Nevermind future appearances at The Hague: Australia's Department of Immigration to be purged of UGG boot wearing staff who are insufficiently fascist

Canberra Times [7/1/15]:

More than 8000 public servants at the Immigration Department face being breathalysed and drug tested in their offices under a tough new workplace regime.

There will also be a crackdown on second jobs, social media use and sloppy appearances among the department's public servants as the Customs agency hierarchy tightens its grip on Immigration.

Immigration's 8500 public servants were told just before the Christmas break that they will be subject to the same "integrity framework" as their new colleagues in Customs as the two departments merge to form the "Australian Border Force".


Three men stabbed, found on street, in Brisbane's southside

ABC [7/1/15]:

A man is dead and two others injured after a stabbing on Brisbane's southside.

Ambulance crews were called to a street in Macgregor at around 9:30 (AEST) where they found two men with stab wounds.

The men were taken to hospital, one with minor injuries, the other in a stable condition with neck and chest injuries.

Ambulance crews were then called to the same area where they found a man had been fatally stabbed in the chest.

Police have set up a crime scene.

Armed robbery, Cleveland

QPS Media [6/1/15]:

A man has been charged following an armed robbery at a Cleveland hairdressers this morning.

Police will allege a man approached a staff member at the Bloomfield Street business around 9am producing a syringe and demanding money.

After taking cash from the business the man also allegedly took money and a bank card from the staff member. The man then left after being disturbed by other staff.

It will be alleged the bank card was used to withdraw money.

The female staff member was not physically injured.

A 35-year-old man has been charged with one count each of enter premises with intent to commit indictable offence, fraud and obstruct police and two counts of armed robbery. He is expected to appear at the Cleveland Magistrates Court tomorrow (January 7).

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

UN Refugee Chief: World Losing Capacity to Prevent Conflict

Naharnet [6/1/15]:

The world is losing its ability to prevent conflicts and the lack of "effective leadership" has led to the worst displacement situation since World War II, the U.N. refugee chief warned Tuesday.

Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Ankara that the twin crises in Iraq and Syria had created a serious displacement situation and the world showed no effective leadership to address the challenges.

"The Syria and Iraq mega-crises, the multiplication of new crises and the old crises that seem never to die have created the worst displacement situation in the world since World War II," Guterres said in an address to the annual meeting of Turkey's ambassadors stationed abroad.

Over the last year, more than 13 million people have been displaced by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, he said.

Meanwhile, the crisis deepened in South Sudan spreading across the border into Chad while the situation aggravated in Libya and a new crisis emerged in Ukraine, he added.

"What this shows is that the international community has largely lost its capacity to prevent conflicts and solve conflicts," said Guterres.

"This is a world where indeed unpredictability and impunity are rules of the game. This is a world where there is no effective leadership.

"This is a world where conflicts multiply and the old ones are not solved and the result is, of course, a dramatic impact from the humanitarian point of view."

Guterres said in June that the number of people driven from their homes by conflict and crisis has now topped 50 million for the first time since World War II.

However he praised Turkey's "generous open-door policy" to accept refugees fleeing Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and Islamist militants.

Turkey, a vocal critic of the regime in Damascus, is home to 1.7 million Syrian refugees –- some of them are settled in camps near the border but many more are scattered throughout the country.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the government spent $5 billion on refugees alone and lamented that the international community’s contribution stood at a "modest level" calling for "genuine partnership and burden-sharing."

School attacks killed 160 Syrian children: UN

Daily Star [6/1/15]:

At least 160 children died in attacks on schools in war-ravaged Syria last year and the education of 1.6 million has been cut short by the fighting, the U.N. said Tuesday.

Schools should be "zones of peace", the U.N. children's agency said, adding that pupils should be allowed to study without risking death or injury.

"There were at least 68 attacks on schools in Syria (in 2014), which killed at least 160 children and injured 343," Christophe Boulierac, spokesman for UNICEF told reporters in Geneva.

"It is very probable that this is an underestimate," he added.

While many schools were caught in the crossfire of fighting that has been raging since March 2011, Boulierac said there were indications that some were deliberately targeted.

"Attacks on schools, teachers and students are further horrific reminders of the terrible price Syria's children are paying in a crisis approaching its fifth year," UNICEF's representative in Syria Hanaa Singer said in statement.

Between 1.3 and 1.6 million children in Syria are no longer able to attend school due to the war that has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced around half of the country's population, Boulierac said.

He expressed concern over the recent closure of numerous schools in areas partially or fully under the control of ISIS in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor governorates and parts of rural Aleppo.

"This is seriously affecting the schooling of an estimated 670,000 students," Boulierac said.

More than eight million Syrian children have been affected by the war, with 1.7 million now living as refugees, according to the latest U.N. figures.

Turkey, US set to train “moderate” Syria rebels as SNC rules out Moscow talks [Al Akhbar – 5/1/15]

Suicide bombings, clashes kill 23 in Iraq's Anbar: officers

Daily Star [6/1/15]:

Two suicide bombings followed by clashes in Iraq's Anbar province west of Baghdad killed 23 security personnel on Tuesday, officers and a doctor said.

The suicide bombers attacked a mosque in the Al-Jubba area of Anbar where anti-jihadi fighters were resting, killing 10, after which clashes broke out that left a further 13 security personnel dead and 21 wounded.

Al-Jubba is located near the Al-Asad Air Base -- where American military personnel are deployed -- and the town of Baghdadi, an area that has seen heavy fighting between security forces and ISIS.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but suicide bombings are a tactic almost exclusively employed by Sunni extremists in Iraq, including IS jihadists.

IS spearheaded a major offensive in June that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, including significant parts of Anbar.

Tribal fighters have played a key role in keeping the jihadis from gaining further ground in Anbar, and Iraqi forces are now providing training to tribesmen at Al-Asad.

In a meeting on Monday with Suhaib al-Rawi, the newly elected governor of embattled Anbar province, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for a "tribal revolution" against IS, the premier's office said.

He emphasized "the importance of the tribes and the sons of the province taking part in liberating their areas from the terrorist organisations".

Thousands flee intensifying India-Pakistan clashes

Reuters [6/1/15]:

Thousands of Indians have fled from their homes as fighting between India and Pakistan spread along a 200-km (124 mile) stretch of the border in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Tension between the nuclear-armed rivals has risen since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called off peace talks in August and clashes along stretches of their border have been erupting intermittently since October.

At least 10 Indian and Pakistani soldiers and civilians have been killed in fighting over the past week.

About 6,000 civilians in Indian-controlled Kashmir fled from their homes late on Monday as fighting moved to civilian areas, said Shantmanu, the divisional commissioner of Jammu region. About 4,000 left after fighting began last week.

"We had a narrow escape and there is a war-like situation," Sham Kumar, 54, from Sherpur village told Reuters. "Pakistani troops are using long-range weapons. It is the first time we have seen such intense shelling."

The violence comes days before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit India. President Barack Obama is also due to visit India later this month.

The United States has for years been trying to push the South Asian rivals to build better relations. Mistrust between India and Pakistan is a factor behind conflict in various parts of the region including Afghanistan.

Kumar said he left his village after a shell landed in a school about 3.5 km (2 miles) from the border.

Indian and Pakistani forces again exchanged gunfire and mortar bombs across parts of their border on Tuesday, an Indian Border Security Force official said.

