ABC's Media Watch Defends The Indefensible

Help! I'm being oppressed! How will anyone hear what I have to say? Save me Media Watch!

Andrew Bolt is offensive. Most people find the Murdoch media racist and bigoted. Because of the unhealthy, uncompetitive domination of our media (including infiltration of the ABC) by Murdoch, Australia's democracy is suffering.

News Ltd. has the same right to 'freedom of speech' as the rest of us. The difference is News Ltd. has a loudspeaker, a billboard and a soapbox on every corner, while the rest of us can hardly be heard talking quietly amongst ourselves.

The laws which Media Watch, and others, are now questioning in defense of Andrew Bolt's 'right' to vilify and be offensive, have been around for ages and apply equally (for a change) to News Ltd. as they do to us.

News Ltd. routinely defame people and then settle out of court. In the four minutes or so Media Watch has each week to slightly right the wrongs of Australian media, it is obscene to squander that precious resource on what is quite literally the least deserving subject.

Historic Day For Greens

'Australian Financial Review' [4/4/11]:

The Greens have 10 lower house representatives across the country after former education minister Verity Firth conceded defeat to Jamie Parker in Balmain in Sydney's inner west.

Mr Parker is the party's first representative to claim a lower house seat in NSW.

Greens MP Adam Bandt holds the federal seat of Melbourne and the Greens hold five seats in the lower house of Tasmania and four in the ACT. Both the ACT and Tasmania use proportional representation. ...

States Step In To Plug The Growing Cost Of Energy

'Australian Financial Review' [4/4/11]:

State governments are expected to subsidise the generation of electricity by more than $2.5 billion over the next five years, at a time when the federal government is planning to introduce a tax on carbon next year, according to the Australia Institute.

"It's ridiculous to introduce a price on pollution while you still are simultaneously subsidising some people to do that polluting," executive director Richard Denniss said.

"Are you trying to encourage people to use lots of energy or are you trying to discourage people from using lots of energy, because trying to do both at the same time is just entirely contradictory," Mr Denniss said.

His comments highlight a conflict between state government spending, which can mitigate soaring electricity prices, and federal government policy which could result in electricity prices rising as they incorporate the cost of carbon.

Mr Denniss was formerly an associate professor at Crawford School of Economics and Government at the ANU and strategy adviser to Greens' leader Bob Brown. He calculates that subsidies from the West Australian government, the NSW government for the Cobbora coalmine and the Victorian government to aluminium companies would be more than $500 million a year.

He said the subsidies were a throwback to 20 years ago when they were far more prevalent. ...

NSW Cops In Steroid Dealing Scandal

A two-year investigation run by the Police Integrity Commission has uncovered a steroid ring based in Tamworth in the north of New South Wales.

The drugs were purchased over the internet and imported from Thailand before being on-sold.

One officer, who appealed against his dismissal over the matter, acted as a police informant.

One senior constable admitted to the commission he had been using the drugs himself.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione issued a statement saying that the matter demonstrates a zero-tolerance approach to police who fail to uphold the oath of office.

He says any officers who do not do the right thing are charged and put before the courts.

The operation investigating the drug ring wrapped up last year and the details of the matter only emerged when one of the officers sacked for using the drug unsuccessfully appealed against his dismissal.

Can You Believe Such Cruelty Is Happening In Australia?

I Can't.

It Is Obscene.

And Makes Me Vomit.

'The Sun-Herald' [3/4/11]:

Eddie Rauluni continually relives the moment his Uncle Josefa jumped from a balcony at Villawood detention centre. He watched helplessly as his body hit the ground and bounced.

The 21-year-old believed his uncle was still alive at that point - he could see his legs were still moving. Distraught he says he tried to get to Mr Rauluni's side, but was restrained by guards who work for Serco, which runs the centre. He could see his uncle was bleeding from the head, but Eddie says they held him down on the ground so he could not move.

"I was very angry and upset," he told 'The Sun-Herald' of the incident that occurred last September.

"I was trying to get to him but they were holding me tight."

Mr Rauluni's death was one of five suicides in Australian detention centres in the past seven months. All were young males.

Last week Mohammed Asif Atay, 20, an Afghan, hanged himself in the remote Curtin detention centre.

Department of Immigration figures show there were 182 incidents of self-harm in detention centres between July last year and February 4.

An inquest will be held into Mr Rauluni's death. Lawyers acting on behalf of the family have asked that the NSW Coroner also investigate the "systemic failures" of the department and Serco to provide adequate mental health services to detainees.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the terms of the contract between the government and Serco about the duty of care to detainees are unclear. ...

Cruise Control Hits Town's Street

'Nambour Weekly' [30/3/11]:

The residential streets of Nambour will soon be lined with fluoro yellow stickers as a part of a new road safety campaign aimed at reminding drivers to stick to the speed limit.

The 50 in My Street initiative is a partnership involving the Nambour Heights and Burnside Neighbourhood Watch groups, the Queensland Police Service and the Sunshine Coast Council.

Last week the initiative was launched in Lachlan Ave, which had been identified by the Street's residents as high risk for motorists exceeding the 50 kmh speed limit.

Other Nambour streets where residents are taking part in the road safety initiative include Hillcrest Ave, Isabella Ave, Crescent Dve, Perlan St, Magpie St and Kentia St.

As part of the initiative, Neighbourood Watch groups will attach large, reflective yelow stickers sporting 50 in My Street graphics to residents' wheelie bins in the nominated high-risk streets as a colourful visual prompt. ...

Koalas Head To China

'North West Star' [30/3/11]:

ADELAIDE - Eight koalas will be sent from South Australia to Hong Kong to become a key feature at an animal park, Premier Make Rann says. The koalas will make the trip in 2014, after feed becomes available from a eucalyptus plantation being established on the Chinese mainland.

Mr Rann will travel to Hong Kong and China later this year and will help launch construction of an enclosure for the Australian marsupial. The program follows the successful loan of two pandas from China to the Adelaide Zoo, with the bears prompting a spike in visitor numbers, particularly among overseas tourists.

Petrov Documents To Be Released

'Gold Coast Mail' [1/4/11]:

Britain's famed MI5 intelligence unit will this weekend release previously classified documents on the most famous spy story in Australian history - the Petrov Affair.

Dragged by two burly Russians across the tarmac of Sydney airport, the pictures of Evdokia Petrov and the story of her husband came to symbolise the Cold War in Australia.

The Petrov Affair had been long in the making.

After much agonising, Vladimir Petrov signed a request for asylum in an ASIO apartment at Kings Cross on April 2, 1954.

The defection of a junior communist diplomat at the height of the Cold War was certainly something to celebrate.

What was even better was that Petrov was a colonel in the feared espionage organisation, the KGB.

The two big Russians, Zharkov and Karpinsky, won the first battle when they shoved their way through a hostile crowd and jammed Evdokia onto a plane.

In the 1950s Australia was far from threats of atom bombs and the Cold War frontline although a 1951 referendum did ask voters to ban the Communist Party.

Vladimir's defection and Moscow's subsequent attempt to drag Evdokia back home drove the sharp end of the Cold War into the lounge rooms of Australia.

When the plane Evdokia had been dragged onto landed in Darwin to refuel, the second battle - known as Operation Darwin - began.

Prime Minister Robert Menzies was now well involved and handed full operation control to ASIO chief Charles Spry.

When police approached Karpinsky in Darwin, a fight quickly ensued and within a matter of hours Evdokia had decided she would stay in Australia.

All of this was, in many ways, only the beginning for Menzies and the impact of the Cold War on Australian politics.

Menzies harnessed the fear of the electorate and went to work on his opposite number, Doc Evatt.

There is broad agreement that the Petrov Affair had the largest impact of any one event on the Labor Party until the dismissal of Gough Whitlam in 1975.

While newspapers immediately scolded Menzies in the wake of the Sydney airport incident, the tide soon turned.

As author and commentator Robert Manne writes in his retelling of the affair, the Labor Party soon split.

"Menzies was very keen to announce Petrov's defection to the world before the Australian parliament rose for the election on April 14," Manne writes.

Menzies had previously tried to wipe out domestic communism three years earlier and now, some historians argue, Petrov was doing it for him.

While Menzies himself was reluctant to mention the affair during the election, his ministers weren't so.

Sometimes with subtlety and sometimes with sledgehammers, the Petrov Affair, and with it the threat posed by communism, was mentioned throughout the election campaign.

One year later Menzies had won more than an election - the Labor Party had split.

Almost 60 years on, the Petrov Affair remains one of the great stories of Australian politics but the release of more details isn't likely to trouble the polls.

The ABC And Disasters

'Tweed Shire Echo' [31/3/11]:

In recent months the reporting of natural disasters has been an issue on everyone's mind.

On Saturday, April 9, the Northern Rivers branch of the Friends of the ABC will host a seminar on 'The Role of the ABC in periods of Natural Disaster'. The seminar will be held at the Bangalow Bowling and Sports Club starting at 2pm.

The seminar will be addressed by a panel of speakers including Peter McCutcheon (7.30 presenter, Brisbane) and Justine Frazier (regional content manager and breakfast presenter, ABC North Coast).

Representatives from local SES, police and the area health service have been invited to join the panel.

Members of the audience will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the value of ABC reporting during periods of natural disaster.

The seminar will be open to the public. A donation of $5 will be requested to cover venue hire and other costs.

Anyone wishing to have a meal at the club prior to the seminar should make a reservation by calling the club restaurant on 02 6687 1235. Lunch is from noon till 2 pm. Afternoon tea will be provided at the conclusion of the seminar at an additional cost of $2.50. To assist with catering and seating arrangements, please email: neville.jennings@scu.edu.au or mobile 0405 244903 (by Thursday, April 7) if you plan to attend the seminar and take advantage of afternoon tea.

Neville Jennings

Kingscliff

Officer Stood Down, Metropolitan North Region

Queensland Police Media [1/4/11]:

A 31-year-old male constable from Metropolitan North Region has been stood down from duty following an internal investigation relating to a use of force issue.

As the discipline process is ongoing, no further details are available at this time.

BHP Approves Escondida Investment

'Gold Coast Mail' [1/4/11]:

The world's biggest resource company, BHP Billiton Ltd, has approved a $US319 million ($A310.51 million) investment at Chile's Escondida copper mine.

The decision to invest at Escondida follows BHP's announcement last week that it would spend $US9.5 billion to expand iron ore and thermal and metallurgical coal projects.

These are part of BHP's commitment to $US80 billion in organic growth projects over the next five years, as it looks to spend some of it massive profits on expansion.

BHP's president for base metals, Peter Beaven, said there were further opportunities at Escondida.

"In addition to the project announced today, we are studying a number of additional opportunities to improve access to higher grade ore and increase processing capacity over the years to come," he said in a statement on Thursday.

The Escondida project will relocate the crushing and conveying facilities currently located inside Escondida's main pit to improve access to higher grade ore.

That would support higher production from 2013.

The project is expected to cost a total $US554 million with BHP's share of $US319 million and will be completed by mid-2012.

Escondida's owners are BHP with 57.5 per cent, Rio Tinto with 30 per cent, JECO Corporation with 10 per cent and JECO 2 Ltd with 2.5 per cent.

Council Buys Woodford Festival Site For $4m

The Moreton Bay Regional Council has paid $4 million for the site of the Woodford Folk Festival, north of Brisbane.

The council bought the 166-hectare lot from the Queensland Folk Federation on a 50-year lease-back arrangement.

The Federation sold the site after suffering financial losses in January's floods.

Mayor Allan Sutherland has vowed to save the site for future festivals.

Experts Probe Plant Disease In National Park

A damaging plant disease has been found in the Lamington National Park in Queensland's Gold Coast hinterland.

Biosecurity Queensland (BQ) says park visitors reported the presence of myrtle rust earlier this week.

BQ spokesman Dr Jim Thompson says the disease can affect more than 2,000 species of plants, including Australian natives.

"Monitoring and surveillance of the area still needs to be done to determine the extent of the infection, whether it is inside the national park and other public access points are currently surveyed," he said.

"In this sense we are still trying to look at what the options might be available to try to limit the spread once we have that information."

Dr Thompson says myrtle rust is a threat to the nursery, cut flower, bush foods, bee, forestry and other industries.

"There's potential to have large tourism impacts both in terms of restricting people's access to certain areas," he said.

In terms of people not wanting to go to areas if the damage is significant now, we haven't seen that yet.

"We are looking at probably a decade-long fight with things like myrtle rust, so it could be something we learn to live with over a long period of time."

He says the disease can kill plants and cause deformation of leaves, defoliation of branches, stunted growth and dieback.

"Barrier fencing has been erected so they can actually determine the actual extent of the infection in that point and they will also do some work to remove the infected branches and that sort of thing in that area," he said.

"The level of restrictions will depend I guess on how far afield we find it at the site."

Landslides Clean-Up Underway In North Qld

The Whitsunday Regional Council in north Queensland says there have been no reports of more landslides overnight at Hideaway Bay, north of Mackay.

The area, near Proserpine, has been hit with four landslides since Tuesday, with at least two homes damaged and 10 homes still evacuated.

Council infrastructure director Garry Martin says a geotechnical engineer is heading to the site again this morning to reassess the stability of the hillside.

Mr Martin says the clean-up will continue for a number of days.

"There's still quite a lot of water and the hill is very wet and there's quite a lot of soakage coming out," he said.

"With that there's sediment and so on carried out with it, so I'd think we'll be cleaning up just on a daily basis for a few days yet."

Somewhere In The City: Urban Narratives By Robert Brownhall

'Brisbane Times' [31/3/11]:

... Museum of Brisbane curator Louise Martin-Chew said Brownhall's work was a “poetry associated with Brisbane” and his paintings maintained a “quintessential Brisbane-ness”.

“Brownhall's self-appointed role as a chronicler of Brisbane's character describes the physical and psychological impacts of events on our city,” she said.

“Brownhall's depictions of Brisbane at night show the city as we had never seen it before; almost pretty, its prosaic exterior rendered romantic.”

The Robert Brownhall exhibition at Phillip Bacon Galleries is current from April 5 to 30. Somewhere in the City: Urban Narratives by Robert Brownhall at the Museum of Brisbane is current April 15 to July 31.

QGC Enters Compensation Talks

'Queensland Country Life' [31/3/11]:

He has received an apology, but Nev Stiller will have to wait at least another week for an offer of compensation from Queenland Gas Company.

The Guluguba landholder met with QGC senior vice-president Brett Smith and social performance manager Tony Heidrich at the landholder's home on Monday. Mr Stiller said the men hoped to provide an initial offer of compensation by the end of next week. ...

[a 600-person accommodation camp was to be sited within the specified 400m of his rural residence.]

Mine Railway Plans A Triple Whammy

'Queensland Country Life' [31/3/11]:

Proposals to establish three new railway lines to transport coal from developing Galilee Basin coalmines to coastal ports have prompted a group of Central Queensland landholders and agricultural business operators to call an urgent public meeting on the issue.

A big crowd is expected to attend the meeting at the Clermont Club on April 12 to discuss the possible impacts of the three developments, which will cut through approximately 100 beef and grain-production properties and pass within mere kilometres of each other for much of their length.

The three proposed developments include:

* Hancock Coal's 495 km rail line from its Alpha Coal and Kevin's Corner projects to the Abbot Point coal terminal.

* Waratah Coal's 495 km rail line from its Galilee Coal project to Abbot Point.

* Adani Mining's Carmichael Coal and Rail project linking its proposed mines north-west of Clermont to Abbot Point or Hay Point. ...

Costs Awarded

'Australian Financial Review' [31/3/11]:

A group of native title claimants in Queensland has been awarded costs after the Federal Court threw out its case over a land use dispute. The group had attempted to take oil and gas giant Santos and the state government to court after an agreement to lease land for petroleum exploration went sour. The High Court quashed those decisions yesterday and held that its federal counterpart should determine the group's application. The High Court has formally issued a writ of certiorari to quash the Federal Court's actions and has ordered that the plaintiff's costs of the proceedings be covered.

AAP

Andrew Baker Art Dealer

'Australian Financial Review' [31/3/11]:

An exhibition of paintings by Torres Strait artist Dennis Nona, called Malu Sara (Deep Sea Tern) chronicles themes such as weather patterns, food sources, social conflict, inter-cultural relations and weaponry. Ends April 23.

New Arts Members

'Time Off' [30/3/11]:

Two new faces have joined The Australia Council For The Arts' Music Board, with freelance composer, graduate and now lecturer in Jazz and Contemporary Music at the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts Johannes Luebbers and Brisbane-based composer and multimedia artist Lawrence English ...

Diggers' Court-Martial Twist

'The Age' [30/3/11]:

Two Australian commandos facing charges of manslaughter and dangerous conduct in Afghanistan could be convicted on evidence provided by some of their fellow soldiers.

'The Age' has learnt that evidence already given to military police by Australian soldiers, and by Afghan troops, will be used to cast doubt on claims by those charged over a bungled raid in February 2009.

'The Age' can reveal that their commanding officer, a lieutenant-colonel who has been accused of negligence, was the most senior Australian special forces officer in Afghanistan at the time.

The charged soldiers are a lance-corporal and a sergeant from the elite 1st Commando Regiment, and were not required to appear in court.

They have previously said they had no choice but to throw two hand grenades in a raid that killed five Afghan children.

While some Australian soldiers present on the night have supported the accused soldiers' version of events, others have given different versions, including that they heard women and children screaming before the second grenade was thrown.

Afghan troops, who were fighting alongside the Australians, have told investigators that the accused soldiers were not threatened by any continued small arms fire, after the first hand grenade was thrown. ...

Blockade Fails To Save Tour Company

'Sunshine Coast Daily [30/3/11]:

A "gutted" Dave Madden gatecrashed Mayor Bob Abbot's media conference yesterday after supporters tried to stop council officers and police from evicting his camel tour business from Noosa North Shore.

A large truck and several vehicles were parked across the Teewah Beach Rd access road to the Council quarry where Mr Madden had his eight camels stabled.

But they did not stop a council led convoy, including tow trucks and heavy equipment, from removing the Camel Company Australia's operation after months of legal wrangling.

Mr Madden agreed shortly after 10 am to lead his camels, which have been one of the signature Noosa tourist experiences for more than 20 years, off the property rather than see them injured. ...

Pakistan Takes Offence At Australian Stance On Libya

'The Canberra Times' [28/3/11]:

Pakistan's foreign secretary has used an exlucsive briefing to send a stinging message to Australia over what he described as a failure to engage constructively with regional issues.

Specifically and repeatedly Salman Bashir insisted that the attempt to impose a no-fly zone over Libya was both a "mistake and unachievable".

"The UN must respect the sovereignty of states and abide by the principle of non-interference and non-intervention," Mr Bashir said.

"Domestic issues [in Libya] cannot be solved by imposing a military solution using force."

Pakistan's cooperation will be critical in achieving a lasting peace in Afghanistan, a factor that gives added weight to Mr Bashir's warnings against any attempt to escalate military intervention in the Middle-East.

The secretary questioned Australia's motives in becoming so involved in the attempt to drum up an international coalition against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. ...

Bligh Must Move To Reinstate Upper House

'Daily Mercury' [28/3/11]:

The current situation in the LNP is very interesting. As the saying goes: If you can't govern yourself, you can't govern the state.

If Anna Bligh is to be believed that she is so concerned about the "undermining of the parliamentary democracy of Queensland" and that the "parliament is now at risk of descending into a dysfunctional farce", then she must do three things.

Firstly, Premier Bligh must move to reinstate the Upper House. Queensland is the only state that does not have this essential function of the Westminster parliamentary system. This does not have to mean more politicians. Simply reduce the number of lower house members to around 60 and then have about 30 members in the Upper House. This results in no net increase of politicians.

Secondly, Ms Bligh needs to allow proportional representation in the electoral system. This will enable the make-up of the parliament to be a direct reflection of the will of the people.

Thirdly, the premier must serve a full term.

Elections should not be called just because it is politically convenient for the government of the day. After ending her last term six months early it would be a highly cynical move to force an early election yet again.

These three things are needed if Queensland is to ever shake its chequered political past and the perception of being a democratic backwater.

Jonathon Dykyj

Mackay

Paul Baran, Internet Pioneer, Dies At 84

'New York Times' [28/3/11]:

Paul Baran, an engineer who helped create the technical underpinnings for Arpanet, the government-sponsored precursor to today's Internet, died Saturday night at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 84.

In the early 1960s, while working at the RAND corporation in Santa Monica, Calif., Mr Baran outlined the fundamentals for packaging data into discrete bundles, which he called "message blocks." The bundles are then sent on various paths around a network and reassembled at their destination. Such a plan is known as "packet switching."

Mr Baran's idea was to build a distributed communications network, less vulnerable to attack or disruption than conventional networks. In a series of technical papers published in the 1960s he suggested that networks be designed with redundant routes so that if a particular path failed or was destroyed, messages could still be delivered through another.

Mr Baran's invention was so far ahead of its time that in the mid-1960s, when he approached AT & T with the idea to build his proposed network, the company insisted it would not work and refused. ...

Goonellabah Baby Fifth With Defect

'Northern Star' [19/3/11]:

The number of cases of Northern Rivers babies born with the rare birth defect gastroschisis since July 2008 has risen to five.

The mother of a Goonellabah baby born with the condition in July 2009 has just contacted The Northern Star.

The birth defect, in which babies are born with their intestinal contents protruding through the abdominal wall, affects about one baby in every 5000 to 10,000 live births.

To put these figures in perspective, 1406 babies were born at the Lismore Base Hospital, Ballina District Hospital and Casino Memorial Hospital during the 2009/10 financial year.

In February, the Northern Star reported there were three cases of the babies born with the birth defect living within close proximity.

The cases included a Stoney Chute baby born in January this year, a Barkers Vale Baby born in June 2010 and a Mountain Top baby born in June 2008, although the mother lived in North Lismore during the pregnancy.

Following the story, The Northern Star was also contacted by the grandmother of a Nimbin baby born with the defect in December 2009.

Several studies conducted over the past 20 years show gastroschisis is increasing worldwide.

In Queensland it has increased by 500% over the past 20 years.

However, health authorities have been unable to determine its cause.

Parents of babies born with the defect are calling for further investigation into its cause.

Cleaners Launch Legal Action Over Contract 'Coercion'

Shopping centre cleaners in Victoria are accusing their employer of using `work choices-style tactics' to negotiate pay and conditions.

The cleaners allege the Spotless Group is coercing workers to sign individual agreements that leave them worse off than the award.

Union representative Jess Walsh says the cleaners will lodge an action against Spotless in the Federal Court.

She says Spotless is using threats to force workers to sign the individual agreements.

"The most common threat is that they will have their shift cut, that they won't get any extra hours," he said.

"We will be presenting evidence in the coming weeks that cleaners have actually had their shifts cut."

The Spotless Group has strongly rejected the allegation.

The company says it complies with government regulations and pays people their rightful shift entitlements and loadings.

Licence To Drill

'The New Zealander' [30/3/11]:

The New Zealand subsidiary of Austrian energy company OMV Group is taking a 65 per cent share in an exploration licence covering 1613 square kilometres of offshore Taranaki next to the producing Maari and Maui fields.

Australian oil and gas explorer Octanexll will retain a 35 per cent stake. A 3D seismic program for the area was planned to start in May, OMV New Zealand said.

The licence was originally awarded in 2009 for five years and included a commitment to a drill date of May 2013.

In Death He Is Free

The Refugee Action Coalition has described the situation at the Curtin detention centre at Derby in northern Western Australia as volatile, after a detainee was found dead yesterday.

The Afghan man was found dead in his accommodation block.

The Immigration Department could not confirm the cause of death, but the Refugee Action Coalition's Ian Rintoul says he has been told the man took his own life.

He says there were at least two other attempts at self-harm following news of his death.

"The level of despair and concern and desperation which is inside Curtin detention centre rivals anything we've seen previously," he said.

The Immigration Department is refusing to comment on claims that tension inside the detention centre was high in the wake of the death.

Mr Rintoul says there is a chance the death could lead to more protests, and bringing in additional counsellors will not help the situation.

"You have another five or 10 counsellors inside, it wouldn't buy the kinds of things that they need," he said.

"The place is isolated, it's remote, they're separated from the community, they're separated from the kind of help that could make a difference.

"At the moment, I think people are just overwrought and grieving about this particular person but it's a very volatile situation. They feel that they've run out of hope. They keep getting the rejection," he said.

Department spokesman Sandi Logan says police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the man's death and that may become the subject of a report for the coroner.

Mr Logan says authorities are currently working to contact the man's next of kin.

RBA Gets New Members

'Australian Financial Review' [29/3/11]:

The Gillard government is moving to put its own stamp on the Reserve Bank of Australia board with speculation that Treasurer Wayne Swan will appoint two new members today, including a former key Labor adviser.

The two names that have been raised are former HSBC chief economist - and former economics adviser to Paul Keating - John Edwards and the managing director of natural gas company BG Group, Catherine Tanna.

Federal cabinet met in a marathon session yesterday and is believed to have signed off on the appointment of two new members who would bring resources industry experience and an economics background to the board.

This follows the departure of former National Farmers Federation president and Telstra chairman Donald McGauchie and academic economist Warwick McKibbin. ...

It also follows the announcement over the weekend that Mr Swan's former chief of staff, Chris Barrett, has been appointed Australia's ambassador to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris.

Ms Tanna joined BG Group in March 2009 after a long career in Shell in Asia, Africa and the United Kingdom, where she had extensive LNG, gas transmission and power distribution experience. Before Shell, she worked with BHP Petroleum.

Dr Edwards is currently executive director for economic planning and development for the Economic Development Board of the Kingdom of Bahrain. ...

Community Bank Defeats Tax Office

'Australian Financial Review' [29/3/11]:

A community bank set up to save a struggling country town in the far south-west corner of NSW has won a courtroom battle against the Australian Taxation office, freeing it from income tax.

In a ruling tax experts say could bring tax exemption to other community organisations that are commercial in nature, the full bench of the federal court found that bank operator Wentworth District Capital was established for the "main or dominant purpose" of a community service - that is, the facilitation of face-to-face banking.

This was notwithstanding that it made a profit. All of its income was therefore exempt from income tax.

"I think that the ATO decided that because it was a bank, carrying on bank activities, it went beyond the exemption - but they were wrong," said Johnston Rorke tax partner Chris Ball of the ATO's "mean-spirited" action.

"The ATO would be worried about the precedent set," he said.

Mr Ball said the judgment yesterday showed that a community enterprise would have to "go a long way" before its commercial purpose would dwarf the community purpose and deny it the exemption. ...

Race Licence Suspended

'Australian Financial Review' [29/3/11]:

Bundaberg Race Club has had its licence to hold thoroughbred meetings suspended due to concerns about its financial position and viability. Racing Queensland Ltd also invoked its powers on Monday to suspend the licence of the Capalaba Greyhound Club.

AAP

Poor Will Pay For Rich To Enjoy Network: Analyst

'Australian Financial Review' [29/3/11]:

The national broadband network is a "regressive' scheme to subsidise online applications for the rich, according to a communications analyst, in an attack that goes to the heart of the political debate over the project.

In a speech to a communications conference today, analyst Robert Kenny plans to criticise the business assumptions for the Gillard government's NBN and declare that prosperous households should pay if they want internet television and other services.

Mr Kenny will question the claim that applicaitons for healthcare and education need the promised speeds of 100 megabits a second.

Based in Britain, Mr Kenny has worked for Cable Wireless, Hong Kong Telecom, Level 3 Communications and Hong Kong venture capital firm IncubAsia. He is visiting Australia as a guest of newsletter Communications Day. ...

Mr Kenny questioned the assumption that the households would need to run nine applications at the same time.

"To me, improving peoples' TV experience is not a bad thing, and if people want to pay for that more power to them" he said. "If the consumer doesn't want to pay for something that is fundamentally a private benefit like that, why should the general taxpayer?" ...

Gupta Quits Gates

'Australian Financial Review' [29/3/11]:

Rajat Gupta, the former Goldman Sachs director accused of leaking inside information, has resigned as an adviser to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bloomberg.

Rain Risk For ERA

'Australian Financial Review' [29/3/11]:

Energy Resources of Australia has little capacity at the waste dam at its Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory to cope with more rainfall - feeding expectations it will have to extend the 12-week shutdown at the site.

Analysts at Merrill Lynch and UBS have warned clients to be prepared for the stoppage at the milling plant to last longer than ERA predicted in late January because the tailings dam was almost full.

Earlier this month the water level at the dam had already exceeded its wet season limit of 52.5 metres, requiring the Northern Territory Minister for Resources to grant ERA a temporary increase in the limit to 53 metres, the maximum design level.

Water levels have since continued to rise and were understood to have reached 52.72 metres yesterday, less than 30cm from the limit.

Only the reprieve from the NT minister prevented ERA from having to start pumping water from the dam into the pit, a move that would hamper its access to higher-grad ore deeper in the mine.

ERA said yesterday it still had capacity at the tailings dam and would update the market on the status of the temporary suspension of the plant in its quarterly report on April 12. ...

Effect of Global Warming On Assets To be Reviewed

'Australian Financial Review' [29/3/11]:

AustralianSuper, one of the country's biggest retirement funds, will review its property and infrastructure investments to assess the impact of climate change.

In an effort to reduce the $38 billion scheme's exposure to global warming, the fund will also start challenging more company managements and external share fund managers about their approach to the risks posed by global warming.

"Climate change is a potential risk to our fund," said Kelly Christodoulou, AustralianSuper's environmental, social and governance manager. "We have a statutory obligation to act in the best interests of our members."

Helga Birgden, acting global head of responsible investment at investment consultancy Mercer, warned super fund trustees that environmental risks were already affecting fund returns. ...

Rugby Scrum Brings Out Party Spirit

'Australian Financial Review' [29/3/11]:

There will be a few Australian executives still recovering from the excesses of the Hong Kong Sevens rugby union tournament last weekend.

We're told there was plenty of partying in the Macquarie corporate box at the big event, which drew widespread praise for its "Tropicana" theme.

Apparently Friday night, in particular, was a long one for the folks from the silver doughnut. Dressed in Hawaiian shirts and fuelled by daiquiris and margaritas, they partied well into the evening. All of which should hopefully make up for the smaller bonuses they're collecting after the end of the glory days. The banks were spending up big this year, with Deutsche Bank hosting the long lunch opposite the stadium on Friday. French champagne poured freely and those feeling peckish were not disappointed by the foie gras station. Glamourous bikini-clad models poured vodka shots for thirsty Australian mining executives.

ANZ chief executive Mike Smith was seen enjoying the hospitality from his box at the stadium. Mike Wilkins from Insurance Australia Group was around on Friday to see Australia trump Zimbabwe, while Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly paid some attention to matches on Saturday.

The Australian mining contingent, including Andrew Forrest, was in town for the annual Mines and Money conference at the Hong Kong conference and exhibition centre.

Resources investment and advisory firm Helmsec Global Capital spent up big this year, with three tables at the Deutsche Bank lunch and a corporate box close to the halfway line.

Credit Suisse said goodbye to its sponsorship of the Hong Kong leg of the rugby tournament, the flagship of the World Sevens tour. HSBC will step in as the sponsor of the IRB Sevens World Series in 2012. The deal is rumoured to be worth more than $US10 million annually.

Wily Fox Covers All Bases

'Austrlian Financial Review' [29/3/11]:

We hear trucking magnate Lindsay Fox had just about all sides of the political divide covered at an awards ceremony in his honour in Melbourne on Sunday night. Fox was accepting the B'Nai B'Rith Gold Medal for community service, with particular focus on his charitable efforts over the years.

We've been told that sitting at one end of Fox's table was former prime minister Bob Hawke - a previous medal winner - with Opposition leader Tony Abbott seated at the other.

We're not sure whether the merits or otherwise of the carbon tax were debated at any length, or the result of the NSW election the previous day.

Lurking nearby was Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle, fresh from festivities at the Melbourne Grand Prix earlier in the afternoon.

Federal Regional Minister Simon Crean was also in attendance, as was Fox's old mate and former union powerbroker Bill Kelty.

Retailer Solomon Lew was also there and told people how happy he was to have lured Mark McInnes to his Just Group. Lew and Kelty gave the speeches on the night, with both delivering glowing tributes to Fox.

The function was held at a packed out Palladium Ballroom at Crown Casino.

Boycott Stores To Show Our Anger

'The Age' [28/3/11]:

How easy it is to attack our female Prime Minister with vile, sexist slogans when prominent men who assault, harass, abuse or otherwise mistreat women, so often get away with it - even to the point of being rewarded with celebrity status.

The latest example is disgraced former David Jones boss, Mark McInnes, landing a new top job in retail, courtesy of Solomon Lew ("Backlash as disgraced CEO wins $5.3m job", The Saturday Age, 26/3). You could say he is suffering - his annual pay will be down from $6.9 million to a mere $5.2 million. This is par for the course.

Wayne Carey was promptly reinstated as a football hero/role model; Sam Newman, a serial offender; retains his 'Footy how' position; Kyle Sandilands lost one TV judging job, but still prominent on radio where he transgressed in the first place; Tiger Woods is still paid huge appearance money for drawing crowds of admirers. Even Brendan Fevola gets another chance. The list goes on.

Meanwhile the women directly affected, and all women, remain vulnerable to demeaning, abusive attitudes and a culture that excuses abuse by saying "boys will be boys". I, for one, will make a note of the brands now being marketed by McInnes - among them are Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Dotti, Portmans and Peter Alexander.

Mr Lew will rue his decision to employ McInnes if I and enough women change our shopping patterns to avoid these outlets.

Janet Powell, Reseach.

Ziggy's 'Toy' At Play

'The Age' [28/3/11]:

The bottom fell out of the David Bowie bootleg market last Tuesday with the online leak of his shelved 2001 album 'Toy', something of a holy grail for fans. The catalyst was an eBay listing out of Brisbane. Torrentfreak.com traced the leak to a Bristol collector "very angry" at traders profiteering behind his hero's back. Ironically, the Brisbane connection says his eBay acocunt was misused by a "fraudulent" third party who he suspects never actually possessed the formerly rare 14-song disc. Bowie has not commented but a nine-year-old quote is characteristically prescient: "I'm fully confident that copyright ... will no longer exist in 10 years."

A CIA Commander For Libyan Rebels

By Patrick Martin

March 28, 2011 "WSWS" -- The Libyan National Council, the Benghazi-based group that speaks for the rebel forces fighting the Gaddafi regime, has appointed a long-time CIA collaborator to head its military operations. The selection of Khalifa Hifter, a former colonel in the Libyan army, was reported by McClatchy Newspapers Thursday and the new military chief was interviewed by a correspondent for ABC News on Sunday night.

Hifter’s arrival in Benghazi was first reported by Al Jazeera on March 14, followed by a flattering portrait in the virulently pro-war British tabloid the Daily Mail on March 19. The Daily Mail described Hifter as one of the “two military stars of the revolution” who “had recently returned from exile in America to lend the rebel ground forces some tactical coherence.” The newspaper did not refer to his CIA connections.

McClatchy Newspapers published a profile of Hifter on Sunday. Headlined “New Rebel Leader Spent Much of Past 20 years in Suburban Virginia,” the article notes that he was once a top commander for the Gaddafi regime, until “a disastrous military adventure in Chad in the late 1980s.”

Hifter then went over to the anti-Gaddafi opposition, eventually emigrating to the United States, where he lived until two weeks ago when he returned to Libya to take command in Benghazi.

The McClatchy profile concluded, “Since coming to the United States in the early 1990s, Hifter lived in suburban Virginia outside Washington, DC.” It cited a friend who “said he was unsure exactly what Hifter did to support himself, and that Hifter primarily focused on helping his large family.”

To those who can read between the lines, this profile is a thinly disguised indication of Hifter’s role as a CIA operative. How else does a high-ranking former Libyan military commander enter the United States in the early 1990s, only a few years after the Lockerbie bombing, and then settle near the US capital, except with the permission and active assistance of US intelligence agencies? Hifter actually lived in Vienna, Virginia, about five miles from CIA headquarters in Langley, for two decades.

The agency was very familiar with Hifter’s military and political work. A Washington Post report of March 26, 1996 describes an armed rebellion against Gaddafi in Libya and uses a variant spelling of his name. The article cites witnesses to the rebellion who report that “its leader is Col. Khalifa Haftar, of a contra-style group based in the United States called the Libyan National Army.”

The comparison is to the “contra” terrorist forces financed and armed by the US government in the 1980s against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Iran-Contra scandal, which rocked the Reagan administration in 1986-87, involved the exposure of illegal US arms sales to Iran, with the proceeds used to finance the contras in defiance of a congressional ban. Congressional Democrats covered up the scandal and rejected calls to impeach Reagan for sponsoring the flagrantly illegal activities of a cabal of former intelligence operatives and White House aides.

A 2001 book, Manipulations africaines, published by Le Monde diplomatique, traces the CIA connection even further back, to 1987, reporting that Hifter, then a colonel in Gaddafi’s army, was captured fighting in Chad in a Libyan-backed rebellion against the US-backed government of Hissène Habré. He defected to the Libyan National Salvation Front (LNSF), the principal anti-Gaddafi group, which had the backing of the American CIA. He organized his own militia, which operated in Chad until Habré was overthrown by a French-supported rival, Idriss Déby, in 1990.

According to this book, “the Haftar force, created and financed by the CIA in Chad, vanished into thin air with the help of the CIA shortly after the government was overthrown by Idriss Déby.” The book also cites a Congressional Research Service report of December 19, 1996 that the US government was providing financial and military aid to the LNSF and that a number of LNSF members were relocated to the United States.

This information is available to anyone who conducts even a cursory Internet search, but it has not been reported by the corporate-controlled media in the United States, except in the dispatch from McClatchy, which avoids any reference to the CIA. None of the television networks, busily lauding the “freedom fighters” of eastern Libya, has bothered to report that these forces are now commanded by a longtime collaborator of US intelligence services.

Nor have the liberal and “left” enthusiasts of the US-European intervention in Libya taken note. They are too busy hailing the Obama administration for its multilateral and “consultative” approach to war, supposedly so different from the unilateral and “cowboy” approach of the Bush administration in Iraq. That the result is the same—death and destruction raining down on the population, the trampling of the sovereignty and independence of a former colonial country—means nothing to these apologists for imperialism.

The role of Hifter, aptly described 15 years ago as the leader of a “contra-style group,” demonstrates the real class forces at work in the Libyan tragedy. Whatever genuine popular opposition was expressed in the initial revolt against the corrupt Gaddafi dictatorship, the rebellion has been hijacked by imperialism.

The US and European intervention in Libya is aimed not at bringing “democracy” and “freedom,” but at installing in power stooges of the CIA who will rule just as brutally as Gaddafi, while allowing the imperialist powers to loot the country’s oil resources and use Libya as a base of operations against the popular revolts sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

Woman Chains Herself To Bulldozer

'Gold Coast Mail' [28/3/11]:

A woman has chained herself to a bulldozer to stop a gas company building a pipeline through a rural residential property on Queensland's Western Downs.

Protesters formed a human barricade at the Tara Estate, south of Chinchilla, on Monday to stop the Queensland Gas Company (QGC) building a 16km pipeline to take coal seam gas from five wells already in the estate to the nearby Kenya gas processing plant.

Event co-organiser and local Michael Bretherick said QGC on Monday tried to begin clearing a path for the pipeline on the estate.

"A young woman has chained herself to a bulldozer at the edge of the estate," Mr Bretherick told AAP.

"Work has temporarily stopped. Police are yet to move her."

Mr Bretherick said there were as many police present as there were protesters.

"There is at least 20 to 30 police, if not more," Mr Bretherick said.

"It's overkill."

Police said they had brought in extra police to deal with protesters at Tara and Chinchilla.

Protesters say they are deeply concerned about the effects the project will have on their health, the environment, including groundwater stores, and land values.

QGC has said nearly half of the proposed work will be done on land it owns and the 14 landholders directly affected by the work had agreed to compensation packages for disturbance to their land.

Fresh comment is being sought from QGC.

Bolt’s Day In Court

'Crikey!' [28/3/11]:

You know something’s up when Herald Sun supremo Phil Gardner decides to leave the plush Herald and Weekly Times building to attend a court case for one of his top scribes, and so it was this morning when the pinstriped head honcho popped up to hear Andrew Bolt get assailed over his views on Aboriginality.

Bolt is being sued under the federal Racial Discrimination Act by nine applicants in a class action over four columns he wrote in 2009 that suggested they had been lavished with favours and benefits due their status as self-identifying Aboriginals, despite their apparently white skin.

The columns included “White is the new black”, “White Fellas in the black”, which questioned the origins of academics Danie Mellor and Mark McMillan and “One of these Woman is Aboriginal”, which counterposed a photo of Coomera ALP candidate Leeanne Enoch with Anna Bligh taken during the 2009 Queensland election campaign.

Veteran activist Pat Eatock is the main applicant, but the case is also joined by Enoch, artist Bindi Cole, NSW Australian of the Year Larissa Behrendt, author Anita Heiss, Melbourne University favourite Wayne Atkinson, Graham Atkinson, lawyer turned academic Mark McMillan and former ATSIC commissioner Geoff Clark.

The case is threatening to become a cause celebre among the Aboriginal community and media watchers, with Gardner joining a who’s who of hacks in the lift up to level 8 this morning to watch the country’s most popular polemicist in court.

Former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel, for the applicants in his opening address, attacked Bolt over his alleged views that genetic descent was the sole determinant of a person’s race, when, ever since the Holocaust, self-identification and community are considered equally relevant.

Merkel said that by extension, “Bolt had taken us back to the eugenics approach,” through his focus on biological descent.

A purely genetic definition of race, was “exactly the kind of thing that led to the Nuremberg race laws,” Merkel told the court, adding that Bolt was “in a timewarp.”

Merkel told the court Bolt’s argument that the white-skinned litigants had chosen to become Aboriginal in order to access academic prizes and other benefits, was countered by the 73-year-old Eatock’s experience in the Queensland schoolyard in which she was mocked by whites and blacks alike.

The Racial Discrimination Act contains a free-speech provision. But the secion in the Act prohibiting conduct likely to offend was an attempt, according to Merkel, to stop arguments such as Bolt’s which, left unchecked, would lead to genocide.

Bolt’s “frame of reference” was the debates of the 1930s, Merkel said, describing him as a “man lying in a mindset frozen in history.”

The columnist’s idea of Aboriginality was a “dark spear carrying person on top of a rock,” Merkel told the court.

Merkel quoted from Senator Neville Bonner who famously remarked in 1971 that the degree of one’s emotional scars didn’t necessarily matches the darkness of their skin.

“It’s unfortunate that 40 years later, he [Bolt] has not understood any of the items that Senator Bonner was talking about.”

Questioned by Justice Bromberg over whether Bolt was simply expressing his view on the nature of Aboriginality, Merkel said that while he was entitled to his view, “To express his view is one thing, to gratuitously denigrate and…take down a group of people is another.”

“It’s not a view, it’s an insult that’s inconsistent with his admission that these people are Aboriginal.”

Merkel said Bolt was wrong to argue that the applicants had “become successful because of their Aboriginality … Freedom of speech does not give you the right to stand up in a crowded theatre and shout fire.”

The court also heard of several factual errors in Bolt’s pieces, including his assertion that Larissa Behrendt’s father was “German”. In fact, her father is Aboriginal. (the phrase “German father” has been changed to “German name”, via a strikethrough, on Bolt’s Herald Sun blog, but remains uncorrected here on News’ AdelaideNow site).

Bolt had also wrote that Geoff Clark had an English father, when in fact Clark’s father was Australian (he also misspelled “Clark” as “Clarke”).

In an amusing moment, Eatock and Bolt’s gazes met as the one-Parliamentary candidate moved to the front of the court, taking her seat just inches away from Bolt and Gardner.

Exactly what crack Herald Sun court reporter Norrie Ross produces tomorrow will be of interest given his copy during last year’s Bruce Guthrie unfair dismissal case that resulted in verbatim headlines like “he hurt the business”.

Merkel has promised that “an extensive range of evidence” will be sought from multiple witnesses this week, with Bindi Cole and Larissa Behrendt to be cross-examined in addition to Eatock.

The case continues.

Greens Force Historic Change Of Power In German State Elections

Deutsche Welle [28/3/11]:

Green party members celebrate
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: The Greens were the big winners on Sunday evening
Germany is to have its first Green state premier after the party triumphed in elections in Baden-Württemberg. Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU suffered a resounding defeat in the state, one of two that held elections.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) suffered significant political blows over the weekend following two state elections which saw the Greens make dramatic gains. The polls have been widely viewed as a referendum on nuclear energy.

The Greens polled 24.2 percent in the Baden-Württemberg election, doubling their share of the vote since the last state polls in 2006. This has paved the way for a Green party state premier, a first in German history. The Green party's state leader, Winfried Kretschmann, has been tipped as a likely candidate.

The Social Democrats (SPD) polled 23.1 percent, and gives a "green-red" coalition of the the Greens and the SPD a majority. As predicted, the CDU took a severe drubbing, coming in with only 39 percent, a drop of 5.2 points. It was the party's second-worst showing in the state.

Winfried Kretschmann Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Kretschmann could become the first Green state premier

Green party co-leader Claudia Roth described the result as a new era for her party, saying that the electorate had "written history." Roth also sought to put more distance between her party and the CDU on Monday, saying the Christian Democrats had alienated themselves through their nuclear and social policies.

The losses have sparked a round of soul-searching within the CDU. Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen seemed to hit the ground running on Monday, saying the conservatives now needed "to show that it's possible to quickly pull out of nuclear energy."

SPD party leader Sigmar Gabriel, meanwhile, has used the election results to call for joint discussions on a new energy policy. He said voters had sent a "clear signal" in favor of a nuclear phase-out, which, he said, could be achieved by 2020. ...

Japanese Nuclear Firm Admits Error On Radiation Reading

'The Guardian' [28/3/11]:

Fresh doubt has been cast on the handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis after officials admitted wildly overstating levels of radiation, prompting an evacuation of the nuclear site damaged by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said initial reports of a level 10m times higher than normal in parts of the No 2 reactor were inaccurate, although it could not say by how much.

Tepco said at first that the worker who took the measurement, of a pool of water in the reactor's basement turbine building, had fled before taking a second reading. The discovery prompted another evacuation at the site, halting work to pump and store radioactive water that has built up in the turbine buildings of three of the six reactors.

Tepco later said the pool of water had been contaminated but the extremely high reading was a mistake. "The number is not credible," spokesman Takashi Kurita said. "We are very sorry."

However, later reports on Sunday showed contamination 100,000 times normal in water at reactor No 2, and 1,850 times normal in the nearby sea, the most alarming levels since the crisis began.

Evidence of dangerous contamination in reactor No 2 emerged days after three workers were exposed to high levels while repairing the cooling system at the No 3 reactor. Two of the men received suspected beta ray burns after stepping into water. Reports said the workers were due to be discharged from hospital on Monday.

One pump is being used to extract radioactive water, and two more will be taken to the site. The US military is sending barges loaded with 500,000 gallons of fresh water to nearby Onahama Bay.

Early this morning a magnitude 6.5 earthquake rocked north Japan, the latest aftershock, and officials warned it would trigger a 50 cm (two ft) tsunami.

Two of Fukushima's six reactors are safe, having achieved "cool shutdown", but the other four have yet to be brought under control. Japan's nuclear safety agency, Nisa, said the temperature and pressure inside all six reactors had stabilised.

Yukio Edano, the chief government spokesman, said the myriad problems at the plant were no closer to being resolved. "We have restored power and pumped in fresh water, and we are making basic steps towards improvement. But there is still no room for complacency."

Modest progress was made on removing contaminated water and stepping up work to cool the reactors with fresh water, rather than corrosive sea water, over the weekend. But Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the emergency could continue for weeks, or possibly months.

Concern over food safety spread to fishing over the weekend when officials said seawater samples taken 20 miles off the coast of Fukushima contained 1,850 times the normal level of radioactivity.

Nisa said the tainted seawater posed no risk: "Ocean currents will disperse radiation particles and so it will be very diluted by the time it is consumed by fish and seaweed, and even more by the time they are consumed by humans. There is no need to worry about health risks."

US authorities said on Sunday night that low concentrations of radiation in samples of Massachusetts rainwater were probably caused by Fukushima. Nevada, California, Hawaii, Colorado and Washington state have also reported tiny amounts of radiation from the accident but officials said they presented no health risks.

Southern California Suburb To Lay Off Nearly Half Its Workers

'New York Times' [25/3/11]:

COSTA MESA, Calif. - To solve a looming pension crisis and budget gap, city officials here said, they needed to take drastic action. And everyone agrees on one thing - they did.

Nearly half of this city's workers were told late last week that, come September, they would probably be out of a job. Nearly every city department will be eliminated. More than a dozen tasks will be outsourced, including graffiti removal, firefighting, building maintenance and street cleaning. Unlike the drama that played out over the last two months in Madison, Wis., the battle over public workers in this bustling suburb and upscale shopping mecca in the heart of Orange County is happening at lightening speed.

Layoff letters went out last week to more than 200 of the city's roughly 450 workers, sending many of them into a panic as they scurried to look for new jobs. The move will, in one great swoop, reinvent municipal government here, and perhaps lead the way for other cities.

Emotions in Costa Mesa, already running high, grew more intense after one city worker, summoned to receive his pink slip, instead climbed five stories to the roof of City Hall and jumped to his death. ...

Georgia: Rally For Immigrants' Rights

'New York Times' [25/3/11]:

Thousands of people gathered at the Capitol in Atlanta on Thursday to protest legislation aimed at illegal immigrants. The folk rock duo the Indigo Girls performed their song 'Shame on You' with lyrics adapted for the rally. Representative John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who was a leader in the civil rights movement of the 1906s, urged the crowd to fight. "I was beaten, left bloody, but I didn't give up," he said.

Sponsors of the legislation say the bills are necessary to fight illegal immigration because the federal government has not solved the problem.

