A Visit To Occupy Brisbane - Day 17

Indymedia [31/10/11]:

On my way to work this morning I took a detour through Occupy Brisbane. About 50 tents continue to occupy Post Office Square in the city, with maybe 20 people out and about on site at 9am. Everyone was friendly and helpful, offering me information and keen to talk. They seemed to have weathered last night's torrential rain with good grace.

I spoke to a friend who had been there for a week, B. B said he was enjoying the degree to which to participants and the local passers-by were getting along. Locals and businesses were donating food to the substantial kitchen tent.

At the end of week three for the Occupy Brisbane camp, the participants have learned a thing or two about cooperative living and organising, with hundreds participating in consensus decision-making at General Assemblies, many probably for the first time in their lives. While there had been some internal conflicts over free speech and how to best move forwards, the group has not experienced any major split, despite the wide range of views participants espouse. One thing they all agree on is that the current economically unjust system is not working for most people, while benefiting the few wildly out of proportion to their needs.

B said that they had some conflicts with the public, where some had come to shout at them and tell them to leave, but whom had come back later and apologised after reading on the internet what Occupy Wall Street was all about. Clearly the mainstream media are once again failing the public in the biased portrayal of the Occupy movement, with police violence this week dominating the media coverage of Sydney and Melbourne.

B told me an story about a bank worker who came by one day to chat, saying she didn't agree with the protest because she thought it was against her. As a loans officer, she was approving loans for other people, loans that her own wage would not allow her to ever have. B asked her what she thought about the CEO of her company earning in a few hours what it takes her a year to earn. The location of the camp is surrounded by many big name banks and just a block from the Brisbane Stock Exchange.

People I spoke to were of the opinion that although the police had been friendly and were fairly visible in keeping an eye on the site, they were probably more likely to be letting the protest peter out, rather than repeating the kind of violence seen in Sydney and Melbourne this week. However, the electricity had been cut off by Energex at the behest of the Liberal-run Brisbane City Council, who it is thought may be the biggest source of pressure on the police to act.

Later I interviewed a young camp resident, Tayne, who had been at the camp since day one. You can listen to it below. ...

UNESCO Kept In The Dark About Gas Pipeline

Coal Seam Gas News [31/10/11]:

Recent investigations by Group Against Gas (GAG) Kyogle have revealed that UNESCO, the international body governing the World Heritage Convention, is completely unaware of plans to construct an industrial gas pipeline through the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage Area in Northern New South Wales.

“I was motivated by reading about the environmental catastrophe that is unfolding in the World Heritage Area around Gladstone where three huge LNG facilities are being constructed,” said GAG president Leah Hobbs.

“In that instance, neither the state or federal governments notified UNESCO of these developments, which they are obligated to do under the World Heritage Convention.”

“I’ve tried contacting UNSECO in the past about the proposed pipeline through the World Heritage listed Border Ranges National Park but haven’t had much success. This time I got onto their website and found a phone number to ring so I dialled and next thing I was talking to Kishore Rao, the Director of the World Heritage Centre at the UNESCO office in France.”

“Mr. Rao advised me that UNESCO knew nothing of the Lions Way pipeline proposal and he asked me to send information about the project so that they can take the matter up with the Australian government. He reiterated to me the serious concerns that UNESCO has in relation to the Gladstone developments and was very pleased that ordinary Australians like myself are taking matters into our own hands when it comes to protecting our world-class natural areas. As I said to Mr. Rao, it shouldn’t be up to landholders to defend these areas, it should be governments who are doing this.”

According to GAG spokesperson Boudicca Cerese, the federal government is refusing to assess the impacts of the proposal on the World Heritage Area.

“The GAG petition with 1500 signatures calling on the government to broaden the assessment requirements was recently tabled in federal parliament by our local MP Janelle Saffin,” said Ms. Cerese.

“However, in his reply to our request, Minister Burke’s representative said that the potential impacts on World Heritage values had been considered when the assessment guidelines were determined, but they were not deemed to be significant.”

“We contest this finding and we have obtained expert scientific advice that suggests that the impacts would be significant”, said Ms. Cerese.

“We now have the opportunity to take the matter up directly with UNESCO. I think the Gladstone experience makes it clear that the Australian government is neglecting their responsibility to properly protect these special places, but they are not going to get away with it any longer.”

Wilkie Introduces Cattle Stunning Bill

ABC [31/10/11]:

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has introduced a bill into Federal Parliament which would make it mandatory for Australian livestock to be stunned before they are slaughtered overseas.

The Federal Government announced changes to the live export industry earlier this month after the ABC revealed the cruel treatment of Australian cattle at some Indonesian abattoirs.

The ban came at the peak of the cattle export season, costing the industry millions of dollars.

The changes ensure international standards are followed by monitoring cattle throughout the supply chain from Australia to overseas abattoirs.

However the new rules do not guarantee animals will be stunned before they are killed.

Mr Wilkie says his private members bill, introduced into the Lower House, does not require anything above or beyond what is required in Australia.

"[The] bill places a requirement that Australian livestock overseas must be slaughtered in accordance with the Australian standard for hygienic production and transportation of meat products for human consumption," he said.

Seafood Processors Boycott Sick Fish

ABC [31/10/11]:

More seafood processors in Gladstone in central Queensland are boycotting local fish amid concerns about diseases.

The Gladstone Fish Market and another two processors will not buy fish from the area, as some are still affected by redness, cloudy eyes and lesions.

Darren Brown from the Gladstone Seafood Market says he has been sourcing prawns, mud crabs and fish from other parts of the state for some time.

"I believe if the food is not good enough for me to eat, then I won't sell it to my customers," he said.

"We haven't bought much seafood for some time now because we knew the problem was there, even though it wasn't made public.

"We were sourcing our product north of Rockhampton and down around Bundaberg, but I don't know the exact dates but it has been some months now."

 

Image: @chipchip1971

 

Hotel Rooms Were Booked A Week Ago? Catering Companies Were Told Not To Prepare Food? An Email Sent By QANTAS [Jetstar] To Staff Yesterday Was Dated 26 October? QANTAS Undertook A Risk Assessment Into A Lockout Earlier This Month?

This Is The Australian Media's Chance To Join The 99%

Telegraph [29/10/11]:

The Australian and International Pilots Association published the following statement this morning in response to Qantas grounding its entire fleet of aircraft.

Joyce holds knife to Australia's throat Alan Joyce’s decision to ground the entire Qantas fleet is nothing short of a maniacal overreaction, the Australian and International Pilots Association said today.

AIPA Vice President Richard Woodward said the move was pre-meditated, unnecessary and grossly irresponsible.

“Alan Joyce is holding a knife to the nation’s throat,” Captain Woodward said.

“No one predicted this – because no one thought Alan Joyce was completely mad. This is a stunning overreaction. It is straight-up blackmail.

“I knew he was trying to kill Qantas, but I didn’t know he wanted to do it this quickly.

“This is a grave and serious situation and the board should move to sack Mr Joyce immediately. This is the saddest day of my 25 years with Qantas.

“AIPA’s industrial action has been limited to making brief, positive in-flight announcements and wearing red ties. In response to this, Mr Joyce has now locked out every pilot working for Qantas. This is nothing short of crazy behaviour.

“Mr Joyce is stranding thousands of Qantas passengers all across the globe so he can engage in his mad game of one-upmanship. All so he can pursue his delusion that Qantas should be an Asian airline, instead of an Australian one.

“We believe this action is unlawful and we are currently seeking legal advice. He has locked out short-haul 737 pilots who aren’t even involved in any action at all.

“This would have been planned months in advance. Let’s be clear about this: Mr Joyce would have planned to strand thousands of Qantas passengers all across the globe months ago.

“To ground your entire fleet – when doing so is completely unnecessary – is not the act of a sane and reasonable person.

“He has snatched his ill-deserved millions on Friday and grounded the airline on Saturday. It’s just tragic and unnecessary.”

Salt Lake Occupiers March To Protest G20 Summit

The Salt Lake Tribune [29/10/11]:

Occupy Salt Lake City participants demonstrated against the Paris G20 Summit to show solidarity, they said, with other occupiers around the world.

A statement from Occupy SLC decried the summit as undemocratic, saying it empowers the International Monetary Fund to promote growth at all costs.

Demonstrators marched from Pioneer Park, where occupiers have been camped since Oct. 6, to the downtown financial district.

The G20 or Group of 20 is comprised of finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries and the European Union.

CHOGM Fails To Agree On Key Reform

Nine MSN [29/10/11]:

Commonwealth leaders have failed to agree to a key human rights reform.Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Saturday conceded the push to appoint a human rights watchdog to oversee the 54 country body had failed to win consensus support at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth.

"Australia and a number of delegations indicated that they were supportive of this proposal but there were a number of delegations concerned by it," she told reporters.

"And the Commonwealth is an organisation that involves consensus in decision-making."

The creation of a Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights was a key recommendation of a 10-member Commonwealth-appointed Eminent Persons Group (EPG).

Ms Gillard says the Commonwealth Secretary-General and a group of Commonwealth foreign ministers will examine the proposal further and report back to the leaders.

But senior government sources are pessimistic the proposal will ever be implemented.Leaders did agree to another of the EPG's top recommendations: the creation of a new Charter of the Commonwealth.

"The charter will be finalised in 2012 and it will bring together the Commonwealth's values, principles and aspirations in one clear and powerful statement," Ms Gillard said.

Leaders are set to give further thought to the report's 104 other recommendations in the closing stages of CHOGM on Sunday morning.

Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said CHOGM's Friday decision to adopt the reform recommendations of Commonwealth foreign ministers showed the summit was a success.

"It's not at all a failure," he insisted.Earlier, frustrated members of the EPG, including former Australia High Court Justice Michael Kirby, were forced to self-publish and distribute their report because leaders had failed to make it public.

Group chairman and former Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Badawi said he was concerned the report was being sidelined because of political sensitivities.

"There should be no doubt that this CHOGM is expected to deliver meaningful reforms of the Commonwealth," Mr Abdullah said in a presentation to leaders that he released to the media.

"If this CHOGM does not deliver such reforms, it is our duty to sound the caution to you that this CHOGM will be remembered not as the triumph it should be, but as a failure."

The report also calls for action on HIV/AIDS, empowering women, youth unemployment and climate change.

Justice Kirby said he was concerned about the fact that HIV was not being addressed, particularly in countries which still criminalised homosexual behaviour.

He said the announcement on Friday to give new powers to a group of Commonwealth foreign ministers to intervene where nations are failing to uphold basic human rights was a step in the right direction but the EPG report offered a more comprehensive way forward.

Former Caribbean diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders said he feared many of the report's findings, such as dealing with post-election violence and rising sea levels, would go unheeded.Canadian representative on the group, Senator Hugh Segal, said the fact the Commonwealth had failed to deal with Sri Lanka's human rights violations "speaks to the thesis of irrelevance".

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with her British counterpart David Cameron on the sidelines of CHOGM to discuss Afghanistan, the global economy and development aid, before announcing $50 million for a program to help eradicate polio.

The Queen wrapped up her tour of Australia by attending a barbecue and public farewell along Perth's Esplanade.

Alarm Over Dead Frogs In Mine Pond

Northern Daily Leader [29/10/11]:

Environment groups have raised concerns about eight frogs they say were found dead in a coal seam gas pond in the Pilliga, near Narrabri, as well as dead and dying trees near another coal seam gas storage pond.

The groups have decided to report the matters to the Office of Environment and Heritage as a probable pollution event from coal seam gas mining and will also seek expert advice.

The groups said they believed a section of the NSW Protection of the Environment Operations Act had been breached.

Armidale resident Carmel Flint, a spokesman for the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, said it was an example of coal seam gas water’s toxic effects.

“The frogs were found dead in a pond of coal seam gas water near a gas well, and it was clear from the marks in the sand beneath them that they had struggled to escape from the water. The dead trees were located in a separate area. They are recent tree deaths adjoining a major coal seam gas water treatment works in the Pilliga forest,” Ms Flint said.

Wilderness Society spokeswoman Prue Bodsworth said coal seam gas water was salty and contained other toxins which harmed the environment.

“Coal seam gas mining will produce vast quantities of this water,” she said.

Spring Ridge Protest Gathers Strength

Northern Daily Leader [29/10/11]:

DAY two of the blockade against Santos putting in a new pilot test site for coal seam gas near Springridge has seen an increase in community involvement galvanise landholders to commit themselves further to the cause.

Reports of contractor machinery repeatedly trying to gain access to the property the farmers were blockading yesterday ((Friday 28.10)) has spurred more anger and defiance from the protestors.

Participants say their morale is undeterred as they continue to fight for their farming land and the water resources it relies on.

Local farmer and one of the blockade's organisers, Tim Duddy, said it had been a quiet day down at the site, but there had still been a large gathering of over 100 people turn up at about 8am in the morning when the news came that Santos was apparently "moving in."

Mr Duddy said Santos had not turned up because of the impressive turnout.

Kate Davidson, a local grain farmer who lives with her family between Springridge and Tamba Springs, said she had first heard about the plans for the blockade on Wednesday night and made up her mind then that she would be participating in the protest.

Ms Davidson attended the blockade yesterday with her two parents and brother because this issue affected them all.

"We will continue to attend until Santos gets the message," she said.

Ms Davidson said she had heard that Santos security guards were stationed at the property and will continue to be stationed at the site for 24 hour periods also.

The blockade is gathering more momentum and more support from the community with another 100 farmers predicted to turn up to protect the site tomorrow.

She said many of her neighbours had been getting involved and many who had not been involved in these activities before were starting to now.

"We will stay as long as it takes...this is all we can do now to protect our water resources."

US Launches Drones From Ethiopia

Aljazeera [29/10/11]:

The White House has confirmed that the US military has unmanned drone aircraft in Ethiopia but says no strike missions are being launched from the east African country.

"The US has unarmed and unmanned aircraft at a facility there to be used only for surveillance as part of a broad, sustained, integrated campaign to counter terrorism," said Captain John Kirby, a US defence department spokesman, on Friday.

"These unmanned aircraft are being used only for surveillance and not conducting strike missions."

The White House confirmed the drone flights out of an airfield in the city of Arba Minch after the Washington Post newspaper first reported the operation late on Thursday.

The Post, citing unnamed officials, reported that the MQ-9 Reaper drones flying out of Arba Minch were armed, but the US government on Friday denied that they were.

Reapers are roughly the size of jet fighters and can be armed with bombs and missiles. They fly twice as fast and high as the more well known Predators.

US presence

The US presence in Ethiopia is a delicate political issue there, and American officials are anxious to downplay the role of the military and intelligence agencies across the region.

"There are no US military bases in Ethiopia. It's an Ethiopian airfield," Kirby said.

In support of Ethiopia's 2006 invasion of Somalia, US warplanes carried out attacks from a base in Ethiopia. The government ended the arrangement once it became public.

The United States also operates Camp Lemonnier, a permanent military base in Djibouti, and an air base in Manda Bay, Kenya, where counter-terrorism experts believe armed drones that have carried out strikes in Somalia are also based.

Unarmed Reapers reportedly also fly from another base in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean to monitor pirates.

Chasing al-Shabab

Kenya sent forces into southern Somalia this month to chase fighters from al-Shabab, Somalia's biggest armed anti-government group, but has denied the United States or other Western countries are actively involved in the operations.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States was determined to press ahead with counterterror efforts, which have increasingly focused on Shabab and al-Qaeda's network of offshoots in the Arabian peninsula.

In July, a US drone, possibly flown from Manda Bay, was reported to have killed two senior members of the movement.

"We are harnessing every tool of American power - military, civilian and diplomatic. The United States is strengthening its intelligence, military and security capabilities and drawing from the full range of enforcement tools in co-ordination with partners around the globe," Carney told reporters.

Under President Barack Obama, the United States has increasingly relied on drones to carry out covert strikes against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and others in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The raids are conducted under the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency, not the military, but special operations forces and drone aircraft can be assigned to the spy agency for the strikes.

The covert strikes are an open secret but senior US officials decline to publicly acknowledge the raids.

Administration officials declined to comment on whether the drone surveillance flights out of Ethiopia were focused on Somalia.

But a defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "We're obviously very concerned about instability in Somalia."

Bundamba Flood Group To Occupy Wivenhoe

Queensland Times [28/10/11]:

Ipswich flood victims say they will lead a protest march across Wivenhoe Dam to force action over what they believe are unsafe dam levels.

Bundamba Flood Group president Dianne Dimitrov said the State Government is failing flood victims, who live in constant fear of a repeat of January's natural disaster.

Mrs Dimitrov said it was incredible that the government hasn't already begun to drop water levels after the latest predictions of another big wet this summer.

"We're not saying drop the dams down so we can't survive, we are just saying drop each dam to 75% now," Mrs Dimitrov said.

"We can't determine what the weather will do but we are wearing the consequences because the government want to play God and make their own decisions with our lives.

"If they think it can't happen again, they're kidding themselves.

"Nobody is taking my home again and if it means going down the river with it to make a mark I will do it."

Mrs Dimitrov said she is prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure victims' voices are heard.

"I believe there is going to be thousands of people walking over the dam," she said.

"Every flood victim and their family and people that donated to the flood appeal will come."I'm willing to get arrested if that's what it takes."

State Minister for Natural Resources Rachel Nolan yesterday told State Parliament a decision on dam levels was imminent.

"I am seeking expert advice regarding a temporary reduction in the full supply level of Wivenhoe," Ms Nolan said.

"I will rely on this professional advice, which I have requested within two weeks, to set the dam levels for the upcoming wet season. This is no time for rash decisions and exploitation of people's fears.

"If we are advised to lower the dams we will lower them immediately. We will do the reasonable and responsible thing."

Mrs Dimitrov said she was pleased with the announcement but unless all dams were addressed the risks remained.

"Ms Nolan is only talking about Wivenhoe, what about Somerset? It flows into Wivenhoe," she said.

"We won't feel safe until all the dam levels are reduced."

Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman yesterday said he was in favour of an immediate reduction of existing dam levels.

"Our belief is (that) the prudent, sensible thing to do is run the dams down to around 75% prior to Christmas," Mr Newman said.

"We think that's a prudent thing when so many people have been traumatised by this across the Brisbane area.

"I'm not being alarmist, but we have considered what the BoM (Bureau of Meteorology) have said and we are making our call. That is what we would be doing if we were in government."

Mrs Dimitrov called on flood victims to join her and make sure their voices were heard.

"Come and march on the dam to save your life and to save your home," she said.

Details for the march are still being finalised. More details will be available in the Queensland Times and on the group's "Lower the dams", Facebook page.

This Isn't The Gold Coast's New Double Decker Bus

Imagine how wonderful our world could be ...

Surfers Paradise Festival [June, 2011]

If public transport were free, the costs associated with ticketing would cancel out the cost of issuing tickets and promote a far more efficient and equitable public transport system.

Far less would be spent on roads. Traffic congestion would vanish. Parking would be no trouble, tourists would love it, and business would have far more customers.

There is no reason why the government cannot do this, unless their idea of the role of government is to enable extortionate profit making by foreign corporations.

One way we can reduce our carbon emissions is by encouraging people to use public transport and, better still, forcing governments to make it free!

Gold Coast Mail [28/10/11]:

It's touted as a "shiny and green, locally built world first that's double the size and double the fun".

The Gold Coast's new double decker bus is now travelling the Surfside Buslines daily Southport-to-Tweed route, thanks to TransLink.

Mayor Ron Clarke joined representatives from TransLink and Surfside parent company, Transit Australia Group, in the Southport pool's carpark last week to celebrate the bus's maiden voyage.

TAG general manager Megan Harkin said the first 100 passengers received free 'I Did Double Decker Day One' t-shirts.

"Proudly delivered by local manufacturer Bustech for all the world to see, the double decker bus is the first of its kind and is the result of 18 months of creative engineering, tremendous technical feats and extreme determination," Ms Harkin said.

"The vehicle itself represents state-of- the-art design and functionality, putting Australia on the world stage once again for award-winning manufacturing. The great news is that we not only made it but we get to keep it - that doesn't happen very often with world-class technology that is home-grown."

She said state and local government, industry and special interest groups looking to address traffic congestion and arrest associated environmental impacts, regarded the vehicle and the difference it would make to the provision of quality public transport, as ground-breaking.

"Carrying twice as many passengers than a regular bus means fewer cars on the road," Ms Harkin said.

It would mean a comfortable, safe journey, encouraging bus travel.

Fast facts

The first low-floor, twin-steer, wheelchair-accessible bus in the world;

Turning circle of 22.5 metres;

4.3m high, 400L fuel tank, 9L Cummins engine;

Costs less to maintain than a regular bus;

Cheaper to build than a regular bus, seats 30 more passengers and takes up less room on the road;

Ceiling height on each level of 1.83m;

Straight stair flight lined with fluoro lighting; and

Video monitor on lower floors shows top deck seats available.

Nurses Vote To Defend Health Care, Human Rights

Green Left Weekly [22/10/11]:

Same-sex marriage, the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and serious issues affecting the aged care sector were among agenda items discussed at the Australian Nursing Federation’s (ANF) Biennial National Conference 2011.

The conference met over October 20-21 in Canberra.

The ANF is the professional and industrial voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing (AINs). Its membership stands at 214,000 and it is one of Australia’s fastest-growing unions.

One hundred and twenty nurses, midwives and AINs from all states and territories attended the conference, joined by overseas speakers, Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, and US President Barack Obama’s campaign director Jeff Blodgett from Wellstone Action.

Silas and Blodgett outlined the attacks on nurses and public health systems in their countries, especially since the recent and ongoing global financial crises. They called on nurses and all public sector workers to act locally, nationally and internationally.

Resolutions carried at the conference included:

• lifting current restrictions under the federal marriage act to allow same sex couples to marry, ensuring equality for same sex couples,

• repealing the inhumane policies for asylum seekers, ensuring they are not discriminated against in their right to access health care,

• closing the wage gap for aged care nursing staff (nurses in aged care now receive between $190 and $300 a week less on average than nurses working in public hospitals), including consideration of a pay equity case, and

• continuing to fight the NSW government’s draconian anti-worker laws that remove all genuine collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.

The national conference followed a successful meeting of about 2000 Victorian ANF members at Dallas Brooks Hall on October 12.

Nurses met to mark the start of their enterprise bargaining campaign.

The agreement for public sector and public mental health nurses is due to expire on October 31. Victorian state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick reported to members on the progress of negotiations with the state government and the Victorian Hospitals Industry Association.

Fitzpatrick said the Baillieu leadership, when in opposition in October 2010, made a commitment to maintain current nurse to patient ratios. In a major backdown, they have withdrawn that commitment. Victoria is the only Australian state that does not have nurse shortages, largely due to effective nurse to patient ratios for the past 11 years.

Nurses at the meeting were angry at Baillieu’s offer of a 2.5% wage rise a year over four years, and an attack on career structures, skill mix, professional development leave, returns to short and broken shifts and other erosions of conditions.

They agreed to proceed with a secret ballot process to take protected industrial action. The 2.5% offer is very similar to that being offered to all public sector workers in Victoria and poses the potential for a wider industrial campaign of all public sector workers.

Submissions To Aus Media Inquiry Due 31 October 2011

The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry are:

(a) The effectiveness of the current media codes of practice in Australia, particularly in light of technological change that is leading to the migration of print media to digital and online platforms.

(b) The impact of this technological change on the business model that has supported the investment by traditional media organisations in quality journalism and the production of news, and how such activities can be supported, and diversity enhanced, in the changed media environment.

(c) Ways of substantially strengthening the independence and effectiveness of the Australian Press Council, including in relation to online publications, and with particular reference to the handling of complaints.

(d) Any related issues pertaining to the ability of the media to operate according to regulations and codes of practice, and in the public interest.

Where Occupy Wall Street Headlines Come From

Everyone interprets the news a little differently!

Protestors Gather As CHOGM Leaders Meet

Australia News [28/10/11]:

Hundreds of protesters gathering in central Perth to march on the Commonwealth leaders meeting plan to stage a sit-in near the summit venue.Demonstrators began assembling in Forrest Place on Friday morning as the Queen prepared to open the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at 10am (WST).

Large numbers of police were out in force and helicopters overhead the central city with the main business thoroughfare closed to traffic.

Protesters plan to march towards the CHOGM venue at the Perth Convention Centre from 11am and aim to stage a sit-in at the corner of William Street and St Georges Terrace at the edge of a designated security zone.

CHOGM Action Network spokesman Alex Bainbridge said he understood that police would tolerate the sit-in and not try to remove protesters.

He said demonstrators did not plan to breach the security zones.

Many groups plan to take part in the march including anti-nuclear, refugee rights, environmental and anti-corporate greed movements.

A group of protesters from the Republic of Congo in Forrest Place angrily denounced Rwandan President Paul Kagame, accusing him of killing millions of people and plundering mineral resources in military raids into the country.

Cleophas Katumba told AAP that Australia was a democratic country that valued human rights.

"We don't understand that Kagame can come and be welcomed here after what he has done," he said.

Another vocal protest group demanded the Commonwealth ensure democracy in Zimbabwe.

A vocal group of around 40 Tamils demanded the Commonwealth take action against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, describing him as a "war criminal" who should be arrested for human rights abuses against Tamil people.

Another group of around 60 protesters demanded free and fair elections in Malaysia.

Two men dressed as nuns were there to demand that the Australian government allow same sex marriage.

Friday is the Queen's Birthday public holiday in Perth.

Seamus Doherty, who was put on an excluded persons list for CHOGM by police, said the protest aimed to be non-violent, but police were already being provocative.

He said police had been going around protest stall-holders, videoing them and taking down their details, which he said was unnecessary.

"We're trying to draw attention to human rights abuses right across the Commonwealth.

"There was no need for police to be heavy handed," he said.

Mr Doherty, who walks with the aid of a stick, said he could not understand why police would view him as a threat.

Officers later talked to Mr Doherty to advise him about the restricted zones and warning him not to breach them.

A large group of Aboriginal protesters arrived at the rally after a 1200 kilometre march from Wiluna in inland WA to oppose uranium mining.

AGL Energy Buys Vineyards For CSG Production

ABC Lateline Business [27/10/11]:

TICKY FULLERTON, PRESENTER: The debate over coal seam gas has taken a new turn. AGL Energy has started buying vineyards in the NSW Hunter Valley to shore up its stake in the resource, while Eastern Star Gas is facing a shareholder revolt against a takeover deal with Santos. Michael Troy reports.

MICHAEL TROY, REPORTER: While protestors confronted Santos workers in the NSW Liverpool Plains, the gas company and its takeover target, Eastern Star Gas, were very popular with the market, both share prices jumping 7 per cent. Normally that would make investors very happy, but it hasn't persuaded a shareholder action group led by Paul Johnson to drop its plans to block the Santos deal.

PAUL JOHNSON, ESG SHAREHOLDER ACTION GROUP: We have a scheme offer released with a very shockingly low takeover price from Santos that looked opportunistic, there were all sorts of conspiracy theories as to why it came about. But we certainly weren't happy with it.

MICHAEL TROY: The group has sent out 6,000 letters to shareholders and believes it can stop the takeover.

PAUL JOHNSON: The retail holder with five shares has the same vote as a holder of 8 million shares, so that gives a more sort of level playing ground.

MICHAEL TROY: Eastern Star Gas is a small company with only a few test wells in the Pilliga Forest in western NSW, however it has the right to develop 500 more.

HUGH MACNALLY, DIRECTOR, PRIVATE PORTFOLIO MANAGERS: It makes an awful lot of sense for a company the size of Eastern Star to now pass the development of what is the sort of project that only the majors can really prosecute.

MICHAEL TROY: Investment manager Hugh McNally says he believes the Santos deal will get passed.

HUGH MACNALLY: The vast majority of shareholders, including the directors who are - a number of whom themselves are large shareholders are accepting and have negotiated what I think is a pretty good deal.

MICHAEL TROY: The rebels, however, are not convinced, despite the Santos shares now trading above the price when the original offer was made in July.

PAUL JOHNSON: We feel that it's premature. I mean, you've got the carbon tax being passed through the Parliament now. There is the start of a new industry, a gas industry.

