Saudis continue bombing Yemen [Reuters – 8/5/15]


A senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader who claimed the group's responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the murder of an American hostage during a botched raid in December has been killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, it was announced Thursday. ... [NBC - 8/5/15]





Naharnet [ 8/5/15]:



A bomb attack on a Shiite mosque in eastern Iraq killed at least 10 people on Friday including an army officer, officials said.

An interior ministry official said a car bomb struck the mosque in the province of Diyala northeast of Baghdad, while a police source said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.





UN troops preparing offensive against Hutu rebels in DR Congo [RT - 8/5/15]





100,000 flee week of South Sudan fighting: UN [Daily Star - 8/5/15]





Failed suicide bombing reported at Nigeria college [Al Jazeera - 8/5/15]



Pakistan helicopter crash kills Norwegian, Philippine ambassadors [Reuters – 8/5/15]






A German navy ship on Friday came to the rescue of a boat carrying some 200 migrants in the Mediterranean, the defense ministry said, days after it joined a beefed-up EU mission.  ... [Naharnet - 8/5/15]




ANSAmed [8/5/15]:




The Libyan coast guard of Zawiyah "managed to rescue" over 400 illegal migrants off the coast of the region of Dila, west of Tripoli, in the early hours of Thursday, according to the Lana newsagency.

The Libyan navy rescued other 102 migrants three days ago, ten miles north of Qaraboli.

Almost 600 migrants were also arrested, on Wednesday, in Sabrata, west of Tripoli, as they were about to set off for Italy aboard an old fishing vessel.






This Mother's Day




A film by People Like Us and Mums 4 Refugees




Offshore processing costs Australian taxpayers 10 times more than letting asylum seekers live in the community while their refugee claims are processed, the Commission's report reveals. ... [UNSW Media Release - 2/5/15]







Refugees exiled.


 Facebook shutdown.








De facto detention must stop, says UN torture prevention body [AUDIO – 7/5/1/5]:

Asylum-seekers trying to get into Australia are being held in "de facto" detention on a Pacific island which has failed to respect key human rights obligations, UN experts said Wednesday.

The warning comes from UN investigators who have just visited the island of Nauru, which has an agreement with the Australian government to process migrants' refugee claims.

Daniel Johnson has more.

After their first visit to the tiny island that lies hundreds of kilometres off the Australian coast, the UN investigators said they had visited "all places of deprivation of liberty".

This includes Nauru's police station, prison and a larger processing centre for asylum-seekers who've come from Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Between 500 and 600 migrants have been given refugee status on Nauru and a similar number are still waiting for their claims to be processed.

Men, women and families with children are being detained, the UN human rights office says.

And many have been waiting up to 16 months to be told if they can have official refugee status, according to Professor Malcolm Evans.

He's chairman of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.

"The primary concern of course is that so many are being held in what amounts to a form of de facto detention as asylum-seekers when this is not how asylum-seekers should be held when they are awaiting for their applications to be processed, so the very fact they are is a problem."

Nauru is in the spotlight because it is supposed to have set up a monitoring body to protect the interests of the asylum-seekers.

Professor Evans said he'd received "clear assurances" from the island's authorities that this would happen.






Pacific media watchdog claims Nauru Facebook blackout a rights threat [ABC – 8/5/15]







US and Australia would prefer persecuted Rohingya be subjected to atrocities INSIDE Myanmar and Bangladesh



The Nation [9/5/15]:



Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday called for a three-way meeting with neighbours Malaysia and Myanmar to try to resolve a regional human trafficking crisis following the discovery of a mass grave in the country's far south.


Myanmar’s permanent secretary at the Ministry of Immigration Myint Kyaing said Myanmar had not yet been contacted about the meeting.

"I think we would be interested to take part in that meeting if they officially invited us," said Win Naing Tun, deputy chief of Myanmar’s anti-human trafficking police.

Malaysia’s foreign ministry spokesman was unable to provide a response when contacted by Reuters.

The United States, which has censured Thailand for failing to act against human trafficking, called on Monday for a speedy and credible inquiry into the discovery of the mass grave.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, during an official visit to Thailand, on Friday commended Thailand for its "timely response" to the discovery of the mass grave and suspected trafficking camps.

"This is a very tragic finding. These atrocities must be stopped," Bishop told Reuters.






UNHCR:  South-East Asia Irregular Maritime Movements [January – March 2015]:



... The predominant route of irregular maritime movements in South-East Asia continues to originate in the Bay of Bengal, from where tens of thousands of persons of concern to UNHCR leave Bangladesh and Myanmar by sea in hopes of ultimately reaching Malaysia. Passage along this route takes place year-round, but traditionally increases following the end of the rainy season in October. This bulletin covers developments since October 2014 through the first quarter of 2015, as well as aspects of the Bay of Bengal route that have been further explored in recent interviews.

In the first quarter of 2015, 25,000 people are estimated to have departed in irregular maritime movements from the Bay of Bengal. The departure rate in the first quarter of 2015 was approximately double the departure rate reported in the first quarters of 2013 and 2014.

Based on interviews with those who have reached Thailand and Malaysia, 300 people are estimated to have died at sea while attempting maritime journeys from the Bay of Bengal in the first quarter of 2015—and as many as 620 since October 2014—primarily as a result of starvation, dehydration, and beatings by boat crews.† A few interviewees also told of entire boats sinking, but there was no way to verify such reports or if, and how many, lives were lost.



Eight individuals identifying as Rohingya registered with UNHCR in Indonesia in the first quarter of 2015, bringing the total number of Rohingya currently registered with UNHCR in Indonesia to 714, of whom 687 have been recognized as refugees.

Indonesian and Australian authorities reported several attempts of maritime crossings to Australia in February and March: four Sri Lankans intercepted by Australian authorities off the Cocos (Keeling) Islands who were returned to Sri Lanka the following day after being interviewed at sea by Australian border protection officials; 30 Bangladeshi and Myanmar nationals apprehended in Padang, Indonesia, preparing to embark for Australia; and a group of 15 individuals returned to Indonesian waters by Australian authorities after staying on Christmas Island for three days.

As of 31 March 2015, over 5,400 persons of concern to UNHCR who travelled by sea were held in immigration detention facilities in the Asia-Pacific region, including over 2,700 who are either in Australia or the offshore processing centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.







Carlsberg opened its first beer-production plant in Myanmar, company officials said Friday.  ... [Bangkok Post - 8/5/15]





KFC has some serious expansion plans up its sleeves. The fried chicken chain is slated to become the first American fast food restaurant in Myanmar. ... [Eater - 6/5/15]








The UN refugee agency on Friday warned that pre-election violence in Burundi threatens to undo some of the most promising developments in recent refugee history in Africa, with more than 50,000 Burundians fleeing to neighbouring countries since mid-April.


