Why should Australian politicians be allowed to go on holiday while innocent refugees rot in concentration camps?

Why should ABC Local Radio get away with prattling on about holidays and obesity when Australia is committing human rights atrocities?

Detention centre worker tells truth about refugee camps [Green Left Weekly – 6/12/14]

More than 250 Manus Island refugees on hunger strike [The Age – 6/12/14]

On Nauru the scarcest commodity is freedom, for refugees and residents alike [Guardian - 5/12/14]

Tragedy strikes Ethiopian migrant boat

Al Jazeera [7/12/14]:

At least 70 Ethiopians have drowned after a boat used by smugglers to transport migrants to Yemen sank in the Red Sea in rough weather, according to security authorities in the western part of Yemen.

The authorities in Taiz province said on Sunday the small boat sank after encountering high winds and rough seas off al-Makha port.

Human traffickers often use unseaworthy boats to smuggle African migrants to Yemen, seen as a gateway to wealthier parts of the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Oman, and Europe.

They said the boat was carrying 70 people, all of them Ethiopians.

Tens of thousands of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and beyond crowd into often unsafe boats each year and many drown.

In March, at least 42 African migrants drowned in the Arabian Sea off the southern coast of Yemen.

Syrian Refugees Under Fire in Lebanon in Revenge Attack [Sputnik News – 7/12/14]

Six Guantanamo Detainees Sent to Uruguay

Naharnet [7/12/14]:

Six Guantanamo detainees, including four Syrians, one Palestinian and one Tunisian, have been transferred to Uruguay from the American military base in Cuba, where 136 detainees remain, the Pentagon said Sunday.

Among the inmates transferred was Syrian prisoner Jihad Diyab, 43, who had staged a hunger strike and requested a U.S. court to order prison officials to stop force-feeding him.

The six men received an "approved for transfer" from US authorities and left the military base on a U.S. Air Force plane at 12:00 am (0500 GMT) Sunday, Pentagon spokesman Myles Caggins told AFP.

There are still 136 prisoners at Guantanamo, most of whom are detained without charge or facing trial, after 66 detainees were approved to be released by the successive governments of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Sunday's transfers follow the release of seven prisoners in November.

"We are very grateful to Uruguay for this important humanitarian action, and to President (Jose) Mujica for his strong leadership in providing a home for individuals who cannot return to their own countries," special envoy for Guantanamo closure Cliff Sloan told AFP.

"The support we are receiving from our friends and allies is critical to achieving our shared goal of closing Guantanamo, and this transfer is a major milestone in our efforts to close the facility."

Uruguay's leftist President Jose Mujica had announced in March that the South American country would take in the inmates on humanitarian grounds in an effort to help U.S. President Barack Obama fulfill his long-delayed promise to close the military prison in Cuba.

The transfers, initially to take place last August, were delayed for political reasons.

By the time Washington was ready, Uruguay was in the midst of an election campaign to choose Mujica's successor, making the issue a political hot potato.

Diyab is one of several prisoners who have staged hunger strikes at Guantanamo arguing that they are being held in legal limbo.

Last year, Guantanamo prisoners staged the largest protest in the prison's history -- involving two thirds of all detainees at its peak and spanning six months.

Israel bombs areas near Damascus: Syrian TV

Reuters [7/12/14]:

Syrian state television said on Sunday that Israeli jets had bombed areas near Damascus international airport and in the town of Dimas, near the border with Lebanon.

An Israeli army spokesman said he would not comment on the "foreign reports".

Israel has struck Syria several times since the start of the three-year conflict, mostly destroying weaponry such as missiles that Israeli officials said were destined for their long-time foe Hezbollah in neighbouring Lebanon.

"The Israeli enemy committed aggression against Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, in all of Dimas and near the Damascus International Airport," state television said, adding that there were no casualties.

Residents in Damascus said they heard loud explosions and opposition activists posted photos online of jet streams in the evening sky and fiery explosions. Syria's army general command said on state television that there were "material losses in some facilities." It said the strike benefited al Qaeda.

Syria's state news agency SANA said the strikes were a "flagrant attack on Syria", while the official news agency in Lebanon said Israeli jets breached its airspace on Sunday.

A resident in the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya, close to Dimas, said the agricultural airport in Dimas was hit.

Dimas is in a mountainous area to the northwest of the capital which is under government control and close to several military installations.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the conflict through a network of sources on both sides, said that 10 explosions were heard near Dimas. It said that one missile hit a warehouse for imports and exports at the Damascus international airport.

Syrian state media reported in May 2013 that Israeli aircraft struck in three places including the Dimas airport. At the time, Western and Israeli officials said it was a strike on Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah.

Syria's war started with a pro-democracy movement which grew into an armed uprising and has inflamed regional confrontations. Some 200,000 people have died, the United Nations says.

A U.S.-led coalition is also bombing Syria from the skies but targeting the Islamic State militant group, one of President Bashar al-Assad's biggest foes.

UN Reveals Regular Contacts Between Israeli Army and Syrian Rebels: Reports [Sputnik News – 7/12/14]

British military base in Bahrain is a reward for silence on rights abuses [Al Akhbar – 7/12/14]

Israel detains 12 Gaza fishermen as NGO says 1 killed, 14 injured since ceasefire

Al Akhbar [7/12/14]:

Israel's navy detained 12 Palestinian fishermen Saturday night off the coast of the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for Gaza's fishermen said Sunday, a day after a Palestinian NGO said that a Palestinian have been killed and 14 others injured in the Strip since August 26.

A researcher for the Gaza-based al-Mezan Center For Human Rights told Ma'an Sunday that Israeli naval forces detained fishermen from four boats near the al-Sudaniyya area.

Forces first detained Mahmoud Zayid and his brother Ahmad from Beit Lahiya.

They later detained nine more fishermen from Gaza City, the researcher said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The researcher said the arrests were the largest "detention campaign" against Gaza fishermen since the Egypt-brokered ceasefire agreement.

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed that 12 fishermen were arrested, adding that five fishing boats were also apprehended after allegedly veering from the permitted fishing zone.

The arrests came one day after Israel's navy fired at fishing boats off the coast of the Gaza Strip, fishermen and medics in the blockaded territory said.

...

France bombs Iraq

IraqiNews.com [7/12/14]:

 On Friday, the French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Odrian announced that a “massive” air raid was launched on targets of the ISIS organization in Iraq, pointing out that French aircrafts have carried out about 120-130 intelligence and shelling operations against the terrorist group since the beginning of the international coalition’s strikes, confirming that the latter ceased the expansion of ISIS in Iraq.

Odrian said in a statement followed by IraqiNews.com, “A massive air raid took place today in Iraq,” pointing out that, “The French aircrafts have carried out from 120 to 130 intelligence operations and bombardments against the terrorist organization ISIS since the beginning of the strikes of the international alliance.”

Ordian added, “We are completely determined to prevent the terrorist organization from occupying Iraq,” and added, “Thanks to the work of the international coalition, we stopped the expansion of ISIS, but it does not mean the war is over.” He continued, “The coalition will provide air support until Iraqi forces can gradually regain its territories.”

Maliki claims he has document on Kurds’ involvement in fall of Mosul [IraqiNews.com – 7/12/14]

Eastern Libyan government conducts air strikes on border with Tunisia [Reuters – 5/12/14]

Putin sees hope for new peace deal in E. Ukraine

RT [6/12/14]:

Vladimir Putin has expressed the hope that a new ceasefire deal in eastern Ukraine will be reached soon. His comment comes after talks with Francois Hollande who made an unscheduled short visit to Moscow to discuss the conflict.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Putin said that while both sides in the Ukrainian conflict are not fulfilling all their obligations, the situation there gives hope for improvement in the near future.

Both Paris and Moscow agree on the need for an “immediate end to the bloodshed," Putin said. He called on Kiev to promptly withdraw its artillery and multiple rocket launchers from the border with the Donbass region.

“The situation [in Ukraine] is tragic, we can see that people are still dying there, but I very much hope that in the near future a final decision on the ceasefire will be made,” he said.

