Banality of evil.
Portfolio Budget Statements in support of the 2014-15 Budget for the Immigration and Border Protection portfolio:
Refugee and Humanitarian Assistance
$762,000 ---> IOM
Initiatives to address the situation of displaced persons and promote sustainable returns - $700,000
Refugee and humanitarian passage, associated costs and related services - $18,966,000
$4,817,000 - offshore biometric program expansions
Department of Immigration and Border protection Annual Report 2013/14:
Key international engagement activities in 2013–14 included:
• funding the UNHCR to deliver increased registration, refugee status determinations and resettlement activities, including community services and counselling support, to people of concern with specific needs
• funding the IOM under the regional cooperation arrangements in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea (PNG) to provide for the care and management of potential illegal immigrants (PIIs) intercepted on their way to Australia—this programme also includes voluntary repatriation of PIIs
The 2nd United Nations High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development
The 2nd United Nations High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (HLD) was held in New York on 1–3 October 2013. It brought together representatives of governments, including Australia’s, for global discussions about the protection of the human rights of all migrants, perceptions of migrants and migration, the consideration of migration in national and global development agendas, and migration governance.
The overall objective for the second HLD was to ‘identify concrete measures to strengthen coherence and cooperation at all levels, with a view to enhancing the benefits of international migration for migrants and countries alike and its important links to development, while reducing its negative implications’.
In the year leading up to the HLD, Mexico proposed a draft Declaration of Intent that recognised the shared commitment by states to protect the human rights of migrants, efforts to counter people smuggling and trafficking, and optimise migration for both migrants and states alike. The HLD adopted the declaration.
Deputy Secretary Wendy Southern led the Australian delegation. Key outcomes included advancing discussions on including migration in the UN’s Post-2015 Development Agenda, endorsement of the IOM as the lead agency for migration, and endorsement of the GFMD as a useful mechanism for informal dialogue between states.
The department has signed a new contract to work in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help those to whom Australia does not owe protection and who wish to return home voluntarily.
In 2013–14 there was a total of 299 assisted returns from the Manus OPC, with assistance provided by the IOM or the department.
The total comprised 298 who were returned directly from Manus OPC and one who was returned via Australia. There were a total of 56 assisted returns from the Nauru OPC, with assistance from the IOM or the department.
This comprised 45 who were returned directly from Nauru OPC and 11 who were returned via Australia.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
… Theresienstadt served an important propaganda function for the Germans. The publicly stated purpose for the deportation of the Jews from Germany was their "resettlement to the east," where they would be compelled to perform forced labor. Since it seemed implausible that elderly Jews could be used for forced labor, the Nazis used the Theresienstadt ghetto to hide the nature of the deportations.
In Nazi propaganda, Theresienstadt was cynically described as a "spa town" where elderly German Jews could "retire" in safety. The deportations to Theresienstadt were, however, part of the Nazi strategy of deception. The ghetto was in reality a collection center for deportations to ghettos and killing centers in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe.
Succumbing to pressure following the deportation of Danish Jews to Theresienstadt, the Germans permitted the International Red Cross to visit in June 1944. It was all an elaborate hoax. The Germans intensified deportations from the ghetto shortly before the visit, and the ghetto itself was "beautified." Gardens were planted, houses painted, and barracks renovated. The Nazis staged social and cultural events for the visiting dignitaries. Once the visit was over, the Germans resumed deportations from Theresienstadt, which did not end until October 1944.
The Australian government and IOM are flaunting the UN refugee convention - specifically on Manus Island where hunger striking refugees calling for UN intervention have been beaten, "arrested", held without charge (some in solitary confinement) - and co-erced into returning home.
Silence from Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch: Cambodia blocking Vietnamese from seeking asylum [8/2/15]:
The Cambodian government should abide by its international obligations not to return Vietnamese and other asylum-seekers to countries where they face persecution.
On February 4, 2015, a government official in Rattanakiri province announced that a family of five who were reportedly facing religious persecution in Vietnam had been sent to Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
... After three days the boy collapsed, his parents called for help and the boy was given emergency medical treatment and the threads were cut. The boy was furious with his parents. His protest was a desperate attempt to have his voice heard by a country that prefers to put asylum seekers out of sight and out of mind. ... [WA Today - 8/2/15]
Is Australia more barbaric now than during World War One?
Migration Museum of SA Media Release [October 2014]:
A century after the first men were interned at Torrens Island Concentration Camp, a new exhibition at the Migration Museum explores this little-known chapter of South Australian First World War history.
Open from tomorrow, Saturday 11 October, Interned: Torrens Island, 1914-1915 sheds light on who was interned, why, and what life was like behind the barbed wire.
Interned showcases arresting images by photographer Paul Dubotzki and insights from the diary of internee Frank Bungardy.
In August 1914 war broke out across Europe and, within months, hundreds of men were interned on the island in the Port River estuary, north-west of Adelaide.
Sailors taken off enemy ships, Germans and Austrians living in South Australia, and even some naturalised British subjects found themselves behind barbed wire.
Once on Torrens Island, the men became prisoners of war - out of sight and under guard. They had no idea how long they would be held and wartime censorship meant that details of their detention were suppressed. It was only years later that the brutal behaviour of the camp’s commandant was revealed.
A compelling and at times confronting portrayal of this chapter in wartime history, Interned is the result of a research partnership with Flinders University and a book by Associate Professor Peter Monteath, Mandy Paul and Rebecca Martin to accompany the exhibition will be published by Wakefield Press next month.
The exhibition and the book offer another perspective on the South Australian experience of the First World War.
