Queensland's Cosy Political Class Shit Scared - And So They Should Be

Unsurprisingly, where monopoly media has reigned for over twenty years, partisan analysis and spin is relentlessly wheeled out, rather than an exploration of the failure of the major political parties to connect with (and represent the interests of) the citizenry:

Katter's party not a One Nation force: analyst

Political analyst Paul Williams says federal independent MP Bob Katter's new Australian Party is unlikely to have much impact on Queensland politics. ...

Yep, diehard liberals, nationals, true believer alp and media hold hands against the rest of us!

Shattering The Matrix Of Media White Washing

Jeff McMullen, 'Green Left Weekly' [25/5/11]:

... The power brokers controlling the vital messages about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life are the major economic interests and government.

Genuine independence in journalism is rare.

Even today’s ABC management boasts that the national broadcaster’s success in attracting federal funding and expanding digital channels is built on showing government just which network does the best job of conveying Canberra’s message.

Most media players collude, not for the common good, but for the maximum attention.

It has always been this way.

Some Indigenous leaders complain that the views of half a million Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people inevitably will be drowned out by the huge white majority.

But this power imbalance, now institutionalised by our society, is only part of the story of why the media fails to present an authentic picture of Indigenous life.

Journalists have a fundamental responsibility to truthfully report and bring to national attention the murders, the unconscionable imprisonment of so many Indigenous people, the deaths in custody, the shameful suicides, the neglect, abandonment and abuse of so many human rights.

Our ethical code compels us to pay attention to the plight of the powerless.

Truthful reporting of the tragic and unnecessary death in the back of an overheated prison van in Western Australia and another in a police cell on Palm Island, conveyed to a national audience some sense of how two standards of justice prevail in this country.

But it is telling that the media have not been able to reveal evidence that would bring convictions after hundreds of cases of injustice.

Why?

The Matrix so easily convinces everyone that this is just how it is in Australia. It traps Indigenous people in a permanent state of victimhood where they alone are blamed for the disadvantage they suffer.

Australian journalists have become numb to the suffering of Indigenous people and lost the courage to question the government’s policy of assimilation and seek to change what is wrong.

There is no moral force or clear, underlying set of values guiding the reporting on Indigenous life.

Often Australian media are complicit and compliant in the government’s Big Lies about Aboriginal people. From the outset of the Northern Territory intervention in 2007 few journalists strongly challenged, let alone exposed, the outrageous government lie about paedophiles in every one of the 73 remote communities.

As a storyteller, Aboriginal people frequently ask me serious questions. Why do politicians lie and fail to keep their word? Why do reporters know so little about so many things? Why can’t we sit down together and listen to one another? Why is it so hard for others to understand what Indigenous people think and how they feel?

When you look honestly at our relationship it is clear that Indigenous people have tried hard for more than two centuries to develop some understanding of the Balanda (white) way of life.

Culturally speaking, it is whites who lack the knowledge, experience or even the empathy to walk together into the future. ...

Apocalypse Meow & I Can Jump Poodles

Meet The Press [5/6/11]:

... PAUL BONGIORNO: Just finally, you were on the Senate committee when the ‘cat's meow’ rang out. How did it affect you at the time? What was your reaction?

NICK XENOPHON: I was too busy reading a frontier economics report. I got the reaction from Penny Wong. I could understand why she was annoyed. Honestly, if this was going to be turned into a movie, I think the sequel would have to be called ‘Apocalypse Meow'. When you consider the remarks of Julia Gillard and Christopher Pyne, I think the movie sequel for that would have to be called 'I can Jump Poodles'. ...

These Death Threats Would Be Violent Extremism - Wouldn't They?

Who is responsible for protecting these Australians and investigating the death threats?

A climate change scientist who has been targeted by death threats says the science community must still continue to release the latest research.

A number of the country's top climate change scientists, including several at the Australian National University (ANU), have been targeted by death threats and abusive phone calls for months.

But the situation has now worsened, and ANU has moved its scientists to a more secure location and introduced other security measures.

Professor David Karoly from the University of Melbourne says he receives threats every time he is interviewed by the media.

"It is clear that there is a campaign in terms of either organised or disorganised threats to discourage scientists from presenting the best available climate science on television or radio," he said.

"It is still very important that climate scientists present the best available information to the community, to the business community and to politicians and that we seek to protect our individual safety, but that we still provide the best available climate science."

ANU vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young says scientists at the university in Canberra have received large numbers of emails, including death threats and abusive phone calls, threatening to attack the academics in the street if they continue their research.

He says it has been happening for the past six months and the situation has worsened significantly in recent weeks.

"Obviously climate research is an emotive issue at the present time," he said.

"These are issues where we should have a logical public debate and it's completely intolerable that people be subjected to this sort of abuse and to threats like this.

"I think it is totally outrageous and the vast majority of Australians would think it is totally unacceptable for anybody in society to be subjected to this sort of behaviour."

Australia's peak body for science has also condemned the campaign of death threats.

The Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies' CEO, Anna-Maria Arabia, says the extreme behaviour represents a worrying trend and political leaders must put a stop to the misinformation campaign.

"We've seen Upper House members compare scientists to Nazis, we've seen independent MPs receiving death threats when they're trying to participate in a democratic debate, we've seen bullying, we've seen very violent reactions in the United States," she said.