Russia expects Kiev to exclude any possibility of a blockade of the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk republics, he added: "Otherwise it is difficult to imagine the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Russia, as you know, supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine."

“Russia initiated the meeting [between Kiev and representatives of the eastern republics] in Minsk, with our direct participation these protocols were signed, so we support their full implementation,” Putin elaborated.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko announced a new round of talks between Kiev and representatives of the eastern republics will take place on Tuesday. The negotiations will focus on agreeing a schedule for the implementation of the measures to be taken under the Minsk protocol. It is not certain whether Hollande and Putin were referring to Tuesday’s talks when speaking in Moscow. The proposed date of talks coincided with the so-called “Day of Silence”, when both sides of the conflict vowed to observe a ceasefire.

Hollande made an unexpected stop in Moscow’s Vnukovo-2 airport as he traveled from neighboring Kazakhstan to France on Saturday.

"I was flying over Moscow and made a decision to stop over here for discussing the most significant issues related to Ukraine's crisis and to all the sufferings stemming out of it for the Ukrainians, for the European Union and for Russia as well," Hollande said.

Putin welcomed his counterpart and thanked him for the visit, saying that it “certainly will benefit the resolution of many problems.”

The French leader said he was eager to continue the discussion started at the G20 in Australia and at the three-way meeting between himself, Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during D-Day celebrations in France.

“On June 6 we talked about the need to find solutions, to work together. We’ve talked with Angela Merkel. We believe that Russia and France will be able to find the necessary solution,” he said. "I believe at some moment it is necessary to overcome the obstacles, the walls, which may separate us, and I believe we can do this."

Tensions between Russia and France have been on the rise as Paris has come under to annul delivery of Mistrals, helicopter-carrying amphibious assault ships, to Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis.

As a result, in late November Hollande decided to suspend the delivery of the first such ship "until further notice".

Moscow has urged Paris to fulfill the agreement with top-ranking officials adding Russia will sue France should the ship not be delivered at all. France is facing a multibillion dollar fine, if it fails to deliver under the contract. The delay of the warships’ delivery has reportedly entailed additional costs for Paris.

On Saturday, Putin said that the two leaders did not speak about the delay as Moscow proceeds from the fact that the contract will be fulfilled. Otherwise Russia expects full compensation from France, he added.

IMF to Visit Kiev for Talks on Ukraine Bailout [The Moscow Times – 7/12/14]

China denounces Philippine pressure over sea dispute arbitration [Yahoo – 7/12/14]

PNG: Investigations into the clash of disciplinary forces begin

EMTV [6/12/14]

The investigations into the clash between members of the PNG Defence Force, and the Royal PNG Constabulary, have commenced.

A task force team, involving senior officers from both the RPNGC and the PNGDF, has been set up to investigate the standoff.

The standoff is a result of drunken officers using abusive language in the vicinity of Boroko, in Port Moresby last night.

In a joint media conference this afternoon, deputy police commissioner Jim Andrews confirmed that drunk members of the PNG Defence Force were brought to the Boroko Police Station last night by police officers patrolling the Boroko area.

He said when the soldiers were taken to the station an argument broken out at the station which eventuated into a bigger fight.

PNGDF Acting Chief of Staff Col. Oala Vagi was not able to confirm the exact number of soldiers injured in the fight, but EMTV News understands that at least one solider was seriously injured in the clash.

It was also confirmed the injured soldiers are from the batch that recently passed out.

Investigations have commenced, but information is sketchy at the moment and both col. Vagi and Commissioner Andrews said once the full report is compiled, all officers and soldiers involved, will be charged with disciplinary and criminal charges.

Warnings were issued to the general public NOT to take advantage of the standoff and destroy business houses and other private property.

Last night's protest in Berkeley included all walks of life. Most were cool, a few irrational.

Image: @cjablonski  [7/12/14]

 Ferguson demo in Berkeley: injuries reported, tear gas deployed, businesses and property vandalized; arrests [Berkeleyside - 6/12/14]:

... Update, Dec. 7, 8:45 a.m.: The demonstration concluded at around 4 a.m., according to Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats. The preliminary arrest numbers are five adults and one juvenile. The charges were not available at the time of Coats’ release.

Update, Dec. 7, 2:43 a.m.: According to reports from the scene, many of the protesters have dispersed. Some have called for supporters to meet Sunday at 1 p.m. at Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus to continue their efforts. Stay tuned to #BerkeleyProtest for live updates.

Update, Dec. 7, 1:51 a.m.: As the crowd has continued to move south on Telegraph Avenue, from Ashby to Alcatraz Avenue toward Oakland, reports about protestors injured by police continue to come in.

One of those reports came from Cindy Pincus, who photographed a head wound she said she received while trying to retreat from police around midnight. (The picture appears below at about 1 a.m.) She shared her account of what happened with Berkeleyside, and said she is at the hospital and receiving staples to treat her injury.

“The police began walking forward and in 2-3 seconds were pressed up against us with their batons held parallel between them and us. I shouted ‘Be calm, be calm, we’re peaceful!’ And they kept walking forward. I looked to the left and a police officer had begun jabbing a protester with the end of his baton. I turned around to retreat and passed a woman who had fallen and was being trampled. I bent down to pick her up under one armpit while another woman grabbed her other arm. As we were lifting her backwards I saw an officer raise his baton over my shoulder and was struck on the back of the head as I was bent forward. My vision momentarily blacked out and I saw stars. I put my hand to the back of my head and started running. I felt a welt rise immediately and blood ran down my neck and covered my hand.”

...

Maldives Water Crisis: India Transports 1,000 Tonnes of Fresh Water to Male

NDTV [7/12/14]:

 A Navy vessel and an Air Force aircraft carrying nearly 1,000 tonnes of fresh water reached Male today as India mounted a major effort to help the Maldivian capital that is reeling from an acute shortage of drinking water after its lone desalination plant caught fire.

INS Deepak, a large fleet tanker with 1000 tonnes of water, which sailed from Mumbai, reached Male this evening.

Responding to Maldives' urgent request for assistance on December 4, INS Sukanya, on patrol off Kochi, was diverted immediately and had reached Male the next day.

The ship carried 35 tonnes of fresh water and has the capability to produce 20 tonnes of water every day.

The ship has already transferred approximately 65 tonnes of fresh water till Sunday evening.

Additionally, Indian Navy warships have the capability to produce drinking water using their onboard desalination plants (INS Deepak is capable of producing 100 tonnes of water every day).

The Indian Navy ships will continue to produce and supply potable water to Male even whilst at anchor. The responsiveness, unique capabilities, flexibility and versatility of warships in meeting various contingencies has yet again been demonstrated, a statement by the Navy said.

The Indian Air Force had also stepped in and has pressed fixed wing aircraft into service to meet the immediate requirement of the people in Male.

Five aircraft including two C-17 Globemaster-III and three IL-76 with 153 tones on December 5 and three aircraft including two C-17 and one IL-76 with 130 tones yesterday were pressed into service.

One C-17 aircraft with 40 tones and another aircraft with about 40 tones have also reached Male today.

Mayor wants to limit car use in central Paris

France 24 [7/12/14]:

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo revealed plans on Sunday to limit the number of cars allowed in the city centre and to ban diesel vehicles entirely by 2020 in an effort to curtail pollution in the French capital.

"In the four central districts – apart from bikes, buses and taxis – the only vehicles allowed will be residents' cars, delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles," Hidalgo said in an interview with the “Journal du Dimanche” weekly.

Hidalgo said the proposed limits would at first apply only on weekends, but they could then be "quickly" extended to the rest of the week.

"I want diesel cars out of Paris by 2020 and, if possible, beyond the périphérique," said the mayor, referring to the ring road that encircles the capital.

Hidalgo said that car ownership in the city was already on the decline. "Today, 60 percent of Parisians don't have their own car whereas in 2011, it was 40 percent. It's moving quickly," she said.