What: Interned: Torrens Island 1914-1915
Where: Migration Museum, Kintore Avenue, Adelaide
When: Saturday 11 October 2014 – Sunday 16 August 2015
Update 2: murder charge, Ningi (Bribie Island)
QPS Media [8/2/15]:
A man has been charged with murder after a woman’s body was discovered in a house in Ningi yesterday afternoon.
At around 3.30pm, the 39-year-old woman was found within a Sunny Court residence.
A 45-year-old Bongaree man has been charged with murder, enter premises and commit an indictable offence, break and enter dwelling with intent, stealing and wilful damage.
He is due to appear in the Redcliffe Magistrates Court tomorrow.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Attempted murder charges, Thuringowa
QPS Media [8/2/15]:
Police have charged two men with attempted murder following an incident at Thuringowa yesterday.
Around 12.30pm police were called to a Thuringowa Central car park on Hervey Range Road following reports of an altercation.
On arrival police found a 42-year-old man with a stab wound to his chest. The man was transported to Townsville Base Hospital where he remains in a stable condition.
A 41-year-old West End man and 58-year-old Jensen man were both charged with one count of attempted murder. Both men are due to appear in the Townsville Magistrates Court tomorrow.
Anyone who may have witnessed the incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Detectives are continuing their investigations into the matter.
Anyone with information which could assist with
this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or
crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
"Join the Army"
Working together for maritime security
Image: @Australian_Navy [8/2/15]
Controversial London based artist Darren Cullen has just released his first self-published publication, a satirical 'anti-army recruitment comic' which charts many of the perplexing reasons a young recruit might want to sign-up and potentially lose life or limb in the decade long wars of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The comic, which bears the slogan, "Army: Be the Meat" is about as subtle as a mortar attack, which the 30 year old claims is his attempt to counter pro-military advertising in the media.
"War is a living hell of suffering, pain and despair,” Cullen says, “but somehow the Army manages to rebrand it for each new generation as an exciting and character-building adventure. Despite what they show in their adverts, being in a war isn't about abseiling or kayaking, it's about twisting your bayonet into someone's stomach and having your face blown off in a trench."
Despite the caustic nature of the work, it has received support from several ex-soldiers, including Joe Glenton, author of 'Soldier Box' and the first British soldier to refuse to return to Afghanistan on legal and moral grounds, who describes the comic as, "brutal but true".
Also from Ben Griffin who served in the British Army from 1997-2005, deployed to Northern Ireland, Macedonia & Afghanistan with 2 Para, Iraq with the SAS and who is now the Coordinator for Veterans For Peace UK.
"When I first saw 'Join The Army' I was impressed by how it managed to capture the dark humour of the soldier, the irrational nature of military life and the futility of war. I thought the artist must be a veteran," says Griffin.
"This work is anything but absurd. The strip 'Meanwhile in Afghanistan' perfectly represents the lot of the Infantryman, long hours of monotony punctuated with sudden unforeseen violence. It is a direct challenge to the heroic nonsense peddled by our media. I hope that the honesty and humour of this work will encourage people to speak more freely about the important subjects the work raises."
Drawing on comic artist influences such as Chris Ware and Steve Bell, as well as the political comics of the late 60s, Cullen's satire is often flippant and dark, framing the horrors of war with a gallows humour some may find offensive.
It was rejected by three separate printing companies due to the content before he was able to find a printer that would take on the job.
The comic has even roused the anger of the English Defence League, whose supporters regarded the comic as unpatriotic and disrespectful.
"I've had abuse from EDL supporters online," says Cullen, "which makes me think I must be doing something right. But what they, and I'm sure others, will misunderstand about this is that I'm not attacking soldiers. I'm attacking the institutions which use soldiers to kill and be killed in order to achieve political and economic ends."
Cullen is not a stranger to controversy, enraging the Daily Mail last year with his pregnant toy doll sculpture "Baby's First Baby". (www.spellingmistakescostlives.com/babysfirstbaby)
While a degree show project saw him on the receiving end of a Sun campaign to have his anti-santa billboard scrapped.
The billboard, bearing the slogan "Santa Gives More to Rich Kids than Poor Kids", was eventually displayed for two weeks in Glasgow.
The comic's publication costs were covered by a Kickstarter campaign which reached over 200% of its goal. The fundraising was needed in part to cover printing the unusual layout of the comic.
Folded in a concertina style, the booklet unfolds to display a 1.5 metre Bayeux Tapestry style take on the Iraq war.
The comic is also available as a deluxe edition, which contains an extra 16-page mini comic, army related flyers, an A3 poster for ʻAction Man: Battlefield Casualties', as well as postcards and stickers.
The comic costs £7 (£10 for deluxe edition) and can currently be pre-ordered on the website:
www.bethemeat.co.uk or on Etsy: http://etsy.me/14DzdyT
WarDiaries.Wikileaks.org is a website which provides an easy way to search through the Iraq and Afghan War Diaries, which were made public by Wikileaks on 22nd October 2010. The documents are a set of over 391,000 reports which cover the war in Iraq from 2004 to 2009 and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2009.
When you've finished your R & R, how about an "awareness raising" speaking tour of all the journalism schools around Australia, and/or an address to the National Press Club???
Al Akhbar [8/2/15]:
With Australian Peter Greste freed and a Canadian colleague close to release, the other Al-Jazeera journalist arrested in Cairo faces languishing in jail for an indefinite period because he has only Egyptian nationality.
Under global pressure to release the prisoners, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a decree tailored for Greste and colleague Mohammed Fahmy, allowing the deportation of foreigners but overlooking Baher Mohammed in the process.
Greste, an acclaimed reporter for Al-Jazeera English, was deported last week.