"The firing is going on and we are giving befitting reply to Pakistani shelling," the official said.

Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment.

The rivals, who have fought two wars over Muslim-majority Kashmir, blame each other for the upsurge in clashes since October.

Afghanistan: Another rocket attack kills civilians in Helmand

Khaama [6/1/15]:

According to reports a rocket landed at a civilian house in the Shekhzo area of Nawzad district killing three people and injuring two others.

Farid Ahmad Obaid while confirming that incident said that the rocket was fired by the Taliban.

The incident took place last night, only days after a rocket killed at least 26 people and wounded over 50 others in Sangin district of the same province.

The ones died in the rocket attack were mostly women and kids as the rocket landed in a wedding party when women and kids were gathered to see the bride.

The bride herself who was seriously wounded who also passed away later.

An investigation was put in place by the president into the incident.

Israeli forces demolish shops in Bethlehem-area village

Maan [5/1/15]:

Israeli forces on Monday demolished several shops in a village near Bethlehem, a Ma'an reporter said.

Bulldozers destroyed Palestinian shops near the entrance of Hussan, with Israeli soldiers claiming the structures were built without permits.

Earlier Monday, Israeli forces raided Hebron and demolished a house under construction, locals said.

Local sources told Ma'an Israeli bulldozers demolished a house that was being built by Abd al-Rahim al-Jaabari in the Ein Bani Sleim area in eastern Hebron.

Israel rarely grants construction permits to Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and regularly demolishes structures built without permits.

Israeli bulldozers demolished at least 552 Palestinian structures in the West Bank in 2014, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

The first case the Palestinians will refer to the International Criminal Court will be the "crimes" Israel committed during summer 2014, including the Gaza war, a legal expert said Sunday. … [Middle East Eye – 5/1/15]

PNG: Police explain role in shooting tragedy

National [6/1/15]:

Police have confirmed that they were involved in a high-speed car-chase and had fired warning shots at the vehicle driven by a woman who was later found dead inside.

Lae Metropolitan Superintendent Iven Lakatani said police had joined officers from a security firm in chasing the vehicle driven by Moanna Pisimi at around 3.30am last Thursday.

But he did not say who had fired the shot which went through the rear window of her vehicle and hit her on the back of the head in the driver’s seat.

“That’s something for the (police) investigation to establish,” he said.

Lakatani held his first media conference yesterday since the death of Moanna, wife of R and Sons Construction managing director Thomas Pisim, along Back Road in Lae. He described her death as “an unfortunate incident.”

“It actually happened as a result of a high-speed car chase that started from Down Town to Top Town,” he said.

“In fact they drove past the police station. Initially Guard Dog (security firm) started the chase and after they went past the China Town police station, police who were on patrol got involved.

“Knowing that for a vehicle to drive at that speed at that time of the morning towards Back Road, which is a notorious place, that’s why police responded.

“And there were several attempts made to stop the vehicle along the way towards Malahang. Unfortunately the driver kept driving and the police didn’t know who was in there and who was driving.

“They continued the chase to Majestic Seafood. That’s where the vehicle may have veered off the road and a couple of warning shots were fired after attempts to stop it failed.”

He said the vehicle came to a stop somewhere between the main road and the temporary road. When police officers came out of their vehicle to check who was driving, he said she drove off again.

“That’s when shots were fired again to stop because if that was somebody genuine they would have stopped. All that came into the minds of the police was that this was a stolen vehicle driven by criminals and that the driver was trying to escape from police.

“So the only way the police had to stop the vehicle from moving was to shoot at the tires and to make sure that the vehicle stops so they can check.”

He said investigations started immediately at the crime scene on the morning of the incident and were continuing.

PNG court to hear challenge of O'Neill referral

RNZI [6/1/15]:

Lawyers for Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister will head to court tomorrow to challenge the legitimacy of his referral to a leadership tribunal for alleged misconduct in office.

Peter O'Neill was referred by the public prosecutor over allegations that cabinet didn't follow normal administrative processes when securing a 1.1 billion US dollar loan from the Swiss bank, UBS, last year.

In the National Court today, Justice Cannings granted Mr O'Neill's lawyers leave to challenge the original summons because they argue the public prosecutor has no constitutional power to refer to the tribunal.

Our correspondent, Todagia Kelola, says the challenge will be heard tomorrow.

"Basically it means that the leadership tribunal comprising three judges are now parties to this challenge by the Prime Minister."

The tribunal is scheduled to begin sitting on January the 26th.

Tsarnaev Trial Will Test What It Means To Be ‘Boston Strong’

Carol Rose, Executive Director ACLU of Massachusetts [Cognoscenti - 5/1/15]:

A 2-1 decision by a panel of federal appeals court judges on Saturday, denying a petition by defense attorneys to move or postpone the trial of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, means that jury selection will begin on Monday.

The process that led to this — described as “rushed and frenetic” in one judge’s dissent — also guarantees that serious due process concerns will keep this death penalty case alive on appeal and in the public eye for years and years to come.

It didn’t have to come to this. The government, represented by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz, have the option of proffering a plea agreement to Tsarnaev, namely, life without the possibility of parole in exchange for a guilty plea and no option to appeal. That would mean the case was over. Tsarnaev would be locked away, out of state, out of sight, for life. The media frenzy would end. All appeals would be foreclosed. Our collective focus could be on healing and support for the survivors and their families, and building for the positive future of our community.

Instead, the federal prosecutors chose to press forward with a death penalty trial. One can imagine various reasons for that decision. It’s a historic and high-profile case. A trial supports Holder’s position that federal civilian courts are capable of handling terrorism cases much better than Guantanamo’s loathsome military commissions. A death penalty trial will enable Ortiz and her prosecution team to tap into the calls for vengeance from a Boston community that remains traumatized by the attacks. It will feel like payback time.


Rios Montt Guatemala genocide retrial suspended

BBC [5/1/15]:

The retrial on genocide charges of Guatemala's ex-military ruler General Efrain Rios Montt has been suspended after it began.

The 88-year-old was wheeled into court on a stretcher, with his lawyer saying he was suffering from poor health.

But the court accepted defence appeals that one judge was not impartial.

The general was found guilty in 2013 of ordering mass killings of indigenous people in the early 1980s, but his conviction was later overturned.

Gen Rios Montt is the first former head of state to face genocide charges in his own country.

He and his former intelligence chief, Gen Jose Rodriguez, were tried in 2013 on charges of ordering the army to carry out a series of massacres in which 1,771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group were killed.

Over three days in the early 1980s, soldiers systematically killed hundreds of men, women and children, shooting or bludgeoning them to death and throwing bodies down a well.

Gen Rodriguez was acquitted while Gen Rios Montt was found guilty and sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Less than two weeks after Gen Rios Montt's conviction, Guatemala's highest court threw out the verdicts and ordered a retrial, arguing that the accused had been left without a lawyer at key stages of the trial.

The ruling annulled everything that had happened in the trial after 19 April 2013, the day when the defence team was expelled for accusing the presiding judge of failing to hear its legal challenges.

Gen Rios Montt and Gen Rodriguez have been under house arrest since.

Gen Rodriguez arrived at the tribunal in Guatemala City in a wheelchair on Monday saying that he did not fear a renewed trial.

