Afghan Soldier Opens Fire On NATO Troops, Killing US Marine Amid Deteriorating Security

Washington Post [7/5/12]:

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan soldier killed one U.S. marine and wounded another before being shot to death in return fire Sunday in southern Afghanistan, the latest in a series of attacks against foreigners blamed on government forces within their own ranks.

Nearly 20 such attacks this year have raised the level of mistrust between the U.S.-led coalition and their Afghan partners as NATO gears up to hand over security to local forces ahead of a 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of combat troops.

In another sign of deteriorating security, the United States is considering abandoning plans for a consulate in the country’s north because the building chosen was deemed too dangerous to occupy. The U.S. spent $80 million on the project despite glaring security deficiencies in the former hotel, according to a copy of a document drafted by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Those problems — including shoddy construction that would lead to a “catastrophic failure” of the building in a car bomb attack — were overlooked and waivers to strict State Department building rules were granted as officials rushed to open the consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif as a sign of America’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan, the diplomatic memo shows.

While Mazar-i-Sharif was considered relatively safe when the project was approved in 2009, the memo said, a number of incidents in the city indicate that is no longer the case, including an attack last April on a nearby United Nations compound in which a mob stormed the facility and killed seven foreigners — three workers and their guards.

Winning over the ethnic Tajik and Uzbek minorities who dominate the north, was one of the reasons the U.S. wanted a consulate there. But the site picked was doomed from the start, the embassy documents show.
The compound shared a perimeter wall with local shopkeepers and was surrounded by tall buildings that could be used for an attack, the memo said. The distance between the compound’s buildings and the outer wall also was not up to U.S. standards, it added.

In the event of an emergency, there wasn’t even enough space to land a single helicopter, so one would have to land on a nearby street, the memo said.

Neighborhood security also was in question. The compound was near a large mosque that is often the center of large protests in the city, and a nearby truck stop and pickup spot for day laborers provided easy cover for surveillance or attack, it said.

The memo, which was first reported in the Washington Post, said the “security vulnerabilities” at the site and increased threats in Mazar-i-Sharif were overwhelming.

“Consequently, establishing a diplomatic presence at the current location is no longer believed to be tenable and the search for an alternative site has been initiated,” it said.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall declined to comment on the report, saying only that “the security situation has evolved in Afghanistan and any decisions we make are driven by our responsibility to ensure the safety of our personnel.”

Vince Cable: I Feel Vindicated For Declaring War On Murdoch Over BSkyB

Independent [7/5/12]:

Business Secretary Vince Cable feels "vindicated" over his dealings with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, as links between the global media giant and the Conservative Party come under more intense scrutiny.

The Liberal Democrat big-hitter was stripped of overseeing New Corp's bid to buy out BSkyB after telling undercover reporters he had "declared war" on Murdoch's empire. But he said he had been "independent and objective" and handled the bid in a "proper and fair way".

His comments appear to further undermine Prime Minister David Cameron and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who are under fire for being too close to News Corp. Mr Cable said he tried to keep News Corp at "arm's length".

He declined to discuss Mr Hunt's conduct when he was pressed during a TV interview yesterday, saying that the Culture Secretary would give his own defence to the Leveson Inquiry in due course.

However, with former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson due to give evidence under oath to the ongoing inquiry into press ethics later this week, the Government is likely to come in for more criticism before Mr Hunt has the opportunity to testify.

Yesterday's development came as details emerged of a meeting between Jose Maria Aznar – a member of News Corp's board – and Mr Cameron, George Osborne and William Hague only weeks after Mr Murdoch's Sun newspaper ditched its support for Labour to back the Tories.

The meeting, revealed by The Independent on Sunday, was in November 2009 when Mr Cameron was seeking media backing in the run-up to the 2010 general election which led to him becoming Prime Minister.

Significantly, it was arranged by News Corp lobbyist Frédéric Michel, whose emails with Mr Hunt's private adviser, Adam Smith, led to calls for Mr Hunt's to quit when they were published by the Leveson Inquiry.

Mr Smith has resigned but Mr Hunt refuses to quit, saying that his evidence to Leveson will prove he is innocent of wrongdoing.

A photo of Mr Cameron meeting Mr Aznar, a former Spanish Prime Minister, emerged last night.

Mr Michel, whose emails to ex-BSkyB chairman James Murdoch implied that Mr Hunt was privately supportive of News Corp's controversial bid, has been dismissed by some Conservatives as a "fantasist".

But the fact he was able to arrange such a meeting with the future Prime Minister shows he held some sway.
Mr Aznar, a non-executive director at BSkyB, has a powerful position in its hierarchy.

Last June he joined Mr Murdoch when he came to London in advance of Mr Hunt's scheduled announcement on whether News Corp's takeover would be approved – only for the decision to be put on ice as details of the phone-hacking scandal emerged.

A Downing Street spokesman said all contact with the media company had been declared correctly.

"The Prime Minister has had no inappropriate discussions about the BSkyB bid, either as Prime Minister or before. He deliberately excluded himself from the process," he said.

Bikies Little Threat To Society - Police Study

Brisbane Times [7/5/12]:

Outlaw motorcycle gangs call themselves the ''1 per centers'', the fringe minority that will never be part of mainstream society.

But police figures show bikies' commit less than 1 per cent of all crimes in NSW and ''are not a threat to mainstream society''.

A police report on the gangs - or OMCGs - using a decade worth of crime data, obtained by the Herald, shows in NSW ''OMCG members have contributed to 0.37 per cent of offences committed''.

''This percentage on its own does not portray a culture that is a threat to mainstream society or involved in consistent and broadscale crime,'' the report says.

''Over the 10-year period … a total of 990 OMCG members have been charged with a total of 7647 criminal or serious traffic offences. This means that 50.2 per cent of all known OMCG members of NSW have been charged and processed.''

Police say ''OMCG members are over-represented in certain crime categories'' pointing to 1678 violence related charges.

''Of this figure 41 were connected to homicide-related matters, 879 drug-related charges were processed. Of this figure 306 were related to drug supply offences''.

But based on these numbers police say ''there is no other portion of the community that has such a large rate of offending, that are consistently violent in their behaviour and so entrenched in the illicit drug market in this state''.

The bikie barrister Wayne Baffsky, the lawyer for the United Motorcycle Council and Hells Angels, rejected this statement as ridiculous.

''These figures don't discriminate about minor and major offences, drug, traffic or otherwise,'' he said.

''Secondly, when they charge someone associated with a club, even if they are not members, they are attributed to the clubs - that's a huge problem.''

Mr Baffsky was with the UMC's Saturday night convoy from Liverpool into Kings Cross, where amid a heavy police presence 30 members parked on Bayswater Road opposite the Trademark Hotel, run by the Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim.

Despite the UMC's promises of peace and goodwill there was a noticeable change in the group's demeanour when Mr Ibrahim and an entourage including ''Tongan Sam'' arrived about midnight and stood outside the hotel for an hour or so.

Last month, the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, moved on the bikies, banning them running tattoo parlours along with a raft of legislative changes to the Crimes Act as a response to tit-for-tat shootings that included an attack on a house rented by the former Nomad president Sam Ibrahim.

Zac, a Comanchero working with the UMC, said bikies are allowed to come into Kings Cross despite Mr O'Farrell announcing blanket bans on them wearing club colours and emblems in Kings Cross venues.

He blamed ''the media, government, the police pumping it out, making us look like the bad people''.

''We are just like everyone else, we got a wife and kids waiting for us. Jobs. Responsibilities. We just ride our bikes and that's it,'' he said.

But police see it differently, reporting OMCGs are ''more likely to be involved in the commission of a crime''.

Police crunched the numbers from January 1, 1999 to December 31, 2008. In NSW, 2,073,718 offences were processed, of which 7647 were linked to confirmed members of OMCGs in NSW.

Indonesia: Govt To Build Three Hospitals For Industrial Workers

Jakarta Post [7/5/12]:

The Public Housing Ministry plans to begin construction of three hospitals for laborers working throughout industrial areas in Jakarta, as well as in West Java’s Bogor, Depok and Bekasi, later this year.

"We've prepared the funding and designs for the project," Public Housing Minister Djan Faridz said as quoted by, adding the project would cost Rp 200 billion (US$21.6 million).

The hospitals will be equipped, for example, with emergency rooms to handle work-related accidents that commonly occur in industrial areas.

Djan hopes that the government will allow for the construction of five additional hospitals for laborers in other places of industry, like in Karawang, West Java, pending approval of the funds.

The management at these proposed labor hospitals are expected to work with state-owned insurance company PT Jamsostek to sort out operational and medical fees.

Election Swing Leaves Greece Teetering [7/5/12]:

Greece was plunged into political uncertainty on Sunday night as national elections produced a fragmented Parliament of at least seven parties and a result that could preclude New Democracy and PASOK forming a coalition government over the next few days.

The possibility of the two parties that backed Greece’s new bailout combining their forces was undermined by a collapse in their support, particularly in the case of PASOK. The Socialists suffered a drubbing around the country and looked to have been beaten into third place by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) with what could be PASOK’s worst ever showing at the ballot box.

The election result was also notable for the entry into Parliament of the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn), which in 2009 had only gained 0.29 percent of the vote and looked set to gather close to 7 percent at these elections.

With 45 percent of the vote counted last night, New Democracy was leading with 20.23 percent. It was followed by SYRIZA on 15.94 percent and PASOK on 13.92 percent. The right-wing anti-bailout Independent Greeks party, formed just a few months ago, came fourth with 10.40 percent. The Communist Party (KKE) garnered 8.36 percent, which was lower than most opinion polls had suggested. Chrysi Avgi gained 6.84 percent and the Democratic Left was the last party certain of a place in Parliament with 5.99 percent.

Two other parties, Ecologist Greens and the nationalist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), were close to gaining seats in the House with less than half of the votes counted.

The result means that in the best-case scenario, New Democracy, which will be awarded an extra 50 seats, and PASOK would only have a majority of a few MPs in the 300-seat Parliament. Even if they were able to agree to form a coalition, it would have weak political legitimacy in wake of an election that saw Greek voters move en masse toward parties that opposed the bailout agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and New Democracy chief Antonis Samaras both declared themselves open to the idea of forming a pro-European national unity administration that would include other parties and would seek to renegotiate the terms of the EU-IMF loan agreement.

“All Greeks have to get to know each other again,” said Venizelos, who admitted that PASOK had paid the price for carrying the burden of the crisis. “We embittered the people so we could protect the future of the nation.”

He said that the possibility of forming a national unity government with a “European orientation” regardless of parties’ positions on the bailout should be explored.

Samaras said he would seek to form a “national salvation government” to keep the country in the eurozone and pledged to “amend” Greece’s debt deal with foreign creditors in a bid to boost growth. He attributed the outcome of the elections, in which voters punished the two main parties, to “the disappointment of the Greek people for dead-end policies that have pushed them to the limits.”

However, the possibility of a third group joining such a government looked extremely slim last night.

Perhaps the best hope for Greece’s two main parties would have been Democratic Left, which maintained a clear pro-European stance during the campaign. However, party leader Fotis Kouvelis repeated his position that cooperation with New Democracy and PASOK was not in Democratic Left’s intentions. “The results show people’s frustration and anger,” he said.

A failure by PASOK and ND to form a government would leave second-placed SYRIZA, the night’s big winners, with the option of trying to form a government. Greece’s electoral law means that in case of a hung parliament, the first party has three days to form a government, followed by the second party and then the group that comes in third.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who at 38 led his party to its best election showing, ruled out the option of working with either New Democracy or PASOK and said he would try to form a coalition of parties opposed to the EU-IMF memorandum, starting with those on the left.

Tsipras said in a speech from his headquarters that the austerity policies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel “have suffered a crushing defeat.” He said he would appeal to the “forces of the left” in a bid to form a coalition to “abolish the memorandum.” “Their signatures have been undermined by the popular mandate,” he said, referring to the leaders of the outgoing coalition government.

Tsipras said his party’s showing in the elections constituted a “strong message, to Greece and to Europe, to overturn the status quo” and “a message of peaceful revolution.” ”The peoples of Europe cannot be reconciled with barbaric memorandums,” he said.

If the top three parties fail to form a coalition government, President Karolos Papoulias has the right to broker a deal to create a national unity administration. If this effort fails, Greece will have to go to new elections.

$19b lost in early trade [Sydney Morning Herald - 7/5/12]

It Makes No Sense To Rip Up Australia's Copper/Landline Network

We've said it before, and we'll say it again.

Australians are yet to hear a satisfactory explanation why why ripping up the copper network is necessary.

Surely the experience of the recent Queensland floods illustrates how vital the copper network is because of its resilience?

A caller to ABC Local Radio with Phillip Clarke in January 2011 made a very good point of the senselessness of pulling up the copper network - i.e. in an emergency when the power has been cut off, how will Australians contact authorities? Because if there's a power failure, your phone won't work.

The NBN Co., spin came flying back thick and fast talking about battery backups. Of course like any battery, it will only work if the batteries are constantly checked, and charged and changed. Personal responsibility don't you know?

The caller's point, which remains valid, was that at present the copper system runs on its own power and is not effected by blackouts.

West Australian [7/5/12]:

A new wave of 4G wireless broadband networks will eclipse the speed of some fibre plans before the National Broadband Network even rolls through Perth streets.

Testing of Telstra's 4G long-term evolution network in Perth, which is limited to areas close to the CBD, clocked average download speeds exceeding most ADSL2+ connections - and treble the speed of the cheapest NBN plan in one location.

As Telstra plans to expand the network's reach beyond the central area, Optus is busily rolling out its competing network in Perth, which is scheduled to launch within two months.

The West Australian tested Telstra's 4G network using a USB modem plugged into a laptop.

Riding on the CAT bus through West Perth, the central city and East Perth, we clocked average download speeds of about 18Mbps. Upload speeds were a bit slower in most places, except West Perth where they averaged 21.14Mbps - double the "typical" maximum speed of 10Mbps Telstra has quoted in marketing material.

