United States continue bombing Iraq and Syria

Centcom [19/12/14]:

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Dec. 19 using fighter and bomber aircraft to conduct four airstrikes.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted eleven airstrikes in Iraq Dec. 19 using fighter, bomber, and attack aircraft against the ISIL terrorists.

The following is a summary of those strikes:

Syria

• Near Kobani, three airstrikes destroyed two ISIL buildings and an ISIL staging area and struck two ISIL tactical units.

• Near Ar Raqqah, an airstrike damaged an ISIL training compound.

Iraq

• Near Al Asad, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL building and mortar and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

• Near Mosul, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle and damaged an ISIL bridge.

• Near Fallujah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle and struck an ISIL tactical unit.

• Near Al Qaim, an airstrike destroyed two ISIL tactical vehicles.

• Near Ramadi, three airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units.

• Near Sinjar, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

• Near Tal Afar, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

All aircraft returned to base safely. Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

...

@IraqiSMCEn – Iraqi Spring Media Center [19/12/14]:

Baghdad: Agencies: A chain of blasts hit Baghdad in cluding Sha'ab and baiya'a areas resulted in killing and wounding of persons........

Salah -il-deen: A violent blast shook Jazeera -west of Samarra- today morning followed by mortars and clashes.........

Two persons have been killed and three wounded in the random bombing in Fallujah during the last 24 hours...........

Government 'could have broken UN rules' on the treatment of lawyers in Iraq inquiry

Independent [19/12/14]:

The Government could have broken UN rules on the treatment of lawyers after publicly criticising the firms acting for Iraqi clients at an inquiry into allegations of murder and torture by the British military, a senior European legal official said today.

The judge-led public inquiry, which cost £31m, found on Wednesday that the claims were “completely baseless” and that the allegations of war crimes against British soldiers were based on “deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility”.

The findings prompted the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon to criticise in Parliament lawyers who conceded late in the five-year inquiry that there was no evidence of unlawful killing.

But Jonathan Goldsmith, head of the group which represents about a million European lawyers, criticised the Government for shaming the lawyers.

He said it went against UN principles that lawyers should not be identified with clients or their clients’ causes.

“[Mr Fallon] must have known that this would let loose the attack dogs of the press on the lawyers concerned, and potentially intimidate other lawyers from taking up future cases involving allegations against the armed forces,” said Mr Goldsmith, the secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, in a blog on the Law Society Gazette website.

“Governments have enormous power and almost unlimited resources. That is why there are international codes protecting lawyers who bring cases against them.

“If lawyers who bring cases against governments are, on the other hand, shamed in parliament, with the inevitable consequence that the government’s friends in the press will monster them, then all of the legal profession should take careful notice.”

The inquiry was set up after allegations of war crimes following the Battle of Danny Boy on 14 May 2004 in Iraq. Labour former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth, who set up the inquiry in 2009, rounded on Public Interest Lawyers, who represented Iraqi claimants, and said that the legal system has been abused.

But lawyers said that the inquiry had been necessary, morally justified and politically required. John Dickinson of Public Interest Lawyers denied that the firm had anything to be ashamed of.

Kenya security law: President Uhuru Kenyatta signs bill

BBC [19/12/14]:

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed into law a controversial security bill which saw MPs trade blows in parliament.

It was passed on Thursday during a chaotic parliamentary session, with opposition MPs warning that Kenya was becoming a "police state".

The government has said it needs more powers to fight militant Islamists threatening Kenya's security.

Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group has stepped up attacks in Kenya.

The new anti-terror legislation gives the security and intelligence agencies the right to detain terror suspects for up to one year and requires journalists to obtain police permission before investigating or publishing stories on domestic terrorism and security issues.

It also stipulates that police must approve publication or broadcasting of information relating to investigations on terrorism.

"We must all remember that we are still at war and still vulnerable to terror attacks," Mr Kenyatta said in a televised address, defending the law.

He denied that it infringed on civil liberties.

...

IMF Holds Backs Cyprus Rescue Cash

Naharnet [19/12/14]:

The International Monetary Fund held back 86 million euros ($106 million) in bailout funds for Cyprus Friday after the island's parliament delayed a vote on foreclosure legislation demanded by lenders.

The money is part of a 10-billion euro package of emergency loans that eurozone member Cyprus was forced to negotiate to avoid bankruptcy early last year.

The troika of lenders -- the European Central Bank, European Commission and IMF -- have already disbursed several tranches of the package as the island has kept to the harsh austerity program it had agreed to.

But conservative President Nicos Anastasiades, who has led a minority government since center-right coalition partner DIKO quit in February, failed to get the foreclosures legislation put to a vote on Thursday.

Lawmakers postponed debate on the controversial bill until January 30 in a move that prompted the IMF to withhold the 86 million euros.

"Critical requirements for the completion of the fifth program review are now no longer met," a fund spokesman said.

"We support the Cypriot authorities in their efforts to progress on their ambitious and far-reaching reform program. We look forward to continued cooperation, and will agree with the authorities on next steps in the period ahead."

