boy in the Northern Territory.

Jack Sultan-Page was riding his bike on Davoren Circuit in the Palmerston suburb of Moulden when he was hit by a car on Saturday afternoon.

He died in hospital not long afterwards.

An off-duty police officer spotted a vehicle matching its description parked in a driveway in a nearby suburb on Sunday, and police took a 21-year-old man in for questioning the same day.

He's been charged with five offences, including hit and run, possession of cannabis and methamphetamine, and administering a dangerous drug.

Police bail has been refused, and he will appear in Darwin Magistrates Court on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Rolls-Royce to cut 2,600 staff, appoints new finance chief

Reuters [4/11/14]:

British engineer Rolls-Royce plans to cut 2,600 jobs to save money and has replaced its finance director, aiming to restore confidence following two profit warnings in eight months.

The world's second-largest maker of aircraft engines said the job cuts, which will mostly come in the Aerospace division and will take 18 months to complete, were designed to save around 80 million pounds a year once the redundancy programme was complete.

Rolls-Royce, which dates back to 1884 and has around 55,000 staff worldwide, has traditionally had lower margins than market leader General Electric, meaning it can be undercut by its rival.

"We are taking determined management action and accelerating our progress on cost," said Chief Executive John Rishton. "The measures announced today will not be the last, however they will contribute towards Rolls-Royce becoming a stronger and more profitable company."

The majority of the aerospace jobs are in Britain and the United States and the need to cut numbers comes as the focus on Rolls' key Trent engines moves from a development to production phase, requiring fewer engineers.

The development of new facilities has also made the group more efficient, requiring fewer staff, and a move to reorganise the group into two divisions has reduced the number of management jobs.

The announcement comes almost three weeks after Rolls issued a major profit warning, saying deteriorating economic conditions meant profit would not rise next year as previously forecast, sending its shares plunging by 16 percent at the time.

The warning was the second such downgrade in eight months and paved the way for another year of stagnation after more than a decade of strong growth. It also prompted concern that the company did not have sufficient visibility over its future earnings.


Ninety-year-old man faces jail for giving food to homeless people

Independent [4/11/14]:

Arnold Abbott risks being fined $500 and spending time in prison after police officers apprehended him while he was handing out meals to homeless people in a park on Sunday.

He was arrested and charged along with two ministers from the Sanctuary Church, which prepares hundreds of meals to dish out every week in their kitchen, while onlookers shouted to officers "shame on you!"

Mr Abbott said: "One of police officers came over and said ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I was carrying a weapon."

He added: "These are the poorest of the poor, they have nothing, they don't have a roof over their heads. How do you turn them away?"

In 1999, Mr Abbott sued the City of Fort Lauderdale after he was banned from feeding the homeless on the beach and the court found that the rule was against the Constitution. The new law - which has come into effect or is planned to in Seattle, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, and Philadelphia - was passed last week.

Ron Book, a city lobbyist, told the US newspaper Sun Sentinel: "Whatever discourages feeding people on the streets is a positive thing."

Mr Abbott, who describes himself as his "brother's keeper" who believes "love thy neighbour as thyself", is planning to sue the city again and intends to continue his good-hearted deeds.

The new regulations require groups to be at least 500 feet away from residential properties and food sites are restricted to one per city block, but charities have criticised the rules as forms of implementing social cleansing.

Michael Stoops, community organiser at the National Coalition for the Homeless, told NBC News: "Economic development and tourism don't mesh well with homeless folks and the agencies that serve them."

Mr Abbott set up Love Thy Neighbour in memory of his late wife Maureen in order to continue the humanitarian work they both did by regularly making and sharing food at Holiday Park and Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Germany's Deutsche Bahn set for 'longest rail strike'

BBC [4/11/14]:

The train drivers' union in Germany has announced a four-day walk-out over pay, which reports say will be the country's longest ever rail strike.

The strike, which starts on Wednesday, was called after talks between national operator Deutsche Bahn and the GDL union broke down on Monday.

GDL wants a 5% pay rise for 20,000 drivers and a shorter working week.

If it goes ahead, it will be the sixth round of industrial action to hit Deutsche Bahn since September.