"This is completely unacceptable behaviour on Australian shores."

The Australian Federal Police says it is aware of the issue, but there is no investigation underway. ...

Theftord: Firefighters Called To Raging Forest Fire

EADT [4/6/11]:

Firefighters from Suffolk were called to battle a huge forest fire in Theftford.

The blaze broke out yesterday at about 6.20pm at the rear of Fire Route 16 in Thetford forest, just off Brandon Road.

Crews from Mildenhall, Brandon and Thetford and two other crews from Norfolk were called to tackle the fire.

A spokesman for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service said the fire had engulfed 400 square metres of forest.
He said the incident was under control by 6.55pm.

Weekly Roundup: Scott Signs Bill, Opponents Hire Lawyers

Sunshine State News [4/6/11]:

... Following his previous week’s budget-signing, Scott spent the week signing other Republican priorities into law.

Scott penned his name to a pair of bills that backers hope will change the way Florida’s $20 billion Medicaid program is run. Tucked within a couple of dozen bills, Scott signed the measures (HB 7107 and HB 7109) that attempt to funnel most of the state’s 2.7 million Medicaid recipients into managed-care programs.

The state must now convince the federal government, which picks up most of the Medicaid tab, to let it make the change from the traditional fee-for-service model that has defined the health safety net since its inception.

Scott also affixed his signature to a sweeping change in growth-management law, reversing a quarter century of policy in shifting responsibility for growth decisions back to the locals. When that was the case a couple of decades ago, lawmakers found little ability to regulate growth with a regional viewpoint. With the new law, the pendulum goes back the other way, with Republicans having said that state management of growth simply slowed growth and prevented job creation.

In a nod to gun owners, Scott also approved a pair of bills pushed by the National Rifle Association, which flexed its political muscle throughout the 60-day session.

One measure (HB 45) prevents local governments from enacting stricter gun ordinances than state law provides. The bill passed with minimal opposition. The other bill (HB 155) prevents doctors in certain situations from asking patients if they own guns or have them in their homes.

The original bill imposed stiff penalties and provided few exceptions for health practitioners who might want to include gun-safety questions in a battery of queries like whether a pool is fenced in or are there pesticides within a child’s reach.

With comfort language inserted to allow most health practitioners to get around the “don’t ask” provision, the Florida Medical Association dropped its opposition to the bill, a decision that provided political cover for many lawmakers caught between two powerful constituencies.

Mixing health care and law enforcement, Scott did a little whistle-stop tour Friday as he signed -- and signed again and signed again -- a measure (HB 7095) to clamp down on pain management clinics that distribute legally obtainable prescription drugs to “patients” for handsome profits under the nose of law enforcers who can do little to stop the often deadly transactions.

The so called “pill mill” bill makes a number of changes to state law to stem the tide of pain clinics, which legally distribute controlled substances that critics say are raising more havoc than those illegal drugs purchased from old-school drug dealers who work on a street corner. The law requires tracking of the wholesale distribution of certain controlled substances, bans doctors from dispensing controlled drugs like oxycodone, and provides money to prosecute.

"This legislation will save lives in our state, and it marks the beginning of the end of Florida's infamous role as the nation's pill mill capital,” Scott said while making stops in Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

Apparently, Scott had drugs on his mind. Earlier in the week, he signed legislation (HB 353) requiring recipients of temporary cash assistance to pass a drug test before being allowed to collect benefits from the federal program that replaced traditional welfare in the 1990s.

The bill requires applicants to pay for the drug tests, the cost of which will be reimbursed if they pass.

Recipients who fail must foot the bill for the test and forgo economic assistance for at least a year. Florida becomes the first state in the nation to require such tests of all recipients.

LAWSUITS BEGIN FLOWING IN

While Scott was busy signing bills into law, others were equally occupied with attempts to undo things that have already been done.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a pair of lawsuits in federal court this week dealing with elections and free speech.

On Tuesday, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Miami arguing that the “docs and glocks” bill that restricts health care practitioners from asking about guns, violates physicians’ First Amendment rights and needlessly inserts itself in the patient-doctor dialog.

On Friday, the ACLU announced the filing of another lawsuit. This one is challenging a bill signed into law in May that makes it harder for voters to cast ballots in the much-anticipated 2012 presidential election as an effort to reduce fraud. Opponents called the bill a “trifecta of voter suppression.”

The bill (1355) reduces the number of earlier voting days and makes it more difficult to cast provisional ballots -- changes Democrats say are thinly veiled attempts to discourage the types of efforts that helped President Barack Obama win in 2008. The bill also places tougher restrictions on voter registration groups, a move that promoted the League of Women Voters to say it would cancel registration efforts in the state.

“This new, massive law has nothing to do with improving elections and everything to do with who will get to vote in 2012, and we’re ready to have that conversation with the Department of Justice,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

Meanwhile, Travelocity.com, Orbitz, and Priceline.com filed lawsuits this week challenging hotel bed taxes sought by Broward County. The lawsuits, filed Tuesday in Tallahassee, argue that Broward County acted unconstitutionally earlier this year when it told the companies and subsidiaries that they owed a total of $484,000 in tourist-development taxes, interest and penalties. ...

“Anti-Graft Guru Begins Fast To The Death”

Daily QI [4/6/11]:

One of India’s most popular yoga gurus is leading followers in what is being called a fast to the death, part of a populist campaign to fight corruption.

