Dear Media Watch
Re: Will the Queensland media ever be accountable for the damage that they do?
I refer to a story published in today's 'Brisbane Times [18/2/110] which reports upon the death of a young man who had apparently been charged with "looting" during the Queensland floods:The anonymous death of an alleged looter Marissa Calligeros
February 18, 2011 - 5:26AM
The fear of spending time in prison may be overwhelming for the vulnerable.The floodwaters have long receded, but in their wake another life has been lost.Unlike the media-led outpouring of emotion afforded victims in Grantham and Toowoomba, this death is one few would choose to speak of.A young man accused of looting took his own life on Wednesday, the same day he was due to appear in court.Nobody can say with certainty what drove the Rothwell man to his end, but there is no doubt he was caught in a storm of controversy.As floodwaters rose across the southeast last month, so too did community outrage against looters. Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale echoed public sentiment with a call to use those caught in the act as flood markers.Media coverage was fierce. Interstate police joined 100 Queensland officers as part of an anti-looting squad, with fearful homeowners also joining the cause, patrolling their flooded streets by boat and kayak.For a while it seemed the city was more afraid of looters than the rampant river itself.At the time of his suicide, the 26-year-old Rothwell man was facing up to 10 years in prison, the maximum penalty for the charge of stealing by looting during a natural disaster being double that of ordinary theft.And yet his alleged loot was no treasure: a fire extinguisher, gas bottle, chair, funnel, buoy and a milk crate.The alarm was raised when he failed to show alongside his brother in Brisbane Magistrates Court. Instead, his body was found in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. ...Securing the premisesIpswich resident Russell Keys was among those who guarded their flooded homes until the waters receded.While he sympathised with the Rothwell family, he defended the community stance against looting.Of course you cannot help but feel compassion for him and his family, but if he has stolen, hes stolen, Mr Keys said.Its black and white as far as Im concerned. Looters should face the full force of the law.The 35-year-old sat in a dinghy outside his home and patrolled his street for more than three days during the flood.After helping ferry his neighbours children to safety, he returned to find a group of teenagers inside another house.They told me they were there to help my neighbour empty his house. I knew for a fact the neighbour had left two days before. I told them where to go, he said.He also cited the theft of a garden statue from a flood-affected home in Ipswich. The statue represented the homeowners grandchildren, one of whom had passed away.Regardless of their takings, he said, looters should be held accountable.Looting is looting. Where do you draw the line? he said.You ask us to be compassionate, but looters show no compassion.Cr Pisasale yesterday stood by his earlier comments, rebuffing suggestions they were rash.However he said he was becoming increasingly concerned about the health and wellbeing of his community.We are facing a great onset of depression in our flood-affected communities, he said.Not only do we need to rebuild our houses, we need to rebuild our lives. ...
Having followed media coverage of the floods quite closely, it appeared that through irresponsible beatups and the peddling of hatred and distrust, the media were preying on fear and dislocation in the community and almost seeking to inspire vigilante acts.
It's only in recent years, that this "looting" (like "arsonists" to bushfires) has become an obsession, if not creation of our media.
We've long complained about rubbish journalism in Australia, but this time it appears to have contributed to a death.
Clearly the media are unapologetic about concocting this fear and division in the community, and continue their inflammatory beatups.
PS FYI, here are some examples (the reason why there are no reports from News Ltd. outlets is because we try to avoid News Ltd. publications on principle):Police encounter dark side of floods Marissa Calligeros
'Brisbane Times' February 10, 2011 - 3:55PM
Police arrested more than 80 people on 225 charges, including looting, wrongly claiming donations and posing as charity collectors, during Brisbane's flood last month.A 200-strong police anti-looting squad, working under Operation Safeguard, arrested 81 people and ordered 99 people to move on, while making no less than 3688 checks on flood-affected streets in Brisbane and Ipswich.It is understood 10 people were charged with 18 looting-related offences, most of them in the Brisbane area.
Intriguingly, on the same day, 'Brisbane Times'' sister publication, the 'Australian Financial Review', reported that criminal activity fell when floods and cyclones hit the state. ...
Lateline ABC [7/2/10]:
Assistant Commissioner O'Regan says six people have been arrested for looting commercial properties on the day Cyclone Yasi crossed the coast.
"The people who are offending are the people who were offending before the cyclone," he said.
What would you do if you had no power and no water, you had food in the fridge and your neighbour was gone but you knew he had some fuel you could use to keep the power on for your family?
You'd sit in the dark, in your wreck of a house surrounded by the smell of rancid meat, and you'd explain to your kids that property crime was unacceptable. Then you'd hope and pray. Wouldn't you?Posted February 7, 2011 08:56:00
Queensland police say they will crack down on anyone stealing fuel to power generators in the wake of Cyclone Yasi.The ABC has heard at least two reports of fuel being stolen from private properties in the cyclone affected areas of Tully and Hull Heads, south of Cairns.Many people are relying on fuel to power generators because electricity is still out in many areas.Inspector David Tucker from Innisfail police says there is no excuse for stealing."It's really sad that people stoop so low to actually do something like that," he said."There are fuel stations open throughout the whole of the Cassowary Coast area and more that will be opening as electricity supplies come on and as repairs take place."There's no need for that to actually occur."Inspector Tucker says any thefts should be reported."Police patrols are actually out there and have been very vigilant," he said.
"If the police don't know that a crime is being committed then we can't step up patrols in that area and hopefully we could even solve the crime," he said.
"Heard" of reports?
Where is the quote from the citizen/s of Grantham expressing their fear about looters?
Road reopening sparks Grantham looting fears
By Nikole Jacobi
Posted February 7, 2011 08:31:00
The Lockyer Valley Mayor says residents in the flood-ravaged community of Grantham, in southern Queensland, are concerned about looting when the main road reopens to the public.
A wall of water tore through the town last month and authorities closed off the community while they searched for the dead.
Mayor Steve Jones says Gatton-Helidon Road in Grantham is expected to reopen in the next few days.
He says residents have reservations about general access being restored.
"I think they're concerned about the return of the public's ability to pass through Grantham, I think on a couple of fronts," he said.
"Certainly concerned in terms of the safety of their property and looting and all those types of things.
"I think they're also concerned that they still need some privacy at times in terms of grieving and so forth and I would hope the public respects those wishes."
Councillor Jones says flood affected residents in the Lockyer Valley are not feeling forgotten.
"The response has been quite positive and I think all the organisations involved are well and truly aware of the severity of the situation," he said.
"It's just more of a case that a lot of the residents would like fellow Australians to know about it."
'Brisbane Times' [25/1/11]:
Anonymous calls to Crime Stoppers have helped nab three looters following the floods in Queensland.
Crime Stoppers chief executive Trevor O'Hara said Crime Stoppers had received 22 calls from the public since January 12, providing information on suspected looters....
Channel Nine's Brisbane evening bulletin [24/1/11] reported that three people charged with "looting" on boats in the Brisbane River appeared in court today. According to the report, they were were remanded in custody as police said there were concerns for their safety - from others in the community - if they were released.
Taskforce Safeguard, comprising police officers from other states, was established to "Protect Lives And Property" NOT to "tackle looting".
'The West Australian' [17/1/11]:
Police presence boosted to tackle looting
Maria Hatzakis, ABC January 17, 2011, 9:50 am
Queensland police say they will step up patrols to prevent looting in flood-affected areas of Brisbane and nearby Ipswich from tomorrow.
A 200-member taskforce has been established after three people were charged with looting.
Footage of individuals scavenging at Nudgee Beach was broadcast during a Minister for Emergency Services/Queensland Police Commissioner press conference on Channel 7 [14/1/11]
Only minutes before this message appeared on an ABC TV broadcast [13/1/11], Queensland's Chief of Police had stated at a Press Conference that looting was no more than a miniscule problem.
"Looting" beatups were just the start, then we were treated to an array of downright nasty fabrications about rubbernecking sightseers, scammers, Centrelink fraudsters, rorters and profiteers.
It appeared there was not one "journalist" in South East Queensland who could verify this rumour about profiteering.
'Queensland Times' [14/1/11]:
Ipswich residents bombarded The Queensland Times yesterday with phone calls complaining some stores in the city were profiteering on essential items like bread.
There were numerous reports some stores were selling loaves of bread for $10 in areas where access to other stores and shopping centres was not possible.
Every media organisation relied on hearsay - there was no direct evidence.
No names, no details of businesses. Nothing.
Unsurprisingly assorted politicians leapt on the opportunity to tut tut at this unverifiable garbage.Queenslanders admit they'll lie for flood payment
By Matthew Grimson
Posted January 19, 2011 11:28:00
Centrelink will catch flood fraud 'mongrels'
By Matthew GrimsonUpdated January 21, 2011 15:39:00
Rorters have once again been warned that flood fraud will not be tolerated, while some flood victims are not claiming one-off $1,000 flood relief payments because they feel other people are more deserving.
Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen has likened rorters to looters and says the organisation will thoroughly investigate any allegations of fraud. ...Non-means-tested Centrelink payments of $1,000 for adults and $400 for children were available to people if their electricity was cut for 48 hours during Queensland's recent flood emergency. ...
'Brisbane Times'/'Fraser Coast Chronicle' [22/1/11]:
Flood money spent on booze, pokies
Are the $1000 flood relief grants that went to many in Granville being used to feed poker machines and buy booze rather than food and necessities? ...
The key part of this story is the line:
"... There has been no evidence of people rorting the system during the Queensland floods."
So what headline would you expect?:
Centrelink to take on flood fraudsters
Updated January 23, 2011 10:00:00
The Miracle Of The So Called Free Market
Apple says the revelations are proof that its audit processes are effective and the company says it's working with its suppliers to provide a safer workplace.
But its critics are calling for action now as Simon Santow reports.
SIMON SANTOW: Consumers may love their iPad, pod or phone but are they aware about how they are manufactured?
It seems that the price paid for cheaper goods can sometimes come at a great cost to the health of the health of the company's workers.
JULIA GOODING: Apple's transparency is definitely increasing but they need to really act and work to resolve these problems because transparency and admittance is one thing and resolution is quite another.
SIMON SANTOW: Apple's own audit identified an increase in workers putting in excessive hours, a rise in children working for its suppliers and that 137 workers were poisoned at a Chinese firm making its products.
Worryingly less than a third of the factories put under the microscope passed the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct.
Julia Gooding is from China Labor Watch, a New York based non-government organisation.
JULIA GOODING: The conditions in Apple factories and across electronics industries are still lacking in safety protection and many other aspects.
So there's definitely no guarantees for workers in these factories that their safety and their contacts with chemicals or other poisonous materials is ensured.
And often times factories, well they may provide safety equipment in the beginning the safety equipment is not you know redistributed. So they are at risk. ...
Chinese Rice Tainted
Up to 10 per cent of rice grown in China is contaminated with heavy metals from pollution linked to the nation's rapid industrialisation, according to a report in 'New Century' magazine.
The magazine cited studies showing that large amounts of Chinese rice have been tainted with metals like cadmium for years but little has been done to highlight the dangers. ...
An explanation for the death of an Aboriginal man in custody has been passed on to his family, the Queensland coroner's office says.
However, the coroner says an inquest cannot start until he receives an outstanding police report.
ABC Radio reports that the delay is not unusual.
Earlier on Thursday, prison chaplain Reverend Alex Gator told the ABC that the man's family and Aboriginal community were still waiting for the coroner to explain how and why he died.
"Their attitude towards Aboriginal people is 'just another black death in custody'. Well this is not good enough and we want answers," she said.
"There needs to be a full investigation into all these prisons throughout southeast Queensland."
She also said authorities had failed to share the findings of two separate investigations into the death.
In March last year, Ms Gator told the ABC the teenager had been too sick to walk and prison officers had denied him medical treatment.
At the time, the director-general of Queensland's Corrective Services Department Kelvin Anderson said the prisoner had been given appropriate medical attention.
A spokeswoman for the police minister has told the ABC that a report will be provided within the next few weeks.
The Attorney-General's office has rejected a call from the opposition justice spokesman Jarrod Bleijie that Attorney-General Cameron Dick had to account for delays in the handing down of the finding.
A spokesman told AAP the coroner was independent and the situation was not one for the attorney-general to answer.
Mr Bleijie said on Thursday the latest Productivity Commission report, issued in January 2011, revealed almost a quarter of all matters waited 12 months to be finalised, while a further 189 matters had been waiting more than 24 months.
"I intend to write to the attorney-general seeking an explanation as to why an investigation into a death in custody has taken 12 months and still not been finalised," he said.
Marathon Legal Battle
The news just keeps getting worse for the Tweed Shire Council in its marathon legal battle with anti-rate-rise crusader Terry Sharples. The Tweed Heads accountant pulled off a surprise legal coup when Justice Virginia Bell agreed to allow the High Court to reconsider his appeal against annual rate rises contained in the council's seven-year plan. The latest development is going to cost the council $60,000 to contest it in the High Court. All up, the exercise has cost the council $400,000, according to corporate services director Troy Green. The council has taken small comfort from the fact it is seeking costs from Mr Sharples who, according to planning director Vince Connell, seemed reluctant to pay.
Total Joins BP, Exxon In Rush For Offshore Oil Riches
Total is in talks with Rosneft about joint development of fields in the Barents Sea inside the Arctic Circle and in the Black Sea, Pierre Nerguararian, head of the Paris-based company's Russian office, told reporters Wednesday.
Total, Europe's third-largest oil producer, is joining bigger rivals ExxonMobil and BP in pursuing Russia's underwater riches as conventional deposits become harder to find. BP last month agreed to swap 5 percent of its shares for 9.5 percent of Rosneft as part of a drive to extract billions of barrels of crude from offshore Arctic deposits. Exxon, the biggest traded oil company, followed two weeks later with a $1 billion accord to explore the Black Sea with Rosneft. Russia's biggest oil producer also has a preliminary deal to explore a separate Black Sea block with Chevron Corp.
"The interest in offshore fields is accelerating," Valery Nesterov, an oil and gas analyst at Troika Dialog, said by telephone. "Russia's activity in the Arctic has had some sort of domino effect, which has boosted interest in the area."
Rosneft, chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's point man for the energy industry, Igor Sechin, aims to be a global producer "on all continents," onshore and offshore, chief executive Eduard Khudainatov said in December.
The Black Sea is the most promising offshore region in the short term because companies from littoral states Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria are already exploring there, Nesterov said. "Russia has certain priorities and it's clear that the Arctic will be the last to be developed," he said.
The Arctic region, mainly in Russia's zone, holds about a fifth of the world's undiscovered and commercially viable oil and gas reserves, according to U.S. government estimates.
Total already has a Russian partner in the Arctic, working with Gazprom on the giant Shtokman field, which holds about 3.9 trillion cubic meters of gas, enough to meet current global demand for more than a year.
The French company is also bidding for as much as 25 percent of Tarko-Sale-based Novatek's project to produce liquefied natural gas on the Yamal Peninsula, Nerguararian said. ...
Imagine If All The Money Spent On Tunnels, Tollways, Roads, Go Cards And Useless Bike Hire Schemes Had Been Spent On Creating Well Functioning And Free Public Transport?
A survey of 1500 Australian commuters found an over-reliance on cars had severely hit health and stress levels. The IBM Commuter Pain Study found 41 per cent of drivers believed traffic had negatively affected their health, and 39 per cent believed it had negatively affected their performance at work or school. The survey found that Australian cities had a relatively low international ranking on its index but Brisbane had the most stressed commuters, while Perth had the least.
Somebody Got Stiffed
RiverCity Motorway, the owner of the Clem Jones tunnel in Brisbane, said discussions with its lenders over the possibility of a standstill agreement to avoid a liquidation were continuing.
A resolution is not expected until the end of February, when the company needs to sign off on its December 31 accounts.
Fires, Floods, Cyclones And Food Security
The Gowrie Junction community plans a meeting for tomorrow, Friday 18, concerning Australia Coal Pacific's plan for an open cut mine on the outskirts of Toowoomba.
With Friends of Felton still vigorously opposing Ambre Energy's proposed coal-to-fuel project involving a large open-cut coal mine adjacent to Hodgson Creek - as well as New Hope Coal waiting on an application for its new Acland mine (north of Oakey) to get the nod from the Queensland Government - the food versus mining issue is again in the spotlight. ...
Drawing attention to the impacts of mining's expansion in the NSW towns of Singleton and Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley, lobbyist Rob McCreath says data from the National Pollutant Inventory shows that these two centres produce half of all that state's dust. He said dust from mining activities in the Hunter Valley caused high levels of asthma and cardiovascular disease in the local population.
Monsanto Refuses To Budge On GM Contract Concessions
Monsanto Australia will not be making concessional amendments to its technology contracts with cotton growers whose crops have been affected by flooding but will, instead, set aside $2 million for assistance for individuals on a case-by-case basis.
Industry body, Cotton Australia, had been calling for the genetically-modified cotton provider to adopt some flexibility with its Cotton Choices licence agreement with growers to ease the burden on those with crops damaged or wiped out by flooding.
In particular, it called for growers with late crop removal (LCR) contracts to be allowed to transfer to the end point royalty (EPR) scheme where technology fees are based on bales produced.
But Monsanto's corporate affairs spokeswoman, Keryn McLean of Melbourne, said after agonising over what would be the best approach, the company had decided to adopt a flood relief package, pledging $20 million for financial assistance to farmers. ...
Crop protection and plant breeding multinational, Syngenta, will start merging its seed and chemical operations in a 'whole-farm approach' to farmers' seed and spray product needs. ...
Although Syngenta has a seed breeding partnership, Longreach, in Australia, most genetic work is currently done overseas and cultivars are trialled locally to find what suits local conditions. ...
Dalai Lama's Nephew Killed On Highway
On the first leg of a 300-mile walk to promote Tibetan independence from China, the Dalai Lama's nephew was killed Monday night by an S.U.V. along a dark coastal highway near Palm Coast, about a quarter of a mile from where he planned to rest.
Jigma K. Norbu, 45, was headed south with traffic, following the white line on State Highway A1A when he was hit, the Highway Patrol said. The driver, Keith R. O'Dell, 31, of Palm Coast, was not charged.
Mr Norbu, of Bloomington, Ind., had started the trip with friends Monday heading from St. Augustine to West Palm Beach.
Lawsuit Says Military Rife With Sexual Abuse
WASHINGTON - A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the Department of Defense of allowing a military culture that fails to prevent rape and sexual assault, and of mishandling cases that were brought to its attention, thus violating the plaintiffs' constitutional rights.
The suit - brought by 2 men and 15 women, both veterans and active-duty service members - specifically claims that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, "ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted and where military personnel openly mocked and flouted the modest Congressionally mandated institutional reforms." ...
Court Orders Detainee Held
WASHINGTON - A federal appeals court on Tuesday overturned the release of a detainee still held at Guantanamo Bay who says he was tortured into falsely confessing that he was part of al Qaeda.
Justice Department lawyers say the inmate, Saeed Hatim of Yemen, acknowledged that he worked for Al Qaeda and the Taliban and fought against American forces.
But Mr. Hatim says he confessed only because he was repeatedly beaten, blindfolded and threatened with rape. ...
Role For Teachers Is Seen In Solving Schools' Crisis
'New York Times' [16/2/11]:
DENVER - Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, convening a two-day labor-management conference here on Tuesday, argued that teachers' unions can help solve many of the challenges facing public schools.
But as the conference opened, that view was under challenge in a number of state capitals.
Republicans in several states have proposed legislation in recent weeks that would bar teachers' unions from all policy discussions, except when the time comes to negotiate compensation.
In Tennessee and Wisconsin, Republicans have proposed stripping teachers' unions of collective bargaining rights altogether. ...
The conference comes at a time when thousands of districts are facing their most severe budget cuts in a generation; and union contracts calling for layoffs based on seniority could force many districts to dismiss their most energetic young teachers.
But changing these policies could also prompt some districts to remove more experienced, higher paid teachers to balance their budgets. ...
Brewing Denial: Big Oil
Koch Industries likes to describe itself as the biggest company you've never heard of - but the US oil corp couldn't escape the headlines in 2010 after revelations that it was funding the Tea Party movement that swept through Amercica ahead of the mid-term elections in November. The media largely reported on it as a mass grassroots uprising. But behind the local meetings and cries of outrage, the freemarket thinktank Americans for Prosperity was playing the role of puppeteer - funded by the oil wealth of Koch Industries' David Koch.
The power of the oil lobby is well documented. Big oil spent a reported $169 million lobbying in the US in 2009, a millions more on political support. BP alone made $500,000 worth of political donations, including $71,000 to Obama's presidential campaign. (Its total lobbying spend was far higher - $16 million.)
But these figures only tell half the story. Undeclared and undercover, big oil is involved in funding a range of PR initiatives designed to manipulate public opinion and block action to tackle climate change. The Tea Party movement - unmasked after David Koch was filmed speaking at an Americans for Prosperity event - is an Astroturf (or fake grassroots) campaign on a scale not seen before.
Americans for Prosperity have used the Tea Party movement to tap into public concern over the state of the economy and direct it towards an anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-intervention agenda - which suits oil interests very well.
Koch also funds the Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Council for Capital Formation, Heartland and other US thinktanks with a record of sowing doubt about climate change.
European oil companies, including BP, have jumped on the bandwagon, providing funding for Tea Party candidates standing in the US mid-term election - who all deny that human behaviour has an impact on climate change.
Australia's Union Moomin Reckon The So Called Free Market Is Ace - Unless The Chinese Want A Slice
Wonder how the rank and file feel about this expensive PR stunt designed to buff the image of a CIA stooge:
'Business Spectator' [16/2/11]:
Foreign companies are using Australia as a dumping ground for their products and killing off Australian competitors, the Australian Workers' Union (AWU) says.
The AWU has launched a campaign to protect Australian companies and Australian jobs from companies, particularly those in China, which it says are "cheating" the world trade system.
"Our union members have been asking what we're going to do about protecting their jobs against unfair competition from overseas," AWU national secretary Paul Howes said on Wednesday.
"Unfortunately many Australians - including politicians - are just not aware that some companies are cheating when they play the free trade game."
Mr Howes said union research showed people were not aware that foreign companies were using Australia as a dumping ground for their products, to the detriment of Australian competitors.
"That's why we are launching the Don't Dump on Australia campaign today," he said.
"First, we want to educate the public and the politicians before we ask the federal government to act to protect Australia's manufacturing future."
Mr Howes was speaking at the union's national conference on the Gold Coast during a debate on free trade.
"Australian jobs, Australian companies are going under because Chinese companies are not playing by the rules in the global free trade game," he said.
"I am committed to free trade. I do believe that it is good for Australia. But only if everyone plays by the rules set up by the World Trade Organisation.
"AWU workers continually take the brunt of deliberate Chinese government policies that are not based on market principles; not based on WTO rules, but rather on a model of state capitalism grounded in strategic goals to win dominant market share, at the expense of international competitors."
Mr Howes said the fate of the AWU's 135,000 members rested with the creation and enforcement in Australia of a strong anti-dumping regime.
"Unfortunately the evidence is clear that our laws and regulations on free trade are simply weak - and other nations take advantage of our weakness.
"If our economy is to thrive and keep creating good jobs for our children and grandchildren we need to tell China that if they want to be part of the global community they must stop cheating on the WTO rules of the game.
"If the USA and Canada can act against dumped products, then Australia should follow that lead and not worry about claims that this is a new form of protectionism threatening free trade," Mr Howes said. ...
Why isn't Howes worried about where our undies are made?
We either have a protected local manufacturing industry or we don't.
Don't Expect The '7.30 Report' To Cover This Story
Please bring back Red Kerry.
Global media giant News Corporation has been forced to pay the ACT government $77 million after an alleged tax avoidance scheme perpetrated on the territory unravelled.
Rupert Murdoch's multinational media empire paid the money late last year in a secret settlement, two years after being taken to court by the ACT's tax authorities demanding $84 million.
The money will allow the territory to present an almost balanced budget this financial year and represents a stunning victory by the nation's smallest jurisdiction over the international corporate giant, which reported revenue of nearly $4 billion in 2009-10.
News Corporation's Australian arm, News Limited, owns [over 70% of Australia's] newspapers including The Australian and the Herald Sun.
The company did not include the massive tax and penalty payment in its December quarter update.
A News Corporation spokesman said yesterday that the case had been settled confidentially and declined to comment further.
The ACT government is also refusing to talk about the money, citing tax laws.
But documents reveal a four-year investigation by Treasury Commissioner for ACT Revenue Graeme Dowell and his officials.
The papers outline how they untangled a complex web of transactions between Murdoch-controlled companies that stretched through Victoria, Queensland and the tax haven of Bermuda.
In 2004 the territory claimed it was owed duty on the transfer of nearly $9 billion worth of shares of a former territory-registered Murdoch company, Karlholt, in a restructure of the media mogul's empire.
The ACT initially issued its tax demands in March 2008 to News Corporation with a duplicate demand to another Murdoch company, News Australia Holdings.
The territory said it was owed $53 million in unpaid transfer duties and $5 million interest. It said that listing Karlholt on the Bermuda stock exchange, once it became clear the ACT would pursue the money, was a tax avoidance scheme that attracted $26 million in penalties. The Tax Commissioner alleged the Bermuda move was an attempt to take advantage of a loophole exempting shares on listed companies from transfer duties.
But News, through lawyers Minter Ellison, told the ACT that it owed no tax and said any legal action would be ''resisted strongly''. It also described the taxman's attempts to recover the money as an ''improper exercise''.
That resistance quietly came to an end late last year with the handover of $77,551,000. The payment was recorded as an obscure entry in the ACT mid-year budget update, described as duties on ''shares and marketable securities''.
It was alleged that News made several attempts to avoid the duty, first by unsuccessfully applying to transfer the company's registration to Victoria and then by applying for a waiver on 95 per cent of the dutiable amount. After that failed, the Bermuda move was made.
Mr Dowell's March 20, 2008 letter to the company read, ''I am satisfied that the listing of Karlholt on the BSX and the transfer of Karlholt shares were part of a tax avoidance scheme that benefited News Australia Holdings Limited.''
Please Explain Why Australia Needs To Import Apples, Or Any Other Food We Can Grow Here?
'The Satellite' [16/2/11]:
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has again confirmed Australia will soon begin importing apples from New Zealand despite the risk of fireblight.
For 90 years the two nations have battled the issue.
It came to a head late in 2010 when the World Trade Organisation issued a final ruling that forced Australia to open its doors to NZ apples.
Ms Gillard, addressing New Zealand's parliament on Wednesday, said a promise to accept the ruling made by Trade Minister Craig Emerson would be delivered.
"Australia accepts the verdict of the global umpire and will implement the World Trade Organisation rulings on the importation of New Zealand apples to Australia," she said to loud applause.
At a later press conference, Ms Gillard compared the decision to a sporting battle."The umpire has now spoken, we will abide by the decision," she said.
An unelected, closed, secret society of free market fundamentalists tells the Australian Government what to do and Gillard just does it.
This obsequious gesture is symbolic. Designed to demonstrate to Australians that we have no sovereignty, and to show the rest of the world our country is a globalised free for all.
Oh I Get It, When Imposters Run A Nation's Parliament, Nothing Is Ever Done In The National Interest
Rural Report [9/2/11]:
Eradicating Asian honeybees 'technically not feasible'
A national government body has recommended an end to all efforts to eradicate Asian honey bees from Australia.
The pest bees were first found in Cairns in 2007.
Trevor Weatherhead from the Beekeepers Association says the decision is disappointing, premature and potentially devastating.
"This could be worse than the decision to let in rabbits and cane toads to our country," he says.
Primary Industries minister Tim Mulherin says that he has to back the national decision, but he's disappointed from a state point of view.Mr. Mulherin says the attention must now turn to how to manage the pest.
'Australian Financial Review' [15/2/11]:
... the NSW election next month will be the first in which some of the state's residents will be able to vote from the comfort of their own home, or even via their smartphone, using a newly created system known as iVote. ...
Thais In Timor Sea Return Bid
Thailand's PTTEP has sought federal approval to drill more wells into the Timor Sea just north of the site of its drilling accident in 2009 at the Montara field, which triggered Australia's worst oil spill for 25 years.
The application, lodged yesterday with the Environment Department, comes barely a week after the state-owned oil company narrowly avoided a potential move to strip it of its Australia petroleum permits. ...
ConocoPhillips and Karoon Gas are meanwhile locked in talks with the Environment Department for clearance for a two-year drilling program in their Browse Basin acreage. ...
Chevron's $17 Billion Ecuador Judgment May Be 'Unenforceable,' Gilman Says
Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. oil company, may never pay a cent of the more than $17 billion in fines and penalties levied by an Ecuadorean court for environmental damage dating back to the 1960s.
Chevron doesnt have any refineries, storage terminals, oil wells or other properties in Ecuador that could be seized to pressure the company to pay, said Mark Gilman, an analyst at Benchmark Co. LLC in New York. In anticipation of an adverse ruling, Chevron went to court in New York last week to obtain an order shielding the company anywhere in the world from collection efforts related to the case.
The judgment handed down yesterday by a judge in Lago Agrio, a provincial capital near the Colombian border, ordered Chevron to pay an $8.6 billion fine and an equal amount in punitive damages, according to the court ruling obtained by Bloomberg. The judgment stemmed from an 18-year-old lawsuit that alleged Texaco Inc. dumped chemical-laden wastewater in the Amazon River basin from 1964 to 1992. Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001.
Its probably unenforceable, Gilman said yesterday in a telephone interview. I wouldnt want to say $8 billion is insignificant in any way, shape or form for Chevron, because its not, but given the lack of local assets, Ecuador is going to have difficulty enforcing this.
The court ordered the company to pay an additional 10 percent of the value of the fines to the Amazon Defense Front, according to the ruling. The organization is also the beneficiary of the trust fund that the court wants created to pay the fines.
The company will be pardoned from paying the punitive damages if it issues a public apology in major newspapers within 15 days of the courts decision, according to the ruling.
Kent Robertson, a Chevron spokesman, said the company will appeal the judgment. Chevron attorneys were still poring over the document late Monday to calculate the amount of damages, fines and other penalties imposed by the judge, he said.
One thing we do know is that this ruling was the product of fraud and is contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence, Robertson said yesterday in a telephone interview.
Chevron had $17.1 billion in cash and near-cash equivalents at the end of December, according to a Jan. 28 statement. The companys $195 billion market valuation is more than three times the size of Ecuadors annual economic output.
Water, Soil Contamination
Ecuador pumped an average of 470,000 barrels of crude a day last year, the lowest production among Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries members, International Energy Agency figures showed. Ecuador ranked 127th out of 178 nations in Transparency Internationals 2010 corruption-perception index. Ethiopia, Indonesia and Armenia were perceived as less corrupt, according to the index.
The ruling held Chevron responsible for water and soil contamination that a court-ordered assessment estimated caused Amazon residents $27 billion in damages from illness, deaths and economic loss.
Chevron argued that it cleaned up its portion of the oil fields and was released from pollution claims in an agreement with Ecuador and state-owned oil company PetroEcuador, which took control of the Texaco operations in 1992.
The case really sends a message that companies operating in the undeveloped world cannot rely on a compliant government or lax environmental rules as a way of permanently insulating themselves from liability, said Robert Percival, a law professor and director of the environmental law program at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore.
The ruling may have prompted concern among some investors yesterday and served as a drag on Chevrons stock price, Gilman said. Chevrons 1.3 percent increase lagged peer companies such as ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp., which rose 3.1 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.
There was some degree of underperformance, said Gilman, who has a buy rating on Chevron shares.
Chevron rose 33 percent in the past year. The stock has 18 buy ratings and seven holds.
The judgment ranks second in environmental damage cases behind the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility, a settlement fund set up for BP Plcs Gulf of Mexico oil spill, said Percival.
Todays judgment affirms what the plaintiffs have contended for the past 18 years about Chevrons intentional and unlawful contamination of Ecuadors rainforest, Pablo Fajardo, the lead Ecuadorean plaintiffs attorney, said in an e-mailed statement.
Chevron accused the Ecuadorean government of unfairly influencing the court proceedings and alleged that a $27 billion damage assessment provided by a court-appointed expert was ghostwritten by consultants and lawyers hired by the plaintiffs.
The company won U.S. court orders last year that forced attorneys and consultants for the Ecuadoreans to answer questions under oath about the case and gave Chevron access to outtakes of a documentary film about the lawsuit.
Chevron in February filed a racketeering lawsuit against the lawyers and the plaintiffs in federal court in Manhattan for leading a fraudulent litigation and PR campaign against the company. The company filed a claim in 2009 against Ecuador in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague seeking orders that it has no liability for the environmental pollution and PetroEcuador should pay the damage award.
The case is Maria Aguinda v Chevron, 002-2003, Superior Court of Nueva Loja, Lago Agrio, Ecuador.
Exxon Mobil, based in Irving, Texas, is the biggest U.S. oil company.
Squeeze The Middle Class
Because in neoliberal Australia the rich and powerful elites are just "too big to fail".
'Australian Financial Review [15/2/11]:
The Australian Taxation Office is fulfilling its promise to crack down on small business with outstanding tax debts by making more us of garnishee orders to withdraw funds direct from taxpayers' bank accounts.
According to the ATO, the number of garnishee orders issued in relation to small businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million declined by 8.8 per cent from 8247 in the 2009 financial year to 7578 in the year ended June 30, 2010. but since the second half of 2010, accountants reported that the ATO would not enter into payment arrangements as easily as 12 or 24 months ago at the height of the global financial crisis.
And, as these arrangements come to an end, taxpayers who failed to keep their side of the bargain and cannot justify an extension face garnishee orders, particularly for large tax debts. ...
Chartered accountants at the Sydney-based Azure Group reported that a few clients who until recently were diligent in keeping tax payments up to date had become overdue by only a month, prompting the ATO to act to recoup the funds by issuing a garnishee notice to the business's bank. ...
NZ Greens Welcome Gillard Visit
The Green Party today welcomed the forthcoming visit of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
"It is great to see that Julia Gillard is coming here on a state visit. It is important for New Zealand that we have a strong and positive relationship with Australia," said Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman.
"We need to work together on key issues such as climate change, and we are very happy to see the positive influence that the Australian Greens are having on the Labor Government's approach to this fundamental issue.
"The New Zealand Green Party is looking forward to hearing the Australian Prime Minister's address while she is here. We did think that it is important that this did not happen during a sitting session of the New Zealand Parliament and we raised these concerns with the parliamentary Business Committee.
"No one apart from New Zealand MPs has ever been allowed to address a sitting session of Parliament, not even our own Governor-General. It would set a precedent if the Australian PM does.
"We think it is really important to maintain the democratic sovereignty of New Zealand's Parliament, if we allow one Head of State to address a sitting session of Parliament, then we will inevitably allow other visiting dignitaries to do the same.
"If we change this long-standing rule then it will create a slippery slope which could undermine the democratic sovereignty of our Parliament," said Dr Norman.
Instead Of Donating To Corporatised Cancer Councils, Australians Would Be Better Off Starting A Charity That Raises Funds To Buy Protective Gear
The EPA hopes the results of three studies will allay fears that chemicals from the dump are to blame for cancer clusters.
One of the reports, from the Cancer Council of Victoria, has found there is no evidence of an increased rate of cancer among people who live within four kilometres of the landfill.
The EPA's chief executive, John Merritt, says the council's advice is reliable.
"We were assured by the Cancer Council, and still are, that the findings based on using the cancer registry, around this area, are credible," he said.
The EPA says the landfill cap is suitable, and the health risk posed by three pollutants is negligible.
But Harry van Moorst, from the Western Region Environment Centre, says the cancer study is based on limited statistics.
"They don't have involved in that any of the people who were diagnosed with cancer after they left the area," he said.
"And so there are lots and lots of people, we don't know exactly how many, who have lived there and have left.
"Some of those will have been diagnosed with cancer after they left. So that's a big gap in their understanding."
Oh I Get It, If Australians Get The Idea Cancer Is Caused By Environmental Carcinogens, They Might Pressure The Government To Do Something About Pollution Rather Than Willingly Accept Their Role As A Compliant And Captive Market For Corporate Health "Cancer Journey" Products
Perth-based bioMD will this morning offer Allied Medical shareholders 32 bioMD shares for each Allied share in a deal that values Allied at $38 million based on bioMD's last share trade at 8.9 cents.
The Allied Medical board has recommended the offer.
If consummated, Allied sharehoders will hold 70 per cent of the issued capital of the combined group, with billionaire miner Andrew Forrest likely to hold around 17 per cent. ...
Allied Medical, meanwhile, has been seeking better access to capital.
The medical sales and distribution company in which Forrest holds a 46 per cent stake - recently bought a controlling interest in Brisbane-based junior biotech Coridon.
Coridon is developing DNA therapies for cancer under the guidance of scientist Ian Frazer, who co-created the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer in 2006.
BHP Boss 'Offered To Swap China Secrets With Washington'
'Sydney Morning Herald' [15/2/11]:
The chief executive of BHP Billiton, Marius Kloppers, fears espionage from China, his business competitors and partners, and even the Australian government, but is eager to trade secrets with the United States, according to a secret cable published by WikiLeaks.
Mr Kloppers has also described doing business in Melbourne as being like ''playing poker when everyone can see your cards'', the cable says.
The comments were relayed to Washington after confidential discussions at BHP's Melbourne headquarters between Mr Kloppers and the US consul-general, Michael Thurston.
Confidential reports of Mr Thurston's talks with Mr Kloppers are among US diplomatic cables leaked to WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald.
In a conversation with Mr Thurston on June 4, 2009, the day before BHP's rival Rio Tinto walked away from a $23.9 billion deal with Chinese government-owned Chinalco, Mr Kloppers is said to have complained of covert surveillance of his company.
"Clearly frustrated, Kloppers noted that doing business in Melbourne is like 'playing poker when everyone can see your cards','' the consul-general reported to Washington.
"[Kloppers] complained that Chinese and industrial (Rio Tinto) surveillance is abundant and went so far as to ask consul-general several times about his insights into Chinese intentions, offering to trade confidences.''
The consul-general also noted that the South African-born Mr Kloppers, who described himself as ''only nominally Australian'', also appeared concerned about surveillance by the federal government.
''Kloppers even hinted about privacy concerns vis-a-vis the GOA [government of Australia],'' Mr Thurston reported.
The consul-general did not record his own response to Mr Kloppers's proposal to exchange information about China.
After another meeting in November 2009, the consul-general reported that "Kloppers has a keen interest in learning everything he can about the Chinese and is not shy about asking us for our impressions''.
After the June meeting, Mr Thurston reported that Mr Kloppers had confirmed that BHP ''had taken steps to derail'' the proposed Chinalco investment in Rio Tinto.
''Despite Chinalco's late May announcement that it would restructure its investment deal with Rio Tinto to allay [Australian government] concerns about the perceived Chinese influence on Rio Tinto, Kloppers confidently predicted on June 4 that the deal would fall through,'' he reported.
Rio announced the next day, June 5, that it would not accept Chinalco's bid.
BHP declined to comment.
Stuffing Its Face: The Food Lobby
Obesity is the Western world's ticking time bomb. Obesity-related conditions including heart disease, diabetes and stroke are already soaring.
Health experts blame poor diet, but the food industry, which makes millions from the sale of processed junk foods, is desperate not to see its hungry market disappear.
When the EU made a modest proposal to introduce 'traffic light' food labelling in order to signal foods high in sugars and fats, food industry lobbyists quickly persuaded politicians of the error of their ways.
The Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries (CIAA) - which in 2008 had launched its own voluntary food-labelling scheme - estimate it spent €1 ($1.3) billion successfully proposing the change, vastly outnumbering and outspending consumer and health campaigners.