Millions of passengers were hit during a 50-hour strike in October over the dispute.

In a statement, GDL said the strike would take place from 15:00 local time (14:00 GMT) on Wednesday for freight trains and from 02:00 on Thursday for passenger trains. It would not end until 04:00 on Monday.

A major sticking point in negotiations was the GDL union's demand to negotiate on behalf of other train staff, including conductors and restaurant staff.

According to the Associated Press, Deutsche Bahn said it had offered a raise of 5% over 30 months to the drivers but would not accept pay deals for other employees.

But GDL chairman Claus Weselsky said in a statement that the union's "fundamental right" to negotiate on behalf of its members was "in danger and with it the function of unions as such".

The strikes threaten to bring travel chaos to the capital Berlin and the whole of Germany as it prepares to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at the weekend.

The train drivers' previous strike hit about two-thirds of the rail network.

Germany's government is expected to produce a draft law later this year aimed at stopping small numbers of employees paralysing large parts of the country's infrastructure through strike action.

Mexico detains fugitive mayor and wife over missing students

France 24 [4/11/14]:

Mexican police have detained a fugitive ex-mayor and his wife, who are accused of involvement in an attack by police that left six people dead and 43 college students missing.

Jose Luis Abarca, the former mayor of the southern city of Iguala, and his wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda "were detained by federal police in Mexico City", a spokesman said.

"There was no violence in the operation," he said, adding that the couple was taken to federal prosecutors to be interrogated.

The students were abducted by police in league with the Guerreros Unidos local drug gang in the southwestern city of Iguala after clashes erupted there on the night of September 26, sparking a huge manhunt.

The arrests come more than a month since the students vanished in a case that has drawn international outrage and exposed Mexico's struggle to tame police corruption and gang violence.

The students remain missing despite a vast search operation in the state of Guerrero, where a dozen mass graves containing 38 unidentified bodies have been discovered.

Abarca, his wife and the city's police chief went on the run two days after the attack.

Authorities say Abarca ordered the officers to confront the students over fears that they would derail a speech by his wife, who was the head of the town's child protection agency.

Murdoch's propaganda sheet says Transfield hasn't found evidence to back claims of abuse at Nauru refugee concentration camp

Noisy start to #Transfield AGM in Sydney today as cleaners protest against cuts to leave days

Image: @jennywiggins - Journalist, Australian Financial Review


Transfield Services has raised its full-year profit guidance ahead of its annual general meeting in Sydney as it defended its rejection of a $1 billion takeover bid from Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial. ... [Australian Financial Review - 5/11/14]

How many times have the ABC reported this and it never eventuates?

Why won't they report what is happening with the PNG Supreme Court hearing into the constitutionality of Australia's refugee death camp on Manus Island?

ABC [5/11/14]:

Papua New Guinea will start making final decisions on the refugee status of asylum seekers detained on Manus Island and prepare them for resettlement in PNG.

PNG's cabinet yesterday asked immigration minister Rimbink Pato to finalise refugee status determinations.

Those deemed refugees will be moved out of detention and given training and help in finding jobs in PNG.

"These people will not yet be permanently resettled," Mr Pato said.

During a visit by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott last month, PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill announced that a draft resettlement policy was being scrapped and ordered fresh consultations about refugee settlement.

"While this policy is being redeveloped, genuine refugees will be given visas and moved from the Manus Regional Processing Centre to a new purpose-built facility in East Lorengau," Mr Pato said.

Refugees will be given training in English, the national language of Tok Pisin and PNG culture.

The new Australian-funded facility will be run by PNG's Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority and will be staffed by Papua New Guineans.


Refugee resettlement can only occur with UNHCR guidance - anything else is exile.

If there really is another "facility" being built for refugees on Lorengau, why doesn't Liam Cochrane travel to Manus and show the Australian people?

Also, calling the brutal attack on refugees at Australia's death camp on Manus a "riot" is government and G4S propaganda.

