SPRING HILL VOICE

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

There's no rationalisation for what you do and you are satan's little helpers. ... Bill Hicks

I feel sorry for Americans

STOP THE WARS! TAX THE RICH! FREE THE REFUGEES! LEGALISE FREEDOM!

Perception correction. Bearing witness. Unfashionable.

"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 *

 

 

How would Mary, Joseph and Jesus have fared if they were seeking asylum in Australia today?

Image: @lovemakesaway [22/12/14]

 

... A mother and child, the baby maybe two months old

Prepare themselves for sleep and feeding.

The shadow of the Capitol dome slides across his face

And his heart is racing with the urge to freedom.  ...

'Trailways Bus', Paul Simon [1997]

 

Nauru court ruling worrying for democracy

RNZI [22/12/14]:

The opposition MPs who remain suspended from Nauru's parliament say the Supreme Court's decision upholding their suspension sets a worrying precedent for democracy.

Earlier this year five MPs were stripped of their entitlements, offices and salaries for speaking out against the current government but they challenged the ruling, arguing in court it was a breach of the constitution.

A spokesman for the group, Roland Kun, says the court's decision that it must respect the right of parliament to regulate the conduct of its own affairs has deep consequences.

"What the decision is effectively saying is that the government of the day can do whatever they want to do in terms of excluding elected members of parliament if they are uncomfortable with what the members of parliament are expressing inside and outside parliament."

Mr Kun says the ruling means that in the aftermath of future elections, any group that forms government could indefinitely suspend opposing members for what they have said during campaigning.

Sydney Morning Herald [22/12/14]:

... Transfield shares had been trading well below Ferrovial's original offer of $1.95 after the slump in the oil price, which has raised concerns over its earnings outlook. At the weekend Ferrovial raised its offer price to $2, which was rejected by Transfield.

Ferrovial said it had ceased discussions now with Transfield.

"Ferrovial Services has undertaken the limited due diligence available and concluded that there were a number of issues that impacted value," it said.

"Ferrovial Services took a very long-term view on value and proposed a revised price of $2 per share, which has been rejected by [Transfield] and therefore discussions have ceased."

Ferrovial said it was a disciplined investor and would continue to investigate options to grow its business internationally.

As well over doubts about Transfield's earnings outlook, the company has two large contracts with the Department of Immigration that are up for renewal in the second half of the year, and there are concerns that even if the contracts are renewed it will be at significantly lower profit margins.

A fund manager with one of Transfield's largest shareholders, Simon Mawhinney, of Allan Gray, said there was "information asymmetry" between the boards of Transfield and Ferrovial over the view of the value of Transfield shares.

Allan Gray valued Transfield shares at more than $2.50, which was significantly higher than the revised Ferrovial offer, Mr Mawhinney said.

"We would like to know what Ferrovial has seen that produced that outcome," he said.

A provincial governor has launched a scathing attack on Australia’s “neo-colonialist” refugee deal with PNG, claiming it will foster social divisions and heighten security risks in the Pacific nation. ...

[PNG Loop - 22/12/14]

Image: @danielflitton - Senior correspondent, The Age [2012]

... "I will be focussing on gender equality matters not only because of the basic principle that men and women are equal," Ms Gillard said, pointing out that she is the only female leader taking part in the Forum. ...  [Cook Islands lays out the welcome mat for Pacific Islands Forum - Radio Australia – 30/8/12]

Bishop possible new Cooks PM

RNZI [22/12/14]:

The leader of the One Cook Islands Movement, Teina Bishop, stands to become prime minister if the opposition coalition removes the ruling Cook Islands Party.

The coalition holds 12 seats compared with the Cook Island Party's 11, after a minister lost his seat and a by-election was ordered.

Cook Islands News reports the coalition has formulated a document of priorities which includes a commitment that Mr Bishop becomes the prime minister if there is a change of government.

The Democrats' leader, Wilkie Rasmussen, says their priorities focus on political reform, the taxing of pensioners and increases in Value Added Tax.

Mr Rasmussen said while both One Cook Islands and the Democrats believed prime minister Henry Puna will not give in to the majority of MPs, their approach would be steady, responsible and transparent, with the ultimate aim of acheiving a change of government in the very near future.

IMF policies blamed for weak Ebola response

Telegraph [22/12/14]:

International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies left healthcare systems in the African countries worst affected by Ebola underfunded and lacking doctors, hampering a co-ordinated response to the outbreak, researchers said on Monday.

Links between the IMF and the rapid spread of the disease were examined by researchers from Cambridge University's sociology department, with colleagues from Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

They found IMF programmes held back the development of effective health systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries at the epicentre of an outbreak that has killed more than 7,370 people.

“Reform” advocated by the IMF hampered the ability of the health systems to cope with infectious disease outbreaks and other emergencies, the researchers found.

Alexander Kentikelenis, Cambridge sociologist and lead author, said: "A major reason why the Ebola outbreak spread so rapidly was the weakness of healthcare systems in the region, and it would be unfortunate if underlying causes were overlooked.

"Policies advocated by the IMF have contributed to underfunded, insufficiently staffed, and poorly prepared health systems in the countries with Ebola outbreaks."

The researchers examined policies enforced by the IMF before the outbreak, using information from IMF lending programmes from 1990 to 2014, and analysed their effects on the three countries.

They found the healthcare systems were weakened by IMF demands for economic reforms that cut government spending, capped the public sector wage bill and decentralised healthcare systems.

On the requirement to reduce government spending, researchers found that "such policies have been extremely strict, absorbing funds that could be directed to meeting pressing health challenges".

Lawrence Kind, Cambridge sociologist and co-author of the study, said: "In 2013, just before the Ebola outbreak, the three countries met the IMF's economic directives, yet all failed to raise their social spending despite pressing health needs."

The public wage cap meant the countries were unable to hire nurses and doctors and pay them adequately, while decentralised healthcare systems made it hard to mobilise co-ordinated responses to outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola.

...