The CIAA represents some big hitters - Cadbury, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Danone, Kraft, Nestlé, Procter and Gamble, Tate and Lyle, and Unilever are all members.
In the United States - where statistically one in three people are obese - the US Food and Drug Administration announced in 2009 that it would be issuing new front-of-pack labelling guidance. But industry appears to have stepped in first, with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute launching a voluntary front-of-pack labelling scheme in October 2010 to 'fight against obesity'.
Just how manufacturers like Cadbury, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo (all members of the GMA) plan to fight obesity without ditching the products on which their brands were built is unclear.
In Australia and New Zealand, it has been estimated that up to 460 lives could be saved each year with the introduction of mandatory nutrition labelling.
The icing on the cake? British health minister Andrew Lansley's invitation to the industry to help him develop public health policy. McDonald's, KFC and Mars proudly take their places alongside health policy experts on the government's new 'responsibility deal' networks drafting priorities for tackling obesity and alcohol and diet-related disease.
US Giant Cargill Considers Teys Bid
Giant US farm commodities processor and marketer Cargill has confirmed it is seriously considering buying the Packer family's Consolidated Holdings share in Australia's second biggest meat processor, Teys Meat Group. ...
Monsanto GM Talks Continue
Discussions between Cotton Australia and genetically modified cotton provider Monsanto continued this week in a bid to find ways to ease the burden on cotton growers caught out by floods.
Cotton Australia chairman Andrew Watson said they continued to work on a plan to help growers whose contract crops had been wiped out by flooding ...
British Neo-Nazis Plotted To Kill Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón
Judge Baltasar Garzón, best known for attempting to extradite the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from Britain in 1998, revealed the alleged plot against his life in a new documentary film.
Members of the violent far-right group allegedly planned to murder the magistrate last summer in The Hague where he took up a temporary post at the International Criminal Court after being suspended from Spain's National Court.
The 54-year-old judge was suspended from his high profile job pending trial for abuse of power after he opened a probe into the disappearance of tens of thousands of people during Spain's 1936-39 Civil War and ensuing 36 year fascist dictatorship.
The case follows a complaint by far-right groups in Spain who claim the investigation violates an amnesty law passed in 1977, two years after Franco's death, for crimes committed under the dictator's rule.
The judge has revealed that he was notified last July of the threat to his life after emails between members of the group were intercepted by the FBI.
He was told that one message ordered British members of the group to coordinate with their Dutch counterparts. "We must liquidate the judge investigating the crimes of the Franco regime," were the orders reportedly given.
The details of the assassination plot emerge in the film, Listening to Judge Garzón, which premiers next week at the Berlinale film festival.
In it, the judge describes how it took two months to neutralise the threat following co-operation between the FBI, Scotland Yard and Spanish and Dutch police.
It is just the latest in a long series of failed attempts to kill the crusading judge, who has battled against Basque terrorist group ETA as well as tackled political corruption in Spain's right wing Popular Party.
Two years ago it emerged that ETA had attempted to send Garzón a bottle of French brandy laced with poison. And in 2000 an ETA sniper was discovered setting up a rifle in a flat opposite his Madrid office.
Why Was This Event Held In Queensland's House Of Parliament?
Why Wasn't It Held In A Church, Synagogue, Temple, Mosque Or Happy Clappy Warehouse On The Highway?
And why aren't any of our media asking the Bligh Government about the separation of church and state?
Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum will make heartfelt speeches about the devastation caused by natural disasters when Queensland Parliament resumes tomorrow.
Normal parliamentary proceedings, including question time, will be suspended on the first sitting day of the year so MPs can discuss a condolence motion.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said politicians from all sides of politics would spend the day reflecting on the heartbreak wreaked by Cyclone Yasi and widespread flooding. ...
The announcement comes ahead of a multi-faith religious service to be held at Queensland Parliament tonight.
Queensland Parliament speaker John Mickel said the flood and cyclone disasters showed how mother nature did not discriminate in their impact.
In that vein, the magnificent response in the aftermath of these disasters revealed a shared humanity within our community that is not always readily evident, he said.
Our concern for one another and the tangible help provided so willingly to those in need has been real in every way.
Tonight's multi-faith service would offer prayers of remembrance for those whose lives were lost and prayers for those who have suffered, Mr Mickel said. ...
It Would Appear Some People Are Above The Law
Does being a U.S. diplomat preclude an individual from facing the legal system?
The case of Raymond Davis has convulsed Pakistan, opening a fresh seam of anti-American anger and unleashing a wave of speculation about what an American diplomat was doing driving alone in a Honda Civic through the streets of Lahore with a Glock handgun.
Davis has been detained since shooting dead two men, whom he says were trying to rob him in a Lahore street. A third man was killed by a 4x4 vehicle that arrived to rescue the American.
Mystery surrounds the case, which has soured relations between the two countries. The US initially said Davis was a consular employee, before later upgrading his status to a diplomat and demanding he be granted immunity.
The Lahore High Court has blocked his release and demanded more time to decide whether he is entitled to diplomatic status.
The wife of one of the men shot has committed suicide on Sunday. Shumaila Kanwal, the widow of Muhammad Faheem, was admitted on Sunday night after swallowing rat poison.
She spoke to reporters at her bedside shortly before her death. "I want blood for blood. The way my husband was shot, his killer should be shot in the same fashion," she said.
The US has since broken off high-level contacts with Pakistan to increase pressure on Islamabad to free Davis.
Australia: Don't Get Sick
The proposed Medicare Locals - a nationwide network of primary healthcare organisations to support health professionals and improve service delivery - could make or break the new heath agreement, healthcare workers say.
The federal government will push ahead with the construction of a nationwide chain of Medicare Locals to manage GP and other non-hospital services but no one is quite sure how they will operate.
Rural Health Workforce Australia chief executive Kim Webber said the cost and blame-shifing that had dogged the health system for decades could result in patients being shunted between a Medicare Local and the Local Area Hospital Networks, also preserved int he new agreement.
"The danger is that Medicare Locals become like the old divisions and just do projects - that won't help a patient with complex needs," Ms Webber said. "I have heard some hints they will help co-ordinate a patient's pathway through hospital and primary care, but is that true and who is going to pay for it?"
Ms Webber said there was now little chance the Gillard government would make any big strides on health and the changes planned should no longer be tagged reforms.
"We all know we have unsustainable demand for health care building over the next 10 years. Clearly we are not close enough to the crisis to do something."
She said many rural health workers were concerned that they were going to have to deal with new bureaucracies that will deliver little improvement in patient care.
All the states and territories excluding Victoria agreed on boundaries for Medicare Locals with Canberra at the end of last year and these are mostly set to be preserved. ...
Because This Is The Kind Of Thing That Happens When Looking After Sick People Is Reduced To Outcomes, Productivity, Profit And Efficient Pricing Measures
The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating allegations that research student Sandra Lazarus invoiced the Royal Hospital for Women at Randwick and the Royal North Shore Hospital at St Leonards for goods and services that were never provided.
In his opening address Counsel Assisting Todd Alexis SC said Sandra Lazarus approached senior clinicians at the teaching hospitals in 2007 and 2008, telling them she was a PhD student who had permission to trial a hand held cancer detecting device known as a 'Medex'.
Mr Alexis said the alleged fraudulent conduct involved forging signatures of medical practitioners on requisition and other accounting forms and making false representations to hospital staff to procure payments.
The Counsel Assisting said the commission may consider that the evidence "discloses a brazen case of fraud that should have been readily detected'", and the inquiry will look at how Lazarus was able to access the accounting information so easily.
Mr Alexis said there are question marks over the adequacy of corruption prevention measures within the New South Wales public hospital system.
He said the hospitals were invoiced by companies in which Lazarus or her sister Michelle Lazarus were shareholders.
The inquiry heard they procured payments of $218,350 from the Royal Hospital For Women and $465,300 from Royal North Shore Hospital.
Mr Alexis said many of the payments made by the hospitals occurred during a transitional phase where the accounts payable sections of the respective Area Health Services were handed over to Health Support Services, and there was an attrition of existing staff.
"This may go some way to explain why appropriate accounts payable procedures were overlooked and certain deficienceis in the sysmtem were capable of exploitation" he said.
ICAC Commissioner David Ipp is presiding over the inquiry, which is likely to run for 10 days.
Rallies Across Italy Protest Berlusconi's
Milan, Italy (CNN) -- Thousands of Italians took to the streets in some 200 cities across the country Sunday in protest of Prime Minister's Silvio Berlusconi's alleged behavior toward women.
The largest gathering was in Rome, where organizers said 100,000 people gathered, under the slogan, "If not now, when?" In Milan, organizers estimated that 60,000 people gathered. Protests also took place outside Italy, including marches in Tokyo and Geneva.
Sunday's demonstrations were the biggest anti-Berlusconi rallies since the most recent sex scandal broke in January, when Milan prosecutors said they were investigating whether the prime minister abused his power by helping an underaged woman, who he had allegedly paid for sex, get out of jail on a theft charge.
Berlusconi has denied that he has ever paid anyone for sex. A string of sex scandals have dogged him.
The protests were organized by women's groups and publicized by internet. The turnout surprised the organizers, who didn't want the demonstrations to be political, though that's what they became.
One woman who came with her family to the Milan rally told CNN that she was "fed up with the way women are portrayed as objects in the Italian media. The way that young girls are glorified by their looks and youth and then what? I don't want my daughter to grow up thinking that that is the only way to be ... that the only thing that matters is to be pretty and show off their legs. ... We are more than that."
In Milan, demonstrators had banners that said, "Stop the merchandising of women," and "Berlusconi enough. You bring us shame."
Many of the speakers at the Milan rally criticized the way Berlusconi's sex scandal made Italy look, his behavior towards women and his promoting ex-show girls to high government positions.
Protesters said leaked evidence from the investigation show he has little respect for female dignity, the state-run ANSA news agency reported. ...
The System Is Wrong
And CIA stooges aren't going to do anything about it.
Other than grandstanding at "public forums":
... KEITH CARNELL [Ipswich Resident at a public meeting today about flood insurance claims]: Did the Government through the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) tell them that you could not have a standard definition?
Because there's a thing on Facebook, and I know I shouldn't use that as an example, but out there they say the Government is responsible because they told the ACCC you can't have a standard definition because we want, what was the word, competition.
We don't want competition. We want comprehensive insurance.
DEBRA NOWLAND: Resident Keith Carnell and Bill Shorten shared a frank exchange at the forum held in a local rugby league club.BILL SHORTEN: I've learnt going into politics everything's our fault.
KEITH CARNELL: Does that mean you're accepting responsibility?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
(Laughter)I've learnt that everyone blames us though. ...
Or collaborating with the media to distract the electorate with fabrications
about looting and beatups about Centrelink fraudsters:
Centrelink is investigating the suspected fraud which was detected by a special task force overseeing the more than half a million payments to flood and cyclone victims.
The Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek told Alexandra Kirk that some of the alleged fraud cases have come to light from tip-offs:
TANYA PLIBERSEK: One typical case is a man who was paid $1000 in late January saying that he was unable to return to his residence. We checked after a tip off from the public and we found based on talking to the local council, talking to the real estate property manager that the property hadn't in fact been flooded so that fellow will have to repay the $1000 and he is also facing prosecution.
We have also got more sophisticated ways of checking that people are actually where they say they were at the time of the flooding. ...
Aussie Films Selected For Major European Festivals
by Cara Nash, 'Filmink' [21/1/11]:
Three of Europe's most prestigious film festivals, Berlin, Rotterdam and Clermont-Ferrand, will feature an impressive selection of Australian films in their line-ups this year.
One of the most highly regarded film festivals in the world, the Berlin International Film Festival will screen two Australian feature films and three short films in the Generation program, which presents lively cinema aimed at young audiences. Australian filmmaker Rachel Perkins (Bran Nue Dae) has also been invited to be an international jury member of the Berlinale's Generation section.
The festival will present the world premiere of Kriv Stenders's Red Dog, the film adaptation of Louis de Bernières' best-selling novel about a spirited kelpie that unites and changes the lives of a group of locals from a mining town. The film stars Josh Lucas and Rachael Taylor.
Leon Ford's Griff the Invisible has been selected to screen as the Opening Night film for Generation which will be the film's European premiere. Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) plays Griff, an office worker by day and a superhero by night whose two worlds start to collide.
The three Australian short films selected for Berlin's Generation program are Kasimir Burgess' Lily, the story of a girl and a father who share their last holiday; Andy and Matt Mullins' Minnie Loves Junior, a love story set in a seaside fishing village; and Tom McKeith's Pig, about a boy trying to make sense of the desolate world he lives in.
"The festival, its high-level talent programs and associated film market combined, represent one of the international industry's top tier events," said Kathleen Drumm, Head of Marketing at Screen Australia. "It's great to see Australia recognised once again as a place for discovering great films and talented new filmmakers."
David Michod's stunning crime drama, Animal Kingdom and Mark Hartley's uproarious documentary about the Filipino genre films of the 70 and 80s, Machete Maidens Unleashed!, have been selected for the Rotterdam International Film Festival.
At the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, two films have been chosen for the International Competition. They are Ashlee Page's The Kiss, a story involving two teenage girls who get trapped in a firewater tank and Mischa Baka's Last Beautiful Friend about a divorced art teacher who is forced to confront what his life has to offer.
Minnie Loves Junior and Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann's The Lost Thing (which recently won Best Australian Short at Flickerfest), an animated film about a boy and the strange creature he finds, will screen in Clermont-Ferrand's special program for children.
"Clermont-Ferrand offers a wonderful opportunity for upcoming filmmakers to show their films to enthusiastic audiences and to experience the marketplace," said Ms. Drumm.
The Berlin International Film Festival runs February 10-20, the International Film Festival Rotterdam plays from January 26 - February 6 and the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and Market will run February 4-12.
You Have Have No Mandate, So Please Explain Why You Jokers Are Running This Country Into The Ground?
A Question For Q & A
Given the Gillard Government only scraped in by a whisker due to the electorate's disappointment with Rudd for his persistent neoliberalism and inaction on climate change and human rights, notwithstanding how unsavoury the coup was and now revelations by WikiLeaks, why does the Gillard Government think they have the right to keep pushing such a right-wing agenda upon Australians?
Everybody knows if the Liberals ousted Abbott for Turnbull, and if there was an election tomorrow, he would win.
Of Course 'The King's Speech' Won A Zillion BAFTAs, It's Propaganda For The Royal Family
The Anglo-Australian story of King George VI and his struggle to overcome a stutter won seven prizes at the BAFTAs, including best picture and three acting trophies. ...
CIA Stooges And The Hon Bob Katter Descend Upon The Gold Coast
Spoken like a true neo-liberal:
"I think that it's in our national interest to have a small once-off levy to pay for the reconstruction of our country," he said.
"But I also believe it's in our national interest to balance the budget and I also believe it's in our national interest to continue spending in other key areas which needs to be done, which is why I think the Government has struck the right balance." ...
At least Windsor, Bandt and Oakeshott appear to be standing up for ordinary Australians.
I'm Sorry To Inform You Madam That The Death Outcome Was The Most Efficient In Your Husband's Case, Taking Into Account All Of Our Key Performance Indicators In Terms Of Going Forward For Transparency, Fair Funding And Comparable Information Between The States. You Understand, Don't you?
If they die at home, it doesn't go on the hospital stats!
Let The Sun Shine In?
The Macquarie Dictionary defines treason as: violation by a subject of his allegiance to his sovereign or to the state
Why is Mark Arbib still sitting in the Senate?
He tells Mark he believes the Gillard Government is secretly providing the United States with information about Australians working with the whistleblowing group.
WikiLeaks' role in sparking the turmoil in Egypt and Tunisia and his soured relations with The New York Times and The Guardian also come under scrutiny.
And he speaks about this weeks extradition hearing in London, over Swedens request to question him over sexual assault allegations, which he strenuously denies.
This column is about lawlessness, and what your government is doing in your name. Or, more accurately, how it's spending your money while dodging the oversight of Parliament in direct contravention of the law.
It is about the High Court challenge to the National School Chaplaincy Program and the reason why whatever you think of school chaplains, love or hate 'em you should be hoping the challenge succeeds. Any Australian who cares about the primacy of the law over the electoral fortunes of the political party in power should.
On the surface, Ron Williams v Commonwealth of Australia is about Williams, a father of six who wants his children to attend a secular school. By secular he means a school that is neutral when it comes to religion a school that teaches kids about religions but doesn't promote belief over non-belief or the belief system of one faith over another.
So Williams sent his brood to the local state school, assuming it would fit the bill. It didn't. Instead, his children were asked for gold coins to take for Scripture Union on crazy hair day or made to attend assemblies where the chaplain presided and a rap song was played extolling the virtues of chaplains over teachers as adults kids could trust.
Williams's desire is simple to pull the plug on the program that, through "chaplaincy service providers" such as Scripture Union ("Christ's ambassadors on the front line of ministry") and Access Ministries ("transform[ing] this nation for God"), is feverishly trying to spend the $437 million of Commonwealth funds to put a chaplain in all the nation's schools.
But like all cases heard by the High Court, this one is primarily about legal principles of governance. Such as whether our government is allocating our money in a fair, honest and transparent way, and in accordance with the constitution.
Williams says it isn't. He asserts that the Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments have waved aside proper procedure to deliver wads of cash to a persistent and feared constituency. Legislate for school chaplains? Why risk parliamentary scrutiny and possible rejection? Instead, we'll just slide the money into the yearly Appropriations Act under some innocuous item in the education budget.
Absolute power's nice when you can get it but we live in a society governed by laws. The kind of place where a little guy such as Williams with the help of generous advocates and micro-donations from well-wishers can have his day in court to say "no way".
No way should buckets of taxpayer money be doled out without Parliament having a say about the matter. No way should allocations be made in ways that violate the constitution in particular, the bit that says the government can't insist an Australian be a person of faith, or belong to a particular faith, to get a job. This is something that the government's own guidelines and practices make clear is necessary for chaplains.
The laws Williams is fighting to have enforced government by and for the people, the religious neutrality of the state go to the heart of what I love about this country. Let's hope for all our sakes he wins.Leslie Cannold
Melbourne academic and writer [makes you wonder where the Brisbane commentariat are on this issue? doesn't it?]
The Least The Australian Government Can Do Is Give His Passport Back
Damning evidence from an Egyptian intelligence officer that names an Australian official who witnessed the torture of Sydney man Mamdouh Habib in Guantanamo Bay has been revealed as the trigger for a hushed-up government payout to Mr Habib and a high-level investigation.
The explosive 840-word statement, released exclusively to The Sun-Herald, was shown to government solicitors three days before they suddenly paid Mr Habib an undisclosed amount to drop his lawsuit claiming Australia was complicit in his CIA-engineered kidnap in 2001, transfer to Egypt and subsequent torture.
In his statement, which is yet to be tested in court, the intelligence officer says Egyptian guards routinely filmed terrorism suspects in their jails. He says there is footage and photographs of Mr Habib and an Arabic-speaking Australian called George who witnessed his degradation.
''He has rounded face aged 35-40 and bald (no hair) his height is about 170 fat without moustache with beard, hazel eyes big nose, fat neck. George was present during the medical check on Habib who was handcuffed and tied feet. His eyes were closed and he was unable to see.
''He [Habib] was naked of any cloths [sic] even his underwear. He was hysterical, almost crazy, drugged. The hand down of him and his belongings and the medical check was before the Australian official [George]. Habib constantly was fighting with the guards and wanted to escape outside.
''During Habib's presence some of the Australian officials attended many times and some of them were women. The same official who attended the first time, George, used to come with them and Habib was tortured a lot and all the time as the foreign intelligence wanted quick and fast information.''
The statement from the intelligence officer was taken by Mr Habib's Egyptian lawyer, Hisham Mahmoud Ramadan, who told Mr Habib yesterday that the overthrow of the Mubarak regime would make it easier to get more information about his torture.
Mr Habib was arrested in Pakistan in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He was secretly taken to Egypt where he was tortured for seven months before he was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, where he was held until January 2005. He was released without charge. He immediately began legal action against the Australian government, claiming it was complicit in his transfer and torture.
Then foreign minister Alexander Downer attorney-general Philip Ruddock repeatedly denied knowledge of the transfer. So did then ASIO boss Dennis Richardson and federal police chief Mick Keelty.
Mr Habib sued and after a six-year battle, the Gillard government suddenly agreed to pay him an undisclosed sum on December 17 in exchange for him dropping his case. The amount is subject to a strict confidentiality agreement. In a similar case, Canadian-Syrian engineer Maher Arar received $10 million from the Canadian government.
Sydney lawyer Ecevit Demir, who attended the meeting at which the Habib compensation was agreed, confirmed the Egyptian intelligence officer's statement was discussed. Mr Habib said he brought the statement to Julia Gillard's attention at the end of October. Soon after, she ordered an inquiry. He has decided to reveal the details of the statement because, despite the payout, the government is still refusing to give back his passport.
The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, did not comment when The Sun-Herald asked if his department or ASIO would co-operate with the inquiry or whether ''anyone now wanted to change their stories''.
Mr Habib detailed interrogations by a man he identified only as George in his 2008 book, My Story: The Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn't. He said George, who he had thought was Egyptian because he spoke Arabic with an Egyptian dialect, questioned him in Egypt and later in Afghanistan on his way to Guantanamo Bay.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed in writing to Mr Habib that there was an official named George working at the Australian embassy in Cairo. However, it maintained that while George did make inquiries about Mr Habib, George never had it ''confirmed'' that Mr Habib was in Egypt.
When The Sun-Herald showed Mr Habib a photograph of George, he recognised him and said he had seen him several times in the Egyptian jail.
Mr Habib told The Sun-Herald he would take the Egyptian agent's statement to the Inspector-General of Intelligence Services, Vivienne Thom, who is heading the inquiry ordered by Ms Gillard.
Australian Publisher Arrested In Burma
Ross Dunkley, the founder of Rangoon's Myanmar Times and a key stakeholder in the Phnom Penh Post, was arrested after he returned home to Rangoon from Thailand on Friday.
Authorities in Rangoon say he was arrested for overstaying his visa and marijuana possession.
He is being held in the Insein prison in Rangoon.
He has apparently been involved in a battle for control of the Times with its co-owner, who is aligned with the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.
Press freedom in Burma is notoriously poor and journalists are commonly jailed.
Sources in Burma say Dunkley could be jailed for up to five years if convicted, or deported.
Still Don't Know What The Difference Between Rudd's And Gillard's Plan Is
Prime Minister Julia Gillard is meeting state and territory leaders in Canberra today to try to finalise a health agreement.
Ms Gillard has scrapped last year's plan for the Federal Government to become the dominant funder of the health system and the proposal to claw back a third of the states' GST revenue which would have paid for it.
Instead the Government is offering to set up a national funding pool to pay for public hospitals.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd's health deal had to be abandoned because Liberal state governments in Western Australia and Victoria would not accept it.
But Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne has told Channel Ten the new deal favours the states.
"Of course the states are signing up to it because they have effectively forced a capitulation by the Federal Labor Government," he said.
"Julia Gillard is so desperate to have any kind of win that she's prepared to abandon reform of the health sector."
Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the agreement is simpler than the old deal but it offers as much money to the health system.
She says it involves the Federal Government injecting an extra $16 billion into the system. ...
Would It Be So Hard To Tell Australians What The Difference Between Rudd's Neoliberal Overhaul Of Our Health System And Gillard's Neoliberal Overhaul Is?
Blah blah blah, in terms of outcomes going forward, instead of beating up Rudd's hissy fit and door slamming, could you please do some journalism?
It is Australian taxpayers, not multi-national health and insurance corporations, who fund the ABC:
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the Government will push for the states and territories to sign off on its revised health plan at tomorrow's Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Canberra.
State and territory officials have been holding discussions today to decide if they will sign up to the Government's proposal.
Ms Roxon says she is confident an agreement will be reached, despite the short time frame.
"Every COAG meeting has a vast range of issues to be dealt with, some are resolved and some are not," she said.
"But I hope that every premier tomorrow will take to the table the concerns of patients and look at whether a deal can be struck that will benefit patients."
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has already said she will not be ready to sign off on the deal at tomorrow's meeting, but Ms Roxon remains hopeful.
"All of the premiers will want to work through issues of concern to them, I think Premier Bligh will no doubt have at the top of her mind making sure each and every dollar that was part of the previous deal is a part of this deal," Ms Roxon said.
"We can assure her that it is and the Prime Minister will be working with every premier including premier Bligh to try to reach an agreement tomorrow."
New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally says she will support the Government's revised health deal on the condition that her state is no worse off.
"I understand there is a very strong desire this be a national agreement and I support that," she said.
"But for us the bottom line is that we keep the beds, we keep the money and we keep the growth funding going forward."
But the New South Wales Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell says he will closely examine the proposal and decide whether he will support it if he wins next month's election.
He says the Coalition will not honour any health deal if it leaves the state worse off and compromises patient care.
Ms Keneally has ridiculed his stance.
"I know how hard it is to get money out of Canberra. I spent a whole weekend negotiating $800 million. When you're the Premier you don't go to Canberra and hand it back, but that is precisely what Mr O'Farrell is saying he will do," she said.
The Federal Opposition concedes it is likely a deal will be made tomorrow.
Opposition Health spokesman Peter Dutton says mental health funding needs to be one of the main priorities.
"I expect that Julia Gillard will do a deal," he said.
"There'll be money on the table and we haven't heard anything about mental health yet.
"It would be inconceivable that having done nothing in the first term for mental health and having done nothing during the election campaign that Julia Gillard wouldn't include mental health reform as part of this latest package."
They Pity Us
Our Governments have abandoned their role to the so called free market. Who knows where our taxes go these days.
Now we have nothing and we are pitied by foreign charities.
A Buddhist group based on the principle of giving will stage its biggest handover today in Ipswich.
Hundreds of recipients who were affected by the January floods are expected to benefit.
Tzu Chi Foundation volunteer Andy Huang said the Brisbane group held a smaller relief centre at Goodna last weekend.
Were giving out $500 gift cards, blankets and also medical packs, he said.
Each of the family members will get a king-size blanket.
We also give out bamboo-shaped piggy banks.
This is the short-term phase where we give out things that are more urgent. So far weve given out 1700 blankets and spent $375,000.
The international foundation has set aside $1.1 million for the flood relief effort.
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said the Tzu Chi Foundation volunteers had offered help around the city, from clearing out muddy homes to singing happy songs to Brassall State School students.
We are so lucky to have people from all over Australia offering such incredible support to our citizens when they need it most, Cr Pisasale said.
Flood-affected residents of Ipswich City Council divisions two, three and four are invited to the relief centre at Ipswich Girls Grammar School assembly hall from 10am to midday, while residents of division five can attend from 2pm to 4pm.
Each recipient will need to produce their drivers licence or equivalent form of ID as proof of address.
The school is at the corner of Queen Victoria Parade and Chermside Road, East Ipswich.
Work in China
Due to the organization's apolitical stance, Tzu Chi has been allowed by the Chinese government to carry out charity work in the country. Tzu Chi's involvement in China began in 1991, when it undertook relief operations after severe floods hit central and eastern China. Since then, the group has built schools, nursing homes and entire villages, including infrastructure in poor inland areas, such as Guizhou province. In carrying out these projects, Tzu Chi volunteers abide by the rules of "No politics, no propaganda, and no religion."
Over the past twenty years, 28 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China have received aid from Tzu Chi. This aid has taken many forms, including infrastructure projects (such as rebuilding schools and villages after the Sichuan earthquake and installing water cisterns in Gansu and Guizhou provinces); relief work in poverty-stricken areas and winter-time distributions of rice, cooking oil, blankets and jackets; social programs, such as home visits to the needy and providing scholarships to low-income students; medical missions, such as bone marrow donation and free clinics; and promotion of environmental protection and recycling.
In March 2008, Tzu Chi became the first organization represented by a non-Mainland resident to be registered with the Chinese government. That year also marked a watershed moment for humanitarian work in China. In the aftermath of the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Tzu Chi immediately sent food, blankets and medical aid to survivors, while volunteers in China set out for the disaster zone. Tzu Chi was also one of the few organizations the Chinese government allowed to bring in aid workers from overseas to join the relief effort. With the motto "First to arrive, last to leave," the organization has continued with long-term reconstruction work in Sichuan, and by 2010, had rebuilt thirteen schools in the region.
After many years of quiet but sustained work, in August 2010, Tzu Chi became the first overseas NGO to receive permission from the Ministry of Civil Affairs to set up a nationwide charity foundation. (Normally, overseas organizations must register with the Ministry of Commerce as businesses). The foundation received the China Charity Award from the Ministry of Civil Affairs for its work in promoting the well-being of society and relieving the suffering of the needy in 2006 and again in 2008.
Despite initial hesitance among the public, Master Cheng Yen has continued calling for building a "Bridge of Love" between China and Taiwan, believing that Great Love transcends all national, religious and racial boundaries. ...
Our Judiciary Works Fine, It's Our Media That Needs Scrutiny
... We try, but the bloggers are unforgiving, as we especially note when details of judges' international travel are disclosed, which we in Queensland choose to do on a regular basis. ...
What the Chief is referring to, particularly, is an article published in the 'Courier-Mail' [7/12/10].
As is tediously usual for Murdoch's disgraced rags, that story used information freely disclosed by the Court system (in order to maintain transparency) in a shameful beat-up to further their own neoliberal agenda. Bashing the judiciary and rule of law is a 'core value' for those ideologues and is pursued with relish under John Hartigan's reign.
Of course, the Murdoch 'Courier-Mail' - exercising their self given right to decide what you need to know - refused to publish the following criticism of their actions (as we pointed out at the time):
Once again the Courier Mail is unfairly deprecating the legitimate entitlement of members of the judiciary to engage in legal education paid for by the taxpayer under parliamentary approved appropriation.
The article (Less Gavel, More Travel for Judges in the Jetset CM 7 December 2010) unfairly criticises judges for attending overseas travel destinations including dedicated conferences of the Australian Bar Association.
If there is to be complaint about judges utilising their awarded travel allowances then what the newspaper ought do is to campaign for the dispensation of such entitlements but with a commensurate increase in their salaries.
Rather, your journalist, utilising pejorative language (eg, have wig, will fly) trivialises an important component of ongoing judicial education.
It is difficult enough, in the absence of such unfair media criticism, for the Attorney-General to secure leading lawyers to accept a judicial appointment let alone the personal restrictions such an appointment places on an individual. One of those restrictions, which you take advantage of, is the inability of the various judges you identify to respond to the misleading observations and language recorded in the article.
I had to write in the same vein 12 months ago when another of your journalists penned a similar poison piece. The newspaper should refrain from attracting the mantle of being incorrigible.
Yours faithfullyRICHARD DOUGLAS S.C.
Coal Gas Titles Cover Half The Shire
Nearly half the Tweed Shire is earmarked for coal seam gas exploration with enthusiastic support appearing to be provided by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).
An exploration title has already been granted to PNG Gas covering the western corner of the shire and spilling over into Kyogle and Lismore shires.
An application was also made six months ago by Macquarie Energy for a petroleum prospecting licence, which is a desktop study only.
But NSW DPI directed them to withdraw the application and progress directly to applying for a exploration licence.
Greens councillor Katie Milne said she had informal talks with Macquarie Energy and a company representative expressed surprise at the departments attitude in wanting Macquarie to go straight into on-the-ground test drilling.
Cr Milne said the Macquarie representative was under the impression the department was keen for the company to show commitment to exploration.
Macquarie Energy declined to comment further yesterday.
The company, a subsidiary of the Macquarie Bank conglomerate, has two title applications, dubbed PELA 133 and 134.
Between them, the PNG and Macquarie licences cover all the region west of Mt Warning and include the Mebbin, Wollumbin and Limpinwood national parks.
Cr Milne said Macquarie had identified two significant seams in the region the Ipswich seam that runs near Nimbin and Kyogle and the Nymboida seam which is still being charted.
Cr Milne says its important to note that under the Petroleum Act, national parks are excluded from exploration so are excluded from exploration title.
Macquaries latest application, lodged just before Christmas, is expected to be assessed in three to six months.
Cr Milne said the assessment would be done by the environmental arm of the DPI, rather than NSW Department for the Environment, Climate Change and Water.
She said Macquaries initial drilling would be one to 12 holes 4.5 inches in diameter and up to 1,000 metres deep.
There are unconfirmed reports that test drilling has begun on a farm near Tyalgum Creek. ...
Gail Hickey's Claim Registered By The UN Human Rights Committee
Gail Hickey's communication to the UN on behalf of her son TJ Hickey, an Aboriginal youth who lost his life during a policing operation in Redfern in 2004 has finally been registered by the UN Human Rights Committee. The Committee receives a huge number of communications each year. Only a small number of communications get passed the first hurdle that is registration.
The registration of TJ's Communication indicates the Human Rights Committee recognition that it raises serious issues under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and that the Australian Government has a case to answer. This means that finally, the Australian Government will have to respond to Gail and the community's lack of faith in the police investigation that followed TJ's very terrible death.
This is an important step in the continuing fight for justice by TJ's family, the Redfern Community, the NSW and Victorian Indigenous Social Justice Associations and many other groups campaigning for truth and justice, an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody and to ensure that all deaths in custody are independently and effectively investigated.
What We Have Right Now Is A Puppet, In Dire Need Of A History Lesson
... "200,000 East Timorese dead." We used to scrawl these words on walls around the inner city, and, when we got the chance, on the doors of ministerial cars and the Indonesian consulate. 200,000. It was an incomprehensible number. A third of the population of a tiny island, only 500 kilometres off the Australian coast.
What seemed the most incomprehensible though, was that our own government treated this murderer, Suharto, like its dearest friend. Not just the Liberals, Labor as well. From 1975 onwards, justifying the Indonesian rape of East Timor was bipartisan Australian government policy. A cosy consensus. Around it was built the "Jakarta lobby", a band of sick men, led by diplomat Richard Woolcott, who could be relied upon at every massacre by Suharto's military in Indonesia, Timor, Aceh or West Papua to write clipped, pragmatic opinion pieces for the next morning's papers pointing out the extenuating circumstances and explaining why it was in Australia's interests to maintain "stability" by supporting our Indonesian friends. Those whose bodies lay cold on the ground were not our friends, of course. They didn't exist.
What is truly horrific though, is that Timor was a mere encore, a follow-up to the main event.
Though it is well documented by sources from all sides, too few people know about the terrible campaign of mass murder that accompanied Suharto's rise to power, and which cemented and explains his close relationship with those in the highest echelons in Canberra, Washington and London.
This is how Time magazine reported events on 17 December, 1965:
"According to accounts brought out of Indonesia by Western diplomats and independent travellers, communists, red sympathisers and their families are being massacred by the thousands. Backlands army units are reported to have executed thousands of communists after interrogation in remote rural jails.
"The killings have been on such a scale that the disposal of the corpses has created a serious sanitation problem in East Java and northern Sumatra, where the humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh. Travellers from those areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies; river transportation has at places been impeded."
In this way one of the broadest and biggest mass democratic movements of the twentieth century was crushed. A secret report by the CIA noted that "Estimates of the number of people killed in Indonesia in the anti-PKI bloodbath after the coup range from 87,000, the official Indonesian Government estimate, to 500,000." They would know. The CIA supplied a list of thousands of Communist Party leaders to Suharto so that he could round them up to be shot. ...
Assange Abused My CatWikiLeaks Insider
The man is a beast, truly he is ...
BERLINDaniel Domscheit-Berg accuses WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of many things in his book presented Thursday, but perhaps the oddest allegation is that he abused the former insider's cat.
"Julian was constantly battling for dominance, even with my tomcat Herr Schmitt," Domscheit-Berg says in his book "Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website."
"Ever since Julian lived with me in Wiesbaden he (the cat) has suffered from psychosis. Julian would constantly attack the animal. He would spread out his fingers like a fork and grab the cat's throat."
The "mad Australian" did not always come off best during his stay in 2009, however, with Herr Schmitt sometimes managing to "dispatch Julian with a quick swipe of the paw."
"It must have been a nightmare for the tomcat," he said in the German-language version of the book, due to be published in more than a dozen countries from Friday.
Queenslanders Who Send Their Children To State Schools For A Secular Education Must Be So Pleased
Health care and public transport can be thrown to the free market, but the flying spaghetti monster must be subsidised by your taxes:
Nine MSN [11/2/11]:
Increased funding for more chaplains in Queensland's flood-affected schools is a positive move, a Christian support organisation says.
SU [Scripture Union] Queensland welcomed an announcement by federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett that funding would be provided for more chaplains.
Mr Garrett on Friday visited schools affected by the Brisbane floods and announced an additional 15 chaplains for schools that had sought more welfare support.
The federal government would also assist by increasing grants to replace flood-damaged school equipment from $500 to $2000.
SU Queensland is responsible for employing chaplains in the state and its CEO Tim Mander says it "is further evidence of the immense value chaplains bring to each state school, especially during a crisis such as a flood or cyclone."
But Mr Mander has warned there was still a cloud hanging over the future of school chaplains because of a High Court challenge.
"This High Court challenge threatens the existence of many of the 500 state school chaplains across Queensland ... and many more across Australia.
"It will have a direct impact on the care of kids in our schools."
He said SU Queensland would fight the challenge not just because of the loss of funding but because it would reduce their ability to provide care for kids in school.
Mr Garrett also released the National School Chaplaincy Program discussion paper on Friday, aimed at refining the system from 2012.
Mr Mander said he was pleased about the launch of the discussion paper because it would give Australians an opportunity to show their support for school chaplaincy.
Responses to the paper will be received until March 18.
Cork Plane Crash
Belfast Telegraph [11/2/11]:
It was an ordinary foggy day at Cork Airport. But, shortly before 9am, the fog suddenly seemed to thicken.
One Aer Arann plane landed -- and another Aer Arann plane was scheduled to land once the Manx2 flight from Belfast had made it to the apron.
Passengers gathered in the terminal awaiting a series of scheduled departures to London and European cities, most involving jet aircraft.
But the Manx2 turboprop made first one, and then a second, aborted landing attempt.
It was in a circling pattern over Cork Airport for between 20 and 30 minutes before it made its third and fateful final landing attempt.
A key element of the six investigations now under way into the worst airport crash in Irish civil aviation history will be why the plane didn't divert -- and what communications took place between the Manx2 crew and the control tower.
The investigations will be hampered by the fact that the entire flight crew -- an English and Spanish national -- both died in the tragedy.
Cork Airport officials last night refused to comment on the fog that shrouded the airport amid concerns such comments might affect the ongoing crash investigation.
Similarly, the airport declined to comment on suggestions that visibility had dropped at 9am to somewhere between 350 and 400 metres.
The grim reality remains that fog is still a serious hazard for all flight operations -- particularly for smaller aircraft that may lack the full range of technological navigation and landing aids boasted by hi-tech jets.
While jets -- because of their technology -- can attempt 'blind' landings, smaller turboprops generally lack such aids.
Unlike cars, planes do not have the ability to slow down because of reduced visibility -- and even the 19-year-old Fairchild Metroliner that was destroyed on Cork Airport's runway yesterday would have had to land at around 160kph.
Cork has a guidance system called an instrument landing system (ILS), which is the approach aid that the Metroliner pilots used despite being able to see nothing but mist out of their windscreen, to guide them down the gentle glideslope toward the runway.
But at a predetermined point in the descent, known as the decision height, the pilots have to look up from their instruments and make a decision about whether they can see enough of the high-intensity runway lights to be able to make their hand-flown, visually directed landing.
Some passengers at Cork Airport yesterday said the fog was so thick at one point that they couldn't see out the plate-glass windows of the terminal and across the runway.
The Manx2 pilots -- after their second aborted approach -- had a critical decision to make.