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades expressed dismay that the bailout disbursement had been disrupted after nearly two years of painful economic adjustment.

The "unnecessary and unjustified" delay in approving the foreclosures legislation had "seriously undermined Cyprus's credibility," he said.

The bill, which would cut the legal process for foreclosing on mortgages from years to months, has been deeply controversial ever since it was demanded by lenders under the terms of its fifth review of the island's adjustment program.

Due to the delay the sixth review has been postponed until January and it may now be further delayed.

The latest tranche amounts to 436 million euros, including the IMF's 86 million euros. The European Stability Mechanism approved the disbursement of its 350 million euros on December 8.

The lenders say the foreclosures legislation is essential if Cyprus is to get to grips with its mountain of bad debt.

Non-performing loans represent more than 50 percent of total lending, or 157 percent of the island's gross domestic product.

Cyprus has already carried out drastic reforms to its financial sector, winding up its second largest bank and imposing a 47.5 percent haircut on deposits above 100,000 euros at its biggest.

It has also implemented a harsh austerity program that has contributed to the economy shrinking for 13 straight quarters.

Jokowi heading to Papua for Christmas

Jakarta Post [19/12/14]:

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is slated to go to Papua to celebrate Christmas this year and also plans to meet local residents to hear their aspirations on various issues.

Jokowi is pressing ahead with his plan to attend the festivities in the province, despite calls from a number of church leaders in Papua for Jokowi to cancel his plan, as an expression of disappointment over the government’s slow response to the recent shooting incident in Enarotali, Paniai, in which five civilians were killed.

Jokowi held a meeting with National Christmas Celebration organizing committee head Yohana Susana Yembise, who is also the women’s empowerment and child protection minister, as well as other officials at the Presidential Palace on Thursday to discuss preparations for the event.

Jokowi is scheduled to arrive in Jayapura on Dec. 27 and will give a speech to open the Christmas celebration in Papua Bangkit Square at Sentani Airport, Jayapura regency, Papua.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said local police and military personnel would ensure security during the event, while Yohana said Jayapura was a safe place, far from where the Paniai incident had occurred. She added that rejections to Jokowi’s visit “came merely from a small group of people”.

“Other than the celebration, [Jokowi] wants to sit with the Papuan people and discuss what they want Jokowi to do for their welfare,” said Yohana on Thursday.

Yohana was in Papua early this week to monitor the Christmas event preparation in Papua Bangkit Square.

National Police chief Gen. Sutarman added that sending a message to the Papuan people that the province was safe was required to ensure better development there.

Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto revealed that Jokowi would also do blusukan (impromptu visits) to hear the voices of local residents during his two-night trip to the province.

The planned areas for blusukan are being finalized, as is the question of whether the President will visit conflict-prone areas in the province.

“The President is willing to go to the areas where people need to be heard,” Andi said.

On Thursday night, human rights activists held a solidarity event for the Paniai incident at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, citing the absence of a state response to the incident, which occurred when police opened fire on protesters in Enarotali, Paniai, on Dec. 8.

Andi said Jokowi and the government had refrained from hasty assessments or statements pending an ongoing investigation by a joint team led by Tedjo’s office.

“The President asked [us] to investigate the case thoroughly. He also wanted to make a public statement [after] there is clarity about what really occurred there and what needs to be addressed,” Andi said, adding that Jokowi was also willing to hear any findings from independent investigation teams, including those led by the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) and a Papuan synod.

Andi expected clearer developments to be reported to the President next week, and that Jokowi could then address the matter, reducing the possibility of the violence recurring.

Australia: Prisoner made to go without medication for days

ABC [19/12/14]:

A Perth Aboriginal woman sent to prison for unpaid fines says she was treated like a dangerous criminal and became very sick when forced to go without her blood pressure medication for three days.

The Department of Corrective Services has rejected the claims and in a statement said Meretta Kickett had received "appropriate and quality medical care throughout her incarceration".

Ms Kickett, 45, called police to her Armadale home three weeks ago because she was having problems with one of her children.

When the officers arrived they realised she had $4,000 in unpaid traffic fines and money owed to Homeswest and power companies, and outstanding warrants for her arrest.

Ms Kickett said she tried to tell the officers she had only temporarily stopped paying down the fines because she needed the money to travel after several deaths in the family.

But she was detained and taken to the East Perth Watch House.

"They treated me like a real bad criminal. I'm not a murderer, I'm not a rapist," she said.

At the watch house, she said she was asked for her signature for authorisation to obtain her medical records from her doctor.

She was then sent to Bandyup Women's Prison where she asked if she could have her daily blood pressure medication, but was told it would take time to obtain authorisation from her doctor.

The department said Ms Kickett was assessed and medical staff were on duty to provide care.

"She was medically assessed on admission and provided with appropriate medical treatment," the statement said.

"Medical staff were on duty at the prison all weekend and able to treat Ms Kickett if required."

The department said prisoners were not allowed to bring personal medication into a prison.

