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The Australian website where spooks, media advisors, media monitors, partisan shills, sentiment miners, establishment media purloiners, fabricators, marketing and PR people start their day!

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FREE THE REFUGEES!

Perception correction.

Bearing witness.

"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time ... but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." - Lilla Watson, aboriginal educator and activist, Brisbane

Peace.

Copyright 2003-present

 



* Other Things *

 

Team Australia: Profiting and deriving sadistic pleasure from tormenting others

via @iranian_naur012 [21/8/14]:

News from Manus Island. Read these and remember this is the result of a calculated policy of your government.

Here is part of a message from a detainee held on Manus Island (I have retained the spelling in the original):

"here we have very bad situation, most of us are psychological collapsed or about to collapse, after almost 13 months in prison with the worst conditions and under variety of tortures from Australian Government and staff, I think it is a bit usual to not to reply such letters.

here,we are so devastated. nobody cares about us. there are no clear prospect for thousands of human beings. recently guards are trying to make conflicts between ethnics here"

And here is part of another message from Manus Island (I have retained the spelling in the original):

"it is so painful that majority of Australians are supporting their brutal government to torture us. also more painful that the high court is far from justice even for starting a simple hearing about our problems. here aussis and locals are getting fat on our suffer!!!"

Workers at Australia's refugee concentration camps exposed to psychological injury as well as ethical hazards and possible future liability for committing crimes against humanity.

Professional organisations and unions maintain their silence.

Brisbane Times [21/8/14]:

Michael Gordon, Sarah Whyte

The mental health crisis inside the detention centre on Christmas Island is now taking its toll on those who guard the asylum seekers, with one female employee attempting to take her life and a male considered at serious risk of self-harm.

The two Serco employees, whose distress was prompted by prolonged exposure to depressed and self-harming asylum seekers, have been flown to the mainland.

Workers at the centre fear the situation will deteriorate further following the news that young children in mainland detention centres are to be released into the community, while those on the island face eventual transfer to indefinite detention on Nauru.

Sources said the two employees had been ''on constant'', meaning they were required to prevent asylum seekers on suicide watch from self-harming for the duration of their 12-hour shifts. ''It really does their heads in because they're watching people trying to kill or harm themselves all the time,'' one insider told Fairfax Media.

''The pressure of being with clients, at arm's length, for 12 hours a shift with no relief and seeing slashings and attempted hangings is taking a toll,'' said another.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who was alerted to the situation by a Serco employee, said the plight of the guards represented ''a new chapter of misery'' in Australia's treatment of boat arrivals.

''These attempts by people to take their own lives on Christmas Island are not moral blackmail, as the Prime Minister has previously said. They are the result of the government's cruel and inhumane refugee policies,'' she said.

While a Serco spokesman would not comment on individual cases, he said precautions were taken where there were concerns.

''For our employees on Christmas Island, this might include supporting them to seek medical help, putting them on paid special leave, and flying them home from the island. We recognise that our staff do a difficult job in circumstances which are sometimes challenging, and we have a range of measures in place to support them.''

The removal of the workers comes after a recent spike in self-harm incidents on Christmas Island. Last month the Australian Human Rights Commission and a team of medical experts described a ''mental health crisis'' on the island, confirming multiple suicide attempts and self-harm incidents.

Commission president Professor Gillian Triggs said there were 13 mothers on suicide watch and their condition was deteriorating during her visit to the island as part of the commission's national inquiry into children in immigration.

For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit beyondblue.org.au

UNHCR may intervene in asylum seeker piracy case

West Australian [21/8/14]:

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees may seek to get involved in a High Court case involving 157 asylum seekers who were detained at sea in an Australian Customs vessel.

The full bench of the High Court will determine whether the federal government has the power to remove asylum seekers from Australia's contiguous zone and send them to other countries.

Ron Merkel QC, for the asylum seekers, told the court on Thursday that the UNHCR and Australia's human rights commissioner may seek to intervene in the case.

Human rights lawyer George Newhouse said some of the government's powers had never been tested.

"What's the legality of holding them prisoner? What's the legality of putting them on little red lifeboats and pushing them off and trying to send them back to a third country?" he told reporters.

The federal government has previously said it has the authority to prevent non-citizens from entering Australia.

The asylum seekers set off from India on June 13 and their boat was intercepted in Australia's contiguous zone, off Christmas Island, on June 29.

They have since been sent to Nauru for processing.

Mr Newhouse said the case could have international repercussions about the treatment of asylum seekers.

"What Australia's doing on the high seas does affect international law and the approach of other countries," he said.

"It's likely that we will see intervention from human rights bodies both here and internationally."

Justice Kenneth Hayne set the matter down for a two-day hearing in Canberra on October 14.

Candlelight Vigil in Support of Muhammad

Refugee Rights Action Network WA [21/8/14]:

Thursday, August 21

Perth Immigration Detention Centre, Corner Baker & McComb Roads Redcliffe WA 6104

Hey Everyone,

The lawyers have said there's nothing they can do. Muhammad will be deported back to Pakistan tomorrow.

Muhammad is a Hazara, an ethnic group in Pakistan who face almost daily target killings and bombings.

He is a very kind, loving and selfless person who does not deserve to be deported to danger.

Please join as Perth Detention Centre, Corner Baker & McComb Roads, Redcliffe, tonight at 6:30pm to show Muhammad that there are people in the community who care about him and who are opposed to his deportation.

Please also sign the petition if you haven't and share it around.

https://www.change.org/petitions/scott-morrison-stop-the-deportation-of-muhammad-no-deportation-to-danger

Corporate goons still controlling journalism about Manus?

The Australian Federal Police say they've received no request from their Papua New Guinean counterparts to trace or interview expatriate suspects in the murder of Iranian asylum-seeker Reza Barati on Manus Island. ... [Brisbane Times - 21/8/14]

Asylum seeker suspect faked death to avoid arrest [PNG Loop - 21/8/14]

Papua New Guinea's Police Minister says the deployment of more than 70 Australian Federal Police officers to PNG will be reviewed and "most likely" wound down. ... [ABC - 20/8/14]

The City Watch CCTV surveillance project launched yesterday by the National Capital District and security company G4S will need the cooperation and support of the Royal PNG Constabulary, says Governor Powes Parkop. ... [PNG Loop - 7/8/14]

ABC, PM [18/2/14]:

MARK COLVIN: Our correspondent Liam Cochrane is on Manus Island. He joins me now.

Now, we've heard from Ronnie Knight, the local MP, about his difficulties getting information. Liam, what's it like for the press?

LIAM COCHRANE: It's very difficult for the press to get information from Manus Island Detention Centre at the moment. I tried today to get quotes from the centre and was followed by the Papua New Guinea mobile squad until we left.

The CEO of the main public hospital here was initially willing to speak to us and do an interview about the asylum seekers that he is treating, the most seriously injured ones, and he was then approached by G4S guards, Australian G4S guards, who told him not to speak to the media.

MARK COLVIN: So G4S guards are telling the hospital chief executive what to do?

LIAM COCHRANE: That's correct. And that's about 20 kilometres away from the detention centre, back in town, at a public hospital. They were indicating to a public servant that he should make no media statement and the CEO agreed to their request at the time.

...

Medium [16/3/14]:

.... We were scared and we went at the end of the compound be cause we knew that they will come after us and then when we were near the gate which connects to Mike compound where Reza was killed, stones started coming from there we shout at Mike people and said “why are you throwing stones” but they said “we are not throwing stone that is the G4S lady named [redacted] she is throwing stones.”

Many people saw her she is a blonde news dealer woman with muscular body and after a while people got furious and started hitting that door.

Well later on the riots team cam in the compound beaten up the peopl with their sticks and their shield and they leave us all on the ground until 4AM with out any food we were sleeping on the grass and in the next day I found out that she was the team leader of that command and she encourage them to throw rocks and beat the people.

...

The Age [29/3/14]:

... Fairfax Media believes that one of the witnesses says Papua New Guinea guards, PNG locals and expatriate Australians were involved, and that he can identify most of them by face or name.

The potential breakthrough came as police revealed that two Australian employees of the security contractors G4S were wanted for questioning over the violence, which came after asylum seekers say security guards and others broke into the centre.

''They are expatriates,'' a police source said. ''But they returned to Australia soon after the incident. We are recommending that once we have completed our investigation of these two people, we will ask that they be extradited back to PNG to face possible criminal charges.''

The PNG investigators know only the two men's first names. Fairfax Media has chosen not to publish the names.

The source, citing a police report from March 26, compiled by Chief Superintendent Anthon Billie, acting divisional commander for the islands region of PNG, said that ''a major obstacle'' to the investigation had been G4S and its employees' refusal to co-operate with the PNG police.

The company and its workers have insisted on speaking instead to the Australian Federal Police, the source said, adding that PNG had requested that two AFP officers be sent to Manus Island to help the investigation.

Australian government interferes with PNG Manus Human Rights Inquiry [The Age - 23/3/14]

Still looping around Florissant #Ferguson

Image: @kgosztola - Kevin Gosztola, journalist [20/8/14]

Police Target School Building of Church, Which Has Been ‘Safe Space’ for Ferguson Community [Kevin Gosztola - 20/8/14]

Four Moscow McDonalds shut by Russian consumer watchdog

RT [20/8/14]:

Russia’s consumer watchdog has shut down four McDonald's restaurants in central Moscow – including the first-ever outlet in the country – over “administrative violations.” More of the company 430 Russian franchises are under investigation.

“Multiple violations of sanitary norms were detected in the sourcing of food and waste disposal in McDonald’s restaurants during inspections carried out between the 18th and 20th of August,” said an official statement from the watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor.

The company has said that it will study the allegations against its franchises, and “will do everything to ensure that the restaurants open as soon as possible.”

“McDonald’s main priority is offering its customers quality and safe produce,” said a statement on the McDonald’s website.

Among the temporarily shuttered establishments is the restaurant in Pushkinskaya Square – once the biggest in the world – that became iconic when it opened in 1990 in what was still the Soviet Union, creating mile-long queues of Russians ready to wait several hours to sample the taste of America.

The first checks - and subsequent rumors that the entire burger chain may be shut down - took place in the northwestern city of Veliky Novgorod in May.

“The Caesar roll and vegetable salad have been found to contain microbe pollution with E.Coli bacteria and 10 times the safe level of microbes,” the watchdog said in a statement back then. ‘This attests to the fact that the staff breached personal hygiene rules, and the corporate sanitary disinfection regime.”

A separate claim from Rospotrebnadzor said that the nutrition sheets provided by the company did not match the actual content of the burgers on sale.

...

Australians don't want a Medicare co-payment.

We want universal health care.

No trust in any doctor who argues otherwise.

His Excellency Ambassador John Berry has arrived at 2014 AMA National Conference! ...

Image: @USAembassyinOZ - US Embassy, Canberra [23/5/14]

(He gave the Keynote Address before Health Minister Peter Dutton spoke, reiterating the political and media establishment's ideological mantra that "healthcare is never free, someone has to pay")

Groups reject secret co-payment talks when it’s about the well-being of ALL of us [ACOSS Media Release - 21/8/14]:

National peak community and health consumer groups today called on the Parliament to reject any deal struck by the Health Minister and the doctors union, declaring that a Medicare co-payment posed an unwarranted burden on the chronically ill and the most vulnerable in our community.

“Health and illness concerns us all and Health Minister Peter Dutton should be listening to voices in the community and groups representing all users of the health system,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service.

“We know that imposing a fee to see a doctor will lead to people putting off visits than can lead to early treatment which is the best health outcome, both for them and the community because later interventions are always more costly.