(AP)

Leonard Weinglass, Courtroom Defender Of Radicals And Renegades, Dies At 77

'New York Times' [25/3/11]:

Leonard I. Weinglass, perhaps the nation's pre-eminent, progressive defense lawyer, who represented political renegades, government opponents and notorious criminal defendants in a half century of controversial cases, including the Chicago Seven, the Pentagon papers and the Hearst kidnapping, died on Wednesday. He was 77 and lived in Manhattan. ...

G.E. Turns The Tax Man Away Empty-Handed

'New York Times' [25/3/11]:

General Electric, the nation's largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010. The company reported world wide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion came from its operations in the United States.

It's American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. That may be hard to fathom for the millions of American business owners and householders now preparing their own returns, but low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profit paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.

Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.'s giant tax department, led by a bespectacled, bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world's best tax law firm. Indeed, the company's slogan "Imagination at Work" fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress. ...

QGC Says It Will Apologise, Comply

'Queensland Country Life' [24/3/11]:

Guluguba landholder Nevill Stiller will meet in his home today with QGC officials who are expected to apologise, explain, and initiate actions to resolve apparent breaches to QGC's own code of conduct and breaches to licence conditions set down by the Queensland Government's Environmental Protection Agency.

The flurry of action from the mining giant follows ongoing complaints by Gulugaba landholder Neville Stiller who wants to know why a 600-person accommodation camp located between Miles and Wandoan can be sited within the specified 400m of his rural residence.

It is expected that the current site for the accommodation camp will either be abandoned or an agreement which will include compensation will be reached with Mr Stiller. ...

Lighthouse May Sell To Gas Company

'Queensland Country Life' [24/3/11]:

The landmark Roma district cattle holding and former home of anti-coal seam gas campaigner, Dr Jim Baker, AM, may be sold to a gas company.

The executor of Dr Baker's will, David Grace, will not confirm or deny reports one or more gas development companies had expressed interest in bidding for Lighthouse when it goes up for auction on April.

... Roma Property agent, Vince O'Brien, said many people would be watching the sale of Lighthouse to gauge the impact of gas industry development on land values.

"Lighthouse is surrounded by coal seam development," he said.

"Two nearby properties, Spring Gully and Pony Hills were bought by gas company interests years ago and now contain a large part of the local gas industry infrastructure, including several camps and offices.

"About 33 wells are scheduled to be drilled in the Lighthouse area, but locals don't really trust the gas companies' figures. In the end, there could be 333."

Mr O'Brien said a lot of uncertainty was being caused by disparities in the gas company compensation paid to landholders.

"Some are paid $10,000 a well, but others with less of a standing in the community are getting just $1500," he said.

"Boomerang and Havago were two blocks that sold in this area recently. But they were not so directly affected by gas project development as the region around Lighthouse. I'd put those sales as being 22-23 per cent below the market peak and I'd say the difference was caused by the gas factor."

Wandoan Mine Gets Federal Tick

'Queensland Country Life' [24/3/11]:

A coal mine with the potential to become the biggest in the southern hemisphere - Xtrata's 30 million tonne-a-year Wandoan project has quietly received environmental approval. Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke approved the $6 billion development on Monday last week.

Xstrata placed a statement on its website welcoming the decision on Friday. It is unsurpising that neither the government nor Xstrata was keen to trumpet the approval, given that the open-cut coalmine has come under fire for the high emissions associated with it. ...

Mackay District Cane Harvest Hope Slashed

'Queensland Country Life' [24/3/11]:

The Mackay district's 2011 cane crop is expected to be slashed by about one million tonnes on the back of extreme rainfall in 2010 that preceded the traditional wet season now under way.

Canegrowers Mackay chairman, Paul Schembri said while the 2011 harvest was slowly approaching, preliminary estimates pointed to Mackay Sugar's crop being about 4.3 million tonnes to 4.8 mt of cane, while Plane Creek's estimate was hovering between one million tonnes and 1.4 mt of cane.

Normally the district crush is about seven million tonnes in total. ...

Kangaroo Grass Comeback

'Queensland Country Life' [24/3/11]:

Unlike the detested and invasive giant rat's tail or the African love grass, introduced to Australia with good intentions but turned rogue, Australia's own Kangaroo grass is making a healthy revival after its near extinction in regions like Eidsvold.

This widespread native grass, Tremedia triandra, is now providing some of the best grazing feed available on properties like historic Eidsvold Station near Eidsvold, owned by Anthony and Sally Coates and being transferred in a graduated succession agreement to Rick and Alice Greenup of Greenup Santa Gertrudis, Cardowan, Kumbia. ...

More Than 250,000 March In London

BBC [26/3/11]:

More than 250,000 people have attended a march and rally in central London against public spending cuts.

Labour leader Ed Miliband addressed crowds in Hyde Park and the main march organised by the Trades Union Congress passed off peacefully.

But small groups attacked shops and banks with a stand-off in Piccadilly. There have been 202 arrests and 35 people injured, including five police.

Ministers say the cuts are necessary to get the public finances in order.

In the largest public protest since the Iraq war rally in 2003, marchers from across the UK set off from Victoria Embankment to Hyde Park, where TUC general secretary Brendan Barber was first in a line of speakers.

"We are here to send a message to the government that we are strong and united," he said.

"We will fight the savage cuts and we will not let them destroy peoples' services, jobs and lives."

Mr Barber was followed by Mr Miliband, who said: "The Tories said I should not come and speak today. But I am proud to stand with you. There is an alternative."

The march began at 1200 GMT and it took more than four hours for the protesters to file past the Houses of Parliament on their way to the park.

The TUC, which organised the event, said more than 250,000 people had taken part, and the Metropolitan Police confirmed the numbers.

BBC political reporter Brian Wheeler, in central London, said there were lots of families and older people, and the atmosphere was good-natured but the anger was real.

"The noise in Whitehall was deafening as thousands of protesters banged drums, blew whistles and shouted anti-cut slogans, slowly making their way towards Trafalgar Square.

"The crowds were booing as they went past Number 10, but the demonstration was good-natured and friendly.

"There are hundreds of trade union banners, but we have also spoken to public sector workers who have come to make their voices heard."

One of those protesting was Peter Keats, 54, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, who works for Jobcentre Plus.

Organisers estimated at least 250,000 people attended He said: "Personally, I think it's wrong the way we are hitting the poor.

"I'm not so much worried about myself but the customers I deal with are vulnerable and I'm worried about them and I'm worried about the kids of this country."

Demonstrator Christine Nugent, a university research fellow, said: "The size and scale of it, and the range of people here, is great."

The veteran of anti-Margaret Thatcher demonstrations in the 1980s said protesters came from all walks of life, adding: "There are a lot of trade unionists here, but it's not just the usual suspects."

There have been separate incidents involving a number of protesters, some with their faces covered by scarves, away from the main march:

A sit-in organised by the campaign group UK Uncut took place at Fortnum & Mason department store in Piccadilly. The group has previously mounted protests against tax avoidance measures by big businesses
A bonfire was lit by protesters at Oxford Circus, where earlier police said light bulbs containing ammonia were thrown at officers
Topshop on Oxford Street had its windows smashed and was doused with paint
Missiles were thrown at the Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly
Bank branches including the Royal Bank of Scotland were attacked with paint and had windows broken, while branches of HSBC and Santander were broken into.
Scotland Yard said there had been 202 arrests for public order offences, criminal damage, aggravated trespass and violent disorder.

A stand-off between police and splinter groups took place in Piccadilly Commander Bob Broadhurst said: "The main TUC march has been going well. We have had more than a quarter of a million people with hardly any problems.

"Unfortunately we have had a group of approximately 500 criminals committing some disorder including throwing paint at Topshop in Oxford Street and at the police, and scaring the public who are trying to shop."

Policing minister Nick Herbert said the government was "committed to supporting peaceful protest" and blamed the violence on "a small minority of individuals".

Mr Miliband condemned the violence, saying: "There is no excuse for it. It is unlawful and wrong."

Civil rights group Liberty said the march had been "infiltrated by violent elements" who attacked buildings before "melting into the demonstration once more".

Earlier, the largest union involved, Unite, said so many of its members had wanted to take part that it could not find enough coaches or trains to ferry them to London.

Its general secretary Len McCluskey said the scale of the deficit had been exaggerated.

Outlining his economic plan to the BBC, he said: "Our alternative is to concentrate on economic growth through tax fairness so, for example, if the government was brave enough, it would tackle the tax avoidance that robs the British taxpayer of a minimum of £25bn a year."

Education Secretary Michael Gove said he could understand the disquiet and anger.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude on cuts

"But the difficulty that we have as the government inheriting a terrible economic mess is that we have to take steps to bring the public finances back into balance," he said.

Mr Miliband is attending the march but is yet to sketch out an alternative, he added.

Matthew Sinclair, director of the Taxpayers' Alliance which lobbies for lower taxes and greater government efficiency, said: "It's understandable that people feel upset...

"But in the end it's not valid and what politicians should be doing is not encouraging this rally but saying look, you've got to be more realistic about the options facing this country."

Aunty Demonises "The Other"

(While Plibersek Plays Along)

How many versions of this sensationalist rubbish has the ABC churned out over the past few months?

It's almost as if they want to make people who are in genuine need feel uncomfortable (if not guilty) for claiming the benefits they are entitled to:

Furious Queenslanders dob in flood rorters
By Sarah Hawke

Updated March 26, 2011 13:21:00

There are about $2 million in questionable flood claims (ABC: Tim Leslie)
Audio: Investigation launched into flood welfare fraud (AM) Map: Ipswich 4305 Related Story: Flood fraudsters claim $1.2m in rebates
Related Story: Net closes on disaster fund cheats
Related Story: Centrelink to take on flood fraudsters

The Federal Government says it has received more than 4,500 tip-offs about fraudulent flood relief claims in Queensland.

At the height of the floods, the Government rolled out the Disaster Recovery Payments of $1,000 for an adult and $400 for a child.

Now $776 million has been paid out for nearly 700,000 claims.

People furious about those believed to be rorting the Government's fast-cash scheme have been making up to 55 calls a day to a fraud hotline.

Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek says there are about $2 million in questionable claims.

"Cases are still under investigation at the moment but I can say that in previous natural disasters like the Victorian bushfires people have been referred to the police," she said.

"In some cases people have even received custodial sentences."

Ms Plibersek says the flood is the largest natural disaster in Australian history in terms of the number of people affected and eligible for disaster payments.

"If people have deliberately defrauded the Commonwealth, we take that issue very seriously," she said.

"We have very sophisticated ways of matching up data sets to make sure that people are claiming correctly." ...

One quarter of one percent deemed to be questionable?

The reality is that the number of possibly suspect claims is miniscule.

After a relentless media campaign to whip up the very worst elements of our society (the dobbers), you have to question how many of these reports are credible, given that they could be motivated by malice.

Where are the stories from the national broadcaster about people who are still trying to get their lives back together facing obstacle after obstacle (including hostile government agencies, judgmental corporate charities and unsympathetic politicians)?

Yellow journalism is to be expected from the contemptible tabloid rags, but coming from the national broadcaster is a disgrace.

It's Official, Brisbane's King George Square Completely Colonised

The focal point of Brisbane's city centre is the impressive City Hall, the finest in Australia, it is being converted to a cultural and recreational centre while the administration of the city is conducted from new offices nearby. King George Square is used almost daily for displays and performances ... ['Brisbane' by John Herrick, Golden Press 1977]

'Brisbane Times' [26/3/11]:

Giant screens at two inner-city landmarks are set to become focal points for televised sports and entertainment events in Brisbane's CBD.

Brisbane City Council this week awarded a contract won by Screen Corp, the company that provides big screens to the Sydney's Cricket Ground and ANZ Stadium.

Deputy Mayor in waiting, finance chairman Adrian Schrinner, said big crowds would be able to gather to watch sporting events on the big screens.

“The screens being offered are the same quality as those currently available at the top of the market and will allow people to come and watch everything from State of Origin to the Oscars,” Cr Schrinner said.

“This is part of our commitment to fostering more of a community feel in Brisbane and promoting public involvement in some the city's biggest events.”

The screens will be financed through advertising. They will also show council marketing material for 10 per cent of the time and advertising (20 per cent) from which council would receive five per cent of the revenue.

That is predicted to provide the council revenue of about $20,000 a year.

Under the plan, a 30-square-metre screen would go into King George Square near the Groove Train restaurant, while a second screen about 23-square-metres would be installed from the roof at the upper end of the Queen Street Mall between Albert and George streets.

Hey Queensland, do you like what the Newman Administration has done to the public square in your capital city?

And who knows whether we will ever be allowed inside our beautiful City Hall again.

Pricks.

"Very Strange"? Couldn't It Be A Manifestation Of Climate Change?

Huge swarms of water beetles have descended on the Gold Coast.

Entomologist professor Clyde Wild, from Griffith University, says it is a strange occurrence.

"I haven't seen anything like this before, it seems to be all one species of beetle," he said.

"They're actually water beetles but not saltwater beetles, so to see them down near the sea is a bit strange.

"They will have come from freshwater somewhere but not nearby I think, so this is very strange."

That it's been unseasonally warm over the past week and parts of Australia are flooded is not relevant to this story?

From a CSIRO Water Beetle Fact Sheet:

Flooding Regimes
Alternating periods of flooding and drought could affect dytiscid populations, which need water for survival. The strong flying ability of adults will allow recolonization of aquatic habitats after periods of drought.

What Gets Rewarded In Yucky Sexist Australia?

'Queensland Times' [25/3/11]:

Retail sector investment firm Premier Investments Ltd has appointed former David Jones boss Mark McInnes as chief executive of Premier Retail as the company faces "extremely challenging" conditions.

Mr McInnes resigned from David Jones in June 2010 after admitting to behaving inappropriately towards a female employee of the company.

Former publicist Kristy Fraser-Kirk dropped a $37 million sexual harassment lawsuit against David Jones, Mr McInnes and nine directors in October 2010 after the retailer settled for $850,000.

Melbourne-based Premier announced the appointment of Mr McInnes on Friday as it reported a lower first half net profit, which the company said had been pulled back by a disappointing result from the Just Group clothing business.

Just Group's brands include Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Portmans, Jacqui E, Peter Alexander, Dotti and Smiggle.

Premier chairman Solomon Lew described Mr McInnes as one of Australia's most successful retailers, who had transformed luxury department store David Jones and created substantial shareholder value.

Mr Lew said in a market briefing he would not comment on "past events that did not involve Premier".

"It goes without saying that Premier and Just have long had high standards of workplace values and performance. This has always been and always will be important," Mr Lew said.

Mr McInnes said he was delighted to be back in the retail business.

"I understand and am fully committed to Just's policies, values and expectations," he said.

Mr McInnes said he would focus on maximising Premier's existing retail portfolio and on looking for growth opportunities for Just.

"You know I have a proven track record of turning great heritage brands into fashion and financial powerhouses," he said.

Mr McInnes will receive a fixed remuneration of $2 million per year.

He can also receive a cash bonus of up to $2 million per year if performance targets are met, and up to $1.2 million per year in performance rights. ...

Killers' Defence Of Provocation Wound Back In Qld

ASHLEY HALL: Six years after the horrific bashing death of a teenager who taunted a man with insults about his sexual performance the defence of verbal provocation has been wound back in Queensland.

In that case the killer was convicted of manslaughter instead of murder because he argued he was provoked by his former lover.

The provocation defence has already been abolished in some other jurisdictions. But in Queensland where a mandatory life sentence applies to murder criminal lawyers argue it's important to keep the defence.

Annie Guest reports from Brisbane.

ANNIE GUEST: Gold Coast girl Taryn Hunt was 16 when she was killed by Damian Sebo, a man in his late 20s with whom she'd been in a relationship.

The case was watched carefully by criminal law expert associate professor Heather Douglas from the University of Queensland.

HEATHER DOUGLAS: She was involved in a relationship with another man. And she was saying to her partner, suggesting that his performance wasn't as good as it could be, that she could have other lovers. And this resulted in him killing her with a steering wheel lock.

ANNIE GUEST: And then he used provocation as a defence.

HEATHER DOUGLAS: Yes he did. And he was found guilty of manslaughter instead of murder as a result which causes in Queensland a significant reduction in penalty.

ANNIE GUEST: Last night the Queensland Parliament passed an amendment to the Criminal Code limiting the use of verbal provocation as a defence.

HEATHER DOUGLAS: It seems that now it would need to be exceptional context for the use of words in order to justify a claim of provocation in a criminal case in Queensland. This is only for killing cases though I should say as well.

ANNIE GUEST: The news has been welcomed by the Queensland Homicide Victims' Support Group.

It's spokesman is Ross Thompson.

ROSS THOMPSON: A lot of our members have been affected by the decisions brought down within court in regards to provocation, especially in regards to this case that it relates to.

ANNIE GUEST: And how do you think this news will be received by the family of the 16 year old girl who was the subject of the case that the laws, that prompted the change in the laws?

ROSS THOMPSON: Hopefully they can get some resolve out of there. It was not resolved correctly. But I hope that they look at it for better justice down the road for other families that are affected in this way.

ANNIE GUEST: But the Queensland Law Society's Criminal Law Section sees it differently. Its chairman Glen Cranny says provocation is an important partial defence in criminal law.

GLEN CRANNY: The purpose of the defence is to recognise that we are all human, we all have human frailties and we all react in different ways to different types of news and to different types of provocation.

And a jury is asked in cases of this nature whether what the accused did in response to the provocation - was that fair, was it reasonable, was it something an ordinary person would do.

And the defence is then only allowed if all 12 people agree. So it's a pretty high test in that regard.

ANNIE GUEST: Now there are other jurisdictions that have dropped this as a defence altogether. But in Queensland it's a bit of a different situation isn't it because of the law that requires mandatory sentencing for murder?

GLEN CRANNY: That's certainly one of the reasons why I think the defence is said to be so important that it remain in some form or another. Different jurisdictions have more flexibility in their sentencing regimes when it comes to these things.

ANNIE GUEST: Many Queensland criminal lawyers say the best approach would be to follow the example of some other jurisdictions and review mandatory life sentencing for murder. But they have little hope politicians would take on such an electorally fraught issue.

ASHLEY HALL: Annie Guest.

Revealed: Murdoch's Plot To Run Ten

'Australian Financial Review' [25/3/11]:

... For an investment of just $260 million, the two [Murdoch and Packer] are largely calling the shots at a company that has a market captitalisation of more than $1.2 billion.

Since coming onto the Ten share register late last year, they have orchestrated the exit of executive chairman Nick Falloon, seen off Blackley and launched a review of the company's strategy, which is being steered by Murdoch.

Yesterday Long [Chairman, Brian Long] told The Australian Financial Review a joint chief executive role was never put to Blackley.

Murdoch was not available for comment, but his spokesman also denied the claim.

Sources close to the Ten board say the idea for Murdoch to share executive responsibilities with Blackley was not initially raised with the company's other directors, including fast-food king Jack Cowin and iron-ore billionaire Gina Rinehart.

When the idea was put to them, most hated the idea and dismissed it as unworkable.

Ten's independent directors discussed the idea in early February and killed it. This rejection was quietly communicated to Murdoch and Packer. It was never put to a vote of the full board.

The media scions had lost that battle, but they would soon have their revenge.

On February 23, Blackley was called to Long's office in Ten's Pyrmont headquarters on the fringe of Sydney's CBD.

The chairman and Cowin were waiting for Blackley. They delivered the news swiftly: his contract had been terminated with immediate effect. Blackley is said to have responded that he was "not greatly surprised" by the decision.

On the day Blackley was removed, the board said it had "received preliminary information associated with the forecast financial results" for the six months to February 28.

The information was not uplifting: earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation would be down 12 per cent to $103 million, including a 15.6 per cent drop in earnings from the TV network.

The inference was clear: the board had not been startled by the numbers and needed to find a fall guy.

Yesterday Murdoch's sopkesman said the "decision to terminate Grant's contract was related to the drop in television earnings" and "Lachlan reluctantly accepted to act as CEO at the request of the board".

However, sources close to Ten insist the directors knew before February 23 that the February-half numbers could be bad. ...

Mean, Racist, Yucky Australia

Refugee advocates have described the decision to take a boat of asylum seekers to Ashmore Reef en route to the mainland as "farcical".

The boat was unable to land on Christmas Island due to overcrowding and unrest.

The Government has said asylum seekers enjoy greater legal rights if they first land on the mainland and not on an excised territory like Ashmore Reef or Christmas Island.

However the High Court ruled last year asylum seekers would have the right of appeal to Australia's courts no matter if they were landed offshore or on the mainland.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said his legal advice was that those on the boat would be treated as offshore asylum seekers no matter where they landed.

Refugee lawyer David Manne says, under the offshore processing regime, decisions must be made according to the ordinary protections of Australian law.

"This move would appear to achieve little in substance and seems to be a bit of a charade - it does point to how farcical the situation is," he said.

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul says it appears the Government was making doubly sure the asylum seekers would be denied the benefits of onshore processing.

"If they were picked up in an exclusion zone they would not have to put a foot on Ashmore reef," he said.

He says despite the High Court ruling, offshore asylum seekers do not enjoy the same rights as those processed onshore.

"The Government has made doubly sure they will not be able to go to the Refugee Review Tribunal or have their applications finalised within 90 days."

He says Mr Bowen has the final say on applications.

"It makes them vulnerable to political interference, as well," Mr Rintoul said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says it is further proof the Government's border policies are failing.

Yesterday, two asylum seekers were charged with escaping immigration detention after a number of detainees escaped during a week of rioting on Christmas Island.

They were recaptured on Tuesday morning after federal police scoured bushland. The offence carries a maximum five years in jail.

Breast Implants Linked To Rare Cancer

Australian women considering breast implants are being warned of a potential link to a rare form of cancer.

The link emerged in a report by the US Food and Drug Administration which found 60 cases of anaplastic lymphoma in women who had received implants, including four in Australia.

While the cancer is rare, doctors are warning women of the risks.

But Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons president Peter Callan says because the incidence is so low, most women will not change their minds about the procedure.

"Women who have breast implants should be aware of it and they should see someone if they have swelling in a breast," he said.

Cancer Council chief executive Ian Olver says while the cancer is rare, it is something women considering breast augmentation should know about.

He is urging women with breast implants to regularly monitor their breasts for any abnormalities.

"We don't want to alarm people, but they should be informed that this rare type of lymphoma, which is usually fairly easily treated, has been found in a slightly higher incidence with people with breast implants," he said.

When The Power Of Love Overcomes The Love Of Power There Will Be Peace

Sri Chinmoy

Nine MSN [24/3/11]:

The Australian Defence Force has launched an investigation into racist Facebook posts allegedly posted by Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

In the posts, the soldiers refer to Afghanis as "sand niggaz", "dune coons", "ragheads" and "smelly locals".

A video from Facebook which aired on Seven News shows Australians bombing a bridge in Afghanistan. Local bystanders are visibly as a background voice is heard saying: "scared the f--- out of that muftee''.

In another post on the social media site, a soldier wrote "I'm in Afghan ... now. running over c----. Yeeha."

The comments have all allegedly been made by soldiers who have previously served or are currently serving in Afghanistan.

Acting Chief of Army Major General Paul Symon said told Seven News: "I struggle to understand, with all the training that we do and with the quality of soldiers that we have, that that sort of language has been posted."

Major Symon said the posts are deeply offensive and those responsible must be held accountable.

The soldiers could face military tribunal, discharge or jail, he said.

Director of the Human Rights Law Resource Council, Phil Lynch, said the posts undermined Australia's mission in the region and do not promote peace and harmony.

Mr Lynch added the posts do not reflect the attitudes of the Australian Defence Force and Australians in general.

Fuck You IMF!

Euro News [24/3/11]:

Europe’s leaders will meet for a crucial summit today amid a political crisis in Portugal that threatens fresh trouble for the euro.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates will be in Brussels to help sign-off on a lasting game plan to defend the euro after months of turbulence caused by the financial crisis.

But Socrates resigned yesterday after parliament rejected his minority government’s latest austerity plan, aimed at avoiding a multi-billion euro bailout along the lines of Greece and Ireland.

Originally scheduled to finalise plans to shore up the single currency, leaders of the 27-nation union will be embroiled in a new dilemma if Portugal seeks a bailout from the EU and IMF.

There is also likely to be dissent over the EU’s common foreign policy due to splits on the international action in Libya.

Cops Roughed Me Up, Says Blogger

'Gold Coast Mail' [24/3/11]:

A Caloundra blogger alleges he was roughed up while being arrested by Security Intelligence Branch detectives after they questioned him about confronting images he emailed several politicians.

Glenn Dirix said yesterday the detectives came to his Battery Hill home about 8.30pm on Tuesday to question him about two photoshopped images he sent to the politicians – including Premier Anna Bligh – midway through last year.

Mr Dirix, 51, said the detectives determined he was not a threat, and when they were getting into their car he yelled: “F****** arrest some real criminals.”

The social commentator claimed one of the detectives then kicked down a wooden gate, and both detectives forced him to the ground, handcuffed him and took him to Caloundra Police Station.

He said the incident had left him with a corked thigh and bruised ribs.

Mr Dirix has been charged with causing a public nuisance and obstructing police, and is due to appear in Caloundra Magistrates Court on April 12.

He described the detectives' actions as “way, way over the top”.

His partner witnessed the entire incident.

“Yeah, I'm going to plead not guilty,” he said.

“I'm going to get a solicitor and try (to have the charges dropped).

“And hopefully the magistrate will see sense in regards to the charges.”

Mr Dirix said he sent the images to the politicians when the then Rudd Government was going “pear-shaped”.

The other pollies who received the images were Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, Deputy Premier Paul Lucas, Attorney-General Cameron Dick and NSW independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.

Mr Dirix said the detectives told him he had used an electronic device for harassment, but they determined he was not a threat after interviewing him in his house.

However, he is puzzled as why they even bothered coming to see him given the images were emailed months ago.

“So if I was a threat, I think it would be well and truly over because it took so long for them to come out here,” he said.

Police would not confirm that detectives visited Mr Dirix about the emails, only saying: “Police attended the man's residence to make inquiries to an unrelated matter, when the man allegedly became agitated and abusive.''

Sulphuric Acid Spill 'No Risk'

'Gold Coast Mail' [24/3/11]:

Investigations are underway into a sulphuric acid spill from the Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun site on Sunday.

The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) has undertaken urgent action following advice it received on Monday about a spill of about 25,000 litres of sulphuric acid from the site, 10km north-west of Gladstone.

The spill occurred during a period of heavy rain, with most of the acid allegedly being washed into the on-site stormwater systems and into Boat Creek at the time.

Investigations are continuing, but at this stage DERM has found no evidence that environmental harm has been caused by the spill.

A Rio Tinto spokesman said following the company's preliminary investigations, it was estimated that only 3000 litres were spilled in the process area.

“The vast majority of this was contained on site and only a small amount of sulphuric acid and sea water mix was released into the creek,” he said.

DERM Regional Services director Joe Pappalardo said inspections by DERM officers in Boat Creek and further downstream in Port Curtis had found no evidence of environmental harm, suggesting that the recent rain and high tides in Boat Creek had helped to dilute the acid and flush it through the system relatively quickly.

The drain valve was removed from service as soon as the incident occurred.

It will remain out of operation until it has been fully repaired and the investigation is complete.

Company Downplays Shale Oil Plant Impact

Residents in the Gladstone region in central Queensland have been told there is no need for concern about a proposal to restart a shale oil plant.

A previous demonstration plant at Yarwun operated by Southern Pacific Petroleum was closed after residents' concerns about emissions and a series of protests by environmentalists.

The site has now been taken over by Queensland Energy Resources, which will operate a demonstration plant of its own.

But spokesman John Hewitt says the technology is different this time, meaning less emissions.

"The previous technology was a horizontal retort - it's a vertical gravity-fed retort, so if there are process interruptions the shale just falls down through the retort and can be started up again, so it's quite robust," he said.

"It also uses lumps of shale as opposed to the fines of the previous technology, so there are less emissions of dust if you like.

"Previous technology that was at this site used 250 tonnes an hour of oil shale - we'll be using 2.5, two-and-a-half tonnes an hour - one-one-hundredth of the capacity of that."

He says it is just a demonstration plant.

"It's to show people that this is a technology that works a lot differently, it is a lot more robust, there is no commercial aspect to it at this stage," he said.

"Inquiry Into 1 Million Contractors" ?

Sacked from my job.

Forced to get an ABN.

Injured at work.

Find out I'm not covered by Work Cover.

Prosecuted by the ATO.

Yeah, that's what this inquiry is all about.

Interesting first par, wouldn't you say?

'Australian Financial Review' [23/3/11]:

Australia's one million contractors face tougher scrutiny from three regulators as the main construction union alleges tax revenue of up to $2.4 billion a year is being lost through sham arrangements in the building industry alone.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will conduct audits on three industries - hair and beauty, cleaning and call centres - to identify where employees are being treated as contractors to avoid paying entitlements and to cut labour costs.

"We're going through the process of auditing a number of industries see what the threshold level of sham contracting might be, "Ombudsman Nick Wilson told 'The Australian Financial Review.'

The audits come as the Australian Building and Construction Comission (ABCC) conducts a national inquiry into sham contracting, which has been slammed by employer groups and boycotted by unions.

Commercial builders who use contractors are estimated to save a minimum of 25 per cent on overtime hours, plus savings on leave, payroll tax, workers' compensation, superannuation and redundancy. ...

Future Fund's Murray Stays - For Now

'Australian Financial Review' [23/3/11]:

David Murray was reappointed chairman of the Future Fund yesterday, 12 days before the expiring of his term.

The decision allows the government to delay the tough question of who will lead the fund over the longer term.

Instead of the normal five-year contract, the former Commonwealth Bank chief executive was given a one-year extension which the government said Murray had requested for "personal reasons".

Two new members were appointed to the board: finance industry veteran Carol Austin and thee co-chief executive of Goldman Sachs Australia, Stephen Fitzgerald. John Mulcahy was reappointed.

Two of the four board members whose terms were up were not reappointed - corporate lawyer Jeffrey Brown and professional director Trevor Rowe, who was interested in replacing Mr Murray. ...

UN Queries PNG Logging

'Australian Financial Review' [23/3/11]:

The United Nations has sent Papua New Guinea's government a "please explain" letter about millions of hectares of land allocated for what some say is "logging by stealth". Last year PNG villagers in Western Province were outraged when the government gave away more than 1 million hectares of pristine forest for special agricultural business leases without their knowledge or consent.

Auction House Wins Case

'Australian Financial Review' [22/3/11]:

Christie's International won dismissal of a lawsuit filed by billionaire collector William Koch that claimed the auction house "induced" him into buying counterfeit wine. The complaint was filed last year in Manhattan federal court. Mr Koch, who lives in Florida, claimed London-based Christie's has sold counterfeit win "for many years"

Bloomberg

Digital Radio Slow To Take Off

'Australian Financial Review' [22/3/11]:

A $25 million marketing campaign and the launch of more than 20 dedicated radio stations have not been enough to convince a large number of Australians to embrace digitial radio.

A report from industry group, Commercial Radio Australia shows that two years after it was introduced in the mainland capital cities, digital radio has a modest 5.6 per cent share of total capital-city radio listening.

While 78 per cent of the people surveyed know digital radio existed, sales of digital radio sets were low. ...

Isn't Living In A One-Paper Town Great?

Wouldn't it be good if our legislators dealt with this problem, or if Fairfax and the ABC took up the issue of News Ltd.'s abuse of its monopoly power?

Queensland Parliament Hansard [23/3/11]:

Personal Explanation

Courier-Mail Article, Funeral Industry

Mrs SULLIVAN (Pumicestone--ALP) (10.29 am): On 9 March I issued a press release in my name as the chair of the Queensland parliament’s Environment and Resources Committee. The press release referred to the current inquiry the committee is conducting into aspects of the funeral industry--a serious and very sensitive matter. I table a copy of the press release.

Tabled paper: Media release, dated 9 March 2011, titled ‘Parliamentary Environment Committee to look at the environmental impacts of burials and cremations’.

It was brought to my attention that the story was published online by the Courier-Mail. I table a copy of the article.

Tabled paper: Copy of an article, dated 9 March 2011, from the Courier Mail titled ‘Labor MP Carryn Sullivan calls for environmentally friendly burials and cremations’.

The online story included information not included in the press release but gave the impression that that information had indeed been sourced from the committee. In particular, the last paragraph, which was not information provided by the committee, has been the cause of a great many negative and threatening comments from online readers, much of them directed at me. I table a copy of these comments.

Tabled paper: Copy of blog comments on the Courier Mail article, dated 9 March 2011, titled ‘Labor MP Carryn Sullivan calls for environmentally friendly burials and cremations’.

This has caused members of the committee, and particularly me, a great deal of anxiety and distress, and the police have been made aware of the physical threats. I have written to the Courier-Mail editor-in-chief and I table a copy of the letter.

Tabled paper: Letter, dated 17 March 2011, from Carryn Sullivan MP to Mr David Fagan, Editor in Chief, the Courier Mail regarding an article in the Courier Mail on the inquiry by the Environment and Resources Committee.

In it I ask him to correct the record by publishing the press release in full, making it clear that the portion of the story that offended its readers was information taken from another source, and close down the blogs from the online story that advocate physical violence.

Why Does The National Broadcaster Always Push The Lifestyle Connection To Cancer Line?

It is cruel and irresponsible.

Nearly every day ABC radio or the evening television news bulletin report on "miracle cures", fear monger about the public health system or run a blame allocating cancer story. Usually these stories are based on PR from the pharmaceutical/medical industrial complex.

It's as if the national broadcaster's editorial policy is to shout down the bleeding obvious:

Deutsche Welle [26/11/10]:


Newly published figures from the Lower Saxony state cancer registry show that in the area around Asse, the site of a controversial nuclear waste dump near Wolffenbuettel, some cancer rates are higher than normal.

Between 2002 and 2009 there were 12 cases of leukemia in the greater Asse region. The area had twice the rate expected for men. While there was no significant increase in leukemia for women, their rate of thyroid cancer was three times as high as normal. ...

Breast Cancer Link To Environment Goes Mainstream

'Womens eNews' correspondent Molly M. Ginty reports [4/7/10] that suspicions breast cancer could be caused by environmental pollution were once considered politically fringe. But in recent weeks, U.S. lawmakers, a presidential panel and the influential Susan G. Komen for the Cure have all signed on:

... When asked why Komen launched this initiative, Elizabeth Thompson, a spokesperson for the organization, said that concern about carcinogens has "come to the point where we need all hands on deck."

"We're delighted and think it's about time," Barish replied in response.

Komen's partnership with the Institute of Medicine was announced shortly after the May 6 online publication of "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk," a landmark report by the President's Cancer Panel. The report warns that carcinogens are causing "grievous harm" to Americans and that the number of cancer deaths related to pollution has been "grossly underestimated" due to a lack of sufficient research.

Formed in 1971 to monitor national cancer policy, the President's Cancer Panel has never before made such sweeping statements, instead focusing its previous reports on issues such as health disparities, barriers to care and cancer survivorship rates. ...

« The connection between breast cancer and synthetic chemicals

Climate Change : It's All YOUR Fault

Council officers are going from house to house in two suburbs in Cairns in far north Queensland looking for mosquito breeding sites after an outbreak of dengue fever.

Queensland Health has confirmed two cases of the mosquito-borne disease in Mooroobool and Manunda, with test results pending for a further three people.

The council's environmental assessment manager, Laurie Phipps, says most residents are doing the right thing to protect their properties.

"We've got eight people out there at the moment," he said.

"It'll keep going until we get the clear to say that there's no more been advised and that there's no pending cases and that there's no active cases out there.

"We'll keep doing it until that comes up and stops."

The council says it will consider fining residents who do not protect their homes against dengue fever.

Mr Phipps says eight officers are working to contain the outbreak.

"Council in the past has issued on-the-spot fines for these things ...and if it is necessary and people won't do the right thing, council will issue on-the-spot fines for that. It's $400," he said.

US Army 'Kill Team' in Afghanistan Posed for Photos of Murdered Civilians

Commanders brace for backlash of anti-US sentiment that could be more damaging than after the Abu Ghraib scandal

By Jon Boone

Editors note. The Images posted with this article were added to the original item by Information Clearing House

- WARNING -

Images depict the reality and horror of war

Viewer discretion advised

March 21, 2011 "The Guardian" -- Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of "trophy" photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed.

Senior officials at Nato's International Security Assistance Force in Kabul have compared the pictures published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq which sparked waves of anti-US protests around the world.

They fear that the pictures could be even more damaging as they show the aftermath of the deliberate murders of Afghan civilians by a rogue US Stryker tank unit that operated in the southern province of Kandahar last year.

Some of the activities of the self-styled "kill team" are already public, with 12 men currently on trial in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians.

Five of the soldiers are on trial for pre-meditated murder, after they staged killings to make it look like they were defending themselves from Taliban attacks.

Other charges include the mutilation of corpses, the possession of images of human casualties and drug abuse.

All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

The case has already created shock around the world, particularly with the revelations that the men cut "trophies" from the bodies of the people they killed.

An investigation by Der Spiegel has unearthed approximately 4,000 photos and videos taken by the men.

The magazine, which is planning to publish only three images, said that in addition to the crimes the men were on trial for there are "also entire collections of pictures of other victims that some of the defendants were keeping".

The US military has strived to keep the pictures out of the public domain fearing it could inflame feelings at a time when anti-Americanism in Afghanistan is already running high.

In a statement, the army said it apologised for the distress caused by photographs "depicting actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States".

The lengthy Spiegel article that accompanies the photographs contains new details about the sadistic behaviour of the men.

In one incident in May last year, the article says, during a patrol, the team apprehended a mullah who was standing by the road and took him into a ditch where they made him kneel down.

The group's leader, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, then allegedly threw a grenade at the man while an order was given for him to be shot.

Afterwards, Gibbs is described cutting off one of the man's little fingers and removing a tooth.

The patrol team later claimed to their superiors that the mullah had tried to threaten them with a grenade and that they had no choice but to shoot.

On Sunday night many organisations employing foreign staff, including the United Nations, ordered their staff into a "lockdown", banning all movements around Kabul and requiring people to remain in their compounds.

In addition to the threat from the publication of the photographs, security has been heightened amid fears the Taliban may try to attack Persian new year celebrations.

There could also be attacks because Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, is due to make a speech declaring which areas of the country should be transferred from international to Afghan control in the coming months.

One security manager for the US company DynCorp sent an email to clients warning that publication of the photos was likely "to incite the local population" as the "severity of the incidents to be revealed are graphic and extreme".

Organic Food Supplier Takes On Woolworths

Yahoo 7 News [22/3/11]:

An organic food supplier has launched a legal battle against supermarket giant Woolworths over a phrase used in a marketing campaign starring celebrity cook Margaret Fulton.

The supplier claims Woolworths has infringed on its trademark by using the words "Honest to Goodness" in its latest advertising push, launched two weeks ago with television commercials, recipe cards and a website featuring Ms Fulton.

Counsel for Organic Marketing Australia (OMA), which trades as Honest to Goodness, told a Federal Court judge on Tuesday it began using its trademark in 2003, and since then the business had developed a "reputation in name and brand".

"When people hear the words Honest to Goodness ... the applicant's business springs to mind," OMA's barrister Ian Wylie said.

Matt Ward and his wife started Honest to Goodness nine years ago and today the "boutique wholesaler and retailer" supplies products to 350 specialist and independent food stores in Australia.

Mr Wylie told Justice Anna Katzmann that Woolworths was aware of the Honest To Goodness business because in 2009 it had explored the possibility of Mr Ward supplying a product but he declined the offer.

He also said that, given the scale of Woolworths, it "must have" done some basic checks on intellectual property.

"We can't say the company consciously engaged in wrongdoing ... but we do say ... the matter was considered and (Woolworths) proceeded aware of the risks," Mr Wylie said.

He also said it appeared attempts had been made to "refine" the phrase in the campaign by tagging them with other words such as "Margaret Fulton" and "Family Meals".

Mr Wylie agreed this was of some comfort to his client but said the question to ask was what damage had already been done.

Arguing for an injunction, Mr Wylie said although there would be significant costs involved with the campaign it would ony be a tiny fraction of Woolworths' sales and profits.

In terms of damage suffered to Honest to Goodness, Mr Wylie said it would be an "enormous challenge" to quantify because "what we are talking about is market share".

"It will have sales taken away ... and it will have customers less likely to want to deal with it because of an association that they see (with Woolworths)," he said.

Mr Wylie said Honest to Goodness's clients stock and sell its products because they are not distributed to mass markets.

Woolworths is fighting the case and will argue that the phrase consists of "ordinary English words".

The hearing is continuing.

Why Is Bligh Letting The Opposition Call The Shots?

Queensland has a unicameral government. There are no checks and balances and the monopoly media, politicians multinational business interests are in bed with each other - a cute little game they play to the exclusion of the citizenry.

The State Government was going to get hurled out at the next election. Now we are back to an unelectable Opposition, or we should be, but the Murdoch media is going to back their old hack's new boss 100%.

Stuff it! Sorry Queensland, but you really are going to get what you deserve.

If this wasn't a charade, Bligh would go the distance. She'd say something along the lines of:

"I have previously made it clear that there will be no early election. We have a State to run, we have climate change to deal with, we have rebuilding and repairs which must take priority. I understand that the people of Queensland would rather have been consulted on such a drastic measure as our neo-liberal modelled asset sales, and they would probably prefer it if we weren't so obviously in bed with the coal seam gas industry and handing out subsidies and other lurks to those exploiting our 'once-only' resources.

"As with their boundless gullibility when it comes to 'news', the citizens of Queensland deserve the government they get. I was elected to run a government without a house of review, most of you have no idea what that is, but it means that I run this state absolutely. Apart from playing along with the game, the function of parliament in Queensland is to give the citizens a sense that they are somehow represented.

"It is time that Queenslanders understand how things work in this State. We have two parties, no house of review, a completely discredited mono-media and a back-room bigger than the rest of the State put together.

"Winner takes it all. The fix is in and the future has already been written regardless of how you vote. That is just how it is. That is how it is going to stay, and there is nothing the people of this State can do about it.

"I am in charge of this State and the election is in 2012, the LNP are a joke. Deal with it."

Nine MSN [22/3/11]:

Queensland could be set for an early election after the opposition revealed an extraordinary plan to install Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman as its new leader.

Mr Newman ended days of speculation on Tuesday when he announced he'd seek Liberal National Party (LNP) preselection for the Labor-held seat of Ashgrove and, if successful, would challenge John-Paul Langbroek for the leadership.

Mr Langbroek saved him the trouble when he and his deputy, Lawrence Springborg, quit their posts soon afterwards.

Senior MPs Jeff Seeney and Tim Nicholls immediately announced they would run for the leadership and deputy leadership positions at a party-room meeting on Tuesday night.

"Campbell's in it for Queensland and I'm with Campbell all the way," Mr Seeney told reporters.

He said he would represent the opposition in parliament, but it would be Mr Newman's job to deliver election messages, an arrangement he insisted was "very workable".

Mr Seeney said either he or Mr Newman would front press conferences as the opposition leader depending on the issue, and he did not believe that would confuse voters.

"We will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that there is no confusion in the public's mind that Campbell Newman is the leader of the LNP election team," Mr Seeney said.

Asked what would happen if the LNP won the next state election but Mr Newman failed to win Ashgrove - currently held by Environment Minister Kate Jones - Mr Seeney said he had no intention of being premier.

The new premier would be decided in a party-room meeting after the election, he said.

Mr Seeney said he realised the unorthodox new order was "high risk" but "a man like Campbell Newman stands apart".

Premier Anna Bligh responded by attacking Mr Newman who she claimed had abandoned flood-hit Brisbane - a flaw that made him unfit to lead the state.

Ms Bligh also refused to rule out an early election, despite having made repeated promises this year not to bring forward the poll, scheduled for early 2012.

She said that possibility came courtesy of the LNP, which had acted in a way that risked the parliament descending into a "dysfunctional farce".

"Today as we see these extraordinary events, events that in my view undermine and make a mockery of our parliamentary democracy," she said.

"I am not in a position to rule anything in or anything out and I think Queenslanders will understand that."

Mr Newman admitted the plan was complex and risky, but said he'd done something similar in 2002 when he was not a councillor on Brisbane City Council but was the Liberals' endorsed candidate for the lord mayoralty.

"I effectively ran a campaign, built a relationship with the Liberal party room and actually successfully won the lord mayoralty," the former army major told reporters as he announced his tilt.

"That is what I intend to do again.

"I believe that I'm the one to lead the (state) team forward."

Mr Seeney said Mr Langbroek and Mr Springborg would both be offered shadow positions when the team was examined at the end of the week.

However, both men said they wanted no part of the new shadow ministry and would leave the future of the party to those who had decided on a "different course".

Mr Langbroek said he understood politics was a "treacherous business" but he did not apologise for not being a "showman" or "headkicker".

Mr Springborg, who led the LNP to two election defeats, reminded those in the party that it was bigger than any one person.

"This party is bigger than any one individual and it has to be very careful about the approach that it takes," he said.

Mr Springborg said the "custodians of the organisation" had a responsibility to explain their actions to LNP members.

"Maybe when it's explained to them, they will be very, very comfortable," he said.

Belgian & EU Parliamentary Meetings On Peakoil & Energy Policy

Bakken Oil [21/3/11]:

The end of cheap oil poses the great challenge of diminishing dependence on oil in the economy. Topics of importance include coping with effects of high oil prices on the economy and investment, regional transport planning for diminished oil use, and an agriculture without fossil fuel use, To advance policy discussions on these and more topics two meetings will be held as part of the 9th ASPO conference in Belgium, at the European Parliament (03 may 2011) and the Walloon Parliament (26 April 2011) in Belgium. Both meetings can be attended publicly free of charge. The meetings are organized together with the Peakoil & Gas Committee of the Walloon Parliament and the Greens/European Free Alliance Party in the European Parliament. ...

At 75, Suzuki To Battle On Keeping Planet And Us Alive

'The Province' [22/3/11]:

As Canada's best known environmental crusader nears his 75th birthday, David Suzuki has been giving extra weight to the message he's been bringing to Canadians for decades.

"It seems to me that as an elder now . . . I hope there's a credibility that comes from being in the last part of my life."

Suzuki, who turns 75 Thursday, has summed up a lifetime of experiences into what he calls his "legacy" lecture. It's the foundation of his new book with the same name.

He said he's hoping it's the right time to urge Canadians to recognize the air, water, soil and other living things on the planet are what keep people alive.

Born in Vancouver, Suzuki, who started his career as a geneticist in the 1960s, was inspired by a book by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, which warned about the harmful effects of pesticides and led to the birth of the modern environmental movement.

"Those were days of battling," said Suzuki.

"We had issues and people were swept up. They got caught up in the excitement and the aura of stopping logging to protect old-growth rainforests, protecting pristine rivers. People loved that and began to look at the environment as a serious issue."

Nearly 50 years later, he said that perceptions about the economy are trumping concerns about the atmosphere that keeps people alive.

"The bottom line is very clear," he said. "We are animals and as . . . biological creatures, if we don't have clean air, clean water and clean soil that gives us our food and clean energy from the sun and biodiversity, if we don't have those things, we're dead . . . and yet we use air, water and soil as a garbage can and we cut down and destroy species at the rate of 50,000 a year as if they are resources that we can exploit."

Suzuki has made his mark. He regularly makes the grade at or near the top of surveys of the most-trusted Canadians.

Suzuki's new book is also complemented by a movie, Force of Nature, that documents some key moments and lessons of his life.

Miles Richardson, who led the Haida nation in the 1980s through a battle to stop the logging industry from threatening to destroy an old-growth forest on the northern coastal B.C. islands, said Suzuki hasn't really changed over the years since their first meeting about three decades ago.

"I thought he was officious, very abrupt, and even a bit rude, and you know he's still like that, but I see a lot more," said Richardson, whose battle to save the forest was documented by Suzuki's show.

"I think David will be building his legacy until he draws his last breath. He's one of those rare individuals who has the courage to live their convictions."

No Work For Our Builders

'Gold Coast Mail' [22/3/11]:

Ipswich builders say they are losing out on flood reconstruction work as insurance firms dish out contracts to interstate firms.

City construction workers had predicted a boom in work after floods caused widespread destruction throughout Ipswich and the Lockyer Valley in January.

But the deluge of work has not appeared, with one firm even having to lay off staff because of a shortage of work.

Another company has given up preparing quotes for insurance claims after jobs were repeatedly awarded to NSW and Victorian building firms.

Stesco Constructions director Steve Sampson said he was now worried about the future of his business.

“I thought this flood would bring on a scenario where we had too much work,” Mr Sampson said.

“But we are competing with Melbourne and Sydney builders as they are the preferred repairers by insurance companies.”

Master Builders Queensland said it was common for insurance companies to work through established “preferred repairers” in Sydney and Melbourne and has appealed to the State Government to help our tradies.

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said: “Insurers should be investing back into the communities where their customers are making claims.”

Do You Need Any More Evidence That Democracy In Queensland Is Largely Illusory?

... Ambition makes you look pretty ugly ...

'Paranoid Android', Radiohead [1997]

By telegraphing his punches into the distant future, Newman says it all.

Because it doesn't really matter whether he or Bligh win the upcoming state election, their backers have what they want - a faux, stage managed contest - the spectacle of which will be dutifully broadcast in our pathetic excuse for a fourth estate, while the pillaging of our future continues:

Queensland Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek has resigned, less than two hours after high-profile Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman confirmed that he was after his job.

Mr Langbroek's decision came after Councillor Newman announced he would run for pre-selection for a state seat in Brisbane in a bid to take over the leadership of the state's Liberal National Party.

Mr Langbroek's deputy Lawrence Springborg, himself a former leader of the state Opposition, also said he would be standing down.

The pair spoke to reporters in Brisbane after Councillor Newman called a Lang Park press conference to say he would run for LNP preselection in the inner Brisbane seat of Ashgrove, which is currently held by Labor's Environment Minister Kate Jones.