UNHCR has appealed to the authorities in Burundi to allow people to move freely. "It is vital too that borders remain open, and we are grateful to commitments in this regard by neighbouring countries and for the support that host communities are giving to the refugees," the UNHCR spokesman stressed. [UNHCR Media Release - 8/5/15]






University of Western Australia pulls out of Bjorn Lomborg centre


Sydney Morning Herald [8/5/15]:

The University of Western Australia is pulling out of its deal to create a "consensus centre" run by controversial climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg that was to be partly funded by the federal government.

The university appears to have bowed to pressure from staff and the public following news the think tank would receive $4 million in government funding.

"I have today spoken to the federal government and Bjorn Lomborg, advising them of the barriers that currently exist to the creation of the centre and the university's decision to cancel the contract and return the money to the government," UWA vice-chancellor Paul Johnson said.

"The scale of the strong and passionate emotional reaction was one that the university did not predict," Professor Johnson said on Friday evening.

"It is with great regret and disappointment that I have formed the view that the events of the past few weeks places the centre in an untenable position as it lacks the support needed across the university and the broader academic community to meet its contractual obligations and deliver value for money for Australian taxpayers," he said.

The centre was to advise the federal government on reforming policy on poverty, social justice, and food sustainability.






Daily Telegraph pays $180,000 to defamation victim

Canberra Times [8/5/15]:

Rachelle Louise has settled her defamation case against The Daily Telegraph, with the newspaper admitting it was incorrect to refer to her as a stripper.

Ms Louise, the former girlfriend of convicted murderer Simon Gittany, sued Nationwide News for defamation over three articles published by The Daily Telegraph in late 2013 and early 2014, alleging she was portrayed as a prostitute, a stripper, a bimbo, and a "deluded woman" for standing by a killer.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, although Fairfax Media understands Ms Louise will be paid about $180,000.

During the settlement negotiations, which occurred on and off during the trial, Ms Louise was adamant the paper should have to apologise. However there was no mention of an apology in the announcement made to the court.

Each party will pay its own legal costs.

On Friday, Ms Louise’s barrister Clive Evatt told the four-person jury: “Between November 2013 and February 2014 The Daily Telegraph reported that Rachelle Louise had previously worked as a stripper. This was incorrect,” he said.

“Rachelle Louise and The Daily Telegraph have settled their dispute and both parties are satisfied with the result.”

The trial had begun in the Sydney District Court on Monday before Judge Judith Gibson.

When Mr Evatt said his client had settled, Judge Gibson said "I thought your client was Joan of Arc".

In his opening address Ms Evatt referred to Ms Louise as a modern day Joan of Arc.

Ms Louise was due to re-enter the witness box on Friday morning for cross-examination by Nationwide News’ barrister Dr Matthew Collins, QC.

After the jury was dismissed, Ms Louise told Mr Evatt: “I’m very happy.”

Gittany is serving a minimum of 18 years' jail for the murder of Lisa Cecilia Harnum, whom he dropped from a 15th-floor balcony at the Hyde Apartments in Sydney in July 2011.

Ms Louise was supported in court by Gittany's parents and sisters.

Speaking outside court Ms Louise said: "I am ecstatic with the result."

She said she could not go into details about the outcome and thanked her legal team.

"This is the first hurdle of many. Now that I have cleared my name I can clear Simon's," she told reporters.




SBS journalist dismissed after sharing an article on her Facebook page

Following on from SBS' recent sacking of sports reporter Scott McIntyre over controversial ANZAC Day tweets, in which he condemned the Nationalistic ANZAC narrative and notions of "celebration" rather than commemoration, the broadcaster has discontinued the casual shifts of reporter Marion Ives, a day after the journalist shared an article about SBS on her Facebook page, according to New Matilda.

Ives, who has been employed by SBS for seven years, was reportedly told she would no longer be receiving any shifts at SBS on her casual contract last week. The previous day, Ives had shared an article on Facebook published by The Conversation, titled "Whitewash? That's Not The Colour of SBS Charter" by award-winning journalist and lecturer Helen Vatsikopoulos.

The article focused on the broadcaster's recent decision to not retain cadet journalist Widyan Al Ubudy following the completion of her cadetship tenure. SBS claimed the decision was made in line with "budgeting constraints".

According to New Matilda, SBS failed to give Marion Ives "concrete reasons" for her dismissal, other than the same reason Widyan Al Ubudy was given - "budget constraints". SBS News Chief Producer Steven Wilson reportedly commented on Ives' sharing of The Conversation article on Facebook, saying "Shouldn't people just shut up unless they know the facts?"







Nepalese battled for evacuation with trekkers

RNZI [8/5/15]:

Villagers in Nepal have told how local people clung to the landing skids of a helicopter, to stop it taking off with foreign trekkers ahead of injured earthquake victims.

Three foreign trekkers used their satellite telephone to call the rescue helicopter that landed in Langtang Valley three days after the deadly earthquake triggered a catastrophic landslide that buried hundreds of people in one village in the valley.

Uninjured trekkers were persuaded to disembark and injured Nepalese were flown out instead, including a toddler with broken legs.

Lhakpa Jangba, a local baker who was evacuated from the valley last week, told Reuters most helicopters were coming to pick up the foreigners, who were healthy, "not our injured people," he said.

"We said to the foreigners, 'You are healthy. Stay one or two more days and let our injured people go'."

Villagers had "strong words" with the pilots and foreigners, but there was no violence, Lhakpa said.

Rescue workers are struggling to recover the bodies of nearly 300 people, including about 110 foreigners, believed to be buried under up to six metres of ice, snow and rock from the landslide that destroyed Langtang Village.

So far, the bodies of nine foreigners have been recovered. That makes Langtang one of the worst-hit sites in a disaster whose toll throughout Nepal has reached 7759 dead with over 16,400 injured.

Langtang Valley, the nearest Himalayan region to Kathmandu, lies 60 km to the south, making it popular with foreign climbers and trekkers.

The first rescue helicopter landed in Kyanjin Gompa, a three-hour trek from Langtang Village, two days after the quake, carrying away a half-dozen injured, mainly from the village.

The second helicopter came the following day, called in by the three foreign climbers but was prevented from flying until it took the injured on board.

More helicopters came in the hours and days ahead, each mobbed by village people desperate to get out, said Kat Heldman, a US mountaineer.

"All the mountaineers that had gear and tents and food adopted the trekkers that didn't have food," she said.

The villagers camped in a separate area from the climbers, by a garbage dump, because it was sheltered by a large boulder. "But we would go to them to treat their wounds," Heldman said. "Eventually they started coming to us. There was a lot of hugging."

Heldman and her group were evacuated the Wednesday following the quake. "Our party was initially broken up but we refused to go without our porters."