“It would hit poor and chronically ill people hardest, and exemptions would not go far enough. Many people would remain exposed and people on the lowest incomes will still face cost barriers,” Dr Goldie said.

Consumers Health Forum CEO, Adam Stankevicius said:

“The Government suggests the Medicare co-payment is a price signal for consumers. Price signals work for discretionary items. Health care is not discretionary!”

“It is unacceptable that consumers have been left in the dark. Why is the minister restricting his negotiations with doctors, what about the people who will have to pay?

“At a Consumers Health Forum conference this week, leading health system experts suggested several ways Australia could make the health system more effective and save billions of dollars a year. We should be considering these options before slugging consumers with a $7 price hike,” Mr Stankevicius said.

The CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore, said:

"At a time when so many countries across the world are working to achieve universal health care it is appalling that the Australian government is working to undermine the very same thing. Hopefully the government will be held to account by those in the Senate who really understand that we need more than a 'safety net'.

“Illness is not something we can always plan for, it tends to hit people at particular points in life, such as childhood and old age. It’s often something that can hit many individuals in a family at once. This is why we decided 30 years ago that fairest and most humane is to provide universal primarily healthcare for everyone for whenever illness strikes.

“We all pay for visiting our doctor - it is not free - it's called Medicare. And it works pretty well. Suggestions that health spending is unsustainable are not borne out by the figures. Australia spends almost half as much as United States on healthcare (10% of our GDP) but have higher health outcomes. So why would we want to down the US road?” Mr Moore said.

In conclusion, the three organisations made the following points:

When it comes to health costs, no decision about us should be taken without us.

A mandatory co-payment would wreck a fundamental principle of Medicare: universal access to healthcare.

We urge the Health Minister, Peter Dutton, to consult on the Medicare co-payment issue with groups representing all users of the health system, not just the doctors.

Federal government call centre workers face axe

Canberra Times [20/8/14]:

Noel Towell

Casual workers at federal government call centres around Australia are the latest group of public servants facing cuts to wages and conditions.

The giant Department of Human Services wants to cut the pay and conditions of nearly 1800 casuals who answer phones at Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support Agency call centres around the country, according to the main public sector union.

The CPSU says DHS bosses want to cut the hourly rate paid to the workers, most of who are women living in regional Australia, as well as slashing their weekend loading by 28 per cent and shutting off any hope of them securing permanent jobs with the department.

But Human Services told The Canberra Times on Wednesday that it had not yet finalised its new offer for the 1780 casuals.

The fate of the casuals is the latest battle to break out between the department and unions as DHS, the government’s largest department, tries to strike a new deal on pay and conditions with its 30,000 workers.

Late last month, the department’s management abandoned plans for a snap ballot of its workers, that would have bypassed unions, on a pay deal worth about 0.8 per cent per year, after running into stiff opposition at it workplaces.

The looming industrial struggle at DHS is being closely observed across the Australian Public Service with Human Services still the only department to have put a firm pay offer on the table.

The casuals typically earn about $28 per hour with a 20 per cent casual loading, but the CPSU, in a bulletin to members, says DHS negotiators have floated the idea of a 1.3 per cent cut to those wages.

The workers are mostly called into work on an “as needs” basis to call centres in Brisbane, Toowomba, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Wollongong and Tweed Heads.

Traralgon in regional Victoria hosts the largest Commonwealth call centre with 280 casuals, half the workforce, on its books.

The union says DHS is planning to cut off any prospect of a pay rise for the casuals, 70 per cent of whom are women, scrap performance bonuses, cut their pay, and cut their loading for working weekends by 28 per cent.

A Human Services spokeswoman would not confirm the union’s position on Wednesday.

But the CPSU’s National Secretary Nadine Flood was on the offensive on Wednesday saying the proposed treatment of the casuals was “mean and nasty”.

“These workers have no fixed hours, no leave and no sick pay,” Ms Flood said.

“They can be told half an hour before a shift starts that they are no longer needed and now this government wants to make their life harder.

“It’s what we have come to expect from a mean and nasty government that is taking it out on lower-paid workers.”

The DHS spokeswoman said that proposed pay rates for casual staff were being reviewed and could not be supplied for this article.

“The proposed new draft Enterprise Agreement is currently being reviewed and will also include relevant pay rates,” she said.

“We remain committed to working towards an agreement we can put to a staff vote as soon as possible, and will continue to negotiate with all union and non-union representatives in good faith.”

Look what happened to Hughie

Canberra Times [20/8/14]:

Ben Schneiders

A slush fund directed by national Labor vice-president and Transport Workers Union head Tony Sheldon spent more than $300,000 in just two years to bankroll interventions in three unions, the royal commission into union corruption has been told.

The financial details of slush fund the McLean Forum emerged on Wednesday as the TWU was accused by a former employee of spending its own resources in a union election - an act the commission heard would be against the law.

Former TWU media officer Michael Wong alleged he was paid by the NSW branch of the union while working on a campaign to unseat the TWU’s Queensland secretary Hughie Williams in 2010.

Mr Wong said he was ‘‘notionally on annual leave’’ while campaigning. He called it "faked leave" and said some annual leave he had taken was later reimbursed when he shifted jobs.

‘‘Yes, it was retro-fitted to match everything up," he said.

A TWU spokesman attacked the credibility of Mr Wong's evidence.

A Fairfax Media investigation last November revealed the role of Mr Sheldon and the TWU leadership in a takeover of its own Queensland branch – with the backing of then HSU leader Michael Williamson – through the use of union funds, slush funds and union and Labor parliamentary staff.

The campaign was staffed in Brisbane by a team of interstate union and Labor operatives who rented a house in a Brisbane suburb.

The unseating of Mr Williams shifted the TWU’s factional support in Queensland from the Left to the Right faction.

The McLean Forum slush fund was also used to intervene in elections in the HSU and flight attendants' union, the inquiry heard.

Mr Sheldon’s former chief of staff, Daniel Mookhey, who was the co-ordinator of the Queensland campaign, estimated the McLean Forum spent $175,000 to $200,000 on the successful bid to remove Mr Williams.

Counsel assisting Jeremy Stoljar said the McLean Forum, which has three directors including Mr Sheldon, was set up as a ‘‘fighting fund’’ through contributions from union officials and staff in the TWU’s national and NSW offices.

‘‘One might expect that the McLean Forum’s monies would be spent on the election campaigns of its contributors. That is not the case,’’ he said. ‘‘This is a ‘fighting fund’ that appears primarily, if not exclusively, to fund candidates in other unions’ elections.’’

Documents at the royal commission also showed a number of large donations to the McLean Forum in recent years, totalling more than $60,000, including from law firm Maurice Blackburn.

Asked about a series of payments from the McLean Forum, Mr Mookhey said he used personal payments to manage cash flow for the forum. Documents produced by the commission show payments to reimburse Mr Mookhey $101,413, although the TWU disputes this figure.

Mr Mookhey said while he was appointed as co-ordinator, he had a less active role than that suggested.

He said there was a need for change in the Queensland branch, which he said had problems, and a need for the union to operate on a national basis.

In Queensland, police are charging indigenous kids with "serious assault" for minor offences.

This is racism.

Fascists in the political and media establishment want to be able to use "serious assault" to get more prison sentences - especially for the poor and indigenous.

In the case of Queensland Police Service v Terare (2013) the District Court dismissed the police service appeal in late 2013.

Queensland Police have now taken it to the Court of Appeal where it is expected to be heard shortly.

While intoxicated, Mr Terare urinated on a police officer's lower pant cuff. It was argued in the Magistrate's Court that the police officer had contributed to the urination on the cuff by grabbing Mr Terare while he was in mid-stream making him spin around, thus causing the urination on the pant cuff.

Here is what the Minister said before the appeal to the District Court.

Minister for Police and Community Safety Media Release [17/5/13]:

The Queensland Police Service has appealed the inadequate sentence a man received for urinating on a police officer who was performing her duties, in Ayr.

Police Minister Jack Dempsey said the appeal was lodged after Ellian Stewart Terare, 25, received a three-month suspended jail term for urinating on the officer’s feet and pants.

“The Newman Government has already made it clear that assaults on police will not be tolerated by doubling the maximum sentence for a serious assault on police from seven to 14 years,” Mr Dempsey said.

“These penalties will be reviewed in 12 months’ time to ensure they are meeting the expectations of the community. [i.e. the government's intention as reflected by the Murdoch dominated media.]

“Any assault on a police officer is unacceptable and the punishment should meet the community’s expectations.

“Assaults involving bodily fluids are particularly traumatic for officers and a message needs to be sent that urinating on, spitting on or biting a police officer is absolutely deplorable.”

Another "serious assault" charge in regional Queensland: 15 year old girl tasered by police

QPS Media [21/8/14]:

A 15-year-old girl has been charged following an incident at Deeragun overnight.

Around 8.45pm police were attending an incident near Palm Drive when an officer fell into a storm drain.

It will be alleged a girl then jumped onto the male officer’s back and attempted to strangle him. A struggle followed during which it will be alleged the girl scratched at the officer’s face and attempted to grab his firearm.

The officer deployed his taser and was able to take the girl into custody.

The male officer sustained injuries to his face and received treatment at Townsville Base Hospital.

The girl was also assessed at hospital and had not suffered any visible injuries as a result of the incident nor any adverse effects from the taser deployment.

A 15-year-old Mount Louisa girl has been charged with serious assault police caused bodily harm and serious assault police. She will be dealt with under the provisions of the Youth Justice Act.

Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Mum of seven jailed for police assault [Chronicle - 21/8/14]

Queensland police officer in domestic violence investigation

Yahoo [21/8/14]:


A Brisbane police officer has been stood down from duty while being investigated for domestic violence.

The 41-year-old is a first year constable working in the Brisbane region.

Police said he was "the subject of an investigation relating to an incident of domestic violence", but did not reveal further details.

"This does not mean that any allegation against the officer has been substantiated," it said in a statement.

Pedestrian killed in Brisbane crash

Yahoo [21/8/14]:

A 58-year-old pedestrian has died after a car apparently veered into a parking lane in Brisbane.

Police said the crash happened in Balmoral on Wednesday afternoon when the vehicle crossed into the lane on the side of the road, hit the man and then a parked car.

The pedestrian died at the scene.

Anyone who saw the incident has been asked to contact police.

Chinchilla officers escape police 4WD rollover

Chronicle [21/8/14]:

Police officers have escaped with minor injuries after their 4WD rolled several times on the Western Downs.

Chinchilla police officer-in-charge Sergeant Gerard Brady said the two men were returning to Chinchilla from a job at Wieambilla when the crash occurred about 8.50pm yesterday.

Sgt Brady said it appeared the police vehicle was overtaking two cars on the Chinchilla Tara Rd when it somehow was involved in a collision with the lead vehicle.

The police car, an Isuzu D-Max dual cab ute, rolled several times.

It ended up on its roof on the shoulder of the road near the intersection of Treasures Rd.

Paramedics took the two policemen to Chinchilla Hospital but they have since been discharged.

"At the end of the day, any crash you can walk away from is the best outcome you can hope for," Sgt Brady said.

He said the other vehicle involved sustained relatively minor damage.

"Like any other traffic crash we need to speak to all parties involved."

Queensland government to spend $11 million on pipeline for gas industry - which will end up screwing local businesses (like Bundaberg Brewery) and citizens on prices
Premier of Queensland Media Release [21/8/14]:

Business opportunities and jobs will flow to Bundaberg with the Queensland Government to invest $11 million in a new gas pipeline to supply householders and industry.

