News Corp. Corruption Trial All About Greed, Prosecutor Says

Bloomberg [7/1/15]:

A group of journalists at News Corp. (NWSA)’s Sun tabloid bribed public officials because they were “greedy for page one exclusives,” prosecutors told jurors on the first day of a criminal trial in London.

The case “is about, simply, greed,” Michael Parroy, the lead prosecutor, said during opening arguments today. The journalists “were prepared to buy” the stories “because they themselves were greedy.”

John Kay, the Sun’s former chief reporter, Fergus Shanahan, the newspaper’s ex-executive editor, Geoff Webster, its deputy editor, and reporter Duncan Larcombe are all on trial for allegedly paying public officials in exchange for stories.

The trial probing corruption at the Sun is the latest spurred by a series of investigations dating back to 2011 that have focused on allegations of phone hacking and bribery at the New York-based company’s U.K. unit.

Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of the U.K. unit, and four others were acquitted of bribery, obstruction of justice and intercepting voice mails in June after an eight-month trial.

That acquittal is “irrelevant” to this case, Parroy said.

John Hardy, a former army officer, and Claire Hardy, his wife, are also on trial on corruption charges. John Hardy received just under than 24,000 pounds ($36,000) between 2006 and 2008.

“For the public officials, and in this case also the wife of a public official, it was all about money,” Parroy said.

Jury sent out to consider verdicts after 3 month “Sun Six” conspiracy trial

Hacking Inquiry [6/1/15]:

The jurors at The Sun corruption case at Kingston Crown Court retired to consider their verdicts this afternoon.

They are due to return 14 separate verdicts in the case of six current and former Sun journalists accused of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. The Crown alleges there was a culture at Britain’s best-selling newspaper of paying police officers and other officials.

Before sending out the jury at 2.51pm, the judge, Richard Marks QC, told them: “This is a serious and a very important case as far as all the defendants are concerned. You must give – as I know you will – the utmost attention, and deal with it fairly in a calm dispassionate and analytic evaluation of the evidence.”

He told the jury there was no pressure of time on them. Although the jury may have heard of majority verdicts, they were “not the position in this case at this time,” he added.

After the judge finished making his final remarks, one juror asked about the requirement for there to have been a “single agreement” [a conspiracy] to reach a guilty verdict each count. He asked whether there still be a single agreement if conspirators had come and gone during the length of the conspiracy.

The judge told the jury that there could be – and gave the example of a plan to rob the Bank of England. Judge Marks said: “That might be a plan that by reason of its complexity went on over a number of years. To be guilty of the conspiracy you don’t have to be in on day one and stay for the entirety of the agreement.”

However, he added, if, for instance, the jury decided that reporter Jamie Pyatt had entered into a series of discrete, separate arrangements with the Surrey police officer Simon Quinn, rather than a single agreement, then the prosecution case would not be made out.

All the defendants – Chris Pharo, Ben O’Driscoll, John Edwards, Graham Dudman, Jamie Pyatt and John Troup – deny the charges.

Tony Blair 'could face war crimes charges' over Iraq War

Telegraph [6/1/15]:

Tony Blair could face war crimes charges as a result of the Iraq war inquiry report, the House of Lords has been told.

Lord Dykes of Harrow Weald, a Liberal Democrat peer, claimed that the publication of the inquiry by Sir John Chilcot was being delayed “to prolong the agony” of the former Labour Prime Minister.

Lord Hurd – who as Douglas Hurd was Conservative foreign secretary from 1989 to 1995 – said the delay was now "becoming a scandal".

Lord Wallace of Saltaire, a Government minister, disclosed for the first time that talks over the publication of the gist of conversations between Mr Blair and George W Bush, the former US president, were now completed.

These talks have held up the publication of the report. But he said that if the report is not published by the end of February, it will be delayed until after the general election.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Dykes – who as Hugh Dykes was a Tory MP from 1979 to 1997 - asked: “Is not this continuing delay an utter and total disgrace and so much time has elapsed?

“Is my noble friend aware that more and more people think it is some kind of attempt to prolong the agony of Mr Blair facing possible war crimes charges?”

Lord Hurd added: “This has dragged on beyond the questions of mere negligence and forgiveable delay – it is becoming a scandal.

“This is not something which is of trivial importance, it is something which a large number of people in this country look anxiously for truth.”

Lord Wallace of Saltaire, a Government minister, replied that the Chilcot inquiry was not delayed compared to other recent comparable reports.

He said that the £24million Al Sweady report into alleged maltreatment of Iraqis by British troops took five years report “on two battles in one afternoon”.

The £13.5million Baha Mousa “inquiry looking into the death in UK custody of one Iraqi civilian in September 2003 took three years”.

He added: “This [Chilcot] inquiry has been looking at nine years of british policy and operations within Iraq, it has not entirely unexpected that it has turned out to take a long time.”

Lord Wallace said the timing of the report's publication was in the hands of the Government but he hoped "we are very close to the finishing line".

He added: "It would be inappropriate for it to be published if it is submitted within the next few weeks after the end of February unitl after the election because part of the previous government's commitment was there woul dbe time allowed for substantial consultation and debate of this enormous report when it is published."

Lord Wallace added that the one million word report will contain details of discussions of more than 200 Cabinet meetings.

The delay so far was caused in part because the inquiry did not have enough staff to leaf through the huge pile of documents required.

‘Ten killed’ in Charlie Hebdo shooting in France

Al Arabiya [7/1/15]:

At least 10 people were killed in a shooting at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper firebombed in the past after publishing cartoons in 2011 joking about Muslim leaders, French TV channel iTELE reported.

There was no immediate official confirmation of deaths.

The news channel quoted a witness as saying he saw the incident from a building nearby in the heart of the French capital.

"About a half an hour ago two black-hooded men entered the building with Kalashnikovs (guns)," Benoit Bringer told the station. "A few minutes later we heard lots of shots," he said, adding that the men were then seen fleeing the building.

The publication's cartoonist confirmed there were casualties.

"I think there are casualties," Renaud Luzier told Agence France-Presse.

The French weekly came under fire in 2013 for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to the ire of conservative Muslims.

The satirical newspaper has on several occasions depicted Islam’s prophet in an effort to defend free speech and defy the anger of Muslims who believe depicting Mohammed is sacrilegious.

In 2011, Charlie Hebdo’s offices were hit by a firebomb and its website pirated after publishing an edition titled “Charia Hebdo” featuring several cartoons on Prophet Mohammad.

In 2006, when a newspaper in Denmark published cartoons of the Prophet, Charlie Hebdo republished the cartoon, drawing angry protests across the Muslim world.

It's Charlie Hebdo's right to draw Muhammad, but they missed the opportunity to do something profound, Jerome Taylor [The Independent - 2/1/13]:

... Whatever happens, one thing is above all else is worth repeating. Responsibility for any violence meted out against Charlie Hebdo or its staff rests solely on the shoulders of those carrying out the violence. If there is a violent reaction against the French satirical magazine, whether you agree with what they have published or not, they will not deserve it.

France: ‘Dark day for freedom of expression’ as gunmen attack satirical newspaper [Amnesty – 7/1/15]

The slaughter of journalists and cartoonists isn't the clash of civilizations, it's a crime. 

Let the police do their work and stop inciting hatred.