Councillor Newman said he would resign his position as the city's Lord Mayor if his preselection bid was a success. The next state election is due next year.

Announcing his intentions at a Brisbane press conference today, Councillor Newman said he had made the decision after a "lot of soul-searching".

Citing high unemployment in Cairns, "growing pains" in Townsville, infrastructure issues affecting coal, food security concerns and high water prices, he said the LNP needed a change at the top to topple the current Government.

And he said that while Mr Langbroek was a "terrific bloke", he was not up to the challenge of bringing down Anna Bligh's Government.

"Clearly to deal with this Labor party machine, that has been all about spin and has let Queensland down in so many ways, we need to mount a huge and effective campaign over the next 12 months," he said.

"I believe that I am the one to lead the team forward. I'm saying today I'm prepared to do the hard yards."

Councillor Newman also said he had been phoned by state MPs offering their support for his leadership tilt.

"I've had expressions of support from the state LNP party room," he said.

"They are frustrated, they want to be heard, they've got policies they want to launch."

The Lord Mayor denied he had been made leadership promises by current members of the LNP.

"I was not promised anything. This is a way forward, [and] it is not straightforward, it is risky," he said.

"There are no guarantees from anybody, no promises from anyone."

Risky? What a load of ka ka - these pricks think they have it in the bag!

It doesn't have to be this way.

Give Labor and the LNP the finger, support your independent and minor party candidates, and seek out alternatives to the Murdoch press and ABC in one paper towns.

Gaza Air Strikes

'The Guardian' [21/3/11]:

At least 19 Palestinians were said to have been wounded in the Gaza strip as a result of air strikes launched by Israel on Monday after militants launched mortars and rockets into Israeli territory.

Among the wounded were seven children, two women and four militants, according to officials from Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza.

Hamas has stepped up rocket fire at Israel after a lengthy hiatus since the war of two years ago, claiming responsibility for the firing of more than two dozen mortars and rockets at the weekend.

The Israeli military confirmed one of the air raids, saying that several Hamas-affiliated militants were targeted in northern Gaza, as well as a tunnel used to smuggle weapons.

Witnesses in Gaza said Israeli warplanes fired a missile after three mortars were shot at Israel, and the Israeli missile landed harmlessly in a bin for animal feed.

Israel fired four other missiles at as many targets later in the evening, aiming at a Hamas security compound in Gaza City, a training camp north of the city, and a brickworks and metal foundry in northern Gaza, witnesses said.

Hamas fired two rockets into southern Israel on Sunday, a day after Palestinian militants fired more than 50 mortar shells into Israel in the the heaviest Palestinian barrage since a major Israeli military offensive in Gaza two years ago. In the evening, militants in Gaza fired another rocket into southern Israel, exploding near the city of Ashkelon. No one was hurt.

Medical officials in Gaza said on Sunday that the bodies of two Palestinian men who were killed overnight along the border had been recovered. The Israeli military said soldiers spotted two Palestinians crawling towards the border with what appeared to be a bomb. Soldiers called on them to stop, and opened fire after they continued moving.

Most rocket attacks from Gaza since the invasion have been carried out by small militant groups, although Hamas claimed responsibility for some mortar fire on Saturday, which slightly wounded two Israelis.

CSG Industry Expands To Western Qld

'Gold Coast Mail' [21/3/11]:

The controversial coal seam gas (CSG) industry is expanding to townships in western Queensland, with Longreach landholders receiving drilling notices.

Australian-based oil and gas company Exoma Energy has sent notices to Longreach residents of its plans to drill exploratory gas wells on their properties.

Exoma Energy plans to start drilling 21 wells in the Barcaldine, Longreach and Winton area in May.

Farmers and environmentalists have formed an unusual alliance in the Darling Downs west of Brisbane to oppose CSG extraction over fears it could have major environmental and health impacts.

Peak Queensland farmers group AgForce says CSG projects are multiplying across the state despite a lack of research into the affect it will have on groundwater, the environment, livestock and humans.

AgForce spokesman Drew Wagner said in the past several months CSG permits had been popping up in Quilpie, Charleville, Tambo, Blackall, Barcaldine and Longreach.

"We have massive concerns about CSG's impact on groundwater and other issues, but this industry seems to be expanding ... almost unabated," Mr Wagner said.

He said currently there are 3500 wells across Queensland with plans for a total of 40,000.

The Wilderness Society is calling for a moratorium on the CSG industry and an independent study into its impact on groundwater and the environment.

The society's spokesman Glenn Walker says CSG projects near the Cooper Creek Catchment in Longreach could have devastating impacts on the environment.

Mr Walker said chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing of coal seams to release gas could contaminate underground water and the extraction of water could lower the water table.

"CSG's use of fraccing chemicals and the extraction of water from aquifers could affect a number of species dependent on groundwater, in particular plants," he said.

"Some farmers in those areas depend on bores for their cattle so the groundwater impact could be significant, particularly if you have thousands of wells in the area.

"When they pull out the water from the wells it's generally salty and could contain heavy metals, including toxic hydrocarbons, from the rocks it's had to pass through.

"There is still no clarity from the industry how this waste water will be dealt with."

Mr Walker said traditionally the water is pumped into evaporation ponds but he fears heavy rains could result in those ponds overflowing and spilling poisons into river systems.

Exoma Energy chief executive Rob Crook says these were unfounded concerns.

"We won't have an impact on groundwater and that side of the industry is heavily regulated," Mr Crook told AAP.

"People have the right to be concerned but they need to be concerned about the right things.

"We wouldn't be allowed by government to pollute the rivers and groundwater, and not that we would."

Several hundred people rallied in central Sydney on Saturday against CSG, and farmers and environmentalists are staging a blockade on the Darling Downs to stop the Queensland Gas Company's CSG project.

Exoma Energy has five petroleum exploration permits situated over the Galilee Basin in western Queensland and the Eromanga Basin in South Australia.

Stick It Up 'Em!

'Brisbane Times' [21/3/11]:

Flood victims refused insurance payouts are being urged not to give up, with one third of decisions expected to be overturned if presented to a lawyer.

Legal Aid Queensland has waived usual means testing for those whose homes were damaged in January and is pushing residents to pursue their insurers through legal channels.

Senior solicitor and consumer advocate Christine Uhr said there was nothing to lose in the battle against insurance companies.

"I don't think enough people have taken legal action," she said.

"There are a lot more people who could be getting legal advice and should be challenging the refusal."

The most recent figures show insurance companies had paid out $250 million in flood compensation by early February. An Insurance Council of Australia spokeswoman said "significantly more" had been paid in the past month and another update would be finalised by the end of the week.

Ms Uhr said 35 per cent of refused insurance payouts were overturned on review, but insurers were not forced to review claim decisions until lawyers made an application on a client's behalf.

She has received about 1000 inquiries across southeast Queensland in the past six weeks but considering tens of thousands of homes were damaged she believes more should be coming through.

She is particularly concerned about a lack of inquiries from the Ipswich region.

"I think some people are just simply overwhelmed with their personal circumstances," she said.

"A lot of people are very shocked, they haven't even managed to get back to work [let alone] being able to deal with this level of stress.

"It's human nature to want to move on, that's a good motivation because it's healthy psychologically, but it's really important given we're talking about your major asset - your house - to take a chance."

Ms Uhr said her southeast Queensland office was pursuing more than 250 cases.

"You'd be pretty crazy not to have a go," she said. "[In some cases the insurer] has given a global refusal saying it didn't happen [in a certain area] but if you look at the special facts of the specific property then you might come to different conclusions."

Claimants generally need to only make a one-hour statement and the rest is handled by lawyers.

In the first step, the insurer is made to review the decision and if that is unsuccessful the Queensland Financial Ombudsman is called in to negotiate.

While residents have up to six years from the disaster event to initiate legal action, quicker action means claimants have a better memory of the event and will receive their payout sooner.

Cheers and Jeers Museum Gets $1 Million; Wisconsin Workers Hit Hard

WOMENSENEWS [19/3/11]:

Cheers

Actress Meryl Streep pledged to give $1 million to the foundation of a National Women's History Museum to be built in Washington, D.C., according to a March 17 report in U.S. News. A bill to establish the museum--which does not ask for federal funds but does pinpoint a site near the National Mall--is waiting a full vote by the Senate.

After passing the House of Representatives on a voice vote and unanimously out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in the last session of Congress, two senators--Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn--placed holds on the bill, according to a USA Today report published this past September. The museum will be funded privately.

A gala, hosted by actress and model Rebecca Romijn, will be held April 12 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. All proceeds will benefit the National Women's History Museum and will feature special guest Streep and others.

More News to Cheer This Week:

Baltimore has created a coordinator position for their Sexual Assault Response Team, formed to address the country's highest "unfounded" rapes, cases deemed as such by police because they believe the victim is lying or no crime occurred, reported the Baltimore Sun March 14.

The Georgia Senate Rules Committee tabled an abortion bill late March 11 that could have shut down abortion clinics, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Sex workers and their advocates planned celebrations across the United States on March 18 to celebrate the United States' acceptance on March 10 of a U.N. recommendation that it recognizes sex workers' rights as a distinct issue from human trafficking, the San Francisco-based sex workers' advocacy group St. James Infirmary reported March 14.

NASA marked women's history month with the March 16 launch of a new Web site, Women at Nasa, devoted to the contributions of women at the space agency and an event to recognize women's role in space history, Space.com reported.

The National Association for Female Executives announced its top 50 companies of 2011 where women are capitalizing on--and creating capital in--executive opportunities, according to Working Mother March 15.

A repeal for Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act was reintroduced March 15, reported Ms. Magazine.

Daily Femme posted on March 13 its interview with Leah Castella, one of Women's eNews 21 Leader for the 21st Century 2011. Castella created debate camps for female teens.

Older women who are diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer can expect to live just as long as peers without breast cancer, according to a new study, the L.A. Times reported March 15.

Jeers

Wisconsin women will bear the brunt of the "budget repair bill" the Women's Studies Consortium of the University of Wisconsin System said in a March 2011 statement released March 14. The bill, which was temporarily blocked by a judge March 18 after a lawsuit was filed against the passing of the bill, won't pass until the lawsuit is complete, reported the Washington Post.

If the bill passes, women will make up the majority of the occupations affected by it: school teachers, nurses, child care workers, social workers and home health care aides, the consortium reported. Public safety workers--firefighters, police and security guards--who have been exempted from the collective bargaining limitations are male-dominated.

GOP Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill on March 11 and the date by which the collective bargaining law takes effect is now a matter of political and legal contention, according to press reports. Dane County officials are challenging the collective-bargaining law in court, saying it was passed without the proper notice required by state law, the Wisconsin State Journal reported March 16.

Losing bargaining rights, the Women's Studies Consortium says, could mean some women who work outside the home and also play primary caretaker roles give up such crucial provisions as family medical leave, health benefits, paid sick days and living wages.

"If workers lose the legal power to negotiate for everything except their wages, the flexibility and access to care necessary to raise a family effectively will vanish," the Women's Studies Consortium says.

White women in the state earn 71 cents to men's dollar for full-time, full-year work, compared to 76 cents nationally, and rank 45th among the states on this indicator. Those statistics are "far worse for women of every other racial and ethnic group in Wisconsin" the consortium says, reporting that 30 percent of African American women in Wisconsin live in poverty, double the overall national rate of poverty.

-- Corinna Barnard

More News to Jeer This Week:

The Air Force will be releasing a survey that finds 1 in 5 women say they have been sexually assaulted since joining the service, according to a March 17 report by The Christian Science Monitor. The same report indicates that 10 percent of women in the Air Force have been raped.

An economist is worried the Japanese government is not doing enough to warn pregnant women of the radiation exposure risks to their fetuses, reported the New York Times March 13.

The GOP-backed H.R.3 bill, expected to sail through the House, would require the Internal Revenue Service to police how women have paid for their abortions, reported Mother Jones March 18.

Poor Iowans would be prohibited from having a taxpayer-paid abortion in cases of rape or incest under an amendment to a budget bill approved by a House committee this week, the Des Moines Register reported March 17.

The Republican majority in the Montana House has voted to cut nearly all federal and state family-planning funds from the state health care budget, reported the The Missoulian, a Missoula, Mont.-based daily paper, March 17.

Four abortion bills are moving through the Kansas Senate's Judiciary Committee, reported the Kansas City Star March 17.

Pro-Life Wisconsin teamed up with a national anti-abortion campaign to put up a billboard March 15, reading "Choice Kills Those Without One," near a Madison Planned Parenthood clinic, according a report by the Cap Times, based in Madison, Wisc.

The Florida House approved a bill March 16 restricting public money or insurance plans that receive public subsidies from paying for abortions, reported the Florida Independent. A similar bill was approved in the Senate March 14, reported the Palm Beach Post.

The Illinois House of Agriculture and Conservation Committee, focused on farm and rural issues, passed an abortion bill March 15, while protestors stood in the room wearing shirts reading, "Women are not livestock," reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Missouri House of Representatives offered first-round approval March 14 to a bill that would effectively ban all elective late-term abortions, reported The St. Louis Today .

Idaho's House State Affairs Committee approved a bill March 14 that allows the state to opt out of abortion funding under President Barack Obama's new health care reform, reported LifeNews.com.

A bill in New Hampshire, requiring girls to tell their parents or a judge before an abortion, will be voted on this week in the House, reported the Boston Globe March 13.

A slick new women's magazine published by Islamic extremists mixes skin care tips, advice on finding the right jihadist and instructions on raising proper little holy warriors, reported The Star, a Toronto-based newspaper, March 15.

The FDA approved KV Pharmaceuticals' brand name drug Makena that prevents premature births, raising the cost from $10 a dose to $1,500, reported Time.com March 11.

Noted:

The U.S. Justice Department released a report March 18 investigating New Orleans's police department and Louisiana's Crimes Against Nature law, reported RH Reality Check.

Three senior doctors in India are suspended for their connection to the deaths last month of 18 pregnant women, reported the BBC March 18.

A Zimbabwe court has granted bail to six activists accused of treason for attending a lecture about the Egypt and Tunisian uprising, reported the BBC March 17. Read background on this story in the WeNews archive.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would not serve a second term and has no plans to run for U.S. president, in an interview March 16 in Cairo, Egypt with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Several thousand Libyan women marched through the streets of rebel-held Benghazi March 12 demanding a no-fly zone to stop President Moamer Kadhafi from bombing rebel fighters, reported AFP.

The FBI has arrested a 37-year-old school bus driver suspected of vandalizing a central California mosque and firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic last year, reported the Associated Press March 13.

Federal prosecutors filed a civil lawsuit against a male anti-abortion activist from Mountlake Terrace, Wash., reported Seattlepi.com March 13.

‘Barack-A-lujah! I Have Seen The Light!’

By Cindy Sheehan

March 20, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- Thanks to the helpful feedback I have received over these past two, or so, years, I have seen the enormous error of my ways.

I used to be against ALL wars and the use of violence, but (and I must admit a little confusion on this one, at first) now it seems that I am against wars, acts of war, and violence ONLY if a Republican is president. Now I understand with perfect clarity that it was good to protest Bush—and if the US-UN resolution against Libya was done when Bush was president, it would have been wrong—but now it’s “compassionate.” I must admit, I was a little shocked to find out that the US actually commits compassionate acts and, again, silly me—I thought most acts of war and war were for profit. I realize that only a jerk (or racist) would think that now. I have repented.

I cringe with embarrassment when I think of the wasted years imagining that there could be any other way to solve problems without killing more innocent people! It’s okay to bomb Libyans to save Libyans (or Iraqis to save Iraqis; or Afghans to save Afghans; or Yemenis to save Yemenis, etc) because a Democratic president who has been given the cover of the UN Security Council may bomb them. Yep, it’s all starting to make sense. With all the continuing conflicts, imagining a world without war was starting to seem useless—and now I know it was! Phew!

This is another kooky idea I had—that the Security Council of the UN oftentimes, if not always, bowed to the will of the global oligarchy—or should we say, OILigarchy. I chuckle, because apparently that notion was either dead wrong, or was just a fact of life up until January 20, 2009.

Here’s another mistaken notion that I labored under all these years: Torture is inhumane and a war crime. Up until just last week, I thought the US torture camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba should be closed and that military tribunals should not resume—but President Obama signed an executive order to keep Gitmo open and resume military tribunals. Wow, it’s like from almost one day to the next, torture and illegal, indefinite detention became acceptable practices.

Pssst—since I am in confession mode, I want to, with a red face, confess something else. Please, I hope you laugh with me and not at me, but this is so hard to admit. I thought I learned that US citizens were to be arrested only with reasonable cause, given their due process, and THEN punished if found guilty. I must admit I still thought that was wrong earlier today, but when I was (not so) gently and repeatedly reminded that we have a change agent as president, the scales fell from my eyes and now I get it! If Barack Obama (D) thinks that a US citizen needs to be executed without a trial or even a handshake, then by golly that person must need to be killed. Barack Obama (D) is a Constitutional scholar after all and I am sure his interpretation of the Bill of Rights is the correct one. Who am I to argue? What a relief—thinking is so unnecessary and hard!

Now the skeptical, old and ignorant Cindy Sheehan would have thought that the US was only concerned with the regime in Libya “killing its own citizens” because Libya has large crude oil reserves, but that was before I reflected on the fact that Barack Obama (D) has told us that offshore drilling and nuclear power is safe! Like my new hero, Barack Obama (D) keeps saying, we do need to “reduce” US dependence on “foreign oil,” but not before we kill as many people as we must to get all of that oil. The old me also would have thought that we needed to entirely eliminate our dependence on petroleum and petroleum products all together, but if Barack Obama (D) says it’s safe, that’s good enough for me!

I just hope the people of Libya realize that it’s way more of an honor to be killed by a US bomb then by a Libyan bomb and what an honor it is that the US is paying attention to their internal strife, because we don’t always do that—we like to pick and choose—and Libya, it’s probably just a coincidence that we choose YOU because you have oil. My country would never do anything wrong when a Democrat is president and I will forget history, too, because I don’t need it anymore.

I also must admit that I used to spend a lot of time worrying about Pfc Bradley Manning being incarcerated and tortured at Quantico for allegedly dumping info about US policy to Wikileaks. Now, I believe that if he did that to my wonderful president, he must deserve the treatment he is getting. Manning, that traitor, is lucky President Obama (D) hasn’t just decided to drop a Hellfire missile on him from one of those righteous drones he loves to use! Additionally, if Obama (D) says that Manning’s treatment is “appropriate,” I believe him now. Worrying about Bradley was keeping me up at night and now I wish I had the money back that I incorrectly donated to his legal defense fund so I can send it to the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

The old axiom is true! Confession is good for the soul!

I hope with this confession and subsequent penance (10 Our Fathers, 20 Hail Mary’s and a pledge to vote Democrat for the rest of my life) that I am accepted back into the fold of the Democratic Party. I will also voluntarily swear to uphold healthcare for profit and to love Wall Street, the war machine, and the bankers with all my heart while detesting working people and those people who want to “kill Americans” for absolutely no reason.

In Obama I trust. What a relief! Having a conscience is very isolating.

Let’s Party with a capital D because if I can CHANGE, then there is HOPE for everyone and anyone else who are still lost wandering nearly alone in that wilderness of integrity.

Come home!

War is Peace!

Freedom is Slavery!

Ignorance is Strength.

2 + 2 = 5

Ain't Trade Liberalistaion, Globalisation And Deregulation Grand?

Potato growers are using 50 tractors to protest outside the McCain factory at Ballarat, in central Victoria, over contract negotiations.

The 100 growers have vowed to remain outside the plant until the company meets their demands for a better potato price.

They have been in talks with the Canadian-owned company for several months.

Growers spokeswoman Laura Poole says the protest is an 11th-hour bid to get a better offer.

"McCain haven't given the growers a fair go this year," she said.

"Growers are completely fed up and this is sort of a last-ditch effort to draw attention to their cause."

McCain Potato Growers Association president Dominic Prendergast says they will not leave until the company responds.

"We'll stay here for a few days - at the worst a week, two weeks. We'll stay here as long as it takes until the company gives us a positive result," he said.

Federal independent MP Bob Katter has called for national action on the price farmers are paid for their produce.

Mr Katter is confident the potato growers will win, and gave the company a warning.

"You're going to lose and you're going to damage your brand name very very badly. Get a bit of sense. Act responsibly," he said.

"You know in Australia in the past year, corporations have a bigger picture than just their company profits."

McCain Foods says it is disappointed with the attitude of the growers.

It says contract prices have been agreed to in New Zealand, Tasmania and South Australia, but the Ballarat farmers are holding out until the last moment for higher prices.

CSG Protest: Martin Place, Sydney

'The West Australian' [20/3/11]:

Several hundred people have gathered in central Sydney to protest against the mining of coal seam gas in NSW.

The protesters are concerned about the environmental effects of the CSG industry in norther NSW, claiming the state's water supply and farming soil could become contaminated and potentially impact on food supply.

Among those present at the demonstration on Sunday, held during heavy rain and strong winds at Martin Place, was campaigner Linda Benson from Gloucester on the NSW north coast.

Ms Benson wore a bra with black coal marks smeared across her chest and a sign saying "Keep our lungs free".

"It's not just about us, the people who live in areas where this is done, it's about our children, our children's children and generations to come," she told AAP.

Others carried banners reading "Coal seam gas? No fracking way". Fracking is a mining technique used to recover CSG.

Dozens of those present had arrived in Sydney on buses and coaches from the Hunter Valley and the NSW mid-north coast.

Independent federal MP Rob Oakeshott called for the next NSW government to review a planning decision to allow 110 CSG wells to be drilled in his electorate of Lyne, on the north coast.

Mr Oakeshott said about 50,000 water users downstream of the proposed wells did not have a voice during the planning stage.

"There are significant holes in the planning process that I would hope an incoming state government will use as a trigger to review the decision," he told AAP.

After a series of speeches, the protesters marched to the state government's offices at Governor Phillip Tower in Farrer Place.

1,000 Protest Pulp Mill

The campaign against Gunns proposed $2.5 billion pulp mill is gaining momentum with up to one thousand opponents gathering at a protest in northern Tasmania today.

Ten speakers, including author Richard Flanagan and gardening personality Peter Cundall, addressed the crowd on the banks of the Tamar River downstream from the planned mill site.

It is the first major protest action since the Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, ticked of the $2.5 billion project's final permits.

Tasmanian Greens MP Kim Booth received a standing ovation as he told the crowd he will stand alongside them when they march in the street.

Mr Booth told the crowd "the gloves are off".

"The Greens and the people of Tasmania will never ever accept that mill, we'll never ever accept that being imposed on the Tamar Valley, we will stand up, we will march against it, there will be no mill," he said.

Anti-pulp mill activists have promised a campaign bigger than that against the Franklin Dam in the 1980s.

Lucy Landon-Lane from Pulp the Mill says workshops will be held to educate protesters about the ramifications of trespassing onto private land.

IBM To Pay $10 Million To Settle Bribe Case

'Malta News' [19/3/11]:

WASHINGTON - IBM has agreed to pay $10 million to settle charges it gave cash and gifts to Chinese and South Korean officials to win contracts for mainframe and personal computers and other products. The agreement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) calls for the US computer titan to pay disgorgement of $5.3 million, interest of $2.7 million and a civil penalty of $2 million.

Under the agreement, which is subject to court approval and was released by the SEC on Friday, IBM does not admit or deny the allegations it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

In the complaint filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, the SEC outlined the accusations against IBM, which is based in Armonk, New York.

The complaint detailed instances of IBM Korea employees allegedly handing over envelopes filled with cash to South Korean officials in parking lots, providing them with free notebook computers, fiddling bid sheets and making payments to the bank account of a "hostess in a drink shop."

It said employees of IBM subsidiaries and a majority-owned joint venture provided cash and improper gifts, travel and entertainment to Chinese and South Korean government officials between 1998 and 2009.

From 1998 to 2003, employees of IBM Korea and joint venture LG IBM PC Co. paid $207,000 in cash bribes and gave improper gifts to South Korean government officials to secure the sale of IBM products, the complaint said.

It said that from 2004 to 2009, employees of IBM China provided overseas trips, entertainment and improper gifts to Chinese government officials.

"The misconduct in China involved several key IBM China employees and more than 100 IBM China employees overall," the complaint said.

IBM China employees "created slush funds at local travel agencies in China that were then used to pay for overseas and other travel expenses incurred by Chinese government officials," it said.

"In addition, IBM China employees created slush funds at its business partners to provide a cash payment and improper gifts, such as cameras and laptop computers, to Chinese government officials," it added.

"Deficient internal controls allowed employees of IBM's subsidiaries and joint venture to use local business partners and travel agencies as conduits for bribes or other improper payments to South Korean and Chinese government officials over long periods of time," the complaint said.

It said improper payments were recorded as "legitimate business expenses."

In a statement acknowledging the settlement, IBM said it "insists on the highest ethical standards in the conduct of its business and requires all employees to follow its policies and procedures for conducting business."

IBM shares were up 0.95 percent at $155.65 shortly before the closing bell on Wall Street.

Indonesia Issues Red Alert As Volcano Erupts

'Malta News' [19/3/11]:

JAKARTA - Indonesia issued a red alert Friday after Mount Karangetang on the island of Sulawesi erupted, sending lava and searing gas clouds down its slopes, a volcanologist said. "We raised the volcano's status to the highest red alert level today at 5:45 pm (1045GMT) and ordered an evacuation in three villages on the slopes," government volcanologist Surono told AFP.

He said that the 1,784-metre (5,850-foot) mountain on the sparsely-populated island off North Sulawesi oozed lava, heat clouds and debris reaching as far as 3,800 metres away down its slopes.

"The eruption is still going on and its current activity remains high," he said.

"The main threat is heat clouds that will be fatal for people living in villages on the slope."

The volcano killed four people during an eruption in August 2010.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where continental plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. The archipelago nation is home to 129 active volcanoes, including 21 on Java.

US Ambassador To Mexico Resigns Over WikiLeaks Embassy Cables

'The Guardian' [20/3/11]:

The US ambassador to Mexico has resigned amid a furore over a leaked diplomatic cable in which he complained about inefficiency and infighting among Mexican security forces in the campaign against drug cartels.

Hillary Clinton said Carlos Pascual's decision to step down was "based upon his personal desire to ensure the strong relationship between our two countries and to avert issues" raised by the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón.

The US secretary of state was not specific, but a furious Calderón has publicly criticised Pascual's criticisms, divulged as part of the US embassy cables by WikiLeaks.

Pascual's resignation appears to be the biggest fallout yet from the release of thousands of sensitive US diplomatic cables from around the world. It is the first such public departure by a US ambassador during the Obama administration.

Clinton went to lengths to praise Pascual's work in Mexico and said the Obama administration never lost confidence in him. Clinton said Pascual's work with Mexico to build institutions capable of fighting drug traffickers "will serve both our nations for decades".

She was "particularly grateful to Carlos for his efforts to sustain the morale and security of American personnel after tragic shootings in Mexico" that killed a US employee and three other people tied to the consulate in the border city of Ciudad Juarez last year.

"It is with great reluctance that President Obama and I have acceded to Carlos's request" to step down, Clinton said in a statement.

The ambassador's resignation laid bare how difficult relations between the US embassy and the Mexican government had become since the release of the cable in December. Calderón has made no secret of his personal anger at Pascual.

"I will not accept or tolerate any type of intervention," Calderón said in an interview with the newspaper El Universal in late February. "But that man's ignorance translates into a distortion of what is happening in Mexico and affects things and creates ill feeling within our own team."

There was no immediate reaction from the Mexican government, although an official from Calderón's office said it was preparing a response.

Pascual may have ruffled feathers in the Mexican government and Calderón's National Action party by dating the daughter of Francisco Rojas, the congressional leader of the former longtime ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. Mexican officials and the U.S. Embassy have declined to comment on that matter.

One of the leaked diplomatic cables that most angered Calderón referred to friction between Mexico's army and navy while detailing an operation that led to the death of drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva.

Pascual said the US, which had information locating Beltran Leyva, originally took it to the army, which refused to move quickly. Beltran Leyva was eventually brought down in a shootout with Mexican marines, who have since taken the lead in other operations against cartel capos.

Other cables reported jealousies and a lack of co-ordination between various Mexican security forces.

Melbourne’s Yeshivah Under Investigation

'The Australian Jewish News' [17/3/11]:

YESHIVAH College in Melbourne is currently being investigated by the Education Department over its use of federal Government grants.

The matter concerns the St Kilda East school’s use of money allocated as part of the Building the Education Revolution (BER) stimulus package.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, “The BER Taskforce are currently investigating this matter to ensure that the use and construction of the facilities is in line with the BER guidelines.”

The investigation relates to a recently constructed building on the school’s Hotham Street premises.

The AJN understands the issue stems back to mid-2008, when Chabad Youth presented plans before council to construct a new three-storey multipurpose premises for its activities on Yeshivah College land.

A specific Chabad Youth premises was never constructed, but a multimillion dollar multipurpose facility – funded in part by BER grants – was built in its place.

Chabad Youth, an organisation that runs after-school and out-of-hours programs for young Jewish people, is a subsidiary of the Yeshivah Centre. It is operated by Rabbi Moshe Kahn, who is the son-in-law of Yeshivah Centre board member Don Wolf.

Yeshivah’s business manager Nechama Bendet said the school is confident it has adhered to all of the Government’s guidelines and requirements.

“To comply with the short timeframes associated with BER funding, existing permits were utilised by the school to build the hall,” she explained. “In addition to BER funding, over $3 million in additional funds were raised from the community to fund the balance of the building.”

She said the new hall will be used by the school for activities ranging from assemblies to indoor sports. It will also be utilised as a study area and for meetings with teachers and parents.

But she admitted other community organisations would be given access to the new facility.

“In accordance with BER guidelines, the hall will be made available to the local community after school hours and on weekends for after-school clubs and other recreational, cultural, sporting and social activities,” she said.

President Of Malta Visits Australia

'Times Of Malta' [15/3/11]:

President and Mrs George Abela today left Malta for a state visit to Australia at the invitation of the Governor-General HE Ms. Quentin Bryce.

Dr Abela and his delegation will arrive in Australia on Thursday. He will be visiting Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne.

In Canberra, President Abela will have talks with the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition and the Governor of New South Wales.

On Saturday, Education Minister Dolores Cristina will join the President and his delegation and will have separate with the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.

The Maltese Association and Community organisations in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane will meet the President and Mrs Abela at local community functions.

The President and Mrs Abela will return to Malta on March 26.

Anton Tabone is the Acting President.

Where's The Professor?

'The Age' [20/3/11]:

The damage to the Fukushima reactors may have ended the risk of Australia going down the nuclear path.

In fact, despite some uninformed commentary, there has been no renaissance of nuclear energy, only a resurgence of pro-nuclear talk.

In 2008 and 2009, the world retired 3000 megawatts of old nuclear capacity and only 1000 megawatts was brought on line. In the same two years, about 60,000 megawatts of new wind power was commissioned.

While some enthusiasts claim new nuclear reactors would not have the technical limitations of Chernobyl or be built as dangerously as Fukushima, there will always be some risk of accidents. I was calmly sitting in a Christchurch coffee shop at lunchtime on February 22. We can be glad New Zealand does not have nuclear reactors.

We simply don't know enough about Earth to be totally confident that any specific location is safe. An accident in a nuclear power station is a much more serious risk than a problem with any form of renewable energy supply.

When I was a young physicist, nuclear power was seen as cheap, clean and safe. I went to Britain and accepted support from their Atomic Energy Authority for research on a problem affecting the useful life of fuel elements in power reactors. Since then, despite huge public subsidies, nuclear power has become recognised as very expensive.

The peak of installed nuclear power happened last century. In the past 20 years, retirements, cancellations and deferments have outnumbered new construction. The only reason anyone would consider nuclear power in Australia is in recognition that climate change is a threat to our future.

If nuclear power were the only effective way of slowing climate change, we would have to think about it. But we don't face that terrible dilemma. There are much better ways of cutting our greenhouse pollution.

Here are five reasons why we should not go down the nuclear path:

* First, nuclear is certainly not a fast enough response to climate change. Even the fervently pro-nuclear Switkowski committee concluded that it would take 10 to 15 years to build one nuclear reactor. Their hypothetical crash program of 25 reactors by 2050 would only slow the growth in our greenhouse pollution, not achieve the reduction that is needed.

* Second, it is too expensive. Again, even Ziggy Switkowski's group conceded there would need to be both a carbon price and other government subsidies to make nuclear look competitive. In every country where it operates, the nuclear sector is substantially reliant on taxpayer subsidies. And insurance companies won't insure nuclear reactors, so the public picks up the bill when things go wrong.

Some optimists tell us to wait for a promised new generation of reactors that they believe could be cheaper, but even if we believed those assurances that have been consistently wrong for decades, we can't afford to delay tackling climate change. It is now an urgent problem demanding a rapid and concerted response.

* Third, the waste. Accidents are not the only risk to society from nuclear power. Nobody has yet demonstrated safe permanent management of radioactive waste, 55 years after the nuclear experiment began.

* Fourth, weapons. While it is possible in principle to solve the problem of radioactive waste, there does not seem any real prospect of stopping weapons proliferation. Only five nations had nuclear weapons when the non-proliferation treaty was drafted; today there are about twice as many, while a further group of countries has the capacity to develop weapons. The recent example of North Korea shows there are no realistic sanctions against those who take the next step; once a leader has nuclear weapons, no military challenge is feasible.

The more people use nuclear technology, the greater is the risk of fissile material being diverted for weapons. The former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, told the UN he was expected to regulate hundreds of nuclear installations with the budget of a city police force. His agency documented hundreds of attempts to divert fissile material for improper purposes. There is a real risk of rogue elements or terrorists having either nuclear weapons or the capacity to detonate a ''dirty bomb'' that could make an entire city uninhabitable.

* Lastly, the fundamental point is that there are better alternatives. A Commonwealth report 20 years ago said we could get all our electricity from a mix of renewables by 2030.

A study released last year concluded that we could achieve that goal by 2020 if we were serious about it. This is a responsible approach to reducing our greenhouse pollution and doing our bit to slow down global warming.

The clean energy response is quicker, less expensive and less dangerous than nuclear. There is no risk to the community from terrorists stealing wind turbine blades or earthquakes shattering solar panels.

A mix of renewable supply systems would also decentralise energy production, so it would be good for regional Australia. It would not require new regulatory systems, local development of a whole new set of technical skills or an unwise level of dependence on foreign expertise. We know how to decommission wind turbines and solar panels at the end of their life, at little cost and with no risk to the community.

The nuclear debate should be a no-brainer for Australia. There is no case for us to commit to a dangerous, slow and expensive energy option when we have such plentiful sources of safe, clean renewable energy.

Ian Lowe is the president of the Australian Conservation Foundation

Unless Willy's Going To Heavy The Insurance Companies And Pressure The State Government To Reinstate Local Bus Services

He Can FUCK OFF!

'Queensland Times' [18/3/11]:

A list of safe public vantage points where people can see Prince William pass by has been released.

Prince William is dropping in to Ipswich for a barbecue lunch on Sunday before heading off to tour Grantham and Toowoomba.

The second-in-line to the throne jetted into Christchurch yesterday to tour the earthquake-ravaged city before leaving for Australia.

The Prince, who will marry Catherine Middleton on April 29, is scheduled to arrive at RAAF Base Amberley at 11am on Sunday.

He will leave via the back gate of the base, drive along Old Toowoomba Rd, turn left into Toongarra Rd, cross the railway line near Karrabin train station, turn left into Karrabin-Rosewood Rd, right into Wulkuraka Connection Rd and into West Moreton Anglican College.

Afterwards, he will travel to Grantham, where he is expected to stay from 1pm to 2pm. ...

Ipswich City Council is co-ordinating the invitation of defence force members and flood victims.

Mayor Paul Pisasale said about 100 Australian Defence Force personnel would attend.

Cr Pisasale said the council was using its Help Us Help You forms to track down flood victims.

He said flood victims who wanted to meet Prince William should contact his office as soon as possible so they could be cleared by security.

Call the mayor's office on 38106201 for more details.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Premier Anna Bligh are also expected in the prince's tour party.

The prince is scheduled to be in Christchurch today for a national memorial service expected to be attended by tens of thousands of people.

The city's Anglican bishop, Victoria Matthews, said it would be “an emotional farewell” for a “broken people”.

Mining Towns Defiant

'Australian Financial Review' [18/3/11]:

Plans to develop two of central Queensland's mining towns as fly-in, fly-out communities will jeopardise parts of the state, locals say. People from Moranbah and Blackwater travelled to Brisbane yesterday to demand Deputy Premier Paul Lucas quash Urban Land Development Authority plans.

Wind Farms Becalmed By Pricing Hitch

'Australian Financial Review' [18/3/11]:

A price on carbon will probably not be high enough to revitalise the $4.4 billion of wind projects shelved due to the depressed price of renewable energy certificates.

Although the government wants to increase the use of renewable power and raise its environmental credentials the wind power business is riddled with delays, as the key incentive for building capacity in the sector fails to deliver results.

Investment in wind energy has stalled despite the government's ambitious target of securing 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The reason for the slump is the market for renewable energy certificates.

Renewable energy certificates (RECs) are commodities created by producers of renewables, and are bought and surrendered by electricity retailers. One REC represents a megawatt hour of renewable energy generation.

This is the mechanism the government is relying on the meet its renewable energy target. The REC market slumped last year, however, because a flood of certificates created from rooftop solar systems, which were given generous subsidies, created a boom in installation.

The government then moved to revamp the scheme, differentiating between certificates produced from large and small plants. The changes started in January but so far REC prices have failed to recover. ...

German Greens Up

'Australian Financial Review' [18/3/11]:

Voter support for Germany's Green Party rose to 18 per cent form 15 per cent in a weekly poll for Stern magazine after the Japanese nuclear crisis erupted.

Bloomberg

Yemenis Attacked

'Australian Financial Review' [18/3/11]:

Hundreds of anti-government protesters clashed with security forces and government supporters on Wednesday in the impoverished western port of Hodeidah, Yemen.

The reports said that men in plain clothes attacked the protesters who were staging a sit-in in the centre of the city, and that security forces intervened, using tear gas.

Austereo Bid Unopposed

'Australian Financial Review' [18/3/11]:

The Australin Competition and Consumer Commission will not oppose Southern Cross Media's $740 million takeover of Austereo Group. The Australian Communications and Media Authority will require Southern Cross to sell stations in the Brisbane or Sunshine Coast markets.

Centuria In Valad Deal

'Australian Financial Review' [18/3/11]:

Centuria Property Funds, formerly Century Funds Management, has bought a 10-level commercial building at 200 Creek Street, Brisbane, for $37.7 million from Valad Core Plus Fund. The building is fully leased to tenants including State Government agency Link Water. ...

Vietnam Veteran Succumbs To Disease

'Tweed Shire Echo' [17/3/11]:

by Mike Yarrow

Mick McGuire, that colourful former Tweed character who lived for some time in Uki, is no more, drawing his last breath last March 9. At last his suffering is over.

To put you all in the picture: Mick succumbed to motor neurone disease (acquired from being regularly doused with Agent Orange when serving in Vietnam), a disease that creeps up on you, removing the use of legs and arms as it slowly works its way up the body. As my sister, a retired nurse said, it's like being set in concrete.

So tonight as you lie in bed, just for one minute try to experience what Mick had to endure. Just lie still, do not move a leg, an arm, a hand, a finger, you head. Can you begin to imagine what five years of this disease would be like? He spent the last year completely paralysed, a peg fitted into his stomach so that he could be fed a liquid diet as he could no longer swallow, a machine connected to his arm to pump medicine in to dry the saliva in his throat so that he didn't drown, a catheter fitted to permanently drain his bladder.

You can't scratch yourself, and every second of every minute you need someone there to do these little things that you once did without thinking. In his last six months, his speech deteriorated dramatically; how I admired his courage as he still kept trying to communicate with us. That is something I will never forget.

For months Mick had said to me, 'I've had enough ... I want to die'. To sit by a friend and see them suffer like this, and not be able to help them fulfill their last wish has been tough. Before his illness, Mick used to be an angry man. But thanks to his wife's dogged determination, unbelievable kindness and devotion, his anger left him and I found it a real pleasure to sit with him.

Mick wanted to die, it was his right. I don't give a damn what you God-fearing people say, you sit for months beside a close personal friend who is coughing and spluttering, unable to tell you exactly what they want done ... it ripped my heart out. But what are you going to tell your friend? It's ok mate, the doctor says it'll only take a few months! And yes, mate, trust in God!

God is only a figment of your imagination, religion only a handrail to support htose who want it. Mick didn't believe in God, so why did he have to suffer, to endure the prolonged torment of this life, just because a bunch of you do?

One day the Euthanasia Bill will get passed. And then, those who really do wish or need to take this step, like my friend Mick, can do so, quietly, serenely, peacefully, surrounded by their closest friends. Death can then be a clebration of a life lived, a beautiful way to leave this life.

Maybe one day, you anti-euthanasia people will finally understand, when death creeps up on you too, and you find yourself all alone, at night, shut off in a room in a hospital to die, only to find, as you realise life is slipping away, that there is no-one there to hold your hand when you need it most.

May our spirits meet again one day, Mick.

UN Rubber Stamps Another War For Oil

UN Authorises No-fly Zone Over Libya:

What about Bahrain and all the other places where tyrants are slaughtering the citizens?

By Al Jazeera and agencies

March 17, 2011 --- Security Council imposes a no-fly zone over Libya and authorises "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

The United Nations Security Council has voted on a resolution authorising military intervention in Libya to protect Libyan citizens, including the enforcement of a no-fly zone.

The members of the UNSC voted with 10 in favour, none against the resolution and five abstentions.

The resolution fulfills a long-standing demand from pro-democracy opposition forces in Libya asking for a no-fly zone to be established in order to prevent Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, from using fighter jets to bombard their positions, as they have been doing.

It comes just a few hours after Gaddafi warned residents of Benghazi, an opposition stronghold, that his forces would show "no mercy" in an impending assault on the city.

The draft of the resolution was prepared by the United Kingdom, France and Lebanon, and in the hours ahead of the meeting the United States appeared to have changed its stance on the issue by actively backing calls for not just a no-fly zone, but also strikes against Libyan military targets that could be mobilised against civilians.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said there was not much time left for the international community to act.

"France is very much involved in this action and has prepared the draft resolution. We have one goal… we want to stop the attacks by the Gaddafi regime against civilian populations.

"And it's a question of days or hours because the pressure against Benghazi, especially, is now very tough."

The Libyan defence ministry on Thursday, before the vote, warned that any military intervention in Libya would endanger air and sea traffic in the Mediterranean Sea.

In a statement released by the state-run Jana news agency, the ministry said that both civilian and military targets in the Mediterranean will be attacked.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Pinay Leaves Sendai With Heavy Heart

abs-cbnNEWS.com [17/3/11]:

A Filipina married to a Japanese national left Sendai with a heavy heart.

Amy Ikuno could not help but cry after arriving in Tokyo. She said she felt relieved that she and her 2 children are now out of harms way.

However, she could not stop but worry about her husband who decided to stay behind to help his compatriots.

Ikuno’s husband, who is a Buddhist priest, was in tears while waving goodbye to his family on Thursday.

Ikuno and her children were among the Filipinos who boarded the bus sent by the Philippine Embassy.

Meanwhile, Ikuno’s mother Teresita Rivera heaved a sigh of relief after learning that her daughter and grandchildren are now in Tokyo.

Rivera, who is from Baler, Quezon province, told TV Patrol how worried she was about the safety of her daughter and her family in Sendai.

Ikuno assured her mother that they are now in a safe in Tokyo.

She also told her mother that going back to the Philippines may take some time as she needs to take care of their plane tickets as well as her children’s travel documents.

Man Dies In Qld Detention Centre

'Gold Coast Mail' [18/3/11]:

A 20-Year-Old Afghan asylum seeker has been found dead at an immigration detention centre in Queensland.

The Department of Immigration confirmed the body of the asylum seeker was discovered in his accommodation about 8pm on Thursday night.

Staff at the Scherger Immigration Detention Centre performed CPR on the man, but he could not be revived.

"Paramedics have attended the scene and Queensland Police will investigate the circumstances surrounding the man's death, which may become the subject of a report for the coroner," the department said in a statement.

"Counsellors will be available to assist and support the centre's detainees and staff."

Until the man's next of kin have been informed, no further details of the man or the circumstances of his death will be released, the department said.

"The department expresses its sympathy to the family of the deceased man and will cooperate fully with the coroner."

Scherger Immigration Detention Centre is about 30km east of Weipa, in far north Queensland. The Afghan man arrived by boat.

Police Accused Of Teen Taser Cover-Up

Former state Labor MP Peter Pyke has accused police of trying to cover up a Taser incident involving a teenage girl on southern Queensland's Darling Downs.

Mr Pyke alleges the 17-year-old was tasered in a Toowoomba fish shop on Wednesday night because she had a kitchen knife and was screaming at officers to shoot her.

He says witnesses have said they were horrified by the level of force used by three large male officers to subdue a slightly built girl.

Mr Pyke says he wants to know why the incident was not made public.

"We have had two incidents in Queensland where children under 18 have been tasered by police and the police have done everything they possibly could to suppress both of those incidents," he said.

"The fact the police media have not alerted the media to the fact that this child was tasered clearly indicates that they don't want the news to get out, well too bad police media - the news is out.

"There were other people in the fish and chip shop, including children, and none of those people felt threatened.

"What happened in my understanding is that the girl told the fish and chip shop proprietor to call the police, which he did, and when the police arrived she wanted the police to shoot her.

"Now that is a mentally distressed person who needs compassion and help, not to be tasered."

Police say investigations into the incident are continuing.

Wisconsin Hits Labor, Reproductive Rights in Single Blow

WOMENSENEWS [17/3/11]:

Wisconsin's passage last week of a law stripping public workers of their bargaining rights is another major attack on reproductive rights and women's health care access, say family-planning advocates.

"This law has undone four decades of progress in Wisconsin to ensure women's reproductive health," said Amanda Harrington, spokesperson of the Madison-based Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, in a telephone interview.

"It has turned Wisconsin into ground zero in the national movement to make it more difficult for women to obtain and pay for birth control, breast cancer screenings and tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases."

Harrington's organization serves over 73,000 patients in its 27 health centers each year.

Public workers' unions and their allies have been battling Gov. Scott Walker in three weeks of energetic protests that attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators to Madison.

The unions initially resisted Walker's demand that workers pay more towards their pensions and health benefits, but then in February agreed to pay 5.8 percent of their wages for pensions and 12.6 percent for health benefits, a combination that is equivalent to an 8 percent pay cut for the average worker who earns $48,348.

That shifted the battle to collective bargaining rights, which unions in the past have used to insist, for instance, that their health plans cover women's contraceptives. That in turn helped shift private insurance plans in the same direction.

"Increasing the cost of health care benefits from 6 percent to 12 percent of wages hits women hard because they generally earn less than do men," said Harrington. "This is bad enough, but the measure signed by Gov. Walker gives unprecedented powers to the state health department to revamp public health programs without the traditional protections of oversight by the legislature and input from the public."

Most of the 175,000 state and local workers in Wisconsin--including the female-dominated ranks of nurses and teachers--will be prohibited from bargaining for wages beyond the rate of inflation, unless approved by a referendum.

Male-dominated unions of firefighters and police who are part of that total are exempt, because Walker said he could not risk disruptions in public safety if these unions staged strikes.

Walker, who introduced many anti-choice bills during his nearly nine years in the Wisconsin assembly, has launched an anti-birth control agenda, according to Lisa Subeck, executive director of the Madison-based NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, the political watchdog of the pro-choice movement.

Subeck said that Walker has an eye on repealing Wisconsin's Contraceptive Equity Law, which requires insurance plans that cover prescription drugs to also include coverage for prescription birth control.

Initially proposed in 1999, the law has a rocky history; anti-choice activists and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Madison helped defeat it each time it was introduced. But family planning and public health groups finally got the legislature to pass the measure in 2009. It was included in the budget measure signed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle in 2009 and took effect Jan. 1, 2010. Besides Wisconsin, 25 other states have contraceptive equity laws.

"Under Walker's plan, insurance companies could choose to cover Viagra but not prescription birth control, which would allow insurers to discriminate against women," Subeck said in a press release. "Although Walker claims the elimination of family planning services is a cost-saving measure, it isn't. A 2008 Guttmacher Institute study found that every $1 spent on birth control through the Medicaid program saves taxpayers $4.02."

Walker also wants to eliminate Title V, the only state-funded family planning health care program, Subeck said. ...

Mother's Milk Vital

'Tweed Border Mail' [17/3/11]:

Kerrie Cole was in intensive care and was oblivious to the floods ravaging Brisbane and a car crash involving her three hcildren.

It may sound like a horror movie, but this is her real story.

Ms Cole was severely haemorrhaging at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane while pregnant, and gave birth to Dimonte Cole at just 27 weeks by caesarean on March 3.

It wasn't until 10 days after the birth, Ms Cole even realised she had given birth and that her three children were involved in a minor car accident while trying to escape the Brisbane floods.

Dimonte had received donor mothers' milk since she was born.

Ms Cole's sister Debbie called the Mothers Milk Bank (MMB), based at Banora Point to help.

The milk bank must generate just under $9000 to cover the milk processing costs to feed Dimonte until she is six months old.

MMB director Marea Ryan said the bank needed to urgently raise the funds.

"Dimonte's fragile hold on life means it is really important for her to receive donor milk to ensure she receives the nutrition to keep her health," Ms Ryan said. "The Mothers Mik Bank needs $8928 to help save her life.

"Once Kerrie was well enough to absorb information, she was made aware her baby had been born and had received donor mothers' mik since birth.

"Kerrie felt this was essential if Dimonte was to survive and be healthy."