Next we took the modem to Victoria Park, where it achieved similar speeds to the CBD. The network extended up Albany Highway to the edges of East Victoria Park before dropping off to a 3G network.
Victoria Park will be one of the first suburbs to be connected to the NBN, which offers plans with speeds starting from 12Mbps and up to 100Mbps.

The northern end of Curtin University edged into the 4G coverage area, with a 7.91Mbps download speed, and the University of WA was well within limits, clocking 15.12Mbps.

Parked outside the Subiaco post office on Rokeby Road, speeds reached the highest for the day, with an average of 29.24Mbps. The single highest result was an eye-opening 36.36Mbps, likely because of the Telstra infrastructure spotted on top of the Australia Post building.

Given the network has only been in place since late last year and most Telstra customers do not have the technology to access it yet, it is possible The West was also the only user connecting to 4G in the area at that time. As more users sign up, congestion is likely to affect speeds.

Tornado Hits Eastern Japan

New Zealand Herald [7/5/12]:

A tornado has ripped through eastern Japan, killing a teenager, destroying dozens of homes and cutting power to around 20,000 households.

"A 14-year-old male died" as a result of the tornado, said a spokesman at the disaster headquarters of Tsukuba city in Ibaraki prefecture, roughly 60 kilometres northeast of Tokyo.

The exact cause of the death was not immediately clear, but he was among 15 people whom rescue workers rushed to hospitals immediately after the twister, the city government said.

It added that 21 other people also sought medical care for tornado-related injuries in the city, and said it had asked Self defence Force troops to help with rescue and relief operations.

"The figure is only a temporary tally. We believe the number (for injuries) could rise," the spokesman said.
The Tsukuba fire and emergency bureau said 30 to 50 houses were destroyed by the tornado, with many more damaged.

Moka city in neighbouring Tochigi prefecture reported one injury and damage to 132 buildings after it was hit by a separate apparent tornado.

A number of minor injuries were also reported in Tochigi, while a swathe of eastern Japan was battered by strong winds, hail, lightning and heavy rain.

In total, tornadoes damaged roughly 500 houses and buildings in the Kanto region, including Ibaraki and Tochigi, said the online editions of national broadcaster NHK and the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

Television footage from Tsukuba showed houses swept from their foundations, overturned cars in muddy debris and fallen concrete power poles.

Aerial images showed possibly hundreds of houses and apartments with shattered glass windows, many of them with their roofs blown away.

"You could see the roaring column of wind rushing with sparks from live power lines inside it," a local man told national broadcaster NHK.

"Winds blew into my house. It took only a moment," a woman told NHK while cleaning up her home.

Japan's weather agency issued warnings for a wide region in the east of the country, urging people to seek shelter in case of sudden winds and thunder.

The severe winds caused a power outage for nearly 20,000 households in the region, said a spokeswoman for Tokyo Electric Power.

"The tornado and thunder happening around 12:46 pm (3.46 NZT) are believed to be the cause of the outage for 19,300 clients in Tsukuba and its surrounding areas," she said.

Nepal Flood Death Toll Could Hit 60

Press TV [6/5/12]:

Nepalese police says the death toll from Saturday's flash floods, which swept away a village near a Himalayan resort in western Nepal, could climb to 60.

At least 15 people have so far been confirmed dead and more than 40 others, including three Ukrainian tourists, are still missing.

"So far, 12 of the 15 bodies have been identified. An excavator has reached the worst affected areas and is clearing the mud. We have a list of another 43 people who have gone missing. Their chances of survival are almost zero," the police superintendent of the Kaski district, Sailesh Thapa said.

Triggered by an avalanche, the snow-fed Seti Gandaki River in western Nepal burst its banks and smashed into two buildings and a number of shacks in Kharapani village on Saturday, according to police officials.

The flooding has caused extensive damage to homes and swept way two buildings. The government has ordered prompt rescue operations.

Sniffer dogs have been sent 200 kilometers from the capital Kathmandu to search for bodies along the banks of the river.

Nepal's Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has also paid a visit to the affected region to monitor rescue operations.

People are terrorized as the flood is moving towards Pokhara, Nepal's second largest city which is located about 200 kilometers from the capital.

Thailand Investigates Deadly Petrochemical Estate Blast

Reuters [6/5/12]:

Thai authorities were investigating on Sunday a blast that killed 12 people and wounded at least 105 at one of the world's biggest petrochemical hubs.

Explosions sparked a fire at a chemical factory at the sprawling Map Ta Phut complex - Thailand's biggest industrial estate - on Saturday, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people and workers from the area in Rayong province, about 180 km (110 miles) east of Bangkok.

The Bangkok Synthetics plant, 20-percent owned by Thailand's largest industrial group, Siam Cement Pcl, produces butadiene and other raw materials used in the manufacturing of synthetic rubbers and plastic resins.

The blaze has been extinguished and many evacuees have returned home, said Verapong Chaiperm, governor of the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, confirming the number of dead and wounded.

"The evacuation order has been cancelled while other nearby buildings and factories around the area are under security checks," he said in an interview.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the explosions and were watching closely for the environmental impact of the spread of the chemicals, said Verapong.

The plants at Map Ta Phut, home to the world's eighth-largest petrochemicals hub, have been at the centre of an environmental dispute in recent years after an environmental group said pollution from the plants had caused at least 2,000 cancer-related deaths.

A court in 2010 ruled that most of 76 industrial projects halted a year earlier because of pollution and licensing concerns could be restarted.

Harm To Mothers From GE-Soy Must Be Investigated

Scoop NZ [6/5/12]:

Press Release: GE Free NZ

GE-Free NZ is calling for urgent follow-up on evidence that there is a strong link to adverse effects in unborn children from GE soya in the maternal diet.

An article by Anne Wolfenberg, in the Danish Effektivt Landbrug farming Journal, published a story about a Danish Farmer who noticed that his pigs were suffering reproductive disorders and digestive problems after having a diet rich in GE (genetically engineered) soya. He decided to go back to a traditional GE Free soya diet and immediately noticed that the severe health problems disappeared, and the health of the sows and piglets reverted back to normal.

In the latest report on Mr. Pedersen's experiences, it was noticed that:

1.Within 2 days [of introducing non GM soya] diarrhea virtually disappeared in the farrowing house, whereas before he had used 50-100 ml anti bacterial (Borgal) per day.
2. Since switching, he had not experienced death from bloat in sows or death by ulcers, as opposed to minimum 1 per month previously. (36 sows died due to stomach related sickness over the last two years before switching)
3. No sows had died through loss of appetite, whereas 2 sows died from this cause last year.
4. Two years ago when the diarrhea was as its worst, he had months with nearly 30% dead in the farrowing house. At that time it was impossible to find sows that could nurse piglets.
5. Before it was unusual to have had a sow with 13 piglets weaned. The average was about 10.5 per sow plus spare mothers. Now he had over 12 piglets on average weaned and 14 piglets weaned per sow is common. He had fewer nursing sows, simply because the sows were milking better and eating more.
6. Sows farrow better and had now he has an average of 14.9 live born and 1.6 stillborn, over the past 7 months.
7. The piglets weaned were stronger and more evenly sized.

"This latest report adds to a growing set of data that consumption of GE soya is likely to be harmful to humans," says Claire Bleakley from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

"There is an alarming lack of research on the safety of GE soya in the animal and human diet. The traumatic evidence from real-world GE experience with animals must be a wake-up call for health authorities to investigate."

GE Free NZ is still awaiting a decision from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on their appeal of the 2,4-D corn and soya that Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) approved late last year.

Moscow Clashes At Anti-Putin Protests

BBC [6/5/12]:

Protesters against Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin have clashed with police in the capital Moscow, ahead of Mr Putin's inauguration on Monday for a third term.

The protest was peaceful until a small group of demonstrators tried to break through the lines of riot police.

Opposition activists Alexei Navalny, Sergei Udaltsov and Boris Nemtsov have all been detained.

A rival demonstration in support of Mr Putin has also been taking place.

Organisers said about 20,000 people took part in the opposition march - to an island close to the Kremlin - although police put the figure at about 8,000.

Alexei Navalny urged protesters not to disperse until those arrested had been released.

Speaking to a radio station by phone from a police van, Mr Navalny also told the protesters to insist that the authorities carry out the reforms they have promised.

Police have been blocking the protesters from crossing a bridge over the Moscow River.

Left-wing activist Sergei Udaltsov was one of those arrested

Clashes broke out when more people crowded towards the bridge and riot police wielding batons pushed demonstrators back towards the rally site, witnesses said.

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg, who is at the opposition march, says protesters launched a sit-in by the police lines.

They were refusing to leave unless Mr Putin's inauguration was cancelled. They were also demanding an hour of TV airtime and new elections, our correspondent says.

Dozens of protesters are said to have been arrested.

TV images then showed police storming the stage of the rally where left-wing activist Mr Udaltsov had been addressing protesters, and taking him to a waiting vehicle.

Before he was seized, Mr Udaltsov had called for the inauguration to be cancelled and said through a loud-hailer: "We will not leave."

The crowd chanted back: "We are the power."

Russia's Interfax news agency later reported that Mr Navalny - an anti-corruption blogger and nationalist - had been arrested and Dozhd TV tweeted that liberal politician Mr Nemtsov had also been detained at the rally.

Peru: Sunat Chief Says Gov’t To Implement Mechanisms In June To Combat Illegal Mining

Peruvian Times [5/5/12]:

The head of Peru’s tax agency Sunat, Tania Quispe, said the government plans to establish by June mechanisms to halt the supply of chemical inputs and machinery that are used by illegal gold miners, state news agency Andina reported.

“We are talking about May or June at the latest,” Quispe said. “We plan to pull out all the stops in the regulation process.”

Quispe said that Sunat, which also governs the customs superintendency Sunad, plays an important role in the government’s efforts to stem illegal mining by detecting tax evasion and money laundering.

“And now with the fiscal routes, we are going to have checkpoints established to monitor all of this,” she said. Sunat will be monitoring the sale of chemical inputs, and also light and heavy machinery as well as vehicles and other supplies, by following the trail of sales receipts and other transaction documents between suppliers and buyers.

Illegal and informal mining operations are being carried out throughout Peru, and it has become a major social and environmental concern, particularly in the jungle region of Madre de Dios.

Tens of thousands of informal miners are believed to extract gold in Madre de Dios, causing widespread deforestation and heavily polluting local waterways in one of the world’s most bio-diverse areas.

Authorities say that prostitution, including child prostitution, and human trafficking are also prevalent in illegal mining camps.

Efforts by the government to control illegal mining in the Madre de Dios area have been met by stiff opposition leading to deadly protests.

Peru: Heavy Rains Cause More Than 50 Deaths Since November

Peruvian Times [4/5/12]:

Flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains in Peru have caused the deaths of 53 people over the past six months, according to the country’s National Civil Defense Institute, Indeci.

Since November, some 267,000 people have been affected by the rains, daily El Comercio reported.

The rains have affected all of Peru’s 25 regions, according to the report, in a rainy season that has continued beyond the usual November-March season, with losses recorded in urban and rural areas, both of housing and crops.

Emergency situation in Iquitos

The most seriously affected region at present is the northeast jungle region of Loreto, where the Amazon and its tributaries have risen to historically high levels from the continuing rains. Some communities have had to be temporarily relocated in several areas, and currently 43 schools in areas on higher ground are being used to house more than 1,700 families.

In the city of Iquitos, the water has risen to flood large sections of residential areas for the first time, placing heavy pressure on water, sewage and garbage services.

Three people have recently died, including a child, and there are some 184,147 people affected by the rains. Health authorities have also diagnosed 32 cases of leptospirosis in Loreto, which is caused by infected soil or water.

The Loreto regional health director, Dr. Ana Maria Navarro, has said that plans to eliminate rats in the area “is not appropriate because it will only bring environmental health problems, since dead rats will be dumped in the garbage and create infection hazards.”

Prime Minister Oscar Valdes said Thursday that the government is helping to overcome the emergency situation in Loreto.

The regional government of Loreto says that 40,000 houses have been affected by the rains, while 500 education centers have been damaged and 25,000 hectares of crops have been lost.

Peru: Dead Pelicans And Dolphins May Have Contracted A Form Of Measles

First News [3/5/12]:

Experts think that hundreds of dolphins and sea birds found dead on a Peruvian beach may have caught the morbillivirus.

Peru's vice minister of Environment, Gabriel Quijandria said that the thousands of fish, sea birds and wildlife found dead on a beach in Peru had contracted the morbillivirus.

The morbillivirus is similar to the virus that causes measles in humans.

Thousands of pelicans, 900 dolphins, five sea lions, 54 blue-footed boobies and a turtle have all been found on the same beach.

The virus has caused similar effects in the coasts of Mexico and the US.

Activists Dodge Police As They Unfurl Independence Flags In West Papua [AUDIO]

The Wire [1/5/12]:

Reports are today filtering out of the Indonesian-controlled province of West Papua describing significant protest activity. Many west Papuans have never accepted Indonesian sovereignty over their land.

The protests on May 1st mark the anniversary of the day in 1963 when Indonesia assumed control of West Papua.

Observers say that protests have been intensifying since a large group of activists declared independence and selected a leadership group last October.

Featured in story

Peter King - Professor, West Papua project at the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

Ronny Kareni - West Papuan Independence activist based in Melbourne

Indonesia Completing Hospital In Gaza Strip

Jakarta Post [25/4/12]:

Non-governmental organization Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C) Indonesia says that it is completing the construction of a hospital in the Gaza strip, Palestine, and is aiming to finish it by the end of this year.

MER-C Indonesia chairman Sarbini Abdul Murad said on Wednesday that the basic structure of the hospital, whose design was inspired by the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, had been completed and that the project was entering the next phase.

“We are about to carry out the second tender for the architecture,” Sarbini said during MER-C’s visit to The Jakarta Post.

The hospital will be named the Indonesia Hospital.

“We [MER-C and the Palestinian government] have agreed that the Palestinian government won’t change the name. The hospital is a symbol of both countries’ friendship,” he said, adding that MER-C would also send Indonesian medical specialists, particularly surgeons, to work there.

The construction of the hospital, built on a 16,000-square-meter site, cost Rp 20 billion (US$2.18 million) while another Rp 10 billion will be needed to procure the medical equipment.