They could attempt a third landing or divert to Shannon, Kerry or Dublin Airports.
But the problem was that the fog which had affected Cork was also reported to be swirling around the Clare airport.
When the Air Accident Investigation Unit is able to listen to the pilots' deliberations on the cockpit voice recorder, it will learn more about the reasons why they concluded that they should try a third time.
Until then, the precise cause of Flight NM 7100's disaster will remain as murky as the fog that shrouded Cork Airport yesterday morning.
Spanish Prosecutors, Ecologists Urge Action On Pollution
Spain's public prosecutors joined environmental groups Wednesday in demanding emergency measures to clear a thick layer of smog lingering over Madrid that medics warned could have grave health effects.
Both Madrid and Barcelona, Spain's two largest cities, have seen their levels of atmospheric pollution rise due a high pressure system lodged over the Iberian peninsula that prevents the pollutants from clearing.
Meteorologists expects the weather pattern, which has also brought sun and warm weather since last week, to last until at least Friday.
Virtually all levels of air contamination in Madrid and the surrounding area, home to over five million people, are higher than those recommended by the World Health Organisation, said a spokesman for environmental group Ecologists in Action, Paco Segura.
"Madrid has very serious problems of air pollution. We broke the limits in 2010 and we are breaking them now," he told a news conference.
The European Union recommends that levels of tropospheric ozone, also called "low level ozone", not be allowed to surpass 120 micrograms per cubic metre.
In Madrid this level was surpassed at eight out of 23 measuring stations, according to the environmental group.
"We demand immediate measures be taken to promote the use of public transportation and discourage the use of private cars," said the president of the regional federation of residents' associations of Madrid, Ignacio Murgui.
The group called for the number of parking spaces to be reduced and their costs increased, the use of bicycles to be encouraged and for limits to be placed on the rise in the cost of public transportation.
Another environmental group, Equo, went even further, calling for cars to be banned "immediately" from the centre of Madrid and all public transportation be free of charge.
At the same time the public prosecutors' office has sent an official letter to the mayor's office urging the city take steps "to lower pollution levels because they have surpassed European limits", a spokesman for the office said. ...
Bondis Rescue Bid For Flooded Town
Bondi View [9/2/11]:
The Bondi community has banded together and thrown a charity gig for the forgotten town of Texas, just north of the border, and raised $3418.30.
The fundraising event was conceived by two Bondi locals, Rimma Aranchikov and Collette Grech, as they shared a beer at the Tea Gardens Hotel, Bondi, and watched media coverage of the floods.
We talked about going up there to sandbag, and felt hopeless drinking our beer, so we decided the best way to help was to raise money, Grech said.
Bondis fringe musicians pledged their support, and by Sunday, January 23, a host of musical acts performed for 260 Bondi locals at the Bondi Bowling Club, all of whom donated $10 at the door.
Local act Matt Booth and the Sparkling Sandancers (Gavdog, Svet and Mikey) headlined the event with their original brand of psychadelic rock.
Rimma Aranchikov gained the support of many local businesses which donated prizes for a raffle.
The pledged ingredients of the gold coin donation sausage sizzle were typical of the community cooperation: Australian Gourmet Meat sausages; Soname bread; lettuce, onions and tomatoes from Fruitologist; sauces from Nandos; and salt and pepper from IGA.
Texas was chosen as the beneficiary as Grechs sister, Keturah Grech, a local resident whos affiliated with the SES, suggested the valley was a forgotten area of the floods and needed support.
Texas is a town of 900 people, north-west of Tenterfield, where houses on the river flats were decimated by the record floods last month.
A very grateful former president of the Lions Club, Les Cox, said his organisation had received the charity.
It would take us 12 months to raise this kind of money here, and wed be hitting locals again, he said.
The organisation is now considering planning options. We want to make an impact, Cox said.
GPs Fight Police In Greek Protest
Striking doctors have scuffled with police outside Greece's parliament as anti-cuts protests spread beyond unions to professional groups.
More than 1,000 doctors, some in white coats, staged the central Athens protest against plans to impose tougher monitoring rules for spending in the National Health Service.
Police used pepper spray during the brief confrontation, which ended without any injuries or arrests.
The country's largest unions plan a general strike for February 23, and have announced that retailers will also join the protest and close their stores for 24 hours.
The Greek Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants said one in four of its small business members - or 225,000 enterprises - face the threat of closure in 2011.
Prime Minister George Papandreou said his government had no choice but to press ahead with the painful reforms.
"Even if we had a zero debt, we would had to implement radical reforms and changes to our development model. Otherwise, under the existing system, debts would soon appear," he said.
Doctors at Greece' main public health insurer, IKA, continued rolling strikes, joined by state hospital doctors in greater Athens.
Doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, teachers and public transport workers are all taking part in strikes this week against the latest round of austerity measures.
The government has set in motion a series of longer-term measures aimed at cutting overspending in return for international bailout loans worth 110 billion euros (£93 billion) throughout 2012.
... My favourite secret document -- leaked by WikiLeaks, of course is from the Ministry of Defence in London. It describes journalists who serve the public without fear or favour as subversive and threats.
Such a badge of honour. John Pilger, 'The War On WikiLeaks', Green Left Weekly [25/1/11]
Australians Don't Want A Price On Carbon (Or Nuclear Power) And There Is Already Consensus - We Want Action On Climate Change
'Government News' [10/2/11]:
The Federal Government has established an independent Climate Commission, chaired by leading environmentalist and author, Professor Tim Flannery.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet, today announced the creation of the new Commission and the appointment of Mr Flannery as Chief Commissioner.
Mr Combet said the Climate Commission would provide an authoritative, independent source of information on climate change to the Australian community.
It will provide expert advice on climate change science and impacts, and international action, he said.
It will help build the consensus about reducing Australias carbon pollution.
The announcement follows the release of Australias annual emissions projections on Wednesday.
The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency report, Australias Emissions Projections, predicted that without further government action, emissions would continue to rise.
In 2020, emissions are projected to be 24 per cent above 2000 levels thats a further projected increase from current levels, Mr Combet said.
The report acknowledged the Renewable Energy Target and other measures under the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency, but did not include the impact of a carbon price or the Carbon Farming Initiative.
Who Will Pay?
Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Media Release [10/2/11]
Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Stirling Hinchliffe today welcomed the release of the draft Terms of Reference (TOR) for the proposed $10.1 billion Carmichael Coal and Rail project in the Galilee Basin.
Mr Hinchliffe said the draft framework outlined the proposed scope of the State Governments requirement for a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the project.
If it proceeds, the mine could potentially produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal a year, predominately to service the Indian domestic power market, Mr Hinchliffe said.
The construction phase of the project could employ up to 5,000 workers and the ongoing operation could support 4,000 workers, with another 2,000 people employed to construct the associated railway.
Its important to note that declaring this proposal a significant project does not constitute Government approval or support for the project, this is just the start of the comprehensive EIS process.
The draft TOR provides the framework for the EIS and I encourage all interested parties to get in and have their say.
Under the proposal Adani Mining Pty Ltd is proposing to establish rail facilities and coal mines capable of producing 60 million tonnes of coal per annum coal mine.
The project will involve the development of both a greenfield open-cut coal mine and an underground mine in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland.
The project will be supported by rail facilities which may connect through to existing coal export terminals at either or both Abbot Point or Hay Point.
The Galilee Basin is the last undeveloped coal resource in Queensland and is expected to become the states largest coal producing region.
Coordinator General Keith Davies said the scale, potential effects and complexity of the approvals for the project required a rigorous EIS.
The EIS will consider the potential environmental, cultural and socio-economic impacts on the local community, Mr Davies said.
The proposed $4.1 billion Carmichael Coal Mine is located mostly in the Moray Downs cattle station while the proposed $6 billion railway development is in the Mackay and Whitsunday Regional Council areas.
The mine is approximately 160 kilometres to the north-west of Clermont and approximately 100 kilometres north of Emerald.
The draft TOR are available at www.dip.qld.gov.au/carmichaelcoalmineandrail and will be available for review during opening hours at the display locations below from Monday 12 February 2011 to Monday 28 March 2011. ...
Canberra Urged To Scrap Fuel Rebates
Fuel rebates may have to be scrapped if Labor wants its climate change laws passed by the end of this year.
The Gillard government's goal of introducing a carbon price hinges on the Australian Greens, who will hold the balance of power in Senate come July.
The party's deputy leader Christine Milne said legislation could be passed by the end of this year, but hinted the government may have to scrap fuel rebates as part of a political deal.
"The clear thing Australia needs to do straight away, to get rid of this contradiction in energy policy, is take away the subsidies to the fossil fuels sector," Senator Milne told reporters in Canberra.
"It's clear you need complementary measures in addition to the carbon price."
The Greens have endorsed an Australia Institute report, which shows taxpayers spending $9 billion a year in fuel subsidies.
This figure includes tax rebates for company cars, aircraft fuel exemptions and mining industry credits.
"Proposing to introduce a carbon price while retaining existing fossil fuel subsidies is analogous to driving a car with the accelerator and the brake both pressed to the floor," the institute said in a policy brief released on Wednesday.
The government has released its own report showing greenhouse gas emissions growing at a faster pace than previously thought. ...
Journo Sources 'Must Be Protected'
Coast Mail' [10/2/11]:
Three journalists refusing to reveal their sources in a high-profile court case involving a former minister have the backing of the media union which says they are "bound by professional ethics".
The Age newspaper ran a story last February that businesswoman Helen Liu paid former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon $150,000 in circumstances suggesting corruption.
Her lawyers told the NSW Supreme Court this week that reporters Richard Baker, Nick McKenzie and Phillip Dorling may have been duped into running the story.
The lawyers also claim that some documents referred to in the article were forged.
Justice Lucy McCallum has been asked to make orders which would effectively compel the journalists, who have so far refused, to reveal their sources.
Media Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren today said the journalists were trying to cooperate with the court while protecting the identity of their sources.
New draft laws to give more protection to journalists and their confidential sources are currently before federal parliament and Mr Warren said the "moral weight" of the legislation "rests firmly on the side of journalists".
"It's ironic that even as the Commonwealth parliament prepares to pass legislation which would offer protection to journalists who are bound by their professional ethics not to reveal their confidential sources, three of our best investigative reporters are being pressured in the NSW courts to do that very thing," he said in a statement.
The main thrust of the bill will provide a presumption in favour of journalists not disclosing confidential sources.
However courts will still have the option to order disclosure if the public interest - for example danger to life - outweighs the damage that disclosure would cause to the journalist or source.
"Some Things Are Best Kept Secret"
What will it take for Australians to go Egyptian?
7 News [10/2/11]:
The Australian Greens are demanding the Gillard government explain whether it privately supports uranium sales to India.
Leaked WikiLeaks cables reveal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson told US officials in 2009 a deal to supply India with nuclear fuel could be reached within years.
The stance contradicts the government's public position of insisting that India sign up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty before being allowed to import Australian uranium.
Greens nuclear spokesman Scott Ludlum says it appears the government is playing a "double game".
"I swear some days you can smell the uranium on Martin Ferguson's breath," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
The Greens are demanding the government make a statement of clarification to parliament on Thursday.
Labor senator Doug Cameron says Australia should not entertain the idea of trading uranium with India until the developing nation met international obligations.
The opposition says it is encouraged by signs the government appears to be more flexible on uranium sales.
"It finally seems that the Labor party is showing some commonsense on this issue," opposition resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane told reporters, adding that it made no sense not to sell uranium to India.
India has been lobbying the Australian government to overturn its ban on uranium sales.
Australia controls the world's largest known resources of uranium, and is the third largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada.
Blah Blah Blah Blow It Out Your Bottom Brisbane Times With Your Bogus Bullshit Boogeymen Beatups
Police encounter dark side of floods Marissa Calligeros
February 10, 2011 - 3:55PM
Police arrested more than 80 people on 225 charges, including looting, wrongly claiming donations and posing as charity collectors, during Brisbane's flood last month.
A 200-strong police anti-looting squad, working under Operation Safeguard, arrested 81 people and ordered 99 people to move on, while making no less than 3688 checks on flood-affected streets in Brisbane and Ipswich.
It is understood 10 people were charged with 18 looting-related offences, most of them in the Brisbane area.
Three men were charged for allegedly graffiting a Queensland Rail train parked on high ground near Taringa station.
Police were unable to confirm how many people were arrested for fraudulently claiming donations or posing as charity workers.
The anti-looting squad, which was tasked for three weeks, was established after three men were arrested after they allegedly tried to steal boats floating down the Brisbane River.
Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett said police would continue heavily patrolling flood-affected areas, although Operation Safeguard was closed last week.
The Queensland Police Service recognises it could take some time before homes and businesses can be cleaned and reoccupied, and we are committed to ensuring that property owners do not have to deal with the additional stress of looting while they are trying to rebuild," he said.
If Queensland's fourth estate did some journalism for a change and refrained from publishing fabrications about looting, there wouldn't be any "additional stress".
Speaking truth to power on behalf of the citizenry isn't difficult. And if they're not able to do journalism, they could just rehash some of the stories (there were quite a few interesting ones about Brisbane today - 10/2/11) from the 'Australian Financial Review':
A tonne of copper sold for more than $US10,000 for the first time last week, the culmination of a price rally that has not escaped the attention of some criminals.
In Australia and elsewhere, the high value of copper is making it a target for thieves. There have been a spate of copper thefts from building sites and electrical supply companies in the ACT, a rise in the number of copper thefts from railway lines a Victoria, and two men were arrested in Sydney for stealing copper were from an electrical company in Zetland.
There have also been reports of increases in copper theft in Asia an the United States.
Queensland police reported no increase in copper theft, and said criminal activity fell when floods and cyclones hit the state. ...
Philip Bacon Galleries
In November, this long established Brisbane dealer bought for the Queensland Art Gallery a wooden door painted by Donald Friend in Ceylon in the late 1950s, paying $264,000 for the door at Sotheby's. Now, a few months later, he is showing a collection of never before exhibited drawings done by Friend between 1936 and 1940, along with some paintings. Also on view at his Fortitude Valley gallery until until March 5 is Ian Fairweather's Gethsemane, which he also bought at auction last year.
We Didn't See It Coming ...
An international audit of the International Monetory Fund has found serious deficiencies in the Washington-based agency's surveillance of the world economy in the lead-up to the global financial crisis.
In a damning assessment of its role in the years leading up to the crisis, the IMF's Independent Evaluation Office has criticised a "high degree of group think" that prevented the agency from recognising clear warning signs of the turmoil that hit global markets and the economy in 2008 and 2009 ...
Will Anything Be Left In Australian Hands?
US private euqity firm Paine & Partners is not in the running for Tassal after all. In fact, Paine boss Kevin Schwartz was spotted late last week in Tasmania, running the slide rule over the privately owned salmon producer Huon Aquaculture.
The word is Paine is being shown around town by ex-Elders chief executive Greg Hunt. Huon, in Hideaway Bay, Tasmania, is straining under debt to the tune of $60 million to $80 million funded by Rabobank. ...
Big South-West Fish Kill
Wayne Tingey from the Department of Water says there'll be an investigation but autopsies can not be conducted because the fish are badly decomposed.
He says it is possible the electronically controlled flood gates failed to open.
"What we've been able to do with the floodgates is use it to manage the water," he said.
"It's an automated system and we suspect they haven't operated to let the fish out and water in."
Car Dependent Suburbs Slums Of The Future
A study released by the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) in late 2010 found that "Australia will be forced to rely on huge quantities of imported oil unless it radically overhauls its transport and urban policies" according to The Age newspaper who reported on the findings. They also quote Peter Newman of Curtin University, one of the study's authors, as saying that,''urban sprawl is finished. If we continue to roll out new land releases and suburbs that are car-dependent, they will become the slums of the future.''
The Australian Planner is the national journal published by the PIA, and the current edition, December 2010, is a special issue on Peak Oil, entitled "Cities and Oil Vulnerability". Not an unknown subject to many readers of these pixels, but not the usual sort of material normally found in such an august publication as a national urban planning journal.
Which did raise a few eyebrows, resulting in some coverage of Peak Oil across some mainstream newspapers. Unfortunately the special issue is only available for reading by financial member of the Planning Institute of Australia. ...
Why Is The Gillard Government So Keen On Ripping Up Australia's Copper Network?
The copper didn't blow away. It's still there - so why not just reconnect it?
Computer World [102/11]:
With the apparent increased frequency of natural disasters, communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has suggested Telstra should consider the use of fibre, rather than copper, to reconnect customers affected by Cyclone Yasi and the January floods.
While copper would give Telstra a means to more quickly reconnect affected customers, the metal was more prone to environmental degradation, Conroy said. The more robust fibre, however, would take longer to deploy but stand strongly against the elements in the long term.
The advice I understand is that you can reconnect the copper reasonably quickly, under the current circumstances it would take time to relay the fibre so in the short term, it is probably more cost effective and quicker [to reconnect the copper] and thats the important part getting a service back on, Conroy said.
If there are areas where it becomes patently clear that its simpler to put in fibre then I think everyone would like to but at this stage to lay the fibre, get it connected, get the boxes on the side of the houses and all those changes youd need to make, it will probably take longer than just a reconnection of the existing copper.
According to Conroy, due largely to humidity, the state of the copper-based network in Queensland had been problematic for some time.
"There have been many stories for many years about plastic bags trying to keep the copper network together because its literally falling apart, Conroy said. "The further north you go from Sydney the more the humidity hits and theyve had more floods over the last few years the actual network on copper degrades in water and as Im sure you all know by now, fibre doesnt.
In addition, Conroy slammed a research report conducted by the Economic Intelligence Unit, which attacked the Australian Governments National Broadband Network (NBN) for its high cost and high level of public sector involvement.
Unfortunately their research failed to notice that in actual fact, were delivering a Gigabyte network which is exactly the same speed as the South Korean network, so its factually wrong in its [press releases] opening statement and it all goes down hill from there, Conroy said.
It uses a ranking system that says public investment is bad you get zero marks for public investment and you get ten out of ten for private investment, so surprisingly Australia ranked poorly in that particular criteria given that this is a public investment, it ignores the fact that it gets a commercial return, it ignores the fact that well privatise it down the track.
Conroy described the research, which noted Australias broadband plan will cost the taxpayer 24 times the as much as South Koreas but deliver services at just one tenth the speed, as ideological dogma with serious factual errors and claims the organisation clearly did not read the NBN Co business case released in December last year.
Trying to compare the rollout in South Korea to the rollout in Australia is just fraught with challenges and they failed most of them, he said. ...
Captive Nation - Egypt And The West
In 1886, Tolstoy wrote:Slavery has long been abolished. It was abolished in Rome, and in America, and in Russia, but what was abolished was the word and not the thing in itself. (Tolstoy, What Then Must We Do?, Green Classics, 1991, p.104)
In 2011, the thing in itself is alive and well in Egypt. What an extraordinary spectacle it is - a dictatorship behaving as though an entire people were its personal property. Henchmen aside, the people have spoken, almost as one, and their demands are very clear. The blunt government response, in effect: We react as we want. If we dont want to, we dont have to. Why? Because we have a monopoly of violence.
A government thus stands exposed for what it is, a parasite feeding off the people it claims to represent.
And what of the West? Obama - Washington's bargain basement bodhisattva - said:We pray that the violence in Egypt will end and that the rights and aspirations of the Egyptian people will be realised and that a better day will dawn over Egypt and throughout the world.
Tolstoy, again, had the perfect retort:I came to the simple and natural conclusion that if I pity a tired horse on which I am riding, the first thing I must do if I am really sorry for it, is to get off and walk on my own feet. (Tolstoy, op. cit., p.111)
But this the US elites pulling Obamas strings will never do of their own volition they have been riding the tired horse far too long. Thus, Hillary Clinton said of the Egyptian dictator on March 10, 2009:I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.
Thus, Middle East Envoy, Tony Blair, said of Mubarak on February 1, 2011:Well, where you stand on him depends on whether you've worked with him from the outside or on the inside. And for those of us who worked with him over the - particularly now I worked with him on the Middle East peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, so this is somebody I'm constantly in contact with and working with. And on that issue, I have to say, he's been immensely courageous and a force for good.
As ever, Blair knows: he is on the inside and has worked with him. As ever, Blair is sincere: I have to say - truth compels him. As ever, Blairs force for good is enforcing somebodys hell.
On January 30, 2011, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report, Work on Him Until He Confesses - Impunity for Torture in Egypt.
The report observes:According to Egyptian lawyers and domestic and international human rights groups law enforcement officials have used torture and ill-treatment on a widespread, deliberate, and systematic basis over the past two decades to glean confessions and information, or to punish detainees. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has confirmed the systematic nature of torture in Egypt.
Abuses include beatings, electric shocks, suspension in painful positions, forced standing for long periods, waterboarding, as well as rape and threatening to rape victims and their family.
The horrors constitute an epidemic of habitual, widespread, and deliberate torture perpetrated on a regular basis by security forces against political dissidents, Islamists allegedly engaged in terrorist activity, and ordinary citizens suspected of links to criminal activity or who simply look suspicious.
Our search of the LexisNexis database found that HRWs report has so far received three mentions in the national UK press. ...
Bush's Swiss Visit Off After Complaints On Torture
(Reuters) - Former President George W. Bush has canceled a visit to Switzerland, where he was to address a Jewish charity gala, due to the risk of legal action against him for alleged torture, rights groups said on Saturday.
Bush was to be the keynote speaker at Keren Hayesod's annual dinner on February 12 in Geneva. But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the Alpine country.
Criminal complaints against Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials say.
Human rights groups said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against Bush in the Swiss city on Monday for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba where captives from Afghanistan, Iraq and other fronts in the so-called War on Terror were interned.
Leftist groups had also called for a protest on the day of his visit next Saturday, leading Keren Hayesod's organizers to announce that they were cancelling Bush's participation on security grounds -- not because of the criminal complaints.
But groups including the New York-based Human Rights Watch and International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) said the cancellation was linked to growing moves to hold Bush accountable for torture, including waterboarding. He has admitted in his memoirs and television interviews to ordering use of the interrogation technique that simulates drowning.
"He's avoiding the handcuffs," Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.
The action in Switzerland showed Bush had reason to fear legal complaints against him if he travelled to countries that have ratified an international treaty banning torture, he said.
Brody is an American-trained lawyer specialized in pursuing war crimes worldwide, especially those allegedly ordered by former leaders, including Chile's late dictator Augusto Pinochet and Chad's ousted president Hissene Habre. Habre has been charged by Belgium with crimes against humanity and torture, and is currently exiled in Senegal....
Floods: Climate Link Can't Be Denied
... Professor Matthew England, joint director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW, told AAP on January 13: Climate change has seen a warming of waters globally, and the waters north of Australia are an important part of the climate system for Australias monsoon rains.
They are at their warmest ever measured and we cannot exclude climate change from contributing to this warmth.
Despite this, mainstream politicians and media outlets have sought to deny or downplay the connection.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh launched a commission of inquiry into the floods on January 17. She promised: We are not going to sweep anything under the carpet.
However, the commissions terms of reference exclude a study of the link between the floods and climate change. Bligh has been careful to not mention climate change at all since the flood disaster began.
In part, Bligh wants to shift the public discussion away from her governments craven support for the states big fossil fuel corporations.
Queensland is one of the worlds biggest coal exporters, and coalmining and coal burning is the biggest single source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Greens leader Bob Brown is right to demand the coal industry be taxed to help pay the cost of the predicted more severe and more frequent floods, droughts and bushfires in coming decades.
Like the tobacco companies before it, big coal should be made to pay compensation to Australians for the damage it has wreaked and the lives it has destroyed.
State and federal government subsidies to the coal industry, which amount to billions of dollars, should instead be spent on flood recovery and reconstruction. They could also help fund a transition away from coal towards renewable energy....
Who Are Your Politicians Working For?
'Sydney Morning Herald' [9/2/11]:
The official review used by the federal Labor government to justify its commitment to the multibillion-dollar US Joint Strike Fighter project was little more than a public relations exercise, according to comments by the former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon in secret talks with his American counterpart.
Mr Fitzgibbon candidly told the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, in February 2008 that the Air Combat Capability Review of Australia's future air power he had announced a week earlier was driven by domestic politics and unlikely to produce any result other than acquisition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter built by Lockheed Martin.
According to US embassy cables obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald, Mr Fitzgibbon made the admissions at a morning coffee session during the annual Australia-US Ministerial Meeting (AUSMIN) in Canberra.
He explained to Mr Gates that the newly-elected Labor government would review the former Howard government's decisions to retire the ageing F-111 bomber fleet, pursue the acquisition of JSFs to replace the F-111s and F/A-18 fighters, and purchase 24 Super Hornets as a stopgap until the first F-35s were delivered.
In opposition, Labor had been critical of the Coalition's move to acquire the JSF and had urged that Australia seek the lifting of a US congressional export ban in order to acquire the more capable F-22 Raptor. The F-22 was once described by the Defence Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, as ''the most outstanding fighter plane ever built''.
Labor repeatedly warned that likely time delays and cost blow-outs with the JSF could compromise capability with the result that Australia could ''end up getting into trouble''. In January 2008, Mr Fitzgibbon reiterated Labor's intention to ''pursue American politicians for access to the Raptor. We are well placed to talk to Democrats on the Hill about it, and I want it to be part of the mix.'' But the following month, at AUSMIN, Mr Fitzgibbon was quick to assure the US government that such statements had been merely ''political'' and that Washington could be confident that the F-35 acquisition would proceed.
The US record of the discussion, approved by Mr Gates, says Mr Fitzgibbon ''expressed his opinion that the review would likely not result in any decision other than to keep the JSF and continue with the Super Hornet purchase, explaining that the government felt it had to respond to Australian public concerns that the previous government had not based these decisions on capability requirements but rather on political expediency.
''The Defence Minister stated that 'aircraft acquisition is now a topic of broad public discussion; every man in every hotel [bar] is talking about Super Hornets' so the Labor government needs to do a public review,'' the discussion record said.
Mr Fitzgibbon's successor as defence minister, Senator John Faulkner, announced in November 2009 that the government had committed to placing a first order for 14 Joint Strike Fighters at a cost of $3.2 billion with deliveries to begin in 2014.
Still Scratching My Head Why Rudd Had To Go
Surely It Wasn't Because He Said "Sorry"?
In the months leading up to the coup, there was plenty of honest criticism of Rudd and his right wing/neoliberal/christian fundamentalist leaning policies. But it's still a mystery why he had to be shafted and replaced by an even more extreme mob:
New Matilda [8/2/11]:
A little-noticed casualty of the leadership coup which saw Julia Gillard installed as Prime Minister was the modest progress made by Kevin Rudd to fashion a "principled" position on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Under Rudd, Australia was making a series of steps away from its reflex pro-Israel position under John Howard and away from the Washington line.
On taking office in 2007, Labor had the political savvy to get controversial decisions made quickly, while its reputation was still unsullied and before resolve could crumble under Canberras lobbying system. And at the UN, it seized an early opportunity to signal that foreign policy was under new management, supporting a resolution calling on Israel to stop establishing settlements in the Palestinian territories and a resolution calling for the Geneva Conventions to apply there.
These basic tenets of international law and humanitarian law are accepted, notionally, by the entire international community, but a vote is held annually at the General Assembly (GA), if only to isolate and attempt to embarrass those countries sufficiently brazen to make what is, in effect, a public declaration that Israel should be exempt. In 2003, Australia joined the "hard core" of those voting against this declaration: Israel itself, the United States and four Pacific micro-states whose votes have essentially been bought the US Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Micronesia.
Under Rudd, Australian officials told the UN in 2008 that the Government had changed its position because it supported a two-state resolution of the conflict to deliver a secure Israel living beside a viable Palestinian state and that Australia believed both sides should abide by their obligations under the Road Map for Peace. Australia said it was concerned that continued settlement-building activity would undermine confidence in the negotiations.
Ominously in light of the sequence of events that was to follow the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Robert Goot, was quoted in the Fairfax media as being "concerned" over the switch. "We are concerned that the vote has changed, we do not understand the basis for the change", he said.
Those concerns, we may assume, would only have intensified with the publication of the Goldstone report, with its detailed consideration of evidence that both Israel and Hamas broke international humanitarian law during "Operation Cast Lead", Israels attack on Gaza which started at the very end of 2008.
Initially, Australia voted at the GA against referring the report to the UN Security Council. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith complained about Goldstones "unbalanced focus on Israel [and] insufficient attention to Hamas actions prior to the conflict, especially rocket attacks".
This was a "holding position": a line hastily lashed together on the assumption justified, as it turned out that Canberra would not have to undergo any serious media scrutiny on the issue. (In fact, Goldstone investigated and dismissed the Israeli propaganda claim that Hamas rockets were responsible for breaking the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. The truce had held successfully for six months until a raid in the Strip by Israeli commandoes in November 2008 brought it to breaking point).
Events took a novel twist when a second resolution, amended to demand that Israel and the Palestinians follow up Goldstones evidence to investigate possible war crimes in the attack, was tabled at the GA. Now, Australia switched its vote, from a "no" to an "abstain".
This was shortly after the "fake passports affair", when a Hamas military commander, Mahmoud al-Mabouh, was killed in a Dubai hotel room apparently by a team of Mossad agents who used counterfeit travel documents including three forged Australian passports. "Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend", Smith said, and later, Canberra expelled an Israeli diplomat in retaliation. This was the "harder" of the two "lines" adopted by the countries concerned: in France and Germany, for instance countries whose passports were also faked for the exercise the local Israeli ambassadors were called in by the respective foreign ministries for a dressing-down.
Any one of these steps was small in itself, but, added together, they sent a clear signal in the highly coded language of diplomacy.
Meanwhile, however, Australias pro-Israel lobby had begun to mobilise. Peter Hartcher, the Sydney Morning Heralds well-connected political editor, recounted how the Jewish community was now declaring itself "too busy" to join in fundraising for Labors re-election campaign, whereas, in the heady days of Kevin 07, "a single lunch in Sydney raised $100,000. A Toorak tennis court party, attended by Rudd and Julia Gillard, raised more". More recently, a meeting over dinner at the Lodge in June 2010, intended to smooth relations with Jewish leaders, was brokered by Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus and included leading parliamentary supporters of Israel and luminaries of the Labor Right.
Why risk this cosy relationship? Rudd had other fish to fry, thats why.
Australia had set its cap at winning a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The first attempt had attracted a solitary vote (our own, we must assume) but, undeterred, DFAT pressed on with its campaign for a place at the top table for the session in 2013-14. Indeed, it recently sent round a leaflet extolling Australias virtues to other foreign ministries appealing for support.
Shortly before the Lodge dinner, Ambassador Hesham Youssef, chef de cabinet to the Secretary-General of the Arab League at its office in Washington, DC, made a visit to Australia. After meeting with MPs and officials, he came to the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, DFAT minder in tow, for a chat with me, and my colleague, Professor Stuart Rees, Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation.
He had informed everyone he met in Canberra, Ambassador Youssef explained, that Australia could look to the Arab countries to support its Security Council bid only if it took steps to distance itself from Washington on issues arising from the Israel-Palestine conflict.
All in all, then, these were optimistic days, for those wishing for a more even-handed line from Australia on this litmus-test issue of international affairs. And the steady accretion of infinitesimal gradations seemed to be in line with public opinion. A poll by Roy Morgan research, conducted for the pressure group, the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine, found that Australians felt more sympathy for the Palestinians, and expressed more support for their position, over the attack on Gaza, than for the Israelis or their position.
But for those opposed to such developments, an alternative strategy was taking shape. At the time of "Cast Lead", Australias response was given, not by Rudd himself who was taking a short break between Christmas and New Year but by Gillard, standing in for him. She characterised the onslaught as no more than Israel exercising its "right to defend itself".
Weeks later, she became the first world leader since the attack to make an official visit to Israel, at the head of a bipartisan political and business deputation (accompanied by former Treasurer Peter Costello for the Opposition) to fulsome thanks from her hosts for having been "almost alone in sticking by us". A study of the transcripts of her speeches and press conferences reveals that the word, Gaza, never once passed her lips.
And we now know thanks to Wikileaks that at the same time in Canberra, another key figure on the Labor Right, NSW Senator Mark Arbib, was briefing his handlers at the US embassy on Rudds travails, and the credentials of his deputy to take over. Leaked cables reveal Arbib to be a longstanding American intelligence asset. And at some point in this period, the wish became father to the deed: Arbib was not merely discussing the possibility of Rudds ouster, but playing a leading role in organising it. By the time Labors leadership spill brought the underlying tensions into the open, Rudds fate was already sealed by the numbers Arbib had stacked up behind the scenes.
Under Gillard, Australia has reverted to its previous form. At the UN vote last November, we were back with the not-so-magnificent seven, voting against a resolution which "reaffirmed the illegality of Israeli actions intended to change the status of Jerusalem Reaffirming its commitment to the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognised borders, the Assembly also stressed the need for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem".
So, was there an elaborate plot, involving the active connivance of pro-Israel groups, the US embassy, the mining industry and the Right faction of the ALP, and kept successfully secret, to bring Rudd down and install Gillard in his place? To pose the question in those terms is to stretch credulity, but of course there is a way to answer it, which resonates with abundant life experience, and is encapsulated in another question: cui bono? Or perhaps we could simply say: Go Figure.
ABC Coast FM Discriminates Against Childless
Today [9/2/11] Coast FM [91.7] announced a new segment during their "Drive" program.
Evidently it's a "Homework Quiz" where listeners can participate and find out if they're as smart as their kids.
But what about listeners who don't have kids - whether it's because are single, they can't have kids, or they have chosen not to have kids? Perhaps their child recently died of cancer or they are a Buddhist monk?
Even if this segment doesn't breach the national broadcaster's charter, didn't the ABC once endeavour to be a broadcaster for all Australians, and not deliberately divide communities and exclude those of us who don't conform to the desired stereotype?
This lame "Homework Quiz" is yet another example of the national broadcaster's creepingly creepy backward tone that ties in with the deliberate downmarketing of the ABC - particularly local radio.
Assange Supporters To Rally In Brisbane
Supporters of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, will rally in Brisbane as he waits to hear if he'll be extradited from Britain to Sweden on sex charges.
Organisers said Wednesday's rally is intended as a challenge to the Gillard government, which they say has failed to properly support the Australian whistleblower.
"The protest ... will be important, both as a political challenge to the Gillard government which has failed to extend support to Assange and a morale boost to both Assange and Bradley Manning, the young US soldier jailed for releasing the US Embassy cables," said Brisbane Wikileaks Defence member, Rebecca Barrigos.
Supporters claim the sex allegations against Assange have been trumped up to silence him after the release of classified documents on his WikiLeaks website.
Barrigos said hundreds were expected to attend the rally from 5.30pm (AEST) in Brisbane's King George Square.
An extradition hearing for Assange will resume in London on Friday.
Get Your Shit Together Because Closing The Gap Is Your Responsibility
Ms Gillard made the comments while delivering the Federal Government's annual Closing the Gap report card on the progress being made to tackle Indigenous disadvantage.
She told Parliament the biggest challenge by far was improving the life expectancy rates of Indigenous people within the next 30 years.
To meet the Government's targets, life expectancy rates will need to increase by over 20 years for Indigenous men and over 16 years for women.
Ms Gillard said it would not be possible to meet those targets any earlier.
The Prime Minister also spoke of efforts to meet the six main targets set down after then-prime minister Kevin Rudd's national apology to Indigenous Australians in 2008.
These include halving infant mortality rates, as well as boosting writing and literacy rates and getting more people into jobs.
She touched on recent changes, including that Opal fuel had cut petrol sniffing across communities by 70 per cent.
She said 316 new homes had been built and more than 800 refurbished under Government initiatives.
But she said Indigenous people should expect of themselves the same things that all Australians expect.
"To take care of your children, to take a job when you can find one, to create a safe environment to send your kids to school, pay your rent, save up for a home, respect good social norms, and to respect the law and to reach out to other Australians," Ms Gillard said.
"We share the responsibility for change. I don't mean as non-Indigenous people or Indigenous people. I mean as adults."
Ms Gillard said it was time to stop the cycle of blame between governments on Indigenous issues, saying such attitudes were destructive and wrong.
"I am certain that we will never close the gap without everyone committing to change - we need not to change alone, but to change together," she said.
"Closing the gap is more than a public policy. It is a national goal." ...
Uranium Mine Leak '5400 Times Normal Level'
The Office of the Supervising Scientist is the environmental regulator of the Ranger uranium mine, which is owned by Energy Resources of Australia.
The office today told the committee that water seeping from underneath the dam has about 5,400 times the level of uranium than the natural background level.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says the environmental regulator told the committee about 100,000 litres of water seeps from the tailings dam every day.
Mr Ludlam says the water has been leaking from the dam for years.
He says the regulator says it will be impossible to rehabilitate the site.
"The uranium concentation in the billabong surrounding the mine are about three to five parts per billion," he said.
"But the uranium in the processed water that is leaking from beneath the tailings dam is 27,000 parts per billion.
"So it's roughly 5,500 times as much uramium in that water as there is the surrounding environment and that means the company has got a huge problem."
He says ERA must make clear the effect it is having on the nearby environment.
"ERA made a quarter of a billion dollars in profit last year," he said.
"I think the least they can do for the cultural and environmental integrity of Kakadu National Park is do some proper water quality sampling so we know what kind of contamination we are dealing with."
ERA says it cannot confirm the uranium concentration figure because it says it does not know the context in which it was reported.
The company refutes that 100,000 litres a day are leaking from the dam.
It says the Ranger uranium mine is one of the most environmentally regulated mines in the world.
ABC Staff Go Sightseeing
Booooooo! Though you will never see any evidence I actually exist, I am the sightseeing boogeyman!
As conditions eased, I finally got my glimpse of the city that I call home.
It was a mess - powerlines and huge trees were strewn everywhere.
Outside, the roads were a dangerous place to be as 120 kilometre per hour winds mixed with motorists, who forgot the 'give way to your right' rule in a city without power.
I later drove through the streets of Townsville and stopped by my home and while there was damage, I knew that it could have been much worse and for other communities - it would have been.
Along Townsville's iconic Strand, waves were lapping at the rock walls, a unique sight for a community usually protected from waves by the Great Barrier Reef.
It took days for me to see pictures of the wider region and I suddenly realised just how lucky I had it.
I know the communities like Tully, Mission Beach and Cardwell have worn the worst of Yasi and perhaps some of the hardest times are yet to come.
But the residents are strong and I have no doubt they will recover, perhaps just with the odd hug and beer thrown in for good measure.
For me, it was a unique and special time to be able to cover the story - not only as a journalist but as a local resident as well.
WikiLeaks Cables: Saudi Arabia Cannot Pump Enough Oil To Keep A Lid On Prices
The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.
The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom's crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels nearly 40%.
The revelation comes as the oil price has soared in recent weeks to more than $100 a barrel on global demand and tensions in the Middle East. Many analysts expect that the Saudis and their Opec cartel partners would pump more oil if rising prices threatened to choke off demand.
However, Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, met the US consul general in Riyadh in November 2007 and told the US diplomat that Aramco's 12.5m barrel-a-day capacity needed to keep a lid on prices could not be reached.
According to the cables, which date between 2007-09, Husseini said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12m barrels a day in 10 years but before then possibly as early as 2012 global oil production would have hit its highest point. This crunch point is known as "peak oil".
Husseini said that at that point Aramco would not be able to stop the rise of global oil prices because the Saudi energy industry had overstated its recoverable reserves to spur foreign investment. He argued that Aramco had badly underestimated the time needed to bring new oil on tap.
One cable said: "According to al-Husseini, the crux of the issue is twofold. First, it is possible that Saudi reserves are not as bountiful as sometimes described, and the timeline for their production not as unrestrained as Aramco and energy optimists would like to portray."