This was a brutal attack, not a “riot” - Refugee Action Collective – Manus Island Fact Sheet [2/3/14]

Toronto Film Review: ‘Labyrinth of Lies’

It will be interesting to see how many critics and commentators discern comparisons between Germans who really didn’t want to know the truth about what happened during World War II, and Americans who bristle at the very suggestion that torture recently was a tool of trade by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Variety [13/9/14]:

... Alexander Fehling (“Inglourious Basterds”) evinces an effective mix of naivete, idealism and implacable dedication — along with flashes of self-righteousness, and bottled-up rage that occasionally is uncorked – in the lead role of Johann Radmann, a composite of three real-life prosecutors who participated in the 1963-65 Frankfurt Auschwitz trials.

When he is introduced in 1958 Frankfurt, Radmann is a new hire at the public prosecutor’s office, and already impatient for tasks more meaningful than working in traffic court. His curiosity is piqued — and, yes, his ambition is stoked — during a brief encounter with Thomas Gneilka (Andre Szymanski), a gadfly journalist seeking justice for his artist friend Simon Kirsch (Johannes Krisch), an Auschwitz survivor who recently spotted one of his wartime tormentors teaching at a local school.

Trouble is, no police official wants to accept a complaint against the schoolteacher, and no one at the prosecutor’s office wants to file a charge. Radmann is initially bewildered by this institutionalized disinterest, especially after he discovers, after only the most cursory of investigations, that the teacher had been a member of the Waffen SS in Auschwitz.

It takes only a few more inquiries for Radmann to realize that this is not an isolated case, and that, as a more informed associate explains, “The public sector is full of Nazis. And none of them has anything to worry about.” Sure enough, as Radmann delves through the mountains of files stored at the U.S. Army Document Center, he finds evidence that thousands of former Nazis simply returned to their everyday lives following the war, and were left free to do so by a German citizenry eager to return to normalcy during the postwar era of the economic miracle.

His diligence, it should be noted, is not universally applauded. Much like the indefatigable truth teller of “The Nasty Girl,” Michael Verhoeven’s fact-inspired 1990 drama about a schoolgirl curious about her town’s Nazi past, Radmann finds his investigation is viewed as an annoying self-indulgence, or worse, by many around him.

But Prosecutor Gen. Fritz Bauer (the late Gert Voss, to whom this film is dedicated) is impressed by his young associate’s industriousness. As a result, Radmann gets the opportunity to build cases against the war criminals of Auschwitz. The only catch: Given the statutes of limitation for lesser crimes, he can prosecute only those who can be charged with murder. This, however, does not prove to be an insurmountable restriction.

After so many decades of exposure to books, novels, films and TV miniseries that have graphically catalogued the horrors of the Holocaust, contemporary audiences may find it difficult if not impossible to believe that, well into the 1950s, most Germans of Radmann’s generation knew nothing of what transpired at Auschwitz. And their elders — not just Nazis, but Germans who preferred to forget — were not of a mind to educate them. This is the phenomenon at the heart of “Labyrinth of Lies,” a prosaic but fascinating account of how a dense fog of nationwide amnesia was dissipated by the relentless pursuit of justice.


Horrifically titled "Beyond The Boats" yet another beyond fucking cynical attempt to "neutralise" Australia's bipartisan refugee concentration camps "issue"?

Beyond the boats: building an asylum and refugee policy for the long term [Centre for Policy Development - 5/11/14]:

Report from a high level roundtable on asylum and refugee policy convened by CPD, Australia21 and the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law (UNSW)

Now that the acute phase of boat arrivals appears over, Beyond the boats urges all parties to use this opportunity to construct an overarching national asylum and refugee policy for the long term.

Key recommendations include increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake, phasing out mandatory detention apart from initial screening and establishing a regional Track II dialogue.

The nine-point framework presented focuses on managing arrivals, conditions and treatment, and regional and community engagement.

To make an immediate and appreciable difference the report recommends expanding pathways for humanitarian settlement, such as through orderly departure arrangements, swift determination of claims and improved conditions including work rights.

A regional Track II dialogue on forced migration is also proposed to help officials to look beyond electoral cycles.

The recommendations recognise the broad framework of existing refugee policy commands cross party support, but seeks to build on this to provide a more constructive and humane way forward that is consistent with Australian values.