The organization has managed to collect Rp 21 billion from Indonesian donors since the Israel-Gaza war in 2008-2009 and will have to raise the rest of the funds needed.

“We’ve raised funds through one of our programs, the Rp 20,000 per person movement,” Sarbini noted.

The presence of the hospital, which will focus on providing trauma services and is located about three kilometers from the Israel-Gaza border, will be very significant for Palestinians living in the area, considering clashes often occur causing casualties.

“Previously, those who were injured needed to go to Syifa hospital, located about 10 kilometers away from the Indonesia hospital,” he said.

The hospital will have 100 beds and operations room and will be fully managed by the Palestinian government.

IoS Exclusive: Revealed - Cameron's Secret Summit With News Corp

Independent [6/5/12]:

David Cameron agreed to a meeting with one of Rupert Murdoch's senior executives that was arranged by the lobbyist now at the centre of the Jeremy Hunt scandal, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

Frédéric Michel, whose numerous emails to Mr Hunt's special adviser have put pressure on the Culture Secretary to resign, set up the secret talks between Mr Cameron and Jose Maria Aznar, the former prime minister of Spain and a member of Mr Murdoch's News Corporation board.

The involvement of Mr Michel, the head of public affairs for News Corp, in such a top-level meeting severely undermines his portrayal by Mr Hunt and the Prime Minister as simply a lobbyist and "Walter Mitty" fantasist.

The previously undisclosed meeting in November 2009 also shows how Mr Cameron was being assiduously courted by News Corp executives beyond the Murdoch family, as the company was gearing up for its bid to take over BSkyB.

George Osborne and William Hague were also present at the talks, The IoS understands.

The Prime Minister is under increasing pressure over the Leveson inquiry ahead of the appearances this week of the former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and Mr Cameron's ex-communications chief, Andy Coulson.

At the same time, Mr Cameron is struggling to contain open revolt among Conservative MPs over the direction of his party, including pressure from some figures to sideline George Osborne as election strategist, following Boris Johnson's securing of a second term as London Mayor. Mr Johnson's double victory exposes Mr Cameron's weakness as a leader who never crossed the finishing line, say some MPs.

After weeks of post-Budget turmoil culminating in the Tories' and Liberal Democrats' dismal performance in the local elections, Mr Cameron will try to restart his premiership this week with a businesslike Queen's Speech and a renewed statement with Nick Clegg of the aims and priorities of the coalition. Mr Cameron is also finalising plans for a major cabinet reshuffle to refresh his top team.

But the relaunch will be overshadowed by the appearances of Mr Coulson and Mrs Brooks, two of the people connected to News International who became closest to Mr Cameron and have the capacity to cause maximum damage to the PM under questioning from Lord Justice Leveson and Robert Jay, QC for the inquiry.

The meeting between Mr Cameron and Mr Aznar was in early November 2009, just weeks after The Sun ended its support for Labour and backed the Conservative Party. At the time, News Corp was preparing to announce its bid to take over BSkyB.

It is not known whether the future of the digital broadcaster was discussed at the meeting, but it is likely that the commercial interests of News Corp arose. The Conservatives never announced that the meeting had taken place. A Spanish news agency later reported details of the talks, but this was not picked up in the British press. Mr Cameron had also recently met James Murdoch at the George Club in London to discuss The Sun's support for the Tories.

The secret meeting shows the extent to which Mr Cameron was engaging with News Corp executives, as well as the media tycoon himself, his son, James, and Mrs Brooks.

The meeting brought together Mr Aznar, a centre-right elder statesman in Europe inside the Murdoch circle, with a British prime minister-in-waiting who had just won the seal of approval from the media tycoon. At the time, Mr Cameron was struggling to convince his centre-right counterparts in Europe, including Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, that he had made the right decision in leaving the mainstream European People's Party and creating a new grouping which involved hard-right parties from Poland and the Czech Republic. The Tory leader would have been eager to impress Mr Aznar.

The Government has made strenuous efforts to distance Mr Hunt and Mr Cameron from Mr Michel after emails revealed at the inquiry showed how he and Adam Smith, the Culture Secretary's special adviser, were in close contact while the minister had responsibility for the BSkyB takeover decision.

During questions to Mr Hunt in the Commons last month, a Tory MP described Mr Michel as a "Walter Mitty" figure, a comment which the Culture Secretary failed to dismiss, even though he had met the lobbyist on several occasions.

No 10 has also distanced Mr Cameron from Mr Michel, while on Newsnight the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude also used the "Walter Mitty" label to describe the public affairs chief. Mr Smith was forced to resign over the Michel emails, but Mr Hunt has clung on to his job.

In a sign of the panic over the Leveson hearings this week, Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne sent a government lawyer to appeal last Friday for the pair and other senior ministers to have advance sight of Mr Coulson's and Mrs Brooks's written submissions. Mr Cameron, Mr Osborne and six other senior cabinet ministers will have privileged advance access to inquiry documents.

Downing Street refused to respond to specific questions about what was discussed at the Aznar meeting, such as whether they talked about News Corp's commercial interests, including the company's plans for BSkyB, and whether Mr Cameron spoke to Mr Michel at the summit.

A No 10 spokesman said: "All contact with News International and News Corp has been declared in the correct way. The Prime Minister has had no inappropriate discussions about the BSkyB bid, either as Prime Minister or before. He deliberately excluded himself from the process."

News Corp declined to comment.

Mr Aznar, who was prime minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004, was appointed as a non-executive director of the News Corp board in 2006.

As well as in the UK and the US, News Corp has made inroads into Spanish media, including the launch of Fox España in 2002.

Mr Aznar accompanied Mr Murdoch when he flew into London last June ahead of Mr Hunt's decision on whether to grant approval for the BSkyB takeover – which was pulled weeks later when it emerged that the News of the World had hacked Milly Dowler's phone.

Gaga gig tickets for PM's top team

Two members of David Cameron's inner circle enjoyed News International's hospitality at a Lady Gaga concert just days before the Prime Minister discussed the BSkyB bid with James Murdoch.

No 10's chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, and his deputy, Kate Fall, were in the NI box at the 02 Arena on 17 December 2010.

Four days later, the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, was removed from deciding whether to grant approval for Rupert Murdoch's bid to take over BSkyB after telling undercover reporters how he wanted to "declare war" on Mr Murdoch.

Two days after this, on 23 December, Mr Cameron went to a Christmas party hosted by NI's then chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, where he discussed the BSkyB bid with James Murdoch.

Ms Fall and Mr Llewellyn have declared on the Downing Street website that they received concert tickets from NI, within the rules. It has not been revealed until now that they saw Lady Gaga, right, who was performing the London leg of her Monster Ball tour. The pair were among the 20,000 fans watching Lady Gaga perform hit songs "Just Dance", "Paparazzi" and "Bad Romance", after declaring: "Tonight we're gonna be super freaks!"

Jane Merrick and Charles Engwell

Wake Up Australia!

History Shows This Is Going To End Badly For Us

Sydney Morning Herald [6/5/12]:

The surge in boats carrying asylum seekers last year has delivered an explosion in profits for the company that privately operates Australia's detention centres.

Serco Australia, a division of a British multinational, enjoyed a 45 per cent rise in net profits to $59 million last year. The revenue of the company, which has the contract to run immigration detention services on behalf of the federal government, almost doubled from $369 million to $693 million.

The huge rise in Serco's cash flow, however, was not matched by as impressive a performance in complying with local laws on reporting financial statements.

Once again, in contravention of the Corporations Act, Serco's statements were filed late this year. It was late filing last year as well.And the disclosure in its accounts, according to a leading accounting and regulation academic, failed to comply with Australian accounting standards.

"Rules are rules," University of NSW senior lecturer Jeffrey Knapp told The Sunday Age yesterday.

"Serco has broken them. Serco Australia Pty Ltd is a reporting entity and should do a general purpose financial report like BHP or Telstra including full disclosures of related-party transactions and balances.

"It is reasonable also to question whether Serco should be subject to a higher level of accountability and disclosure given the relative political and economic importance of the asylum seeker business that it conducts in Australia," he said.

Serco's high cash flow, low debt levels and 35 per cent profit margins would make it the envy of the Australian corporate elite. Few of Australia's top 100 companies matched its profit rises or margins when they last reported. Serco's profits had doubled the year before. But business conditions are favourable.

The influx of asylum seekers since the breakdown of the government's Malaysian people-swap plan has led to an increase in detention centres from 12 to 20 across the Australian mainland, Tasmania and Christmas Island.

It has also meant a lucrative new $1 billion contract for Serco. In a secret deal with the government in early December last year, the British services giant renegotiated its original contract of $279.2 million over four years to $1.03 billion.

It is difficult to tell from Serco Australia's financial statements, which were filed on Friday, exactly how profitable the outsourcing of immigration detention is. Serco also manages ports and defence bases for the government and provides no breakdown as to the profits of each division.

Some Fertility Treatments Linked To Higher Risk Of Birth Defects

LA Times [5/5/12]:

For couples seeking to overcome infertility by turning to assisted reproductive technology – which can be invasive and expensive – an increased risk of birth defects probably won’t stand in their way. Still, a study released Saturday by the New England Journal of Medicine may give some prospective parents a little something to think about as they mull their options for fertility treatment.

The study is based on data from more than 300,000 births in the state of South Australia (population 1.6 million) between 1986 and 2002, including 6,163 that came about with the help of some form of assisted reproductive technology (ART). When any of the babies was identified as having a birth defect before age 5, doctors made a report to a state registry and the information was included in the analysis.

The researchers found that 8.3% of the children whose conception was helped along by doctors developed a birth defect, compared with 5.8% of the children who were conceived naturally and spontaneously. After adjusting for demographic and other factors that could influence the calculations, the researchers found that using ART was associated with a 28% increased risk of having a baby with a birth defect. The types of defects included “cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, urogenital, and gastrointestinal abnormalities and cerebral palsy,” they reported.

Next, the team assessed the risk of individual types of ART, starting with in vitro fertilization. IVF involves putting an egg and a sperm in a laboratory dish, where they combine and grow for several days before being transferred to a woman’s uterus. Though the raw data indicated that IVF was linked with a 26% increased risk in birth defects, after statistical adjustments the increase was no longer significant (that is, the difference could have been due to random chance).

The story was different for another ART technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI. It involves injecting a single sperm into an egg, and is often used to overcome male factor infertility. Babies born this way had a 57% increased risk of developing a birth defect compared with babies born to fertile women, even after accounting for demographic and other influential factors.

What’s more, the researchers calculated that the increased risk rose to 66% in cases where fresh embryos were used. When frozen embryos were used, the risk of birth defects was not significantly higher than for fertile women, the researchers found. They speculated that the process of freezing and then thawing the embryos might weed out those that are naturally prone to developing a birth defect, among other theories.

The researchers said there are “biologically plausible” reasons why ICSI would increase the risk of birth defects, though this study doesn’t show that the treatment actually caused the birth defects that were reported. The investigators added that the type of male infertility that leads couples to use ICSI could also be responsible for the increase in birth defects all by itself.

Intrauterine insemination, gamete intrafallopian transfer and use of the drug clomiphene citrate (better known as Clomid) at home also were linked with an increased risk of birth defects, though the number of such cases was relatively small.

Interestingly, the researchers found that women who had previously tried some type of ART (but had not gotten pregnant) and then went on to get pregnant on their own were 25% more likely to have a baby with a birth defect compared with women with no history of infertility. In addition, women with a history of infertility – but who never tried a kind of ART – who then got pregnant on their own were 29% more likely to give birth to a baby with a birth defect.

Those findings may sound strange, but they’re in line with another study of Danish births. The researchers said this can probably be traced (in part) to women using Clomid on their own, outside of fertility clinic care.
The women who opted for fertility treatment were more likely than their fertile counterparts to be older, white, childless and to have a higher income. They were also more likely to deliver their babies early (at less than 37 weeks and at less than 32 weeks) and to require aC-section.

The researchers emphasized that “the large majority of births resulting from assisted conception were free of birth defects.” Still, they concluded, “our findings can help provide guidance in counseling patients who are considering treatment for infertlity.”

Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, president-elect of the International Federation of Fertility, responded to the study in a prepared statement:

“This study largely confirms what we already know, that there is a slightly increased risk of problems in children conceived via assisted conception. We suspect that a large part of this may be due to the nature of infertility itself – if someone has a fertility problem in the first place, then it wouldn’t be surprising if there is an increased frequency of problems in their offspring, such as birth defects, even after achieving pregnancy."

SA Leads Oz In Brain Tumour Deaths

ABC [5/5/12]:

ELIZABETH JACKSON: New research shows that brain tumour patients are much more likely to die if they're in Adelaide, or South Australia at least. A Cancer Council analysis shows big differences in survival rates depending on which state and which part of their state the patient lives in.

One of Australia's leading neurosurgeons says the disparity can be explained by different levels of funding.

Thea Manning spoke to Dr Brindha Shivalingham from Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

BRINDHA SHIVALINGHAM: Patients with any type of cancer, they're best looked after in a facility or in a unit that has multiple specialists but also access to world-wide chemotherapy trials. And that sort of cutting-edge treatment is available in big cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. But in smaller cities, and certainly in rural Australia, that sort of facility is just not there and it's not available. And that might be the reflection - the current figures that have come out might be a reflection of this lack of funding for these sorts of multi-disciplinary, state-of-the-art cancer treatment groups.

THEA MANNING: What does the latest research on brain cancer in Australia reveal?

BRINDHA SHIVALINGHAM: Most of the developments have been really centred around chemotherapy and also using chemotherapy in conjunction with radiotherapy after patients have had surgery for their brain tumour. The main impact has been on survival. So people with brain cancer are now surviving longer than they ever have before.

THEA MANNING: Are more people developing brain cancer in Australia?

BRINDHA SHIVALINGHAM: Well there has been a slight increase in the incidence of brain tumours but it hasn't been a dramatic increase. But, there has been a gradual increase over the years.

THEA MANNING: And why do you think that is?