A U.S. Special Forces team in Nepal contracted a six-seater helicopter four days after the quake. Panicky survivors grabbed their bags and ran towards helicopters as soon as they landed, said Dan, a rescue coordinator who spoke on condition that his family name not be used.

"They had mountains on two sides and avalanches on the other. So you can imagine the fear. They realised they couldn't get out unless someone came to get them."

As of Thursday, at least 300 people had been rescued from the Langtang Valley, said Gautam Rimal, assistant chief district officer.

Lhakpa Jangba said he thought many people died of their injuries in the valley because not enough helicopters arrived in time.

He said the villagers in Kyangjin Gompa were grateful to an American nurse and climbing group who treated many of their injured.




UK election 2015: SNP on course for Scottish landslide

BBC [8/5/15]:

The SNP has ousted Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy as it stands on the verge of a historic landslide general election victory in Scotland.

The party is set to almost wipe out Labour in Scotland, with Douglas Alexander and Margaret Curran also losing their seats.

The SNP won by 10,000 votes in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, which had previously been held by Gordon Brown.

And it won Glasgow North East with a record swing of 39.3%.

By 04:35, the SNP had won 47 of the 49 seats to have declared in Scotland, making it by far the party's most successful general election ever. Its previous best was in October 1974, when it won 11 seats.

The SNP has won all seven seats in Glasgow from Labour, while former party leader Alex Salmond will be returning to the House of Commons after winning the Gordon constituency from the Liberal Democrats.

The only seats which the SNP has not won so far are Orkney and Shetland and Edinburgh South, where Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael, the former Secretary of State for Scotland, and Labour's Ian Murray managed to hold on.

Electoral expert John Curtice told the BBC it was possible the SNP would win more than half of the votes in Scotland, a feat not achieved by any party since the Conservatives won 50.1% in 1955.

An exit poll has predicted the SNP will win 58 of Scotland's 59 seats, while the Conservatives will be the largest party across the UK.

In East Renfrewshire, the SNP's Kirsten Oswald defeated Mr Murphy - who had been defending a majority of 10,400 - by 3,718 votes.

The defeat will leave major questions about whether Mr Murphy can continue as Scottish Labour leader, with former Labour MP Ian Davidson - who lost his Glasgow South West seat to the SNP's Christopher Stephens - having already called for him to resign.

If the exit poll is accurate, as it was in 2010, David Cameron could be on course to remain prime minister as the head of a minority government without the need for a coalition - although he might have to rely on the support of the DUP or the Lib Dems.

A final poll of polls compiled by the Press Association ahead of the vote had put the Tories on 276 seats, Labour on 271, Lib Dems on 28, SNP 48, UKIP three and Greens one.

Turnout across Scotland was expected to be high, with more than four million people registered to vote - about 94% of the adult population.

Several constituencies have reported turnouts in excess on 70%, with some at more than 80%.

There were more than 5,000 polling places in Scotland with schools, village halls and community centres transformed for the day to allow people to cast their votes.



Grillo in Rome for sit-in

ANSA [7/5/15]:




Beppe Grillo, leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S), made a surprise visit to Rome on Thursday to show support for 59 members of the anti-establishment group who have been suspended from the Lower House for disorderly conduct during debate of a Constitutional reform bill in February.

He was to take part in a sit-in outside the parliament building with the suspended MPs in the afternoon.

The 59 M5S representatives are among 66 MPs who were suspended on Wednesday in connection with ugly scenes during non-stop 'river' sessions on February 11-13 used by the House speaker to combat obstructionist tactics used by opponents to the reform.

The remaining seven are members of the Northern League, Left, Ecology, Freedom party, mixed group and Premier Matteo Renzi's own Democratic Party.

The suspensions range from a minimum of 3 days to a maximum of 24. The suspended MPs were opposing a bill to transform the Senate into a leaner assembly of regional representatives with limited law-making powers to make passing legislation swifter and easier.



United States of America, Trade Mission



Queensland is like a beautiful girl with lots of money. But stupid. For some reason she just loves to open her purse and bare her big pink arse to the world and say 'Fuck me over, please' to all comers. And trust me, the fuckers come running.


Andrew McGahan, 'Last Drinks' [2000]




Queensland Parliament Hansard [7/5/15]:




Hon. A PALASZCZUK (Inala—ALP) (Premier and Minister for the Arts) (9.37 am): Not only is my door open to local and Australian business at any time, my door is also wide open to the international business community wanting to expand existing Queensland industries or come to this state to set up shop. That is why today I can announce that in June I will be undertaking a trade mission to the United States to focus on attracting new industry to Queensland and strengthening those already strong ties Queensland has with business across America.

My trade mission will focus on the promotion and expansion of Queensland’s capabilities in a broad range of fields, including natural sciences, social sciences, the arts, education, biotechnology, biofuels, agriculture, mining and energy and resources and increasing trade and investment into our great state.

The delegation of Queensland business leaders, scientists and representatives of our key universities that I will lead to the United States will have a strong focus on our established and emerging biotech industries, including biofuels. Following COAG recently, I met personally in Canberra with Australia’s United States Ambassador John Berry. I have also met in Brisbane with the US Consul General Hugo Llorens to discuss emerging opportunities with the United States which will open new doors and frontiers for Queensland.

We are working with both the consul general and the ambassador to maximise the opportunities for Queensland. In June in Washington I will sign a new three-year memorandum of understanding between our state and the Smithsonian Institution, giving Queenslanders access to the knowledge, expertise and networks of the world’s largest research and museum complex. In Philadelphia I will attend the important annual BIO International Convention, giving Queensland the opportunity to access the international biotechnology business and research community. Under Labor governments, at this event Queensland premiers have had an ongoing presence, which has informed and guided our critical and growing bio and sciences area. Labor will not vacate this important space. Through our Advance Queensland strategy, we will continue to work hard to maximise opportunities for the biotechnology and research sector.

In Philadelphia I will take the opportunity to meet with a wide range of business and government leaders in the fields of health and medical research, international trade and innovation. I will also meet with business and government leaders in Boston, including private equity and venture capital investment banking leaders and representatives of the Harvard Business School. I will also visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston’s innovation district, a unique area of 1,000 acres currently being transformed into an innovation hub that has created 5,000 new jobs across 200 new companies in the technology, creative and green-tech industries.

My door is open to business. Unlike the previous government, which failed to attract new investment to Queensland and ignored important sectors such as biotechnology, my government is determined to bring the world to our great state.






To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.



Aldous Huxley






Today I had to explain to a visitor to Surfers Paradise that Queensland is a police state.


He had been fined $130 for drinking a stubby in public and issued a warning (threatened with a $650 fine) for sleeping in his car.


It was very embarrassing and no doubt he will return home and tell all his friends and family that - like refugees - Europeans aren't welcome in Australia.