"All medication required by a prisoner must first be verified though the prisoner's physician and approved and authorised by the department's medical staff," the statement said.

"Prescribed medication is issued through the pharmacy at Hakea Prison."

Ms Kickett was in Bandyup over a period of four days, including a weekend.

"Without no blood pressure tablets I ended up getting sick in there," she said.

She said her blood pressure was taken at the prison's medical clinic and it was very high, "about" 160 over 110.

...

This type of propagandising must be condemned.

It has done enough damage.

 

 8 kids die in tragically in #Cairns & this is what the @CourierMail thinks is the most important angle?  ...

Image: @Brentus88 [20/12/14]

Pissweak: Acting Premier Tim Nicholls visits Manoora

Brisbane Times [20/12/14]:

Police have continued to question a mother of seven over the stabbing deaths of her seven children and a niece, as the Cairns community continued to grapple with the enormity of the mass killing.

Mersane Warria, also known as Raina Thaiday, remained under police guard in Cairns Hospital on Saturday.

As of 2pm on Saturday she was under arrest but no charges had been laid.

She had been taken to hospital from her Murray Street address in the west Cairns suburb of Manoora.

Acting Premier Tim Nicholls visited a community centre on Murray Street on Saturday and, along with senior police officers and local politicians, laid flowers at the makeshift memorial in the park adjacent to the home.

Mr Nicholls said the state government would provide whatever help it could to the community.

"As a father myself, with three children under 15, I can only imagine the grief that this community is feeling as they come to grips with the events over the past days," he said.

"I'm sure I speak on behalf of all Queenslanders and all Australians when we say we are with you, we are here to support you and we feel with you the grief the community feels."

 Police have positively identified the victims of the homicide investigation currently underway in Cairns. ... [QPS Media - 20/12/14]

... "My daughter, she was beautiful."  ... [Yahoo - 20/12/14]

Autopsies to be carried out on eight children stabbed to death in Cairns mass killing [Nine MSN - 20/12/14]

Griffith man charged with setting fire to home of 7 children [Canberra Times – 20/12/14]

Who cares whether Man Haron Monis was obsessed with Channel 7's Sunrise.

Why did police charge in guns blazing?

3 People, Including Gunman, Killed In Sydney Cafe Siege [NPR - 15/12/14]:

...

Update at 9:53 a.m. ET. Police Name Suspect: Local media say police in Sydney have named the suspected hostage taker as an Iranian, self-styled cleric named Man Haron Monis.

Update at 10:16 a.m. ET. Police Storm Cafe: Television images showed police storming the cafe, while a sixth hostage was carried out.

The images showed police, in tactical gear, using what appeared to be stun grenades, before moving into the building.

Update at 10:22 a.m. ET. Paramedics Move In: Television images are now showing paramedics removing at least four people on stretchers from the building. Some people ran from the building with their hands up, while others were escorted to safety by police.

It's still not clear why police made a move into the cafe.

It is now 2:24 a.m. on Tuesday in Sydney.

...

... It’s clear that without civil society and its defined and organized nature, it’s difficult to keep the hawks at bay.  ...

Mikhail Gorbachev to RT: America wanted to rule the world but lost its way [VIDEO - 19/12/14]:

The Ukrainian issue has intensified the tension that existed between the West and Russia: now, another Cold War is possibly lurking on the horizon. Are we to witness another stand-off - or will it be averted? The relations between Russia and the West seem to be stuck at dead-end, so is there hope common ground will emerge between the two? We ask these questions to the man who prides himself on ending the Cold War, the last leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, on Sophie&Co today.

Obama authorises economic embargo on Russia’s Crimea [RT – 19/12/14]

Afghanistan: Civilian Casualties Highest Ever Recorded

Khaama [20/12/14]:

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) says 9, 617 people were recorded killed/injured between January-November 2014 in Afghanistan which shows an increase of 19%.

As per the UNAMA this is the highest figure of civilian casualties ever recorded by the UN in Afghanistan.

During this period 3, 188 people were killed while 6, 429 were injured making a total of the civilian casualties of 9, 617, expected to pass 10, 000 by the end of this year.

This is apart from the casualties not recorded.

UNAMA has learned the main causes of the casualties were ground engagements and Improvised Explosive Devices.

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom expressing concern urged all parties to reduce civilian.

This is in the time Taliban has increased its insurgency, with a large scale attack went in to 6th day on Friday in Kunar province where civilians are caught in the battle field between Taliban and government forces.

Obama Signs Defense Spending Bill Including Training of Syrian Rebels [Newsmax – 19/12/14]

US drone strike kills five in North Waziristan

Tribune [20/12/14]:

A US drone strike killed at least five suspected militants in Datta Khel, North Waziristan near the Afghan border on Saturday, security officials said, warning that the death toll was expected to rise.

“A US drone fired two missiles at a compound in Mada Khail neighbourhood of Datta Khel area in North Waziristan killing five militants. The death toll is expected to rise,” a senior security official requesting anonymity told AFP.

The incident was confirmed by local intelligence sources.