Supporters Flock To Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy Amid Reports Of Attempted Eviction

New Matilda [22/12/14]:

Dozens of supporters descended on the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy this afternoon, amid reports on social media that NSW Police were trying to evict activists.

Shortly after 1pm, the call went out from the Embassy’s Facebook page for the troops to rally.

“Everyone in Sydney get to the block asap. We need 100s like on blockade day. Right now. [Aboriginal Housing Company] and redfern police planning to evict us. Share and come down asap pls”

The Embassy was established in May, in opposition to Aboriginal Housing Company plans to develop the Block not for Aboriginal housing, but for office blocks and university student accommodation (the land was gifted to Aboriginal people specifically for the provision of housing for some of the state’s most disadvantaged residents).

Embassy activists have occupied the iconic Aboriginal site ever since, despite repeated attempts to convince them to leave, and despite the ongoing harassment of embassy protestors.

This afternoon, more than 50 supporters descended on the Embassy within an hour of the call for help being broadcast. The Embassy remains in tact, but one resident was effectively evicted from the site.

Embassy leader and Gamillaroi elder Jenny Munro cannot return to the Embassy, after this morning being charged by Redfern Detectives with assault, following an altercation at the Embassy the previous week.

Aunty Jenny strongly denies the allegations and asserts that like a number of other Embassy activists in the recent past, she was the victim of an attack. But while police gave her bail, one of the restrictions they imposed prevents her from residing at the protest site.

It was a clever play by police - Embassy lawyers are unable to challenge the appropriateness of the bail conditions until January 9, when Aunty Jenny will appear in the Downing Centre Local Court.

Until then, she’ll have to reside at her home in a nearby suburb.

...

Man granted bail after serving 20 years in prison for murder of his fiancée

Nine MSN [22/12/14]:

A man convicted of drowning his fiancee in the bathtub of their Adelaide home has been freed on bail after an appeal court granted him a retrial.

Adelaide man Henry Keogh has been released after serving nearly 20 years behind bars for the murder of his fiancée.

Justice John Sulan imposed a number of bail conditions on Keogh, including ordering him not to leave the state and he will not be able possess firearms.

He will also not be allowed to contact the relatives of Anna Jane Cheney, the woman he is accused of murdering in March 1994 at their Adelaide home.

The Court of Criminal Appeal ruled on Friday that Keogh should be granted a retrial, saying there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice.

A forensic pathologist who conducted Ms Cheney's autopsy had recanted on aspects of the evidence he provided at Keogh's trial, the court heard.

Prosecutors did not oppose the granting of bail, which will see Keogh home for Christmas for the first time in 20 years.

Gordon Wood, who was acquitted of killing girlfriend Caroline Byrne after spending three years in jail, attended the hearing as an advocate for Mr Keogh.

Sydney siege gunman's partner has bail revoked

ABC [22/12/14]:

The partner of the Sydney siege gunman has had her bail revoked after being deemed an "unacceptable risk" by a magistrate.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had asked for Amirah Droudis's bail conditions to be reviewed following last week's siege at Martin Place.

The gunman, Man Haron Monis, and two hostages died when armed police stormed the Lindt cafe after a 16-hour standoff.

Droudis is charged with murdering Monis's ex-wife, Noleen Hayson Pal.

Ms Hayson Pal was stabbed multiple times and set alight at a western Sydney apartment block last year.

Monis had been on bail charged with being an accessory to murder.

The DPP argued Droudis's bail should be reviewed in light of new circumstances, which included the siege and videos posted online.

A number of videos posted by Droudis in 2009 allegedly echoed the teachings of Monis, including support for the Bali bombing and 9/11 attacks.

The prosecution said the videos were evidence of Droudis's willingness to act on Monis's behalf.

The DPP also said views expressed by Droudis in the videos were seen by many as extremist in nature and her views had not changed since they were recorded.

In court prosecutors admitted to "failings" when they opposed Droudis's bail in 2013, conceding that evidence proving her tendency to follow Monis's instructions was not put before the court.

But Droudis's legal team today told the court the bail review was frivolous and argued it should be refused.

Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson adjourned the court twice so he and both legal teams could watch video evidence presented to the court.

"There is a need not to be overborne of emotion and that justice in a democratic society should be applied to all," Mr Henson said.

But after viewing the videos, Mr Henson determined they had nothing to do with the bail review.

The content of the videos cannot be reported for legal reasons.

Droudis was swarmed by media when she stepped out of a taxi to face Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney this morning.

Wearing a white beanie and sunglasses, she said nothing to reporters and her stepbrother asked for them to be left alone.

After the magistrate announced his decision, Droudis was surrounded by security guards who took her personal belongings before she was taken into custody.

She was originally given bail in December 2013 after being charged with murder as a magistrate deemed the case against her to be weak.

It is alleged Droudis committed the murder at Monis's request.

NSW Premier Mike Baird issued a statement welcoming the decision to revoke Droudis's bail.

"The NSW Government expects community safety to be front and centre of all bail decisions and that is why the Attorney General expressed concern and requested a review of the case," he said.

"As the matter is before the courts I will be making no further comment."

Droudis is due to appear in court on February 22, 2015.

Serial armed robber has life term quashed, eligible for immediate release  [ABC - 22/12/14]

Gas ship arrives at Fairway Buoy

Gladstone Observer [22/12/14]:

The LNG ship Methane Rita Andrea arrived at Fairway Buoy this morning.

The ship, which will deliver the first liquefied natural gas from the QCLNG plant on Curtis Island, arrived at the buoy at 8am.

It is expected to move to the QCLNG wharf on December 24 where, according to Qships.com it will be loaded with the first shipment and leave on its way to Singapore on December 29.

AGL's fracking wastewater dumped into sewers

Herald [18/12/14]:

Potentially contaminated wastewater used to frack AGL's Gloucester coal seam gas project has been dumped unlawfully into the Hunter's sewer system by the private company hired to treat it.

Transpacific, one of the nation's largest wastewater management firms, has been fined $30,000 by Hunter Water for releasing treated "flow-back" fluid from the gas project into the region's sewer network.