Nine Listed For Award

'Australian Financial Review' [17/3/11]:

Nine authors have been long listed for this year's $50,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award, the winner of which will be announce on June 22. They include two first-time novelists, Kirsten Tranter (for The Legacy) and Ian Bauer (for Rocks in the Belly) and two former winners, Roger McDonald (nominated this year for When Colts Ran) and Kim Scott (for That Deadman Dance). Others on the long list include Honey Brown (for The Good Daughter) Patrick Holland (The Mary Smokes Boys), Melina Marchetta (The Piper's Son) Stephen Orr (Times Long Ruin) an Chris Womersley (Bereft). The shortlist for the NSW Premier's Literary Wards was also released yesterday. That winner will be announced on May 16.

Rain Cuts Qld Highway

'Australian Financial Review [17/3/11]:

Torrential rain has been falling in the cyclone-hit area of north Queensland, and the major highway has been cut.

Meteorologists said severe thunderstorms were likely to produce flash flooding in the area most affected by cyclone Yasi around Ingham, Cardwell and Tully.

Queenslander Top Pick To Replace Bitar

'Australian Financial Review' [17/3/11]:

Queensland Labor official anthony Chisholm has emerged as the frontrunner to manage the federal party after the resignation yesterday of national secretary Karl Bitar. ...

Mr Chisholm has the support of the right factions, including Australian Workers Union heavywight Bill Ludwig, and is expected to have the numbers over the Left candidate and current assistant secretary, Mick Martin. ...

Liberty Keeps Them Guessing

'Australian Financial Review' [17/3/11]:

After more than a month of talks, American media giant Liberty Global has not yet indicated at what price it would be willing to sell its stake in regional pay television company Austar United Communications to Foxtel.

Foxtel and its three shareholders - Telstra, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and James Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings - revived talks with Liberty earlier this year about a merger of the pay TV companies, an idea that has been kicking around for more than a decade.

Sources said Liberty, which owns 54 per cent of Austar and is controlled by American billionaire John Malone, was in no rush to sell out of the Australian company and had not given Foxtel's shareholders a clear idea of the price it might want. ...

Novatec Deal Boosts Solar Power

'Australian Financial Review' [17/3/11]:

Transfield Holdings' subsidiary Novatec Solar has agreed to sell 35 per cent of its business to Swiss power and automation technology group ABB, in a deal which could eventually lead to the takeover of the solar technology business.

The deal gives ABB the option to buy 100 per cent of Novatec, which is based in Karlsruhe, Germany, and includes agreement to co-operate on power plant projects in the future. ...

In Australia, ABB recently completed a communcations system upgrade for the water corporation in Perth, covering the Perth Metropolitan area and the Gold fields pipeline. ...

Earth Heat Clinches Deal

'Australian Financial Review' [17/3/11]:

Energy company Earth Heat Resources has agreed to work together with United Arab Emirates company Drake & Scull International to secure geothermal projects in africa and the Middle East. Earth Heat managing director Torey Marshall said the partnership with the engineering and construction company would "greatly enhance the quality and cost competitiveness of future power and associated infrastructure development."

Straddie Art Exhibition: Jan Murphy Gallery

'Australian Financial Review' [17/3/11]:

Stradbroke Island is a favourite holiday destination for many Queensland residents, including the owner of this Brisbane gallery. It's not surprising, then, that Murphy asked five of her artists to visit Stradbroke with a view to creating works inspired by the island. Not everyone focused on the flora and fauna; Rhys Lee painted people, Adam Lester depicts boats, fish, four-wheel-drives and holiday shacks, and Heidi Yardley imbues a lonely, dark, stretch of road with an uneasy romance.

Straddie - A Group Show ends April 2.

No Sale Pending For River City Say Receivers

'Australian Financial Review' [17/3/11]:

Heated speculation about possible buyers for River City Motorway after the owner of the Clem Jones tunnel went into administration last month has been dampened by receivers Korda Mentha, who stress the toll-road company is unlikely to be put to the block until next year.

Takeover talk to date is that Brisbane's government-owned fund manager QIC, which has already agreed to buy Queensland Motorways, is the most likely acquirer of River City. ...

NGA Postpones Aboriginal Triennial

'Australian Financial Review' [17/3/11]:

The National Gallery of Australia has postponed its National Indigenous Art Triennial, which was to have opened on April 22.

The Triennial was established by the gallery in 2007. The second such survey of contemporary indigenous work was to have taken place in 2010, but that was delayed, first until this year and now until May 2012.

At the federal government's Senate estimate hearings in February NGA director Ron Radford suggested the culprit was the efficiency dividend, a 1.25 per cent impost on government agencies designed to reflect cost savings from technology.

Mr Radford said he'd been forced to cut six staff positions, and program and tour cuts may follow. ...

Gold Coast Sales Dive

'Australian Financial Review' [17/3/11]:

Gold Coast sales transactions are at 30-year lows as the high Australian dollar, access to finance and low consumer confidence compounded the ongoing weakness in the south-east Queensland property market.

The quarterly Midwood Report confirms sales of new apartments on the Gold Coast are at historical lows, claiming there have been two consecutive years of about 300 transactions annuary.

Author Bill Morris said his research indicated house and land deals were 50 per cent below their long-term averages and were at similar levels to those experienced during the 1981-82 recession. ...

Argentina: WikiLeaks Reveals US Interference In Bombing Case

'Green Left Weekly' [13/3/11]:

A cable from the US embassy in Buenos Aires, released by WikiLeaks, reveals pressure from the US government to halt a serious criminal investigation in Argentina.

The US pressured an Argentine prosecutor to halt investigations into former Argentine president Carlos Menem and a number of other officials suspected of being involved in a cover-up over the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, Argentine daily Pagina/12 reported on February 27.

Pagina 12 has obtained more than 2000 US cables relating to Argentina in a deal with whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

The bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) killed 85 people and injured hundreds. Just hours after the bombing the US and Israeli governments blamed Iran and the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah.

Iran and Hezbollah have always denied responsibility.

No one has been convicted over the incident and the investigations have been marked by accusations of corruption, incompetence and a cover-up.

Nine days after the bombing, used car dealer Carlos Telleldin was arrested on suspicion of supplying a white Renault Trafic van allegedly used in the attack. Together with 20 members of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police, he was accused of being the “local connection” to Iran and Hezbollah.

The federal judge in charge of the case Juan Jose Galeano also issued arrest warrants for 12 Iranians, including Iran’s ambassador to Argentina Hade Soleimanpour.

The car-bomb theory was challenged in a May 15, 1997 report by Argentina’s National Academy of Engineers commissioned by the Supreme Court. The report found that the epicentre of the explosion came from inside the building.

In an extensive report published in The Nation on February 4, 2008, investigative journalist Gareth Porter found that of some 200 eyewitnesses only one claimed to have seen a white Renault Trafic — the wife of a Buenos Aires police officer.

Another witness, street cleaner Juan Carlos Alvarez, told Periodico Tribuna on July 21, 2003 that he was standing in front of the main entrance of AMIA just near where the car bomb was meant to have exploded — but did not see any white Renault Trafic.

In 2003, Soleimanpour was arrested in Britain at the request of Argentine authorities.

However, he was released after the presiding judge said Argentine authorities had failed to provide “any clear evidence demonstrating his involvement”, the BBC said on September 12, 2003.

In 2004, Telleldin and the police officers were acquitted after a secretly filmed video was released showing federal judge Juan Jose Galeano offering Telleldin a US$400,000 bribe in return for providing witness testimony implicating the police officers.

Nonetheless, the 2004 ruling left open the question of the “car bomb” theory.

The court found that federal judge Luisa Riva Aramayo also offered to pay Telleldin for testimony implicating a number of police officers allied to Menem’s political rival, Eduardo Duhalde.

In 2005, then-president Nestor Kirchner labelled the inquiry a “national disgrace” and ordered the intelligence files on the case to be opened.

On October 25, 2006, Argentine prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martinez Burgos formally accused the Iranian government of ordering the bombing and Hezbollah of carrying it out.

The October 26, 2006 La Nacion said the prosecutors alleged that Iran ordered the 1994 bombing in retaliation for Argentina’s decision to suspend a nuclear technology transfer contract to Tehran.

However, a contract to ship uranium from Argentina to Iran had never been terminated and the two countries were negotiating the restoration of full cooperation on all technology transfer agreements when the bombing occurred, Porter said.

In a November 2006 report for the Asia Times Online, Porter said “The indictment [by Nisman and Burgos] shows the US put strong pressure on the Menem government to terminate all nuclear cooperation with Iran.”

Apart from testimony from an alleged former Iranian intelligence officer, Porter said “no real evidence has ever been found to implicate Iran in the bombing”.

In 2005, Israeli diplomatic sources and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation claimed the bombing was a suicide attack by a Hezbollah militant.

However, Porter said in April 2005 that two brothers of the alleged Hezbollah bomber told US prosecutors he had died two months after the bombing and his death was reported on Lebanese radio at the time.

The bombing was cited by the Bush administration as “evidence” that the Iranian regime was a sponsor of global terrorism.

A US cable dated May 22, 2008 showed the US embassy’s legal office specifically advised Nisman to focus investigations on the alleged Iranian perpetrators of the bombing — rather than those accused of a cover-up.

Earlier that day, Nisman had ordered the arrest of Menem, his brother Munir Menem, Galeano, former high ranking Argentine intelligence officials and the head of the police force’s counter-terrorism unit.

The cable said: “Details of the criminal charges against Menem and the other suspects came as a surprise to Post, which up until now had an excellent and fluid relationship with Nisman.”

Nisman’s inquiry had centred on the possible involvement in the bombing of Alberto Jacinto Kanoore Edul, whose father was a close friend of Carlos and Munir Menem, Pagina/12 said.

Nisman alleged that investigations ordered by Galeano 11 days after the attack revealed that Kanoore had connections with Telleldin.

Galeano later admitted that when he arrested Kanoore for questioning, he received a call from Munir Menen, ordering him to stop the investigations. The transcripts of Kanoore’s interrogations later disappeared.

Former investigator into the bombing Claudio Lifschitz, who had denounced Galeano’s mishandling of the case, said hooded men forced him into their car, wrote “AMIA” on his back with a blowtorch and told him “not to mess” with the internal security service, Argentinean daily Clarin reported on March 7, 2009.

In October 2009, Menem was formerly charged with concealing evidence and abuse of authority.

Munir Menem, Galeano and others were also charged with obstructing the investigation into the 1994 bombing.

Argentina’s Jewish community is deeply divided over the investigations. The Jewish Federations of North America said in 2004 that there was “deep distrust between AMIA officials and the Jewish umbrella group, DAIA [Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations], following reports that DAIA’s former president, businessman Ruben Beraja, was linked to former Argentine president Carlos Menem”.

The report said: “Beraja reportedly did not want to pressure Menem to investigate the 1994 bombing because Beraja was afraid of endangering his extensive business ties with the Menem government.”

A US cable dated May 27, 2008 and published by Spanish daily El Pais cited DAIA representative Alfredo Neuburguer as a source for the US embassy.

The cable said Neuburguer claimed the charges against Menem were a diversion by the Kirchner government from other political and economic problems.

Sergio Burstein, a representative of Relatives and Friends of Victims of the Attack on AMIA, told the Jewish News Agency on March 11 that he was not surprised that Neuburguer had wanted to defend Menem.

“I'm not surprised that this person is named in the cable,” Burstein said. “I believe we must denounce it.”

Adriana Reisfeld, president of Memoria Activa, an organisation that groups relatives and friends of the bombing victims, spoke to the Iton Gadal News on March 10 and accused the DAIA of “not only trying to pressure to defend the former president Menem but also former president of the DAIA (Ruben Beraja), both involved in the cover-up of the terrorist attack”.

Diana Malamud a spokesperson for Memoria Activa, told Pagina 12 on February 28 that the revelations in the cables “do not surprise me, above all because one of the main reasons was always blaming Iran”.

“The only ones that continue to be hurt are the victims.”

The WikLeaks revelations also included cables criticising the Argentine government and showing a close relationship between the US and right-wing opposition figures.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip Crowley refused to comment on the cables, MercoPress reported on March 9.

“We understand that virtually every country in the world has a WikiLeaks cable related to their domestic politics,” Crowley said. “We’re just not going to comment on them anymore.”

Multi-Million Dollar Damage Bill For Warmun

Yahoo 7 [17/3/11]:

ABC March 17, 2011, 12:21 pm

The West Australian senator, Alan Eggleston, says the flood-ravaged Warmun community may have to be rebuilt on higher ground.

45 homes at the community have been destroyed by floodwaters and many more have been damaged.

Senator Eggleston is chairing a Federal Government inquiry into the Queensland floods.

He says it might be better to build the community closer to the roadhouse, which served as an evacuation point during the emergency.

"It might be better to build it up the hill towards the roadhouse and the catholic community that's there," he said.

"In the next few weeks I'll be chairing the flood inquiry in Queensland and I'm sure that there will be precedents that we can find in Queensland that can apply to the north of WA."

"We'll be looking to see whether or not there is Federal funding which can be provided to either restore this community or rebuild it in a safer location."

The Department of Housing is still assessing which homes in the flooded community of Warmun can be repaired.

The cost of repairing and re-building is expected to run into the millions of dollars.

The Department's Graeme Jones says it is too early to accurately estimate the cost of re-building but it will be significant.

"To build a new dwelling in Warmun will cost in the region of 450 to 500-thousand dollars. Now that's without elevating the dwelling, one thing that the flood does have an impact on is what should be the appropriate floor levels now given the way the water has gone through the community," he said.

He says staff have been sent to the area to get a clearer picture of the damage.

"There's a fine line between do we demolish or is it capable of being restored? And that's some of the detailed work we're going through at the moment," he said.

"So it's a bit premature to be absolutely certain about that, but certainly by the end of the week we would be confident that we would have a pretty good sense of the scale of damage and what's retrievable."

Meanwhile, the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley says natural disaster relief funding will go a long way to help communities recover from flood damage.

Several areas across the Kimberley have been declared natural disaster zones.

The declaration makes affected residents, businesses and local governments eligible for a range of financial support measures.

The Shire Chief Executive, Gary Gaffney, says the recovery operation in some areas will be extremely expensive.

"Over in Derby West Kimberley, around Fitzroy Crossing, there's quite significant damage to infrastructure, to bridges, to roads. So I think that amount of damage cannot be afforded by the local governments and it's great that this will come through," he said.

More supplies are being flown into flood-affected communities in the Kimberley with expectations river levels could rise further.

The Fitzroy River has surpassed the 2002 flood level and is expected to peak in communities including Noonkanbah tonight.

The Fire and Emergency Services Authority is flying more food, fuel and aviation gas to the area and making assessments about which buildings in the Fitzroy Valley need sandbagging.

58 people were moved from the Fitzroy River Lodge yesterday after an embankment supporting a bridge connecting the lodge to the town was damaged.

'No Place' In The Law For Christianity

'The Telegraph' [expat edition 9-15, 2011]:

There is no place in British law for Christian beliefs, despite this country's long history of religious observance and the traditions of the established Church, two High Court judges said last week.

Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson made the remarks when ruling on the case of a Christian couple who were told that they could not be foster carers because of their view that homosexuality is wrong.

The judges underlined that, in the case of fostering arrangements at least, the right of homosexuals to equality "should take precedence" over the right of Christians to manifest their beliefs and moral values.

In a ruling with potentially wide-ranging implications, the judges said Britain was a "largely secular", multi-cultural country in which the laws of the realm, "do not include Christianity".

Campaigners for homosexual rights welcomed the judgment for placing "21st-century decency above 19th-century prejudice". ...

The judges acknowledged that there was a "tension" in the Johns case between the rights of individuals to maintain their religious beliefs, and the rights of homosexual people to live free from discrimination. However, when fostering regulations were taken into account, "the equality provisions concerning sexual orientation should take precedence" over religious rights, they said. ...

'Question Time' Ranting Costs Drunk His TV

'The Telegraph' [expat edition 9-15, 2011]:

A pensioner who annoys his neighbours with drunken, foul-mouthed rants at politicians on 'Question Time' has been banned from having a television or radio.

Martin Soloman, 65, a former plumber, was also jailed for 14 months after admitting breaching an antisocial behaviour order for the 28th time.

Soloman, of Stroud, Glos, has been jailed twice in the past year for his drunken ranting, the first before the general election. A five-year Asbo was imposed in 2009.

Gloucester Crown Court heard that Soloman constantly disturbed his neighbour, who has three young daughters. The family had been kept up as late as 1.15 am by Soloman's rants after he had watched political programmes.

Lloyd Jenkins, defending, told the court: "He goes to his local and gets drunk, comes home and watches TV at some ridiculous amplified, volume, shouts remarks then falls asleep with the TV on."

Soloman must not own a television or radio for two-and-a-half years.

Japan Earthquake: Japan Warned Over Nuclear Plants, WikiLeaks Cables Show

'The Telegraph' [15/3/11]:

An official from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in December 2008 that safety rules were out of date and strong earthquakes would pose a "serious problem" for nuclear power stations.

The Japanese government pledged to upgrade safety at all of its nuclear plants, but will now face inevitable questions over whether it did enough.

While it responded to the warnings by building an emergency response centre at the Fukushima plant, it was only designed to withstand magnitude 7.0 tremors. Friday's devastating earthquake was a magnitude 9.0 shock.

The news is likely to put further pressure on Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, who has been criticised for "dithering" over the country's response to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Panic started to spread throughout Japan yesterday following the news that a third explosion at the plant might have damaged the protective casing around the reactor core, increasing the threat of radioactive leaks.

The government was considering using helicopters to spray water over the Fukushima site to limit the spread of radioactive particles as part of its increasingly desperate attempts to keep the situation under control.

Meanwhile the FTSE-100 share index fell by 1.4 per cent as stock markets around the world slumped in response to a 10.6 per cent drop in Japan's Nikkei index.

Warnings about the safety of nuclear power plants in Japan, one of the most seismologically active countries in the world, were raised during a meeting of the G8's Nuclear Safety and Security Group in Tokyo in 2008.

A US embassy cable obtained by the WikiLeaks website and seen by The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed expert who expressed concern that guidance on how to protect nuclear power stations from earthquakes had only been updated three times in the past 35 years.

The document states: "He [the IAEA official] explained that safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised three times in the last 35 years and that the IAEA is now re-examining them.

"Also, the presenter noted recent earthquakes in some cases have exceeded the design basis for some nuclear plants, and that this is a serious problem that is now driving seismic safety work."

The cables also disclose how the Japanese government opposed a court order to shut down another nuclear power plant in western Japan because of concerns it could not withstand powerful earthquakes.

The court ruled that there was a possibility local people might be exposed to radiation if there was an accident at the plant, which was built to out of date specifications and only to withstand a "6.5 magnitude" earthquake. Last Friday's earthquake, 81 miles off the shore of Japan, was a magnitude 9.0 tremor.

However, a cable from March 2006 reported that the court's concerns were not shared by the country's nuclear safety agency.

It says: "Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency believes the reactor is safe and that all safety analyses were appropriately conducted."

The Government successfully overturned the ruling in 2009.

Another cable reported to Washington local concerns that a new generation of Japanese power stations that recycle nuclear fuel were jeopardising safety.

The cable, quoting a local newspaper, reports: "There is something precarious about the way all electric power companies are falling in step with each other under the banner of the national policy. We have seen too many cases of cost reduction competition through heightened efficiency jeopardizing safety."

The cables also disclose how Taro Kono, a high-profile member of Japan's lower house, told US diplomats in October 2008 that the government was "covering up" nuclear accidents.

He alleged that the government was ignoring alternative forms of energy, such as wind power.

The cable states: "He also accused METI [the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry] of covering up nuclear accidents, and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry." He added that the Japan's "extensive seismic" activity raised safety concerns about storing nuclear material.

Mr Kan was not in office at the time the nuclear warnings were made. He became science and technology minister in 2009 and prime minister in June 2010.

NSW Election Takes Sinister Turn

The New South Wales election campaign has turned sinister, with the independent member for Port Macquarie claiming his campaign bus may have been sabotaged.

Leaking oil from the bus caused a multiple car crash on the Oxley highway this morning, injuring three people.

Peter Besseling says his father was driving his campaign bus into Port Macquarie when he was forced to pull over to the side of the road because the vehicle ran out of oil.

"He had no idea of the accident behind him," Peter Besseling said.

Three male drivers were injured and taken to hospital.

All are now in a stable condition.

Mr Besseling says a preliminary inspection of the bus suggests it was tampered with.

"The wires that go to the warning lights for the oil gauge have been severed and it appears that the sump plug was also tampered with somehow," he said.

The matter has been referred to police and they are calling for anyone with information to come forward.

Efficiency Dividend Hurting Museum

… Time passed on, and years forgotten whitened with the dust;
He whose hands were red with slaughter sat among the just,
Kissed the children of his children, honoured in his place,
Turned and laid him down in quiet, asking God his grace.

'The Hunter Of The Black', Dame Mary Gilmore [1930]

'Nine MSN' [16/3/11]:

The federal government's efficiency drive is hurting public arts, the head of the National Museum of Australia says.

Andrew Sayers, speaking at the National Press Club, said the museum was suffering as a result of Labor's requirement for public departments to cut costs and improve their budget bottom lines.

"The efficiency dividend has been a very effective policy for the government," he said in Canberra on Wednesday.

"But it has - and there is no secret to this, successive directors have talked about this - had something of a deleterious impact on smaller agencies.

"We are now at the point where the efficiency dividend is not driving efficiency but it is, in fact, driving reductions in programs."

Mr Sayers told a Senate hearing last month that the museum would need to find savings of more than $1.3 million in 2010/11, including 26 jobs, as a result of the dividend.

Just weeks later, the Australian War Memorial was granted an extra $8 million to support its ongoing operations, after complaining about the impact of funding cuts.

Mr Sayers, who had worked in senior roles at the National Gallery of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery, said he understood why the war memorial was given more money.

"They are a particular case. They have a strong argument I think that they mounted in terms of the Centenary of Anzac (coming up in 2015)," he said.

"But I don't look at the war memorial with envy. I look at the war memorial as a successful cultural institution that has a place of affection in the community which they have been able to use."

Mr Sayers said the National Museum's success would depend on how well it used the government funding it had now, and whether it could meet its 10-year strategic priority of trying to raise extra revenue itself.

While public galleries often had a "sexy" and "glamorous" image that attracted philanthropic support, he believed that could be achieved in the museum sector as well.

"I think, actually, that is an attitude that we'll challenge and we will change," Mr Sayers said.

The rollout of the national broadband network (NBN) and national history curriculum were two government initiatives taking the museum's work to a broader audience, he added.

"The NBN will enable us to interact with people across Australia in real time, and allow us to present still and moving images from our collections in hitherto unattainable detail and depth," Mr Sayers said.

"The implementation of a national curriculum in history gives the museum a huge opportunity to be a generator of content."

Mr Sayers also extended an invitation for the Prime Minister to visit the Museum.

She won't.

GE To Build $80m Centre In Perth

'Nine MSN' [16/3/11]:

Giant US company General Electric has announced plans for an $80 million technology and education centre at Perth's Jandakot airport.

Its global chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt made the announcement in Perth on Wednesday with federal Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs Minister Chris Evans.

Mr Immelt said the new facility would be a multi-purpose GE training, service and technology centre able to be expanded further in future.

It would help provide skills and training to support growth in Australia's oil and gas, energy, mining, transportation and water industries.

The centre would service GE customers in Australia as well as provide training and education for GE and non-GE staff with high-skilled apprentice opportunities.

"The thrust of the training will be around elevating skills, more sophisticated operational capability to support not only GE's workers but also our supply chain and our partners," Mr Immelt said.

The president and CEO for GE Australia and New Zealand, Steve Sargent, said the centre would provide skills to ensure maximum value from projects like Western Australia's Gorgon gas hub.

Senator Evans welcomed the centre and said it had the full support of the federal government.

"This is very much in fitting with the government's agenda of making sure that we leverage off the mining expansion, oil and gas expansion, and create Australian jobs and investment in skills," he said.

"I don't want to hear from business all the time that it's all too hard and just bring labour in from overseas.

"There are opportunities to develop our existing workforce and provide jobs for our young people and the sort of work that will go on at Jandakot is very much part of that."

Construction of the first stage of the complex is expected to be completed in September.

Meanwhile:

Can disaster be averted?

Three of the reactors at the Fukushima plant use a design by the giant American corporation General Electric. The company's CEO speaks with Leigh Sales. ...

Internet "Greatest Spying Machine The World Has Ever Seen"

'The Guardian' [15/3/11]:

The internet is the "greatest spying machine the world has ever seen" and is not a technology that necessarily favours the freedom of speech, the WikiLeaks co-founder, Julian Assange, has claimed in a rare public appearance.

Assange acknowledged that the web could allow greater government transparency and better co-operation between activists, but said it gave authorities their best ever opportunity to monitor and catch dissidents.

"While the internet has in some ways an ability to let us know to an unprecedented level what government is doing, and to let us co-operate with each other to hold repressive governments and repressive corporations to account, it is also the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen," he told students at Cambridge University. Hundreds queued for hours to attend.

He continued: "It [the web] is not a technology that favours freedom of speech. It is not a technology that favours human rights. It is not a technology that favours civil life. Rather it is a technology that can be used to set up a totalitarian spying regime, the likes of which we have never seen. Or, on the other hand, taken by us, taken by activists, and taken by all those who want a different trajectory for the technological world, it can be something we all hope for."

Assange also suggested that Facebook and Twitter played less of a role in the unrest in the Middle East than has previously been argued by social media commentators and politicians.

He said: "Yes [Twitter and Facebook] did play a part, although not nearly as large a part as al-Jazeera. But the guide produced by Egyptian revolutionaries … says on the first page, 'Do not use Facebook and Twitter', and says on the last page, 'Do not use Facebook and Twitter'.

"There is a reason for that. There was actually a Facebook revolt in Cairo three or four years ago. It was very small … after it, Facebook was used to round-up all the principal participants. They were then beaten, interrogated and incarcerated."

Assange said that cables released by WikiLeaks played a key role in both fomenting unrest in the Middle East and forcing the US government not to back former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Assange said diplomatic cables concerning US attitudes to the former Tunisian regime had given strength to revolutionary forces across the region.

"The Tunisian cables showed clearly that if it came down to it, the US, if it came down to a fight between the military on the one hand, and Ben Ali's political regime on the other, the US would probably support the military."

He continued: "That is something that must have also caused neighbouring countries to Tunisia some thought: that is that if they militarily intervened, they may not be on the same side as the United States."

Assange, who is appealing against his extradition to Sweden on alleged sex charges, said the WikiLeaks releases had also forced the US to drop their tacit support of Mubarak.

"As a result of releasing cables about Suleiman [the vice-president of Egypt under Mubarak], the US and Israel's preferred option for regime takeover in Egypt, as a result of releasing cables about Mubarak's approval of Suleiman's torture methods, it was not possible for Joseph Biden to [repeat his earlier claim that Mubarak was not a dictator]. It was not possible for Hillary Clinton to publicly come out and support Mubarak's regime."

Responding to a question about Bradley Manning, the US soldier incarcerated for allegedly leaking classified information, Assange said: "We have no idea whether he is one of our sources. All our technology is geared up to make sure we have no idea."

He expressed sympathy for Manning. "He is in a terrible situation. And if he is not connected to us, [then] he is there as an innocent … and if he is in some manner connected to our publications, then of course we have some responsibility. That said, there is no allegation that he was arrested as the result of anything to do with us. The allegation is that he was arrested as a result of him speaking to Wired magazine in the United States."

Assange also criticised the New York Times, which he claimed had suppressed stories about secret American military activity in Afghanistan.

Queensland Has A Unicameral Parliament

Look At The Type Of Legislation Which Has Been Passed In The Last Few Years

If Premier Bligh Really Wanted To Do Something About The Police Disciplinary Process She Could Do It Right Away

MARK COLVIN: Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission says it's powerless to punish six police officers involved in a botched investigation of a Palm Island death in custody.

The corruption watchdog had recommended they face disciplinary charges but the deputy police commissioner has ruled it out. Instead they'll have managerial guidance. The CMC says it will ask for more powers so its hands aren't tied in the future.

Kerrin Binnie reports from Brisbane.

KERRIN BINNIE: The Crime and Misconduct Commission chairman Martin Moynihan says he's astounded the police service won't lay disciplinary charges against six officers involved in a botched investigation into the death of Cameron Doomadgee on Palm Island.

MARTIN MOYNIHAN: The Doomadgee family, the Palm Island community and the public have a right to expect that the police service would, at the very least, investigate the death rigorously, impartially and thoroughly. This did not happen.

KERRIN BINNIE: Mr Doomadgee died in the Palm Island watch-house in 2004. There have been several investigations into the death, reviews and three coronial inquests. Former Palm Island police officer Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley was charged and found not guilty of manslaughter and assault.

The CMC last year delivered its assessment of a police review and internal investigation. It found both were flawed and recommended the six officers face disciplinary charges.

The deputy commissioner, Kathy Rynders was given the task of determining what action be taken and has decided the officers receive managerial guidance instead. Mr Moynihan says he can't understand the decision.

MARTIN MOYNIHAN: The failure by the QPS to take any action means that the CMC's hands are now tied. The police service has circumvented the independent review process. We could never have foreseen that the QPS would find that the conduct of the police officers did not warrant disciplinary proceedings.

KERRIN BINNIE: Mr Moynihan says the CMC can't act because of a loophole.

MARTIN MOYNIHAN: Currently the law as it stands only allows the CMC to appeal a police misconduct matter in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal if it is seeking to review a decision made into the disciplinary proceedings. We have no power if there is no decision is made.

KERRIN BINNIE: He wants the Queensland Parliament to give it that power.

MARTIN MOYNIHAN: We will seek these legislative changes to ensure that all QPS decisions are potentially subject to an independent review. The CMC wants to ensure that people in cases such as this can be held accountable for their actions.

KERRIN BINNIE: The Police Union is maintaining the officers did nothing wrong but says mistakes were made. The police commissioner, Bob Atkinson, says the decision was based on evidence.

BOB ATKINSON: There are some people, and perhaps understandably so, who will never believe that justice has been done and who will never be satisfied but I don't think we can change that. But I do believe we have to bring this to a close.

KERRIN BINNIE: The Palm Island Mayor, Alf Lacey says he's disappointed with the police service decision. He says the past seven years have been a waste of time.

ALF LACEY: At the end of the day we need to say to Queensland and people living in Queensland is that if your child gets picked up or your brother or your sister gets picked up, taken to a police cell and end up dying and there's no action out of it, what happened on Palm could happen anywhere in Queensland and that's what we need to understand here.

KERRIN BINNIE: Mr Lacey says the decision won't help the relationship between Aborigines and the police.

ALF LACEY: They will continue to be the boogie man for Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland and I think it's now set back and put the whole relationship and engagement back a decade or so.

KERRIN BINNIE: Queensland's Premier, Anna Bligh, has already established a review into the police discipline process. Ms Bligh says the system has to work better.

ANNA BLIGH: I think there are a lot of people who will be asking questions about the police discipline process as a result of this decision today and I share their concerns. I want a better police disciplinary process, not one that takes six years or nine years but one that responds to issues quickly and fairly, treats police officers fairly and is accountable to the public.

KERRIN BINNIE: Ms Bligh's expecting a report into the matter by the end of the year.

MARK COLVIN: Kerrin Binnie.

Small Quake Off N Queensland Coast

Parts of far north Queensland were shaken by a minor earthquake this afternoon.

Geoscience Australia says the magnitude 4 earthquake was recorded 30 kilometres off the coast of Innisfail just after 4:00pm (AEST).

Authorities say there is no tsunami threat or reports of damage, but residents have felt tremors in areas including Gordonvale, Innisfail and Babinda.

Geoscience Australia seismologist Dr Jonathan Bathgate says it is not linked to last Friday's devastating earthquake in Japan.

"It is a coincidence, they're completely unrelated events," he said.

The weather bureau's Liz Heba says people do not have to worry about a tsunami as a result.

"It is quite shallow and with only a magnitude-4 it's not any threat for a tsunami," she said.

"I know people are concerned about that at the moment but certainly no threat at all - really just the effect has been people feeling it."

Les Scheu, who lives near Innisfail, says the quake was brief, but scary.

"We were sitting out the front on a little concrete patio and next thing it just sounded like an explosion," he said.

Dr Bathgate says there were similar earthquakes in the same area in 1989 and 1990.

"Australia tends to have what we call intraplate earthquakes across the continent," he said.

"It's just a release of stress that builds up in the crust due to Australia's tectonic movement in the north, so occasionally the rocks give way and the stress is released in certain parts of the country."

Wind Farms Struggle To Fly

'Australian Financial Review' [15/3/11]:

A price on carbon will probably not be high enough to revitalise $4.4 billion of wind projects shelved due to depressed renewable energy certificate prices.

Despite a government that is aiming to increase the use of renewable power and bolster its environmental credentials, the wind power business is riddled with delays, as the key incentive for building capacity in the sector fails to deliver results.

Investment in wind energy has stalled despite the government's ambitious target of 20 per cent of electricity secured from renewable sources. The reason for the slump is the market for renewable energy certificates. Renewable energy certificates are commodities created by renewable producers that are bought and surrendered by electricity retailers.

Gas Drillers Doors Open

'Australian Financial Review' [15/3/11]:

Queensland Gas Company senior vice-resident Jim Knudsen defended the company as protests against coal seam gas drilling continued.

"People should know that none of our wells are unsafe or a risk to people or the environment," he said.

"We remain willing to discuss these issues with all the stakeholders, particularly landholders directly and indirectly affected by our activities, and with the wider community."

QGC is due to begin work on a 16 km pipeline at Tara this week. Farmers, landowners and green groups have been rallying outside the company's Tara office this week.

Friends of the Earth spokesman Drew Hutton said several affected property owners believed QGC had not been fair or open about its plans.

Mr Knudsen said the company could have "explained ourselves better".

New Names For Opera

'Australian Financial Review' [15/3/11]:

Josephine Sukkar, co-owner of construction company Buildcorp, and Brisbane-based lawyer Judith Stewart, chief executive of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, have been appointed to the board of Opera Australia. Brisbane-based art gallery owner Philip Bacon is leaving the board after 17 years. Ms Sukkar and Ms Stewart take up their roles on March 18.

Partners Revolt At Phillips Fox

'Australian Financial Review' [15/3/11]:

National law firm DLA Phillips Fox lost nearly half its Brisbane partnerships yesterday after nine key commercial partners said they would refuse to sign a deed to implement a merger with global alliance partner DLA Piper in May.

Phillips Fox confirmed the nine, which include one-time Brisbane office leader and head of the national intellectual property practice Tony Conaghan, could leave before the merger took affect on May 1.

In a further twist, mid-tier firm Thomsons Lawyers chief executive Adrian Tembel said the partners would head its first Brisbane office, due to open in May or June.

The nine-partner defection, revealed on DealBook on afr.com, is a blow to DLA Piper's plan to provide a full-service offering to rival local top-tier firms and recent foriegn entrants Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Norton Rose. ...

Raptis Threatens To Sue For $500m

'Australian Financial Review' [15/3/11]:

Fallen Gold Coast developer Jim Raptis is considering taking legal action against Capital Finance Australia for damages of $500 million.

Mr Raptis, whose 30-year-old development company Raptis Group collapsed in 2008 under $1 billion of debt, has spent the past 18 months attempting to pay back more than 500 creditors and reduce a tax bill of $28 million.

Mr Raptis, operating under a BRI Ferrier-enforced deed of arrangement, lodged a statement with the Australian Securities Exchange late yesterday announcing the launch of legal proceedings to have a Capital Financial Australia charge removed and update the market on his fight against the Australia Taxation Office.

The $28 million bill against Rapcivic Contractors, a Raptis Group subsidiary, had been reduced to $11 million in the Administration Appeals Tribunal, but a Federal Court appeal on March 1 could dismiss the bill entirely. ...

The Ongoing War On Democracy And The Ordinary People Of The World

BBC [14/3/11]:

Troops from a number of Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have arrived in Bahrain at the request of the kingdom, officials say.

It comes a day after the worst violence since seven anti-government protesters were killed in clashes with security forces last month.

Dozens of people were injured on Sunday as protesters pushed back police and barricaded roads.

Bahrain's opposition said the foreign forces amounted to an occupation.

But the kingdom's authorities urged the population to "co-operate fully and to welcome" the troops, the AFP news agency reports.

'Answering request'

A Saudi official said about 1,000 Saudi Arabian troops arrived in Bahrain early on Monday, and later the UAE said it had sent some 500 police officers.

Witnesses told the Reuters news agency that about 150 Saudi Arabian armoured troop carriers plus other vehicles entered Bahrain on the causeway that links the two kingdoms.

The Saudi government said in a statement that it "has answered a request by Bahrain for support", according to the Saudi Spa state-run news agency.

The troops are part of a deployment by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), a six-nation regional grouping which includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

It is believed they are intended to guard key facilities such as oil and gas installations and financial institutions.

Travel warning

The US said it was aware of the deployment.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said: "We urge our GCC partners to show restraint and respect the rights of the people of Bahrain, and to act in a way that supports dialogue instead of undermining it."

The US Navy bases its Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.

There were clashes between police and protesters in Manama on Sunday
The British and Australian governments have warned against all travel to the kingdom.

Bahrain's Shia majority has long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Sunni ruling elite, but large-scale protests broke out last month after the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia were toppled in uprisings.

No dialogue

On Monday, protesters continued their occupation of Pearl Square, near Manama's financial district, and set up roadblocks around the area.

In a statement issued before the arrival of the GCC troops was confirmed, the Shia-led opposition said: "We consider the arrival of any soldier, or military vehicle, into Bahraini territory... an overt occupation of the kingdom of Bahrain and a conspiracy against the unarmed people of Bahrain."

King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifah has offered dialogue with the protesters, but they have refused, saying they want the government to step down.

Most of the opposition and protesters have said they do not want to overthrow the monarchy, but want the ruling family to give up most of its powers to the elected parliament.

Some, however, have said they want a republic.

The intervention from Bahrain's predominantly Sunni neighbours may deepen the rift between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Bahrain and beyond, says the BBC's Middle East analyst Magdi Abdelhadi.

Saudi Arabia, which has problems with its own Shia minority, has already clamped down on Shia democracy activists, our analyst says.

QRail Woes

Stan's [Stan Wallace] Say 'Queensland Country Life' [10/3/11]:

My spies tell me the first cattle train for 2011 from Winton to Rockhampton had an incident last Friday at Pine Hill, west of Emerald, resulting in 16 cattle wagons derailed. This must cause concern as the last cattle train from Winton late in December 2010 also suffered a similar fate with a derailment and cattle wagons leaving the rails. Full marks to the willing residents who managed to unload the wagons last Friday and walk the cattle to yards to be road transported to their destinations. Luckily there were no mortalities. I wonder if there had been any casualties, who would be responsible, QR or the livestock owners?

Obama Defends Abuse Of Private Bradley Manning

By Patrick Martin

March 12, 2011 "WSWS" -- An otherwise desultory press conference Friday morning featured the first public questioning of President Obama about the abusive treatment of Bradley Manning, the Army private who faces 34 criminal charges, some bearing the death penalty, for allegedly leaking to WikiLeaks evidence of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as State Department cables revealing US diplomatic intrigues.

Manning is jailed at the Quantico Marine Corps base near Washington DC, under conditions that have been denounced by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations as tantamount to torture. He has been held in solitary confinement there for more than seven months. In the last week he has been deprived of all clothing during sleeping hours, then compelled to stand naked for inspection every morning.

If another country were meting out similarly sadistic treatment to a captured American POW, the Pentagon and the American media would be howling about war crimes. But Manning’s treatment has been largely blacked out of the corporate-controlled mass media. Friday’s question was the first time the subject has been raised by the White House press corps.

The inquiry by Jake Tapper of ABC News was the second and subordinate part of a question that began with the Japanese earthquake and its effect on Japanese nuclear power facilities. Tapper then continued as follows:

“And then, a second question--the State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley, said the treatment of Bradley Manning by the Pentagon is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid. And I’m wondering if you agree with that. Thank you, sir.”

Obama answered the question about Japan, then added:

“With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are. I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well.”

This answer is a cowardly example of stonewalling, undoubtedly crafted in advance after consultation with the Pentagon brass. Obama does not actually say that Manning is being treated appropriately, only that unnamed military officials “assure me that they are.”

He then wraps the whole issue in secrecy, with the suggestion that Manning is somehow being protected from himself rather than subjected to sadistic abuse in order to break him psychologically and pressure him into becoming a government witness against WikiLeaks.

Able to follow up, Tapper went for the most trivial aspect of the issue, asking, “Do you disagree with PJ Crowley?” Obama responded, “I think I gave you an answer to the substantive issue.”

No other reporter sought to follow up the subject.

Crowley, having served as chief spokesman for the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before working for Hillary Clinton in the current administration, is a veteran apologist for the crimes of US imperialism, including the Kosovo War and the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

At a public discussion Thursday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before an audience of 20 people, Crowley was asked about the treatment of Manning, which the questioner described as the military “torturing a prisoner in a military brig.”

A career Air Force officer before he became a government spokesman, Crowley replied, “What’s being done to Bradley Manning by my colleagues at the Department of Defense is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” He went on, however, to defend Manning’s incarceration and condemn the WikiLeaks revelations.

Obama’s endorsement of the torture of Manning follows his order Monday to resume the drum-head military tribunals at Guantanamo and hold 48 of the 172 remaining detainees under indefinite detention without any form of legal process. He is, no less than his predecessor, an accomplice in the sadistic abuse and torture of prisoners both at Guantanamo and on the US mainland.

Copyright © 1998-2011 World Socialist Web Site

Strip Clubs Outpace Laws In Kenya

WeNews [13/3/11]:

... Relatively new to Kenya, strip clubs are on the rise. Some cite urbanization, Internet advertising and international pressure for their advent. High pay also fuels the industry, as strippers say they can double the money they could earn at other jobs, where they may be sexually harassed anyway.

Yet because it's a new phenomenon, no clear laws governing stripping are on the books. Advocates propose creating red-light districts to curb illegal activities around strip clubs and granting legal rights to strippers.

Seven years ago, strip clubs were unheard of in downtown Nairobi, says Chris Hart, a psychologist. Now, patrons and managers estimate there to be 10 public strip clubs and 20 private clubs, or houses rented for private parties. There are no official statistics yet.

Not far from Pango F3 is a competing strip club, Liddos. The strippers dance on the pole and give lap dances to the predominantly male crowd. At 11 p.m., pornography plays on two 40-inch plasma TVs. At midnight, the strippers remove everything but their bikini tops.

Hart attributes the rise in strip clubs in Nairobi to Kenya's "catching up with the world."

Bhavesh and other clients say they discovered Kenya's strip clubs online. Liddos uses Facebook to update fans about new events.

Mike Katana, Pango F3's manager, says the club attracts international celebrities such as Wyclef Jean, Shaggy, Gramps Morgan and Akon.

"When they come to Kenya to perform, they also look for their own entertainment," he says. "They tell their promoters that they want to feel like they feel in Atlanta."

Hart says strip clubs attract dancers because of the high income. Winnie says she used to be a waitress but switched to stripping at Pango F3 after her manager hit on her.

"If it's all about my looks, then I'll make as much money as I can out of it," she says.

Katana says a stripper's average income in Nairobi is 10,000 shillings ($120 USD) a month--almost double Kenya's monthly per capita income. Nearly half of Kenyans live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Lucy, 21, a former stripper, says the job isn't easy, adding that some strippers use cannabis to help them perform.

"You smile not because you enjoy yourself," she says. "You are here to please clients and get paid, so you fake a smile."

Strip clubs are illegal in Kenya. The owners evade that law by registering them as bars. John Ngugi, Nairobi City Council treasurer, says that the City Council must award the bars operating licenses after the liquor licensing board awards the required liquor licenses.

"Our hands are tied," Ngugi says. "We don't regulate how people drink beer--if they drink their beer naked or not."

Police occasionally raid strip clubs, but, without legislation, procedures are unregulated. Lucy recalls a 2 a.m. raid at Barrels, another Nairobi strip club, where police said the club hadn't paid for its license.

"Police came in with guns and all the strippers were asked to take all their clothes off," she says.

The police whisked the patrons and dancers to the police station. At dawn, Lucy bailed herself out with her tips but says she left behind eight shivering colleagues who couldn't afford bail.

Eric Kiraithe, Kenya police spokesperson, says stripping needs clearer regulations, as the Kenyan penal code doesn't differentiate between strippers and prostitutes. Both are misdemeanors, carrying a 3,000-shilling ($36 USD) fine.

Evan Monari, a lawyer, says no strip clubs existed when the penal code was instituted.

He says the Kenya Tourist Board should work with local authorities to create a red-light district. Another lawyer, Duncan Mwanyumba, says this will reduce illegal activities around the clubs and accord the strippers respect.

Mwanyumba says he and the International Federation of Women Lawyers will advocate for legal rights for strippers and prostitutes at this year's Koinange Street Festival, a carnival in Nairobi's unofficial red-light district.

Paspaley Pearling Family Behind Detention Centre

Members of Australia's wealthy Paspaley pearling family have been revealed as key figures behind a new immigration detention centre in Darwin.

The centre, to be built at Wickham Point, 35 kilometres south of the city centre, will be the largest detention facility on Australia's mainland, with up to 1,500 detainees.

The Federal Government this month announced it will lease the facility for $74 million over three years in an effort to ease overcrowded conditions at the Christmas Island detention centre.

Until now it was understood Darwin hotel entrepreneur John "Foxy" Robinson, whose accommodation facilities are already leased by the Immigration Department, was the person behind the facility.

But a development application submitted to the Northern Territory Government lists NTJ Paspaley Nominees as the applicant for the facility.

A land title search reveals the same company as the owner of the 94-hectare piece of land where the centre will be built.

Company records show Paspaley Pearls executive chairman Nicholas Paspaley as one of four directors, including two other Paspaley family members.

The development application says the immigration centre will be developed by Wickham Point Development Pty Ltd.

Company records show Mr Paspaley formed Wickham Point Development with Mr Robinson on February 22 this year.

Mr Paspaley relinquished his directorship several days later and is now listed as a secretary of the company. Mr Robinson is listed as a director and a secretary.

According to the Paspaley Pearls website, the company has offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Australia and supplies pearls to exclusive outlets including Tiffany & Co and Cartier.

It says Paspaleys arrived in Australia in 1919 after "fleeing the Greek island of Castellorizo during World War I".

The website says the company now has a range of business interests, including aviation and marine engineering.

Half Of Flood Victims In Insurance Limbo

'Queensland Times' [11/3/11]:

Half of Ipswich's flood victims still don't know if they are eligible for insurance pay outs two months after water shattered their lives, Legal Aid Queensland says.

Legal Aid Queensland consumer advocate Catherine Uhr said many Ipswich people had yet to even see a hydrologist and were sitting in limbo unsure how much debt they would be swimming in.

“Next week we will start actually filing against insurance companies for not telling their clients whether they will pay them,” Ms Uhr said.

“I've spoken to a number of very distressed people; they don't know what's going to happen with their house.”

It is estimated that close to 1000 people were seriously affected in January's epic food.

Legal Aid Queensland is handling the majority of appeals from disgruntled insurance policy holders in Ipswich.

Ms Uhr said feedback from flood victims in Ipswich was that half of those affected were still waiting for a formal letter stating whether they would receive a pay out.

“RACQ has not told hardly any of their customers whether they are eligible yet,” Ms Uhr said.

“It's too long to wait. The insurance companies need to make up their minds.”

Without a written statement from an insurance company detailing whether or not a client is receiving a pay out, emergency accommodation funds cannot be accessed.

The Insurance Council of Australia has published reports on the causes of floods in Toowoomba and Brisbane, but not Ipswich.

This is also causing a delay.

Basin Pocket resident Keith Carnell is still waiting for his insurer, RACQ, to inform him of whether he is eligible for insurance.

“It's been two months now, and all I'm getting is the run-around. They're just not telling me what's going on,” Mr Carnell said.

“I have been with RACQ for 25 years.

“I'm sitting on borrowed furniture right now and they still say they have to wait for a hydrologist to come here.

“I live on the river. I know where the water came from, so I don't know why it's so hard for a hydrologist to come here and say yes you were flooded by that river near your backyard.

“It's not just RACQ either. I know people with several other insurance companies who are yet to be told whether they will be paid out.”

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said it was beyond a joke that insurance companies were taking so long to respond.

“Evil triumphs when good men stand still. We are armed and dangerous and not prepared to let them get away with this,” Cr Pisasale said.

“All these people want is a quick answer so they can move forward.

“Insurance companies are acting un-Australian,” he said.

WHAT TO DO:

Contact Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 651 188 if you feel your insurance company has not acted appropriately. The service is free and they have recently hired more staff to cope with demand.

Disgruntled flood victims still without insurance are meeting at Riverlink, near Nandos, on Saturday. All are welcome.

300,000 Rally Across Portugal

'Press TV' [13/3/11]:

More than 300,000 people have taken to streets in Portugal's capital Lisbon and 10 other major cities to protest lack of job opportunities in their country.

An estimated 200,000 protesters in Lisbon crammed the wide Liberdade Avenue and the Rossio Square, carrying banners with slogans urging a policy change to reverse surging unemployment, precarious working conditions for young people and falling living standards.

Last year, Portugal reported a record unemployment rate of 10.8 percent.

In addition to Lisbon protesters, another 80,000 people demonstrated in Portugal's second largest city of Porto, and a Facebook appeal gathered 65,000 signatures in support of the move, LUSA news agency reported.

"Half of Portugal's active population is either unemployed or precarious, which shows that the situation is untenable," said 27-year-old Joao Labrincha, unemployed and one of the four organizers of the rally, quoted by AFP.

The government announced a series of extra spending cuts and tax changes on Friday aimed at bringing its budget deficit down to 4.6 percent in 2011.