A previous drone strike took place on November 26 in which eight suspected militants were killed, according to security officials.

“The drone fired two missiles, killing at least eight people and injuring two others,” a security official in the area had told AFP via phone on condition of anonymity.

“There may be more dead bodies under the rubble,” he said.

Further, just a day before, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah had escaped a drone strike that had taken place near the Pak-Afghan border.

A senior security official from Fata, while talking to The Express Tribune, said it was confirmed that Fazlullah was present in the Nizyan area of the Ningarhar province of Afghanistan on the Durand Line.

He said the TTP leader escaped the drone strike. However, five others were killed in the strike reportedly near near the zero-line between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Eastern Congo's Beni region rocked by killings, rights abuses and fear

UNHCR Media Release [19/12/14]:

The UN refugee agency on Friday called for humanitarian access to the Beni area of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo amid a deteriorating security and human rights situation for the civilian population.

"Multiple attacks over the last three months have caused widespread fear and displacement [in this area of North Kivu province]. We are appealing for humanitarian access to help people in distress," said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards.

"There are credible reports that at least 256 people, including children, have been killed in machete and axe attacks since October. New massacres by armed groups are reported every week," Edwards told journalists in Geneva.

He added that at least 52 people were slaughtered in villages near Oicha to the west of Beni on December 7-8, and a week later 19 more people were killed nearby. Violence has also spread northwards into Orientale province, where seven people were killed and their villages during the night of Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

The violence has caused spikes in displacement, both within Beni and the surrounding area. In all, around 88,000 people have been displaced. People have to live in schools and churches, or with host families. Leaflets threatening new attacks are terrifying the population and triggering further movements towards larger towns and cities.

"The survivors and the displaced live in a desperate situation and in constant fear. They remain at risk of new attacks and have had no respite for the past three months. They have little protection against violence and have received hardly any assistance," Edwards said.

People need shelter, basic aid items, clean drinking water and access to health services and schools. Aid projects have been suspended because of the deteriorating security situation. This is of particular concern in an area with a high prevalence of malaria, typhoid, anaemia, malnutrition and diarrhoea.

Edwards said UNHCR and its partners needed safe access to these areas to establish a humanitarian presence and to help the traumatized population. To date, it has been very challenging for aid organizations to reach Beni and other affected places, with the Congolese army restricting movement in these areas. In addition, people are unable to go to their farms and food prices are rising.

"We are concerned that this situation could result in rising levels of malnutrition and eventually in famine if the situation is not immediately addressed," Edwards said.

UNHCR called on the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to protect the civilian population in Beni and the surrounding areas and to allow humanitarian organizations into the affected areas. The refugee agency also urged the UN peacekeeping mission to increase its capacity to protect civilians in Beni and nearby villages and called on all sides to respect human rights.

Three Babies among Nine Migrants Drowned Off Morocco

Naharnet [20/12/14]:

Three babies were among nine illegal migrants who died on Friday after their inflatable vessel capsized off the coast of Morocco, police said.

A police operation "rescued 21 people and recovered nine bodies, three of whom were babies," according to a statement from authorities in the northern province of Tangiers-Tetouan.

Tangiers and Tetouan are some of the closest African cities to Europe, where southern Spain is visible to the naked eye across the Straits of Gibraltar.

Hundreds of migrants attempt the voyage each year.

In June, Moroccan authorities said they had intercepted nearly 200 asylum seekers trying to reach Europe on inflatable rafts.

A month earlier, at least two migrants died attempting to make the 20-kilometer (12-mile) journey between Tangiers and southern Spain. Eight people were rescued.

The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern Moroccan coast have also seen migrants attempt entry on several occasions this year.

Morocco says there are around 30,000 illegal migrants on its territory, and has launched a drive to regularize several thousand asylum seekers.

The United Nations says that more than 3,400 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean by boat from North Africa in 2014.

Pilot refuses to fly after plane protest by cuffed asylum seeker

Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney [20/12/14]:

Last night, the pilot of an Air China flight carrying a Chinese asylum seeker made a last minute decision to abandon the take off and returned to the terminal to unload the asylum seeker after he staged a dramatic on-board protest.

Wei Lin, a Chinese asylum seeker, was taken directly from the Federal Court to the airport, under escort of four Serco guards, following failed last minute legal action to prevent his deportation.

Around 6pm, refugee activists went to Sydney airport to distribute leaflets to passengers on the Air China flight to raise awareness of the Wei’s deportation and to request their support to prevent the forced deportation

At the airport he was tightly handcuffed and a mask placed over his head. Wei was placed between two Serco guards of the last row of seats on the plane.

Around 9.00pm, with around 80 per cent of passengers boarded, Wei was able to move to the front of the plane and address the passengers after being escorted to the toilet.

Wei showed passengers that he was cuffed and said, “I am a political asylum seeker. The Australian Immigration Department forced me to come the airport & board on the airplane against my will…”

The plane had begun to move to taxi to the runway, but after about 20 minutes the pilot announced that the incident was ‘unresolved’, and the plane would return to the terminal.