It comes after AGL and Transpacific were both explicitly warned by the water regulator that releasing the flow-back fluid was a breach of its wastewater criteria.

Hunter Water asked Transpacific for a please explain after the Newcastle Herald revealed on Thursday that it was the company treating flow-back water for AGL.

Both AGL and Transpacific had refused to state what was happening to the water once it was treated, but when approached by Hunter Water, the company admitted to dumping the water into the sewer network.

Flow-back fluid produced from coal seam gas extraction often contains a range of fracking and drilling chemicals and heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, lead and cadmium. It is also typically highly saline.

The water being dumped into the sewer had already been treated by Transpacific and in a previous statement, the company said that process "includes removing any residual chemicals".

The company ignored specific questions put by the Herald, and in a one-line statement, a spokesman said it worked "with all parties to deliver safe and sustainable outcomes though the flowback water retrieval and treatment process".

But the Herald understands Transpacific had previously been refused a request to discharge extra water into the sewer network.

Hunter Water said it told Transpacific that "any further breach" would see the "immediate termination" of the commercial agreement that allows it to access its wastewater treatment plants, a move that would severely hamper its ability to operate in the region.

AGL has tried to distance itself from the breach, saying it places "the highest priority on minimising impacts from its operations and this includes the safe disposal of flow-back water".

"The decision about where the treated water goes is a decision made by contractor, Transpacific," a company spokesman said.

But the Herald has accessed correspondence from Hunter Water to the gas producer from as recently as September 30 this year explicitly requesting AGL to inform its contracted firms not to release the water into its system.

"Please communicate to all tanker companies engaged by AGL that Hunter Water is not to be approached as a potential disposal source for groundwater from the Gloucester Gas Project," the letter read.

"AGL has previously been advised that the groundwater from hydraulic stimulation activities does not meet Hunter Water's criteria for tankered waste water."

In a statement to the Herald, Hunter Water said it was "extremely disappointed" by AGL's "seeming inability to control flow-back water originating from its CSG mine".

"AGL has also previously committed to having measures in place to ensure that waste management companies would not attempt to discharge flow-back water into the Hunter Water sewer system," chief customer services officer Jeremy Bath said.

Jennifer O'Neill from Gloucester Groundswell said the revelations showed AGL was "either incompetent or deceitful or both".

"AGL is making a mockery of Minister Anthony Robert's claims that coal seam gas is being well regulated," she said. "Their blatant disregard for Hunter Water's directives show they're not a fit company to hold a CSG licence.

"The community has been asking about the destination of flow-back fluid for months and AGL has refused to give us answers."

Serious traffic crash, Goondiwindi

QPS Media [22/1/14]:

Police are investigating a three vehicle traffic crash on the Cunningham Highway, Goondiwindi last night.

Initial investigations suggest that around 11.45pm a 17-year-old man was on the shoulder of the highway at Yelarbon changing a flat tyre on his utility. Another vehicle had stopped to assist when both vehicles were struck by a truck.

Four people were injured as a result of the crash.

The 17-year-old male driver of the utility was flown to the Princess Alexandra Hospital with serious injuries.

Three people in the second vehicle were also injured. A 15-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy were taken to Goondiwindi Hospital for observation and discharged a short time later. And a 39-year-old woman was also flown to the Princess Alexandra hospital with serious injuries.

The male truck driver and the man who stopped to assist with the flat tyre were not physically injured.

Police are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the incident to contact Crime Stoppers.

The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.

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.

... The crash involved a prime mover and two utility vehicles. ... [Chronicle - 22/12/14]

Two stolen trucks found torched near Dalby

Chronicle [21/12/14]:

Police from Toowoomba and Dalby are investigating the discovery of two stolen flat bed trucks which appeared to have been deliberately set alight west of Dalby.

Police and fire crews were called to the report of a two trucks on fire on the Dalby/Kogan Rd about 9.30pm Saturday.

When fire crews arrived the vehicles were fully engulfed in flames and both were ultimately completely destroyed by the fire.

Further investigations found that two trucks had been stolen from a Carrington Rd business in Toowoomba's western suburbs which was broken into late Friday night.

Anyone with any information that could help with the police investigation into this incident are asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1300 333 000.

Man charged following Gold Coast drug and anti rights raid

MYGC [22/12/14]

A drug raid at a home in Varsity Lakes has seen more than half a million dollars worth of ice, ecstasy and cocaine seized.

Police raided the Pontoon place home around 1:30pm Sunday finding the drugs hidden in walls of the kitchen and garage.

A 32-year-old man has been charged and will appear in Southport Magistrates court this morning, with a 41-year-old man due to face court in January.

It is alleged the accused has links to the Black Uhlans Bikie group.



... ‘Must go before the magistrate now, sir,’ replied the man. ‘His worship will be disengaged in half a minute. Now, young gallows!’

This was an invitation for Oliver to enter through a door which he unlocked as he spoke, and which led into a stone cell. Here he was searched; and nothing being found upon him, locked up.

This cell was in shape and size something like an area cellar, only not so light. It was most intolerably dirty; for it was Monday morning; and it had been tenanted by six drunken people, who had been locked up, elsewhere, since Saturday night. But this is little. In our station-houses, men and women are every night confined on the most trivial charges—the word is worth noting—in dungeons, compared with which, those in Newgate, occupied by the most atrocious felons, tried, found guilty, and under sentence of death, are palaces. Let any one who doubts this, compare the two.

The old gentleman looked almost as rueful as Oliver when the key grated in the lock. He turned with a sigh to the book, which had been the innocent cause of all this disturbance. ...

 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens [1838]

 

Armed robbery charges, Murarrie [QPS Media - 22/12/14]:

Police have charged a man and two boys after an alleged armed robbery in Murarrie yesterday evening.

It will be alleged that around 8pm the trio threatened two men with star pickets and demanded property. The men complied with demands and the trio ran away.

The two men were not physically injured during the incident. Police located the three males a short time later.