At least 140 injured in Rio de Janeiro train collision

RT [6/1/15]:

Two trains have collided outside Rio de Janeiro, with at least 140 people injured in the incident, local media report. One of the trains, which had stopped at a station, was crashed into from behind by another, according to authorities.

The injured were taken to four major hospitals and there is an emergency unit providing support at the scene.

Of 129 people who were hospitalized, 47 have already been discharged and 60 should leave shortly, O Globo network reports. The others are undergoing tests to determine what procedures should be conducted.

The accident happened in Mesquita around 8:20 pm (22:20 GMT), near Rio de Janeiro, and trains were suspended in the area following the incident.

The army was summoned to assist rescue operations.

“My head and back are injured. I’m in great pain,” 53-year-old passenger Ana Claudia Pereira da Silva de Oliveira told oGlobo, adding that there was panic, and screaming when the train lights went out.

“A lot of people lost bags and mobile phones,” she added.

“There were people with cuts and bleeding mouths. It was a war scene. There was a lot of smoke, and people thought the train was going to explode,” Thiago Portela, 28, said.

Operations on the line have been halted, but authorities hope to resume later in the day.

The collision could have been more serious, but the trains were moving slowly due to bad weather conditions in the region.

“The preliminary reports I have say the train that crashed was not new, but was still in service and was not going to be replaced,” State Transportation Secretary Carlos Roberto Osório said.

“Otherwise it was a normal situation, with passengers going off and boarding the stationed train. We should wait for the investigation results.”

Osório said the driver of the crashed train was not injured and is expected to be a major witness.

Doctors in France step up strike action

The Local [5/1/15]:

… After two weeks of industrial action in protest against planned government health reforms, family doctors (GPs) turned up the heat on Monday by promising to create a bureaucratic mess for health authorities and insurance companies.

GPs could refuse to accept patients “cartes vitale” which are used to process reimbursements of the costs of a consultation automatically and instead make them fill in forms by hand that will inevitably clog up the system and lead to patients waiting up to two months to be paid.

The planned change that has provoked the ire of the doctors is the “reform” to the system of payment which will see an end to patients handing over cash up front for an appointment. Instead doctors will be reimbursed directly by insurance companies, whether public or private.

Jean-Paul Ortiz from the Confederation of French Medical Unions (CSMF), the main union behind the protests, told The Local the change is “unacceptable” for those in his profession.

“Both doctors and patients in France will lose their liberty and independence. We will be dictated to by insurance companies and depend on them for our salaries," he said.

“We will be forced to spend hours checking all the reimbursements which are normally full of errors. Most doctors don’t have secretaries and we just don’t have the time to do it,” he said.

Doctors have carried out their own reports in France to highlight how dysfunctional and slow insurance companies can be to forward payments to doctors.

Bertrand Legrand a GP in Tourcoing in northern France told BFM TV that in one case a doctor had to wait 980 days before being reimbursed.

“It’s an unbelievable delay,” he said.

As a solution Ortiz’s confederation is proposing a system whereby patients pay doctors with their bank cards up front, but the money would not be debited until they are refunded by the social security.

“This system is already in place in some areas and the cost of implementing it is minimal,” Ortiz said.

Despite the apparent bad timing of the strike, coming over festive season, the French public appear to be backing their doctors.

According to an opinion poll on Sunday 58 percent of French people support the strike.

Singapore International Commercial Court launched

Channel News Asia [5/1/15]:

The Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) was launched on Monday, in a move that brings the Republic closer to its aspiration of being a centre for resolving commercial disputes.

At the opening of the legal year 2015 on Monday morning, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon announced the appointment of 11 international judges to work alongside local judges for the SICC.

The international judges include the Honourable Sir Vivian Ramsey from the United Kingdom, a former judge of the High Court of England and Wales; the Honourable Ms Carolyn Berger, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware, United States; Japan's Professor Yasuhei Taniguchi, former Chairman and Member of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization; and the Honourable Justice Dominique T Hascher, Judge of the Supreme Judicial Court of France.

They will work alongside local judges, including former chief justice Chan Sek Keong, who was appointed as a Senior Judge on Monday. Mr Chan will sit as a Judge of Appeal and as a judge of the Singapore International Commercial Court.

Chief Justice Menon said trade flows into and out of Asia are surging. He noted that the growth of commercial activity in Asia will be accompanied by an increase in commercial disputes.

Hence, this will give rise to a need for institutions able to resolve these disputes swiftly and efficiently, while laying the groundwork for a freestanding body of supporting commercial law, he said.


UN agency calls on global clothing brands to help Cambodian manufacturers absorb wage hike

UN Media Release [5/1/15]:

With the introduction of a new minimum wage for workers in the garment and footwear industry in Cambodia, United Nations experts have called on global brands that source their products from the country to play a part in helping the industry to absorb the cost increases.

The new minimum wage of $128 per month, which came into effect on 1 January 2015, is projected by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to increase overall average wages in the garment industry – which include bonuses and overtime – from $183 to $217 per month, increasing factories’ wage bills by approximately 18.7 per cent.

“It is important that all sides work together to ensure Cambodia’s garment industry remains economically viable,” said Maurizio Bussi, the ILO’s Country Director for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR. “We call on the global brands to play their part. We have received encouraging signals that key buyers will honour the pledge they gave the Cambodian Government in September.”

The rise comes in the wake of other adjustments since 2012 that have seen the minimum wage increase from $61 per month. At the same time, the prices that Cambodian factories receive in their main markets have been stagnating or declining, with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics calculating a 4.5 per cent drop in prices paid for apparel imports from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries since June 2012.

“Caught between these two forces, factories have seen a substantial fall in their operating margins over the past three years,” said Malte Luebker, the ILO’s Senior Regional Wage Specialist.

“In principle, factories can respond by increasing efficiency, using measures that range from better work organization to energy conservation. However, our research shows that these gains are gradual and will only enable factories to cover a small share of the expected wage increase.”

For example, optimistic projections of labour productivity growth in the garment sector see room for roughly four per cent growth in 2015, which would enable factories to raise wages by $7, to $190 per month, without eroding their margins. The expected wage increase to $217 per month is far higher than what can be generated through efficiency gains.

To cover the shortfall, and assuming other costs remained the same, the ILO estimates that global brands would need to pay Cambodian factories between 2.4 and three per cent more, adding about two cents to the production costs of t-shirts that can currently be made for 80 cents and that might retail for about $10.

On annual garment and footwear exports worth $6 billion, the small increase could generate additional revenue of $160 million to support the new wage levels.

UNITY vs RACIST REPORTG: Protest vs FoxNews/NYPost last friday ...

Image: @MarniHalasa1 [3/1/15]

Democracy Now [5/1/15]:

As NYPD officers continue their protests of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, actions against police brutality and racial profiling continue nationwide. In New York City, a group of demonstrators staged a "die-in" Friday outside the Manhattan studios of Fox News.

Allen Arthur: "We are protesting specifically the treatment of the cases of police brutality in New York and around the country by right-wing media organizations. But that extends to all major corporate media networks, which operate on a system of profit, not on issues of justice."

Diane Leary: "We want accountability. We want fair news, which Fox does not provide at all, with the most recent incident being that they used audio soundbites over our protesting. They say that we were saying horrible things about NYPD, and that is not what we’re out here for. We’re not against all police. We just want accountability for the bad ones. So we are here demanding fair and justified news coverage."