Some passengers, both Chinese and Australian, clapped for Wei as he was taken from the aircraft at 9.50pm. He was subsequently returned to the high security section of the Villawood detention centre.

Wei is a professional athlete who has been harrassed in China because of his knowledge of the use of performance enhancing drugs in Chinese sport. He first made a protection application in late 2007.

“We are again calling on the Minister to halt attempts to deport Wei, and to halt all deportations to danger, ” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“We are also calling on the airlines to refuse to carry forced deportations. By co-operating with the government, airline such as China Air become complicit in the government’s abuse of asylum seekers’ human rights.”

CCR Joins Criminal Complaint in Germany Against Bush-Era Architects of Torture

Centre for Constitutional Rights Media Release [17/12/14]:

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin has today lodged criminal complaints against former CIA head George Tenet, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the administration of former US President George W. Bush.

The ECCHR is accusing Tenet, Rumsfeld and a series of other persons of the war crime of torture under paragraph 8 section 1(3) of the German Code of Crimes against International Law (Völkerstrafgesetzbuch).

The constituent elements of the crime of torture were most recently established in the case by the US Senate in its report on CIA interrogation methods.

“The architects of the torture system - politicians, officials, secret service agents, lawyers and senior army officials – should be brought before the courts,” says ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck, who is appearing today in connection with the issue in front of the German Parliamentary Committee on legal affairs.

“By investigating members of the Bush administration, Germany can help to ensure that those responsible for abduction, abuse and illegal detention do not go unpunished.”

The US Senate report devotes one section explicitly to the case of German citizen Khaled El Masri, who was abducted by CIA agents in 2004 due to a case of mistaken identity and was tortured in a secret detention center in Afghanistan. The criminal complaint details the US Senate report’s finding that once the unlawful error was discovered, the former CIA director refused to take further steps against those responsible.

ECCHR calls on Federal Prosecutor Harald Range to open investigations into the actions of Tenet, Rumsfeld and other perpetrators and to set up a monitoring process as soon as possible. This would allow the German authorities to act immediately in the event that one of the suspects enters European soil and not have to wait until such point before beginning the complex investigations and legal deliberations.

Together with the US Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Kaleck previously submitted criminal complaints against Tenet and Rumsfeld in Germany in 2004 and 2006 and against Bush in Switzerland in 2011.

ECCHR is also involved in legal proceedings in Spain and France concerning Guantánamo. The current criminal complaint by ECCHR is supported by former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, the CCR in New York along with its President Emeritus Michael Ratner and its Vice President Peter Weiss, winner of the Martin Ennals Awards 2014 Alejandra Ancheita, Professor for International and Public Law at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels Annemie Schaus, Professor for Criminal Law at the University of Hamburg Florian Jeßberger and Berlin attorney Dieter Hummel.

The US has to date failed to bring to justice those responsible for the torture and abuse of detainees by US army forces and secret services since 11 September 2001. Only a small number of low ranking members of the military have faced trial at special military court proceedings for instances of torture, including for the abuse at Abu Ghraib. ECCHR and the New York Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), together with cooperating attorneys in Germany, France, Belgium, Spain and Switzerland have therefore taken legal action against former members of the Bush Administration who directly or indirectly ordered or – in the case of the Administration’s top level lawyers – attempted to legitimize these crimes. ECCHR has also been involved in submitting a number of complaints on the matter to UN Special Rapporteurs.

While criminal complaints against those most responsible for the crimes have been discontinued by the authorities, investigatory proceedings are ongoing in Spain and France in the case of individuals who were detained in Guantánamo. ECCHR is representing German resident Murat Kurnaz in the Spanish proceedings.

There is no indication that legal action will be taken by US authorities in relation to torture in Guantánamo and in Iraq. For this reason, recourse will be had to all available legal mechanisms in Europe in order to establish legal liability and to lend support to calls within the US for independent investigations into those responsible at the highest level.

Palmer United Party media advisor released on bail

Brisbane Times [19/12/14]:

… Mr Crook, 48, of the inner Brisbane suburb of New Farm, was released on bail on Friday afternoon after fronting Brisbane Magistrates Court, as was his co-accused, Gold Coast father-of-three Mick Featherstone, 51.

Both men were charged with retaliation of a witness, attempting to pervert the course of justice and attempted fraud.

Both men made unsuccessful applications for the proceedings of their bail applications to be prohibited from publication, citing the high level of media interest in the case.

Police allege the pair, along with former AFL Sydney Swans player Tony Smith who lives in Bali, staged an elaborate scheme in which the NAB employee was lured to an Indonesian island under the guise he was applying for a job as a global finance manager for Mr Palmer.

Once on the island, the man was strip searched and his phone and wallet taken in a bid to elicit a video confession retracting evidence he gave at a civil trial in August 2012.

Mr Smith remains wanted by police over the matter.

Taskforce Maxima Criminal Economy Team Detective Inspector Phil Stevens said the elaborate nature of the plot was like something from a movie.

"This is one of the most elaborate and desperate schemes I have seen in 35 years of policing, it reads like a Hollywood script," he said.