A 17-year-old boy was charged with one count of armed robbery in company, attempted robbery and stealing. He is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrate’s Court today.

A 13-year-old and a 12-year-old boy were both charged with one count each of armed robbery in company, attempted robbery and stealing. They 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.

Robbery, Strathpine

QPS Media [22/12/14]:

Police are investigating a robbery at a Strathpine grocery store yesterday afternoon.

Around 4pm a man entered the Gympie Road store and made his way into the back area. When he was confronted by a female attendant he kicked in an office door and removed a quantity of cash from a safe. The man ran away on foot.

The attendant was not physically injured during the incident.

The man is described as Caucasian, aged between 20-25 years-old, approximately 180cm tall with short blond hair and a solid build. He was wearing white t-shirt with a black print, navy blue sport shorts and white runners.

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.

Sexual assault charges, Ashmore

QPS Media [22/12/14]

Police have charged a man after an alleged sexual assault in Ashmore yesterday.

It will be alleged that sometime around 5pm a man unlawfully entered an Ashmore residence. When the 29-year-old female resident entered the dwelling it is alleged the man struck her on the back of the head and sexually assaulted her.

It will be further alleged that the man then left the residence in the woman’s vehicle with some of her property. The woman sought refuge with a neighbour and called police.

Police located the man sometime later and will allege that when they attempted to detain the man he failed to comply with police direction at which time a taser was deployed.

The man was arrested without further incident.

A 27-year-old Surfers Paradise man has been charged with burglary, assault with intent to rape, rape, deprivation of liberty, armed robbery, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, serious assault police and wilful damage.

He is due to face a hearing later 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.

Adelaide man sentenced to life for murder of former partner

ABC [22/12/14]:

An Adelaide man has been sentenced to life in prison with a 23-year non-parole period for the murder of his former partner.

Lana Towers, 25, died after a "protracted and brutal beating" at the hands of Michael Suve McDonald, 34, in May 2013.

Towers was hit about 50 times in what the prosecution described as a "relentless and prolonged" attack in her Ocean Street home in Aldinga Beach.

McDonald, was previously charged on two occasions for assaulting the mother of two.

In October a Supreme Court jury unanimously found McDonald guilty of Towers' murder.

Earlier in the trial, prosecutor Brian Nitschke described the couple's relationship as dysfunctional.

They met at a party at Mount Isa in Queensland when Towers was 18, but over the following years family and friends noticed cuts and bruises on her.

Once, McDonald was seen to hit her across the face, which knocked Towers off her feet.

Demolish the house: Murdoch driven propaganda continues.

Queensland Premier and Ministers still protected by the media.

A great night at The Gap Community Christmas Carols! - with Jane Prentice and Cr Geraldine Knapp - The Gap Ward — at The Gap State High School.

Campbell Newman Facebook [19/12/14]

Simple Question: Will there be a full investigation and/or urgent reporting into every aspect of government involvement in the Manoora tragedy i.e. housing, family and welfare services, mental health?

ABC [1/7/13]:

The Queensland Government's tougher policy on public housing tenants comes into effect today.

The so-called 'three strikes and you're out' policy will prohibit evicted tenants from reapplying for public housing for three months.

The member for the far north Queensland seat of Cairns, [and former Editor of Murdoch's 'Cairns Post'] Gavin King, says some tenants have been getting away with too much.

"Some public housing tenants have to get eight or nine breaches before the department and the court considers an eviction," he said.

"Often a public housing tenant will cause significant damage to their property, cause hell to their neighbours, and will get evicted.

"The trouble is they'll just be moved across town into another public housing tenancy."

What crimes against humanity?: Australia's self proclaimed welfare advocates welcome Morrison's ruthlessness

Crawly Bum Lick A snitch, brown noser, grass.

Person One: I really like your dress, brings out your eyes!

Person Two: Ahh thanks!!!

Person Three: * mutters* What a crawly bum lick!!!

ACOSS Media Release [22/12/14]:

New Cabinet: Opportunity to reset unfair Budget policies and work together on major reforms

 ... "We look forward to working constructively with Minister Morrison and the Government in the coming year to ensure effective policy and service delivery, including as it prepares its new families package.

"The Social Services portfolio is critical to ensure adequate support to people and communities facing poverty and inequality across Australia, and to supporting employment participation. Minister Morrison, and other Minister's responsible for health, education and employment, will play a critical role in determining how the Government best meets the needs of the many people outside the labour market.

...

ABC, AM [22/12/14]:

... CRAIG WALLACE [President of People with Disability Australia]: All of us want people with disabilities in work. We all think that 800,000 is a very high number of people to be on the disability support pension.

This is not the kind of issue that a crash through approach will actually work with. You need to understand the problem, get into the detail of it and have a series of nuanced measures that is all of the levers, not just sticks, but carrots as well, to insure that people with disabilities can take up meaningful work.

Australia ranks as one of the lowest countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) for employment of people with disability.

I'd like to see some of that action man persona that Minister Morrison has actually coming through on some of those issues.

...

The Undeserving Disabled [New Left Project - 23/7/10]

Mission Australia bonds with Murdoch gang to attack the most defenceless of us all. What have we become?

Image: @chrismurphys [8/4/13]

Refugee in Darwin concentration camp ends hunger strike after 51 days

ABC [22/12/14]:

An Iranian asylum seeker in Darwin has ended a hunger strike after 51 days without food.

Last night the asylum seeker, who is being housed at Darwin's Wickham Point Detention Centre, told advocates he would begin to eat again, after being on a hunger strike since November 1.

The 33-year-old man's lawyer, John Lawrence, said the asylum seeker made the decision to end his protest after an appeal was lodged over the weekend in the Federal Circuit Court against an earlier decision to refuse him a refugee visa.

"We have discovered in the last week a procedure of appeal which was always open to him, which will now be pursued," he said.

Mr Lawrence has been the man's lawyer for around one week.

"It will be an appeal against the decision by the Independent Merits Review to refuse him a protection visa," Mr Lawrence said.

"His case will be argued before a federal judge, I would like to think within the next few weeks."