PUP will repeal every LNP law: Palmer

Nine MSN [6/1/15]:

Clive Palmer has sworn the Queensland branch of his party will scrub out every law passed by the LNP if it is elected on January 31.

Speaking to reporters on the Gold Coast on Tuesday, Mr Palmer condemned the policies of the state government, saying it had failed Queenslanders.

He urged voters to send the premier a message at the polls.

"This is the moment. This is the time when Queenslanders can send a message ... get rid of Campbell Newman," he said.

Mr Palmer threw his weight behind Queensland Palmer United Party leader John Bjelke-Petersen, saying he was at the helm of a "viable alternative" to the major parties.

He said PUP would immediately rid the state of all LNP policies if elected.

"We will repeal every single act that was set by the Newman government to set the slate clean," he said.

Dickensian: Boy, 10, faces court over serious assault charges

Chronicle [6/1/15]:

A 10-year-old boy on a string of assault charges has been refused bail and remanded in custody after appearing before Toowoomba Children's Court yesterday.

The diminutive lad had spent the night in the watch house before appearing before a closed court on charges including assault occasioning bodily harm while armed, common assault and wilful damage arising from incidents alleged to have occurred on Sunday.

Though he had no previous criminal history, the boy was on bail for a number of other matters including three other charges of assault occasioning bodily harm, wilful damage, common assaults and shop lifting, the court heard.

It is believed the alleged assaults were committed against staff members of a supervised safe house facility in Toowoomba where the boy had been living.

His solicitor Divina DeLeon told the court her client had significant behavioural problems stemming from grief and loss issues after the deaths of a number of close family members in a car accident.

Ms DeLeon said she had organised for a psychologist to assess her client's mental state and capacity and asked that he be granted bail.

Police objected to bail on the grounds the boy continued to commit offences.

Magistrate Bruce Schemioneck deemed the boy an "unacceptable risk" if granted bail in that he could commit further offences and that he could be a risk to the safety of others. He refused bail.

Mr Schemioneck ordered a special watch be kept of the 10-year-old while he remained in custody and adjourned all charges for mention back in the same court on March 5.

Appeal for former police officer found guilty of lying

Tweed Daily News [6/1/15]:

Former Tweed Heads detective inspector Shane Diehm has been given a chance to clear his name after being found guilty of lying to authorities about a drug-fuelled police party in 2010.

Diehm has been granted an appeal against convictions on four counts of giving false or misleading evidence stemming from testimony he gave the Police Integrity Commission in 2011.

The accusations against Diehm arose from secretly recorded footage of a drugged-up romp on the Gold Coast, during which police officers were filmed taking ecstasy and eating marijuana hash cookies.

Diehm initially denied taking the drugs, but later pleaded guilty to two counts of giving false information.

However, he maintained he did not remember seeing other former and serving police officers indulging in the drugs.

He was sentenced to six months jail in August last year, but granted bail once his appeal was lodged.

The appeal is on April 27 in Sydney.

Bureau confirms 2014 as Australia’s third-warmest year on record

BOM Media Release [6/1/15]:

Today’s release of the Bureau of Meteorology Annual Climate Statement 2014 confirms Australia has recorded its third-warmest calendar year since national records began in 1910.

Assistant Director for Climate Information Services, Neil Plummer, said 2014 was characterised by frequent heatwaves and warm spells, and a notable reduction in cold weather.

“Much of Australia experienced temperatures very much above average in 2014, with mean temperatures 0.91°C above the long-term average,” said Mr Plummer.

“This follows the warmest year on record in 2013, which was 1.20°C warmer than average.

“Particularly warm conditions occurred in spring 2014, which was Australia’s warmest spring on record.

”El Niño-like effects were felt in drier and warmer conditions in much of eastern Australia during 2014.”

Other climate facts and events of significance in 2014 include:

For Australia as a whole, rainfall was near average for the year, with 478mm (1961–1990 average 465mm).

Prolonged rainfall deficiencies continued for inland and southeastern Queensland and northeastern New South Wales.

Six significant heatwaves and warm spells occurred, including one of southeast Australia’s most prolonged heatwaves in mid-January.

A number of major bushfires occurred during January and February, with particularly destructive fires in Victoria and South Australia.

Four tropical cyclones made landfall during 2014, with tropical cyclone Ita the most intense; crossing the coast near Cooktown as a category 4 system, bringing rainfall totals in excess of 300mm.

A stormy spring, with severe thunderstorms striking Brisbane in late November, causing flash flooding, very large hailstones and destructive winds.

An East Coast Low off the central and southern New South Wales coast in August caused storm damage and brought more than 100mm of rain to some parts of the coast.

Sea surface temperatures around Australia were unusually warm; 0.49°C above average for the year to November.

Nationally, Australian temperatures have warmed approximately one degree since 1950, and the continued warmth in 2014 adds to this long-term warming trend.

Globally, preliminary estimates by the World Meteorological Organisation has 2014 on track to be one of the hottest, if not the hottest, on record.


 … Time won't give me time ...

'Time (Clock of the Heart)', Culture Club [1982]


Extra 'Leap Second' Will Be Added to Clocks June 30 [International Business Times - 5/1/15]:

Sometimes even the rotation of the Earth falls behind schedule. Come June 30, our planet's timekeepers will compensate by adding a "leap second" to clocks.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) announced the change Monday at the Paris Observatory, in a bulletin addressed to the "authorities responsible for the measurement and distribution of time."

The bulletin advises authorities the extra second will be introduced to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) during the final minute, of the final day of June. That means that right after the clock hits "23h 59m 59s," it will strike "23h 59m 60s" UTC.

Another way to think about it: Instead of the roughly 86,400 seconds we normally experience in a day, we're getting 86,401.

Why, exactly, is this happening? "Well the real simple explanation is the Earth is slowing down a little bit," Nick Stamatakos of the U.S. Naval Observatory, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Indeed, compared to ultra-precise atomic clocks, the Earth can't quite keep up, because it's "constantly undergoing deceleration caused by the braking action of the tides," according to the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Hence, the "leap second" system started in 1972, so our clocks stay in sync with how long it takes the Earth to rotate on its axis. "Leap seconds ensure that, on average, the Sun continues to be overhead on the Greenwich meridian at noon to within about one [second]," researchers once explained in Metrologia, a journal about the science of measurement.

IERS already has added 25 leap seconds to Coordinated Universal Time -- most recently in June 2012 when leap second glitches messed with website operators including Reddit, Gawker Media and Mozilla.

Leap seconds can only be added in June and December.

A decision on whether to abolish the leap second - the occasional, extra second added to the world's time - has been deferred.  ... [BBC - 19/1/12]

PNG boys save elderly man from fire, Parramatta

PNG Loop [6/1/15]:

An elderly man was saved by two PNG youngsters yesterday when they helped him escape his smoke-filled apartment in Parramatta, Australia.

Cousins, Materua Onzem, (22) from Milne Bay and Central Province, and Iamo Junior Rawali, (15) from Kalo, in Aroma Central Province, rushed upstairs and into the apartment filled with smoke to help the 90 year old retiree.

Speaking to PNG Loop from Australia, Materua said he had never done anything like this, but when hearing about the elderly man inside they had to do something.