ALP National Conference; the Centre for Policy Development [New Matilda - 7/4/07]

Calls for Australia to withdraw from UN Refugee Convention [AUDIO - 17/6/13]:

There's growing concern Australia's support for the United Nations Refugee Convention is attracting asylum seekers to Australia.

Former Labor Immigration minister Gerry Hand has suggested withdrawing from the convention, arguing it may lead to a drop in asylum seeker numbers.

MIGRATION AMENDMENT BILL 1992 - Second Reading - House of Representatives [5/5/92]:

Mr HAND (Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs)

... I now wish to foreshadow major Government amendments to the Bill which I will move during the committee stage. The Government is conscious of the extraordinary nature of the measures which will be implemented by the amendment aimed at boat people. I believe it is crucial that all persons who come to Australia without prior authorisation not be released into the community. Their release would undermine the Government's strategy for determining their refugee status or entry claims. Indeed, I believe it is vital to Australia that this be prevented as far as possible. The Government is determined that a clear signal be sent that migration to Australia may not be achieved by simply arriving in this country and expecting to be allowed into the community. ...

"The Australian government's attempts to eject 37 Cambodian boat people applying for refugee status is racist, heartless and uncaring", says Rosanna Barbero, a member of the Action Committee for Refugees in Australia. ... [Green Left Weekly - 3/6/92]

Immigration minister Gerry Hand bluntly dismissed the hunger strike by 56 Chinese refugees detained at Port Hedland in an interview on Channel 10 on March 23. "If I was to intervene now", said Hand, "I may as well get the rules, tear them up and throw them away and say, 'Well, if you just come here, that's sufficient for you to stay in Australia'". ... [Green Left Weekly 8/4/92]

What is Mandatory Detention? [The Asylum and Refugee Law Project - 8/7/13]

Australia's founding father of indefinite mandatory detention [ABC - 11/11/11]

Iraq: as cold weather hits displaced persons, UN steps up humanitarian appeal

UN Media Release [4/11/14]:

As temperatures plummet across Iraq amid a steadily advancing cold season, humanitarian resources are urgently required in order to satisfy the needs of over 1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) scattered across the country, a senior United Nations official in Iraq warned today.

“Winter is here, and in many parts of the country displaced populations are already being hit with heavy rains, winds, storms and low temperatures,” Jacqueline Badcock, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, said in a press release.

“Warm winter clothes and shoes for a minimum of 450,000 people, including 225,000 children are urgently needed,” she added.

Ms. Badcock’s warning accompanies an appeal launched by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and calling for $173.1 million to address “the immediate needs” of an estimated 1.26 million IDPs.

Over the past several months, Iraq has been convulsed by increasing instability amid an ongoing offensive by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), unleashing wave after wave of internally displaced persons and refugees.

Since January 2014, an estimated 1.9 million people have been displaced across Iraq as they fled the violence and persecution of ISIL’s recent offensives. According to OCHA, close to 50 per cent of the displaced have found refuge in the high altitude areas of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, where winter temperatures can plummet to well-below zero.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands have found temporary shelter in unfinished buildings, informal settlements, or overwhelmed public structures, as well as in the open air.

OCHA notes that of the total requested amount, $46.3 million is needed for “shelter and related items” while $70.2 million is urgently needed for food. Without that funding, the agency warned, food assistance could “abruptly stop after January 2015.”

“Unless funds are forthcoming, the 1.8 million people currently being target for food assistance will not get the assistance they need,” Ms. Badcock cautioned.

The current OCHA appeal comes amid a worsening humanitarian situation across Iraq, affecting some 5.2 million Iraqis, and falls under a more comprehensive humanitarian ask of $2.2 billion envisioned in the UN agency’s updated Strategic Response Plan (SRP).

Born in exile, Syrian children face threat of statelessness

UNHCR Media Release [4/11/14]:

Amid the tragedy of Syrian children born into exile, another, largely hidden catastrophe is unfolding.

Undocumented and with no proof of their nationality, many Syrian refugee children face a dangerous and uncertain future due to the risk of statelessness.