Premier Campbell Newman said the 24.7 kilometre Bundaberg Gas Pipeline could create around 100 new full-time jobs and 600 indirect jobs by attracting new industry and development to the Bundaberg region.

...

CEO of Bundaberg Brewed Drinks John McLean said the pipeline would be a step in the right direction for his business.

“This region has been really challenged over the past couple of years with the impact from the floods,” Mr McLean said.

“So it’s great to see some positive investments occurring that will assist in accelerating job growth and providing a boost to business confidence.”

...

Windsor Calls for Senators to Hold Firm on Water Trigger

Lock The Gate [21/8/14]:

Tony Windsor has this morning released a statement calling for crossbench Senators in the Federal Parliament to hold firm on the water trigger.

Mr Windsor introduced the trigger to require Federal assessment of the water impacts of large scale coal and coal seam gas mining.

However, the Federal Government has moved to hand that assessment process back to the states, and the matter is due to be voted on in Federal Parliament next week.

Mr Windsor has said that state governments can't be trusted with our precious water resources, and described the proposed removal of the water trigger as a retrograde step. He urged crossbench senators to retain this vital component of Federal environment laws.

...

Theft: Queensland Government approves trading in water allocations throughout Condamine and Balonne catchments [Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Media Release - 21/8/14]

It is the United States who need to explain their support for IS - not the "muslim community" constantly explaining their rejection of IS

Reuters [28/5/14]:

... The official noted that Senator Carl Levin, Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had proposed legislation to authorize the U.S. military to provide training and equipment to approved members of the Syrian opposition.

He said the provision, part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sent to the full Senate for consideration last week, was a sign of "an emerging view in Congress that is supportive of providing the authority for the United States military to participate in support for the opposition."

Levin's staff said the measure would allow Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to provide equipment and training for vetted members of the Syrian opposition. The proposal does not specify what type of equipment the Syrian opposition could receive, leaving that decision to the administration.

CIA Is Quietly Ramping Up Aid To Syrian Rebels, Sources Say [NPR - 23/4/14]

More United States carnage being unleashed upon Iraq

Washington Post [20/8/14]:

... The U.S. military announced 14 more airstrikes in northern Iraq on Wednesday, saying it had hit a variety of militant targets.

The strikes, conducted in support of Iraqi security force operations, were carried out by a mix of fighter jets, drones and “attack aircraft,” according to U.S. Central Command.

Defense officials did not specify which kind of aircraft were used, and have said that they will not do so because countries from which they might be flying are sensitive to appearing involved.

One possibility is an armed KC-130 plane, which is equipped with Hellfire missiles and other weapons.

At least one from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, of Camp Lejeune, N.C., is in the region.

The strikes destroyed or damaged six militant Humvees, three improvised explosive device emplacements, one mortar tube and two armed trucks, CENTCOM officials said.

The strikes occurred around the Mosul Dam, which U.S. officials say Iraqi troops seized from the militants in recent days.

Since Obama first authorized airstrikes Aug. 7, the United States has now conducted a total of 84 airstrikes across Iraq, including 51 near the dam. ...

7,000 residents of #Yazidi village of Bozan, near #Mosul, fled #ISIS on Aug 6. This week 100 returned

Image: @WillemMarx - journalist, Bloomberg - author - Balochistan at a Crossroads [20/8/14]

Bloomberg [VIDEO - 20/8/14]:

Backed by U.S. air support, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have enjoyed several recent successes in northern Iraq. But they have largely failed to protect frightened populations, who have abandoned entire towns, with no intention of ever returning. ...

Official: 22 killed by Israeli strikes since truce collapsed

Deir al-Balah

Image: @afpfr [20/8/14]

Israeli air strikes kill 7 in Deir al-Balah, Gaza [VIDEO - 20/8/14]

Maan [20/8/14]:

Renewed Israeli attacks on Gaza have killed 22 Palestinians since a temporary ceasefire collapsed on Tuesday, a health ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

The deaths brought the total Palestinian death toll in six weeks of Israeli bombardment to more than 2,040, with more than 10,200 injured as well.

Ashraf al-Qidra said on Tuesday afternoon that two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on Wednesday. The dead were identified as Muhammad Imad al-Abit, 16, and Saher al-Abit, 11.

Six Palestinians were also injured in a strike on al-Mughraqa on the central Gaza Strip. The injured were taken to al-Aqsa Martyrs' Hospital.

Two were injured in an airstrike on the al-Abdaleh family home in Khan Younis.

Zaki Suleiman al-Rai, 54, died from wounds sustained earlier Wednesday.

The bodies of Mustafa Rabah al-Dalou, 14 and Wafaa Hussein al-Dalou were also recovered from the wreckage of the al-Dalou family home in Gaza City.

Earlier, a two-year-old Palestinian girl was killed in Israeli shelling on the al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City, al-Qidra said.

She was identified as Nour Muhammad Abu Hasirah.

Before that, al-Qidra said an Israeli airstrike killed an unidentified man near the al-Maqusi residential buildings in western Gaza City. The man's body was taken to Shifa hospital.

Al-Qidra added that civil defense rescue teams had recovered the bodies of a woman and a child from the rubble of the al-Dalou family home in Sheikh Radwan, which was hit by five Israeli missiles.

The wife and daughter of al-Qassam Brigades commander Muhammad Deif were killed in the attack, Hamas says, along with four-year-old Ahmad al-Dalou.

A 24-hour truce due to last until midnight collapsed late Tuesday afternoon when Israel said rockets fired from the Strip hit Beersheba. Hamas denied firing the rockets.

An Israeli army statement said that 137 rockets had been fired at Israel from Gaza since the truce collapsed.

One of them hit a home in Ashkelon without causing injuries, it said.

Earlier, the army said it had struck "some 60 terror sites" in Gaza overnight, in addition to targeting "two terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip."

Over 2,000 Palestinians -- the vast majority of them civilians -- have been killed throughout Israel's offensive on Gaza.

Sixty-seven people have been killed on the Israeli side, 64 of them soldiers.

Palestine Action Group Sydney [21/8/14]:

Rain, hail or shine, we support Palestine!

Don't let the rain put you off, in Gaza they have bombs falling on them.

The rally is now meeting at TAYLOR SQUARE. This rally is totally LAWFUL and we intend to march.

Meet at Taylor Square, Darlinghurst at 5:30pm.

...

We will not have our civil liberties taken away because it is 'ok' for Palestinians to die. It will never be ok for a population to be systematically starved through an 8-year blockade while the world is silent. It is not ok to murder women, children and innocent civilians and promote a film festival sponsored by those same murderers. We will not entertain Israeli apartheid that is brought to you by Palestinian blood.

We will protest tomorrow 5.30pm at Taylor Square for the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children that were murdered in Gaza AND we will protest simply because it is our right.

For those who are silent while others are oppressed are just as guilty of oppression themselves.

Central African Republic: UN to send 7,600 strong peacekeeping force

First Post [20/8/14]:

The initial UN force that takes over peacekeeping duties in the Central African Republic from an African force on September 15 will have 7,600 soldiers and police, the UN envoy to the conflict-wracked country has said.

Babacar Gaye told reporters after a closed briefing to the UN Security Council that this represents about 65 percent of the nearly 12,000-strong force authorised by the council in April.

Britain's deputy ambassador Peter Wilson, who chaired the council meeting, said Gaye told council members he expects the full force to be on the ground early next year.

Central African Republic has been in turmoil since an alliance of Muslim rebel groups known as the Seleka overthrew the longtime president in March 2013.

...

In January, Seleka was forced from power and tens of thousands of Muslims have fled to the north or to neighbouring countries. Thousands have been killed and despite a cease-fire signed on July 23 violence has continued. A transitional government has been established, and about 2,000 French troops and nearly 6,000 African peacekeepers have been trying to stabilise the country, which is about the size of Texas.

Gaye said 5,800 members of the African force will be "rehatted" in UN blue berets and become part of the UN force, along with 1,800 fresh troops. Wilson said that while the security situation has improved in the capital, Bangui, "in the rest of the country the situation remains extremely serious and the situation for civilians is very worrying."

"Militia groups continue to attack, and there are vulnerable populations who need protection," he said.

"A clear focus of the peacekeeping mission is on protection of civilians." Gaye noted that exactly a year ago he urged the council to take action and since then it has adopted four resolutions and authorised a peacekeeping mission.

Now, there has been "international mobilisation" for the Central African Republic, known as CAR, and a political process has started, he said.

Uruguay Sending Mission to Lebanon to Meet Syrian Refugees

Naharnet [20/8/14]:

A delegation from Uruguay will head to Lebanon on Friday to select 120 Syrian refugees who can go to the South American country, the country's Human Rights Department said.

Forty of the refugees are scheduled to arrive in September and the rest next year.

Human Rights Department spokeswoman Nathalia Platas said Tuesday that 60 percent of the people in the families chosen must be under 18 years of age. Families also should have at least one person willing to work, probably in agriculture.

She said religion won't be a factor in selection, but the refugees will have to understand that women and men have equal rights in Uruguay and both boys and girls have to attend school.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights selected the candidates who will be interviewed. Platas said most had suffered or witnessed torture in some form.

Opinion polls indicate most Uruguayans favor accepting the refugees, though a majority dislike President Jose Mujica's offer to take other refugees: six prisoners to be released from the U.S. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, including four Syrians.

United Nations officials say there are more than 2 million Syrian refugees, many filling camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. Germany and Brazil have offered to take thousands of them.


“From the narrow window of my small cell, I see trees that are smiling at me and rooftops crowded with my family, and windows weeping and praying for me. From the narrow window of my small cell, I can see your big cell, your big cell.”

'End of a Discussion with a Jailer', Samih al-Qasim [PBS Interview - 22/3/07]



Asylum seeker hospitalised after hunger strike

SBS [AUDIO - 20/8/14]:

A Palestinian asylum seeker who staged an 18 day hunger strike in protest of the conditions on Nauru has spoken to SBS from his hospital bed.

Speaking exclusively to SBS, Hussein Al Masri called for help from his Queensland hospital room.

With the assistance of an interpreter, the 18-year-old described Nauru - his home for the past 16 months - as “very dangerous” and said the situation in the camp was no good.

“I want to stay in Australia,” he said.

Mr Al Masri said the hospital staff were treating him well, but he was scared and couldn’t sleep at night.

He said he had thought about suicide due to his fear and insomnia.

“At night, I want to go to bed, sleeping but no can sleep,” he said.

“… Kill myself because no can sleeping.”

An Australian-based member of his family said his home in Gaza had been destroyed in the recent conflict and his parents had been forced to stay in a nearby school.

The relative, speaking on the condition that her identity remained confidential, said she held grave concerns for Mr Al Masri and his health.

She said his mental health had deteriorated since his transfer.

“He stopped eating for about 18 days and he lost 22 kilos,” she said.

“…He’s thinking about suicide if he goes back to detention. He’s really depressed and really didn’t want to go back there.”

She said Mr Al Masri, who had travelled to Australia by boat, has no safe home to return to.

“He left Gaza and we know the conditions in Gaza,” she said.

“We’re just concerned if he’s going to go back to Gaza – it’s not safe to go back there. His family is really, really concerned back home as well."

...

Israeli strike kills wife, baby daughter of Hamas commander in Gaza

Al Akhbar [20/8/14]:

Fighting in the Gaza Strip continued for a second day after the collapse of truce talks, as Israeli forces killed a woman and a toddler in an assassination attempt targeting a Hamas military leader.