BRINDHA SHIVALINGHAM: Well, we don't know and that's the short answer, we don't know. We don't know what causes these tumours. We know that radiation seems to have an effect; but apart from radiation we don't know what else causes them.

THEA MANNING: Are there new developments in terms of diagnosis?

BRINDHA SHIVALINGHAM: So yes you can diagnose them readily on a scan but what we're trying to do now is to look at the cells within the tumour itself on a genetic basis to give us a little bit more of an understanding about how they behave and, therefore, create therapies to target them. We're starting to now unravel certain molecular structures of these tumours. There is no way of preventing the tumour happening because we don't know what causes it. So before we can prevent something we need to know what causes it.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Dr Brindha Shivalingham speaking there to Thea Manning.

Bodies Hung From Bridge As 23 More Die In Mexico "Drug War"

Guardian [5/5/12]:

The bodies of 23 people have been found hanging from a bridge or decapitated and dumped near city hall in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, where drug cartels are fighting a bloody and escalating turf war.

It follows the discovery in Veracruz of four journalists' bodies in a canal.

Authorities found nine of the victims, including four women, hanging from an overpass leading to a main highway, said a Tamaulipas state official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Hours later police found 14 human heads inside coolers outside city hall along with a threatening note. The 14 bodies were found in black plastic bags inside a minivan abandoned near an international bridge, the official said.

The official provided no motive for the killings. But the city across the border from Laredo, Texas, has recently been torn by a renewed turf war between the Zetas cartel, a gang of former Mexican special forces soldiers, and the powerful Sinaloa cartel, which has joined forces with the Gulf cartel, former allies of the Zetas.

Local media published photos of the nine bloodied bodies, some with duct tape wrapped around their faces, hanging from the overpass along with a message threatening the Gulf cartel: "This is how I will finish all the fools you send."

It accused its rivals of setting off a car bomb that exploded outside Nuevo Laredo police headquarters last week and it made fun of a Sinaloa cartel enforcer killed in a Nuevo Laredo prison two years ago. "He cried like a woman giving birth," it said.

The interior secretary, Alejandro Poire, met with the Tamaulipas governor, Egidio Torre Cantu, on Friday and agreed to send more federal forces to the state, according to a statement from Poire's office.

Nuevo Laredo was the site of a 2003 dispute between the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels that set off a wave of violence that has left thousands dead and spread brutal violence that continues across Mexico until this day. That year, then-Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas was arrested and accused drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, sensing weakness , tried to move in on Nuevo Laredo, unleashing a bloody battle.

The city of tree-covered plazas and hacienda-style restaurants was transformed as the Zetas, then working as enforcers for the Gulf cartel, and Sinaloa cartel fighters waged battles with guns and grenades in broad daylight.

Killings and police corruption became so brazen that then-president Vicente Fox was forced to send in hundreds of troops and federal agents. The only man brave enough to take the job of police chief was gunned down hours after he was sworn in.

The Zetas won that fight and have since ruled the city with fear, threatening police, reporters and city officials and extorting money from businesses. They broke off their alliance with the Gulf cartel in 2010, worsening the violence across north-east Mexico.

Last month 14 mutilated bodies were found in a vehicle left in the city centre, behind city hall. Some media outlets reported that the Sinaloa cartel took responsibility for those bodies and in a message allegedly signed by its leader, Guzman, declared that the group was back in Nuevo Laredo to "clean" the city.

Japan Shuts Down Last Nuclear Reactor

Al Jazeera [5/5/12]:

Hundreds of Japanese demonstrators have been marching to celebrate the last of the country's 54 nuclear reactors being switched off.

The crowd gathered at a Tokyo park on Saturday said that they were not concerned about government warnings that the reactor shutdowns will lead to electricity shortages.

One of three reactors at the Tomari nuclear plant, on the northern island of Hokkaido, has gone offline for routine maintenance checks, meaning that for the first time in decades there is not a single active nuclear reactor in the country.

After the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year set off meltdowns at reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, no reactors that have been stopped for maintenance have gone back online.

The government requires that new tests on withstanding earthquakes and tsunamis be carried out on all reactors.

It also requires that local residents' approval be sought before reactors are restarted.

The Hokkaido Electric Power company, which runs the Tomari plant, said that control rods would be inserted to halt the chain reaction in the reactor on Saturday, and that a "cold shutdown" would occur on Monday.

It is the first time since the 1970s that the resource-poor country has been without any form nuclear power. Until the meltdowns at Fukushima, Japan was generating a third of its electricity at nuclear power plants.

Last month, Kansai Electric Power, which supplies mid-western Japan, including the commercial hubs of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, said a hot summer could see supply fall nearly 20 per cent short of demand after the shutdowns.

Kyushu Electric Power, covering an area further west, as well as Hokkaido Electric Power, also said they will struggle as air conditioning gets cranked up in Japan's sweltering summer.

'New Japan'

The country's nuclear disaster forced tens of thousands of people from their homes in an area around the Fukushima plant - some of whom may never be allowed to return.

"A new Japan with no nuclear power has begun," said Gyoshu Otsu, a 56-year-old monk who joined a Tokyo protest against nuclear power held in front of the industry ministry, which supervises the nation's power utilities.

"Generating nuclear power is like a criminal act as a lot of people are still suffering," said Otsu wearing white Buddhist clothes. "If we allow the situation as it is now, another accident will occur."

Protest organiser Masao Kimura said: "It's a symbolic day today. Now we can prove that we will be able to live without nuclear power."

Supporters of nuclear power could also be seen at Tokyo demonstrations.

'Serious issue'

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government has given the green signal for the resumption of operations at the the Oi nuclear plant, but regulators have been unable to convince those living near the station.

George Dracoulis, the head of the nuclear physics department at Australian National University, told Al Jazeera that the loss of nuclear power was "a serious issue for Japan".

"At the moment they're surviving by increasing imports of gas, coal and oil, currently at the cost of about $40bn a year," said Dracoulis

"One of the results of this is that greenhouse gas emissions will rise by about 16 per cent."

He said that if Japan was not able to make up the energy shortfall from losing 30 per cent of its generating capacity, it could have a long-term effect on industrial competitiveness, citizens' standard of living and energy security.

East Lothian Wind Farm Would ‘Match Output Of Coal-Fired Power Station’

Scotsman [5/5/12]:

New wind turbines proposed for East Lothian would create Scotland’s most productive large-scale wind farm, its developers have claimed.Community Windpower said the 22 turbines would produce electricity more than 40 per cent of the time, powering the equivalent of nearly 60,000 homes.

The firm based its claims on new turbine technology and “exceptionally high” average wind speeds at the site, seven miles south east of Dunbar.

By contrast, Scotland’s onshore wind farms have operated for an average of about 22 per cent of the time in recent years, despite being expected to average some 30 per cent.

Community Windpower claimed productivity levels would be comparable to some gas-fired power stations – but that was challenged by other groups.

The new 80 megawatt (MW) development, called Wester Dod community wind farm, would comprise an extension to the existing 16-turbine Aikengall site, which opened three years ago.

The firm said no Scottish wind farm with more than 10MW capacity had achieved a long-term productivity rate, or load factor, of more than 40 per cent.

It said Aikengall, which has a 48MW capacity, had achieved 37 per cent productivity this year.

Community Windpower said the project would produce an average of £250,000 a year for community projects over its expected 25-year lifespan.

Five permanent maintenance jobs would be created, along with some 100 temporary construction posts.
The firm expects ministers to announce the fate of the plans shortly following an inquiry.

Senior project manager Gillian Cropper said: “Aikengall is one of the best-performing wind farms in Scotland and the Aikengall II extension is likely to perform even better, due to higher wind speeds captured by the temporary meteorological mast and more efficient wind turbine technology.

“We are projecting over 40 per cent capacity, which compares favourably with some gas turbine generation and could make Aikengall II the most efficient large-scale wind farm in Scotland.

“Situating turbines in locations such as Aikengall II means they perform much better, we need fewer of them to meet our targets and they have less impact on towns and villages.”

The Renewable Energy Foundation, which publishes data on the energy sector, agreed that Aikengall was already a good performer, but said the comparison with gas plant was misleading.

Director Dr John Constable said: “Our own data, based on subsidy certificate claims and presumably very accurate, certainly suggests that Aikengall has performed well in comparison with many sites.

“This puts it in the top 15 sites, though others attain figures in the higher 30s [per cent], and one, the wind farm in North Rhins [near Stranraer] appears to have exceeded 40 per cent in 2011.”

However, he added: “It is somewhat misleading to compare these results with those of a conventional, fully controllable generator.

“Wind power stations sell all the energy they can generate, when the wind blows, but conventional power stations must follow the variations in daily and seasonal demand for electricity, and stabilise the system.”

The Scottish Community Foundation said that funding for community projects from wind farms was now well established.

It currently works with eight wind energy firms and more than 80 community councils which are benefiting.

India Balances Iran Trade Visit And Clinton Oil Calls

Reuters [5/5/12]:

India will walk a diplomatic tightrope next week as it plays host to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the same time as a large Iranian trade delegation visits seeking to circumvent tough U.S. sanctions that have strangled Iran's economy.

The energy-hungry South Asian nation has publicly rejected Western sanctions but has privately pushed refiners to cut imports of oil from Iran by 15-20 percent -- enough, it hopes, to win a waiver from Washington during Clinton's two-day visit.

"She might announce a waiver for us ... India has done enough to get that," said an official privy to Indian talks with Iran and the United States.

The United States in March granted exemptions to Japan and 10 European Union nations from its sanctions, which are aimed at pressuring Tehran to end its nuclear programme.

India and China, Iran's biggest buyers of crude, remain on a list at risk if they do not cut oil imports "substantially."

Clinton is currently in China but so far has not publicly commented on its cuts of about a third in imports of Iranian oil in the first quarter of this year.

The U.S. and European Union sanctions have made paying for Iran's oil difficult for India, which is using a Turkish bank currently, and the two sides have set up a rupee mechanism for about 45 percent of the $11 billion a year oil imports.

India had hoped to boost exports to Iran in order to reduce the trade imbalance between the two but trade discussions in Tehran earlier this year were unproductive.The rupee mechanism has up to now just been used to clear a backlog of export debts and payments total 3.8 billion Indian rupees so far.


On Sunday, a 56-member Iranian delegation led by Yahya Al Eshagh, president of the country's chamber of commerce, arrives for another round of talks over what India can sell to Tehran.

Exporters also want clarity on the latest tightening of U.S. sanctions that target foreigners helping Iran evade sanctions and bar them from access to the U.S. banking system.

"The Indian government should take up the matter with Hillary Clinton ... it is an infringement of the sovereignty of a nation. We are in the rupee system ... we are not in the U.S. banking system," said Shahrukh Khan, a governing body member of the India-Iran Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

An Indian exporter, who did not wish to be identified, said it was not clear whether bilateral India-Iran trade would fall under the new sanctions or not.

"We are confused," he said.

Exports of essentials such as food and medicines to Iran are exempted from the United Nations' sanctions which India abides by. The Iranian delegation includes food and pharmaceutical companies but also machinery makers, steel companies and petroleum products manufacturers.

"Indian exports ... should strictly confine to non-UN sanctioned products and categories, as India is committed to UN sanctions," the invitation to the talks said.

Trade between the two is also facing difficulties with the rupee mechanism which uses an account in India's UCO Bank for payments to exporters."UCO Bank is acting like a counter. It should get the power to negotiate LCs (letters of credit), advise and pay against the documents if they are in conformity with LCs," Khan said.

In the past, Indian exporters were getting advance payment if documents pertaining to an order were in line with the terms and conditions of LCs. Advance payments are particularly attractive as the Iranian currency weakens and financing comes under further pressure.

"How can you expect a trade of $4.5 billion magnitude to transact. Only those who want to take a risk and wait for payment for two months are using the rupee account facility," Khan said.

Wall Street Posts Worst Week Of 2012 As Job Growth Slows

Reuters [4/5/12]:

Wall Street ended its worst week this year with a sharp selloff on Friday after a slowdown in job creation in the world's top economy raised the biggest question mark yet about the prospects for U.S. growth.

Employers reduced hiring for the third straight month, adding 115,000 workers in April, well below forecasts of 170,000. Traders' expectations had fallen during the week, but the softer jobs number missed even more pessimistic forecasts.

Energy shares were the worst performers, with the S&P energy index .GSPE down 2.2 percent on fears a worsening economy would sap demand. U.S. crude oil fell 4 percent, dropping below $100 a barrel for the first time since February.

The sharp retreat this week was a blow to investors who had been hoping the S&P 500 would break out to new recovery highs. The index is now moving away from strong resistance at the 1,400 level after failing to make a convincing move above it.

"When we entered the second quarter, we thought it would be a consolidation/correction quarter for the market simply because it was overbought, over-believed, and we saw economies were not improving, and that is still the case," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist of Robert W. Baird & Co in Nashville.

For the week, the S&P 500 lost 2.4 percent, its worst weekly performance since December.Investors were also cautious ahead of elections in France and Greece over the weekend as European policymakers struggle to bring an end to their debt crisis and people rebel against the strain of austerity measures.

The utility sector index .GSPU, considered a defensive play, was the only S&P 500 sector in positive territory, up 0.2 percent. Shares of CenterPoint Energy (CNP.N) led, up 1.7 percent at $20.05. ...

A380 Makes Emergency Landing In Jakarta

Jakarta Post [4/5/12]:

A Singapore Airlines A380 flying from Sydney, Australia, to Singapore made an emergency landing at Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta International Airport on Friday over a passenger’s medical condition.

“The pilot contacted Soekarno-Hatta airport’s tower to ask for landing permission when it was flying over Bali because one of its passenger needed emergency first-response,” state airport-operator Angkasa Pura II executive director Tri Sunoko said in a statement sent to The Jakarta Post.

Tri said the plane, which was carrying 280 passengers and 26 crew members, managed to land on Runway 07-L and parked at Apron WC-1.

The airplane also refueled at the airport.

Tri said that the evacuation process went well and that the plane flew to Singapore at 5:50 p.m., around two hours after the emergency landing, without two passengers.

It was the first time that an Airbus A380 has landed at the airport, which was previously believed to be not feasible for such a large aircraft.