Fahmy, a dual national, had to renounce his Egyptian citizenship and his release and deportation to Canada is imminent, a government official said.
But in the face of delays, prominent lawyer Amal Clooney has requested a meeting with Sisi to press Fahmy's case, a letter obtained by AFP on Saturday showed, overlooking Mohammed.
"We're paying the price for being Egyptian," his embittered wife Jihan Rashid told AFP.
"It's the peak of injustice for my husband to remain in prison and be tried while his foreign colleagues are freed," Rashid said.
The three, all employees of the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera English broadcaster, were arrested in December 2013 and tried for allegedly supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood in their coverage.
The trial came against the backdrop of a cold war between Egypt and Qatar, which supported the Islamist movement of President Mohammed Mursi, whom Sisi deposed in July 2013.
The three were sentenced to seven years in prison, and the court handed Mohamed an additional three years because police who searched his home found a spent bullet casing he had picked up at a protest.
Sisi's crackdown on Mursi supporters left at least 1,400 people dead and more than 15,000 imprisoned, with hundreds sentenced to death in trials the United Nations described as "unprecedented in recent history."
A court in January ordered a retrial for the three, without setting a date, but Mohammed is set to stand alone in the dock.
Qatar has since moved to mend ties with Egypt, and Al-Jazeera has closed its Arabic-language Egyptian affiliate.
"Their deportation means in effect their innocence," the 32-year-old producer's wife said of Greste and Fahmy.
"Why should my husband remain in prison?"
His only options are an acquittal or a presidential pardon, which Sisi's office has said could only come after the retrial, his lawyer Mostafa Nagy told AFP.
Rashid, who with Mohamed has three children, one a boy born while his father was in jail, said she fears that interest in his case will fade once Fahmy is also deported.
"I am seriously working on getting him another nationality," she said, watching her three boys play in the garden of their Cairo suburb villa.
Greste's release was welcomed by the Western governments that pushed for his release and Al-Jazeera, which continues to insist all its reporters be freed.
In Egypt, however, where anti-Qatar and Islamist sentiment runs high, Mohammed is scarcely on the radar.
"The Egyptian media doesn't mention him and is unconcerned about his fate," Rashid said.
Media advocacy groups say at least 10 journalists are imprisoned in Egypt, where reporters increasingly censor themselves for fear of angering the government or being tainted as Islamists.
"Baher's crisis is part of the suffering of Egyptian journalists in general," said his father Mohamed Hazem.
In her last visit to Mohammed in prison, he flatly turned down the idea of obtaining another citizenship, Rashed said.
"I did nothing wrong to have to drop my citizenship," she quoted him as saying.
But she remains defiant: "I'm looking for another nationality for him and my children to protect their rights in the future, to find a foreign embassy to defend us in courts."
Update: Suspicious death, Ningi (Bribie Island)
QPS Media [8/2/15]:
A 45-year-old man is currently assisting police with their inquiries following the suspicious death of a woman at Ningi yesterday.
Around 3.30pm police were called to a Sunny Court residence after a relative discovered the woman’s body.
The body is yet to be formally identified, however, is believed to be that of a 39-year-old woman.
An Investigation Centre (IC) has been established at Burpengary Police Station as detectives continue to investigate the matter.
There is no further information available at this time.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Serious traffic crash, Collingwood Park
QPS Media [8/2/15]:
Police are investigating following a serious, single-vehicle, traffic crash in Collingwood Park this morning.
Initial investigations suggest at around 5.30am a car crashed into a power pole at the intersection of Duncan Street and Collingwood Drive.
A 20-year-old passenger was transported to the Princess Alexandra hospital with serious head injuries.
The 22-year-old driver and a 24-year-old passenger were transported to Ipswich General Hospital with minor injuries.
Investigations are continuing.
Serious assault police charges, Mooloolaba
QPS Media [8/2/15]:
A 29-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman have been charged after police officers were assaulted at Mooloolaba early this morning.
Around 2am officers were called to a physical altercation between a man and a woman on the Esplanade.
It will be alleged when a male senior constable attempted to arrest the man, he became aggressive and kicked the officer, causing him to fall to the ground.
He then allegedly punched the officer in the face before pushing another officer to the ground.
While a female constable was attempting to arrest the woman, she allegedly became violent and a struggle ensued. During the struggle the woman allegedly used her knee to assault the officer, causing pain to her rib cage.
The officers were transported to the Nambour General Hospital for treatment with the male senior constable sustaining a broken nose.
A 29-year-old Alexandra Headland man has been charged with one count each of serious assault police and assault police and two counts of obstruct police.
A 27-year-old Sippy Downs woman has been charged with one count of serious assault police.
They are due to appear in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court on March 2.
Shortly after celebrating his first birthday, Gammy has a new home, a clean bill of health and bright prospects for the future. ... [Bangkok Post - 8/2/15]
Homeless man allegedly gets soaked with bucket of water outside Vancouver Tim Hortons [CBC – 7/2/15]:
... "It was 10:30 a.m. and I was in the middle of a conversation with a co-worker. I said, stop, stop. I don't believe what's about to happen across the street," she told CBC News.
Morrison said she saw a Caucasian man come out of the Tim Hortons with a bucket and proceed to pour a great deal of water under a homeless man who was sleeping on cardboard and blankets with his dog.
"He didn’t throw it on him," she said. "He poured it underneath so the blankets and consequently the dog and the man were both soaked. The [homeless] man jumped up. He was obviously shouting. The dog looked shocked and they started moving all of their stuff around the corner to the entrance of the IGA, which is where they remained."
Morrison said the man re-emerged from the Tim Hortons with a straw broom and proceeded to sweep beverage cups, sheets of cardboard and remains of plastic garbage bags from the sleeping mat down the sidewalk away from the store.