Charging that Israel had "opened a gateway to hell," Hamas's armed wing vowed to target Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport with rocket fire in order to retaliate for what Hamas said was an Israeli attempt to assassinate its top military leader, Mohammed al-Daif, in a Gaza City strike.

"The wife of the great leader was martyred with his daughter," in a strike Tuesday night, Hamas's exiled deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzuk wrote on Facebook while saying nothing about the fate of Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades commander Daif himself.

It was not clear whether Daif, who has survived previous Israeli attacks, had survived the strike that killed a woman and a two-year-old girl who media reports said may have been his wife and daughter.

Daif has topped Israel's wanted lists for years. He is currently believed to be a behind-the-scenes leader of Hamas' armed resistance campaign against Israel.

Palestinian health officials said the strike on a house in Gaza City killed three people but did not provide any details about the third victim.

The Israeli military would not specify any of the targets of some 30 attacks across Gaza it said was in response to rocket fire aimed at Israel.

Another air strike launched later on Wednesday morning killed seven members of a family in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah, among them a pregnant woman and three children, Palestinian health officials said. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

They named the dead as Rafat al-Lawh, 32, three of his children, his brother Mohammed, 21, and the woman, Nabilah al-Lawh, whose relationship to the others was not immediately clear.

In addition to the deaths, more than 50 people were wounded in the air strikes across Gaza, ordered after Israel claimed Palestinians fired rockets. Hamas initially denied firing any rockets, then claimed responsibility for shooting dozens as far as the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas.

There were no reported casualties but falling shrapnel damaged a car in Tel Aviv, and a building was damaged in southern Occupied Palestine. Some of the rockets were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome interceptor.

The violence shattered a 10-day period of calm since a first truce brokered by Egypt, about a month after the conflict flared on July 8.

Accusing Palestinians of breaking the truce with rocket fire eight hours before it was to have expired, Israel recalled its negotiators from truce talks in Cairo on Tuesday, leaving the fate of the Egyptian-brokered efforts to secure a lasting peace hanging in the balance.

Palestinian negotiators walked out of the talks later, blaming Israel for their failure. "Israel thwarted the contacts that could have brought peace," chief Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad said.

"The ceasefire has collapsed and Israel is responsible," Ahmad said.

"We are leaving tomorrow, but we have not pulled out of negotiations," he told AFP, adding the Palestinians were waiting for Israel to respond to their truce proposal.

"We will not come back (to Cairo) until Israel responds," he said.

One of the Hamas officials, Ezzat al-Rishq, warned Israel "will not enjoy security so long as the Palestinian people do not."

...

Daily Star [20/8/14]:

An Israeli Cabinet minister Wednesday justified an airstrike on Gaza that killed the wife and child of Hamas military leader Mohammad Deif, saying that he was a legitimate target.

"Mohammad Deif deserves to die just like [Osama] bin Laden. He is an arch murderer, and as long as we have an opportunity, we will try to kill him," Interior Minister Gideon Saar told army radio.

...

West Bank: Psychological Consequences of Violence [VIDEO - Medicins Sans Frontieres - 20/8/14]

Supreme court bans pro-Palestine protest at Sydney's Israeli film festival [Guardian - 20/8/14]:

... A spokeswoman for NSW police said they were left with no choice but to go to the Supreme Court after failing to persuade the protesters to change the location or time of their protest.

“NSW police support people’s right to protest but we have a responsibility to the protesters and the general public to keep them safe and ensure people and local businesses can continue their normal activities without interference,” she said.

“We are concerned that the proposed time and location of the protest will cause significant disruptions, including forcing the closure of parts of Oxford Street in peak hour which will cause major traffic issues and safety issues for protesters and members of the general public.”

In the hearing Ridgwell cited examples of protests held in Oxford Street at a similar time including a protest against police brutality at the Mardi Gras last year, which began at 6pm on a Friday.

A pro-Palestinian protest has been held in May for the past three years on weeknights in the CBD.

...

Afghanistan: US drone strike kills 5, injures 5 in Kunar province

TOLO News [20/8/14]:

Foreign forces' drone strike killed three Taliban commanders, two Pakistani insurgents and wounded five others in eastern Kunar province on Tuesday, officials said.

"Preliminary information showed that around midnight on Tuesday foreign forces drone attack killed Tahrik-e-Khurasan, an Afghan Taliban group and their two commanders," Kunar Police Chief Abdul Habib Sayedkhaili told TOLOnews.

In a separate drone attack on the same day in Nari district one Taliban commander including two Pakistani Talibs were killed.

"The Taliban commander named Qari Omid along with two Pakistani Talibans were killed on Tuesday around 3 p.m.," Sayedkhaili said.

According to officials, no civilians were injured and no civilian property was damaged in the strike.

The foreign forces have not commented on the attack.

Sayedkhaili adds that on Tuesday a Taliban commander by the name of Noor Rahman has given up his weapons and ranks and has surrendered to the Afghan forces.

The United States warned against any extra-constitutional actions by any stake holders in Afghanistan, asserting that such a move would have an impact on financial and security support of the US. ... [Pajhwok - 20/8/14]

Racial Violence in US State Recalls Apartheid, UN Rights Chief Navi Pillay Says

Jakarta Globe [20/8/14]:

Stephanie Nebehay

Clashes between police and protesters in the US town of Ferguson are reminiscent of the racial violence spawned by apartheid in her native South Africa, the top UN human rights official said on Tuesday.

Navi Pillay, who is due to step down at the end of the month after six years in the UN hotseat, urged US authorities to investigate allegations of brutality and examine the “root causes” of racial discrimination in America.

US lawmakers on Tuesday called for calm and a change in police tactics in Ferguson, Missouri, which has been rocked by racially charged clashes and riots after a white officer killed an unarmed black teenager 10 days ago.

“I condemn the excessive use of force by the police and call for the right of protest to be respected. The United States is a freedom-loving country and one thing they should cherish is people’s right to protest,” Pillay said in a wide-ranging interview in her office along Lake Geneva.

“Apart from that, let me say that coming from apartheid South Africa I have long experience of how racism and racial discrimination breeds conflict and violence,” she said. “These scenes are familiar to me and privately I was thinking that there are many parts of the United States where apartheid is flourishing.”

Noting that African-Americans are often among the poorest and most vulnerable US citizens, and accounted for many of the inmates in the country’s teeming prisons, she added: “Apartheid is also where law turns a blind eye to racism.”

Scenes of heavily armed American police and now National Guard troops confronting demonstrators have become daily fixtures on television around the world, not least in countries branded abusers of human rights by the United States.

From Egypt urging “restraint” on US police to Iran calling Washington the “biggest violator of human rights” and Chinese state media suggesting it clean up its own act before “pointing fingers at others”, Ferguson has been seized on by governments weary of criticism from the United States and the UN watchdog.

“There isn’t a country in the world which has a perfect human rights record and doesn’t have these kind of issues that emerge,” Pillay said. “In other countries, this is what I urge, that it should be properly addressed, whether in Egypt, China or any other country, you have to have fair trials and afford proper defense and they should not be spurious charges.”

Pillay, an ethnic Tamil, was raised in Durban and worked for more than 30 years as a defense attorney including for anti-apartheid activists, exposing torture and helping to win rights on Robben Island, where prisoners included Nelson Mandela.

President Mandela appointed her in 1995 to be the first black woman judge on the South African High Court and then asked her to serve as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. She was later elected judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“My life experience has influenced my approach to these matters. I saw these things from the perspective of those who suffer and how important justice and accountability was for us,” she said.

Now 72, her international legacy includes landmark UN commissions of inquiry set up on war crimes in Syria, Sri Lanka and Gaza and on crimes against humanity in North Korea.

Pillay said the inquiries resulted in reports from “one good source of verified information”, but bemoaned the fact that not everyone was willing to work with the UN-appointed teams.

“I think it is very unfortunate that these countries do not cooperate with UN-mandated investigations or fact-finding missions, I am referring here to places like Syria, Sri Lanka and Israel who have denied access,” she said.

...

A Night in Ferguson: Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, and a Jail Cell


Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept [19/8/14]:

... We were jailed with a cross-section of the Ferguson protesters. Most of our cellmates were African American and from Ferguson or surrounding areas, though there were also some white men in the mix, too.

There were three recently discharged veterans in our group and one active duty service member. I don’t know how many—if any—of the men I was in jail with had participated in the violent, destructive protesting that I saw. But far from being the hardened criminals some might paint them as, these young men—most of whom had never met before last night—offered support for each other. They were kind to one another.

There was a lot of humor in the group as well, though it was all colored by a below-the-surface recognition that, for a certain portion of the men, time spent in jail cells is an unavoidable fact of life. One of our cellmates, a young African American veteran who had been picked up protesting, was stuck in jail for a mandatory 72 hours due to an outstanding warrant from an illegal lane change. Ferguson relies heavily on court fees to generate revenue, and traffic stops are a key component.

...

Officer points gun at me and other media on W. Florissant #ferguson [VIDEO - 19/8/14]

Two Newcastle homes raided in connection to Pullenvale explosives

ABC [20/8/14]:

Officers from the New South Wales State Crime Command's gang squad have spent several hours scouring two Newcastle homes in connection to the discovery of explosive material in a home at Pullenvale.

Homes at Belmont in Lake Macquarie and Waratah, linked to the Brisbane property's former tenant Daniel Fing, were targetted by Strikeforce Raptor officers.

The ABC understands heavily armed police rammed a fence to gain entry at the Belmont home.

It followed another morning of searching for hazardous materials at the Pullenvale home.

The Army supplied a dozen soldiers with sniffer dogs following a request for help from police.

They packed up and left the house around midday.

The soldiers were put to work scouring bushland behind the house with metal detectors.

Yesterday police removed bottles marked as chloroform, household cleaning products and computer parts from the house.

The property has been closely guarded by authorities since last Thursday when a real estate agent accidentally discovered explosives during a routine inspection of the vacant rental property.

Police have also uncovered other evidence, including maps marking out several commercial properties in Sydney and Newcastle.

Counter-terrorism police were not involved in the investigation but police said they were investigating possible links to a criminal gang.

Fing is being held by New South Wales Police but Queensland authorities refuse to comment on any possible charges.

A couple currently living in Italy are listed as the homeowners of the Pullenvale house but were not believed to be involved.

Lydia Reid, who lives next door, watched in fascination as the investigation unfolded.

"[I'm] just intrigued as to what else they think they're going to find," she said.

"It's getting more and more concerning as it goes on."

Drug charges, Main Beach

QPS Media [20/8/14]:

A man has been charged following an intercept on a Gold Coast beach earlier today.

Police were patrolling along Seaworld Drive around 10.20am following reports of a vehicle being driven on the beach.

Police have then located a sedan on the beach and have spoken to two men at the scene.

The vehicle was searched and police will allege that a quantity of cannabis and drug paraphernalia was located inside.

An 18-year-old Labrador man has been charged with two counts of possession of utensils and one count each of possession of dangerous drugs and unlawful use of a motor vehicle.

He is due to appear in the Southport Magistrates Court on September 5.

Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Former NSW detective, jailed for lying to Police Integrity Commission about drug use

ABC [20/8/14]:

A former New South Wales police officer has been sentenced to six months in jail for lying to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) about using drugs.

Former Tweed Heads detective inspector Shane Diehm, 49, was among former and serving officers recorded consuming what appeared to be hash cookies and ecstasy during a party weekend on the Gold Coast in 2010.

Diehm began crying as he was sentenced to a maximum one year in prison for lying about the event, with Magistrate Ellen Skinner saying politicians and police needed to fear being dishonest to watchdogs.

In Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney, Ms Skinner said the sentence gave her "no pleasure".