It went on: "In a presentation, Abdallah al-Saif, current Aramco senior vice-president for exploration, reported that Aramco has 716bn barrels of total reserves, of which 51% are recoverable, and that in 20 years Aramco will have 900bn barrels of reserves.
"Al-Husseini disagrees with this analysis, believing Aramco's reserves are overstated by as much as 300bn barrels. In his view once 50% of original proven reserves has been reached a steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it. He believes that what will result is a plateau in total output that will last approximately 15 years followed by decreasing output."
The US consul then told Washington: "While al-Husseini fundamentally contradicts the Aramco company line, he is no doomsday theorist. His pedigree, experience and outlook demand that his predictions be thoughtfully considered."
Seven months later, the US embassy in Riyadh went further in two more cables. "Our mission now questions how much the Saudis can now substantively influence the crude markets over the long term. Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period."
A fourth cable, in October 2009, claimed that escalating electricity demand by Saudi Arabia may further constrain Saudi oil exports. "Demand [for electricity] is expected to grow 10% a year over the next decade as a result of population and economic growth. As a result it will need to double its generation capacity to 68,000MW in 2018," it said.
It also reported major project delays and accidents as "evidence that the Saudi Aramco is having to run harder to stay in place to replace the decline in existing production." While fears of premature "peak oil" and Saudi production problems had been expressed before, no US official has come close to saying this in public.
In the last two years, other senior energy analysts have backed Husseini. Fatih Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian last year that conventional crude output could plateau in 2020, a development that was "not good news" for a world still heavily dependent on petroleum.
Jeremy Leggett, convenor of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, said: "We are asleep at the wheel here: choosing to ignore a threat to the global economy that is quite as bad as the credit crunch, quite possibly worse."
Signs of Change Says Bolivias Morales As World Social Forum Opens
DAKAR, Feb 6, 2011 (IPS) - Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Dakar on Sunday to mark the start of the annual World Social Forum. Activists carried colorful banners denouncing land grabs, restrictive immigration laws, agricultural subsidies in Europe and the U.S. and many other issues.
Others sang freedom songs and played drums whilst marching peacefully through the streets along a route that began near the offices of Senegal's public broadcaster, RTS, and ended at the Cheikh Anta Diop University, the main venue for the weeklong gathering.
Bolivian president Evo Morales, who took part in the march, invited his counterparts from poor countries to take part in this event.
"There must be awareness and a mobilisation to put an end to capitalism and clear away invaders, neocolonialists and imperialists [...] I support the popular uprisings in Tunisia and in Egypt. These are signs of change," said Morales, a former trade union leader who is a regular participant in anti-globalisation movement gatherings.
"There must be resistance and awareness. There must be a programme of social struggle to build a new world," he said.
"We must save humanity, and to do that, we must know our enemies. The enemies of the people are neocolonialists and imperialists. We must put an end to the capitalist model and put another in its place. It's necessary to get rid of the rich and change the world."
The mayor of Dakar welcomed participants, but other senior members of the Senegalese government were absent; President Abdoulaye Wade himself is out of the country, though he is scheduled to take part in an event alongside the Brazilian president later in the week.
The World Social Forum defines itself as an open space where those "opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking."
As this year's event is being held in Senegal, many of the discussions will revolve around what organisers term the crisis of civilisation and capitalism gripping Africa and the rest of the world.
"This forum must contribute to changing the world. It's a chance for all those who represent the world's downtrodden to speak amongst themselves," said Senegalese historian Boubacar Diop Buuba, a professor at the Cheikh Anta Diop University.
Philip Kumah, a Ghanaian social worker who works for Amnesty International, said, "We are calling for an end to injustice in our country where the government is robbing communities of their land. This forum is a chance for our government to lend an attentive ear to our complaints."
For activist Beverley Keene, from Buenos Aires, holding the forum in Africa is an important milestone. "Its our time to learn from each other and assess the impact that the financial crisis and the looting of the peoples minerals have on livelihoods."
The financial crisis is prominent among the themes to be debated at the six-day forum seeking alternatives to "the crisis of the capitalist system."
Italian feminist Sabrina Viche said the event is also an opportunity to listen to African women. "I came to Dakar to give my support to all the women of Africa, who struggle to ensure their voices are heard, I want to hear from them what their struggles are and how we in the North can support them."
But it is not enough to meet, Canet Raphael, a sociologist from Montréal, Canada, told IPS. "People must know what a social forum is for. The spirit of the World Social Forum has its roots in grassroots social movements."
Thierry Tulasne, who works on migration issues for a Canadian organisation said, "I'm not sure that social movements can change the world in the near future. But I am sure that little drops of water eventually become rivers."
2008 diplomatic cable published by the Daily Telegraph quotes Israeli official as saying that Israel was 'most comfortable' with prospect of Omar Suleiman becoming Egypt's next leader.
By The Associated Press
February 07, 2011 "Haaretz" --- Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman was long seen by Israel as the preferred candidate to succeed President Hosni Mubarak, secret U.S. diplomatic cables published Monday suggested.
According to an August 2008 cable released by WikiLeaks and published by the Daily Telegraph newspaper on its website, a senior adviser from the Israeli Ministry of Defense told U.S. diplomats in Tel Aviv that the Israelis believe Suleiman would likely serve as "at least an interim president if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated."
A U.S. diplomat who classified the cable, Luis Moreno, wrote that although he deferred to the Embassy in Cairo for Egyptian succession scenario analysis, "there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of" Suleiman.
The cable quoted the adviser to Israel's defense ministry, David Hacham, as saying an Israeli delegation led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak was "shocked by Mubarak's aged appearance and slurred speech," when it met him in Egypt. "Hacham was full of praise for Soliman, however," it said. Suleiman was spelled Soliman in some of the leaked cables.
Hacham added that he sometimes spoke to Suleiman's deputy several times a day via a "hotline," according to the cable.
On Sunday, Suleiman met several major opposition groups, including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, for the first time and offered new concessions including freedom of the press and the release of those detained during the country's recent violent protests.
The CPBF has send the following statement of support and solidarity with journalists and other media workers in Egypt to the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate. The Egyptian government's continued attacks on journalists and the previous unprecedented blackout of the nation's Internet and mobile phone services, are a serious attack on the rights of free expression, assembly and the right to report and should be reversed immediately. ...
Whilst secret talks appear to continue at the DCMS between Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Murdochs News Corporation about the future of BSkyB and possible remedies to avoid a reference of the bid to the Competition Commission, the CPBF's Granville Williams has highlighted examples of previous so called remedies that have proved hollow. ...
Rupert Murdoch has dominated the UK media scene for 30 years and the biggest step he took was when he moved his four national newspapers to a new non-union plant in Wapping in east London and sacked 5,500 people. That was January 1986 and the year long strike that followed has gone down in history as the Wapping dispute. The CPBF marked this 25th anniversary with a public meeting in London on 25 January which attracted 200 people, and this Radio Free Press Podcast. Presented by former BBC political correspondent Nick Jones - who reported the Wapping dispute - it features:
Ann Field, former official with the print union SOGAT and a union activist on The Times;
John Baily, a chapel father for the NGA print union at the Sun;
Granville Williams, the leading left-wing commentator on media ownership and regulation; and
Tim Gopsill, editor of Free Press.
You can hear it on our website - www.cpbf.org.uk - or follow the link below to download the podcast.
Defending a Dictator
US Envoy's Business Link to Egypt
Obama scrambles to limit damage after Frank Wisner makes robust call for Mubarak to remain in place as leader.
By Robert Fisk in Cairo
February 07, 2011 "Independent" -- -Frank Wisner, President Barack Obama's envoy to Cairo who infuriated the White House this weekend by urging Hosni Mubarak to remain President of Egypt, works for a New York and Washington law firm which works for the dictator's own Egyptian government.
Mr Wisner's astonishing remarks "President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical: it's his opportunity to write his own legacy" shocked the democratic opposition in Egypt and called into question Mr Obama's judgement, as well as that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The US State Department and Mr Wisner himself have now both claimed that his remarks were made in a "personal capacity". But there is nothing "personal" about Mr Wisner's connections with the litigation firm Patton Boggs, which openly boasts that it advises "the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government's behalf in Europe and the US". Oddly, not a single journalist raised this extraordinary connection with US government officials nor the blatant conflict of interest it appears to represent.
Mr Wisner is a retired State Department 36-year career diplomat he served as US ambassador to Egypt, Zambia, the Philippines and India under eight American presidents. In other words, he was not a political appointee. But it is inconceivable Hillary Clinton did not know of his employment by a company that works for the very dictator which Mr Wisner now defends in the face of a massive democratic opposition in Egypt.
So why on earth was he sent to talk to Mubarak, who is in effect a client of Mr Wisner's current employers?
Patton Boggs states that its attorneys "represent some of the leading Egyptian commercial families and their companies" and "have been involved in oil and gas and telecommunications infrastructure projects on their behalf". One of its partners served as chairman of the US-Egyptian Chamber of Commerce promoting foreign investment in the Egyptian economy. The company has also managed contractor disputes in military-sales agreements arising under the US Foreign Military Sales Act. Washington gives around $1.3bn (£800m) a year to the Egyptian military. ...
Australia's last remaining listed sugar company The Maryborough Sugar Factory Ltd says it is seeking to close its Babinda Mill joint-venture with Bundaberg Sugar Ltd in Queensland.
Under the proposal, which the company says is subject to consultation with staff and union representatives, operations at Babinda, south of Cairns, would be transferred to the Mulgrave and South Johnstone mills.
"This proposal would create a world-competitive long-term sustainable sugar industry in far north Queensland," Maryborough Sugar Factory said in a statement on Tuesday.
Industry body Canegrowers expressed shock and surprise at the proposed closure.
Canegrowers chief executive Steve Greenwood said there was no consultation ahead of the proposal being made public and he would be seeking urgent meetings with the joint-venture partners.
"We heard news of the proposal to close the mill at the same time as the general public and the media," Mr Greenwood said in a statement.
"We are equal partners in this and clearly the lack of consultation has come as quite a shock to us."
Joint-venture operations manager and Maryborough Sugar Factory chief executive Mike Barry said the proposed closure was due to the loss of large cane areas in the region over the past 10 years.
Some of the 62 permanent employees at Babinda would be made redundant but the company said it would try to redeploy as many employees as practicable.
All Babinda Mill apprentices would continue their training until completion and all entitlements honoured, Mr Barry said.
A final decision on the proposed closure was likely to take place in about two weeks, the company said.
Maryborough was the last sugar company left standing on the Australian Securities Exchange after CSR Ltd successfully offloaded its Sucrogen business to Singapore-based agribusiness Wilmar International for $1.843 billion in December last year.
Maryborough Sugar Factory shares gained seven cents, or 2.13 per cent, to close at $3.35 on Tuesday.
Officer Fined For Assaulting Homeless Man
Homeless man Bruce Rowe was found guilty in June 2006 of obstructing police and failing to obey a move-on direction, but that was later overturned on appeal.
Surveillance footage of the Queen Street Mall showed four officers pinning Mr Rowe to the ground as one officer repeatedly drove his knee into his leg.
Both an internal and external investigation cleared Benjamin Arndt of any wrongdoing, but Mr Rowe launched his own prosecution against the constable.
Today Magistrate Bradford Morgan found the police officer guilty of common assault.
A conviction was not recorded.
Arndt has been ordered to pay costs of more than $2,000 and has been fined $1,000.
Mr Rowe says he feels vindicated by the decision.
"It's been said by the police that it was done in good faith - that's not the case at all," he said.
"It was just gratuitous violence against a very soft target."
Arndt will appeal against the decision.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers says the union is standing behind him.
"It simply doesn't make sense at all because a District Court has found the force used was reasonable," he said.
"What we'll do is explore all legal avenues and lodge an appeal because this is not over yet."
Valencia Bar Owners Demonstrate Against Spain's Smoking Ban
Central government offices in Valencia were the scene on Monday for a protest by bar and restaurant owners against the new anti-smoking legislation which came into force on January 2.
Its now an offence to smoke in closed public spaces, and Valencia business owners in the sector are demanding changes in the law to stop their businesses suffering the catastrophic effects of the ban. El Mundo reports some 200 protesters at the demonstration.
Another protest is due on February 21 outside of the Congress of Deputies in Madrid.
Juan Carlos Gelabert, of the FEHV Valencia Federation of Hostelry Businesses, has suggested creating separate areas for smokers or allowing smaller businesses to choose if they want to allow smoking on the premises or not. Those were, in fact, two options which were included in Spains previous anti-smoking legislation which had been in place since 2006 and was superseded by the new law.
Its also in Valencia where a platform is coordinated for the tea shops which are against the new legislation. They have found themselves suffering from the ban, as much of their business comes from the hookah pipes they offer to their customers.
In Málaga province, one tea shop owner told El Mundo newspaper that hes lost 80% of his customers as he can no longer put out the pipes in the bar.
The paper indicates the sector may be considering a petition to be followed by a national demonstration in Madrid.
How Does Giving Rupert Murdoch Money Do Anything About Climate Change?
Why does GetUp! keep using donations from its supporters to advertise in the Murdoch press?
Email from GetUp! to supporters [8/2/11]:
"We ain't seen nothing yet"--The Government's Climate Advisor Ross Garnaut on the extreme weather devastating Australia.1 Click here to stand up for renewable energy over dangerous fossil fuel pollution.
In order to pay for a flood disaster made more likely by dangerous fossil fuel pollution,2 the Gillard Government wants to cut or defer $250 million from the Solar Flagships program, meant to fund large-scale solar power stations in Australia.
But we've found a $600m loophole in the way polluting crude oil production is taxed. If closed, it would easily allow the Prime Minister to keep supporting renewable energy while helping Queenslanders and Victorians.
The flood package is being debated in Parliament this week, so we need to act urgently to influence the Prime Minister. That's why we've designed Australia's first full page political cartoon ad. It's sure to have politicians spilling their coffees over their morning papers this week.
Click here to get a full page ad in The Australian that confronts the Government with the absurdity of the current proposal.
Here's how the loophole works: having previously promised to tax the crude oil produced by gas companies as a by-product of production (known as condensate) the former Rudd Government gave in to industry lobbyists who bullied politicians into giving them a cheaper tax rate for their polluting oil production if their facility was built before 18 September 1975.
It's an arbitrary policy that was the result of industry lobbying. Just a fortnight ago, Treasury estimated that this benefits the bottom line of big polluters to the tune of $600 million a year.
As significant parts of Victoria are still underwater, as bushfires rage in Western Australia and as Sydney emerges from the biggest heatwave since records started in 1858, we know that cutting clean energy programs is the last thing we should be doing.
Click on this link to see the cartoon and fund the ad: http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/DontCutSolar
Thank you for speaking out,
The GetUp Team
PS -- We're hiring! Are you a talented campaigner? Or can you help us get organized as we scale our work as our Executive Officer? Know someone who you think would be great? Suggest someone to us (or suggest yourself) here
1 Taylor, Lenore, 'Future cyclones could be more extreme: Garnaut', The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 February 2011.
2Hennessy et al., 'Australia and New Zealand' in Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 507-540, 2007.
GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations. If you'd like to contribute to help fund GetUp's work, please donate now! If you have trouble with any links in this email, please go directly to www.getup.org.au. To unsubscribe from GetUp, please click here.
Authorised by Simon Sheikh, Level 5, 116 Kippax St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Is this some kind of cruel joke, or are GetUp! not really serious about tackling the Gillard Government's inaction on climate change?
When Will Australia's Media Report On Studies Into The Harmful Effects Of Pharmaceuticals On Growing Minds And Bodies?
Or How Exposure To Cyclical, Fascist Talking Points Infantilizes A Population?
Reefer Madness (originally released as Tell Your Children) is a well known 1936 American exploitation film revolving around the melodramatic events that ensue when high school students are lured by pushers to try "marihuana" from a hit and run accident, to manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, and descent into madness. The film was directed by Louis Gasnier and starred a cast composed of mostly unknown bit actors. ...
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of previous studies containing more than 20,000 patients and found cannabis users experienced psychosis more than two-and-a-half years earlier than non-cannabis users.
The study also found stopping or reducing cannabis use could delay, or even prevent, some cases of psychosis.
The risks are especially high for young people whose brains are still developing. ...
The Market Needs Its Head Read And The Weather Should Pull Its Head In
CHARLIE AITKEN: Yeah, that was actually very surprising, though, I have to say. The share market just comes up with something every day where you scratch your head.
AGL downgraded earnings by about 8 per cent - either way you cut it, it was an 8 per cent earnings downgrade.
It's interesting though because the market is sort of believing some people who blame the weather - like AGL - and saying maybe it was a one-off event for them but not believing other people who blame the weather, like Myer trying to blame the weather a bit today as well.
So, one thing I'm sick of is hearing about the weather. We all know about the weather. But it'd be nice if we could get through the reporting season without any more weather comments. ...
Pilger, Wilkie, Burnside To Defend WikiLeaks
Green Left Weekly [6/2/11]:
As momentous events in Egypt demonstrate, much of the world is calling to account an old order. These are exciting times for the possibilities of real change in the way our societies are run.
One of the catalysts of the people power we see on our TV screens is the extraordinary disclosure of secret information that tells us how wars begin and governments manipulate and deceive in our name.
In the tradition of courageous investigative journalism, WikiLeaks has blown the whistles that alert us to these injustices and lies, serving a basic democratic need.
The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is an Australian.
Instead of democratic governments praising such a spectacle of empowering information what Thomas Jefferson called the currency of democracy this Australian citizen has been attacked, his life threatened.
Among the attackers has been the Australian Prime Minister.
A unique public forum, Breaking Australias Silence: WikiLeaks and Freedom will take place on March 16 at Sydney Town Hall.
It is staged by the Sydney Peace Foundation, Amnesty International, Action for Peace, GetUp, the Stop the War Coalition, and supported by the City of Sydney.
The Sydney event will feature three renowned speakers: award-winning journalist John Pilger, whistle-blowing Andrew Wilkie, the only serving Western intelligence officer to break cover and expose the truth about the invasion of Iraq, and the human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC.
Broadcaster Mary Kostakidis will moderate the public forum.
The goal of the Town Hall meeting is to both ignite and engage a public forum that will break Australias silence on the responsibilities of our own government towards its citizens, and, above all, the right of all of us to free speech, based on information that calls to account those who claim to speak in our name.
[The public forum will take place on March 16, 6.30pm at Sydney Town Hall. Admission is free.]
Bye Bye Julia, And Your Politics Of The Possible
... LIZ JACKSON: What do you think about the assessment that the policy that you proposed was determined "one eye on the polls and one eye on the media"?
JULIA GILLARD: Oh complete nonsense.
LIZ JACKSON: Complete nonsense?
JULIA GILLARD: Complete nonsense.
LIZ JACKSON: Five years later the Labor government would abolish temporary protection visas, declaring they were "inhumane".Thursday 15 May, 2008
CHRIS EVANS, SENATOR (Archival footage, 15 May, 2008): We are very proud of that, because it was an inhumane treatment of people found to be refugees by international legal principle.
LIZ JACKSON: Did you come to realise that the policy you proposed retaining was inhumane?
JULIA GILLARD: Well, I think Labor moved because we recognised that they were ineffective and were causing this additional problem of more people coming by boat.
LIZ JACKSON: Well the word used by the Minister was inhumane.
JULIA GILLARD: Look, I wouldn't use that word, but I became persuaded of the view that it was right to move on the question of temporary protection visas.
CARMEN LAWRENCE: Well I think she comes from that school of politics that is the art of the possible and I guess the argument is always about what's possible. Julia's probably more conservative on that front than people like myself.
She'd be someone I think who would look hard and long at the community sentiment and go with it to an extent I think, on some issues that's greater than that some of us.
Having said that, I think she doesn't always simply take up the populist view, that she's capable of, as I say, mounting an argument and putting it clearly. And I hope that that's a side of her character that we see more of in the next few years. ...
No It Hasn't
You cannot keep squeezing the citizenry for the benefit of the mining industry.
Business Spectator [7/2/11]:
Prime Minister Julia Gillard's flood levy has gained majority support among voters, but Labor has recorded is lowest support since Ms Gillard took office, according to the latest Newspoll.
The poll, published in The Australian newspaper [a totally discredited 'shit-rag' - Ed.], shows 55 per cent of voters are somewhat or strongly in favour of the $1.8 billion proposed flood levy. ...
Charities say flood levy critical
Charities and community groups helping Queenslanders rebuild their lives are demanding federal MPs support the levy.
Groups, including the St Vincent De Paul Society and Salvation Army, say the levy is crucial for people and communities shattered by the summer floods and cyclone Yasi.
"Our call for parliament to act quickly is motivated by the need to ensure people receive the help they need," Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie told AAP.
Ms Goldie will join other community sector representatives in Canberra on Monday to lobby politicians to support the legislation.
They are also seeking assurances services and benefits, including the disability support pension (DSP), will be spared further budget cuts.
The sector has been critical of government cuts to climate and low-cost housing programs to help fund the rebuild and ensure a budget surplus in 2012-13.
And it is concerned further savings will come from cuts to the DSP payment, after Prime Minister Julia Gillard vowed to do more to get recipients back into work.
Close to 800,000 people claim the benefit, costing taxpayers $11 billion this year.
A group specialising in social security law warned the government against slashing the payment by $130 a week to bring it in line with the unemployment benefit.
"If the government's participation agenda is little more than simply moving people with disabilities onto the lower-paying Newstart Allowance it will fail," National Welfare Rights Network spokeswoman Maree O'Halloran said.
St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive officer John Falzon says long-term workforce participation cannot be achieved by keeping people on benefits below the poverty line.
"The people on the edges of the labour market deserve to live with dignity. The government knows this," he said.
"We call for genuine welfare reforms that flow from this reality."
To Add Insult To Injury, Your ABC Keeping Lying About Looting
Assistant Commissioner O'Regan says six people have been arrested for looting commercial properties on the day Cyclone Yasi crossed the coast.
"The people who are offending are the people who were offending before the cyclone," he said.
Road reopening sparks Grantham looting fears
By Nikole Jacobi
Posted February 7, 2011 08:31:00
The Lockyer Valley Mayor says residents in the flood-ravaged community of Grantham, in southern Queensland, are concerned about looting when the main road reopens to the public.
A wall of water tore through the town last month and authorities closed off the community while they searched for the dead.
Mayor Steve Jones says Gatton-Helidon Road in Grantham is expected to reopen in the next few days.
He says residents have reservations about general access being restored.
"I think they're concerned about the return of the public's ability to pass through Grantham, I think on a couple of fronts," he said.
"Certainly concerned in terms of the safety of their property and looting and all those types of things.
"I think they're also concerned that they still need some privacy at times in terms of grieving and so forth and I would hope the public respects those wishes."
Councillor Jones says flood affected residents in the Lockyer Valley are not feeling forgotten.
"The response has been quite positive and I think all the organisations involved are well and truly aware of the severity of the situation," he said.
"It's just more of a case that a lot of the residents would like fellow Australians to know about it."
The federal Labor government has secretly hosted US military teams supporting the operations of new ballistic missile defence satellites - while trying to dodge a backlash on the issue from the party's Left faction.
The Defence Department has confirmed that two elite teams from the US Air Force, and satellite tracking and communications equipment, were deployed in Australia in 2009 to provide communication links to two new Space Tracking Surveillance System (STSS) satellites.
In what was codenamed Project Crok, personnel from the USAF space test group/space test operations squadron were deployed from Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico to HMAS Stirling south of Perth and Fort Direction near Hobart.
The US teams worked in Australia for more than two months to support the initial operations of two STSS satellites launched from Cape Canaveral on September 25, 2009.
Details of the co-operation have been revealed in secret US embassy cables obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to The Age.
According to the US Air Force, the space test operations squadron uses "highly mobile ground systems or specially designed maritime platforms" to provide "telemetry, tracking and commanding from locations worldwide" in support of the testing and evaluation of US military space systems.
Built by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman, the low-earth orbiting STSS satellites detect ballistic missile launches using infrared sensors. They are intended to complement US geostationary early warning satellites with advanced capabilities to detect and track ballistic missiles during the boost and midcourse phases of flight, ''substantially improving the performance of ballistic missile defences''.
In several trials conducted last year, the two demonstration STSS satellites successfully detected "threat-representative" missiles launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and relayed "trajectory data" to US ballistic missile defence ground stations.
Federal Labor's agreement to host Project Crok followed briefings of US embassy officials by then Defence Department deputy secretary Mike Pezzullo on the government's missile defence policy.
According to another leaked US embassy cable, Mr Pezzullo said the language dealing with missile defence in the May 2009 Defence white paper had been ''governed by [then defence minister Joel] Fitzgibbon's desire to avoid party divisions at the ALP's national conference''.
Federal Labor's Left factions have long insisted the party oppose US plans for a missile defence shield, arguing such a move would be ''disproportionate, technically questionable, costly and likely to be counterproductive''.
The white paper says: ''The government is opposed to the development of a unilateral national missile defence system by any nation because such a system would be at odds with the maintenance of global nuclear deterrence.''
But Mr Pezzullo, a former senior adviser to ex-Labor leader Kim Beazley, told US diplomats that the approach to missile defence set out in the white paper had been carefully crafted to appeal to Labor's Left ''but in reality will allow the GOA [government of Australia] to continue its missile defence research and development co-operation with the United States''.
The cable of June 4, 2009, classified secret and not to be disclosed outside the US government, noted: ''He [Pezzullo] described the ALP left wing as still wedded to the '1980s anti-Star Wars missile defence' concept and said that the first paragraph in the missile defence section of the paper was a nod to this powerful faction of the party.
''He [Pezzullo] noted that if the ALP Left perceives it has been deceived by the defence white paper's MD language, it could raise a storm at the party's annual national conference.''
However, US diplomats were assured by Mr Pezzullo that then prime minister Kevin Rudd's thinking on missile defence was very different from that of Labor's Left.
When initially asked by The Age about Australian missile defence co-operation with the US, the Defence Department made no mention of Project Crok. Instead, the department said that "while Australia has no current plans to acquire ballistic missile defence weapons (BMD) systems, the Australian government maintains a program of BMD-related activities and engagement to enhance our understanding of technology trends, capabilities and concepts''.
When subsequently pressed about support for the new STSS satellites, Defence took three weeks before confirming that two teams of US personnel had visited Australia in 2009.
The nature of any regime it backs in the Arab world is secondary to control. Subjects are ignored until they break their chains
By Noam Chomsky
Feburary 05, 2011 "Information Clearing House" --The Arab world is on fire, al-Jazeera reported on January 27, while throughout the region, Western allies are quickly losing their influence.
The shock wave was set in motion by the dramatic uprising in Tunisia that drove out a Western-backed dictator, with reverberations especially in Egypt, where demonstrators overwhelmed a dictators brutal police.
Observers compared the events to the toppling of Russian domains in 1989, but there are important differences.
Crucially, no Mikhail Gorbachev exists among the great powers that support the Arab dictators. Rather, Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives: fine in enemy territory (up to a point), but not in our backyard, please, unless it is properly tamed.
One 1989 comparison has some validity: Romania, where Washington maintained its support for Nicolae Ceausescu, the most vicious of the East European dictators, until the allegiance became untenable. Then Washington hailed his overthrow while the past was erased.
That is a standard pattern: Ferdinand Marcos, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Chun Doo Hwan, Suharto and many other useful gangsters. It may be under way in the case of Hosni Mubarak, along with routine efforts to try to ensure that a successor regime will not veer far from the approved path.
The current hope appears to be Mubarak loyalist Gen. Omar Suleiman, just named Egypts vice president. Suleiman, the longtime head of the intelligence services, is despised by the rebelling public almost as much as the dictator himself.
A common refrain among pundits is that fear of radical Islam requires (reluctant) opposition to democracy on pragmatic grounds. While not without some merit, the formulation is misleading. The general threat has always been independence. In the Arab world, the United States and its allies have regularly supported radical Islamists, sometimes to prevent the threat of secular nationalism.
A familiar example is Saudi Arabia, the ideological center of radical Islam (and of Islamic terror). Another in a long list is Zia ul-Haq, the most brutal of Pakistans dictators and President Reagans favorite, who carried out a program of radical Islamization (with Saudi funding).
The traditional argument put forward in and out of the Arab world is that there is nothing wrong, everything is under control, says Marwan Muasher, former Jordanian official and now director of Middle East research for the Carnegie Endowment. With this line of thinking, entrenched forces argue that opponents and outsiders calling for reform are exaggerating the conditions on the ground.
Therefore the public can be dismissed. The doctrine traces far back and generalizes worldwide, to U.S. home territory as well. In the event of unrest, tactical shifts may be necessary, but always with an eye to reasserting control.
The vibrant democracy movement in Tunisia was directed against a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems, ruled by a dictator whose family was hated for their venality. This was the assessment by U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec in a July 2009 cable released by WikiLeaks.
Therefore to some observers the WikiLeaks documents should create a comforting feeling among the American public that officials arent asleep at the switchindeed, that the cables are so supportive of U.S. policies that it is almost as if Obama is leaking them himself (or so Jacob Heilbrunn writes in The National Interest.)
America should give Assange a medal, says a headline in the Financial Times. Chief foreign-policy analyst Gideon Rachman writes that Americas foreign policy comes across as principled, intelligent and pragmaticthe public position taken by the U.S. on any given issue is usually the private position as well.
In this view, WikiLeaks undermines the conspiracy theorists who question the noble motives that Washington regularly proclaims.
Godecs cable supports these judgmentsat least if we look no further. If we do, as foreign policy analyst Stephen Zunes reports in Foreign Policy in Focus, we find that, with Godecs information in hand, Washington provided $12 million in military aid to Tunisia. As it happens, Tunisia was one of only five foreign beneficiaries: Israel (routinely); the two Middle East dictatorships Egypt and Jordan; and Colombia, which has long had the worst human-rights record and the most U.S. military aid in the hemisphere.
Heilbrunns Exhibit A is Arab support for U.S. policies targeting Iran, revealed by leaked cables. Rachman too seizes on this example, as did the media generally, hailing these encouraging revelations. The reactions illustrate how profound is the contempt for democracy in the educated culture.
Unmentioned is what the population thinkseasily discovered. According to polls released by the Brookings Institution in August, some Arabs agree with Washington and Western commentators that Iran is a threat: 10 percent. In contrast, they regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats (77 percent; 88 percent).
Arab opinion is so hostile to Washingtons policies that a majority (57 percent) think regional security would be enhanced if Iran had nuclear weapons. Still, there is nothing wrong, everything is under control (as Marwan Muasher describes the prevailing fantasy). The dictators support us. Their subjects can be ignoredunless they break their chains, and then policy must be adjusted.
Other leaks also appear to lend support to the enthusiastic judgments about Washingtons nobility. In July 2009, Hugo Llorens, U.S. ambassador to Honduras, informed Washington of an embassy investigation of legal and constitutional issues surrounding the June 28 forced removal of President Manuel `Mel Zelaya.
The embassy concluded that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch. Very admirable, except that President Obama proceeded to break with almost all of Latin America and Europe by supporting the coup regime and dismissing subsequent atrocities.
Perhaps the most remarkable WikiLeaks revelations have to do with Pakistan, reviewed by foreign policy analyst Fred Branfman in Truthdig.
The cables reveal that the U.S. embassy is well aware that Washingtons war in Afghanistan and Pakistan not only intensifies rampant anti-Americanism but also risks destabilizing the Pakistani state and even raises a threat of the ultimate nightmare: that nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of Islamic terrorists.
Again, the revelations should create a comforting feelingthat officials are not asleep at the switch (Heilbrunns words)while Washington marches stalwartly toward disaster.
© 2011 Noam Chomsky
Whose Media Outlets Were The First To Mention Boogeyman Arsonists?
Fifty-nine homes have now been razed in bush-fringed Perth suburbs of Kelmscott and Roleystone, while 28 others have been damaged.
The Western Australian Government has declared the devastated area a natural disaster zone and will provide financial assistance to affected families.
Hundreds of residents crammed into a gymnasium at Armadale, south-east of Perth, this morning to hear whether they had lost their homes.
A list of three burnt-out residential sectors was read out by the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA).
Residents in those areas were asked to move to other rooms in the complex so they could be briefed more privately on whether their houses had been destroyed, damaged or spared.
Street names and numbers were read out with a report on the damage - in some cases, property damage was stated as 100 per cent or a lesser percentage, or just a shed or garage gone.
FESA spokesman Allen Gale says it has been an anxious wait.
"I think there are certainly those who are wishing and [have] got their fingers crossed that their place is OK," he said.
"Others probably think they've lost their place and they're going to find out that their home is there in one piece. It must be such a traumatic thing to go through."
More than 100 firefighters are battling the blaze from the ground and the air. They say while it is close to being contained, it is still out of control and could potentially damage more homes.
It is hoped easing winds this afternoon could help crews get on top of the fire. ...
Bob Marley Day Declared In Canada
RJR news [6/211]:
Torontos new Mayor, Rob Ford, has continued the trend of his predecessors by proclaiming Sunday, February 6, as Bob Marley Day.
This is the 20th year, and Mayor Ford, who was elected in October 2010, is the sixth Toronto Mayor to officially proclaim the day.
The Proclamation was read at a ceremony held on Thursday, at Toronto City Hall, and attended by Jamaicas Consul General to Toronto, Seth George Ramocan, Canadian government officials, and members of the public.
According to the Mayor, Bob Marley, through his music, became an advocate for human rights, and an international ambassador for peace.
Mayor Ford said Bob Marley's courage to speak out against oppression, poverty, slavery, and apartheid earned him a Peace Medal of the Third World from the United Nations, and the Order of Merit from his home country of Jamaica.
Mr. Ramocan noted that the name Bob Marley has brought distinction to Jamaica, and having Bob Marley Day proclaimed each year, in Toronto, is one way of keeping his memory alive.
The Diversity Business Network, headed by Jamaican-born attorney, Courtney Betty, requests the Proclamation, each year, from the Mayor.
The group also presents the annual Bob Marley Awards to Canadians who have demonstrated their commitment to diversity, while helping to build bridges between communities.
This years awardees include Jamaican-born Member of the Provincial Parliament and Minister of Health Promotion, Margarett Best.
ABC612 Give Vodafone A Free Kick
This afternoon [7/2/11], ABC612 Brisbane broadcast a Pearl And The Puppets song 'Because I Do', which is the soundtrack to a recent Vodafone advertisement screened on Australian television.
Evidently 'Because I Do' had been chosen for broadcast because it is a "polariser" - therefore ideal for a listener poll i.e do you like this song or not?
Announcers Fidler and Riner were careful not to mention Vodafone, though they did say the song had been used in an advertisement for a phone company.
So why is 'Because I Do' a "polariser"?
Well, certainly not because of this story, which the ABC reported on last month:
The Australian Privacy Commissioner will be investigating Vodafone over a security breach of the company's customer database.
The company has admitted its online database was breached, allowing the personal details of customers to be accessed online.
In a statement the Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim says he will first try to establish if Vodafone has breached the Privacy Act. ...
The British mobile phone multi-national has collaborated with the Mubarak regime by sending out millions of texts via its network to Egyptians calling for support for the regime and inciting violence against peaceful protestors. The messages have included this one "The Armed Forces asks Egypt's honest and loyal men to confront the traitors and criminals" which is sinister in the context of the violent killings and assaults of protestors seen in Egypt in the last few days.
Vodaphone claims it was "forced" to send the texts but this corporate collaboration with tyranny follows on with the co-operation of corporations such as Visa, Paypal and Amazon in the attempts to Wikileaks offline. On one side we have the people standing for liberty and the other we have governments and corporations - the battle lines have been drawn.
And not because it features in an advertisement - that's how you make it in the music business these days.
Indeed, bands like REM - whose latest release was played before 'Because I Do' - are to be trivialised because they have made every effort not to sell out.
If 'Because I Do' is polarising, it's because it's an advertisement for a corporation, not because half the listeners the ABC choose to let have their say reckon it "sounds too Frente".
Watch SBS "World Watch", and news outlets from country after country still have reporters on the ground in Cairo.
New Matilda [7/2/11]:
SBS senior correspondent Brian Thomson tells New Matilda about the dangerous situation facing journalists on the ground in Cairo.
Thomson and his cameraman spent four days in the Egyptian capital before being pulled out yesterday amid increasing attacks on the media. ...
Wouldn't It Be Good If Politicians Tore Up Their Talking Points For One Day And Displayed A Modicum Of Leadership And Governance?
And Allowed Our Police To Do Real Policing Instead Of Protecting The Status Quo For The Elite?
Booooo! You had no idea your fellow citizens were all looters, fraudsters, scammers, profiteers and really really, really bad people, did you?
What would you do if you had no power and no water, you had food in the fridge and your neighbour was gone but you knew he had some fuel you could use to keep the power on for your family?
You'd sit in the dark, in your wreck of a house surrounded by the smell of rancid meat, and you'd explain to your kids that property crime was unacceptable. Then you'd hope and pray. Wouldn't you?
This report is BULLSHIT:
Posted February 7, 2011 08:56:00
Queensland police say they will crack down on anyone stealing fuel to power generators in the wake of Cyclone Yasi.
The ABC has heard at least two reports of fuel being stolen from private properties in the cyclone affected areas of Tully and Hull Heads, south of Cairns.
Many people are relying on fuel to power generators because electricity is still out in many areas.
Inspector David Tucker from Innisfail police says there is no excuse for stealing.
"It's really sad that people stoop so low to actually do something like that," he said.
"There are fuel stations open throughout the whole of the Cassowary Coast area and more that will be opening as electricity supplies come on and as repairs take place.
"There's no need for that to actually occur."
Inspector Tucker says any thefts should be reported.
"Police patrols are actually out there and have been very vigilant," he said.
"If the police don't know that a crime is being committed then we can't step up patrols in that area and hopefully we could even solve the crime," he said.
What sort of journalism do you call this?
"heard" of reports? How very Murdoch press.
I've heard of reports of the abominable snowman - it doesn't mean I believe it!
A Question For Q & A
A Question for Tony Jones:
What do you make of the assertion that Q & A serves no democratic purpose and is (as the Failed Estate blog points out) merely theatre - a 'Punch & Judy' show for the political class?
... So why was this prefab partisanship produced in the first place? Because for the ABC, this is perfect television; it's cheap to produce, it absolves the public broadcaster from having to look any deeper into issues and it spares it the accusations from the trainspotting Hendersons of the world about bias."See, Gerard, we've got two from the red team and two from the blue team". ...
Why Are Australia's Media Suddenly So Fascinated By The Superbowl?
USA Today [5/2/11]:
... While the overall number of empty homes rose nationwide, the biggest vacancy jump was in what's called "principal cities."
These are the lower income, higher crime areas that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and prior administrations tried to bolster homeownership in. It's close-in areas that are not attractive, according to Stephen East of Ticonderoga Securities.
Vacancy rates actually fell in the suburbs to 2.3% in Q4 2010 from 2.5% a year ago and 2.4% in Q3. The increase in the overall rate was really driven by a 3.6% vacancy rate in "principal cities," up from 3.1% a year ago and 2.9% in Q3. ...
(Reuters) - Cities across the United States dug out on Thursday from a snow and ice storm that stretched for thousands of miles (km) as air travel remained a mess and local officials struggled to make roads passable.
Many areas grappled with treacherous road conditions after the storm cut a swathe from New Mexico to Maine on Wednesday, paralyzing much of the Midwest. Airlines set about unravelling schedules and getting travellers on their way after more than 10,000 flights were cancelled over two days.