All around the world, public transport use disencentivised with spying, rip-off electronic ticketing
Copenhagen Post [7/2/15]:
If you’re still hesitant of using the much-maligned rejsekort then Sunday is your last chance to stock up on the paper klippekort travel cards.
The formerly ubiquitous paper tickets were supposed to be phased out in the summer of 2013, but due to several problems and consumer backlash their use was extended twice for a total of 18 months.
But now DSB is sticking to their plan and as a consequence are seeing record numbers of rejsekort sales.
“In recent weeks we have made a record number of rejsekort. We are producing over 10,000 per week,” Christian Linnelyst, the head of sales and marketing for DSB, tells Politiken.
Even though there are have been problems with the electronic travel cards in the past, there has not been a mad dash to the country’s kiosks and shops for the remaining paper multi-ride tickets.
Linnelyst says DSB has not seen any “hoarding” of the klippekort tickets, but admits that there has been increased demand for them over this last week.
An alternative to getting set up with an electronic travel card is to download Movia’s travel app, Mobilbilleter, which allows people to purchase public transport tickets form their mobile device.
Movia, the transport company, reports that since the beginning of the year the app has been downloaded nearly 600,000 times already, which is 50,000 times more than the app was downloaded for all of 2014.
The klippekort can be used until June 30. According to the DSB website, any unused “clips” on the card can then be refunded.
Mexico police find 60 bodies in Acapulco
Buenos Aires Herald [6/2/15]:
Members of the forensic medical service work at a private crematorium, where corpses in an advanced state of decomposition were found in Acapulco, Guerrero State.
Sixty bodies, including men, women and children, were found in an abandoned crematorium in Western Mexico, authorities said, in a discovery that the state attorney general said was likely linked to negligence rather than drug-related violence.
Authorities, who originally said 61 bodies were found, said the remains at the crematorium, near the decaying seaside resort of Acapulco, were clothed, wrapped in sheets and sprinkled with lime. Many of them were in a state of decomposition.
"We are talking about a clear violation of state sanitation laws," Miguel Angel Godinez, attorney general for the state of Guerrero, told Reuters.
The crematorium had been abandoned for months, and local residents had called police because of the smell, Godinez said.
Still, some of the bodies were "perfectly embalmed" and prepared for cremation, according to a statement from the attorney general's office.
The discovery was made 130 miles (211 km) from the town of Iguala, where 43 student teachers were abducted by corrupt police and apparently massacred by drug gang members.
Authorities are investigating how and when the people died, and whether those responsible were guilty of disrespecting humans remains, the statement said.
President Enrique Pena Nieto is facing his deepest crisis over his government's handling of the students' disappearance.
The case laid bare Mexico's deep problem of impunity and corruption and it has overshadowed his efforts to focus attention on economic reforms.
For about the twentieth time in about a year, workers are digging up the corner of Surfers Paradise Boulevarde and View St.
No exploding boats today, but there is a large algal bloom a few hundred metres offshore.
Surfers Paradise [8/2/15]
Dive Girls [8/2/15]: We had a pod of dolphins around us when we anchored today [Gold Coast Seaway]
Leave coal in the ground - study
A British study has found most of the world's coal reserves need to be left alone in order to keep global warming within the two-degree safe limit.
The University College London research is the first to specifically identify which fossil fuels need to stay underground to mitigate climate change.
One of its co-authors, Christophe McGlade said 80 percent of the Earth's remaining coal, half the gas and a third of the oil needed to stay buried to stop the temperature jumping.
He said coal use needed to be replaced with a rapid-roll out of nuclear and other renewable energy sources, to keep within the two degree threshold.
"The policy makers have to take this issue into account whenever they're discussing the implications of a two degree future.
"Because all counties have to sacrifice some of their reserves, you'd expect these countries that have to leave more in the ground will be compensated for some of the sacrifices they're going to have to make."
Lavrov: US escalated Ukraine crisis at every stage, blamed Russia
Sergey Lavrov has lashed out at the US for their double standards over Ukraine and taking steps that “only promoted further aggravation” of the conflict. He added Russia is ready to guarantee agreements between Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics.
One of the major sticking points of the crisis so far has been the failure of Kiev to engage in talks with militia leaders in the East of the country. Lavrov is staggered the US, who talked with the Taliban during their invasion of Afghanistan, through channels in Doha, Qatar, is unable to put pressure on Kiev to engage in discussions.
“In the case of Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Sudan our partners actively asked governments to enter into dialogue with the opposition, even if they were extremists. However, during the Ukrainian crisis, they act differently, making up excuses and try to justify the use of cluster bombs,” the Russian Foreign Minister said, who was speaking at a security conference in Munich on Saturday.
The issue of the far right’s rise in Ukrainian politics has been swept under the carpet by the US and EU. Some members of the Ukrainian parliament have promoted ideas such as exterminating Russians and Jews. However, these haven’t been reported or caused any alarm in the West, Russia’s foreign minister added.
“Our partners in the West have closed their eyes to everything that the Kiev government has said and done, which includes xenophobia. Some have advocated an ethnically clean Ukraine.”
Throughout the Ukrainian crisis, the West has viewed Russia as the aggressor. The Kremlin has been accused of arming eastern Ukrainian militia and even sending Russian troops to reinforce them - claims Moscow has repeatedly denied. It has stated on many occasions that despite the damning rhetoric no sufficient evidence has been ever presented.
On the contrary, Lavrov says the US has been the destabilizing factor in Ukraine.
“Through every step, as the crisis has developed, our American colleagues and the EU under their influence have tried to escalate the situation,” Lavrov maintained.