Statelessness is a problem that affects at least 10 million people worldwide. Stateless individuals are often unable to obtain identity documents and suffer severe restrictions on their rights and freedom of movement.

Unregistered children are especially at risk of becoming stateless, as without birth certificates they lack a key means of proving their nationality. They may also be denied access to health care and education, and face an increased risk of exploitation, such as trafficking for commercial sex work, illegal adoption, or child labour.

UNHCR Director of International Protection Volker Türk said that many Syrian refugee children had not been able to acquire documentation which proved they were Syrian nationals. "Unless this can be resolved at a later date, these children may be left stateless," he noted.

In a bid to address this and other problems related to statelessness, UNHCR is today launching a global campaign aimed at ending statelessness within 10 years. Together with a special report on the issue, the campaign features a 10-point global action plan to end statelessness, which seeks both to resolve existing crises and to ensure no child is born stateless in the future.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, more than 50,000 Syrian children have been born in exile in neighbouring countries. Under Syrian law, nationality can only be passed to a child by the father. In the midst of a war that has robbed hundreds of thousands of Syrian children of their fathers, this has dramatically increased the risk of statelessness.

Rasha* gave birth to her twin girls in Jordan, after fleeing from Syria alone and pregnant. Her husband Sayid was arrested in Syria after refusing compulsory military service, and she has heard no word of him since.

"It wasn't safe for me to stay after that – I left immediately, without any papers," she told UNHCR. "Now my daughters can't get birth certificates, because I don't have my marriage papers and I don't have a husband next to me either. I have no way to prove my girls are Syrian, and I can't give them my nationality on my own."

Even when the father is present, in most refugee host countries it is only possible for parents to register a birth with an official marriage certificate. But many who fled Syria were forced to leave everything behind, or report that their documents were lost or destroyed during flight.

As a result, a UNHCR survey indicates that 70 per cent of Syrian children born in Lebanon are without an official birth certificate – a situation thought to be broadly reflected throughout the region.

Unable to legally obtain a birth certificate in their host country, some refugees have taken huge risks to try to resolve the situation. Some mothers report smuggling their newborns back across the border into Syria in order to register them as if they had been born there. Others say their husbands or other family members returned to Syria to try to get the documents needed to register the birth, sometimes never to return.

To try to address the issue, UNHCR and its partners have distributed more than 250,000 leaflets on birth registration procedures, and animated films on the subject are shown to thousands of refugees each day at registration and community centres across the region.

"UNHCR is also working in partnership with governments and refugee communities to address the situation," Türk adds. "Legal aid initiatives have been established in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq to help refugee families complete the procedure if they encounter difficulties, with 3,000 refugee families counselled each month on birth registration in Lebanon alone."

Host countries are also adopting a flexible approach to registering refugee births in their territory. The Jordanian authorities have established civil registry departments and courts inside the country's two main refugee camps, Za'atari and Azraq, to help Syrian refugees who would otherwise struggle to access government offices in the cities.

The ultimate goal is to ensure the registration of every Syrian child born in exile, in order to safeguard their rights and protection as refugees and, once conditions inside Syria allow it, to lay the foundations for their safe return home.

* Name changed for protection purposes

By Amit Sen and Charlie Dunmore in Amman, Jordan and Ana Pollard in Beirut, Lebanon

UNHCR launches 10-year global campaign to end statelessness [UNHCR Media Release - 4/11/14]

US considers expanded airstrikes in Syria

The Hill [4/11/14]:

U.S. officials on Tuesday refused to close the door on whether forces could target Jabhat al-Nusra after the al Qaeda affiliate defeated two U.S.-backed moderate rebel groups in northern Syria.

"I can say that as a general matter, the United States remains concerned about all threats emanating from Syria, including the threat that's posed from by the Nusra Front," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a briefing, using the English name for the group.

"We're watching it very closely, we're not unmindful of the violence, and deep-seated tension between these groups but I would not get ahead of decisions that haven't been made," added Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby at a Pentagon briefing later.