Plummeting temperatures in the central United States complicated recovery efforts, touching everything from the winter wheat crop to rail transportation to preparations for the NFL's Super Bowl on Sunday in Dallas.
More bad weather was on the way for some places. Parts of the southern United States, including Texas, Louisiana and Alabama, are forecast to get snow and ice late on Thursday.
A study released on Wednesday estimated that a state's economy can lose hundreds of millions of dollars for each day businesses are shut due to roads left impassable by storms.
The study, by Boston-based IHS Global Insight and commissioned by the American Highway Users Alliance, estimates that a one-day major snowstorm can cost a state $300 million to $700 million in direct and indirect costs.
Hourly workers are often the hardest hit, accounting for almost two-thirds of direct economic losses as businesses close for the day, according to the study. Indirect impact is felt in the restaurant, general merchandise and service station industries, it found.
The National Weather Service issued special advisories about "black ice" for New York and Boston. Wednesday's standing water on many streets and sidewalks froze overnight, making driving and walking treacherous in spots.
Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, crippled during the city's third-worst snowstorm on record, reopened on Thursday after 34 hours. Crews worked overnight to tow hundreds of cars still stranded by the storm.City officials defended their response after hundreds of drivers and bus commuters spent Tuesday night huddled in their vehicles as the blizzard raged. ...
Brisbane Vigil For Wikileaks And Julian Assange
Date and Time: Monday, 7/2/11 - 4:00pm - 7:30pm
Location: British Consulate, Waterfront Place, 1 Eagle St Brisbane
On this date Julian Assange faces extradition to Sweden and then possibly the US.
We will present a letter to the British Consulate demanding the immediate release of a fellow Queenslander who faces life in prison for exposing the crimes of the US empire.
Please join us.
Green Left Accepts Dutch Mission In Afghanistan
Radio Netherlands Worldwide [5/2/11]:
What had been billed as a major split within the Dutch Green Left (GroenLinks) opposition party fizzled out at the partys conference on Saturday.
Reports said rank and file members were ready to back a censure motion against the partys new leader, Jolande Sap. They were reported to be furious at the backing given by the parliamentary party to the minority right-wing governments proposal for a Dutch police training mission in Afghanistans Kunduz province.
In the event, a censure motion was rejected by three-quarters of the just over 1,000 Green Left members present at the congress. A motion branding the backing of the mission as regrettable - but which nevertheless said Green Left was united and had confidence in the leadership - was carried by a small majority of conference delegates.
Outgoing Green Left leader Femke Halsema bade her party farewell during the conference. She served as a Green Left MP for 12 years and had earlier announced her retirement from active politics. She gave up the party leadership and parliamentary seat shortly before the furore began over the proposed mission to Afghanistan. Ms Halsema told conference delegates she was proud of her successor, Jolande Sap.
Fire Destroys Israel's First Ikea Store
NETANYA, Israel (AFP) The first Ikea home furnishings outlet ever to open in Israel went up in flames overnight Friday in Netanya city, north of Tel Aviv, its management said on Saturday.
"An investigation is underway into the reasons behind the fire," Ron Hadassi, chairman of Ikea in Israel, told public radio as firefighters struggled to put out the last flames.
Covering 2,000 square metres (21,500 square feet) over two floors, the Netanya outlet welcomed 7,000 shoppers a day. A second, bigger Ikea store opened in October last year in Rishon Letzion, south of Tel Aviv.
Agassi said the Netanya store -- opened in 2001 -- would be rebuilt within a year, and its 400 employees cared for in the interim.
This Week A Meeting Is Being Held To Discuss Future Funding For BEMAC
BEMAC were kicked out of Yungaba when the Queensland Government sold the property to developers.
Over the past few years the Queensland Government has curtailed its funding of BEMAC.
Why would the Queensland Government do something like that?
Surely it doesn't subscribe to this point of view?:
... "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values." ...
Australia's Politicians And Media Wedge Breeders And Non-Breeders: Yawn
Which Australian - and what he has to say - do you think most Australians are thinking of right now?
Here's a hint.
Not Mark Latham.
But what an excellent distraction, to have something Mark Latham has said in a magazine (that's obviously in desperate need of PR) for the political class to bleat and wet their pants over.
In any case, Latham's just saying what they all think.
Where are these strident defenders of the childless on any given day? Everything in Australian society is geared toward breeding, so why aren't they out there challenging the tax breaks, baby bonuses, family allowances and cultural and marketing pressures?
Gillard is offputting because of her neoliberalism, not her childlessness.
Didn't Margaret Thatcher have children?
In Light Of Community Anger, Fear And Frustration, Queensland Government Pulls Out All Stops To Help Cyclone And Flood Affected - NOT!
Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Media Release [6/2/11]
Moranbah and Blackwater development proposals released for feedback
Community members have been asked to comment on the proposed development schemes for the Moranbah and Blackwater Urban Development Areas (UDAs), Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Stirling Hinchliffe announced today.
Mr Hinchliffe said the proposed development schemes would be released tomorrow and he encouraged residents to have their say on the draft plans for the provision of affordable housing in each region.
Community consultation is essential to guiding plans for generating additional housing in Moranbah and Blackwater, which have both suffered housing stress as a result of the resources boom, he said.
Being able to afford to buy or rent a home gives people a chance to put down roots, generate a sense of belonging and foster community spirit. These UDAs will ensure key workers continue to provide valuable services in the communities they choose to call home.
The new residential developments will cater for a range of housing types and prices to deliver housing choices for low to moderate income families, key workers, singles, couples, first home buyers, retirees and non-resident workers.
These new homes will also generate jobs. Not just jobs arising as a result of the new homes being built, but also long-term employment generated retail and commercial precincts.
The proposed development schemes provide for the development of a variety of housing types in Moranbah and Blackwater to meet the changing needs of both communities as well as the provision of high quality parkland and open spaces, Mr Hinchliffe said.
The Moranbah UDA Proposed Development Scheme provides detail on plans for a new south-west growth area and the Blackwater UDA Proposed Development Scheme outlines a vision for a renewed retail and commercial area.
Development will occur in phases over the coming 10 to 15 years starting with the construction of a 12 unit development in Blackwater and a nine hectare residential development in Moranbah. Development in Blackwater and Moranbah is expected to begin in April and August respectively.
ULDA CEO Paul Eagles said community meetings would be held to allow residents to discuss the proposed development schemes with ULDA planners and provide feedback.
It is important that the Moranbah and Blackwater communities have ample opportunity to discuss the proposed development scheme, so the ULDA has scheduled as many sessions as possible during the notification period, he said.
Community information sessions will be held in Moranbah at the Moranbah Fair Shopping Centre on Wednesday 16 February from 10am to 2pm and Thursday 17 February from 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm and the following Wednesday, 23 and Thursday , 24 February at the same times respectively.
Community information sessions will be held in Blackwater at the Blackwater Shopping Centre on Tuesday 15 February 10am to 2pm, Wednesday 16 February from 10am to 2pm, Thursday 24 February from 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm.
An information session will also be held at the Blackwater Civic Centre on Tuesday 15 February from 6pm to 9pm.
Copies of the proposed development schemes are available on the ULDA website at www.ulda.qld.gov.au. Alternatively the Moranbah UDA Proposed Development Scheme is available at the Isaac Regional Council, Grosvenor Complex, Batchelor Parade Moranbah and the Blackwater UDA Proposed Development Scheme is available at the Central Highlands Regional Council office in Blackwater at 10 McKenzie Street and the Councils Emerald office in Egerton Street.
The proposed development schemes are available to the public from 7 February until 22 March 2011 and in accordance with the provisions of the Act the community is invited to make a submission on either scheme during that period.
Submissions must be made in writing and must be received by the ULDA on or before 22 March 2011. They can be sent to the ULDA by post, email or fax and details are available on the ULDA website.
The ULDA is a key part of the Queensland Housing Affordability Strategy. The ULDA works with local and state government, community, local landholders and development industry representatives to help deliver commercially viable developments. These include diverse, affordable and sustainable housing using best-practice urban design.
The Moranbah UDA and Blackwater UDA were declared on Friday 30 July 2010.
The Moranbah UDA is 1220 hectares and incorporates large areas of vacant land as well as parts of the golf course and a small proportion of residential and industrial land. The Blackwater UDA covers the entire town north of the Capricorn Highway incorporating 1800 homes as well as a range of commercial and industrial facilities.
These UDAs will assist meeting the housing pressures expected from growth in the resource sector by bringing land to the market quickly and delivering a diversity of housing to suit the needs of the growing communities.
This announcement has nothing to do with building communities or helping the workers. It's a massive land release, fast tracking of speculative development and loosening of planning regulations that will decimate habitat.
If the Government were to truly tackle the "fly in fly out" problem it would ensure mining companies set out how they intend accomodating their workers before mines are approved.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was forced to defend his tour of the cyclone-ravaged area after tensions boiled over at a press conference this afternoon.
Yasi's death toll remains at one and there are no longer any missing persons after a married couple was found earlier today.
Mr Abbott and Queensland Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek have been moving through cyclone-devastated communities such as Townsville and Tully.
A man at a media conference outside the Tully evacuation centre expressed his frustration that politicians are touring the area.
He accused political leaders of ignoring the plight of residents across the Cassowary Coast region mercilessly hammered by Yasi on Wednesday night.
"Don't sit here with your make-up and cameras," the man said.
"If you want to f*****g help, look at people like us. We've got nothing. You've got a house to go home to, we don't."
But Mr Abbott defended the tour, saying politicians have to see the destruction for themselves.
He says he understands peoples' frustration after their homes have been destroyed.
"If you don't see them, it's hard to understand them. If you don't understand them, you can't respond to them," he said. ...
On tonight's [5/2/11] 6.30 pm SBS World News, Peta-Jane Madam reported that after Cyclone Larry in 2006, locals had been promised all sorts of practical assistance including cyclone shelters.
This has never eventuated.
Perhaps the people of Australia are finally waking up to
what their politicians and media are doing to them, and perhaps they don't
More Flooding In Sri Lanka
Press Release: United
Nations UN Agencies Provide Additional Assistance As Further Floods Hit Sri
New York [4/2/11]:
United Nations agencies are providing additional support to the Government of Sri Lanka in its efforts to respond to fresh floods, amidst existing efforts to help hundreds of thousands of people affected by earlier flooding that followed unusually heavy rainfall during the past two months.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today said that Sri Lankas Disaster Management Centre (DMC) had put the total number of people affected by the latest floods at 236,894.
Five people have lost their lives and four are listed as missing.
Some 82,660 of those affected have been displaced and are sheltered in 322 temporary evacuation centres in 11 districts across the island nation.
Responding to a government request, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will provide 400 tents to be distributed through DMC. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has dispatched a total of 508 metric tons of food rations to the districts of Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee. Earlier floods led to a steep rise in the prices of food, a factor that has made those affected even more vulnerable.
Sri Lankas agriculture ministry has requested the UN Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) support for efforts to revive farming activities in about 75 per cent of the farmland where crops were destroyed by the floods.
Seeds, equipment and other farming supplies are required.
Last month, humanitarian organizations in Sri Lanka appealed for a total of $51 million to assist those affected for six months. According to OCHA, some $11.6 million of the requested amount has been received as of 3 February.
Brisbane Protest In "Liberation Square"
Around 200 people gathered in Brisbane Square today [Friday] to show their solidarity with the people of Egypt.
Protesters heard many speakers from the Egyptian community about the struggle for democracy and supporters also spoke of the significance of the Egyptian people's uprising to the peoples of the region.
Mamdoub Habib spoke to the rally about his experience of torture at the hands of Mubarak's newly appointed Vice-President Omar Suleiman.
The square was renamed Liberation Square for the duration of the protest in honour of the defiant protesters in Liberation Square in Cairo.
A minute silence was held to remember the martyrs of the uprising.
A loud march was held through the city, with a number of people joining the protest during the march.
Protesters vowed to continue to show their solidarity, deciding to hold another rally on Friday February 11, 5pm in Brisbane Square.
Heidi Mendozas Hubby: Its A Fight Of Every Filipino
MANILA, PhilippinesIts hard to be a spouse to someone like her, but Im proud of her, Meynardo Roy Mendoza said.
The husband of former state auditor Heidi Mendoza went public on Friday, saying her fight was not hers alone [but] the fight of every Filipino.
A professor of history at Ateneo de Manila University, Mendoza said he was standing by his wife, who had uncovered and testified on irregularities in military transactions during the term of Armed Forces comptroller Carlos Garcia.
Walang iwanan (Well stand together), he said in an interview at a rally and noise barrage conducted by civil society groups in front of the Ateneo gates on Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, to express support for his wife.
Heidi Mendoza led a team that audited military transactions in connection with the P303-million plunder case against Garcia.
In her testimony, she said that contrary to the statements of government prosecutors, there was strong evidence to nail Garcia for plunder.
Garcia has entered a plea bargain with the Office of the Ombudsman, under which he was allowed to plead guilty to lesser offenses and subsequently granted bail.
The controversial agreement is now the subject of congressional inquiries at which Heidi Mendoza has testified.
Roy Mendoza said he was thankful to those who were backing his wife.
We want to give our wholehearted thanks to those who support her and those who cried with her, he said, noting that the disruption in their family life was exhausting for his wife.
He said his wife did not want to come out in the open at first, but she was hurt that her colleagues in COA were being pressured to turn against her and her work. ...
poor little bully
feeling so left out
the boss has monopoly control
but you're losing all your clout
the Gold Coast's had a gutful
of the fascism that you peddle
nothing left for you to do
and with aunty now you meddle
I wonder if the spying
works the other way?
do emails from your superiors
end up in aunty's in tray?
must be so frustrating
caught up in an ideology
which diminishes public discourse
and deceives the citizenry
Wake Up Australia!
If Egyptians Lived Down Under They'd Still Be Taking To The Streets
Last year construction worker Ark Tribe was dragged through the courts for refusing to answer questions.
This week bikies have been jailed for refusing to answer questions.
Tomorrow it will be you:
'West Australian' [4/2/11]:
Four Finks bikies have been jailed for refusing to cooperate with the Corruption and Crime Commission.
Chief Justice Wayne Martin said he hoped the sentences would send a strong message to the community that not conceding to the graft fighters requests would not be tolerated.
Troy Smith, Stephen Laurence Silvestro and Clovis Chikonga each received two years imprisonment for refusing to answer questions relating to a bikie brawl at Kwinana Motorplex in October 2010.
Tristan Allbeury received two years for refusing to answer the CCCs questions and an additional three months prison for insulting the commission for telling Commissioner Len Roberts-Smith to f off.
When read his sentence Allbeury yelled abuse at the Chief Justice, telling him he lived in a fairy world.
Youre a f ing spastic, you live in a dream world, you live in a fairy world, you have no idea about the street, he said.
As he was ordered out of the courts he threatened to knock out" a security guard.
Allbeurys partner and mother of his baby son left the court in tears.
Chief Justice Martin said the serious nature of the offence counteracted any mitigatory factors the defendants may put forward.
None of the men are eligible for parole.
However, Justice Martin said it was open for the men to get an early release if they decided to cooperate with the commission in the future.
Notwithstanding the opportunity ... to each of the contemnors to apply for discharge from their sentence after purging their contempts, I am passing sentence on the basis that the time for coercion has passed, Justice Martin told the Supreme Court.
Given that each of the contemnors has declined an opportunity to cooperate with the commission in the past and has clearly and unequivocally indicated that they have no present intention of doing so in the future.
He later added: Each will in a sense be their own jailer.
It is never too late, if any one the contemnors have a change of heart to cooperate with the commission.
Queensland On Show As Part Of Africa Trade Mission
Queenslands capabilities will be strongly promoted next month at Africas largest mining event which will be attended by Queenslands Special Trade and Investment Representative for Africa, Ms Julie Boyd, and a group of Queensland companies.
Trade Minister Stephen Robertson said Ms Boyd will facilitate meetings for Queensland companies to meet with a number of key government and industry representatives in KwaZulu-Natal, Johannesburg and Cape Town from 3 to 10 February.
South Africa represents a very important emerging market for Queensland, offering significant opportunities in sectors such as mining and energy; education and training; agribusiness; construction and infrastructure; and clean technologies, Mr Robertson said.
The whole world saw the success of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa last year and Queensland cannot afford to miss out on emerging opportunities in this region.
In Africa the delegation will promote the States expertise in the mining industry at the annual Mining Indaba exhibition, being held in Cape Town from 7-10 February.
Fresh in everyones minds are the affects on Queenslands mining industry as a result of the recent flooding, Mr Robertson said.
Now more than ever, it is important that we get out there and promote Queenslands mining industry, and show the world that we are open for business.
In recognition of Queenslands significant engagement with African mining sector, Queensland will be the sole Australia State/Territory Government represented at Mining Indaba, in partnership with the DFAT and Austrade.
Queensland and Africa share a strong interest in mining, an industry that is vital to both economies, with Mining Indaba expected to attract more than 3500 mining industry delegates from 60 countries, there is no better place to promote Queenslands reputation for excellence and innovation in mining technology and services.
South Africa, in particular, is considered the gateway to Sub-Sahara Africa. Queenslands merchandise exports to South Africa in 2009-10 were valued at $435 million, ranking this region as Queenslands 15th largest merchandise export destination.
Mr Robertson said the Queensland Government considered its relationship with Sub-Sahara Africa to be very important and, through Trade and Investment Queensland, had assisted Queensland companies to generate almost $30 million of exports and over the past four years has led a number of Queensland-based firms to the region since 2007.
With approximately 40 per cent, Africa had more overseas mining projects held by Australian companies than any other region, making this region a significant market for Queensland, Mr Robertson said.
SILVER SPRING, Md. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is providing relief assistance in South Africa where widespread storms and floods have affected eight of the country's nine provinces, leaving more than 80 people dead and injuring 375 others.
ADRA's operation aims to reduce the risk of highly contagious waterborne diseases and meet the hygiene needs of affected residents through the distribution of hydration packs and hygiene kits to more than 1,155 families. These kits include water purification tablets, jerry cans, bath soap, laundry soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, pampers, female hygiene products and facial tissues.
The initial emergency response will take place in Northern Cape Province where floods resulted from the overflow of the Orange and Vaal rivers, two of South Africa's largest rivers. According to government reports, the floods have damaged some 8,000 homes, affected more than 1,100 families in the Northern Cape Province alone and caused havoc in 33 district municipalities in eight provinces.
To further combat the spread of waterborne diseases, ADRA is prepared to distribute 40,000 water purification tablets, which will provide the equivalent of 264,172 gallons of water (1 million liters), as each tablet can purify up to 6.6 gallons (25 liters). ADRA is also coordinating hygiene related activities with selected members of each community who will help raise awareness regarding proper hygiene and sanitation practices in order to protect residents from possible infection.
The devastating storms, which were caused by cooler ocean temperatures, are linked to the reoccurring weather pattern called La Niña. The storms associated with this weather pattern have hovered above South Africa since mid-December, drenching the country with an unusually high amount of rainfall.
Trust women. Women are morally and intellectually and spiritually capable of struggling with complex ethical issues and coming to the appropriate decision for themselves and their families.
Dr. George Tiller, killed in 2009.
by Texas physician, Dr. Junda Woo
(WOMENSENEWS)--As a physician and abortion provider, I'm sounding the alarm: Insurance coverage for abortions is dissolving under our feet. The corrosive agent is that "Stupak on Steroids" bill we've been hearing about, introduced in late January by U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J.
To see what's happening, let's take a couple of steps back.
Remember U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who nearly derailed health care reform by saying no public funds could be used for abortion?
Then came the compromise: Women in insurance exchanges can buy plans that cover abortion, but they will need to write two checks--one for the rest of their insurance, one for abortion.
That means plans that cover abortion would rack up administrative and auditing costs at a time when the health law requires insurers to pare them. I see no reason for any insurer not to just drop coverage. This is burdensome enough.
Besides that, our allegedly pro-business, free market Congress artificially inflated premiums on policies that include abortion services.
Now comes this Smith bill, which turns the existing and growing pressures on abortion coverage into a death squeeze.
Under existing health law, states can already ban all abortion coverage in the insurance exchanges that start by 2014 for people who need individual policies. This has ignited anti-choice activists to pass bans in Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. So far.
Exchanges affect only a minority of Americans. Most of us, even after 2014, still will get insurance from our employers. But already, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma bar abortion coverage even in regular private insurance. ...
Calling Out The Bullshit
Optus Zoo News [4/2/11]:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to bring him home ahead of his extradition hearing in London on Monday on alleged sex crimes committed in Sweden.
In a recorded message played to a free-speech forum at Federation Square tonight, Assange said that "Julia Gillard should be taking active steps to bring me home and protect our people".
Ms Gillard last year described Assange's role in the worldwide publication of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables as "illegal", two weeks before an Australian Federal Police investigation found he had not committed a crime in Australia. The US has been investigating whether it can charge Assange.
"She (Ms Gillard) should be contacting the US embassy and demanding that it back off," Assange said.
"And it is interesting how some politicians single out my staff and myself for attack while saying nothing about the slaughter of thousands by the US military or other dictatorships and saying nothing about other, much wealthier, powerful news organisations that publish material in partnership with us," he said.
"It is cowardly to bully a small media organisation but that is what is happening here."
This week, Ms Gillard told Austereo there was nothing the government could or should do to help Assange return to Australia immediately.
"They are charges and they've got to be worked through proper process," she said.
Assange told Melburnians that WikiLeaks was "eternally grateful for your support in helping us stand up to the bullies".
Assange said WikiLeaks was simply publishing matters that were in the public interest, such as cables revealing that "the Labor Government has been working to secretly shield from prosecution Indonesian military figures who killed Australian journalists in East Timor".
"It would appear that the Labor Government is doing today what Labor did in 1975 regarding East Timor talking about human rights while trying to downplay attacks on journalists...we are a media organisation...I am a journalist."
But Assange vowed WikiLeaks would continue to "keep the bastards honest" and urged the crowd to insist that the government come clean about its dealings with other countries in relation to WikiLeaks and allow him to return home.
Assange's extradition hearing is expected to last two days. It is likely the losing side may appeal the decision.
Consular officials contacted Assange before he was bailed but he has not received any government help since.
Cyclone Yasi Likely To Have Ravaged Great Barrier Reef
On its way to ravaging cities and towns in north Queensland, severe tropical cyclone Yasi will almost certainly have left a swath of destruction on the Great Barrier Reef off Townsville.
Early last month, as floods struck southern Queensland, I accompanied a team of divers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science on an expedition to a 300-mile part of the reef a fifth of the 1,400-mile-long World Heritage Area.
The researchers dived 13 reefs from Myrmidon, which is 75 miles out to sea, to areas around the inshore Palm Island group, just off the mainland. Much of what we saw was spectacular and showed the reef recovering from a decade of devastation caused by coral bleaching and crown-of-thorns starfish, both of which have been responsible for large areas of coral mortality.
It may be weeks or months before scientists can fully survey and assess the damage from cyclone Yasi but, based on the effect of previous large cyclones, they will not be optimistic. Tropical cyclones generate huge waves, which pulverise coral reefs into rubble.
In March 2009, category four tropical cyclone Hamish travelled in an unusual path from north to south, tracking parallel to the coast and not making landfall. It is estimated to have affected a quarter of the Great Barrier Reef.
A year later I was able to dive in one of the areas hit by cyclone Hamish, also with scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Much of what we saw at the Swains, at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, was denuded of life. Numerous coral bommies, many the size of big cars, had been lifted up on to the reef flat by the force of the storm. It can take years, or even decades, for such a coral ecosystem to recover fully.
Scientists fear that as climate change tightens its grip devastating storms such as cyclones Yasi and Hamish will become more frequent and intense. However, it is not just the direct impacts of these storms that can damage the reef.
In the wake of the Queensland flooding, a coral ecologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Dr Katharina Fabricius, warned that floodwaters carrying high nutrient loads from agricultural and urban catchments could lead to outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish. The starfish feed on coral, quickly denuding entire reefs.
Last year Fabricius and her colleagues published new evidence that nutrients in floodwaters provide food to the starfish larvae, increasing their survivability.
These are nervous days for the marine biologists who study the Great Barrier Reef and the authorities responsible for its good health.
James Woodford is the author of The Great Barrier Reef (Pan Macmillan)
He Went, And Again This Year Too
Wouldn't it be good if Australia's media informed us which Australians attended.
Huffington Post [3/2/10]:
Tomorrow, President Obama and dozens of members of Congress will attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. Unbeknownst to most, this seemingly innocuous event is hosted by a shadowy religious organization known as "the Fellowship," or alternatively, "the Family." They should not go.
The Fellowship has been cultivating an unorthodox brand of Christianity amongst the political, military, and economic elite of America and other countries for over 50 years, focused on meeting Jesus "man-to-man." The group operates in secret, away from the "din of the vox populi." Doug Coe, described as "The Stealth Persuader," has led the group since 1969. He has been praised for his "quiet diplomacy" by former President George H.W. Bush. That diplomacy has included forming relationships with some of the most ruthless dictators of the last half-century, including "Papa Doc" Duvalier of Haiti; Jonas Savimbi of Angola; Costa e Silva of Brazil; and Siad Barre of Somalia, considered a "brother" to the Family.
The one time of year when the Family emerges from the shadows is the annual National Prayer Breakfast, its signature event. This large-scale function serves as a recruiting tool for the group, but is often misconstrued by attendees as an official government event -- a perception reinforced by a presidential address at the breakfast, presidential seals strategically located around the room, and an organizing committee made up of members of Congress. Given the official façade, some attendees have expected at least a nod to other religions, but they are quickly disappointed. "JESUS is there!" reads a breakfast planning document.
At past breakfasts, the Family has facilitated meetings between its foreign allies and the president as well as members of Congress, outside the reach of the Department of State and traditional U.S. diplomatic protocol. Past prayer breakfast attendees have included General Eugenio Vides Casanova of El Salvador, later found liable for the torture of thousands of civilians, and General Alvarez Martinez of Honduras, later linked to secret death squads in that country.
The Family has been linked to ethically troubled politicians including Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), and former Rep. "Chip" Pickering (R-Miss.). These politicians were all at one time affiliated with the Family- run C Street House, a boarding house on Capitol Hill, which also operates as a church. Residents of C Street honored the organization's penchant for secrecy by taking a pact not to discuss their living situation.
The mixing of religion and diplomacy, regardless of U.S. interests, is a hallmark of the Family. Indeed, some members of the Family have taken to proselytizing on the group's behalf while on the taxpayers' dime. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and his staff traveled to Africa dozens of times at a cost of over $189,000 and admitted to doing Fellowship work on these trips. A group of congressmen affiliated with the Family discussed their prayer groups with President Karzai of Afghanistan and President Mushaaraf of Pakistan in early 2002.
Perhaps most troubling, members of the Family have been behind efforts in Uganda to pass draconian anti-gay legislation that includes life imprisonment -- and in some cases the death penalty -- for anyone convicted of having gay sex. The legislator who introduced the bill, David Bahati, is a member of the Family. He organizes the Family's Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which the Family has poured millions of dollars. As late as mid-January, Mr. Bahati was scheduled to attend tomorrow's breakfast, but recently he was disinvited, undoubtedly because press coverage of his connection to the Family has proven embarrassing.
The White House has confirmed that President Obama will attend tomorrow's breakfast, with the ludicrous, child-like explanation: all the other presidents have attended. First, does the White House really require the parental reminder that just because everyone else has done something doesn't mean the president must do it too? Second, didn't President Obama come to Washington on a platform of change, specifically promising to run his administration differently?
The Family is a cult-like secret society with unknown funding and intolerant views. It is tied to ruthless dictators abroad and unethical politicians at home. It mixes religion and diplomacy to a frightening extent, all while remaining in the shadows. In short, there is nothing about this organization that any American official, much less the President of the United States, should support.
By attending the National Prayer Breakfast, senior government officials lend their imprimatur to an organization whose ideas and practices are antithetical to the American ideals of transparency and high ethical standards -- the very ideals upon which President Obama has based his administration. Given all of this, the president and members of Congress would do well to reconsider attending the Family's National Prayer Breakfast.
Isn't Free Market Fundamentalism Great?
Coast Daily' [4/2/11]:
Sunshine Coast parks and gardens contractors are furious they have lost council work to Brisbane and Gold Coast firms despite the authoritys promises to support local jobs.
Angry small business operators concerns have sparked a complaint to the Crime and Misconduct Commission alleging official misconduct.
Coast lawn mowers, slashers, landscapers, tree loppers, and stump grinders say they lost work when tenders were called for preferred suppliers for Parks and Tree Maintenance Services late last year.
One of the affected contractors claims to have evidence that a council staffer connected to the tendering process had links to one of the 44 successful tenderers, despite having declared no conflict of interest.
Affected contractors also claim that the tender process was flawed, and that the council failed to call a meeting to explain the tender requirements to them as was required by law.
To add insult to injury, they claim the successful tenders who have replaced them include businesses from as far away as Adelaide.
One contractor said he believed between 20 and 30 existing Coast contractors had lost out, although the council said 30 of 36 existing Coast contractors who submitted tenders remained on the register.
The Daily spoke to six contractors, all of whom have worked for the council for upwards of five years.
Some of them missed out completely, while others had their work or work areas significantly reduced.
They all asked to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardising their chances of future work with the council.
One of the affected local contractors has laid off half of his staff and sold half of his machinery to cope with the loss of work, while another has put off two staff so far.
One of the snubbed local contractors had paid $1200 to have tender documents prepared by a professional and still missed out on work.
Another lost work to a contractor who charges more.
A statement from the council said its procurement process followed the Local Government Act and it adopted a number of additional principles to ensure its procurement process was transparent and fair.
It said tender meetings were normally held and specific instructions on how to access further information were supplied with tender documentation.
The council refused to confirm or deny any internal investigation. In the interests of natural justice, council does not disclose any information in regard to internal investigations...
However, council can advise that any matters raised regarding conflicts of interest will be addressed in accordance with legislative requirements and council guidelines.
A CMC spokesman confirmed that a complaint of official misconduct by a Sunshine Coast council officer was received in December.
The complaint related to contracts awarded by the council.
The matter has been assessed and referred to the Sunshine Coast Regional Council to deal with, subject to monitoring by the CMC. No further comment is appropriate at this stage.
Another said the result was a kick in the teeth after years of hard work and loyalty.
They just use you up, chew you up, and toss you aside like a dirty rag.
Aunty Sullies Otherwise Decent Reporting From North Queensland With Lies About Looting
Police reinforcements help prevent looting
By Murray Cornish
Updated February 4, 2011 14:47:00
Townsville police in north Queensland say extra officers are being brought in to help patrol the city.
Regional assistant commissioner Clem O'Regan says patrols will triple from tonight.
"There'll be another 30 officers arriving from central region and Brisbane," he said.
"Where we might have had one car on patrol after midnight in one particular vision, there'll now be three.
"[It's] triple strength around the Townsville metropolitan area."
Assistant Commissioner O'Regan says six people have been arrested for looting commercial properties on the day Cyclone Yasi crossed the coast.
"The people who are offending are the people who were offending before the cyclone," he said.
"I suppose if you don't respect other peoples property and the law that doesn't change no matter what the event."
... DAVID MARK: As the tragedy of Cyclone Yasi unfolds there are signs of people's strengths and weaknesses. Police in Townsville have now arrested and charged six people with looting and say they'll make more arrests.
IAN STEWART: In the last couple of days we've had about 11 cases that could be analogous to looting offences.
DAVID MARK: Crime is a minor irritant compared to the sheer enormity of the clean-up task. It could take four weeks to restore power to 150,000 Queenslanders without electricity. But first preference goes to fixing broken infrastructure.
The restoration of Townsville's water treatment works overnight was an important first step. ...
Hang on, "The people who are offending are the people who were offending before the cyclone" and "In the last couple of days we've had about 11 cases that could be analogous to looting offences."?
Is it fucking looting or not?
Obviously not - hence the tortured language.
... Dyeing your hair a weird color "acts as a nice filter," she told me. 'Based on people's reactions, you kind of know who's worth talking to." ...
'Tavi Says: Fashion dictates from a fourteen-year-old' by Lizzie Widdicombe 'The New Yorker' [20/9/10]
WikiLeaks Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize
After a Tuesday deadline to submit nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize, Norwegian parliamentarian Snorre Valen announced he had entered WikiLeaks as a candidate for the prestigious award.
Nominations can be handed in by members of national assemblies and governments of states, members of international courts, university professors and directors of peace and foreign policy institutes.
WikiLeaks' work exposing government secrets has earned it the enmity of countries around the world, especially the US. However, Valen told Deutsche Welle, and that WikiLeaks therefore deserved the Nobel prize for contributing to world peace.
"One instance is the exposure of the corruption in Tunisia, where [ousted president Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali, the dictator, was exposed," Valen said. "That contributed, in a small part, to the fall of a more than 24-year-long regime."
WikiLeaks caught the world's attention with the publication of thousands of secret US reports on the war in Afghanistan last summer. Since then, it has stayed in the public eye with similar reports on the war in Iraq, and the gradual release of some 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables. Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Valen says the nomination is to support free speech
Valen said another reason he nominated WikiLeaks for the Nobel Peace Prize was to support free speech.
"Even though I do not approve of everything WikiLeaks does, I think it's very important to protect the freedom of speech and the transparency WikiLeaks represents," he said.
A WikiLeaks spokesperson greeted the nomination enthusiastically. Kristinn Hrafnsonn told Norwegian broadcaster NRK the nomination acknowledges the influence WikiLeaks has had, and is going to have. ...
In Australia Extreme And Catastrophic Weather Events Will Never Be A Result Of Climate Change Because That Would Mean We Would Have To Do Something
Ministers will meet residents and community leaders in Proserpine on Sunday, with Premier Anna Bligh hosting a full sitting of Cabinet at Airlie Beach, north of Mackay, on Monday.
A number of department heads will also hold meetings in Bowen.
Mr Fraser says the State Government felt it was important for the meetings to proceed.
"We want to make sure also that we get this part of the state back up and running and being here and reinforcing that the Whitsundays is open for business is a key part of getting the economy moving again," he said.
Mr Fraser says the two-day event will be an important boost for the local tourism industry.
"Many people and many ministers will obviously be in north Queensland where they're undertaking road assessments or other infrastructure assessments to ensure that the whole of north Queensland rebuilds," he said.
"But it's important that we do emphasise not only to other people, but right around the nation, that the Government is continuing in business and the Whitsundays are open for business."
Queensland: Come See Climate Change And Neoliberalism In Action - From Fossil Fuel Frenzy To The Spectacle Of Destruction and Ensuing Disaster Capitalism!
Watch political puppet show politicians and clown media admonish anyone who dares to question or criticise, as their failed ideology crumbles all around them.
See the citizens of Queensland in their natural habitat - abandoned by their governments, then treated with contempt and blamed when their elected representatives fail to protect them:
Bradley Korte runs the Parkside Motel and Restaurant in Ayr.
His hotel is completely full and he's been turning away dozens of people.
BRADLEY KORTE: And one lady I turned away earlier, she had a young baby in her arms. And from the look on her face, it was rather terrifying. It was rather sad. So their only option was either find a place or sleep in the car on the road somewhere.
EMILY BOURKE: And he's not alone. ...
EMILY BOURKE: But as for the sudden influx of people Councillor McLaughlin says there's not much more local authorities can do.
LYN MCLAUGHLIN [Mayor of Burdekin Shire Council]: The people who have chosen to travel without checking the road or the condition of the roads or planned ahead, that really isn't a job for the local government or the local disaster management group to have to deal with.
EMILY BOURKE: Are you opening up any emergency shelters at all?
LYN MCLAUGHLIN: No, we don't have any evacuation centre open. I mean most of our evacuation centres do not have power.
So you know we have been in a crisis our self. I mean I just think some of the requests people make are unreasonable.
They chose to go on the road and they needed to plan and they needed to organise themselves for what could be. People were told in advance that there was heavy rain with this cyclone and the possibility of flooding. ...
Out Of Sight Out of Mind III
Generators are being used to keep the systems running in the wake of Cyclone Yasi.
Mayor Alf Lacey says some public infrastructure was also damaged by the massive storm.
"The post office has completely had the roof ripped right off it, the community cultural centre has certainly had its roof ripped off it, and certain council depots throughout the shire have had severe damage done to them," he said.
Councillor Lacey says the remote community is dealing with the aftermath as best it can.
"It's just a matter of getting in and cleaning up and then restoring what needs to be restored," he said.
"Landline connection to the island is nonexistent, and certainly in terms of plane services, boat services in and out of Palm, we're certainly isolated at this point in time."
Cr Lacey says it will take a few days for the community to get back on its feet.
Oysters Disappearing Worldwide
Coast Mail' [3/2/11]:
A survey of oyster habitats around the world released today found that they are disappearing fast and 85 per cent of their reefs have been lost due to disease and over-harvesting.
Most of the remaining wild oysters in the world, or about 75 per cent, can be found in five locations in North America, said the study published in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
An international team of researchers led by Michael Beck of the Nature Conservancy and the University of California, Santa Cruz, examined the condition of native oyster reefs in 40 ecoregions, including 144 bays.
"Oyster reefs are at less than 10 per cent of their prior abundance in most bays (70 per cent) and ecoregions (63 per cent)," said the study.
"They are functionally extinct -- in that they lack any significant ecosystem role and remain at less than one per cent of prior abundances in many bays (37 per cent) and ecoregions (28 per cent) -- particularly in North America, Australia and Europe."
By averaging the loss among all regions, the researchers came up with an estimate that 85 per cent of oyster reef ecosystems have been lost, but said that figure was likely low because some areas lacked historical records for comparison.
The study also did not include oyster reefs in parts of South Africa, China, Japan, and North and South Korea.
Other studies and observations in those areas "suggest that wild oyster abundance was much higher in the past and that reefs have declined greatly in abundance or have disappeared altogether", the authors said.
The one bright spot in the oyster world was in the Gulf of Mexico, where native oyster catches are "the highest in the world despite significant declines in abundance and reefs", according to the study.
Five regions where oyster catches were globally the highest were located in eastern North America, from the Virginia coast southward and also in the Gulf of Mexico.
Oysters are important to ecosystems because they filter impurities from water and provide food and employment for people living in coastal communities.
The decline in oyster population often begins when trawling or dredging destroys the structure of parts of the reef, leaving surviving oysters vulnerable to stresses in the environment.
In some cases, non-native species of oysters are introduced after a population decline, and they bring with them diseases that further kill off the native oysters.
The authors recommended that any reefs with less than 10 per cent of their former abundance be closed to further harvesting until the oysters can build up their numbers again.
Feeling Like A Third World Country Yet?
While much of far north Queensland was in lockdown as cyclone Yasi approached, three women had more immediate things on their minds: the imminent births of their babies.
Heavily pregnant Akiko Pruss, from Cairns, arrived at the makeshift evacuation centre with her husband Christian and her mother who had flown from Japan, armed with some nappies - just in case.
But with her baby was not due until Thursday, and no signs of contractions there was no reason to panic.
Until 2:45am however, when right in the thick of the cyclone, surrounded 1,000 other people sheltering in the centre, she went into labour.
Cairns local councillor Linda Cooper, who was in charge of the evacuation centre, which is normally a children's school, said she had asked for anyone with specialist skills to come forward when they realised Pruss was going into labour.
Carol Weeks, a British midwife who had been holidaying in Cairns with her husband Andrew for their 25th wedding anniversary, was also in the evacuation centre, and heard the call for help.
"They found me. Someone said: 'Is there someone medical in the room' and I said: 'I'm a midwife' and they said: 'Oh good, there is a baby due,'" Weeks told an Australian news agency.
Akiko and Christian were taken to a small, windowless room, 4m (12ft) square, with a foam mattress on the floor.