He pointed to the failure of the EU to engage Russia about Ukraine signing an economic association agreement with the bloc, Western involvement during the Maidan protests, the failure of the West to condemn Ukraine for calling its own citizens terrorists and for supporting a coup, which led to the toppling of a democratically elected president.
“The US made it public it brokered the transit of power in Ukraine. But we know perfectly well what exactly happened, who discussed candidates for the future Ukrainian government on the phone, who was at Maidan, and what is going on (in Ukraine) right now,” Lavrov said.
Despite these setbacks, Russia’s foreign minister says his country still wants and needs a normal relationship with the West.
The strategic partnership with the EU has “failed the test of durability,” Lavrov said. In turn, the US is “always trying to put the blame on Russia in complicated situations created by themselves.”
There is some hope that a solution to the conflict may emerge, following German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande’s visit to Moscow for talks with Vladimir Putin. Announcements from Washington and NATO that they might provide Kiev with weaponry, which has long been sought by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, are thought to have galvanized parts of Europe to try at last to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Lavrov is adamant that a military solution is not the answer and would only inflame an already volatile situation. He added that Russia, Germany and France are ready to become guarantors of the agreements, if that can be achieved between the protagonists in the Ukraine crisis.
Jordan army planes bomb “IS targets” for third day
Jordan carried out a third straight day of air strikes on Islamic State targets on Saturday, it said, in response to the group's killing of a captive Jordanian pilot.
“Sorties of air force fighters today bombed bases of the Daesh terror gang,” state television said in a bulletin, using a derogatory Arabic name for the militants.
It said some of the targets were in the Syrian city of Raqqa but gave no other details.
Jordan began on Thursday what it called an "earthshaking" response to
the death of the pilot.
8,700-strong African deployment “to fight Boko Haram”
France 24 [7/2/15]:
Nigeria and its four neighbouring nations on Saturday pledged to deploy 8,700 troops, police and civilians as part of a regional effort to fight Boko Haram militants.
"The representatives of Benin, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad have announced contributions totalling 8,700 military personnel, police and civilians," the countries said in a statement after a meeting in Cameroon's capital Yaounde.
The announcement came out of a three-day summit focused on organising the force that will battle the Islamist militants, who are engaged in a worsening six-year insurgency centred in northeastern Nigeria.
However, it may be some time before the multi-national effort goes into action, as nations will continue in coming days to thrash out the details of each government's contribution as well as the budget.
Country representatives at the summit agreed to launch a mission to "foster a safe and secure environment in the impacted regions" and tackle an insurgency that has killed at least 13,000 people and pushed more than a million from their homes since 2009.
African Union leaders will submit the plan for the force crafted by Western and African experts to the UN Security Council for approval.
Boko Haram's attacks have increasingly spilled over from Nigeria into neighbouring nations.
Their first major assault in Niger on Friday triggered a forceful response from Chadian and Nigerien troops.
Niger's defence minister reported that 109 of the Islamists were killed in the fighting, along with four soldiers and a civilian. Seventeen other troops were wounded.
The United States said it condemned the attack in the "strongest possible terms" and pledged support for regional forces.
"This unchecked killing must stop," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "We continue to provide support to governments in the region, including through intelligence sharing, and are increasing our support for these efforts."
Chad already has troops fighting Boko Haram on two fronts, with soldiers deployed in Niger and Nigeria.
Nigeria's military has drawn fierce criticism for failing to rein in the insurgents, who have intensified attacks ahead of a presidential election.
The Nigerian election commission announced on Saturday that it would postpone the polls, scheduled for February 14, until March 28 over security concerns.
The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, said security chiefs had advised a delay as troops would not be available because of operations against Boko Haram militants.
US intelligence officials said Friday that while Boko Haram is flush with cash and weapons after a string of battlefield advances, the militants could face a tougher fight with Nigeria's neighbours.
The military intervention of neighbouring powers could potentially be a "game changer in a positive way," one intelligence official said.
Blast hits Hamas official's car in Gaza
Daily Star [7/2/15]:
A bomb blew up the car of an official with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza, the second such attack in recent weeks, a security source said Saturday.
The blast, which occurred late on Friday night but caused no casualties, comes as political tensions mount in the Palestinian territory.
"Police have opened an investigation after a makeshift bomb blew up the car of Sheikh Sami Hams in Nuseirat refugee camp" south of Gaza City, a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The vehicle had been parked outside and was completely destroyed, according to witnesses.
It was the latest in a series of unclaimed attacks in Gaza.
On Jan. 20, a bomb struck the car of the chief financial officer in the Hamas military police outside his home.
More than 400 rabbis from Israel, Britain and around the world have called on Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes.
Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) has submitted an open letter to the Israeli Prime Minister claiming his stance is not in line with “international law and Jewish tradition”.
It came after Mr Netanyahu announced the destruction of more than 400 Palestinian homes in the Israel-controlled part of the West Bank known as Area C. ... [Independent - 7/2/15]
Bangladesh Firebombings Kill Nine
New firebomb attacks killed another nine people in Bangladesh, police said Saturday, amid growing international calls for an end to the spiralling political violence.
At least three people burned to death when suspected anti-government protesters petrol-bombed a truck in the southern town of Gournadi on Saturday morning, local police chief Sazzad Hossain told Agence France Presse.
The death toll from a similar attack late Friday on a bus in the northern Gaibandha district rose to six after two more passengers died from their injuries on Saturday, police added.
One anti-government protester was also shot dead in a shootout with officers in the coastal town of Swarupkathi, police said.
The latest deaths brought the overall toll in the month-long unrest to at least 76, mostly victims of fire-bombings of buses and trucks.