However, she said it was necessary to "scare" politicians and police officers into understanding there were consequences for lying to watchdogs such as the PIC and Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

"The only promise that is required for them [at the PIC or ICAC] is that they tell the truth," she said.

She said people would continue lying to commissions unless there was a "large stick" hanging over them and they knew if they got caught they would go to jail.

After handing down the sentence, Ms Skinner said she understood there would be an appeal.

She said she would grant Diehm bail once the appeal was filed, adding it was unlikely he would spend his first night in jail tonight.

Diehm appeared before the PIC in October 2011 to answer questions about the drug-fuelled boys' weekend on Queensland's Gold Coast the year before.

Diehm initially denied ever consuming drugs but eventually admitted he had.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of giving false information.

However, he said he did not lie to the PIC when he claimed he "didn't remember" seeing other former and serving cops use drugs that weekend.

Ms Skinner rejected that, saying there was no medical evidence to explain his selective memory failure.

"My conclusion is this was a highly memorable weekend," she said.

Logan fire inquest: No way to rescue 11 trapped inside burning house, police officer says

ABC [20/8/14]:

The first police officer at the scene of Australia's worst house fire has told a coronial inquest there was no chance of rescuing 11 people trapped inside.

Three women, four teenagers and four children under the age of 10 died in the house fire at Slacks Creek, in Logan, south of Brisbane, in August 2011.

Coroner James McDougall is considering whether current laws governing the installation of smoke alarms in all new properties should be extended to include older properties as a condition of their sale.

The first police officers to arrive at the house fire told the inquest there was no way anyone could be rescued.

Senior Constable Tony Payne and Constable Manelie Brier-Mills were doing a welfare check nearby when they heard there was a fire.

Senior Constable Payne said there was no hope of rescuing anyone from the burning house.

"There was a fleeting thought then when I saw the house I just thought no, no way," he said.

Senior Constable Payne said he saw two men standing on the road and the "house was completely engulfed by fire".

He said Jeremiah Lale, one of three men to escape the blaze, told him his family was still inside.

"I asked how many people - he said 11," Senior Constable Payne said.

He said he then told fire crews of how many people were left in the house.

Constable Brier-Mills told the inquest she saw smoke billowing over the trees when they rounded the corner.

She said flames were streaming out of the upstairs windows and "to me it seemed like some explosion had gone off".

Relatives of the 11 people who died in the fire cried in court as an investigator gave evidence.

Fire expert Sergeant Brad Bardell told the inquest the two-storey house was so badly damaged in the blaze it was in danger of collapsing.

Sergeant Bardell said three bodies were found just inside the door of one bedroom, a dead man was found near the window of another bedroom, and the bodies of seven people were found in a bedroom that had collapsed to the lower level.

Family members of the victims waited outside while Sergeant Bardell showed images of the burnt-out house.

He said the destruction was too great to confirm the exact cause of the blaze, but in his opinion it started in the desk area of the downstairs study.

Yesterday, a woman who had family members killed in the fire said she would never have closure.

Tracey Taufa said family members had been supporting each other since the tragedy.

"We remain strong as emotional as it was in there today, we'll get through," she said.

"There will never be any closure but we'll just let them do their work and at the end of the inquest that's when we'll know the outcome."

Three men who escaped the blaze gave evidence on day one of the inquest on Monday, including Tau Taufa, who lost his wife, daughter and three granddaughters.

None of the witnesses recalled hearing a smoke alarm.

The inquest continues.

Unsolved cyclist death likely hit-and-run

Yahoo [20/8/14]:

The unsolved death of a Hong Kong national two years ago was likely a hit-and-run incident, police say.

The body of 25-year-old Shui Ki Chan was found on the southern side of the Warrego Highway, near the University of Queensland Gatton campus, on August 23, 2012.

His bicycle and helmet lay nearby.

Senior Sergeant Tom Missingham said police had received new information about the case in recent months, but wanted anyone else with information to come forward.

"It would appear that it may well have been that it was a hit-and-run crash," he told AAP.

"But if anyone out there knows anything that can assist us along those lines, then we'd like to hear from them."

Mr Chan's body was repatriated to Hong Kong shortly after the incident.

"We'd very much like to finalise this matter and be able to notify the next of kin over there what our findings have been," Sen Sgt Missingham said.

Detectives are approaching their inquiries as though the death was a hit-and-run.

"We also believe that it's more than likely that it was a motor car, not a heavy vehicle, that struck the bike," Sgt Missingham said.

Adelaide woman stabbed in skull with Lord of the Rings-style sword

Nine MSN [20/8/14]:

A man used a Lord of the Rings replica sword to stab his sleeping girlfriend through the skull, an Adelaide jury has been told.

Prosecutor Mark Norman said Adam Alberi had repeatedly claimed his girlfriend had attacked him and accidentally stabbed herself in the head with the sharpened object.

"The prosecution say that explanation is as untrue as it is physically impossible and that he was in fact trying to kill her," he told the South Australian Supreme Court jury.

Mr Alberi, 25, has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of Karina Todorashko, 27, in July 2013 at the unit they shared in Adelaide's inner south.

Mr Norman said the couple had argued and Ms Todorashko told him she was going to leave him.

"Mr Alberi's state of mind was such that he couldn't or wouldn't let her go," he said.

The relationship between Mr Alberi, an Iraqi national, and Ms Todorashko, who came to Australia from Ukraine as a teenager, was "difficult, volatile and complicated", the prosecutor said.

The sword, a replica of one used in the Lord of the Rings films, had been sharpened deliberately.

"It's turned what may well have been purely an ornamental piece of movie memorabilia into something anyone would recognise as a lethal weapon," Mr Norman said.

Ms Todorashko woke up after feeling an object in her head.

"She has some memory of pulling that object out of her head," Mr Norman said.

"She also has a memory of seeing Mr Alberi holding the object, which she was only able to describe as some sort of blade."

Despite bleeding profusely, she jumped over the flat's balcony, climbed down an awning and onto the balcony of the flat below.

Her neighbour woke to find her in his bedroom, unable to talk and badly injured.

Ms Todorashko told the jury she remembered little of the circumstances around the attack but had woken up after feeling something in her head.

She feared she was going to die because she was bleeding so much.

"Can I just say to the whole jury, I mean the juries, I want this case to be over, whether he did it or not I forgive him," Ms Todorashko said.

The trial continues.

Sentencing magistrate 'horrified' trucking company not subject to stringent heavy vehicle inspections

Nine MSN [20/8/14]:

A magistrate says she is "horrified" the trucking company involved in a fatal tanker crash in Sydney's north was not required to undergo annual heavy-vehicle inspections.

Two people were killed and five were injured when a Cootes Transport tanker rolled on its side, burst into flames and collided with several cars on Mona Vale Road, Mona Vale, in October 2013.

The national trucking company came under scrutiny after the accident and was charged with more than 300 offences.

NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) alleged it had discovered significant defects in the company's fleet, including faulty brakes and suspension.

Cootes has pleaded guilty to 255 charges, some of which carry maximum penalties of $11,000.

During a hearing on Wednesday, Magistrate Lee Gilmour said she was "horrified" the Victoria-based company was not required to undergo an independent annual inspection.

"Ordinary motor vehicles you and I drive have to be inspected annual(ly) trucks as these don't have to do that?" she said.

"It seems rather silly to me but then you and I are stuck with the legislation."

Brett Hearnden, representing the RMS, said a "significant proportion" of Cootes's fleet had been identified as travelling with breaches.

"The only conclusion one could reasonably draw from the number of defects identified is that there had been a systemic failure in operations and conduct," he said.

At present, if a heavy vehicle is registered in NSW, it has to undergo mandatory annual inspections.

However, Victoria operates a different scheme, which means heavy vehicles do not undergo mandatory inspections until they change ownership.

Ms Gilmour will sentence Cootes at a later date.

Brisbane students rally against uni fee changes

Brisbane Times [20/8/14]:

No ifs, no buts, no university education cuts."

That was the chant today from around 300 students who marched through inner-city Brisbane today to continue the National Union of Students' national protest against the federal government's planned changes to university education.

...

Ms Henderson [student activist] said students should never underestimate their ability to influence policy.

"We put them there and we can bring them down," she said.

"And this is how you do it. You get out into the streets and you mobilise. Who is going to be able to go to university when degrees cost $100,000?"

Andrew Bonnell, from the University of Queensland's National Tertiary Education Union said it was important that students raised their voice against the changes.

"In the past, people going to uni were in the minority, they were kind of seen as a soft target by the government," Mr Bonnell said.

"But that's changed now. There are lots more families affected by these kinds of higher education cuts these days, so I think protesting and taking action has become more common."

Mr Bonnell said the proposed fee hikes could discourage students from being able to take up positions at regional campuses, which would effect their long-term viability.

 

Queenslanders bring politics back to the people [VIDEO]


Queensland Premier's director general spends $2900 on limos

Yahoo [20/8/14]:

The Queensland premier's director-general has spent more than $2900 on limos and $14,000 on external catering since the Liberal National Party came to office two years ago.

Jon Grayson has chosen to hire limousines instead of taxis on 16 occasions since mid-2012.

His taxpayer-funded MasterCard paid for the services of Hughes Limousines, based at Fitzroy North in Melbourne, and Driven By Limo, based at Yagoona in Sydney's west, right-to-information documents obtained by AAP show.

The expenses added up to $2906, with one trip costing $380.51 in May 2014.

The documents also showed $14,000 was spent on external catering over a two-year period.

But a spokesman for the director-general said his expenses covering April 2012 to May 2014 were a third cheaper, or about $11,000 less, compared with the last 26 months of Labor's time in office, when Ken Smith and John Bradley were in that role.

"All expenditure falls within departmental guidelines and is subject to rigorous audits," he said in a statement to AAP.

"The director-general uses the most efficient and reliable option of quickly getting to and from meetings and this is often pre-booked travel."

Mr Grayson's office also received a warning in February 2013 about an overdue bill of $71.65 for milk, asking for payment within seven days.

"We would appreciate your arranging for the account to be settled, in full, by the end of this week," an email seen by AAP says.

...

Mr Grayson has previously been mired in another controversy, relating to his shareholdings.

In May, he divested his shareholding in Gasfields Water and Waste Services, a company with links to disgraced NSW Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid's nephew Dennis Jabour.

Queensland Sadie Ladies create a political storm at Toowoomba hearings

Lock The Gate [19/8/14]:

The Queensland Sadie Ladies turned their attention on Toowoomba today to highlight the need to keep our water catchments clean, our food lands mining-free and our lifestyles intact.

The intrepid ‘political cleaners’ targeted the State Government hearings examining LNP proposed legislation that takes away ordinary people’s rights to object to mining developments.

The government’s Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee is in Toowoomba for hearings on the proposed Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014.

The Sadies’ spokesperson, Deborah Edwards said the draconian legislation, if passed, would mean 90 per cent of people would no longer have the right to object to mining in an effort to protect their farms and livelihoods.

“Toowoomba is the gateway to the Darling Downs, one of Queensland’s most important prime food-producing land and it is too precious to throw away to mining companies to make a quick buck,” she said.

“The Newman government’s disdain for clean drinking water is clear since it has allowed Coalbank Ltd to drill exploratory wells in the Wivenhoe Dam catchment, Brisbane's primary drinking water supply, while refusing to rule out the catchment area to mining.

“Under proposed changes to the Water Act mining companies will have access to virtually unlimited groundwater. It appears nowhere is safe from mining and Queensland taxpayers will be left to clean up the mess.