Slide Show: A collection of past covers from Charlie Hebdo [Sampsonia Way - 17/11/11]

Car bomb rips through crowd in Yemeni capital

Al Jazeera [7/1/15]:

A car bomb has exploded outside a police college in Yemen's capital Sanaa, killing at least 38 people, police sources and residents in the area have said.

A police source said on Wednesday that a dozen others were wounded in the explosion that targeted centre of Houthi fighters near the police academy officers’ club.

The blast was heard across the city and a large plume of smoke was visible in the area of the college.

Al Jazeera's Omar al Saleh, reporting from Sanaa, said the pictures coming out from the scene suggest the number of casualties is likely to rise.

Photographs purporting to be of the aftermath of the explosion, distributed on Twitter, showed the mangled wreckage of a vehicle and bloodied people lying prone on a pavement, but the pictures could not be immediately verified.

No one has claimed responsibility.

Security in Yemen has diminished since a 2011 popular uprising that led to a change of government and splits in the army. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), one of the movement's most active wings, has staged a growing number of bombings and shootings across the country.

Afghanistan: Three children killed in Ghazni explosion

Khaama [7/1/15]:

Three kids have been killed and two wounded in an explosion in Ghazni province.

Provincial officials confirmed the incident.

Shafiq Nang, spokesman for acting governor of Ghazni says the incident took place in Giro district yesterday.

He added that the landmine was planted in a roadside by the insurgents and went off on kids.

No group have so far claimed responsibility for the explosion but officials blame Taliban insurgents for it as the landmines are usually planted by them.

However, earlier this week Taliban leadership issued a statement asking their fighters to take precautionary actions in preventing civilian casualties or they will be answerable to the Islamic Emirate.

Now that the innocent kids are killed and injured we should wait to see if Taliban leadership will in fact ask fighters for this.

Coordinated suicide attack on police academy in Khost [Khaama – 7/1/15]

English-speaking suicide bomber kills policeman in attack near Istanbul’s touristic square

Hurriyet Daily News [6/1/15]:

A policeman has been killed in a suicide attack by an English-speaking woman in central Istanbul, a week after another attack on the city's police by a far-left group.

A niqab-clad female suicide bomber targeted the building of the tourism police unit near Sultanahmet Square, one of Istanbul's most popular touristic places, just before 6 p.m. on Jan. 6, NTV television reported.

The assailant "exploded herself before going into the police building, as she was prevented by the guards at the entrance," the Cihan news agency reported.

Istanbul Governor Vasıf Şahin said the suicide bomber presented herself as a tourist, telling the police in English that she had forgotten her wallet inside while attempting to enter the building moments before the attack.

"One policeman is seriously wounded. The other policeman is better," he added, while answering reporters' questions at the scene.

Kenan Kumaş, one of the injured policemen, later died in hospital.

The bomber has reportedly been identified as Elif Sultan Kalsen, an alleged member of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). Social media sites close to the group hailed her operation, adding that she had previously been subjected to torture after being detained by police.

As the body of the attacker was recovered and injured people were taken to hospital, police stopped the tram service in the area, which was cordoned off as a security measure.

Three suspicious packages were also detonated by a bomb squad near the site.

On Jan. 1, a far-left militant who had served jail term for being a member of the DHKP/C was detained in front of Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, which also houses a prime ministerial office, after throwing a bomb that failed to explode at police officers.

Swedish Foreign Minister Postpones Trip to Israel

Naharnet [7/1/15];

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem has indefinitely postponed a planned trip to Israel, a spokesman said Wednesday, in an apparent cooling of relations between the two countries since Sweden recognized Palestine.

"The foreign minister has decided to postpone her visit to Israel and Palestine. Instead of next week it will take place later. No date is yet decided," Margot Wallstroem's spokesman Erik Boman told Agence France Presse.

Sweden's decision to recognize the state of Palestine in late October caused Israel to recall its ambassador to Stockholm, who returned a month later.

Israeli media reported in mid-December that Wallstroem's Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman did not want to meet the Swedish foreign minister.

Wallstroem's scheduled visit had not been officially announced.

According to Swedish media, the main purpose of the trip had been to honor the memory of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Budapest Jews from being sent to concentration camps by issuing them Swedish papers in 1944-1945.

Israeli troops raid West Bank, shoot teenager

Maan [6/1/15]:

Israeli troops shot and injured a Palestinian teenager during a dawn detention raid in the southern West Bank town of Beit Ummar where six men were detained including teenagers, a local official said.

Muhammad Ayyad Awad of Beit Ummar committee against Israel’s separation wall and settlements told Ma’an that 19-year-old Noor Muhammad Hamid Zaaqiq was shot in front of his house.

He added that Zaaqiq was on his way home after he finished work at a gas station. He was hit in the left foot and was evacuated to al-Ahli hospital in Hebron by an ambulance of the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Awad added that Israeli troops detained Eyhab Omar Awad, 19, Muhammad Jamil Abu Mariya, 19, Amir Muhammad Ikhlayyil, 16, Muhammad Hussein Abu Ayyash, 28, Ismail Fathi Bregeith, 15 and Samir Muhammad Sabarnah, 22.

Awad pointed out that Israeli soldiers assaulted Muhammad Abd al-Jawwad Ikhlayyil, 50, when they detained his son Amir. In addition, the soldiers attacked Muhammad Fathi Bregheith, 36, when they detained his brother Ismail.

The Israeli troops ransacked a bakery in the town, seized the ID cards of all workers and forced them to lie on the ground in the open despite the cold weather.

Israeli troops also raided Hebron and detained 20-year-old Anas Fahd al-Qawasmah, 18-year-old Muatasim Muhammad al-Qawasmah, 20-year-old Muhannad Talal Sidir and 22-year-old Mahmoud Hijazai al-Hashlamoun.

In the nearby town of Bani Naim east of Hebron, Israeli forces detained Asim Ali Ballut, 19, after ransacking his home.

Another detention raid was also reported the northernmost West Bank district of Jenin where Israeli forces detained Muhammad Kamal Walad Ali from the village of Sanur, according to a statement from the Palestinian prisoner's society.

The statement said that Israeli forces detained a young man at the southern entrance to Qalqiliya overnight claiming he attempted to stab an Israeli soldier. The detainee, Abd al-Rahim Tahir al-AShqar, 20, suffers from a psychological disorder, according to the statement.

Amin Dweik and Muhammad Ashraf Iskafi were detained from Jerusalem, the statement added.

UN chief says Palestine will join ICC on April 1 [Daily Star – 7/1/15]

Darfur: UN-African Union mission peacekeepers attacked in spate of violence

UN Media Release [6/1/15]:

The Joint United Nations and African Union Mission in Darfur has reported that its peacekeepers came under two separate attacks today while on patrol, both times by unidentified gunmen.

The first attack occurred in the Burumburum area, about 11 kilometres north-east of Khor Abeche, in South Darfur. Two attackers were killed in the firefight, according to the Mission, known as UNAMID.

“There was no injury to any of the peacekeepers or damage to mission property.

The Mission reports this is the second attack on UNAMID in this area in as many months,” the Secretary-General’s spokesperson told reporters at a Headquarters briefing this afternoon.

UNAMID’s Acting Joint Special Representative, Abiodun Oluremi Bashua, commended the peacekeepers for their robust response to the attackers and called on the Government of Sudan to speedily investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Also today, another UNAMID patrol was attacked at a water point by a group of unidentified assailants about 5 kilometres south-west of the Mission team site in Habilla, in West Darfur.