The violence began after the government confined opposition leader Khaleda Zia to her office when she threatened to lead a mass rally on January 5, the first anniversary of a disputed polls.
Zia then called a nationwide blockade of transport to topple the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and pave the way for new polls under a neutral government.
The protests have become increasingly violent and nearly 1,000 vehicles have been torched or vandalised.
The security forces have in turn arrested more than 10,000 opposition supporters while more than a dozen protesters have been shot dead, prompting allegations of a shoot-to-kill strategy.
After a plea from the U.S. State Department for an end to the "unconscionable" firebombings, Human Rights Watch issued a plea for a halt to the "bloodletting".
"All parties should cooperate to stop the cycle of violent crimes and ensure those responsible for all crimes are arrested and prosecuted," said the New York-based watchdog's Asia director Brad Adams.
"The violent crimes being committed by some members of the opposition cannot justify killings, injuries, and wrongful arrests by the government."
Zia has vowed to continue protests but Hasina has ruled out any polls until the end of her tenure in early 2019.
Libyan factions to resume talks on Tuesday; Benghazi death toll hits 700
Libya's warring factions will resume U.N.-sponsored talks on Tuesday inside the country to try to resolve a struggle between two governments and parliaments, officials from both sides said on Saturday.
The news came as new clashes between pro-government forces and Islamists in the eastern Benghazi city killed seven soldiers, bringing the death toll of four months of fighting there to almost 700, medics said.
Libya has been in chaos since a NATO-backed revolt ousted Muammar Gaddafi nearly four years ago. Two rival governments allied to armed groups are fighting for legitimacy in a conflict that Western powers fear might lead to full-scale civil war in the oil-producing nation.
Libya's internationally recognized government under Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and its elected House of Representatives are based in the east of the country after a group called Libya Dawn seized Tripoli last summer, set up its own administration and reinstated the old parliament.
Last month, the U.N. managed to bring some members of the factions to talks in Geneva but the Tripoli-based parliament known as General National Congress (GNC) wanted the dialogue to take place inside Libya.
"The U.N.-sponsored peace talks will take place in Libya on Tuesday unless anything unforeseeable happens," Emhemed Shoaib, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, told Reuters.
GNC member Abdul-Qader Hwaili confirmed the date, and like Shoaib he declined to disclose the venue.
Last week, U.N. Special Envoy Bernadino Leon said during a visit to Tripoli that the talks would restart within days. A first U.N.-sponsored round of talks in the southern city of Ghadames was held in September but made no progress.
The U.N. is hoping to get both sides to agree on a national unity government. It plans to arrange local ceasefires and prisoner exchanges as a first step to defuse the conflict.
The conflict has been complicated by a separate battle in Benghazi, the country's second-largest city, where forces allied to Thinni launched an offensive in mid-October to expel Islamist armed groups such as Ansar al-Sharia.
Army forces fought for the third day with Islamists holed up in the port area, residents said. Seven soldiers were killed and 41 wounded, medics said.
"The port is under the control of the army," said Farraj al-Barassi, a military commander.
But a Reuters reporter could still hear heavy fighting near the port and in two other districts where many residential and government buildings have been damaged.
Egyptian military kills 27 militants in the Sinai
Military air strikes killed 27 Islamic militants in Egypt's Northern Sinai on Friday in one of the biggest security operations in the region in months, security sources said.
Apache helicopters targeted militants from the Sinai Province group, which pledges allegiance to Islamic State, the ultra-hardline militants who have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria, the sources said.
Sinai Province, fighting to topple the Cairo government, has claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks that killed more than 30 members of the security forces in late January.
After that bloodshed, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told Egyptians the country faced a long, tough battle against militants.
Also on Friday, a bomb exploded along a street in Egypt's second largest city Alexandria, killing one person and wounding four others, security sources said.
Sinai-based militants have killed hundreds of soldiers and police since then army chief Sisi toppled president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 after mass protests against his rule.
A security crackdown on Brotherhood supporters, in which hundreds were killed in the streets and thousands arrested, has weakened the group.
On Friday, Brotherhood supporters and security forces clashed in the Cairo suburb of Matariya, the state news agency reported.
Eighteen people were killed in the Brotherhood stronghold during the January 25 anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Egyptian authorities have also jailed liberal activists, including some who gained prominence in the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, on charges of violating a law that effectively bans protests.
31 migrants rescued in Morocco
New Kerala [7/2/15]:
Moroccan navy patrol vessels Friday rescued 31 migrants after their boat sank off Morocco's northern city of Tangiers, Xinhua news agency reported citing authorities.
All the 31 migrants were safe and transferred to local hospitals in Tangiers.
Authorities, however, did not give further information about the nationalities of the migrants which were crossing the Gibraltar strait for Spain through the Moroccan territories.
28 Burmese migrants rescued from suffocating truck [Burmanet News – 5/2/15]
Pittsburgh: Several Shot At Monroeville Mall
Multiple reports indicate there was a shooting inside the Monroeville Mall Saturday night.
Multiple witnesses report seeing several people get hit by bullets.
Pittsburgh native and former NFL quarterback Terrelle Pryor tweeted that he saw at least two people get shot.
Another source inside the mall, who did not want to be identified, says a guard reported hearing “shots fired” near the Mister Rogers Neighborhood play area and that a person was found shot inside the Macy’s department store.
Shortly after, mall security called to evacuate the entire mall.
The motive for the shooting is unclear.
Officials at Forbes Hospital say they’ve received three shooting victims.
No word yet on the suspect.
5 killed in suburban Atlanta shooting
USA Today [7/2/15]:
A shooting about 20 miles southwest of Atlanta has left five people dead, authorities said Saturday.