Materua, who is on holidays in Australia, and Iamo were with their siblings and cousins (Renagi Vali (19) Jack Vali (JV), Kila Rawali (20), Theresa Rawali (18), Vaviakila Rawali (9) Jayvee Onzem Onzem Jnr (12) on their way to the Park in Parramatta.

As they were passing apartments which catered for retirees, they heard a fire alarm go off.

“We heard and the alarm and called out but there was no response,” said Materua.

“An old lady living close by came out and told us that an old man was inside.”

While Materua’s cousins called for a fire brigade, he and his cousin, Iamo, ran up to the apartment, which was filled with smoke.

They knocked on the door. The elderly man inside was surprised to see both of them, and he was oblivious to what was happening.

He opened the door and Materua and Iamo rushed him out to the front to get fresh air.

While Materua’s other cousins called for the ambulance, he and Iamo ran back inside to open the windows to the apartment.

Inside again they realised that a pot was on the stove which had caused the smoke. They took it outside for the smoke to clear.

The ambulance arrived and attended to the elderly man. Materua and his family then learnt that the retiree had a hearing problem and could not hear the fire alarm.

Medical officers congratulated Materua and his family, saying had the old man stayed in there any longer, he might have choked to death.

Materua is employed with Digicel (PNG) Ltd as a learning and development trainer.

Australian media now smearing Amnesty rather than questioning why NSW police charged into the Lindt Café with stun grenades and guns blazing

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.


Murder investigation, Pormpuraaw

QPS Media [6/1/15]:

Detectives from the Cairns Criminal Investigation Branch have charged a 28-year-old Pormpuraaw man with murder in relation to the death of a 28-year-old woman that occurred in Pormpuraaw on December 26, last year.

The man appeared in Cairns Magistrate Court this afternoon and has been remanded in custody.

 Investigations are continuing.

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

A father and son who helped save two children after their father disappeared underwater in rapids on the Shoalhaven River said dozens of people stood watching as the man was swept away. ... [Canberra Times - 6/1/15]

 Car seized following Darwin hit-and-run

Nine MSN [6/1/15]:

Police have seized a car in relation to a New Year's Day hit-and-run that left a Darwin teen in an induced coma.

Jarrod Sallis, 19, was riding home on his bicycle when a car hit him on Tiger Brennan Drive between 3am and 4.30am on January 1.

He was found lying on the side of the road with serious head injuries, and is at the Royal Darwin Hospital.

Police said on Tuesday they had seized a vehicle and were determining whether it was involved in the incident.

Car allegedly targets cyclist in one of three bike incidents, Perth [WA Today - 6/1/15]

Family trapped, five in hospital after Brisbane car crash

Nine MSN [6/1/15]:

Three children have been injured, one seriously, in a car crash in a northern Brisbane suburb.

Two of the children, aged 12, 10 and two, were trapped in the accident.

The crash took place on the Gateway Motorway at Boondall, at 12.30pm (AEST).

Witnesses have told 9NEWS a 4WD lost control and was on the wrong side of the road when it slammed into the car with three children inside.

A woman passing by the accident told 9NEWS she promised to hold the hand of a girl trapped in the crash, even if the car caught fire.

An ambulance spokesman said five people were taken to hospital, including two adults and three children.

One female was listed as critical, one child as being in a serious condition, two males as stable and the two-year-old child with minor injuries.

Fire destroys kitchen of Surfers Paradise restaurant

MYGC [6/1/15]:

… The blaze broke out in the kitchen of Cheng’s BBQ Restaurant on Surfers Paradise Boulevard shortly after midnight.

Multiple fire crews responded to the emergency which saw the busy thoroughfare closed for more than an hour.

As of this morning, the cause of the blaze – which reportedly destroyed the kitchen – was yet to be determined.

Gold Coast Light Rail crash causes half hour delay, screeching noise along track still not remedied

MYGC [5/1/15]:

Trams have resumed in both directions after a car crashed and became stuck on the tracks this afternoon.

The incident that took place around 1:00pm caused a half hour delay for light rail users, but it is alleged the trams are now back up and running in both directions.

Reports suggest a family holidaying on the Gold Coast were in the vehicle.

Refugees detained in Australia's death camp on Manus Island face death/torture, exile in PNG or deportation

The  Australian government and International Organization for Migration (IOM) are unaccountable. The opposition is useless. The UNHCR are silent. What's happening with Andrew Wilkie MP's letter to the ICC?

Guardian [6/1/15]:

Australia is preparing to move the first cohort of refugees on Manus Island into temporary accommodation on the island, but detainees are resisting, saying they fear being killed if moved into the community.

In a transcript of a speech intended for detainees at the Australian-run detention centre – a copy of which has been obtained by Guardian Australia – an official from the PNG immigration department said those recognised as refugees would be forced from detention. “Your choices are simple: make Papua New Guinea your home, or leave.”

But detainees said they have been told they will be attacked and killed if made to live in the community.

One detainee reported this week being threatened by a PNG guard at the compound: “We will rape and then kill all of those who enter new accommodations in Lorengau,” the guard allegedly said. “We are fully equipped and ready. We hate you. Leave our land. Australia is not boss, we are boss here.”


US Embassy in Port Moresby awards two new grants totalling US$1 million to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)

PNG Loop [15/12/14]:

The US Embassy in Port Moresby has awarded two new grants totalling US$1 million (about K3.5 million) to its partner, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to combat the global threat of human trafficking in PNG and Solomon Islands.

“These two grants will empower the people of the South Pacific by providing populations at risk of being trafficked with access to information and justice,” says US Ambassador to PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Walter North.

The first grant awards $500,000 to IOM for a two-year project which will provide technical assistance to strengthen legislation, prosecution efforts, and protection measures to combat trafficking in persons in PNG.

Ambassador North said the grant is to award Papua New Guinea’s observance of ‘Stop Human Trafficking Day’, as part of the 20 days of Human Rights Activism campaign, and building on the PNG Criminal Code Amendment Act of 2013 to combat the global threat of human trafficking.

“There is perhaps no greater threat to human dignity, and no greater attack on basic freedom, than the evil of human trafficking,” said Ambassador North.

The second project provides $500,000 to IOM for a two-year project that will focus on strengthening coordinated efforts to combat trafficking in person in the Solomon Islands.

The project will also support Solomon Islands law enforcement to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of trafficking in persons.

Ambassador Walter said more than 20 million people estimated to be victimized around the world by the 150 billion US dollar criminal industry that traffics in human beings, making the struggle against modern slavery can seem daunting.


Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Recommendations re "Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014" [December 2014]:


4.70 In specific evidence about actual incidents of encouragement to return home, a former employee of Playfair suggested that staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) were 'speaking to transferees, trying to convince them of the benefits of returning home'.

4.71 In contrast, government representatives re-confirmed their view that any returns from Manus Island RPC were strictly voluntary. For example Lieutenant General Campbell stated that '[i]t is really important to note these are voluntary returns'.

 4.72 In terms of the number of returns from the Manus Island RPC, the department provided information that:

As at 1 August 2014, 203 transferees have been voluntarily returned from an Offshore Processing Centre (OPC) and 174 transferees from the Manus OPC since 18 February 2014 with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).


So Beautiful: Spain celebrates Epiphany with parades, fireworks

Zee News [6/1/15]:

Hundreds of thousands of people crowded the streets of Madrid on Monday in a flurry of confetti and soap bubbles to greet the three wise men in one of dozens of Epiphany feast parades held across Spain.