“The Sadies believe it’s time the people had a say is this. We want transparency and no dirty deals, so we came here to clean up this place.”

The Sadies back the alternative People’s Common Rights and Provisions Bill 2014 that plans to return democracy and a fair go to the people.

Gold Coast kerbside clean-ups could go city-wide, apparently

Gold Coast City Council Media Release [20/8/14]:

The whole of the Gold Coast could benefit from an annual kerbside clean-up next year, after a recent City waste survey showed two-thirds of residents would support a service.

This year’s kerbside clean-up program has started in six of the City’s 14 divisions, funded by the Councillors of each division from their divisional funds. However, Mayor Tom Tate is keen to respond to requests from residents in other areas who also want a kerbside clean-up.

The Mayor would like to see a city-wide service included in the 2015/16 Budget.

[YEAH WHATEVER ... BLURT BLURT BLURT]

Collections across the six divisions will operate between 18 August and 21 November. Eligible households will be notified up to 12 days before their collection day. To find out if your street is included this year - and when - head online to greengc.com.au or call us on 1300 GOLDCOAST.

Up to two cubic metres of materials can be collected from each household, including furniture, carpets and lino, baths and sinks, stoves and white goods, scrap metal and bagged garden waste. Items must be no longer than 1.5 metres, and safe and easy to lift by two people.

General household and construction waste, liquid/hazardous waste, tyres, paints, chemicals and batteries will not be accepted. Please contact the City or refer to online information at greengc.com.au for details on how to safely disposal of these materials.

Before you leave any items out for kerbside collection, think about whether they could be recycled or reused by any of the city’s charities or second-hand shops.

Please ensure that all items are placed on the kerb on the Sunday evening prior to the collection period as the collection may occur at any time during the following week. Materials placed out after the collection period will not be collected.

For more information, including a full list of items that will be accepted, visit greengc.com.au/kerbside-cleanups.

They want us to accept tyranny and be willingly enslaved

If the IOM aren't assisting in the deportation of asylum seekers to Syria, then what are they doing at Australia's concentration camp on Manus Island?

Guardian [20/8/14]:

Lenore Taylor and Oliver Laughland

The International Organisation for Migration has said it is not assisting in the return of asylum seekers to Syria, after the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, claimed it as a partner in Australian repatriation efforts.

Guardian Australia reported on Tuesday that department of immigration emails, obtained under freedom of information, showed ongoing discussions about repatriation of Syrian asylum seekers to Syria.

Human Rights Watch said Australia was doing the “unthinkable” by endeavouring to return Syrians.

Speaking on Sky television late on Tuesday, Morrison said the suggestion that people was being “coerced” to return were “ridiculous” because “these are voluntary returns, there are around half a dozen Syrians on Manus Island and none of them have gone back to Syria”. He added: “It is a voluntary return program that is done in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration.”

Asked about the minister’s remark that it was partnering with the government to discuss the voluntary return of Syrians, a spokesman for the IOM told Guardian Australia: “IOM is not assisting in the return of Syrians, nor are we in a position to provide post-arrival assistance; as Syria is one of the countries where IOM has suspended [assisted voluntary return and reintegration] activity.

“We advise Syrians accordingly, and, in turn, they are seeking return assistance through [the] Department of Immigration and Border Protection. These are voluntary returns facilitated by DIBP.”

The emails published by Guardian Australia reveal the lengths to which Morrison’s department has gone to facilitate the repatriation of traumatised Syrian asylum seekers.

The correspondence supports reports from Guardian Australia in March that Syrians detained offshore told Australian immigration department officials they would be killed if they returned to Syria, but the department facilitated plans for their repatriation nonetheless.

The departmental efforts included sharing asylum seeker identity documents with the Syrian consulate in Australia, booking flights via Jordan, and endeavouring to issue an “ultimatum” to force asylum seekers into a decision on repatriation, despite a number of them being severely mentally ill.

...

Australia's emails on returning refugees to Syria - January 2014 via @FPhumanrights:

... I have also just receive further questions from these transferees. I did address these questions at our initial meeting, however if anyone would like to make any recommendations on how to answer these quesion I would be more than happy to take your suggestions on board.

I have listed the questions verbatim:

1. Why can't we be sent to another country?

2. Why can't we be referred to UNHCR to handle our case?

3. Does Australia have the right to send us to another country example Canada, New Zealand or Britain and if not why not?

4. Can the (Australian) government make contact with these countries?

5. Is it legal to hold us here against our will on Manus Island?


Emergency Response Team now regularly searches Manus Island detention centre with metal detectors ...

"tweeted" by @HRP_org - Humantiarian Research Partners [19/8/14]


Iraqi asylum seeker returned home from Nauru at beginning of August. Refoulement? ...

"tweeted" by @HRP_org - Humantiarian Research Partners [20/8/14]

 

Refugee Rights Action Network WA [20/8/14]:

Message from Muhammad's fiance:

"I am sure everyone of you has dear ones in life whom you can't see unsafe, unhappy and psychologically disturbed, I am one of you. If you love humanity, stop the deportation of my fiance, Muhammad who is my soul mate, my only friend and beauty of my life. He is going to be sent back to a place where I have seen people being killed in large numbers, where the orphans and widows of the martyrs are with no shelter and where no one is safe.

Help him please. I want him to live, I want him to be safe so that I can live and I want him to remain there. I am afraid seeing here when the wife sees the happy face of her husband in the morning and at night she finds him killed with many bullets, or even the dead body isn't found.

We have no chances of life in any city of Pakistan, even I myself saw massacre of more than 50 girls in my university (2013) when it was attacked and we were attempting papers.

A place where no one is safe, how can one force Muhammad to move to such place...?

Save him please from deportation.

Jassy"

PLEASE SIGN THIS URGENT PETITION: https://www.change.org/petitions/scott-morrison-stop-the-deportation-of-muhammad-no-deportation-to-danger

Hunting the Hazara [Newsweek - 11/3/14]

Fourth Public Hearing, National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention

Australian Human Rights Commission:

The fourth public hearing of the inquiry will be held in Canberra at Parliament House on Friday, 22nd August.

The witnesses for this final hearing are: The Hon Scott Morrison, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection; Mr Paris Aristotle and Professor Nicholas Proctor, Chair and Member of the Minister's Council on Asylum Seekers and Detention respectively; and Ms Deborah Homewood, Managing Director of MAXimus Solutions, responsible for providing support to unaccompanied children in immigration detention.

Members of the public can attend as observers at Committee Room 2R1, Parliament House, Parliament Drive, Canberra.

No bookings or tickets are necessary.

...

NTEU NSW holds meeting to discuss UniSuper divestment from Transfield [xBorder Operational Matters - 20/8/14]

University of Melbourne Student Union passes motion in support of divestment [xBorder Operational Matters - 19/8/14]

Angolans head homewards by train from Democratic Republic of Congo

UNHCR Media Release [19/8/14]:

A group of 500 Angolans headed homewards by train on Tuesday as the UN refugee agency launched a repatriation programme to end one of Africa's most protracted refugee situations.

The refugees took the train to Kimpese, 220 kilometres west of Kinshasa in Democratic Republic of the Congo's Bas-Congo province, and will spend Tuesday night in a transit centre there before being taken by bus Wednesday on the 80-km trip to northern Angola. They will registered and helped home.

Tuesday's returnees are among some 30,000 Angolans who wish to return on this operation, the third and final repatriation programme run by UNHCR since the end of the Angolan Civil War in 2002.

Twice-weekly return convoys will be organized from Kinshasa, Bas-Congo and Katanga provinces in the coming months. A further 18,000 former Angolan refugees wish to remain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and are in the process of local integration.

Before departure, the returnees go through medical screening, vaccinations and receive safe conduct papers, which serve as an identity document until they have their Angolan ID. Angola has assured that the authorities will help them with their reintegration once they are back in the country.

Since the end of June 2012, when the cessation clause was invoked, the Angolans in host countries have not been regarded as refugees because the situation in their country is no longer regarded as threatening to their safety or well-being.

More than 78,000 Angolan refugees were still living in the DRC when cessation of refugee status was declared by the DRC authorities.

During a tripartite meeting in Angola last July, the Angolan and DRC authorities as well as UNHCR agreed to launch a final voluntary repatriation operation.

Angola's 1961-1975 war of independence and the civil war that followed, claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced some 4 million people, including 550,000 who became refugees. Most fled to neighbouring countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Although most former Angolan refugees in the region have gone back home since 2002, some 73,000 Angolans remain in exile in countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo (48,000), Zambia (23,000), Namibia (1,600) and the Republic of Congo (400).

The DRC, Namibia and Zambia have offered opportunities for local integration, while South Africa has issued the Angolans with special immigration permits to allow them to stay.

Argentina to pay bondholders despite US court ruling

France 24 [20/8/14]:

Buenos Aires moved to pay bondholders domestically after a US bank left it unable to do so, President Cristina Kirchner said.

"To protect the payments to bondholders who took part in the 2005 and 2010 debt swaps, we are designating the (state) Banco Nacion Trust as a replacement for Bank of New York Mellon, however the bondholders decide (to take payment), voluntarily," Kirchner said in a televised address.

In July, US Judge Thomas Griesa ordered a freeze on some Argentine payments until Buenos Aires simultaneously pays off the hedge funds which sued the country to demand payment on their bonds.

Argentina placed $539 million into an account of Bank of New York Mellon at the Argentine central bank at the end of June to meet a scheduled payment to holders of the country's restructured bonds.

But Griesa forbade the bank from transferring the money to the bondholders, in line with his previous 2012 ruling.

Argentina, he said, must first comply with an order that hedge funds which did not join the bond restructuring program after the country's 2001 default be paid in full for the $1.3 billion in bonds they hold.

Argentina says the hedge funds gave up the chance for payment when they rejected the restructuring deal, which was accepted by 92 percent of the country's creditors.

But Griesa has repeatedly ruled in favor of the hedge funds, NML Capital and Aurelius Capital Management, and threatened to hold Bank of New York in contempt of court if it transfers the money.

He also forbade the bank from returning the money to the Argentine government.

Holders of eurobonds and other non-dollar-denominated Argentine debt say the New York court does not have jurisdiction over their bonds, and that their payments should not be held up by the claims of the hedge funds.

Argentina and the hedge funds have sought to find a compromise, most recently exploring whether another group of investors, mainly banks, could buy the hedge funds' bonds to satisfy their claims.

But those talks went nowhere, leaving the parties at odds as the country -- already ruled in default by ratings agencies -- approaches new scheduled interest payments in coming months.

United States continue bombing Iraq

Centcom [19/8/14]:

U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Iraq in the last 24 hours, with fighter aircraft conducting two airstrikes near the Mosul Dam.

One of the airstrikes successfully destroyed an ISIL checkpoint. The other airstrike was not successful.

All strike aircraft exited the strike areas safely.

These airstrikes were conducted under authority to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces as they work together to combat ISIL, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts.

The Department of Defense confirmed yesterday that Iraqi forces have cleared the Mosul Dam, and that Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces are working together to further expand control of the area.

Reported beheading of journalist James Foley not yet verified [Global Post - 19/8/14]

Islamic State: The Monster Western Intervention Created [Huffington Post - 19/8/14]

March for #MikeBrown. 100-150 very peaceful protesters walking on shoulder of W Florissant #Ferguson

Image: @kgosztola [19/8/14]


A 23-year-old man has been fatally shot by St Louis police who said he was wielding a knife, as 78 are arrested in continuing protests after the shooting death of unarmed Mike Brown. ... [Guardian - 19/8/14]

Ferguson Arrests Include at Least 10 Journalists [Boston Globe - 19/8/14]

From Ferguson to Gaza, we charge genocide [San Francisco Bay View - 19/8/14]

3 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City

Maan [19/8/14]:

Three Palestinians were killed and at least 40 injured in Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Gaza medical officials said.