...

Sun reporter was subject to no allegations for 5,984 days of 6,000 he worked for the paper – Court told

Hacking Inquiry [19/12/14]:

A tipster who supplied a story to the Sun about the death of a prisoner in solitary confinement at a Category A prison may have been pretending to be a prison officer, a court was told today.

William Clegg QC, representing Sun reporter John Troup, told Kingston Crown Court that the informant who supplied information about the death of hitman David Croke may have lied about his occupation to obtain a furtive cash payment.

A newspaper tipster might want to receive cash rather than an electronic payment into their bank for several reasons, including keeping their role or windfall secret from their family or from the Benefits Agency, the barrister told the jury.

At the Sun corruption trial, Mr Troup, the Sun’s former East Anglia reporter, is charged with one count of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office over a story about Croke’s death at HMP Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire in 2007.

After the story’s publication, Mr Troup emailed Graham Dudman, the Sun’s then managing editor, telling him that a cash payment for the story was necessary because the source was a prison officer who was worried about being detected.

The prison officer knew that the Home Office monitored the bank accounts of prison officers, Mr Troup warned his boss.

Making his closing speech, Mr Clegg, for Mr Troup, stressed that his client now realized that he wrong to have stated in his initial defence statement that he had written the story.

Subsequent to that initial statement a Ministry of Justice press office log showed that his colleague Simon Hughes had stood up the story, which Mr Troup now accepted.

Mr Clegg asked the jury to consider what evidence there was that the tipster who supplied the story to the Sun was actually a prison officer, which would make him a public official banned from selling confidential information without good cause.

Mr Clegg pointed out to the jury that it was agreed that the Home Office did not monitor the banks accounts of prison officers to see if they were being selling stories to the papers.

He said: “Looking at this email we know that the tipster has lied to John Troup because it says he, the tipster, claims to John Troup, that the Home Office routinely monitor the bank accounts of warders at Category A jails.

“That was a lie. The tipster was telling John Troup a lie. It was a lie told to get his money in cash.”

The QC continued: “What else did the tipster say? I am a prison officer. Well, that may also be a lie.”

He told the jury: “And if it is, that man in the dock is not guilty.”

Mr Clegg said: “The prosecution hinges on the tipster telling he truth about his occupation – but lying in the next breath about whether his bank account is monitored by the Home Office.”

He objected to the Crown’s description of tipsters receiving “wheelbarrows of cash” from the Sun.

“Let’s be straight,” Mr Clegg said. “The only payment of all the years John Troup worked for the Sun was a payment of £300; that’s not going to need a wheelbarrow, not even the small one by my grandson’s hoping to get for Christmas.”

While the Crown alleged cash payments to public officials were necessary to land exclusive stories, Mr Troup had managed to find stories aplenty in his newspaper career, including an agenda-leading investigation about alleged match-fixing by the Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar.

Mr Clegg said: “He worked for the Sun for approximately 6,000 days. If you look at Count 8, his alleged criminality is alleged to cover 16 days. The other 5,984 days there’s no suggestion, no allegation, that he’s done anything illegal or improper at all. Quite the reverse.”

Concluding, the seventh of the seven closing speeches, Mr Clegg told the jury it had been “a long and memorable trial.”

He went on: “And what an odd trial it is: no-one has died, no has been attacked, no one has had anything stolen – but a fortune of our money has been spent prosecuting these newspaper men for publishing the truth.”

The Judge, Richard Marks QC, told the 12 men and women of the jury that they had been privileged to hear “exceptionally well-argued” closing speeches from “amongst the finest in the criminal bar.”

Court adjourned until 5 January 2015, when Mr Justice Marks is scheduled to begin his summing up.

Mr Troup, Mr Dudman and four other defendants – Chris Pharo, Ben O’Driscoll, John Edwards and Jamie Pyatt – deny conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.

Jury urged to put aside moral reservations about false claims for expenses [Hacking Inquiry – 19/12/14]

Why do Australian journalists protect politicians like Tim Mander and Scott Morrison?

Why are they untouchable?

Scott Morrison's day has come. It's now time for the Immigration Minister to step up and take responsibility for the fight against terrorism. Nobody is better qualified. Nobody would bring the same sense of reassurance, confidence and security that the country now needs.  ...

Taking the fight to terrorism is a job for Morrison, Barrie Cassidy [ABC - 18/9/14]

 

Image:  ‏@ScottMorrisonMP  -  Hon. Scott Morrison  - Is at Synergy Conference @ Shirelive, Sutherland  [19/1/11]

“Sympathetic journalists” ---> unaccountable politicians. [The Power Index - 13/9/12]:

... In a crusade joined by the Jim Wallace-led Australian Christian Lobby, ex-Scripture Union boss (and former rugby league ref turned LNP MP) Tim Mander organised a 'National Prayer Day' for chaplaincy, as well as donations to a legal fighting fund and an online petition.