"We kept the generator going for the fan so at least she had that," said Cooper.
"We also got her some wet towels to try to make her more comfortable, but there were no medicines or drugs," she said.
The baby girl was born at 6.09am, but no one knows how heavy she was. "We didn't have anything to weigh her with," said Cooper.
Weeks said it was an "absolutely perfect" natural delivery.
Two other babies were also born during in the middle of cyclone Yasi in the town of Innisfail during the height of the storm. They were born at Innisfail Hospital one at 10.43pm and another at 10.44pm local time.
"In the midst of all of this devastation, new life in some very touching circumstances," said Queensland state premier, Anna Bligh. "I'm sure it will bring a lot of smiles to faces in that centre today after such a difficult and distressing night.
"I understand the mum in the evacuation centre has ruled out calling her baby Yasi, and I suspect the other two mums will do the same."
At Least Someone's Doing Climate Change Adaptation In Australia!
Cyclone Yasi puts All-Stars match in a spin: AFL Media Release [3/2/11]
The AFL is expected to make a decision by lunchtime on Thursday whether Friday night's clash between Richmond and the All-Stars will go ahead at Traeger Park in Alice Springs.
The game had already been relocated from Darwin due to heavy rain and the weather is threatening again, with Cyclone Yasi, which devastated areas in far north Queensland in the early hours of Thursday, is expected to bring strong winds and heavy rainfall to Alice Springs over the next few days.
The AFL is investigating alternatives including yet another change in venue.
The Indigenous All-Stars have cancelled their flights into Alice Springs and are awaiting word from the AFL, while the Tigers, who are due to fly out on Friday, have put their plans on hold.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said player safety was paramount but both sides are still keen for the match to go ahead in some manner. ...
... Anchors on state-run television heavily promoted the "pro-stability" rally, and buses and trucks dropped off loads of government backers at sites downtown. The owners of a factory said they had been told by the ruling National Democratic Party to mobilize their workers for the demonstration, a move that has been a standard practice here for decades. Many who took to the streets appeared to have come prepared for the vicious fight that ensued.
The Internet, which had been cut off for most of the past week, came back on in late morning; some anti-government demonstrators suspected that it was used to help coordinate the counter-rally. The night before, the army had sent text messages to Egyptians calling on them to protect their country from destruction.
Pro-democracy demonstrators alleged that their foes were paid to take to the streets by the ruling party, by the police or by wealthy businessmen with deep ties to the government. All of those elements, the protesters say, are sufficiently desperate to take extreme measures. ...
Let The Imaginary Looting Begin!
There is no evidence, suggestion or rumours of looting in the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi.
The Minister for Emergency Services, Head of Emergency Services and Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Police made no mention of looting at today's [3/2/11] lunchtime press conference broadcast on Channel 9.
So if you're a a big girls blouse apologist for the status quo, how do you create a boogeyman beatup about the non-existent problem of looting?
Well, you simply ask a question about looting, which then allows you to insert looting into your headline and first par.
Tomorrow, you or one of your grubby little buddies will ask the stiffs about fraudsters, rorters, scammers and/or rubberneckering sightseers.
And before too long you'll be fabricating garbage about profiteering and real estate vultures.
Your mother must be so proud.
What's Wrong With Australian Swimming?
Out Of Sight Out of Mind II
The Aboriginal community of Palm Island was not evacuated before the arrival of Cyclone Yasi, despite people at neighbouring islands leaving days earlier.
Former mayor and community leader Robert Blackley said while resorts on Orpheus and Dunk islands had self-evacuated efficiently, the Government had left the Palm Island residents to fend for themselves.
"When offshore islands started to be evacuated we all went, 'Well, we're an island offshore, what about us?','' he said. "We thought maybe the army would fly some planes in and evacuate women and children at least, but that didn't happen.''
Mr Blackley said evacuation facilities on the island itself were inadequate, with three of the four centres within range of the storm surge due to poor planning.
Despite this, he said the Government sent no boats or planes to evacuate residents, and while other communities in the area had been getting community announcements and visits from authorities, Palm Island had been ignored.
"To tell you the truth I never saw a single community advert. I saw nothing, there was no flyer, no doorknock, no SES guy, no police officer,'' Mr Blackley said. "I guess we just missed the boat, figuratively and literally on this occasion.''
He said the local ferry company had sent one ferry with a capacity of 250 passengers to help evacuate the community of about 3500.
But Mr Blackley said only around 70 people took the opportunity to leave to the mainland.
"Not many people got on it, I think mainly because they don't have the monetary resources to go to Townsville and look after themselves,'' he said.
But Palm Island's current Mayor Alf Lacey said it was misleading and unhelpful of Mr Blackley to suggest that Palm Island had been neglected.
"Giving those wrong messages out to the wider public is probably not useful when you're trying to unite the community around an event like this,'' he said, adding that the community had been preparing for Cyclone Yasi since before Cyclone Anthony struck the coast on January 30, and was well prepared.
White Coat - The Media's Moral Creepback
... Actual flak was, of course, a major threat to Allied bombers attacking Germany during the Second World War, contributing to a phenomenon known as creepback. The most dangerous time in a bombing raid was just prior to the release of bombs. With bomb doors wide open, pilots had to fly the aircraft straight and level as they approached target indicator flares dropped by pathfinder aircraft. For a few hair-raising minutes, no evasive action could be taken to avoid searchlights, fighters or flak. Given that a direct hit in a fully-loaded bomb bay meant instant death, there was a powerful incentive for aircrew to shorten time spent as sitting ducks by releasing their bombs early, which they tended to do just before reaching the target flares.
Aircraft that followed then also tended to drop their bombs just before reaching the fires created by these first, prematurely released bombs, and so on. The result, historian Martin Middlebrook noted, was that bombing inevitably crept back along the line of the bomb run. (Middlebrook, The Battle of Hamburg, Allen Lane, 1980, p.99)
Compare and contrast with life in the mainstream media. Corporate high-flyers who maintain a straight and level course for the proper target of honest journalism the responsibility of powerful interests for human and environmental disaster also face serious and intensifying risks to their careers. On the other hand, journalists who drop their focus short of the target exposing the crimes of villains in Iran, Venezuela and North Korea are far more likely to return from their keyboards to a ticker-tape welcome. Thus, corporate journalists are under constant pressure to creep back to lines favourable to powerful interests.
After 100 years of near-total corporate media monopoly (challenged, at last, in the age of the internet), journalistic creepback often produces media performance all but unrecognisable as serious reporting. ...
Out Of Sight Out of Mind
Why were the people being turned away from evacuation centres predominantly black?
Former Mayor of Palm Island, Robert Blackley, was interviewed by Channel 7 this afternoon [2/2/11].
He said Government staff were evacuated from Palm yesterday and that a handful of islanders were given the opportunity to leave on a ferry, but they had to pay.
He said he wouldn't be going to any of the island's evacuation centres because they are all below the predicted three metre surge.
Residents on Palm Island are preparing for the worst as Cyclone Yasi looks likely to submerge and flatten large parts of the island.
Victoria Laine, who is a registered nurse working in the islands hospital, said only about 600 of the predominantly Indigenous population of 3000 had left the island, while another 300 had made their way to one of the islands two evacuation centres. The rest remained in houses that were not built to withstand a cyclone of this strength.
"Much of the housing on the island is what we call informal so made of tin sheets," she said.
Laine said medical staff and police had made the decision to stay on the island, which is 65km north-west of Townsville, to deal with the cyclones aftermath.
"Weve decided that as long as the hospital still has a roof we will practice. Theres no other building on the island suitable for us to move to, except maybe the courthouse."
She said the island was also expecting tidal surges of between four and six metres which will submerge many houses.
No official order had been made for residents to evacuate the island, Laine said, although a ferry and a number of extra flights evacuated some residents yesterday.
News of the cyclone was received by the local population with scepticism, she told New Matilda, in part because Cyclone Anthony, which swept past the island late last week, had not been as damaging as predicted.
The airport is now closed and the island has not received any fresh food since the day before yesterday, she said.
Asked if she was nervous about the approaching storm, Laine told New Matilda that "afraid is a better word to describe it".
We will continue to post updates on the situation on Palm Island provided the Telstra tower remains intact and we are able to get through to local contacts.
Ive just spoken to Victoria again and she says the wind and rain have picked up but no damage has been done yet. They have been advised that very strong winds will start after 7pm local time.
She said the whole island, including the ambulance service, is now in lockdown.
And what sort of fucked up message is the "You're On Your Own" meme that the Government, army and media have been disseminating?
Treating people like idiots, as if they wouldn't know that when a cyclone
hits, they shouldn't expect emergency services would be able to reach them
Not because some dodgy Professor from one of the various Ponds Institutes and fascist think tanks says so, but because a U.S. multinational corporation has pilloried it their latest advertisement.
More than any PhD, thesis or opinion piece, the latest "Crunchy Nut" ad (there is a 'bomb' in a supermarket and the guy controlling the bomb robot uses it to bring out a box of cereal while some other guy has to get the bomb just in time) tells us that "terrrrsm" is really just a bit of a laugh, a bit of a nod and a wink.
Oracle To Pay $46m To Settle
Oracle Corp has agreed to pay $US46 million ($A46.21 million) to settle a lawsuit over alleged kickbacks to win government work.
The Department of Justice charged that Sun Microsystems Inc, which Oracle bought last year, and other technology companies paid kickbacks to Accenture PLC for Accenture to recommend that federal agencies buy Sun products.
The Justice Department said last year that the lawsuit covered software contracts that ran from 1998 to 2006 and were worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Six other companies, including Hewlett-Packard Co, have settled similar charges.
The settlement by Oracle's America unit also resolved claims that Sun provided incomplete and inaccurate information to government contracting officers during negotiations over contracts with the US Postal Service and two resellers of Sun products. The government said regulations and contracts required Sun to explain how it did business so that contracting officers could negotiate a fair price for government customers.
Government officials said kickbacks and inaccurate information during contract negotiations cost taxpayers money.
Allegations against Sun were first raised in a lawsuit brought by two whistleblowers, and the government joined their case in 2007.
Oracle representatives didn't respond to a request for comment.
Shares of Oracle, a software company based in Redwood Shores, California, rose three cents to close at $32.03.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has resigned herself to having a conversation about federally-funded compulsory disaster insurance.
But she insists private insurers will always have their place in Australia.
Ms Gillard is hoping to push through parliament as soon as possible legislation setting up a controversial flood levy to help fund rebuilding efforts in flood-damaged areas in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
But to do that she first needs to win over key crossbenchers, some of whom want a more long-term solution to protect Australia from future disasters.
"We'll end up looking into some of these issues ... (but) anything we do has to work with private insurance," Ms Gillard told Austereo on Wednesday.
"We wouldn't want people to get the message `Don't worry about being insured anymore because if anything happens the government's going to fix it.'
"I mean, we're never going to be able to have a scheme like that."
Ms Gillard does not want talks about a long-term solution to slow the passing of the flood levy legislation.
A 7 News Exclusive
He is the elusive WikiLeaks founder who has made enemies of presidents and prime ministers but Julian Assange expects one leader to stand up for his rights.
The Australian founder of the whistleblower website has called on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to apologise for the way she treated him and his website.
7News was invited to interview Mr Assange at the English country manor where strict bail conditions have made him a virtual prisoner.
He is facing extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual assault and has been denounced for leaking thousands of US diplomatic cables.
Mr Assange told 7News reporter Mike Duffy that Ms Gillards actions stopped him from returning home to Australia because he did not feel safe.
Upon the release of the controversial cables, Ms Gillard and Attorney-General Robert McClelland declared the leaks illegal but later backed away from their statements when asked to name any law WikiLeaks had broken.
Under heavy public pressure, the Australian government was forced to provide Mr Assange with assistance in his legal case.
Ms Gillard has constantly maintained the activities of WikiLeaks are irresponsible and reckless, and condemned the actions of the organisation.
"Gillard needs to declare publicly that this is not an acceptable treatment of an Australian organisation and nor is it an acceptable treatment of an Australian," Mr Assange told 7News.
He also claims the United States made a concerted effort to infiltrate the government, especially the Australian Labor Party not as a whole ideology, but rather key individuals such as Mark Arbib and a number of others.
Mr Assange told 7News of his fear when senior figures of the United States and media players called for his assassination and torture as well as threatening his family and colleagues.
He would have liked to return to Australia immediately but intelligence indicated it was not safe to do so.
"We're an organisation that promotes disclosure from powerful organisations but we are now in a position where we are putting our staff on non-disclosure agreements," Mr Assange said.
In contrast, the WikiLeaks founder is extremely humbled by the extraordinary support he has received from the Australian public.
Its not just that the Australian people are fighting for us, it is that they are fighting for a principle we represent, Mr Assange said.
It is both surreal, and very gratifying it is this support which has kept us alive and able to publish.
In Australia, we went from a position last year where we saw the Australian Attorney-General saying he would assist any country anywhere in the world to prosecute me, that he would consider cancelling my Australian passport and my citizenship.
We went from that position, that reactionary position, done not for the Australian people but to send a message of conformity and compliance, to what we see now.
Mr Assange said the organization is defining a new standard on the right to speak freely.
We are a source protection agency, we protect our sources... our sources are therefore kept secret, Mr Assange said.
He faces an extradition hearing in London next week but Julian Asssange knows that is only the beginning.
The US Administration has a long memory.
Hold The Front Page
Big media outlets aren't just giving Australian voters advice about pollies, they're giving big sums to political parties. But as Lawrence Bull found out, it isn't easy to follow the money
The political donations for the 2010 federal election are published by the Australian Electoral Commission today, so we can expect plenty of news reports about property developers and mining magnates giving large sums to the major Australian political parties. What we are less likely to see, is major news outlets delivering analyses of the big donations that come from big media organisations.
Public debate erupted around the United States after Rupert Murdoch approved two $US1 million donations from News Corp to the Republican Governors Association and US Chamber of Commerce in the lead-up to the November mid-term elections. The size of the sums raised concerns about the corporations objectivity which were echoed by shareholders in their October annual general meeting.
There is no such debate raging in Australia, but donations and mutually beneficial financial relationships between media companies and the major parties are abundant.
Six-figure donations are common, and the relationships dont end there - Labor has several major investments in media companies and the close relationship between former Fairfax CEO Ron Walker and the Liberals is well known.
Information on these financial relationships is available through the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website, but it is often obscured by archaic filing systems and the disclosure laws. Indeed, in examining the ties between corporate media and the major parties over the last decade, the obstacles that obscure clarification of that relationship are as significant as the revelations themselves.
Lets put News Corps donation into an Australian context: if we adjust for the relative sizes of our populations, a US$1 million political donation in the US is equivalent to an $80,000 one here.
This amount is roughly what PBL and its entities give the Coalition every year, on average from the financial years of 2000 to 2009, although the amounts vary from year to year. In the same period, Labor accepted nearly $70,000 a year from PBL.
These donations werent just given to federal branches of the parties, but to the NSW, Victoria, WA and Queensland branches. Many hundreds of thousands of dollars of donation money is transferred between party branches, often in both directions at once. When money is reshuffled between branches like this it can be difficult to hold individual politicians to account for the donations they receive and it can also obscure political motives.
For example, in the three years leading to the 2007 federal and NSW state elections PBL backed the NSW Liberal Party with a total of nearly $120,000. They gave NSW Labor only $13,750 over the same period.
Ten days before Kevin Rudds 2007 victory, PBL gave the NSW Liberals a further $20,000. Bear in mind this was eight months after the NSW election. But on Rudds fifth day as Prime Minister the company changed horses and gave $50,000 to Labor but again to the NSW branch.
In the 07/08 financial year, the AEC website shows that the NSW Liberals transferred more than $1.5 million to the federal Liberals, and gave them more than $330,000 in payments.
Other state Liberal branches transferred more than $2 million combined (with the most money coming from Victoria) and made payments totaling nearly $1 million. Federal Labor got nearly $1.8 million, and over $200,000 in payments from its state parties.
There are clear disclosure guidelines for political donations, however they do not always make it easy to follow the money. When a political donation is made, the donor may use their own name, they may include a spouse, or they may use the name of one of their companies.
They may also abbreviate or expand any of the above. If even one letter or punctuation mark diverges from their previous disclosure, it is filed separately, and any relationship with previous donations to that company is partially obscured.
Most of the PBL money was given under the name Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. Other donors included Consolidated Press Ltd, the Nine Network and Roslyn Packer.
If each of these entities themselves consistently donated under the same name, the money trail would be more clear. This is not the case. The Nine Network, for example, is filed under the following: Nine Network, Nine Network Australia, Nine Network Australia (VIC), Nine Network Australia Pty Ltd, TCN Channel Nine Pty Ltd, and PBL (TCN Channel 9).
PBL gave Australian political parties more than any other media organisation. Next in line was the Ten Network which gave the Coalition nearly $650,000 and Labor over $400,000; and then Austereo with nearly $500,000 and nearly $350,000 respectively.
Ten donated $75,000 each to both parties in the last three disclosed elections, while Austereo donated over $100,000 worth of airtime to each party for the 2007 election.
Another big donor, Paul Ramsay Holdings, primary owner of Prime Television and various private hospitals, donated nearly $250,000 to the Liberals over the decade far exceeding Primes own donations of nearly $73,000 to the Liberals and nearly $58,000 to Labor.
A host of News Corp companies, including News Limited, Foxtel and Nova, gave the Coalition $88,550 in donations and other payments, and Labor $15,000 over the ten year period. Rupert Murdochs mum, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, outdid all of them put together giving the Liberals in excess of $120,000 over the decade.
Fairfax companies and family members gave over $90,000 and over $20,000 respectively, while the Seven Network gave about $35,000 each way.
For journalists reporting on political donations, an obfuscatory public record means public information is unlikely to reach its audience.
But why should we care about political donations from media companies to political parties? After all, dont media organisations have political interests to protect? In the last federal election, much concern was expressed about the influence of media organisations on voters. Its easy enough to detect and discuss bias in material that is published or broadcast for a wide audience. The very difficulty of working out the labyrinthine relationships financial relationships between political parties and media organisations and we havent even gone into the murky terrain of associated entities and interest-free loans impedes public discussion of these relationships.
Should political parties accept donations from media organisations? Do these donations reflect the editorial orientation of these organisations? Should media organisations be obliged to disclose their financial relationships to political parties during election periods? These are important questions but the big media organisations arent in a rush to ask them.
Nope. Nothing else happening in Japan right now.
Japan Today [1/2/11]:
A revived volcano in southern Japan erupted again Tuesday with its biggest explosion yet, shooting out a huge plume of gas, boulders and ash and breaking windows 8 kilometers away.
The danger zone around Shinmoedake volcano was widened to keep residents safe. The largest eruption since it burst back to life last week covered wide areas in ash, shot boulders onto distant roads, knocked down trees and broke hundreds of windows in hotels and offices.
No serious injuries have been reported since the initial eruption last Wednesday, but public broadcaster NHK said a woman suffered cuts from shattered glass in Tuesdays blast.
NHK said the eruption was five times larger than the initial activity last week, which was Shinmoedakes first major eruption in 52 years.
Japans Meteorological Agency has restricted access to the mountain, and on Tuesday broadened the no-go zone to anywhere within a four-kilometer radius of the crater. Two lodges and scattered homes are within the perimeter.
Dozens of domestic flights in and out of Miyazakiabout 950 kilometers southwest of Tokyowere grounded last week and more cancellations followed. Train service was temporarily suspended in the area and many schools closed.
The local government also reported damages to crops.
Officials in the town of Takaharu have urged about 1,100 residents who live near the volcano to go to evacuation centers because of the danger of debris, ash and landslides. The warning was not mandatory, however, and some residents were returning to their homes.
Experts said a dome of lava was growing larger inside the 1,421-meter volcanos crater, but it was not certain whether the dome would grow enough to spill over the rim and create large flows down the volcanos sides.
Avalanches of superheated gas, ash and rock have already been observed.
The Japanese islands, part of the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, are volcanic in origin and dozens of volcanos still are active. In 1991, 43 people died in the eruption of Mount Unzen, also on Kyushu island.
Royal Condoms Rolled Out
'Gold Coast Mail' [1/2/11]:
While Britain has a public holiday to celebrate Prince William's wedding, one company is taking the party one step further with souvenir condoms that urge lovers to "lie back and think of England".
Crown Jewels Condoms of Distinction is producing special celebration packs that bear the slogan: "Like a royal wedding, intercourse with a loved one is an unforgettable occasion".
Critics have dismissed the novelty condoms as "tasteless".
William, second in line to the throne, is to marry his university sweetheart Kate Middleton on April 29 at London's Westminster Abbey.
All manner of predictable unofficial souvenirs such as tea towels, chinaware and postcards have been rushed out by manufacturers, with condoms now joining the ranks.
Hugh Pomfret, a spokesman for Crown Jewels Condoms of Distinction, insisted they were "a unique way to remember this great British occasion".
"In years to come, they will be a timeless memento of a magical wedding day."
Presented in regal-looking purple and gold, each pack bears a picture of the couple gazing into each other's eyes, saying it contains a "triumvirate of regal prophylactics", which are "lavishly lubed" and "regally ribbed".
"England boasts some of the finest lovemaking in the world, with a tradition of coitus going back generations," lovers are told.
"Combining the strength of a prince with the yielding sensitivity of a princess-to-be, Crown Jewels condoms promise a royal union of pleasure."
It also includes a drawing of the couple "as they might appear on their wedding day", produced by an "acclaimed international artist", who is not named. The facial resemblance is not overwhelming but the pose and outfits seem styled on the official engagement photographs.
The manufacturers stress that they are not supplied to or approved by William, his fiancee or the royal family.
Ingrid Seward, editor of the royal-watching Majesty magazine, told The Sun newspaper: "This is completely tasteless and really rather hurtful. Prince William has a great sense of humour but this is a step too far. This is a cheap swipe to make money."
Buckingham Palace declined to comment.
By John Pilger
January 31, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- When you fly over the earths oldest land mass, Australia, the view can be shocking.
Scars as long as European countries are the result of erosion. Salt pans shimmer where once native vegetation grew. This is almost impossible to reverse. The first to die are the most vulnerable species.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Australias devastation of its natural environment has caused more mammal extinction than in any other country. The iconic koala is used to attract tourists; the Queen and Oprah Winfrey, are photographed cuddling one, unaware that this unique creature has enriched the state of Queensland for decades with its industrial slaughter and the sale of its skin to Britain and America.
Today, the belatedly protected koala is not threatened by flood or drought but rapacious land-clearing, of which Queensland is the national champion. Each year, according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the state effectively destroys 100 million birds, mammals and reptiles.
The land is cleared by fire or machinery, often with a heavy chain tied between two bulldozers: a technique developed by Queenslands most notorious land-clearer, the late Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, the conservative state premier for 19 years, whose self-awarded knighthood was given for services to parliamentary democracy, such as winning gerry-mandered elections with 20 per cent of the votes.
In 1992, a defamation jury found that Bjelke-Petersen had been bribed on a large scale and on many occasions. Two of his ministers and his police commissioner were jailed for corruption. Lucrative land became a prize for cronies known as the white shoe brigade. Brown envelopes of cash were handed over at a five-star hotel recently lapped by floodwaters in the centre of Brisbane.
Last July, the Queensland Labor government sold swathes of the states forests and plantations to Hancock Queensland Plantations, a subsidiary of a US-based timber multinational. Queensland has many low-lying flood plains on which developers have been allowed to make fortunes selling plots.
The victims of the great flood have been mostly poor people, including timber workers and their families. Most could not afford insurance or discovered their policy did not include types of flood.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, says an ACCC report, deliberately stopped insurance companies from agreeing a common definition of flood so that insurers will continue to compete vigorously by product differentiation by using many definitions of flood to specify which risks are covered and which are excluded.
The callousness of this imposed confusion is emblematic of how the Australian elite has treated those ruined by an inland ocean the size of Germany and France combined.
Flooding also struck in Brazil and Sri Lanka in December, but the disaster in Australia is far more revealing; for Australia is a first world country with advanced technology and communications; and yet tens of thousands of people received no emergency warning.
Since the 1980s, Australia has become the model of a social democracy where the cult of the market has diminished public services and infrastructure budgets and divided by wealth a society that once boasted the most equitable spread of personal income in the world.
Little of this is discussed in a media of which Rupert Murdoch owns 70% of the capital city press. When the leader of the Greens, Bob Brown, dared suggest that the Queensland flood was due in part to the burning of fossil fuels [causing] the hottest oceans weve ever seen off Australia, he was abused as insensitive and told to apologise to the mining industry.
In the decade to 2005, says the Wilderness Society, the amount of land clearing in Australia was so extensive that the greenhouse gases produced rivaled the amount produced by cars and trucks.
A feature of the floods has been the PR campaigns of leading right-wing Labor Party politicians, notably prime minister Julia Gillard and Queensland premier Anna Bligh, who have talked up the Aussie battler spirit in the face of Mother Natures wrath. The medias relentless echo of this evokes Sir Johanness description of spinning journalists as feeding the chooks.
In truth, successive governments have rejected, ignored or suppressed the recommendations of their own experts that, if acted upon, could have saved Brisbane.
In 1999, a report commissioned by Brisbane City Council warned of significantly higher flooding than in the last great flood in 1974. When the contents were leaked, an alleged cover-up was referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission, and nothing happened. Dont you worry about that, Sir Johannes used to say.
Professor Andrew Short, director of the Coastal Studies Unit at Sydney University, compares the Queensland flood with the scandal of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. This is something we have been waiting for, he wrote . Why were there no levees to protect the low-lying towns? why are major highways and railways still below flood level?
Prime Minister Gillard has so far offered crumbs from a treasury in surplus, which subsidises the fossil fuel industry with $9 billion and is currently spending $1.1 billion on Australias mercenary commitment to American wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Having sent just 13 helicopters to rescue the stranded, Gillard appointed Major-General Mick Slater to head the recovery operation: an admission that the civilian emergency services had been so depleted, they could not cope. Slater ran Australias colonial adventure in East Timor. His most interesting statement has been a threat.
There is no reason why we wont have [success], he said, unless the media start to become divisive within the community and then, if there are areas of failure, I think I could find the reason and track it back to areas of the media.
He was not challenged. The chooks were fed.
What If You Have Nowhere To Go?
Premier and Minister for the Arts Media Release [31/1/11]
Premier Anna Bligh has tonight urged all residents of the area between Innisfail and Mackay to make immediate preparations as Tropical Cyclone Yasi continues its path toward the Queensland coast.
Ms Bligh said the extremely serious weather event now looked likely to cross the coast overnight on Wednesday and all residents should now be taking precautions, including stocking up on essential items.
Latest advice from the Bureau of Meteorology is that this cyclone will be accompanied by significant flood in low lying areas from storm surge, Ms Bligh said.
Those residents in low lying and waterfront areas in the Innisfail to Mackay region should be making arrangements to relocate on Tuesday.
Advice from the Weather Bureau is that coastal areas in Yasis path will begin to experience wind gusts beyond 100km an hour early on Wednesday.
So I implore all of those people who feel they may be facing a dangerous situation to leave their homes in plenty of time and relocate to friends and family.
If you have family or friends on higher ground, go to them.
I understand leaving your home will cause anxiety but I would rather people were inconvenienced for a couple of days than place themselves in dangerous situations.
If you want further information about whether your house is in a storm surge area, check the maps on the website of your local council or contact the council.
Our government and our State Disaster Management Group is in close and constant contact with those councils in the areas that may be affected and your council is ready and able to provide up to date information.
I urge all residents of these coastal communities to treat this cyclone as extremely serious we are facing a difficult time and I want everyone to remain as safe as possible.
How Surprising. Fox Shafts You After You Bend Over Backwards For Them
... SARAH DINGLE: Jennifer Cornwell is a film production manager of 20 years' experience. Her credits include the children's adventure 'Nim's Island', shot on Queensland's beaches. And the action-packed 'Superman Returns', filmed in Sydney.
Her last job was another action film, the $200 million American movie 'Battleship' whose producers pulled the plug.
JENNIFER CORNWELL: We were looking at employing over 600 crew full-time on Battleship, plus extras, stunt performers, etc. There was - a lot of crew would've had work on the film.
TRACEY VIEIRA: We were their preferred destination, but unfortunately, the incentive just wasn't strong enough for them to stay in Australia.
SARAH DINGLE: That incentive is a 15 per cent tax offset for big budget overseas productions, mostly from the US, being made in Australia.
It's Tracey Vieira's job as Australian Film Commissioner based in LA to keep up that flow of projects.
When the Australian dollar was worth less than 80 US cents, that 15 per cent was enough to lure Hollywood down under.
Now, higher incentives in the UK, Canada and some US states are keeping productions in the Northern Hemisphere.
NATHAN REES, NSW PREMIER (April, 2009): Here at Fox Studios to announce that the New South Wales Government has secured the big budget Hollywood film 'Green Lantern'.
SARAH DINGLE: Six months after then NSW Premier Nathan Rees's press conference, last October, Green Lantern became another casualty.
TRACEY VIEIRA: At about 74 cents in the dollar they were starting to get concerned and at 84 cents in the dollar it was actually going to save them significant amounts of money to pull out, even with that loss of investment they'd already made.
SARAH DINGLE: Both Battleship and Green Lantern went to the state of Louisiana with a 35 per cent tax incentive, a move which, in Green Lantern's case, saved tens of millions of dollars.
Back in Sydney, movie lot Fox Studios is as empty as it was on the day of the NSW Premier's announcement.
ALARIC MCAUSLAND, DELUXE PROMOTIONS: Last international production would've been 'Wolverine'. And prior to that, Baz Luhrmann's 'Australia'.
SARAH DINGLE: So we're talking 2008.
ALARIC MCAUSLAND: 2008.
The real concern is the skills drift. We're seeing hundreds of crew drift offshore or into non-related industries. ...
And We'll Say It Again!
This Is NOT Journalism
Non-means-tested Centrelink payments of $1,000 for adults and $400 for children were available to people if their electricity was cut for 48 hours during Queensland's recent flood emergency.
The ABC has received reports of millionaires being eligible to claim the payment.
"I've heard one or two stories as well and I've got nothing but disgust for people who do that," Mr Swan told 612 ABC Brisbane.
"People in the community won't appreciate the behaviour of people like that, if there are people like that."
Mr Swan admits there is a "grey area" and in order to get payments processed as soon as possible, some people may slip through the system of checks.
"If there are people who have been eligible for the levy [payment] who haven't required it and have gone in and claimed it, I think they are simply low-life," he said.
"The fact is that there are people in need and the reason this payment is designed as it is, is to deal with the circumstances.
"What occurs in a flood is that people may face all sorts of extraordinary circumstances, they may not have personal identification.
"If we were to get really bureaucratic, with really rigid rules in the first 48 hours or so, then we would be having an entirely different discussion about how we were too rigid and weren't paying people who were in dire need."
Where is the evidence and where is the proof to support these hearsay "reports" that fraud has occurred?
According to a report on the ABC's PM [31/1/11] a JP in Blackwater heard about a woman who got $1,400 for being stranded in town. If she was perfectly entitled to this payment, that is not fraud.
A sensible politician would have expressed disgust at this concern trolling masquerading as journalism.
Southern Cross Media Set To Buy Austereo
Regional broadcaster Southern Cross Media is making an agreed offer to buy Austereo owner of the Today and Triple M networks, the company has announced.
The deal is worth around $700m and will turn Southern Cross Media into one of Australias biggest media players.
In an announcement to the ASX this morning, Southern Cross said it was offering just over $2 per Austereo share.
The deal has been in the offing since it was announced that Village Roadshow was in talks to sell its 53% stake in Austereo.
The combined company would have annual revenues of more than $670m and likely profits of more than $200m.
Southern Cross formerly Macquarie Southern Cross Media currently owns a string of regional radio stations and regional TV stations which are affiliated to either the Ten or Seven networks.
The deal is a significant one because it would potentially offer advertisers the powerful options of reaching both national and regional audiences from a single buying point.
Max Moore-Wilton, chairman of Southern Cross Media, said: The deal is consistent with our strategy to build a strong Australian media company. And SCMs CEO Rhys Holleran added:
We are really looking forward to working with the team at Austereo to build a great Australian media company with coverage across regional and metro Australia. On top of that it will create great opportunities for on and off air talent.Austereos directors have said they will recommend the deal in the absence of a superior proposal.
A condition of the deal going ahead is that the ACCC does not intervene. During the offer period, Austereo is not allowed to hire or fire any on air talent being paid more than $1m.
Turnbull Signals Support For Licence Rebate For TV Networks
Australias free TV networks have begun lobbying for a permanent discount on their broadcasting licences following last years $250m rebate from the Government.
And shadow media minister Malcolm Turnbull has signalled to Mumbrella that he is also sympathetic to the networks as the rise of IPTV has taken away their previous monopoly.
In an interview with Mumbrella editor Tim Burrowes, Turnbull shadow minister for communications and broadband said: The TV broadcasters have a very good argument and it goes like this: When the broadcasting licences were first granted the broadcasting licences were real monopolies, they were oligopolies. The only way you could get sound and pictures into somebodys house was over that bandwidth. Now of course thats changed dramatically so the television companies are entitled to say what we are licencing today is not the same as it was so many years ago. ...
Refugee In Australian Concentration Camp Tries To Set Himself On Fire
A source at the detention centre says a Burmese asylum seeker attempted self-harm by setting himself alight.
The incident happened at 2:30am (ACST).
Police say the man was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.
These People Want To Drain Coal Pits Into Queensland's Rivers And Creeks And Both The Government And The Opposition Don't Give A Shit
Surely if they are going to be allowed to do this, the water should at least be filtered in some way?
Flood coal losses ramp up: QRC Media Release [27/1/11]:
The first industry-wide analysis of lost coal production resulting from severe flooding in Queensland has reinforced the gravity of the blow to the economy, Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said today.
Releasing the QRCs quarterly State of the Sector report in Brisbane, Mr Roche said the extent of losses to the industry and Queensland in the form of foregone coal royalties would be determined by the speed at which normal production can resume.
The emptying of coal pits full of rainwater and the restoration of rail and road transport are central to ensuring losses are minimised, Mr Roche said.
Its not a pretty outlook for the industry or Queensland. ...
On last Friday's [28/1/11] '7.30 Report' Mr Roche reiterated the QRC's demands:
... MICHAEL ROCHE, QLD RESOURCES COUNCIL: Last time I looked, about 85 per cent of Queensland's 57 coal mines were either not producing or were impaired by large quantities of water on their mine sites, so that's a big hit to coal production
JOHN TAYLOR: For industry leaders like Michael Roche this has been an unprecedented crisis. Never have so many mines been forced to close for so long.
He wants government regulators to help mines discharge as much water as quickly and as safely as possible.
MICHAEL ROCHE: We're calling on the State government to look at this as an industry-wide emergency. Let's get rid of this water now because what were worried about is that if we get another cyclone or another series of major wet weather events, we may place at risk mines discharging water into the environment in an uncontrolled way.
So let's get rid of the water now in a controlled manner rather than risk uncontrolled releases following another cyclone. ...
Caterpillar more than quadrupled its fourth-quarter profit over the previous year's weak results as stronger demand, especially in developing nations, helped increase global sales of mining and construction equipment.
The Peoria-based company said on Thursday that it generated $US968 million ($A971.4 million) net income, or $1.47 per share. That's much higher than the previous year's $US232 million ($A232.81 million) net income, or 36 cents per share, but 2009's fourth quarter was also hurt by layoff costs that consumed 5 cents per share of profit.
Caterpillar said its revenue jumped 62 per cent to $US12.8 billion ($A12.84 billion) in the quarter over last year's $US7.9 billion ($A7.93 billion). The company said machinery sales improved both because customer demand strengthened and Caterpillar dealers replenished their inventories.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected Caterpillar to report quarterly earnings per share of $1.27 on revenue of $US11.7 billion ($A11.74 billion).
Caterpillar shares gained 64 cents, or less than 1 per cent, to $96.39 in midday trading Thursday.
The company predicts a 2011 profit of nearly $6 per share on more than $US50 billion ($A50.18 billion) in sales. Analysts are expecting $5.84 a share on $US48.6 billion ($A48.77 billion). And Caterpillar's outlook for 2011 doesn't include its pending acquisitions of Bucyrus International and German engine maker MWM Holding GmbH because those deals haven't closed yet.
Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman said the company expects the world's developing countries to keep growing in 2011 as the economies in North America and Europe continue improving. But developing areas like China, India and Latin America are likely to continue growing faster than developed nations.
Caterpillar's results are considered a strong indicator of global economic health because its machinery is used all over the world. The company predicts the global economy will grow 3.5 per cent in 2011, which would be about the same overall rate as last year. ...
ABC 612. Why Is "Correct Shopping Etiquette" So Important When The Major Retailers Are Ripping Us Off?
Perhaps Mr Luscombe and Mr McLeod could use a clip over the ears eh Mr Fidler?
Coast Daily' [31/1/11]:
Petrol bowsers had Sunshine Coast motorists baffled at the weekend when prices skyrocketed by 9c/litre without warning.
Anyone looking at 133c/litre for fuel on Friday night would have been shocked to see the price shoot up to 144c/litre at some service stations on Saturday morning.
By yesterday most service stations had followed suit.
General manager of petrol watchdog Fueltrac, Geoff Trotter, said the extraordinary rise in price was unexplainable.
The jump was lead primarily by Coles- and Woolworths-owned service stations and happened over a 24-hour period on the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.
In some places petrol jumped by 15c/litre in one fell swoop.
Fueltrac monitors the margins between wholesale costs and retail prices of fuel.
Mr Trotter said the profit margin for some service stations following Saturdays giant jump was almost 20c/litre four times the normal margin.
It is extraordinarily high, he said.
Usually at the top of the price cycle (the service stations) might be getting two or three times the normal margin, but Ive never seen four times.
Mr Trotter said a price cut for milk, announced by some major supermarkets recently, might be resulting in the costs being rescued at the bowser for the major companies.
Is it an attempt by them to subsidise their milk discount? Im not sure.
Is this Coles and Woolworths contribution to the flood relief? Is this the biggest thing they can do to help Queensland? ...
War, Torture (Including Tasers), Police Brutality, Dysfunctional Communities And The Abandonment And Persecution Of The Weak And Psychologically Damaged. All These Things Are Inextricably Connected
Coast Daily' [31/1/11]:
A former army commando with mental health issues had to be tasered by police during a tense stand-off in a suburban Sunshine Coast street on Friday.
The 180cm tall, 120kg former Special Forces officer who served in East Timor was at the centre of a 30-minute confrontation with police at Warana.
Five police crews responded to reports of a man committing self harm inside his home at 3.30pm and were forced to shut down the residential street as they attempted to talk him into leaving the house.
Police have confirmed he was armed with a knife and bottles during the stand-off and had attempted to strike officers.
Two of them ended up with the mans blood in their eyes and mouth as well as on their bodies.
A police spokeswoman said the man was the only occupant of the house at the time and was attempting self harm when police arrived.
A police negotiator was among the officers sent to the scene.
He has come outside by smashing his way through the front door and has made out like to strike at police with bottles in hand, the spokeswoman said.
He has had bottles in hand, refused to put them down and threatened more self harm.
A taser was deployed at the heavily bleeding former soldier in what a Queensland Police Union spokesman later described as a successful deployment.
The man was not injured in the tasering but was taken to Nambour Hospital to have his self-inflicted wounds treated.
It is believed he was also being assessed by mental health staff.
The officers splattered with his blood were tested and must now wait to be cleared of any blood-borne diseases.
The Australian Defence Force website describes army commandos as highly trained officers who are mentally tough and highly skilled in the use of explosives and close quarter combat.
The Daily understands police learned of the mans former career through conversations with him during the drama.