Central Paris has a relatively high population density in European terms, and tourists are often surprised by the traffic levels in and around the historic sights of the world's most-visited city.

Paris also experiences periodic pollution spikes, forcing authorities to impose temporary speed limits on motorists and even to ban vehicles from operating on certain days.

After dangerously high levels of air pollution were reported in March, Paris introduced a system of “alternating traffic” whereby residents were restricted to using their vehicles only on alternate days, which were determined by their licence plate numbers. Thousands of people ignored the restrictions and were fined.

Hidalgo said she wanted to limit traffic on some of the most polluted streets – like the iconic but busy Champs-Elysées – to "clean vehicles" only.

As an "experimental" measure, she suggested allowing only very low-emissions cars on these major thoroughfares.

Hidalgo also intends to extend the zones where the speed limit is fixed at 30 kilometres (18 miles) an hour so that it becomes "the norm in Paris".

"Driving at 50 kilometres per hour on the main arterial roads would become the exception," she said.

And in a bid to get people out of their cars and onto bikes, the mayor said the number of cycle lanes will be doubled by 2020 as part of a €100 million bike route development plan.

She said she also wants to roll out a system of electric-powered bikes operating along the same lines as the city's popular Vélib' bike-rental network and its Autolib' electric car-rental service.

The plan will be discussed in the Town Hall on February 9.

Top city transport official Christophe Najdovski said last month that there would be restrictions on the most polluting cars in central Paris starting from mid-2015.

Stop discussing what's in his lying, fascist publications and start thinking

Boycott Murdoch

... 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 Age [VIDEO- 5/11/14]:

 Actress Cate Blanchett applauded as she reflects on growing up in a world greatly changed by former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam.

still guarding the hunger strikers #OccupyHK

Image: @krislc -Kris Cheng, freelance journalist [7/12/14]

Wikileaks: "We Need More Transparency for Those in Power

Sputnik News [5/12/14]:

Sputnik had the opportunity to talk to investigative journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson, the official representative of Wikileaks. Hrafnsson reflected on the organization’s past success and future plans, as well as the fate of Julian Assange and threats to privacy.

Can you name some of the most striking WikiLeaks publications over the past 4 years?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: I think that the publication of the diplomatic cables that we started around four years ago was probably the most high profile. The importance of other revelations is quite high, even the military documents, pertaining to Iraq and Afghanistan, and other information that we have been publishing about surveillance through the private companies and the spy files. Lately, we can mention the information about the secret state negotiations going on with the Transpacific Partnership agreement (the TPP). But I think the diplomatic cables are probably the most high profile of our releases in this period.

There have recently been rumors about WikiLeaks planning to launch a new media project in Latin America. Is that true?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: We have recently been dedicated to continuing our path and cooperating with the established media. As for new media initiatives, I cannot mention any in particular at this instance, but they of course will continue. It is worth mentioning of course the books that have been published by Julian Assange on various topics. And the latest one has been, of course, on Google and the revelations pertaining to that company, and how it is becoming a key element and the center of work for the military information complex. And there are other revelations that pertain to the protection of privacy, like it was mentioned earlier – the spy files.

Does Google actually work for the State Department?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: Google contracts with the US government on various fronts. The book is based on a discussion from 2010 between Julian Assange and Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, it is quite revealing on how Google sees the world, according to Eric Schmidt, and how it wants to place itself in the center of the information collection and dissimulation, which of course is at the center of our modern vision about national security and security issues. Eric Schmidt himself said, as mentioned in the book, that he wants Google to be the Lockheed Martin of the 21st century. Lockheed Martin, of course, is one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the heart of the old military and industrial complex.

If Google is dangerous, do you think social networks are neglecting the privacy of people?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: They obviously are when they are coerced or in an initiative, cooperating with spy agencies in collecting information about people, and analyzing that, as we now know thanks to Edward Snowden, in the NSA. It is very strange that we live in times where the privacy of individuals is becoming practically nonexistent, but the secrecy of those in power is increasing day by day. That is something that is totally against every principle and value of society, and of course it should be reversed. We need more transparency for those in power. We need more privacy for the powerless – the individual.

What are the conditions under which Julian Assange can leave the embassy?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: Julian has maintained and has said that if the Swedish Government gives him a guarantee that he will not be extradited onward to the US for his work as the publisher and editor of WikiLeaks, he would be willing to travel to Sweden. That has been denied. Sweden does not want to give such kind of guarantee.

Of course, he has asylum in Ecuador and he should be allowed to enjoy that asylum, which is totally legitimate and should be respected according to the 1951 treaty on asylum refugees. The UK government should give him safe passage to Ecuador. Swedish authorities should travel to London to finish this questioning phase and continue with that case. The US government should drop the ridiculous, still-ongoing and far-reaching criminal investigation into the work of WikiLeaks, which, we believe, has only one aim – to result in an indictment against Julian Assange and all those working for the organization.

Do you think there is a chance that Assange might actually surrender?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: No, I don’t see any chance for that and there is no need for that. He has the right as an individual to enjoy the asylum that has been granted to him and he will simply continue the fight.

Of course he has to spend part of the time on his own struggle to get out of this absurd situation which is getting to become almost Kafkaesque in nature. But apart from that his work at WikiLeaks goes on and he’s a very busy man and works at leading the organization.

It is natural that being locked inside for as long as he has (more than two years – almost two and a half years) has affected him as an individual.

What measures are being taken to protect the WikiLeaks logo and the overall image of Julian Assange?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: The WikiLeaks logo and the image of Julian Assange are more and more used on all kinds of icons, not for the benefit of the organization. And often enough in a context that is rather weird and has no relevance to the work of WikiLeaks. So WikiLeaks has made an agreement to oversee the licensing of the logo and the image of Julian. If there’s an interest in using them on a clothing brand is something that has to be seen. But this is a twofold purpose. One is to give the supporters an opportunity to support the organization, knowing that the proceeds of what they are purchasing goes to the organization and showing the support through products with the brand logo. The second purpose is to secure the integrity of the image and the brand and make sure there are no abuses or really any use of those items.

Are people allowed to visit Julian Assange in the embassy?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: He has a lot of visitors, he is a free man inside the embassy. There are frequent visits and quite a lot of people come both for work and friendship. And so for socialization and work there are people coming in and out every day almost.

Could you please give a brief summary the whole situation around Julian Assange?

Kristinn Hrafnsson: This has gone far beyond being anything but a total violation of an individual’s human rights. This is a person that is basically being locked in limbo not getting any chance to get out of that situation with several countries involved. None of the countries will take a step towards securing some formidable case – itself a gross violation of human rights. The opportunities are there, the countries and governments are simply passing the buck or refusing to move and that is a totally unacceptable situation and of course it has to be stopped very soon. It has gone way too far.

Australian government appoints former Supreme Court judge Roger Gyles as new national security monitor

ABC [7/12/14]:

The man expected to take over reviewing national security and counter-terrorism operations says it will be a daunting job.

Former New South Wales Supreme Court judge, Roger Gyles, has been appointed by the Government to be the new Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.

The Federal Government scrapped the watchdog position, but decided to re-appoint a monitor when it announced a raft of changes to national security laws earlier this year.

The position has been vacant while the Government passed two major bills, strengthening the powers of the spy agencies and cracking down on Australians fighting with terrorist groups overseas.

Mr Gyles will review whether the recent changes impact on journalists' ability to report on secret intelligence operations.

He will also have an important role next year when the Government seeks to pass new laws compelling telephone and internet companies to retain customers' data.

Mr Gyles said the pressure to balance national security needs and civil liberties will be a daunting task.

"It involves going into a field, an important field and understanding it, under pressure of time but not so to jump the gun if you know what I mean," he said.

Mr Gyles said it would take months to review the new legislation that included giving more powers to the nation's security agencies.

"No there obviously couldn't be a time element to that.  I think it'll be done in bite-sized chunks frankly."

The Government want to have the legislation for the Counter-Terrorism package considered as soon as possible and Mr Gyles will start in his role as INSLM immediately on an acting basis until he is officially approved by the Governor-General.