MICHAEL TROY: That demand looks set to increase with AGL Energy saying NSW faces a gas shortage within five years and they've been working to shore up future developments, purchasing two vineyards in the Hunter Valley.

MICHAEL FRASER, MD, AGL ENERGY: The reality is that it's ideally located in terms of the future development that we have planned for the Hunter Valley.

MICHAEL TROY: The big gas companies are now ramping up their PR campaigns.

MICHAEL FRASER: I'm very confident that the coal seam gas industry can happily co-exist with agriculture.

MICHAEL TROY: Just who will see the benefits from the Eastern Star Gas deal will become clearer with tomorrow's vote.

#Occupy

 

... Watching The Movie We'll Ask How The People Might Have Known ...

 

Australia News [27/10/11]:

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has been urged to launch an inquiry into Australian aid to Indonesia, with several people killed at a peace rally in West Papua.

About 5000 people attended the Papuan Peoples Congress earlier this month to discuss human rights issues and declare independence from Indonesian rule.

But Joe Collins, secretary of the Australia West Papua Association, said police and the Indonesian military used canes and batons to attack people.

He said six West Papuan people were killed in the incident and another six were charged with treason.

International news agencies are reporting that five people were killed but the Jakarta Globe newspaper also says six.

Mr Collins said the government should call on Indonesia to halt all military operations in West Papua to prevent further bloodshed.

"We also urge the government to hold an inquiry into how Australian aid and training to the Indonesian military impacts on the life of the West Papuan people," Mr Collins said.

He said the situation was deteriorating rapidly in the Indonesian-controlled province.

President of the Australian branch of the International Commission of Jurists, John Dowd, said Indonesia should stop denying West Papua its independence.

"There is a limit to how far you can suppress the will of a people," Mr Dowd told reporter in Sydney on Thursday.

"The main problem with West Papua is suppression."

Mr Dowd said Australia needed to do more to pressure Indonesia to stop human rights abuses in West Papua.He emphasised the need for a free press and media scrutiny of the region.

"If Indonesia has nothing to hide, then why suppress the press?" Mr Dowd said.

Media Conference on West Papua [Scoop - 27/10/11]:

Press Release: Indonesian Solidarity

This conference will feature the following speakers, who will be available for interviews post-conference:
Octovianus Mote is a former head in Papua for Kompas, the biggest daily in Indonesia. He is now an exile in the United States and is affiliated with Yale University’s Southeast Asia Program and the International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School.

Rex Rumakiek is an exiled Papuan leader based in Australia. Mr Mote and Mr Rumakiek were elected by Papuan civil societies at the Papua Land of Peace Conference to serve as Papuan negotiators.

The Hon John Dowd AO serves as the President of the International Commission of Jurists, Australia.
The CFMEU , which will meet the Freeport union in Jakarta on 1-2 November, ispart of ICEM (International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions).

Professor Peter King is from the West Papua project, University of Sydney and author of a book about recent Papuan politics.

Arooma Gul, a student and human rights activist studying at the University of Sydney

MEDIA CONFERENCE

On the 19th of October 2011, the Indonesian military and police attacked the peaceful Papuan People’s Congress which was attended by almost 5000 people, after the Congress declared independence from Indonesian rule. At least 6 people were killed with more than 300 were taken into custody. The leaders were accused of treason and many others were beaten with rattan canes and batons by police and soldiers.
On the 10th October 2011, the police in Timika opened fire and killed an employee of PT Freeport Indonesia, Petrus Ayamiseba.

His death sparked fury not only in Timika but also outside the city with demands for the resignation of regional and provincial police chiefs. Ayamiseba was one of the 8,000 employees of Freeport McMoRan in Timika, Papua, where workers began their strike on 29 September 2011 to demand an increase of 25 percent in wages and other employment benefits. Freeport Indonesia workers receive the lowest salaries among all Freeport McMoRan (FM) workers around the world, with wages ranging from US$1.50 to $3.00 an hour. In contrast, Freeport posted a net income of $1.37 billion equivalent to $1.43 per share during the second quarter of 2011.

There is clear evidence that continuing human rights abuses in West Papua has been going on for many years without access by international media. The Indonesian government has ensured that media access to the human rights abuses committed in Papua is prohibited to cover up the crimes committed by its military. The heavy presence of the Indonesian military has created concern among Papuans, who fear for their livelihoods and safety. Additionally, a new report on Pacific media freedom states the most serious cases of media freedom violations in the Pacific in the past year have occurred in West Papua.

Australia has strong security cooperation with Indonesia. Similar to its behavior in regards to East Timor, Australia prefers to turn a blind eye to military violence in West Papua.

This conference will feature the following speakers, who will be available for interviews post-conference:
Octovianus Mote is a former head in Papua for Kompas, the biggest daily in Indonesia. He is now an exile in the United States and is affiliated with Yale University’s Southeast Asia Program and the International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School.

Rex Rumakiek is an exiled Papuan leader based in Australia. Mr Mote and Mr Rumakiek were elected by Papuan civil societies at the Papua Land of Peace Conference to serve as Papuan negotiators.

The Hon John Dowd AO serves as the President of the International Commission of Jurists, Australia.

The CFMEU , which will meet the Freeport union in Jakarta on 1-2 November, ispart of ICEM (International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions).

Professor Peter King is from the West Papua project, University of Sydney and author of a book about recent Papuan politics.

Arooma Gul, a student and human rights activist studying at the University of Sydney

US Appeal Court Revives Bougainville Challenge Against Rio Tinto

ABC Radio Australia [27/10/11]:

A lawsuit filed by Bougainville residents against mining company, Rio Tinto is set to be revived.A U-S federal Appeals Court has reversed a decision to throw out the lawsuit which alleges the mining company aided the PNG government in genocide and war crimes.

The lawsuit was filed in 2002, 13-years after the mining company's activities prompted a civil war in Bougainville.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Steve Berman, attorney for the Bougainville land owners

BERMAN: Well the ninth-circuit court of appeals agreed that the case could go forward allegedly that Rio Tinto was involved in the commission of war crimes and genocide, which are two international law recognised claims that are universal to all countries.

COUTTS: Well what will you be asking for in this suit?

BERMAN: We're going to be asking for compensation to the ten-thousand or more people who are injured or killed during the uprising.

COUTTS: How many people does that involve, how many people are you actually representing?

BERMAN: Well it's a proposed class action in the United States and in a class action you only need to name a few, the idea is you don't want to bog the courts down with thousands of claims at once. So you have a few people represent the interests of class and the class in this case we think is about ten to 14-thousand people.

COUTTS: Will you be getting testimony, because these are serious charges, genocide and all the other charges you've just listed, will you be getting personal testimony to back that up?

BERMAN: Yes we already have some, we have affidavits from the former commander in chief and from a former prime minister that they were directed by Rio Tinto to take whatever steps were necessary, including violence and killing, to re-open the mine and they gave some details on that. But now we're going to go and start getting the records and show in our view that Rio Tinto financed the helicopters and troop carriers and communications devices, and the means that the government used to try to suppress the uprising.

COUTTS: And it also includes racial discimination and crimes against humanity all lumped in together?

BERMAN: Well the court dismissed the racial discrimination and crimes against humanity claims, but the racial discimination claims kind of still falls within the genocide claims, so there's not really a loss there.

COUTTS: Can you just explain the point of that particular aspect of the case?

BERMAN: Well the court found that racial discrimination under American law, the alien torch statute, someone can sue for a violation of international law, and the Supreme Court recently said those violations have to be laws that every nation, every civilised nation recognises. And believe it or not the court found that not all civilised nations recognise racial discrimination as a violation of the law. So they threw out the racial discrimination claim, on the other hand they said we did allege enough to suggest that the mining company looked at the Bougainvilleans as a separate people who they had no compunction or were not worried about polluting their environment, ruining their lifestyle, ruining their property and physically maiming them, and that was enough to state a claim.

COUTTS: And some dissenting judges have protested against allowing a lawsuit to proceed in the federal courts brought by non-US residents against a non-US company. That is an interesting point?

BERMAN: Well the mining company raised an issue as had other corporations that have been sued under this law that says the US should not be adjudicating claims against foreign companies where the acts take place for example, in this case they took place in Bougainville. But other courts, and the majority in this case said statute speaks very broadly and if you can get jurisdiction over the defendant, in this case Rio in the United States, then you're entitled to bring the case here. And the historical notion we believe that underlies the law dates all the way back to piracy where a court, in that case piracy, which is what the act was passed to in part address, the idea was that someone commits a tort anywhere in the world, piracy is a universally condemned tort, if you catch that person in the United States you can sue them for that even if it occurred somewhere else, and that's what's happening here. And Rio Tinto has a huge presence in the United States, over 47 per cent of their assets or revenues are derived from North America, so the court found we had jurisdiction over them here and that's why we're sueing them in the United States.

COUTTS: And is part of the claim too, because there's been talk of mining beginning again in Bougainville, are you taking any action against that happening?

BERMAN: We're not, that's not part of the case. But I'm told by my clients that Rio is trying to re-open the mine and there's a pretty strong viewpoint, many people in the Bougainville area that Rio cannot and should not be permitted to re-open the mine until they address and redress the wrongdoing that they committed years ago.

COUTTS: I.E. this court case?

BERMAN: Right, I mean the mine is hugely valuable, copper prices have gone up and it's a scarce resource and it was the world's largest copper mine, still a lot of copper out there, it's a valuable asset and they want it, but I don't think they're going to get it unless they remedy the wrongs that they've committed.

COUTTS: When do you think you'll get this case before the courts?

BERMAN: Well now we're going to go back down to the trial court and ask for discovery taking their testimony to proceed, I suspect that Rio's going to ask the US Supreme Court to hear this case.

Police Investigate Prisoner's Death

Queensland Times [27/10/11]:

Police and Corrective Services are investigating the death of a 26-year-old prisoner at the Borallon Correctional Centre in Ipswich last night.

The Department of Community Safety said the body of the prisoner was found in his cell at 9.15pm.Staff performed CPR on him until ambulance staff arrived but he was pronounced dead at 9.52pm.

He was serving a four year sentence for robbery with actual violence and his full time discharge date was May 21, 2014.

The department said all deaths in custody were referred to both the Coroner and the Chief Inspector of Prisons for investigation.

People Are Also #Occupying Because Of The Anti-Democratic Relationships Between The Powerful Financial Corporations, Media And Governments

This afternoon [27/10/11], it was briefly reported on the wireless that someone from the RACQ appeared at the Queensland Flood Inquiry and made admissions about hydrology reports being kept from flood victims trying to claim their rightful entitlements.

The RACQ makes hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Because of murky disclosure requirements, it is impossible to know exactly how much the media corporations make from insurance corporations' advertising, but it's a hell of a lot. One thing we do know is that all major corporations are the biggest financial backers of all major political parties.

That's why people are #occupying.

ABC [27/10/11]:

The state and federal governments will inject hundreds of thousands of dollars into disaster management projects in southern Queensland.

A total of $326,000 will be spent on gauges on several crucial creeks in the Lockyer Valley, while a flood risk study will also be conducted.

The communities of Stanthorpe and Leyburn will also get their own flood studies.

Money will be spent on disaster management centres in Charleville, Esk, Fernvale and Kilcoy, while the resource management group Southwest NRM will help fund a $900,000 flood warning system.

The project will involve the installing 50 real-time, remote access camera surveillance units.

Flood Insurance Inquiry Hears Victims' Stress

ABC [27/10/11]:

A federal inquiry into the insurance industry has heard the behaviour of some insurance companies has caused a divide in communities affected by Victoria's floods.

The inquiry is taking place in north-west Victoria.

The parliamentary committee examining the conduct of insurance companies during natural disasters arrived in Charlton to hear from residents who were affected by last summer's floods.

More than 400 homes and businesses were inundated and many are still waiting to hear if their insurance claims have been successful, 10 months on.

The inquiry has been told the behaviour of some insurance companies have caused a lot of distress and confusion for residents.

It has heard some people have suffered from guilt after receiving a payout because their neighbours' claims were rejected.

Farmer Russell Amery, who also sits on Charlton's recovery committee, says he hopes the inquiry will lead to fewer delays in the future.

"The other one too is that these companies deal with us a little quicker so we can get on with our lives," he said.

"As I said, nine months is far too long to be waiting around to work out whether you get paid for your claim or not.

"The Member for Murray, Sharman Stone, has suggested the Government set up a My School type website to compare insurance companies.

The committee's chairman, Graham Perrett, says the idea will be considered.

"Anything she says I'll be listening to," he said.

The inquiry will hold hearings in Rochester and Strathewen later today.

Charity Calls For Action On Homeless Kids

Nine MSN [27/10/11]:

The Labor government has dropped the ball on tackling child homelessness, a leading charity group says.

Mission Australia chief executive Toby Hall said a "patchwork approach to welfare" was letting down homeless children.

He said two years after the launch of a federal government white paper on tackling homelessness, which called for a specific focus on children, little had been done.

"There hasn't been enough action," Mr Hall said.

"The most vulnerable members of the homeless population - children who are homeless - have largely been overlooked."

He said across Australia's homelessness support system there was "little consistency".

"It truly is luck of the draw," he said.

"What might be offered to a child in one service isn't necessarily available in another."

Mr Hall said South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria had made some progress.

"But NSW, Queensland, the ACT and the NT are lagging behind. We can't have patchwork action - it needs to be national," he said.

In 2009-2010 84,000 children aged under 18 accessed homelessness services with a parent or guardian, the equivalent to one in 60 Australian children.

Mr Hall said despite the demand 82 per cent of couples with children and 67 per cent of sole parent families were turned away because of the system's lack of capacity.

Mission Australia is calling for state and territory governments to prioritise housing support for homeless families particularly those with pre-school and school-aged children.

It also wants a national framework to guarantee consistency and quality of care for homeless children and specific national targets to reducing the number of homeless children.

Mr Hall said dedicated children's workers were also needed at homeless services.

Port Leak: Second Leaking Container Found

Brisbane Times [17/10/11]:

Authorities have found a second leaking container on a ship docked at the Port of Brisbane, prompting a chemical spill scare this morning.

Crew from aboard the ship were evacuated this morning when a container was found to be leaking zinc dithiophosphate.

After fire crews safely removed the leaking container from the ship, firefighters discovered a second container, which contained organic phosphate packages, was releasing fumes.

The second container was resealed after the spill was found inside.

The Department of Community Safety said no chemicals were leaked into waterways during either incident and no injuries have been reported.

According to the department the consignee, a Lytton business, will manage the spill clean-up.

Multiple fire crews and Queensland Fire and Rescue Service scientific officers have been on the scene since the leak was detected about 6.45am today.

The first container was leaking zinc dithiophosphate, which is mainly used in anti-wear additives in lubricants such as motor oils and greases.

Shortly before 8am, the Department of Community Safety reported staff aboard the ship had been evacuated and a containment zone had been set up.

"Fire crews remain on scene conducting atmospheric testing and working to make the scene safe," the department said in an update issued at 11.27am.

Dugong Found Dead In Gladstone

ABC TV [26/10/11]:

The death of another dugong in the Gladstone harbour in central Queensland has added to fears that industrial activity is harming marine life.

Flood Model Should Be Scrapped: Engineers

ABC [26/10/11]:

The floods inquiry has questioned the accuracy of a model used to determine a property's flood risk in south-east Queensland.

The Commission has heard terms used to describe a property's flood risk - like Q100 - can mislead and confuse the public.

The inquiry has previously heard evidence from Brisbane residents whose homes were built above the Q100 flood height - but were inundated anyway.

Counsel Assisting the Commission Peter Callaghan told today's hearing it might be time to "move away from the Q100 mentality".

The inquiry has commissioned eight hydrology experts to examine the matter.

Today's sitting includes a panel discussion with the eight engineers.

They have concluded the Q100 flood model should be abandoned in Brisbane until a new flood study is completed.

That could take three years.

Yandina Rock Quarry Plan Crushed

Sunshine Coast Daily [26/10/11]:

A proposed rock quarry at Yandina Creek has been refused by Sunshine Coast Council due to concerns about its impacts on the local area.

Division 9 Councillor Vivien Griffin said ensuring the safety and welfare of local residents and the amenity of the area was council's top priority when reviewing the development application.

"Quarrying operations of the magnitude proposed for Yandina Creek presented significant lifestyle and logistical issues for surrounding residents, including heavy vehicle movements, noise, dust, vibration and general safety," she said.

"Council conducted an extremely thorough review of this proposed hard rock quarry and included expert external consultants in this process."

The information provided by the applicant was found to be insufficient when determining whether impacts resulting from the proposed quarry could be satisfactorily minimised so as not to impact negatively on the local area.

Cr Griffin said the Yandina Creek community had also expressed strong concern over the proposed quarry.

"Council has received 5,306 submissions from locals since this development was first lodged in 2009 and the overwhelming majority of these strongly objected to the proposed quarry," she said.

"These concerns were raised in a very professional manner by the Yandina Creek community and their submissions raised a number of very strong and legitimate grounds of objection including potential negative effects on their lifestyle and the safety impact of the proposal on the local road network.

"The community also engaged a noise expert to review the proposed quarry and its likely impacts and this expert concurred with council's external experts that the applicant's noise report was inadequate."

The application for the proposed quarry conflicts with the Maroochy Plan 2000 as it has not demonstrated that it could proceed without unacceptable impacts on amenity and the local road network and there are no grounds pursuant to the Integrated Planning Act 1997 to justify the proposal's approval.

ACCC Approves Sunshine Coast Quarries Sale To Boral Ltd

My Sunshine Coast [20/10/11]:

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) yesterday approved the $81.5million sale of Paul McDonald’s Sunshine Coast Quarries to Boral Limited.

Mr McDonald, who is the Sunshine Coast Quarries sole owner, sold the company at the end of July 2011 subject to ACCC approval.

The Noosaville resident, Mr McDonald has more than 30 years experience in various fields including civil construction, mining, resource and property development. Mr McDonald intends to continue with his extensive commercial business interests in Australia and United States of America.

The ACCC took 40 days to approve the sale and concluded that the acquisition was “unlikely to substantially lesson competition in the relevant markets.”

This conclusion was formed by factors including the imminent entry into the relevant quarry markets in the region by Neilson Group through its Kin Kin quarry and also Boral’s Coolum quarry likely to exhaust its resources in two years.

Boral Limited has acquired the quarry and concrete assets of Sunshine Coast Quarries including a large-scale quarry at Moy Pocket, a smaller quarry at Wondai and a concrete plant at Gympie.

Mulraneys Managing Partner Erik Hipwood said brokering the acquisition had demonstrated Mulraneys ability to complete a sizable deal. He said settlement will be on or before 31st October.

“The Sunshine Coast Quarries team has worked closely with Mulraneys since the contract was signed in order to complete a smooth transition,” Mr Hipwood said.

A detailed analysis of the deal’s approval is available on www.accc.gov.au.

The Rena Disaster And Response: A Study In Neoliberalism’s Failures

The Standard [26/10/11]:

Nearly three weeks ago now a container vessel grounded on Astrolabe reef near Tauranga, New Zealand.

Shipping accidents like the Rena are entirely at the door of Neo-Liberal economics.

The foreseeable results of Globalisation, de-regulation, the endless search for the cheapest, the socialisation of risks and the privatisation of benefits..

Tired, overstressed, low paid crews, cheaply built and maintained ships, inadequate or ignored regulation and excessive workloads are the norm at sea.

Flags of convenience exist entirely so that shipping companies, and shippers, can reduce the costs: of corporate and income taxes, safety standards, operating standards, crew conditions and wages and build standards of shipping.

They allow a competitive race to the bottom to see who can become the cheapest.

There is no reason whatsoever to use a flag of convenience if you intend to operate a vessel to a high standard. There would not be any cost savings.

The constant struggle to maintain cheaply built ships, designed and built for a 15 year life. Is bad enough when they are new. 5 or 10 years beyound their design life, keeping them going is a 24 hour a day job.

Low wages, mean that high quality well trained crew find other work ashore or in higher paid work like the oil industry.

Masters and Chief engineers are often the only properly trained and skilled members of the crew, with the numbers made up of cheap labour with dodgy qualifications.

It is common for crew to be on board working shifts with less tha 8 hours off a day for more than 9 months.

Training standards are variable, with a noticeable drop in the standard of training, even from first world countries. At the same time crew numbers have been dropped so there are not the personnel available to babysit and train.

Seafarers are expected to rest in ships with levels of noise and vibration that would have been totally unacceptable thirty years ago. Ashore in NZ it is illegal to get people to work, let alone sleep, in those conditions.

In New Zealand, Masters who refuse to sail because of broken equipment or rough weather and crew members who refuse to falsify rest hour, maintenance, safety and leave records are protected by our employment laws.

A sacking for those reasons, in New Zealand, would be a legitimate case for unjustified dismissal.

On FOC ships they are sacked or their contracts are simply not renewed.The worst of it, since the 1980's and Governments cave in to the farming lobby on Cabotage, in NZ, even local shipping companies, whatever their intentions, are also cutting standards to compete with cheap overseas shipping.

The contradictory statements and outright spin coming from Maritime New Zealand and National are excuses for delay, not reasons.

I know, that given the resources, pumps, tugs, helicopters, barges, hoses and other equipment available in Marsden point, Tauranga and Auckland, oil could have been pumping off the vessel within 24 hours of the grounding.

We know the ship had power and heating to the bunker tanks for the first few days.It was obvious to mariners that with damage forward and the depths below the ship she would be aground for many weeks, if she could be refloated at all.

Given that, power and fuel oil heating would be lost if the ship was more damaged, bad weather was forecast within a week and the ship was only supported along half her length, making breaking up in bad weather almost certain, getting the oil off should have been top priority.

MNZ’s on scene commander has the legal powers to commandeer equipment, vessels and personnel to avoid oil pollution.

Ships piping can be adapted to pump overside to a barge within a lot less than 4 days.Heating would have been on for at least the tanks in use. Takes less than a day to heat further tanks.If the pipework was too damaged to use, which was highly unlikely for the after bunkers, portable pumps and generators could have been choppered to the vessel within hours.

While the oil was hot almost any pumps could have been used at rates of hundreds of ton an hour. Instead of a specialised displacement pump, required, after it had cooled.

Any barge or vessel capable of holding oil, which there were several around, could have been used to pump into, initially.

Awanuia does not take 4 days to go to Marsden point, empty, and return to Tauranga. More like 8 hours to Marsden point. About 7 to discharge and no more than 12 hours to Tauranga.Bunker piping is available on the wharf in all three ports.

We have Mates, Masters and engineers in NZ that have years of experience on pumping fuel between ships and making things work in adverse conditions.

When we have a valve failure in a tanker we do not leave it sitting around for 5 days at 60k plus a day while we wait for an overseas expert or for negotiations with insurance companies. We open a manhole and pump it out using a salvage pump.If fuel pipes or anything else fails at sea we fix it.

The whole thing is an in indictment on the lack of preparedness of MNZ, helped by lack of funding and lack of experienced and qualified seafarers in the top ranks.

It has become obvious that MNZ had no idea of the personnel and equipment, already on hand, that could be used.

Strange, considering that some of the skilled personnel work for MNZ.

This episode has also exposed the lack of preparedness and equipment for a serious spill. Due to lack of funding. To keep the costs of oil pollution levies, and hence shipping costs down.

Successive Governments have been told many times the race for the cheapest shipping costs makes more of this sort of accident inevitable. They all failed in their duty to prepare for it.

Appointing chair polishing ignoramus as bosses in MNZ, allowing substandard FOC ships, many of which which would not be allowed on the EC coasts, to starving emergency response planning and equipping of funding, is at the door of all our Neo-Liberal Governments since 1984.

The ineptitude and lack of preparedness does not make me confident of their ability to monitor deep sea drilling.- KJT

Climate Change And The End Of Australia

Rolling Stone [3/10/11]:

... you might expect Australia to be at the forefront of the clean-energy revolution and the international effort to cut carbon pollution. After all, the continent's vast, empty deserts were practically designed for solar-power installations. And unlike the U.S. Congress, the Australian Parliament did ratify the Kyoto Protocol, pledging to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2050. But it was an empty gesture. Australia remains deeply addicted to coal, which not only provides 80 percent of its electricity but serves as its leading export. Perhaps more than any other nation on earth, Australia is trapped by the devil's bargain of fossil fuels: In the short term, the health of the nation's economy depends on burning coal. But in the long term, the survival of its people depends on quitting coal. Australia's year of extreme weather has reawakened calls for a tax on carbon pollution, but it is far from clear that the initiative will pass, or, in the big picture, whether it will matter much. "What we are ultimately talking about is how climate change is destabilizing one of the most advanced nations on the planet," says Paul Gilding, an Australian climate adviser and author of The Great Disruption. "If Australia is vulnerable, everyone is vulnerable." ...

Exxon Mulling Two New Australian Oil, Gas Developments

London Stock Exchange [25/10/11]:

SYDNEY -(Dow Jones)- Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) said Tuesday that it's considering the development of new oil and gas projects in the Bass Strait offshore Australia's Victoria state.

A spokeswoman for the world's biggest oil company said that it's equal joint venture with BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP.AU) discovered two new prospects in the area.

"Evaluation of these discoveries and future satellite developments is ongoing," the Sydney-based Exxon spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman was confirming a chart in BHP's annual review of its petroleum business, which indicates that the joint venture is considering the development of discoveries at East Remora and East Longtom.

Exxon publicly disclosed the East Remora discovery in April, 2010 but it hasn't mentioned the East Longtom discovery until now.

Any new projects would add to the pair's current Kipper, Tuna and Turrum ventures in the Bass Strait, which have experienced delays and cost overruns due to technical problems, and labor shortages in Australia's booming resources sector.

NAB Seeks Right To Evict Renters

The Age [25/10/11]:

Renters face being evicted without notice when owners default on home loans if the National Australia Bank wins a Supreme Court battle against Victoria's Sheriff.

Tenant groups have labelled the bank's court action as ''ruthless'' and ''cold hearted'', particularly after high-profile advertising promoting its customer-friendly face.

In a case that could have far-reaching implications for Victoria's renters, NAB has taken the Sheriff to court after it failed to evict the tenants of two Ivanhoe East properties.

The mortgagor of the properties defaulted on repayments to NAB after letting them out without the bank's knowledge, prompting it to seek repossession orders.

NAB wants the Supreme Court to force the Sheriff to evict the tenants without it needing to comply with the Residential Tenancies Act, which requires renters be given 28 days' notice.

A tenant of one of the properties, Darren Burke, said the uncertainty and stress had forced him to consider moving home.

''I've got an 84-year-old mother living with me and the last thing I need is the stress for her. She thinks we're going to be kicked out every five minutes,'' he said.

''If the owner goes belly up and can't pay their mortgage, that means the bank can come in and say to every person: 'Right, here's your eviction notice, get out!'

''In court documents, NAB argues the Sheriff should enforce a warrant of possession on the homes without requiring the bank to go to VCAT and give the tenants notice.

But the Sheriff has refused to act on the warrant because the Tenancies Act obliges owners to give the tenants notice ''to the exclusion of any other law''.

''At the very least, there is a right [of tenants] to receive notice to vacate,'' says the Sheriff.

Tenants Union of Victoria spokesman Toby Archer said if NAB won the case, financial institutions would not have to give notice to tenants when their landlord defaulted.

''There will be tenants who face the nightmare scenario of continuing to pay their rent while their landlord's defaulted on the mortgage and the first they'll know of it is when the Sheriff comes to evict them.

''It is just incredible that an institution the size of NAB could act in such a ruthless and cold-hearted fashion.''

CLSA Australia banking analyst Brian Johnson said the longer banks left a property unsold, the more interest and costs they accrued.

Mr Johnson said there had been an increase in the number of postcodes experiencing mortgage stress and, as a result, banks were trying to balance their housing books.

Investors, many of whom are negatively geared with high debt-to-value ratios, own about 88 per cent of Melbourne's rental housing stock.

Setting a legal precedent that allowed banks to evict people without notice would leave tenants severely exposed if mortgage defaults were to rise suddenly, Mr Archer said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show 30 per cent of Australian households were renters, the remaining 70 per cent were purchasing their homes or owned them outright. The case has been adjourned until Thursday.