Swami Baba Ramdev began his fast in front of thousands of supporters in New Delhi Saturday, promising India would be saved. He told them “nothing is impossible” and vowed they would not be defeated.

Ramdev’s demands include a return of so-called black money, cash stashed in foreign bank accounts and used to pay bribes. He also is calling for the execution of corrupt government officials.

Critics charge Ramdev has ties to right-wing Hindu groups and question his sincerity, arguing he lives lavishly with money from his multi-million dollar business ventures. But his call to end widespread corruption appears to be resonating in a country still reeling from a $39 billion telecom scandal and a scandal-plagued Commonwealth Games that have seen some ministers end up in jail.

Earlier Saturday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent four government ministers to meet with Ramdev in an attempt to stop his protest.

Ramdev refused to comment on what was said during the meeting but told supporters he would not be deterred.

Ramdev’s supporters joined in mass fasting Saturday in Mumbai and other states across India.

Where Do You Go To My Lovely?

WAM Emirates News Agency [4/6/11]:

London -- Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum attended today the the Epsom Derby horse race in the attendance of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the UK.

The world's most famous flat race was also watched by HRH Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, wife of Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and H.H. Sheikh Majed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

On the sidelines of the race, Sheikh Mohammed met with the Queen and exchanged talks about the festival. Husband of Queen Elizabeth Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince Andrew and a number of royals were present at the meeting.

Sheikh Mohammed also met with Prince Agha Khan, a famous horse owner, and talked about issues related to horse racing.

Limited News In Media Monitored Radio Rupert Town

Stafford Heights Baptist Church, October 2006

Star Observer [4/6/11]:

The winners of the second annual Gay & Lesbian Outrageous, Ridiculous and Ignorant comments Awards (GLORIAs) were announced last night at a dinner in the NSW Parliament hosted by Labor MP Penny Sharpe.

The Golden Gloria award went to Australian Christian Lobby chief Jim Wallace for his Anzac Day tweet, “Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for — wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!”

The International award went to Ugandan law maker David Bahati, author of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would see same-sex couples jailed for life for having sex, executed if HIV positive or repeat offenders, would force people to denounce GLBTs they knew to the police or risk jail themselves and make same-sex marriage an actual crime.

The Silliest comment by a GLBTI community member award was won by Gary Burns for defending Channel 7’s outing of Labor MP David Campbell, and the media award went to Adam Walters- the journalist who outed him.

The Victorian State Member for Frankston, Geoff Shaw, took out the coveted politics award for comparing same-sex love to theft and child abuse in an email exchange with a constituent, beating both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

The Law category went to the Australian Immigration Department for denying a protection visa to a gay refugee.

None of the winners attended to receive their awards.

Don't count on South East Queensland's media (so called alternative or otherwise) to draw out and analyse the disturbing issues in the fallout from this week's Adshel outrage i.e. the disproportionate influence a small number of religious fundamentalists have in our society.

As well as a 'Brisbane Times' puff piece, which endeavoured to buff Wendy Francis's image as a mother and community leader who is merely concerned about sex in advertising, the unrelenting spin so far has been that Adshel's backdown and reinstalment of safe sex bus shelter advertising was a victory for social media.

One ABC/4ZzZ? announcer went to great lengths to make out that the Australian Christian Lobby's actions have been "good publicity" and "marketing" for the Rip and Roll campaign, but failed to question the worrying power exercised by this small fundamentalist lobby.

Where is the place for discussion about the increased blurring of church and state in our society as evidenced by the growing number of openly devout christian politicians?

Who will question our politicians whether the current undue influence of religious fundamentalists in our parliament is impacting on policy decisions to the detriment of equality and plurality - such as the school chaplaincy program, marraige equality and the continued criminalisation of abortion?

And no, we still haven't had a response to the questions we put to Adshel last week:

1. How many complaints did Adshel receive about this ad?

2. How many other ads have you previously removed voluntarily due to complaints?

3. How does the number of complaints about "rip and roll" compare to your average level of complaints on other ads?

I Hate The Music

If only Brisbane's media could direct their boundless energy toward something useful:

Labby's ukulele smashing

It's the stuff nightmares are made of, Labby singing and playing the ukulele, well at least trying.

Evidently this stunt backfired, with one of the owners of Browning Street Music (who donated the ukulele) explaining on 4ZzZ's 'Frog & Peach' show that they did not endorse the destruction of musical instruments.

Interesting what some media identities can get away with, while others must tread carefully for fear of being dobbed on.

Australian Exclusive: Julian Assange Wins Martha Gellhorn Journalism Award 2011!

On June 2 2011, Julian Assange was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Journalism Award. Having searched the internet, this is the first place that this news has been reported anywhere in the Australian media.

There can only be a few explanations for this total failure of journalism: incompetence, conspiracy of silence or jealousy:

By John Pilger

... In 2008, when he was running for president, Barack Obama, said: “Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.” As president, Obama has pursued and prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other US president. Bradley Manning for one.

And this prize-giving occasion pays tribute to the heroism of that young man.

Julian Assange is an editor, publisher and journalist in the oldest and finest tradition of our craft. He is brave. He is a true agent of people; and I should say that those who dismiss him a hacker merely betray themselves as hacks.