Williams [High Court Challenge Ron Williams] also says an email was allegedly sent by Mander calling for the group to be “very active” on the PR front, including engaging “sympathetic journalists”. The email has been posted to atheist forums. The Scripture Union did not respond to a request for an interview to ask if the email was legitimate.

...

Tim Mander's new ministerial role: Housing and Public Works [ABC - 15/11/12]

Student Press Call - Tim Mander & Sandgate District State High School [ABC - 19/2/09]

 

ABC [11/4/13]:

The Tenants Union of Queensland says the closure of a statewide advisory service will create more demand for public housing.

The State Government discontinued funding last year and interim funding from the Commonwealth is about to run out.

Tenants Union coordinator Penny Carr says the service has been operating in 23 different locations and helps people stay in the private rental market.

"We're worried that this does create more demand for social housing and it puts people at risk of homelessness," she said.

"Our services are keeping people housed.

"The vast majority of tenants, probably just under 90 per cent of the renting households, are renting in the private rental market.

"We're calling on the Premier today to review this decision.

"It's a false dichotomy to make a decision between supporting tenants in the social housing sector and tenants in the private rental market - you need to do both."

A spokesman for Queensland Housing Minister Tim Mander says the State Government will not be revisiting the decision.

Queensland Govt Media Release [4/4/13]:

Rogue public housing tenants will soon face stricter penalties for bad behaviour with the Newman Government today launching a “three-strikes and you’re out” policy.

Minister for Housing Tim Mander said the new policy would see problem tenants evicted if they failed to curb their behaviour. ...

Mother arrested for murder after children found dead in Cairns home [ABC – 20/12/14]

How many other Australians are in the same predicament right now?

Why are they being punished?

Family desperate to avoid living in a car again [Courier – 19/12/14]:

A Ballarat family has had to resort to living in a car after being turned down for rental properties.

It’s a position no one wants to find themselves in this close to Christmas, but sometimes, as Billie Murphy, 27, has discovered, it’s out of your control.

“We’ve been looking for jobs for the last two years, so we’ve been paying rent with our Centrelink payments,” she said.

“We have plenty of qualifications but we can’t find anyone who will hire us.

“My father got really sick, so I was travelling a lot to Melbourne to see him before he died.

“All our money was used on petrol and as a result we got two weeks behind on rent. Then we were issued a notice to vacate our property.”

The family was forced to live in a Holden Commodore for three days before taking to social media to ask for somewhere to live.

“It’s been pretty horrible. There isn’t much room in a Commodore,” Ms Murphy said.

“We’ve found it hard to get together the money for bond because we’re on Centrelink payments.

“I’ve rung up agents but they said there are better applicants than us. I believe it’s because we’re on Centrelink payments.

“So we went on Facebook, hoping we could find a private rental.”

As a result, the young family was given a place to live for two weeks, but is still in need of something permanent.

“We’ve had quite a few responses from the Ballarat area. Hopefully, by the end of the week, we have something to move into,” Ms Murphy said

“We’re really concerned because we are trying to save money for Christmas presents for the children and for bond. It’s sad for the children. It doesn’t look like we will have a Christmas.”

With a two-year-old child and her partner’s 15-year-old son living with the couple, Ms Murphy said it was never a situation she wanted the children to have to go through.

“We always pictured ourselves living in a house,” she said.

“I’m extremely stressed.”

Queensland Co-ordinator General approves New Acland coal mine expansion

Deputy Premier, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Media Release [19/12/14]:

Hundreds of regional jobs could be created after Queensland’s independent Coordinator General approved the $900 million New Acland Coal Mine expansion near Oakey.

Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said the Coordinator General’s approval is subject to 137 strict conditions to manage the project’s impact.

“Today’s decision from the Coordinator General is a significant step towards construction of this mine and great economic news for the Darling Downs and south-east Queensland,” Mr Seeney said.

...

Queensland Attorney-General welcomes appeal wins

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Media Release [19/12/14]:

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie has welcomed two judgments by the Court of Appeal that have increased the sentences for two sex offenders.

Mr Bleijie appealed both sentences on the grounds they were manifestly inadequate.

“The Government is committed to making Queensland the safest place to raise a family,” Mr Bleijie said.

“Queensland now has some of the strongest laws targeting sex offenders in Australia and I will also always fight for victims if I believe a sentence is inadequate.”

Richard Quincy Williams was originally sentenced to 8 years jail, but was eligible for parole after only three years, for the attack and rape of a jogger on the Gold Coast.

Today the Court of Appeal found “the sentence imposed fails to suitably punish him, deter him and others, and denounce the conduct,” and extended his parole eligibility to four years.

John William Goodwin was also originally sentenced to 8 years jail, but was eligible for parole after only two years and eight months, for a series of “peeping tom” and sexual assault offences.

Today the Court of Appeal found the sentence was “unreasonable and fails to reflect the overall criminality of the respondent’s offending,” and extended his eligibility for parole to four years.

Boy restrained, stripped by Northern Territory guards

Nine MSN [20/12/14]:

Video of three correctional services guards grabbing a 13-year-old boy by the neck and forcibly stripping him is appalling, the Northern Territory Children's Commissioner said.