Reports over the weekend said Jabhat al-Nusra is now poised to take over a vital corridor, called the Bab al-Hawa crossing, on the border with Turkey that is used to supply those groups with military and humanitarian aid.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the U.S. considering bombing the group after reports over the weekend that it had defeated two moderate rebel groups in northern Syria, the Syrian Revolutionary Front and Harakat Haz, both of which have received training and arms from the U.S.

Iraqi Spring Media Center [4/11/14]:

The aimless arresting continue in Balad Ruz and the arrested persons are taken by militias and government's forces to unknown place.............

If you threaten US interests, you may be destroyed – ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone [RT - 1/11/14]

Why is there such an explosion of violence across the Middle East? Here's an alternative view, Robert Fisk [Independent - 31/10/14]:

Why such an epic explosion of violence? It feels strange to ask these questions of Dr Bouthaina Shaaban, one of President Bashar al-Assad’s close advisers and former translator to his father, Hafez. Her office is spotless, flowers on the table, her female secretary preparing a morning round-up of the world’s press on the Middle East, the coffee hot and sweet.

At one point, when she spoke of the destruction in Syria and the mass attacks on the region’s Arab armies, it was difficult to believe that this was Damascus and that a few hundred miles to the east Isis have been cutting the throats of their hostages. Indeed, Shaaban finds it difficult even to define what Isis really is.

Not so with America and the war in Syria.

“Right from the beginning of this crisis, I never truly felt that the issue was about President Assad,” she says. “It was about the weakening and destruction of Syria. There has been so much destruction – of hospitals, schools, factories, government institutions, you name it. I think the Americans take their battles against leaders and presidents – but only as a pretext to destroy countries. Saddam was not the real target –it was Iraq. And it’s the same for Libya now – America told everyone it was about Gaddafi. The real issue is about weakening the Arab armies, whoever they are. When the Americans invaded Iraq, what was the first thing they did? They dissolved the Iraqi army.”


New Zealand PM rules out sending combat troops to Iraq [RNZI - 5/11/14]

House of Windsor dogwhistles its special brand of warmongering, anti-Muslim bigotry [Nine MSN - 5/11/14]

NATO asks US for more troops in Baltic states, Poland to counter ‘Russia threat’

RT [4/11/14]:

The North Atlantic bloc has asked the Pentagon to send more troops to Eastern Europe to counter the perceived threat of Russia. There are currently 750 US soldiers in Poland and the Baltic states, but the organization believes that this is not enough.

The alliance cites the current situation in Ukraine, as well as Russian military aircraft “incursions” into the airspace of the organization’s allies.

“Because of the increased pressure that we feel in Eastern Europe now, and because of the assurance measures that we are taking in the Baltics, in Poland and in Romania, we require additional rotational presence,” Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, said at a Pentagon briefing Monday morning, which was reported by the US military website, Stripes.

“What we are doing is working with the Army and other services to use their regionally aligned forces to get them forward, to get their experience forward, to bring that capability to interact with our partners and allies,” Breedlove said.

US tanks have arrived in Latvia in mid-October as NATO flexed its muscles in an apparent show of strength towards Moscow. The 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood in Texas are also being deployed in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland in a mission lasting three months, to provide training support and are equipped with M-1 Abrams tanks and Bradley infantry armored vehicles.

The commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, John Di Giambattista said at the time: "This is more than just a training mission. This is more than just a trip across the Atlantic; this is more than a multinational training exercise. This is how we demonstrate our nations' commitment to reassure our NATO allies."

NATO has been concerned by what it called a significant rise in the number of incursions into European airspace by Russian fighter jets and bombers.

"What is significant is that across history, most of these incursions have been very small groups of airplanes, sometimes singletons or at most two aircraft," Breedlove said. "What you saw this past week was a larger, more complex formation of aircraft carrying out a little deeper, and I would say a little bit more provocative, flight path."

He believes the moves by Russia are to present itself as a “great power.” The general added, “My opinion is they're messaging us. They're messaging us that they are a great power. Moscow wanted to show it can exert influence on the alliance's calculations,” he said.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was not very concerned about Russian incursions into European airspace. During a news conference with Slovenia’s prime minister last week, she admitted there had been an increase in Russian military activity, but said: “I am not acutely worried that a bigger violation of airspace is taking place.”