The peacekeepers did not sustain any injuries but the attackers seized a water tanker and a vehicle.

Kenya orders investigation into ICC witness murder

Al Jazeera [6/1/15]:

Kenyan prosecutors have ordered an investigation into the murder of a witness in the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, who is accused of masterminding post-election killings in 2007.

Meshack Yebei, described by Ruto's lawyer as a "critical" witness for the politician's defence case, was found dead, and badly mutilated according to some reports, on January 4 in western Kenya's Nandi district.

Kenya's Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko ordered the probe in a letter to police seen by the AFP news agency on Tuesday.

The order calls for a "speedy and thorough investigation to be conducted into the murder with a view of bringing those responsible to justice," AFP reported.

Yebei disappeared on December 28 and a week later the local businessman's body was discovered in a river.

The Hague-based ICC said it was "deeply concerned" by the death and was ready to assist the Kenyan probe.

"The family of Mr Yebei has confirmed the identity of his body," the ICC said in a statement.

"We express our profound condolences to the family."

The ICC stressed that Yebei was not on its prosecution witness list, but that he had been offered "security measures, including a safe residency".

Despite the offer, Yebei "returned to Eldoret (in Nandi) where the incident reportedly took place," the ICC said in a statement.

"Ensuring the safety and security of witnesses is a cornerstone of fair trials," said ICC registrar Herman von Hebel.

...

Jailed Egyptian-Canadian journalist’s case in ‘final stages,’ family told

The Star [6/1/15]:

The family of a Canadian-Egyptian journalist imprisoned in Egypt said Tuesday they have requested his deportation and were told by a senior official the process is in its “final stages.”

“The Canadian government is following up with the Egyptians here and hopefully Foreign Minister John Baird’s visit next week can expedite the process,” the family of Mohamed Fahmy said in a statement. “We were told it will happen sooner (rather) than later and before the retrial commences.”

At the University of Toronto Tuesday, Baird told reporters, “we’ve had a very constructive dialogue with the new foreign minister of Egypt and with the previous foreign minister. We’ve engaged at the highest levels ... Obviously we’re looking for Mr. Fahmy’s release and we’ll continue to engage and use any vehicle to obtain that.”

Three Al Jazeera English journalists — Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed — have been held for more than a year on terror-related charges. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced last June to seven years in prison and Mohammed to 10 years. Last week, an Egyptian court ordered a retrial.

However, a new Egyptian law allows for deportation of foreign prisoners, opening the way for the release of Fahmy and Greste, whose family has also applied for deportation. Baher Mohammed’s case remains more uncertain as he holds only Egyptian citizenship.

Baird said he welcomed the law as a way of removing “this irritant in our bilateral relationship.”

The Al Jazeera case has sparked widespread condemnation from international rights groups and other media outlets, who say the journalists have been unjustly jailed for doing their job.

In their initial trial, prosecutors presented no concrete evidence, only samples of the team’s news reports on protests, with no proof of falsification or of an alleged connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. The group was designated a terrorist organization following the military’s ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

In an opinion piece published Tuesday in the New York Times, Fahmy said the journalists have been “pawns in a geopolitical game that had nothing to do with our work as impartial professionals.”

Indian coal strike continues after talks fail

BBC [7/1/15]:

A strike by millions of coal miners in India has entered its second day after talks with the government failed.

The miners are striking for five days in protest at government moves to open up the industry to private companies.

Reports say that 75% of India's daily coal production of 1.5 million tonnes had been affected by the strike.

India is one of the largest producers of coal in the world and more than half of its commercial energy needs are met by coal.

The strike has been called by five unions representing some 3.7 million coal workers employed with the state-run Coal India, which has a near monopoly over production

"I can say that a nationwide strike is on and this is the biggest one since 1977," Gurudas Dasgupta, one of the union leaders, told the AFP news agency after talks with the government collapsed.

With a number of power plants running low on coal supplies, there are fears that a prolonged strike could lead to widespread disruption in power supplies.

India's new BJP government pledged in October to open up the country's coal mine industry to private players as part of reforms by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revive an ailing economy.

The government has also approved an ordinance allowing auctions of coal mines to private companies for their own use, as well as allowing commercial mining in the future.

The executive order came after India's Supreme Court last year cancelled more than 200 coal mining licences awarded by successive governments since 1993 in a corruption scandal which has cost the country tens of billions of dollars.

The court said that the governments gave rights to mine coal to state and private companies in a manner which was "not fair and transparent" and without competitive bidding.

Cape Lambert Resources sheds jobs due to plunging iron ore price

ABC [7/1/15]:

Cape Lambert Resources has shed 117 jobs due to the plunge in the price of iron ore.

The company said the reduction of its full-time workforce was part of a review of its capital management strategy and projected expenditure.

It also announced it had placed some non-core assets on "care and maintenance", and was postponing its second dividend payment to shareholders.

Cape Lambert said the measures should generate annual savings of about $3.5 million.

Executive chairman Tony Sage said the company needed to find cost savings.

"We have seen a sharp drop in the iron ore price in recent months, coupled with a downturn in market conditions for the mining sector as a whole," he said.

"With these factors in mind, Cape Lambert believes it is prudent capital management to find genuine cost savings across its business and postpone the second dividend payment scheduled for February 2015.

"I would like to emphasise that this is a postponement, not a cancellation of the dividend payment."

Mr Sage also said Cape Lambert as a company was in a strong commercial position and taking the measures was "sound management to protect the company in what is a hard time for the mining sector".

He said he was confident the iron ore price would recover in the near-to-medium term.

Resource analyst Peter Strachan said the job losses were no surprise given the state of the iron ore sector.

"The whole junior iron ore sector is looking at its costs; they're looking at the potential for raising capital down the track", he said.

"The iron ore price is really below the price that they need to get these projects up and running.

"And if you're dealing with a project that's not in a safe political environment, say in West Africa or somewhere in South America, then the risks are higher and the chances of attracting either debt or equity to those projects is very slim."

Brisbane International: Bernard Tomic beats Thanasi Kokkinakis in battle of young Australians

ABC [7/1/15]:

Bernard Tomic has moved through to the quarter-finals of the Brisbane International tennis tournament after quelling an admirable challenge from fellow Australian young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Tomic's encouraging start to 2015 continued with the 7-6 (7-2), 6-1 victory over the Adelaide-born teenage sensation on Wednesday night at Pat Rafter Arena.

Tomic will meet Japanese second seed Kei Nishikori, who accounted for American Steve Johnson in straight sets earlier in the day.

...

They don't want a fucking "rail trail" they want their train service back

Tweed Daily News [6/1/15]:

The Minister for Regional Tourism, John Barilaro, has announced up to $50 million for rail trail pilot projects.

Mr Barilaro announced the funds allocation while visiting the region with Ballina MP Don Page and Lismore MP Thomas George.

Mr Barilaro said that Expressions of Interest (EOI) are now open for local councils, businesses and community groups to boost their tourism economies and create rail trails along sections of the disused Casino to Murwillumbah and Rosewood to Tumbarumba rail corridors.

...

As health workers withhold medical care from refugees in Australia's concentration camps, and universal health care is dismantled across the nation ...