In any case, the destructive impulse of our political and media establishment will ensure that soon there won't be anything worth travelling here to see:





The Queensland Government has announced a Water Science Taskforce in a bid to convince UNESCO not to downgrade the world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.

The World Heritage Committee will decide in June whether to place the Great Barrier Reef on the "in danger" list. … [ABC – 7/5/15]







Zamansky LLC has commenced an investigation of International Business Machine Inc.’s (IBM) 401(k) Plus Plan for possible violations of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). ---

The law firm says ERISA fiduciary duties to prudently manage and invest plan assets were potentially violated by IBM’s continued offering of its company stock while it allegedly knew that the stock price was artificially inflated. ... [Plan Adviser - 7/5/15]







Chinese man still missing as ship leaves Gladstone  [Gladstone Observer - 8/5/15]






The PNG Poultry Industry Association (PIA) maintains that biosecurity is important for the country and therefore the domestic poultry industry players have been vocal and considerate about biosecurity and food quality and safety issues.

PIA secretary Dr Keith Galgal says the domestic industry players have adhered to restrictions over the years.

In commenting on the recent ban on the importation of uncooked poultry products into PNG from Australia, Dr Galgal said the decision was made in the best interest of the domestic poultry industry and the people.

“The PIA welcomes the ban and is grateful to [Agriculture] Minister [Tommy] Tomscoll’s bold move to use campylobacter, an important pathogen in human health, to restrict entry of a wide range of avian diseases that are not present in PNG,” Galgal said. ... [PNG Loop - 8/5/15]







There is war.


There is tyranny.


There are refugees.





United States, "allies" continue bombing Iraq and Syria [Centcom - 7/5/15]:




Coalition military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria and Iraq between 8 a.m., May 6, and 8 a.m., May 7, local time.

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted four airstrikes using attack and fighter aircraft.

Separately in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted 14 airstrikes approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense using attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.

“The coalition strikes in Mosul represent increased pressure against Daesh,” said Col. Wayne Marotto, CJTF-OIR chief of public affairs.

“The coalition continues to conduct successful strikes upon Daesh units, fighting positions, and safe havens, which is limiting their freedom of movement within Iraq.”

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


Near Al Hasakah, four airstrikes struck one large and two small ISIL tactical units, destroying 12 ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL trench system and an ISIL vehicle.


Near Al Huwayjah, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL generator.

Near Bayji, six airstrikes struck an ISIL large tactical unit, destroying two ISIL fighting positions, four ISIL structures, an ISIL VBIED and an ISIL vehicle.

Near Fallujah, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL fighting position.

Near Kirkuk, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL fighting position.

Near Mosul, three airstrikes struck two ISIL fighting positions, destroying an ISIL excavator.

Near Sinjar, one airstrike struck an ISIL fighting position.

Near Tal Afar, one airstrike destroyed an ISIL excavator.

Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports. All aircraft returned to base safely. ...




The top United Nations relief official for Yemen has voiced grave concern over reports that “scores” of civilians have been killed and injured amid ongoing fighting in the city of Aden, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Civilians were reportedly targeted while they were trying to flee to safer areas, having been trapped in Aden with limited or no access to water, food and health care for weeks,” Johannes van der Klaauw, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yeman, said in a statement issued earlier this morning.

I call on all parties to the conflict to provide rapid, safe and predictable access to all people in need in Yemen. ... [Media Release - 7/5/15]






Iran is a destabilising force that must not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, top US diplomat John Kerry said in Saudi Arabia Thursday, aiming to calm Riyadh's worries. ... [Economic Times - 7/5/15]




Afghanistan: 2 killed, 30 taken hostage in Paktia attack



Pajhwok [7/5/15]:



Taliban insurgents attacked a volleyball ground in southeastern Paktia province on Thursday, killing at least two persons, injuring six and taking away dozens others, officials said.

Deputy governor Abdul Wali Sahi told Pajhwok Afghan News the attack took place in Shagi area of the Zazi Aryub district in the afternoon at around 4:30pm.

He said the Taliban fighters opened fire the playground, killing two persons, including a policeman who was in civilian dress.

Three children and as many women were also injured when the insurgents resorted to firing in the air, the deputy governor said.

He said police and local residents had launched joint search operation to arrest the attackers.

Provincial council member Taj Mohammad Mangal said the attackers took away with them at least 30 persons from the volleyball ground.

He said security forces and residents had climbed mountains and were engaged in a firefight with the attackers to rescue the hostages.

The clash was ongoing as of 7:30pm, he said.

The ground is a kilometer away from the district centre.

The Taliban have so far said nothing about the incident that came hours after provincial council members and civil society activists said the security situation in some districts of the province had deteriorated.




US troops shoot civilian driver outside Bagram Airfield [CBS – 7/5/15]





‏@pajhwok [7/5/15]:  Protest against NATO troops @ResoluteSupport in #Bagram of #Parwan province, after they shot and wounded a civilian.


Nine wounded in explosion at annual poetry festival, Khost [Khaama – 7/5/15]




Twenty security forces, 190 rebels, including foreigners, have been killed and 220 civilians injured and thousands displaced in anti-militants offensive in northern Kunduz province, the governor said on Wednesday. ... [Pajhwok - 6/5/15]




At least 17 people have lost their lives in the latest US assassination drone strike in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar. ... [Press TV - 5/5/15]



Green Beret who sought job at CIA confessed to murder [The Intercept - 6/5/15]:


... The Intercept has obtained internal U.S. Army documents that detail elements of the military’s investigation into the alleged killing and a previously undisclosed letter of reprimand Golsteyn received last year.

“In an interview conducted at the CIA, then-CPT Golsteyn claimed to have captured and shot and buried a suspected IED bomb maker,” an Army memo dated September 29, 2014 reads.

“He further went to comment that he went back out with two others to cremate the body and dispose of the remains. In the transcript, CPT Golsteyn stated that he knew it was illegal but was not remorseful as he had solid intelligence and his actions protected the safety of his fellow teammates.” ...




Libyan soldiers training in UK took turns raping man in Cambridge Park [Independent – 7/5/15]




British warship HMS Bulwark rescues 110 refugees in the Mediterranean [Telegraph – 7/5/15]




Italian Navy locates wreck of refugee boat [Naharnet - 7/5/15]:




The Italian navy announced Thursday it had located the sunken wreck of a migrant boat in which 700 people are feared to have died last month.

The boat was found 85 miles off the Libyan coast at a depth of 375 meters, the navy said in a statement.

Prosecutors in Sicily who are conducting a homicide investigation into the Mediterranean's worst maritime disaster in decades had asked the navy to find the boat and see whether it would be feasible to salvage it.