Mr Lawrence said the lodging of the appeal gave the man hope that his application for asylum might be approved.

But he noted, "it's far from guaranteed".

The man had been refusing to eat for more than seven weeks and his lawyer said his condition had deteriorated rapidly over the past few days.

The man had given written instruction that he not be revived if he lost consciousness.

"Two days ago he hobbled into the interview room on crutches, today he entered the interview room on a wheelchair," Mr Lawrence said.

Mr Lawrence said the man was suffering from a range of physical ailments as a result of the hunger strike.

"His deterioration was manifesting in a very rapid way in the last 48 hours," he said.

He said the man was now eating supplement drinks and soup.

Mr Lawrence said the man felt he had no choice but to go on a hunger strike after the Refugee Review Tribunal rejected his application for a protection visa.

He said the only options he had were to return voluntarily to Iran or remain in detention indefinitely.

The asylum seeker was adamant in his belief that he would be killed if he returned to Iran voluntarily, Mr Lawrence said.

The Australian Government cannot force the man to return to Iran, as the Iranian government will not accept asylum seekers who are returned against their will, he said.

"The politics and the diplomacy at the moment prevent the Australian Government from returning him involuntarily, because the Iranian government won't accept him. So he was between a rock and a hard place, so to speak."

It will now be up to a federal judge to decide the outcome of the appeal, which Mr Lawrence said could take place within the coming weeks.

United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Reuters [21/12/14]:

U.S.-led forces attacked Islamic State targets on Sunday with 13 air strikes in Iraq and three in Syria, using fighter, bomber and other aircraft, the U.S. military said.

Four of the Iraq strikes were near Sinjar in the north of the country, which destroyed Islamic State buildings, tactical units and vehicles, while other Iraqi cities targeted included Tal Afar, Ramadi, Mosul and Baiji, according to the Combined Joint Task Force.

The strikes in Syria over the weekend were focused around the contested city of Kobani near the Turkish border, it said in a statement. There were five air strikes near Kobani on Saturday followed by the three on Sunday.

In Iraq, U.S. and partner nations conducted eight air strikes on Saturday, including near Tal Afar, Ar Rutba, Mosul and Baiji, the task force said.

@IraqiSMCEn  - Iraqi Media Centre [21/12/14]:

Anbar: The civilian homes have been shelled by planes in Ghawasil and Jabhat nahiya Al-Wafa'a to kill people of expel them......

 Anbar: Two women and three children have been killed in mortars shelling of government's army on civilian homes in Jubeil hay south of Fallujah.....

Baghdad: Agencies:11 persons were killed and wounded as a roadside bomb exploded in Amin area east of Baghdad.......

Baghdad: Agencies/security source :A person was killed and 7 wounded as a roadside bomb exploded in Mushahda nahiya in Tarmiya north of Baghdad today noon...............

Libya's official government targets rival forces trying to seize ports

Reuters [21/12/14]:

Military planes loyal to Libya's recognized government attacked on Sunday an opposing force that is seeking to seize the country's two biggest oil ports, officials said.

The advancing force, which is allied to a rival government based in Tripoli, moved east a week ago to try take the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf ports. The adjacent terminals have since closed, halting exports of an estimated 300,000 barrels a day of oil.

The recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni was forced to relocate to the east after losing control of Tripoli in August to a group called Libya Dawn, which installed a new administration in the capital city.

On Sunday, pro-Thinni forces sent aircraft to bomb the advancing fighters some 40 km (25 miles) west of Es Sider and also inside Sirte, a large city further along the coast, said a military spokesman in Es Sider.

He said the planes had bombed military targets, but Ismail al-Shukri, a spokesman for the rival force said civilian targets had been hit in Sirte.

There was no immediate word of any casualties.

The fighting is part of a wider struggle for control of the North African country which sits on Africa's largest oil reserves. Former rebel groups which helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011, NATO-backed uprising now fight each other.

Western powers fear the conflict could lead to the break-up of the OPEC producer. The United Nations had planned to launch a new round of talks to defuse the crisis last week, but the latest fighting delayed the negotiations. The U.N. said on Wednesday the venue and date for the meeting were still unclear.

A Reuters reporter visiting Es Sider saw Thinni's forces building up a defensive line with tanks and anti-aircraft gun mounted on trucks some 10 km (6 miles) west of the terminal.

"We are in contact with the airforce and the coastal guards to coordinate," said a commander. The reporter saw a helicopter and MiG jet standing ready at an airport at Ras Lanuf, which is normally used by oil firms.

Fighting in Libya’s Benghazi kills 25 in eight days [Times of Malta – 20/12/14]

US delivers 10 Apaches to Egypt

No1 in a campaign of awareness for @PeterGreste thanks to all who have initiated acts of support #sydneybuses

Image: ‏@AndyroosteG - Andrew Greste [22/12/14]

Naharnet [21/12/14]:

The United States has delivered 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt in recent weeks after lifting part of a freeze on aid to the north African nation, a U.S. official said Saturday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had been promising Cairo's new leadership that the aircraft -- aimed to join counter-terrorism operations in the Sinai peninsula -- would be delivered soon.

"They got there a few weeks ago," a U.S. senior administration official told AFP.

Kerry announced in June that he was "confident" Egypt would receive the helicopter gunships soon, and reiterated that in a phone call to Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

The United States annually allocates some $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, including $1.3 billion in military assistance.

That was frozen in October 2013 on condition that democratic reforms be enacted after the July 2013 military-led overthrow of Islamist elected president Mohamed Morsi and a vicious crackdown on his followers.

Washington said in April it planned to resume some of the annual aid for counter-terrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday and expressed concern over mass trials and the continued detention of journalists and peaceful activists.

During a telephone call, the White House said, Obama encouraged Sisi to "invest in the political, economic, and social aspirations of the Egyptian people."

"President Obama also expressed concern about mass trials, the status of NGOs, and the continued imprisonment of journalists and peaceful activists in Egypt," the statement said.