... The powers that be
That force us to live like we do
Bring me to my knees
When I see what they've done to you

Well, I'll die as I stand here today
Knowing that deep in my heart
They'll fall to ruin one day
For making us part ...

'Back On the Chain Gang', The Pretenders [1982]


Occupiers Have To Convince The Other 99 Percent

By Chris Hedges

October 24, 2011 "Truthdig" --The occupation movement’s greatest challenge will be overcoming the deep distrust of white liberals by the poor and the working class, especially people of color. Marginalized people of color have been organizing, protesting and suffering for years with little help or even acknowledgment from the white liberal class. With some justification, those who live in these marginalized communities often view this movement as one dominated by white sons and daughters of the middle class who began to decry police abuse and the lack of economic opportunities only after they and their families were affected. This distrust is not the fault of the movement, which has instituted measures within its decision-making process to make sure marginalized voices are heard before white males. It is the fault of a bankrupt liberal class that for decades has abandoned the core issue of economic justice for the poor and the working class and busied itself with the vain and self-referential pursuits of multiculturalism and identity politics.

The civil rights movement, after all, achieved a legal victory, not an economic one. And for the bottom two-thirds of African-Americans, life is worse today than it was when Martin Luther King marched in Selma in 1965. King, like Malcolm X, understood that racial equality was impossible without economic justice. The steady impoverishment of those in these marginal communities, part of the Faustian deal worked out between the Democratic Party and its corporate sponsors, has been accompanied by draconian forms of police control, from stop-and-frisk to militarized police raids to the establishment of our vast complex of prison gulags. More African-American men, as Michelle Alexander has pointed out, are in prison or jail or on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began. The corporate state keeps some two-thirds of poor people of color in the United States trapped in internal colonies—either in the impoverished inner city or behind bars. And the abject failure on the part of the white liberal establishment to stand up for the rights of the poor, as well as its decision to throw its support behind Democratic politicians such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who abet this institutionalized and economic racism, has left many in these marginal communities disdainful of protesters from the newly dispossessed white middle class.

“The black community and the community of color have been dealing with these issues for decades,” the Rev. Raymond Blanchette, an African-American preacher from Queens, said in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan one day last week as we closed our jackets against a chilly wind whipping down the canyons of the financial district. “Now the white community around the country is beginning to see it and experience it firsthand. It’s pretty shocking to them. The African-American community and other communities of color are saying, ‘Welcome to the world I live in.’ That’s why you don’t see that many of those [nonwhite] faces here. It’s like, OK, now you decided you are going to speak up because now you’re the one that’s affected by it. One of the reasons I’m here is because I see the viability of this movement. I want to bring those communities together.”

The power elite have desperately tried to tar the movement with a series of calumnies, branding protesters as hippies, anti-Semites, drug addicts, leftists, anarchists and communists. They have so far been unable to blunt the fundamental truth the movement imparts: We have undergone a corporate coup. It has to be reversed. But this truth has yet to resonate among those who for decades have been betrayed and ignored by white liberals.

The decision by protesters from Occupy Wall Street to join Cornel West in Harlem last Saturday to protest the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy was an important step in taking the message of the occupy movement to our impoverished internal colonies. West, who led the protest outside the 28th Precinct at West 123rd Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard and who was arrested along with about 30 others, was part of a crowd that chanted: “Stop-and-frisk don’t stop the crime. Stop-and-frisk is the crime.”

The power elite are frantically searching for the ideological weapon that will discredit the movement. But the clarity of the protests, the painful personal stories of dislocation that are the heart of its message, and, most important, the self-discipline, despite police provocation, which has kept these protests nonviolent have advanced the movement and discredited the forces of control. The power elite, held together by the glue of force and fraud, are seeking ways to communicate in the only language they know they can master—unrestrained force. And as we enter the second month of demonstrations, the power elite fear that the core message and the calls for resistance, which resonate with a majority of Americans, will lead to a direct confrontation with the corporate state. If the movement starts to pull hundreds of thousands of people together, if it leaps across class lines, as I saw during the peaceful revolutions in East Germany and Czechoslovakia, then the corporate state is probably finished. Our corporate overlords know this. And they are doing everything in their power to make sure this does not come to pass.

The divisions between the poor and the working class on the one hand and the white, liberal middle class on the other reach back to the Vietnam anti-war movement. The New Left in the 1960s was infused with the same deadly doses of hedonism that corrupted earlier 20th century counterculture movements such as the bohemians and the beats. The antagonism between the New Left during the Vietnam War and the working class and the poor, whose sons were shipped to Vietnam while the sons of the white middle class were usually handed college deferments, was never bridged. Working-class high schools, including many high schools with large numbers of African-Americans, sent 20 to 30 percent of their graduates to Vietnam every year while college graduates made up only 2 percent of all troops sent to Vietnam in 1965 and 1966. Anti-war activists were seen by those locked out of the white middle class as spoiled children of the rich who advocated free love, drug use, communism and social anarchy.

The unions and the white working class remained virulently anti-communist. They spoke in the language of militarism and the Cold War and were unsympathetic to the anti-war movement as well as the civil rights movement. When student activists protested at the AFL-CIO’s 1965 convention, chanting “Get out of Vietnam!” the delegates taunted them by shouting “Get a haircut.” AFL-CIO leader George Meany ordered the security to “clear the Kookies out of the gallery.” United Automobile Workers President Walter Reuther, once the protesters were escorted out, announced that “protesters should be demonstrating against Hanoi and Peking … [who] are responsible for the war.” The convention passed a resolution that read: “The labor movement proclaim[s] to the world that the nation’s working men and women do support the Johnson administration in Vietnam.”

Those that constituted the hard-core New Left, groups like Students for a Democratic Society, found their inspiration in the liberation struggles in Vietnam and the Third World and figures such as Mao and Leon Trotsky rather than the labor movement, which they considered bought off by capitalism. They saw the working class as part of the problem. Many came to embrace the cult of violence. The Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam and the Weather Underground Organization became as poisoned by this lust for blood, quest for ideological purity, crippling paranoia and internal repression as the state system they defied.

The bulk of the white protesters in the 1960s found their ideological roots not in the moral imperatives of King or Malcolm X but the disengagement championed earlier by beats such by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg and William Burroughs. It was a movement that, while it incorporated a healthy dose of disrespect for authority, focused on self-indulgent schemes for inner peace and fulfillment. The use of hallucinogenic drugs, advocated by Timothy Leary in books such as “The Politics of Ecstasy,” and the rise of occultism that popularized transcendental meditation, Theosophy, Hare Krishna, Zen and the I-Ching were trends that would have dismayed older radical movements such as the Wobblies and the Communist Party. The counterculture of the 1960s, like the commodity culture, lured adherents inward. It set up the self as the primary center of concern. It offered affirmative, therapeutic remedies to social problems and embraced vague, undefined and utopian campaigns to remake society. There was no real political vision. Hermann Hesse’s novel “Siddhartha” became emblematic of the moral hollowness of the New Left. These movements and the celebrities who led them, such as the Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman, catered to the stage set for them by television cameras. Protests and court trials became street theater. Dissent became another media spectacle. Anti-war protesters in Berkeley switched from singing “Solidarity Forever” to “We All Live in a Yellow Submarine.”

The power of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that it has not replicated the beliefs of the New Left. Rather, it is rooted in the moral imperatives of justice and self-sacrifice, what Dwight Macdonald called nonhistorical values, values closer to King than Abbie Hoffman. It seeks to rebuild the bridges to labor, the poor and the working class. The movement eschews the hedonism of the New Left; indeed it does not permit drugs or alcohol in Zuccotti Park. It denounces the consumer culture and every evening shares its food with the homeless, who also often sleep in the park. But, most important, it eschews, through a nonhierarchical system of self-governance, the deadly leadership cults that plagued and ultimately destroyed the movements of the 1960s. The political and moral void within the New Left meant that, like the counterculture of the beats or the bohemians, it was seamlessly integrated into the commercial culture. At its core the New Left shared the same hedonism, entrancement with mass entertainment, love of spectacle and preoccupation with the self. And the degeneration of the New Left is personified by politicians such as Clinton, who mouthed the usual platitudes about the poor and working men and women while he and both major political parties, awash in corporate dollars, betrayed and impoverished them.

Murray Bookchin wrote: “Radical politics in our time has come to mean the numbing quietude of the polling booth, the deadening platitudes of petition campaigns, carbumper sloganeering, the contradictory rhetoric of manipulative politicians, the spectator sports of public rallies and finally, the knee-bent, humble plea for small reforms—in short, the mere shadows of the direct action, embattled commitment, insurgent conflicts, and social idealism that marked every revolutionary project in history. … What is most terrifying about present-day ‘radicalism’ is that the piercing cry for ‘audacity’—‘L’audace! L’auduce! Encore l’auduce!’—that Danton voiced in 1793 on the high tide of the French revolution would simply be puzzling to the self-styled radicals who demurely carry attaché cases of memoranda and grant requests into their conference rooms … and bull horns to their rallies.”

Macdonald argued that those who wanted change had to base all actions on the nonhistorical and more esoteric values of truth, justice and love. They had to retain Danton’s call for audacity. Once any class bows to the practical dictates required by effective statecraft and legislation, as well as the call to protect the nation, it loses its moral authority and its voice. The naive belief in human progress through science, technology and mass production, which this movement understands is a lie, erodes these nonhistorical values by placing faith in state power and fantasy. The choice is between serving human beings or serving history, between thinking ethically or thinking strategically. Macdonald excoriated Marxists for the same reason he excoriated the liberal class: They subordinated ethics to another goal. They believed the ends justified the means. The liberal class, like the Marxists, by serving history and power capitulated to the state in the end. This capitulation by the liberal class, as Irving Howe noted, “bleached out all political tendencies.” Liberalism, he wrote, “becomes a loose shelter, a poncho rather than a program; to call oneself a liberal one doesn’t really have to believe in anything.”

In line with the occupy movement, we must not extol the power of the state as an agent of change or define progress by increased comfort, wealth, imperial expansion or consumption. The trust in the beneficence of the state—which led most liberal reformers to back the wars in Vietnam and Iraq at their inceptions, as well as place faith in electoral politics long after electoral politics had been hijacked by corporate power—ceded uncontested power to the corporate state. Liberals and liberal groups, such as MoveOn, which urge us to appeal to formal structures of power that no longer concern themselves with the needs or rights of citizens have become forces of disempowerment.

The only effective tool for change will come through movements such as those that stand in direct opposition to state power and seek through the sheer force of numbers and civil disobedience to discredit and weaken the corporate state. The corporate state cannot be the repository of our hopes and dreams. And the liberal establishment has, by making concession after concession, merged itself into the corporate apparatus and has nothing left to say to us. It is part of the elaborate and hollow political theater that has replaced genuine political participation. The dismantling of our radical social and political movements in the early and even middle part of the 20th century in the name of anti-communism left the liberal class, as well as the wider society, without a repository of new ideas. The utopian fantasies of globalism and naive acceptance that the dictates of the marketplace should be permitted to determine human behavior became not just the creed of the corporatists but finally the creed of liberal apologists such as Thomas Friedman and most professors in university economic departments. And the strength of the new movements is that they have exposed this lie.

What we are witnessing in parks and squares across the United States is not simply widespread revulsion over the greed and cruelty of corporate capitalism, but the articulation of a new and potent radicalism. This radicalism challenges the right of corporations to poison our ecosystem and turn greed and self-promotion into the highest good at the expense of human life. If this movement can cross class lines, if it can articulate its vision to those in marginalized communities, especially poor people of color, it can tap into a force and power that was never part of the New Left. It can make possible the shaking of the foundations and, let us hope, the toppling of the corporate state.

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times.

Wellington Occupiers To Welcome All Blacks

Scoop NZ [25/10/11]:

Press Release: Occupy Wellington

The Occupy Wellington movement looks forward to welcoming the All Blacks Parade in Civic Square tomorrow, according to the group’s website.

Spurred on by the public support shown by around three hundred people at the group’s Labour Day event yesterday, the group have announced that they will be providing face-painting, refreshments, food, and a hospitable atmosphere for All Blacks fans present at Wednesday’s post-RWC celebration.

“After the overwhelmingly positive response we got from RWC fans passing through Civic Square on Sunday night, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow’s celebration.” says Richard, a supporter of the Wellington Occupy movement.

“Lots of the Occupy supporters are avid rugby fans, so I was really glad to be able to paint faces and offer a relaxing place for people to hang out as they went to and from the game. I’m looking forward to more of the same tomorrow.” Richard says.

The Civic Square camp has continued to grow over the last several days, now containing around 60 tents.

“We’re working very closely with the Wellington City Council and the Police to ensure that we’re not interfering with the public enjoyment of the area. We’d like to offer as much hospitality as possible, and I’m going to help out with the cleanup before and after the parade.” says Ben, another supporter of the Wellington group.

The Occupy Wellington Labour Day event attracted more than 250 people, featuring a range of workshops, academic presentations, children’s activities, musical performances, and free food.

Around midday, several hundred supporters participated in a Special Assembly to democratically decide on details of the afternoon’s event. The group employed the “human microphone” technique developed in the Occupy Wall St movement, allowing mass communication without electronic amplification.

Consensus was quickly established when a small child stood up and proposed that there should be a parade, resulting in 150 Occupy movement supporters parading down Cuba Mall handing out cupcakes and copies of the first issue of the group’s newsletter, the “Occupied Dominion Post”.

Peabody Completes Macarthur Coal Takeover

Nine MSN [25/10/11]:

The world's largest private coal miner, Peabody Energy, and Europe's ArcelorMittal have completed their takeover of Australia's Macarthur Coal by securing a 59.85 percent stake in the firm.

The acquisition, announced in a statement late Monday, marks the culmination of a 19-month battle by US-based Peabody to take control of the Australian coal company.

Under the joint-venture banner PEAMCoal Pty Ltd., the suitors said they were offering $16 for each Macarthur share, but would raise this to $16.25 if they got at least 90 percent of the firm by November 11.

The raised cash offer would increase Macarthur's equity value to $4.91 billion from $4.8 billion under the current offer.

"We encourage remaining Macarthur shareholders to accept without delay and improve their chances of receiving the premium $16.25 per share price," Aditya Mittal, ArcelorMittal's chief financial officer, said in a statement.

ArcelorMittal already controlled 16.1 percent of Macarthur before the launch of the takeover bid, but wanted to gain further control as it looks to boost its self-sufficiency in steelmaking raw materials such iron ore and coal.

PEAMCoal needed to own at least 50.01 percent of Macarthur to take control of the firm.Macarthur is the world's largest miner of pulverised coking coal, which is used as a low-cost input in steelmaking.

ArcelorMittal and Peabody bid for the Australian firm in July after Peabody made an unsuccessful bid to purchase the firm on its own in March 2010.

The two companies had originally offered to pay $15 a share of Macarthur but raised it to $16. Chinese state-owned investment group Citic, which held a 25.2 stake in Macarthur, had agreed to accept the offer.

Two Months Until We're In The Middle Of The Next Cyclone Season!

ABC [25/10/11]:

The Queensland Floods Inquiry has heard calls for electricity substations to be located above flood levels to better protect buildings from disasters. The inquiry has heard Brisbane apartment blocks and a hotel were forced to shut down when basements were swamped in January.

Electrical substations were destroyed, power was cut and lifts were out of action. There have been calls for electrical equipment to be placed on higher levels.

Christopher Arnold was Energex acting Chief Executive during the January floods and has given evidence at today's hearing.

He told the Inquiry building owners are required to provide space for substations.

However, he said the commercial reality is that building space above the defined flood level is valuable real estate - so substations are often placed in basements.

He wants Energex to have more authority to require electrical equipment to be placed higher.

News Corp. Investors Lodge Murdoch Protest Vote

Edmund Lee, Bloomberg [24/10/11]:

One third of News Corp. (NWS) shareholders voted against the election of Rupert Murdoch’s sons to the board, a protest against the family’s control over the media company in the wake of a phone-hacking scandal.

James Murdoch, deputy chief operating officer and son of the chairman and chief executive officer, received the highest percentage of votes against his election, at 35 percent. James, 38, has been called to U.K.’s Parliament next month to answer questions for a second time about phone-hacking at one of News Corp. (NWSA)’s London newspapers.

Thirty-four percent of shareholders voted against Lachlan Murdoch, 40, while 14 percent voted against Rupert. All 15 of the nominees were elected to the board, the company said last week based on preliminary results. The elder Murdoch went into the meeting with at least 47 percent of the voting shares on his side, including those held by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who has voiced support.

Investors including the California Public Employees’Retirement System had said they planned to vote against the family members. Proxy advisers and investors including Calpers, the largest U.S. pension fund, had called on the Murdochs to leave the board to bolster independent oversight in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

“How can they not feel compelled to appoint more independent directors?” Julie Tanner, director of socially responsible investing for New York-based Christian Brothers Investment Services Inc., said after the vote totals were released.

“It’s clear this insider arrangement is the polar opposite of transparency.”

Without Murdoch’s Stake

According to News Corp.’s proxy, 798.5 million Class B shares were eligible to vote. Of the total, Murdoch controls 40 percent and the prince holds 7 percent. The company owns the Fox broadcast network and the Wall Street Journal.

Not counting Murdoch’s stake, 67 percent of Class B shareholders voted against James and 64 percent against Lachlan.

“When you back out Rupert’s shares, with more than two-thirds voting against James, what must the board think?” Tanner said in an interview.

Jack Horner, a spokesman for News Corp., declined to comment on the numbers.

Tanner’s floor resolution to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive did not pass with 1.5 million votes in favor and 680.5 million against. Tanner called it an expected tally given that she could not distribute the resolution prior to last week’s company meeting.

Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information and is a business partner of Alwaleed. Management and Standards
News Corp. Class A shares, those most widely held, rose 1.1 percent to $17.40 at the close in New York and have climbed 19 percent this year. The shares, which represent about 70 percent of the economic interest, have no voting rights.

The reports of hacking at the now-closed News of the World tabloid in London have raised questions about News Corp.’s management and the board’s independence. The company formed a management and standards committee to aid outside inquiries. Police have arrested at least 16 people, including Andy Coulson, Prime Minister David Cameron’s former communications chief and an ex-News of the World editor.

‘Taking Seriously’

Institutional Shareholder Services, which advises more than 1,700 institutional investors on corporate-governance issues, recommended that shareholders vote against 13 of 15 directors, including the Murdochs, to establish more independent oversight.

Three other directors received votes against their election of at least 30 percent: Natalie Bancroft, with 33 percent against; Andrew S.B. Knight, with 32 percent; and Arthur Siskind, with 30 percent.
Directors with the highest level of support were venture capitalist James W. Breyer and attorney Joel Klein, with 99 percent and 96 percent voting in favor respectively. They were the only directors ISS recommended shareholders support because of their short tenures on the board.

At the shareholder meeting, the elder Murdoch said his company must and would address the phone-hacking charges.

“There are real issues that we must confront and are confronting,” he said “We could not be taking this more seriously.”

At OccupyDC, Egypt’s Revolutionaries Chide U.S.

Jefferson Morley , Salon [24/10/11]:

Three of Egypt’s so-called Facebook revolutionaries told a crowd of 100 people who gathered Sunday afternoon in Washington’s Freedom Plaza that the U.S. government has abandoned their peaceful revolution in favor of an alliance with the country’s still-powerful military.

“We hoped U.S. policy would change” said Esraa Abdel Fatah, known as the Facebook girl for creating a social media page that helped mobilize a general strike over workers rights in 2008. “We hope they would support the people, not the government. But U.S. policy supports the military now, the same way it was supporting Mubarak.”

Fatah spoke to a OccupyDC crowd that seemed hungry for advice from activists who have seen tremendous, yet mixed results in the past year. Egypt’s revolution of last January has taken a worrisome turn in recent months the military brutally cracks down on those it views as enemies of the state, while backtracking on promises about the transition to civilian rule. Despite the objections of Egyptian civil society, the Obama administration has mostly refrained from criticizing the country’s Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF).

“We’re disappointed the administration didn’t get the lesson,” said Bassem Fathy, a founder of April 6 Youth, which used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to detonate a social explosion that swept away Mubarak’s government last January.

“The U.S. supported Mubarak because he offered stability. Now the U.S. is again choosing stability by backing the SCAF. That might be America’s short term interest but we don’t think that is America’s long-term interest.”

Blogger and activist Ahmed Maher, who visited the capital’s other occupation site in McPherson Square earlier in the week, said, “we want to make a change from the U.S. policy to supporting the people, not support businessmen.”

The meeting of the movements in Freedom Plaza was free of the controversies that have shadowed the Egyptian revolutionaries as their influence has grown.

Fathy and his colleagues have been criticized in Egypt and in Al Jazeera for their participation in the Egyptian Democratic Academy, which was funded by the U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy. At the same time, the Republican party has lionized Fathy as one of “democracy’s heroes” in Egypt. But one strength of the Egyptian movement is that it refuses to be categorized by religion or even ideology. Fathy doesn’t deny U.S. support or influence. Nor does he hesitate to criticize U.S. policymakers.

“The U.S. is now saying that the military will be the protector of democracy against the Islamists,” he told Salon.

“Myself, I am totally secular and I don’t agree with the Islamists. But I think democracy is the best protector of democracy.”

When a woman in the crowd asked Fathy for the Egyptian movement’s views on U.S. support for Israel, Fathy was even more pointed.

“Our common mood is that we should have at the least the two states–one Israeli, one Palestinian–based on the 1967 borders, ” he said, a view that proved deeply controversial when expressed by President Obama earlier this year. Myself, I would like to see a solution like South Africa: One country for all the people who live there. I know that is a dream.”

As the crowd plied their guests for advice about how the U.S.-based occupation movement should proceed, the Egyptians responded by voicing the unorthodox tenets of a global movement without leaders or unified set of demands.

“People will want to know who your leaders are,” said Fatah, wearing a traditional head scarf.

“Your demands must be your leaders.”

“My advice,” said Maher, an exemplar of cosmopolitan cool with his shaved head and sunglasses ”is not to accept any advice.”

Legend!

Daily Mail [24/10/11]:

With an Australian flag tucked between the cheeks of his bare bottom, a man allegedly ‘mooned’ the Queen as she was driven past him in a motorcade today.

Liam Warriner, from Sydney, was later charged with being a public nuisance and wilful exposure after the alleged incident, which is understood to have occurred while the 22-year-old was unloading shipping containers in Brisbane.

‘I mooned the Queen,’ Warriner said after being charged. ‘I did it because my workmates dared me to.’

Speaking with a sense of pride at his actions, Warriner added: ‘Everybody’s seen someone’s butt, come on.

‘You see it on TV all the time, you see it in movies, it’s accepted in PG rated programming these days.
‘But yet it’s an offence to the Queen.’

Warriner, who gave the V for victory sign as he spoke, said the Queen waved at him and that was when he dropped his trousers.

But his claim that the Queen had singled him out for a wave was highly unlikely. Thousands of people were lining the banks of the Brisbane River along which the Queen was sailing and most people were so far away from the cruiser that it is doubtful she saw what any individual was doing.

Warriner said he ran for 50 yards with his trousers and underwear down, but no-one saw anything other than his bare bottom.

He said: ‘Not the front at all. There were loads of people there to see the Queen. I wouldn’t want all of them seeing that.’

Warriner is no stranger to protests against authority. He revealed he is part of an anti-elite protest movement called Occupy and had recently taken part in protests in Sydney.

He said: ‘I’d like to say we are the 99 per cent human need over corporate greed and we won’t accept any of this any longer.'

Police later clarified where Warriner had been standing. They said he was in an area at the roadside where the Queen was passing by in a motorcade before she stepped onto the cruiser to sail down the river.

A spokeswoman for Queensland police said: ‘Police officers at the front of the motorcade saw the alleged incident and reported to others further back.'

She said she could not comment on whether or not the Queen had seen the alleged incident.

Occupy Fox News: A Message To Murdoch

Jon Wiener, The Nation [21/10/11]:

Only in LA: On one side of Pico Blvd., the Rancho Park golf course, with joggers, dog walkers and of course, golfers; on the other, a hundred “Occupy Fox News” demonstrators outside Fox Studios, chanting “We – are – the 99 per cent!”; in between, a hundred LA cops, many with riot gear at the ready, and an entire city block of TV news trucks, bristling with giant satellite dishes, power cables up and down the street, and news reporters under lights talking earnestly into the cameras.

A Fox News helicopter hovered overhead while demonstrators marched with homemade signs including “Fox and Friends Stink!” “Rich Media = Poor Democracy,” and “Lying is Wrong.” Inside Fox Studios, Rupert Murdoch himself, along with his son James, was facing the annual shareholders meeting of News Corp.

Occupy Fox News, organized by Free Press, had a brilliant idea: the world’s media were coming to see whether shareholders would kick out Rupert and his son James because of the phone hacking scandal in Britain. But the media are not allowed inside the shareholders meeting. So they set up outside, and as a result, all the pictures they broadcast were of the demonstrators.

The LAPD did its best to cut down the numbers of demonstrators, closing the public parking lot at the golf course that the demonstration organizers had announced would be available.

Fox News itself covered the demonstration. A tall, good-looking reporter with a posh English accent said, “The real action here is not the demonstrators outside but rather the shareholders inside, many of whom are asking for a change at the top of News Corp.”

The Fox reporter noted that the demonstration was taking place “under the watchful eye of the LAPD.” “Security is tight,” he explained, because of the pie thrown in Murdoch’s face at his last public appearance. Of course none of the “Occupy Fox News” demonstrators out on Pico Blvd. were allowed within half a mile of Murdoch himself.

The Fox News reporter also noted that, after the phone-hacking scandal, “News Corp. gave 2 million pounds to the family of the murdered girl whose phone had been hacked.” Although California state pension funds, significant owners of News Corp. stock, “want Murdoch out,” he noted that “operating revenue is up 23 percent.”

Meanwhile on LA’s all-news AM radio station, KNX, the anchor asked the field reporter, “Is this just an all-purpose ‘we don’t like corporations’ kind of thing?”

Free Press, which called the “Occupy Fox News” protest, explained at its website that News Corp. “has accumulated toxic levels of media power—including cable channels, news networks, newspapers, television stations, movie studios and more.” News Corp. “leverages its news and entertainment empire to bully regulators, elect compliant politicians, gain regulatory favors and undermine the public interest.”

The group also condemned Fox News for its “long history of anti-immigrant rhetoric and biased reporting on issues that are important to communities of color in the U.S.”

Groups joining Free Press in calling the demonstration were Common Cause, OccupyLA, Avaaz.org, Change to Win, Good Jobs LA, Brave New Foundation, the National Lawyers Guild and others.

As I was leaving the protest, a curious golfer shouted over the fence, “What’s going on?” I explained that it was “a protest against Fox News.”

“For being fair and balanced,” he said, and burst out laughing.

Meeting Of The G7+ Concludes In The World’s Newest State

Scoop NZ [24/10/11]:

Press Release: Government Of Timor-Leste The Secretary of State for the Council of Ministers and
Official Spokesperson for the Government of Timor-Leste, Ágio Pereira

Juba, South Sudan [19/10/11]

Historic meeting of the g7+ concludes in the world’s newest state

The President of the Republic of South Sudan closed the first ever g7+ retreat today in Juba, South Sudan.

Sharing the table with the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, His Excellency Xanana Gusmão and the chair of the g7+, Her Excellency Emilia Pires, the President of South Sudan noted that this was the first international conference in the new Republic which celebrated it’s independence on the 9th of July this year, making it the world’s newest nation.

His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit reflected that “It could not be more appropriate that the first international conference in an independent South Sudan has brought together the membership of the g7+ to share experiences, to learn from one other and to develop a common position that reflect our collective experience.”

The two-day retreat was a highly successful event with over 40 delegates representing 13 countries.
In her wrap up of the retreat the Chair of the g7+ and Minister of Finance for Timor-Leste Emilia Pires noted that the voice of the g7+ had been consolidated and strengthened because of the Juba retreat with many issues being covered. These included further refinement of the Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs), the development of the Fragility Spectrum, the consideration of indicators that could be adopted to help fragile and conflict-affected nations and a number of matters related to the ongoing structure of the g7+ and communications strategy. An announcement made by South Sudan’s Minster of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr Kosti Manibe, of a generous $75,000 donation to support of the g7+ was deeply appreciated by all the g7+ members.