An estimated 750 people were on board the boat when it left Libya. Only 28 survived and only 24 bodies were recovered at the scene.

The survivors have recounted how most of the people being smuggled to Italy were locked in the hold or in a lower deck when the boat capsized and sunk following a collision with a merchant ship that had answered its distress call.

Two of the survivors, the Tunisian captain of the boat and a Syrian who allegedly served as crew, are being investigated for suspected culpable homicide, causing a shipwreck, encouraging illegal immigration and illegal confinement.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has vowed that, if at all feasible, the boat will be raised and the victims given decent burials.



NSA's phone spying program ruled illegal by appeals court

Reuters [7/5/15]:


A U.S. spying program that systematically collects millions of Americans' phone records is illegal, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, putting pressure on Congress to quickly decide whether to replace or end the controversial anti-terrorism surveillance.

Ruling on a program revealed by former government security contractor Edward Snowden, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the Patriot Act did not authorize the National Security Agency to collect Americans' calling records in bulk.

Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for a three-judge panel that Section 215, which addresses the FBI's ability to gather business records, could not be interpreted to have permitted the NSA to collect a "staggering" amount of phone records, contrary to claims by the Bush and Obama administrations.

"Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans," Lynch wrote in a 97-page decision. "We would expect such a momentous decision to be preceded by substantial debate, and expressed in unmistakable language. There is no evidence of such a debate."

The appeals court did not rule on whether the surveillance violated the U.S. Constitution.

It also declined to halt the program, noting that parts of the Patriot Act including Section 215 expire on June 1.

Lynch said it was "prudent" to give Congress a chance to decide what surveillance is permissible, given the national security interests at stake.

Enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Patriot Act gives the government broad tools to investigate terrorism.

Thursday's decision voided a December 2013 ruling in which U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan found the NSA program lawful. The appeals court sent the case back to him for further review.


Bank Of America backs away from funding coal mining

Huffington Post [6/5/15]:


Bank of America is cutting off its financing for coal extraction projects, the company announced at its shareholder meeting Wednesday.

"With regard to coal, over the past several years, we have been gradually and consistently reducing our credit exposure to companies focused on coal mining," said Andrew Plepler, Bank of America's Corporate Social Responsibility executive, at the meeting. The new policy, he said, "reflects our decision to continue to reduce our credit exposure, over time, to the coal mining sector globally."

"Today, our renewable energy portfolio is more than three times as large as our coal extraction portfolio," Plepler continued.

"The transition from high-carbon energy to low-carbon energy will continue. At Bank of America, we will continue to do our part to accelerate this transition for our customers, clients and communities."

The bank said that going forward, it will continue to reduce the credit it extends to coal extraction companies.

Bank of America spokeswoman Laura Hunter told The Huffington Post that the bank will continue supporting technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) to help reduce the impacts of burning coal, and would work with clients, including mining companies, "that are diversifying to other fuel sources."

It's a shift for one of the largest banks in the United States that has, at least in the past, been a big financier of coal projects. Environmental groups have been pressuring the bank to stop financing coal operations for years, and praised Wednesday's move.

"Today’s announcement from Bank of America truly represents a sea change: it acknowledges the responsibility that the financial sector bears for supporting and profiting from the fossil fuel industry and the climate chaos it has caused,” Amanda Starbuck, director of the climate and energy program at the Rainforest Action Network, said in a statement.

“In real terms, this means the bank is turning its back on the coal mining industry and committing to energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

The bank posted its new coal policy online, which states that the bank believes "climate change poses a significant risk to our business, our clients, and the communities in which we operate.

"As one of the world’s largest financial institutions, the bank has a responsibility to help mitigate climate change by leveraging our scale and resources to accelerate the transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon society, and from high-carbon to low-carbon sources of energy," the policy states.




Cole Sear: I see dead people.

Malcolm Crowe: In your dreams?

[Cole shakes his head no]

Malcolm Crowe: While you're awake?

[Cole nods]

Malcolm Crowe: Dead people like, in graves? In coffins?

Cole Sear: Walking around like regular people. They don't see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don't know they're dead.

Malcolm Crowe: How often do you see them?

Cole Sear: All the time. They're everywhere.



'The Sixth Sense' [1999]  via [IMDb]




If the ALP were "pro refugee" and not racists, their policy would stop people from paying to get on dangerous boats by sending seaworthy boats to pick them up - for free. 

They would also massively increase the refugee intake and demand the end of support for illegal wars of aggression and dictatorships that cause people to flee their homes in the first place.

You cannot improve conditions in a concentration camp.




Who will liberate refugees being incarcerated, tortured and disappeared by the Australian government?

NOT the ALP or LNP.  They are BEYOND REFORM.


Save the Children cautiously welcomes new commitments to asylum seeker policy in Australian Labor Party’s draft platform [Media Release – 7/5/15]




ABC, AM [16/9/14]:


... CHRIS UHLMANN: Now some of the same people in the left are concerned about your border protection policies. Is there any likelihood you'll abandon your commitment to offshore processing?
CHRIS UHLMANN: That's a firm rolled gold commitment; you're not going to abandon it?
CHRIS UHLMANN: Will it be changed in any way?
BILL SHORTEN: No, we support regional resettlement. And we support the offshore processing.





teleSUR [17/5/15]:



The Greek [SYRIZA] government said Thursday it was releasing detainees in its neglected immigration centers.

“The people that were there, were living an indescribable barbarity,” said Greek Immigration Minister Tasia Christodoulopoulou.

According to Christodoulopoulou, many of the detainees were illegally being held indefinitely.

The decision to release migrants is a stark contrast to the former conservative government of Antonis Samaras, which oversaw mass round-ups of undocumented migrants in 2012.

According to Christodoulopoulou, Samaras' hardline anti-immigrant policies were both expensive and inhumane.

“The center(s) did not (fulfill) basic needs,” she explained.

Critics of the new government have argued that released migrants have nowhere to go, and no support from the state.

However, Christodoulopoulou said the government has no other choice.

 "It's true the infrastructure does not exist but it's not the fault of those being held, and nor can they face this agony for the rest of their lives," the minister said.

Greece is a major transit route for migrants from Africa and the Middle East heading to Europe. According to a 2011 European Court of Justice finding, as much as 90 percent of undocumented migrants that arrive in Europe do so through Greek borders.






The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is calling on the Australian Government to immediately increase the Refugee and Humanitarian Program to at least 20,000 places in the coming year and rapidly scale-up the intake to 30,000 places in light of escalating global protection needs. ... [Media Release - 7/5/15]




Government asked for asylum mental health data to be withdrawn, documents show  [Guardian - 8/5/15]:


Damning mental health data on asylum seekers was withdrawn from reporting at the request of the immigration department, newly released documents reveal.