The airport aims to expand its capacity from 22 million passengers per year to 62 million by 2014.

Asylum Seekers On Hunger Strike In Indonesia

Radio Australia [4/5/12]:

An official in Indonesia says more than 160 Afghan asylum seekers have been on a hunger strike demanding a transfer to Australia.

Muhammad Yunus Junaid, the head of the detention centre on Bintan island, told AFP news agency the group started their hunger strike on Monday.

Mr Junaid says there are 169 male asylum seekers, aged between 17 and 40, involved in the protest.

He says some of the asylum seekers had been detained at the Tanjung Pingang city detention centre up for two years.

"They said they could not stand staying in the centre any longer. They want to go to Australia and live a normal life there," he said.

He says 40 asylum seekers were taken to hospital on Thursday, suffering from anaemia and others losing consciousness.

Thirty-five have since been released and have resumed their hunger strike.

Mr Junaid says about 50 Burmese asylum seekers at the centre went on a hunger strike last week for three days, but they were not granted refugee status.

Mining Firm Collapse Leaves 250 Jobless

ABC [4/5/12]:

Residents in a far north Queensland mining community say they are stunned, after being made redundant this week.Base metals mining company Kagara Limited went into voluntary administration last Sunday.

A spokeswoman for administrators Taylor Woodings says 250 staff have been made redundant this week.
Most are from the company's three north Queensland operations.

The spokeswoman says about 75 staff have been retained, including some in exploration, project development, environmental management, trades and operators.

She says investigations into the company's operations are continuing.

One employee from the Mount Garnet site says workers are very upset and many will be forced to leave town to find other jobs.

She says she had her house valued this week and the price has dropped by $30,000.Contaminated water
Meanwhile, the State Government says residents living downstream of a metals mine owned by Kagara should still avoid drinking the water, despite an improvement in its quality since a spill.

Water releases from the Baal Gammon mine near Herberton earlier this year had been blamed for metal contamination in nearby Jamie Creek but the Department of Environment and Resource Management says the results can also be linked to historic activities in the area.

Kagara has been issued two Environmental Protection Orders and has since taken action, including completing the construction of a contaminated water storage dam.

The department says it will continue to work with the administrators to ensure more improvements are completed before the next wet season.

Shower Spying Sailor Demoted And Fined

ABC [4/5/12]:

A 22-year veteran of the Navy has received a one-year demotion for using a hand held mirror to spy on a showering female sailor.Navy Lieutenant James McLaren used a small mirror to look under a shower cubicle aboard HMAS Parramatta in Dubai this year.

The female sailor was drying herself at the time, and when she noticed the small mirror she rushed out of the cubicle and alerted senior officers.

McLaren, a 37-year-old who joined the Navy in 1990 aged 16, was found guilty of one count of indecency.
He did not provide testimony in the case.

Today at a Navy Court Martial in Sydney, the Judge's Advocate Jennifer Woodward told a panel of senior officers it was a reprehensible breach of the sailor's privacy.

But she said the spying was 'opportunistic' not pre-meditated and therefore was at the lower end of the indecency scale.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

However, the panel handed McLaren a one-year demotion to the rank of sub-lieutenant and a $5,000 fine.

Alastair Morgan: A Murder, A Failed Trial, And A Family Who Want Answers

Independent [4/5/12]:

For 25 years, he has fought to establish the truth about the killing of his brother. Cahal Milmo meets him

The phone call that condemned Alastair Morgan to a life of seeking justice came at 5am on a spring day 25 years ago. Ever since he picked up the phone to hear from his mother that his brother Daniel was dead, he has fought an unceasing battle for the truth aimed not just at the killers but also those whose job it was to find them.

On 21 May, the latest testimony to the failure of the Metropolitan Police and the criminal justice system to put private investigator Daniel Morgan's murderers behind bars will be delivered, when a delayed review by Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service into last year's collapsed trial of three suspects is shown to Mr Morgan and his family.

The document itself is unlikely to tell Mr Morgan anything he did not already know about the extraordinary failings that mean his brother's killers remain at large. But it will open the way for what the 63-year-old translator believes is the last best hope to establish the truth about perhaps the most notorious unsolved murder of the last 50 years.

Once the review has been delivered, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, will be forced to decide whether she will grant the family's request for a judge-led inquiry into Daniel's death. At the heart of that inquiry will be the allegation that police corruption led to the killing and contributed to the failure of five police investigations, costing an estimated £40m, to secure a conviction.

Speaking at his home in Clerkenwell, Mr Morgan told The Independent: "My relationship with the British state is pretty much finished. It took us 25 years to see a Home Secretary about my brother's case. When we finally got there, Mrs May said it was all very serious and there must be a police investigation.

"I said, no, no Mrs May, we've had 25 years of police investigations and they've let us down every step of the way. The only way to deal with this now is a full judge-led inquiry. I don't know of any case worse than Daniel's, especially from the point of view of suspected criminality within the police."

A cloud of alleged police corruption has hung over the Morgan case since the night of 10 March 1987 when police were called to the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south-east London, and found the body of the private detective, then 37, next to his car with an axe embedded in his head.

The killer had wrapped the handle of the weapon in fabric sticking plaster to avoid leaving any fingerprints. Mr Morgan had been in the pub for a pre-arranged meeting with his business partner, Jonathan Rees, who helped run Southern Investigations, the detective agency set up by Daniel. Mr Rees, who denied at Daniel's inquest that he had murdered him, was one of the three men acquitted of the killing last year.

According to at least two witnesses to whom Daniel spoke at a meeting of vintage car enthusiasts two days before his death, the father-of-two believed he had uncovered "serious police corruption". Further allegations have emerged that shortly before his death, Mr Morgan had approached the News of the World with a story revealing a circle of corrupt police officers who were potentially involved in a cocaine smuggling ring.

Throughout the intervening years, his brother has been an unstinting presence in the Morgan case. Since 1987, he calculates he has held 600 meetings related to Daniel's death, 200 of which have been with police, officials or MPs.

He said: "It is like a nightmare. Having a family member murdered is something that happens to other people. It just developed as a nightmare, the whole thing. The arrests of police, the inquest, what happened to Daniel's company. When my mother phoned that morning, she said the police could not tell her what had happened to him. I immediately knew there was something wrong. I don't know how but I sensed there was something sinister. I just didn't know how sinister."

Victoria Police Secretly Settles Bashing Claims

ABC, AM [4/5/12]:

ELEANOR HALL: A Victorian lawyer has confirmed that the state's police force has secretly reached settlements with immigrant youths about their claims of police brutality. Tamar Hopkins says Victoria Police and the State Government are not doing enough to change the attitudes of police in dealing with ethnic communities. In Melbourne, Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Tamar Hopkins is a solicitor at the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre in Melbourne's inner-north.She says that in the last six years she's handled about 200 complaints of police brutality made by members of the Sudanese, Somali, Ethiopian, Afghani, Turkish and Vietnamese communities.

She says it's difficult to explain why they appear to have been targeted.

TAMAR HOPKINS: It's almost like a form of border patrol that's going on. Like some of the reports that people make include police saying, "get back to Africa", "get back to the jungle" - those kinds of comments. And it's really as if police just don't want newly arrived Australians here and are using the powers that the public have invested in them to actually engage in some really kind of racist attitudes and treatments.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Age newspaper says it's learnt of confidential settlements between Victoria Police and four African born men and one Afghani who claimed they were beaten, falsely imprisoned or racially abused by officers in Melbourne's northern and western suburbs.

Tamar Hopkins says Victoria Police training manuals that were made public recently revealed some disturbing stereotypes.

TAMAR HOPKINS: They were talking about how African youth from the (inaudible) community, all former child warriors, carry knives and should be treated as if they could be potentially really dangerous. You know, many of the people that they are treating like this have been born in Australia or never had any kind of actual combat experiences or anything like that.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Do you think police command is doing enough to crack down on that sort of alleged behaviour or to change things?

TAMAR HOPKINS: I'm concerned that it's not. I think there's a culture of denial that goes on. So despite the civil claims, the race discrimination claims, the reports from community legal centres that have come out over the years, the reports from the Human Rights Commission that have come out over the years, we are not seeing any real commitment to changing the policing that's happening on the streets. So we don't see the police really looking at their skills of tactical communication, of disengagement, of you know, all these strategies that can be used to actually reduce the use of force. What we really need is all of these complaints to be investigated by an independent civilian body.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Victoria Police was unable to confirm any details of the cases with AM.

ELEANOR HALL: Samantha Donovan reporting.

BP Wins Delay Of Gulf Spill Trial Until 2013

Reuters [3/5/12]:

A trial to assign blame and damages that could total tens of billions of dollars for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been put off until January, in a setback for the U.S. government, which wanted to try its case this summer.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans on Thursday scheduled a trial for January 14, 2013, more than 10 months after it had originally been scheduled.The decision means the federal government and Gulf Coast states, which also wanted a summer trial, may have to wait longer to recover money from BP Plc and its drilling partners.

It is unclear how the new timetable will affect strategy, or whether it might spur the federal government to press harder for settlements and help local residents seeking money for cleanup or restoration.

"This may spur the government to settle," said Edward Sherman, a professor at Tulane University Law School in New Orleans.

"The Obama administration may want to show its stuff before the November elections."However, Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor specializing in product liability, said the delay might make it harder for governments to reach acceptable settlements."

A delay could give the governments more time to strengthen their bargaining positions, but they lose leverage that comes with having a trial scheduled in the near term," he said. ...

New Worries At Fukushima

Birmingham Weekly [3/5/12]:

The story of Japan’s natural/nuclear disaster has faded from the headlines, but it is still relevant in the state of Alabama that has three reactors near the New Madrid fault line.

In December, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda declared that “a cold shutdown” had been achieved and that the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was now over.

“The reactors are stable, which should resolve one big cause of concern for us all,” Noda told the Japanese people in a televised address.

But Mr. Noda’s optimistic assessment may have been premature. Nuclear engineer and former power company executive Arnie Gunderson compared the Prime Minister’s statement to President George Bush declaring “mission accomplished” on the deck of the USS Lincoln in 2003. Gunderson calls the situation at Fukushima “a long battle, far from over.”

Even Tokyo Electric Power Co.(Tepco), which owns the Fukushima facility, says that it will take another 40 years to fully decommission the reactors there, a project which poses unprecedented engineering challenges.

But the company’s own tests disclose a more immediate danger. Rising radiation levels within one of the reactors, the highest recorded so far, and evidence of a leak in the critical cooling system demonstrate that the situation is still far from stable.

Tepco revealed at the end of March that protective water levels in the containment vessel of Reactor, No. 2, were far shallower than they had expected, which might mean that the uranium fuel rods there are no longer completely submerged, and are heating up.

The Japan Times reported on March 29th that radiation inside the vessel has reached 73 sieverts per hour-- high enough to administer a lethal dose to a human in a matter of minutes, even to disable the robotic devices which are sent regularly into the reactor to monitor what is happening there.

Conditions elsewhere in the plant are more difficult to assess. Reactors 1 and 3, both of which melted down after the earthquake and tsunami last year, are currently sealed and impossible to enter, even by robots. So we don’t know what is going on inside those crippled structures.

But nuclear experts say their biggest concern involves Reactor 4 which sustained severe structural damage during the earthquake and subsequent hydrogen explosions which collapsed its roof. This is where hundreds of tons of spent fuel sits perched 100 feet above the ground in a cooling pool exposed to the open sky.

A report released in February by the Independent Investigation Commission on the nuclear accident called this pool “the weakest link” at Fukushima. Robert Alvarez, former Senior Policy Adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment at the U.S. Department of Energy warns that, “If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain it could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.”

How likely is this? While the structure of Reactor 4 is stable for the moment, the Dai-ichi plant lies miles from a big earthquake fault-- as large as the one that caused last year’s quake, but much closer to Fukushima. According to a study published in February in the European Geosciences Union´s journal Solid Earth, that fault is now overdue for a quake.

Whether or not the critical pool at Reactor 4 would survive another major quake intact, Edwin Lyman a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists warns that a failure of the jury-rigged inadequate piping installed after the disaster could put the cooling system out of commission.

These dangers have led two former Japanese diplomats on a crusade to avert what they see as a disaster waiting to happen. UN veteran Akio Matsumura and former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland Mitsuhei Murata attended the Nuclear Security Summit Conference in Seoul Korea at the end of March “to inform the participants from 54 nations of the potential global catastrophe of reactor unit 4.” They called on the international community to set up an independent assessment team of structural engineers and nuclear scientists to study conditions at Reactor 4 and recommend a course of action.

What lessons can the nuclear industry in the US draw from the Fukushima accident and its still unresolved aftermath? Edwin Lyman calls it a wake up call that we have not yet heeded. He told me that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has failed to fully implement the recommendations of its own post-Fukushima task force.

While a Fukushima-type disaster could happen here, Lyman insists that it doesn’t need to. But he says we have to act now to require new safeguards, demand higher performance standards and expand the roster of accidents that nuclear power plants will need to protect against. Let’s hope the NRC is listening.Alabama already suffered the oil spill damage and that was enough. We don’t want the catastrophe that occurred far away in Japan to come closer to home.

UCSD Student's 5-day Ordeal In DEA Jail Sparks Outrage, Anger

LA Times [3/5/12]:

Elected officials are demanding answers after Daniel Chong, a 23-year-old UC San Diego student, was left unattended for five days in a Drug Enforcement Administration detention cell.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called on U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. asking for an "immediate and thorough" Department of Justice investigation into the matter.

"After the investigation is completed, I ask that you please provide me with the results and the actions the department will take to make sure those responsible are held accountable and that no one in DEA custody will ever again be forced to endure such treatment," she wrote.

The DEA apologized Wednesday to Chong, who was accidentally left unattended in a holding cell for five days and reportedly drank his own urine to survive.

San Diego attorney Gene Iredale said his client was "still recovering" from the ordeal. The attorney submitted the initial paperwork needed for a lawsuit Wednesday. The claim seeks $20 million in compensation for the incident.