Dutch Experts Arrive in Donetsk to Remove MH17 Wreckage: DPR Deputy Prime Minister [RIA Novosti - 4/11/14]

Libya's Italian-era gazelle statue disappears in Tripoli

BBC [4/11/14]:

An iconic Italian-era statue of a naked woman caressing a gazelle has mysteriously disappeared from a famous roundabout in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The historic bronze statue sat proudly in a fountain until Tuesday morning, but no trace of it is now left.

It is not known who pulled it down, but many blame Islamist militias.

They have been accused of targeting Ottoman-era mosques and tombs, which they regard as idolatrous, since 2012.

The BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says the statue overlooked the Mediterranean sea, and had been around since Italian colonial rule.

The historical landmark was known to locals as the "Gazelle roundabout", she says.

An official statement from the office of Tripoli's municipal authorities said they condemned the disappearance.

"We call on our Libyan brothers to protect Libya's heritage and antiquities. We have contacted the authorities and they have opened an investigation into the matter and we promise the residents of Tripoli that we will get the criminals," it said.


New Zealand: Treaty settlement passes first reading

RNZI [5/11/14]:

Another Treaty settlement bill has passed its first reading in Parliament.

The Te Kawerau a Maki Claims Settlement Bill included $6.5 million dollars' commercial redress for the Tamaki-based iwi, allowing it to acquire 86 percent of the Riverhead forest north of Auckland.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said the legislation put to rest long-standing grievances.

He told Parliament the iwi lost most of its land through extensive and excessive Crown purchases.

"What reserves were set aside were never protected and were gradually alienated from tribal control, at the end of this process Te Kawerau a Maki were rendered landless.

"This had a severe impact on the health and well-being of their community."

The Government also wanted to pass the Te Hiku Claims Settlement Bill today.

The Bill would ratifie a long-awaited Treaty settlement and would give control of Far North 90-mile beach to iwi.

Ngati Kuri, Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, and Te Rarawa signed off on the agreement with the Crown two years ago.

They had already received a large part of their cash settlement, but passing legislation will release farms and Te Oneroa a Tohe - 90-mile Beach - into iwi control.

Te Rarawa chief Treaty negotiator Haami Piripi, said management of the beach was an important milestone,and there would be significant changes.

He said this would include controlling vehicle access to prevent further damage to the environment.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Planning Committee Bill will also be given a first reading as Parliament was sitting under extended hours as the Government was keen to make progress on several bills.

Palestinians to Submit UN Resolution 'this Month'

Naharnet [4/11/14]:

The Palestinians will submit a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council later this month calling for an end date for Israeli occupation, a senior official said on Tuesday.

The text, which the Palestinians have been preparing for weeks, is expected to be vetoed by permanent member the United States.

But officials in Ramallah have said that will not deter them after round upon round of failed peace talks with Israel.

"No other solution has been proposed by the United States" to achieve peace and the establishment of a Palestinian state, senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Wassel Abu Yusef told AFP.

"The U.S. administration is pushing to resume bilateral negotiations, even while it's clear that these have failed throughout the last few years."

The last round of talks broke down in April after nine months of fruitless US-brokered meetings which were overshadowed by persistent Israeli settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.

The Palestinians have been under intense pressure not to push forward with the Security Council resolution -- including with alleged threats of cuts to US aid.

PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo had said last month that the text would be submitted by the end of October but that target date passed.

The Palestinians have said that if Washington does wield its veto, they will seek membership of the International Criminal Court, where they could sue Israeli officials over alleged war crimes in the occupied territories.

... Gough would have loved to have spoken today, but the rules of the game disqualify him.


Until the last few months of his life, Gough continued to go into his office four times a week. ...

Tony Whitlam


by William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

... He asked me to remind of his vision to promote equality, involve the people in decision making processes, liberate talents and uplift their horizons. ...

Senator John Faulkner

... My chances in this nation were a part of the Whitlam program.


He harboured not a bone of racial ethnic gender prejudice in his body. ...

It behoves a society to ensure everyone has chance and opportunity.