In July 2014 Dr Peter Young, then the medical director for mental health at International Health and Medical Services (IHMS), told the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) the immigration department “reacted with alarm” to a set of data that showed significant deterioration in the mental health of children in detention.

He said the department asked IHMS to withdraw the figures from reporting in quarterly data sets, after the department saw the preliminary results in a meeting that month.

At the time the secretary of the immigration department, Martin Bowles, said he was unaware of the request to withdraw the figures.

But documents released under freedom of information laws to Young reveal that the department conceded in an internal investigation it had asked IHMS to withdraw the figures.



Robert Jay Lifton, author of "The Nazi Doctors": Psychologists who aided torture should be charged [Democracy Now – 7/5/15]

Robert Jay Lifton, the prominent psychiatrist famous for his study of the doctors who aided Nazi war crimes, speaks out on the role of the American Psychological Association in aiding government-sanctioned torture under President George W. Bush.

A new report alleges the APA, the world’s largest group of psychologists, secretly coordinated with government officials to allign its ethics policy with the operational needs of the CIA’s torture program.

"What the APA did was a scandal within a scandal," Lifton says.

"[This] is something we have to confront as a nation." ...





A Canadian judge has released Omar Khadr, formerly the youngest prisoner at Guantanamo, pending his appeal. ... [Al Jazeera - 7/5/15]






A group of religious protesters who were strip-searched by Perth police have made a complaint to the WA Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC).

The eight protesters from various churches had staged a sit-in demonstration at Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's electorate office in December. ... [ABC - 8/5/15]






A 70-year-old woman has been issued an infringement notice following investigations into alleged racial abuse on a Sydney train last month. ... [ABC - 7/5/15]




Australian politicians still silent on Nauru Facebook shutdown



NYSE Post  [7/5/15]:

… Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) officially confirmed that it had heard the news of making its platform inaccessible in Nauru. However, the company claimed that it already has a very strict policy to specifically prohibit distribution of pornography. Therefore, the ascribed reasons by the government are unfounded.

One of the first reasons why the government is opposed to Facebook’s presence in the country is because: Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) services are currently being used by refugees detained in Nauru. The detainees are known to reach out to family via the social networking network.

The second reason behind the suspension of services of the social networking site is because of the increasing use of social media to criticize the government. It was found that not only were opposition parties taking apart the government’s policies on social media, but citizens too were beginning to be vociferous against the dictatorial rule of the present government.





Independent [7/5/15]:

… A Facebook spokesperson told The Independent:

“We have heard reports that people in Nauru cannot access Facebook. We believe that restricting access to a free and open Internet deprives people of important economic and social opportunities and choices and hope that access will be restored soon.”

The Facebook terms of use specifically prohibit the use of its services to distribute pornography and anyone can report such material using report links, which reviewers can promptly remove.

Refugees housed in the Nauru detention centre who used Facebook to keep in touch with family members, will now be cut off.

Malcolm Evans, chair of the UN subcommittee for the prevention of torture, criticised the centre in March for violating international conventions by failing to provide adequate conditions and keeping children in detention.

Mr Evans said that the UN would be happy to respond to any request for assistance from Nauru and the subcommittee has called for the creation of an independent monitor to oversee the centre after a three day inspection.


Cambodia denies Peter Dutton's refugee claim [Phnom Penh Post - 7/5/15]:

A senior Cambodian government official has denied that refugees are to be resettled in the Kingdom from Nauru “very shortly” as Australia’s immigration minister told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to Sri Lanka.

Peter Dutton, minister for immigration and border affairs, told reporters in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, where he has signed an agreement on people smuggling, that Australia expected the imminent arrival of refugees from Nauru to Phnom Penh​, according to media reports​.

“We’re very keen to get a small group to go to Cambodia, which as I say will happen very shortly. Through that small group we will demonstrate that Cambodia will provide an opportunity for a fresh start for these people and their families.

“We believe that will then send a very clear message to the remaining people on Nauru that Cambodia is an appropriate option for them to consider,” he said.

“In the end, people understand now that the illegal way to Australia is closed,” he added.

But General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, which is overseeing the deal, denied that any firm plans had been made to transfer refugees to Cambodia in the coming days.

“I have no update about that. We are going to make a report to the government and they will make a decision,” he said.

In what was described by refugee advocates as a “major political embarrassment” for Canberra, the Australian government issued a letter to asylum seekers on the island last month that said the first flight to Phnom Penh would depart as early as April 21.

After Cambodian officials expressed surprise at the assertion, a delegation from the Interior Ministry’s refugee department visited Nauru late last month to assess the applications of a small number of asylum seekers who had reportedly applied to resettle in Cambodia.

According to Sopheak, the delegation has yet to submit its report on the visit to Interior Minister Sar Kheng and other senior officials.

Australia signed the deal to send a potentially unlimited number of refugees who have been processed in its offshore detention facility on the Melanesian island on September 26, 2014, in exchange for an estimated $31 million​ in aid as well as Canberra covering the costs of the resettlement scheme.

​At least four asylum seekers in the Australian detention centre have accepted cash payments of thousands of dollars ​and had their refugee status determinations fast-tracked in order to be eligible to come to Cambodia​, according to refugee advocates.

Down By The Threat Of Concentration Camps | Coles, Transfield [xBorder Operational Matters - 5/5/15]:

Last night, a 4Corners’ report briefly explored the reprehensible, racist treatment of migrant workers in the picking and packing steps of the food industry in Australia.

There are many intricate connections between the food and detention industries. Some of them are however quite direct.

On the one hand, workers who complain or speak out are confronted with having their visas cancelled, sent to a detention centre and deported. Think about that: if you complain about your work, your boss, you are faced with being interned with no charges laid or trial, and will likely have your visa cancelled and be forced to leave.

On the other hand, there is a close personal and political proximity between the food and detention industries in Australia.




Brett Peter Cowan appeal over Daniel Morcombe murder conviction to begin


Brisbane Times [7/5/15]:


Chief Justice Tim Carmody has withdrawn from the appeal hearing of Daniel Morcombe's killer, saying he would not allow his presence to turn the Court of Appeal into a "Dickensian bleak house".

Justice Carmody took a thinly veiled swipe at the legal team of convicted murderer Brett Peter Cowan in excusing himself from the judicial bench, describing their attempts to argue he was biased against their client as "absurd and extraordinary".

But he said he did not want his presence to delay the administration of justice, for the sake of Bruce and Denise Morcombe and Cowan himself.

Last year, Cowan, 44, was convicted of the murder of 13-year-old Daniel Morcombe.

In preparing to appeal the conviction, his lawyers argued a meeting Justice Carmody had with Bravehearts founder and anti-child abuse campaigner Hetty Johnston last month had left his impartiality subject to question.

Justice Carmody said if Cowan's pursuit of having him disqualified was to continue, it would result in "an exorbitant waste of public time and money".