Seven victims, including children, were found when police were called to the scene around 3 p.m. ET, said Lt. Glenn Daniel of the Douglas County Sheriff's Department.
The shooter was among those found injured and was transported to a local hospital, Daniel said. Some of the victims died on the way to the hospital.
A motive in the shootings was not immediately clear.
And investigators have not released the names of the suspect or the victims because family members have not yet been notified.
Turkish Police Arrest 60 Demonstrators Commemorating Slain Teen
Al Arabiya [6/2/15]:
Turkish police on Friday arrested 60 people after boarding two buses of demonstrators planning to protest outside President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's presidential palace in Ankara over the fatal wounding of a teenager in 2013 rallies against his rule.
Police used pepper sprays inside the bus and roughly arrested the demonstrators, who were members of the Popular Front leftist group, an AFP photographer reported.
Television footage showed police swinging punches and kicking as they arrested activists inside the bus.
The protesters were seeking to commemorate Berkin Elvan, a 15 year old who died in March 2014 after spending 269 days in a coma due to injuries inflicted by the police in the mass anti-government protests of 2013.
According to NTV television, 60 people were arrested.
Elvan's story gripped the nation and became a symbol of the heavy-handed tactics used by police to reign in the biggest demonstrations against Erdogan since he came to power in 2003.
The tough action by police comes as parliament prepares to debate a security bill bolstering police powers that critics claim could turn the country into a police state.
Under the bill, police would be allowed to arrest, and even fire on, those suspected of possessing banned objects at a protest including Molotov cocktails, stones and other sharp objects.
Debates on the bill are expected to begin on February 10 after being postponed from this week.
Greece intends to reject bailout extension
Despite pressure from eurozone officials to agree to a further extension to the existing bailout, the Greek government insisted Friday that it would not accept its partners’ offer but would instead propose the terms of a bridging agreement to see it through the next few months.
An extra Eurogroup meeting is due on Wednesday, when Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will set out to Greece’s partners how the government envisages covering its funding needs over the next few months until a more comprehensive agreement between all parties is reached.
Government sources were adamant Friday that Greece would not accept the outstanding 7.2-billion-euro bailout tranche, which would require the SYRIZA-led coalition to complete a set of structural reforms.
Athens’s plan is based around being given permission to issue more treasury bills after reaching the 15-billion-euro limit it had agreed with the troika. It also wants to receive 1.9 billion euros from profits the European Central Bank made as part of its SMP program, which involved purchasing Greek bonds on the secondary market. This 1.9 billion is included in the 7.2-billion-euro installment.
The indications from Brussels Friday were that eurozone officials would not accept these proposals. It is thought that Varoufakis will present a commitment by the new Greek government not to take any unilateral action while the bridging deal is in place, to commit to fiscal targets and structural reforms proposed by Athens.
Varoufakis held a lengthy meeting Friday with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis.
Tsipras is due to present his government’s policy program in Parliament Sunday and sources suggested that he would be careful not to commit to measures that might antagonize Greece’s lenders.
On privatizations, Tsipras is likely to make it clear that the coalition will not challenge sell-offs that have been completed unless there is a legal reason to do so but will review any deals that are in the pipeline.
With respect to the welfare measures that SYRIZA has proposed, such as providing free electricity for poor families, Tsipras will likely move ahead with them but balance their cost against savings in other areas.
It would be the largest free trade zone in the world - The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the US, which jointly account for a third of global commerce.
The proposed pact is expected to raise per-capita income worldwide by some 3 percent, according to various estimates.
In Germany, for instance, the deal is projected to usher in an income rise of 3.5 percent.
However, not all regions worldwide are believed to benefit from such a development, with per-capita income in many African nations estimated to decline by similar levels. ... [Deutsche Welle - 6/2/15]
East Timor's PM Xanana Gusmao offers to resign
East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao - who led the nation to independence from Indonesia in 2002 - has submitted his resignation letter.
Confirming the move, President Taur Matan Ruak's spokesman said the request would now be considered.
After East Timor won independence Mr Gusmao, a former guerrilla leader, became its first president and then PM.
But he has hinted for some time that he would like to step down and allow a new generation of leaders to come forward.
"The government confirms that the prime minister of Timor-Leste... has sent his letter of resignation from the post of prime minister to the president of the republic," a government statement said.
"It is now for the president of the republic to consider and respond to the letter of resignation," it added.
It is not yet clear who might replace Mr Gusmao, 68.
For many in East Timor, he is a legendary figure, says the BBC's Karishma Vaswani in Jakarta.
He spent 17 years in the mountains, waging a difficult war against Indonesia's occupation.
Eventually captured, he spent seven years behind bars but continued to lead the struggle for independence.
Sudden death, Ningi (Bribie Island)
QPS Media [7/2/15]:
Police have commenced an investigation after a woman was found deceased within a residence in Ningi this afternoon.
Police were called to the Sunny Court home at around 3.30pm when the woman’s body was discovered by a relative.
A crime scene has been established, and investigations are continuing.
There is no further information available at this time.
[UPDATE] Serious traffic crash, Brinsmead (Cairns) [QPS Media - 7/2/15]
Serious traffic crash, Rockhampton [QPS Media - 7/2/15]
Serious traffic crash, Hazeldean [QPS Media - 7/2/15]
@FaribaSahraei - BBC world service reporter [7/2/15]:
#manus: at least 10 #Asylumseekers are held isolated in detention centre by Guards with no access to communications
10 #Asylumseekers "settled" in #manus new accommodation block are from Iran, Pakistan & Afghanistan, mostly scared to get out of building.