"It is important Mr Gyles consider this legislation as soon as possible. He will therefore commence as the INSLM immediately," the Government said in a statement.

The Government said Mr Gyles' experience will "equip him well for the important task of monitoring complex national security legislation".

 A 31-year-old south-east Queensland man accused of terror offences has been charged with an additional crime of extortion. … [ABC – 5/12/14]

Brunswick residents evacuated following suspicious fire in car repair shop [ABC – 7/12/14]

Man falls 20 floors to his death from Southbank apartment [The Age – 6/12/14]

Trucks hurtles off bridge, through 60,000 litre pool and into house [Herald – 6/12/14]

Baby boy hit by forklift in regional Victoria [Yahoo – 6/12/14]

Man dies after pig truck rollover in Bindoon [WA Today – 5/12/14]

Woman and baby hospitalised after crash with police car [WA Today – 5/12/14]

Mt Gibson Iron slashes hundreds of jobs after shelving WA iron ore mine [ABC – 5/12/14]

Philippines: More than 1 million flee Typhoon Hagupit

Reuters [7/12/14]:

A powerful typhoon tore through the central Philippines on Sunday, bringing howling winds that toppled trees and power poles and cut off communications in areas where thousands were killed by a massive storm just over a year ago.

More than 1 million people had fled to shelters away from coastal areas and landslide-prone villages by the time Typhoon Hagupit made landfall on Saturday night, in what a U.N. agency said was one of the world's biggest peacetime evacuations.

Hagupit, which days earlier had reached category 5 "super typhoon" strength as it churned across the Pacific Ocean, further weakened on Sunday to category 2 as it made a second landfall at Cataingan town in the south of Masbate island.

"We are now experiencing very strong winds and heavy rains," Wilton Co, mayor of Cataingan town, told a radio interview. "I asked everyone to stay indoors and move inland to higher ground, hoping that we will have zero casualties."

The typhoon was moving west northwest at 15 kph (9 mph), with sustained winds of 140 kph (86 mph) and gusts of up to 170 kph (105 mph), the Philippine weather bureau PAGASA said. It was expected to pass around 120 km south of the capital Manila by early Monday morning.

Power was cut across most of the eastern island of Samar and nearby Leyte province, including Tacloban City, considered ground zero of the devastating super typhoon Haiyan last year.

"I can't penetrate the areas, I can't go north or south because of fallen trees and power lines. Many areas are flooded," Ben Evardone, congressman for Eastern Samar, said from his base in the provincial capital Borongan.

Local radio reported at least four people were killed in Eastern Samar and Iloilo, but that could not be confirmed by officials. The Philippine Red Cross said it was also verifying the reports.

Alexander Pama, head of the disaster agency, said major roads in parts of Samar and Leyte islands and the south of the main island Luzon were not passable due to debris, and some areas were also flooded.

General Gregorio Catapang, head of the military, said nearly 2,000 soldiers were clearing the roads and two airports on Samar to bring in food trucks and aircraft loaded with emergency supplies.

"There were areas that experienced storm surges," said Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo, adding the agency was verifying the exact height of the waves.


Pro democracy activists protest Queensland's anti rights laws in Brisbane

We're losing our freedoms - to camp, fish, shoot, ride, have a beer at the pub with your mates.

Image: @RealBobKatter [7/12/14]

Yahoo [7/12/14]:

Protesters have vowed to fight on against the Queensland government's controversial anti-bikie legislation, despite the laws being upheld in the High Court.

About 200 demonstrators, many wearing leather and anti-government slogans, gathered in Brisbane on Sunday to speak out against the Newman government's Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act (VLAD).

The High Court last month rejected a challenge to the VLAD laws and related legislation, prompting Premier Campbell Newman to call on other states to adopt similar laws.

But lawyer Zeke Bentley said he and other opponents weren't deterred by the High Court's decision and would be waiting for the next opportunity to challenge the legislation.

"The laws still deserve to go; they're still draconian, they're still unacceptable by first world standards," Mr Bentley told reporters.

"One of the most fundamental rights in any democratic society is the right to associate, to talk to someone you know whether they be family, friends or whatever."

Librarian Sally Kuether is facing six months' imprisonment under the laws for being in a pub with two alleged bikies - her partner and a friend.

"You don't actually have to do anything wrong, you don't have to be a criminal and you get caught up in it, you face jail time," she said.

"How's that fair? You're considered guilty until you go to court."

Federal MP Bob Katter also spoke at the rally, describing the VLAD laws as just one example of how Queenslanders' freedoms had been restricted by the government.

"We Queenslanders live in the most restrictive society on Earth," Mr Katter said.

"The next person who tells me that we live in a free society, I swear I will get very, very angry with him."

But Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the results spoke for themselves, with robberies on the Gold Coast falling 46 per cent since the laws were introduced.

"Everyone's entitled to protest in this democracy that we live in and I'm just glad that we live in a safe democracy," Mr Bleijie said.

Grievous bodily harm charge, Caboolture [QPS Media – 6/12/14]

Armed robbery, Lawnton [QPS Media – 6/12/14]

Serious assault charges, Coombabah [QPS Media – 6/12/14]

Man facing torture charge after Ipswich mother, child bashed [ABC - 5/12/14]

High toxin levels in Townsville playgrounds alarms researchers [ABC – 5/12/14]

Enormous dust storm 'turned day into night' in town of Bedourie in far western Queensland [ABC – 5/12/14]

Assault charges, Dinmore [QPS Media – 5/12/14]

Burglary with violence, Grange [QPS Media – 4/12/14]

Attempted murder charge, Woodridge [QPS Media - 4/12/14]

Drug trafficking charges, Bowen [QPS Media – 4/12/14]

Armed robbery, Toowong [QPS Media - 3/12/14]

Fatal crash Bruce Highway Mt Larcom [QPS Media – 6/12/14]

Truck crash, Logan [QPS Media - 6/12/14]

An 'Entertaining' Lesson on How Cops Can 'Win the Media' After They Kill [FAIR - 3/12/14]

Where were ALP luvvies currently highlighting Santos links to Queensland Police back in January 2012?

‘Stay on Track Outback’ launches at Caravanning and Camping Show [QPS Media - 5/6/14]:

... In partnership with Santos, Jayco Motor Homes and Isuzu UTE Australia, a Jayco motor home and Isuzu D-MAX ute decorated with ‘Stay on Track Outback’ graphics will be travelling across Western Queensland to support the Imparja television ads in the education phase of this project.

...

Has Arrow Energy bought the Qld police force?  [The Creek Blog - 23/1/12]

Everyman and his dog attend Gold Coast Save Our Spit - Save Wavebreak Island - Save Our Broadwater rally

Broadwater Parklands, Gold Coast [7/12/14]

Nearly 3,000 attended today's rally

That includes ALP opportunists - go back to where you come from!

(Channel 7 reports that former Queensland ALP Police Minister Judy Spence is a spokesperson for the new group "Save Our Broadwater")

Spence commits to state wide roll out of tasers [Queensland Government Media Release - 29/1/08]

GECKO's Community Consultation/POLL on the Gold Coast cruise ship terminal/casino.

Southport Councillor "Our Dawnie" Crichlow enjoying the public space and democracy.

Keeping an eye on the media and police who were very protective of the Gold Coast Integrated Resort and Cruise Ship Terminal Project Information Centre.

A mobile hydration station kept everyone cool.

Insights Into Special Branch

How surreal to sit in an audience that included both ex Special Branch officers and the citizens they monitored - especially when you couldn't really tell them apart!

The Queensland Police Museum hosted two lectures presented by retired Queensland Police Inspector Barry Krosch, a former Special Branch detective, and Professor of History Mark Finnane today [28/3/10].

Mr Krosch gave a chronology of Queensland's Special Branch and discussed the relationship between Special Branch and ASIO in the context of local and international politics.

Like secret police everywhere, the activities of Special Branch appeared to revolve around the surveillance and infiltration of trade unions, communists and peace activists.