Egypt's military has been battling an insurgency on the peninsula since it overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year and cracked down on his supporters.

The government declared a state of emergency in parts of North Sinai after an October 24 suicide attack near El-Arish killed 30 soldiers in the deadliest assault on security forces since Morsi's ouster.

Militant groups claim their attacks are in retaliation for a government crackdown targeting Morsi's supporters that has left hundreds dead and thousands jailed.

Sisi brings back Egypt’s police state with a vengeance [Al Akhbar – 20/12/14]

Jordan hangs 11 after lifting execution ban

Al Jazeera [21/12/14]:

Jordan has executed 11 men convicted of murder by hanging, the interior ministry said, as it ended an informal eight-year moratorium on the death penalty.

"Eleven criminals convicted in different cases of murder were executed at dawn," the official Petra news agency quoted a ministry spokesman as saying on Sunday.

Authorities said the men were all Jordanians convicted on murder charges in 2005 and 2006.

Jordan's last previous executions were in June 2006 and 122 people have since been sentenced to death.

Interior Minister Hussein Majali suggested recently that the moratorium might end, saying there was a "major debate" in Jordan on the death penalty and that "the public believes that the rise in crime has been the result of the non-application" of capital punishment.

A number of countries in the Middle East continue to impose the death penalty for serious crimes, including Jordan's neighbour Saudi Arabia which has executed 83 people so far this year.

China by far carried out the most executions last year, numbering in the thousands, followed by Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States, human rights group Amnesty International said in a report in March.

Peshawar school attack aftermath: Pakistan hangs 'terrorists' as executions resume [Independent - 20/12/14]

UN Asks Israel to Pay Lebanon $850 M for Oil Spill

Naharnet [21/12/14]:

The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution Friday asking Israel to pay Lebanon over $850 million in damages for an oil spill caused by an Israeli air force attack on oil storage tanks during its war with Hizbullah in July 2006.

The assembly voted 170-6 in favor of the resolution, with three abstentions.

Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia, Micronesia and Marshall Islands voted "no."

General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion.

The resolution says "the environmental disaster" caused by the destruction of the tanks resulted in an oil slick that covered the entire Lebanese coastline and extended to the Syrian coastline, causing extensive pollution.

Israel's U.N. Mission said in a statement late Friday that the resolution is biased against Israel.

"Israel Immediately responded to the oil slick incident by cooperating closely with the United Nations Environment Program, as well as other U.N. agencies and NGOs, addressing the environmental situation along the coast of Lebanon," the statement reads.

"This resolution has long outlived the effects of the oil slick, and serves no purpose other than to contribute to institutionalizing an anti-Israel agenda at the U.N.."

The assembly acknowledged the conclusions in an August report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that studies show the value of damage to Lebanon amounted to $856.4 million in 2014. It asked Israel to provide "prompt and adequate compensation."

The assembly also asked Ban to urge U.N. bodies and other organizations involved in the initial assessment to conduct a further study, building on the work conducted by the World Bank, to measure and quantify the environmental damage sustained by neighboring countries.

The resolution notes that "the secretary-general expressed grave concern at the lack of any acknowledgment on the part of the government of Israel of its responsibilities vis-a-vis reparations and compensation" to Lebanon and Syria for the oil spill.

It notes that Ban concluded that the spill is not covered by any international oil spill compensation funds and therefore recognizes "that further consideration needs to be given to the option of security the relevant compensation from the government of Israel."

Lebanon's U.N. Ambassador Nawaf Salam said his country considers the resolution to be "major progress" because it puts forward a figure for compensation, acknowledges the conclusions of the secretary-general's report, and reaffirms the General Assembly's commitment to justice.

"We affirm that Lebanon will continue to mobilize all resources and resort to all legal means to see that this resolution is fully implemented, and that the specified compensation is paid promptly."

Cuba says US must respect its sovereignty

Reuters [20/12/14]:

… Castro said he is open to discussing a wide range of issues but that they should also cover the United States and he insisted Cuba would not give up its socialist principles.

"In the same way that we have never demanded that the United States change its political system, we will demand respect for ours," Castro told the National Assembly.

He again praised Obama for the policy change in a speech that became a partly defiant, partly celebratory show of pride for resisting five decades of U.S. aggression.

Despite the markedly improved tone in relations, Castro said Cuba faces a "long and difficult struggle" before the United States removes a decades-old economic embargo against the Caribbean island, in part because influential Cuban-American exiles will attempt to "sabotage the process".

Obama has pledged to remove economic sanctions against Cuba but he still needs the Republican-controlled Congress to lift the embargo.

Castro confirmed he will take part in a Summit of the Americas in Panama in April, potentially setting up a first meeting with Obama since they shook hands at Nelson Mandela's funeral a year ago.

That brief encounter drew wide attention. Unbeknownst to the world at the time, the United States and Cuba were already six month into secret talks set up with the help Pope Francis and the Canadian government.

Castro's older brother and retired leader Fidel Castro, 88, has not been seen or heard from since Obama's announcement and he was not at the National Assembly on Saturday. Raul Castro ended his speech with an energetic "Viva Fidel!"

The Assembly gave a long standing ovation to Cuba's five "anti-terrorist heroes," intelligence agents who spent between 14 and 16 years in U.S. prison for spying on Cuban exiles.

Two had been released after serving their terms and the United States freed the final three on Wednesday as part of a prisoner swap.

In return, Cuba freed U.S. aid subcontractor Alan Gross, who had been held for five years for bringing in banned telecommunications equipment, plus a Cuban who had spied for the United States and dozens of other unidentified prisoners.

The CIA’s Covert War Against Fidel Castro [Bill Moyers & Co – 20/12/14]

TEPCO completes removal of all fuel rods from Fukushima No. 4 reactor

Japan Today [21/12/14]:

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) on Saturday completed the removal of the last four fuel rods from a cooling pool high up in the badly damaged No. 4 reactor building at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The operation began last year on Nov 21 and was completed one year ahead of schedule, TEPCO officials said. In total, 1,535 fuel rods were removed from the pool, of which 204 were unused. The rods were transferred to a safer storage pool.