Former commissioner says disability cuts breach UN convention
Canberra Times [8/2/15]:
The Federal Government's cuts to the disability sector are a "catastrophic" blow and breach the United Nations convention on the rights of disabled people, advocacy groups and one of the architects of the convention says.
The Department of Social Services announced yesterday it would fund an alliance of six groups representing disabled people by demographic rather than specific need.
This threatens eight peak bodies with 200,000 members with intellectual disabilities – autism, brain injuries and physical disabilities including blindness and deafness.
The Assistant Social Services Minister, Mitch Fifield, said up to $3.6 million would be allocated over two years to the National Cross-Disability Alliance, comprising representatives of disabled children, women, Indigenous people, ethnic minorities and service providers. This is a 40 per cent cut on the previous funding arrangement that spanned three years rather than two.
Mr Fifield said the alliance would be the primary source of grass-roots advice on issues of national policy advice for people with disability.
Graeme Innes is the former federal disability commissioner, who co-authored the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which Australia is a signatory.
Legally blind, he said the move breaches Article 33 of the convention. "If you don't adequately resource the national peak organisations to represent the voices [of disabled people] you effectively stop that voice and therefore, can't monitor and implement the convention," he said.
"We have chosen the organisations who we want to speak for us. It's inappropriate for the government to make a unilateral decision not to fund these disability groups."
Inclusion Australia, the peak body for intellectually disabled people, was among those to lose funding. Its president, Kevin Stone, said the cuts have "silenced the collective voice of people with intellectual disability – those most in need of representation at the highest level given their historical marginalisation".
The cuts form part of a $240 million departmental savings drive. Dr Stone said they will further inhibit intellectually disabled people from shaping the design of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which campaigners say is already fatally flawed due to a lack of consultation.
Intellectually disabled people will represent two-thirds of future users of the scheme, but have not been formally consulted on its design.
Mount Isa water crisis worsening
North West Star [7/2/15]:
Drastic steps are being put in place as Mount Isa faces a worsening water crisis.
Schools in the city have been told to prepare for the worst with some forced to shut down their water supply.
The schools have told parents to supply their kids with water from Monday, while other schools will supply water for students.
It’s believed there is a serious risk of the leased water filtration plant breaking down, halting the supply of any water to the city.
The Mount Isa Water Board (MIWB) issued a joint statement with the Mount Isa City Council yesterday, stating: “in the last 10 days water consumption has increased by more than 50 per cent”.
MIWB said the leased water filtration plant was struggling to cope with the increased demand.
“Less filtration of water will be able to take place meaning the water may be muddy,” the statement read.
MIWB said the water met health guidelines but “it will be difficult to maintain health guidelines” if water does not “decrease dramatically”.
It was announced on Thursday that a multi-million water filtration will be purchased by MIWB – but the burden of the acquisition will be shouldered by ratepayers.
At least two schools sent out text messages to parents yesterday outlining the immediate risk.
Other schools have been told to supply water for students with the possibility of the water filtration plant breaking down, stopping the supply of water to the city.
“Local Authorities have advised the College turn off all our drinking stations as of Mon 9th Feb. Students are each required TO BRING 2 x BOTTLES OF DRINKING WATER EVERY DAY until further notice,” a text message from Good Shepherd Catholic College stated.
“All hygiene precautions will be taken to ensure the health and safety of our staff and students until further advice is received. Thank you for your assistance.”
St Joseph’s Mount Isa sent out a similar text message signed off by principal Helen Wade to parents yesterday.
“Hello parents/ guardians, due to the latest update on the local water situation we are asking if you can please bring in two water bottles for your child from Monday, the message read.
“The school has a contingency plan in place to ensure the health and safety of all our staff and children until further notice is received from the local council.”
Mount Isa City Council deflected any blame for the water restrictions on schools.
“Council has no control or jurisdiction over the schools and it is unclear why they have issued these instructions. We would advise taking up the matter directly with the school.”
The developments come despite ratepayers being slugged with a $440 water levy to py for the council’s leased water filtration plant.
Residents have also been on strict water restrictions after multiple years of drought, but rainfall early this year – filling Lake Julius and bringing Lake Moondarra up to 85 per cent – evidently have not fixed the situation.
Earlier this week, Mount Isa City Council received a letter from the water board requesting urgent consideration of additional measures to be implemented immediately to manage demand.
The letter said the quality of available raw water had continued to deteriorate because of “large amounts of decaying plant matter” from recent heavy rain.
“There is no way to augment the treatment capacity to radically increase supply during February which is forecast to be a dry month,” Mount Isa Water Board chairwoman Rowena McNally wrote.
“I regretfully request the council’s urgent consideration of what measures could be immediately implemented to manage demand.”
Last month, council amended water restrictions to include an additional hour per day for watering with sprinklers from 6-7am.
Mount Isa City Council sent out a message yesterday advising residents of the water crisis.
“The situation with the water supply is being managed at present with consultation with the Mount Isa Water Board and Queensland Health to ensure that the water quality being supplied to the City continues to meet regulatory health standards,” the statement read.
“A letter drop has been conducted to households today by Council containing a summary of the water situation and asks residents to assist in ensuring that the quality of water is maintained through sensible usage and non-wastage of this precious and essential commodity.”
“Both Council and the Water Board appreciate the continued assistance of the community to urgently conserve water and reduce usage to ease the supply demand on the filtration system.”
“Council again stresses that the water supply meets all regulatory health standards and is being tested daily by both the Water Board and Mount Isa City Council as assurance.”
Several emails asking for clarification from the
Mount Isa Water Board CEO Stephen Farrelly have gone unanswered.
8 February 2015