Canberra Times [7/1/15]:

Prominent euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke has lost a legal battle to protect his registration to practice medicine after a tribunal ruled he posed a serious risk to the public and could undermine confidence in the medical profession.

But Dr Nitschke has vowed to appeal the decision by the Northern Territory Health Professional Review Tribunal, saying doctors have to face the "harsh reality" that many people, including those who are not terminally ill, believe they have a right to end their own lives.

...

Outsourcing approvals would put patients at risk, advocates say [Sydney Morning Herald – 7/1/15]

Safety inspectors sent to investigate gas leak at Kimberley fracking well

ABC [7/1/15]:

Safety inspectors have been sent to a fracking well in Western Australia's north, in response to footage apparently showing dangerously high levels of leaking gas.

The ABC has obtained a video of a hand-held gas metre reading at the Yullerroo 2 site, about 70km east of Broome, showing what activists say are likely to be high levels of methane.

The drilling well was previously fracked in 2010 by Buru Energy.

Environs Kimberley Director Martin Pritchard said it showed how poorly regulated the fracking industry was.

The footage that I've seen shows the gas detector going off the scale," he said.

"Basically it's gone higher than the gas detector can actually take.

"That's a really dangerous level so very concerning and it just shows that this kind of fracking industry is not suitable for the Kimberley."

The Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) said it had sent dangerous goods officers to the site, but they had initially been blocked from entering by protesters.

The ABC understands the officers were eventually able to gain access.

A statement attributed to DMP Executive Director Petroleum Jeff Haworth said if the alleged gas levels were correct, the public must stay clear of the site.

"No uncontrolled gas leaks are permitted from wells and if such a leak is found to be occurring it must be addressed immediately.

"The department's investigation will determine if further action is required."

The DMP described it as a suspended gas well.

Buru Energy has been contacted for comment.

WA police officer allegedly assaulted 16 year old

WA Today [7/1/15]:

A West Australian police officer has been stood down from duty after being charged with assaulting a teenager.

A statement from Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan's office said the police officer from regional WA had been charged following an internal investigation into an alleged assault.

It is alleged that the sergeant assaulted a 16-year-old during an arrest on October, 31, 2014. but the commissioner's office has not provided details about whether the teenager is male or female.

The officer has been charged by summons with one count of common assault and is set to appear in court on February, 10.

Serious assault, Gordonvale

QPS Media [7/1/15]:

Police are investigating after a serious assault occurred in Gordonvale this afternoon.

At around 2.30pm, police were called to a Norman Street address, after reports that a man had been stabbed.

One man was transported to the Cairns Base Hospital in a serious condition.

Another man was treated for minor injuries and is currently assisting police with enquiries.

Investigations are continuing.

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.

Armed robbery, Worongary

QPS Media [7/1/15]:

Police are investigating following the armed robbery of a convenience store in Worongary this evening.

Around 7.15pm, a man armed with a knife entered the store on San Fernando Drive and made demands for cash and cigarettes.

The attendant complied and the man fled with a quantity of cash and cigarettes.

The man was last seen entering a white Mercedes Coupe, unknown registration.

No one was physically injured in the robbery.

Investigations are continuing.

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.

Armed robbery, Southport

QPS Media [7/1/15]:

Police are investigating after a man robbed a convenience store at knifepoint this evening.

At around 5.35pm, a man entered the Beale Street shop and threatened a man and a woman behind the counter, demanding cigarettes.

The man ran off after the store attendant went to grab him.

He was last seen running across the Beale Street into Dowling Drive before driving off in a stolen white Mercedes Coupe, Queensland Registration 611 SGZ.

The man is described as Caucasian, around 190cm tall, average build, with short brown hair.

Anyone who has seen the vehicle is urged to contact police on 131 444.

... "My message to gangs and gang members is that if this Government's re-elected, that fight continues," he said.

"My ongoing mission if I'm re-elected as Premier is to continue the fight to throw them out of this state."  ...

[ABC - 7/1/15]

First beer of the campaign #qldvotes

Image: @EricTlozek - ABC journalist [7/1/15]

Nine MSN [7/1/15]:

Campbell Newman called a snap election because LNP members were preparing to boot him from the leadership position, Clive Palmer says.

Mr Palmer told Fairfax Radio on Wednesday morning he believed the government had also moved quickly to hold an election before fresh allegations of corruption were revealed in the current senate inquiry.

Mr Palmer, who is the federal member for the Palmer United Party, said he had been told a spill was imminent.

"I'm informed by people in the LNP that there were moves afoot to dump him as premier next week, and Newman reacted very quickly," he said.

Mr Newman called the snap election on Tuesday, with Queenslanders to go to the polls on January 31.

"This is a great travesty to the people of Queensland who will be getting the kids off to school, and before Newman goes he wants to make everyone's life as much hell as he possibly can by holding the election during the holiday period to save his skin," Mr Palmer said.

He said he was in possession of an email from a Queensland LNP senator urging PUP Senator Glenn Lazarus to wind up the current inquiry into government corruption.

Mr Palmer said Senator Lazarus refused and the government immediately called the election before the inquiry could resume in early February.

He said the LNP did so over fears fresh allegations of corruption - which he did not detail - could be revealed.

Mr Palmer said he would not release the email on Wednesday as he was "just down at the Gold Coast enjoying" himself.

He said the PUP would contest about 45 seats in the election, and that all candidates had been finalised bar two.

...

Optional Preferential Voting allows Queenslanders to ensure that neither ALP or LNP get their vote

"Number every box and put LNP last" is a vote for the ALP.

Brisbane Times [2/1/15]:

... Mr Battams [Queensland Council of Unions President], who has been pushing the "just put LNP last" line for the last few months, said it was time to make preferences count again.

"At the last election there were 26 seats with a number of exhausted votes, that is people didn't fill in every square so their votes weren't counted at the end," he said.

"Twenty-six seats with a number of exhausted votes extended the winning margin by the candidate that ended up winning the seat. It is important that every vote counts and the only way to ensure that is to fill in every square at the next election."

...

Serious traffic crash, Meridan Plains

QPS Media [7/1/15]:

A 23-year-old Narangba man was transported to hospital with life threatening injuries following a two vehicle crash at Meridan Plains last night.

Preliminary information indicates that a head-on collision occurred between a westbound sedan and an eastbound truck on the Kawana Link Road around 11.55pm, January 6.

The driver and sole occupant of the sedan sustained head and limb injuries and was transported to Nambour General Hospital.

The driver and sole occupant of the truck, a 27-year-old man from Buderim, was not injured.

The road was closed for several hours as investigations were conducted by members of the Forensic Crash Unit, before being re-opened around 3.45am.

Police investigations are continuing.

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.

Santos shares 'worthless' at current oil prices

ABC [7/1/15]:

A leading investment bank says Santos shares are worthless if current oil prices and exchange rates continued indefinitely.

Undertaking a hypothetical analysis at oil prices of $US55.20 a barrel and an exchange rate at 80.6 US cents, the Credit Suisse analysts found that Santos has a negative net present value of -13 cents.

Credit Suisse director and energy analyst Mark Samter told the ABC that he does not expect oil prices to remain at current lows over the long term, but his research predicts that Santos and Origin are likely to be under significant financial pressure even if low oil prices persist in the short to medium term.

The report finds that two or three years of oil around these levels would leave Santos below investment grade by 2016 as far as debt ratings agencies are concerned.