"He is glad to be alive," Iredale said of Chong. "He wants to make sure that what happened to him doesn't happen to anyone else."

News of the incident came to light when Chong told a San Diego television station he spent nearly a week in the cell without food, water or access to a toilet after an April 21 raid on a house in San Diego.

The DEA, which identified Chong only as "the individual in question," said he and eight others were swept up during a raid of a suspected Ecstasy distribution operation, where agents found guns, ammunition, 18,000 Ecstasy pills and other drugs.

The nine suspects were taken to a DEA area headquarters, where they were fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed, the agency said. After processing, seven were taken to a county detention facility and one was released.

Chong, the agency said, was "accidentally left in one of the cells." He told NBC San Diego he kicked the door "many, many times" in a futile attempt to get agents' attention.

When they finally found Chong, he was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital, where he stayed for five days. Iredale said Chong, who was close to kidney failure and had trouble breathing, spent three of those days in the intensive care unit.

Chong also suffered hallucinations and "thought he was going insane," Iredale said. Chong told NBC San Diego he tried to kill himself by breaking his glasses and cutting his wrists.

"I didn't care if I died," he told the station. "I was completely insane."

William R. Sherman, acting special agent in charge of the DEA's San Diego Division, apologized in a statement Wednesday and said he had ordered "an extensive review" of DEA policies and procedures.

"I am deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here last week," Sherman said. "I extend my deepest apologies [to] the young man and want to express that this event is not indicative of the high standards that I hold my employees to."

The DEA said Chong told agents he had been at the house that was raided "to get high with his friends" and later admitted that he used a white powdery substance found in his cell that tested positive for methamphetamine.

Iredale confirmed Chong had stayed with friends the night of April 20 to "celebrate" the day heralded by many marijuana aficionados "in the typical way -- by smoking some pot."

But the attorney said the meth found in the cell was not his client's and was there before his arrival.

"The DEA's protocol was so sloppy that somebody who was a previous prisoner secreted a small amount of meth in a plastic bag inside a blanket," Iredale said.

The San Diego Union Tribune reported that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wants a congressional investigation.

Home-Birth Program Launched

Tweed Daily News [3/5/12]:

Tweed women choosing to give birth at home now have the support of the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) with a new home birthing program launched last month.

All women considered healthy and likely to have an uncomplicated pregnancy who live within 30-40 minutes of Tweed, Mullumbimby or Lismore Base Hospitals will be eligible to participate in the 12 months Home Birth pilot.

NNSW LHD chair Hazel Bridgett said two women per month would be accepted into the program.

She said the board had received advice from a Home Birth Steering Committee, which included obstetricians and gynaecologists, midwifery nurse specialists, expert clinicians and consumer representatives.

"The Board has satisfied itself that the NNSW LHD midwives have the necessary experience, credentials and skills to undertake Home Births," Ms Bridgett said.

"The Board has also assured itself that a strong policy framework will be put into place, so that pregnant women agree to safety requirements to support the home birth.

"Further, the pregnant women need to agree that home births will only proceed if they remain low risk births and to acknowledge that if their birth risk increases, then the birth cannot proceed as a supported home birth."

Once the 12 month pilot is completed the board will make a decision on whether the program will continue.

Australia Boat People Policy 'Causes Trouble' for Indonesia: Hajriyanto

Jakarta Globe [3/5/12]:

Hajriyanto Thohari, deputy chairman of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), on Thursday backed away from earlier comments in which he called Australia’s policy on towing asylum seeker vessels back to Indonesia “arrogant.”

But Hajriyanto didn’t completely rescind his criticism, saying the policy “causes trouble” for Indonesia, Australia’s National Times reported on Thursday.

“The impact of a strong policy will add more problems to Indonesia,” he told the National Times.

“It is impossible for Indonesia to deal with the illegal migrant issue alone. We have a very long coastline. It is impossible for us to guard inch by inch of our coastline.“So Indonesia and Australia should work together well. We hope Australia discusses this problem more with Indonesia to eliminate the implication to our country.”

Hajriyanto’s earlier comments, which he conceded were “a slip of the tongue on my part,” according to the straight times, were made during an official meeting with Julie Bishop, Australia’s opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, who was in Jakarta on her first official visit to Indonesia.

The comments were a result of misunderstanding, Hajriyanto said, according to the National Times. While he initially thought Bishop had referred to Australia’s “high per capita income” as a reason for its rejecting asylum seekers arriving by boat, he acknowledged later that she had actually referred to its already “high per capita intake” of refugees.

“In my opinion, that view is a view that is solely focused on Australia’s perspective, without considering Indonesia at all as the country that experiences the negative impacts of the illegal immigrant issue,” Hajriyanto said earlier, Radio Australia reported on Thursday.

Bishop also met with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who called Australia’s asylum seeker policy “unworkable,” Radio Australia said.

Latin America: Indigenous Activists Accuse Governments Of Harassment

Deutsche Welle [29/4/12]:

Indigenous activists in Bolivia and other Latin American countries who take to the streets to protest the exploitation of their ancestral homelands face repressive measures and charges of terrorism.

Bolivian President Evo Morales' plans to build a highway through the Amazon forest unleashed fierce anti-government protests in the country's capital, La Paz, last September. The controversial road was supposed to run through the indigenous territory, leveling an ancestral homeland inhabited by 50,000 native people from three different native groups. A police crackdown left 74 people injured, while 24 indigenous leaders are now under investigation for assault and kidnapping.

In Ecuador, projects to build open pit mines that would rip into the forest-covered hills of the lands of the Shuar Indians have spawned a protest movement as well. Some 194 indigenous leaders have been charged with terrorism and sabotage in recent years. The most recent round of protests was prompted by an agreement between Ecuador and China for industrial copper mining in the Amazon's Ecuacorriente Zamora-Chinchipe region.

In Chile and Peru, indigenous organizations have complained about the legal prosecution of Mapuche, Rapa Nui and indigenous farmers. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported that targeted criminalization, intimidation and stigmatization of the indigenous movement has been used to weaken the defense of their territories and natural resources and break their right to autonomy and cultural identity.

In many Latin American countries, the measures taken against protesters are rather repressive, according to Almut Schilling Vacaflor, Latin American expert from the German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
Evo Morales owes his presidency to indigenous votes

"Major problems in Chile, Peru and Ecuador are the sharp and dubious anti-terror laws that served once in the fight against guerrilla groups and are now being applied to environmental or human rights activists," she said.

"After September 11, 2001, we should be careful about using the term terrorist," Schilling Vacaflor said.

"Governments all over the world like to use it against groups that make them feel uncomfortable."

According to Susanne Kaess, who runs the office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Bolivia, the protest march in La Paz was peaceful until security intervened. Also, she said she believes the news of the alleged kidnapping of Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca was exaggerated.

"After the protesters were not allowed to speak with President Evo Morales, they encircled the foreign minister - who is, just like the president himself of indigenous origins - and forced him to march with them for about three hours," Kaess said.

The media had been present the whole time and, according to Kass, the onlookers could see where the foreign minister was.

Indigenous demonstrators in Peru Kaess said she was aware, however, that the situation is quite complex. The line of conflict separates not so much the indigenous and non-indigenous populations, but the government and the opposition.

The indigenous inhabitants of the Andean lowlands and the two largest indigenous umbrella organizations in the country were against the proposed road.

"Not all indigenous people are fundamentally opposed to the infrastructure," Kaess said. "Indigenous economic interests and corruption play their roles too."

Just as in Peru or Ecuador, the government in Bolivia came to power with the support of indigenous votes.

Now many indigenous people are accusing their governments that they are no longer representing their interests.

The governments themselves must perform a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, the export of raw materials contributes significantly to the economy. On the other hand, most countries in Latin America are signatories of the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of the International Labor Organization. The convention obliges governments to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and to consult them in a timely fashion when infrastructure projects are concerned.

According to Kaess, governments should do a better job at informing the indigenous population of official plans. Only then could the indigenous peoples properly evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of state projects. The environmental standards should be adhered to at all times.

Kaess added that indigenous residents should no longer be manipulated with small profit shares. This is true both for businesses and for those indigenous leaders who put the profits into their own pockets. The affected residents should receive a guarantee of fair compensation.

Lung Cancer Alarm Near Coal-Fired Power Stations

ABC [3/5/12]:

A new analysis of pollution data for the Port Augusta region contradicts reassurances from the South Australian Government that smoking can be blamed for high lung cancer rates.

Residents of the region have long complained about health problems they link with two power stations, Playford and Northern, which burn highly-polluting brown coal.

The lung cancer rates around Port Augusta are said by medical experts to be double the expected number.

The independent analysis has been presented in Adelaide at a briefing for state parliamentarians organised by Doctors for the Environment Australia.

Port Augusta mayor Joy Baluch lost her husband to lung cancer 16 years ago and he never smoked.

She dismissed the Government's explanation of high lung cancer rates in the region.

"Of course I don't believe the Government, why should I? After 40 years of constantly being told that the problems at Port Augusta are attributed to the high consumption of cigarettes. This is absolute rubbish," she said.

"They are blatantly lying to the residents."

Fight for data

Air pollution statistics for Port Augusta are collected by Alinta Energy, which owns the two power stations, in conjunction with the Environment Protection Authority.

Professor David Shearman, of Doctors For The Environment Australia, said it took a six-month battle to get the figures, so they could be independently examined.

"What it amounts to is the community feels they have not been listened to," he said.

"When you look at how this community exists, it exists under the shadow of a power station that pours out pollution. They've had to stomach this for years because it supplies a large portion of the state's energy and there's been no alternative."

Professor Shearman said smoking rates were about 7 per cent higher in the Port Augusta region than other areas.

"That's really insufficient to account for a doubling of ... lung cancer," he said.

He said cleaner alternatives for power generation now needed to be considered for the area.

Hatred Of Women Exists In The West As Well As The Arab World

Ruby Hamad, The Age [3/5/12]:

'Women have very little idea of how much men hate them,'' wrote Germaine Greer in The Female Eunuch. So outraged were men that wives reportedly took to concealing their copies by wrapping them in plain brown paper.

More than 40 years later, Egyptian-American commentator Mona Eltahawy has caused a storm with her Foreign Policy essay, Why Do They Hate Us? ''They'' being Arab men and ''Us'' Arab women. Forget America's so-called inequality, Eltahawy implores, ''The real war on women is in the Middle East.''

Women, she writes, have not benefited from the Arab Spring because they remain oppressed by the men in their lives who consider all is ''well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home''.

''Until the rage shifts from the oppressors in our presidential palaces to the oppressors in our homes, our revolution has not even begun.''

Not surprisingly, Eltahawy has also sparked outrage. What is surprising is that so many of her detractors are Arab women. Gigi Ibrahim, a blogger and activist who came to prominence in the Egyptian revolution, called the essay ''disgraceful''. Samia Errazzouki, a Moroccan-American writer retorted, ''Dear Mona Eltahawy, You Do Not Represent 'Us'.''

The consensus is that Eltahawy uses simplistic, Orientalist arguments to ''otherise'' Arabs and drive a wedge between Arab men and women.

''Women in the Middle East are not oppressed by men out of male dominance,'' writes Ibrahim. ''They are oppressed by regimes (who happened to be men in power).''

This is a facile argument. Men do not just ''happen'' to find themselves in power. Men are in power because the patriarchal system that dominates the world favours men by systematically demeaning and marginalising women based on sex and sexuality.

Astonishingly, Eltahawy's critics have managed to miss her central thesis: men hate women out of a deep fear of female sexuality, which has reduced women to ''their headscarves and hymens'', and it is up to women to wrestle control of their sexuality back from men.

Eltahawy made two vital errors leaving her open to those claims of Orientalism. The first was her decision to ''put aside what the United States does or doesn't do to women''. The second was her failure to explore how women themselves also perpetuate patriarchy. Consequently, she divorces the struggle of Arab women from millions of others around the world, thus making misogyny appear a peculiarly Arab problem. In doing so, she unwittingly adds fuel to the myth that Arab men are more monster than human.

As an Australian woman of Arab Muslim background, I have often been struck not by how different but by how similarly women are treated in the West and in Arab/Islamic cultures. In both societies women's sexuality is treated with suspicion and distrust.

Muslim women are required to dress ''modestly'' to ward off attention from men. With the onus on women to alleviate male desire, victims of sexual assault are likely to find themselves blamed for their attack.

So too in the West. How many rape victims have had their sexual history and choice of clothing called into question? How many times have we wondered if ''she asked for it''?

They may not be required to cover their hair or faces, but Western women are derided for being sexually active in a way men never will be, as Sandra Fluke, the US college student who testified before Congress about the necessity of including birth control in health insurance, can attest. Fluke was called a prostitute and a slut by shock jock Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh is not known for his reasoned commentary but, sadly, women also joined in the attacks. Political pundit Michelle Malkin called Fluke ''a poster girl for the rabid Planned Parenthood lobby'', while Everybody Loves Raymond actress Patricia Heaton tweeted: ''you've given yer folks great gift for Mother's/Father's Day! Got up in front of whole world & said I'm having tons of sex - pay 4 it!''

The Fluke saga demonstrates how patriarchy isn't just men oppressing women. It's a system so entrenched in our collective psyche that it demands and acquires unconscious participation of both men and women in order to perpetuate itself.

Moroccan teenager Amina Filali swallowed rat poison after being forced, by the courts and her mother, to marry her rapist. Shortly after her death her mother pleaded, ''I had to marry her to him, because I couldn't allow my daughter to have no future and stay unmarried.''

This mother is not a monster. She has simply internalised misogyny to where she honestly believed her daughter, no longer a virgin and thus doomed to a life of spinsterhood, would be better off married to her rapist.

Yes, the magnitude of Arab women's suffering is greater because of the lack of laws protecting them. But, while their oppression is different in degree, it is the same in kind. It all comes down to sex. How can women ever hope to attain equality when an act as natural, and vital, as sex is regarded an acceptable means to devalue them?

Both Greer and Eltahawy are correct. But I would change ''men'' to ''patriarchy''. Patriarchy hates women.
That some of Eltahawy's fiercest critics are female only serves to show that many women continue to have very little idea of just how much.