The measures are designed to convince markets that Portugal can solve its problems without needing an international bailout such as those extended to Greece and Ireland.

Whatever Happened To Driving With Due Care And Attention?

Article about Subaru EyeSight Technology as seen in this week's [10/3/11] 'Tweed Border Mail'

Evacuation Of 4,000 People Coordinated From Ta' Xbiex

'Times Of Malta' [6/3/11]:

Representatives of 12 countries have been working round the clock to coordinate the evacuation of their citizens from violence-torn Libya from a small office at the British High Commission in Ta' Xbiex.

The Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation Coordination Cell (NEOCC) comprises representatives from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, the US, Malta, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Hungary. Over the past eight days they have managed to organise the evacuation of around 4,000 people from Libya.

The NEOCC members work together with their respective foreign and defence ministries to use both military and civilian assets to get people out of the North African country.

Those working on the team say that being able to pool their resources has made the rescue effort much more successful.

"The advantage of having us all together is that we can maximise that effort. We have a much broader understanding of the situation in the country because we are all sharing the information we are receiving," said Lieutenant-Colonel Craig Sutherland, the UK Liaison officer on the NEOCC team.

"We have a clearer understanding of where those people at risk across the country are located and we can start focusing on those assets which each of the nations has provided to ensure we get people out as quickly as possible, getting them to safety in essence and trying to preserve life."

The NEOCC is not involved in humanitarian work, but focuses purely on getting those who want to leave Libya onto boats or planes out of the country as quickly and safely as possible.

So far at least three international navy ships and more than a dozen military aircraft have been used to evacuate people, along with several civilian chartered ships and planes.

If capacity allows, the NEOCC-organised rescue missions are also bringing citizens of other nations, including Thais and Filipinos.

"It's been tough but I must say that it's been a satisfaction for all of us and for me personally, knowing that so many people have managed to actually be evacuated from Libya," said Major Stefan Camilleri, the Maltese liaison officer.

The cell was set up after a similar operation during the 2006 troubles in Lebanon proved to be a resounding success. After this, the NEO coordination group began meeting as a forum every six months in order to prepare for situations such as the one in Libya.

At the height of the evacuation efforts, some 30 people were working in the group in Malta. Since many foreign nationals have already been rescued, those working on the project are down to 20.

Australian Colonel John Hutcheson said: "We've had fantastic support from the Maltese government, not just in being able to host and looking after the forces here in Malta, but also the ability to provide us with information about what it's like to be at Tripoli airport, what it's like to be at Benghazi port and so on, and allowing us to to build a better picture of what we're working with."

Thank Goodness This Kind Of Thing Couldn't Happen In Australia

WikiLeaks News [11/3/11]:

SECRET US diplomatic cables have implicated Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in substantial corruption and abuse of power, puncturing his reputation as a political cleanskin and reformer.

The cables say Mr Yudhoyono has personally intervened to influence prosecutors and judges to protect corrupt political figures and pressure his adversaries, while using the Indonesian intelligence service to spy on political rivals and, at least once, a senior minister in his own government.

They also detail how Mr Yudhoyono’s former vice-president reportedly paid millions of dollars to buy control of Indonesia’s largest political party, and accuse the President’s wife and her family of seeking to enrich themselves through their political connections.

The revelations come as Indonesian Vice-President Boediono visits Canberra today for talks with acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan and discussions with officials on administrative change to reform Indonesia’s corrupt bureaucracy.

The US diplomatic reports — obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to The Age — say that soon after becoming President in 2004, Mr Yudhoyono intervened in the case of Taufik Kiemas, the husband of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Mr Taufik reportedly had used his continuing control of his wife’s Indonesian Democratic Party, then the second largest party in Indonesia’s Parliament, to broker protection from prosecution for what the US diplomats described as "legendary corruption during his wife’s tenure".

In December 2004, the US embassy in Jakarta reported that one of its most valued political informants, senior presidential adviser T.B. Silalahi, had advised that then assistant attorney-general Hendarman Supandji, who was leading the new government’s anti-corruption campaign, had gathered "sufficient evidence of the corruption of former first gentleman Taufik Kiemas to warrant Taufik’s arrest".

But Mr Silalhi, one of Mr Yudhoyono’s closest political confidants, told the US embassy the President "had personally instructed Hendarman not to pursue a case against Taufik". ...

Aussie MPs Stuck On Bullet Train

Federal Member for Fadden Stuart Robert was among the MPs left stranded when shinkansen trains stopped when an 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the north of Japan late Friday afternoon.

"Stuck on a bullet train outside of Tokyo with other MPs as everything has stopped due to the devastating earthquake," he wrote on his Twitter account.

Thirty minutes later Mr Robert tweeted: "Still stuck on the bullet train, massive phone and data congestion, very difficult to get comms out."

It is believed Labor MPs Stephen Jones and Amanda Rishworth as well as Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash are stuck on the train with Mr Robert.

Ms Rishworth, the Member for Kingston, tweeted: "Delegation of mps from Aust are all safe here in Japan, our thoughts and prays are with all those who have been affected."

The Department of Foreign Affairs says it is trying to determine whether any Australians have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

It says Australians who are worried about friends or family in Japan should first attempt to contact them directly.

The Department says if that does not work, they can then ring its consular emergency centre on 1300 555 135.

Meanwhile the Bureau of Meteorology says the tsunami generated by the quake off Japan will not pose any threat to Australia, after US officials declared a Pacific-wide alert.

"We are confident that at this magnitude there's no risk to Australia," Chris Ryan, co-director of the joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre said, adding that no local tsunami warning had been declared.

"The Australian Tsunami Warning Centre has applied its special systems for Australia and we are confident there's no threat to Australia."

Genital Mutilation Doctor Found Guilty

A New South Wales man has been found guilty of unnecessarily removing a woman's genitals.

The former doctor, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged with maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on Carolyn DeWaegeneire and unnecessarily excising her clitoris during an operation in 2002.

The Crown alleged the 58-year-old widow did not give her consent for him to remove her genitals.

She told the jury he said he was going to remove a lesion but never mentioned removing anything else.

The defence argued he was trying to save her life.

He will be sentenced at a later date.

There Will Never Be Enough Fascists To Conquer Those Of Us Who Aren't

Fiddle-dee-dee. War, war, war; this war talk's spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream. Besides... there isn't going to be any war.

The system is far more fragile than the propaganda of those who rule it is supposed to make us believe:

... While Gillard received several standing ovations during her speech, attendance among members of the House and Senate was low for her appearance. To give the impression of a full House, congressional pages and staff filled many of the empty seats....

Arab World Rocks US-Backed ‘Stability’

'Green Left Weekly' [6/3/11]:

The US government says it wants “stability” in the Arab world. That sounds reasonable, right?

However, as US author and political analyst Noam Chomsky explained to Press TV on February 24, for the US government, “stability” means something other than what most people would think.

“You have to remember that stability is a cold code word,” Chomsky said. “Stability doesn't mean stability; it means obedience to US domination … [It] doesn't mean that things are calm and straightforward, [it] means they are under control. That of course it is inconsistent with democracy.

“The principle is that as long as people are quiet everything is fine — if they stop being quiet, something has to be done to reassert control. But it they are quiet, [US allies can] do what [they] like. That is the basic principle of governance.”

In promoting its own brand of “stability” in the Arab world, the US government raised military assistance funding to countries at the heart of the current unrest in a budget for 2011, Worldtribune.com said February 9, 2010.

Increases were given to Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Oman and Yemen. Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia also received significant funding despite it being less than 2010.

However, many people in the Arab world — and beyond — are sick of the US's version of “stability” and want change. Fresh protests took place in Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Yemen and Iraq on March 4.

Most of the protests are occurring in countries with US-backed regimes. Some examples of protests include:

• Oman became the latest country to become “unstable” on February 27, when protesters took to the streets of Sohar, the New York Times said that day. Rallies have spread despite Oman's ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said offering concessions of 50,000 new jobs and payments to the unemployed.

“Protesters demands include greater freedom of expression, higher salaries, a clampdown on government corruption, a new constitution, and the prosecution of security officials whose actions led to the death of demonstrators,” Cnn.com said on March 1.

• In US-occupied Iraq, 29 people were killed as security forces attacked protests on February 25, the Guardian said on March 2. Security forces closed off bridges to stop protesters converging in Baghdad's Tahrir Square.

They also built walls blocking access to the US-controlled Green Zone. Protesters chanted: "No to terrorism, no to Saddam's dictatorship, and no to the dictatorship of thieves" and "No to the occupation". The US embassy broadcast in Arabic on state TV “a thinly veiled threat to protesters not to go too far in their demands”, the Guardian said.

• The government of Iran has arrested prominent opposition leaders Mehdi Karrubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi to try to intimidate protesters, Bloomberg.com said on March 1. Police used tear gas to disperse a rally in Tehran demanding their release, Trend.az said on March 2. Protests also took place that day in Tabriz, Shiraz, Isfahan, Kermanshehr, Karaj and Simnan.

• In Morocco, protests in several cities were brutally broken up on February 29, Afrol.com said that day. Activists have reported a “climate of fear” following the crackdown, which included the arrest of at least 11 protest organisers in Casablanca.

• The US has backed the Jordan government's promise of "serious" reforms, AFP said on March 2. A peaceful rally on February 25 demanded the government speed up the reform process and take action against pro-government thugs who attacked a rally on February 18, Cnn.com said on March 1.

• In Djibouti, 300 pro-democracy activists were arrested in pre-emptive raids to try to stop more protests, News.yahoo.com said on March 1. Previous rallies had drawn up to 60,000 people, Djibtalk.com said on February 19. Security forces stopped a protest on March 4 by blocking the march route, AP said that day.

Challenging Stereotypes Offlimits At The National Broadcaster?

During Dr Karl's segment on the ABC's Coast FM today [10/3/11], announcer Bernadette Young was very keen to discuss brain hemispheres, creativity and susceptibility to substance abuse.

Yawn.

Thankfully Dr Karl was his usual diplomatic self, batting off the annoying bourgeois hysteria with measured, topical responses.

When he pointed out that there were more teetotaller aborigines proportionally than in the rest of Australia, Young cut in with: "we can't talk about that, let's talk about something else".

Why can't we talk about "that"?

Wouldn't "that" be rather interesting, given the stereotypes bandied about by the media which are used by politicians to justify racist policies such as the intervention and welfare quarantining?

Anti-Abortion Crusaders - Where Are You?

Science academy urges against stem cell research changes

Evidently big pharma and biotech industries are too powerful for small-minded, religious fundamentalists to take on.

The hypocrisy of their silence illustrates what the so called right to life movement is really all about - keeping women in their place.

It'd Be Good To Have Genuine Debate On This Issue - Wouldn't It?

Then the debacle of citizens being charged extortionate water prices might be able to be solved i.e. the privatisation could be undone.

Unfortunately any discussion about how the privatisation actually came about, and how we could go about reversing it is off limits.

Blame neoliberal politicians and the media, which in Queensland, spends the majority of its time comforting the comfortable and deliberately evading the real issues with trivialities:

The chief executive officer of the Gold Coast City Council has sent an email to a councillor raising concern about comments he has made to the media.

Councillor Eddy Sarroff has been criticising the council and its role in the spiralling cost of water.

Council chief executive officer Dale Dickson says the email was copied to the city solicitor.

He says it is not a crackdown on free speech.

"I think to be very, very clear, my comments were about particular comments that Councillor Sarroff made," he said.

"In no way was my email intended to prevent Councillor Sarroff from making comment about water issues more generally."

Mr Sarroff says it may be timely for the council and the administration to take a step back regarding the water issue.

"I think it would be wise for us not to be responding to comments made in the public arena, but rather to review some of those decisions that have created some public anger," he said.

"In this case here it could be seen that we're shooting the messenger.

"I do speak out in the public interest and I will continue to do so."

Mr Sarroff says the water issue is important and it is his duty to speak on matters he believes are in the public interest.

"As elected representatives I should say that the community expects us to review the advice that is presented to us from time to time from the administration," he said.

"If it means we have to challenge that advice, if we have to speak out in the public interest so be it."

Rethink NBN Privatisation

'Gold Coast Mail' [10/3/11]:

Consumer advocates have called on the federal government to rethink plans to privatise the national broadband network (NBN).

The $36 billion project is scheduled to be privatised within five years of its completion, although parliament would have to approve any sell-off.

With the rollout expected to take at least another seven years, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network is urging the government to be mindful of creating a private-sector monopoly.

"There are still significant groups in Australia that have some great concern about the privatisation of public utilities," chief executive Teresa Corbin told a Senate hearing in Sydney on Wednesday.

The consumer lobby group said privatisation should be approached with great caution, adding that a private monopoly could become too politically powerful. ...

Facebook Deletes Anti Account

'Gold Coast Mail' [10/3/11]:

Chinese blogger and activist Michael Anti wants to know why he is less worthy of a Facebook account than company founder Mark Zuckerberg's dog.

Anti, a popular online commentator whose legal name is Zhao Jing, said in an interview on Tuesday that his Facebook account was suddenly cancelled in January.

Company officials told him by email that Facebook has a strict policy against pseudonyms and that he must use the name issued on his government ID.

Anti argues that his professional identity as Michael Anti has been established for more than a decade, with published articles and essays.

Anti, a former journalist who has won fellowships at both Cambridge University and Harvard University, said he set up his Facebook account in 2007.

By locking him out of his account, Facebook has cut him off from a network of more than 1000 academic and professional contacts who know him as Anti, he said.

"I'm really, really angry. I can't function using my Chinese name. Today, I found out that Zuckerberg's dog has a Facebook account. My journalistic work and academic work is more real than a dog," he said. ...

Australia May Sell Uranium To UAE

'Gold Coast Mail' [9/3/11]:

Australia is paving the way to sell uranium to the United Arab Emirates.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has announced the government will begin negotiations with the UAE on a bilateral nuclear safeguards agreement, a precursor to uranium sales.

Mr Rudd said negotiations would take as long as necessary to get the right agreement.

"But we believe that the fundamentals for such an agreement to occur are now in place," Mr Rudd told AAP from Abu Dhabi today.

The UAE is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and supports additional International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. But Australia also insists on a bilateral safeguards agreement.

Mr Rudd said the new agreement would open up an important new market for Australian uranium producers. The UAE hopes to begin using nuclear power for electricity by 2017.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop welcomed the announcement but said it highlighted the government's "hypocrisy" in refusing to sell uranium to India.

"This announcement will be taken in India as a further snub," Ms Bishop told AAP.

Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the move was "profoundly unhelpful" to global non-proliferation efforts.

"We're calling on the Australian Government to publish a list of who it's not intending to sell uranium to," Senator Ludlam told AAP.

"Doesn't matter whether you're a Communist dictatorship or a Middle Eastern Emirate ... it seems Australia is more than happy to do the bidding of the uranium mining companies."

Australian Conservation Foundation anti-nuclear campaigner David Noonan said it was a bad time to start selling uranium to the Middle East, given the unrest sweeping the area.

"Why would we be inserting Australian uranium into that unstable region?"

The Australian Uranium Association welcomed the announcement.

It "Boils My Blood" When Our Politicians Say Nothing When They Should Say Something

David "Rupert wants to know how you think $3.75 million is going to counteract sexist reporting in his publications" Speers asks the Minister for the Status of Women a question following her address to the National Press Club [9/3/11]

Essentially, all the Minister said was that we can't have gender equality until the free market delivers it.

She also claimed that Foxtel was the first to broadcast netball games - wasn't the ABC first to do this?

Unfortunately nobody asked whether some of the billions of dollars of public money spent on stadiums for corporatised, male-dominated sports might be redirected to women's sport?

Pointless.

Has It Ever Occurred To The Fundamentalist Christians Sitting In Parliament House That Some Queenslanders Don't Want To Be Prayed For?

Premier and Minister for Reconstruction and Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Emergency Services

Joint Statement [9/3/11]:

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH PEOPLE OF NORTH QUEENSLAND

Premier Anna Bligh has said the thoughts and prayers of all Queenslanders are with the residents of Cardwell who were again faced with flooding following heavy rain. ...

Some research indicates that praying for a person might actually have a negative impact on their well being:

In 2006, 'The American Heart Journal', published: Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer:

Abstract

Background

Intercessory prayer is widely believed to influence recovery from illness, but claims of benefits are not supported by well-controlled clinical trials. Prior studies have not addressed whether prayer itself or knowledge/certainty that prayer is being provided may influence outcome. We evaluated whether (1) receiving intercessory prayer or (2) being certain of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with uncomplicated recovery after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

Methods
Patients at 6 US hospitals were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: 604 received intercessory prayer after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; 597 did not receive intercessory prayer also after being informed that they may or may not receive prayer; and 601 received intercessory prayer after being informed they would receive prayer. Intercessory prayer was provided for 14 days, starting the night before CABG. The primary outcome was presence of any complication within 30 days of CABG. Secondary outcomes were any major event and mortality.

Results
In the 2 groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% CI 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in 59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52% (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.

Conclusions
Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.

Police Officer To Give Evidence In Taser Inquest

'Gold Coast Mail' [9/3/11]:

A police officer who repeatedly tasered a north Queensland man will give evidence at an inquest into the man's death.

Antonio Galeano, 39, died on the floor of his girlfriend's home at Brandon, south of Townsville in June 2009, after being tasered multiple times as officers tried to subdue him.

The officer who fired the device, Senior Constable Craig Myles, will give evidence at the inquest into Mr Galeano's death in Townsville on Wednesday.

Data recorded by the device showed it had been fired up to 28 times but Sen Const Myles' partner Constable Marina Cross on Tuesday told the court it had been activated only five times.

Const Cross also told the inquest Mr Galeano was acting erratically and incoherently and was so hard to subdue she and her partner believed they may need to shoot him to protect themselves.

National Broadcaster Reminds Australians For The Umpteenth Time That If We Get Cancer It's Our Own Fault

Mature age melamona [sic] rates more than double

The nuclear testing that took place in this country 60 years ago wouldn't have anything to do with elevated levels of skin cancer rates in 60 year olds, as opposed to younger Australians who (as well as internalising the slip, slop, slap message) may not have been exposed to radioactive fallout?

National Archives of Australia Fact sheet 129 – British nuclear tests at Maralinga

Between 1952 and 1963 the British government, with the agreement and support of Australia, carried out nuclear tests at three sites in Australia – the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australian and at Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia. An official history of the tests (JL Symonds, A History of British Atomic Tests in Australia, AGPS, Canberra) was published by the Department of Resources and Energy in 1985.

Maralinga was developed as the permanent proving ground site, following a request of the British in 1954 and, after its completion in 1956, was the location of all trials conducted in Australia. It was developed as a joint facility with a shared funding arrangement. Following the two major trials (Operation Buffalo in 1956 and Operation Antler in 1957), a number of minor trials, assessment tests and experimental programs (dating from 1959) were held at the range until 1963. Maralinga was officially closed following a clean-up operation (Operation Brumby) in 1967. ...

Cairo Women Stunned By Male Harassment At Protest

WeNews [8/3/11]:

Some women's rights organizers here were hoping to mark International Women's Day with a thousand-strong rally in the heart of downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Instead, less than a 100 showed up and those who did spent just over two hours being harassed and insulted in the very square they helped liberate.

Doing their best to ignore the taunts, several small groups of women clung to colorful signs with slogans in English and Arabic.

"I'd like to be able to walk down the streets, free of fear, free of judgment and that's it," said Rehaam Romero, a 23-year-old copy editor. She held a sign with the words "Equality, Education and Empowerment" and a hand-drawn Egyptian flag.

But her enthusiasm quickly faded after arriving in Tahrir Square, where she found hundreds of men crowding women holding signs and chanting for the women to leave.

"I've never been as afraid as I am now in all my years in Egypt," she said, watching men deride women standing nearby and yell: "The people want to bring women down!"

Even the most stalwart participants left after the military fired shots into the air to break up a fight at the edge of the square and almost caused a stampede.

Many activists on Twitter claim that the rally was deliberately targeted by thugs and regime loyalists that were also reportedly causing mischief at Coptic protests held throughout the capital on Tuesday. ...

Nepal OKs Abortion; Ongoing War On Women's Health

WeNews [5/3/11]:

Cheers

While attacks on women's choice continue in Congress, there have been steps taken to improve women's health and ensure reproductive rights not only in New York City, but also in Nepal.

The Supreme Court of Nepal ruled that women's right to abortion is a key component of her reproductive rights, reported RH Reality Check March 1. Until now, Nepal had banned abortion under any circumstance and could jail a woman for having an abortion.

Meanwhile, the New York City Council approved legislation March 2 requiring crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, to inform clients in their facilities and on their Web sites of what services they offer, reported the Center for Reproductive Rights . These centers must now inform clients on whether they provide or refer for prenatal care, emergency contraception or abortion and whether they have a licensed medical provider on staff. Women's eNews' November story followed the hearings leading to this regulation.

More News to Cheer This Week:

The University of Iowa allowed a doctor to train medical students on abortion and other procedures while working for Planned Parenthood although it violates the school's non-compete agreement, reported the New England Cable News in Boston Feb. 28.

Abortion education and trained doctors are limited but schools like the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford are working to expand the knowledge, reported San Jose, Calif.'s Mercury News Feb. 25.

Libyan women are busy taking an active stance uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's four-decade rule in a nation considered conservative in its gender roles, according to a Feb. 28 report by the London-based Middle-East Online

In response to the launch of UN Women and the upcoming International Women's Day, the Guardian encouraged people March 2 to post pictures on their Flickr group, "Global Women's Voices," on issues that matter most to women.

About 40 CEO women sent a letter to Congress March 2 asking senators to keep international women's health and rights in mind during the current debate on the foreign assistance budget, the Center for Health and Gender Equity and the Center for Development and Population Activities reported in a press release.

Rachel Hale became the first female in Vermont to win a state wrestling championship competing against male wrestlers, reported the New York Times Feb. 28

Working Mother Magazine published its list of 'Most Powerful Moms' in the fields of science and math in a recent report.

Jeers

The House Judiciary Committee on March 3 sent a bill denying federal funding for abortion to the full chamber for consideration, The Hill reported. In a 23-14 vote, the panel approved H.R. 3, "The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," on a largely party-line vote.

The legislation is the latest move in a larger strategy meant to weaken women's reproductive rights, according to a recent article in WeNews.

A slew of other anti-choice bills are moving through legislatures in:

~South Dakota ~Georgia ~Virginia ~Texas ~Kansas ~Iowa ~Montana ~Nebraska ~Wisconsin ~New York

In Washington, meanwhile, the GOP-dominated U.S. House of Representatives voted Feb. 18 to defund Planned Parenthood in a budget amendment, the latest salvo in what Nancy Pelosi has termed the "most radical assault on reproductive rights in our lifetime."

In a recent interview with Women's eNews, Judy Waxman of the National Women's Law Center said that pro-choice advocates are closely watching what happens to the amendment as Republican leaders in the House prepare it for consideration in the Senate.

If lawmakers decide to send the amendment forwarded by Rep. Mike Pence to the Senate as a stand-alone measure it could mean an easy defeat in the Democratic-controlled upper chamber, Waxman said. But if Republicans attach it to another piece of legislation that senators feel compelled to vote for--such as a motion that allows the budget debate to continue so the government will not shut down--it may pass.

Planned Parenthood and the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws both have petitions on their homepages calling on lawmakers to block passage of the amendment.

Legislations has also been proposed that would impact not only women's health but also job training, education, housing and food programs, Legal Momentum, the women's legal defense and education fund, reported in a press release March 3.

In response to Pence's amendment, pro-choice rallies peppered the country in protest on Feb. 26. In New York, a rally to "stand with Planned Parenthood" drew 5,000, the New York Daily News reported. See Women's eNews' photos from the rally on our Flickr page. Other rallies took place in Buffalo, N.Y., Ohio, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.

For background coverage by WeNews on the wave of anti-choice initiatives, read a physician's bleak assessment of the outlook for abortion rights; the rise of anti-choice state legislators in the midterm elections; and John Boehner's outlook on Congress. Also bear in mind the threats to Social Security, upon which older women disproportionately depend. For information on choice-related laws, check an interactive map provided by NARAL Pro-Choice America.

More News to Jeer This Week:

Seven women died after being gunned down by military forces while protesting in West Africa's Ivory Coast, reported the Guardian March 3.

More than 40 people, including men, women and children, were raped in the past two weeks in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in roughly the same area as a series of rapes earlier this year, reported the New York Times Feb. 25.

New Hampshire's system for prosecuting sexual assaults against adult women is ineffective and hampered by public misperceptions with very few assaults actually resulting in a criminal conviction, according to a March 1 article in the Concord Monitor .

The Daughters of Iraq, a group of women that have helped curb female suicide bombings, have not been paid for months, reported OnIslam Feb 28.

A Canadian judge is not sending a convicted rapist to jail because he says the victim sent signals that "sex was in the air," reported Winnipeg Free Press Feb. 24.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves many heart-related devices without them being adequately tested on women despite an agency directive to do so, Businessweek reported March 1.

Women still make only three-fourths the pay that men do but have caught up to and even passed men in terms of educational achievement, according to a new report from the White House, USA Today reported March 1.

Noted:

Millions of women across Europe could face changes in the costs of car insurance and amounts they receive from pensions under a European Union ruling that bans risk assessment based on gender, CNN reported March 1. Currently, women pay less for car insurance—they have fewer claims--and receive lower monthly pension payments since they have longer life expectancies.

President Adrienne Germain of the International Women's Health Coalition was named one of the Women Deliver 100, a global advocacy organization's most inspiring people who have improved lives of women and girls, International Women's Health Coalition announced in a press release March 2.

Muhammad Yunus has been forced out of Bangladesh Bank, which he founded, according to the New York Times March 3. Women make up 98 percent of the bank's patrons.

Texas State University students created a scholarship fund geared toward white males, reported the Daily Beast March 1.

Tennis star Serena Williams is recuperating at home after suffering an embolism and an additional 'unexpected scare' with a hematoma, according to a March 2 report from the L.A. Times.

Third Parties In Australia Are Unacceptable

They must be destroyed.

The ruling elite (ALP/Liberal/National/Murdoch Press/ABC) always destroy anything which looks like it might "keep the bastards honest".

Just as Howard did it with the Democrats, it looks like Gillard might finally be able to do it with the Greens.

... ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government isn't ruling out a taxpayer-funded advertising campaign. Julia Gillard's reinforced the message on 7.30.

JULIA GILLARD: On Government advertising - from time to time we advertise to get necessary information to people, so I'm not going to rule in or rule out government advertising in the future.

PRESENTER: But it's possible?

ALEXANDRA KIRK: PM has been told there's a $30 million pool of funds for advertising that was never spent because of the demise of Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme.

But an ad campaign before any carbon tax legislation's introduced into parliament would leave the Government open to a barrage of criticism. ...

No wonder she's so hot in Washington, Virginia right now!

Senators Brown and Milne, it breaks our hearts to see you as yapping dogs.

They Aren't Going To Stop Until The Entire Planet Is Fucked

'The West Australian' [8/3/11]:

Shell has applied to drill for oil and gas just 48km from Ningaloo Reef.

The petroleum giant wants to drill to a depth of 5650 metres within six months.

This morning Royal Dutch Shell said it planned to drill the Palta-1 exploration well off WA's north-west as early as September.

The plan Shell on a collision course with environmentalists, who say exploring near the Ningaloo Marine Park is fraught with danger because of the risk of oil spills and the prevalence of rare marine life, including the famed whale sharks.

Shell's application comes amid heightened sensitivity for the oil and gas industry after the disastrous Montara oil spill off WA's coast and BP's Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. ...

Give Coles and Woolworths The Finger And Support Small Business And Organic Farmers!

Save your pennies and buy organic milk from your locally owned small business.

'Business Spectator' [8/3/11]:

Dairy farming groups have criticised supermarket giant Coles for initiating deep cuts to the price of milk, saying it will damage the dairy industry, hurt small business and reduce consumer choice.

Dairy farming representatives appearing before a Senate inquiry into the discounting of milk prices by major supermarket chains also said that milk prices were unlikely to stay low and would probably rise once the major supermarkets had grabbed market share from their competitors.

They also say that government inaction is allowing the big supermarkets - Coles and Woolworths - to abuse their market power, and called upon the competition watchdog to investigate.

The Senate Economics Committee's inquiry into milk discounting began hearings in Melbourne.

The committee is examining the impact of decisions by Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and Franklins to slash the price of milk and the consequent effect on the dairy industry. ...

Russell Markham, chief executive of South Australian independent supermarket chain Foodland, told the committee his group was concerned about the impact of milk discounting on dairy farmers, small business, and distributors; and the flow-on effects to the community.

He said lower prices might appear good for the consumer, but ultimately there would be less choice and prices would rise.

He said small retailers were being pressed to match prices on many products that were cheaper in the bigger chain stores.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who is on the committee, said outside the hearing that dairy farmers were about to walk off the land and Australia was facing devastation in the dairy sector.

"The inevitable consequence of this price war is that there will be parts of this country where UHT milk will be the norm rather than fresh milk," Senator Xenophon told reporters.

The speed at which this country is going down the toilet is astonishing.

Why Doesn't The Government Just Offer To Meet The Reasonable Counselling Expenses, With Qualified Psychologists/Counsellors/Social Workers, Of People Who Are Affected By Testifying Before the Flood Inquiry?

... Meanwhile, the Queensland Government has announced support services for those who give evidence to the flood inquiry.

Community Services Minister Karen Struthers has told Parliament Lifeline will get $300,000 to provide the service.

"They will offer counselling advice and referrals for people who attend the inquiry, whether that's in the formal surrounds of the inquiry, or at community consultations that occur as part of the inquiry process," she said.

"The support service will be there to also help individuals prepare submissions, to familiarise them with the inquiry process and importantly to offer debrief support."

ABC Coast FM Belittles International Womens' Day

Wouldn't expect anything more than that from a radio station whose announcers last year revelled in the supposed hilarity of a proposed bikini race at the Gold Coast Horse Racing Track!

Today [8 March], the "Drive" announcer said that on the 100th anniversary of International Womens' Day, because we've heard so much about things that could be achieved on the equality front (I'd like to know where she's heard this?), that she wanted to instead focus on what women are satisfied with.

Any wonder then, not one woman called in to say what they were satisifed with, before the announcer moved on to interview a life coach, followed by an interview with an author of a book about "boy code" and how to talk to girls.

How hard would it have been to have just, gee, I don't know, played songs by female artists for the day?

Oh, hang on - I forgot that the ABC now follows the extreme right-wing, christian fundamentalist, neoliberal ideological line.

LSE Professor Was Forced To Quit Saif Gaddafi Foundation

'The Guardian' [6/3/11]:

The ruling body of the London School of Economics was so concerned about the university's burgeoning links to the Gaddafi regime that in 2009 it quietly forced one of its professors to stand down from a foundation run by the dictator's son.

The revelation raises questions about why – apparently in spite of its concerns over the academic's role – the LSE council was prepared to accept a £1.5m donation from Saif al-Islam Gaddafi two years ago. Last week the row over the donation resulted in the resignation of the council's director, Sir Howard Davies, and the launch of an investigation into links between the LSE and the Libyan regime.

Now it has emerged that David Held, a professor of political science at the LSE and Saif Gaddafi's tutor when he was taking a PhD at the university, was appointed to the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation on 28 June 2009, almost a month before the LSE announced that it would accept the donation.

The foundation's minutes reveal that Held was appointed to its board along with luminaries including Giulio Andreotti, the former prime minister of Italy, Nobel prizewinner Professor Richard J Roberts, and the Rev Dr Chung Hwan Kwak, chairman of the Universal Peace Federation, an offshoot of the Unification Church founded by Sun Myung Moon. But by October Held had been forced to stand down after members of the university's council expressed disquiet.

While ostensibly a charity, the foundation seemed to be chiefly a vehicle for promoting Saif Gaddafi's autocratic views. Its latest minutes are effectively an attack by Gaddafi on press reports suggesting he was engaged in a power struggle with his brothers and lived in an expensive house in London.

Bizarrely, the foundation also released a statement saying it would sue anyone who suggested there had been a reshuffle in the General People's Committee in Libya.

A spokesman for the LSE said Held "was not on the board of the foundation at the time the £1.5m gift was discussed, and accepted, by council on the 23 June 2009. Following the 23 October 2009 council meeting, Professor Held resigned from the board on the advice of council. David Held received no payment for his role."

The LSE has commissioned an independent inquiry into its financial dealings with Libya, including a £2.2m contract to train Libyan officials. The university is also investigating claims that Gaddafi plagiarised parts of his PhD.

Good Works: Funds For The Royal Mail

'Rave Magazine' [1 -7 March, 2011]:

Flood-damaged live music venue Royal Mail Hotel in Goodna (near Ipswich) is to receive almost $6000 from Melbourne blues fans to help with its restoration. The The Levee Breaks held Feb 2 by record label Black Market Music, raised $3850. The Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society held Blues Harp Blow Out on Sunday and raised approx $2000. Both fundraisers had contacted the Blues Association of South East Queensland (BASEQ) about how to help, and BASEQ suggested the Royal Mail.

It'd Be Good If Australian Politicians Let Locals "Have Their Say" - Wouldn't It?

Is He Admitting That We Currently Don't?

What a novel idea. We'll hold the member for Tweed to this (whatever it means) if he gets re-elected.

Environment, Sanity And Lungfish Big Losers In Fish Ladder Case

'Brisbane Times' [5/3/11]:

A not-for-profit conservation group faces a multi-million dollar legal bill after it took a government-owned company to court over the efficiency of a dam's fish ladder.

In the Federal Court in Brisbane yesterday, Justice John Logan dismissed an application by the Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council that dam operator Burnett Water Pty Ltd had not met the approval conditions to build the Paradise Dam.

A similar fish transfer device to allow lungfish to move through the river system was proposed for the Traveston Dam on the Mary River, prior to the then-Environment Minister Peter Garrett canning the project in November 2009. ...

Since When Have Kangaroo Farts Been The Problem?

And we all speculate why some idiot thinks its fun to jetski over a swan in a Gold Coast canal.

'Gold Coast Mail' [5/3/11]:

Kangaroos used in a university experiment will be caged and suffer extreme distress from confinement, Animal Liberation says.

University of Wollongong will keep kangaroos in a cage one metre by 1.3 metres by 1.7 metres for nine months to measure the methane gas they expel, Animal Liberation executive director Mark Pearson said.

"For the NSW State Government to approve such a pathetic experiment for someone's PhD on global warming is unconscionable," Mr Pearson said.

"The same experiment was done 40 years ago."

Professor Steve Garlick, a specialist in kangaroo rehabilitation, said the kangaroos were gentle, affectionate, free ranging social animals that lived on a diet of certain grasses and dirt.

"This proposed experiment denies the kangaroo these basic needs and is therefore cruel in the extreme," he said.

"The result is that the animal will be highly stressed in its confinement and will be subject to a range of disease and illness which will make survival unlikely and the research project totally flawed."

But university spokesman Bernie Goldie said no decision had yet been made by the ethics committee about using kangaroos for an experiment.

"The matter is still under consideration," Mr Goldie told AAP.

"The university fully abides with the various government regulation in place in regards to the use of animals."

Dredging Project Could Kill Dugongs

'Gold Coast Mail' [4/3/11]:

A new dredging project could kill off threatened dugongs that are already starving from the floods in Central Queensland, conservationists say.

Gladstone Ports Corporation announced today it had awarded a $1.3 billion contract to dredge Gladstone Port as part of its plan to become one of the world's major Liquid Natural Gas exporters.

It will be the country's largest dredging project.

Joint venture partners Van Oord and Dredging International Australia are expected to start dredging six million cubic tonnes of material from July.

Marine species policy manager for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Lydia Gibson, said the dredging may be the final straw for marine life already struggling after the floods killed off feeding grounds.

"We know that dugongs along the Queensland coast have lost most of their feeding grounds already after the recent floods," she told AAP.

"The dredging could be a tipping point for dugongs. Although the full impact of the floods is yet to be known, the accumulative impact - this particular development, the floods, and fishing, would be a death of a thousand cuts for Queensland's dugongs."

Ms Gibson said the Queensland government has a study under way into the impact of the floods on marine life and she called on the project to be delayed until the report is in.

"The WWF is encouraging the government to hold off on approving the large scale development, particularly in the habitats of threatened marine species, at least until it's assessed the full impact of the floods on marine animals."

Treasurer Andrew Fraser said stringent environmental conditions had been placed on the project.
"This is to ensure the project has minimal impact on the environs of the Gladstone harbour," he said in a statement.

"The approval contains a stringent set of dredging conditions, monitoring requirements, ecosystem research plus a range of measures to protect and enhance endangered species."

... Freedom is a privilege nobody rides for free

Look around the world baby it cannot be denied ...

'Ain't Gonna Play Sun City', Artists United Against Apartheid [1985]

'Gold Coast Mail' [4/3/11]:

Mariah Carey says she was unaware that she was booked to perform a concert linked to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's clan - and she's embarrassed "to have participated in this mess".

Carey is among a handful of entertainers who were paid handsome fees to give exclusive private concerts. It was later revealed the people behind those concerts were the family of Libyan leader Gaddafi, whose country is in an open revolt against him and who faces an investigation for possible war crimes.

This week, Nelly Furtado announced she is giving the $US1 million ($A985,319) fee she was paid in 2007 to charity; Beyonce said in a statement on Wednesday that she donated her fees for a 2009 New Year's Eve performance in St. Bart's to Haiti earthquake relief once she discovered the Gaddafi link.

Carey performed in St Bart's in 2008, but in a statement released to The Associated Press on Thursday, she said she didn't know she was performing for an infamous family.

"I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for. I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess," the 40-year-old singer said.

"Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from. We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately, we as artists are to be held accountable."

Carey's representative, Cindi Berger, would not comment on how much Carey was paid for the performance. But she noted that Carey has donated millions throughout the years to charity, from royalties from her hits Hero and One Sweet Day to her own foundation, Camp Mariah.

Berger said Carey will also donate royalties for the song Save the Day, which she has written for her upcoming album, to charities that create awareness for human-rights issues.

"Mariah has and continues to donate her time, money and countless hours of personal service to many organisations both here and abroad," Berger said.

The album is not due out anytime soon; Carey is pregnant with a boy and girl, and she and husband Nick Cannon are expecting the babies in the spring.

New Controversy Surrounding Flu Vaccination

ELIZABETH JACKSON: There's renewed controversy surrounding influenza vaccines today with some studies showing that people immunised against the seasonal flu might have been at greater risk during the swine flu outbreak.

An infectious diseases expert professor Peter Collignon has called for a review of Australia's flu vaccine policy in light of this new research.

But the Federal Government has defended its vaccination program.

Annie Guest reports.

ANNIE GUEST: Immunisation can be a sensitive issue particularly when things go wrong such as children getting sick after the swine flu vaccine.

Now that sensitivity has been heightened by new research according to professor Peter Collignon.

PETER COLLIGNON: Well what was a bit surprising when we looked at some of the data from Canada and Hong Kong in the last year is that people who had been vaccinated in 2008 with the seasonal or ordinary vaccine seemed to have twice the risk of getting swine flu compared to the people who hadn't received that vaccine.

ANNIE GUEST: And the Australian National University microbiologist says it's the opposite of what vaccines should do.

He highlights another finding about the benefits for healthy people of being exposed to some illnesses.

PETER COLLIGNON: Some interesting data has become available which suggests that if you get immunised with the seasonal vaccine you get less broad protection than if you get a natural infection.

And it's particularly relevant for children because of a condition they call original antigenic sin which actually basically means if you get infected with a natural virus that gives you not only protection against that virus but similar viruses or even in fact quite different flu viruses in the next year.

We may be perversely setting ourselves up that if something really new and nasty comes along that people who have been vaccinated may in fact be more susceptible compared to getting this natural infection.

ANNIE GUEST: Professor Collignon what do you think that the Australian Government and health policy makers should do in light of these studies?

PETER COLLIGNON: We need to relook at this data and really answer the question - is it doing more good than harm particularly in people who otherwise haven't got risk factors?

ANNIE GUEST: But the Federal Government's chief health officer professor Jim Bishop says the evidence is patchy.

JIM BISHOP: Well there's a study from Canada which might suggest in that direction but there are other studies which contradict it as well. So I don't think that the evidence is clear about the effect of prior vaccine

ANNIE GUEST: Professor Bishop says the Commonwealth's flu vaccination program has been effective and beneficial.

JIM BISHOP: During our first run of the swine flu we had about 700 people in ICU. Last winter we only got about 60. So we've dramatically improved things with that vaccination program.

And secondly the number of admissions also were about one-tenth of what they were the previous year. So that was in the face of a new strain, a new type of virus.

But just to remind listeners that essentially the Australian Government supports the National Immunisation Program which isn't targeted just at everybody.

The NIP program, the National Immunisation Program targets those most likely to have a poor outcome from flu.

ANNIE GUEST: But isn't it correct that the seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for anyone over six months?

JIM BISHOP: Yes and it can be given. I don't shy away from that. It's something that people if they feel they wish to be immunised against the flu they could.

ANNIE GUEST: While the Government's chief health officer says there's no evidence having the flu vaccine is a bad thing the ANU's professor Collignon blames influential drug companies and frightened politicians for what he says is the overuse of flu vaccines in healthy people.

The World Today requested an interview with the Health Minister Nicola Roxon but she was unavailable.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Annie Guest with that report.

Cables Reveal Secrets On CAFTA

'Tico Times' [4/3/11]:

Oscar Arias' administration knew how a key vote would turn out prior to the vote taking place.

Officials in Oscar Arias’ administration knew in advance how the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) would rule on the legality of a sensitive bill that was key to Costa Rica’s implementation of the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), cables released this week by WikiLeaks reveal.

A cable from October 2008 told of a meeting between former Vice Minister of the Presidency Roberto Thompson and the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica at the time, Peter Cianchette: “VM Roberto Thompson, who is managing the process for the Presidencia, was cautiously optimistic when we met with him on October 14. The Constitutional Court has given informal signals that it will complete its review well before the 30 days allot obtained by WikiLeaks and shared with the daily La Nación.

The conversation likely took place on Oct. 14, 2008, amid nationwide protests and heated political discussions over whether Costa Rica ted, and will not raise new concerns about the modified law.” The leaked cable is one of hundreds of diplomatic documentsshould adopt CAFTA. At the time, ruling National Liberation Party lawmakers were attempting to whisk through Congress a reform to intellectual property rights law that was the final step before CAFTA could be adopted before a deadline set by the United States.

The bill included changes to the Biodiversity Act, which required prior consultation with Costa Rica’s indigenous communities. That never happened, prompting the Sala IV to reject the bill on the first vote.

Once sent back to Congress, legislators decided to eliminate the clause requiring indigenous people to have a voice in changes to the Biodiversity Act. These actions sent the bill back to the court for review of its constitutionality. According to the leaked cable, Thompson apparently knew ahead of time how the court would rule.

Early on in the bill’s discussion, Luis Paulino Mora, president of the Supreme Court, allegedly discussed with Cianchette the importance of CAFTA’s approval.

“Later we (and the Arias administration, no doubt) will examine more closely why the Sala [IV] made this decision, and why President Mora (who acknowledged to the Ambassador recently the need to get CAFTA done) authored it,” Thompson wrote in one of the cables.

However, Mora, Costa Rica’s top official in the judicial branch, denied speaking with the ambassador about the vote or expressing a commitment to see CAFTA passed.

“Many people call me and ask me for information and that does not mean they influence my judgment,” Mora said in a press conference Wednesday. “The division of powers does not mean we are enemies.”

La Nación posted the first batch of leaked cables on its website this week. The first cables to be published here reveal that the U.S. Embassy actively promoted and in some cases pressured lawmakers into approving and implementing CAFTA before a deadline set by the U.S.

Taking the Cake: The Creeping Militarization of the Libyan Crisis

By Chris Floyd

March 04, 2011 " ---- - The howling hypocrisy of the American response to the uprising in Libya has been so jaw-dropping and nauseating that I've hardly been able to address it. Fortunately, Seamus Milne is on the case, and voices much of my thinking about the matter:

The same western leaders who happily armed and did business with the Gaddafi regime until a fortnight ago have now slapped sanctions on the discarded autocrat and blithely referred him to the international criminal court the United States won't recognise.

Yes, does this not, as they say, take the cake ... and the plate and the forks and the napkins too? The United States pushing through a measure to refer Libyan leaders to an international court which the United States resolutely refuses to recognize -- lest its own leaders and their underlings find themselves in the dock for the most monstrous war crimes of this century? Yet even today, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate was sternly wagging his finger at Gaddafi and his underlings, telling them they "will be held accountable" for their actions before the august institutions of international justice, which weigh the whole world in the balance ... except for the Peace prize-winning drone assassin and Continuer-in-Chief of a worldwide campaign of state terror, that is. But now back to Milne:

With Colonel Gaddafi and his loyalists showing every sign of digging in, the likelihood must be of intensified conflict – with all the heightened pretexts that would offer for outside interference, from humanitarian crises to threats to oil supplies.

But any such intervention would risk disaster and be a knife at the heart of the revolutionary process now sweeping the Arab world. Military action is needed, US and British politicians claim, because Gaddafi is "killing his own people". Hundreds have certainly died, but that's hard to take seriously as the principal motivation.

When more than 300 people were killed by Hosni Mubarak's security forces in a couple of weeks, Washington initially called for "restraint on both sides". In Iraq, 50,000 US occupation troops protect a government which last Friday killed 29 peaceful demonstrators demanding reform. In Bahrain, home of the US fifth fleet, the regime has been shooting and gassing protesters with British-supplied equipment for weeks.

The "responsibility to protect" invoked by those demanding intervention in Libya is applied so selectively that the word hypocrisy doesn't do it justice. And the idea that states which are themselves responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in illegal wars, occupations and interventions in the last decade, along with mass imprisonment without trial, torture and kidnapping, should be authorised by international institutions to prevent killings in other countries is simply preposterous.

One key point Milne makes here deserves underlining: Western military intervention would be "a knife at the heart of the revolutionary process now sweeping the Arab world." But of course, that's exactly what Peace prizeniks and Etonian schoolboys now leading the "Free World" would like to see happen. As Milne notes, the Arab Awakening is threatening some of the West's favorite dictators and tough guys, from the religious extremists in Saudi Arabia to the ever-complaisant corruptocrats in Bahrain to the client brutalists in Iraq and elsewhere.The dullards directing world affairs have been desperately casting about for a way to put the kibosh on the movement - and Libya might give them the opening they've been fumbling for. Milne again:

The reality is that the western powers which have backed authoritarian kleptocrats across the Middle East for decades now face a loss of power in the most strategically sensitive region of the world as a result of the Arab uprisings and the prospect of representative governments. They are evidently determined to appropriate the revolutionary process wherever possible, limiting it to cosmetic change that allows continued control of the region.

In Libya, the disintegration of the regime offers a crucial opening. Even more important, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, it has the strategic prize of the largest oil reserves in Africa. Of course the Gaddafi regime has moved a long way from the days when it took over the country's oil, kicked out foreign bases and funded the African National Congress at a time when the US and Britain branded Nelson Mandela a terrorist.

Along with repression, corruption and a failure to deliver to ordinary Libyans, the regime has long since bent the knee to western power, as Tony Blair and his friends were so keen to celebrate, ditching old allies and nuclear ambitions while offering privatised pickings and contracts to western banks, arms and oil corporations such as BP.

Now the prospect of the regime's fall offers the chance for much closer involvement – western intelligence has had its fingers in parts of the Libyan opposition for years – when other states seem in danger of spinning out of the imperial orbit. ... Military intervention wouldn't just be a threat to Libya and its people, but to the ownership of what has been until now an entirely organic, homegrown democratic movement across the region.

Again, that would be -- will be? -- the very point of any type of Western military intervention in Libya: to kill a popular, democratic movement that is at present beyond the control of the imperial militarists along the Potomac. Such an intervention would allow Gaddafi and other tyrants under threat to paint opponents to their rule as "tools of the imperialists," while rallying many who oppose them back to their side, to defend the nation against outsiders. This in turn would help "stabilize" the revolutionary situations -- and the leaders, now safe once more, could then turn back to their cynical backroom deals with the West, and hoarding the blood and toil of their people in the cool vaults of Swiss banks. Hey, it's a win-win situation all around.

Events are in free, chaotic flow right now. The Libyan opposition might be able to oust Gaddafi before President Peacey and Prime Minister Fauntleroy go in with guns blazing. And events elsewhere might suddenly erupt and draw off attention and resources. But we are certainly seeing a creeping militarization in the response to the Libyan uprising -- and behind the exigencies of this crisis, there is the deeper shadow that Milne discerns: the longer-range project to diffuse and destroy the Arab Awakening before it further spreads its genuine threat to the business-as-usual dominance of Western elites.

http://www.chris-floyd.com

... Anyone will tell you it's a prisoner island,

Hidden in the summer for a million years ...

'Great Southern Land', Icehouse [1982]

Do you believe this "vox pop" really represents a cross-section of the Darwin community?

I don't think it does, but it certainly suits a privileged minority who want to take Australia somewhere we don't want to go:

ELIZABETH JACKSON: In Darwin construction is already underway on an extension to the private hotel currently being used by the Immigration Department to detain men, women and children.

The Lodge - as it's known - is on the grounds of Darwin's international airport in the middle of the city.

The new 1500 bed detention centre will also be privately owned but it'll be built on the industrial outskirts of the city. ...

MICHAEL COGGAN: On the streets of Darwin there are mixed views about more asylum seekers being detained in the city.

VOX POP 1: I'm not a Darwin resident but I don't think it's terribly smart.

INTERVIEWER: Why not?

VOX POP 1: I think things are a little bit touchy at the moment and I think it would inflame things.

INTERVIEWER: Whereabouts are you from?

VOX POP 1: New South Wales.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think there is somewhere better in Australia they could do that?

VOX POP 1: No.

INTERVIEWER: So you think it's an issue of different policies?

VOX POP 1: I do, very much, yes.