Police had received no notification the man lived at the address at the time.
The incident has highlighted concerns about the Australian Defence Forces care of returning or discharged officers who have served in overseas deployments in combative or hostile environments.
QPU North Coast representative Des Hansson said police were called out fairly regularly to deal with volatile situations involving former or serving members of the military.
We are extremely thankful to have the option of this non-lethal use of force weapon (tasers) in situations where a mentally ill person is having problems, he said.
In a perfect world police should not have to be worried about responding to highly trained ex-service men and women who have mental health issues, Mr Hansson said.
The average person who threatens to harm a police officer with a knife or, say, fuel, is just as dangerous to police.
The Department of Defence was contacted by the Daily but a spokesman last night said no comment would be available until today, at the earliest.
This Church Is No More Obnoxious Than Any Other Church
Independent Senator Nick Xenophone has been leading the push to overturn the church's formal recognition as a religious body.
Mr Ryan says he does not agree with the Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle's decision to attend a Scientology function on Saturday.
Mr Doyle was the guest speaker at the opening of the church's new headquarters in the Melbourne suburb of Ascot Vale.
Mr Ryan says he is "opposed" to the organisation.
"I don't believe in it, and I am opposed to it ... which is not, in fact, a church," he said.
... In November 2008 Treasury had issued a discussion paper on PPFs [Private Prescribed Funds]. This fast-growing form of philanthropy had then been in existence for almost a decade and it was time to examine its practice. Also, both Treasury and the Australian Tax Office had become aware of a number of breaches of the guidelines. These breaches included PPFs carrying on business; making loans offshore and/or to associates of the founder or major donor (these loans are of particular concern when they are provided at a reduced or zero rate of interest or are not repaid); and PPF funds being used to purchase property for use by the founder or their associates. It was estimated that up to $9 million had been misappropriated.
Most of the Treasury discussion paper concentrated on providing new rules to eliminate further breaches. The major focus was technical tax regulation. This was unfortunate. Certainly there were real problems in the way some PPFs were managed, but the paper concluded that malfeasance was not pervasive. Of the almost 800 PAFs [Private Ancillary Funds], only a very small percentage was implicated in any irregularity or wrong doing. Two other significant issues were canvassed; the need for increased public accountability and the near-invisibility of these funds. The paper stated that significant tax concessions are received by PPFs. The majority of private individuals who establish a PPF are on the highest marginal tax rate (45%), therefore our taxes provide a subsidy of 45 cents in every dollar. This subsidy from the public purse entitles the public to be able to identify PPFs and to be satisfied they are operating in an acceptable and transparent manner. The Treasury's discussion paper also acknowledged that the invisibilty of PPFs did not allow charities to apply for funding and that the government was considering whether contact details should be made public.
When the draft of the Bill was released in May 2009 there was no hint of increased public accountability requirements. Nor was there any mention of increased accountability when Senator Stevens assured the Senate that the amendment would 'improve the integrity of prescribed private funds'. She did not mention that our taxes provide 45 cents in every dollar that goes into PPF, or how or why the government had decided not to make PPFs more visible, providing contact details to the charities for which they were created.
The only dissenting voice was that of Senator Bob Brown, who propsed that the Parliament be presented with an annual report on the activities of these foundations. This amendment was defeated with the support of the Liberal Party and soended the debate. The final legislation improved regulation and introduced new disciplinary measures for misallocation of funds and cheating. An annual minimum distribution of 5% of assets was decreed and the name of Private Prescribed Funds was changed to Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs).
This Senate discussion, together with the Treasury discussion paper issued twelve months earlier, could have engaged the Australian community in a meaningful and rich debate about the role of philanthropy in modern democracy. However, there was no report or discussion of this important issue and the underlying principles in either the old or the new media. The Australian community was denied a critical opportunity.
What was missed was the chance to explore and debate the fundamental controversy at the heart of modern philanthropy: is philanthropic money solely private money and therefore is philanthropy a purely private activity of the wealthy? ...
Our writer joins protesters atop a Cairo tank as the army shows signs of backing the people against Mubarak's regime
By Robert Fisk
January 30, 2011 "The Independent" -- The Egyptian tanks, the delirious protesters sitting atop them, the flags, the 40,000 protesters weeping and crying and cheering in Freedom Square and praying around them, the Muslim Brotherhood official sitting amid the tank passengers. Should this be compared to the liberation of Bucharest? Climbing on to an American-made battle tank myself, I could only remember those wonderful films of the liberation of Paris. A few hundred metres away, Hosni Mubarak's black-uniformed security police were still firing at demonstrators near the interior ministry. It was a wild, historical victory celebration, Mubarak's own tanks freeing his capital from his own dictatorship.
In the pantomime world of Mubarak himself and of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Washington the man who still claims to be president of Egypt swore in the most preposterous choice of vice-president in an attempt to soften the fury of the protesters Omar Suleiman, Egypt's chief negotiator with Israel and his senior intelligence officer, a 75-year-old with years of visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and four heart attacks to his credit. How this elderly apparatchik might be expected to deal with the anger and joy of liberation of 80 million Egyptians is beyond imagination. When I told the demonstrators on the tank around me the news of Suleiman's appointment, they burst into laughter.
Their crews, in battledress and smiling and in some cases clapping their hands, made no attempt to wipe off the graffiti that the crowds had spray-painted on their tanks. "Mubarak Out Get Out", and "Your regime is over, Mubarak" have now been plastered on almost every Egyptian tank on the streets of Cairo. On one of the tanks circling Freedom Square was a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Beltagi. Earlier, I had walked beside a convoy of tanks near the suburb of Garden City as crowds scrambled on to the machines to hand oranges to the crews, applauding them as Egyptian patriots. However crazed Mubarak's choice of vice-president and his gradual appointment of a powerless new government of cronies, the streets of Cairo proved what the United States and EU leaders have simply failed to grasp. It is over.
Mubarak's feeble attempts to claim that he must end violence on behalf of the Egyptian people when his own security police have been responsible for most of the cruelty of the past five days has elicited even further fury from those who have spent 30 years under his sometimes vicious dictatorship. For there are growing suspicions that much of the looting and arson was carried out by plainclothes cops including the murder of 11 men in a rural village in the past 24 hours in an attempt to destroy the integrity of the protesters campaigning to throw Mubarak out of power. The destruction of a number of communications centres by masked men which must have been co-ordinated by some form of institution has also raised suspicions that the plainclothes thugs who beat many of the demonstrators were to blame.
But the torching of police stations across Cairo and in Alexandria and Suez and other cities was obviously not carried out by plainclothes cops. Late on Friday, driving to Cairo 40 miles down the Alexandria highway, crowds of young men had lit fires across the highway and, when cars slowed down, demanded hundreds of dollars in cash. Yesterday morning, armed men were stealing cars from their owners in the centre of Cairo.
Infinitely more terrible was the vandalism at the Egyptian National Museum. After police abandoned this greatest of ancient treasuries, looters broke into the red-painted building and smashed 4,000-year-old pharaonic statues, Egyptian mummies and magnificent wooden boats, originally carved complete with their miniature crews to accompany kings to their graves. Glass cases containing priceless figurines were bashed in, the black-painted soldiers inside pushed over. Again, it must be added that there were rumours before the discovery that police caused this vandalism before they fled the museum on Friday night. Ghastly shades of the Baghdad museum in 2003. It wasn't as bad as that looting, but it was a most awful archeological disaster.
In my night journey from 6th October City to the capital, I had to slow down when darkened vehicles loomed out of the darkness. They were smashed, glass scattered across the road, slovenly policemen pointing rifles at my headlights. One jeep was half burned out. They were the wreckage of the anti-riot police force which the protesters forced out of Cairo on Friday. Those same demonstrators last night formed a massive circle around Freedom Square to pray, "Allah Alakbar" thundering into the night air over the city.
And there are also calls for revenge. An al-Jazeera television crew found 23 bodies in the Alexandria mortuary, apparently shot by the police. Several had horrifically mutilated faces. Eleven more bodies were discovered in a Cairo mortuary, relatives gathering around their bloody remains and screaming for retaliation against the police. ...
Cairo now changes from joy to sullen anger within minutes. Yesterday morning, I walked across the Nile river bridge to watch the ruins of Mubarak's 15-storey party headquarters burn. In front stood a vast poster advertising the benefits of the party pictures of successful graduates, doctors and full employment, the promises which Mubarak's party had failed to deliver in 30 years outlined by the golden fires curling from the blackened windows of the party headquarters. Thousands of Egyptians stood on the river bridge and on the motorway flyovers to take pictures of the fiercely burning building and of the middle-aged looters still stealing chairs and desks from inside.
Yet the moment a Danish television team arrived to film exactly the same scenes, they were berated by scores of people who said that they had no right to film the fires, insisting that Egyptians were proud people who would never steal or commit arson. This was to become a theme during the day: that reporters had no right to report anything about this "liberation" that might reflect badly upon it. Yet they were still remarkably friendly and despite Obama's pusillanimous statements on Friday night there was not the slightest manifestation of hostility against the United States. "All we want all is Mubarak's departure and new elections and our freedom and honour," a 30-year-old psychiatrist told me. Behind her, crowds of young men were clearing up broken crash barriers and road intersection fences from the street an ironic reflection on the well-known Cairo adage that Egyptians will never, ever clean their roads.
Mubarak's allegation that these demonstrations and arson this combination was a theme of his speech refusing to leave Egypt were part of a "sinister plan" is clearly at the centre of his claim to continued world recognition. Indeed, Obama's own response about the need for reforms and an end to such violence was an exact copy of all the lies Mubarak has been using to defend his regime for three decades. It was deeply amusing to Egyptians that Obama in Cairo itself, after his election had urged Arabs to grasp freedom and democracy. These aspirations disappeared entirely when he gave his tacit if uncomfortable support to the Egyptian president on Friday. The problem is the usual one: the lines of power and the lines of morality in Washington fail to intersect when US presidents have to deal with the Middle East. Moral leadership in America ceases to exist when the Arab and Israeli worlds have to be confronted.
And the Egyptian army is, needless to say, part of this equation. It receives much of the $1.3bn of annual aid from Washington. The commander of that army, General Tantawi who just happened to be in Washington when the police tried to crush the demonstrators has always been a very close personal friend of Mubarak. Not a good omen, perhaps, for the immediate future.
So the "liberation" of Cairo where, grimly, there came news last night of the looting of the Qasr al-Aini hospital has yet to run its full course. The end may be clear. The tragedy is not over.
Egypts Declining Financial Situation
... There is a good reason why one might expect Egypt to start running into problems with energy and food subsidies. Its own financial situation is declining at the same time that the cost of food imports is soaring. If we look at a graph of Egyptian oil imports, exports, and consumption (using a graph from Energy Export Databrowser, which graphs BP Statistical Data), we find that Egypts oil use has been rising rapidly, at the same time the amount extracted each year is declining.
Starting about 2010 or 2011, Egypt will change from an oil exporting nation to an oil importing nation, if there are imports available on the world market. The catch is that Egypt isnt the only one with declining oil productionworld oil production has been approximately flat since 2005, and the countries that produce the oil are using more and more of it themselves. The result is that there is less oil available for export, even as countries like Egypt need more.
The oil that Egypt exports provides funds for the subsidies that it offers, so reduced exports mean less funds are available for subsidies. Egypt has recently been able to ramp up natural gas exports, and these exports have allowed subsidies to remain in place. ...
GM Alfalfa? WTF? Doesn't It Grow On A Bald Mans Head?
Centre For Food Safety [28/1/11]:
Yesterdays announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will once again allow unlimited, nation-wide commercial planting of Monsantos genetically-engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa, despite the many risks to organic and conventional farmers, is deeply disturbing, but not surprising.
For the past four years, there has been a ban on the planting and sale of GE alfalfa, as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Food Safety (on behalf of farmers) against USDA. In 2007, a federal court ruled that the USDAs approval of GE alfalfa violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of glyphosate herbicide, sold by Monsanto as Roundup. The Court banned new plantings of GE alfalfa until USDA completed a more comprehensive assessment of these impacts via an environmental impact statement (EIS). The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice affirmed the national ban on GE alfalfa planting. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on Monsantos Roundup Ready Alfalfa until and unless future deregulation occurs. ...
Why do the Government and mainstream media implore us to make preparations when a natural disaster (such as the cyclones descending upon Queensland) is imminent, while at the same time admonishing us for "panic buying"?
What's Wrong With Australian Tennis?
mr rafter what a shame
letting them use
your good name
to buff the brand of unilever
whose vile lynx PR
reduces women to beavers
For those of you who wish to boycott Unilever, here is a list of Australian and New Zealand Unilever products.
Bertolli, Bushells, Chicken Tonight (I just saw an ad for it on TV with a Unilever Logo),Choysa, Continental, Domestos, Dove, Drive, Flora, Food Solutions, Fruitrience, Impulse, Jiff, Lanchoo, Lipton, Lux, Lynx, Omo, Pears, Persil, Raguletto, Rexona, Streets, Sunsilk, Surf, Vaseline.
Why Is There Still $703,000 Sitting In The Cyclone Larry Appeal Fund?
How many other funds are lying around with money still in them?
What are these disputes, and why do they necessitate money being held in trust?
Why is it "irresponsible" to ask for accountability and transparency from our Government?
Premier and Minister for the Arts Media Release [30/1/11]:
Premier Bligh has said that $703,000 in remnant funds from the Cyclone Larry Appeal will be transferred to the Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal to help victims of the recent flooding disaster. ...
It is simply untrue to claim the Government is sitting on donations to victims of Cyclone Larry and it is irresponsible to seek to discourage people from donating the current fund which will be used to help the victims of the recent disaster.
From the Cyclone Larry Fund grants to seven applicants had been held in trust with the Building Services Authority awaiting the commencement of rebuilding activities.
Six of these applicants have not been able to proceed with rebuilding and it was agreed that these claimants would instead receive a cash payment in December 2010.
One grant to rebuild a uninsured home remains in trust with the Building Services Authority.
Contractual arrangements between the claimant and the builder are in the process of being settled and the Building Services Authority will make payments on the claimants behalf to the builder in accordance with the contract when agreed milestones are met.
Given this one claim remains in play with the BSA we cant legally wind up the Cyclone Larry Trust but there was never any question that this money would not be used to help the victims of natural disasters and this money will be available when it is needed, said the Premier.
One U.S. Corporation's Role In Egypt's Brutal Crackdown
The open Internet's role in popular uprising is now undisputed. Look no further than Egypt, where the Mubarak regime today reportedly shut down Internet and cell phone communications -- a troubling predictor of the fierce crackdown that has followed.
What's even more troubling is news that one American company is aiding Egypt's harsh response through sales of technology that makes this repression possible.
The Internet's favorite offspring -- Twitter, Facebook and YouTube -- are now heralded on CNN, BBC and Fox News as flag-bearers for a new era of citizen journalism and activism. (More and more these same news organizations have abandoned their own, more traditional means of newsgathering to troll social media for breaking information.)
But the open Internet's power cuts both ways: The tools that connect, organize and empower protesters can also be used to hunt them down.
Telecom Egypt, the nation's dominant phone and Internet service provider, is a state-run enterprise, which made it easy on Friday morning for authorities to pull the plug and plunge much of the nation into digital darkness.
Moreover, Egypt also has the ability to spy on Internet and cell phone users, by opening their communication packets and reading their contents. Iran used similar methods during the 2009 unrest to track, imprison and in some cases, "disappear" truckloads of cyber-dissidents.
The companies that profit from sales of this technology need to be held to a higher standard. One in particular is an American firm, Narus of Sunnyvale, Calif., which has sold Telecom Egypt "real-time traffic intelligence" equipment.
Narus, now owned by Boeing, was founded in 1997 by Israeli security experts to create and sell mass surveillance systems for governments and large corporate clients.
The company is best known for creating NarusInsight, a supercomputer system which is allegedly used by the National Security Agency and other entities to perform mass surveillance and monitoring of public and corporate Internet communications in real time.
Narus provides Egypt Telecom with Deep Packet Inspection equipment (DPI), a content-filtering technology that allows network managers to inspect, track and target content from users of the Internet and mobile phones, as it passes through routers on the information superhighway.
Other Narus global customers include the national telecommunications authorities in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia -- two countries that regularly register alongside Egypt near the bottom of Human Rights Watch's world report.
"Anything that comes through (an Internet protocol network), we can record," Steve Bannerman, Narus' marketing vice president, once boasted to Wired about the service.
"We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on; we can reconstruct their (Voice Over Internet Protocol) calls."
Other North American and European companies are selling DPI to enable their business customers "to see, manage and monetize individual flows to individual subscribers." But this "Internet-enhancing" technology has been sought out by regimes in Iran, China and Burma for more brutal purposes.
In addition to Narus, there are a number of companies, including many others in the United States, that produce and traffic in similar spying and control technology. This list of DPI providers includes Zeugma Systems (Canada), Camiant (USA), Procera Networks (USA), Allot (Israel), Ixia (USA), AdvancedIO (Canada) and Sandvine (Canada), among others.
These companies typically partner with Internet Service Providers to insert DPI along the main arteries of the Web. All Net traffic in and out of Iran, for example, travels through one portal -- the Telecommunications Company of Iran -- which facilitates the use of DPI.
When commercial network operators use DPI, the privacy of Internet users is compromised. But in government hands, the use of DPI can crush dissent and lead to human rights violations.
Setting the Bar High for DPI Sales
Even Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on this problem.
"Internet censorship is a real challenge, and not one any particular industry -- much less any single company -- can tackle on its own, " Rep. Mary Bono Mack wrote in a 2009 letter to Rep. Henry Waxman, then chair of the House Commerce Committee. "Efforts to promote freedom of expression and to limit the impact of censorship require both private and public sector engagement."
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Egypt's government "not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications, including on social media."
Bono Mack's letter and Clinton's statement echo Free Press' call for a congressional inquiry into the issue. But this is just a start.
Before DPI becomes more widely deployed around the world and at home, the Congress ought to establish clear criteria for authorizing the use of such surveillance and control technologies.
The power to control the Internet and the resulting harm to democracy are so disturbing that the threshold for using DPI must be very high.
Today we're seeing the grave dangers of this technology unfold in real time on the streets of Cairo.
No Decrees To Be Farted Out This Year?
News Corp.s Rupert Murdoch canceled all appearances at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, according to two people familiar with the matter.
News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Murdoch, 79, had been scheduled to attend a panel on Jan. 28 with Vodafone Group Plc CEO Vittorio Colao and Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt, the people said.
They declined to be identified before an announcement.
The cancellation comes a day after News Corp. was given a last chance to offer remedies to avoid a U.K. Competition Commission review of its planned 7.8 billion-pound ($12.4 billion) purchase of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. A spokeswoman for News Corp. declined to comment today.
U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said yesterday he intends to refer the deal to the commission, though he is still considering undertakings by News Corp. that may alleviate his concerns. At issue is whether with full ownership of BSkyB, the U.K.s biggest pay-TV broadcaster, and four of Britains largest newspapers, News Corp. would have too much power.
A decision by Hunt to seek a Competition Commission review would delay efforts by Murdoch to take over the 61 percent of BSkyB that News Corp. doesnt already own.
Murdochs plans have been opposed by a group of U.K. media companies, including owners of the Guardian, Daily Mail and Telegraph newspapers, which say the takeover would have serious and far-reaching consequences for media plurality.
The Daily, Rupert Murdochs iPad Thingy, Coming Next Week
Rupert Murdoch doesnt get on a plane for just anyone. Murdochs News Corp. has finally set an official, public launch date for The Daily, its iPad-based news publication. Or news service. Or news product. Whatever. Look, the point is that The Daily was originally supposed to debut on Jan. 17 in San Francisco, where Murdoch was going to unveil it together with Apple CEO Steve Jobs at a launch event at the Museum of Modern Art.
But with Jobs sidelined by illness, the event has moved to New Yorks Guggenheim Museum. It will take place Wednesday morning, hours before the conglomerate reports its earnings for fiscal 2011s second quarter. (The postponement reportedly had to do not with Jobs but with a glitch in a new iTunes store feature that will allow new editions of the app to upload automatically to devices.) Eddy Cue, Apples vice president of internet services, will take the place of Jobs.
What Extreme Weather Event WILL Constitute Climate Change?
ABC AM [28/1/10]:
PETER CAVE: The Government will today begin selling its new flood levy. From July most Australians will pay between $1 and $5 a week in extra income tax. It will last just 12 months so will be finished long before the next election.The Prime Minister now though has the difficult task of getting the measures through Parliament without the Opposition's support.
... ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do you think that climate change has anything to do with this flood disaster?
JULIA GILLARD: I don't think you can look at one weather event, one disaster. I mean this has been a huge, unprecedented disaster but I don't think you can look at one, a bit of the weather and say that equals climate change. I don't think it's as simple as that. But having said that of course I do believe that climate change is real and is going to impact on our country.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: Independent MP Tony Windsor says there have been enough disasters to show that a fund is warranted so to keep insisting they are one-off events is to ignore the role of climate change.
JULIA GILLARD: What I would say to that is we do cope with natural disasters. We do it all the time. We see some floods, some fires and we manage them. Now there is a difference with this event. There is a difference with the scale of it. There is a difference with the economic effect. And it is because of that difference that the Government and I laid out the package yesterday. And we are asking Australians to make a contribution. But the Government is also implementing major budget cuts and changing infrastructure spending to make sure that we can rebuild Queensland and other parts of the country that need our support.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: So is a permanent disaster relief fund on or off your agenda?
JULIA GILLARD: Look I understand Mr Windsor and others will want to have that discussion. But what I would say is first and foremost we've got to get on with rebuilding Queensland. We've got to get on with rebuilding those parts of the country that need our help now to put back vital economic infrastructure, roads that need to be rebuilt, bridges that need to be rebuilt, rail lines that trains can't get through now unless work is done. We need to deal with this package urgently. That's what I will be asking the Parliament to do.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: You say that taxpayers will get better bang for their buck by putting a price on carbon than funding a raft of green programs that you've either slashed or put off. But there is no certainty that you will get a price on carbon because after all you promised an emissions trading scheme and didn't deliver.
JULIA GILLARD: Well I'm very determined that in this Parliament we will get a price on carbon. And that's the most economically efficient way of dealing with carbon pollution. And given that economic efficiency it is a better way than some of the programs that I determined should be axed or re-profiled to make way for the spending we need to rebuild the nation. ...
Protests Lead To Pink Floyd Son
'Gold Coast Mail' [28/1/11]:
Police have filed charges against the son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour for his role in last month's violent protest against the British government's decision to raise university tuition fees.
Charlie Gilmour, 21, shocked many in Britain when he was photographed swinging from the Union Jack attached to the Cenotaph, Britain's most important war memorial, during the December 9 demonstration.
The picture of Gilmour swinging from the flag featured prominently in the country's tabloid press and ran over captions reading "vile" and "shame".
Gilmour was originally arrested on suspicion of violent disorder, theft and "attempted criminal damage of the Union flag on the Cenotaph".
But police said they aren't charging Gilmour with attempted criminal damage to the flag but they are filing charges of violent disorder and "theft of a mannequin leg".
Police said they also had cautioned or charged 13 other protesters in relation to the disorder and other protests which hit London in the run-up to the government approved the controversial tuition hike.
Gilmour has apologised for what he called a "terrible insult" to Britain's war dead.
But he drew widespread ridicule when he claimed not to know that he had been swinging on the Cenotaph.
Gilmour is a history student at Cambridge, one of the world's most prestigious universities.
Does Anybody Believe This?
In 2007, News Ltd. launched their "1 Degree" campaign, setting out to be carbon neutral by 2010.
This campaign was demonstrated to be cynical greenwashing when Rupert Murdoch presented the first of his ABC Boyer lectures ["Aussie rules: bring back the pioneer": 2/11/08] and dropped an absolute clanger, earnestly describing his commitment to the issue of climate change by citing his corporation's "Eye Degree" initiative.
Shortly thereafter, all "One Degree" publicity vanished from the on-line and paper pages of his publications, only to re-appear in April 2008 with a not so subtle change. Rather than the corporation aiming to be carbon neutral by 2010, the message became:"Numbers add up when it comes to global warming. Visit 1degree.com.au to calculate your carbon footprint and discover how you can make a difference by changing what you do by One Degree."
Nope. Nothing else happening in Japan right now.
'Japan Today' [28/1/11]:
Several thousand American and Japanese troops simulated missile attacks, guerrilla warfare and a full-scale invasion of Japan as part of a major war games that began Thursday.
The exercises, called Yama Sakura, involve about 1,500 U.S. troops and 4,500 Japanese military personnel. Yama Sakura, being held in Kyushu, is the biggest annual joint maneuver held with Japans army.
Lt Gen Shunzo Kizaki, the commander of the Japanese troops in the exercises, said they involve simulations of ballistic missile attacks, special forces warfare and an invasion of Japans southernmost main island. He said further details are classified.
Yama Sakura, a command post exercise, is mostly done around computer simulations conducted at established bases, rather than real-world deployment of troops.
Kizaki said the exerciseswhich run through Feb 3are not directed at any particular threat, but contribute to Japans overall ability to deter an attack and defend its territory.
Japan has grown increasingly concerned about its defenses in its southwest, and particularly around the Okinawan islands, because of a number of incursions into its sea lanes by Chinese warships, including the movement of a Chinese flotilla through the Miyako Strait last April.
In response, the government has announced that it will bolster its monitoring capabilities in the region, and is reportedly considering boosting its submarine fleet.
Japan is also concerned over possible aggression from neighboring North Korea.
Lt Gen Benjamin Mixon, commander of the U.S. Army Pacific, said the exercises are designed to enhance the troops ability to fight together, and demonstrate the U.S. resolve to support the security interests of Washingtons allies.
Many countries throughout the region face increasing security challenges and transnational threats, he said.
Under a mutual security treaty, about 50,000 U.S. troops are deployed throughout Japan, including major Air Force, Marine and Navy units. The U.S. Army component is smaller, but trains intensely with its Japanese counterpart.
Australia: The Yucky Country
Charlie Teo is a self-confessed showman. Now the question of who should be allowed to witness the flamboyant brain surgeon's performances in the operating theatre has provoked an ethical row, after it was revealed he invited charity auction winners to watch him operate.
In October Dr Teo offered a day spent in his company, including the possibility of watching his intricate excision of brain tumours, as a prize in a charity auction held at the Concord Function Centre to raise funds for childhood cancer research. It fetched about $1500.
Attending the function was University of Sydney public health professor Simon Chapman, who has written a scathing critique of the exercise in the British Medical Journal.
Patients could be coerced to agree to an audience, even if they gave written consent, Professor Chapman wrote. ''A person with cancer about to have brain surgery will often be desperate and vulnerable,'' he said, and might feel unable to refuse a surgeon's request to have auction winners in the room.
As well, he said, privacy was compromised. ''What guarantees are there that a winning bidder would not pass on full descriptions of what they saw to enthralled dinner party guests? What if interesting biographical details slipped out?''
The executive director of surgical affairs for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, John Quinn, said non-medical audiences could spread infection and distract operating teams.
''Surgery's not a spectacle,'' Dr Quinn said. Even a viewer who did not speak could make doctors or nurses feel self-conscious and behave differently, said Dr Quinn, whose organisation authorises surgeons to work.
Dr Quinn said glass-fronted viewing decks, which used to be common alongside operating theatres, had been progressively removed from hospitals as the profession had come to appreciate the ethical problems of informed consent and privacy.
College authorities would now examine the claims about Dr Teo's audiences. ''The College does have a code of conduct. There are rules and sanctions,'' Dr Quinn said.
Dr Teo, who operates mainly at Prince of Wales Private Hospital, told the Herald last night that he offered similar auction prizes three or four times a year. Winners could stand beside the patient during anaesthesia and recovery, but observed the procedure itself on a screen in the same room, about three or four metres away from the patient.
Professor Chapman's ethical arguments were important, Dr Teo said: ''I think it's valid. I've often thought about it myself.''
He said he was reassured by the refusal of about 10 per cent of patients to have spectators present, and did not personally approach patients but had an assistant offer the consent form.
But Dr Teo, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) this week for his services to medicine, said the strong friendships he controversially develops with patients also minimised the likelihood of coercion.
Most people who won the prize gave it to young family members who were would-be medical students, Dr Teo said, allowing them to see surgery first hand and decide whether to pursue the career.
By Luisa Kroll
January 26, 2011 "Forbes" -- By Forbes count, 69 billionaires from 20 countries are expected to attend the annual World Economic Forum confab, which starts tomorrow in the Swiss Alps town of Davos. The helicopters whirring above this afternoon suggest that some may have already arrived.
It may well be the greatest concentration of wealth in any one place. Their total net worth, as tracked by Forbes: $427 billion, greater than the combined gross domestic product of Israel and Egypt.
The U.S. has at least 20 billionaires expected to make the trip, more than any other country. Most of them are from the tech and finance industries. Among notables are Hedge Fund managers George Soros, Steven A. Cohen and Louis Bacon; heads of private equity firms Stephen Schwarzmann and Henry Kravis, and tech luminaries like Googles Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt.
India is a close second with 17 including its two richest citizens, Mukesh Ambani and Lakshmi Mittal. Russia whose president, Dmitry Medvedev, is scheduled to make the opening speech tomorrow night, has 9 of its wealthiest.
Some of these billionaires have been coming to the conference for years. For Bill Gates, it will mark his 16th year. Gates explained why he makes the trip in his 2010 remarks:
When I started going in the 1990s the focus was on the wonders of technology and the hot panels were the ones where engineers like myself would discuss how things would improve using technology.
There is some focus every year on reducing the inequities between the rich and the poor which is why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has found it a good place to discuss new health initiatives.
This year Gates will be participating in a session on Redefining Sustainable Development on Friday, where hell be joined by Jim Balsillie, the chairman of Blackberry maker Research in Motion, who is also a billionaire. Gates wife Melinda will be a panelist at a session later that day on Raising Healthy Children that will also feature U2 singer Bono and Coca-Colas Chief Executive Muhtar A. Kent.
Rahul Bajaj has been coming to the retreat for 33 years, according to an interview in last years Economic Times, and will host his annual nightcap at the Hotel Steigenberger Belvedere on Wednesday night; German media baron Hubert Burda and Forbes will host parties at the same time. The full list of Davos billionaires, which appears below, only includes people who have appeared on Forbes various wealth lists with a net worth of $1 billion or more. There are others in attendance who we expect will make their debut among the worlds billionaires in March when we release our annual list. Stay tuned,The billionaires, by country: net worth name country ($bil)
Bill Gates usa 54.00
Sergey Brin usa 15.00
George Soros usa 14.20
Michael Dell usa 14.00
Steven A. Cohen usa 7.30
Jim Goodnight usa 6.90
Rupert Murdoch usa 6.20
Eric Schmidt usa 5.45
Charles W. Ergen usa 5.20
Stephen Schwartzman usa 4.10
Henry Kravis usa 3.40
Nicholas Berggruen usa 2.20
H. Fisk Johnson usa 2.00
David Rubenstein usa 2.00
Marc Benioff usa 1.80
Louis Bacon usa 1.70
Thomas Pritzker usa 1.60
Henry Ross Perot Jr. usa 1.40
Jonathan Nelson usa 1.35
Scott Cook usa 1.20
Mukesh Ambani india 27.00
Lakshmi Mittal india 26.10
Azim Premji india 17.60
Ravi Ruia india 15.00
Kushal Pal Singh india 9.20
Sunil Mittal india 8.60
Kumar Birla india 8.50
Adi Godrej india 7.50
Malvinder Singh india 4.20
Uday Kotak india 3.40
Rahul Bajaj india 3.00
Ajay Piramal india 1.75
Baba Kalyani india 1.72
Nandan Nilekani india 1.60
Kris Gopalakrishnan india 1.50
Vijay Mallya india 1.45
Naresh Goyal india 1.20
Vladimir Lisin russia 15.80
Oleg Deripaska russia 10.70
Vagit Alekperov russia 10.60
Alexei Mordashov russia 9.90
Vladimir Yevtushenkov russia 7.50
Viktor Vekselberg russia 6.40
Leonid Mikhelson russia 4.40
Dmitry Pumpyansky russia 2.90
Roustam Tariko russia 1.40
Elizabeth Mohn Germany 4.40
Hubert Burda Germany 2.50
Friede Springer Germany 2.50
Stefan von Holtzbrinck Germany 1.80
Sri Prakash Lohia indonesia 2.65
Chairul Tanjung indonesia 1.25
Ernesto Bertarelli switzerland 10.00
Thomas Schmidheiny switzerland 4.30
Ferit Sahenk turkey 2.10
Tuncay Ozilhan turkey 1.30
Jim Balsillie canada 2.30
Zhang Xin china 3.10
Mario Moretti Polegato italy 2.40
Timur Kulibaev Kazakhstan 1.10
Najib Mikati lebanon 2.502010 Forbes.com LLC
By Ray McGovern
January 26, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- On Sunday, I attended an informal talk given in a parish hall by the Justice Departments Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights. His topic: The way his work for justice is defined by his faith.
During the Q&A after his talk, I had a chance to pose some questions:
Question: Thanks, Tom, for making yourself available to us. You raise the issue of torture, and intimated that there is consensus among Catholics that torture is wrong. Polling conducted two years ago indicates that this is far from the case.
[According to the Catholic News Agency, a survey by the Pew Center Forum on Religion & Public Life found that Catholics are more likely than the general U.S. population to favor the use of torture against suspected terrorists. More than half the Catholics surveyed said that torture could be often or sometimes justified, while another 27 percent said the practice could rarely be justified. Only 20 percent said it could never be justified.]
You are head of the Civil Rights Division at Justice. I am sure you would agree that a persons right not to be tortured is a civil right.
Your immediate boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, has stated in testimony to Congress that waterboarding is torture. President Obama has said the same thing.
Now the president that is, former President George W. Bush has written a book in which he brags about authorizing waterboarding and says he would do it again. Former Vice President Dick Cheney earlier endorsed waterboarding.
Like you, Tom, I went to a Jesuit high school, and I know what a syllogism is. If waterboarding is torture, and those who authorized it now admit that and brag about it, is not your boss Eric Holder bound by his oath of office to prosecute those who admit to having authorized torture?
I refer here not only to those tortured at Guantanamo, at the huge prison complex at Bagram, Afghanistan, and at black sites around the world where my former colleagues at CIA were given carte blanche to ply their trade.
I refer also to American citizens like José Padilla, born, like me, in New York City, who was deprived of his civil rights and subjected to the cruelest forms of debilitating torture right here in the U.S.A.
Again, you are head of the Civil Rights Division at Justice. You have talked a good bit about conscience. Your boss, the attorney general, appears unwilling to see to it that the law be faithfully executed. Has your faith or your conscience led you to raise this subject with Eric Holder?
Perez: Its a matter of prosecutorial discretion. We have discussed these matters, and I am not about to reveal information on those discussions.
Question: Your talk is billed as a discussion of how your faith defines your work for justice. I am not asking you to reveal information about the discussions you have been part of at the Justice Department; I am asking you how you come at the issue of torture from a faith perspective.
Perez: You are very clever, but I am not going to let myself be drawn into this discussion. Next questioner.
Perez had begun by expressing appreciation for the education he had received from the Jesuits at Canisius High School in Buffalo a sentiment I share from my four years at Fordham Prep in the Bronx.
As far as moral theology and justice are concerned, though, it appears that Perez was exposed to the same dictum at Canisius as I was at Fordham. Moral theology? Ethics? Simple. The whole deal is to: Do Good, and Avoid Evil.
It was not until the mid 80s, when I completed a certificate in theological studies with the more up-to-date Jesuits at Georgetown, that I learned that the Do-Good-and-Avoid-Evil proposition was only half correct. Jesus of Nazareth called us to do good, certainly. But not to avoid evil; rather, to confront it.
This shows through clearly in the first chapter of the first Gospel written (Mark 1:16-28). After recruiting his fisherman freshman to enroll in Discipleship 101, Jesus brings them into the synagogue at Capernaum and provides a vivid illustration of what we are called to do in the face of evil confront it.
His message: No confronting of evil, no true discipleship. ...
The Empty Press Room - How Corporate Journalism Happily Lost Interest In Climate Change
In the medias coverage of climate change, are we really still stuck on square one of some ghastly board game?
Global warming was recognised as a hugely serious problem as far back as 1988 when the United Nations set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since then the science has become more solid, more detailed, in fact irrefutable: the risk of dangerous climate change has risen alarmingly, and the corporate media has continued to bury serious debate on what to do about it. According to NASA researchers at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, global surface temperatures in 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest on record.If the warming trend continues, as is expected, if greenhouse gases continue to increase, the 2010 record will not stand for long, says James Hansen, the director of GISS.Global temperature is rising as fast in the past decade as in the prior two decades, despite year-to-year fluctuations associated with the El Niño-La Niña cycle of tropical ocean temperature, Hansen and colleagues report. (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA Research Finds 2010 Tied for Warmest Year on Record, press release, January 12, 2011) ...
No Proof WikiLeaks Breaking Law
A firm asked by Visa to investigate WikiLeaks' finances has found no proof the group's fundraising arm is breaking the law in its home base of Iceland, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.
But Visa Europe Ltd said on Wednesday it would continue blocking donations to the secret-spilling site until it completes its own investigation.
Company spokeswoman Amanda Kamin said she couldn't say when Visa's inquiry, now stretching into its eighth week, would be finished.
Visa was one of several US companies that cut its ties with WikiLeaks after it began publishing a massive trove of secret US diplomatic memos late last year. US officials have accused the site of putting US national security at risk.
The Norway-based financial services company Teller AS, which Visa ordered to investigate WikiLeaks and its fundraising body, the Sunshine Press, found no proof that the website was engaged in wrongdoing, according to a letter written by Teller's chief executive Peter Wiren.
"Our lawyers have now completed their work and have found no indications that Sunshine Press ... act in contravention of Visa's rules or Icelandic legislation," the letter said.
The two-page document, whose authenticity was confirmed by Teller, was addressed to an Icelandic politician and dated December 30, 2010.
In the letter, Wiren said his company stood ready to process donations to WikiLeaks - but only if Visa gave the go-ahead.
Famine And Malnutrition In Pakistan's Sindh Area
A Unicef report released today declares flood hit areas in the Sindh Province of Pakistan are suffering famine and malnutrition at critical levels similar to Chad and Niger in Africa.
The U.N. Children's Fund revealed malnutrition rates to be as high as 23.1 percent in northern Sindh and 21.2 percent in the south.
These rates are far above the 15 percent emergency threshold of the World Health Organization and are at par with some of the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
According to Oxfam, UN appeals for $2 billion in emergency aid have only been met by only 56 percent.
Birds Vanishing In The Philippines
'Gold Coast Mail' [26/1/11]:
The number of birds flying south to important wintering grounds in the Philippines has fallen sharply this year, with experts saying the dramatic demise of wetlands and hunting are to blame.
Despite some harsh, cold weather across the Eurasian landmass, some waterbirds that usually migrate in huge flocks to the tropical islands have been completely absent, said Philippine-based Danish ornithologist Arne Jensen.
"The flyway populations of several waterbird species are in constant and dramatic decline," Jensen, who advises the Philippine government on species conservation, told AFP.
"Hence the urgent need to establish real and well-managed, hunting-free waterbird sanctuaries along the migratory flyways."
Candaba, a swamp two hours' drive north of Manila that has long been used as a pit stop by hundreds of species as they fly staggering distances between the Arctic Circle and Australia, appears emblematic of the downfall.
Jensen said bird watchers routinely counted 100,000 ducks at Candaba in the 1980s as they stopped there for a rest while traversing the East Asian-Australasian flyway.