WikiLeaks has given the public more scoops and more truth than most journalists could imagine: certainly more than those who police the perimeters of the mainstream media, who indulge in a censorship by omission and who understandably feel threatened by Assange and WikiLeaks, whose independence and achievements stand in vivid contrast to their own.

In March 2008, a Pentagon secret document made clear its plans to destroy trust in WikiLeaks. Criminalising and smear would be the methods. One of the ways of fabricating a charge against Julian Assange in Washington is to somehow prove he is not a journalist and is therefore not protected by the First Amendment. We judges were unanimous. The award of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism repudiates that slur; above all, it honours a remarkable recipient.

Daylight Robbery

Wake up Australia! If the Greeks lived here, they would be protesting twice as hard!

Imagine if Australian commuters boycotted paying fares on public transport with the support of transport workers? Just a thought.

Monsters and Critics [3/6/11]:

Athens - Hundreds of Greeks protested outside the finance ministry in Athens on Friday as the government prepared to announce new tax hikes, spending cuts and a privatization programme to the Eurogroup in a bid to secure the release of billions of euros in vital loans in return.

The country is on the brink of insolvency, despite securing a 110-billion-euro (155-billion-dollar) bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year. Analysts say it needs the loans to avoid defaulting on its debt.

Reports said EU and IMF inspectors were to wrap up their inspection of Greece's public finances later in the day and issue a statement saying that approval of further funding for Greece is a prerequisite for the release of a fifth loan installment, totalling 12 billion euros.

The announcement was to come after markets close for the weekend.

In his meeting with Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker, Greek Prime Minister George Papandrou was to seek to secure not only the June installment of the country's loan package, but also extra funding to cover a 85-billion-euro gap in public finances over the next three years.

Reports said the plan that Papandreou was to present would include extra taxes for salaried professionals and pensioners, as well as details about his government's mid-term fiscal plan, which aims to raise an extra 28 billion euros by 2015.

The premier would also set out Athens' plan for immediately selling off state assets such as state gambling company OPAP, the Athens Water and Sewage Company and Athens International Airport, according to a report in the Greek daily Kathimerini.

The measures could involve unprecedented and intrusive external supervision of the privatization programme.

European officials are hoping that half of the extra funding will come from the sale of state assets and the extension of maturities for bonds held by private investors.

Unless Europe commits itself to meeting Greece's 2012 funding needs, the IMF is refusing to pay out its 3.3-billion-euro share of the June tranche.

Eurozone finance ministers - the Eurogroup - are expected to have the final say on whether Athens gets the fifth tranche of aid during their next regular talks, due on June 20 in Luxembourg.

Efforts to meet deficit reduction targets are being hampered by a deep recession, high unemployment and weak revenues - leading to questions about whether Greece will be able to return to bond markets, as planned, in 2012.

The imminent announcement has evoked the rage of Greeks already suffering from a wave of austerity measures imposed immediately after the country received its first bailout from the EU and IMF a year ago.

Hundreds of activists from the Communist-affiliated PAME group staged a protest against the policies they say will turn workers into modern slaves.

On Thursday, a group of protesters threw yogurt at government spokesperson George Petalotis at an event of the ruling Socialist Party in a southern Athens suburb.

Greece's main public sector union, ADEDY, said it will join private sector union GSEE in a nationwide strike on June 15.

The government's latest announcement has also sparked infighting within the ruling party, which has 156 seats in the 300-member parliament.

Under pressure from the EU and the IMF, the Socialist premier is also seeking support from the conservative New Democracy party, which has refused to back reforms forced upon the country by international lenders.

With debt running at more than 330 billion euros, many experts have said that the country will be left with no alternative other than debt restructuring.

Man Jailed Over Star City Casino Shooting

A man who walked into Sydney's Star City Casino and opened fire on his former girlfriend has been jailed for up to 15-and-a-half years.

Todd Devaney, 39, pleaded guilty to charges that included shooting with intent to murder after the attack on Holly Graham.

In May 2008 he caught a taxi to the casino, carrying three semi-automatic weapons, a knife and a number of disguises.

He went to the exclusive Star City gym where Ms Graham was teaching a yoga class and fired at her three times.

She was shot in the hip and thigh but recovered from her injuries. A third bullet went through a glass window.

In sentencing Devaney to a non-parole period of 11-and-a-half years, a District Court judge said he intended to create fear in his victim.

Judge Helen Symes said it was sheer luck Ms Graham survived.

"He brazenly walked up to her so she would recognise him and shot only when he was very close," the judge said.

"Her knowledge that it was him pointing a gun was obviously intended to and did increase her fear.

"Ms Graham is still psychologically damaged by the event and of course carried physical scars that will be a constant reminder of the offence."

There Is A Problem, And The Government (And Opposition) Are Taking The Wrong Approach

Clearly, it suits them not to solve the problem, or they have no intention of solving it:

...MATT WORDSWORTH: Fardon served eight years before being released on parole. Twenty days later he raped, sodomised and assaulted a woman and was jailed for a further 14 years.

Fast forward to June 2003. The Queensland Government was under extreme pressure over the perceptions of lenient sentences for sex offenders and it faced the imminent release of Fardon.

The then-premier Peter Beattie introduced the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act.

Fardon was the first prisoner in its sights and faced being jailed indefinitely. He took the fight all the way to the High Court and lost in a six to one verdict.