A 3-year-old girl and an unidentified woman were killed in an airstrike which targeted the al-Dalou family home in Gaza City's Sheikh Radwan neighborhood.

Ambulance crews and medics were searching for bodies among the rubble of the three-story home, which was reportedly hit by five missiles.

Twelve Palestinians were killed in 2012 when Israel targeted the same home during a military offensive on Gaza. The victims of that attack spanned four generations, from a 1-year-old to an 83-year-old.

At least 40 other Palestinians were injured in Israeli airstrikes across the besieged enclave.

Warplanes targeted over 30 sites including agricultural lands in Beit Lahiya, al-Zaytoun, al-Maghazi, Deir al-Balah, Al-Qarara, Khuza, eastern Rafah and eastern Shujaiyya.

Israel launched airstrikes on Gaza after three rockets landed near Beersheba earlier in the day.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied the movement had fired rockets over the border Tuesday, accusing Israel of trying to sabotage truce talks in Cairo.

"We don't have any information about firing rockets from Gaza. The Israeli raids are intended to sabotage the negotiations in Cairo," he told AFP.

The Palestinians say agreement over a long-term arrangement in Gaza has been delayed by Israeli foot-dragging over key issues.

TUTU: My plea to the people of Israel – Liberate yourselves by liberating Palestine [Sabbah - 18/8/14]

How the West helps Israel commit genocide in Gaza [New Zimbabwe - 17/8/14]

US backed Kiev forces attack apartment building, Donetsk

RT [19/8/14]:

A Donetsk resident has uploaded footage of a massive blast next to an apartment block in the heart of the city. The eastern Ukrainian city, which has been under rebel control since the start of the armed conflict, has been encircled by government forces.

The video, shot from the window of an apartment block across a courtyard, captures a momentary fireball next to a multistory development housing thousands of people.

It is unclear from the footage whether the explosion is the result of an artillery shell explosion or a flash of gunfire.

City authorities say that two people have been injured, and several apartments, gas pipes and cars have been destroyed by the government barrage, saying that residents of almost all areas in the city are within earshot of artillery fire.

Authorities say that a nine-story residential block in the center city has been hit, though it is unclear if this refers to the incident witnessed in the video.

"There is constant thumping that hasn't stopped throughout the day," reports RT's Paula Slier from Donetsk.

"It is difficult to tell who is doing the firing. On the one hand you have the Ukrainian army vowing to take back the city, but these anti-government fighters are also very active and are saying that they won't let the city surrender."

The Ukrainian Army has said that it plans to recapture the militant stronghold by the end of the week.

“The Ukrainian Army is continuing its operation to liberate Donetsk. Thirty fortified posts have been set up around the city to cut off the terrorists’ access," said a statement from Ukraine’s National Security Council in Kiev, referring to the rebel militias as “terrorists,” as the Kiev government has insisting on doing since it began its military operation in April.

Up to 70 percent of Donetsk 1 million residents are thought to have abandoned their houses, with the rest in long queues for basic supplies such as food, water and medicine as the encirclement has tightened, and the infrastructure damage has mounted.

"This is a humanitarian crisis unfolding," reports Slier.

The UN says that by "very conservative" estimates more than 2,000 people have died during the rebellion and the subsequent government offensive, which has isolated and pushed back the militants into their strongholds in the past several weeks.

Led by Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri, Pakistani protesters reach parliament

Reuters [19/8/14]:

Thousands of protesters marched to the Pakistani parliament on Tuesday as part of a bid to force the prime minister to resign, using a crane and bolt cutters to force their way past barricades of shipping containers in the capital Islamabad.

Riot police and paramilitaries had tried to seal off the diplomatic and government zone before the march began, and were told not to intervene as protesters, some of them women throwing rose petals, moved all obstacles in their way.

The protests were led by former international cricketer Imran Khan, head of the country's third-largest political party, and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, who controls a network of Islamic schools and charities.

Hours before the protesters set off, the interior minister announced that soldiers would be deployed to stop them.

That was intended to send a message to the coup-prone country that the protests do not have military backing. It also underscored how the opposition has forced the fledgling civilian government to rely on the country's powerful army, despite deep mistrust between the two institutions.

The protests have piled extra pressure on the 15-month-old government as it struggles to overcome high unemployment, daily power cuts and a Taliban insurgency. The showdown has also raised broader questions over the stability of Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people.

Khan and Qadri both want Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign. Khan accuses him of rigging last year's polls. Qadri accuses him of corruption. Police estimate the two protest leaders have about 55,000 supporters between them, but not all of them marched on parliament.

Both Khan and Qadri have been holding protest rallies in the capital since Friday with government permission. But they have been banned from the "Red Zone", which houses many Western embassies, parliament and the office and home of Sharif.

Their protests have so far remained separate because the two have different supporters and different plans for what should happen if Sharif steps down.

But on Tuesday, Qadri said his supporters would march on parliament, a day after Khan asked his supporters to do the same.

"The people's parliament have decided to do their sit-in in front of parliament," Qadri said on Tuesday evening, referring to his followers, to approving roars from the crowd.

Most of Khan's supporters are young men. Qadri's are seen as more disciplined and determined; there are many families among them. All the men have sticks; brigades of youths also have goggles and masks to deal with tear gas.

Speaking the crowd, Khan said any violence would be the fault of the prime minister, as his female supporters scattered baskets of rose petals over bemused police in body armor.

"If police try to stop us and there is violence, Nawaz I will not spare you, I will come after you and put you in jail," Khan said.

His supporters roared their approval. Among them was 20-year-old Shams Khan, who came from the northwestern region of Bannu with his friends.

"My blood is boiling today and I want to be martyred," he said. "If we don't go into the Red Zone today, I will quit this party tomorrow."

...

Four dead as heavy rain triggers landslides in Japan

Channel News Asia [20/8/14]:

At least four people have been killed as heavy rain triggered mudslides in the western Japan city of Hiroshima, rescuers said Wednesday.

"We haven't assessed the full extent (of the disaster) yet but four people have been confirmed dead," said a spokesman for Hiroshima's fire department, which operates the city's emergency unit.

Rescuers said victims included a two-year-old toddler and 77-year-old woman.

Live television footage early Wednesday showed houses destroyed by overnight landslides in mountains behind them, with muddy water still running through wrecked buildings.

Japan’s military is showcasing its ability to defend remote islands, as its role expands at home and abroad under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The military began large-scale annual “Fire Power” exercises on Tuesday at the foot of Mount Fuji. Defense officials said the exercises, which last until Sunday, are aimed at repelling a hypothetical invasion of far-off Japanese islands. ... [Japan Today - 20/8/14]

Minority bigots have their Facebook page reinstated

North West Star [19/8/14]:

A contentious Facebook page reported for inciting hate speech has been reactivated.

The Stop the Mosque in Bendigo page has been reactivated on Facebook, after the page's administrators successfully appealed Facebook's ruling to remove the page for inciting hate speech.

A post on the page reads, "Facebook listened to our appeal... thank you guys...were back! (sic)"

Peter Bolt then comments: "time to get rid of these grubs.

"I mean the Mosque supporters."

...

French politician angered by veiled Muslim at beach [Al Arabiya - 19/8/14]

Telstra targeted for class action against late fees

ZDNet [19/8/14]:

Josh Taylor

ACA Lawyers is seeking to get Telstra customers on board a new class action suit targeting the company's late fee charges.

The case follows a similar case lodged against ANZ, Citibank, and Westpac over credit card late fees earlier this month, after the Federal Court ruled in February that ANZ's late credit card fees were a penalty and did not reflect the actual cost to the bank.

ACA Lawyers principal Steven Lewis said that Telstra's AU$4.3 billion profit result last week was built in part from AU$272 million in revenue collected through "late fees and other miscellaneous fees".

"Since 2000, hundreds of thousands of Telstra customers have paid late fees in the mistaken belief Telstra was entitled to charge the fee," he said in a statement.

"But a recent court decision in relation to credit card fees found that late payment fees charged by banks are unlawful and that clients are entitled to get most of their money back."

ACA says Telstra currently charges an AU$15 late fee if the billing amount owed is AU$70 or more.

ACA Lawyers said it had the backing of UK litigation funder Harbour Litigation Funding, and would also seek to target Optus and Vodafone in the future. Those who choose to participate in the class action will have no up front cost, but Harbour Litigation Funding will take "a percentage" of the damages if any are awarded.

In a statement, Telstra defended its late fee system.

"We will review the claim when we receive it. We believe our late payment fees are reasonable in light of the costs we incur and we will strongly defend any claim we receive," a spokesperson for the telco told ZDNet.

Launching class actions against telcos is not always successful. The last attempted class action against a telecommunications company in Australia has been stalled for four years, with Piper Alderman and litigation funder LCM failing to get its class action against Vodafone off the ground to date.

Telstra found divulging web browsing histories to law-enforcement agencies without a warrant [Brisbane Times - 20/8/14]

Macquarie gave favoured customers escape route in BrisConnections float

Australian Financial Review [20/8/14]:

Joyce Moullakis and Sarah Thompson

Macquarie Group has urged any aggrieved clients who lost money in the initial public offering of the BrisConnections toll road in 2008 to raise their concerns following claims it allowed a select group of wealthy customers to pull out of the disastrous float.

The investment bank allowed some wealthy customers to pull out of the ­BrisConnections initial public offering in 2008 when it looked like the float was going to tank, according to seven current and former Macquarie staff.

More than $20 million of BrisConnections shares were handed back by clients to their Macquarie stockbrokers before the shares began to trade, the sources said. The company forced the brokers, also known as ­private client advisers, to wear some of the losses, they added.

The allegations relate to the total allocation to Macquarie Private Wealth clients, which was in the order of $100 million, as part of the float.

By returning the shares Macquarie clients had agreed to buy, the favoured investors avoided one-day losses of more than $10 million.

BrisConnections shares fell 59 per cent on their debut on the Australian Securities Exchange because of ­concerns fewer cars than forecast would use its toll road in Brisbane.

At the time markets were volatile as the global financial crisis was taking hold and there were concerns about ­BrisConnections’ debt. The float ­followed a profit downgrade by rival Transurban Group.

Many early investors were clients of Macquarie, which was a lead manager and underwriter of the float, which meant it agreed to purchase a certain amount of shares and sell them to its clients. Other underwriters included Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and JPMorgan.

...

NDIS: Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

Herald [19/8/14]:

About 30 people took part in a protest rally yesterday over the privatisation of state government group homes as part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Public Service Association (PSA) organiser Ron Hunter said the protest was held near a group home at Mount Hutton run by the government’s Ageing, Disability and Home Care agency.

It was one of about 50 ADHC group homes in the Hunter Region.

Hunter Disability Support Group founding member Graham Burgess, whose son lives in a Belmont group home, spoke against the privatisation of group homes, describing it as a $500million ‘‘giveaway’’ of public assets.

Staff from the Mount Hutton home walked off the job for 30minutes as part of a campaign of bans and limitations the union hoped would bring the government to the negotiating table.

‘‘The most important thing is that the families of the people being cared for in the ADHC group homes don’t want them privatised, don’t want the service to change,’’ Mr Hunter said.

‘‘They fear that the level of care is at risk under the privatisation.’’

A spokesperson for Disability Services Minister John Ajaka said the union bans, which ‘‘direct people to avoid work, will only disadvantage people with disability’’.