During the event Guinea and Togo became new members of the g7+ family bringing the number of countries now involved to 19.

The next event for the group is the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness which will take place in around six weeks time in Busan, South Korea. The g7+ will bring to that forum a “New Deal” to improve aid effectiveness and accelerate development in all fragile and conflict-affected nations. When this is widely endorsed this initiative is set to make a huge difference in the effectiveness of aid around the globe, contributing to the welfare of many people beyond the circle of the g7+.

The Prime Minister of Timor-Leste supported the g7+ with great passion over the days of the retreat and also used the opportunity whilst in Juba to meet with Ministers and members of the Government of South Sudan in order to extend to the new nation, on of behalf of Timor- Leste, a hand of friendship and solidarity. Mr. Gusmão also met members of civil society and donors in a positive exchange to further the discussion on improving the delivery of aid.

The Prime Minister reflecting on the visit said that “To be here at this time, a few days after the 100 day milestone since independence, where South Sudan became the world’s newest nation, is special for us all. We not only congratulate South Sudan on its independence; we also celebrate the birth of this new nation”

He went on to say “We commend the people of South Sudan for their courage, their sacrifice and their determination to achieve independence. And not only do we wish this new nation a bright future, we also pledge to do all that we can to support South Sudan in becoming a strong, successful and peaceful State.”

In his final closing words South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said that he looked forward to a continuing and sustained partnership with Timor-Leste and all g7+ countries, affirmed that “by learning from one another, we can ensure that we confine fragility and conflict to history forever.”

Hackers Take Down Child Pornography Sites

BBC [24/10/11]:

Anonymous has briefly taken offline 40 sites it claims traded in images of child sexual abuse.

As part of the action it published the names of 1,500 people who it says used a site known as "Lolita City".

The attacks were carried out as part of Operation Darknet which targeted abuse groups that swapped images via the Tor network.

Experts condemned the attacks saying they could have scuppered ongoing investigations or tainted evidence.

Vigilante action

The Tor network tries to aid anonymity by routing web browsing queries through a series of servers scattered around the net. This makes it harder to trace users and monitor what they are seeing.

Many protestors, in nations such as Egypt and Syria, use Tor to hide their location from authorities. One innovation, recently added to Tor, is the ability to create a "darknet" - a network that works in a similar way to the web but can be seen only by Tor users.

In early October, Anonymous hackers noticed that one site hosted on this Tor darknet contained links to images of child sex abuse.

Anonymous members removed the links but they were soon re-posted. It knocked the site offline with a denial of service attack and worked out which firm was hosting the links.

In a document detailings its actions, Anonymous said it ordered the firm to remove the illegal content. It claimed the the demand was refused, so it broke into the firm's network and shut down a series of computers hosting the abuse images.

It vowed to continue the attacks until the images and other content was removed. ...

100 Crews Battle Blue Mountains Bushfire

Nine MSN [24/10/11]:

More than 100 fire fighters and a water bombing helicopter are battling a blaze in the NSW Blue Mountains that has forced the evacuation of homes and a school.

The immediate threat to homes had passed, Rural Fire Service spokeswoman Caroline Rembridge told AAP.

However fire crews are racing to contain the fire, that broke out near Katoomba Street and Cliff Drive in Katoomba on Monday afternoon, ahead of an expected southerly change around midnight.

Ms Rembridge said the fire was late on Monday afternoon burning in the valley behind the evacuated homes, making it inaccessible for firefighters.

The spokeswoman said about half a dozen homes had been evacuated as well as some 450 students from Katoomba High School who were relocated to a local cinema.Weather conditions had made it difficult to fight the fire, she said.

"It was very windy, very hot, there were embers travelling in a north easterly direction, we were seeing winds today of around 30- 40 kilometres, these are challenges for the firefighters," she said.

"The priority at the moment, they're trying to contain the fire down in the valley behind the homes before we get the southerly change around midnight tonight."

The popular Scenic Skyway remains shut because of the fire.

The fire is believed to have started in the bush below the old caravan park and travelled up the escarpment towards homes.

High Percentage Of Speakers May Have Voted Against Murdoch

The Independent [24/10/11]:

How many shareholders voted against Rupert Murdoch? And why hasn’t he yet revealed full results of the elections which took place at the AGM of his media conglomerate News International last week?

There is growing speculation that an embarrassingly-high percentage of protest votes were lodged against the re-election of Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan, to the organisation’s board of directors at Friday’s meeting in Los Angeles.

Observers are also wondering if a significant portion of News Corp stockholders decided, in light of the phone-hacking scandal, to back a hostile effort to strip the 80-year-old tycoon of his current dual role as both Chairman and Chief Executive. The reason analysts scent blood is simple: at the close of what had been a rancorous AGM, Murdoch promised that full results of shareholder ballots would be made public on Friday.

“We will post with the SEC the final complete votes within a couple of hours... well... certainly this afternoon,” he said.

This did not happen. News Corp did announce that all 15 members of the board had been re-elected, and added that the motion to separate the Chairman and Chief Executive roles had failed. But the company has so far refused to publish a complete breakdown of votes. In a statement which contradicted Murdoch’s earlier promise, News Corp announced that those specific figures won’t actually be filed with regulators until sometime this week.

Previous years have always seen them published on the day of the AGM. So activist shareholders, who want to limit Murdoch’s control of News Corp and make its board more independent, believe the company is using the delay to work out how best to bury a piece of bad news.

Several large public pension funds, along with a slew of advisory firms interested in corporate governance issues, already say they voted against Murdoch and his allies at the AGM. They were never likely to win an overall majority in the ballot, since Murdoch personally controls 40 percent of “voting” stock in News Corp (despite owning just ten percent of its equity), while his close ally, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, owns another seven percent.

However rebels such as Julie Tanner, of New York investment firm CBIS (who spoke in support of limiting Murdoch’s power at the AGM) said that the failure to publish full results suggests there was a surprising level of support for her rebellion.

“We know there were going to be a large number of votes cast against Murdoch,” she told The Independent.

“Particularly against the election of James and Lachlan to the Board...That could very well be the rationale for them not releasing the votes.”

By law, the company has to announce the final breakdown of the results by the end of this week.

Operation Fox Hunt

Your Anon News [24/10/11]:

... Fox News is now a target of Anonymous because of their continued propaganda against the occupations. Those such as Sean Hannity are attacking the credentials as well as the character of the occupiers at Wall Street, and this can no longer be allowed. ...

 

Tell the world what is happening in West Papua.
They will listen to you because you are Europeans
That is our only chance to get justice and freedom
Please, be our voice

Mathias Wenda, Independence Leader

The Rock News [23/10/11]:

'West Papua: The Secret War In Asia' [VIDEO]

Police Investigate Accidental Resort Shot

ABC [24/10/11]:

The Police Ethical Standards Command is investigating an incident in which a service revolver was accidentally discharged at a tourist resort on the Gold Coast in south east Queensland.

Police say the incident happened on Friday afternoon at the Artique Resort in Surfers Paradise.

Police say the gun discharged into a concrete floor.

It is believed the officer is from the Sunshine Coast.

Yep! Everything's Just Hunky Dory Down Under! No Reason To #occupy Or Anything Like That!

ABC AM [24/10/11]:

TONY EASTLEY: The Immigration Department is facing more controversy over the detention of an Indian student.

Prashant Cherkupalli came to Australia to study engineering but ended up spending almost 18 months in the Villawood Detention Centre for working without a visa.

The Human Rights Commission has now found his detention breached the Migration Act and that the Federal Government owes him hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation.

Mr Cherkupalli still faces deportation and his lawyers say it's time the Immigration Minister did the right thing and intervened.

Michael Edwards has this report.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Prashant Cherkupalli came to Australia to study for a master's degree in engineering. His ordeal began though in late 2004 when he was picked up by immigration officials for working in a bakery in western Sydney without the correct visa.

PRASHANT CHERKUPALLI: I came to Australia to get a job and get a permit and yeah, to settle down but things have gone wrong for me and I end up in detention where I should not end up.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: He spent the next 509 days in the Villawood Detention Centre.

PRASHANT CHERKUPALLI: It not easy like counting every day to get out from there and get back on the studies and get back on the job.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Prashant Cherkupalli was released in April 2006. He's remained in the country on a series of bridging visas. He lodged his case with the Australian Human Rights Commission. Earlier this month it released its findings.

Tom Mithieux from Carroll & O'Dea Lawyers is Mr Cherkupalli's solicitor.

TOM MITHIEUX: That detention was found by the Human Rights Commission to be an arbitrary detention and there have been recommendations made subsequently by the Commission including recommendations in relation to compensation and also some other recommendations including an apology and that Mr Cherkupalli be put into a position that he would have been but for this period of arbitrary detention.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The report also recommended Prashant Cherkapulli be paid almost $600,000 in compensation.

TOM MITHIEUX: It takes into account general damages which is generally looking at the hurt and humiliation I suppose of being arbitrarily detained for that period of time. There is also some scope for past economic loss.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The Human Rights Commission's recommendations are not binding. Prashant Cherkupalli's lawyers have also lodged a claim for unlawful imprisonment in the New South Wales Supreme Court.

But despite what the HRC's findings that he was wrongly detained, Mr Cherkupalli is still facing possible deportation.

Tom Mithieux wants the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, to do what he says is the right thing and grant his client permanent residency.

TOM MITHIEUX: There have been requests for ministerial intervention in the past. They have been rejected however in light of these findings and the final publication of the Human Rights Commission report, the Minister has again been called to intervene and to put Mr Cherkapalli in a position that he would have been but for this period of detention and really that means giving him permanent residency.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: A spokesman for the Immigration Department says a response to the Human Rights Commission's report will be made by the end of the week.

TONY EASTLEY: Michael Edwards reporting. And for the record Mr Cherkapalli now has a master's in engineering.

The Verboten Story Of Argentina’s Post-Default Economic Success

Naked Capitalism [23/10/11]:

Even notice nothing is ever said in the mainstream media about Argentina’s economy, save that it had a big default? You’d never know the following about Argentina:

From 2002 onward, Argentina grown nearly twice as fast as Brazil, and has sported one of the highest growth rates in the world.

Its success is not dependent on a commodities boom

It has increased social spending from 10.3% of GDP to 14.2% of GDP

Inequality has fallen. Poverty and extreme poverty have fallen by roughly 2/3

What is particularly striking is how quickly Argentina’s economy rebounded after its default. From a paper by Mark Weisbrot, Rebecca Ray, Juan A. Montecino, and Sara Kozameh [PDF] (hat tip reader Thomas Ross):

In December of 2001, the government defaulted on its debt, and a few weeks later it abandoned the currency peg to the dollar. The default and devaluation contributed to a severe financial crisis and a sharp economic contraction, with GDP shrinking by about 5 percent in the first quarter of 2002 and nearly 11% for the full year. However, recovery began after that one quarter of contraction, and continued until the world economic slowdown and recession of 2008-2009. The economy then rebounded, and the IMF now projects growth of 8 percent for 2011.

Argentina’s real GDP reached its pre-recession level after three years of growth, in the first quarter of 2005. Looking at twenty-year trend growth, it reached its trend GDP in the first quarter of 2007.

By contrast, the US economy contracted 6.8% in the fourth quarter of 2008, and shrank 2.6% in 2009. The US only now has reached its pre-downturn level of GDP, meaning nearly four years later versus Argentina’s three. In addition, Argentina has regained its trend line of growth, while it is not clear whether the US ever will. The Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff work on severe financial crises has found that they result in “permanent” falls in the standard of living, but that has not been the case with Argentina.

Admittedly, Argentina had an advantage the US lacked, that of a reasonable level of world growth as a backdrop. But we need to stress “reasonable” not robust. The advanced economies of the world ex Australia went into a slump in the dot-bomb era, and the US and Europe were running below potential through 2004 [PDF]. But the data show that Argentina’s success was not export driven:

It can be seen that the role of exports is not very large during the expansion of 2002-2008. It peaks at 1.8 percentage points of GDP in 2005 and 2010, and amounts to a cumulative 7.6 percentage points, or about 12 percent of the growth during the expansion. The story for net exports is even worse, with net exports (exports minus imports) showing a negative cumulative contribution over the period. The recovery is driven by consumption and investment (fixed capital formation), which account for 45.4 and 26.4 percentage points of growth, respectively.

Notice the Argentinian example disproves one of the Big Lie about default, that foreign capital will take a hike and the consequences will be dire. Again from the article:

As a result of the default, and the refusal of a minority of creditors to accept the eventual restructuring agreement in 2005, and subsequent legal action by these creditors and “vulture funds,” Argentina has faced difficulties borrowing in international financial markets over the last nine years. Since it has not been able to settle its debt with the government creditors of the Paris Club, it has also been denied some export credits. FDI has remained limited, averaging about 1.7 percent of GDP over the past eight years, with a number of serious legal actions taken by investors against the government.

Yet in spite of all of these adverse external conditions that Argentina faced during the past nine years, the country experienced this remarkable economic growth. This should give pause to those who argue, as is quite common in the business press, that pursuing policies that please bond markets and international investors, as well as attracting FDI, should be the most important policy priorities for any developing country government. While FDI can clearly play an important role in promoting growth through a variety of mechanisms, and foreign capital in general can, in some circumstances, boost growth by supplementing domestic savings, Argentina’s success suggests that these capital inflows are not necessarily as essential as is commonly believed. And it also suggests that macroeconomic policy may be more important that is generally recognized.

Shorter version: sacrificing your economy on the altar of the Bond Gods may not be such a good idea.

The one blot on Argentina’s success record is its inflation rate, which has been as high as 31%. I’ve had Brazilian readers contend that inflation is not as terrible as we Americans have been led to believe if you have good inflation accounting (something we never developed). Unlike our experience with stagflation, it has not been an impediment to growth:

Inflation may be too high in Argentina, but it is real growth and income distribution that matter with regard to the well-being of the vast majority of the population. By these measures, as we have seen above, the government appears to have made the correct decision not to fight inflation by sacrificing economic growth. . To take one important historical example, South Korea registered annual rates of inflation similar to those of Argentina in recent years, in the 1970s and early 80s, while it traversed the journey from a poor to a high income country.

The paper closes by stressing the implications for other debt-burdened nations:

Argentina’s experience calls into question the popular myth, as noted above, that recessions caused by financial crises must involve a slow and painful recovery. Argentina’s financial crisis and collapse were as severe as that of almost any country in recent decades; and yet it took only one quarter after the default to embark on a rapid and sustained recovery. This is not only because of the devaluation and improved macroeconomic policies, but because the default freed the country from having to be continually hamstrung by a crippling debt burden and by pro-cyclical policies imposed by creditors. It is these types of policies, along with the ultra-conservatism of central banks like the present ECB, that mostly account for the historical experience of delayed recoveries after financial crises. The Argentine government has shown that this bleak scenario is just one possible outcome, and that a rapid recovery in output, employment, poverty reduction, and reduced inequality is another very feasible path that can be chosen.

No wonder the IMF and the banksters don’t want Argentina to get good press. The Eurozone countries they are wringing dry might get ideas.

Goldman Sachs Withdraws From Credit Union Fundraiser After Learning Occupy Wall Street Was Being Honored Too

Think Progress [22/10/11]:

Earlier this month, the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union in New York City held a fundraiser to celebrate its 25th anniversary. It just so happened that this the credit union many of the protesters at Occupy Wall Street (OWS) were using to store funds — and the protest group became an honoree at the dinner. When Goldman Sachs found out that OWS would be at the dinner, it pulled out of the event, along with its $5,000 donation. Despite the threat from the mega-bank to pull its money if OWS would be honored, event organizers decided to go ahead anyway. “Their money was welcome, but not at the price of giving up what we believe in,” said Pablo DeFilippi, associate director of member development at the National Federal of Community Development Credit Unions. “We lost their $5,000, but we have our principles.”

Occupy The Narrative!

Keith Olbermann | Marine Corps Veteran Sgt. Shamar Thomas on Occupy Times Square, Veterans’ Rights [Video 18/10/10]

West Papua: Army Starts Fresh Crackdown On Freedom Movement

Green Left Weekly [23/10/11]:

Indonesian army forces brutally attacked the Papuan national conference in Abepura on October 19. The conference was attended by up to 20,000 people discussing West Papua's struggle for independence from Indonesia.

WestPapuaMedia.info said on October 21 that local sources confirmed six people were killed. New Matilda.com reported on October 20 an account from a priest who saw a truck full of arrested people who were “covered with blood” and had been “beaten and shot”.

WestPapuaMedia.info said many of the Petapa Papuan community security guards were shot trying to defend others. Women tending to the wounded were also shot. Fleeing people were chased into the surrounding hillside, the Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights said on October 19.

A witness told WestPapuaMedia.info on October 20 that 800 people were being held by police, and that some protesters had “fractured their skulls, broke their legs, while others [suffered] serious injuries”.

Photos emerged on WestPapuaMedia.info on October 21 of torture injuries sustained by arrested activists.

The conference began on October 17 in an open field after authorities denied the use of Cenderawasih University. The conference was only the third of its kind in West Papuan history.

Despite the threat from the occupying Indonesian forces, thousands of Papuans bravely returned for each day of the conference.

Indonesian forces launched their attack near the end of the conference after chair of the Papuan Customary Council Forkorus Yaboisembut read out a declaration of Papuan independence, the Jakarta Globe said on October 19.

Yaboisembut was charged with “treason, rebellion and crimes of hatred against the state”, along with at least five other independence activists, WestPapuaMedia.info said.

Indonesian soldiers had been preparing for the crackdown for days. WestPapuaMedia.info said about 2200 Indonesian security personnel had surrounded the conference on previous days to try to intimidate the crowd.

The Indonesian military also had “six Army Pansers and four Police Barracuda Armoured Personnel Carriers, all containing fully armed troops”, as well as two mobile prisons, a water cannon and many other vehicles, WestPapuaMedia.info said.

Before the brutal attacks, Papuan workers had confronted the powerful forces in control of the region.

Striking workers blockaded the notorious Freeport-McMoRan gold and copper mine in West Papua in an ongoing dispute over wages and conditions, despite violent attempts to stop them.

About 12,000 mine workers have been on strike since September 15 over demands to raise wages to $12.50 an hour, an increase from the paltry $2.10, the Jakarta Post said on October 10. The article said the mine earned $30 million a day in July.

The blockade forced the mine to stop production on October 17, although it resumed at 50% capacity the next day, AP said the next day.Freeport spokesperson Ramdani Sirait told the Jakarta Globe on October 17:

“Crowds outside the Freeport mining complex are still blocking the entrance, using our heavy machinery.”

A pipeline for copper output was also cut in an apparent act of sabotage, Reuters said on October 17.The dispute has been marred by violence. On October 10, one worker was shot dead and nine others injured in Timika when Indonesian police fired on them, Tribunnews.com said that day.

The shooting was followed by attempts to break the strike. NewMatilda.com said on October 7: “Workers have received messages from officials via SMS, and visits to their family homes by Freeport staff and security who threaten to withhold pay and fire striking workers.”

The company also tried to intimidate workers into signing an agreement to end the strike and the home of a union leader was fired on, NewMatilda.com said.Reuters said on October 6 that workers had voted to extend the strike for another month. Local tribal leaders have also lent their support to the strike, criticising Freeport for failing to live up to its promise to use its revenues to support Papuan society, Globalpost.com said.

Freeport has a long history of using violence and intimidation tactics against locals. Mine owners have allegedly paid millions of dollars to the Indonesian military and hired thugs to enforce the company's hold over the area and terrorise dissenting members of the community, Al Jazeera said on October 2.

The company has made billions in profits and has helped enrich elites in Jakarta, but West Papuans endure the lowest standards of living in Indonesia.

Freeport Worker’s Union member John Rumkoren told GlobalPost.com on October 18: “Freeport has been in Papua for 44 years, but they have not contributed to Papuan society at all. “Contributions from Freeport only go to the police and the military and they [police and military] only come and kill us.”

Details Of US Attack On Pharmac In Free Trade

Scoop NZ [23/10/11]:

Press Release: Professor Jane Kelsey

The leaking of three further secret texts from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations confirms fears that the US is pushing for rules on healthcare products that would give its pharmaceutical giants new tools to attack national drug buying agencies like Pharmac, Jane Kelsey said today.

The US proposed texts along with critique of their public health implications were posted on the Citizen Trade Campaign website today.

Speaking from Lima where the texts are being negotiated, Washington-based legal expert Professor Sean Flynn describes the proposed Annex on “transparency” that targets drug pricing and reimbursement programmes as “an extreme proposal that regulates public health policy and has no place in a trade negotiation”.

“This proposal is contrary to the demands of democracy, is bad for the development interests of poorer countries, and represents an affront to the best practices in evidence-based health policy, including such practices in the US”.

According to Professor Flynn, the real effect of the US proposal is to advance the pharmaceutical industry’s ultimate goals of a binding international agreement on drug pricing.

“If such an agreement is desired by countries, it should be negotiated in an open forum where public health experts and advocates are well represented, eg. the World Health Organisation.”

The leaked text on transparency strikes at the core of Pharmac, which uses its purchasing power to negotiate affordable prices for medicines.

University of Auckland Law Professor Jane Kelsey describes the combined effect of the three leaked texts as “giving Big PhRMA a platform to wage a war of harassment against Pharmac”.

“The US proposals would allow drug companies to challenge every Pharmac decision as not appropriately recognising the ‘value’ of patents – a dangerous and undefined standard. Adopting this standard would open floodgates of litigation against Pharmac and will ultimately raise medicine prices and ration access.”

“These leaked documents are being discussed at this week’s negotiating round in Lima. Yet again, we see the dangers of secret negotiations that give foreign corporations enormous leverage over our democratic processes and threaten the viability of our health care system”.

Transparency Chapter: Annex on Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Healthcare Technologies, 22 June 2011; US Textual Proposal for the TBT Chapter: Annex on Medical Devices, Pharmaceutical Products and Cosmetic Products; TPP Intellectual Property Rights Chapter (Selected Provisions), September 2011, and analyses can be accessed at http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/blog/2011/10/22/leaked-trans-pacific-fta-texts-reveal-u-s-undermining-access-to-medicine/

Rio Tinto Axes Aboriginal Fund After 15 Years

ABC [23/10/11]:

Mining company Rio Tinto is shutting down its Aboriginal Fund which has financed initiatives to support Indigenous people for the last 15 years.

The company says it made the decision after reviewing the value of its philanthropic work.

It says it wants to move away from philanthropy and towards more directly supporting the Indigenous communities in which it operates. The fund has distributed $1.8 million for Indigenous programs each year.

But Rio Tinto says it will continue to work in partnership with Aboriginal communities to overcome socio-economic disadvantage.

The company will continue to spend $100 million a year on Indigenous education, housing, health and businesses.

Among the programs supported by the fund were Darwin's Kormilda College, a school with Aboriginal boarders from remote communities, and the Clontarf Academy in Katherine, which uses football to keep young Aboriginal men at school.

The final round of funding next month will be for one-off grants only.

'Occupy' Protesters Find Allies In Ranks Of The Wealthy

MSNBC [21/01/11]:

The “Occupy Wall Street” protesters — also known as the “99 percent” — have struck a chord with at least a few members of an unexpected audience: America’s rich and privileged.

United under the banner “We are the 1 percent: We stand with the 99 percent,” a band of entrepreneurs, trust fund babies, professionals and inheritors has taken to the web to share their abhorrence of corporate greed and support for tax code changes that would see them pay a higher share of their considerable wealth.

Among other things, they’re posting their stories on a Tumblr page created by Wealth for the Common Good and Resource Generation, two groups dedicated to working for "fair taxation and just wealth distribution."

Some are probably not actually in the top 1 percent wealthwise — calculated at earning a yearly salary of more than $506,000, according toThe Wall Street Journal— but all are certainly well off and supportive of reforms that would narrow the widening gap between America's elite and poorest citizens.

Here, in their own words, is what they told us:

Farhad A. Ebrahimi, 33, who shares his inherited wealth through a charity that he founded, says he attends the Occupy Boston protest every day. He has donated tents, helped with organizing, raised funds and written for the protesters' blog. He said that his inheritance put him squarely in the top 1 percent, plus he makes enough on investment income every year to be in the highest tax bracket. But he lives what he calls a “Spartan” life compared to other members of his family.

At the protest, he often wears a homemade T-shirt that reads: “I’m a member of the 1 percent and I fully support the 99 percent” on the front, and, “Tax me, I’m good for it,” on the back.

Why are you at Occupy Boston?

“I think my taxes are at a historical low … and also, I think that the ability for someone like me who has financial privilege to influence our government is at an all-time high. I’ve never been comfortable with those ideas. They’ve always seemed like to me things that should change and to ... play a role in the movement and to try to advocate around those issues was just a tremendous opportunity.”

What specific changes would you like to see?

“The big picture for me personally is any sort of restructuring, any demands that can be met that make our tax code more progressive. So campaign finance reform in general would be another one, to make the ability for money — whether it’s personal or corporate — to play a role in politics, anything that diminishes that would be on my list of goals to see out of this movement.”

What kind of role can 1 percenters play in a movement of the 99 percent?

“Participating in any way that does not directly involve my privilege. … And I think one of the things I find very compelling about the occupation (movements) is that by practicing direct democracy through the general assemblies every day, we’re essentially trying to practice what we preach and trying to make decisions as a group, where various kinds of privilege don’t have the sort of outside influence that they have in society as a whole.”

“... I think for me it’s very important to be visible and it’s very important that everybody there be comfortable with the idea of somebody like me being there. So far I’ve received nothing but positive feedback for being sort of honest and transparent about that.”

Insider out: One man's journey from the front office to 'occupier'

Burke Stansbury, a 35-year-old communications specialist for nonprofit groups, has been loosely involved with the protests in Washington, D.C. (known as Occupy K St), donating homemade food, tarps and money. He inherited a little more than $1 million and stands to inherit more. He doesn't believe he officially qualifies to be in the top 1 percent, but says he grew up with all the advantages of being wealthy.

Why did you get involved with the 'Occupy' protests?

"I think it’s a beautiful movement of people that really gets at the heart of what's wrong with our country right now in terms of the really obscene level of inequality that exists and the institutions that have sort of influenced that."

What would you like changed?

"A lot of us have honed in on the tax code piece as something that’s tangible, that can be changed and we have a kind of unique role in speaking out on, as people in the 1 percent. So certainly I feel really strongly that people with wealth, high income people, should be taxed at higher levels and not just in terms of income tax but in terms of the ... capital gains tax as well."

You said you worked with your parents to start a foundation and have given money to nonprofits and grassroots groups. Can't the wealthiest Americans make a difference that way?

"It's all well and good that we maybe have family foundations for giving away a lot of money ourselves to good causes, but that’s not enough, like that isn't going to change the big problems, the really extreme inequality that exists. … It has to come from the government, it has to be a sort-of involuntary ... redistribution of wealth because the few altruistic wealthy people giving (away) their money isn't going to do it."

Were other protesters aware of your status?

"I don’t go around telling everyone, 'I'm a millionaire.' But I'm also pretty and fairly open about it if it comes up. A lot of people have signs, you know, targeting the 1 percent, oftentimes really angry messages. ... I don’t think people would like jump up and attack me, but I think I would just want to be able to like really talk through it with them and explain what that means to me and have that conversation."

"... I think it’s a great opportunity to kind of bridge that class divide and it’s going to hopefully lead to great things in terms of building a bigger movement.”

What role do you think the 1 percenters can play here in this movement?

"We can bring this message that like there is still collective humanity in those that have more wealth, too. Many of us actually want to see the same kind of change that the people that are down on ... 'Occupy Wall Street' everyday, want to see."

Old guard back in the trenches at 'Occupy' protests

Elspeth Gilmore, a 33-year-old co-director at Resource Generation, said she made waves when she went down to Occupy Wall Street with her sign. Gilmore, who believes she is close to qualifying as a 1 percenter and was raised in a life of privilege, helped launch the Tumblr page last week.

What is the idea behind the 1 percenter site?