But there is opposition. Psychiatrist Dr Wendell Rosevear says indefinite imprisonment isn't the answer.

WENDELL ROSEVEAR: That's what revenge is about. Revenge is I've been treated badly so I'm going to treat other people badly.

And our society wants to use revenge to try and solve these problems where we think treating people badly is going to make it better. But it can't because if we are not careful we make these people more revengeful and more desperate.

And I don't ever choose to excuse abuse in any form. I want to help prevent abuse. And that's why I want victims and perpetrators to regain a sense of their true value.

And sadly prisons don't always help people regain a sense of their value. And only if they regain their value will they then value themselves and see limits and live inside them and value other people.

And I've seen Robert have a healthy relationship with a childhood friend who died of cancer. And he and she revisited his home and revisited a lot of memories and he did a lot of healing in trying to resolve his own past abuse.

MATT WORDSWORTH: In 2006 he was released under a strict supervision order. He breached that order and was imprisoned once more.

Fardon, now 62 years of age, is again set to be freed.

The Supreme Court granted his request but again a legal battle has erupted. The Attorney-General is taking it to the Court of Appeal with a hearing due later this month.

But Fardon is supposed to be released today, prompting another dash to court for the Government to ask that it be postponed - and again Fardon lost.

Queensland's Treasurer Andrew Fraser says the Government is already pushing the limits of constitutionality.

ANDREW FRASER: We've got the toughest laws in Australia here and what's occurring here is that the laws are in action in keeping people in beyond their original sentences because the courts make an assessment. The judge has to make that assessment. It's been tested in the High Court and it's been criticised by everyone up to the UN.

MATT WORDSWORTH: The Opposition wants GPS tracking.

TIMOTHY NICHOLLS: All of the things that we do should be directed to protecting the community and protecting children.

Now if this is the case where someone is amongst the worst of the worst then a tracking system may be a small price to pay to protect children and the community. ...

Queensland Police Officer Stood Down

Nine MSN [3/6/11]:

A Queensland police officer has been stood down over his conduct on and off duty.

The 26-year-old male constable from the north coast region was stood down from duty on Friday after an ethical standards command investigation, police said in a statement.

"The Queensland Police Service expects high standards of professionalism and ethical behaviour from all of its officers," the statement said.

Police Drop Charges Against Zaetta

Digital Spy [3/6/11]:

Tania Zaetta has revealed how her recent arrest "annoyed" her.

The Australian television star, who is best known for her roles in Who Dares Wins and Baywatch, said that police had absolutely no reason to charge her with obstructing officers outside a nightclub on the Gold Coast in March.

Zaetta has had charges of public nuisance against her dropped by police and also avoided a criminal record for failure to leave a licensed venue after forfeiting her bail money in a Southport court yesterday. ...

"Naturally I'm annoyed at being charged at all when the incident itself was unwarranted, waiting by myself on a public footpath to be collected by a friend."

Zaetta, who used to promote Australia in India, revealed that she looked forward to "continuing" her promotion work. She said: "[Australia is] a great destination for Indian tourists and students. [I'll also] focus on a new exciting Australian film I'll be starting in Melbourne in the next few weeks."

After her arrest, Zaetta was forced to spend the night in a watch house. After being released the following morning, she said: "I was not at any point refused entry to the venue, nor was I affected by alcohol."

She later slammed claims that she had made racist comments against nightclub security guards, saying: "The allegations about me making racial slurs are so hurtful. I'm Italian and I lived in India for two years. I'd never say anything about anyone's background."

Study Finds Australians Concerned About Climate Change

Australian University News [3/6/11]:

Griffith University researchers have released an eye-opening report revealing a high level of concern among Australians about the immediate and future climate change impacts.

The research found 74 per cent of respondents believe the world's climate is changing, with a further eight per cent reporting that they don't know.

When asked about the causes of climate change, 90 per cent of respondents accepted some level of human causality. Only five per cent of respondents thought that climate change was entirely caused by natural processes.

The sceptics make a minority group, with 5.8 per cent of respondents characterised as disbelievers.

Less than six per cent of survey respondents could be reasonably classified as true climate change sceptics.

The findings are from one of the few in-depth or cross-national studies of public perceptions and understandings of climate change in Australia, commissioned by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility and funded by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency's Climate Change Adaptation Research Grants program.

The survey was undertaken between June and July in 2010 and involved a geographically and demographically stratified national sample of 3096 respondents.

The research found 20 per cent of survey respondents reported experiencing considerable distress, at times, at the prospect and implications of climate change and its consequences.

Environmental and social psychologist Professor Joseph Reser from Griffith's Climate Change Response Program said the findings were consistent with public perceptions in the UK and other parts of the world, but Australian survey respondents viewed climate change as more immediate and closer to home.

"Our findings suggest that Australians feel the threat to their local region and nation more intensely and that's not surprising given the nature, intensity, and dramatic impacts of natural disaster events in the past few years," Professor Reser said.

"With nonstop media images, sound bites, warning messages, and popularised science accounts of planetary threat, psychological impacts are not surprising. However, we have neglected how the threat and physical environmental consequences of climate change are impacting on the human landscape."

NCCARF Director Professor Jean Palutikof said it was important to understand public attitudes to climate change for adaptive measures.