The ABC broadcast the 2010 footage this week after a Supreme Court justice upheld a prior ruling that the guards did not use unreasonable or excessive force.

It shows three guards entering a small cell in Alice Springs, taking the child by the neck and turning his head away before dropping him face-down onto a mattress.

The guard pins him by the head as another guard pulls off his shorts and underpants, then holds him down with his knees across his naked buttocks.

Afterwards the boy is seen stalking around the cell and throwing his torn-up mattress at the CCTV camera in visible distress.

The boy had been classed as at-risk and needed to be dressed in a non-rip gown, Justice Peter Barr ruled, and was apparently a known "spitter".

Restraint is only ever used as a last resort in situations where there is a threat to an inmate or staff, said Corrections Minister Robyn Lambley.

But at that point he was not a threat to anyone, said NT Children's Commissioner Dr Howard Bath.

"Violently grabbing and putting the kid down with knees and hands around the neck and on the buttock, stripping him naked, is hardly a therapeutic response; it's likely to harm the child," he told AAP on Friday.

The action appeared designed to humiliate the boy, and was "appalling practice", he said.

Justice Barr said the force used did not appear to be excessive, describing the actions as low-level physical violence.

The video only shows a small portion of the incident, said Minister Lambley, excluding the threats to self-harm and violence the boy displayed before the incident.

"The youth detainee featured in the vision has been found guilty of more than 50 criminal offences, many of which were violent acts, over the past five years," she said.

Police may be close to finding body of missing mum

Nine MSN [19/12/14]:

Police believe they're on the verge of finding the body Stuart Park mum Carlie Sinclair 18 months after she vanished.

Officers are looking for a shallow grave at Berry Springs, and have arrested Ms Sinclair's former partner Danny Deacon on suspicion of murder.

Deacon has always been the chief suspect in Ms Sinclair's disappearance and this morning major crime detectives swooped, marching him to an unmarked police car at Tipperary Waters before he was frisked and arrested.

Among his possessions police seized a large amount of cash.

"The team of detectives that have been involved in this were steely in their determination," NT Police Commissioner John McRoberts said.

"They were professional in every thing they did, purely because they were not satisfied that Ms Sinclair had simply disappeared,"

The breakthrough that led to this moment came last night, when Deacon made an unexplained trip to the territory from his new home in Perth.

And where he came when he allegedly arrived – dense bushland in Berry Springs – is tonight being closely guarded by Northern Territory Police.

"Based on the information we have, including comments made by the man, we are very confident we know where Carlie is, although it will take us some hours and possibly, not even until tomorrow to be able to tell her family we have in fact confirmed her identity, and where she is," Mr McRoberts said.

For Ms Sinclair's tormented mother Marlene, her worst fears were right.

"I just want to bring Carlie home and give her a proper burial," she told 9NEWS.

Tonight she will make the painful journey from Melbourne, while her dad Rob and brother Kristian will come from Brisbane.

Danny Deacon remains in custody and has not yet been charged.

Man dies after he is hit by a car in Buderim

Sunshine Coast Daily [19/12/14]:

Emergency services worked to try and resuscitate a man who was hit by a car at Buderim this morning.

Paramedics and and firefighters were both involved in desperate attempts to perform CPR on the man who had suffered head and chest injuries when he was hit by a car in an Elizabeth St driveway.

The 38-year-old man died on the scene.

Police are investigating the incident.

...

Israeli military strikes Gaza

Al Jazeera [20/12/14]:

 The Israeli military has attacked targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a rocket launched from the Palestinian territory into Israel.

Friday's air strikes were the first since the 50-day war this summer.

A spokesman for Gaza's health ministry said there were no casualties in the air attack.

The Israeli military said one of its aircraft targeted Hamas infrastructure in the southern Gaza Strip.

Residents in Gaza told Al Jazeera that Israeli planes were flying low over the coastal enclave.

Israeli police said a rocket fired from Gaza earlier in the day fell on open ground in Eshkol, causing no injuries.

The military said it held Hamas responsible for the rocket attack.

Hamas and Israel agreed a ceasefire on August 26, brokered by Egypt, ending the war that resulted in the deaths of 2,140 Palestinians. Seventy-three Israelis were killed, most of them soldiers.

Cairo talks between Israel and Hamas to cement the fragile truce, due to be held last month, were called off by Egypt.

Much of Gaza's infrastructure, and hundreds of homes, were destroyed during the war.

Two months after donors pledged $5.4bn to help rebuild Gaza, officials say barely two percent of the money has been transferred.

At a conference in Cairo, Qatar promised $1bn, Saudi Arabia $500m and the United States and the European Union a combined  $780m in various forms of assistance.

But of the total, only $100m or so has been received, according to UN and other officials.

"That money will be largely finished in January 2015. We have a shortfall [for shelter and homes] of $620m and we are going to run out right in the hardest part of winter," said Robert Turner, director of operations for the UN's Relief and Works Agency in Gaza.

 

20 December 2014

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