“The Tumblr site was our response as Resource Generation and Wealth for the Common Good, who have been collaborating around what it looks like to organize and mobilize young people in the 1 percent to stand with the 99 percent. ... The Tumblr blog was following the lead of the We Are the 99 Percent blog to actually tell our stories and show that there are both young people in our community — but then also a broader community of people in the 1 percent — who are standing in support and are working for a world of economic equity and a just distribution of wealth.”

Who are the 1 percent?

“What we’re talking about when we say the 1 percent is that we’re … part of the population that has more than we need, that has access to resources,” she said. “It’s more of a framing of what does it look like to be in a place where the majority of people in the country are not … getting enough to live well and are struggling and what does it mean for those of us who are actually supposedly benefiting from society but actually ... believe that we would all be better off in a world with a more equitable distribution of resources and of wealth.”

"One of the solutions that we support is taxing the rich and changing tax policy, and saying there is more than enough money for all of us. We stand with the demands of the 99 percent … this is the betterment for all of us.”

"A number of people came up to me and said, 'Hey, I love your sign, and — that’s me.’"

"... For me being open and public about being wealthy … is a huge part of me being able to be fully in this movement. ... if I can affect other people who have money to be able to be open and honest about that, they’re going to be so much more effective in making change you know for the next many years …”

Leah Hunt-Hendrix, a 28-year-old Ph.D. student of political theory at Princeton, said she has attended the "Occupy Wall Street" general assemblies and helped to form one of their many working groups.

She believes her family would be at the upper end of the 1 percent, though she has chosen to live in a modest apartment in Brooklyn and doesn't see their wealth as a main part of her identity.

How involved are you in Occupy Wall Street?

“I go pretty regularly. I’m still not sure what my best role (is) … I think I will probably want to write about the movement."

Why did you get involved?

“I've been concerned about the role of corporations in American politics for a long time and so I went down originally to see if the people at 'Occupy' were also talking about a constitutional amendment or (revocation of) corporate personhood as … a possible demand. But the more I went down, the more I realized that they’re really on target to not have any specific demand. I think this will lead to … policy changes. But I think that they are right to wait and let the movement grow … before choosing anything too specific.”

Do you consider yourself a 1 percenter?

“I personally don’t have a large income because I have chosen not to pursue anything that makes money. I think the point is … that there are people who are immensely privileged and there are people who are suffering terribly. I think that this movement should involve everyone … like 100 percent.”

What role do you think the 1 percenters can play?

“I think definitely show our solidarity … (and) we can help fund it. I think we can also help represent the fact that it’s not about good people versus bad people … there are people trying to work for change on both sides."

Were you ‘out’ as a wealthy person at 'Occupy Wall Street'?

“I am more of an activist in general and that’s more of my identity so that’s how I went down there.”

“... If I went down and said I have a lot of money, you know, I’d like to help, I don’t think anybody would care and they might be very suspicious. … I think (in) the movement, as far as I can tell, people are very concerned about where funding comes from and don’t want any money that would tie them to any donors.”

Dear United Voice

I caught a short grab of a news item on Gold FM here on the Gold Coast yesterday [22/10/11] about croupiers at Jupiters Casino holding a flash mob on Friday night.

On searching for further details on the internet, the only thing I could find was a 'Gold Coast Bulletin' item - which I refuse to click on because Murdoch publications are fanatically anti-worker.

Is there anywhere I can access footage, or find out what the flash mob was about?

Cheers,

Second Occupy London Camp Forms At Finsbury Square

The Guardian [22/10/11]:

A second Occupy London protest camp has sprung up in a sign that campaigners are spreading from St Paul's Cathedral to locations across the capital.

A group of protesters with placards marched from St Paul's to the new site, where up to 30 tents had been discreetly pitched earlier.

Within minutes, supporters of Occupy London had called a "general assembly" at the site in Finsbury Square, Moorgate, and declared that the square was a second occupation after the cathedral.

Organisers insisted, however, that the second site would not replace St Paul's, but alleviate pressure at an increasingly crowded venue. One protester said that a third and fourth occupation would follow.

News of the second site emerged shortly after the clergyman at the centre of the dispute about anti-capitalist protesters camped outside St Paul's broke a week's silence to defend the decision to close the cathedral.

"I remain firmly supportive of the right of people peacefully to protest," the Rev Canon Dr Giles Fraser said.

"But given the strong advice that we have received that the camp is making the cathedral and its occupants unsafe, then this right has to be balanced against other rights and responsibilities too," he said.

"The Christian gospel is profoundly committed to the needs of the poor and the dispossessed. Financial justice is a gospel imperative.

"Those who are claiming the decision to close the cathedral has been made for commercial reasons are talking complete nonsense."

St Paul's, which closed to the public on Friday because of health and safety fears, did allow a wedding to go ahead, with the bride using the side door instead of the main steps.

The number of protesters camped around the cathedral has steadily grown since the camp was first set up outside the main entrance last weekend.

OccupyLSX estimated that hundreds of other protesters would swell the camp for a series of talks and demonstrations, taking the number of protesters outside the cathedral up to 2,000. Three generators are providing power to the camp, there are two portable toilets, a kitchen and a library.

Former Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks Speaks With WSWS

Richard Phillips, World Socialist Web Site [22/10/11]:

In late 2001, Australian citizen David Hicks, 26, was captured in Afghanistan and subjected to beatings, death threats and other forms of abuse by American authorities. In January 2002, he was transported to Guantanamo where he was illegally held for over five years as an alleged terrorist, most of it in solitary confinement.


Hicks was finally repatriated to Australia in May 2007 after he accepted a back-room plea deal orchestrated by the then Australian government of Prime Minister John Howard and the Bush administration. Hicks was given an offer he could not refuse—plead guilty to “providing material support to terrorism” or spend the rest of his life in the Guantanamo Bay hell hole.

In October 2010 Hicks wrote Guantanamo: My Journey detailing his ordeal (see WSWS review). A month earlier, he lodged a formal complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee over Canberra’s refusal to secure his release from Guantanamo. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Australian government was obliged to make an official response within six months. It has still not done so.

In July this year the federal Labor government initiated legal action aimed at seizing Hicks’s earnings from Guantanamo: My Journey. While Hicks cannot comment on this case, he recently spoke with the World Socialist Web Site about his incarceration in Guantanamo and his ongoing demonisation by the Australian media.

* * *

Richard Phillips: Can you comment on how the mainstream media has responded to your book? None of the reviews seriously explore the crimes committed against you in Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

David Hicks: The media has mostly attacked my character, demonising me and going on and on about whether I am guilty or not. They’re just not interested in the important questions and how Australian citizens can be abandoned.

Julian Assange is a classic example of someone who might end up in the US hands and who will no doubt be treated unfairly. He could become the next political football for the Australian government, and if it’s not him it’ll be someone else, it’s only a matter of time.

It’s important that people are clear on the main issues: that the law was denied to me and it was politicians who kept me incarcerated, and politicians who set up the so-called plea deal, under the guise of a legal arrangement. I felt like a political prisoner in Guantanamo and I still feel like a political football.

RP: Former Attorney General Phillip Ruddock declared that the Australian government had no responsibility to protect you or demand your release. How would you answer this?

DH: My understanding of the law is that if an Australian citizen alleges that he’s being tortured then the government must investigate. They never did in my case. This was despite the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq and all the photographic evidence of torture.

The Howard government simply relied on US defense department investigations, which were whitewashes, and claimed I’d never been tortured. Julia Gillard has recently stated there’s no need for an independent investigation into my treatment because it was investigated by the American defense department in 2004.

Australian consular officials came to see me in Guantanamo, but not until after I’d been there for years. I told them everything—the beatings and the serious, ongoing psychological stuff and other stuff. I also complained about my back because it was deteriorating badly. It wasn’t just from the stress positions or being kicked in the back many times—but connected to the way I was being held in isolation without exercise for years. I hoped they’d do something to stop it from getting worse. They did nothing and it’s now badly damaged.

RP: Former Australian foreign minister Downer claimed there was no evidence you’d been tortured.

DH: One report said that I’d received some rough handling but had misinterpreted it. Ruddock was also questioned about sleep deprivation while I was in Guantanamo and claimed it wasn’t torture. This gives you some idea of how they treated these issues.

But it’s not a question of whether you believe me. The amount of evidence has been overwhelming, from America’s own documentation and what’s been called the “Torture Papers”, as well as statements from FBI and CIA whistleblowers disturbed by what they saw. This means the media and US and Australian politicians have to prove that I wasn’t tortured. They have to explain why the 700 or so other detainees in Guantanamo were tortured but I wasn’t.

RP: You dropped out of school in the late 1990s before getting a job in Japan as a horse trainer. During this time you saw NATO spokesman Jamie O’Shea on television calling for support for the Kosovo Liberation Army. Why did you get involved?

DH: I had no interest in politics but had already set myself the most outlandish, biggest, craziest goal I could. My plan was to get some money together in Japan and then travel the Old Silk Road by horse. I didn’t know whether I’d start at the Himalayan end or in Turkey but I’d mentally prepared myself to take this big step into the unknown.

That was my mindset when I saw Jamie Shea’s television briefings. There was footage of refugees and terrible stories of injustice. Something clicked and I just jumped into the deep end. The KLA were endorsed by NATO and so I bought a one-way ticket to Tirana, the capital of Albania. My plan was to get a hotel and go on the streets everyday and hopefully find the KLA before my money ran out.

I rang a few friends and my family who all thought I was mad but somehow it all fell into place and within days I found myself in a KLA training camp. It was bizarre but I didn’t really think about consequences. I had this arrogant expectation about my destiny—that if I jumped destiny would just catch me.

RP: The KLA were not freedom fighters but were doing NATO’s bidding. They were being cultivated by the US and Europe to advance their geo-strategic interests and that’s why it was easy for you to get into the country and find the KLA. As the saying goes—one day a freedom fighter, the next a terrorist. The labels switched according to the aims of the imperialist powers.

DH: I admit that I made a lot of mistakes and I guess I’m older and wiser now but my biggest mistake was to believe that military intervention was the way to deal with the problems I saw in Kosovo and other places.

In many ways I blame television and the media, and the political messages constantly sent out that military intervention can solve these problems. And these messages are as strong as ever. Every day we see politicians on television telling us that their wars are for freedom, democracy and to defend the people and using this to justify bombing the hell out of various countries. So I don’t think it should be regarded as unusual for a young Adelaide man, or someone from anywhere really, to think that military methods will solve oppression and other problems.

I’ve spoken on Skype to a former Guantanamo detainee from Britain who was recently in Libya and came across someone who’d been in Guantanamo with us and interviewed him. The guy had an AK-47 on his back and was fighting with the so-called rebels. The British guy said, “You’ve been in Gitmo and I’m sure you don’t see America as your friend but now you’re fighting for them.” He replied, “I don’t care, they’re helping us in our struggle and we accept that.” The person I was speaking to on Skype was stunned. “What a bizarre, strange world we live in,” he said.

RP: The assault on Libya, like all the other imperialist interventions, was justified by so-called humanitarian concerns but like the invasion of Iraq was about oil.

DH: Yes. I’ve always thought that it’s hypocritical for the media and others to criticise me when they support the bombing of Libya and Gaddaffi’s government and all the other regimes the US doesn’t agree with. Australia is not in Libya with the military but the government is supporting this attack in every other way. I’m also very disturbed that Obama has given the green light for the CIA to go into non-combat zones and assassinate government officials and others it doesn’t agree with.

RP: It’s now been revealed that there was a unit inside Guantanamo for children. Were you aware of it?

DH: Yes, I heard about it from the guards. It was called Camp Iguana and held children from 8- to 14-years-old. One of the human rights agencies has since reported that an interrogation method used by the CIA on the children was to put them in a coffin-sized box with non-lethal insects. They would discover what sort of insects the children were most afraid of and then custom design a torture.When someone from the CIA was asked whether this was true, he not only confirmed it but claimed no harm was done because professional mental health experts were there 24 hours a day and could attend to the children’s needs. This is disgusting and really hard to comprehend.

RP: One of the most chilling parts of your book is your description of the camp containing people who had been completely broken.

DH: It was a block within Camp Delta. Everyone has a different level of strength or resistance but there were people who didn’t handle the situation very well and offered to do anything to help the interrogators. They would go to great extremes to show that they weren’t Muslims—they’d ask for pornographic magazines or ask to eat pork and things like that.

The guards and interrogators would pretend that they liked them while at the same time subjecting them to bizarre, psychological manipulation and even placed them alongside the more religious prisoners. In the end these people were pushed too far, to the point where they developed really serious mental health issues. After the interrogators had no more use for them they were put in the so-called Crazy Block. Some of these people were so destroyed that they’d eat their own faeces, openly masturbate and do other totally disoriented things. The guards encouraged this while giving them Prozac and other stuff.

We could hear all these weird goings-on and it was bloody scary. You’re sitting in Guantanamo, and living this horror story, and in the shipping container next door you’d hear bizarre noises—donkey, monkey and other animal noises and strange metal rhythms—that sounded like a big, crazy party. It was really frightening because these were people who were like us when they first arrived in Guantanamo. This is what the interrogators did to them and you knew it could be you.

RP: You write that you contemplated suicide but were also able to strike up a relationship with a couple of guards. Did this give you any hope?

DH: It gave me a little bit of strength but no real hope for release or for justice. I spent about 18 months in Camp Echo without seeing the sun and most of the human contact I had was hostile and really horrible so it made a difference when every now and again one of the guards would have a normal chat about every day things.

I didn’t want to just write about the bad things in the book—there was plenty of that—but to recognise those people who risked punishment, and even jail, for just for trying to be human. Those involved in serious interrogations and torture techniques, of course, were different and were hand-picked.

A lot of the guards were just young kids and had joined up for college benefits, not a long-term military career. Before their six-month deployment to Guantanamo they were given two weeks training and told all sorts of crazy stories about the prisoners. They were really scared but by the time their stint was up they were telling us things they weren’t meant to.

One guard cried in front of me in Camp Echo. He was crying quite heavily and moaning, “What have I become.” I asked him what had happened but he got angry and said leave it alone, so I did. One or two guards even opened the door to my cage at different times and let me sit at a table and have lunch with them, which was not allowed. Several apologised for what their government was doing to me.

There are lots of reports about American soldiers who were ordered to carry out brutal interrogations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo who’ve become police and jail guards in the US and are now using these methods. This is insidious and becoming institutionalised. This is another reason why American people should be concerned. What the US does abroad to others will eventually be used against its own civilians.

RP: What went through your mind when you were forced to accept the plea deal?

DH: I hated it, but what was even worse was standing in front of the judge, if you want to call him a judge, and listening to him read out the so-called statement of facts and having to say “Yes sir, yes sir.”

Knowing the media would be there, I wanted to stand up and say what really went on in Guantanamo. I had a long list of things, but in the end it didn’t happen. I hesitated a few times and kept thinking I should be screaming out everything they did to me and were still doing to others, but “Yes sir” kept coming out of my mouth. I was so ashamed for letting myself down and everyone else trapped there but they’d killed something inside me in Guantanamo through fear and submission.

RP: At the same time there were ongoing protests here demanding your release, along with mass opposition to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, hostility to the Howard government’s treatment of asylum seekers and other attacks on democratic rights. Did you have any idea about this?

DH: Not on that level because we were held incommunicado. Major [Michael] Mori [Hicks’s lawyer] could only hint at the support—he had to get permission for what he could show or tell me—so I had no real idea about the protests. The military higher-ups wanted us to feel defeated, beaten and to give up.

RP: You didn’t really find out about the extent of the protests until much later. What was your response?

DH: I cried when writing that part of my book. It must have been about 1 or 2 a.m. and I’d been writing since about eight in the morning. It was a long, long stretch and I looked at that picture of my dad protesting in that [mock Guantanamo] cage in New York and I remembered my father before I went overseas. It made me realise what a man he is and how much this experience had changed his life as well as mine.

RP: Why do you think the media and the government keeps demonising you?

DH: I suppose they’re all protecting each other, making sure that they’re not going to be prosecuted for violating my legal rights. I never broke any Australian laws and no one was hurt at my hands. There certainly were crimes in my story but they were crimes committed against me. The media doesn’t want to talk about that or any of the important issues.In Europe there’s been lots of serious coverage on Guantanamo. American journalist Jason Leopold recently got hold of documents revealing that mefloquine, a sort of super malaria drug, was used in Guantanamo. It has horrible LSD-style impacts and other bad side-effects. This was medical experimentation and pretty serious stuff and although it received widespread coverage in Europe, the Australia media didn’t touch it.

RP: Towards the end of Guantanamo: My Journey you write that you believed justice would win out under the Rudd government. What would you say now?

DH: I really thought Labor would want to separate itself from the Howard government’s policies; they’re supposed to be different parties. Kevin Rudd and Robert McClelland were quoted in 2006, when they were in opposition, about how bad my treatment was.

McClelland, who is now the attorney-general, said there should be an investigation into the allegations of torture. But nothing has changed from where I stand. The Liberals and John Howard may as well be in government because Labor is defending word for word what happened.Bush has gone and we’ve now got Obama, who signed an order against rendition, and said he would close Guantanamo and that there’d be no more CIA black sites. I was hopeful that the situation would change but in many respects it’s worse. Guantanamo remains open, with at least 170 people there, and detainees are still being held in black sites.

Most people—the masses that opposed what was done to me—seem to be under the illusion that it’s all over because I was released and brought back to Australia. But what’s needed is an open and independent investigation into how my situation was handled and what was done. I also want to clear my name.I know there’s some whose minds will never be changed about me but it would be nice if they had opinions based on both sides of the story because this is not about me but is to defend the basic principles that were violated in my treatment.

Murdoch Faces Fiery Shareholder Meeting

ABC AM [22/10/11]:

ELIZABETH JACKSON: News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch has faced a feisty shareholders' meeting in Los Angeles, the first since the phone hacking scandal erupted in the UK.

The showdown came amid calls for Murdoch and his sons to be stripped of their roles on the board as part of a major shake-up of corporate governance at the company.

Here's our North America correspondent Jane Cowan.

(sound of protestors)

JANE COWAN: News Corporation could shift its shareholder meeting from New York, where it's usually held, to the west coast, but it couldn't avoid the protestors.

PROTESTER: The Murdochs have turned News Corporation into a global criminal enterprise and so we're here to day on the day of their shareholder meeting to stand with shareholders and people around the world that are saying the Murdochs should be fired.

JANE COWAN: Amid unprecedented security inside the gated confines of Fox studios in Los Angeles, the News Corporation boss began the meeting saying all the right things.

RUPERT MURDOCH: We cannot just be a profitable company. We must be a principled company. That is why we must admit to and confront our mistakes. We could not be taking this more seriously or listening as intently to criticisms.

JANE COWAN: And there were plenty of those.With News Corporation in the crosshairs of regulators, politicians and law enforcement officials on both sides of the Atlantic, a procession of disgruntled shareholders confronted the 80-year-old media baron, determined to make this an "accountability moment".

SHAREHOLDER: You are at least the chief cheerleader in terms of the culture and in some ways the person who ...

RUPERT MURDOCH: You are suggesting that I'm a very bad person.

SHAREHOLDER: No, I'm not.

JANE COWAN: There were repeated testy exchanges with Stephen Mayne who was there representing the Australian Shareholders Association.

STEPHEN MAYNE: All directors who believe that the executives responsible for the$3-4 billion lost or written down in MySpace or Dow Jones, that those executives responsible have been held to account. Raise your hand directors if you believe that.

MEDITATOR: Stephen, Stephen, Rupert's running the meeting, not you.

JANE COWAN: But Stephen Mayne didn't give up.

STEPHEN MAYNE: I would like to correct you on what you said about the vote in 2007 ...

RUPERT MURDOCH: I'm sorry, it's not your turn.

STEPHEN MAYNE: Oh sorry. Your security guard is patting me on the back saying, this is your last question in the meeting. There are 20 items at business today. This idea, fly in from Australia and spend thousands of dollars to come here and you get told to sit down after the most tumultuous year in this company's history, I just think it is anti-democratic and embarrassing for a media company which trumpets free speech and accountability. So please.

RUPERT MURDOCH: I think we can stand that embarrassment. Just to show our fairness we even had Mr Watson on television, on Fox Television this morning.

STEPHEN MAYNE: I know, but look we should have a two or three hour debate today and I hope you won't, I hope you won't block that...

RUPERT MURDOCH: It's called fair and balanced.(sound of laughter)

JANE COWAN: The British MP Tom Watson used the meeting to drop a new bombshell.

TOM WATSON: You haven't told any of your investors about what is to come, Mr Murdoch, and I just need to know whether you are aware of the allegations that Mr Jonathan Rees was hired when he came out of prison by News Corporation to target individuals, and he contracted others, one of whom hacked a computer of a former army intelligence officer. And I'm just asking you whether you're aware of that?

RUPERT MURDOCH: No, I've heard of his name.

JANE COWAN: But no matter how upset shareholders are, there's little prospect of any major change at the top.

The Murdoch family controls 40 per cent of the voting stock, relegating much of this to one loud protest against the Murdoch dynasty.

This in Jane Cowan reporting for Saturday AM.

Why People Are Joining The #Occupy Movement

Sunshine Coast Daily [22/10/11]:

Development giant Stockland beat the State Government to the official announcement of its Caloundra South project, boasting it would create 24,000 jobs.

The company made an announcement to the stock exchange yesterday, well before the State Government's official statement came out.

But Local Government Minister Paul Lucas did verbally reveal during a visit to the Coast that he had approved the project for 50,000 people over the next 20 years.

Local environmentalist Ian Christiansen yesterday contacted the Daily after first reading of Mr Lucas's announcement on the Daily's website.

He said the fact that Stockland had released a statement to the exchange before the public had been officially informed was typical of the way the whole project had been handled.

Stockland said plans included a large town centre for shopping, retirement living villages, diverse housing, transport, as well as education and business opportunities. Stockland proposes to include 170,000sq m of retail and commercial space, and 650,000sq m of business and industry space.

Stockland managing director Matthew Quinn said it was "the most significant residential project Stockland has ever undertaken".

The project is still subject to federal environmental assessment.

Mr Lucas said the 20,000 dwelling project would stimulate the region's construction industry and provide affordable housing.

"Caloundra is a wonderful part of the world and we don't just want living there restricted to middle-aged people on higher incomes," Mr Lucas said in a statement.

"We want young people, young families and young workers, all of whom find it challenging to enter the housing market."

The CEO of the Urban Land Development Authority, Paul Eagles, said between 35 to 40% of the development would be reserved as green space.

Gaddafi Death: Russian Envoy Slams 'Sadistic' Triumphalism

By RT

October 21, 2011 - - Russia’s NATO envoy has written in his microblog that the Western elation over the death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi could have sadistic grounds.

­“The faces of the leaders of ‘world democracies’ are so happy, as if they remembered how they hanged stray cats in basements in their childhoods,” Russian envoy to NATO and the leader of the Congress of Russian Communities, Dmitry Rogozin, wrote in his twitter status on Friday.

This statement apparently is a reply to the international reaction to the death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed as the forces of the National Transitional Council stormed the town of Sirte on Thursday.

Rogozin currently holds the position of Russia’s envoy to NATO and he was among the first Russian politicians to embrace the opportunities of social networks. He often shares his views on international politics via his Twitter account, and these posts have repeatedly made news in Russian and international media.

Rogozin is also the leader of the Congress of Russian Communities – the organization of ethnic Russians living abroad aimed at protecting their interests and strengthening the ties with the Motherland.

On Thursday evening Rogozin told Russian radio Echo of Moscow that NATO was directly involved in the operation to kill the former Libyan leader. “Apparently there were orders that oriented the military servicemen who are in Libya and that directed them to ensure the physical elimination of Gaddafi,” Rogozin said.

The official added that Russia must make a conclusion from the existing situation. “We must bear in mind who we are dealing with in the face of Western democracies,” Rogozin said.

Vets Warn Of Paralysis Tick Epidemic

NBN News [21/10/11]:

Now to a story no cat or dog owner can afford to ignore.

Veterinarians are urging Hunter pet owners to be vigilant about paralysis ticks, following an explosion in parasite numbers due to perfect breeding conditions. ...

United Voice Presents The Case Against Serco

Serco supporters Sam the Superbug and Mr Roboto were also present at Parliament House. They know that privatisation means more superbugs, and more jobs for robots at the expense of real workers.

United Voice News [17/10/11]:

United Voice WA today handed in its submission to the WA Parliament's Public Accounts Committee. The Committee is currently holding an inquiry into the decision to award Serco the contract for the provision of most services at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

The submission focuses on the secrecy surrounding the contract, and the total lack of explanation for privatisation of health services. It also demonstrates how the contract was “tailor-made” for Serco, undermining the Government’s claim to accountability and openness.

The submission also demonstrates the failures of privatisation in WA hospitals, and the fact that the Barnett Government is essentially relying on the goodwill of Serco for much of the compliance arrangements used to manage the contract.

Combine this with Serco's poor track record both in hospitals in the UK (having never managed services in an Australian hospital), and their pitiful record in Australian detention centres, United Voice members feel the Barnett Government has a lot of explaining to do, both to the Committee, and to the broader community.

United Voice WA Secretary Dave Kelly said the Committee had shown courage in taking on the Inquiry, and that the State Government had serious questions to answer.

“The public don't want services at Fiona Stanley privatised. Serco were even allowed to advise on fitting out the hospital before they had signed the contract, meaning that the State Government set it up specifically for this company before they had even secured a signature.

“On the day the contract signing was announced Minister Hames was asked if he had taken the recent riots at Christmas Island into account, and whether or not Serco were a suitable company to run services at WA's flagship hospital.

“His reply was that they had looked at it and and didn't feel Serco had done anything wrong.

“Thanks to the bravery of a staff member coming forward to the media, Worksafe and Comcare, we now know that is not the case. Serco are currently being investigated.

“This is a company that put children in security guard uniforms and asked them to stand on the front line, to have stones thrown at them. Minors with no training in security. A company that then covered this up for months.

“It's seems pretty reasonable to our members that the community should have answers on how Serco was selected to run this hospital for the next twenty years. I trust the Committee will investigate the matter exhaustively.”

In Egypt, Corruption Cases Had An American Root

Washington Post [7/10/11]:

CAIRO — Beginning two decades ago, the United States government bankrolled an Egyptian think tank dedicated to economic reform. A different outcome is only now becoming visible in the fallout from Egypt’s Arab Spring.

Formed with a $10 million endowment from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies gathered captains of industry in a small circle — with the president’s son Gamal Mubarak at the center. Over time, members of the group would assume top roles in Egypt’s ruling party and government.

Today, Gamal Mubarak and four of those think tank members are in jail, charged with squandering public funds in the sale of public resources, lands and government-run companies as part of a dramatic restructuring. Some have fled the country, pilloried amid the public outrage over insider deals and corruption that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

“It became a crony capitalism,” Magda Kandil, the think tank’s new executive director, said of the privatization program advocated by its founders. Because of the corruption, the center now estimates, the assets that Egypt has sold off since 1991 have netted only about $10 billion, $90 billion less than their estimated worth.

The privatization saga is a cautionary tale about the power and perils of U.S. foreign aid — most notably the nearly $8 billion that the United States has provided to Egypt since the 1990s to push the country toward economic reforms.

Gamal Mubarak, 47, and the others deny any wrongdoing and are fighting corruption charges filed by the new Egyptian government, saying they have been trumped up to placate street protesters calling for retribution. The defendants also assert that the deals were legal under existing laws.

But the arc of the American-backed privatization effort in Egypt recalls years of questions from critics about the transparency and effectiveness of the more than $70 billion in military and economic assistance to that country over the past six decades, the most aid given to any country other than Israel.

Although U.S. officials have not publicly raised questions about the funding to ECES, as the economic think tank is known, they expressed concerns in confidential cables that privatization efforts could lead to high-level corruption, according to a review of hundreds of WikiLeaks documents by The Washington Post.

“The privatization and economic opening of recent years have created new opportunities for ‘vertical corruption’ at upper levels of government affecting state resources,” said one confidential State Department cable written by an unidentified diplomat in 2006, quoting Hitler Tantawi, a former chief of an internal government financial watchdog called the Administrative Control Authority.