"Understanding people's psychological responses is the key to the success of climate change adaptation initiatives and the acceptance of policies, programs, regulations, technologies and innovations," Professor Palutikof said.

Read the full report online: http://www.nccarf.edu.au/public_risk_perceptions1

Police Shooting Probe Stalled Pending Victim Questioning

An investigation into a police shooting in Coffs Harbour earlier this week cannot be finalised until the victim can be questioned.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning a 24-year old Victorian woman was shot in the face at close range as she and a man sat a stolen car near the Coffs CBD.

The head of the Coffs-Clarence Local Area Command Superintendent Mark Holahan says the investigation has found only the two police officers had guns.

"We know that there were four people at the scene that night, two of those people have been spoken to and two have not.

"Until the investigators speak to all the people involved we're still fairly limited in what we can say.

"We now know that after examination of the crime scene that no other weapons were located.

"We know that the lady now is still in a stable condition at Newcastle's John Hunter hospital.'

Superintendent Mark Holahan says the investigation cannot be finalised until the victim is questioned.

"We know now that there was only one shot fired, and the officer that had control of that firearm he needs to undertake a number of assessments with other people to make sure that he's psychologically right to continue with his duties.

"At this stage we have no intention of suspending those officers or as people are asking, should we stand them down, Superintendent Holahan.

Meanwhile, a community action group says immediate action must be taken against the officers involved.

The spokesman for Justice Action, Brett Collins, says questions must be asked about their 'unnecessarily violent' response...

"These incidents are happening quite continuously, and what we are surprised about is that the police aren't recognising that there's a growing unhappiness and dissatisfaction with having an armed force, whose first response is to violence.

"Police have a special responsibility to make sure that we are safe.

"To have violence face, and to have weapons including guns, tasters and mace as their first response is wrong,' Mr Collins said.

What Happens When Governments Abandon, Disenfranchise And Bully The Citizenry

'Gold Coast Mail' [3/6/11]:

There were dramatic scenes in a suburban Ipswich street yesterday when armed police confronted a man in possession of a sawn-off rifle.

In front of scores of terrified residents, police in bullet proof vests – pistols and tasers drawn – waved down the suspect's black Mazda sedan about 3pm.

The incident began after police were called to a disturbance at Berrigan St, Redbank Plains, about 2.30pm.

About 14 officers surrounded the residence and also patrolled adjacent Cedar Rd, warning residents not to enter the area, before eventually taking the man into custody.
Nobody was injured.

Witnesses reported seeing children's toys, a horror mask and what looked like a sawn-off firearm emptied out of the black Mazda Six, which was taken away for scientific examination.

Frightened long-time residents, who did not want to give their names, said they had seen crime rise in the area in recent months.

“I have lived here for 30 years but I have never seen anything like this – a man being arrested by seven police with guns drawn and tasers,” the man said as the police moved in on the suspect.

“In the last six months we've seen a lot more police.

“There have been three or four incidents. There was a stabbing on the same street and we've seen people doing burnouts and losing control of their cars.”

The man's partner said she was concerned for her children, who witnessed the suspect being arrested.
She was in the path of the black Mazda before police intercepted it – only 20 metres from where she was standing with her children.

“We were terrified standing there,” the woman said.

“He was coming straight towards us. That is why I ran and hid behind the fence and the kids screamed. Their hearts were racing.

“I've been telling them that everything is okay.

“The oldest one was worried that the guy might go nuts but I said that the police have him and we are okay. We are safe.”

Police last night confirmed they had arrested a 34-year-old man from Pimpama, on the Gold Coast.
The man was assisting with police inquiries as the Queensland Times went to press.

Police said two other men who lived at the Berrigan St residence were charged with drug offences.

Melbourne Hospital Sets An Example Australians Should All Be Proud Of

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Life in the Gaza Strip is hard enough, but especially so for those with a disability. ...

MARY GEARIN: Little Malak Al Ghoul answers her mother softly, watching her intently.

But Maysaa Al Ghoul assures me her daughter can be just as noisy and confident as any other five-and-a-half-year-old girl, even though she is not only deaf but has no ears underneath her brown wavy hair.

MAYSAA AL GHOUL: Because she was not able to speak she do everything by herself. I feel she is more stronger than her sister.

MARY GEARIN: Malak Al Ghoul was born in Gaza, one of triplets. She was the only one born with microtia, a congenital condition. Medical staff kept Malak away from her mother directly after the birth, not telling her.

It was only after a week she was allowed to see her, and discover the truth.

MAYSAA AL GHOUL: It was very shocking for me but when we get her she was very lovely; she was like an angel. She has very wide eyes, she was looking at me. I feel everything is okay.

MARY GEARIN: We're sitting in a lounge room in Melbourne outer suburbs. Malak Al Ghoul has come here with her mother and little brother to the home of an Australian Muslim family organised through a fledgling charity called Towards Hope.

It was an arduous logistical and bureaucratic task to get them here and a remarkable outcome for a family that had unsuccessfully sought help in Egypt, Israel, and Jordan.

MARY GEARIN: How difficult would it have been to have gotten the treatment that she needed if you'd stayed in Gaza and kept her there?

MAYSAA AL GHOUL: She doesn't have any chance in Gaza, really. There are a lot of people, especially children who needs help in Gaza.

RIYAD ALADASSI: So you're talking about an open air jail.