Mr Ajaka’s spokesperson said the NDIS Enabling Act was passed with bipartisan support.

It would ensure departmental employees transferring to the non-government sector would have ‘‘the same terms and conditions that are in their awards now, and with all their leave and other entitlements preserved’’.

But Mr Hunter said the government had forcibly privatised their jobs without consultation, and no one was likely to trust ‘‘vague promises’’ made through the media.

Mr Ajaka’s spokesperson said the non-government sector already provided 60per cent of disability services in NSW, with the NDIS likely to create work for another 25,000 disability staff as an extra 50,000 people signed on the NDIS by 2018.

PSA organiser Paul James said most jobs would be part-time, casual and lowly paid.

$7m payout for hit and run

West Australian [20/8/14]:

More than $7 million has been awarded to a promising young apprentice maimed when deliberately run over outside a 17th birthday party.

Ned Mather was 18 when hit with enough force to smash the window of the car Jay Joseph Libri drove at teenagers outside the party in Duncraig on February 4, 2011.

Mr Mather had life-threatening injuries and was left with permanent disabilities, including limited mobility and brain damage.

In the Supreme Court yesterday, Mr Mather's lawsuit against Libri was finalised, with consent orders awarding him compensation of $7,261,383.

The Insurance Commission of WA will meet the payout under third-party insurance.

Mr Mather's mother Tracey Moore said it was a relief that her son would have the financial means to meet his needs.

But she said the money would not give her son back his life.

"They can have every cent in a heartbeat to swap for Ned's life back," she said.

Ms Moore said Mr Mather was "doing OK" but was recovering from a broken jaw after a recent fall.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Karina Hafford, for Mr Mather, said the payout was one of WA's biggest for a motor vehicle settlement.

A trustee would hold the money for the 21-year-old's future, which included full-time nursing for the rest of his life.

"Ned was an innocent pedestrian who was tragically struck down and has had to rebuild his life with intense physio and speech therapy to learn to walk and talk again," Ms Hafford said.

"He was a promising young apprentice but will never work again.

"Ned's family have never stopped fighting for his recovery. They have done everything they could to improve his situation and I commend them for their devotion."

Libri, who fled after the crash and went to the pub to drink, was sentenced to four years jail after a jury convicted him of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.

At the time, District Court Judge Jeremy Curthoys criticised Libri's "callous and reckless disregard" and "utterly selfish" behaviour .

He was given parole in April.

Queensland Journalism 101: Trivialise police brutality AND domestic violence

Sunshine Coast Daily [20/8/14]:

Janine Hill

A man bitten on the genitals by a police dog had bashed his on-again, off-again girlfriend days earlier, stolen her car and written off another.

Zane Thomas Smith was bitten after he punched the dog while police searched a house at Pomona.

The Maroochydore District Court heard that six days earlier, on August 25 last year, Smith had broken into his on-again, off-again girlfriend's Mooloolaba unit and locked the door.

Crown prosecutor Maita Aylward said the two had earlier had a few drinks but the young woman had decided to go home.

Ms Aylward said that when she arrived, Smith grabbed her, threw her on a bed, attempted to choke her and punched her repeatedly.

She said the young woman locked the door and tended to her injuries when Smith left, but he returned and kicked the door in and assaulted her again.

Smith then left, threatening to kill himself and taking her car keys from her bag.

Ms Aylward said Smith smashed into two parked cars before dumping the car at the Maroochydore RSL and running off.

Smith, 24, pleaded guilty yesterday to two burglary charges, two counts of assault occasioning bodily harm, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle while adversely affected by an intoxicating substance, and two counts of obstructing police.

He was given sentences of up to three years and will be eligible for parole on June 12 next year.

Judge John Robertson acknowledged Smith's victim had offered him a place to stay when he fell on hard times. "You repaid her kindness by acting as a thug and an outlaw," he said.

Pandering to the demands of Murdoch's selective vigilantism has nothing to do with domestic violence law reform.

Nine MSN [20/8/14]:

Domestic violence perpetrators in Victoria will lose their automatic right to have their identity protected.

Current laws ban those who breach family violence intervention orders from being named, unless a court gives permission.

But under news laws, it will be up to the victim to decide if the attacker's name should be made public.

Under the changes, victims will be able to consent verbally to having the person named once they are charged.

But the new laws will not automatically lift a ban on publication following the death of a victim.

Attorney-General Robert Clark says the new laws are aimed at giving power back to people who suffer domestic abuse and raising community awareness.

"This reform will empower victims of family violence, allowing them to talk publicly about their experiences without having to seek permission from the court," he told the Herald Sun.

"It will strengthen perpetrator accountability," he said.

"This in turn will allow fuller and more open reporting about the nature and extent of family violence and its impact on Victorian families, promoting public discussion and improving community awareness."

Soldier's mother questions Defence's double standards

Nine MSN [20/8/14]:

... The mother accused Defence of double standards because they were prepared to investigate her bisexual son over a matter related to his sexuality, at the same time as allowing topless barmaids into a club adjoining a Special Air Service compound.

The mother, who cannot be identified due to her son's special forces role, said a person "who had issues with my son's sexuality" made false allegations that he had purchased an alleged illegal medicine.

"He (my son) is being discriminated against because of his sexuality, about which he was open, by the same management that condones women being exploited in the manner of those photographs,'' the woman was quoted as saying.

Defence did not confirm whether the mother's complaint prompted the topless women ban, saying only that it came into effect when the chain of command was made aware of the situation and that such activities did "not represent the values of the Australian Defence Force".

ADFA cadet charged over two alleged sexual assaults in Canberra

ABC [20/8/14]:

A 19-year-old male cadet from the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in Canberra has been arrested over two alleged sexual assaults.

Two female officer cadets reported the allegations separately to ADFA staff on Monday.

One involved a 19-year-old woman after a night out in Civic in June 2013, while the second was in February this year at another 19-year-old woman's home in Campbell.

The man is expected to apply for bail when he faces the ACT Magistrates Court this morning after being charged with two counts of sexual intercourse without consent.

ADFA has been under pressure to improve the culture at the male-dominated defence training facility after a series of complaints.

The Defence Department said support was being provided to the two women who came forward with the allegations.

Woman lucky to escape as house is gutted by fire

Morning Bulletin [20/8/14]:

A woman had a lucky escape when her house went up in flames yesterday afternoon in Rockhampton.

A police car spotted the smoke billowing from the house on the corner of Nicholson and Costello Sts. in Allenstown at 12.50pm.

After hearing her fire alarm go off, the woman managed to get out of the house with her two dogs before the police car arrived.

The house was well alight when fire crews arrived on scene, but they managed to extinguish the flames.

Fire crews had to withdraw from the house at one stage due to the intense heat.

Police said that the woman was in a state of shock over the ordeal.

The Queenslander home was completely gutted in the blaze.

Investigations into the cause of the fire are under way.

Grievous bodily harm charge, Zillmere

QPS Media [20/8/14]:

A man has been charged following an alleged assault that occurred yesterday in Zillmere.

Police were called to a residence on Rowell Street at 3 yesterday afternoon following reports of an assault.

When police arrived they located a 62-year-old man who had suffered facial injuries and he was transported to hospital for treatment.

A 28-year-old Zillmere man has been charged with one count of grievous bodily harm and is due to appear in the Sandgate Magistrates Court today.

Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Trucks collide on Toowoomba Range

Chronicle [20/8/14]:

A truck driver was taken to hospital after his vehicle collided with another truck on the up-section of the Toowoomba Range.

Crews were called to the scene, west of the saddle on the range, about 7.30am.

A Queensland Ambulance Service spokesman said there were reports the cabin of one of the trucks had been crushed.

The driver was taken to Toowoomba Hospital.

Truck-on-car crash leaves 23-year-old in hospital

Tweed Daily News [19/8/14]:

A 23-year-old man was lucky to be alive after a truck collided with his sedan in Banora Point on Tuesday.

The driver was trapped in the vehicle until emergency services could free him.

His blue sedan was left in ruins.

Tweed police Inspector Greg Jago said when the Palm Beach man was transported to Tweed Hospital, paramedics suspected he had a fractured collarbone.

He said it appears the car had broken down prior to the crash.

"At this point investigations indicate the sedan had a mechanical failure," Insp Jago said.

"A number of other vehicles were able to avoid the broken down vehicle, but the heavy vehicle was unable to."

Insp Jago said the driver of the truck, a 25-year-old Ashmore man, was unharmed.

He said no charges had been laid at this point.

"There's no indication whether action will be taken," Insp Jago said.

Insp Jago updated previous figures, confirming two other vehicles were involved in the incident.

He said the drivers of those cars were not injured.

Insp Jago said investigations into the incident are ongoing.

Following the incident, southbound traffic was banked up to the Queensland border.

...

Hydroponics drug set up located, Elanora

QPS Media [20/8/14]:

Police are at the scene of an alleged hydroponics drug set up at a house at Elanora.

Around 9am this morning police executed a search warrant at an Evergreen Drive address where it is alleged around 120 cannabis plants were located.

A man is presently assisting police with their enquiries.

Investigations are continuing into the discovery.

Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Court rejects NSW police officer's memory fail

Nine MSN [20/8/14]:

A former NSW cop has been found guilty of lying to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) with a court rejecting his selective "memory failure" about a drug-fuelled boys' weekend.

Former Detective Inspector Shane Diehm, 49, was hauled before the PIC in October 2011 to answer questions about drug use in the force.

During the hearing, Diehm was grilled about a drug-fuelled boys' weekend on Queensland's Gold Coast the year before, in which officers were secretly recorded consuming illicit drugs and hash cookies.

Diehm initially denied ever consuming drugs but eventually confessed.

He has pleaded guilty to two counts of giving false information to the watchdog in relation to this.

However, he said he did not lie to the PIC when he claimed he "didn't remember" seeing other former and serving cops use drugs that weekend.

On Wednesday, Magistrate Ellen Skinner rejected this, saying a term of imprisonment would be appropriate.

She said there was no medical evidence to explain his selective "memory failure".

"My conclusion is this was a highly memorable weekend," she told Downing Centre Local Court.

The former and serving officers consumed what appeared to be hash cookies and ecstasy and openly discussed their apparent drug use, she said.

"The parties were comfortable taking drugs and distributing drugs."

It wasn't consistent to remember his own behaviour but not others, she said.

The decision comes after Diehm told the court last month that he had "no reason" to protect the other cops.

"I'm not naive enough to believe that I was the only one who (took drugs). But if I had to guess who I saw or what the footage showed, I have no recollection."

Ms Skinner said his lies to the PIC and then before the local court showed he had little remorse.

The hearing continues.

Australia's Prime Minister calls off "war on terror"

Yahoo [20/8/14]:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he's not aware of any terrorist threat linked to the discovery of explosives at a Brisbane property.

A stockpile of highly explosive material was found at a Pullenvale property last week, reportedly along with crudely-drawn maps detailing an area around Sydney's busy Central station and another area in Newcastle.

Mr Abbott says he's not aware of any threats to those sites, nor anything that would indicate a threat towards November's G20 summit of world leaders in Brisbane.

"There are all sorts of people who do all sorts of weird and, at times, pretty dangerous things," Mr Abbott told ABC Radio in Brisbane.

"But I haven't been advised of any potential terrorist threat in respect of this particular issue."

The prime minister lauded Queensland police for finding and disposing of the explosives, saying security during and in the lead up to G20 would be as "effective as it needs to be".

Queensland police, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Defence Force personnel are continuing to search the Pullenvale property, but have all remained tight-lipped about the investigation.

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