Thomas Shepherd's story, published in 'Overland' magazine makes for a great read if you subscribe to the idea that the state should secretly spy on its citizens.

Special Branch was disbanded in December 1989 following the shredding of thousands of special branch files. (According to Mr Krosch's handout 'Big Brothers Are Watching You', in 1990, thirteen Special Branch detectives were transferred to the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, and two to Brisbane CIB.)

Professor Finnane was critical of the destruction of these files as they would have been an invaluable resource to historians.

When compiling his biography of J. V. Barry, Finnane was able to access Barry's A.S.I.O. file, but his Victorian Special branch file had been destroyed.

Former Transport Minister in the Bjelke-Petersen government Don Lane (who featured in Mr Krosch's lecture) devoted an entire chapter to Special Branch in his 1993 memoir 'Trial and Error':

... Ironically - considering how strongly some Labor figures objected to the Special Branch's existence in the 1960s, 70s and 80s - it had been established under a State Labor Government 19 years before I joined it, by the then Queensland Police Commissioner, Captain Cecil Carroll, who was admired by those who served under him. ...

But in a State the size of Queensland, and with the limited resources at Carroll's disposal for this operation, it was clear that police could not undertake the operation without outside help. So they enlisted special agents.

To the ordinary Australian this might sound sinister, but these people were far removed from the political agents of fiction or those employed by some of the countries whose policies were hostile to Australia. They were ordinary members of the community, including schoolteachers, housewives and tradesmen. Most of them infiltrated the various organisations whose activities we were required to have knowledge of, and in some cases risked personal retribution if they were exposed. But it was a risk they chose to run, undertaking their work for the Branch in the public interest. I was impressed with their sincerity. ...

One of our agents was a motherly woman who met her Special Branch contacts every month for 15 years to report on the meetings she attended of two organisations. Her contact with branch officers took place in unmarked police vehicles in a park near her home, where she handed over a detailed report in her best copperplate handwriting outlining the attendance and everything of likely interest to us that transpired when the organisations met. Often she turned up with home-baked scones or cakes for the officers and displayed great interest in their wives and children. ...

From 'Brisbane 150 Stories 1859 - 2009' by Frank McBride, Helen Taylor, Carmel Black, Brian Rough and Heather Richards (published by Brisbane City Council 2009):

1955 Milk Bar Loafers

Rock'n'Roll Arrives

As youth culture developed in the 1950s, made more visible by its adoption of the scandalous new rock'n'roll music from America, there was widespread concern about the breakdown of community values. The media and police combined to emphasise the menace inherent in this undesirable youth rebellion. The supposed antisocial behaviour of bodgies and widgies was directly linked to rock'n'roll.

Bodgies were a new type of 'inner city tough', loosely modelled on English 'teddy boys'. They wore slicked-back hair, tight trousers, often showing brightly coloured socks, and draped jackets. These distinctive fashions meant that they were easily demonised by the media.

Bodgies, hoodlums and milk bar loafers in Brisbane face trouble from the police! So ran a report in the Courier-Mail in October 1955. In the article, Police Inspector Frank Bischof stated that young men congregating around milk bars and theatres are apt to be drawn into sex orgies and to fight among themselves for the favours of young women.

In 1956, a special bodgie squad was established by the police to root out the new social menace. Gilbert Park in Ashgrove, Shorncliffe Pier and inner city entertainment venues where young poeple met were all targeted. In 1957, the Government established a Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate the bodgie, widgie problem. The Committee's Report affirmed that the worrisome delinquency could be minimised by better family life. It stated that if the child learns to respect the single authority of his father ... he will know how to handle authority without disastrous rebellion in later life. It also expressed concern about mothers using kindergartens as dumping grounds to allow themselves more freedom to pursue desires.

Rock'n'roll made a tentative entry into Brisbane in 1955 with the film Blackboard Jungle, featuring the Bill Haley song 'Rock Around the Clock'. Subsequently, when the film Rock Around the Clock was shown police patrolled the aisles of the cinema, to control the local jive junkies who went along in force and behaved as though they had ants in their pants.

Following this, rock'n'roll dances and concerts became popular. Johnny O'Keefe performed to 2,000 people in City Hall. Concerts were also held at the Stadium and one of these in November 1956 ended in a rock'n'roll riot. During the concert, some members of the audience attempted to dance in the aisles. This was stopped by police, which led to minor destruction of parts of the auditorium and the setting of a fire. Clashes between police and members of the audience continued after the concert in Albert Street and a number of arrests were made.

In 1957, Bill Haley, supported by The Platters, LaVern Baker and Big Joe Turner, performed at the Stadium. The police expressed concern that the audience would be uncontrollable. Haley indicated that if this happened he would immediately play the national anthem to bring people to order.

Half page advertisement in the Murdoch press for the Queensland Government's Growth Summit debate featuring Corinne Grant [2010]

 "When will it end?"

Wu-Tang Clan's 'A Better Tomorrow' Video Compiles Protest Footage From New York, Ferguson

Spin [6/12/14]:

 Wu-Tang Clan's reunion record A Better Tomorrow was released earlier this week, and today, the Staten Island crew decided to share a timely video for the title track from that record. Compiling footage from recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City over the failure to indict two police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively, the video seeks to underscore the track's cries for social upheaval. The video also includes clips of President Barack Obama's recent comments on the subject and concludes with an ominous slide that asks "when will it end?"

 via @trevormattos [2/12/14] Far and away the most insightful analysis of #Ferguson I’ve read from Professor Matthew Pratt...

"The world has lost the voice of a brave human being and open-minded journalist who could explain the complexities of the situation in Yemen deftly."

Al Jazeera [6/12/14]:

An American photojournalist and a South African teacher held by Al-Qaeda in Yemen were killed Saturday during a failed U.S.-led rescue attempt, a raid President Barack Obama said he ordered over an "imminent danger" to the reporter.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) previously posted a video online threatening to kill photographer Luke Somers, prompting a second rescue attempt for him by American forces backed by Yemeni ground troops. But an aid group helping negotiate the release of South African Pierre Korkie said he was to be freed Sunday and his wife was told only that morning: "The wait is almost over."

In a statement, President Obama did not address Korkie by name, only saying he "authorized the rescue of any other hostages held in the same location as Luke." The South African government did not immediately comment on Korkie's death.

Information "indicated that Luke's life was in imminent danger," Obama said. "Based on this assessment, and as soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorized a rescue attempt."

"On behalf of the American people," he said, "I offer my deepest condolences to Luke’s family and to his loved ones. Their despair and sorrow at this time are beyond words."

Lucy Somers, the photojournalist's sister, told The Associated Press that she and her father learned of her 33-year-old brother's death from FBI agents at 12 a.m. EST Saturday.

"We ask that all of Luke's family members be allowed to mourn in peace," she said.

Yemen's national security chief, Maj. Gen. Ali al-Ahmadi, said the militants planned to kill Luke Somers on Saturday, prompting the joint mission.

"Al-Qaeda promised to conduct the execution [of Somers] today so there was an attempt to save them but unfortunately they shot the hostage before or during the attack," Ahmadi said at a conference in Manama, Bahrain. "He was freed but unfortunately he was dead."

The operation began before dawn Saturday in Yemen's southern Shabwa province, a stronghold of AQAP. A U.S. drone struck first in the Wadi Abdan area, followed by strafing runs by jets and Yemeni ground forces moving in, a Yemeni security official said. Helicopters also flew in more forces, he said.

At least nine AQAP militants were killed in an initial drone strike, another security official said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity, as they weren't authorized to speak to journalists.

Both Somers and Korkie "were murdered by the AQAP terrorists during the course of the operation," U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Saturday's operation marked the second failed rescue by U.S. and Yemeni forces looking for Somers, among the roughly dozen hostages believed held by AQAP in Yemen.

On Nov. 25, American special operations forces and Yemeni soldiers raided a remote Al-Qaeda safe haven in a desert region near the Saudi border, freeing eight captives — including Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian. Somers, a Briton and four others had been moved days earlier, officials later said.