MARY GEARIN: That's Riyad Aladassi, also from Gaza. As a nurse there, he helped children come to Australia through another charity, the Children First Foundation, the same one that brought out the Bangladeshi conjoined twins Krishna and Trishna.

MARY GEARIN: But Riyad Aladassi dreamed of setting up his own charity; to both bring children out for surgery, but also to send in medical teams.

RIYAD ALADASSI: Gaza is deprived of freedom of movement. The staff there don't get a chance to leave or travel for workshops or training. You only travel if you have an urgent medical need and of course this is also subject to the approval of the Israeli army or the Israeli security.

And I know of cases where a one-month-old child was denied access through the Israeli border. So you know that your people are basically caged and I was one of them.

MARY GEARIN: The head of the Cochlear Implant Clinic at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital Rob Briggs will team up with the plastic surgeon who operated on the Bangladeshi twins, Andrew Greensmith.

He says he'll have two options for making ears.

ROB BRIGGS: One to use some form of skeletal support in the shape on an ear which we can make from a patient's rib-cage, out of the material called cartilage which exists in the rib-cage; we can carve that into a three dimensional shape and place it in a pocket made on the side of the scalp and literally shrink-wrap the skin onto it.

The other option would be to use very advanced plastic implants but still use the patient's own tissues to cover it.

MARY GEARIN: However co-founder and president of Towards Hope Richard Middleton, an anaesthetist in Melbourne, says he's disappointed in the number of medicos who didn't want to volunteer their time and talent; he feels, because the Palestinian cause is too controversial.

RICHARD MIDDLETON: It's really quite sad considering that one of our prime focuses is to help others. I've been very saddened by the number of people who are nervous about putting up or speaking out.

MARY GEARIN: Even though Maysaa Al Ghoul has been told she'll have to leave her daughter with her Australian host family for up to a year, she says it'll be worth it to see her avoid the limited existence deaf people face in Gaza.

MAYSAA AL GHOUL: I feel that it's not her destiny.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Maysaa Al Ghoul, ending that report from Mary Gearin.

Government Accused Of Hushing Up Detention Breaches

Former high-ranking employees from the company that manages Australia's immigration detention centres say systemic mismanagement of taxpayer funds is being "swept under the table" by the Government.

In a series of explosive allegations, two former employees of the private security firm which has a $756 million contract with the Federal Government claim fines for contract breaches at detention centres are being pushed to the side "for political reasons".

The employees have also detailed lax security practices at the Christmas Island detention centre.

The Government fines the security firm, Serco, for any breach of its contract, which can include detainee escapes, riots, or untimely transport escorts.

But despite an extensive audit system, the Christmas Island insiders claim the financial penalties, or abatements, are not always recouped by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

"The monthly abatements ran into the many hundreds of thousands of dollars [on Christmas Island] but when it would reach up into the cluster management or regional manager level, they would sort it out with DIAC and nothing would ever come to pass,'' a former Serco manager told ABC's Online Investigative Unit.

"The view among senior management on the ground, who were worried about it, was that they were sweeping it under the table, probably for political reasons, as they probably didn't want it getting around how bad the situation was there.

"When it got really bad, the amount mentioned that Serco were going to be abated [on Christmas Island] was $1.5 million, and always at the end of the month after they had the final abatement meeting, but it would just be pushed off to the side.

"I'm sure there's a lot at stake to make it look like Serco is coping or just coping but it is just wrong for Australian taxpayers that these people are gilding the lily."

In response to the allegations, a DIAC spokesperson said the abatements could not fall through the cracks.

"The Department of Immigration and Citizenship follows up all breaches at all immigration detention facilities and these are taken very seriously."

DIAC serves abatements against Serco once a month for unfulfilled contractual obligations yet these are "commercial in confidence" and not publicly disclosed.

Serco did not return calls to the ABC prior to publication. ...

Maintenance Workers Continue Strike Over Pay

Yahoo News [2/6/11]:

About 100 maintenance contractors in Gladstone in central Queensland have voted to continue industrial action.

Workers waving placards and union flags outside the Clyde Babcock Hitachi office in Gladstone have voted to stay on strike until next Monday.

It is the third time this month the workers have taken strike action.

They want a 5 per cent pay increase, but the company has only offered 3.5 per cent.

The workers are joining hundreds of others across Queensland and New South Wales in taking industrial action.

"Not real happy with what they've offered us - it has been five months like I say and they've offered no percentage increase," one worker said.

Others say it has been a drawn-out process.

"Tense, not too impressed, trying to benefit everyone and it's just not moving anywhere," another said.

Unions are hoping to hold a teleconference with the company tomorrow to discuss a better enterprise bargaining agreement.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (QMSU) spokesman Phil Golby says the workers have withdrawn their labour to get the company around the table and give them a better deal.

"Some of these companies are making massive profits and in this environment all we need to go is to get our members up there, to cover the cost of living in this area," he said.

Canadian Officials Advised U.S. On How To Skirt Privacy Laws: State Department Cable

APTN National News [1/6/11]:

OTTAWA–Foreign Affairs and Department of Justice bureaucrats advised U.S. officials on how to skirt privacy laws to get information on whether a businessman and politician intimately linked to the Syrian ruling regime was a Canadian citizen, according to a “secret” U.S. diplomatic cable obtained by APTN National News.