VOX POP 2: I don't know that it's a good idea because they are increasing the airport one as well aren't they?

INTERVIEWER: Do you think there's somewhere else where they should put it?

VOX POP 2: Anywhere except the Territory (laughs). I don't know.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think it will cause any problems in the Territory?

VOX POP 2: Well it hasn't so far but who knows? If there's a lot more people it might.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think because it's at Wickham Point, sort of out of town, that's perhaps a good location?

VOX POP 2: It's a bit isolated. So what are they going to do out there? There's nothing. I think it's a bit far away. They're just going to be isolated and not going to be able to do anything.

VOX POP 3: Actually I did just read about it and heard about it.

I don't actually think it is a good idea. I think they seem to be just dumping them in Darwin now. It's as though the solution is well let's put them up here because then everyone else will forget about them.

And I don't think it is a solution. They should just stop them coming and unfortunately I feel, my heart goes out to them but they have to stop the centre coming.

And they've had their own problems here already with the detention centre. That's had riots, the people are unhappy. And I just think it's like putting them out of sight, out of mind which is the way we tend to be treated here a little bit in Darwin.

INTERVIEWER: Do you think the fact that it is out at Wickham Point, out of all of the places it might have happened in Darwin, Wickham Point might be a good location, a little bit out of town?

VOX POP 3: Not necessarily because then what about the infrastructure of how they are going to look after those people out there, health services, other services that need to be supplied to them?

Is that still just doing the same thing then too? They're just sticking them out of town and thinking that we'll forget about them too?

People have concerns I suppose in safety too. But the Government is just not dealing with it. They are just sort of putting it in a too hard basket.

VOX POP 4: Bad idea.

INTERVIEWER: Why's that?

VOX POP 4: It'll encourage them to come over more.

VOX POP 5: Well I think they should go back. They should be sent back. We're wasting a lot of money on these people and I just don't think that's fair on Australians.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: People on the streets of Darwin ending that report from Michael Coggan.

It's a slippery slope...

... There were 4,000 Jews in the Buchenwald camp when the American liberators arrived, and most of them had previously been at Auschwitz or other camps in the east.

"We didn't know." This was what the German civilian population would say over and over again about the concentration camps in the coming months. The American army was determined that the ordinary German people should see the depths of depravity to which their Nazis leaders had sunk. ...

That begins with legislation:

Historian Marion A. Kaplan states that, “from the outset, the Nazi government used legislation, administrative decrees, and propaganda to defame and ostracize Jews and to lower their social, economic, and legal standing.” Some German Jews were involved in the Labor Movement or were members and activists in the Communist Party. It became second nature for the regime to equate these Jews with Communism and arrest, torture, and imprison them as enemies of the state. It was not too long before the terms “Bolshevik” and “Communist” became synonymous with “Jew.”

Nazis Proclaim the Race Laws

By September 1935, the Nuremberg Laws formally restricted the rights of German Jews and impacted their ability to function economically. Boycotts of Jewish businesses had been encouraged as early as 1933. By the end of 1935, precise racial definitions attempted to set apart Jews from pure blooded Germans. Jewish doctors were forbidden to treat non-Jews, Jewish teachers lost their jobs, and other professionals were forbidden to work in German communities.

The constant stream of propaganda, coupled with a strengthened police state relying on citizen informers in assisting the Gestapo, made it dangerous to be a Jew in Germany. German children were forbidden to play with Jewish children. The burning of books by Jewish authors was begun as early as May 1933 in Berlin. By the middle of the decade, music by Jewish composers was banned and certain genres like Jazz were deemed degenerate and were prohibited. A special exhibit of “degenerate” art opened in Munich in 1937 and was designed to educate Germans on the dangers posed by Jewish artists.

A Waste Of Time And Money

When all the Government needs to do is establish a national disaster fund.

'The West Australian' [4/3/11]:

Disaster insurance arrangements for householders and businesses are to be reviewed following the Queensland floods, federal assistant treasurer Bill Shorten says.

The National Disasters Insurance Review will be chaired by John Trowbridge and will report back to the federal government by the end of 2011.

Mr Shorten, due to officially announce the move in Brisbane on Friday morning, says the review will concentrate on insurance arrangements for individuals and businesses for damage and loss associated with flood and other natural disasters.

"It will provide answers about how individuals and communities affected by the floods and other natural disasters are able to recover and rebuild as quickly as possible," he said in a statement on Friday.

"We also need to ensure individuals and communities at risk of extreme weather events are aware of the risks but are able to obtain suitable protection against those risks."

The review will consider the extent and reasons for non-insurance and underinsurance for flood and other natural disasters in Australia.

It will look at the ability of private insurance markets to offer adequate and affordable insurance cover for individuals, small businesses and governments.

Mr Shorten said the panel would investigate existing commonwealth and state arrangements for dealing with natural disaster recovery and whether a national disaster fund is needed.

The review will also examine if there's a case for subsidising insurance premiums.

Does Shorten really think that Australians who have just been screwed over by their insurers would agree subsidising the pricks is a good idea?

What An Expensive Message!

... TICKY FULLERTON: And Wickenby, there's been a fair amount of criticism over the years. Is Wickenby now paying its way because the cash that you have managed to get in is still not as much as the cost of the project, is it?

MICHAEL D'ASCENZO: Oh, look, Wickenby's always been a really success story from a number of different areas.

The first area's the real important message of Wickenby is to the community that there's a real risk for people to take these sort of abusive activities, and I think that message, that deterrent message has really been the key to Wickenby and we've got so many other examples of either advisors seeing clients who are saying to them, "I'm not interested in this inappropriate stuff," or we're seeing a reduction in flows of money to tax havens like Liechtenstein for instance. So, basically we are having an impact in terms of deterring people from doing that. So that's the first advantage.

In terms of revenue, I mean, we've got liabilities in. Ultimately we'll be pursuing the liabilities that we've raised and those liabilities, including the compliance dividend, are now in, what, a billion dollars. So I think financially it's also been useful, but the key part of Wickenby is to send the right message and I think it's done that very, very well. ...

If The Media Are So Concerned For The Welfare Of Grantham Residents ...

Why was it that only Channel 10 reported [3/3/11] on the public meeting where it was agreed to dispense directly to distressed residents $500,000 collected in donations?

Who's Playing The Race Card?

Evidently somebody posted the comment "Bonds Australia Not Asia" on the "Bonds Baby Search" competition website, prompting Brisbane's only daily paper to conflate a statement about the outsourcing of Australia's manufacturing industry (since last year, Bonds clothing and underwear has been made overseas) with racism.

Who, apart from the idiots who work for Rupert Murdoch, could take from this that anyone had said anything "mean about this face"?

Class A Greed

'3D World' [2/3/11]:

As Brisbane's A-League team roars into the grand final and finally starts to pull the sort of crowd they deserve, Football Federation Australia has decided to double the ticket price in the Category A section to just shy of $100. At least fans will have mid-strength beer to dull the pain if they can afford to attend...

Who Are You Doing Art For?

Grammy-winning singer Beyonce donated money she reportedly received for a New Year's Eve concert for the son of Libyan strongman Moamar Gaddafi to help Haiti relief over a year ago, a spokeswoman for the star said.

Beyonce gave the money away as soon as she learned of Mr Gaddafi's connection to the concert at a private party on the Caribbean island of St Barts on December 31, 2009, spokeswoman Yvette Noel-Schure said.

"All monies paid to Beyonce for her performance at a private party at Nikki Beach St Barts on New Year's Eve 2009... were donated to the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti over a year ago," she said.

"Once it became known the third party promoter was linked to the (Gaddafi) family, the decision was made to put that payment to a good cause." ...

Isn't It Interesting Who The Government Pursues?

The High Court has heard arguments about a Centrelink fraud case that could affect dozens of similar cases around the country.

Adelaide woman Malgorzata Poniatowska pleaded guilty to 17 counts of obtaining a financial advantage from the Commonwealth, knowing she had no entitlement to it.

She had failed to advise Centrelink she was earning an income while still receiving the single parenting payment.

But she appealed her conviction and the Supreme Court of South Australia agreed with her.

The full court found her alleged conduct did not amount to an offence.

Now the Commonwealth has appealed that ruling in the High Court.

It has argued the court was wrong to find an offence cannot be committed by failing to do something.

But Poniatowska's lawyers argued there was no law that says a recipient must inform Centrelink of a change in circumstance.

The High Court has reserved its judgment.

'Tall Man' Premieres In Adelaide

SBS [3/3/11]:

'The Tall Man', a film about about Cameron Doomadgee's death in custody, has received a standing ovation at the Adelaide Festival, SBS’ Karen Ashford reports.

The documentary chronicles the events surrounding the 2004 death of Cameron Doomadgee - who was named Mulrunji after his death - at the Palm Island police station in Far North Queensland.

Some six years of inquiries have delivered an open finding in relation to the actions of policeman Chris Hurley, the 'Tall Man' of the film.

The Doomadgee family hopes the movie will shed light on a complicated saga. ...

WA Police Launch Inquiry Into Taser Case

SBS [3/3/11]:

Western Australia's police chief has launched an inquiry into whether officers perverted the course of justice in the case of an Aboriginal man tasered in custody, the state opposition says.

Opposition attorney-general spokesman John Quigley and Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan met in Perth on Thursday to discuss the case of Kevin Spratt, who was tasered multiple times in the Perth Watch House in August 2008.

WA's Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) is investigating the case, which sparked outrage when a video of the tasering was released publicly in October last year.

In response to the video's release, WA Police displayed a flow chart to reporters, outlining events leading up to Mr Spratt's tasering including previous alleged clashes with police and charges against him.

But Mr Quigley told WA parliament last month that the flow chart was a "litany of lies" compiled by the WA police internal affairs unit to vilify Mr Spratt.

Mr Quigley said the flow chart stated Mr Spratt had acted violently and obstructed police at the watchhouse before being tasered, and as a result he had been charged and convicted of obstructing police.

But the video clearly showed Mr Spratt had not acted violently, Mr Quigley said.

In the WA Supreme Court last week, Mr Spratt's conviction was quashed, with Justice Stephen Hall saying a miscarriage of justice had occurred and his guilty plea was prompted by false police allegations. ...

Coal Mine Gets 'Significant Project' Status

A proposed $1.5 billion coal mine in north Queensland has been declared a 'significant project' by the State Government.

Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser says the Byerwen mine near Collinsville, north-west of Mackay, is a joint venture between QCoal and the Japanese-based JFE Steel.

Mr Fraser says construction could start in 2012 and is expected to produce up to 10 million tonnes of coal per year for 50 years.

However, he says the mine still needs to be approved by the state and federal governments.

It is estimated the mine could create up to 500 jobs during construction and up to 1,000 when fully operational.

Cropland Security Urgency

'Queensland Country Life' [3/3/11]:

The dead hand of bureaucracy is frustrating landholders still waiting on State Government legislation to protect prime agricultural land from incursions by mining companies.

Some two and a half years from the initial promise of legislation to protect prime cropping country, affected farming communities say they find it "incredible" the Bligh Government is not fast-tracking the issue, prompting lobby groups to call for the "voices of reason" in both state and Federal Parliaments.

With hundreds of properties under threat, the issue shows no sign of disappearing off the political agenda with:

* Demonstrators urged to make their views known to Country Cabinet when it meets in Toowoomba on March 13-14.

* Mining company Bundanna announcing plans to mine the 'Golden Triangle' in Central Queensland.

* Renewed calls for more landowners to join in the high-profile 'locking the gate' campaign.

* Cougar Energy flagging it will challenge the Queensland Government's proposal to halt its underground coal gasification activities at Kingaroy.

* Friends of the Earth lodging an objection to Xstrata Coal's massive open cut coal mine proposed for Wandoan district. ...

Mining Blockade Now In 11th Week

'Queensland Country Life' [3/3/11]:

For 11 weeks Graeme Henderson has manned the blockage and prevented mining vehicles from travelling on his local roads.

With just a handful of volunteers, Mr Henderson, who has founded the action group We Are Anti-Mining (WAAM), has ensured no mining vehicles have entered or left any of the properties lining the 12 km gravel stretch along Clynes and Montrose Roads, outside Dalby. ...

However, as might be expected, such civil disobedience is not always viewed favourably. Last week, Mr Henderson found himself before a magistrate in Chinchilla court after he was arrested and charged in January with chaining himself to a property gate, preventing the movement of a mining vehicle.

It was the first time he had been arrested, placed in a paddy wagon and faced a judge.

He was given a 12-month good behaviour bond. ...

Wind Powers Cargill

'Queensland Country Life' [3/3/11]:

Cargill, the multi-national grains giant which bought the former AWB marketing business, is buying into windpower to reduce emissions in the shipping industry.

The technology, developed by German business SkySails, involves a large kite attached to the vessel, producing enough power to cut down on fuel consumption.

Skysails claims the kite can reduce fuel consumption by up to 35pc in good sailing conditions. Cargill plans to install one on a Handysize vessel it has on long-term charter. The vessels can take 25 to 30,000 tonnes, which makes them smaller than the Handymax or Panamax vessels often used in Australia. ...

APVMA Looks At New Brews

'Queensland Country Life' [3/3/11]:

The February Ag Chemical Update reports that a number of applications for registration of new chemicals have been made to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

Dow is seeking registration of the sap sucking insecticide sulfoxaflor under the trade names Expedite and Transform.

BASF has recently gained registration for a new fungicide, metrafenone (Vivando), for the control of powdery mildew in grapes and curcurbits. The company has also applied for registration of the fungicide ametoctradin in a mixture dimethomorph for the control of downy mildew in grapes, to be marketed under the trade name of Zampro. Dupont wants to have the fungicide penthiopyrad (Fontelis) registered for the control of powdery mildew in a range of crops.

Packer, Murdoch Fall Out Over Ten CEO

'Australian Financial Review' [3/3/11]:

James Packer has quit the board of Ten Network following a spat with fellow director and shareholder Lachlan Murdoch over the appointment of Seven Media Group's James Warburton to run the television and outdoor advertising group.

Mr Warburton will join Ten as a director and chief executive on July 14 but the appointment yesterday was accompanied by the resignation of Mr Packer after less than three months as a director.

Sources close to Mr Packer said he did not think Mr Warburton was the right person to succeed Grant Blackley, whom the Ten board fired last week. At the same time, the board said Ten's earnings had sagged 12 per cent in the six months to 28. ...

Boreham To Head Review

'Australian Financial Review' [3/3/11]:

Former IBM Australia managing director Glen Boreham was named yesterday as chariman of the federal government's review of communications and media - another step towards an overhaul of the licensing laws that apply to the internet, television and mobile phones. Former broadcasting regulator Malcolm Long will also join the review, and one more member is yet to be named. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy also released the terms of reference for the inquiry.

Goldman Sachs Director Charged

'Australian Financial Review' [3/3/11]:

US authorities conducting a widespread insider dealing investigation have charged a former Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble director with illegally tipping off a hedge fund manager about forthcoming deals.

The Securities and Excahnge Commission (SEC) alleges that Rajat Gupta [also a former UN advisor] provided Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the Galleon hedge fund, with inside information about the quarterly earnings at both the investment bank and the consumer goods group, as well as an impending $US5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs by the billionaire investor Warren Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway. ...

Train Back On Track

'Australian Financial Review' [3/3/11]:

Britain says it will resume negotiations over a postponed high-speed railway network project for which Hitachi has placed an offer. The Transport Department said the project would be scaled back to £4.5 billion ($7.2 billion) from £7.5 billion.

Pressure Grows On Gold Coast

'Australia Financial Review' [3/3/11]:

Receivers are expected to add almost 500 units to the beleaguered Gold Coast market this year, increasing pressure on one of Australia's most fragile residential sectors. Hundreds of receiver and mortgagee in possession sales have dominated the Gold Coast market since 2009 after the financial crisis caused financiers and developers to fold as buyers deserted the market and tourist numbers plummeted. ...

Colliers International Gold Coast office estimates about 475 units will be re-listed in 2011, in addition to the 10,300 dwellings either approved or waiting on Gold Coast City Council green light. Almost 75 per cent of the stock is earmarked for land between Hope Island and Surfers Paradise, where more than 2000 properties have been listed for sale for 60 days or more. ...

Pollies Urge Quarry Action

'Gold Coast Times' [3/3/11]:

The draft terms of reference are on display for the proposed Boral Quarry in the Tallebudgera Valley – with state Labor and Liberal politicians uniting to fight alongside residents to stop the quarry.

A protest was held outside Currumbin MP Jann Stuckey’s office last Friday, with the Stop the Gold Coast Quarry Action Group launching a petition calling on the State Government to oppose plans for the quarry.

“Boral has proposed a 219 hectare site of natural bushland adjacent to Tallebudgera Valley as the site of a future quarry, which will require approval from both the State and Federal governments,” Ms Stuckey said.

“Member for Mudgeeraba Ros Bates and I have given a commitment to work together with local residents and take the fight to the State Government.

“Not only will this project impact on the wildlife and surrounding environment – but the peaceful atmosphere enjoyed by residents in this beautiful part of the world will be destroyed.”

Stop the Gold Coast Quarry Action Group committee member Tony Davis said the quarry needed to be stopped.

“The location of this proposed quarry gives no consideration whatsoever to the lifestyle, amenity and residential values of the people who live in the Tallebudgera Valley, Reedy Creek, Burleigh and surrounding areas,” Mr Davis said.

“It is wrong and it must be stopped.” ...

Laws 'Aimed To Limit' Chinese Investments

'Sydney Morning Herald' [2/3/11]:

The Australian foreign investment regulator has privately admitted that it is targeting investment from China in response to political concern about the control of Australia's strategic resources.

The Foreign Investment Review Board told US diplomats that new investment guidelines signalled "a stricter policy aimed squarely at China's growing influence in Australia's resources sector".

The anti-China rationale was set out in confidential discussions with US embassy officers in late September 2009 by the head of the Treasury Foreign Investment Division, Patrick Colmer, who is also an executive member of the Foreign Investment Review Board.

The embassy report on MrColmer's remarks, titled "New Foreign Investment guidelines target China" and classified "sensitive", is among US embassy cables leaked to WikiLeaks and provided to the Herald.

Based on Mr Colmer's briefing, US diplomats reported that the Australian government privately wished to "pose new disincentives for larger-scale Chinese investments".

In August 2009, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, increased the threshold for mandatory review of foreign investment proposals, so private overseas businesses buying more than 15 per cent of a company valued below $219 million could do so without review.

The new threshold was more than double the old $100 million mark that triggered Foreign Investment Review Board scrutiny. Mr Swan said the measures would ensure the government did not become unnecessarily involved in uncontroversial business transactions.

At the time, Mr Swan denied that exclusion of foreign state-owned companies from the new threshold discriminated against future Chinese investment.

But in talks with US embassy economic officers, the Foreign Investment Review Board confirmed the government's preference for minority foreign shares in resources projects, with foreign shares of greenfield developments limited to less than 50 per cent and to about 15 per cent for major mining companies.

"FIRB general manager Patrick Colmer confirmed to Econoff [economic officers] the new guidelines are mainly due to growing concerns about Chinese investments in the strategic resources sector," the US embassy told Washington.

"According to Colmer, the FIRB has received more than one Chinese investment application every week this year [2009]. Colmer said the measure is also meant to prevent complex investment schemes, such as proposals with loans that are convertible to equity, which sought to circumvent existing FIRB rules."

Mr Colmer explained the new thresholds were "largely meant to reduce the administrative burden on the FIRB", but emphasised that "the change excludes state-owned companies from the higher threshold – virtually all Chinese investment".

Mr Colmer's remarks were made in the aftermath of: Chinese state-owned Chinalco's abortive acquisition of an 18 per cent stake in Rio Tinto; state-owned China Nonferrous Metal Mining Company's bid, subsequently withdrawn, to acquire a controlling interest in rare earths miner Lynas Corporation; and the government's rejection on security grounds of plans by the state-owned Wuhan Iron and Steel Group of China to invest $40 million in a joint venture with Western Plains Resources to develop an iron-ore project on the Woomera missile test range.

No Doubt Serco Will "Pass On" The "Costs"

When the 'Free Market' runs our immigration concentration camps, it is only to be expected that it would pass on any costs of doing so. So, if we have a weird Kafka style system where Serco gets fined for the 'escape' of some detained asylum seekers it is reasonable to expect that they would seek to externalise or pass on those costs. They could maybe do it by somehow taking money away from the remaining detainees, or, if that wasn't possible what might they do? Whatever they do, what's the bet the outcome won't be very pleasant for their remaining cost-generating inmates?

Must maximise returns you know!

Must 'disincentivise' any ideas of escape to freedom!

The company in charge of Australia's detention facilities has been fined for a series of escapes by detainees.

The Immigration Department claims Serco has breached the contract conditions to run the detention centres, with almost 50 detainees escaping since June 2009 and 35 still on the run.

The fines are reported to exceed $4 million, but the Government has refused to comment.

Yesterday Opposition spokesman Scott Morrison said an escape from Sydney's Villawood detention centre was a sign of a system in crisis.

On Tuesday morning a Fijian national being held at the facility after his visa had been cancelled managed to escape.

Six other men also attempted to flee the centre but were stopped by staff.

The department ordered an investigation into the escape.

Mr Morrison said the escape combined with what he has described as a small riot on Christmas Island over the weekend showed the system was not coping.

"It's another day in a detention network in a rolling crisis," Mr Morrison said.

Well, you can't really argue with him on this occasion, it is in 'crisis' but probably not in the way he means.

I hope 'The Long Walk' will remain as a memorial to all those who live and die for freedom, and for all those who for many reasons could not speak for themselves. I had to tell my story as a warning to the living, and as a moral judgment for the greater good.

Slavomir Rawicz, 1993 Introduction to The Long Walk

Peter Weir's latest film - 'The Way Back' - currently screening in cinemas around Australia, is inspired by Rawicz's account of escaping from from a Siberian Gulag camp in 1941 and walking over a 6500 km (4000 miles) south, through the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and the Himalayas to finally reach British India in the winter of 1942.

Councils And Charities Take On Lehman Brothers

TONY EASTLEY: The financial remains of the Australian arm of the collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers will be fought over in the Federal Court in a trial starting today in Sydney.

Thirty five charities, churches and councils are suing Lehman over the pernicious CDOs, or collateralised debt obligations, which brought the world's financial system to its knees.

They allege that about $600 million worth of the Lehman-related CDOs they invested in went sour, and Lehman acted in the best interests of itself, not its clients. ...

Builders Warned Of Inquiry Risks

'Australian Financial Review' [2/3/11]:

Builders and subcontractors risk being prosecuted or investigated if they make submissions to a national inquiry on sham contracting, according to two lobby groups.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission argues that concerns over its inquiry into sham contracting ar overstated, but the claims pose fresh problems given that the process has already been boycotted by unions.

The Master Builders Association has warned its members that they face risks in giving evidence to the inquiry because there were "no legal protections for those who offer a submission".

"The [ABCC] commissioner has made it quite clear that he will investigate anyone who offers up information which might indicate that they are liable," an MBA circular said.

Independent Contractors Australia has also warned against involvement in the inquiry, which it described as having "strange and odd" processes, along with participants having no protection from litigation. ...

The row over the sham contracting inquiry follows criticism by the International Labour Organisation of the ABCC's emphasis on prosecution rather than protection of workers. ...

Cougar Fights Ban

'Australian Financial Review [2/3/11]:

Embattled underground coal gasification company Cougar Energy has decided to fight the Queensland government's ban on its flagaship project at Kingaroy, a decision it described as "flawed and invalid."

'Double Standard' Over Chalco Refinery

'Australian Financial Review [2/3/11]:

The Queensland government has offered China's Chalco a revised development agreement in the state's north that would take away the requirement to build an alumina refinery.

This is despite the government having stripped the deposit from the previous owner for its failure to construct a refinery.

A development agreement between Chalco - a Hong Kong listed subsidiary of Chinese state-owned group Chinalco - and the Queensland government covering the $3 billion project was terminated on June 30 last year.

After more than three years of studying the project, which it won following an international tender, Chalco said the economics of building a new bauxite mine and a refinery near Bowen did not stack up. ...

Hummock Hill Approved

'Australian Financial Review' [2/3/11]:

The wealthy Sydney family Hatsatouris has been granted approval by the Queensland Government to build a $950 million tourism and residential development at Hummock Hill Island, off Queensland's central coast. The project, to be developed by Eaton Place Pty Ltd, includes resort hotels, units, camping grounds, residential housing, an 18-hole golf course and private airstrip. The development sits in an environmentally sensitive area and a report by the Co-ordinator General has warned that it could damage local marine life. The report will be sent to the federal government for approval on matters of national environmental significance under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

UK: Stop Rupert Murdoch!

In 48 hours, nearly half our mass media could be owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch has exploited his vast media empire to push war in Iraq, elect George W Bush, spread resentment of muslims and immigrants, and block global action on climate change. And he has interfered with our democracy -- determining our election results, bolstering political careers in exchange for influence and destroying others with media smears when they refuse to do his bidding.

The government is deciding right now and the coalition is deeply divided. Let's tip the balance towards media independence by flooding UK leaders and senior ministers with our call to keep Murdoch's hands off our media.

What Yew Readin' Fah?

Evidently the BCC's library books budget has been slashed by $928,000

Yahoo 7 [8/2/11]:

Brisbane City Council will make substantial budget cuts to pay for rebuilding and clean-up costs after January's floods, estimated at $440 million. ...

The Legacy Way Northern Link project to Brisbane's west would be off-limits for funding cuts, he [the Lord Mayor] said.

"This project is going to see thousands of people employed directly and indirectly in the next two to three years. It's a huge economic stimulus," he said.

"It will provide a flood-immune transport corridor to the western suburbs from the city which we needed during the recent flood.

"The contract had already been approved by council. We can't get out of it." ...

Dumb.

JPMorgan Chase Reportedly In Talks To Buy Minority Share In Twitter

'Los Angeles Times' [28/2/11]:

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is reportedly in talks to buy a stake in Twitter.

The investment could be made using money from a $1.2-billion "digital growth fund" that JPMorgan recently disclosed in a regulatory filing, according to reports -- all citing unnamed sources -- from the Associated Press, the Financial Times, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment on the reports. Officials at JPMorgan Chase were not available for comment.

None of the rumors about the potential deal say whether JPMorgan would invest in Twitter directly or buy shares from current investors.

Just weeks ago, there was speculation that Google and Facebook were interested in buying Twitter for about $10 billion -- rumors that Twiter founder Biz Stone and Chief Executive Dick Costolo both have denied.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz invested $80 million in Twitter this month by purchasing stock on secondary markets from investors.

In December, Twitter raised $200 million in a round of funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which valued the company at $3.7 billion.

In January, research group eMarketer projected that Twitter could triple its advertising revenue to $150 million in 2011 and $250 million in 2012.

JPMorgan reported last month that its profit rose 48% to $17.4 billion in 2010.

Why Couldn't The $2.7 Million Have Been Used To Set Up Government Run Social Housing?

Churches and charities are supposed to give succour to the poor. If they want turn outreach into some kind of commercial enterprise they should start a corporation.

In any case, $2.7 million over three years to help 12 people works out to $1,442.30 per person, per week. You could hire a body guard and stay in a motel for that!

Minister for Community Services, Housing and Women Media Release [28/2/11]

Safe shelter for vulnerable Gold Coast locals

Community Services Minister Karen Struthers today joined Member for Broadwater Peta-Kaye Croft to officially open Bryant Place – a new social housing development at Labrador helping local people in need.
Ms Croft said Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust would receive $2.7 million over three years to manage Bryant Place and provide safe and secure for up to 12 people at risk of homelessness.

She said the Uniting Church had been helping Gold Coast locals who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless for close to 30 years. ...

Another Reason To Save Your Pennies And Get Acquainted With Your Local Organic Butcher!

'Sydney Morning Herald' [1/3/11]:

Bringing home the bacon might not be such a great idea, according to stricter new dietary advice from the British government.

In the first new guidelines since 1998, Britain advised people to help prevent cancer by cutting down on steaks, hamburgers, sausages and other red meat. Government experts say people should eat no more than 500 grams of red meat a week, or 70 grams every day, significantly less than it previously recommended. That works out to about one small lamb chop a day. ...

Lying To Uncle Sam

'Australian Financial Review' [28/2/11]:

Bureaucrats last year identified up to 17 federal fossil fuel subsidies - at a cost of more than $8 billion a year - that may have to be cut for Australia to meet a commitment it made as a member of the G20, even though the government told the international forum that no such subsidies existed.

The revelation, emerging from documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, has implications both for budget deliberations - pressure to cut the $1.1 billion fringe benefits tax treatment of private motor vehicles persists - and for deliberations over the proposed carbon price.

It could also hurt Australia's reputation with its G20 partners, particularly since the push for the removal of fossil fuel subsidies is a personal initiative of US President Barack Obama.

A meeting of the G20 in Pittsburgh in late 2009 committed to "eliminate or phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption", noting that work by the OECD and the International Energy Association found that "eliminating fossil fuel subsidies by 2020 would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 by 10 per cent".

The agreement reached last week by the Federal Parliament's multi-party climate change comittee leaves a target for greenhouse gas emissions unclear. But the FOI documents highlight that the labored negotiations over a carbon price - which would raise revenue of about $12 billion a year - would be largely offset by the $8 billion of subsidies now paid to fossil fuel consumption and production.

The FOI documents, sought by Greenpeace and obtained by 'The Australian Financial Review', reveal a long process in which bureaucrats in Treasury, the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET) and other departments gradually whittled down the list of subsidies that might fall within the commitment Australia gave to the G20.

The Bureaucrats argued that Australia should not go further than other countries in offering up subsidies, or that the subsidies were not relevant because they applied to exploration rather than production, or by disputing whether the subsidies were "inefficient" and encouraged "wasteful" consumption.

But the bureaucrats also show an extreme sensitivity to publicity: some exchanges between them state that it might be better not to nominate subsidies, lest it be seen as an admission that the subsidies might actually boost fossil fuel consumption. ...

Union Fined For Voicing Safety Concerns

'Brisbane Times' [28/2/11]:

A Brisbane union organiser has been fined $4,500 for disrupting work and swearing on a construction site.

Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) organiser Kane Pearson was handed the fine after a settlement with the Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC).

The union was fined $16,500 for the 2009 incident, in which Mr Pearson blocked the entrance to the concrete pour area at the River Point Apartments site.

ABCC commissioner Leigh Johns said Mr Pearson was entitled to enter the site and represent his members.

However, his conduct had been "confrontational, unnecessary and counter-productive", he said.

"The site manager repeatedly asked Mr Pearson to move his car to allow the five waiting cement trucks to commence the pour," he said in a statement.

"Mr Pearson left the site at the request of the police after obstructing the cement trucks for 40 minutes."

The penalties recognised the "lack of remorse and contrition" on the part of the BLF, Mr Johns said.

But BLF state secretary David Hanna stood by Mr Pearson's actions, which were in response to safety concerns about the concrete pour.

Workers were worried about low light and fatigue and it was rescheduled after Mr Pearson intervened, Mr Hanna said.

"It's a small price to pay compared to what it would have cost if a worker lost his life, or maimed someone else while driving home tired," he told AAP.

He questioned why the ABCC pursued his organiser rather than the company involved, Stockwell Design and Construction, for the safety concerns.

Stockwell was unable to comment.

Did Any Media Outlet Bother Considering Its Limitations Before Reporting On The Queensland Cancer Atlas?

... This report is not designed to identify clusters of cancers or provide definitive reasons for any observed geographical variation, as it is based solely on data from the Queensland Cancer Registry. It is unable to consider all the local environmental, clinical and public health issues that may be relevant to a detailed cluster investigation. For this reason any spatial patterns that are identified need to be viewed as areas for further research or investigation, and not as an end in themselves. Dedicated research studies are required to properly investigate and explain any significant findings in this report. Such studies could include investigating various person-specific factors such as smoking history, diet, alcohol consumption, residential and family history, as well as area-level factors such as access to and quality of health services and environmental exposures. ...

Equitable health care across the state and cures for cancers (and other diseases) will remain elusive until the Queensland Government puts the brakes on the frenzied corporatisation of our health system.

My mother was born and raised in Mt Isa. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her mid fifties and died a horrible death in a Brisbane private hospital ten years later. Whether she smoked, drank, exercised madly or was a vegan is irrelevant - unless you are a self righteous weirdo.

Though it undoubtedly pleases the biotech, insurance and private health industry no end, cancer patients and their families and friends resent politicians, public officials and mainstream media commentators banging on about the lifestyle/personal responsibility/genetic cancer connection one day, then spruiking some miracle cure the next.

Queenslanders are dying in their thousands.

We don't want to hear anymore about awareness, clinical trials, information sheets and "taking ownership" of one's body. We want to know about cancer clusters, and when our government is going to address the shortage of gynaecological oncologists and improve the quality of care for cancer sufferers in this country.

Why was there a clinical trial conducted through the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the QIMR which was funded by the American Department of Defense? [See Senator Claire Moore's speech in the Senate, 11/2/09 on National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month].

From the chapter 'One In Every Four' in Rachel Carson's - 'Silent Spring' [1962]:

"Today we find our world filled with cancer-producing agents. An attack on cancer that is concentrated wholly or even largely on therapeutic measures (even assuming a 'cure' could be found) in Dr Hueper's opinion will fail because it leaves untouched the great reservoirs of carcinogenic agents which would continue to claim new victims faster than the as yet elusive 'cure' could allay the disease.

Why have we been slow to adopt this common-sense approach to the cancer problem? Probably 'the goal of curing the victims of cancer is more exciting, more tangible, more glamorous and rewarding than prevention,' says Dr Hueper. Yet to prevent cancer from ever being formed is 'definitely more human' and can be 'much more effective than cancer cures'. Dr Hueper has little patience with the wishful thinking that promises 'a magic pill that we shall take each morning before breakfast' as protection against cancer. Part of the public trust in such an eventual outcome results from the misconception that cancer is a single, though mysterious disease, with a single cause and, hopefully, a single cure. This of course is far from the known truth. Just as environmental cancers are induced by a wide variety of chemical and physical agents, so the malignant condition itself is manifested in many different and biologically distinct ways.

The long-promised 'breakthrough', when or if it comes, cannot be expected to be a panacea for all types of malignancy. Although the search must be continued for therapeutic measures to relieve and to cure those who have already become victims of cancer, it is a disservice to humanity to hold out the hope that the solution will come suddenly, in a single master stroke. It will come slowly, one step at a time. Meanwhile as we pour our millions into research and invest all our hopes in vast programmes to find cures for established cases of cancer, we are neglecting the golden opportunity to prevent, even while we seek to cure.

The task is by no means a hopeless one. In one important respect the outlook is more encouraging than the situation regarding infectious disease at the turn of the century. The world was then full of disease germs, as today it is full of carcinogens. But man did not put the germs into the environment and his role in spreading them was involuntary. In contrast, man has put the vast majority of carcinogens into the environment, and he can, if he wishes, eliminate many of them. The chemical agents of cancer have become entrenched in our world in two ways; first, and ironically, through man's search for a better and easier way of life; second, because the manufacture and sale of such chemicals has become an accepted part of our economy and our way of life."

Judge Halts Brazil Dam

'Australian Financial Review' [28/2/11]:

A Brazilian judge ordered a halt to construction of the $US 11 billion Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the country's rainforest and prohibited the state development bank from financing the project, a federal court said.

Getting Ahead Of Weather Events

'Queensland Country Life' [24/2/11]:

It could cost the nation up to $30 billion and has already caused unmeasurable devastation to farming operations.

But a prominent climatologist says he believes the impact of the recent floods could have been lower if there had been stronger communication channels between the science community and farming groups.

United Nations Commission for Agricultural Meteorology chairman and University of Southern Queensland climatology Professor Roger Stone, said studies indicating the La Nina weather pattern could bring heavy rainfall and flooding in South East Queensland were first forecast by the UN and British Government in June 2010.

However, he said despite widespread acceptance of the threatening weather pattern among scientists, word was not communicated to those who might be at risk.

"There should have been plenty of warning out there for everyone - the first information was available in June," he said.

"Private consultants were advising resource companies and insurance companies months before the floods of a La Nina weather event and the potential for flooding."

Professor Stone said with continued above-average rainfall and potential flooding predicted to continue in the following months, the science community should be working more closely with landowners to provide adequate warning and assistance. ...

Sparks Fly Over 'Gasland' Drilling Documentary

NPR [24/2/11]:

In 2008, filmmaker Josh Fox received a $100,000 offer to lease his 19 acres in northeastern Pennsylvania for drilling by the booming natural gas industry.

Fox promptly responded with a decisive "no thanks." Then he set off on a road trip across 24 states to investigate the environmental impact of natural gas drilling on local communities.

Along the way, Fox met dozens of families who say they have developed health problems after leasing their land for hydraulic fracturing, a type of natural gas drilling also known as "fracking."

Fox's resulting documentary, Gasland, questions the industry's portrayal of natural gas as a clean energy source. The film has drawn harsh criticism from the oil and gas industry, and Energy In Depth, a coalition of U.S. oil and natural gas producers, charges Fox with alternating "between misstating and outright ignoring basic and verifiable facts."

"I stand by the film 100 percent," Fox tells NPR's Neal Conan. "The purpose of this is to try to create a controversy or to create doubt on what is a very sincere and honest project that's been thoroughly researched and vetted."

Fox won't speculate if the Gasland controversy will influence its chances for the Oscar for best documentary [Update: 'Inside Job' - Charles Ferguson's documentary about the origins of the financial crash - won], but he questions the wisdom of the natural gas industry's response to the film. "I think that it's created a lot of attention, and I think that was ... unwise for them to do."

Virginia Restrictions On Abortion Clinics Approved

'New York Times' [25/211]:

Lawmakers approved a bill on Thursday with new rules for abortion clinics. Democrats and abortion rights supporters said the rules were likely to force the closing of most of Virginia's 21 abortion clinics. Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican and Catholic, supports the measure and when he signs it, Virginia will become the first state to require clinics that provide first-trimester abortions to meet the same standards as hospitals that could include anything from widening halls to buying equipment the clinics do not have.

Meanwhile, just below the above story the 'New York Times' reported:

Birth control for wild horses could soon expand. The Federal Bureau of Land Management, which oversees about 36,000 wild horses on public lands - half of them in Nevada - said Thursday that it would quadruple the number of mares getting fertility treatment under a test with the National Academy of Sciences. The agency also plans to reduce numbers of animals removed from the herds, bolster tourism and create new avenues for people who want to adopt.

A Question For Q & A

Malcolm Turnbull:

The CIA links to the ALP and IPA are well documented and the Murdoch Press is an outspoken supporter of the Liberal Party. Is it safe to assume that, therefore, the CIA has similar links throughout the Liberal Party? And, if so, what role do you think that may have played in your overthrow as leader? Do you think the CIA did a Whitlam on you?

And, no Tony, that isn't a comment!

UN Votes To Freeze Assets, Impose Travel Bans On Libyan Regime

AlJazeera Live Blog - Libya:

...

Timestamp:
3:11pm
All 15 members vote for SC resolution 1970, a unanimous decision.

Gaddafi family members will have their assets frozen, and which administration members will be prevented from leaving Libya.

Asset freeze: Aisha, Hannibal, Khamis Muammar, Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar, Mutassim and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

Timestamp:
3:05am
All 15 UN Security Council members are reportedly "on board" to pass a resolution referring Libyan officials to the International Criminal Court, says Kristen Saloomey, Al Jazeera's correspondent at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

It is the first time the council has referred a country's leadership to the ICC, she says. Vote expected very soon - we're watching the diplomats settling into their chairs now.

Timestamp:
2:38am
Al Jazeera understands the UN Security Council resolution will freeze the assets of six members of the Gaddafi family, including the Libyan leader - while 16 members of his administration will be slapped with a travel ban. Waiting on news of the vote... But you can watch all the details as they unfold on our TV stream - live - by clicking here: Watch Al Jazeera now.

Timestamp:
2:18pm

As many as 50 civilians and many more severely wounded in an attack by Gaddafi loyalists in the oil refining town of Zawiyah, 50km west of Tripoli, a resident named Ibrahim told Reuters. ...

Behind The Arab Revolt Is A Word We Dare Not Speak

By John Pilger

February 25, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- Shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I interviewed Ray McGovern, one of an elite group of CIA officers who prepared the President’s daily intelligence brief. McGovern was at the apex of the "national security" monolith that is American power and had retired with presidential plaudits. On the eve of the invasion, he and 45 other senior officers of the CIA and other intelligence agencies wrote to President George W. Bush that the "drumbeat for war" was based not on intelligence, but lies.

"It was 95 per cent charade," McGovern told me.

"How did they get away with it?"

"The press allowed the crazies to get away with it."

"Who are the crazies?"

"The people running the [Bush] administration have a set of beliefs a lot like those expressed in Mein Kampf … these are the same people who were referred to in the circles in which I moved, at the top, as ‘the crazies.’"

I said, "Norman Mailer has written that that he believes America has entered a pre-fascist state. What’s your view of that?"

"Well … I hope he’s right, because there are others saying we are already in a fascist mode."

On 22 January, Ray McGovern emailed me to express his disgust at the Obama administration’s barbaric treatment of the alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning and its pursuit of WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. "Way back when George and Tony decided it might be fun to attack Iraq," he wrote, "I said something to the effect that fascism had already begun here. I have to admit I did not think it would get this bad this quickly."

On 16 February, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech at George Washington University in which she condemned governments that arrested protestors and crushed free expression. She lauded the liberating power of the internet while failing to mention that her government was planning to close down those parts of the internet that encouraged dissent and truth-telling. It was a speech of spectacular hypocrisy, and Ray McGovern was in the audience. Outraged, he rose from his chair and silently turned his back on Clinton. He was immediately seized by police and a security goon and beaten to the floor, dragged out and thrown into jail, bleeding. He has sent me photographs of his injuries. He is 71. During the assault, which was clearly visible to Clinton, she did not pause in her remarks.

Fascism is a difficult word, because it comes with an iconography that touches the Nazi nerve and is abused as propaganda against America’s official enemies and to promote the West’s foreign adventures with a moral vocabulary written in the struggle against Hitler. And yet fascism and imperialism are twins. In the aftermath of World War Two, those in the imperial states who had made respectable the racial and cultural superiority of "Western civilisation," found that Hitler and fascism had claimed the same, employing strikingly similar methods. Thereafter, the very notion of American imperialism was swept from the textbooks and popular culture of an imperial nation forged on the genocidal conquest of its native people. And a war on social justice and democracy became "US foreign policy."

As the Washington historian William Blum has documented, since 1945, the US has destroyed or subverted more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and used mass murderers like Suharto, Mobutu, and Pinochet to dominate by proxy. In the Middle East, every dictatorship and pseudo-monarchy has been sustained by America. In "Operation Cyclone," the CIA and MI6 secretly fostered and bank-rolled Islamic extremism. The object was to smash or deter nationalism and democracy. The victims of this Western state terrorism have been mostly Muslims. The courageous people gunned down last week in Bahrain and Libya, the latter a "priority UK market," according to Britain’s official arms "procurers," join those children blown to bits in Gaza by the latest American F-16 aircraft.

The revolt in the Arab world is not merely against a resident dictator but a worldwide economic tyranny designed by the US Treasury and imposed by the US Agency for International Development, the IMF and World Bank, which have ensured that rich countries like Egypt are reduced to vast sweatshops, with half the population earning less than $2 a day. The people’s triumph in Cairo was the first blow against what Benito Mussolini called corporatism, a word that appears in his definition of fascism.

How did such extremism take hold in the liberal West? "It is necessary to destroy hope, idealism, solidarity, and concern for the poor and oppressed," observed Noam Chomsky a generation ago, "[and] to replace these dangerous feelings with self-centred egoism, a pervasive cynicism that holds that [an order of] inequities and oppression is the best that can be achieved. In fact, a great international propaganda campaign is under way to convince people – particularly young people – that this not only is what they should feel but that it’s what they do feel."

Like the European revolutions of 1848 and the uprising against Stalinism in 1989, the Arab revolt has rejected fear. An insurrection of suppressed ideas, hope and solidarity has begun. In the United States, where 45 per cent of young African-Americans have no jobs and the top hedge fund managers are paid, on average, a billion dollars a year, mass protests against cuts in services and jobs have spread to heartland states like Wisconsin. In Britain, the fastest-growing modern protest movement, UK Uncut, is about to take direct action against tax avoiders and rapacious banks. Something has changed that cannot be unchanged. The enemy has a name now.

Imagine If Gillard Had Given Alan Jones The Serve He Deserves?

If the Prime Minister had put him in his place:

Alan, we all understand you come to this conversation with your allegiance to the far-right, bigotry, embodied in what passes for today's conservative commentary. Of course you are entitled, on your own program, to broadcast your opinions, but until you have apologised I refuse to continue this interview.

That sort of leadership would speak more to Australians than any 'Womens Weekly' cover or NewsPoll.

And the 80 per cent of us who aren't fascists would have given the Prime Minister a flicker of the respect she doesn't deserve.

Nine MSN: [25/2/11]:

Radio shock jock Alan Jones has accused Prime Minister Julia Gillard of being a liar and stealing the 2010 election after she showed up late to an interview this morning.

The talkback host scolded the prime minister for being twelve minutes late to a 7.10am interview on his 2GB morning show before accusing her of lying about the proposed carbon pricing scheme.

"I've got my job to do and you've got your job to do, your people rang here yesterday and it was agreed this interview would begin at 10 past seven," Jones said.

"Surely courtesy has to be part of the way in which the public are treated."

Ms Gillard apologised for her tardiness, saying she had been held up in another interview.

"I believe I am a very courteous person but I'm also a very busy person," she said.

"If I can finish my sentence uninterrupted, I've had media commitments this morning."

"We're all busy," Jones answered.

Jones then moved the interview on to a discussion of the Labor Government's recently announced carbon pricing system, which he said broke an election promise.

"There are people now saying your name isn't Julia but Ju-liar," he said.

"They are saying we've got a liar running this country."

Jones then played audio clips of Ms Gillard and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan saying before the 2010 election that they would not introduce a carbon tax.

"Do you accept the fact that you've stolen the election with a false promise?" Jones asked.

"Alan, what a load of nonsense," Ms Gillard replied.

The on-air spat has seen Alan Jones become a trending topic on Twitter.

Ms Gillard said her carbon pricing policy announced yesterday would create jobs.

Nobody today mentioned the well known fact that Alan Jones is homosexual - because that is totally irrelevant. And a good thing too. Who would want to muddy the waters with snide asides and small unimportant matters?

When's The Last Time You Saw A Politician With An Auslan Interpreter?

Sify News [25/2/11]:

Tripoli, Feb 25 (IANS/AKI) Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafis' daughter has denied reports by Arabic media that she had fled to Malta amid serious unrest in her North African country.

Speaking on state television, Aisha Gaddafi Thursday dismissed reports she had left the country as 'foreign lies'.

'I say to the Libyan people who I love and who love me, that I am steadfastly here, in front of this wreck of a house,' said the 33-year-old lawyer.

Wearing a headscarf, she appeared in front of her residence in Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya military compound in Tripoli, which was bombed by the US airforce in 1986.

'The Libyans who know me are well aware that I will stay here as a goodwill ambassador for Libya's people,' she said, claiming she was unaware of the UN' announcement Wednesday that she had been dropped as a goodwill ambassador amid violence which has reportedly killed at least a 1,000 people protesting against her father's rule.

Her strongman father chose the Bab al-Aziziya compound as the backdrop for his defiant televised address Tuesday.

In his address, Gaddafi denied reports he fled to Venezuela and said he would remain in Libya as leader, die as a martyr in the land of his ancestors and fight to the 'last drop' of his blood.

Gaddafi also pledged to deploy the army and police to quell the week-long rebellion and vowed protesters would be executed. He has ruled Libya for 41 years since he toppled King Idris in a bloodless coup in September, 1969, at the age of 27.

The Al-Jazeera Arabic satellite TV channel reported Wednesday that Aisha Gaddafi was aboard a 14-seat passenger plane which entered Maltese airspace without authorisation and was denied permission to land at Valletta's airport.

Bullshit Media Looters

This is supposed to be Brisbane's alternative to the Murdoch Press?:

No wonder only 93 people read it!

Believe it or not, it was possible to report on the contingent of Australian police who have gone to Christchurch without mentioning "looting":

Around 320 officers from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Australian Federal Police were sworn-in soon after arrival, enabling them to perform policing duties under New Zealand law.

Their duties will primarily focus on local community policing, patrols and cordoning areas deemed too hazardous for people to safely enter.

Their arrival comes as Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced the Federal Government has concerns for another Australian who may have been killed in the quake.

The officers are a welcome back-up for their Christchurch counterparts, some of who have been personally affected by the disaster.

On Wednesday, 300 Australian search and rescue personnel were sent to Christchurch, as well as a 75-bed field hospital with six surgical, medical and support staff. A 25-strong specialist medical team was also dispatched.

The group of Australian police will stay for two weeks. They are taking their own food, water, tents and sleeping bags so they can be self-sufficient.

Among them is Constable Vicky Nielsen who will be returning to her home town where her family still lives.

"They're going through a really tough time at the moment," she said.

"My mother's house is ruined. It was badly affected from the first earthquake, and now the chimneys have caved in, the windows and the roof are gone.

"One of my brothers has lost his house. But they're all alive and they're all well and that's the main thing."

Eight people have been arrested and appeared in court today for offences such as breaching exclusion zones.

Two people have been remanded in custody until next month for allegedly stealing generators being used to supply power.

Police still have no further information about complaints that two Australians were reportedly door-knocking homes soliciting for aid. ...

How's Your Super Going?

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

Johnny Rotten

And all for a traffic tunnel that nobody in Brisbane wanted.

'Australian Financial Review' [25/2/11]:

The battle to save the finances of Brisbane's Clem Jones Tunnel has come to an end, with the toll road's owner, River City Motorway, today expected to be tipped into voluntary administration after its lenders failed to agree to a stand-still agreement on interest payments on $1.3 billion in debts.