Carriages decorated with palm fronds, glitter and lights paraded from Madrid`s Nuevo Ministerios toward the central Plaza de Cibeles square, in the largest of Spain`s annual processions which was broadcast live across the country on public television.

People atop the floats showered onlookers with 1.2 tons of candy, sending children scrambling to pick up sweets that fell to the ground.

The parades are held each year on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates the coming of three wise men to bring gifts to the Christ child.

Just as with Santa Claus, children write letters to the Magi asking for gifts which are left for them on January 6, a national holiday in Spain.

The celebration is more popular than Christmas in Spain and in parts of Latin America.

Musical bands, dancers, camels laden with parcels, horses and a flock of white geese accompanied the floats Monday.

A fireworks show lit up the sky after the three kings -- Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar -- arrived at the end of the parade route at the Plaza Cibeles, where they read out their annual message to the children of the Spanish capital.

In the Mediterranean port of Barcelona, the Magi arrived by boat where they were welcomed by the city`s mayor who gave them a symbolic key that opened all the doors to the city.

The kings then led a parade of floats involving performers from over 20 dance and theatre schools through the streets of Spain`s second-largest city.

The Magi also arrived by boat in the northern port of Gijon while in Leganes, a stellite city about 10 kilometres (six miles) southwest of Madrid, they arrived by helicopter.

So Ugly: US wants elite Marine squad to be stationed permanently in Andalusia

El Pais [5/1/15]:

The United States is seeking permission from Spain to convert its temporary presence at the Morón de la Frontera air base, in Andalusia, into a permanent agreement. The site would become the center of operations for the US rapid-response unit dealing with crises in Africa.

In a letter sent last month, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel explained to Spanish officials that the Obama administration wants the current temporary agreement that allows a certain number of marines to be stationed at the base outside Seville on a year-by-year basis to be redrafted.

If approved, as many as 3,000 US troops could be sent to Morón – a substantial increase to the current 850 officials (or 1,100 when troops are being relieved) that have been at the base for the past two years, military sources said.

But such a move means that there will have to be major changes to the current bilateral treaty regarding the US government’s use of Spanish bases, which will also have to be approved by Congress.


Police resources expended on anti rights arrests and criminalising certain suburbs, as bodies float up on beaches and roads resemble the wild west

Yahoo [6/1/15]:

Police are trying to identify a man's body found on a beach north of Brisbane.

A police spokesman says they were called out to Scarborough Beach, near Redcliffe, about 5.10am after the body was found.

"We still haven't got any confirmation yet as to whether it was suspicious or not," the spokesman told AAP.

"They're (police) making inquiries now to find out who the man actually is and obviously how he came to be on the beach."

Brisbane Times [6/1/15]:

A 39-year-old woman has died after being trapped in a crashed gas tanker north of Cairns on Monday night.

The tanker rolled on the Captain Cook Highway at Ellis Beach about 7.20pm, trapping the woman and the male driver.

An emergency situation was declared at 8pm after the tanker began leaking gas.

Emergency services managed to extract the driver, who was taken to Cairns Base Hospital with serious but non life-threatening injuries.

However they were unable to free the female passenger before she died at the scene.

The Captain Cook Highway was closed until 5.40am.

Investigations into the cause of the rollover are continuing.

Queensland Election: Lock the Gate to shirt-front candidates to ensure Queensland's survival

Lock The Gate Media Release [6/1/15]:

Lock the Gate Alliance President, Drew Hutton says the coming State Election is the most important yet for Queensland’s survival or demise.

“Queenslanders’ food bowls, clean water and air are being trashed by politicians and big business, especially the mining industry,” Mr Hutton said.

“This is our chance to say ‘enough is enough’ of the indiscriminate coal seam gas and coal mining that is ruining this state for the short-term gain of so few.”

He said Lock the Gate would survey candidates where they stood on csg and other inappropriate mining and would advise voters accordingly.

Lock the Gate will lobby for the People’s Common Rights and Provisions Bill 2014 to restore democracy to Queensland, stamp out corruption and reinstate the Upper House as the House of Review.

“Queenslanders are being pushed off their land and sacrificed to make way for the mining juggernaut,” Mr Hutton said.

“The mining industry is undermining our democracy and hogging our land and water. Mining executives have unfettered access to politicians and undue influence on decision- making. The People’s Bill aims to restore the balance, clean out the political system and give the people back their parliament, their land, water and rights.”


… As the fully laden Methane Rita Andrea pushed off from the QCLNG wharf, a QGC spokesman was quick to dispel rumours that processing problems or contamination had held up the commissioning process.

"There is no foundation to the rumours. The time was spent testing all the systems before the vessel was loaded," she said.

"We really had no idea how long that testing process was going to take." ... [First LNG ship leaves Gladstone Harbour – Gladstone Observer – 5/1/15]


What sort of politician closes a needed public hospital for the benefit of the corporatised health sector and their developer mates?

An ALP or LNP politician.

The former Gold Coast Hospital at Southport

Queensland Parliament Hansard [8/9/11]:

Ms BATES (Mudgeeraba—LNP) (5.03 pm): I rise this afternoon to highlight how the Gold Coast, yet again, will be short-changed. ‘How?’, honourable members might ask. This Labor government is not only going to give us 130 fewer beds when the Gold Coast University Hospital opens, but it will also close the current hospital at Southport. The new hospital is not even up and running yet and this tired, 20-year-old Labor government is already reducing its services.

The Minister for Health states that Queensland Health has advised him that planning and population projections show that the new hospital would have more than enough capacity to service the needs of the Gold Coast for at least a decade. This is the same Queensland Health that has spent nearly 12 months and over $219 million trying to fix its payroll system, and it is still not fixed. How can Gold Coast residents really believe what Queensland Health is saying, particularly when it is their health that could be jeopardised? This is just another classic example of this Bligh government’s modus operandi: it gives with one hand and takes away with the other.

We will be 130 beds short and yet the government says our city’s needs will be serviced for the next decade. The Gold Coast is the sixth largest city in Australia with over 496,000 who call this area home. We have over 10.5 million visitors every year and we are one of Australia’s fastest growing regions. We deserve the medical facilities to adequately service these numbers both now and into the future. We owe it to our children.

I call on the Premier and the Minister for Health to transform the Gold Coast Hospital at Southport to a step-down facility. As I have stated in the House before, hospitals of the future will be for the sickest of the sick and we need step-down facilities now. I say to those opposite: let us actually forward plan properly instead of playing your usual ‘catch-up’ game and applying band-aid fixes; do not just accept verbatim what bureaucrats who sit in their ivory towers in Brisbane looking at graphs and charts tell you.

Our population is expected to tip 700,000 by 2021. That is approximately 200,000 more than our current population. How anybody can state that, despite short-changing the number of beds by 130 we will still be able to service the city’s medical needs, is beyond me. The Gold Coast does not need to have the Southport Hospital closed, but we do need the 130 beds that the government is going to shortchange us. Residents of the Gold Coast are sick and tired of being treated like second-class citizens. I call on the Premier to seriously rethink this issue which could potentially have a disastrous effect on our local area.