Following the first raid, Al-Qaeda militants released a video Thursday that showed Somers, threatening to kill him in three days if the United States didn't meet the group's unspecified demands or if another rescue was attempted. Somers was kidnapped in September 2013 as he left a supermarket in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, said Fakhri al-Arashi, chief editor of the National Yemen, where Somers worked as a copy editor and a freelance photographer during the 2011 uprising in Yemen.

Before her brother's death, Lucy Somers released an online video describing him as a romantic who "always believes the best in people." She ended with the plea: "Please let him live."

In a statement, Somers' father, Michael, also called his son "a good friend of Yemen and the Yemeni people" and asked for his safe release.

Somers was a regular contributor to Al Jazeera English, often capturing protests in Sanaa against the government as well as documenting real voices through this photography.

Imad Musa, head of Al Jazeera English Online said of Somers: "The world has lost the voice of a brave human being and open-minded journalist who could explain the complexities of the situation in Yemen deftly."

Korkie, meanwhile, was kidnapped in the Yemeni city of Taiz in May 2013, along with his wife Yolande. Militants later released his wife after a non-governmental group, Gift of the Givers, helped negotiate for her freedom. Those close to Korkie said Al-Qaeda militants demanded a $3 million ransom for his release.

"The psychological and emotional devastation to Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by Al-Qaeda tomorrow," Gift of Givers said in a statement Saturday.

"A team of Abyan leaders met in Aden this morning and were preparing the final security and logistical arrangements, related to hostage release mechanisms, to bring Pierre to safety and freedom. It is even more tragic that the words we used in a conversation with Yolande at 5:59 this morning was: 'The wait is almost over.'"

 Drone strikes kill nine in Yemen [Guardian - 6/12/14]

al-Malāḥim Media presents a new video message from al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula: “Statement On the American Hostage Luke Somers” [3/12/14]

Huffington Post [4/12/14]:

... Somers has worked for both the BBC and Al Jazeera, and moved to the country as a teacher, but began documenting the uprisings in the country in 2011, just two weeks after arriving according to a piece on the BBC website.

He also took photographs documenting malnutrition in the country, and celebrations of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday.

...

The video, which the SITE Intelligence Group said had not yet been released publicly, begins with a reading in Arabic from Nasser bin Ali al Ansi, an AQAP official, before Mr Somers appears and gives a statement in English.

He said: "My name is Luke Somers. I'm 33 years old. I was born in England, but I carry American citizenship and have lived in America for most of my life.

"It's now been well over a year since I've been kidnapped in Sana'a. Basically, I'm looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I'm certain that my life is in danger.

"So as I sit here now, I ask if anything can be done, please let it be done. Thank you very much."

Al Ansi gave the US government three days to meet the demands or "otherwise, the American hostage held by us will meet his inevitable fate".

The three-minute video also features Ansi speaking about American activity in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq as well as recent air strikes in Syria.

...

In late November the National Yemen reported that a US Navy SEALs raid alongside Yemeni troops had freed eight hostages from a remote cave in eastern Yemen, mostly Yemeni citizens.

The goal for the Americans had been to free Somers, the National Yemen said, but he was not among the rescued.

The paper said that as well as being "the most active photojournalist at Change Square" where much of the revolutionary activities took place, Somers had worked as a copy editor for Yemen Times, the Yemen Observer, and National Yemen, and in 2013 had been working for the National Dialogue.

...

Family of hostage with ties to Washington pleads for 'mercy' [King 5 News - 5/12/14]:

... In a video post of their own, Somers' brother, Jordan, and mother, Paula, – who live in Lakebay, Wash. - said Somers was "only trying to do good things for the Yemeni population" and pleaded with his captors to spare him.

"Luke is only a photojournalist and is not responsible for any actions the U.S. government has taken," Somers' brother said in the footage posted on YouTube.

Noting that her son "appears healthy" in his captors' video, Paula Somers said: "We thank you for that. Please show mercy and give us an opportunity to see our Luke again."

...

Al-Qaeda chief Adnan el Shukrijumah 'killed in Pakistan' [BBC - 6/12/14]

"When the state murders, resistance is demanded."

Reuters [6/12/14]:

Rampaging protesters threw petrol bombs at police and set bank ATMs, cars and shops on fire in central Athens on Saturday, the anniversary of the police killing of a teenager six years ago.

Riot police used teargas and water cannon to beat back protesters in the bohemian Exarchia neighborhood, where about 200 black-clad youths hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at them. A cloud of smoke billowed into the sky from the clashes.

At least two shops were set on fire, and dozens of others damaged. Police said they detained nearly 100 demonstrators.

The clashes erupted after about 6,000 protesters marched to commemorate the 2008 police shooting of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, an anniversary that normally draws thousands of anti-establishment protesters.

This year's protest was in solidarity with a jailed self-proclaimed anarchist who witnessed the death of Grigoropoulos and who is now on hunger strike demanding he be allowed to attend university classes.

Nikos Romanos, 21, was sentenced to prison for robbery in October and began his hunger strike on Nov. 10. He is in critical condition in hospital.

The protests come at a sensitive time for the government, which is negotiating to make an early exit from an unpopular European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout program that has meant years of austerity for Greeks.

At a shrine at the spot where Grigoropoulos was shot dead, mourners left roses and notes.

"I'm leaving this red flower, red like your blood spilled on the pavement," read one note. A banner was unfurled reading "When the state murders, resistance is demanded."

The government had appealed for calm in the days leading up to the protest and submitted an amendment to parliament allowing prisoners to follow university courses via distance learning. But Romanos has insisted on attending classes in person.

"I won't back down. My response is: struggle until victory or struggle until death," he said, calling on people to take to the streets on Saturday.

The main opposition Syriza party, the country's most popular political force, has supported Romanos's appeal. His parents have also appealed to authorities, saying Greece would soon "mourn its first dead political detainee".

Athens 1944: Britain’s dirty secret [Guardian - 30/11/14]

The bird life is prolific and the air is like champagne: uplifting and revitalising.

Green Mountain National Park [23/6/13]

MP hits out at privatisation in Lamington National Park [Alex Douglas MP Media Release - 2/12/14]:

Member for Gaven Dr Alex Douglas MP is concerned that private development of a campground in the Lamington National Park will detract from the national significance of the park established almost a century ago.

Dr Douglas told State Parliament that LNP Government plans to privatise the Green Mountains National Park campgrounds near O’Reillys was a tragedy when many people were rediscovering the beauty of the rainforest and trekkers were coming from around the world to walk the wonderful tracks in the park.

“Not only will it increase costs for campers, but it will negatively impact on the environment and wildlife,” Dr Douglas said.

“I understand the government is subsidising the development of the site to the tune of $750,000.

“The Lamington National Park has some of the most beautiful walking tracks in the world, is one of the most spectacular rainforests that one can see and has historic value.

“It attracts half a million visitors each year with main international markets being the United Kingdom, Germany and Korea.

“The bird life is prolific and the air is like champagne: uplifting and revitalising.

“This site is within the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage area, an indication of how precious this area is and all the more reason to preserve its pristine condition.

“During a G20 forum I attended in Brisbane, I met the head of BIO USA, Jim Freeman and his wife who were planning to trek from O’Reillys to Binna Burra with a group of colleagues because they believed it was one of the best walks in the world.

“This is from a former Republican congressman, the head of one of the major organisations in Washington who wants to visit Lamington National Park to see its beauty.

“We need to maintain such exquisiteness because the area is a key piece of heritage special significance rainforest which is extremely close to our city.

“We need to value it possibly even more highly than people have in the past.

“I raised the issue of the Green Mountains campground because it is at odds with improving access for all, whilst ensuring we value one of the greatest state assets that we maybe have not valued previously because we see it all the time and we tend to take it for granted.

“The LNP Government’s expression of interest document says that Green Mountains already experiences overcrowding and traffic congestion with traffic jams during peak periods, mainly weekends and public holidays, so one can only imagine what this private development will do to an already congested area?