Origin would also be left with a dangerously high debt-to-income ratio if oil prices remained around current levels.

Both firms have spent billions of dollars to build large LNG export facilities on Curtis Island off Gladstone in Queensland.

...

Oil giant Shell has agreed to pay a Nigerian fishing community 55 million pounds (about $83.5 million) for the worst oil spill ever suffered in Nigeria. ... [AP – 6/1/15]

Two US lawyers file defamation suit against attorney Dershowitz

Reuters [6/1/15]:

Two lawyers representing a woman who claims to have had sex while a minor with prominent U.S. criminal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz filed a defamation lawsuit against him on Tuesday.

Former federal judge Paul Cassell and Florida plaintiffs attorney Bradley Edwards filed the lawsuit in a Florida circuit court, accusing Dershowitz of initiating a public media assault on their reputation and character, according to court documents.

In a filing in Florida federal court last week, Cassell and Edwards said their client, identified as Jane Doe #3, was forced as a minor by financier Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with several people, including Dershowitz and Britain's Prince Andrew.

Dershowitz on Monday filed a sworn statement in Florida federal court, denying he had sex with an underage girl on Epstein's private plane and island. Buckingham Palace has also denied the allegations against Prince Andrew.

In their lawsuit, Cassell and Edwards said Dershowitz defamed them when he accused them of "deliberate misconduct and unethical behavior warranting disbarment" during several interviews with U.S. and international media outlets.

Cassell and Edwards said Dershowitz made defamatory statements in "reckless disregard" in order to support his claim of innocence.

"I'm thrilled that they sued me, because this gives me an opportunity to depose them and prove beyond any doubt that they concocted the entire story out of whole cloth and that they did not do a proper investigation and that they have falsely accused me," Dershowitz said on Tuesday.

Dershowitz said in Monday's filing that the allegation against him was a "deliberate lie." He said that while he had flown on Epstein's plane several times, Jane Doe #3 was not on any of those trips. He also said he had been to Epstein's island once, for a day, and was with his wife and daughter the whole time.

Also on Monday, Dershowitz filed a motion in federal court to enter in a lawsuit brought against the U.S. government by his accuser and other women who say Epstein sexually abused them.

The women say the government's 2008 plea deal with Epstein, which allowed him to serve jail time on state charges but avoid federal prosecution, violated their rights.

Dershowitz, a Harvard University professor emeritus, represented Epstein against the sex crime charges, for which Epstein served a 13-month sentence after pleading guilty in 2008.

Buckingham Palace officials have identified Jane Doe #3 as Virginia Roberts.

Gunman kills doctor, then himself, at Veterans Affairs hospital in El Paso, Texas

CNN [7/1/15]:

One person died Tuesday when a gunman opened fire at the El Paso VA Health Care System in Texas, Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty told reporters.

"The alleged shooter is dead, and we have one casualty. That casualty is deceased. All other VA patients and staff are safe. This is an active crime scene, and the shooting incident is under investigation," he said.

The FBI is taking the lead on the investigation.

The Department of Veterans Affairs released a statement saying it was saddened by what happened.

"We will continue to cooperate fully with military and civilian authorities at Beaumont Army Medical Center. The safety and continued care of our Veterans and the staff will be our focus throughout this situation," the statement read.

A Pentagon official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that a doctor was shot by a gunman, who later died from a self-inflicted wound.

The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear. The VA facility will be closed Wednesday.

A spokesman for the William Beaumont Army Medical Center, which is adjacent to the VA facility, had said earlier the area was on lockdown.

 

This is what New York is about. ...

Spontaneously taking part in a protest at Grand Central #BlackLivesMatter

Image: ‏@daniel_e_mann [6/1/15]

 

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [6/1/15]:

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria, Jan. 5, using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct 10 airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted two airstrikes in Iraq, Jan. 5, using remotely piloted and attack aircraft against ISIL terrorists. All strikes took place between 8 a.m., Jan. 5, and 8 a.m., Jan. 6, local time.

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

Syria

•Near Kobani, eight airstrikes destroyed 13 ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL building and damaged an ISIL building.

•Near Dawr az Zawr, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL bunker.

•Near Ar Raqqah, an airstrike destroyed two ISIL tanks.

Iraq

•Near Al Qaim, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL bunker.

•Near Al Asad, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL tactical unit, an ISIL armored vehicle and an ISIL vehicle and damaged an ISIL vehicle.

Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

US gives Iraq army 250 Mine-Resistant Armored Vehicles [Naharnet – 6/1/15]

US military begins “training” Iraqi forces [Centcom – 5/1/15]

‏@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center [6/1/15]:

Anbar: The government's aircrafts have shelled the civilian homes in Albu Hayyat in Hadeetha west of Anbar caused damaging of homes and casualties resulted unknown.....

Salah-il-deen: In this home in Samarra, three displaced families live .........

US investigating 2 airstrikes alleged to have killed civilians

Jakarta Post [7/1/15]:

The U.S. military disclosed Tuesday that it is investigating alleged civilian casualties from two airstrikes in Syria and Iraq last year, and that it has dismissed 13 other allegations of civilian casualties from airstrikes.

Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the command has considered 18 separate allegations that U.S.-led coalition airstrikes killed or wounded civilians between Aug. 8, 2014, when the U.S. launched its air campaign against the Islamic State Group in Iraq, and Dec. 30.

Thirteen allegations were deemed unfounded — five involving airstrikes in Syria and eight in Iraq, he said. Of the five other allegations, three are still being assessed by Central Command and two are under active investigation.

Ryder provided few details about the two cases under investigation. He said they involved a total of "fewer than five" alleged civilian casualties and said one incident occurred in Iraq and the other in Syria. He did not provide the dates of the two strikes but said both happened in late December.

"We take all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and we apply very rigorous standards in our targeting process to prevent civilian casualties in the first place," Ryder said.

The fact that Central Command was investigating allegations of civilian casualties from its bombing campaign was first disclosed by the Pentagon's press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby.

Ryder later provided a lengthy written statement that revealed the number of allegations, the number of cases under active investigation and information about the investigative process.

Less than a month ago, Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, the top commander of the coalition that is fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, told reporters his organization is extremely careful and deliberate about its targeting.

"We have some great capability in terms of precision," Terry said on Dec. 18, speaking of airstrikes in Iraq and efforts to avoid hitting either civilians or friendly Iraqi forces.

"To date, we've got a very good record. I am tracking no civilian casualties."

Ryder said the two cases being investigated arose after Terry spoke, and they emerged from internal reviews of airstrikes, "not the result of allegations received from outside" the Defense Department.

He did not say where the other allegations came from but mentioned that "allegations come from various sources," including media reports, private organizations and U.S. government agencies such as the State Department.

He said allegations are reviewed "regardless of the source."

Ryder did not explain in detail why 13 of the 18 allegations were determined to be not credible.

He said a source is generally deemed credible if it provides verifiable information such as photographs or other documentation.

"An example of non-credible information is a general accusation made without any corroborating information that civilian casualties occurred," Ryder said.

He said that with each allegation, Central Command reviews information that is "readily available," including information from third parties and information such as the proximity of the alleged casualties to an airstrike.

"The current environment on the ground in Iraq and Syria makes investigating these allegations extremely challenging," he said.

"Traditional investigatory methods, such as interviewing witnesses and examining the site, are not typically available."

...