The board of directors is expected to appoint a restructuring group PBG advisory as administrator.

Lenders are then expected to appoint coporate recovery group Korda Mentha as receivers. ...

The Clem Jones Tunnel has been a financial black hole for owners River City ever since it opened just under a year ago, with traffic flows failing to live up to the over-optimistic forecasts provided by consulting group Maunsell. ...

Both the Queensland Government and BrisConnections, the company building Airport Link [$5.6 billion], have denied the lacklustre performance of Clem Jones Tunnel will affect Brisbane's second major tunnel projects.

BrisConnections chief executive Ray Wilson has been at pains to point out there is a strongr economic case for Airport Link, which will link Brisbane's CBD to the airport, as current above-ground routes are badly congested. ...

Imagine the kind of public transport infrastructure that could have been put in place with all that money!

Patent For HealthLinx

'Australian Financial Review' [25/2/11]:

Junior biotechnology company HealthLinx announced that the UK patent office has granted a patent for its ovarian cancer diagnostic, OvPlex, a blood test for the early detection of ovarian cancer.

Return Of The Animals

'Australian Financial Review' [25/2/11]:

Once called "a loophole in accountability" by the Australian National Audit Office, the former National Media Liaison Service (known not so affectionately as aNIMals) from the Hawke-Keating years, which employed a handful of staff doing non-specific political work, has been reborn a few times, including under the Coalition.

Actually, it originated in the Whitlam years. Now it has been rebranded yet again, this time as the Caucus Communications Team, and according to Finance Officials at Senate Estimates this week, it has six staff whose salaries, excluding superannuation, came to $618,416 in the last year. Just saying. ...

Suncorp Rebuffs Union Allegation

'Australian Financial Review' [25/2/11]:

Suncorp has rejected claims from the Finance Sector Union that a small portion of its employees face a reduction in conditions after former GIO and QIDC staff were brought under a common enterprise agreement late last year.

The insurer said it had been through a long consultation process with staff, with 80 per cent voting on the new agreement and 75 per cent of these employees supporting its terms. ...

Rise Up. Throw Off Your Shackles!

'Australian Financial Review' [25/2/11]:

Irish journalist David Cronin attempted a citizen's arrest of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman outside a meeting of the EU-Israel Association council in Brussels.

Who Voted For This Joker?

Why didn't Alan Joyce and Senator McGauran demand an apology?

People in positions of authority and respect have a responsibility to set an example by standing up to bullies:

Firebrand Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan has called the Irish-born head of Qantas, Alan Joyce, "an old Irish bomb maker".

The comments were made as Mr Joyce appeared in front of a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra today.

Senator Heffernan initially asked if Mr Joyce came "from a long line of Irish bomb makers", before later calling him one.

"Mr Joyce if the power was yours, you know from being an old Irish bomb maker, if you had the choice, what would be the ideal pilot training?" he said.

The Qantas head laughed off the comment, and Senator Heffernan made several other wisecracks throughout the hearing.

He also joked about there being no whisky in the water and about having a beer during a three-minute break.

The Senator acknowledged that people have been offended by the bomb jokes, but then made the same comments to fellow Liberal Julian McGauran.

"Senator McGuaran are you, do you come from a long line of Irish bomb-makers, do you?" he said.

Senator McGuaran responded: "Irish, Bill, yes. Happy to be Irish ... but not bomb-makers."

The New South Wales senator is no stranger to controversy, with a long list of public faux pas to his name, including calling Julia Gillard "deliberately barren".

He is an idiot and a thug. Obviously the voters of NSW are sillier than we had ever thought, just look at the people they vote for!

My Tortured Journey With Former Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks

By Jason Leopold

February 24, 2011 "t r u t h o u t" - 16 February 2011 --

... Neely told me a remarkable story about the hours before Hicks arrived at Camp X-Ray that underscores how impressionable he and his fellow soldiers were and how the US government conditioned its military personnel to view detainees as animals.

"When Hicks' bus got to Camp X-Ray we were told this guy was a mercenary, he was fighting Americans and we had to be real careful around him, Neely said. "We were actually told Hicks tried to bite through the hydraulic cables on the C-130 en route to Guantanamo. So everyone was on edge."

Neely was 21 when he was sent to Guantanamo. On June 2, 2002, his 22nd birthday, Neely received an "achievement medal" for "exceptional meritorious service while serving as a Military Policeman (MP) in support of Operation 'Enduring Freedom', Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

Nearly seven years later, Neely went public and revealed details about the abuses he witnessed and one that he participated in while he was at Guantanamo. Like Hicks, who Neely said reminded him "of a guy I would have just gone out and have a beer with," he has been suffering all of these years. It was as if he were being tortured every time he saw or heard about a detainee being beaten or worse during the six months he worked at the prison facility. I can feel his pain. Literally.

Neely's a cop in Houston now. He's got a wife and three kids. He told me, "there has not been a day that goes by that I have not re-lived what I did or saw in Guantanamo." Hicks reached out to Neely last year after he saw him on a BBC special. Neely had flown to London to meet a couple of former British detainees he used to guard and to apologize for the way they were treated. He and Hicks are pretty close now.

I asked Hicks if he could describe the facial expressions of his tormentors while he was being tortured and if he recalled how they reacted to his pain.

"Usually the guards seemed cold and indifferent," Hicks said. "They deployed a just doing my job attitude, such as when they chained me to the floor in stress positions or made me sleep directly on a metal or concrete floor in a very cold air-conditioned room in only a pair of shorts. However some soldiers displayed discomfort and embarrassment. Usually guards were only used to restrain detainees, move them about, or help in the background with equipment. It was the interrogators who did the dirty work, expressing, hatred and frustration. At times soldiers did participate directly in beatings however, such the beatings I received before I arrived in GTMO (in Afghanistan, in transit, or when I was rendered to the two naval ships before being sent to Guantanamo). These soldiers made a sport of it. ...

Hocus Pocus, Magical Thinking And Anti-Science All The Rage On Coast FM

This morning [25/2/11], the ABC's Coast FM (97.1 fm) interviewed an "astrological weather forecaster" who claims to have predicted both earthquakes in Christchurch.

No, not a seismologist, meterologist or climate scientist - an "astrological weather forecaster" - who said he can predict to the day when there's going to be an earthquake. He also predicted another earthquake on March 20.

The announcer said the "astrological weather forecaster" had clients in business and government, but didn't press him on that. Oh no no no, that'd be a bit too newsy for we banjo pickin' low brows that the producers at Coast FM must think are their listeners. She quizzed him about his "methodology" relating to the difference between quakes and after shocks and the intensity of an earthquake, and referred to an almanac and future weather events.

Fucking cruel and irresponsible ABC.

Robbing Peter To Pay Paul

Two, full-page advertisments for the Gillard Government's proposed flood levy, authorised by Justine Elliot MP, appeared in this week's [24/2/11] 'Tweed Shire Echo' (the ads note that they were funded from her "printing and communications entitlement". What? So, our taxes pay for these ads trying to convince us of the extra tax? That's just weird)

Why Is 'The Age' Reporting This?

It's almost as if 'The Age' wants to spread the "despicable" message.

'The Age' [24/2/11]:

'Despicable': website blames Christchurch quake on gay community Megan Levy

A website that claims Christchurch's devastating earthquake was an act of God triggered by the tolerance of homosexual behaviour in the city has been denounced as ''despicable and appalling'' by New Zealand's gay and lesbian community.

The website ''Christchurch Quake'' - registered on September 20 to an address in Utah in the USA - suggests the destruction was a result of ''lesbians running loose on the South Island as if they own the place'' and general ''amoral'' behaviour.

Among other inflammatory accusations, the website alleges that the earlier September earthquake, which coincided with the start of Gay Ski Week in Queenstown, was a warning from God to ''End the Evil - or else!''.

Screengrabs from the controversial website.

The website claims the September earthquake warning had not been heeded, leading to Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake, which has killed at least 76 people, with reports of up to 300 still missing.

It also suggests other natural disasters in New Zealand, including the Pike River mine disaster which killed 29 men in November, was triggered by the country’s relaxed attitudes. ...

Rapacious Corporations Loot All The Time

And yet, this was the only story 'Brisbane Times' deemed newsworthy from all the hearings and the trials in Brisbane courts today [24/2/11]:

Callous looter 'preyed on flood victims' Amelia Bentley

A looter claimed he was "trembling" after a Brisbane magistrate described him as a scavenger who preyed on flood victims.

John Baron Davis, 24, of Ipswich, stole a dinghy from a Pinkenba car park where Brisbane City Council staff placed items salvaged during last month's floods.

A witness spotted Davis taking a dinghy from the storage area on February 5 before police located him and he was charged with looting by stealing during a natural disaster.

Davis pleaded guilty to the charge, saying he decided to take the dinghy with a plan to do it up and keep for himself.

Asked how much he had volunteered to help flood victims, he said he had put in a full day's work helping with the clean up.

"Then after you volunteered you turned into a scavenger because you took someone's property," Magistrate Sheryl Cornack said.

"There is a lot of community anger at people who steal by looting in a natural disaster.

"That dinghy belonged to somebody who was probably affected by the floods in a considerable way.

"What you did was criminal, it was dishonest, it was callous."

Ms Cornack said there had been "considerable abhorrence" towards looters and Davis should put something back into the community.

She ordered him to do 120 hours of unpaid community service.

Taking into account it was Davis' first offence, Ms Cornack did not record a conviction.

Wearing a suit and tie, the fourth-year apprentice electrician told media outside court he was deeply sorry and embarrassed about his behaviour.

He said he "really did" think the items stored at Pinkenba were rubbish and there for the taking.

"It wasn't cordoned off and it didn't say anything around it so I just come to the conclusion," he said.

"I'm trembling right now, I'm really embarrassed. If I could take it back now I would."

He said he was happy to perform community service.

"I'd rather give back in that way than any other way, because the money wouldn't do too much, it would just go to the government," he said.

South Brisbane man Shaun Patrick McCasker, 44, also faced court today accused of stealing a motorcycle helmet from Pinkenba on January 13.

His case was adjourned to March 16. Outside court he told media he was "sorry".

Miner Eyes Mary Valley

'Sunshine Coast Daily' [24/2/11]:

Residents in and around Kenilworth have been warned to be “on alert” after it was revealed an application to explore for the metal manganese has been lodged.

The State Government placed newspaper advertisements yesterday advising the public that Adelaide-based exploration company Monax Mining has applied to explore for the metal over a 304sq km area.

Manganese has important industrial metal alloy uses, particularly in stainless steels.

If approved, the operation will be centred about 12km north-west of Kenilworth and will take in a large part of the Mary Valley.

The Sunshine Coast Environment Council said yesterday it was concerned by the proposal.

Its campaign manager, Narelle McCarthy, said it was vital that a “considerable” environmental assessment study be undertaken before a permit was granted.

Ms McCarthy said environmental and social considerations “tend to be sidelined for the resource and economic gain that is sought to be achieved”.

“I do appreciate it is early stages, but I'm always concerned about the blanket approach to mining exploration, depending on which resource it is,” she said.

“I think that this locality has been identified should put the community on alert.”
Kenilworth residents have also expressed concerns.

Kenilworth Garage owner Mark Gilroy is alarmed at the size of the exploration zone.

“That's a lot of area. Bloody hell,” he said.

“If it's near townships or tourist areas, it wouldn't be any good.”

The government notified the public of the proposal in pursuance of the Native Title Act 1993.

The government said any person who was a “native title party” was entitled to certain rights in relation to the proposed grant of exploration permits.

Monax Mining managing director Gary Ferris said he was unsure what exploration would yield. The company lodged the tenement application based on old records that showed surface manganese had been found in the area.

Mr Ferris said it was highly unlikely the exploration would result in a mine being opened.

“(There's) probably not substantial deposits there, but enough for us to go and have a look in the area,” he said.

“We're probably only looking at mining 50 to100 metres down, so it would be a lot less impact than a coal mine but it's still open-cut mining.”

International Focus On Crisis In West Papua

An international conference on West Papua is being held at the University of Sydney on 23 and 24 February.

Comprehending West Papua aims to enhance understanding of the complex and increasingly fraught political situation in West Papua, which by turns promises change then threatens violent chaos.

The conference is hosted by the West Papua Project at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) at the University.

Professor Peter King, co-convenor of the conference, commenting on its aims said, "This gathering, a follow-up to one held by the West Papua Project in 2007 has the special purpose of responding to the explosive situation in our near neighbour, West Papua."

"The conference papers, followed by a book, will develop new perspectives and policy recommendations on the issue."

Papers will cover:

the quest, in Papua, Indonesia and abroad, for internationally mediated dialogue between Papuans and Jakarta
Papuan consensus that special autonomy has failed and must be 'returned' to the central government
the culture - music, dance and folk ways of 'Papua merdeka' (free Papua)
recent civil society/NGO action, including new media action against human rights abuse and military police impunity
Speakers will include:

Pieter Drooglever (Institute of Netherlands History, Den Haag)
Neles Tebay (author of Dialogue Jakarta-Papua Jayapura)
Otto Ondawame (West Papua National Coalition for Liberation, Port Vila)
Bilveer Singh (National University of Singapore)
Akihisa Matsuno (Osaka University)
Andreas Harsono (Human Rights Watch, Jakarta)
Franzalbert Joku (Independent Group Supporting Papua within Indonesia)
John Braithwaite and Budi Hernawan (ANU)
Jacob Rumbiak and Herman Wainggai (West Papua National Authority)
The conference will explore ways forward from the situation of "two Papuas" - on one hand an indigenous society permanently mobilised to demand human rights and self-determination and on the other hand an increasingly dominant counter-society of Indonesian settlers, bureaucrats and so-called security personnel upholding the status quo.

A plenary session will petition Indonesian President Yudhoyono on international access and human rights in West Papua.

The West Papua Project has been seeking to promote peaceful dialogue between the people of West Papua and Indonesia, and to promote conflict resolution as a viable alternative to the current escalating conflict, for the past 11 years.

The West Papua Project has held numerous workshops, conferences and presentations and been instrumental in the publication of a variety of academic papers, reports and books on West Papua.

Professor Stuart Rees, Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, will launch the conference.

Pieter Drooglever (author of An Act of Free Choice), Herman Wainggai (West Papua National Authority) and others, are available for interview.

Police Show Disrepect At TJ Hickey Rally

'Green Left Weekly' [20/2/11]:

On February 14, I went to the seventh "Remember TJ Hickey" rally at Redfern.

TJ Hickey was a 17-year-old Aboriginal boy who was killed in a dangerous police pursuit in 2004.

The state government and the NSW police moved to cover up their role in TJ's death. A coronial inquest exonerated the police involved.

But the inquest ignored important evidence, including witness accounts that said police had chased TJ moments before his death.

To try to gain just a tiny slither of justice from this whitewash, the Hickey family wants a memorial plaque for TJ, and for the many other Aboriginal victims of police brutality in custody, placed at the site of TJ's death in Waterloo.

The police are denying the Hickey family the right to lay the plaque because of its wording, even though the wording comes straight from the coroner’s report.

After attending this emotionally charged rally, where people marched and chanted slogans such as “you say accident, we say murder”, “Justice for TJ” and “Cops are murderers”, I got on the train to go home to Wollongong feeling a bit angry, but also inspired.

I was angry because of the way the police behaved at the rally, but inspired by the conviction of the crowd.

Most disgustingly, one police officer stood at the back of the gathering and filmed the entire event like she was filming some sort of rock concert. Why the fuck is this necessary? I know this is common practice at protests these days, but seriously?

In this instance, the police filming TJ's memorial rally was like a non-convicted murderer coming to film the funeral of their victim. Sick and perverted was what it was.

The amount of disrespect shown by the police at this rally seemed insurmountable to me. But it is not of course insurmountable.

This is just a tiny fraction of the racism, disrespect and brutality that the Hickey family, and the wider Aboriginal community in Redfern, have to put up with from the police daily.

My angry thoughts were interrupted when the CityRail ticket inspectors got on the train to (seemingly) check passengers' tickets.

I got my ticket out diligently (yes, I did actually have a ticket this time) expecting the officers to approach me.

Instead, they went straight to the only non-Caucasian in the carriage and asked her to produce her ticket. She produced her valid ticket then the two inspectors walked straight past several other Caucasian-looking people (including me) without even so much as glancing at us.

This incident confirmed to me what I had learnt that day from the rally: in this country, the uniform of the State somehow lets people wearing it think they have a right to discriminate against people on the basis of the colour of their skin.

Fuck you, police and fuck you, CityRail.

Costs Dropped For Sandon Point Activist

'Green Left Weekly' [20/2/11]:

Activists fighting to defend Sandon Point won an important victory in the Land and Environment Court in early February, opening the way for ongoing legal challenges to Stockland’s development at the site.

Stockland has been clearing the site to build the McCauley's Beach residential development. It is the last green strip from the escarpment to the coast in the northern Illawarra.

A community campaign against the development has been going for over 10 years. In late 2009, then-planning minister Kristina Keneally approved the development under Part 3A planning laws.

Activists from the Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy (SPATE) have claimed that Stockland is breaching the conditions of the Project Approval.

Stockland applied for security of costs from Roy "Dootch" Kennedy, elder and spokesperson for SPATE, which would have brought the legal challenge to a halt through financial strain.

However, Justice Pain dismissed the application on the basis of the case being in the public interest, that Kennedy would not benefit from the case financially, and that SPATE was going to provide evidence of Stockland's breach of the conditions.

Evidence of heavy metals and contamination of water pools in the recently cleared areas of the development was presented to the Land and Environment Court in December.

The independent testing, initiated by SPATE, found concentrations of aluminium, chromium, zinc and lead up to 100 times the safe level.

In December, SPATE celebrated 10 years of campaigning with the "3 Fires 2 Moons" festival, attended by about 1000 guests.

Wollongong City Council took SPATE to court to try to have the festival stopped, but failed.

Indigenous singer Christine Anu was among the many local and visiting musicians who performed in support. Cultural workshops, fire ceremonies, Elder's circles and site walks were also organised.

The full hearing in the case is scheduled for March 28-30.

Fascism Doesn't Just Manifest In A Small Moustache, Goosestepping And A Swastika

As the people of the Middle East take to the streets to overthrow their US empowered puppet governments, in the west, our Governments are busily implementing their neoliberal/fascist agenda.

The social safety net, and everything else our grandfathers and grandmothers fought for, is being dismantled before our very eyes.

Soon, the only role for western governments will be to collect taxes, make payments to the corporate elite and provide the armed thugs to protect their interests.

'The Telegraph' [20/2/11]:

Private companies, voluntary groups and charities will be given the right to run schools, hospitals and vast swathes of council services under ambitious plans to end the “state’s monopoly” over public sector work, David Cameron announces today.

Mr Cameron says the era of "old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you're-given" public services will be ended.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister pledges to bring about a complete “transformation” that will release public services from “the grip of state control”.

The reforms mark a step change because the new “presumption” of public services being open to outside providers means that the Government will not have to legislate again in most areas every time it wants to involve the private sector in future.

It will also be an alternative revenue stream for charities that have lost state funding under the Coalition’s programme of cuts.

Mr Cameron says the era of “old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given” public services will be ended.

Downing Street believes the plans represent the biggest shake-up in public service provision for 50 years.

A White Paper, due to be published in the next fortnight, will set out an automatic right for private sector bodies to bid for public work.

Decision-making power will be given back to professionals – who have in the past been hampered by red tape – while people will be able to have more control over the budget for the service they receive.

The changes could ultimately see many functions of the NHS – from operations to walk-in triage services – being run by private firms. All schools could be run by charities or private sector companies, as could municipal services such as maintaining parks, adult care, special schools or roads maintenance.

Outside providers would be offered payment-by-results contracts, which would earn them more as they increased the quality of services.

Downing Street said the plans illustrated that Mr Cameron was prepared to go far further than any recent prime minister – including Tony Blair – on public sector reform.

The only exemptions will be the judiciary and the security services. All other public services will be expected to open up to private competition under the plans, which the Government hopes will slash bureaucracy, improve the quality of public services and save money.

However, they are likely to be fiercely opposed by Labour and the trade unions who will interpret them as a return to the era of privatisation and a cover for Coalition spending cuts.

In his article for the Telegraph, Mr Cameron says standards in public services – on cancer survival rates, school results and crime – have been slipping against comparable countries for too long and that “complete change” is needed.

“We will create a new presumption – backed up by new rights for public service users and a new system of independent adjudication – that public services should be open to a range of providers competing to offer a better service,” he says.

“Of course, there are some areas, – like national security services or the judiciary – where this wouldn’t make sense. But everywhere else should be open to real diversity,open to everyone who gets and values the importance of our public service ethos. This is a transformation: it ends the state’s monopoly over public services.

“Instead of having to justify why it makes sense to introduce competition in individual public services – as we are now doing with schools and in the NHS – the state will have to justify why it should ever operate a monopoly.”

Some of the changes to encourage more competition are already being introduced through education and health legislation.

However, when taken with the new Open Public Services White Paper, Downing Street believes the plans are a “battering ram to break open monopolies”.

In his article, Mr Cameron says the new principle of diversity will be married to a “new presumption that services should be delivered at the lowest possible level” to give people more choice over how their public services are being administered.

He says: “Working from this presumption, we will devolve power even further. For example, we will give more people the right to take control of the budget for the service they receive.

“In this new world of decentralised, open public services it will be up to Government to show why a public service cannot be delivered at a lower level than it is currently; to show why things should be centralised, not the other way round.”

Mr Cameron said that his inspiration for these reforms could be traced back to when he and his wife, Samantha, were caring for their disabled son, Ivan.

He says: “I never understood why local authorities had more control over the budget for his care than Samantha and me.”

The state will still have a role to play in ensuring “fair funding, ensuring fair competition, and ensuring that everyone – regardless of wealth – gets fair access”, he says.

But he adds that “these important responsibilities for central government must never become an automatic excuse for returning to central control”.

The White Paper will set out principles that will “make it impossible for Government to return to the bad old days of the standard state monopoly”, he says.

“The grip of state control will be released and power will be placed in people’s hands. Professionals will see their discretion restored.

“There will be more freedom, more choice and more local control. Ours is a vision of open public services – and we will make it happen by advancing some key principles.”

The plans to privatise large parts of the public sector could well cause unease among some of Mr Cameron’s Lib Dem Coalition partners.

However, sources said Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, was fully “on side”, and the plans have been developed with Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

The Flood And Cyclone Affected Deserve To Get Every Bean

The People Who Donated To The Queensland Premier's Relief Appeal Fund Want The Money Distributed Immediately To Those Who Need It

On the one side we have cynical spin which tells us to be generous, on the other side we have cynical spin which tells us to tough it out, demonising the needy as greedy, scamming, fraudsters.

Standing between the generous and the needy are vampire squid leeches who have their suckers in this giant pool of cash.

'Brisbane Times' [23/2/11]:

More than half of the claims made to the Queensland Premier's Relief Appeal Fund are suspected of being illegitimate.

The man in charge of the fund, former Queensland treasurer David Hamill, said as many as 10,000 of the 18,000 applications for emergency cash payments would be thoroughly investigated.

Some illegitimate claims could become fraud investigations, he said, while most had probably been made "unknowingly or unwittingly".

"The form [that applicants] fill in is pretty clear," Mr Hamill said.

"Unfortunately I believe there are people trying to obtain money that they are not entitled to.

"The number of claims would appear to be significantly above the number of properties we know to be affected by the floods or the cyclone."

Mr Hamill said the high number of claims had slowed down the process of paying those who were entitled to the money.

Of the $220 million donated to the fund, $12 million has been paid to about 5000 residents.

A further $23 million will be paid in the first non-means tested round, while the remainder will be subject to a means test.

To be eligible, the flood must have inundated the main living area of the principal place of residence.

Adults can receive $2000 and parents are entitled to $1000 per child under the age of 18.

Mr Hamill said official flood maps showed between 5000 and 7000 homeowners across Queensland were eligible for relief payments but a much higher number of applications had been received.

"We have been receiving up to 1000 claims a day for the past fortnight," he said.

Of the 18,000 claims made since January, 2500 were received last week and 4000 in the previous week. About 1000 are from residents affected by Cyclone Yasi.

"There seems to be many more applications coming in than we would have expected," Mr Hamill said.

"While some applications have been straight forward, we have had to resort to flood maps to assess others."

He assured flood-victims who had lodged a legitimate claim would receive the relief payments, although the processing of applications had been slowed by the influx of claims.

The first claims were paid out six working days after the application was received.

"The speed with which we can process each individual claim will depend on the quality of the information we have," Mr Hamill said.

"The Premier's fund is directing money to people who have suffered loss. The Premier's fund is not an insurance policy and it is not going to make up the difference between what they have lost and what will be covered by insurance. It will only be a helping hand."

Coal Search Plans Worry Tourism Operator

Carabella Resources Limited has flagged its interest in areas including the Mount Barney Valley.

Tracey Larkin, who owns a tourist lodge in the area, says exploration would put Queensland's two biggest industries, mining and tourism, at loggerheads.

"They need to realistically look at what is here and what is thriving and successful because not only will they cause damage to the environment, they will cause long-term damage to the tourism industry," she said.

"People have been coming here for years to climb the mountain.

"There are people who have been married on top of the mountain, there are people whose ashes have been scattered throughout the national park because it has emotional and experiential significance, so I would say that there is widespread concern that this could take place."

A Carabella Resources spokesman says an exploration permit has been issued but no work has taken place.

Australia's Media. Notable For Its New Lows

Didn't see any reports of "looting" in New Zealand's press.

'Sydney Morning Herald' [23/2/11]:

Looters arrested as police order Christchurch curfew

Six people have been arrested for looting in Christchurch, as police set up a curfew in the devastated central city.

Superintendent Dave Cliff said there would be a 6.30pm curfew inside the central business district, allowing access only to those involved in the rescue effort, NZPA reported.

"That's also about keeping out the criminal element, who we know will try and take advantage," he said.

"We have made about six arrests today for theft and burglary around the central city."

Australian police officers will be on hand to help stop looters.

"They will be there to provide support in general law and order, to ensure that general safety is being attended to and also to assist in tragedies like this," NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said.

"Unfortunately we see the best of human nature but we also see the worst.

"We see potential looters; we need to make sure that we are helping our colleagues in New Zealand to prevent that as often as we possibly can."

Cordons, manned by police and army officers, are in place around the city and entry into those restricted areas is forbidden, with the exception of residents and workers, who must present ID.

Anyone entering without permission will be removed and those found inside the cordoned off areas with no excuse may be arrested, New Zealand police said in a statement. ...

Hard To Know What's More Evil, Denying Anthropogenic Climate Change Or Banging On That You Borleheve Climate Chaynge Is Rool, And A Market Mechanism Is The Only Solewshon

Australia's chief scientist has told a Senate estimates hearing she has never been asked to brief Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Professor Penny Sackett is resigning halfway through her five-year term due to a combination of "personal and professional reasons".

While refusing to comment directly on how she viewed her interactions with the Government, she told the hearing she briefed former prime minister Kevin Rudd only once during his tenure and had never briefed Ms Gillard.

"I have not met, in her role as prime minister, Prime Minister Gillard. I have met with prime minister Rudd to give a direct personal briefing once," she said.

She also confirmed she was not asked to advise Mr Rudd in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate conference and was not invited to attend.

When quizzed about what improvements could be made to the role of chief scientist, Professor Sackett said it was the Government's responsibility to clarify what role the chief scientist should play.

"I think the responsibility rests firmly with the Government to make it, to decide how the role of chief scientist for Australia will fit into the variety of advice that it receives on matters of science," she said. ...

There's Just TOO Much Media Diversity In This Country!

'Mumbrella' [23/2/11]:

Lachlan Murdoch has been named acting CEO of Network Ten after the board sensationally announced the departure of Grant Blackley. The move coincided with Ten’s revealing unexpectedly poor profit numbers for the first half of the financial year.

The board also revealed it would be revisiting its strategy, throwing an even greater shadow over the ratings-challenged 6PM With George Negus.

Although the company stressed that Murdoch’s appointment is an interim one, the move will inevitably raise questions over whether he will take the role on a permanent basis. Murdoch joined the board last year after he and James Packer became major shareholders.

Despite the success of Masterchef and a strong launch for digital channel Eleven, the board informed the ASX of a profit fall of more than 15% for the company’s TV operation.

The first half of the financial year – which for Ten runs until the end of this month – is likely to see profits for the TV division down to $92m, compared to $109m at the same time last year.

The revelation will come as a major shock to the market as the TV advertising sector has been buoyant.

Blackley’s axing comes just three months after the Ten board extended his contract to 2013.

Ten said that Murdoch’s move into the acting CEO role was “at the unanimous request of the board”. It signalled a search would be undertaken for a new CEO.

In a move that appears to signal an early rethink for Ten’s controversial news scheduling strategy, board chairman Brian Long said: “The Board continues to be responsible for all decisions regarding the strategic direction of the Company, and has decided to conduct an immediate strategic review of the Company’s operations.”

Blackley’s boldest move was to move Neighbours and The Simpsons to new channel Eleven and launch a two-and-a-half hours news strand including the George Negus-fronted 6pm national news show.

The announcement stated: “The Directors also advised they have received preliminary information associated with the forecast financial results for the half year period to 28 February 2011. On the basis of these forecasts, the Board anticipates that Group earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the half year to 28 February 2011 will be approximately $103 million (1H FY10 – $117 million). Television EBITDA is expected to be $92 million (1H FY10 – $109 million) with revenue growth of 2 per cent on the prior six month period. Out-of-Home EBITDA is expected to be $11 million (1H FY10 – $8 million).”

Long said: “I would like to thank Grant Blackley for his contribution to the Company over some 20 years.”

Blackley’s sacking comes just five months since the company revealed its aggressive plans for 2011. The key parts of the announcement were a performance spectacular called Don’t Stop Believing, the new news lineup and new renovation reality contest The Renovators.

Ten later ditched its plans for Don’t Stop Believing and ratings for Negus are yet to touch the modest 500,000 target set by the show’s EP Tony Ritchie.

At the time, Blackley told Mumbrella: “I think we’re on a great path.” He also said that the controversial news strategy was “a positive calculated risk.”

Magnate Zeroes In On Big Buy

'Australian Financial Review' [23/2/11]:

Property magnate John Van Lieshout is close to snaring listed property group Trafalgar Corporate's Thiess building in South Brisbane for about $70 million.

The potential sale is likely to indicate a yield of about 7.75 per cent and will be the largest office transaction in the city this year. ...

While Mr Van Lieshout's company, Unison Properties, has missed some office-building buys, it has been snapping up shopping centres and has been land-banking development sites in Queensland. ...

Make Public Transport Free And Save Billions

Let the spivs go and find honest jobs.

'Australian Financial Review' [23/2/11]:

The operator of Melbourne's outgoing public transport ticket system is making an audacious bid to usurp its replacement - the troubled Myki project.

"We can fix what has become the biggest mess and financial burden in Victorian public transport history," said Vix technology chief executive Steve Gallagher yesterday.

"We will save the government more than $100 million and eliminate any financial risk for the government in a changeover of systems."

Melbourne-based Vix is the largest partner in the consortium that operates the city's Metcard system. It announced yesterday it had approached the Baillieu government with a proposal to replace the Myki system.

Vix employs several hundred staff - including Mr Gallagher - who used to work at ERG, the company that fell into dispute with the NSW government following its failed attempt to introduce a smart card called the T-card in Sydney. Vix came into existence in 2008 and took over the unfinished contracts of ERG.

It is partially owned by Ingot Capital group, run by Duncan Saville, who took ownership of ERG in 2008.

Vix, which operates systems in Beijing, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Stockholm, has offered its technology at no additional cost to the Victorian Government.

Mr Gallagher said the charge could save taxpayers up to $100 million, so long as no payments needed to be made to Kamco, operator of Myki. ...

Some Brutal Massacres By Puppet Regimes And Dictators Require Thoughtful, Well-Worded Condemnation

'The Age' [23/2/11]:

Confusion surrounds the status of Libya's embassy in Canberra, with unconfirmed reports it has joined a swag of foreign missions to sever ties with Muammar Gaddafi.

But Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the embassy continued to represent the Libyan government.

The embassy made no comment yesterday and ambassador Musbah Allafi declined to speak to The Age.

Mr Allafi went to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday morning where Australian officials formally issued the country's ''absolute condemnation to the use of violence''.

Several online reports said the embassy had severed ties with its government.

Outside the embassy, a group of 30 Libyans smashed a framed photo of Colonel Gaddafi taken from the modest brick building, spitting on it, tearing it and hitting it with their shoes.

The group, nearly all men, chanted in Arabic and English: ''Get out Gaddafi'', ''Down, down Gaddafi'' and ''We, all, will die''.

Jabril, from Libya's second city of Benghazi where the uprising began, said Australians needed to know about the massacre of innocent civilians.

''Young people are being killed; it's the young people aged 15 to 21. It is genocide.''

Nabili Giweli, who is on a Libyan government scholarship to study in Sydney, said he and his compatriots had travelled from Sydney to call on their embassy to intervene.

''They must stop this sort of crimes against the civilian people and we want our embassy to take action against, and the Australian government should take action as well,'' Mr Giweli said.

Protesters all spoke of their families' fears of the African mercenaries bought in by the regime to suppress the uprising.

''I got a call from my friends and he said they are killing people for just coming out of their house,'' Mr Giweli said.

''The people there don't have any kind of weapons; they are civilian people. They must stop killing people from our country.''

Farag, who didn't want to give his surname for fears of reprisals, warned Libya could become a haven for terrorists if the West did not act swiftly.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said 105 Australians were registered with the consulate in Tripoli and they had been advised to leave if it was safe.

Those stranded in Libya, where companies such as WorleyParsons have operations, could be evacuated by the British government, after it offered to help any Australians caught up in the emergency get out.

... In the dock of Tiger Bay, on the road to Mandalay

From Bombay to Santa Fé, o'er the hills and far away. ...

'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick', Ian Dury And The Blockheads [1978]

Hope and Change? Not for Americans
Turmoil from Mideast to Midwest

By Ted Rall

February 22, 2011 "Information Clearing House" -- - NEW YORK--

If irony were money we'd be rich.

"You've got to get out ahead of change," President Obama lectured a week ago. "You can't be behind the curve." He was, of course, referring to the Middle East. During the last few weeks there has been a new popular uprising every few days: Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya.

And now, Wisconsin.

In Madison, where a new Republican governor wants to gut the rights of state workers to form unions and negotiate for higher wages, tens of thousands of protesters have filled the streets and sat in the State Capitol for days. "It's like Cairo has moved to Madison these days," said Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Revolutionary foment is on the march around the globe, but Mr. Hopey Changey is nowhere to be found now that it's here in the U.S. Whatever happened to "get ahead of change?" What's good for the Hosni isn't good for the Barry.

Deploying his customary technocratic aloofness in the service of the usual screw-the-workers narrative, President Obama sided with the union-busters: "Everybody has to make some adjustments to the new fiscal realities," he scolds.

"Everybody," naturally, does not include ultrarich dudes like our multi-millionaire president. Obama, who declared a whopping $5.5 million in annual income for 2009 (the last year available), has neither reduced his salary nor donated a penny of his $7.7 million fortune to the Treasury to help adjust to those "new fiscal realities."

Hard times, doncha know, are for the little people. "We had to[my italics] impose a freeze on pay increases for federal workers in the next two years as part of my overall budget freeze," said Obama. "I think those kinds of adjustments are the right thing to do [in Wisconsin]."

"Had to." Interesting pair of words. They imply that there was no other choice. What a brazen lie.

Three more words: Tax. The. Rich. Rich people and corporations are making out like bandits. If they paid their fair share, there'd be no need to cut budgets.

"Adjustments." How bloodless. For normal people, Herr President, losing two percent of one's pay is not a mere adjustment. It hurts.

Obama's grandstanding had-to freeze on federal pay will save $5 billion over two years. Which is nothing. That's what the Pentagon chucks down the Iraq and Afghanistan ratholes in a single week.

The federal deficit is $14 trillion. That's $14,000 billion. Obama's federal pay freeze, which amounts to a piddling four hundredths of one percent, is empty symbolism.

As the striking members of the PATCO air traffic controllers union learned in 1981, higher wages and working conditions are for foreigners, not Americans. Ronald Reagan had nothing but praise for Solidarity in Poland (declaring that "the right to belong to a free trade union" was "one of the most elemental human rights").

At the same time he was defending Polish workers Reagan fired all of America's 11,345 striking air traffic controllers and ordered their union decertified.

All political systems are built on contradictions that eventually lead to their downfall. The U.S. relies on a whopping chasm between soaring rhetoric (freedom, democracy, individual rights) and brutish reality (preemptive war, supporting dictators, torture, spying on citizens)--a gap that is so wide and so glaring that it is amazing anyone ever takes the propaganda seriously.

A recent report in The New York Times slathers on a rich quadruple serving of syrupy irony. The Obama Administration asked the CIA to prepare a secret memo about the revolutions in the Middle East, specifically analyzing "how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters."

What, exactly, are those "strategic interests"? Business. Dictators cut sweetheart deals with big corporations that donate to the Democratic and the Republican parties.

Democracy--real democracy, the kind people are fighting for in Bahrain and Madison, is incompatible with free-market capitalism. Which is what union members in Wisconsin, as well as those of us who don't belong to unions but understand that we would be working 100-hour weeks in death-trap factories without them, see clearly. The American Dream is just that-- a dream. And it's not for Americans.

Obama's statement about the Arab autarchies is astonishingly tone deaf to realities here at home. "I think that the thing that will actually achieve stability in that region is if young people, if ordinary folks, end up feeling that there are pathways for them to feed their families, get a decent job, get an education, aspire to a better life," he said. "And the more steps these governments are taking to provide these avenues for mobility and opportunity, the more stable these countries are."

Well, yes.

According to a recent Bloomberg National poll, most American adults believe that their children will have worse lives than they do.

That's true even about those who have all the so-called advantages.

At this writing the unemployment rate for recent college graduates is 80.3 percent.

How will they pay their loans?

The rate is even higher for other young adults.

In a way, the unemployed and underemployed should thank Obama and the plutocrats he helps protect. The ruling classes' shortsighted refusal to give up some of the loot they've stolen will soon bring about the real changes Americans require and deserve.

Copyright 2011 Ted Rall; Distributed by Universal Uclick/Ted Rall

The Less Discussed Part of Walker’s Wisconsin Plan: No-Bid Energy Assets Firesales.

Rortybomb [21/2/11]:

Have you heard about 16.896?

The fight in Wisconsin is over Governor Walker’s 144-page Budget Repair Bill. The parts everyone is focusing on have to do with the right to collectively bargain being stripped from public sector unions (except for the unions that supported Walker running for Governor). Focusing on this misses a large part of what the bill would do. Check out this language, from the same bill:

16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).

The bill would allow for the selling of state-owned heating/cooling/power plants without bids and without concern for the legally-defined public interest. This excellent catch is from Ed at ginandtacos.com (who, speaking of Madison, took me to the Essen Haus on my 21st birthday, where the night began to go sideways). Ed correctly notes:

If this isn’t the best summary of the goals of modern conservatism, I don’t know what is. It’s like a highlight reel of all of the tomahawk dunks of neo-Gilded Age corporatism: privatization, no-bid contracts, deregulation, and naked cronyism. Extra bonus points for the explicit effort to legally redefine the term “public interest” as “whatever the energy industry lobbyists we appoint to these unelected bureaucratic positions say it is.”

In case it isn’t clear where the naked cronyism comes in, remember which large, politically active private interest loves buying up power plants and already has considerable interests in Wisconsin. Then consider their demonstrated eagerness to help Mr. Walker get elected and bus in carpetbaggers to have a sad little pro-Mubarak style “rally” in his honor. There are dots to be connected here, but doing so might not be in the public interest.

It’s important to think of this battle as a larger one over the role of the state. The attempt to break labor is part of the same continuous motion as saying that the crony, corporatist selling of state utilities to the Koch brothers and other energy interests is the new “public interest.”

Govt Clears Origin-ConocoPhillips LNG Project

'Business Spectator' [22/2/11]:

The federal government has given the environmental go-ahead for ConocoPhillips' and Origin Energy's $US35 billion coal seam-gas project in Queensland, clearing the way for a final investment decision on the project.

The government had delayed the decision from December, saying it needed more time due to the project's scale and complexity, and pushing the joint-venture's final investment decision into 2011.

"I have concluded that the Australia Pacific LNG project can go ahead without unacceptable impacts on matters protected under national environment law," Environment Minister Tony Burke said.

Mr Burke said he had attached strict environmental conditions to the project requiring approval for water management and how impacts on aquifers, ground and surface water would be minimised.

APLNG, a 50-50 joint venture between Origin and Conoco, will have initial capacity of 4.5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of LNG, eventually ramping up to 18 mtpa and was originally scheduled to come online at the end of 2014.

Australia's booming coal-seam gas industry, centred around Queensland, plans to build up to roughly $US70 billion worth of liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects over the next four to seven years around the coal port of Gladstone.

Santos and BG Group have both moved forward with LNG export projects in the region that are expected come online in 2014 and produce more than 15 million tonnes per annum of LNG combined.

Royal Dutch Shell and PetroChina have also planned an LNG export project which is expected to come online sometime between 2015 and 2017. ...

Europe's Interests In Libya

'Al Jazeera' [21/2/11]:

The European Union has condemned Libya for its crackdown on opposition protesters, but for many nations in the bloc, straining ties with Tripoli presents an awkward situation.

Western nations forged close trade ties with the north African nation after Muammar Gaddafi agreed in 2003 to end the production of weapons of mass destruction, ending nearly two decades of sanctions.

European energy firms were quick to invest in the holder of Africa's largest proven oil reserves, the eighth-largest in the world, while many others signed lucrative arms and construction deals.

Tony Blair, Britain's former prime minister, signed a so-called "Deal in the Desert" in March 2004, which paved the way for oil contracts worth billions, leading to a close relationship that has come under increasing criticism.

Oil deals

It included Anglo-Dutch company Shell signing an agreement worth up to $1bn and three years later BP agreeing its largest exploration commitment to date, in a deal worth at least $900m in Libya.

It sparked significant controversy around the world and led to US claims that BP lobbied Britain for the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

The Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi has also strengthened its ties with Tripoli in recent years, taking the largest proportion of oil from Libya for its national needs.

At the end of 2008, Italy's energy company Eni was operating 13 oil and gas permits and its production was 306,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent, about one-fifth of Britain's total daily oil production.

Spain's Repsol also has rights to 15 hydrocarbon blocks.

Defence

Arms deals with Libya have also proved contentious, particularly in light of the recent crackdown.

In August 2007 France signed contracts with Libya to sell anti-tank missiles and radio communications equipment worth a reported $405m. The European aerospace and defence giant EADS now has an office in Tripoli, and has sold civilian aircraft to the country.

According to the Campaign Against Arms trade, the UK licensed over $6m worth of ammunition to Libya, including sniper rifles.

Russia also announced a small-arms and weapons deal to the value of $1.8bn in January 2010, worth nearly a quarter of its state arms exports.

A building boom in Libya has also seen strong investment from Turkey, which has around 200 construction companies in the country working on projects worth an estimated $15.3bn.

Sovereign wealth has also attracted business ties from Europe.

Many of the investments made by the $65bn sovereign wealth fund have been in Italian stocks. It holds a 4.6 per cent stake in Italy's second-biggest bank, Unicredit and has a small stake in car maker Fiat, the Reuters news agency reported.

European nations are also interested in preserving relations with Libya for the sake of national security.

Italy, the closest entry gate for illegal migrants attempting to enter the EU, is especially concerned about an influx of refugees, following the crisis in Tunisia.

Tripoli has already warned it could suspend co-operation in the fight against illegal immigration if European countries continue to criticise its action against protesters.

'This Is What Democracy Looks Like' in Wisconsin, as Largest Crowd Yet—80,000—Opposes Union Busting

By John Nichols

February 21, 2011 "The Nation" - -Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker finished a bad week with a misstep that emphasized his inability to generate support for his attempt to strip the state’s public employees of collective bargaining rights.

First, the governor’s radical proposal [1] went to such extremes in its anti-labor bias that it sparked a protest movement so large, so steady and so determined in its demands that it is now commonly compared with the protests that have rocked Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.

Then, the man that badges worn by marchers describe as “The Mubarak of the Middle West” really blew it. Saturday was supposed to be the day when the governor pushed back against the movement that has challenged his radical power grab. The governor’s Tea Party allies attempted to grab the spotlight with a rally at the state Capital. Unfortunately, the much-hyped event, which national Tea Party groups had poured money and organizing energy into generating, drew an anemic crowd of several thousand. Even by the optimistic estimates of the Tea Partisans themselves, the pro-Walker turnout was one-tenth the size of the crowd that came to oppose the governor’s so-called “budget repair bill.”

The governor made things worse for himself by going on CNN and announcing that he had received 19,000 e-mails from the “quiet majority” of Wisconsinites since he made his proposal and claimed that most of them were supportive.

Dumb move. Really dumb move.

Within hours of making his claim, the streets of Madison were filled by what veteran political organizers described as the largest demonstration ever seen in the city. Former Mayor Paul Soglin, a key organizer of anti–Vietnam War protests, said, “We had some big demonstrations in the sixties, but this is bigger.”

Organizers of a 2004 rally featuring Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and rocker Bruce Springsteen, where the crowd was estimated at 80,000, pointed out that Saturday’s protest against Walker’s budget filled a significantly larger space. And, they noted, thousands of addition opponents of the governor’s proposal packed the Capitol.

Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters Association [2], which has been a high-profile participant in the demonstrations, surveyed the crowd while recounting Walker’s boast about the 19,000 e-mails.

“I think I have 19,000 people behind me,” said Mitchell.

Pointing to one edge of the massive audience arrayed before him, he said: “And 20,000 there.”

He pointed to the other edge of the crowd: “And 20,000 there.”

Finally, he pointed down State Street, the thoroughfare that stretches from the Capitol to the University of Wisconsin campus, which was packed with students who have backed the unions: “And 20,000 there.”

Rallying with Mitchell was Wisconsin Education Association Council [3]president Mary Bell, who picked up on the “this-is-what-democracy-looks-like” theme that has become so central to the marches, rallies and pickets that have swept not just Madison but a state where even small towns have seen protests against Walker’s bill.

“The power of government in this state does not come from this Capitol,” she said of the building that was surrounded by teachers, educational assistants, nurses, snow-plow drivers and state engineers, as well as their tens of thousands of backers. “The power comes from the people.”

And while Scott Walker may claim a “quiet majority” of 19,000 e-mails received by his office, a noisy majority of more than 80,000 Wisconsinites braved a winter day to tell the governor that the people have spoken: they’re with the unions.

Links:
[1] http://www.thenation.com/blog/158522/dictator-governor-sets-out-cut-wages-slash-benefits-and-destroy-public-unions
[2] http://pffw.org
[3] http://www.weac.org/Home.aspx

WAN To Buy Seven For $4.085bn

'Gold Coast Mail' [21/2/11]:

One of media operator Kerry Stokes's media interests, West Australian Newspapers Holdings Ltd (WAN), has offered to buy another of his interests, Seven Media Group, for an enterprise value of $4.085 billion.

WAN said on Monday it would sell over $1 billion in new shares to help fund the transaction.

The new company would be called Seven West Media and would remain listed on the Australian Securities Exchange as the biggest Australian domiciled listed media company.

Seven Media Group is owned by the Stokes-controlled Seven Group Holdings Ltd and funds affiliated with private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co and members of Seven's management.

Seven Group also is WAN's biggest shareholder, holding 24.3 per cent of the publisher.

Seven West would include all of WAN, including The West Australian, the state's biggest newspaper, and radio licences, all of Seven Network and all of Pacific Magazines.

Additionally, Seven West would own 49.9 per cent of Community Newspaper Group, 50 per cent of Yahoo!7, and 33 per cent of Sky News.

The independent directors of WAN said they would unanimously recommend shareholders approve the transaction.

Doug Flynn, one of WAN's independent directors and a former News Corp executive, said the takeover was an opportunity to transform WAN into a diverse media business.

"While WAN occupies an attractive niche as the leading media business in the West Australian market, it must look to the future," Mr Flynn said in the statement.

"Combining these two businesses will create a substantial and diverse combination of traditional and new media platforms to enhance WAN's ability to compete effectively in the ever changing media landscape."

WAN would buy Seven Media from Seven Group with $1.08 billion worth of its own shares, $250 million of convertible preference shares, $650 million repayment of a Seven Media loan owed to Seven Group and $2.104 billion of assumed external net debt.

WAN will raise $461 million through a placement of shares to KKR, $653 million from an entitlement offer of new shares and a further $40 million from a general public offer of shares.

The proceeds from the equity raising will be used to repay $450 million in debt, repay the Seven Group loan and pay transaction costs of $45 million, with the balance to be used for general corporate purposes.
The takeover is subject to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approval. Shareholders will vote on the deal on April 11.

As part of the transaction, Seven Group will sell its interest in WAN and not take up its entitlement under WAN's entitlement offer.

Seven Group then will receive $1.081 billion in WAN shares, equivalent to 29.6 per cent of the company. Seven Group also would receive $250 million of the convertible shares, resulting in a total investment in WAN of about $1.33 billion.

WAN's existing board membership would remain and Seven Media's chief executive, David Leckie, would become Seven West's CEO.

Seven Group's chairman, Mr Stokes, said the transaction would transform WAN into the biggest listed Australian-domiciled media company.

"This transaction is an opportunity for Australian shareholders to gain exposure to some of the best media assets in Australia with the combined business leveraging the highly successful management teams," he said.

He added that Seven Group's commitment to the company was apparent because it will increase its interest in WAN at a higher price per share than WAN shareholders will pay under the entitlement offer.

LNP Opens Palm Island Branch

'Gold Coast Mail' [21/2/11]:

It may seem about as likely as finding a greenie in a coal mining town but Queensland's LNP has opened its first ever branch in an indigenous community.