But volunteers recorded just 8725 waterbirds and 41 species during the annual census last weekend, Wild Bird Club of the Philippines president Michael Lu told AFP at Candaba at the end of the count.
Northern pintails, common pochards and green-winged teals were absent, and just one tufted duck was seen, while numbers for northern shovellers shrank and only garganeys were easily seen along with resident Philippine ducks.
Lu said the number of waterbirds counted at Candaba was down from more than 11,000 last year. ...
Invasion Day Rally in Brisbane
While much of Australia celebrated Australia Day 2011, in Brisbane, Aborigines gathered to remember Invasion Day.
Today over 300 people rallied outside the Queensland Parliament building in George Street, Brisbane, later marching through the city and over Victoria Bridge and ending at Musgrave Park, South Brisbane.
Speakers included Aboriginal activist Sam Watson, who told the Crowd:
"Australia is a monumental fraud, its an historical lie because on that day January 26th you had an armed force sail into Sovereign waters of Aboriginal People and launched an invasion thats lasted 223 years. [this] Australian Nation is a lie, its based on this lie of Terra Nullius which means land that is not owned by anyone, We owned and possessed this Country and we still challenge that."
Standing in the crowd was Nelson Stacey and family from the Brisbane suburb of Oxley, He said he was here to support everyone in the Aboriginal struggle.
This Is Disaster Capitalism
Fairfax and News Limited newspapers are reporting that Prime Minister Julia Gillard will make the announcement during a major speech at the National Press Club tomorrow.
Treasurer Wayne Swan yesterday called for a "mature" debate on the issue of a flood levy, which the Opposition opposes.
"I don't think the Australian people would want us to respond by hacking into essential expenditure; in health or in education, sacking teachers or nurses," he said.
The Opposition says the Government should have been saving to pay for disasters like the Queensland floods instead of proposing a new levy. ...
What a surprise. The Gillard Government use the Queensland floods as an opportunity to fang ordinary Australians in order to line the pockets of their bizzoid mates.
Yes, Wayne, let's all be mature and discuss this rationally. So, where will the billions raised from the levy be spent? Will any corporation make a profit from that allocation of our billions? And before you get too smug Tony Abbott, we know you'd do exactly the same thing.
Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry continues to be subsidised to the tune of $10-11 billion every year.
Flash Floods In South Africa
Pretoria News [26/1/11]:
Another flash flood tore through a second Northern Cape town early yesterday morning after heavy rainfall created a river down the main street of Barkly West.
Traffic from Kimberley through Barkly West on the road to Postmasburg, where a flash flood claimed the life of a young woman on Saturday, was brought to a standstill for most of yesterday.
Although no injuries were reported, the flood prevented one woman, who had gone into labour, from reaching the towns ZK Matthews Hospital.
Two provincial traffic inspectors from Kimberley, Ronald Hopley and Mpho Magalela, who were controlling traffic in the town, came to her rescue and rushed her to Kimberley Hospital, 30km away.
A traffic jam resulted after heavy trucks and vehicles were prohibited from crossing the flooded road. The railway track was submerged.Two suburbs in the town, Mataleng and De Beers Hoogte, were cut off, while the main road through town was closed to traffic, stopping people from travelling to work and school.
A flash flood through Barkly West left many employees and learners stranded on both sides of Transvaal Road, the main road through the town.
Those who managed to get across town early yesterday morning feared that they would not be able to return.
We will have to be taken home by helicopter. This is something that we have never seen before in our lives, one resident said.
Mine workers in the area were unable to operate their machines yesterday because the earth was too wet, while farmers were forced to move their animals to higher ground.
As the rising waters swept away fences, low-water bridges and carried away debris and trees, one resident quipped: Soon we will be able to fish in this river.
Police spokesman Captain Tony Modise said members of the police as well as the search and rescue unit would monitor the situation until the water had subsided, to stop pedestrians and vehicles from crossing the road.
About 50 members of the community are being accommodated in the community hall. A number of houses and shanties were flooded and residents had to be evacuated. We will engage with other departments for support.
Acting municipal manager Herholdt Robertson yesterday said he was concerned about the damage to the road.
However, they will have to wait for the water to subside before determining the extent of the damage.
In other parts of the province, a Windsorton farmer was still searching for his two-week-old calves which disappeared when a dam wall on his farm burst.
Wimpie du Plessis said he could not accurately assess the losses he had suffered because the continuing rain had made it impossible.I cant go out and look for my calves because the ground is still unsteady and muddy. I doubt whether they would have survived. - Cape Times
'Brisbane Times' [25/1/11]:
Vandals attack half of Brisbane's trains while stored away from floodwaters, causing $1m damage.
A 23-year-old man has become the third person to be charged over one of the largest displays of graffiti on a Queensland train.
The Everton Hills man was served a notice to appear in court for his alleged involvement in defacing four train carriages that were parked on high ground near Taringa Station during Brisbane's flood.
Police officers of the Taskforce Against Graffiti arrested the man yesterday afternoon.
Police arrested another two men, aged 22 and 20, last week for the graffiti.
The 23-year-old man is due to face Brisbane Magistrates Court on February 14. ...
Should We Stock Up On Tins Of Baked Beans As Well?
Nine MSN [26/1/11]:
Queensland Health has issued a measles warning after a young man carrying the virus visited a popular Brisbane shopping centre.
The 21-year-old man came into contact with three contagious passengers on a flight to Brisbane earlier this month as he was returning from overseas. The trio did not disembark in Brisbane.
Queensland Health has declined to give details of the flight but said it was contacting all other passengers who disembarked in Brisbane and who were seated close to the infected passengers.
The virus can survive for several hours in the environment and has an incubation period of about 10 days.
The infected man visited the Westfield Chermside Shopping Centre at Chermside, in Brisbane's north, on January 19.
His case became known to health officials when he attended The Prince Charles Hospital on Tuesday.
Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the man was contagious when he visited the popular shopping centre and could have infected others.
"We know he was in the food court, and he transacted some business at the ANZ Bank," Dr Young said.
"We urge anyone who was at the shopping centre on Wednesday, January 19, and especially anyone who was at those two locations within the complex, to ensure they are protected against measles and to seek medical advice if they develop symptoms." ...
Dr Young urged anyone born during or since 1966, who has not had two documented doses of Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine or had proven measles, to visit their local GP for a free extra vaccination.
Will There Ever Be Another Day When Something Good Happens?
'Brisbane Times' [25/1/11]:
Go Card readers at southeast Queensland train stations have been malfunctioning, following a week of free public transport in which machines were switched off.
Translink has warned of the problems with the smartcard system, just days after fares were reinstated and all paper tickets except single journey passes were scrapped.
Stand-alone Go Card readers at some train stations that were switched off during the free fares period are currently operating slowly, the public transport authority says in a statement on its website.
Translink apologises for problems experienced with Go Card machines. Our technicians are working to fix the problem.
Customers may receive an error messages such as 'seek assistance' a few times before working correctly.
Customers incorrectly charged with a fixed fare will be automatically refunded.
Fares came back into effect on Saturday, after the state government offered eight days of free public transport as a temporary measure to help flood victims recover and reduce traffic congestion.
A previously planned 15 per cent fare hike has also now kicked in, with the cost of a two-zone journey on the Go Card rising from $2.70 to $3.11. ...
If the free public transport was to "reduce traffic congestion", and since billions of our taxes are spent on supporting the road/car/oil system, isn't it time we had free public transport all the time? People who prefer to drive or must drive will have clear roads, those who don't will have free and reliable transport, we'll save a fortune on stupid ticketing and enforcement systems, it will provide a lot of jobs and your planet will love you for it.
Only a wickedly, vile neoliberal government (like the ones we have in Australia) could possibly argue against this idea!
German Filmmaker Eichinger Dead At 61
Contact Music [25/1/11]:
Oscar-nominated German movie producer Bernd Eichinger has died in Hollywood. He was 61.
The man behind acclaimed films like Downfall and The Baader Meinhof Complex passed away after suffering a heart attack on Monday (24 Jan).
His credits also include The Name of the Rose, the Resident Evil films and The Fantastic Four.
Many consider Eichinger to be Germany's most successful moviemaker.
Eichinger is survived by his wife Katja and daughter Nina, a well-known German TV personality.
It Would Be Preferable If You Re-Opened Palm Beach Post Office, And Didn't Close The Ashgrove Post Office
Premier and Minister for the Arts/Australia Post Media Release [25/1/11]:
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Australia Post Managing Director and CEO Ahmed Fahour today announced the release of Australias first Charity Stamps to raise funds for those affected by the Queensland floods.
The Premier and Mr Fahour made the announcement at the official Australia Day Lunch at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Featuring five images from the Queensland floods, the 60 cent stamps will be available in a sheet of 10 that will be sold for $8, with $2 from the sale of each sheet to be donated to the Queensland Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal.
Australia Post has printed an initial run of 250,000 Charity Stamp sheets but will print as many stamps as required to meet demand. ...
Mr Fahour said like Australians everywhere, he was shocked by the scenes of devastation and the many tragic stories that emerged from the Queensland floods.
Our business was directly impacted by the disaster, with more than 70 post offices forced to close, flood damaged facilities, and many of our own people suffering loss and damage to their homes.
Over the coming months the images on these Charity Stamps should serve as a stark reminder that the recovery process will be long and hard.
Hopefully, these stamps will also remind all Australians of the on-going need to help out Queenslanders as they rebuild their flood-affected communities.
To launch the Charity Stamps initiative Mr Fahour presented Premier Bligh with a $100,000 cheque, on behalf of Australia Post, for the Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal.
The stamps will be available at Australia Post outlets nationwide from Thursday, 27 January.
In addition to selling the Charity Stamps, Australia Post is supporting Queenslands flood-affected communities by:
Making a $100,000 donation to the Queensland Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal
Accepting public donations to the Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal, via postal outlets nationwide.
Distributing Disaster Relief Funds in some flood-affected areas on behalf of the Queensland Department of Communities.
Offering free mail redirections for those who are unable to have mail delivered to their home address due to flood damage.
Establishing an Employee Relief Fund, that is especially to benefit Australia Post staff who have been affected by the floods. Australia Post is matching staff donations to this fund, dollar-for-dollar, up to $250,000.
Australia Post is also developing plans for a scheme in which postal managers in flood-affected areas will work with local community representatives to provide grants for reinstating community facilities that were damaged during the floods.
Thousands Protest In Egypt
Thousands of people took part in rare anti-government protests in Egypt after an internet campaign inspired by the uprising in Tunisia.
In Cairo, where the biggest rallies were held, police used tear gas and water cannons in an attempt to disperse the crowds. At least three people have been killed, reports say.
Here, eyewitnesses describe the atmosphere during the day's events.
Abd-Allah, Cairo resident
I saw the riot with my own eyes. We were out in the morning, we didn't intend to protest, but we were caught up in it. I saw the police arresting everybody in a restaurant. Shortly afterwards we went home as it was too dangerous to stay out. Now we are watching from the window what is happening outside. I hear people chanting: "Down with the president." I've seen the police using tear gas against protesters, though I haven't seen any violence. People are behaving as if they are ready to die. They keep pushing forwards. Some people say that they won't stop until Mubarak is gone. The noise from the street is increasing not decreasing even though it is 2230 (2030 GMT). There are more people now than during the day. There are people gathered downtown where the parliament building is located. I have friends among the crowd and they tell me what is happening. The atmosphere is very tense, it feels like a revolution. I see people who are determined, people who have nothing to lose, people who want a better future. This protest is different. Previous protests would last about an hour, this seems to be much larger, much longer. I think this could bring only violence. Mubarak is so power hungry, he would do anything to hang on to power. If people keep on pushing, many will end up in jail.
Hussein, protester, Cairo
I participated in the protests today. I have to say I was surprised by the number of people who attended. These high numbers are unusual in Egypt. People are afraid to speak out, but it seems that what happened in Tunisia encouraged many to protest in Egypt. On the streets it seemed that the police were trying to avoid confrontation with the protesters, at least at the beginning of the day. Many of the senior officers were ordering the soldiers not to make any contact. They were only trying to form a cordon around the demonstrators, that was in Shobra. But when our protest broke the cordon and joined with the major protest in El Tahrir, we found that it was more violent there. Although it was a peaceful protest, the police threw tear gas and fired/sprayed water canons. Some protesters threw rocks at the police, which the police threw back. Most protesters however were trying not to be violent and many people were discouraging any acts of violence against the police.I got the feeling in the end that the police were trying to make the protest go violent - that would give them an excuse to beat and arrest the protesters.
Courtney Graves, American living in Giza
Courtney: "I've never seen men so angry, yet so happy to express their anger" I went alone to Tahrir square today - my Egyptian friends seemed to think that the demonstration wouldn't live up to the hype. But news of the incredible turnout had reached my friend Gehad and she was fervently trying to find someone to accompany her into the city. She never made it to the demonstration but she at least let me know what to expect. I surfaced from the Metro station into a scene of happy panic. Riot police were lined up along every street and it was almost impossible to move at first. From afar, I could hear a roar of human voices coming from one side of the square. I managed to find higher ground to stand on and I saw an immense mass of people making their way towards where I was standing. I saw as they managed to get past the authorities restraining them and they were finally able to express the anger so evident in their faces. As the group passed me I joined them. Emotions were so high and passions so great it was almost tangible. I've never seen men so angry, yet so happy to be expressing their anger. I walked next to girls in hijabs (Islamic headscarves) screaming for the downfall of Hosni Mubarak. I walked behind men begging God for freedom. In the middle of the tumult, I spotted two Muslim men praying in the middle of the sidewalk. I soon heard screams from behind me and realised that the police had sent tear gas canisters flying into the air. Everyone began to run away from the source. Fortunately, I avoided the full force of the gas but my fellow protesters were not so lucky. Screams for water filled the air as men dropped to their knees, covering their faces. I saw one little girl furiously rubbing her eyes as tears streamed down her face. I stayed for another hour, on the sidelines. I felt different about Egypt as I walked away, like the political stagnancy had finally come to an end. As I walked across a bridge to Zamalek I could still hear chants coming from Tahrir, "Horreyya, Horreyya, Horreyya!" - "Freedom, freedom, freedom!"
Indonesian Soldiers Charged With Torture Sentenced to Prison
Voice of America [24/1/11]:
Indonesian soldiers who were filmed torturing two men last year have been sentenced to prison. But human rights activists say the sentences are too short and call on the United States to reconsider its involvement in the Indonesian army.
The three Indonesian soldiers were sentenced to less than a year in jail Monday over the torture of two men in the restive province of West Papua.
Last October, a video showing soldiers torturing the civilians appeared on the Internet, sparking international condemnation. ...
The government promised swift justice, and arrested the three, charging them with disobeying orders. One was sentenced to 10 months in jail, one received a nine-month sentence and the third was sentenced to eight months.
I think the outcome is extremely disappointing," said Elaine Pearson, the deputy director for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.
"This is a case where the men involved were supposedly tortured for a period of three days, and then what we see is the soldiers is being slapped on the wrist. The charges dont even reflect the serious nature of the allegations. They have been tried for disobeying orders rather than the more serious offense of torture.
Harry Priyanta, the military spokesman in Papua, said there was not enough evidence to charge the soldiers with torture.
He says the prosecutors sought half the maximum sentence for the charges. The soldiers will likely be able to return to their posts after serving their jail terms.
Indonesia has fought a low-level separatist insurgency in West Papua for decades. The United States last year resumed training with the Indonesian militarys special forces unit, Kopassus, after a 12-year moratorium. The U.S. military had broken ties with the unit because of its human rights abuses.
Australia resumed training with Kopassus in 2005.
"The U.S. and Australia, if theyre really serious about providing training that ensures that Indonesias security forces are professional and rights respecting, then they have to also speak out and say that this military tribunal was not sufficient," said Pearson.
The United States has said it is monitoring the case. Despite the Papua case, many governments and rights groups say Indonesia has made progress in ending rights abuses since autocratic leader Suharto was forced out of office 1998. Since then, Indonesia has become a democracy.
Warnie For A Walkley!
Australian cricket great Shane Warne has accused the Herald Sun of delivering a wrong 'un, saying the tabloid should check its facts before reporting about him.
The spin-king, who writes for the paper, believed a yarn about his "antics" at the Australian Open on Sunday was "absolute crap" and not even newsworthy.
The tabloid said the champion bowler was hoping for "star VIP treatment for 14 of his closest friends" at the tennis and that he had asked for an escort when he arrived at 8pm.
According to the Herald Sun report yesterday, organisers were "gobsmacked" over his performance.
Warne appeared equally as gobsmacked with the scrutiny of his night out.
"Just saw herald sun today wow they speak absolute crap and I write for them! think they would check with me first before lying in print," Warne said on Twitter.
He agreed that he had been invited to the box of American tennis ace Andy Roddick.
"How does that turn into wanting 14 tickets, VIP treatment and escorts to seats. Please employer ask me before printing lies AGAIN . . . ," the prolific tweeter said.
"Don't care if I get sacked as it's to many times now re herald sun printing lies and not facts about me and others. PRINT THAT FACT!!!" Warne said.
"If i or anyone does something that's worth reporting or if I or anyone else does something wrong sure print it have no drama with that!
"Followers if you agree with me that the herald sun has lost reporting fact and what the public wants to read then write or call them."
The Herald Sun would not comment last night.
It's About Money. Isn't It?
The consumer watchdog may block a health providers bid to build the new private hospital at Kawana to prevent a market monopoly.
Ramsay Healthcare already owns private hospitals at Nambour, Caloundra, Caboolture and Noosa.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating whether awarding the tender to Ramsay would lessen competition of hospital service in the region.
The watchdog will make a decision early next month, and deliver its findings to the State Government.
Queensland Health was set to announce the winning tender in April.
The only other short-listed health provider is Healthscope.
If the commission finds Ramsay Healthcare is at risk of creating an unfair playing field, the Daily understands one of three scenarios will occur.
Ramsay Healthcare could be forced to sell one of its other Coast hospitals if it wants to proceed.
It is unlikely to be Nambour because of the sought-after maternity ward, or Noosa because of its contract with the Government.
The company could alter the scope of services provided at one of its hospitals by transforming it into a rehabilitation unit. That, however, would be expensive.
Alternatively, the Government could make Ramsays bid void and if it did not, the Commission would block the bid.
If no concerns of market monopoly are found, Ramsays tender will be considered for the project.
Ramsay Healthcare and its competitors were asked to answer 13 in-depth questions by January 17. They related to fairness.
The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital at Buderim, which is owned by Uniting Care Health, made a submission.Work on the private hospital at Kawana was set to begin later this year.
It is essential that the timeline is met because any delay is likely to affect the co-located Sunshine Coast University Public Hospital.
It was originally slated to open in 2014.
But the Government, citing the economic downturn, announced in 2009 that the hospital would not receive its first patients until 2016.
Just one week after a question mark was placed over the Sunshine Coasts new $2 billion public hospital, Queensland Health says the project is full steam ahead.
Amid the flood clean-up, Premier Anna Bligh said the recovery bill would force a budget rethink and indicated some major projects were in question.
Ordinary Australians Already Help Each Other And We Don't Trust Corporate And Religious Charities.
To Make The World A Better Place, Neoliberalism And The Greed And Exploitative Practices Of Corporations Must Be Reined In, And Our Government Needs To Start Addressing The Glaring Inequality In This Country
The Victorian investment banker and philanthropist is involved with numerous local and global charities as well as being the chairman of the CSIRO.
He says all Australians should contribute to the not-for-profit sector - not just their money, but their time.
"The flood of need is with us all the time," he told ABC News Breakfast this morning."I'm really hoping that I can inspire as many Australians as I can just to get involved in their cause."
He said people needed to think about how they could use their own skills to make a difference in areas they are interested in.
"I don't expect anyone to be noble... but there is a cause for us all," he told ABC News Breakfast.
"In my case I'm lousy with my hands. I'm not a blue-collar worker. The way I've tried to help is through white-collar skills. There is a cause, there is a role for us all."
He says his message is aimed more at citizens, not governments.
"My central message, as Australian of the Year 2011, is to 22 million-odd Australians, rather than federal or state governments," he said.
"And I hope one or two people listen to it."
Mr McKeon said he derived great personal satisfaction from his involvement in not-for-profit groups and he would use the award to bring the business and community sectors closer.
"I come from the big end of town and for many years have tried to preach the good news of what happens when a big corporation actually does give money," he said.
"I think there are many ways in which corporates nowadays can actually share their facilities, their expertise, their people, and of course a bit of money as well."
Prime Minister Julia Gillard hailed Mr McKeon is a great example for all Australians.
"Simon's example is about fundraising, but it's also about putting in your personal time and direct support, your skills, your mentoring, into organisations that need your help," she said.
"We've seen so much of that on display in recent weeks. I think Simon is going to keep reminding the nation." ...
My Eyes Were Dry
Premier and Minister for the Arts Media Release [26/1/11]:
Premier Anna Bligh has paid tribute to Sunshine Coast teenager Jessica Watson, named 2011s Young Australian of the Year, labelling her a leading example of true Queensland spirit.
The Premier said Jessica was an inspiration to all Queenslanders and characterised the heart of the state.
Her 210-day odyssey to become the youngest person to sail non-stop and unassisted around the world really does capture the character of our great state, Ms Bligh said.
Jessica was prepared to face her knockers and unafraid to get back and have another go when all of the odds were against her.
When she sailed into Sydney Harbour at the end of her journey last May, I doubt there was a dry eye in Queensland. She proved herself to have courage and determination beyond her years.
It had been her dream since she was a young child and she made good on that dream.
Thats the same spirit we have seen and will continue to see as we recover from the most devastating natural disaster in our history.
Like The Year 12 Media Studies Class Presenting The News - Just That Little Bit Worse
How would Lofty, Melissa and (Mayor Pisasale) feel if today's [25/1/11] beatup about unproven vandalism in a flood affected property in Ipswich, led to violence and vigilantism?
Or if the story turned out to be totally B.S.?
Free Market Philanthropy At Its Finest!
RACQ launches $20m flood assistance package for Queenslanders
Media Release [25/1/11]
RACQ CEO Ian Gillespie today announced the launch of a $20 million assistance package for victims of the Queensland floods.
The three-part package includes:
$2 million to the Queensland Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal;
$8 million to be allocated to support communities rebuilding across the State, and other charitable purposes, through a new RACQ charitable foundation;
$10 million for compassionate financial assistance to those RACQ Insurance house and contents customers who were victims of the floods.
RACQ Insurance is a wholly-owned subsidiary of RACQ.
Mr Gillespie said that as a 105-year-old Queensland mutual with 1.2 million members, RACQ felt a significant contribution to the States recovery from the devastating floods was essential. ...
Mr Gillespie said the $8 million allocated to projects across the State would be channelled through a new charitable foundation to be set up by RACQ. All administration costs would be borne by RACQ.
The RACQ Foundation will be structured to provide an enduring legacy to communities across Queensland, he said.
The funds will be directed to community and charitable groups, rather than individuals, to support the recovery of community facilities across the State affected by the flood disaster as well as other charitable purposes. ...
RACQ has also provided direct relief for flood victims through:
Free vehicle inspections for damaged or potentially damaged cars until 28 February
Waiving of excess towing fees for flood impacted vehicles
Waiving of standard waiting times for new members for recovery of flood-affected vehicles.
Disclosure of Palestine Papers rebut Israeli claims that there is 'no partner for peace'
By Harriet Sherwood
January 24, 2011 "The Guardian" - - The Palestine Papers - the cache of documents from Israel-Palestine peace negotiations over the past decade which the Guardian is revealing this week - make fascinating reading for anyone interested in both the history and the future of this place.
Many Palestinians will be shocked at how much their negotiators were prepared to offer to reach a deal in 2008 - on settlements and on the right of return of refugees.
But there's another side of this coin too - the documents also show the Palestinians were serious about negotiating, and were willing to make big and painful concessions for peace and to secure their dream of a state.
From the papers I've read, there is little evidence of the Israelis matching this approach by making serious and painful concessions of their own.
Indeed Tzipi Livni is fairly dismissive of the offer on East Jerusalem settlements, focussing on what the Palestinians would not agree to, rather than acknowledging the magnitude of what they were prepared to concede.
Among the settlement blocs that the Palestinians were not willing to give up were Ariel and Ma'ale Adumim.
Ariel, the long finger-like settlement which stretches far into the West Bank, almost cutting it in two, has long been in contention. The Israelis insist they must keep it - it's home to 20,000 people; the Palestinians argue that it makes a contiguous state pretty much impossible. They also point out in the talks that Ariel sits on (and blocks their access to) a major aquifer, which they need for water - a rarely talked-about final status issue.
But it has long been assumed - at least among the Israelis - that Ma'ale Adumim (population: 35,000), the huge city east of Jerusalem stretching towards Jericho, part of the ring of settlements which cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank, will be on the Israeli side of any future border. The Palestinians' unexpected refusal to give it up shows some mettle.
Of course, we don't know if this was a negotiating position, and whether Ma'ale Adumim would have been a card to play closer to a deal.
But it seems to me that after the disclosure of these papers, it will be very hard indeed for the Israelis to deploy their standard argument that the Palestinians are not serious about negotiating a deal and that they have no "partner for peace".
Great News! Reports of Looting Overblown
Down came a jumbuck to drink at
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him in glee;
And he sang as he put him away in his tucker-bag,
"You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me!"
'Waltzing Matilda', A.B. Paterson 
Boogeyman only real in mainstream media: Shock!
According to this latest report from 'Brisbane Times' [25/1/11], one case seems to be simple opportunism, while the others are common theft:
Anonymous calls to Crime Stoppers have helped nab three looters following the floods in Queensland.
Crime Stoppers chief executive Trevor O'Hara said Crime Stoppers had received 22 calls from the public since January 12, providing information on suspected looters.
"In the most serious of cases a Capalaba male has been charged with stealing after being reported to be in possession of a new boat worth approximately $8000," Mr O'Hara said.
"Police subsequently investigated the anonymous information reported to Crime Stoppers and charged the man with theft of the boat from the Pinkenba area.
"A man from the Gailes has been charged with stealing $1000 worth of alcohol and cigarettes from a Gailes business, while a third person is charged with the theft of $1200 worth of workwear from a Salisbury premises. ...
Australians aren't a bunch of looters, and we aren't a bunch of dobbers either!
Wow! Who knew? Well, most Australians - that's who - because the real crooks are ripping us off blind (and getting away with it thanks to our political and media class) every bloody day!
Ex-Policeman Appeals Against Bullying Compo
The lawyer for former Burleigh CIB Detective Graham Cameron told the court his client suffers anxiety and depression as a result of being "harassed, victimised and humiliated" by his superiors in 2007.
Mr Cameron's compensation claim was rejected and he is appealing against that decision in the Southport Magistrates Court.
His lawyer told the court, senior Gold Coast police officers were implicated in the bullying and had threatened to transfer Mr Cameron to another station.
The lawyer for the body that decides compensation claims, QComp, said Mr Cameron "misrepresented things" and was a disruptive influence on his colleagues.
Magistrate Michael O'Driscoll will deliver his decision in March.
Police Deny Using Torture In Arrest
Coast Daily' [25/1/11]:
Police deny they used Gestapo-like torture techniques during a roadside stoush with twin brothers on the Nicklin Way.
Brian James Loiterton, 52, faced Maroochydore Magistrates Court yesterday accused of obstructing police and being a public nuisance after he was pulled over for a licence check on November 17, 2009.
A police officer told the court in September that Mr Loiterton was angry and confrontational, and said he was sick of police harassing him.
He said Mr Loiterton got out of the car, called police c***s, clenched his fists, puffed out his chest and then lunged at police.
The court heard there was a struggle as the officer tried to arrest Mr Loiterton, who was then capsicum sprayed.
His brother Ian Francis Loiterton was also charged with obstructing police after heckling officers, telling his brother not to cooperate and getting involved in a struggle too.
A doctor told the court yesterday that Brian had had four medical issues since the incident psychological issues, shoulder tears, eye and wrist problems.
He said Brian had flashbacks to the event and strong feelings of anger towards police.
The doctor said Brian told him he had pain in his shoulders after his arms were forced behind him and scans revealed tears in both rotator cuffs.
He said Brian also complained about blurry eyes from capsicum spray but he did not report problems until two months after the incident.
The doctor said Ian had also seen him about post traumatic stress, eye blurriness, broken ribs and wrist problems.
Lawyer Stuart Wright said there were many inconsistencies which should raise sufficient doubt in the magistrates mind about the police version of events.
He said his clients did not accept the police version and the amount of force used was hastily applied.
Police prosecutor Phillip Stephens submitted police did not use the Gestapo-like torture techniques described by the accused men during the arrest.
He spoke about credibility of witnesses, noting police made concessions about their behaviour but the twins refused to accept alternate suggestions.
Magistrate Tom Killeen will deliver a decision on February 8.
Gee Lofty And Melissa, Why Would The Police Say Something Like That?
Channel Nine's Brisbane evening bulletin [24/1/11] reported that three people charged with "looting" on boats in the Brisbane River appeared in court today. According to the report, they were were remanded in custody as police said there were concerns for their safety - from others in the community - if they were released.
Gee. Who might be responsible for manipulating a situation where people might be in mortal danger if released on bail?
Were the accused represented? Did they actually seek bail?
Can we ever expect any journalism from Channel Nine?
Sure, they didn't report that newly sworn in Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings was "at 38, single and without children"(as did the ABC 7 pm and 10.30 pm news bulletins), but is it possible that Channel Nine viewers would be better served if these galahs presented the evening news bulletin?
Oh Pretty Please Big, Wealthy Big Corporations, Oh Won't You Lend A Hand?
What if you were the Federal Government and you had no intention of introducing a Flood Levy, you were just terrified of getting the budget back into surplus by 2013?:
He chaired the first meeting of a business taskforce in Brisbane today to discuss the response to the disaster.
Mr Swan says it was a constructive and encouraging meeting.
"Representatives of business around the table today indicated they were prepared to work with the Government and in particular with the reconstruction authority," he said."
[They will] ensure there were more in-kind donations in communities where business could get down and help with a particular local area or with a particular objective."
Prime Minister Julia Gillard was also in Brisbane for the meeting of the taskforce she set up, which includes industry and farm lobby groups, major companies, and state and federal political leaders.She says she wants corporate Australia to work alongside the Government's recovery effort.
"We do need more money, we do need in-kind assistance, and we do need the benefits of the kind of expertise that leading business people have, going directly into communities that are rebuilding after all the devastation," she said.
Ms Gillard has not given a timeframe for when the Government will decide whether a levy will be introduced to help fund the recovery.
"We're still waiting for the full details of the damage to be known," she said.
"I want to make sure I'm working off the best possible information I can get and as soon as I'm in a position to explain my decisions to Australia, I'll do that."
Talk of a possible levy is not supported by Federal Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey. "If you want to keep the Australian economy strong, you cannot keep taking a baseball bat to Australian households with more taxes," he said.
Mr Hockey says whatever has to be spent to repair the states needs to be spent.
"Our contention is this happens now in one form or another every year and it will continue to happen and that's why you've got to have the money available in the first place," he said.
But Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese says the levy may be needed to repair roads and rail networks which will have far more than a local impact.
"It is also of national economic importance," he said.
Head of the Australian Industry Group (AIG) Heather Ridout, who is a taskforce member, says she is open to the idea of a levy.
"If we're going to put a levy on every time we have a problem, I think that is not the way to go, that is a knee-jerk reaction," she said.
"However we do have a here-and-now problem - we don't have the resources to meet it. "All these issues are going to have to be considered." ...
Watch Them Profiteer From The Poor
Only 47% of working age Americans have full time jobs
... The total non institutional civilian labor force (Americans 16 years and older who are not in a institution -criminal, mental, or other types of facilities- or an active military duty) is reported as 238.889 million. Of these, we see:
Employed: 139.206 million people (58.3% of labor force)
Unemployed: 14.485 million people (6.1% of labor force) ...
A few more factoids on the topic:Today, the long term unemployed make up 42% of total unemployed. That is to say, of course, those who are actually counted as unemployed instead of "Not in the labor force". 43.2 million Americans receive foodstamps. That's 18.1% of all working age Americans. If they all have on average 1.5 dependents, which is probably a reasonable estimate, a full one third of the US population receives at least part of their food through this system.
Of course, these are not really stamps anymore, or any sort of paper, theyre now "food stamp debit cards". Michael Snyder at Economic Collapse dug up an ABC News article from April 2009, which deals with the fact that JPMorgan Chase is one of the main servicers of the "food stamp debit cards" (in 26 states). JPMorgan also services child support debit cards (in 15 states) and unemployment insurance cards (7 states). ...
Missing Boat With 5 Americans Found In Philippines
Associated Press MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Searchers from the Philippine coast guard found five missing Americans on board a sailboat that was reported missing en route from Guam. All were in good health, officials said Sunday.
A search ship guided by a spotter plane located the 38-foot (11-meter) catamaran The Pineapple after it was spotted off the southern island of Dinagat, coast guard chief Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo said. The rescuers were escorting the vessel to its original destination on central Cebu island, he said.
"They apparently had engine trouble while in rough seas," Tamayo told The Associated Press, adding that he was awaiting other details.
The sailboat left Guam on Jan. 6 on a trip that normally would take seven to 10 days, officials said. Relatives of the Americans contacted the U.S. Coast Guard when it had not reached its destination by Jan. 18, they said. The U.S. Coast Guard then asked the Philippines to help in the search.
Guam, a U.S. territory, is about 1,400 miles (2,290 kilometers) east of Cebu, where heavy rains and rough seas have been reported in recent weeks.
"They're all in fine health," Tamayo said of the four men and a woman on board the boat, including a Filipino-American in the U.S. Air Force. Their identities and hometowns have not been released by the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
A Philippine coast guard plane spotted the sailboat on Saturday but could not identify the vessel due to poor visibility. The plane returned after the weather cleared Sunday and confirmed it was the missing boat, Tamayo said.
A video taken from a search plane showed four of the Americans on top of the white-hulled catamaran, one apparently waving, as a rubber boat with coast guard personnel approached.
U.S. authorities were informed of the discovery and have been in touch with Philippine officials to provide help to the Americans, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson said.
Many Philippine provinces, particularly in the east, have experienced rough seas amid unusually heavy rains since late December. At least 68 people have died and 26 others remain missing from the stormy weather set off by a cold front.
The coast guard rescued 260 of 277 people aboard nearly a dozen boats that sank, overturned or ran into trouble last week due to the inclement weather. Fifteen remain missing while two drowned, the officials said.
2,448 Distressed OFWs Left Western Saudi In 2010
MANILA, Philippines A total of 2,448 Filipinos in distress were repatriated from Saudi Arabia's western region last year, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah said Sunday.
The Consulate General, in a press statement, said it coordinated with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, immigration authorities, and other agencies in the repatriation process.
Funding for the repatriation came from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office/Overseas Workers Welfare Authority (1,539), the host government (844), employers (43), and workers' personal expense (37).
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also gave funds for some cases.
Consulate staff members also visited the Khandara Bridge in Jeddah, where overstaying nationals, including overseas Filipinos, often congregate.
Overstaying nationals usually congregate at the Khandara Bridge overpass to call the attention of local immigration authorities in the hope that their subsequent arrest from the said public place would lead to faster deportation proceedings.
Some temporarily camp out at the overpass, while others return either to their homes or their friends houses.
The consulate said it is working on the repatriation of some 40 Filipinos who recently seen at the Khandara overpass. "The allegations of neglect made by some quarters are baseless and gratuitous," the Consulate-General said.
It added that local regulations and processes need to be observed.
With respect to those staying at the Khandara Bridge, it is the local immigration police that determine the number of people to be processed for deportation and when to begin said process, the consulate explained.
The Consulate-General also noted that not all 40 are OFWs. A number of them were hajj/umrah pilgrims who overstayed their visas.
The Saudi government announced on 23 September a 6-month royal amnesty for some overstaying foreign nationals.
The amnesty program is effective until March 23 this year.
The consulate, meanwhile, issued an advisory to the Filipino community on the deportation procedures for holders of expired umrah, hajj, or visitors' visas.
Meanwhile, the consulate in Jeddah and the Philippine embassy in Riyadh advised Filipinos who have problems with their employers to first seek the assistance either of their respective offices or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, including filing of complaints with Saudi authorities if needed, instead of absconding and seeking work elsewhere.
If OFWs seek work elsewhere without permission of Saudi authorities or otherwise become out of status, they would have difficulty securing an exit permit when they want to return to the Philippines, the consulate added.
Bio-Security At GE Trial Site Gets Soiled
Plant and Food has again failed to follow the strict conditions that regulatory authorities have set for the site of its GE crop trial.
The removal of tonnes of soil from the Brassica field test site in Lincoln is in direct breach of the ERMA controls issued in relation to the most serious breach of regulatory protocols since GE field trials began in New Zealand.
The GE trial of cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and kale that were genetically engineered with a range of genes (Cry) isolated from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The gene insertion produces high levels of insecticide that kills caterpillars. The Bt insecticide genes when engineered into corn and soy plants have been linked to immune system and blood defects, digestive problems and sterility.
In December 2008 a serious bio-security breach was identified at the secret site, 14 months into the trial's ten year approval, when a flowering plant was discovered. After a 9 month investigation regulators issued a Compliance Order that imposed monitoring conditions at the site for five years and specifically required the applicant to leave the site fallow, to apply herbicide regularly, and after 18 months to plough and check seedling re-growth. All soil under the compost heap and the compost containing GE flowering material was required to be autoclaved to prevent risk of contamination spreading.
However it appears that Plant and Food have yet again breached their Compliance Order and removed all the soil from the site down to the clay pan and, instead of autoclaving, have dumped it into an unknown secondary site in Lincoln. Furthermore, the exposed clay pan has had top soil spilt in places and a small brassica plant has sprung up.
The removal of the soil could be seen to constitute a deliberate violation of the Compliance Orders," says Claire Bleakley president of GE Free NZ in food and environment.
"However the breach is made worse by dumping soil at an undisclosed location and shows criminal negligence. It is tantamount to deliberately contaminating New Zealand 's countryside, said Mrs. Bleakley.
How can New Zealand authorities allow a Crown Research Institute (CRI) to so blatantly contravene their controls? It betrays the trust the public have put in officials to protect the environment from GE contamination."
GE Free NZ calls for an immediate investigation into how and why the regulatory process has been compromised, and why the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has overlooked this further breach in its duty of monitoring and auditing the post-trial site.
Germans Protest Genetic Engineering After Dioxin Scandal
'World Bulletin' [23/1/11]:
Thousands of German protesters marched in Berlin on Saturday to demand a change in farming methods and vent their anger at a food scandal in which cancer-causing dioxin was found in some eggs, poultry and pork.
The scandal, caused by contaminated animal feed, has outraged consumers, triggered international health alerts and hit sales of German eggs and meat.
Organisers said 22,000 people took part in the demonstration, titled "We are sick of it. No to genetic engineering, animal factories and dumping exports".
Onlookers put the turnout at close to 10,000.
"We had such softening of environment and animal standards in the past years," said Reinhild Benning of Germany's Friends of the Earth.
"That's a risk for consumers -- as we are seeing now with the dioxin scandal -- and something they don't want."
The government is separating the production of oil and fats for industrial and agricultural use, and introducing a new licensing system.
Thousands of hens have been culled.China, South Korea and Hungary have already announced restrictions on German meat imports following the affair that broke on Jan 3.
Russia has expressed its concern and has been holding talks with German officials.
Dioxins are poisons formed by burning waste and through other industrial processes, which have been shown to contribute to increased cancer rates and to affect pregnant women.
On Friday, German authorities investigating the food scandal said they had traced the source of the dioxin to used chip fat which had undergone industrial processing.