The completion of the operation is considered a major step in the plant’s decommissioning process.

However, TEPCO officials said the same process at reactors No. 1-3 will be much more difficult. Radiation levels are higher because of core meltdowns.

Carefully plucking the damaged fuel assemblies from the reactor building is being seen as a test of TEPCO’s ability to move ahead with decommissioning the whole facility - a task likely to take decades.

The removal has to be conducted under water. If the rods are exposed to air or if they break, huge amounts of radioactive gases could be released into the atmosphere. Each assembly weighs around 300 kg and is 4.5 meters long.

TEPCO has been slowly pulling the assemblies out of the submerged racks by crane, before transferring them to a heavy steel cask, designed to shield workers from radiation during the operation.

Greece: Political upheaval sharpens after bribe claims with threats and insinuations

ekathimerini.com [20/12/14]:

Greek MPs are to vote Tuesday in the second ballot of a three-phase presidential election amid a growing political crisis that has been sharpened by the bribery allegations of Independent Greeks MP Pavlos Haikalis and a slew of threats and counter-threats in Parliament.

The government is still far from the 180 votes it needs for next week’s third and final presidential vote, making the prospect of snap polls increasingly likely.

There had been hopes that the vote Tuesday, when the minimum threshold for votes is 200, would give an indication of the government’s chances of garnering the 180 votes it needs in the final round. But the tensions that mounted over the weekend, amid suggestions of attempted bribery, made it clear that some lawmakers will go to the polls under extreme pressure.

Independent MPs Spyros Lykoudis and Christos Aidonis said they would sue fellow independents Odysseas Voudouris and Theodoros Parastatidis after the latter two suggested that the stance of independent MPs who voted against next year’s budget but in favor of the president in the first round is suspicious.

The move came after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras heralded legal action against the Independent Greeks over a video featuring Haikalis and an alleged middleman purportedly offering the MP a bribe to back the coalition’s presidential candidate, Stavros Dimas.

Members of Parliament’s ethics committee decided over the weekend not to view the video, deeming that it was an illegal product. However, the panel summoned Voudouris and Parastatidis who are Monday to explain their insinuations.

As Parliament pushed for a judicial probe, new information and claims complicated the affair over the weekend. Haikalis revealed that several months prior to the alleged attempt at bribery, the purported mediator had borrowed 5,000 euros from him.

The alleged mediator, Giorgos Apostolopoulos, vehemently denied his implication in the affair over the weekend. His professional career, however, raises several questions. He was an adviser to Deutsche Bank with connections to virtually all the main political parties including New Democracy and more recently with Independent Greeks.

In another revelation over the weekend, independent MP Chrysoula Giatagana, formerly with Independent Greeks, claimed that Apostolopoulos was still an adviser to Independent Greeks. She also claimed that Apostolopoulos telephoned her to convince her to return to the party.

As New Democracy and leftist SYRIZA traded barbs about the incident, it appeared that some independents were seeking a way to resolve the impasse.

Vassilis Oikonomou, an independent and former Democratic Left (DIMAR) MP, said an effort was under way by “a significant number” of lawmakers to propose an agreement on a president and a date for elections next year; he said a new candidate could replace Dimas, namely DIMAR leader Fotis Kouvelis.

Turkey: Editor-in-Chief Dumanlı returns to Zaman HQs after release

Todays Zaman [20/12/14]:

Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı arrived at the daily's headquarters in Yenibosna on Saturday after having been released pending trial in a government-orchestrated police operation.

Dumanlı, who was released pending trial together with seven police officers by a court designed by the government following two major graft probes last December, is charged with forming and leading an armed terrorist organization.

Four of the 12 suspects who were referred to court for arrest as part of the operation to silence the media were arrested on charges of terrorism, one of whom is Samanyolu Broadcasting Group Chairman Hidayet Karaca.

Dumanlı was welcomed by a crowd of Zaman staff who chanted slogans supporting press freedom.

Addressing the Zaman staff, Dumanlı thanked those who stood in solidarity with him during his detention by the police. The journalist also called on Turkish journalists to raise their voice against increasing pressure on the media and unite against oppression. “Despite our differences, journalists should unite against oppression,” he said.

“If I failed to answer single question [by the judge and the prosecutor], I would have been too ashamed to return here,” he said during his speech.

He also slammed the arrest of Karaca, saying he was arrested for airing a completely fictional soap opera.

“My colleague Hidayet Karaca is a political captive,” he said.

Dumanlı was asked during the judicial process why he had published two columns in the paper that were written by two contributors and one news story that featured a speech made by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Dumanlı had responded to the charges by saying he has been professionally managing the newspaper for the last 13 years and cannot interfere with critical articles written by columnists that are regular contributors to the paper. He said columnists have the right to freedom of speech and expression.

As for the news story in 2009 which featured a warning by Gülen about the activities of the al-Qaeda-affiliated armed Tahşiyeciler (Annotators) group, Dumanlı said Gülen's public speech was posted on the Islamic scholar's own website -- Herkul.org -- and carried newsworthy items that deserved coverage on the relevant page in the newspaper. He said other newspapers, such as the Hürriyet and Vatan dailies, also covered Gülen's speech.

Man killed in crash during police pursuit, Perth

ABC [22/12/14]:

Perth police have launched two separate investigations into a fatal crash during a high-speed pursuit.

A man, believed to be aged in his 30s, died when his car hit a tree at high speed in the northern Perth suburb of Ballajura about 10:30pm (AWST) on Sunday.

Police said they suspected the Suzuki Swift was stolen, but are yet to reveal why they were pursuing it.

Ambulance officers and firefighters turned up at the scene on Illawarra Crescent but were turned away when police confirmed the driver had died.

The area remained cordoned off for more than seven hours as police from Major Crash conducted inquiries.

The fatality is also being investigated by officers from the Police Internal Affairs Unit, which is standard practice when anyone dies in a pursuit.