In relation to the move to the new Parklands hospital, I hope that Queensland Health leaves behind one thing at Southport and that is its culture of bullying and intimidation of nurses. I have received complaints from 55 nurses about bullying and intimidation issues at the Gold Coast Hospital. As a current registered nurse, I will continue to stand up for them. This Labor government needs to start listening to the experts. The doctors at the Southport medical precinct want this facility to remain open. (Time expired)

Deputy Premier, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Media Release [4/10/13]:

The Newman Government will demolish the Southport Hospital and sell the CBD land for development.

Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney today detailed the Government’s plan for the key site and signalled the demolition process was expected to start next year.

Comprising approximately 3.5 hectares, the vacant hospital land will be a catalyst site for Southport and falls within the newly declared Southport Priority Development Area.

“That is why the Government has made the decision to sell a clean site to maximise the return to the state and most importantly to ensure that development can occur as rapidly as possible.

“It will give the private sector the opportunity to create an innovative development.”

Mr Seeney said the Government was in the process of appointing a project manager to deal with the demolition and site preparation.

He said the appointment of a project manager was expected within weeks.

Member for Southport and Assistant Minister for Planning Reform Rob Molhoek said demolition details would be known once the project manager refined the scope for the work.

“Southport businesses and residents will be kept fully informed,” Mr Molhoek said.

“While the bulk of the hospital operations have moved to the new hospital, the Blood Bank will remain at the Southport site until early November.”

Mr Seeney said the government expected to have a marketing campaign underway next year.

“We will seek to provide maximum opportunities through the creation of a number of sites that can be individually purchased or combined in one single purchase. We will let the market decide,” he said.

“The Government has sought market advice to ensure the disposal best suits market conditions.

“A clean site will offer the best opportunity for the marketplace and will get the best return for the state.”

MYGC [4/10/13]:

... "There are five generations born at the Gold Coast Hospital in my family," Amanda Wild said.

"My son made it the fifth. My nan worked their when it was the blood bank next door.

"I would have liked to have had my next baby there. I'll be sad to see it go," she said.

Narelle Johnson of the Gold Coast also says she will be sad to see the facility go.

"I've never had any trouble with the place," she said.

"My now seven-year-old son was born there." ...

Palmer Party to protect what remains of Queensland assets

Yahoo [6/1/15]:

The Palmer United Party's Queensland election campaign will be fought on protecting asset sales and the livelihood of rural residents, state leader John Bjelke-Petersen says.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the son of former Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, told AAP on Tuesday the party is ready to go into battle the moment Premier Campbell Newman sets a date.
The premier has announced he will set a date on Tuesday, hinting Queenslanders could go to the polls as early as January 31.
 Mr Bjelke-Petersen said the primary aspect of the PUP campaign would be blocking asset sales.
"We want to have these assets in place for our next generations," he said.
"If we are going to hand over control of our electricity system for the next 99 years, we are putting control of our assets into private hands, and if people think we can do that and we will get cheaper electricity, then they've got rocks in their heads.
"At the last election they sent a message to the Labor Party that assets were hands off and it's time now to send the same message to Newman that it's not on."
Mr Bjelke-Petersen said rural and regional Queenslanders had received rough treatment under the current government, and that issues like drought assistance were high on his priority list.
He said the PUP was the best alternative for Queenslanders who were sick of the LNP.
"We have had the `Can-Do' mantle, but the only thing that they seem to be able to do is to sack 14,000 people, create seven per cent unemployment, put the economy into freefall, and during that time they were able to give themselves one of the biggest pay rises ever, at a time when they're calling for leadership.
"Their form of leadership is to say to everyone else: `You have the pain, we'll have the gain'," he said.
"I'm just sick and tired of them, and the reason I'm standing and taking them on is that I believe there is another way of doing it and I believe we need to provide people with an alternative."

1000s of anti fascists rally across Germany [5/1/15]:

The square around the Cologne Cathedral was plunged into darkness Monday evening after the historical landmark in western Germany shut down its lights in a silent protest of weekly rallies in Dresden against the perceived “Islamization” of Europe.

The symbolic act came as thousands of Germans demonstrated in Cologne and several other cities against the ongoing protests by the group calling itself Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, which attracted its biggest crowd yet in Dresden on Monday night.

 Cologne Cathedral provost Norbert Feldhoff, told n-tv that shutting down the lights was an attempt to make the PEGIDA demonstrators think twice about their protest.

“You’re taking part in an action that, from its roots and also from speeches, one can see is Nazi-ist, racist and extremist,” he said on n-tv. “And you’re supporting people you really don’t want to support.”

Only about 250 PEGIDA supporters showed up in Cologne, as compared to about ten times that number of counter-demonstrators. Similarly in Berlin, police said some 5,000 counter-demonstrators blocked about 300 PEGIDA supporters from marching along their planned route from city hall to the Brandenburg Gate. Another 22,000 anti-PEGIDA demonstrators rallied in Stuttgart, Muenster and Hamburg, the dpa news agency reported.

But PEGEIDA’s main demonstration in the eastern city of Dresden, a region that has few immigrants or Muslims, attracted some 18,000, according to police. The demonstrations there have been growing from an initial few hundred in October to around 17,500 at a rally just before Christmas.

Carrying signs with slogans like “wake up” the crowd chanted “we are the people” and “lying press” as they passed television cameras on Monday.

In uncharacteristically frank words in her New Year’s address, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to stay away from the Dresden rallies.

When the PEGIDA demonstrators chant “we are the people,” Merkel said “they actually mean ‘you don’t belong because of your religion or your skin.”

PEGIDA organizer Kathrin Oertel slammed the speech at the rally Monday, telling the crowd “in Germany we have political repression again.”

“Or how would you see it when we are insulted or called racists or Nazis openly by all the political mainstream parties and media for our justified criticism of Germany’s asylum seeker policies and the non-existent immigration policy,” she asked the cheering crowd.

PEGIDA has sought to distance itself from the far-right, saying in its position paper posted on Facebook that it is against “preachers of hate, regardless of what religion” and “radicalism, regardless of whether religiously or politically motivated.”

“PEGIDA is for resistance against an anti-woman political ideology that emphasizes violence, but not against integrated Muslims living here,” the group said.

It has also banned any neo-Nazi symbols and slogans at its rallies, though critics have noted the praise and support it has received from known neo-Nazi groups.

Cem Ozdemir, co-chairman of The Greens party and himself the son of a Turkish immigrant, told n-tv that while he, too, was against any form of extremism, “intolerance cannot be fought with intolerance.”

“The line is not between Christians and Muslims,” he said. “The line is between those who are intolerant and the others, the majority.”

In Berlin, anti-PEGIDA demonstrator Ursula Wozniak said she had joined the protest because she felt the PEGIDA group was abusing Germany’s democratic tradition.

“What is happening right now in Germany is just extremely shocking,” she said.

PEGIDA was forced to call off its demonstration early in Cologne, after organizers reported being blocked from marching along their planned route, police said.

Other buildings, including several other churches and a museum, joined the Cologne Cathedral in shutting off their lights in support of the anti-PEGIDA demonstrators.

In Dresden, automaker Volkswagen decided to keep its glass-walled manufacturing plant dark, to underscore the company “stands for an open, free and democratic society.”

Rohingyas fleeing violence in Myanmar, Bangladesh detained in Thailand

Naharnet [5/1/15]:

More than 50 migrants, mostly Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar, have been held in southern Thailand after authorities acting on a tip-off stopped trucks smuggling them through the country, a local official said Monday.