Ruby Hamad is a freelance writer and associate editor of feminist website The Scavenger.

Grandparents Rolling In Graves Right Now

ABC [3/5/12]:

The New South Wales Government has announced a new private operator to run Sydney Ferries by the end of July.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has announced Harbour City Ferries, a partnership between Transfield Services and Veolia Transdev, has won the contract.

"We want to start a new era in Sydney ferries," she said.

"I always said we'd have an operator in place by the end of this year.

"I'm pleased to say we've beaten that target by at least five months.

"We'll have an operator in place by the end of July, early August and I'm really pleased that along with the franchising contract will come obligations regarding staff and fares and routes and services."

Ms Berejiklian says existing services and fare will be maintained, and about 85 per cent of the existing ferry workforce will have their jobs guaranteed for the next two years.

"We've always said that ferry fares will not increase as a result of this franchise process. Ferry fares, bus fares, train fares will all be part of the government's fare pricings," she said.

Harbour City Ferries chief executive Steffen Faurby says he wants to secure an efficient and seamless transition.

"Our mission is to create a world-class ferry service right here in Sydney, and we'll do this by gradually enhancing the customer service," he said.

But Opposition spokeswoman Penny Sharpe is not convinced.

She says it is a sad day

"There was no need for them to go down this path," Ms Sharpe said.

Ms Sharpe says the ferry service has already been through significant reform and has been meeting all targets.

Man Goes To Jail! Shock! Outrage! Fury!

Hang On A Minute. The Media Constantly Scream For Men To Be Sent To Jail - Why Suddenly Get Their Panties In A Knot Over This Particular Fine Evader?

Oh ... It's Hypocrisy And Double Standards!

Sunshine Coast Daily [3/5/12]:

Daniel Preston watched proudly as police took his dad to jail yesterday.

His dad Graham's crime, for which he has been condemned to eight months behind bars, was to refuse to pay fines after he sat down at the entrance to abortion clinics. The Prestons have seven children.

For the past 10 years, pro-life campaigner Graham Preston has been peacefully protesting at clinics around Brisbane.

He has been arrested, fined and after a string of court cases and appeals, sentenced to serve 232 days in a Brisbane maximum security jail.

It is the longest sentence ever imposed on an Australian pro-life activist.

Mr Preston's supporters will appeal to newly-appointed Attorney-General, Kawana MP Jarrod Bleijie, for the sentence to be reduced.

They have urged others to do the same.

Mr Bleijie said yesterday Mr Preston had been imprisoned for not paying outstanding SPER fines totalling more than $8000.

"Mr Preston had every opportunity to enter into a payment arrangement with SPER and refused so - he has been sentenced to spend 234 days in prison," he said.

"I want to make it clear that Mr Preston was not fined for holding certain views, he was fined for breaking the law."

Mr Preston's arrest did not seem to perturb his 26-year-old son, Daniel, the eldest of his seven children
It is not the first time his dad has been locked up for his beliefs.

Since beginning his protests in 2002, with the group Protect Life, Mr Preston has been sentenced five times and jailed for more than 10 months.

In 2004, when his fines reached $12,000, Governor of Queensland Quentin Bryce remitted half of them.

But still Mr Preston refused to pay. He blogged that there was "no logical basis for the remaining fines not to be remitted so we immediately appealed again to the Governor".

Two-and-a-half years later, the appeal failed.

Nambour's East Coast Woman's Centre manager Dawn Wallace said eight months was a "long sentence", but hoped it would serve as warning to protesters.

"I wish these people would mind their own bloody business. I'm hoping now he has been given eight months jail it will say to other people this behaviour is not good enough."

CMC Boss Wrestles With Campaign Conundrum

Brisbane Times [3/5/12]:

Queensland's corruption watchdog boss says he is reluctant to limit free speech during election campaigns, arguing voters can draw their own conclusions about politicians who publicise complaints against their opponents.

Crime and Misconduct Commission chairman Ross Martin, SC, said he had met with Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, who had raised concerns the CMC was used as a political tool during the recent state election campaign.

Mr Martin yesterday spoke to media about long-standing worries over politicians publicising potential investigations into their opponents, balanced against the difficulties of restricting free speech during election campaigns.

But he dismissed concerns over CMC investigators being allowed to be members of political parties, saying the issue was one of disclosure.

Premier Campbell Newman was scathing of then-premier Anna Bligh's state election campaign tactics, which included a heavy focus on claims about “dodgy deals” and the CMC's assessment of numerous allegations said to involve the former Brisbane lord mayor.

A CMC announcement clearing of Mr Newman of several claims a week before the election took the wind out of the Labor campaign, with the LNP going on to win in a landslide on March 24.

However, Mr Seeney questioned the CMC's role and flagged possible changes to the body's involvement during election campaigns in the future, while The Courier-Mail reported concerns that a senior CMC official was the spouse of a Labor party figure involved in a campaign advisory firm.

At a media briefing yesterday, Mr Martin said he had met with Mr Seeney to discuss his concerns about the role of the CMC during election campaigns.

“This is a matter that has been wrestled with for nearly 20 years now; there have been considerations and debate about that for a very long time,” he said.

“Since Mr Seeney's election, I have spoken with him and endeavoured to explain to him ... the history of what happened at that time that seems to have prompted those comments.”

Mr Martin said he had also explained to Mr Seeney the difficulty that emerged regarding the issue of what happened around election time.

The CMC could take a number of different approaches but each of them had “profound problems”.

“For my part I take the view that we welcome complaints that are genuine,” Mr Martin said.

“We discourage making those complaints public because that typically interferes with the process of investigation and assessment.

“While we have some powers to deal with inappropriate publicisation of complaints, we are reluctant to impede free speech during election times and you can understand there's good reasons for that.”

Mr Martin said the CMC tried to resolve election-sensitive complaints as quickly as possible.

“But we also rely upon the fact that voters are clever people and that when a complaint is made to us that is then the subject of publicity by the complainant – without wishing to prejudge the value of any particular complaint that might be brought – voters can nevertheless form their own view about whether or not there might be other motives,” he said.

Mr Martin said he did not believe Mr Seeney was looking at any major changes to the CMC except what occurred around election time.

“I detect no immediate agenda to undertake any particularly radical process but that's not a matter for me to determine,” he said.

Mr Martin also said the question of whether CMC investigators were members of political parties was one of disclosure.

“There is provision in Commonwealth legislation that people are not to be discriminated against because of political party membership and so forth, and so, I'm speaking very generally now and not about any specific case, those things are best dealt with as matters of disclosure,” he said.

Mr Martin said the CMC had internal structures “that prevent any one agenda from gaining dominance in any particular investigation”.

Asked whether this posed perception problems given misconduct investigations often had political implications, Mr Martin said: “It's a complicated issue because of the questions of rights I mentioned before.”

Mr Martin, a crown prosecutor who led the case against disgraced former Labor minister Gordon Nuttall and former Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel, was appointed to the CMC role in February.

His appointment was backed by the bipartisan Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee.

Money And Profit Is Not Health Care

ABC, World Today [3/5/12]:

KIM LANDERS: An investigation has been launched into the death of a man who went to a country South Australian hospital with stomach pains but later died.

The man wasn't admitted to the rural hospital because he didn't want to pay hundreds of dollars for a non-acute bed.

South Australia's Health Minister is now supporting an investigation and the Opposition is questioning whether government funding cuts at the hospital led to the tragic outcome.

Tom Nightingale reports.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: On Saturday morning, at Keith in South Australia's southeast, a local man went to the hospital complaining of stomach pains.

BILL HENDER: Doctor assessed the patient as being, at that stage, as being a non-emergency patient.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The hospital's chief executive, Bill Hender on ABC Local Radio in Adelaide this morning. Because he wasn't deemed an acute patient, the man would have to pay $400 to stay in the Keith hospital.

Instead he chose to go to the public hospital and free treatment Bordertown, about half an hour away. Bill Hender again.

BILL HENDER: This is a tragedy.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: According to some reports, the man was just a hundred metres from the hospital when he collapsed, and was re-admitted.

This time he was classed as an emergency patient and was flown to a hospital in suburban Adelaide. But he died shortly after. On ABC Local Radio in Adelaide this morning, the Health Minister John Hill said the case could have happened anywhere.

JOHN HILL: I think the issue is whether the doctor thought the patient should be admitted because it was an emergency. You wouldn't admit a patient just because they want to be admitted in any of our hospitals. That's not the way this system works. The doctor makes a clinical decision about…

INTERVIEWER: But there was no doubt this man was ill.

JOHN HILL: Oh look, I'm not talking about the individual. I mean that is a set of facts and maybe decisions were made which were wrong decisions but generally the point I make is clinicians make decisions about whether or not a patient needs to be admitted. Patients don't make those decisions.

INTERVIEWER: But do you also admit, agree or concede that the $400 per day fee was a factor here in this man's death?

JOHN HILL: Well, I think it does need to be investigated.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The hospital's chief executive, Bill Hender says he's been told the $400 fee was indeed a factor

BILL HENDER: Yes, indeed it was. My understanding was that he was given the option of either paying a fee as a non-emergency public patient in the Keith private hospital or going to Bordertown where arrangements had been made, well after he indicated that he would prefer to go to Bordertown and arrangements were made for that to happen and then his condition subsequently worsened and re-presented.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The case has re-ignited debate about the community hospital's funding. It's a private and non-profit facility. The State Government reduced its annual funding by about $370,000 because it said the scale of services wasn't appropriate for the hospital's relatively small caseloads.

But local residents are furious, and are campaigning to have the decision reversed. The State Opposition has promised to reverse it if it wins government

The Opposition health spokesman, Martin Hamilton-Smith

MARTIN HAMILTON-SMITH: These are terrible dilemmas that country people face, if they attended a hospital that for one reason or another can't accept them as a public patient. Now we don't know what went on here and that's why I think there does need to be an investigation. We just know that there's been a tragic, a tragic death and the uncertainty here needs to be cleared up.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The Health Minister, John Hill on ABC Local Radio again.

JOHN HILL: Let's forget about who funds it. If that patient had a need to be admitted to a hospital and I think clearly he did, then he should have been admitted and I want to know why the emergency, we pay for the emergency services at the Keith hospital.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: The Health Department has begun a preliminary investigation.

KIM LANDERS: Tom Nightingale in Adelaide.

Businessman Posts $1.5m Bail But Authorities Hold Onto $40m Assets

Sydney Morning Herald [3/5/12]:

A millionaire businessman charged over a $63 million tax evasion and money laundering scheme has been allowed to return to his Gold Coast mansion after posting bail of $1.5 million.

But more than $40 million in luxury assets, including houses, cars and yachts owned by Michael John Issakidis, 67, and an associate will remain in the hands of the authorities after being seized in raids last month.

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Tax Office say the seven-month investigation into Mr Issakidis is the largest under Project Wickenby, the federal government's pursuit of wealthy alleged tax evaders.

Prime real estate in Sydney and on the Gold Coast as well as several Rolls-Royces, a Lamborghini, an Aston Martin, a Mercedes-Benz and yachts have been seized under the new federal proceeds of crime laws, the AFP said.

Mr Issakidis faced Central Local Court last week charged with dealing in the proceeds of crime of more than $1 million and conspiring to cause loss to the Tax Office.

Magistrate Antony Townsden granted him bail on the condition he live at his Paradise Point home on a $1 million bail. Rhonda Laraine Issakidis and Nance Beverley Toope also agreed to each post $250,000 with the court.

Earlier this year, Mr Issakidis sued ''Baby'' John Burgess for $30,000 in unpaid rent the former TV host owed on his sub-penthouse in the Gold Coast's Q1 building.

Greek-born Mr Issakidis is the managing director of NeuMedix Health Group, a group of investment and health technology companies.

His bail conditions prevent him from contacting NeuMedix's co-founder and director Anthony James Dickson.

NeuMedix is involved in a program at Griffith University's botanical medicine for population health, which is developing herbal medicine to treat dengue fever.

Wickenby investigators allege from 2006 Mr Issakidis, through a complex unit trust structure, over-inflated the prices of Australian patents once they were transferred offshore and claimed corresponding depreciation expenses of $63 million.

They further allege these funds were laundered through an account in Britain and accounts in Hong Kong before being transferred back into Australia.

Mr Issakidis will reappear in the Downing Centre Local Court on August 7.

Global Gateways:

Professor O'Neill

Addressing worldwide health issues takes vision, dedication and vast private and government funds.
UQ research projects to halt the spread of the life-threatening dengue fever virus and to improve public health worldwide have received crucial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative.
The Foundation this year made multi-million-dollar contributions to projects led by Professor Scott O’Neill, Head of UQ’s School of Integrative Biology, and Professor Alan Lopez, Head of UQ’s School of Population Health. ...

India: Indefinite Hunger-Strike Restarts In Koodankulam, 500 Women To Join

Dianuke [1/5/12]:

From Friday 4th May, 2012 onwards, more women have proposed to join the indefinite fast after the scheduled talks with the Tamilnadu Government on Thursday 3rd May, 2012 demanding the closure of kknpp permanently.

Resuming their indefinite fast against commissioning of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy,which is spearheading the stir, listed six major demands, including setting up a national committee of experts to study the region around KNPP.

“Our primary demand is the government should institute an independent and transparent national committee on hydrology, geology, oceanography and seismology of the region,” PMANE leader M Pushparayan told PTI at nearby Idinthakarai.

Their other demands include conducting disaster management and evacuation exercises in areas around KKNPP falling within a 30 km radius, sharing a copy of the Indo-Russian Inter-governmental agreement in 2008 on nuclear liability.

“The government should also release all anti-nuclear peace activists from prison unconditionally and withdraw all false charges against our people,” he said.

PMANE had earlier threatened to go on indefinite fast from May 1 alleging that district officials had not kept their promises made last month, including withdrawal of “false” cases against some activists.

A 12-member PMANE team led by Arimavalavan had yesterday held talks with the Collector and highlighted their demands.

PMANE co-ordinator S P Udayakumar and his supporters had on Mar 28 withdrawn their nine-day-long indefinite fast after a delegation led by the Collector agreed to look into their demands. They launched the indefinite fast after the state cabinet on March 19 gave its go-ahead for commissioning of the first of the two reactors.