Officials at USAID declined to discuss their support of the Egyptian think tank, privatization efforts in the country or the sentiments shared in the confidential cables.

In a statement, the agency said it took measures to ensure that the grants to ECES were properly used. “ECES is a reputable think tank and research center that has produced many valuable economic research papers over the last 20 years,” the agency said.

MP Tom Watson Flies To News Corp AGM To Make 'Fresh Revelations'

Telegraph [21/10/11]:

The test of nerves facing Rupert Murdoch at News Corporation's annual general meeting on Friday looks set to be even tougher than expected, after MP Tom Watson warned he will use the event to make significant new disclosures.

Mr Watson, who has played a pivotal role in the Select Committee inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World, said the fresh revelations he will make at the meeting would leave shareholders "in no doubt... of the huge reputational harm to the company that will be felt for years to come" and that News Corp "is not through the worst of it yet".

Speaking on a joint call with Jay Eisenhofer, a US lawyer who is leading an investor lawsuit against News Corp's directors for breaches of corporate governance, Mr Watson indicated the new allegations would relate to a surveillance method other than phone hacking or the use of private investigators.

However, he would not be drawn further or says whether the allegations relate specifically to the US ahead of the shareholder meeting in Los Angeles.

Mr Watson said he has flown to Los Angeles because he felt a "duty" to attend the event to alert News Corp's investors in person to the extent and seriousness of wrongdoing at the company, and called for Murdoch to be ousted as chief executive and chairman.

He joins a chorus of News Corp investors calling for Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, to step down from the board, but with the Murdochs holding 40pc of the business this is unlikely.


Listen
If you listen
You will hear an endless heartbeat
On the inside
Through the walls
The sound is crawling
Down the corridors and halls
It cracks the ceiling
The windows and the doors
All the rest won't listen
Though the walls have ears
But they never really look
They just stand and stare
They're all standing
Staring at the walls ...

'Walls', Icehouse [1981]

 

Occupy Wall Street And Verizon Workers To March Together

Daily KOS [21/10/11]:

Even before unions started endorsing and actively supporting Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street protesters were showing up at union rallies held in Manhattan, including ones supporting formerly striking Verizon workers in their continuing efforts to pressure Verizon to drop some of its many concession demands.

Today, Verizon workers are planning a major rally with Occupy Wall Street, with 1,000 workers going from Verizon headquarters past Zuccotti Park to end their rally near a Verizon Wireless store. Many of the Verizon workers are then planning to spend the night at Zuccotti Park with Occupy Wall Street, offering the chance to deepen relationships with OWS and to take the commitment they put into their own rally and extend it.

As Occupy Wall Street debates whether to offer concrete goals or demands and if so, what those should be, partnering with union campaigns is a way to embrace intermediate goals, things in line with the protesters' values and vision but which no one would mistake for an end game. And unions obviously gain allies and energy.

Today's rally begins at 4:00 at Verizon headquarters (140 West Street) and passes Zuccotti Park at 5:30.

 

If you tuned in correctly this morning

Kissed his cheek, get your tea and your toast in

Got the greatest of the latest Top Thirty

To clear your mind of all things unfaithful or dirty

 

What do you like to hear with your soldiers?

The sponsor needs to know what you told us

Got a chorus written for us straight from the file

Just check your brain into the AM dial ...

'Good Mornin'', You Am I [1996]

 

Fucked If I Know Why People Are Getting Involved In The #Occupy Movement ...

Backburner, Tweed Shire Echo [20/10/11]:

Cabarita Beach residents who took pride in a newly erected commemorative sign in the shrubbery bed of their town square (public park) behind the local surf club were shocked this week to learn it had been ripped out and taken by council workers the day a photo of it appeared on this page in our last issue. ‘Sadly we witness the disappearance of free speech as the Victory Park sign disappeared on Thursday 13th’ one wrote in. The sign was unveiled a few days before at a big protest rally in the park against plans for a controversial caravan park in the village. It celebrated another big fight and victory by residents a few years back when council tried to sell the park land off to the developers next door. Soon afterwards the council was sacked, the developers went broke and locals kept their park, so they were chuffed to be able to mark that little piece of history.

Documentary Award For John Pilger

Nine MSN [21/10/11]:

Pioneering Australian-born filmmaker John Pilger is to be honoured for his achievements with one of the highest accolades in the British documentary world.

Pilger is well known for his hard-hitting and controversial documentaries of the 1970s but continues to make films. [The War You Don't See, for example - Ed.]

The journalist - who made his name when he moved to the UK in the 1960s - is to be rewarded for his outstanding contribution at the annual awards of the Grierson Trust next month.

Among his best-known films are the Vietnam documentary The Quiet Mutiny, exposing the rebellion within the US army at the time of the Vietnam war, and Cambodia Year Zero, credited with exposing the horrors of the Pol Pot regime.

Pilger, who has made 58 films, has previously been awarded a TV BAFTA for his work and has twice been named journalist of the year.

Dawn Airey, who chairs the Grierson Trust, said: "He is one of the world's great documentary producers. His work has uncovered atrocity, probed the underbelly of society, sparked controversy and challenged the heart of democracy."

Pilger, 72, will be handed the Honda Grierson Trustees' Award at a ceremony on November 1. The awards were established in 1972 to celebrate documentary makers.

The Son of Africa Claims a Continent’s Crown Jewels

John Pilger, Information Clearing House [19/10/11]:

On 14 October, President Barack Obama announced he was sending United States special forces troops to Uganda to join the civil war there. In the next few months, US combat troops will be sent to South Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic. They will only “engage” for “self-defence”, says Obama, satirically. With Libya secured, an American invasion of the African continent is under way.

Obama’s decision is described in the press as “highly unusual” and “surprising”, even “weird”. It is none of these things. It is the logic of American foreign policy since 1945. Take Vietnam. The priority was to halt the influence of China, an imperial rival, and “protect” Indonesia, which President Nixon called “the region’s richest hoard of natural resources …the greatest prize”. Vietnam merely got in the way; and the slaughter of more than three million Vietnamese and the devastation and poisoning of their land was the price of America achieving its goal. Like all America’s subsequent invasions, a trail of blood from Latin America to Afghanistan and Iraq, the rationale was usually “self defence” or “humanitarian”, words long emptied of their dictionary meaning.

In Africa, says Obama, the “humanitarian mission” is to assist the government of Uganda defeat the Lord’s resistance Army (LRA), which “has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Africa”. This is an accurate description of the LRA, evoking multiple atrocities administered by the United States, such as the bloodbath in the 1960s following the CIA-arranged murder of Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese independence leader and first legally elected prime minister, and the CIA coup that installed Mobutu Sese Seko, regarded as Africa’s most venal tyrant.

Obama’s other justification also invites satire. This is the “national security of the United States”. The LRA has been doing its nasty work for 24 years, of minimal interest to the United States. Today, it has few than 400 fighters and has never been weaker. However, US “national security” usually means buying a corrupt and thuggish regime that has something Washington wants. Uganda’s “president-for-life” Yoweri Museveni already receives the larger part of $45 million in US military “aid” – including Obama’s favourite drones. This is his bribe to fight a proxy war against America’s latest phantom Islamic enemy, the rag-tag al Shabaab group based in Somalia. The RTA will play a public relations role, distracting western journalists with its perennial horror stories.

However, the main reason the US is invading Africa is no different from that which ignited the Vietnam war. It is China. In the world of self-serving, institutionalised paranoia that justifies what General David Petraeus, the former US commander and now CIA director, implies is a state of perpetual war, China is replacing al-Qaeda as the official American “threat”. When I interviewed Bryan Whitman, an assistant secretary of defence at the Pentagon last year, I asked him to describe the current danger to America. Struggling visibly, he repeated, “Asymmetric threats … asymmetric threats”. These justify the money-laundering state-sponsored arms conglomerates and the biggest military and war budget in history. With Osama bin Laden airbrushed, China takes the mantle.

Africa is China’s success story. Where the Americans bring drones and destabilisation, the Chinese bring roads, bridges and dams. What they want is resources, especially fossil fuels. With Africa’s greatest oil reserves, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi was one of China’s most important sources of fuel. When the civil war broke out and Nato backed the “rebels” with a fabricated story about Gaddafi planning “genocide” in Benghazi, China evacuated its 30,000 workers in Libya. The subsequent UN security council resolution that allowed the west’s “humanitarian intervention” was explained succinctly in a proposal to the French government by the “rebel” National Transitional Council, disclosed last month in the newspaper Liberation, in which France was offered 35 per cent of Libya’s gross national oil production “in exchange” (the term used) for “total and permanent” French support for the NTC. Running up the Stars and Stripes in “liberated” Tripoli last month, US ambassador Gene Cretz blurted out: “We know that oil is the jewel in the crown of Libyan natural resources!”

The de facto conquest of Libya by the US and its imperial partners heralds a modern version of the “scramble for Africa” at the end of the 19th century.

Like the “victory” in Iraq, journalists have played a critical role in dividing Libyans into worthy and unworthy victims. A recent Guardian front page carried a photograph of a terrified “pro-Gaddafi” fighter and his wild-eyed captors who, says the caption, “celebrate”. According to General Petraeus, there is now a war “of perception … conducted continuously through the news media”.

For more than a decade the US has tried to establish a command on the continent of Africa, AFRICOM, but has been rebuffed by governments, fearful of the regional tensions this would cause. Libya, and now Uganda, South Sudan and Congo, provide the main chance. As WikiLeaks cables and the US National Strategy for Counter-terrorism reveal, American plans for Africa are part of a global design in which 60,000 special forces, including death squads, already operate in 75 countries, soon to be 120. As Dick Cheney pointed out in his 1990s “defence strategy” plan, America simply wishes to rule the world.

That this is now the gift of Barack Obama, the “Son of Africa”, is supremely ironic. Or is it? As Frantz Fanon explained in Black Skin, White Masks, what matters is not so much the colour of your skin as the power you serve and the millions you betray.

www.johnpilger.com

Dear Anna Bligh,

Gold Coast citizens have had enough of this annual orgy of taxpayer funded noise, sexism and fossil fuelled insanity.

It generates no benefit for the local community and being fenced in like criminals is a major disruption to our lives.

Now there has been a fatality at the road diversions.

myGC.com.au [21/10/11]:

Emergency crews have been unable to save a man, after his ute collided with a truck on the Gold Coast Highway in Surfers Paradise this morning.

The 28-year-old needed to be cut free from his vehicle, following the crash, near Admiralty Drive around 5:30am.

There are unconfirmed reports, the driver was trying to overtake another car, while heading north on the stretch of road that will host the Gold Coast 600 this weekend.

It's believed he went into Cardiac Arrest as the rescue operation took place and once freed was rushed to Gold Coast Hospital, where he later died.

The driver of the truck was also transported for treatment, after suffering minor injuries and shock.

The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating the incident, which led to traffic chaos during peak hour across the city.

The Highway was closed for around three hours, with police diverting traffic from nearby access roads.

Defacto Government Acting In The National Interest Again!

ABC [21/10/11]:

A north Queensland pineapple grower says the Federal Government's proposal to import de-crowned pineapples from Malaysia could force many Australian growers out of business.

Biosecurity Australia has issued advice that de-crowned fruit be allowed into the country subject to being fumigated with methyl bromide to kill exotic pests.

Stephen Scurr from Pinata Pineapples says there is no need to import potentially dangerous fruit.

"There's no need to import any fruit and veg from any other country into Australia," he said.

"There's more than enough pineapple grown in Australia to support Australians' consumption.

"We are struggling to sell pineapple all year at a competitive price."

Mr Scurr says methyl bromide is banned in Australia .

"Importing something with a chemical on it that's not allowed to be used in Australia is not the best for the Australian consumers," he said.

"If some of that disease that Malaysia has gets into Australia it's got big potential to destroy Australian crops."

"Culture Of Self Reliance?" What A Fucking Insult!

Actually, Queenslanders were kind of hoping that the current Flood Inquiry will address the issues surrounding neoliberal policy and the Government's abandonment of the people during the summer of natural disasters.

There is only so much personal responsibility an individual citizen can achieve!

"Harden Up"? How about you go fuck yourself with your bogus shock doctrine, weasel word, bullcrap?

Would Mikhail Gorbachev really think this was the right approach? I don't think so. I think he'd be wanting to know that each community had appropriate shelters, and that all citizens were well informed about emergency evacuation procedures - that is - after all, why we pay taxes? Isn't it?

Harden Up Queensland [20/10/11]

Harden Up is a Green Cross Australia led partnership that aims to empower Queenslanders to become self-reliant during natural disasters. It is funded by the Natural Disaster Resilience Program, which is funded through shared contributions from the Australian Government and the Queensland Government.

Harden Up is funded by a grant from the Natural Disaster Resilience Program through the Queensland Department of Community Safety. Green Cross partners include: the Insurance Council of Australia, CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence, Network 10, Federal Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficency, Property Council of Australia, Local Government Association of Queensland, Suncorp, Emergency Management Queensland, James Cook University and Volunteering Queensland.

Together we are building a world-first disaster resilience portal through which Australia's severe weather history and latest climate data and projections will be visualised by Queenslanders to encourage them to take practical steps to become more self-reliant through major weather events, embracing sustainability and community engagement along the way.

Climate change and population growth combine to present new challenges for Australia's severe weather resilience, testing the effectiveness of traditional emergency response systems. New paradigms that leverage private sector and community engagement are needed in order to encourage self-reliance to growing hazard exposure.

Social media offers the potential for community interaction with accessible scientific trends and practical resilience advice. Green Cross Australia is Australia's leading social media NGO and brings its community/research/business partnership model to address the challenge of improving Queensland's disaster resilience.

HardenUp.org will build community resilience to severe weather by raising awareness of hazard exposure through a scalable social media platform that encourages Queenslanders to:

1. identify their personal risk exposure to cyclone, severe storm and storm surge;

2. take practical actions to reduce hazard exposure;3. build community resilience by getting involved in local volunteering programs; and4. adopt sustainable practices, especially by making green choices when recovering from severe weather events.HardenUp.org's self-reliance message will integrate community natural hazard resilience and climate mitigation objectives, with a focus on how to prepare for, survive through and recover sustainably from major weather events. We will draw on deep resilience and climate prediction expertise and materials of our corporate and research partners.

By enabling world-class visualisation solutions and simple user-driven navigation pathways our platform will create a lasting scalable platform for online community, government, business and research preparedness engagement.

In Case You Were Under The Impression Australia Was Still Part Of The British Empire

ABC [20/10/11]:

The Federal Government has confirmed it is in talks with the US about stepping up an American military presence in the Northern Territory. Defence Minister Stephen Smith is in Darwin today to talk with the Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson about increasing the number of joint training exercises involving Australian and US defence personnel.

Mr Smith says the United States is also looking at positioning equipment in the Territory so troops can play a greater role in disaster relief in the Asia Pacific."The closer you can pre-position stores and equipment for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, the more quickly you can get in to the field," he said.

Mr Smith says there have also been discussions about buying land near Robertson Barracks in Darwin for this purpose. He says there are plans for more American boats, planes and troops to take part in joint operations in the Territory.

But there will not be US bases or a permanent stationing of American military here.

"We have been working closely to look at the possibility of more training, more exercises," he said.

Mr Smith says the Australian military is also likely to increase its presence in the north for energy security reasons.

He says the Territory is particularly important in protecting the growing energy resources industry in Commonwealth waters off northern Australia.

"We have to look down the track in the longer term to issues of energy security, not just potential security for individual facilities but an important energy security belt both for domestic and export purposes," he said.

Naomi Wolf: How I Was Arrested At Occupy Wall Street

The Guardian [19/10/11]:

Last night I was arrested in my home town, outside an event to which I had been invited, for standing lawfully on the sidewalk in an evening gown.

Let me explain; my partner and I were attending an event for the Huffington Post, for which I often write: Game Changers 2011, in a venue space on Hudson Street. As we entered the space, we saw that about 200 Occupy Wall Street protesters were peacefully assembled and were chanting. They wanted to address Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was going to be arriving at the event. They were using a technique that has become known as "the human mic" – by which the crowd laboriously repeats every word the speaker says – since they had been told that using real megaphones was illegal.

In my book Give Me Liberty, a blueprint for how to open up a closing civil society, I have a chapter on permits – which is a crucial subject to understand for anyone involved in protest in the US. In 70s America, protest used to be very effective, but in subsequent decades municipalities have sneakily created a web of "overpermiticisation" – requirements that were designed to stifle freedom of assembly and the right to petition government for redress of grievances, both of which are part of our first amendment. One of these made-up permit requirements, which are not transparent or accountable, is the megaphone restriction.

So I informed the group on Hudson Street that they had a first amendment right to use a megaphone and that the National Lawyers' Guild should appeal the issue if they got arrested. And I repeated the words of the first amendment, which the crowd repeated.

Then my partner suggested that I ask the group for their list of demands. Since we would be inside, we thought it would be helpful to take their list into the event and if I had a chance to talk with the governor I could pass the list on. That is how a democracy works, right? The people have the right to address their representatives.

We went inside, chatted with our friends, but needed to leave before the governor had arrived. I decided I would present their list to his office in the morning and write about the response. On our exit, I saw that the protesters had been cordoned off by a now-massive phalanx of NYPD cops and pinned against the far side of the street – far away from the event they sought to address.

I went up and asked them why. They replied that they had been informed that the Huffington Post event had a permit that forbade them to use the sidewalk. I knew from my investigative reporting on NYC permits that this was impossible: a private entity cannot lease the public sidewalks; even film crews must allow pedestrian traffic. I asked the police for clarification – no response.

I went over to the sidewalk at issue and identified myself as a NYC citizen and a reporter, and asked to see the permit in question or to locate the source on the police or event side that claimed it forbade citizen access to a public sidewalk. Finally a tall man, who seemed to be with the event, confessed that while it did have a permit, the permit did allow for protest so long as we did not block pedestrian passage.

I thanked him, returned to the protesters, and said: "The permit allows us to walk on the other side of the street if we don't block access. I am now going to walk on the public sidewalk and not block it. It is legal to do so. Please join me if you wish." My partner and I then returned to the event-side sidewalk and began to walk peacefully arm in arm, while about 30 or 40 people walked with us in single file, not blocking access.

Then a phalanx of perhaps 40 white-shirted senior officers descended out of seemingly nowhere and, with a megaphone (which was supposedly illegal for citizens to use), one said: "You are unlawfully creating a disruption. You are ordered to disperse." I approached him peacefully, slowly, gently and respectfully and said: "I am confused. I was told that the permit in question allows us to walk if we don't block pedestrian access and as you see we are complying with the permit."

He gave me a look of pure hate. "Are you going to back down?" he shouted. I stood, immobilised, for a moment. "Are you getting out of my way?" I did not even make a conscious decision not to "fall back" – I simply couldn't even will myself to do so, because I knew that he was not giving a lawful order and that if I stepped aside it would be not because of the law, which I was following, but as a capitulation to sheer force. In that moment's hesitation, he said, "OK," gestured, and my partner and I were surrounded by about 20 officers who pulled our hands behind our backs and cuffed us with plastic handcuffs.

We were taken in a van to the seventh precinct – the scary part about that is that the protesters and lawyers marched to the first precinct, which handles Hudson Street, but in the van the police got the message to avoid them by rerouting me. I understood later that the protesters were lied to about our whereabouts, which seemed to me to be a trickle-down of the Bush-era detention practice of unaccountable detentions.

The officers who had us in custody were very courteous, and several expressed sympathy for the movements' aims. Nonetheless, my partner and I had our possessions taken from us, our ID copied, and we were placed in separate cells for about half an hour. It was clear that by then the police knew there was scrutiny of this arrest so they handled us with great courtesy, but my phone was taken and for half an hour I was in a faeces- or blood-smeared cell, thinking at that moment the only thing that separates civil societies from barbaric states is the rule of law – that finds the prisoner, and holds the arresting officers and courts accountable.

Another scary outcome I discovered is that, when the protesters marched to the first precinct, the whole of Erickson Street was cordoned off – "frozen" they were told, "by Homeland Security". Obviously if DHS now has powers to simply take over a New York City street because of an arrest for peaceable conduct by a middle-aged writer in an evening gown, we have entered a stage of the closing of America, which is a serious departure from our days as a free republic in which municipalities are governed by police forces.

The police are now telling my supporters that the permit in question gave the event managers "control of the sidewalks". I have asked to see the permit but still haven't been provided with it – if such a category now exists, I have never heard of it; that, too, is a serious blow to an open civil society. What did I take away? Just that, unfortunately, my partner and I became exhibit A in a process that I have been warning Americans about since 2007: first they come for the "other" – the "terrorist", the brown person, the Muslim, the outsider; then they come for you – while you are standing on a sidewalk in evening dress, obeying the law.

More Largesse For Our Struggling Banks

Sydney Morning Herald [19/10/11]:

Here is a tale of two leg-ups: a tale to raise the hackles of the so-called 99 per cent and a tale which plays to the contrast between the US and Australia when it comes to corporate welfare.

Late last week, amid the parliamentary din surrounding the carbon tax, a little bill slipped through the Senate with minimal fuss.

This was the "covered bond" legislation - yet another friendly leg-up to the banks and one which effectively lumps another $130 billion of risk into the lap of taxpayers.

But first, late on Tuesday night this little story flashed up on Bloomberg: "Bank of America hit by a credit downgrade last month, has moved derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a subsidiary flush with insured deposits, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

''The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp disagree over the transfers, which are being requested by counterparties, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because they weren't authorised to speak publicly."

Translating from "Bloomglish" into English: a cabal of powerful "counterparties" (read banks) had, with the connivance of the US Fed, shifted a load of derivatives (probably the gnarliest credit default swaps on their books) from that part of the bank not backed by taxpayers to that part of the bank which was backed by taxpayers.

While the denizens of Occupy Wall Street mill about outside their windows, the doyens of Wall Street have blithely orchestrated another leg-up from taxpayers, hand-in-glove with their pals on the privately-owned US Fed.

To round out the picture here, the FDIC is the agency which objected to this. It is also the agency which would have to pay out depositors in the event that the Bank of America hit the wall, most likely with a top-up in funding from Washington.

The bank enjoyed a $US45 billion bailout during the financial crisis, after it had swooped to mop up the ailing merchant bank Merrill Lynch. It's a fair bet that, of its notional $US75 trillion in derivatives, Merrill's riskiest bets have just been transferred from the Bank of America holding company to the bank.

Is there another TARP in the works?Meanwhile on these fair shores, the banks now enjoy the fillip from "covered bonds". Covered bonds will allow the banks to raise capital a bit more cheaply. They are issued to big institutional investors but, unlike other corporate bonds, rank ahead of depositors in the event of trouble. They are safer, therefore carry a lower yield.

Let's not forget the banks have already been propped by guarantees on their wholesale funding and deposits, not to mention the short-selling ban and asset swap arrangements with the Reserve Bank.

Now, with covered bonds - which had previously not been allowed as they provide senior secured funding for bondholders at the expense of depositors - the taxpayer is on the hook for banks' deposit liabilities.

Mind you the taxpayer is on the hook anyway as the financial crisis demonstrated banks are a cherished species too big to fail.

Observers estimate their cost of funds should be 30 basis points lower thanks to covered bonds, although few expect this little earner to be passed on to customers.

Covered bonds shift risk away from the wholesale bond investors to the taxpayers - and we are talking about $130 billion worth of risk, possibly increasing as time passes. There is no quid pro quo. At least with the sovereign guarantee for wholesale funding the banks were required to pay a fee.

This leg-up is perhaps best-described as a backdoor sovereign guarantee.

Bank shareholders can take comfort from the fact that their government lobbyists, as usual, have been working overtime to have their way with Canberra.

Their case relied on the argument that, one, cheaper funding could be passed on to borrowers and two, foreign banks are allowed to do it.And they surely are, but the foreign banks don't really compete head-to-head with the locals in their $A lending markets.

As far as leg-ups go though you would have to say that America is in another league entirely than Australia when it comes to bailouts, banksters' rorts and general economic turmoil.

Alan Jones Says Something Sensible

Nine MSN [19/10/11]:

Broadcaster Alan Jones has called for Anna Bligh's scalp, accusing the Queensland premier of selling out her state's prime farming land to mining companies.

In a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Jones said food security was the biggest issue facing Australia's future.

Ms Bligh and her treasurer Andrew Fraser should be asked to stand down for their addictions to mining royalties, the Sydney-based commentator said.

"The mining industry is the upper house of Queensland - nothing happens without their approval," said Jones, who hosts Australia's top rated breakfast radio program on Sydney's 2GB.

"If any general in war deliberately did to their troops, what the premier and treasurer in Queensland have done to their people, they would be court-martialled."

Coal seam gas mining was out of control in Queensland and would turn the state into a "moon crater" and industrial wasteland.

The Queensland, NSW and federal governments' approval of coal seam gas mining was putting at risk public health, water quality and the nation's ability to feed itself.

Jones, who was a speech writer and senior advisor to former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser, said scientists were unsure about the safety of fracking techniques - the injection of chemicals, water and sand at high pressures to crack rock and release gas - used by mining companies to find coal seam gas.

There are fears fracking chemicals will poison underground water, contaminate good agricultural soil and cause serious health problems.

"Farmers are being invaded," Jones said, adding that many were bullied into selling their land and forced to sign confidentiality agreements.

"Our politicians have forgotten they are servants not masters."

The former Rugby Union coach also took aim at the leaders of the Queensland Liberal National Party, Campbell Newman and Jeff Seeney, for lunching with gas company executives and employing former mining company staff.

Eighty per cent of their home state was under mining exploration permits, Jones said.

"Don't destroy farmers to pay the bill, Anna Bligh," he said.

Jones, who is also a friend of the Packer family, mocked the Queensland government's recent vow to protect prime agricultural land, with strategic cropping land legislation, labelling it "false sincerity".

"There has never been a coal mine in Queensland's history rejected on environmental grounds," he said, adding that environmental impact statements were not worth the paper they were written on.

The statements were produced by consultants hired and paid for by mining companies.

"Of course they're biased; the hired consultant becomes an advocate for the mining company," Jones said.

"The terms of reference for these environmental impact statements assume that the proposals will go ahead."

Jones said 7000 gas wells at one Queensland site could produce enough salt to raise a pile "10 metres high and 11 kilometres long."

There are going to be 40,000 wells in Queensland, he said.

Support Grows For Nationalising Qantas International

eGlobal Travel Media [17/10/11]:

Should Qantas International be nationalised? Support for turning the Australian airline’s international division over to the government is growing. A recent online poll on the subject found that two thirds of respondents favoured the proposal and supported the nationalisation of all or part of Qantas.

The Australian government once owned Qantas. The airline started out as a private company and was nationalised in 1947, remaining government-owned until 1993. As a public company, Qantas has been consistently one of the most profitable airlines in the world, often bringing home a profit when other airlines couldn’t. It has also gone through some weird times, like in 2006 when the airline came very close to being sold off to a consortium involving Macquarie Bank, Allco Finance Group and the Texas Pacific Group of Fort Worth.

But the airline’s latest problems, involving proposals to stem losses at Qantas International by firing about 1000 staff, while setting up separate ventures in Asia, have bought matters to a head, prompting strike action by unions representing pilots, engineers and other workers.

One suggested solution is that the government should take over all of Qantas International or at least buy a majority share.

Tony Webber, managing director of Webber Quantitative Consulting, laid out the arguments for nationalising Qantas International eloquently in a recent article for the Sydney Morning Herald’s Business Day. Webber is highly qualified to speak. He was Qantas Group general manager microeconomics and then chief economist between 2004 and April 2011.

Webber pointed out that three international airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Air New Zealand, operate one-quarter of all the seats that are flown into Australia. All of those airlines are majority-owned by governments.

“Qantas cannot sustainably compete against these airlines in the international market, particularly Singapore and Emirates,” Webber wrote.

The three airlines have a significant cost advantage over Qantas, Webber pointed out. Moreover, government-owned airlines are motivated to grow the number of seats they operate because it brings a return in the form of increased tourism to the countries concerned. Qantas concentrates on the return it gets from the airline.

If the Australian government is not willing or able to provide support for Qantas, the international business should be split off and sold to the government, Webber wrote.