Tunisia blogger who 'defamed army' denied bail

Ahram [6/1/15]:

A Tunisian military court Tuesday denied bail for a blogger who is appealing his three-year jail sentence for defaming the army -- a case that has alarmed rights campaigners.

The court scheduled the next hearing for Yassine Ayari on January 20.

Ayari, 33, was convicted in November in absentia for having "defamed army officers and senior defence ministry officials," whom he accused of financial abuse.

He was arrested on December 25 on his return from Paris.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has described his conviction as "not worthy of the new Tunisia."

In recent months, Ayari had published blogs critical of the Nidaa Tounes party, which won Tunisia's first-post revolution parliamentary elections in October.

His lawyer Sami Ben Amor described the charges as "political".

"It is in the interest of Tunisia's new rulers to send a positive message to the people," he said.

Dozens of supporters held a protest outside the court demanding Ayari's release, shouting: "No to military trials. Tunisia is a civil state".

"The corruption cases which Yassine spoke out about should be reviewed and he should not be jailed. He did not defame the military. He spoke of the corruption of people within it," the blogger's mother, Saida, told AFP.

TORA, Egypt — Together with two colleagues from the cable news channel Al Jazeera English, I have spent more than a year in jail. We were accused of joining a terrorist group conspiring against the Egyptian state and reporting “false news.” In reality, we were simply doing our job as journalists. ... Mohamed Fadel Fahmyjan [New York Times - 6/1/15]

'Times' Reporter James Risen Questioned In CIA Leak Case

NPR [5/1/15]:

New York Times reporter James Risen refused to answer any questions that, he said, could be used by the government "as a building block" in its case against a former CIA officer.

At a tense pretrial hearing in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., Risen answered only basic questions about the reporting in his 2006 book State of War, part of which outlines a CIA attempt to undermine Iran's nuclear program. Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer, is set to go on trial next week on charges of leaking information to Risen for his book.

U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema called today's hearing to determine what Risen would be willing to testify about.

As we've previously reported, Attorney General Eric Holder said last month he will not compel Risen to name his confidential CIA source. In June, Holder said Risen, who risked jail time for his failure to respond to three subpoenas to compel him to disclose his source in the agency, would not be sent to jail for "doing his job."

Politico adds:

"[T] he prosecution did want Risen to testify about some basic facts relating to his reporting for the book and newspaper articles. Risen at first resisted confirming statements he'd made in previous court filings about confidentiality agreements he had with his sources and even whether he'd talked to Sterling for a 2002 article that quoted him by name.

"But after Brinkema called a quick break and reminded Risen that he'd already discussed those points in submissions provided 'under the penalty of perjury,' he returned to court somewhat more cooperative with prosecutors.

"Risen eventually confirmed the accuracy of his prior statements."

The Associated Press reports that after Risen's testimony, Sterling's defense lawyer, Edward MacMahon, said the case against the former CIA officer should be dismissed. He said that without more information from Risen, the government had no case.

Bristol: Hundreds protest Starbucks

Bristol Post [22/12/14]:

More than 350 people have protested against a plan for a new Starbucks in Bristol's Wine Street.

The move follows concerns from independent café owners that a Starbucks would threaten their business.

An online and paper petition was started to rally opposition and has now gained 360 names.

The planning application would result in a unit on the ground floor of Vintry House, Wine Street being changed from a betting shop to a coffee shop and has attracted more than 20 written objections since notification was issued on November 17.

Green Party candidate for Cabot Stafford-Townsend, an independent retailer in Broadmead, said:

"Independent businesses are the key to ensuring a sustainable economy.

They pay their taxes, they create more jobs, and the money they generate stays mostly within the local economy.

Tameka Mortimer, a member of staff at independent coffee house The Birdcage, said: "What will happen to the independent cafes on Corn Street, especially ones taking Bristol Pounds?

"Starbucks will draw trade away from the lower end entirely, and devastate businesses like The Birdcage."

Darren Hall, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol West, said: "It is fantastic that Bristol's cafe culture is really starting to thrive, with local independent traders offering customers a distinctive experience with a great cup of fair trade coffee, locally sourced food and a warm welcome.

"The alternative is a familiar, mass-produced global corporation. Some people argue that we should simply let customers decide, but we can take the view that someone needs to be fighting to help create a level playing field for local businesses."

The petition has been handed to Bristol City Council.

EU says Starbucks' 'very low' Dutch tax deal may be illegal [Reuters – 14/11/14]

Our Man in Brisbane: Bill O'Chee: Stratfor's prolific Australian source -  now an expert in belittling domestic violence

Meanwhile, in countries which still have some semblance of a functioning media ...

Preventing domestic violence tops women’s 2015 wishlist - poll [Irish Times - 6/1/15]:

Protecting women from domestic and sexual violence, ensuring access to safe and legal abortions and affordable childcare have topped a wishlist for women in 2015, according to the results of a National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) poll.

Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas, which falls on Tuesday, is the ideal time to look at what women want for 2015, said Orla O’Connor, NWCI director.

“The Government needs to prioritise and invest in women’s equality in 2015, so that we have something to celebrate on January 6th, 2016,” Ms O’Connor said after results of the organisation’s poll were released.

In the lead-up to the New Year, NWCI conducted a poll among members asking them about their hopes for the Government’s priorities in 2015. The poll consisted of 10 issue-based questions. It was on social media over 10 days and received 600 responses.

“That the three most prominent issues were violence against women, abortion and affordable childcare was no big shock,” Ms O’Connor said.

“Male violence is still an inescapable backdrop in the lives of one in five women in Ireland. Equally, the issue of safe and legal abortion is one which has affected hundreds of thousands of women since the Eighth Amendment was inserted into the Constitution in 1983 and was rarely out of the headlines last year, while the lack of affordable, accessible childcare is a massive barrier to women’s equal participation in the workforce.”

The director of Ireland’s national women’s membership organisation said that today is the perfect day to assess the state of play for women here.

Nollaig na mBan is a day where traditionally men took over the housekeeping duties, something which in 2015 still predominantly falls to women. Women are paid less for the work we do, we continue to provide the majority of the care work and as of yet, women are not close to being equally represented in a representative democracy.”

Ms O’Connor said “there can be no real equality between women and men if women experience gender-based violence on this large-scale.”

Reproductive rights were also a concern to poll respondents, who placed this second in a list of 10 concerns for women in Ireland.

“Doctors are restricted from exercising their best clinical judgment, maternity services are affected and the wishes of a woman’s next of kin after she has died can possibly be ignored,” said Ms O’Connor.

Caring for children is also high on most women’s list of priorities and women think the Government could do better, the survey found.

Public spending on childcare in Ireland as a percentage of GDP is low and childcare costs are among the highest in Europe “averaging €800 to €1,000 a month for a full-time place,” Ms O’Connor said.

The NWCI is calling on the Government to introduce a second free pre-school year and to make sure paternity leave is introduced “to send the message that fathers also have an important role to play when it comes to care.”

Driver dies in hospital following horror Sydney two-truck crash

Nine MSN [7/1/15]

One of the truck drivers involved in a crash between two semi-trailers on Sydney's M2 motorway has died in hospital.

Sydney motorists are being warned to expect delays after the horror crash that happened on the M2 between Abbott Road and Windsor Road at Baulkham Hills about 2.30am today.

It's believed the trucks were travelling city-bound, when the front of one truck collided with the back of the other, police said.