Noel Pearson

... I am the beneficiary of free tertiary education ... I am the beneficiary of good free health care


I was but three when he passed by, but I shall be grateful 'til the day I die. ...

Cate Blanchett's cathartic speech at Former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's memorial service, received acclamation (and also stony stares from fascist politicians in the front row). [5/11/14]


The ALP laid the groundwork for everything the Coalition have done - and are about to attempt [Sydney Morning Herald [30/12/13]:

Anne Davies

The announcement of a $3.50 co-payment for people who were bulk-billed under Medicare in the August 1991 budget arguably cost prime minister Bob Hawke the Labor leadership.

But the political times were very different and the issue of tinkering with Medicare is far more emotional within the Labor Party than it is likely to prove within the Coalition.

In 1991, Hawke was in the countdown to an election, not the first year of a new government. He was also facing leadership tensions: he had seen off one challenge from his rival, Paul Keating, who was smouldering on the backbench.

Hawke and his deputy Brian Howe had become convinced that without further price signals, the costs of healthcare would continue to grow.

Perhaps because they knew it would be unpopular, they unveiled the $3.50 co-payment charge without consultation as part of the budget. It was coupled with a cut in the rebate so that people who paid their doctor directly were also hit with an increase of about $3.50 in healthcare costs.

Hawke immediately faced a backlash from the public, the Australian Medical Association and the Left and Centre Left of his party.

The AMA accused Hawke of deceiving it because pre-budget discussions had been entirely about the cut in the rebate. The architect of Medicare, Dr John Deeble, slammed the plan as ''unjustified, ill-advised and destructive''.

The ACTU stepped in as well, saying it was ''not convinced that the [$3.50] co-payment proposal necessarily solves the problem of overservicing''.

But the real trouble was within the ALP itself. The Left and Centre Left factions briefed the media that the co-payment would hit the poorest.

The ALP executive made its displeasure known, too. Then ALP national secretary Bob Hogg said the changes would ''not be a plus'' at the next election.

Howe was forced to suspend the introduction and set up a backbench committee to consider other options.

The committee came back with a slapdown for Hawke. ''The introduction of co-payment for direct billing actually implements the first stage of Liberal Party policies and puts at risk the community's widespread acceptance of Medicare,'' its report said.

The states were also up in arms and some threatened to introduce outpatient fees to stop people flocking to hospitals to avoid the new upfront charge.

In the end, a compromise was reached with the Left, for a reduced $2.50 charge, as a face-saver for Hawke.

But the battle had left such bitterness that it was only a matter of time before Keating moved. As treasurer, Keating had opposed a co-payment charge and made sure his views were well known to his caucus colleagues. Just a week before Christmas he ousted Hawke.

The payment was gone by March 1992.

The Abbott government's renewed pursuit of a co-payment has been given impetus by a research paper by Terry Barnes, a former senior health adviser to Tony Abbott.

It argues that co-payments would provide a ''simple yet powerful reminder that we have a responsibility to look after our own health and not simply pass on all the costs of and responsibility for caring for ourselves to fellow taxpayers''.

The issue might not be as divisive within the Coalition, but it will again draw opposition from doctors, welfare groups, pensioners and, importantly, from state governments, most of which are now Liberal.

Letter to the Editor, Australian Financial Review [7/11/12]:

I note, with a desperate weariness, the Commonwealth government’s Asian Century while paper has as a goal the elevation of at least 10 Australian universities in the global top 100.

Good luck. Had Labor Minister John Dawkins not forced our universities into unholy marriages with colleges of advanced education in the late 1980s, they might still be exemplars of academic excellence.

Instead, institutions rejoicing in the title of “university” are run by bureaucrats and train second-rate minds in disciplines like sports marketing, event management and logistics and supply chain management.

Academics who can scarcely construct a grammatical sentence themselves now supervise PhD students who, 30 years ago, would not have been invited to do an honours year.

Maybe one of these august educational institutions could offer a course called “Historical Revisionism and the Dawkins Revolution”. It would be a first, tentative step on the long road back to academic rigour.

I encourage our education ministers, state and federal, to enrol.

John Schumann

Adelaide SA


5 November 2014