This would see more seats added to the market and growth in the number of international points served. Tourism would benefit, while the job of pilots, engineers, cabin crew and ground handlers in Australia would be saved. The new Qantas International would team up with Tourism Australia to market Australia to the rest of the world. Problem solved!

Webber conceded that a plan to nationalise Qantas was “a little pie in the sky” as the government was keener on selling assets than buying them, but he said Qantas International’s problems run so deep that all options should be considered.

While government enthusiasm for owning assets has swung, pendulum-like, over the decades, public opinion seems firmly on the side of nationalisation. According to an online poll run by the Herald in association with Webber’s story, 43% of readers agreed that Qantas International should be nationalised. A further 23% felt that the whole of Qantas, including domestic, should be nationalised. Only 28% of the 10,269 readers who voted in the poll felt nationalisation wouldn’t be a good idea.

At the moment, as a public company, Qantas must satisfy its shareholders, many of whom are disgruntled at low returns. The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) has launched a new website, qantasshareholders.com, to show Qantas shareholders how to demonstrate their disapproval at the Qantas annual general meeting on 28 October.

Apart from job security and the desire to see Qantas remain Australian and employ Australian workers, much of the current antagonism at the airline stems from management receiving large pay increases while denying workers further down the ladder more modest pay hikes.

Nationalisation of Qantas’s international arm might help defuse that issue as well. On Friday, Transport Workers Union lead negotiator Scott Connolly said : “It really is hard to fathom how management can look employees in they eye and say the cupboard is bare when executive salaries have skyrocketed and the company ran a $531 million pre-tax profit last year.”

Qantas Chairman Leigh Clifford received a 50% pay rise over three years (to AUD635,000 per year) while chief executive Alan Joyce’s package “has had a steroid injection, with a 71% increase taking his pay packet to $5 million”, the union said.

Written by Peter Needham

Indonesian Police And Military Attack Third Papuan People's Congress

Engage Media [19/10/11]

Indonesian soldiers and police officers opened fire on the Third Papuan People's Congress in Jayapura this afternoon. The shooting began after the President of the Congress, Furkorus Yebeisembut, declared independence from Indonesia.

Text messages were sent out earlier this week by unidentified senders, warning that there would be trouble at the gathering:

Free Papua congress. There will be slaughter of the sons and daughters of Papua, so stay at home and don't go out until it is safe.

But thousands of people have attended the congress since Monday. The original venue for the event was the Cendrawasih University, but it was later moved to Lapangan Sakeus (Sakeus Field) in Abepura, on the outskirts of Jayapura. Papuan video activists said at least 4000 people attended the congress today.

The congress itself was not a popular idea, particularly among the armed independence groups.

The commander of the TPN/OPM (the National Liberation Army/Papuan Independence Movement), Lambert Pekikir, strongly rejected the congress. He said it would not solve the Papuan independence issue. The TPN/OPM only supports secession from the Indonesian republic

However, Papuan video activists said it was clear today that independence from Indonesia was the hot topic at the gathering. As attendees addressed the issue of independence in their speeches, several hundred military officers began to close in.

One Papuan video activist sent a text message to EngageMedia this morning:

Good morning, brother, I'm down at the field, and we're surrounded by the military. Please pray so the congress is safe.

Then, at 3.30pm Jayapura time, he sent another one:

Brother, they've opened fire … to us all.

The TNI's Regional Commander, Major General Erfi Triassunu, confirmed the declaration of independence during a press conference today:

"MRP (Majelis Rakyat Papua - Papuan People's Council) has declared the separation from Indonesia and plans to establish a new government," he told BeritaSatu.com.

"The police officers were only trying to prevent [the situation from escalating] by firing warning shots to the air," he said.

"No shots were fired directly to the people, hopefully there was no one hurt."

However, sources on the ground have confirmed that people did get hurt during the panic that ensued. They also claim some people were assaulted by military personnel. Papuan video activists told EngageMedia that their cameras were confiscated, even though they were not using the devices.

Roads are currently blocked in Abepura, as are phone and internet communications.

UPDATE: Andreas Harsono, from Human Rights Watch, has told EngageMedia:

"At about 3pm Papua time, one of my contacts called me, frantically telling me that the troops had opened fire. He said he had heard about 30 shots. It is not clear whether it was fired to the air or the crowd. Over the phone I heard at least five more shots. If my hearing did not betray me, it seemed like the sound of SS-1 semi-automatic weapons... “Another contact sent me a text message, saying that the troops had opened fire and [were] dispersing the Papuan Congress participants of various tribes throughout Papua. He estimated at least 2000 people were in the field this morning… "I also talked to an anthropologist, a close friend of mine, who had difficulties [passing] the Abepura area. He saw police and soldiers blocking roads around Abepura. He also said that rumors had started to circulate that leaders associated [with] the Papuan Congress i.e. Forkorus Yoboisembut, the chairman of the Papuan Customary Council; Selfius Bobii, a social media activist and the organizer of the Congress; and Edison Waromi, the president of the West Papua National Authority and a former political prisoner, were about to be arrested by the police… "They all said that the atmosphere is very tense in Jayapura. The anthropologist is worried that they might be "penyisiran" or "combing" this evening like what the Indonesian troops [did] in 2006. Abepura and Waena, where most participants stay, are quite empty now. “My contacts are still not sure whether the shots were live bullets or blank ones. Phone connection is rather difficult with Jayapura now.”

EngageMedia will continue to monitor and update the situation.

If you are interested in following up the story with the authorities, please contact:

Jayapura Police Chief - +62811950376

Regional Commander Major General Erfi Triassunu - +62811136522

Leaks To The Mainstream

RCFP.ORG [Summer 2011]:

The Wall Street Journal and Qatar-based television network Al Jazeera launched online drop boxes earlier this year, and former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller told Yahoo in January that the paper may launch a similar service.

Although the Journal and Al Jazeera promise anonymity to those leakers who request it, the terms of use for the sites make it clear that people who upload documents are doing so at their own risk.

SafeHouse

“Keep your identity anonymous or confidential, if needed,” boasts the website for the Journal’s drop box, SafeHouse, which was launched in May.

SafeHouse provides users with three options for submitting content: a standard option, an anonymous option and an option to request confidentiality.

The standard option is for those who have no qualms about providing contact information. Under the anonymous option, the user is not required to provide contact information, but is not guaranteed confidentiality. Instead, the amount of identifying information is “minimized,” according to the site’s terms of use.

The Journal will only agree to protect a user’s confidentiality if the paper and the user reach a confidentiality agreement prior to the uploading of any documents.

Except when a confidentiality agreement has been negotiated, “we reserve the right to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities or to a requesting third party, without notice, in order to comply with any applicable laws and/or requests under legal process, to operate our systems properly, to protect the property or rights of Dow Jones or any affiliated companies, and to safeguard the interests of others,” the terms of use say.

Dow Jones is the owner of The Wall Street Journal.

Even still, SafeHouse’s terms say a confidentiality agreement is not absolute.

“If we enter into a confidential relationship, Dow Jones will take all available measures to protect your identity while remaining in compliance with all applicable laws,” the terms say.

The terms also note that “[w]e are unable to ensure the complete confidentiality or anonymity of anything you send to us.”

In a statement released shortly after SafeHouse’s launch, the Journal said it is committed to protecting its sources and the terms of use are for “extraordinary” circumstances.

The Al Jazeera Transparency Unit

Four months prior to the launch of SafeHouse, the Al Jazeera satellite television network, which is owned by state-controlled Qatar Media Corp., launched its online drop box: Al Jazeera Transparency Unit.

The project has already resulted in the release of nearly 1,700 confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, dubbed the Palestine Papers.

Providing contact information to the Transparency Unit is optional, but, unlike SafeHouse, the Transparency Unit does not provide an option to enter into a confidentiality agreement.

“While AJTU will make every attempt to ensure your identity is confidential when using the Services, your content submissions are deemed non-confidential and AJTU has no obligation to maintain the confidentiality of any information, in whatever form, contained in any submission,” the site’s terms of use say.

However, the site promises to protect user’s identities.

“We recognize that — despite the best technology — our readers and viewers are taking a risk by submitting materials, particularly those living in countries where such disclosures are not protected by law,” the Transparency Unit’s “How to Submit” page says. “Our journalists will ensure that the identities of our sources are protected, and that submissions are scrubbed of sensitive information — like the ‘metadata’ that contains authoring information — before those submissions are released to the public.”

Al Jazeera recently deactivated the Transparency Unit to address security concerns and to make it more user-friendly. The company has not said when it plans to make the drop box available again.

The risks in using online drop boxes

“I think whistleblowing is inherently risky and you take a risk when you decide to turn something over that could potentially impact other people,” said Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“And, while I applaud The Wall Street Journal and Al Jazeera for trying to make it easier for people to do that, I think people who do decide to whistleblow need to be very, very aware and very clear that neither The Wall Street Journal nor Al Jazeera completely guarantee their anonymity.”

Fakhoury noted that, based on the terms of use, it is unclear what types of information could result in a leaker’s loss of anonymity.

He used the recent News of the World scandal in the U.K. as an example.

Like The Wall Street Journal, News of the World was, before being shut down in July, part of the News Corporation media conglomerate.

“Maybe someone wanted to leak this cell phone hacking scandal in England to The Wall Street Journal; The Wall Street Journal is reserving the right to turn that information over to other people,” Fakhoury said. “If the person who found out about that reported it to SafeHouse, would The Wall Street Journal have turned that over to News Corp.? . . . The terms of service seem to indicate: maybe. And that’s part of the problem, it’s hard for a person to know what is likely to get turned over and what is not likely.”

Both companies have terms of use that say “we’ll try to keep [the information] confidential, but we don’t promise you that,” Fakhoury continued. “We don’t promise that we won’t turn it over to police. We don’t promise that we won’t turn it over to other parties . . . who may be affected by the information you may be turning over. That puts the whistleblower at a lot of risk that they could not be anonymous, not have their submissions remain confidential and find themselves in trouble.”

Fakhoury said it would be helpful if the terms of use included more definitive guidance on which types of information could be turned over to other parties.

“Not so much examples, like here are the six things you can do that will get your name turned over — I’m not saying they need to provide a definition with that level of specificity . . . but they could do a lot better than what they’ve done in defining what is and is not likely to get your information turned over,” Fakhoury said.

How good is “pretty good”?

SafeHouse and Al Jazeera Transparency Unit say their sites encrypt uploaded documents and offer a PGP encryption key for users to download for additional protection. PGP is an acronym for “pretty good privacy.”

“We do not log any personal information when you submit a file,” the Transparency Unit’s terms of use say.

PGP encryption is “generally very good,” Fakhoury said, but added that, while it’s useful in protecting the information when it’s on one’s own computer, it doesn’t help with protecting communication between the leaker and SafeHouse or the Transparency Unit.

Also, in order for a reporter at the Journal or Al Jazeera to remove the encryption, he would need an encryption key from the leaker, meaning the leaker would likely need to provide some identity or contact information to the reporter.

As of August, Qualys SSL Labs gave SafeHouse’s encryption an “A” rating, while Al Jazeera Transparency Unit received a “C” rating in July, prior to being taken down. Qualys SSL Labs is a website set up by information technology security company Qualys that enables users to perform security assessments of websites.

Kirby Backs WikiLeaks

Nine MSN [19/10/11]:

WikiLeaks has found a champion in former High Court judge Michael Kirby, who believes the cyber whistleblower has brought more openness and justice to the world.

Mr Kirby said his first reaction to WikiLeaks was that its founder, Julian Assange, was an amateur who had "bumbled into tricky areas" and that the torrent of information he released from diplomatic cables was not sufficiently nuanced, dangerous and wrong in principle.

But in recent months he had changed his mind.

"WikiLeaks has made the world a more open and transparent place, and therefore a bit more just, and that's where I stand at the moment," Mr Kirby told a forum in Sydney organised by CPA Australia.

"It is part and parcel of the new technology.

"On the whole it's probably been a good thing for all of us, to hold governments to account."

He said the revelation that 2.5 million people had been entitled to see the US records suggested they were not "super secret" and that the risks and dangers of publication were not so great.

"There is too much secrecy in our society," he said.

Citizens needed something to undermine the "cosy relationship" between the media and politicians.

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, who is acting for Assange in extradition proceedings, said the WikiLeaks phenomenon would remain a part of the modern communications landscape. ...

Backfill Prevented Flood Flow: Resident

AustraliaNews.com [19/10/11]:

Ipswich City Council has been grilled over its approval of several developments that placed vulnerable people on flood-prone land.

An inquiry into Queensland's disastrous summer of floods this week questioned six Ipswich City Council (ICC) staff members about the development of a child-care centre and a retirement village.

The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday heard ICC had not adhered to a community use code requiring councils to avoid building child-care centres on areas prone to flooding.

ICC assessment officer Tim Foote said Kaleidoscope Early Childcare Centre, at Goodna in east Ipswich, was approved because it was located adjacent to an overland flow path and was above the defined flood level.

He said several flood mitigation conditions were applied to the development.

The centre was completely inundated in January and closed for 45 days.ICC development planning manager Joanne Pocock was questioned about the development of a retirement village near the Bremer River.

The inquiry was told of concerns elderly residents would not be able to evacuate in the event of an emergency.

Ms Pocock said the development did not include a nursing home facility and was raised with backfill to ensure units were above the flood line.Karalee resident Carol Richards, in a statement issued to the inquiry, said she was concerned council had brought in truckloads of dirt to raise the flood plain by up to 10 metres for the construction of the Citiswitch Bremer Business Park.

The council conceded backfilling flood plains could potentially impact flood levels and flows, but said a report found the Citiswitch development would not adversely impact the flood immunity of the nearby Warrego Highway.

"Floodwaters were not flowing naturally (down the Bremer River) towards the Brisbane River, but seemed to stop and pool like a lagoon on the floodplains across from my home," Ms Richards said.

She said ICC ignored a petition from locals that called for buffer zones along the Bremer River to be increased to prevent development 200 meters from the water's edge.

ICC chief executive officer Carl Wulff told the inquiry 72 of the 175 interim recommendations made by the commission in August had been identified as being relevant to the council.

He detailed the current status of action being taken by the council to address the recommendations, and said ICC was proposing to develop an online system that would enable local residents to monitor the progress of a flood in real time from their home computers.

He said ICC was examining the feasibility of building a flood levy on the Marsden Parade railway underpass to prevent water from the Bremer River from flowing into the Ipswich CBD.The region currently has no flood levies.

The commission will hold eight more days of hearings in Brisbane before delivering its final report in February.

US Finalizes $53M Arms Sale To Bahrain

Antiwar.com [18/10/11]:

The US has finalized the sale of $53 million worth of weapons and military equipment to the dictatorship in Bahrain, despite months of widespread human rights abuses against peaceful protesters.

Last month, the Department of Defense notified Congress of a deal to send armored vehicles, high-tech TOW and bunker buster missiles, anti-tank rocket launchers, and tens of millions of dollars of spare parts and military communications equipment. Federal law requires that Congress receive advance notice of most proposed arms sales, but the period to disapprove passed without a single formal objection from any member of Congress.

The Pentagon has long cut deals with Bahrain in weaponry, recently sending dozens of American tanks, armored personnel carriers, helicopter gunships, thousands of .38 caliber pistols and millions of rounds of ammunition, from .50 caliber rounds used in sniper rifles and machine guns to bullets for handguns.

Stephen Seche, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Arabian Peninsula affairs, claimed the new weapons would be used only “for the external defense of Bahrain.” But such equipment has undoubtedly been used against Bahraini civilians, most notably when security forces opened fire with live rounds on marching protesters back in February.

The Sunni monarchy in Bahrain has committed serious crimes against the majority Shiite protesters, including harsh violence on civilians, mass detentions, torturing prisoners, targeting medical professionals for treating injured protesters, cracking down on freedom of the press, and more.

Despite these abuses and the legitimate grievances of the pro-democracy demonstrators, the Obama administration’s support for the Bahraini dictatorship remains assertive, with over $92 million in aid since Obama’s inauguration and another $26.2 million slated for next year.

The Bahraini government established a commission in June to investigate claims of torture and other abuses and it is scheduled to report its findings later this month. US officials have said they look forward to its release.

Herald Sun Ordered To Publish Bolt Correction

Tracker [19/10/11]:

A federal court judge has ordered the Herald Sun newspaper to publish a corrective notice alongside Andrew Bolt’s regular column.

The federal court last month found Bolt had breached the racial discrimination act in a Herald Sun column on fair-skinned Aboriginal people.

Justice Mordy Bromberg has ordered the Melbourne paper to twice publish the corrective notice in print and online beside Bolt’s column within 14 days.

Bolt’s articles, which were published in 2009, were headlined “It’s so hip to be black” and “White fellas in the black”.

The articles suggested a number of fair-skinned Aborigines had chosen to identify as Aboriginal so they could gain benefits.Bolt did not make an appearance at the ruling on Wednesday morning.

98 Of The FTSE 100 Addicted To Tax Havens

New Internationalist [18/10/11]:

Thanks in part to UK Uncut, the use of tax havens by major corporations is increasingly in the news. Now, an interactive map based on new research from ActionAid lets you see the extent to which these havens are employed by Britain’s biggest companies. As you’ll see when you use it below, 98 of the FTSE 100 have a grand total of 8,492 subsidiary companies located in havens around the world. That’s almost 40% of all their overseas operations.

High street banks are the heaviest users with 1,649 tax haven companies shared between Barclays, HSBC, RBS and Lloyds. Barclays has 174 companies registered in the Cayman Islands alone. Many of the banks also have significant operations in the developing world.

It’s well known that multinational companies use tax havens to dodge their bills. We think Britain’s biggest companies have serious questions to answer about precisely why they need so many companies in tax havens.

Over the last few years we at ActionAid have been campaigning for companies to become much more transparent about their taxes around the world. Greater transparency would give developing countries a vital tool in the fight against tax dodging, act as a powerful deterrent to companies, and also help expose the scale of the issue.

To help this along, we’ve published all the data on every FTSE100 company as part of our Tax Haven Tracker map. Have a look at which tax havens your local banks, petrol stations and high street shops are using:

We’ve also published all the raw data we uncovered and we’d love to hear from you if you can help make it come alive.

Exclusive: Endemol Exec’s Voicemail Allegedly Accessed From News Of The World Offices

Hacked Off [17/10/11]:

A journalist who developed TV shows for Endemol and wrote for several national newspapers has learnt his phone may have been hacked by the News of The World.

Tom Rowland, 59, who established the Daily Telegraph’s property desk in the late 80s, a section he edited until 1997, and wrote for newspapers such as The Times, found out from Operation Weeting officers that his details were kept in private investigator Glenn Mulcaire’s notes.

Rowland was told by Weeting officers in August that Mulcaire kept a notebook with information about him. Officers also showed him a “key stroke log” which appears to indicate calls were made from News International offices to his number, followed by the ‘#’ key, used to access mobile phones’ voicemail remotely.

Rowland told Hacked Off: “In a nutshell, I’ve been given evidence by the police that News International has consistently hacked into my phone from 2004 to 2006.

“One bit of evidence was a call log they had coming out of the NoW offices and the other a notebook kept by Glenn Mulcaire.”

He added: “First of all I was dumbfounded by it. I was extremely annoyed. You don’t want to be the source of things going out when you have people talking to you in confidence, which I had whilst working for Endemol.

“I have never chosen to have any dealings particularly with the tabloid press – however it appears they were interested in some of the people that I used to work with who were celebrities.

“After I found out I thought, ’you bastards’. If they wanted to know stuff, they could have called me and perhaps I could have told them certain things. They’ve never even bothered to call me first.”

Rowland believes phone hacking, which has prompted the Leveson Inquiry, may lead to serious journalists having trouble with their ‘public interest’ stories.

He said: “The danger of all this is that you might end up with anybody who’s doing real stories in the public interest having to fight to do their job.”

Rowland, who still works as a journalist, is a core participant in the Inquiry, and contributed from the floor during last week’s seminar, ‘Supporting a free press and high standards – approaches to regulation’.

Dear World,

Just letting you know that every time a member of Australia's defacto government opens their mouths these days, most of us feel like vomiting.

Cheers!

ABC AM [19/10/11]:

TONY EASTLEY: The United Nations refugee agency has released data showing Australia has defied the global trend with a 19 per cent fall in the number of asylum seekers arriving in the first half of this year.

Industrialised nations saw an average 17 per cent growth in asylum applications. Only Australia and the Nordic region of Europe recorded a significant decline.

The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told Alexandra Kirk a number of factors have caused asylum seeker numbers to drop.

CHRIS BOWEN: I think partly of course it's the push factors. The return to more normal arrangements in Sri Lanka has resulted in a significant drop in the number of Sri Lankan Tamils seeking asylum in Australia.

I think the announcement of the Malaysia arrangement towards the end of that period has clearly had an effect.

The tragic boat accident off Christmas Island had an effect.

So I think that there's always a range of factors which goes into determining these figures. ...

Comedian Gets Serious About Coal Seam Gas

ABC [18/10/11]:

4US comedian, Arj Barker, is speaking out against coal seam gas extraction. Barker owns property in northern NSW and is currently touring the country.

He says with so many followers on various social network sites, he felt obliged to comment.

"Not everyone has 50,000 friends on facebook or 150,000 on twitter, so I feel like I'm in a position where I can speak and tell people what I know and my concerns," he said.

"It's a matter of getting the information out there."

Stormwater Build-Up Preceded Floods

Gold Coast Mail [18/10/11]:

Water built up in Brisbane's stormwater drains before the January flood hit, an experienced water engineer has said.

Up to 3000 properties were partially inundated by water building up in Brisbane's stormwater drains before the January flood hit, an experienced water engineer told reporters this morning.

Max Winders said his firm's preliminary study into the possible use of backflow valves in Brisbane's stormwater drains showed thousands of properties, including many units were flooded because of stormwater rushing up stormwater drains.

''It was of the order of two or three thousand (properties), but it is not that they were all inundated at first floor level,'' Mr Winders said.

''A lot of them were unit properties and a lot had basements inundated,'' he said.

In a lengthy explanation Mr Winders said there were many properties in the Brisbane CBD and New Farm regions affected by backflow flooding.

Occupy Wall Street Style Protest Leads To Closure Of Mine

Global Post [18/10/11]:

JAKARTA, Indonesia — As the Occupy Wall Street movement spreads like dominoes, resentment toward corporate greed has led to the deaths of four Indonesians and the temporary closure of the American-owned Grasberg mine, one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines, in the remote region of West Papua.

Workers at the giant mine, which is owned by the U.S.-based Freeport-McMoran, are on strike for the second month straight. Although the company says it has managed to hire outsourced workers to prevent any significant slowdown in production, that all changed on Monday when the mine halted production for security reasons. Markets, however, have yet to react to the closure.

Workers at Freeport’s Grasberg mine — which accounts for more than 90 percent of the company’s gold output — receive a minimum of between $1.50 and $3 an hour, the lowest of any Freeport-McMoran operation worldwide.

“The question is,” asks John Rumkoren, a native Papuan Freeport worker who has been researching the numbers online, “If Freeport has such high profits and low production costs, why can’t they pay us the same as they pay their workers in North and South America and Africa?”

Some 80 percent of the mine’s 12,000 workers have been on strike since Sept. 15 and say they will continue until their wage demands are met. As negotiations between the company’s management and its workers have failed to reach an agreement, the situation has rapidly deteriorated.

In a violent clash between protestors and police last Monday, one Freeport employee was shot dead and six others were injured. An ambush on Friday, which police claim was the work of Papuan separatists, resulted in the death of three others.

For both Papuan workers and the tribes that live around the mine, tensions that have been brewing for decades appear to have reached a tipping point. Current strikes are the longest in history, with workers criticizing the U.S. company for not sharing its profits and having no Papuans on its management board. In the surrounding villages, tribal elders have publicly derided Freeport for failing to live up to its promises to give back to Papuan society.

“We want Freeport to contribute to our lives and develop our society through education and human-resource development, not through money or the military,” said Rumkoren, who has been working at Grasberg for the past decade.

Freeport-McMoran owns more than 90 percent of PT Freeport Indonesia, the principal operating subsidiary in Indonesia. The Indonesian government owns the rest.

The local government in Papua has been fighting for a divestment of shares to local companies, which is required by law after a given period of time. But the exact divestment amount is still in dispute and the mine remains controlled by Freeport.

According to Freeport McMoran’s 2010 sustainability report, the company gave more than 1 percent of its profits ($189 million) to local communities in its operations around the world. In Papua, this included HIV training and donations to a number of community programs.

Despite the efforts, for many Papuans the multinational company has become synonymous with human-rights abuses, inequality and continued poverty, a situation they are increasingly unwilling to accept.

“Freeport has been in Papua for 44 years, but they have not contributed to Papuan society at all. Contributions from Freeport only go to the police and the military and they [police and military] only come and kill us,” said Rumkoren, who is a member of the Freeport Worker’s Union.

Human-rights groups have voiced concern over why police opened fire at Monday’s rally. Rumkoren said that workers have been intimidated by Freeport security during the strikes.

“There is one security guy from America who has intimidated us by slashing the tires of our cars so the workers cannot get to Timika and have to stay at the mine and do their work,” he said.

With foreign journalists restricted access to the politically sensitive region — Papua has long been marked by a struggle for independence — it is difficult to verify such claims. However, cables released by WikiLeaks late last year noted that Freeport paid millions to the Indonesian Army to protect its operations around the Grasberg mine.

“Freeport did whatever they wanted there up until about 1995. They had no one to oversee them and the military couldn’t care less,” said Denise Leith, author of “Politics of Power: Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia.”

Leith said that Freeport essentially entered an isolated hunter-gatherer society at a time when most Papuans had never seen electricity or a car, let alone a helicopter.

“But the Indonesian government didn't give a damn about the West Papuans and just wanted Freeport's money. Freeport wrote its own contract. They [the government] were just really pleased to get Freeport in there,” Leith said.

The Grasberg deal was the first big international contract in Indonesia and was signed by the country’s former authoritarian ruler, General Suharto, in 1976. Today, Freeport remains the single-largest taxpayer to the Indonesian government, contributing more than $1 billion in the first six months of this year.

With Indonesia’s economy thriving on the back of a commodities boom and vast natural resources, companies such as Freeport have been booking record profits. But very little of that appears to be trickling down to the lowest echelons, especially in the poor and underdeveloped region of Papua.Analysts say the labor unrest is fueling longstanding socio-political problems and could ultimately lead to the closure of the mine.

“Many say Papua is a very rich land with poor people. Papuans do not feel like masters of their own land. If the government and Freeport are not careful, we could have the same situation as the Bogainville mine in Papua New Guinea,” said Ikrar Nusa Bakti, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

Operated by Rio Tinto, an Australian and British multinational, Papua New Guinea’s Bogainville copper mine was forced to close in 1989 after social unrest led to an armed uprising against the company and the government.

But Grasberg is not the only place disenfranchised Indonesians are voicing their discontent. Jakarta-based risk consultant Todd Elliott said that growing inequality is driving other resource-driven conflicts across the country.

“We see this everywhere, in Sulawesi, in Kalimantan. There is a huge wealth gap and it’s getting wider. Indonesia’s wealth is not evenly distributed. We have seen it in attacks on other mining operations that promised to employ a certain number of people and build infrastructure, but they didn’t, so the locals attacked them,” he said.

Protestors in Papua have blocked the road to the mine with heavy machinery, and a pipeline used to channel gold and copper to a port has been cut in several places, which led to the mine’s closure.

Rumkoren, who is working with activists to update information about the Freeport victims on their Facebook page, says he and others are determined.

“We will close Freeport until James Moffett comes,” he said, referring to Freeport-McMoran’s chairman.

“If we don’t close Freeport we will all be finished because of the police and the military… It is our right and our responsibility to do this.”

Solid Energy Rapped On Knuckles Over Pike River

TVNZ [18/10/11]:

The High Court has rapped Solid Energy on the knuckles for an anti-competitive attempt to corner coal-handling facilities vital to the Pike River mine's viability, just as receivers were preparing the damaged but potentially valuable mine for sale.