One of the drivers was trapped in the wreckage for more than two hours, before being taken to Westmead Hospital, where he died.

The other driver was also taken to the hospital for precautionary checks and mandatory blood and urine testing.

Motorists are advised to allow additional travel time to work as several roads will remain closed for several hours.

The westbound lane has since reopened in Baulkham Hills.

Eastbound motorists are advised to avoid the area or expect delays.

Parramatta Road in Leichhardt is also slow for motorists after an accident near Crystal Street.

Two of three city bound lanes are closed and traffic is queued 2km.

Police charter helicopter to investigate man's death in remote community

ABC [7/1/15]:

Bad weather has forced police to charter a helicopter to investigate the death of a man at a bush community in Western Australia's Kimberley.

The 20-year-old man was found dead at the Wungu community, 70-kilometres east of Halls Creek, on Monday evening.

Police were unable to access the site because heavy rain and floodwaters made the access road impassable.

Instead, a chopper had to be chartered from Kununurra the next morning to take detectives to the scene.

The investigators returned late yesterday but say the cause of death remains undetermined.

A policeman involved in the investigation told the ABC the wet conditions had made things difficult.

"The lack of access is definitely making things tricky," the policeman said.

"It's been difficult to get a full picture of what's gone on out there."

More than 60 millimetres of rain has fallen in the area in recent days, turning much of the access road to Wungu to mud.

Detectives are continuing to interview community members about the events in the lead-up to the man's death.

One hundred firefighters battle to put out Sydney factory blaze

Nine MSN [7/1/15]:

Firefighters have brought a factory fire under control in Sydney's northwest after it forced the evacuation of about 20 people from surrounding properties.

Police said emergency services were called to South Street in Rydalmere at about 2.30am today to find the pool products factory well alight.

Twenty-two fire trucks and 100 firefighters attended the blaze with fears the fire would spread to a neighbouring warehouse filled with paper and cardboard.

"We were very concerned that this massive fire would move to a warehouse to the rear, and a paper recycling plant (next door), this fire would have burned for days," Fire and Rescue NSW Commander Greg Mullins said.

No one is believed to have been in the building at the time.

Around 20 people were evacuated from surrounding buildings as a precaution, however authorities said the area is now safe.

New Zealand: Invercargill fire has toxic fumes

RNZI [6/1/15]:

Authorities are warning the public to stay away from a car yard that is on fire in Invercargill because of toxic fumes billowing from the yard.

Police and Fire Service will remain at the scene of the fire in Otepuni Avenue this evening.

Several fire trucks were required to bring the fire under control.

Police said a number of roadblocks and cordons were put in place due to the toxic smoke and fumes from the fire, but no evacuations were required.

The fire was being treated as suspicious and a joint investigation by Police and Fire Service will commence tomorrow.

The family which owns the car yard says they hope the damage to their property is not too great, and their sentimental items can be saved.

BR Electric Motor Rewinds manager Neil Ramsay said his family has owned the business for 15 years.

He said the yard covered about four hectares and there were probably about 1000 cars there.

Mr Ramsay's mother, Janice Ramsay, said there were several sentimental items inside the yard under threat.

Ms Ramsay said there were cars her son was doing up on the site, as well as a few classic cars.

She said she was worried about the tools inside that may be damaged, as they belonged to her husband before he died.

Poor water quality closes Calliope pool again

Gladstone Observer [7/1/15]:

The Calliope State School swimming pool has been closed temporarily because of poor water quality.

Gladstone Regional Council leases the pool from Education Queensland and is liaising with school staff to ensure the pool is safe to use before it resumes its regular public opening hours.

That is expected to happen by 10am on Thursday.

Petition to stop clearing trees along Rockhampton-Yeppoon Rd

Morning Bulletin [7/1/15]:

Allan Briggs describes the planned clearing of vegetation on the Rockhampton-Yeppoon Rd as an "overreaction" .

The secretary of Birdlife Capricornia is urging people to sign an online petition, calling for the clearing to be stopped and for the Department of Transport and Main Roads to consider alternative safety measures in the area.

The TMR is delivering clear zoning programs throughout Queensland to provide safer road corridors.

It is yet to appoint a contractor for the Rockhampton-Yeppoon Rd project, which will focus on the section between Access 2 (dual lanes) and Nails Rd (Yeppoon Western Bypass).

The work is expected to be completed in the first half of this year, weather permitting.

Mr Briggs said if driver safety was at the heart of the decision, erecting retaining barriers would be a better option.

"It seems to us that it is like the shark cull, an overreaction," he said.

"As a local bird group, we are horrified at the thought of such a massive loss of habitat.

"There is also the collateral loss of nesting hollows, destruction of birds in their nests and sugar gliders who rest in tree hollows, not to mention the moonscape that will be left after they have finished."

But a TMR spokesperson said the clearing would only target larger diameter trees that posed a risk to vehicles that left the traffic lanes for any reason.

Shrubbery and small trees would not be affected.

"We have funded a project on Rockhampton-Yeppoon Rd to clear fixed objects and hazards within 13m of the road centreline.

"Only where the road corridor does not extend more than 13m will tree clearing extend to the fence line."

The spokesperson said that to protect wildlife, a qualified spotter and catcher would be present during the clearing. [What a crock.]

All wildlife was released into the surrounding environment on the advice of a qualified contractor.

The Birdlife Capricornia petition can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-tree-clearing-on-the-rockhampton-yeppoon-road.html

Surfwear label Mambo sold to US firm

Sydney Morning Herald [7/1/15]:

Famous surfwear brand Mambo is another Australian icon going into foreign hands, having been snapped up by a US-based clothing group.

Saban Brands, which owns the Paul Frank and Macbeth fashion labels, has bought Mambo from its Australian owners for an undisclosed sum.

Mambo was founded in Sydney in 1984 by Dare Jennings and Andrew Rich and has developed a cult following for its often irreverent and colourful designs by artists like former Mental As Anything guitarist Reg Mombassa.

The company also designed the Australian Olympic team uniforms for the 2000 Olympics.

Mambo was bought by listed clothing group Gazal in 2001 before being sold to a consortium headed by current managing director Angus Kingsmill in 2008. Jennings later moved on to found the equally successful Deus-ex-Machina brand.

In a statement, Saban said it planned to expand the Mambo brand both in Australia and overseas.

"As an Australian brand with a unique art-driven aesthetic, Mambo will play a significant role in our international growth strategy both in Australia and around the world," Saban Brands' managing director of strategic business development Dan Castle said.

Looks like neocon establishment types are fully aware (and fearful of) the growing demand for real democracy in Australia

The newDemocracy Foundation believes there is a better way to do democracy.   People want to be participants in politics, not just polarised voters in adversarial contests.  

The research evidence is compelling- trusted outcomes are achieved when a diverse and representative group of citizens, randomly selected, deliberate together.  

We don't need better politicians. We need a better system.

...

NewDemocracy's operating overhead is met by the annual contribution of The Anita and Luca Belgiorno-Nettis Family Foundation. All other donor funding is committed to research projects. All research project expenses and operating overhead are approved by newDemocracy's Research Committee.

...

... The jury was set up last year with a panel of 24 community members randomly selected from those who had volunteered to take part.  ... [Noosa's “community jury” takes on first case – Sunshine Coast Daily – 7/1/15]

Katter ready to campaign

North West Star [6/1/15]:

State member for Mount Isa Rob Katter said although the sudden election announcement would inconvenience most state candidates of any party, he was pleased to now get into campaign mode to ensure there was a strong stand against city-centric major parties.