LNP leader John-Paul Langbroek flew to the Aboriginal community of Palm Island, near Townsville, this afternoon to attend the first local branch meeting.

Indigenous communities are traditionally strong Labor territory. At the 2006 state election Labor recorded more than 80 per cent of the primary vote on Palm Island.

Branch President and former Palm Island mayor Delena Foster said she decided to form the branch, which has 30 members, because she felt the community had been taken for granted by Labor.

"We're frustrated, they just come in and take our votes and don't listen to us," she told AAP.

"It's time for us to change the way we vote."

LNP officials say it is the first time they have opened a branch in an indigenous community.

American Who Sparked Diplomatic Crisis Over Lahore Shooting Was CIA Spy

• Raymond Davis employed by CIA 'beyond shadow of doubt'
• Former soldier charged with murder over deaths of two men
• Davis accused of shooting one man twice in the back as he fled

By Declan Walsh in Lahore and Ewen MacAskill in Washington

February 20, 2011 "The Guardian" -- The American who shot dead two men on a Lahore street, triggering a diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and the United States, is a CIA agent who was on assignment at the time of the incident.

Raymond Davis has been the subject of widespread speculation since he opened fire with a semi-automatic Glock pistol on the two men who had pulled up alongside his car at a red light on 25 January.

Pakistani authorities charged him with murder, but the Obama administration has insisted he is an "administrative and technical official" attached to its Lahore consulate and is entitled to diplomatic immunity.

Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, the Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former special forces soldier is employed by the CIA. "It's beyond a shadow of a doubt," said a senior Pakistani intelligence official.

The revelation may complicate American efforts to free Davis, who says he acted in self-defence when he opened fire on two men, both of whom were carrying guns.

Pakistani prosecutors, who say the men were petty criminals trying to rob him at gunpoint, accuse the spy of using excessive force, getting out of his car to shoot one of them twice in the back as he ran away. The man's body was discovered 30 feet from his motorbike.

"It went way beyond what we define as self-defence. It was not commensurate with the threat," a senior police official involved in the case told the Guardian.

The Pakistani government is aware of Davis's CIA status yet has kept quiet in the face of immense American pressure to free him under the Vienna convention. Last week President Barack Obama described Davis as "our diplomat" and dispatched his chief diplomatic troubleshooter, Senator John Kerry, to Islamabad. Kerry returned home empty-handed.

Many Pakistanis are outraged at the idea of an armed American rampaging through their second largest city; some analysts have warned of Egyptian-style protests if Davis is released. The government, fearful of a furious public backlash, says it needs until 14 March to decide whether Davis enjoys immunity.

Outrage has been heightened by the death of a third man who was crushed by an American vehicle as it rushed to Davis's aid. Pakistani officials believe the vehicle's occupants were also CIA because they came from the same suburban house where Davis lived and were heavily armed.

The US refused Pakistani demands to interrogate the two men and on Sunday a senior Pakistani intelligence official said they had left the country. "They have flown the coop, they are already in America," he said.

ABC News reported that the men had the same diplomatic visa as Davis. It is not unusual for US intelligence officers, like their counterparts round the world, to carry diplomatic passports.

The US has engaged in an edgy public relations offensive to free Davis, accusing Pakistan of illegally detaining him and riding roughshod over international treaties. Angry politicians have proposed slashing Islamabad's $1.5bn (about £900m) annual aid; the state department repeatedly describes him as "a member of the administrative and technical staff of the US embassy in Islamabad".

But Washington's case is hobbled by its resounding silence on Davis's background and role. Davis served in the US special forces for 10 years before leaving in 2003 to become a private security contractor. A senior Pakistani official said he believed Davis worked with Xe, the controversial firm formerly known as Blackwater, before joining the CIA.

Pakistani suspicions about Davis's role were stoked by the equipment police confiscated from his car after the shooting: an unlicensed pistol, a long-range radio, a GPS device, an infrared torch and a camera with pictures of buildings around Lahore.

"This is not the work of a diplomat. He was doing espionage and surveillance activities," said the Punjab law minister, Rana Sanaullah, adding that he had "confirmation" that Davis was a CIA employee.

A number of US media outlets later learned about Davis's CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration, which fears that disclosure could inflame opinion in Pakistan and possibly put Davis at risk.

A Colorado television station, 9NEWS, initially made a connection after speaking to Davis's wife, who lives outside Denver. She referred its inquiries to a number in Washington which turned out to be the CIA. The station subsequently removed the CIA reference from its website at the request of the US government.

Nicole Vap, an executive producer, said: "Because of the safety concerns, we decided to amend the story. But it remains accurate."

The episode has badly damaged relations between the CIA and the ISI, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency. Some reports, quoting Pakistani intelligence officials, have suggested that the men Davis killed, Faizan Haider, 21, and Muhammad Faheem, 19, were ISI agents with orders to shadow Davis because he crossed an unspecified "red line".

A senior police official, however, confirmed American claims that the men were petty thieves – investigators found stolen mobile phones on their bodies, as well as small amounts of foreign currency and illegal weapons – but did not rule out an intelligence link.

A senior ISI official denied the dead men worked for the spy agency but admitted the CIA relationship had been badly damaged. "Their tactics of using good cop, bad cop do not work. We are a sovereign country and if they want to work with us, they need to develop a trusting relationship on the basis of equality. Being arrogant and demanding is not the way to do it," he said.

Tensions between the spy agencies have grown in recent months. The CIA Islamabad station chief was forced to leave in December after being named in a civil lawsuit, and the ISI was angered when its chief, General Shuja Pasha, was named in a New York lawsuit related to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Although the two spy services co-operate in the CIA's drone campaign along the Afghan border, there has not been a drone strike since 23 January – the longest lull since June 2009. Experts are unsure whether both events are linked.

With the next hearing scheduled for 14 March, Davis awaits his fate in Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore. Pakistani officials say they have taken exceptional measures to ensure his safety, including ringing the prison with paramilitary Punjab Rangers. The law minister, Sanaullah, said Davis was being kept in a "high security zone" and was receiving food from visitors from the US consulate.

Sanaullah said another 140 foreigners were in the same facility, many on drugs charges. Several press reports have speculated that the authorities worry the US could try to spring Davis in what one termed a "Hollywood-style sting".

"All measures for his security have been taken," said the ISI official. "He's as safe as can be."

See also - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfEJjXZjfL0&feature=player_embedded

The Longer You Party, The Bigger The Hangover

Peak Oil baby. The party's over and it's time to go home from the Powerhouse love-in and wash your strobing shirt:

The Gas Rush
Reporter: Matthew Carney

'Four Corners' [21/2/11]

With access to guerrilla activists and their undercover filming, Matthew Carney reports on the coalition of farmers, local townspeople and even a corporate titan who want to halt Australia's gas rush.

Imagine you are running a successful farming operation; then one day a man from the gas company arrives with news that a coal seam gas field lies beneath your feet. From there 3 wells are sunk, then another 18. And then a proposal for another 30, turning your property into a thriving gas field, while threatening the viability of the working farm.

Down the road, the neighbour sells after 48 wells are sunk into his property. The compensation of $250 a year, per well was not much inducement to stay. The wells themselves are estimated to be making the companies a million dollars a year, each.

And then the gas company says they might have to move your house to sink another well into the land.

This is the experience of just one of the farmers featured on Four Corners this week.

Right across Australia gas companies are drilling down through the earth to extract the resource that the industry says will be one of the answers to our future energy needs. Already some $31 billion worth of gas projects have been approved by the Federal Government, which are expected to generate thousands of jobs and billions in revenues.

But this precious resource lies beneath homes and farms, and the food bowls of Australia.

And this is where the gas companies are drilling; prompting a heated conflict over who should pay the price for our energy supplies.

Matthew Carney reports from communities in Queensland and NSW that are directly affected. Farmers tell of their feelings of violation and frustration; their belief that they are losing control of their properties and their ability to plan for the future. As one says "It's really frustrating. We have taken on extra debt to fund our farming business and we are powerless to stop people accessing it and abusing it."

But it's not only what's happening above ground that worries them.

One farmer claims his water supplies are dropping alarmingly as the coal seam drilling causes the water table to drop at an accelerated rate. This cattle farmer believes he may only have two years supply left in one of his key water bores.

Then there is the danger posed by faulty gas wells. The program shows local activists testing for leaks and finding highly explosive gasses leaking at alarming levels.

Others talk of their fears that Australia's greatest underground water resource, the Great Artesian Basin will be contaminated and depleted. Four Corners details cases of water supplies being tainted by salty toxic water.

Many of those affected are beginning to work together on a national campaign to call a halt to "The Gas Rush".

And The Real News Is .....

Rupert Murdoch (world renowned tax-dodger, master of liars, cheats and devious creeps pretending they do journalism) runs an empire which relies on the most vile scum delivering titillation for his profit and power, while he and his ancient family of scum-sucking-bottom-dwellers pretend to a position of dignity or leadership in our society.

What utterly filthy scum everyone associated with this man's empire must be.

The real news is: "Yet Another Filthy Murdoch Low-Life Set-Up Preys On Damaged Young Girl!"

If anyone doubted whether this Ricky Nixon character was innocent, it must help that Murdoch's filth-squad claims he isn't!

Professional Scum! We know for a fact that some of our readers draw their stipend from this shitbag organisation, please call 'Beyond Blue' or 'LifeLine' or seek some other help before you contemplate doing what any decent and honourable human being would do to themselves in your position.

Nine MSN [20/2/11]:

AFL player manager Ricky Nixon says allegations he had sex with a teenage girl at the centre of St Kilda's naked picture controversy are "a blatant lie".

Mr Nixon, 47, has admitted to "inappropriate" dealings with the 17-year-old after the Herald Sun newspaper saw him leaving the girl's hotel in Melbourne about 7.15am (AEDT) on Tuesday.

The high-profile manager also told the newspaper he had visited the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, last Sunday and on Monday, which was Valentine's Day.

In a statement released to media on Saturday evening, Mr Nixon denied that he'd had sex with the teenager, after claims by her that they had an affair, but reportedly admitted taking alcohol to her room.

He said he had ended up at the girl's hotel room, which was being paid for by the St Kilda Football Club, last Sunday because she telephoned him that day at about 1pm.

He made allegations about the girl's behaviour and said she had downloaded private video and audio from his phone.

She allegedly told him she booked an airline ticket for a flight from New Zealand to Australia using his credit card.

Mr Nixon said he had intended to take the matter to police, but he stayed with her until she calmed down.

He said he left the hotel and returned the next morning where he met briefly with her to tell her that he did not want to help her any more and that she had lost his trust.

"I wish to set the record straight. I have never had a sexual relationship with this girl," Mr Nixon said.

"Any suggestion that I have had a sexual relationship with this girl by anyone including this girl is a blatant lie," he said.

In response to Mr Nixon's statement, the girl said via her Twitter account, "O, you wan't to play like that? I've still got a few things up my sleeve .. So, Sit boy."

Mr Nixon represents Saints' skipper Nick Reiwoldt, one of the players whose naked picture was posted online in December by the girl.

At the time the teenager claimed she had been unfairly treated by the AFL after becoming pregnant as a result of having sex with two St Kilda players.

Mr Nixon said that people had been critical that not enough help had been given to the girl, but he had spoken to her mother and agreed to provide advice on getting her life back on track.

On Saturday the girl told The Age that Mr Nixon had not come to her hotel room for "a cup of Milo".

"If we were just going to talk why wouldn't we meet in the cafe?" she asked.

She tweeted that she had finally "won".

"It is now officially over. Ultimate Payback, Thankyou HS," she said, in an apparent acknowledgment to the Herald Sun article.

Later she expressed remorse for her actions.

"Shouldn't I be happy about tmrw, I wanted revenge, right?" she tweeted.

"But.. Now I realise.. You mean more to me than ANY headline does.. I'm SO Sorry," she added.

Victoria Police did not identify the girl or Mr Nixon but said there were "a range of matters" under investigation.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said he was sure the AFL had been working overtime on the matter, and other issues.

"I think the AFL have taken some very significant steps in recent years to not only address issues that they face but to also elevate the culture, and I can only say that is a good thing from the AFL's point of view," Mr Baillieu said.

Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said on Sunday that Mr Nixon had let down the parents of young footballers entrusted to his care.

"It is interesting we spend a lot of time criticising the conduct of AFL players, so now it's an AFL manager, someone who is entrusted with getting those young men on the right path, behaving so badly," Mr Andrews told reporters on Sunday.

"I think it really does reflect very poorly on him."

Rupert Wants It To Be True That Most Australians Watch Pay Television, Even If We Don't

Are there no academics or cultural commentators on the Gold Coast who could answer the apparently burning question why there are so many repeats of shows on free to air television?

Was the television critic from 'The Australian' really the only person the ABC's Coast FM could interview this afternoon [21/2/11] on this topic?

In any case, wouldn't the pressing questions about Australian television be: "What the hell has happened to Australia's funny bone?" or "Why are satirists like Shaun Micallef, Peter Berner and Wil Anderson reduced to hosting lame arse quiz shows and pumping out partisan talking points?", "Isn't there a has-been date for celebrities and writers whose mediocre talents are so over exposed their output is nauseating?", and "Why were Roy & H.G. banished to oblivion?"

Report Slams Design Flaws

'The Chronicle' [21/2/11]:

A report commissioned by the Insurance Council of Australia into the nature and causes of the January floods that tore through Toowoomba has slammed the design of detention basins along the town’s creek system.

It went on to say that urban overdevelopment certainly exacerbated and increased water levels.
A panel of three expert independent hydrologists delivered their findings in a report handed to the Insurance Council over the weekend.

In a blow for insurance companies, that have been heaping further heartache on those affected by refusing insurance payouts over technical jargon contained in policies, the report concluded that the events of January 10 were indeed a storm event and not a flood event.

The report indicated a significant factor which caused the flooding was the 1 1/2 hours of intense rainfall over the Gowrie Creek catchment.

Toowoomba Regional Council mayor Peter Taylor said that insurance companies had no excuse now but to pay out but also defended the criticism of mitigating factors detailed in the report. ...

The report was highly critical of the design of East and West creeks, “the steep and narrow nature of East and West creeks, coupled with the rapid and intense surface run-off, generated waterway floods that were sudden, deep, of high velocity and extremely hazardous,” the report concluded. ...

Robert Fisk In Bahrain: 'They Didn't Run Away. They Faced The Bullets Head-On'

'The Independent' [19/2/11]:

"Massacre – it's a massacre," the doctors were shouting. Three dead. Four dead. One man was carried past me on a stretcher in the emergency room, blood spurting on to the floor from a massive bullet wound in his thigh.

A few feet away, six nurses were fighting for the life of a pale-faced, bearded man with blood oozing out of his chest. "I have to take him to theatre now," a doctor screamed. "There is no time – he's dying!"

Others were closer to death. One poor youth – 18, 19 years old, perhaps – had a terrible head wound, a bullet hole in the leg and a bloody mess on his chest. The doctor beside him turned to me weeping, tears splashing on to his blood-stained gown. "He has a fragmented bullet in his brain and I can't get the bits out, and the bones on the left side of his head are completely smashed. His arteries are all broken. I just can't help him." Blood was cascading on to the floor. It was pitiful, outrageous, shameful. These were not armed men but mourners returning from a funeral, Shia Muslims of course, shot down by their own Bahraini army yesterday afternoon.

A medical orderly was returning with thousands of other men and women from the funeral at Daih of one of the demonstrators killed at Pearl Square in the early hours of Thursday.

"We decided to walk to the hospital because we knew there was a demonstration. Some of us were carrying tree branches as a token of peace which we wanted to give to the soldiers near the square, and we were shouting 'peace, peace. There was no provocation – nothing against the government. Then suddenly the soldiers started shooting. One was firing a machine gun from the top of a personnel carrier. There were police but they just left as the soldiers shot at us. But you know, the people in Bahrain have changed. They didn't want to run away. They faced the bullets with their bodies."

The demonstration at the hospital had already drawn thousands of Shia protesters – including hundreds of doctors and nurses from all over Manama, still in their white gowns – to demand the resignation of the Bahraini Minister of Health, Faisal Mohamed al-Homor, for refusing to allow ambulances to fetch the dead and injured from Thursday morning's police attack on the Pearl Square demonstrators.

But their fury turned to near-hysteria when the first wounded were brought in yesterday. Up to 100 doctors crowded into the emergency rooms, shouting and cursing their King and their government as paramedics fought to push trolleys loaded with the latest victims through screaming crowds. One man had a thick wad of bandages stuffed into his chest but blood was already staining his torso, dripping off the trolley. "He has a live round in his chest – and now there is air and blood in his lungs," the nurse beside him told me. "I think he is going." Thus did the anger of Bahrain's army – and, I suppose, the anger of the al-Khalifa family, the King included – reach the Sulmaniya medical centre.

The staff felt that they too were victims. And they were right. Five ambulances sent to the street – yesterday's victims were shot down opposite a fire station close to Pearl Square – were stopped by the army. Moments later, the hospital discovered that all their mobile phones had been switched off. Inside the hospital was a doctor, Sadeq al-Aberi, who was himself badly hurt by the police when he went to help the wounded on Thursday morning.

Rumours burned like petrol in Bahrain yesterday and many medical staff were insisting that up to 60 corpses had been taken from Pearl Square on Thursday morning and that police were seen by crowds loading bodies into three refrigerated trucks. One man showed me a mobile phone snapshot in which the three trucks could be seen clearly, parked behind several army armoured personnel carriers. According to other demonstrators, the vehicles, which bore Saudi registration plates, were later seen on the highway to Saudi Arabia. It is easy to dismiss such ghoulish stories, but I found one man – another male nurse at the hospital who works under the umbrella of the United Nations – who told me that an American colleague, he gave his name as "Jarrod", had videotaped the bodies being put into the trucks but was then arrested by the police and had not been seen since.

Why has the royal family of Bahrain allowed its soldiers to open fire at peaceful demonstrators? To turn on Bahraini civilians with live fire within 24 hours of the earlier killings seems like an act of lunacy.

But the heavy hand of Saudi Arabia may not be far away. The Saudis are fearful that the demonstrations in Manama and the towns of Bahrain will light equally provocative fires in the east of their kingdom, where a substantial Shia minority lives around Dhahran and other towns close to the Kuwaiti border. Their desire to see the Shia of Bahrain crushed as quickly as possible was made very clear at Thursday's Gulf summit here, with all the sheikhs and princes agreeing that there would be no Egyptian-style revolution in a kingdom which has a Shia majority of perhaps 70 per cent and a small Sunni minority which includes the royal family.

Yet Egypt's revolution is on everyone's lips in Bahrain. Outside the hospital, they were shouting: "The people want to topple the minister," a slight variation of the chant of the Egyptians who got rid of Mubarak, "The people want to topple the government."

And many in the crowd said – as the Egyptians said – that they had lost their fear of the authorities, of the police and army.

The policemen and soldiers for whom they now express such disgust were all too evident on the streets of Manama yesterday, watching sullenly from midnight-blue armoured vehicles or perched on American-made tanks. There appeared to be no British weaponry in evidence – although these are early days and there was Russian-made armour alongside the M-60 tanks. In the past, small Shia uprisings were ruthlessly crushed in Bahrain with the help of a Jordanian torturer and a senior intelligence factotum who just happened to be a former British Special Branch officer.

And the stakes here are high. This is the first serious insurrection in the wealthy Gulf states – more dangerous to the Saudis than the Islamists who took over the centre of Mecca more than 30 years ago – and Bahrain's al-Khalifa family realise just how fraught the coming days will be for them. A source which has always proved reliable over many years told me that late on Wednesday night, a member of the al-Khalifa family – said to be the Crown Prince – held a series of telephone conversations with a prominent Shia cleric, the Wifaq Shia party leader, Ali Salman, who was camping in Pearl Square. The Prince apparently offered a series of reforms and government changes which he thought the cleric had approved. But the demonstrators stayed in the square. They demanded the dissolution of parliament. Then came the police.

In the early afternoon yesterday, around 3,000 people held a rally in support of the al-Khalifas and there was much waving of the national flag from the windows of cars. This may make the front pages of the Bahraini press today – but it won't end the Shia uprising. And last night's chaos at Manama's greatest hospital – the blood slopping off the wounded, the shouts for help from those on the stretchers, the doctors who had never before seen such gunshot wounds; one of them simply shook his head in disbelief when a woman went into a fit next to a man who was sheathed in blood – has only further embittered the Shia of this nation.

A doctor who gave his name as Hussein stopped me leaving the emergency room because he wanted to explain his anger. "The Israelis do this sort of thing to the Palestinians – but these are Arabs shooting at Arabs," he bellowed above the din of screams and shouts of fury. "This is the Bahraini government doing this to their own people. I was in Egypt two weeks ago, working at the Qasr el-Aini hospital – but things are much more fucked up here."

A Question For Q & A

A question for the panel:

How would you define fascism?

Queensland: Come See Our Coal Mines, Impoverished Farmers, Poisoned Water Table, And Flooded, Cyclone Devastated Towns!

Rural lobby group AgForce says a proposal for a major coal mine in Queensland's Central Highlands poses a significant threat to grazing land.

Indian company Adani is planning the $10 billion Carmichael coal mine, near Clermont north-west of Rockhampton, which could produce up to 60 million tonnes of tonnes a year through open-cut and underground mining.

The Isaac Mayor has also expressed concerns about the loss of farming land if the mine goes ahead.

AgForce policy director Drew Wagner says it is an issue right across the state.

"We're seeing right now in excess of 80 per cent of the landscape across Queensland has some type of resource tenure over it," he said.

"Now whether that be coal seam gas, whether it be coal or minerals or otherwise, over 80 per cent, which means if all of these projects go together, I don't know where we're going to farm any more."

Mr Wagner says it is disappointing that the impact on agriculture is not taken into consideration.

"The reality is that we constantly get shown how many billions of dollars these projects are worth to the State Government but the fact of the matter still remains that as soon as you stop utilising the landscape for that practice, you cannot return it to anything, thus permanently alienating its ability to go back to agriculture at all," he said.

Assange's Address To Melbourne Rally

'Green Left Weekly' [13/2/11]:

... It is surely a matter of public interest that Australian politicians secretly brief foreign embassies — in effect, providing them with intelligence on the Australian government, while concealing these vital facts from those who actually elected them to office.

WikiLeaks has brought this important information to the public.

It is surely a matter of public interest that the US secretary of state has been running a secret intelligence campaign directed at the leadership of the United Nations demanding passwords, DNA, personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, email addresses and so on.

That targeting is illegal under the 1946 UN Convention on Privileges and Immunities and illegal under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

And it is surely a matter of public interest that the Labor government has been working secretly to shield from prosecution Indonesian military figures who killed an Australian journalist in East Timor.

WikiLeaks brought this information out to the public as well.

It would appear that the Labor government today is doing what the Labor government did in 1975 regarding East Timor — talking about human rights while trying to downplay attacks on journalists.

Because you and I should be in no doubt on one thing: we are a media organisation, I am a publisher and a journalist. ...

Whadda We Want!

Unfettered Domination Of Our Health Sector By Multinational, Biotech And Pharmaceutical Corporations!

Including Tax Breaks And Government Subsidies!

When Do We Wannit?

Now!

This is not civic mindedness, it is marketing for what has become a highly profitable, exploitative industry:

Around 100 people have marched on Sydney's Bondi Beach in support of organ and tissue donation.

Today marks the start of Donatelife Week across the country and Australians are being encouraged to discuss organ donation with family members.

Transplant Australia chief executive Chris Thomas says almost one in two possible donations are blocked by family members.

"We understand why they decline and it's probably because they've never had the discussion," he said.

"So they get caught with this immediate decision at the time when they're emotionally distraught and so on.

"That's why it's important to have that family discussion away from the hospital corridor, if that opportunity ever happens."

Max Mohr received a liver transplant six and a half years ago and says his life has completely changed.

"From being barely alive to being fit and healthy as I am today and looking forward to a fruitful life for many many more years, I can attest to the wonder of transplantation," he said.

"That gift, when people make that important decision when their loved ones are going, it's a beautiful thing and I'm so grateful."

In Victoria, there has been a 50 per cent increase in organ donation over the last year, up to 98 donors.

The medical director of Organ and Tissue Donation, Helen Opdam, says those donations have saved the lives of more than 280 Australians.

She says although up to 80 per cent of Victorians support the idea, most potential donors fail to notify relatives, preventing the donations going ahead after they die.

"There's still across the country about 1,700 people requiring a lifesaving transplant," she said.

"Many of those people will die if they don't receive one. So it's made a big difference to date but there's still a lot of work to be done."

Before organ donation became a privatised/for profit exercise we managed to get by.

In this era of increasing corporatisation of health care, and the associated demise of equitable access, how can Australians be sure their donated organs will be used to save the life of the most needy person, rather than the person who can afford to pay for the transplantation procedure?

Similarly, with the current frenzy of biotechnological and genetic research, how can Australians be sure that if they donate their body for scientific research, it will be used to train dedicated medical practitioners, or be a part of genuine and independent research for the benefit of all humanity?

Referring potential donors to the various Transplantation and Anatomy Acts or University Ethics Committees isn't enough to allay concerns our bits won't be used as the basis of some profit making exercise.

Why Is Australia So Yucky?

Not enough senseless violence in the world for folks at the 'Sunshine Coast Daily'?

What's your preferred method for killing cane toads?

Refrigerate then freeze
Clove oil and then freeze
Play it Sadie the Cleaning Lady
Make it watch Hey, Hey, It's Saturday
Golf practice
Read it Saddam Hussein's romantic novel
Mail it off to New Zealand

Big Boats Pose Big Questions For Australian Defence Contracts

People's Daily [19/2/11]:

While a new era in Australia's defence may have arrived with the launch in Spain of a unique helicopter carrier, doubts remain over exactly what air-power they will haul.

Champagne was broken over the hull of the largest ever ship to be commissioned by the Australian Navy, the HMAS Canberra. Images were broadcast on Friday morning on Australian television of the giant amphibious vessel rolling into the water at the northern Spanish port of Ferrol.

But it is the unusual focus on helicopter warfare that should ensure HMAS Canberra and the HMAS Adelaide - both massive Spanish- built amphibious assault vessels - will be closely monitored by military-buffs and governments around the Pacific.

Expected to be fully operational by 2014, the twin vessels with two football-field sized decks are based on aircraft carrier designs, but are something very much different.

Each carrier will be chaperoned on exercises and operations around the Pacific and beyond by its own mini-armada of support vessels. But most uniquely, instead of the traditional jet fighter aircraft the decks of the HMAS Canberra and Adelaide will be dotted with helicopters.

This is music to the ears of contractors, especially the Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky consortium who have been bidding for 50 surplus Australian Defence Force Black Hawk helicopters as part of a strategy to snatch Canberra's 3 billion U.S. dollars navy helicopter contracts.

This has been one of Australian defence's most fiercely fought contract sideline-skirmishes.

The tender is to supply the Royal Australian Navy with up to 27 cutting-edge anti-submarine helicopters, undoubtedly to be among the hundreds of helicopters destined to sit on the decks of the 1. 5 billion U.S. dollars HMAS Canberra and Adelaide.

Eurocopter subsidiary, Australian Aerospace has been dueling with Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky for the latest helicopter contract by offering its NATO frigate helicopter against the Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky's Seahawk MH60R.

To sweeten the deals for the Gillard government both bidders have wound in billions of dollars of potential work for the local defence industry from inception through to the predicted 30-year life of the helicopters.

The question is whether Lockheed Martin's capacity to supply the Australian Defence Force's strategic shift to helicopter land and sea warfare and crisis intervention, is, as some analysts are asking - driving strategy, not servicing it.

At the launch of the HMAS Canberra, Australian Royal Navy Vice- Admiral Russell Crane told reporters, "We'll be able to launch six helicopters from the deck at a single period in time, and carry another six in the hangars.."

Crane called a proud day for the Navy. It may also be an encouraging one for Lockheed Martin.

Former John Howard government defence minister Brendan Nelson, now Australia's ambassador in Brussels and NATO, told ABC television from the bridge of the HMAS Canberra, "We made this decision in 2007, to buy two of these landing helicopters docks.. This is a transformation of Australia's defence capability."

The Australian government has already purchased Australian Aerospace Tiger attack helicopters and MRH90 utility helicopters, but it is Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky who remain the favourite to take out the navy contracts expected to be finalized in June.

While the ships' final fit-out will be completed in Williamstown in Victoria, and their 40 years of service is expected to start in 2014, experts believe Lockheed Martin- Sikorsky's MH60R nicknamed the 'Romeo', will win the tender and grace the decks of the HMAS Canberra and Adelaide well beyond 2050.

Source:Xinhua

Germany Hopes For G20 Deal Despite Chinese Opposition

Reuters [19/2/11]:

(Reuters) - Germany held out hope on Saturday for a G20 deal on measuring global economic imbalances despite stiff Chinese opposition to some of the indicators proposed.

China rejected plans on Friday to use real exchange rates and currency reserves to measure imbalances and said trade figures rather than current account balances should be used to assess economic distortions.

A failure to agree even on how to measure mismatches in the world economy would augur badly for the G20 process, charged with finding ways to avoid future economic crises.

Late on Friday, after many hours of tortuous negotiation, officials struck an uncertain tone.

"I cannot tell you what will happen tomorrow. Nobody knows," one G20 official said, adding that China was the only country which came out against accepting the list of indicators.

A senior G20 source said on Saturday that negotiators had worked all night but failed to make any breakthrough.

But as ministers from the world's most powerful economies prepared to get down to work, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said they had a "good chance" of breaking the deadlock.

"I think we will reach agreement today on which indicators we (use to) measure imbalances in the future, to fight timely mis-developments, to come to a balanced growth," Schaeuble told reporters.

The hardline Chinese stance highlighted splits over how to define economic imbalances and prescribe action to remedy them, a key aim of France's G20 presidency.

Two other G20 sources said negotiators had failed to reach agreement and would leave it up to their finance ministers to try and seal a deal on specifics on Saturday.

Even then, agreement was uncertain, they said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the G20 presidency this year, urged ministers on Friday not to get sidetracked by the indicators dispute and welcomed the fact that China had agreed to host a G20 seminar on reforming the international monetary system in Shenzhen in late March.

"I want to avoid your debates getting bogged down in interminable discussion about these indicators, which are distracting us from the essentials," Sarkozy said in a speech.

He said a joint approach was the only way forward. "Giving priority to national interests would be the death of the G20," he said.

Even if all the yardsticks are agreed, there is no sign of numerical targets even being broached.

United States Vetoes Security Council Resolution On Israeli Settlements

UN [18/2/11]:

The United States today vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning all Israeli settlements established in occupied Palestinian territory since 1967 as illegal, saying that while it agreed that the settlements are illegitimate the resolution harmed chances for peace talks.

The other 14 members of the Council voted for the resolution, which demanded that “Israel, as the occupying power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and that it fully respect its legal obligations in this regard.” But as one of the five permanent members, the negative US vote is the equivalent of a veto.

The resolution, co-sponsored by over 120 of the UN’s 192 Member States, also called on both parties to comply with their obligations under the Road Map plan, sponsored by the diplomatic Quartet of the United Nations, European Union, Russia and US, which seeks to establish a two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders.

It urged all parties to continue with their negotiations on final status issues in the Middle East peace process and called for the “intensification of international and regional diplomatic efforts to support and invigorate the peace process towards achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

After the vote Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a note issued by his spokesperson, called for focusing on efforts to overcome the current impasse, in which the Palestinians are refusing to resume direct talks until Israel stops all settlement activity, and create a conducive environment for progress towards resolving all final status issues.

In explaining her veto, US Ambassador Susan E. Rice said the vote should not be misunderstood as support for settlement activity.

“On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” she declared. “Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace…

“Every potential action must be measured against one overriding standard: will it move the parties closer to negotiations and an agreement? Unfortunately, this draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides. It could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations and, if and when they did resume, to return to the Security Council whenever they reach an impasse.”

Palestinian Permanent Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour regretted that the Council had failed to “uphold its responsibilities” to respond to the crisis. “Our overarching goal remains to bring an end to the Israeli colonization and occupation of our land and its destruction of the two-State solution,” he said. “We fear, however, that the message sent today may be one that only encourages further Israeli intransigence and impunity.”

Israeli Ambassador Meron Reuben called for a resumption of direct talks between the two sides without pre-conditions, noting that settlements are only one of several issues to be settled in final status negotiations. “Therefore, the resolution before you should never have been submitted,” he said. “Instead, the international community and the Security Council should have called upon the Palestinian leadership, in a clear and resolute voice, to immediately return to the negotiating table.”

Cairo Leaders: Suzanne Mubarak Held Women Back

By Iman Azzi WeNews [17/2/11]:

CAIRO, Egypt (WOMENSENEWS)--On Sunday, Feb. 13--just 48 hours after the resignation of Hosni Mubarak as president of Egypt in response to 18 days of street demonstrations--physician, novelist and former political prisoner Nawal El Saadawi welcomed 12 other women's rights activists into her Cairo apartment.

They joined to celebrate and look forward and backward.

"We need to guarantee that there is no abortion of the revolution," she told Women's eNews, adding that she had already been in touch with women and men as to how to proceed in this new Egypt. "I have confidence in the revolution. I am optimistic by nature. I believe in the collective power of women and men."

Saadawi and her allies wasted no time in planning to revive the Egyptian Women's Union, an organization banned under Mubarak's regime after first lady Suzanne Mubarak, widely celebrated internationally for her humanitarian work, consolidated control over women's issues throughout Egypt.

Author of over 15 books on gender and the Middle East, Saadawi wants to make sure women are not pushed aside in post-Mubarak Egypt.

The meeting, organized at the last minute, was to make sure that women's voices--loud and listened to both at Egyptian rallies, in the media and popular blogs, Facebook and Twitter--do not go unnoticed in the transition period, while the country is under military control and until a constitution is reformed and a new parliament and president are elected.

Beige tanks and soldiers manned several corners around Cairo, but otherwise, just days after the protester's victory against Mubarak, life on the streets looked remarkably similar to the days before the protests, which took the lives of 300 Egyptians and injured thousands.

One of Saadawi's immediate priorities is to keep Egypt from developing any resemblance to post-revolutionary Algeria.

'We Learned a Lesson'

"We learned a lesson from Algeria. We saw that when men take over, women's rights are ignored. We have to claim our space today," Saadawi said.

During Algeria's 1954-62 war for independence against France, women played roles as combatants, bombers, spies, nurses and communication officers.

But after the French left, revolutionary slogans about equality dissipated and women were pushed back into submissive roles. Islamic groups linked women's rights to Western cultures and discouraged legal reforms. Women's participation in the work force dropped.

The Iranian revolution tells a similar story.

In 1979, thousands of women in Iran protested the regime of the Shah, only to see the demonstrations usher in the start of Islamic rule and limitations on several of their freedoms.

Despite rallying cries of "liberty" and "independence," when Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile he prioritized ridding Iran of secular laws, including the Family Protection Law, which denied husbands the right to automatic custody of the children and the right to unilateral divorce. Women were required to wear the veil. Violent punishments for violating dress code and adultery were imposed.

But Egypt is not a colony fighting for independence nor was this an Islamic revolution. This uprising was driven by a notably non-ideological populace protesting a generally oppressive regime.

Saadawi is quick to point out that it was not just men who stalled the Egyptian women's movement but also the ousted first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, who consolidated women's activism under the umbrella organization, the National Council for Women, which she controlled. Women's groups could register independently, but work often had to be approved by the ministry and activists felt uneasy about the first lady's leadership role.

"Suzanne Mubarak killed the feminist movement so she could be the leader," Saadawi told Women's eNews. ...

Sackett Resigns As Chief Scientist

'Gold Coast Mail' [18/2/11]:

One of Australia's key backers of urgent action on climate change, Penny Sackett, has resigned as Australia's chief scientist.

Professor Sackett has held the role since September 2008 and was the first person to be appointed chief scientist in a full-time capacity.

In a statement, Professor Sackett says her decision to leave was not taken lightly or quickly.

"Institutions, as well as individuals, grow and evolve, and for both personal and professional reasons, the time is now right for me to seek other ways to contribute," she said.

Last year, Professor Sackett backed a call from international scientists for urgent action on climate change.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Professor Sackett had given clear and constructive advice during her tenure as chief scientist.

"Professor Sackett's work as part of the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council has proved invaluable," Ms Gillard said in a statement.

"It has helped to ensure that long-term strategic plans in important areas such as food, water and the environment are being put in place."

A statement from Science Minister Kim Carr says Professor Sackett has made "a substantial contribution to the promotion of science and scientific research during her tenure."

She will leave her position on March 4.

What An Ugly Country Australia Is

We really should do something about it.

Nine MSN [18/2/11]:

A northern Tasmanian lawn bowler has been suspended for headbutting another player.

Ulverstone Bowls Club player Wayne Polden was found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute by headbutting Penguin's Ricky Richardson.

The North West Tasmania Bowls Association on Thursday suspended Mr Polden for two weeks, while Mr Richardson was reprimanded for abusing an umpire, after allegedly calling him a "cheat".

NWTBA president David Langmaid said the incident last Saturday was the first case of headbutting he had come across in 20 years in the sport.

"The association is very disappointed in the actions of both players. We don't want to see this sort of situation arise again," Mr Langmaid told the Burnie Advocate.

ABC Coast FM Discriminates Against The Unmarried

This morning, [19/2/11] Coast FM [91.7] asked listeners to call in with stories about lost and found wedding rings.

Why couldn't they ask listeners to call in with stories about lost and found precious items rather than wedding rings?

Who is it at Coast FM that refuses to acknowledge a large proportion of their listeners don't fit the Mum, Dad, two point five prosperity gospel stereotype?

No. Nothing Else Happening In Japan Right Now

Kyodo News [18/2/11]:

Newly declassified Japanese diplomatic documents showed Friday that the United States in 1969 demanded Japan pay $650 million, worth some 234 billion yen under the exchange rate at that time, to finance unspecified costs related to the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty from U.S. control.

A secret cable dated Oct. 22, 1969, which was sent by Japan's Ambassador to the United States Takeso Shimoda a month before the bilateral summit talks, revealed that Washington strongly pressed Tokyo to make the lump-sum payment, even suggesting that the country would help Tokyo compile a breakdown of expenditures to gain Diet understanding.

Under an official bilateral pact on the Okinawa reversion, Japan was to shoulder $320 million in the costs. But it remains unknown to this day how much Japan actually paid to the United States. ...

Mystery Over Murdoch Family Payout

'Australian Financial Review' [18/2/11]:

News Corporation has refused to disclose the details of a $77.6 million payment to cover the cost of a failed tax avoidance scheme operated by the family companies of its chairman, Rupert Murdoch.

News made no reference to the related-party payment in its December half-year accounts after it made a $77.6 million settlement latelast year in a stamp-duty case brought by the ACT government.

Transaction documents suggest the Murdoch family trusts, which were the chief beneficiaries of the Bermuda-based tax scheme, should be responsible for at least $60 million of the payment and legal costs.

News Ltd. spokesman Greg Baxter insisted in a series of emails yesterday that shareholders were not "out of pocket".

But he declined to say how much of the $77.6 million total paid out by News would be reimbursed by the group's controlling shareholder, or how any reimbursement due would be calculated under the original 2004 deal.

News of the payment emerged as Australian institutional shareholders were already expressing concerns over another related-party deal, in which News Corp is expected to buy Elisabeth Murdoch's British programming campany, Shine, for £450 million ($720 million). ...

Officer Stood Down Over Facebook Incident

The Police Commissioner, Karl O'Callaghan, says an officer who posted photographs of Aboriginal men who appear drunk on his Facebook page has been stood down from duty pending an inquiry.

He says Senior Constable John Trenough allegedly posted the photos online while serving as an officer in the Goldfields.
The photographs appear to have been taken inside a police cell in the Goldfields town of Wiluna.

Some of the images have been captioned with offensive jokes and comments.

Mr O'Callaghan says it is a serious incident.

"This has been an on-going inquiry for some months now, this is nothing new," he said.

"The officer's been stood down from duty.

"I will not tolerate any racist action by a police officer and we are taking this very seriously, so the police officer is not at work, there will be a full inquiry and there will be an outcome which I will make public in time."

The Deaths in Custody Watch Committee has called for an overhaul of the police recruitment process following the incident.

The chair of the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, Marc Newhouse, says the incident shows racism is a serious issue in the police force.

He says more needs to be done when police are initially recruited.

"There needs to be a much more thorough assessment done on attitudes to minority groups and this is why we've been calling for an inquiry into police services, so that all of these practices can go under the microscope," he said.

Bollocks

These people came in, they took over Australia's book market, they crushed variety, they crushed diversity and now they've fallen on their own arse.

Show us the statistics which tell us what percentage of books are bought from bookshops, and what percentage are bought online.

'Australian Financial Review' [18/2/11]:

The owner of 180 Angus & Robertson stores and about 20 Borders stores across Australia has gone into administration, blaming federal government policy for allowing the importation of GST-free books from overseas which it said undermined the entire local book industry.

Australia's largest book retailer group, REDgroup Retail, was placed into voluntary administration yesterday by its private equity owner, Pacific Equity Partners, following a slump in cashflows over the past few months.

In a letter to federal Minister for Financial Services Bill Shorten, REDgroup executive chairman Steven Cain said the local book industry could not compete in a global marketplace when government policies were holding it back.

"As an Australian retailer, we are obligated to charge Australians who buy their books locally GST for books we source locally, yet when those same Australians buy books offshore, no GST or duties are charged," Mr Cain said.

"The Australian government also exposes book retailers to another barrier to fair competition in the form of parallel importation laws."

The laws restrict retailers from buying books on the international market while consumers can buy online from overseas before local retailers could stock them in-store.

Dymocks managing director Don Grover said the government's decision last year to reject recommendations from the Productivity Commission to open up the local market by dropping the ban on parallel importing had contributed to the industry's problems. ...

The Full Page Master Builder's Association Advertisement In Today's Daily Murdoch Says It All

Wake up Queensland! I have no time for the Master Builder's Association, but this is a fucking outrage!

'Australian Financial Review' [18/2/11]:

Queensland's Reconstruction Authority will have the power to provide council planning laws under sweeping powers designed to fast-track rebuilding in the state.

The authority will have the power to cut through red tape and compulsorily acquire land for reconstruction in regions affected by cyclone Yasi and flooding in southern Queensland over the past month.

Legislation granting the extra powers to the authority was expected to be passed by Parliament last night. [It passed at 10.54 PM, but now the Guv has to stamp it!]

Civil libertarians raised concerns about the overarching powers of the new authority, which excludes parts of the Judicial Review Act allowing the right for people to appeal against government decisions such as the acquistion of land. ...

While they supported the legislation, isn't it comforting that the Opposition (and Independent Peter Wellington) also raised a few concerns, including:

Mr GIBSON (Gympie--LNP) ... In preparing for this speech I looked at the reconstruction authority that was established after Cyclone Tracy. Clearly with regard to Cyclone Tracy we saw a disaster of a magnitude that was unheralded. Approximately 41,000 of Darwin's 47,000 inhabitants were made homeless. Approximately 33,000 were evacuated following the passing of the cyclone. Some 71 people passed away. Approximately 70 per cent of the city's homes were either completely destroyed or suffered severe damage. Public services such as communications, power, water and sewerage were also damaged.

In looking at how the federal government of that day, in 1975, set up an organisation for the reconstruction of Darwin, the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, I note that within the legislation for that commission it provided for the establishment of a citizens council. The legislation provided for the establishment of the Darwin Citizens Council which comprised a maximum of 20 members, appointed by the minister after the commission called for nominations from those interested in council membership. The chairperson and deputy chairperson of the council were both elected by the council members.

The function of the council was to give advice to the commission concerning the exercise of the commission's reconstruction powers. That is a very strong check and balance. That is a citizens council that can directly approach the reconstruction authority and ensure that advice can be provided as to how they are exercising their powers. That type of mechanism should be considered for the Queensland Reconstruction Authority.

We need to ensure that the voices of individuals are heard and that their concerns are able to be taken to the very top. Whilst I am sure that those of us who are members from areas that were flood affected or affected by the cyclone will do an outstanding job, it is nevertheless important that the community has the opportunity to exercise its voice and to be heard. I would encourage the government to consider the inclusion of a citizens council type model for the Queensland Reconstruction Authority. ...

Ahhh! Transparency and accountability - who needs that when you're a disaster capitalist?

Spooky What Governments Think They Can Get Away With These Days Eh?

'The West Australian' [18/2/11]:

A proposal for an opt-out organ donation system in WA will soon go to State Cabinet before being released to MPs to gauge support.

Health Minister Kim Hames admitted yesterday that he had mixed feelings about presumed consent, which is when people automatically become potential organ donors unless they register an objection.

The plan is one option in a discussion paper prepared for the Government in a bid to improve organ donor rates. It follows pressure from MPs Martin Whitely, Joe Francis and Vince Catania who have been pushing for reforms.

Dr Hames said the paper had taken longer than expected to prepare but was ready to circulate. ...

UN: Allegations Of Human Organ Trafficking In Kosovo

Press Release: United Nations Kosovo: UN envoy calls for probe into allegations of human organ trafficking [16/2/11]

The top United Nations official in Kosovo today called for an urgent investigation into allegations that members of the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) trafficked in human organs in 1999, when it was pitted against ethnic Serbs and the Yugoslav army.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Lamberto Zannier noted that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe urged such an enquiry last month after receiving a report from its Special Rapporteur Dick Marty on alleged criminal activities by the KLA.

“In my view, this Council of Europe report needs to be taken seriously and an investigation launched as a matter of priority in the interests of all,” he told the Security Council. “Of course it is crucial that adequate protection be provided to all witnesses.”

Mr. Zannier was presenting Mr. Ban’s latest report on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which ran Kosovo from 1999 after North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid the bloody ethnic fighting between Serbs and Albanians until 2008 when Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Serbia has not recognized it.

In his report, Mr. Ban notes that political developments in Kosovo over the past three months, in particular the 12 December Assembly elections, slowed down momentum generated by the European Union’s declared readiness to facilitate dialogue. “It is my hope that the period ahead will see renewed momentum in moving the dialogue process forward,” he writes.

“Although it is regrettable that, as of the date of this report, representatives of Pristina and Belgrade have not yet met, I am pleased that the European Union representatives appointed to facilitate the talks have held several preparatory meetings with the sides,” he says, referring to the capitals of Kosovo and Serbia and reiterating the UN’s commitment to continue working closely with the EU in bringing the process forward.

The Assembly elections, organized by the Kosovo authorities without UNMIK involvement, were held in a peaceful atmosphere, but Mr. Zannier said local and international observers reported “widespread irregularities and manipulation of votes.” He added that he hoped that with the elections now over he hoped a new Kosovo Government “will be sufficiently strong and stable to engage authoritatively in a substantive dialogue with Belgrade.”

Unresolved issues in northern Kosovo continue to be a key challenge to long-term stability due to the opposition of Serbs there to engagement with the Kosovo institutions, Mr. Zannier said.

“There will be no long-term stability and development in Kosovo without a successful process of reconciliation among the communities,” he added. “Therefore, there is a pressing need to launch a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and work towards establishing viable cooperation and lasting peace and security.”

Wisconsin Protests Republican Governor’s Attempt To Strip Public Employee Unions Of Collective Bargaining Rights

Press Release: truthout.org Wisconsin Crowds Swell to 30,000; Key GOP Legislators Waver
Thursday 17 February 2011
by: John Nichols | The Nation | Op-Ed

"I have never been prouder of our movement than I am at this moment," shouted Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt, as he surveyed the crowds of union members and their supporters that surged around the state Capitol and into the streets of Madison Wednesday, literally closing the downtown as tens of thousands of Wisconsinites protested their Republican governor’s attempt to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights.

Where Tuesday’s mid-day protests drew crowds estimated at 12,000 to 15,000, Wednesday's mid-day rally drew 30,000, according to estimates by organizers. Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, a veteran of 27 years on the city’s force, said he had has never see a protest of this size at the Capitol – and he noted that, while crowd estimates usually just measure those outside, this time the inside of the sprawling state Capitol was “packed.”

On Wednesday night, an estimated 20,000 teachers and their supporters rallied outside the Capitol and then marched into the building, filling the rotunda, stairways and hallways. Chants of "What's disgusting? Union busting!" shook the building as legislators met in committee rooms late into the night.

The country was starting to take notice, as broadcast and cable-news satellite trucks rolled into town. The images they captured were stunning, as peaceful crowds filled vast stretches of the square that surrounds the seat of state government. ...

In some senses, Wednesday’s remarkable rally began Tuesday evening, when Madison Teachers Inc., the local education union, announced that teachers would leave their classrooms to spend the day lobbying legislators to “Kill the Bill” that has been proposed by newly-elected Republican Governor Scott Walker.

The teachers showed up en masse in downtown Madison Wednesday morning.

And then something remarkable happened.

Instead of taking the day off, their students gathered at schools on the west and east sides of Madison and marched miles along the city’s main thoroughfares to join the largest mass demonstration the city has seen in decades – perhaps since the great protests of the Vietnam War era.

Thousands of high school students arrived at the Capital Square, coming from opposite directions, chanting: “We support our teachers! We support public education!”

Thousands of University of Wisconsin students joined them, decked out in the school’s red-and-white colors.

Buses rolled in from every corner of the state, from Racine and Kenosha in the southeast to Green Bay in the northeast, from La Crosse on the Mississippi River to Milwaukee on Lake Michigan.

Buses and cars arrived from Illinois and Minnesota and as far away as Kansas, as teachers and public employees from those states showed up at what American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union president Gerald McEntee says is “ground zero “in the struggle for labor rights in America.

The moms and dads of the elementary school kids came, and the kids, carrying hand-lettered signs:

“I love my teacher!”

“Scott Walker needs to go back to school!”

“Scott Walker needs a time out!”

And, “We are Wisconsin! ...

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