"The only persons to benefit will be the legal practitioners involved, the parents of the victim of this dreadful crime will see justice delayed and the appellant himself will be placed in a position of continued uncertainly," he said.

"I will not allow this court to become a Dickensian bleak house where parties are tripping over one another on technicalities and making mountains of possible nonsense," he said.

Daniel Morcombe's parents Bruce and Denise sat in the courtroom with Ms Johnston as Justice Carmody outlined his reasons for excusing himself from the hearing.

"To prevent this extraordinary application from continuing, it is in the best interests of this court in my view and in the overall administration of justice, that I withdraw from this bizarre sideshow," he said.

"I do so with great remorse, a heavy heart and the deepest regret for those who will be adversely affected.

"I do not wish to delay any further if avoiding justice for the Morcombes or the appellant."

Describing his decision to withdraw as in the best interests of the court, he urged the legal teams for both Cowan and the Crown to agree to let the matter proceed by way of hearing by the two remaining appeal judges, Justice McMurdo and Justice Fraser.




NSW Deputy Principal charged with indecent assault on 14-year-old

Daily Advertiser [7/5/15]:

A southern NSW deputy principal has a court date after being charged with indecently assaulting a 14-year-old student.

NSW Police’s Child Abuse Squad arrested the man on Wednesday after a 14-year-old girl reported that she was indecently assaulted by her deputy principal twice last month.

The girl reported she was attacked on Thursday, April 23 and Friday, April 24 while at her private high school.

Investigations led to the man’s arrest and resulting two charges of aggravated indecent assault on Wednesday.

The man, who is not currently teaching, has been granted conditional bail to appear at Deniliquin Local Court on May 19.



Broadbeach tapas bar table tipover trial magistrate to stay on



Yahoo [7/5/15]:


An application to disqualify the magistrate overseeing the trial related to the infamous Gold Coast bikie brawl for perceived bias has been dismissed.

Peter Mauric was the only one of 10 alleged Bandidos to plead not guilty to charges arising from the 2013 incident in Broadbeach, which triggered a government crackdown.

An unsuccessful application by his barrister, Geoffrey Foster, claimed Magistrate Michael Quinn should be stood aside from the hearing over a comment about a witness who was visibly upset during her testimony.


ABC [7/5/15]:

... Mauric's barrister told the court today he would argue for Magistrate Michael Quinn to stand aside because of perceived bias.

Yesterday, Mr Quinn told the bailiff it was obvious a witness was going to cry after a waitress broke down while testifying about the night of the brawl.

The court has been adjourned while the defence prepares its arguments.

Yesterday, the court heard from police officers who attended the incident and a number of restaurant employees.

Waitress Latika Birmingham cried while being questioned by defence barrister Geoff Foster.

He had asked her if it was fair to say patrons at the restaurant continued dining normally at the time when about 10 Bandidos bikies entered the premises.

Ms Birmingham said most patrons went quiet and focused on the men.

The trial is expected to wrap up next week.

A separate trial for 16 other alleged bikies charged over the incident is due to begin later this month.





Taskforce Maxima detectives assisted by the Major and Organised Crime Squad and Australian Federal Police have charged an alleged member of the Mongols OMCG following the execution of a search warrant at a residence in Ormeau today. … [QPS Media Release – 7/5/15]






... Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale was last year referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) over 13 separate allegations.

He was accused of failing to declare gifts and donations, and channelling fundraising dollars from community events into his Forward Ipswich Inc campaigning fund.

On Thursday, the commission announced it had found no grounds for criminal charges after a 10-month investigation. ... [Yahoo - 7/5/15]






Queensland magistrates used wrong oath during swearing-in, urgent law change passed [ABC – 7/5/15]



Second man charged over 2012 stabbing murder in Toowoomba

ABC [7/5/15]:

Police have charged a second man over a murder on southern Queensland's Darling Downs three years ago.

Jake Lasker, 19, was found stabbed to death in his Rockville home in Toowoomba in November 2012.

Max Peter Smith, 21, was last year sentenced to life in prison for the killing and will be eligible for parole in 13 years.

Police said a 19-year-old man was yesterday charged with Mr Lasker's murder and was due to appear in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court today.



Cocaine charges against Origin star, restaurateur

Chronicle [7/5/15]:

Drug trafficking charges against a former Queensland State of Origin star and a former Toowoomba restaurateur have been adjourned on police request in the city's Magistrates Court yesterday.

Neither accused - Jason Matthew Wood, who turns 35 today, and Jason Paul Smith, 43 - nor their solicitor was in court for the brief mention of the matters.

Solicitor Sarah MacDonald of Toowoomba law firm MacDonald Law acted as town agent for the defendants' Southport based legal firm of Hannay Lawyers.

However, police prosecutor Sergeant Mike Robinson asked the court for a six-week adjournment, telling the court the police needed more time to complete the brief of evidence.

Both men are charged with trafficking cocaine allegedly between June and December last year.

Neither defendant has been required to enter any plea to their respective charges.

Magistrate Graham Lee remanded both men on bail and adjourned their respective cases for committal mention back in the same court on June 17.



Armed robbery, Murrumba Downs [QPS Media - 6/5/15]




Armed robbery, Margate [QPS Media – 6/5/15]


Queensland Parliament votes on ethanol amendment

North West Star [7/5/15]:

Rob Katter said the bond with Member for Cook Billy Gordon still needs work – as demonstrated by their different votes for ethanol mandate legislation passed on Wednesday night.

The KAP Member for Mount Isa eventually supported the LNP’s version of the ethanol mandate while Mr Gordon helped ensure Labor’s motion was passed.

“It’s not a perfect working relationship and is in its embryonic stage in the relationship,” Mr Katter said, adding that there had been little time to brief the Cook Member beforehand.

KAP urged for a set 10 per cent ethanol mandate which would increase over time but it was not supported by the parliament.

Mr Katter said he was pleased with the government’s amendment because it recognised the importance of an implementation board.

The implementation board would enforce that oil companies were not exempt from legislation, Mr Katter said.

The LNP motion first acknowledged the board which would consult consumers, and enforce a time frame before its recommended ethanol levels were added to fuel.

Labor called for an amendment to acknowledge the party already introduced an ethanol mandate bill but also to broaden the approach to biofuels.

Coorparoo Myer demolished

Brisbane Times [VIDEO – 7/5/15]:

The old Myer centre at Coorparoo is torn down on Thursday to make way for a $232 million development featuring three apartment towers, a cinema and new busway.






PNG Police Commissioner sacked [RNZI - 8/5/15]

Magnitude 7.0 earthquake strikes near Bougainville [RNZI – 8/5/15]



Bridge collapses after earthquake [The National - 7/5/15]:

About 10,000 people have been cut off from the rest of the Gazelle Peninsula following the partial collapse of the Warangoi Bridge in East New Britain caused by Tuesday’s earthquake.