It is understood they will check whether the pursuit was authorised and if the officers involved followed correct procedures.

They will also investigate what safety measures, if any, were taken to ensure public safety during the pursuit.

Victorian police interview good ol' boy in relation to “Saturday night prank” pipe bomb explosions

Nine MSN [21/12/14]:

Victoria Police Arson and Explosive Squad detectives are interviewing a Maiden Gully man in relation to home made explosives detonated in Bendigo overnight as part of a dangerous prank.

The 24-year-old handed himself in to police at around 3.30pm today and is assisting police with their enquiries.

Parts of the CBD were cordoned off as a bomb response unit and arson chemist worked to remove a third undetonated pipe bomb this morning.

Police received numerous calls after residents heard loud explosions around 10pm.

One had been detonated at the intersection of Myrtle and King Street and the second outside the library in Hargreaves Street.

At 2am, an unexploded device was found in a bag in Chancery Lane.

No one is believed to have been injured in either of the two explosions.

Detective Sergeant Steve Rainey described it as a "moronic" Saturday night prank.

"It could have had catastrophic effects for anyone," he said.

Sgt Rainey said he suspected it was a prank that could have caused serious injury.

CIA Travel Advice to Operatives

WikiLeaks Press Release [21/12/14]:

Today, 21 December 2014, WikiLeaks releases two classified documents by a previously undisclosed CIA office detailing how to maintain cover while travelling through airports using false ID – including during operations to infiltrate the European Union and the Schengen passport control system. This is the second release within WikiLeaks' CIA Series, which will continue in the new year.

The two classified documents aim to assist CIA undercover officials to circumvent these systems around the world. They detail border-crossing and visa regulations, the scope and content of electronic systems, border guard protocols and procedures for secondary screenings. The documents show that the CIA has developed an extreme concern over how biometric databases will put CIA clandestine operations at risk – databases other parts of the US government made prevalent post-9/11.

The CIA manual "Surviving Secondary", dated 21 September 2011, details what happens in an airport secondary screening in different airports around the world and how to pass as a CIA undercover operative while preserving one's cover. Among the reasons for why secondary screening would occur are: if the traveller is on a watchlist (noting that watchlists can often contain details of intelligence officials); or is found with contraband; or "because the inspector suspects that something about the traveler is not right".

The highlighted box titled "The Importance of Maintaining Cover––No Matter What" at the end of the document provides an example of an occasion when a CIA officer was selected for secondary screening at an EU airport. During the screening his baggage was swiped and traces of explosives found. The officer "gave the cover story" to explain the explosives; that he had been in counterterrorism training in Washington, DC.

Although he was eventually allowed to continue, this example begs the question: if the training that supposedly explained the explosives was only a cover story, what was a CIA officer really doing passing through an EU airport with traces of explosives on him, and why was he allowed to continue?

...

Afghanistan: IED kills 7, including children in Kunar province

Khaama [21/12/14]:

At least seven civilians, including children were killed following an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion in eastern Kunaar province.

According to local security officials, the incident took place late on Saturday afternoon after an IED planted by militants targeted a civilian vehicle.

The officials further added that the vehicle was travelling from Asabad to Nari district when the incident took place.

The district police chief, Mohammad Yousuf, confirmed that two two little girls were among those killed following the explosion.

No group including the Taliban militants has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

The local officials are blaming the Taliban group for the incident, as Taliban fighters frequently use Improvised Explosive Device (IED) as the weapon of their choice to target Afghan and coalition security forces which normally lead to civilian casualties.

The civilian deaths in Kunar comes as UN report released on Friday said civilian casualties hit a record high this year, with 3,188 civilians killed and 6,429 injured by the end of November.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report warned that civilian casualties were expected to exceed 10,000 by the end of the year.

Afghan journalist wounded in French centre attack dies

Daily Star [21/12/14]:

An Afghan journalist who was seriously injured during a suicide attack on a French cultural center died of his wounds in hospital on Sunday, officials said.

One German man was also killed and 20 other people wounded in the attack on December 11 during a performance in the packed auditorium of the French Institute of Afghanistan in the capital Kabul.

The performance was entitled "Heartbeat, The Silence After The Explosion". The dance and music show condemned the regular suicide attacks in Kabul and across the rest of Afghanistan.

Zubair Hatami, a journalist and cameraman for local Mitra TV in Kabul, was seriously injured and died after 10 days in a coma.

Adul Jabar Aryayee the head of Mitra TV, told AFP the journalist died at around midnight.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying the performance was "desecrating Islamic values" and was "propaganda against jihad" -- particularly against suicide attacks.

The cultural centre is located in the centre of Kabul, not far from the presidential palace. It shares its grounds with the Istiqlal school, a French-financed institution that has taught generations of Afghan children.

India: 3 Killed, 4 Injured in Manipur Blast

NDTV [21/12/14]:

Three labourers were killed and four others seriously injured in a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Imphal today.

Police said the IED planted by the roadside near Imphal market exploded killing three labourers and injuring four others.

The injured have been rushed to the hospital

The labourers, all non-Manipuris, had gathered for tea in Khoyathong area, which is about one km away from Imphal city police office in the main market complex when the IED exploded around 6 am.

The dead have been identified as Shiv Yadav(35), Lalan (35) and Kusum Pandit (60).

The four injured have been admitted to the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) Hospital where the condition of one of the injured is stated to be critical.

With today's incident, the number of non-Manipuris killed in the state this year has gone upto nine.

Chief minister O Ibobi Singh and deputy chief minister Gaikhangam, who also holds the home portfolio, have condemned the incident and ordered strict action against the culprits.

Sri Lanka: VP’s man helped kill T’chelvam

Colombo Gazette [20/12/14]:

Geocoordinate information provided by a former bodyguard of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran (VP) contributed to an accurate Sri Lankan military bombing raid that killed LTTE political spokesman S.P. Thamilchelvan and other LTTE leaders on 2 November 2007, a WikiLeaks document has revealed.

The document contains information from a classified report of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), one of the principal intelligence-gathering agencies of the United States.

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