“The Park has amongst its 880 species of plants some of the oldest types of ferns, Antarctic Beech trees estimated to be over 1000 years and possibly the largest undisturbed stand of hoop pine remaining in subtropical Australia and more than 190 species of birds.

“We must manage these areas as stewards for all.”

Families of MH17 victims ‘demand UN takes over Dutch investigation’

RT [5/12/14]:

Relatives of MH17 crash victims have addressed the Netherlands requesting the UN takes over the investigation into the downing of the passenger plane over Ukraine, blaming the Dutch of mishandling the inquiries into the disaster, media report.

In a letter directed to the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte the relatives of the MH17 crash victims asked for “the UN to appoint a special envoy to take over” the inquiries by the Safety Board and prosecution service.

The copy of the letter written by Van der Goen Attorneys representing the families was cited by Reuters on Friday.

Twenty relatives from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the US accused the Netherlands of “completely botching" the fact-finding investigation and the legal framework of the case, according to the letter.

The victims’ families based their accusations on the fact that the Dutch investigators have been unable to access the crash site, located in eastern Ukraine, torn by internal conflict between Kiev and self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

The letter also blamed the investigators for failing to meet international requirements to secure evidence.

Irritated by the prolonged investigation, the letter said that an international inquiry led by the UN is the only way to identify what brought down the plane and ensure they are taken to court.

"Nobody knows who is doing what," said Bob van der Goen, a spokesman for the law firm which took the case, as quoted by Reuters. "There is no coordination, there is no leadership whatsoever (by) Holland."

According to Reuters, Van der Goen represented relatives of victims of the 1992 El Al jetliner crash in Amsterdam, the 2010 Afriqiyah Airways crash in the Libyan capital Tripoli and the 1977 Pan Am-KLM crash in the Canary Islands that left 583 people dead. The relatives of the victims in the latter case received more than $100,000 each.

The Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight crashed in East Ukraine on July 17. All 298 passengers and crew members on board the Boeing 777 were killed. The victims came 10 nations, while most of the passengers – 193 in total – were from the Netherlands, the second largest number of casualties, 43, was from Malaysia.

"We have done everything we could. In view of the safety situation and the weather, we cannot do anything more right now," Rutte said on Friday as the investigators returned to the Netherlands from the crash site.

Two parallel ongoing investigations into the disaster are led by the Dutch with the first looking into the cause of the crash, and a second - a criminal inquiry.

In September the Security Council of the Netherlands (Dutch Safety Board) released a preliminary report into the disaster which said that the MH17 crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects striking the Boeing from the outside.

The criminal investigation by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is being led by the Public Prosecution Service of the Dutch Ministry of Justice and also includes Belgium, Ukraine, Australia. Malaysia was left out of the team in November due to its political neutrality, the nation's media reported. The police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said he would head to Amsterdam in December to discuss Malaysia’s participation in the process with JIT members, joined by attorney general Abdul Gani Patail.

"When the crash happened, we did not blame any parties, neither Russia nor Ukraine, as we would like to take a look at the concrete evidence," head associate professor in research and aviation at Kuala Lumpur University, Dr. Mohamed Harridon, told RT.

He added that unlike "western counterparts," Malaysia has taken a “neutral role," and not "pointed fingers at Russia," suggesting that that was the reason for the JIT neglecting the nation’s participation in the investigation.

A number of Western officials blamed Russia for the catastrophe, claiming that it was caused by a surface-to-air missile launched by local militia forces in eastern Ukraine with help from Moscow.

Russia refuted the allegations expressing irritation with the lack of evidence to support the claims. Moscow suggested the UN should appoint a special representative to monitor the investigation.

US general: US troops will stay as long as Lithuania wants them [DELFI – 24/11/14]

France agrees to $60 million fund for Nazi-era deportees

France 24 [5/12/14]:

The French Foreign Ministry and US State Department jointly announced a deal on Friday to provide millions in compensation to Americans and others deported to death camps by French state railway company SNCF during the Nazi occupation.

The $60 million (€49 million) compensation fund will be financed by France and managed by the United States.

France's parliament must approve the agreement before any payments can be made.

In exchange for the $60 million sum, the US government pledges to “recognise and affirmatively protect the immunity of France ... with regard to Holocaust deportation claims in the United States”, a statement from the State Department said.

The French government has already paid more than $6 billion in reparations, but only to French citizens and certain other deportees. The new deal will provide compensation for American citizens, Israelis and others.

SNCF transported about 76,000 French Jews to Nazi concentration camps during the war.

State legislators in the United States have in the past sought to block SNCF from bidding for rail contracts because of its wartime actions.

In June, Senator Joan Carter Conway introduced a bill in Maryland’s state legislature that would ban the Keolis transport firm, whose majority stakeholder is SNCF, from bidding on a €4.4 billion US contract.

Conway and fellow Democratic lawmaker Samuel Rosenberg said Keolis should be kept out of the bidding process until SNCF compensated the families of Holocaust victims.

SNCF in the past has resisted pressure to take direct responsibility for the 1940-1944 deportations of Jews to Auschwitz and other death camps, claiming it had been requisitioned by the Vichy regime that collaborated with the German occupiers.

But in 2010 the company's chairman, Guillaume Pepy, met in Florida with US representatives and Jewish community groups to express his regret for SNCF's wartime role.

Pepy said he wished to share "his profound pain and regret for the consequences of acts ... carried out under order".

In 2011 the French company reiterated its remorse, saying it had been “forced to act as a cog in the Nazi extermination machine”.

Politicians who incarcerated these men on Manus, and allowed them to be subjected to torture and death, are bound for the ICC

Refugee Action Collective, Victoria [4/12/14]:

Our message for Australia government

Regarding our freedom and cruel situation here in MIRPC PNG

We lost our families, friends and thousands of people there and no one is there to protect us, even our government

When we escaped from there in search of safe life and left our families there in critical situation

Now we are detained here in MIRPC from last seventeen 17 months, no one is here to help us and give us freedom, we are fed up from this life being imprisoned

Going back is never an option, we chose to die here rather than send us back to our country Please pitty on us and release us to Australia Community peacefully

Hunger strike for freedom.

Where are these men today?

Are they still alive?

 

... A stand and deliver moment against 20 guards knowing they were going to smash me.

Image: @nampix - Nick Moir [22/2/14]

Sydney Morning Herald [25/2/14]:

Rory Callinan

I've seen some censorship in my 20-plus years as a journalist reporting from Australia and various countries in the Asia Pacific region.

But what I saw on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea has made me uneasy about press freedom in the Pacific and the Australian Government's approach to reporting on the detention centre.

...

FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT PEOPLE IN AUSTRALIAN DETENTION CENTERS AT OFFSHORE (NAURU AND MANUS ISLAND):

... I am a film maker and animator from the UK, currently living in Melbourne, A few months ago a read an article published on a website called sievx which was an interview with asylum seekers on Manus Island. I was shocked, to hear of their situation, from small things like their lack of access to clean water, and also large issues they face such as lack of access to medical care. And of course the terrible events of February 17th

I have done a number of projects in the past that use animation as way to tell a story of human struggle, so I spent the next 4 months trying to make contact with people on Manus Island . Eventually I spoke to two men and recorded over 3 hours of interviews with them

My hope is that by turning these stories into a short animation, I can challenge the audience's preconceptions about the issue. Animation is an extremely powerful storytelling tool when it comes to subjects like this It can be cinematic and visually engaging. But it can also be extremely emotive and honest.

...

Nowhere Line

United States continue bombing Syria, Iraq

Reuters [5/12/14]:

The United States and partner nations have conducted 20 air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq since Wednesday, the U.S. Central Command said on Friday.

Five of six air strikes by U.S. military forces in Syria targeted the contested city of Kobani near the border with Turkey, Centcom said in a statement.

Those destroyed six Islamic State fighting positions and a heavy weapon, it said. In Iraq, U.S. and partner nations conducted 14 air strikes, mostly targeting areas in the oil-producing north of the country controlled by Islamic State.    