The bridge is used daily by people from the Sikut resettlement area, Evon Gorea, Kulungerea, Sunbam, Raigal, Maranagi, Marambu, Lat, Butam, Kambubu Secondary School and Illi Wawas to Kokopo and Warangoi. Yesterday workers, women and children had to cross the partially damaged bridge to reach Warangoi.

Provincial Works manager Douglas Wuri, who was at the bridge yesterday, said it was built in the 1980s and needed to be replaced.

He said the impact of the earthquake caused the first four bays on one side of the bridge to collapse.

“The only solution is to replace it altogether and we want to do a full scope and request for funding for a new bridge,” he said.

Wuri said about K300,000 would be needed to repair the bridge, which would take about three days.

A woman from Tamanarik, who lives at Sikut and sells her produce at Warangoi market, said the damaged bridge would affect her daily routine. Locals said they witnessed a landslide on Tuesday afternoon along the banks of the river when the earthquake struck.


New Zealander-Australian in China drug smuggling trial

BBC [7/5/15]:

A New Zealand-born Australian man has gone on trial in southern China for attempting to smuggle crystal methamphetamine out of the country.

If found guilty, 25-year-old Peter Gardner could be executed.

Mr Gardner was arrested last November in Guangzhou allegedly carrying over 30kg (66lb) of the drug in his luggage.

China has strict drug laws - anyone found carrying more than 50gm of methamphetamine faces a potential death penalty or life in prison.

China carries out more executions than the rest of the world put together, according to Amnesty International, but actual numbers are difficult to verify as China's government does not release the figures.

New Zealand's foreign affairs and trade ministry said in a statement to the BBC that consulate staff in Guangzhou were supporting Mr Gardner and the consul-general would be attending the hearing to observe proceedings.

In a live broadcast of the court proceedings on Thursday, Mr Gardner was heard testifying off-screen that he had made "a really big mistake" and brought "a big shame" to his family.

"I'm really sorry, I really regret it... I have broken the law and there's no getting out of it," he said.

He added that he would be willing to cooperate in identifying Chinese drug traffickers, and stated he had no previous drug convictions in Australia and New Zealand, where he holds joint citizenship.

Mr Gardner was stopped at Guangzhou's airport while attempting to get on a flight to Sydney with two sealed pieces of luggage containing the drugs, said the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

His Australian girlfriend, Kalynda Davis, who was travelling with him at the time, was also detained.

But she was released in December without charge after Chinese officials decided she was not involved.

Policemen prepare to incinerate drugs at a cement plant on 19 June 2011 in Beijing, China.

Police in China have been cracking down on the illegal drug trade and destroying large hauls

Mr Gardner's case follows the high-profile executions of two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, in Indonesia for drug trafficking.

Last September, Australian officials said several of its citizens were facing the death penalty in China for drugs charges, with a number of them caught in Guangzhou, known as a methamphetamine hub.

China has been waging a crackdown on the illegal drug trade, which has found profitable routes to Australia and other parts of the region.

Authorities have made several high-profile arrests, including minor celebrities such as Jackie Chan's son Jaycee.

Last year more than 168,000 suspects of narcotics crime were arrested and police seized nearly 70 tonnes of drugs, including about 26 tonnes of methamphetamine, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Australia, meanwhile, has said crystal meth presents the highest risk to Australian communities of any illegal substance.

It says increasing amounts of the drug's ingredients are being seized on its borders, much of it imported from India and China.


Japan to give Australia classified submarine data

Japan Today [7/5/15]:

Japan will agree this month to give Australia classified submarine data, an unprecedented step signalling Tokyo’s intent to join competitive bidding to sell Canberra a fleet of stealth subs, said two Japanese officials familiar with the plan.

The “competitive assessment” will see Germany’s ThyssenKrupp and France’s state-controlled naval contractor DCNS separately competing with a Japanese government-led bid for such contractors as Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

Japan had been the front runner in the planned sale of around 12 vessels, for as much as $40 billion, to replace Australia’s aging Collins class submarines, sources have said, until Prime Minister Tony Abbott opened up the bidding under pressure from opposition and ruling party lawmakers.

The prospect of an open bid against other countries, in turn, made Japanese defense officials uneasy in a country where postwar pacifism remains strong.

Competing for arms exports could help opponents of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paint him as a militarist, as he prepares to present unpopular legislation to parliament later this month that would enhance Japan’s defense capabilites.

But the Defense Ministry agreed to Japan’s first disclosure of such classified technical data to a foreign military other than that of ally the United States, because Australia needs it to make a decision on the submarine’s technical capability, the officials said.

Australia wants Japan involved in the process, because it is interested in Tokyo’s 4,000-ton Soryu class sub and its lithium-ion battery propulsion system. The German and French makers offer 2,000-ton vessels.

Australian Defense Minister Kevin Andrews on Wednesday telephoned his Japanese counterpart Gen Nakatani, asking for help with the submarine program and urging Japan to participate in the bidding, the sources said.

“The National Security Council will approve the release (of the data) in May,” one source said.

Japanese Defense Ministry spokesman Hirofumi Takeda declined to provide details on the plan, but said: “The relevant ministries in Tokyo are discussing how we can help Australia.”

The sources did not say what technical data would be handed over to Canberra, but noted that the exchange comes ahead of a planned visit to Tokyo by Abbott around July for talks with Abe.

A deal to supply a variant of the Soryu would give Japan its first major overseas deals after Abe eased curbs on arms exports last year that had isolated defense contractors for seven decades.

Abbott, who has described Japan as his country’s “closest friend in Asia,” is eager to deepen security ties, a strategy mirrored in Tokyo as the two key U.S. allies respond to Washington’s desire for them to take a bigger security role in Asia as China’s military might grows.

Eager for that deeper cooperation, the U.S. is backing the Japanese built submarine packed with American surveillance, radar and weapons equipment, sources familiar with Washington’s thinking have told Reuters.

Australia’s assessment will look at capability, cost, schedule and Australian industry involvement, with each bidder getting around $6 million to prepare its proposal. One of the tests will be the ability to use and disclose technical data.

The process will take at least 10 months, after which the defense ministry will make recommendations for the government to consider.



Ireland: Some credit card customers in line for €300 refund

Irish Examiner [7/5/15]:

Up to 160,000 people could be in line for refunds of around €300 after they were mis-sold credit card insurance.

Banks and card providers are currently sending out letters and claims forms to customers who took out credit card protection policies.

According to the Irish Independent, the policies were sold by Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and MBNA - which is now Avantcard.

The Central Bank said that the refund process can go back to policies sold as long as nine years ago.





8 May 2015