“While it’s a bit cynical rushing an election in while people are still on holiday mode, we welcome the opportunity for people to put pen to paper and hold this government to account,” Mr Katter said.

“Personally I am ready to stand with the KAP in the electorate of Mount Isa, and I am pleased the campaign will be short and sharp so we can get back to the business of fighting for people in the North West.

“We have a golden opportunity for the KAP and other independents who have worked well together this Parliament, to hold the balance of power and primarily stop asset sales, which will be disastrous for people in Western Queensland.

“The LNP has spent $20 million of taxpayers’ money on ramming asset sales down our throat, trying to convince us it’s a good thing.’’

Queenslanders will go to the polls on January 31.

Mr Katter said the coming election was a referendum on asset sales.

“The KAP and independents signed an accord together guaranteeing the people of Queensland that they will vote as a bloc to stop asset sales.

“Then we can see some resources and funding flowing back into the regions.”

Mr Katter said the Mount Isa electorate didn’t need big flash office buildings or traffic tunnels in Brisbane, costing millions.

“We need money that is earned here in this mineral resource region, put into our infrastructure here, and that’s what I’ve been fighting for and will continue to fight for,” he said.

He said the Royalties to Regions program was a farce.

“For real leverage in getting proper regional infrastructure we need the crossbenchers holding the balance of power.”

 

Queensland electoral rolls close on Saturday

West Australian [7/1/15]:

Queenslanders have just four days to enrol to vote in the January 31 state election.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland will close the rolls at 5pm (AEST) on Saturday.

Voters can enrol or check their enrolment status online at www.ecq.qld.gov.au.

 

A public funeral for eight children who were killed in far north Queensland will be held on Saturday at the Cairns Convention Centre.  ... [Yahoo - 6/1/15]

 

Queensland Govt Media Release [4/4/13]:

Rogue public housing tenants will soon face stricter penalties for bad behaviour with the Newman Government today launching a “three-strikes and you’re out” policy.

Minister for Housing Tim Mander said the new policy would see problem tenants evicted if they failed to curb their behaviour. ...

ABC [1/7/13]:

The Queensland Government's tougher policy on public housing tenants comes into effect today.

The so-called 'three strikes and you're out' policy will prohibit evicted tenants from reapplying for public housing for three months.

The member for the far north Queensland seat of Cairns, [and former Editor of Murdoch's 'Cairns Post'] Gavin King, says some tenants have been getting away with too much.

"Some public housing tenants have to get eight or nine breaches before the department and the court considers an eviction," he said.

"Often a public housing tenant will cause significant damage to their property, cause hell to their neighbours, and will get evicted.

"The trouble is they'll just be moved across town into another public housing tenancy."

 

 

She calls out to the man on the street

'Sir, can you help me?

It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep,

Is there somewhere you can tell me?'

He walks on, doesn't look back

He pretends he can't hear her

Starts to whistle as he crosses the street

Seems embarrassed to be there …

'Another Day In Paradise', Phil Collins [1989]

 


Come down to Surfers Paradise Police Station Open Day! [QPS Media - 6/1/15]:

..on THIS Sunday between 10:00am and 2:00pm!

Community members are invited to meet the local police and take a guided tour of the Surfers Paradise Police Station which will include displays of police resources from the Bomb Squad, Gold Coast Water Police, Beach Rhinos, Police Motor Bikes and Transport Vans.

Representatives from Neighbour Hood Watch and Crime Stoppers will be in attendance, as well as Police Dog Cluedo, the friendly mascot.

This is a great opportunity for us all here at the Surfers Paradise Police Station to get to know our local community members with the view to strengthening our relationship.

There will be a free sausage sizzle and drinks available, as well as some great giveaways for the kids. Everyone is welcome!

Let’s work together to make Surfers Paradise a great place to live.

Armed robbery, Main Beach

QPS Media [7/1/15]:

Police are investigating following the armed robbery of a convenience store in Main Beach early this morning.

Around 1.30am, a man armed with a tyre iron entered the store on Main Beach Parade and made demands for cash and cigarettes.

The attendant complied, handing the man a quantity of cash and cigarettes.

The man fled the scene, heading north on Main Beach Parade.

No one was physically injured in the robbery.

Investigations are continuing.

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 following police pursuit, Blackstone

QPS Media [7/1/15]:

Police are investigating a serious traffic crash that occurred earlier this morning in the Blackstone area.

Preliminary information indicates that around 4am, police were attempting to pull over a vehicle travelling at high speed on Redbank Plains Road when it failed to stop for police.

A tyre deflation device was deployed in a nearby street, but the vehicle drove around it and sped away from the scene.

Patrolling police located the vehicle crashed into the rear of a parked truck on Redbank Plains Road a short time later.

All six occupants in the car were transported to hospital including a woman passenger who sustained critical injuries and five others, one male driver, two male passengers and two female passangers who were treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.

“Take care what you say! I'll have no hard words. Wretch! If I am a wretch, who made me one? If I hate you and myself and the world, who made me hate it? I was born free - as free as you are. Why should I be sent to herd with beasts, and condemned to this slavery, worse than death? Tell me that, Maurice Frere - tell me that”

― Marcus Clarke, For the Term of His Natural Life

 

Iranian asylum seeker resumes hunger strike in Darwin concentration camp [ABC - 7/1/15]:

An asylum seeker who went on a hunger strike in an NT detention centre for 51 days has resumed his protest and will continue "to the end", his lawyer says.

The 33-year-old Iranian man, who is in Wickham Point Detention Centre near Darwin, began his hunger strike after losing his appeal for refugee status.

He stopped in December, four days after his lawyer and refugee advocates found a different avenue for appeal.

But lawyer John Lawrence, engaged by the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network, said the man had once again lost hope and resumed his hunger strike nine days ago.

"He's crushed and broken," he said.

"He's basically given up the ghost as far as ever obtaining all he wants which is freedom and justice, to use his words, the very things he sought by leaving Iran and coming here.

"He's now taking this action, which is a hunger strike, to the end. That's his words."

Mr Lawrence said the man was in limbo, because usually when an asylum seeker's refugee status is rejected the person is either returned to their country of origin or kept in detention.

However Iran does not accept asylum seekers who have fled the country, leaving indefinite detention as the man's only option unless a legal solution can be found.

"He is of the belief that if he does return to Iran he will be at least imprisoned, if not tortured, if not killed. That is not an option for him," Mr Lawrence said.

"The other option that he has chosen to take is to demonstrate his position, not only on behalf of himself ... but also the others that he's conscious of and knows directly."

Mr Lawrence said there was still a pending judicial review of the man's case, and the lawyer said he he would represent the man "if he is still alive".

"He's basically given up he's got no faith or hope in his legal prospects," the lawyer said.

Last year doctors at Royal Darwin Hospital examined the man's mental health, but found he was in a normal state of mind, Mr Lawrence said.

That meant doctors were unable to section him under the Mental Health Act and force feed him.

"They actually told a case worker that what he was doing was quite normal considering his circumstances," he said.

"It's a deliberate action taken by him in demonstration and in protest against the Department of Immigration."

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been contacted for comment.

 

8 January 2015

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