Of the 53 people held, 37 are believed to be from the Rohingya minority, with the remainder from Bangladesh -- a source of increasing numbers of migrants arriving on Thai shores.

Twenty-one of the group are aged under 18 and some are as young as five, according to the chief of Takua Pa district in Phang Nga province.

"The group were from Myanmar and Bangladesh," Manit Pianthong told AFP. "They arrived on boats and were taken in three trucks into Takua Pa before dawn on Monday" for transit through to Malaysia.

"We had already set up checkpoints as we had information they would come," he added, explaining the trucks were forced onto a side road where the drivers fled, leaving the migrants behind.

The migrants have been taken to be interviewed by social workers to determine if they are victims of trafficking.

"If they are found to be victims, they will be witnesses in a human trafficking case and will be put in shelters but if not, they will be charged with illegal entry," Manit said.

Thousands of Rohingya -- a Muslim minority group not recognized as citizens in Myanmar -- have fled deadly communal unrest in Myanmar's Rakhine state since 2012. Most have headed for mainly Muslim Malaysia.

Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya -- described by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities -- as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.

Rights groups say the stateless migrants often fall into the hands of people-traffickers.

They have also criticized Thailand in the past for pushing boatloads of Rohingya entering Thai waters back out to sea and for holding migrants in overcrowded facilities.

Thailand said last year it was investigating allegations that some army officials in the kingdom were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya.

Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar seek sanctuary in Malaysia [CCTV – 3/1/15]

150 refugees rescued off Spanish coast over several days

Yahoo [5/1/15]:

Almost 150 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean in makeshift boats have been rescued off the coast of Spain in less than a week, officials said Sunday.

In the largest of several rescue operations last week, a boat carrying 53 people was spotted on Friday by a ferry off the coast of Andalusia in southern Spain, local emergency services said.

The discovery of boats loaded with migrants has gathered pace over the past week as traffickers apparently take advantage of good weather and calm seas in the area, which lies opposite the Moroccan and Algerian coastlines.

Another 41 people were rescued off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean last week, officials said.

Tens of thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean every year to try to reach Europe.

And in a series of maritime dramas in the dying days of 2014, traffickers abandoned two "ghost ships" in the Mediterranean carrying hundreds of migrants, mostly from Syria, who were later rescued by Italian authorities.

The United Nations has described the Mediterranean Sea as the deadliest route in the world with more than 3,400 people perishing during journeys in 2014, out of more than 207,000 who attempted the dangerous crossing.

The number of migrants hoping to reach Europe via the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla also soared last year, many of them scrambling over border fences from Morocco.

Cynical Europe, 'ghost ships' and the largest refugee crisis since WWII [Deutsche Welle - 4/1/15]:

... Karl Kopp, director of European affairs of Pro Asyl said it was deplorable that the EU did not decide to adopt Italy's Mare Nostrum on an EU level. According to Pro Asyl, Mare Nostrum was a search-and-rescue operation, while Triton's main purpose is protecting EU borders.

Most of the refugees fleeing from conflict in the Middle East to Europe end up being rescued by Italian authorities and going through the asylum process in Italy. But they travel to Italy not to stay there but because it is the gateway to the rest of Europe.

"That is exactly the problem," Kopp explained. "Considering the tragedies on our doorstep, it would be thinkable to have a common, proactive European solution."

He called it cynical: "European politicians all have a lot of warm words for the refugees, but in reality right now, they are simply waiting out the largest humanitarian refugee crisis since the Second World War." ...

Syria to UN: McCain entered country illegally

Daily Star [6/1/15]:

Syria has complained to the United Nations that U.S. Republican Senator John McCain, former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith entered the country without visas in violation of its sovereignty.

Syria’s U.N. ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the 15-member Security Council to pressure governments to take “the necessary measures against their nationals who enter Syrian territory illegally.”

“Such actions are a blatant violation of Syria’s sovereignty and of the resolutions of the Security Council concerning Syria,” Jaafari wrote in a letter dated Dec. 30 and seen by Reuters Monday.

He complained generally about “certain journalists and prominent figures” entering Syria illegally but singled out McCain for entering Syria in June 2013. McCain visited Syria in May 2013 and met with Syrian rebels.

Jaafari also cited Kouchner for visiting in November 2014, Galbraith for traveling to Syria in December 2014 with other U.S. political and military leaders, and former Kuwaiti politician Walid al-Tabtabai for entering Syria in September 2013.

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [5/1/15]:

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria, Jan. 4, using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct 14 airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted six airstrikes in Iraq, Jan. 4, using fighter aircraft against ISIL terrorists. All strikes took place between 8 a.m., Jan. 4, and 8 a.m., Jan. 5, local time.

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


* Near Kobani, eight airstrikes struck two large ISIL units and an ISIL fighting position and destroyed 11 ISIL fighting positions.

* Near Dawr az Zawr, six airstrikes struck five ISIL crude oil collection points and an ISIL crude oil pipeline and destroyed two ISIL armored vehicles and an ISIL shipping container.


* Near Mosul, an airstrike struck a large ISIL unit.

* Near Al Qaim, two airstrikes destroyed two ISIL excavators.

* Near Ramadi, an airstrike struck a large ISIL unit.

* Near Al Asad, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL vehicles.

Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.


‏@IraqiSMCEn – Iraqi Spring Media Center [5/1/15]:

The government's army has warned people of Sheikha village in Saqlawiya demanding them to leave their homes under the pretext of launching attack on Khalidiya..........

Nassaf villages in Fallujah have been shelled by artillery and missiles of government's forces.........

Afghanistan: NATO convoy comes under suicide attack

Pajhwok [5/1/15]:

A suicide bomber on Monday targeted a NATO troops’ convoy on Jalalabad-Torkham Highway in eastern Nangarhar province but caused no casualties, an official said.

Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, police spokesman, told Pajhwok Afghan News the attack occurred in the afternoon but he had no details into casualties.

An employee of the Torkham Custom department said he saw a vehicle of foreign troops burning after the attack.

The alliance in a statement said: “We can confirm that a Resolute Support convoy was struck by an IED in Nangarhar today. There were no reported RS casualties, but a vehicle sustained damage from the attack.”

Soon after the attack, Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, claimed credit for the attack.

Earlier, a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into European Union Police (EUPOL) vehicle killing one civilian and wounding seven others, including four foreigners.


Deadly Libya Strike on Tanker Draws Greek Condemnation [Naharnet – 5/1/15]

Libya war planes launch airstrikes on steel plant, port as UN postpones talks [Al Akhbar – 5/1/15]

Bomb wounds four policemen in Egypt's Sinai [Daily Star – 5/1/15]

Saudi guards killed on Iraq border [France 24 – 5/1/15]

With no rebel surrender, UN mission in DR Congo readies military operations [UN Media Release - 5/1/15]

Mali: UN Mission condemns attack that wounded 8 peacekeepers [UN Media Release - 5/1/15]


#EricGarner's mother at rally for transparency of Grand Jury hearing, Staten Island Supreme Court. #BlackLivesMatter

#EricGarner's family: Now that the officers have been laid to rest, our weekly protests resume tomorrow 4PM SI Court

Image: ‏@KeeganNYC [5/1/15]


Judge Sets Date to Consider Release of Eric Garner Grand Jury Records [New York Times – 5/1/15]



7 January 2015