The Pike River receivers accused the state-owned coal miner of trying to undermine the price for the whole development by making it attractive only to Solid Energy as a buyer, and sought relief in the High Court.

They said Solid Energy did this by securing the reassignment of the 25 year leases held by Pike River on farmland at Ikamatua, near Greymouth, where $10.5 million had been spent on the only "long train" coal-loading facility on the West Coast.

Two farming families were to be paid a total of $78,000 a year in lease fees for the big side-loop at Ikamatua.

In a series of transactions in March, both family farming businesses received non-refundable "incentive payments" of $15,000 each from Solid Energy for agreeing to cancel with Pike and reassign to Solid Energy.

This, in effect, broke Pike River's route for coal for export.

Each family farm business would have earned a further $65,000, for a total of $80,000 each, if the receivers had lost the High Court case and there was "no longer any realistic chance of relief against cancellation."

Judge Joe Williams found in the receivers' favour, allowing them to attempt to extract the best price from an unknown range of bidders, of whom Solid Energy is the only one identified, and is likely to include potential foreign owners.

"I am well satisfied that Ikamatua is a core strategic asset to Pike River and that its loss... would materially devalue Pike River's purchaser access for anti-competitive reasons," he said.

John Fisk of accounting firm PwC, one of the Pike River receivers told BusinessDesk:

"The application has been granted, largely on terms we proposed, so we are very pleased with the decision."

O'Malley Farming and H&M Trustee Five cancelled their leases with Pike River, citing the receivership as grounds. But Williams found there was ample precedent for granting relief where receivers were making a credible effort to prepare a package of assets for the best possible sale, to assist creditors and insurers.

Williams strikes a compromise by allowing the Pike receivers a two-year lease, to give time for an orderly sales process, after which the landowners may again apply to cancel their leases with Pike.

Solid Energy's interest in Ikamatua stems from an explosion in the volume of high-value coking coal, used in steel-making, being sold into export markets where the price for the high temperature, relatively low emissions coal has jumped in response to Asian economies' urban and industrial construction booms.

It has extensive coal mining operations to the north, in the same coal seam as Pike River was mining underground in the Paparoa Ranges and is planning to double production.

It also has a monopoly over KiwiRail's coal-carrying capacity on the Midland Line from Westport to the Port of Lyttelton, for export shipment.

Pike had one million tonnes a year capacity under a contract with Solid Energy, which it cancelled by invoking force majeure clauses after the catastrophic explosions and subsequent receivership, while promising to keep paying the rent in advance, unless three months' notice was given.

It has since leased capacity to Bathurst Resources, an Australian developer of a series of mines on the Denniston plateau above Westport, in a transport-sharing arrangement involving shipment from Westport to New Plymouth for export as capacity on the Midland Line becomes constrained.

Telstra shareholders have overwhelmingly supported a plan to hand the telco's fixed-line copper network to the National Broadband Network (NBN) in a vote at the company's annual general meeting in Sydney. ...

So tell me, why are all those people getting involved in the "Occupy" movement again?

Well. Telstra cancelled my phone service today - the day before payment was due???? - then it took them a couple of hours to organise the reconnection.

And excuse me for being a fuddy duddy, but I happen to think it is in the national interest to maintain the copper network.

During the Queensland floods in December last year, a caller to ABC Local Radio with Phillip Clarke, 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.

And Macklin's decision to extend the intervention is just despicable.

ABC The World Today [Podcast - 18/10/11]:

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice commissioner, Mick Gooda, has criticised the Federal Government for not consulting about extending some punitive parts of the Northern Territory intervention. The Government has released a report that backs a program linking welfare payments to school attendance, but Mr Gooda says the Government should have consulted in more detail with indigenous people before expanding the intervention.

Here's a disturbing report [PDF] from the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development:

Transnational Governmentality and Resource Extraction: Indigenous Peoples, Multinational Corporations, Multilateral Institutions and the State by Suzana Sawyer and Edmund Terence Gomez [September 2008]

Childcare Centre 'Not Warned About Flood'

Nine MSN [18/10/11]:

An Ipswich childcare centre was not warned about a looming flood threat and staff were left to see to the evacuation of 115 children, Queensland's flood inquiry has been told.

Kaleidoscope Early Childcare Centre director Krystal Wilson has told the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry she did not receive any warnings or information from the Ipswich City Council or local emergency services when the state's southeast flooded in January.

Ms Wilson said the creek behind the centre at Goodna, in east Ipswich, was rising quickly, prompting her to examine several nearby causeways.

"On January 11 we heard about what had happened on the Monday in Toowoomba in the news and knew it was coming," she told the inquiry in Ipswich on Tuesday.

"I tried calling the council but could not get through.

"A police officer at the Goodna boat ramp noticed the logo on Ms Wilson's shirt and advised her to prepare for evacuation.

"Prior to speaking to the officer, we had not had any contact from any authority," she said.

"I decided that it was better to evacuate sooner rather than later."

Ms Wilson returned to the centre to move to safety the 25 staff and 115 children in her care, including eight babies.

Ms Wilson said the centre had excellent evacuation procedures in place, which were rehearsed monthly to prepare the children.

It took about two hours to contact all the children's parents, asking them to collect their children.

"Some parents were already coming back from Brisbane after their employers had turned them around and told them to go and get their kids and go home.

"The last child was collected 10 hours before flood inundated the building, closing the centre for 45 days.

She said off-duty defence personnel and others helped with the clean-up and recovery.

The centre's attendance rates plummeted by about 50 per cent after the floods but later returned to full capacity.

The commission, which will sit in Ipswich for two days this week, is expected to examine the adequacy of the council's planning controls and whether enough was done locally to minimise damage.

About 2.5 million people were affected, and at least 35 died when more than 70 per cent of the state flooded last summer.

Hundreds Gather To Protest Gas

Singleton Argus [18/10/11]:

While hundreds of Hunter residents have voiced an emphatic “no coal seam gas” message it’s obvious that representatives of the New South Wales Government and at least one gas company are yet to be convinced.

On Sunday, more than 400 people at Broke and 55 at Putty were among thousands throughout New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia who attended “lock the gate” rallies.

Hunter Valley protests were also held at Newcastle, Maitland, Wollombi and Gloucester.

A spokesman for the Hunter Valley Protection Alliance, Graeme Gibson said:

“The community has clearly spoken, coal seam gas is not welcome and we want the New South Wales government to honour its pre-election promise to protect prime agricultural and other sensitive land.

“The general community is increasingly becoming aware of the potential coal seam gas impacts to people’s physical and mental health and our environment.”

It was also revealed at the weekend that the government was considering coal and coal seam gas mining in conservation areas, on prime farming land and in vineyard and horse breeding regions.

Details of a confidential draft plan prepared for the government shows that even “highly sensitive habitats” could be mined as long as similar land offsets were provided by mining companies.

The briefing document has been presented to a land use management committee convened by Planning Minister Brad Hazzard.

The NSW Farmers Association has threatened to quit the committee if the government does not fulfil its promise to quarantine key areas from mining and exploration.

The draft document does not provide a process to identify areas that could be exempt from mining.

It also says mining would be allowable on agricultural and other sensitive habitat if mining companies provided evidence that their activities would “not be likely” to lead to permanent or long-term loss of land, have other adverse impacts or offsets were provided.

And within a day of the lock the gate protests, the coal seam gas company already drilling wells in the Broke area, AGL Energy, confirmed the purchase of two Wollombi Road, Broke, properties.

AGL spokesman Mike Moraza said newly purchased Poole’s Rock Vineyard and the adjacent Yellow Rock Estate were part of his company’s long term commitment to the development of the Hunter gas project.

The properties would be used to demonstrate the gas industry could coexist with viticulture, cattle grazing and cropping, he said.

The Argus reported earlier this month that AGL had bought Poole’s Rock, was believed to have bought the adjacent property, and both could be earmarked for controversial horizontal drilling operations.

Poole’s Rock was founded in 1988 by the late Macquarie Bank chairman David Clarke who was a major opponent to coal seam gas mining.

Mr Moraza said he understood Mr Clarke’s point of view, apologised for concern over speculation on the company’s intended use for the property and expected AGL’s activities at Poole’s Rock to be watched and questioned.

“We know the Hunter is a beautiful place and we promise to keep it that way.”

Mr Gibson said the draft government document and AGL’s property purchases were of great concern.

“The company has taken down the Poole’s Rock signs and I wonder what they’ll now call the vineyard, “Methane Mountain”? he asked.

“The community doesn’t want places like this iconic vineyard to become an industrial landscape and we believe the New South Wales Government is obliged to protect it along with other prime sites.”

A spokeswoman for the Putty Community Association, Kathy McKenzie, said members of her group were worried about coal seam gas impacts on their community and the surrounding Yengo and Wollemi national parks.

“Legal advice we’ve had suggests that coal seam gas extraction in the Putty Valley may be in breach of the National Parks Act,” she said.

What Is "Occupy Brisbane"?

ABC Podcast [18/10/11]:

Have you heard about the "Occupy Wall Street" protest that started in New York last month?

It's now been replicated in many cities around the world - including Brisbane - with demonstrators demanding "the end of corporate greed".

612 ABC Brisbane Breakfast reporter Anne O'Keeffe is at Post Office Square where a number of people are "occupying" Brisbane.

Cougar Energy Sues Qld Govt

ABC Podcast [17/10/11]:

Cougar Energy has announced it is suing the Queensland Government and three officials for more than $34 million. The company's $500 million underground coal gasification (UCG) pilot plant in Kingaroy in southern Queensland was shut down in January after the discovery of banned chemicals in water bores near the site.

Cougar Energy has filed legal proceedings in the Supreme Court against the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) former chief executives John Bradley and Terry Wall and its current head James Reeves for negligence and breach of statutory duty. Cougar Energy chairman Malcolm McAully says their actions have inflicted a significant loss on the company. ...

California Pension Funds Line Up Against Rupert Murdoch

McClatchy [17/10/11]:

CalSTRS said today that it's voting its News Corp. shares against Rupert Murdoch's re-election to the media company's board of directors. Spokesman Ricardo Duran said the California State Teachers' Retirement System voted against Murdoch and all other nominees to News Corp. board.

The state's other big public pension fund, CalPERS, revealed last week that it voted against Murdoch, his two sons and two other nominees to the News Corp. board. CalPERS said it was protesting a two-tier stock structure that entrenches the Murdoch family's control of the company. CalSTRS cited the two-tier stock structure and other issues. While the pension fund didn't specifically mention the company's hacking scandal earlier this year, Duran said the case "has underscored the need for higher ethical and governance standards."

Votes will be tallied at the company's annual shareholder meeting Friday.

AFP Considers War Crimes Investigation Against Sri Lankan Dipomat

ABC PM [17/10/11]:

MARK COLVIN: Less than a fortnight before the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth there are calls for the Commonwealth to suspend or even throw Sri Lanka out of the organisation.

The Australian Federal Police have confirmed that they are considering whether there is sufficient evidence for a war crimes investigation against the country's top diplomat in Australia.

Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe was Sri Lanka's navy chief. Now he's high commissioner to Canberra.

In a statement the AFP confirmed that they'd received a submission compiled by the International Commission of Jurists, a legal rights lobby group composed of respected legal figures.

The allegation is that former admiral Samarasinghe was in charge of navy ships which fired on unarmed civilians as they fled the fighting in the final stages of the civil war.

He says there is no truth in the allegation.But as Peter Lloyd reports similar accusations against a Sri Lankan military officer turned diplomat in Europe triggered his recall to Colombo.

PETER LLOYD: Meena Krishnamurthy went to Sri Lanka seven years ago and fell in love with a Tamil man she says worked as an accountant with the rebel movement.

From January 2009 the pair joined other Tamils fleeing the fighting in the north-east.

As the Sri Lankan government surrounded and overran the Tamil Tiger movement, Meena says she witnessed the Sri Lankan navy firing at civilians onshore.

MEENA KRISHNAMURTHY: I really want Australians to understand that I saw a massacre of people so recent.

PETER LLOYD: From the battlefield have come video recordings and written testimony from survivors like Meena Krishnamurthy accusing the Sri Lankan forces of crimes against humanity, mostly based on the central accusation that innocent, non combatant Tamil men, women and children mixing with fleeing Tamil soldiers were herded onto slivers of coastal territory and shelled into oblivion. The accusation against former admiral Thisara Samarasinghe turns on the question of accountability. There is no evidence that he was directly involved in shelling civilians, nor is anyone yet claiming that he gave direct orders to that effect.

But the submission to the Federal Police reportedly does say that the admiral as a military commander holds what is referred to as "command responsibility" for the actions of his subordinates. In January he resigned his navy commission to take up his diplomatic posting in Canberra and today he spoke to the ABC to deny the allegations.

THISARA SAMARASINGHE: I specifically reject, totally reject such allegations. Such allegations are baseless.

PETER LLOYD: International law professor Donald Rothwell from the ANU says the Federal Police do have power to investigate.

DON ROTHWELL: Yes the Australian Federal Police have capacity under the Commonwealth Crimes Act and related legislation giving effect to the Geneva conventions which would allow the AFP to conduct investigations into the commission of war crimes that occurred overseas including crimes against humanity by any person including non Australian citizens.

PETER LLOYD: So they have the power but in practice how would they carry out the investigation?

DON ROTHWELL: Ultimately what's the real obligation, what's the incentive? Well the incentive is that Australia is a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. That statute does create certain obligations for Australia to conduct these types of investigations and indeed I think there's a very strong argument that Australia both legally and morally needs to do so.

PETER LLOYD: But how strong could the case be if it's based largely around the witness testimony of people who were on the other side of the fight?

DON ROTHWELL: Well this is always going to be the difficulty that arises in these cases and that is the quality of the evidence that can be gathered together and the issues that will arise in terms of any recommendation for prosecution going forward before an Australian court because all of the evidence will predominantly be located overseas and the difficulty of actually gathering together sufficient evidence for which there would be a reasonable prospect for a conviction.

PETER LLOYD: Don Rothwell.

For this matter to go any further the AFP would have to prepare a brief of evidence for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. It's then the DPP's call on whether to press a charge.

But there's just one problem - his excellency Thisara Samarasinghe enjoys diplomatic immunity. It can only be revoked by the Sri Lankan government.

The front page news of the Commission of Jurists submission comes just before the three day Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, starting on Friday fortnight. Sri Lanka's president will be among those attending.

The submission reportedly calls for investigations into president Mahinda Rajapaksa who is commander-in-chief of Sri Lanka's armed forces.The president of the Australian section of the International Commission of Jurists is former New South Wales attorney-general John Dowd.

JOHN DOWD: If the Commonwealth is to mean anything at all on issues like human rights it has to look to the actions of its members. This is one of its members who's the putative next host in 2013.

PETER LLOYD: What action would you like CHOGM to take against Sri Lanka?

JOHN DOWD: Well they should I think suspend it from the councils of the Commonwealth until Sri Lanka does something about a war crimes tribunal and the other recommendations of the expert panel committee.

And if it does continue to do nothing it has to look at suspending Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth because they've done it to other countries for offences less than war crimes.

PETER LLOYD: Last month the Swiss attorney general announced plans to investigate allegations that Sri Lanka's second most senior diplomat to Switzerland and Germany was involved in war crimes. The former general Jagath Dias was accused of ordering his troops to fire on civilians and hospital targets during the final offensive against Tamil Tigers. The general was recalled to Colombo. Tamils in Australia are hoping for something similar to happen here.

MARK COLVIN: Peter Lloyd.

Liam Fox Resignation Exposes Tory Links to US Neocons

Information Clearing House:

Labour and Lib Dem politicians have stepped up demands for the PM to explain ministers' involvement with Atlantic Bridge

By Toby Helm and Jamie Doward

October 15, 2011 "The Guardian" -- David Cameron has been accused of allowing a secret rightwing agenda to flourish at the heart of the Conservative party, as fallout from the resignation of Liam Fox exposed its close links with a US network of lobbyists, climate change deniers and defence hawks.

In a sign that Fox's decision to fall on his sword will not mark the end of the furore engulfing the Tories, both Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians stepped up their demands for the prime minister to explain why several senior members of his cabinet were involved in an Anglo-American organisation apparently at odds with his party's environmental commitments and pledge to defend free healthcare.

At the heart of the complex web linking Fox and his friend Adam Werritty to a raft of businessmen, lobbyists and US neocons is the former defence secretary's defunct charity, Atlantic Bridge, which was set up with the purported aim of "strengthening the special relationship" but is now mired in controversy.
An Observer investigation reveals that many of those who sat on the Anglo-American charity's board and its executive council, or were employed on its staff, were lobbyists or lawyers with connections to the defence industry and energy interests. Others included powerful businessmen with defence investments and representatives of the gambling industry.

Fox's organisation, which was wound up last year following a critical Charity Commission report into its activities, formed a partnership with an organisation called the American Legislative Exchange Council. The powerful lobbying organisation, which receives funding from pharmaceutical, weapons and oil interests among others, is heavily funded by the Koch Charitable Foundation whose founder, Charles G Koch, is one of the most generous donors to the Tea Party movement in the US. In recent years, the Tea Party has become a potent populist force in American politics, associated with controversial stances on global warming.

Via a series of foundations, Koch and his brother, David, have also given millions of dollars to global warming sceptics, according to Greenpeace.

Labour said it wanted to know how, in 2006, when David Cameron travelled to Norway for his famous photo opportunity with huskies to promote his new-look party's "green" policies, his senior colleagues were cosying up to US groups that were profoundly sceptical about global warming.

Writing in the Observer, the shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, said the Tories still had many questions to answer and claimed that "while David Cameron's compassionate conservatism has been undermined by his actions at home, it could be further damaged by connections overseas".

Murphy writes: "With each passing day there have been fresh allegations of money and influence and it appears that much of the source was the Atlantic Bridge network and its US rightwing connections. We need to know just how far and how deep the links into US politics go. This crisis has discovered traces of a stealth neocon agenda. For many on the right, Atlanticism has become synonymous with a self-defeating, virulent Euroscepticism that is bad for Britain."

Fox resigned on Friday after admitting that he had allowed his friendship with Werritty, a lobbyist who portrayed himself as an adviser to the defence secretary, to blur his professional and personal interests. His resignation followed a drip-feed of revelations about the links between Werritty and businessmen and organisations with defence interests.

The revelations over Atlantic Bridge have triggered questions about the role played by Fox, chair of the charity's advisory council, and that of four of its UK members: William Hague, George Osborne, Chris Grayling and Michael Gove. As a UK charity, the organisation enjoyed tax breaks but had to comply with strict rules prohibiting it from promoting business interests.

The charity's political agenda, which it articulated in conferences devoted to issues such as liberalising the health sector and deregulating the energy markets, chimes with the thinking of many on the right of the Conservative party whom Cameron has been keen to check as he holds the Tories to the centre ground of British politics.

Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshot said: "Dr Fox is a spider at the centre of a tangled neocon web. A dubious pattern is emerging of donations through front companies. We need to establish whether the British taxpayer was subsidising Fox and his frontbench colleagues. What steps did they take to ensure Atlantic Bridge didn't abuse its charitable status?"

Werritty, the group's UK director, was funded by a raft of powerful businessmen including Michael Hintze, one of the Tories biggest financial backers whose hedge fund, CQS, has investments in companies that have contracts with the Ministry of Defence; Poju Zabludowicz, chairman of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, who chairs a US munitions company; and the Good Governance Group, a private security firm set up by a South African businessman, Andries Pienaar, who also has an investment firm, C5 Capital, focused on the defence sector.

The potentially explosive mix of big business interests and politicians that triggered Fox's demise is the subject of an investigation by the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell. Murphy said it was essential that the government then referred the wider issues to Sir Philip Mawer, the independent adviser on ministers' interests. "He should look at the issues in their entirety to establish precisely how this never happens again," Murphy said.

Questions are being asked over the role played by an organisation called the Sri Lankan Development Trust, whose headquarters were listed at the Good Governance Group. The trust paid for three of Fox's trips to Sri Lanka. In a statement the group said: "Our involvement with the Sri Lankan Development Trust was not done for profit or at the behest of any clients."

Arriving at the Ministry of Defence to take up his new role in charge of the department, Philip Hammond, the new defence secretary, said Fox had "done a great job".

Remember Remember ...

IMAGE: JOANNE INGRAM - CRONKITE NEWS SERVICE

Yuma Sun [16/10/11]:

LAKE HAVASU CITY – From his office window, real estate broker Lyle Matzdorff gaped at the semi trucks trekking back and forth along U.S. Highway 95, lugging granite blocks used to recreate the famed London Bridge in what was then a small Colorado River town.

“You say, ‘The London Bridge is going to be right there,'” Matzdorff said.

“It's hard to fathom.”But block by block, and to the wonder of many, 22 million pounds of granite transported 10,000 miles from the River Thames became part of the bridge spanning a man-made channel on Lake Havasu.

Forty years later, London Bridge, purchased by this city's founder as an elaborate business venture to boost land sales, attracts thousands of visitors and is the centerpiece of a community that boasts more than 50,000 residents.

“The London Bridge put Lake Havasu City on the map,” Mayor Mark Nexsen said.Founder and entrepreneur Robert McCulloch purchased the 26 square miles of land in 1963 to use as a test site for his outboard boat motor business, and five years later he purchased the bridge for $2.46 million when the city of London put it up for auction.

“You always hear the old jokes, you know, ‘I've got a bridge I can sell you,'” Nexsen said. “Well, he bought it.”

The city is now celebrating the anniversary of London Bridge's October 1971 dedication with a re-enactment of the sale, construction and dedication of the bridge, as well as a display of 11 bloodied mannequin heads, a nod to London's medieval practice of beheading those who committed crimes against the crown.

Judy Whelan, a Lake Havasu City Historical Society board member directing the anniversary celebration, said the bridge promotes tourism, which in turn boosts sales at area businesses.

“Tourists started flooding in as soon as they heard that the bridge was over here,” Whelan said.

“And it hasn't really stopped.”

As many as 68,000 visitors have traveled to the city so far this year, according to the Lake Havasu City Convention and Visitors Bureau, making the London Bridge one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state.

Below the 952-foot-long bridge is a replica English village, complete with a visitor center, pubs and bright red English phone booths. Tourists can also find several restaurants and the London Bridge Resort nearby.

Whelan said McCulloch's gimmick to raise the town's visibility and to increase property sales was very effective.

“As soon as the publicity went out that McCulloch had bought the London Bridge and was going to move it to Arizona, lot sales quadrupled.”

The original bridge, completed in 1831, was one of a number of London bridges dating back almost 2,000 years. The city decided to replace it because the heavy granite construction and the increasing traffic caused the structure to sink an inch every eight years.

Lake Havasu City's version features the original masonry over a concrete base.It was reconstructed on dry land next to the lake. McCulloch later had a channel dug beneath it, creating an island.

Mark Clark, the director of the city's Department of Public Works, said as many as 12,000 cars cross the bridge's three lanes daily, and nearly 20,000 on holidays.

Clark, who as a boy saw the bridge's construction, said the unusual attraction provided the city with an instant identity.

“It gave this community a focus point,” he said.

“It gave this community a place to gather.”

Suncorp Sees Daylight

Australian Financial Review [15-16 October, 2011]:

Insurer Suncorp has told a parliamentary inquiry that its home claims more than doubled to 130,000 during the Queensland floods earlier this year but it has reached a decision on 99 per cent of all claims and finalised nearly 88 per cent of claims under $10,000 related to the Queensland and Victorian floods. Suncorp said there would always be some customers who had a difficult experience with an insurance company or did not understand their policy. Like its peer, Insurance Australia Group, Suncorp emphasised the need for more investment in mitigation to prevent and reduce the cost of natural disasters.

Tunisia: Thousands Protest Film

New York Times [15/10/11]:

The police in Tunis used tear gas on Friday to disperse thousands of people protesting the TV broadcast of "Persepolis", an animated film Islamists have called blasphemous, and a mob firebombed the home of the TV station's owner. The owner, who has apologized for broadcasting the film, was not at home, and no injuries were reported. ...

US Sending More Contractors To Secure Libya's Weapons Stockpile

New York Times [15/10/11]:

Washington - The State Department is sending dozens of American contractors to Libya to help that country's fledgling efforts to track down and destroy heat-seeking anti aircraft missiles looted from government stockpiles that could be used against civilian airliners.

The contractors, weapons and explosives specialists, are part of a growing $30 million American program to secure Libya's conventional weapons arsenal, which was ransacked during the fall of the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. ...

Journalism As It Shouldn't Be

Letter to the Editor, The Age [13/10/11]:

Public broadcasting hit a new low on 774 last Tuesday, with Jon Faine's cross to Rochelle Hunt at the Royal Children's Hospital.

She reported what members of the public who happened to be in the emergency ward thought about the physical appearance of the critically ill boy being treated after being hit by a train. It was a ghoulish, gratuitous and gross invasion of privacy.

Jill Murray,

Camberwell

All Major Parties Have Sold Out Community

Letter to the Editor, Queensland Times [13/10/11]:

The Greens have recently held two public forums to discuss future industrial development in Ipswich.

Some have called this "typical Greens scaremongering".

Now the Ebenezer mine is going ahead as discussed at the forums.

When is the community going to realise that the major parties have sold them out?

Minister for Mines Stirling Hinchcliffe has sold out our community by approving the reopening of this mine.

OGL claims we have '$4 bn dollars of coal on our doorstop' (QT 6/10/2011). this sounds like a lot of money - but this will go to OGL shareholders and some in royalties to the government.

Barnaby Joyce claims this is all about "pecuniary interest going back to the farmer". But how will this affect the community and the land holders?

What good is this money when our farming land has gone and our aquifers are poisoned?

Are we so used to being ignored that it is okay for coal companies to run their coal trucks through town?

Is it okay for toxic clouds from blasting to affect our community in the future?

The local Greens oppose this mine reopening. Don't vote in another party that is just a different face of the same coin.

Ursula Monsiegneur

Qld Greens Candidate for Ipswich West

Meanwhile, New Zealand Abattoirs Are Advertising Jobs

Queensland Country Life [13/10/11]:

The Federal ALP Caucus has amended a five-point motion an animal welfare practices in Australia's live export markets, watering down a clause that would have made pre-slaughter stunning compulsory for all Australian animals.

A Caucus vote was held on Tuesday for a motion raised by South Australian MP Tony Zappia and aimed at strengthening animal welfare practices in live export markets.

After vigorous debate with strong input from the ALP backbench contingent vehemently opposed to the export trade, Caucus altered a clause in the motion that sought to make stunning a required condition of abbattoir permits, from January 1, 2013.

The final motion did not pass unanimously but its other points were passed including transferring the new animal welfare standards in the Indonesian market, implemented during the month-long snap June suspension, onto all new live animal export permits issued for other markets, such as goats and sheep in the middle east.

It also called for the new standards to be enshrined in government legislation and the establishment of an oversight body for live exports, comprising representativs from government, industry and animal welfare groups.

Senator Ludwig said he was not in the practice of commenting on Caucus matters.

However, on the issue of mandatory stunning, he said the fact was "Australia cannot demand from foreign nations a standard that is not applied inside Australia." ...

Kimberley MP's Stance Attacked

Letter to the Editor, Koori Mail [5/10/11]:

How pathetic for a Member of Parliament to take offence at being called a 'coconut'. It should be like water off a duck's back.

How weak that an Aboriginal person like Carol Martin in a very high political position can take offence at being labelled a coconut by other black people.

If she does carry through with her threat to not contest her seat at the next election, then she's certainly not going to be missed.

Carol's done very little for the many hopeful Kimberley peoples who voted her in there in a wave of community glory way back when.

She promised the Kimberley blackfullas the world and delivered nothing.

Ms Martin's 10-year stay as a Kimberley MP is a quickly forgettable one.

It certainly is a distasteful situation when an Aboriginal MP makes history by being voted in by a majority of her own people, subsequently providing her with a political career along with its wealth and endless private benefits to herself, then, 10 years later, she supports a gas hub in their traditional country. They protest, so she sues them and then threatens not to stand for re-election.

If somebody can work that one out, please get back to me.

Betcha any money she will contest the next election.

You don't let easy money go that easily.

Phill Moncrieff

Longford WA

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