Huge Fuel Spill On Breakfast Creek Road

Brisbane Times [3/5/12]:

Fuel workers are racing the tide to prevent more than 2000 litres of petrol draining into the Brisbane River from a leak at a service station.

Around 2700 litres spilled early today during a bulk refuelling operation at a Shell petrol station in Newstead.

About 500 litres was contained but 2200 litres flowed into the stormwater drain, Environment Minister Andrew Powell says.

The major concern is that the drain empties straight into the river at several points.

‘‘Fortunately at this time the very high tide is acting as a plug, holding back and containing the fuel to the drain with no releases into the river,’’ Mr Powell said in a statement.

A sucker truck is removing the fuel from the drain and an absorbent boom is on stand-by for any fuel entering the river.

Shell Australia says the petrol station leak has been contained.

200 Turn Out To Armidale CSG Forum

Coal Seam Gas News [3/5/12]:

A large crowd of close to 200 people turned out for a special coal seam gas forum at the Armidale Town Hall to hear from experts who spoke about the risks to water, health and the environment from coal seam gas mining.

“The great turn-out for the forum highlights again the wide and growing community opposition to coal seam gas mining” said Carmel Flint, spokesperson for Armidale Action on Coal Seam Gas (AACSG).

“The attendees were shocked to learn that our governments have allowed this industry to roll out across NSW while there is still so much scientific uncertainty about its impacts.

“Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith informed the forum that only 2 of the 23 most commonly used fracking chemicals have been assessed by the national chemicals regulator.

“John Polglase highlighted how little is known about our underground water systems and the many uncertainties that are associated with drilling, fracking and the extraction and re-injection of vast quantities of water.

“I informed the forum that 90% of the New England-North West region is now covered by coal seam gas licences or applications and that experiences in places like the Pilliga and the Liverpool Plains has shown that there are serious risks to bushland, farmland and communities from coal seam gas mining.

“We were also fortunate to hear from the Federal Member for New England Tony Windsor who spoke about his efforts to finally bring some independent scientific expertise into the mining assessment process.

The Forum passed the following resolution:

“We, members of the Armidale community present at the Coal Seam Gas Forum held at the Armidale Town Hall on 2nd May, 2012, support all who protested in Martin Place yesterday, 1st May 2012, and affirm that water is fundamental to life. We call on the NSW Government to

1. Engage with the community in a comprehensive process before making any decisions regarding the petroleum special prospecting application for the Northern Tablelands;

2. Amend the Strategic Regional Land Use Plans to protect productive agricultural land and high biodiversity areas from coal seam gas mining and exploration

3. Protect the Great Artesian Basin and other underground water resources from being polluted by coal seam gas mining and exploration.

4. Implement a moratorium on all coal seam gas mining and exploration until all scientific uncertainties have been resolved”.

AACSG will be taking this resolution to the NSW Government and our local parliamentarians.

There will be a special follow-up meeting of Armidale Action on Coal Seam Gas at 3pm, Saturday 5th May at Kent House on Faulkner St. Everyone is welcome to come and share their views and ideas on what AACSG should do next to raise awareness about coal seam gas mining.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Helps 30 Shearwaters In A Week

Tweed Daily News [3/5/12]:

Known for skimming close to the waves, shearwater birds flying by the coast seem to have gone too close to the water.

Over 30 shearwaters were rescued between Burleigh and Kingscliff in the past week.

The birds were found by members of the public and brought to Currumbin Wildlife Hospital to recuperate.

Currumbin Wildlife Hospital veterinary Camille Alexander said the shearwaters were washed up because of exhaustion and the heavy weather conditions.

"A lot of these are young adults that are not quite strong enough to make the journey," Ms Alexander said.

"The weak ones are the ones caught up in bad weather," she said.

Ms Alexander said the birds were flying north back to spend winter in the Pacific Islands after having been south between October and December in Tasmania, southern NSW or New Zealand for breeding.

For people finding and rescuing birds, Ms Alexander said they should be brought to the Wildlife Hospital to be looked after.

"It would be great if they could bring it in straight away or keep in it in a quiet dark place before bringing them in the morning," Ms Alexander said.

The hospital expects quite a few more shearwaters to be found in the next couple of weeks.

After a few days of rest, rehydration and fish handfeeding from the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, the rescued birds will be freed to make the rest of their journey.

Gas Leak In Surfers Paradise

Pro-development media campaign to sugar coat unecessary and disruptive development for the consumption of an uninformed, disempowered Gold Coast citizenry

MYGC [2/5/12]:

There was an emergency situation in the heart of Surfers Paradise on Tuesday.

A gas leak caused a major evacuation in Cavill Mall and the Centro Surfers Paradise.

It is believed tradies working on the redevelopment of the mall struck a gas pipe, causing it to rupture.
An evacuation area of 100 metres was set up from Centro Surfers Paradise and surrounding businesses.
Some people were evacuated to the beach.

Two fire crews attended the scene, on the corner of Cavill Mall and Orchid Avenue.

Hot Tomato radio personality Luke Bradnam said he was shopping in Woolworths when the gas leak occurred.

"There is a really strong smell of gas emanating right the way throughout the entire Paradise Centre. The smell was so strong that people were running," he said.

Senator Milne To Open Beer & Brewer Conference

The Shout [2/5/12]:

Greens leader and craft brewing advocate Christine Milne, as well as Little Creatures founder Howard Cearns, are among the latest additions to the speaker line-up for this month's Beer & Brewer conference.

Milne, a documented beer lover and staunch supporter of excise reform for craft brewers, will provide the opening address at the conference, which kicks off at 8:45am on Thursday May 17 at BMW Edge, Federation Square, Melbourne.

Milne and Cearns are to be joined by presenters Brendan Varis of Feral Brewing, Australia's top craft brewer and Beer & Brewer's Brewer of the Year 2011, and Brian Watson, who has been responsible for developing over 50 beers and breweries around the world.

Designed to fit in with a trip to the AIBA awards, the conference will be strongly focused on helping the beer retailers and publicans stay up to date with new developments, according to organiser David Lipman.

"Retailers need to ensure they are stocking the beers and ciders in demand from the 2000+ options on the market, and their staff need to be well armed with the knowledge and confidence to sell these products," he said.

Brian Fitzgerald, a qualified Cicerone (beer sommelier) and ALH's Ian Kingham will share their experiences and knowledge on building a beer list.

Accredited trainers from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling IBD – including Hugh Dunn from ECU, Peter Aldred from the Uni of Ballarat, Mike Spencer from Brewtique and Simon Brooke-Taylor from NNL Brewery Services – will be presenting on the topics of beer styles and taste training.

Greiner Backs Privatisation Of Power

Penn Energy:

Mark Ludlow

Australian Financial Review

May 2, 2012

Infrastructure NSW chairman and former NSW premier Nick Greiner says there is no sensible case for government ownership of network electricity companies.

Mr Greiner told an Energy Networks Australia conference in Brisbane yesterday that consumers should not have to accept large capital spending programs by mostly state-owned companies which pass on the costs in high power prices.

He said both the Queensland and NSW governments had become "addicted" to dividends from their network companies.

But he believed the Newman and O'Farrell governments should push ahead with sales of their electricity businesses, despite promising they would not touch them in their first term of government.

"I think there is no sensible case for government ownership of network or transmission businesses - including three in NSW and two in Queensland - either in terms of balance sheet nor in terms of outcomes for electricity use," Mr Greiner said.

"Treasury is addicted to dividends from state-owned assets. This cannot be the answer."

He said the privatised electricity networks in Victoria and South Australia had better outcomes for consumers via price and performance.

"I don't think as a nation we should accept the capital expenditure necessary to meet the peak demand for four days a year - $11 billion for four days a year. I don't think that's the solution," he said.

"Frankly, what you are doing is what public utilities around the world have always done and that's spend more money on it."

The Australian Energy Market Commission is revising the national electricity rules.

Mr Greiner has been a vocal advocate of the full sale of NSW's electricity network, a move that could potentially unlock $30 billion to spend on infrastructure.

But NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has vowed to keep his election promise to only sell electricity-generation assets. The sale of Eraring Energy, Delta Electricity and Macquarie Generation is expected to raise about $5 billion.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has also been cautious in his approach to asset sales following voter backlash against the former Bligh government's $14 billion privatisation program.

Mr Newman has previously told The Australian Financial Review he has a philosophical objection to selling the poles and wires, but has ruled out any assets sales unless it was approved at the ballot box.

But Mr Newman has frozen electricity prices for the average household next financial year while his government undertakes a review of the state-owned network companies.

Mr Greiner said he hoped former federal treasurer Peter Costello would recommend the privatisation of Queensland's electricity assets in his commission of audit of the state's finances. The audit is expected to deliver its interim report to the Newman government on June 15.

Yolngu People To Take Court Action Against Intervention

Canberra Times [2/5/12]:

Leaders representing 8000 Aboriginal people will today launch a campaign against federal government intervention in the Northern Territory.

The statement to be issued by the Yolngu Nations Assembly representing Arnhem Land people will call on traditional leaders to refuse approval for exploration licences.

Spokesman Djungadjunga Yunupingu said his people initially thought intervention would help.

''But now our experience is that it has not been beneficial,'' he said.

''It has turned our young people against their elders because it has undermined our ability to determine things for ourselves.

''In schools our bilingual program is not being supported.''

Another spokesman Djiniyini Gondarra said the government could achieve its aims through partnership with the indigenous communities.

''They have no need to grant themselves the continued and new powers contained within these bills,'' he said.

''Land councils are increasingly being pressured by government to act outside their roles and become agencies of government.

''We want our land councils to advocate for our needs and not have their independence curtailed by government funding arrangements and political interference.

''We call on the federal and Northern Territory parliaments to end their interventionist policies and agendas and return to a mindset of partnership based on the principles of self-determination.''

Today's declaration is a result of the first Yolngu Nations Assembly, convened last October to bring together clan leaders from across Arnhem Land.

The intervention is driven by the 10-year Stronger Futures program to address key issues in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, including employment, school attendance, alcohol abuse and child protection.

This will extend alcohol and pornography restrictions, compulsory income management and limits on the consideration of cultural practices and customary law in bail and sentencing decisions.

Last month the Gillard government dedicated $583 million to education as part of the package.

The money will pay the wages of 200 teachers and for the construction of up to 100 teacher houses in remote communities.

The funding will also pay for the continuation of a school nutrition program that provides meals to about 5000 students in 67 schools.

Legislation to extend elements of the intervention for a further 10 years has passed the House of Representatives and is being considered by the Senate.

Surprise Surprise - Insurance Companies Approve Of Defacto Government's NDIS - As Long As It Results In Privatised Profits And Socialised Losses

Insurance is a profit making business. It is NOT health care, and it is NOT a social safety net.

Australian Financial Review [2/5/12]:

Australian firms are more than capable of meeting any proposed targets in the government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), but the solutions need to be sustainable, according to one of Australia’s largest general insurers, Suncorp.

Andrew Mair, suncorp executive general manager of intermediated distribution, said he saw an opportunity for the insurance industry to “step up and play an important role not just in the solution, but developing the solution”.

“The main thing is whatever we end up building, it has to be sustainable – it cannot be a quick fix for a year or two,” he said. “The intent is good, but it’s got to be balanced and sustainable.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on Monday the government would fund its share for the launch of the NDIS – aimed at providing people with a disability better access to care and support. While the NDIS would help the community, the government would also need to take into account costs to the insurance industry and affordability issues, Mr Mair said.

The Insurance Council of Australia welcomed the announcement and said it was seeking more details of the scheme in next week’s federal budget.

“The timing is now right for state and federal governments to collectively reform state taxes on insurance now the commonwealth has relieved the states and territories of their disability outlays,” it said. “This would help provide the necessary funds to abolish inefficient state stamp duties that significantly affect the affordability of insurance.

It's Interesting Who Gets Taxpayer Lolly These Days

Australian Financial Review [2/5/12]:

The federal government announced $9.9 million in funding yesterday for one of wave power company Carnegie Energy’s projects. The cash will be used to complete a $31 million venture at the Australian Navy’s Garden Island facility off Perth.

Race Executives Dismount

Australian Financial Review [1/5/12]:

Australian Racing Board chief executive Andrew Harding has resigned. He will leave the ARB in July and take up a role at Hong Kong Jockey club in August. The racing board will also be without a chairman from this week following the resignation of Bob Bentley, who has also given up the same position with Racing Queensland, which is undergoing a restructure following the change of government.

QTC Chairman Resigns

Australian Financial Review [1/5/12]:

Queensland Treasury Corporation Chairman Stephen Rochester has resigned after more than two decades at the helm of the state body. Treasurer Tim Nicholls said the Campbell Newman government had yet to decide on a replacement for Mr Rochester. He said the incoming chairman would refocus QTC’s priorities on core borrowing and liability management.

“Meeting these priorities is crucial to regaining our AAA credit rating, which was lost under the former labor government,” he said.

Queensland Gas Sells Senex Stake

Australian Financial Review [1/5/12]:

Queensland Gas, now under the umbrella of British gas producer BG Group, yesterday sold its 8.1 per cent stake in junior oil and gas explorer Senex Energy, as first reported on Street Talk Online.

RBS Morgans was appointed broker and underwriter to the block trade of about 73.9 million Senex shares.

The shares were offered at a floor price of $1 with no ceiling – which means those interested can bid as high as they like. As of last night, the deal was expected to be priced at between $1 and $1.05.

Senex shares closed at $1.135 and have risen about 78 per cent this year and 181 per cent over the past 12 months. BG is selling its non-core assets around the world, so the sale has been widely expected.

The Brisbane-based company was linked to AGL Energy earlier this year, with AGL understood to have been interested in Senex as a way of locking in future shale gas supply.

Senex’s move into shale exploration is relatively recent, building on its focus until now on oil in the Cooper Basin and coal seam gas in the Surat Basin.

Queensland Gas inherited the Senex Energy shareholding (then Victoria Petroleum) through its acquisition of Roma Petroleum in 2008.