Four air strikes near al-Qaim destroyed checkpoints, armored vehicles, bunkers, fortifications and a tactical unit, the U.S. military said.

Others were directed at Islamic militants targets near Kirkuk, Samarra, Tal Afar and Falluja.

Two air strikes near Mosul destroyed 11 bunkers, nine heavy weapons, a vehicle and hit two Islamic State units, Centcom said.

Five separate bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk killed 38 people and wounded dozen others on Thursday, police and medical sources said.

Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives adopted a $584.2 billion annual defense spending bill Thursday which includes emergency funding for military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group. ... [Al Akhbar - 5/12/14]

@IraqiSMCEn  - Iraqi Spring Media Center [5/12/14]:

Anbar: 1807 have been killed -including 173 women and 284 children - and 3359 wounded -329 women and 426 children included- according to the total outcome of killed and wounded persons in Fallujah since the starting of events.....

Anbar: Fallujah Hospital has been shelled for 34 times - including mortars ,missiles and 5 explosive barrels shellings -since the starting of events till today.......

US troops in Iraq will get immunity from prosecution, says US [Guardian - 5/12/14]

Deadly suicide attack hits Somali town  [Al Jazeera - 5/12/14]

US drone strike kills 25 in Afghanistan

Zee News [4/12/14]:

25 militants were tonight killed in a CIA-operated US drone strike targeting militant positions on Afghanistan side near Pak-Afghan border, security sources said.

The drone fired missiles at two compounds of militants in Mach Magi area in Afghanistan near Pakistan boundary, killing the militants.

US forces have intensified drone attacks on both sides of Pakistan-Afghanistan border in recent days.

Drone strike in Nangarhar leaves 8 dead [Khaama - 2/12/14]

Several people have been killed in a suicide car bomb blast next to a UN convoy in Somalia, police say. ... [BBC - 3/12/14]

Car bomb targets residence of Iranian ambassador to Yemen in Sanaa  [Al Akhbar - 3/12/14]

Seven people were killed, including five African migrant workers, as pro-government forces carried out airstrikes Tuesday on the coastal city of Zuara in western Libya, the city’s local chief said. ... [Al Akhbar - 2/12/14]

Palestinian cameraman shot by Israeli forces at Qalqiliya demo

Maan [5/12/14]:

A Palestinian cameraman was shot in the leg on Friday by Israeli forces while covering clashes in the Qalqiliya village of Kafr Qaddum.

Bashar Nazzal, a cameraman with Palestine TV, was hit in the leg by live fire and taken to a local hospital for treatment.

The bullet reportedly shattered the bone in his leg.

Last week, an Italian was critically injured along with 11 Palestinians after Israeli forces opened live fire on a protest march in the village.

Palestinian Minister of Health Jawad Awwad told Ma'an that Italian solidarity activist Patrick Corsi, 30, was injured after Israeli forces fired several bullets at him in the stomach and chest.

Protests are held every Friday in Kafr Qaddum against Israel's closure of a main road linking the village to its nearest city, Nablus, as well as against the Israeli occupation more generally.

Migrants charge Spain’s Melilla enclave

EURO News [2/12/14]:

Hundreds of migrants have tried to storm the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla.

A first group of around 150 tried to cross the border and about 30 managed to scale the fence; three others remained perched on top.

A second group of some 500 then approached a separate part of the barrier but were kept back by security forces.

The number of attempts to enter Europe via Spain’s north African territories has increased.

The authorities accuse human traffickers of bringing migrants to the border.

#UltimOra Nave Driade ha soccorso gommone recuperando 102  #migranti a sud di #Lampedusa

Image: @italiannavy [5/12/14]

Affluent nations have taken in a "pitiful" number of the million of Syrian refugees uprooted by the country's civil war, placing the burden on Syria's ill-equipped neighbours, according to Amnesty International.

The London-based rights group, in advance of a December 9 donors' conference in Geneva, deplored on Friday what it called the shocking failure of rich nations to host refugees.  ... [Al Jazeera - 5/12/14]

Indian Ocean: UN warns of uptick in clandestine migration despite abuse, deterrence [UN Media Release - 5/12/14]

... The spokesperson added that some 21,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis had set sail since then – a 37 per cent increase over the same period last year.

About 10 per cent were believed to be women while approximately a third of arrivals interviewed by UNHCR in Thailand and Malaysia were minors under the age of 18. Mr. Spindler suggested that the uptick in numbers were caused by current conditions in Myanmar where ethnic tensions and conflict could be driving Rohingya, an ethnic minority group, to leave the country.

...

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague have withdrawn charges of crimes against humanity against Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta.  ... [BBC - 5/12/14]

If politicians like Melissa Parke and Malcolm Turnbull are so "good", why do they remain in the corrupt, beyond reform ALP and LNP? [The Saturday Paper - 6/12/14]

 ALP and LNP policies incarcerated refugees and exiled them to Nauru, Manus Christmas Island.

Blaming crossbenchers for the latest legislation is deceitful - but at least we now know which "refugee advocates" care more about the racist, beyond reform ALP than refugees.

For Australia to have refugee policies that meet international obligations and don't breach human rights the LNP and ALP duopoly dictatorship has to go.

Palmer United Party Media Release [5/12/14]:

The federal leader of the Palmer United Party and Member for Fairfax, Clive Palmer, says the creation of the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV), is a win for asylum seekers, the Palmer United Party team, regional Australia and the country as a whole.

Mr Palmer said Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s proposed amendments to the Migration Act will get asylum seekers out of detention centres and into regional communities with labour shortages.

Earlier negotiations between the Palmer United Party and the Government resulted in keeping 1,550 people in Australia who would have otherwise been from Christmas Island to mainland Australia [sic], these people included 436 children and their families and 32 unaccompanied minors.

In a bid to secure Senate support for the revamped Migration Act, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to increase the annual humanitarian intake of refugees from 13,750 to 18,750 over the next four years. He also announced that while the asylum seekers are processed, he would offer work rights.

“The Palmer United Party also wants all children and their families to be released from the Christmas Island detention centre by Christmas,” Mr Palmer said.

“The Senate passing the amended Migration Act will ensure this happens and the Palmer United Party is pleased to have played a key role in securing the children’s release. Mr Morrison is to be congratulated for his willingness to negotiate and make important concessions.

“SHEV asylum-seekers will be required to confine themselves to designated regional areas in Australia where there are currently severe labour shortages.” Mr Palmer said he had always believed it was wrong to keep children behind bars.

“Whether they took this dangerous voyage with their parents, or were born in detention, every child deserves a safe and loving upbringing with a range of experiences, not just the inside of a cell or an exercise yard,” he said.

On 26 November the ALP and LNP voted together in the Senate to pass the fascist Migration Amendment (Character and General Visa Cancellation).

The 19-year fight to publish uncensored photos from Australia's Senate [The Age - 5/12/14]

Senate report into attack on refugees at Manus death camp delayed again until 11 December.

Mass hunger strike at Australia's refugee death camp on Manus Island [Guardian - 4/12/14]

 

#Nauru currently faces fuel crisis. Perfect timing for the holiday season.

"tweeted" by @clintd22 -  Clint Deidenang  [5/12/14]

 

The Grand Illusion [1937]

During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.

 

Veteran reporter advises young journalists not to run scared of bullying by governments and intelligence agencies

Guardian [5/12/14]:

The role of investigative journalists remains crucial in holding power to account, even when that power is ‘incompetent’, according to veteran reporter Seymour Hersh.

“The whole purpose of what I think we should be doing is counter-narrative. They have their narrative, and we have to show there is another narrative,” said Hersh, in a keynote session at The Logan Symposium conference in London.

“Even if you can’t publish, the act of asking, the act of doing, the act of putting it down. It’s all about an informed society, and you’re not going to get informed by the leadership. That’s our function.”

...

New Zealand researchers say there is increasing evidence of unethical alliances between bloggers, politicians, media and PR companies [RNZI - 5/12/14]

 

6 December 2014

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