The 2009 cable, originating from the U.S. State Department and signed off by then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, contained a request for Canadian officials to disclose whether a Syrian businessman and politician identified as Muhammad Hamshu had any legal status as a citizen or “resident alien” in Canada. The cable also listed several different spellings for his name.

Foreign Affairs and Justice bureaucrats told U.S. officials that Canada’s privacy laws prevented the disclosure of that type of information, but suggested a way around the Privacy Act by making the request through “law enforcement channels,” the Jan. 7, 2009, cable said.

University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran said department officials were essentially giving advice on how to break Canadian law and those involved should be reprimanded.

“Whoever gave this advice was certainly conspiring to defeat the privacy law and that person should be severely reprimanded and probably fired,” said Attaran. “You are conspiring with a foreign government to violate Canada’s laws as a Canadian public servant.”

If Canadian law enforcement agencies, like the RCMP or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, provided the information to the U.S., they would have broken the law, said Attaran.

“If the police disclosed it would have been illegal,” said Attaran. “I think the Privacy Commissioner should be looking at this.”

The cable was among a batch of confidential and secret cables originating from or sent to the U.S. embassy and consulates in Canada obtained by APTN National News from whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

CBC-Radio Canada also obtained the same batch of cables.

Over 2,000 cables dealing with Canada have already been released.

The cable, which was sent to the U.S. embassies in Damascus and Ottawa, contained a text specifically for Canadian officials outlining why the U.S. wanted the information.

The cable said the U.S. wanted to add Hamshu to a black-list of Syrian individuals blocked from doing business with the U.S.

“The United States intends to designate Muhammad Hamshu under Executive Order 13460 for being responsible for, having engaged in, having facilitated or having secured improper advantage as a result of, public corruption by senior officials within the Government of Syria,” said the text prepared for Canadian officials that was contained in the cable.

Hamshu is a Syrian legislator and a businessman heading the sprawling firm Hamsho Group International and other businesses with interests in everything from construction to telecommunications and a satellite television station.

Hamshu was also among 25 individuals black-listed by Canada as part of its recently announced sanctions against Syria for its brutal repression of its citizens involved in pro-democracy demonstrations. His name is spelled Mohamed Hamcho on the list, but an employee at one of his Canadian subsidiaries, who requested anonymity, confirmed it was the same individual.

A similar spelling of the name also appears on another one of his company’s websites.

The cable said the U.S. believed that Hamshu “may have legal status in Canada” and wanted the Canadian government to “determine his status if any” and provide “any supporting documentation.”
Canadian officials at Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice told U.S. officials they could not provide information on Hamshu’s legal status in Canada, but they suggested making the request through law enforcement channels under the “mutual legal assistance treaty” between both countries.

“A Canadian DFAIT official informed Embassy Ottawa that Canadian privacy laws prevent the government of Canada from disclosing information regarding Muhammad Hamshu’s legal status in Canada, including whether he is a Canadian citizen,” the cable said. “DFAIT and the Canadian Department of Justice advised Embassy Ottawa to request this information through Canadian law enforcement channels under the terms of the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT).”

The cable also said the U.S. planned to publicly identify Hamshu with his Canadian legal status if Canada agreed.

It’s unclear whether Canadian authorities provided the information. ...

Hey Politicians, Given Your Comments, Wouldn't It Be Time To Reign In The Excessive Influence Of These Bigoted Fundamentalists In Our Public Institutions?

The most glaring example being the school chaplaincy program:

Nine MSN [1/6/11]:

Both sides of Queensland politics have condemned the campaign to scrap a safe sex advertisement, saying it was motivated by homophobia.

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has campaigned to have the Rip and Roll ads - featuring a hugging gay couple - removed from Brisbane billboards and bus shelters.

Safe sex campaigners Healthy Communities designed the black and white ads to promote condom use, but the ACL argues the men were in an act of "foreplay" inappropriate in public view.

Adshel, the company that provides ads for the bus shelters, pulled the ads this week.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser said ACL needed to get with the times.

Its Queensland director, Wendy Francis, a former Family First Senate candidate, argued the ads may expose children to sexual images.

Mr Fraser said this argument was "rot".

"Check the calendar, it's 2011," he said.

"I think we should call it for what it is and this is basic homophobia.

"These ads have been a part of public programs for a long time, they serve a public interest.

"Anyone who suggests that these are explicit I think is not telling the truth.

"They are actually just revealing that what they don't like is the fact that this addresses the nature of a relationship between two people of the same sex."

Liberal National Party (LNP) leader Campbell Newman said he hadn't seen the ad, and its removal was a commercial decision for Adshel.

But he said it "might well" be homophobic and called on the public to be more accepting.

"I have a very open mind about these things and I urge other people to be tolerant and open minded as well," he said.

In a statement, Adshel said it responded to a series of individual complaints to the Adshel Office, Brisbane City Council and the Advertising Standards Bureau.

"All complaints were made by individual members of the public, none were identified as stemming from the Australian Christian Lobby," the statement said.

"Adshel does not have, and never had, any dealings with the Australian Christian Lobby and has not responded to any requests from this organisation.

"Adshel does not take a position regarding the views or position of various community groups."

Queensland Government Gets Serious About Climate Change

Joint Statement: Premier and Minister for Reconstruction and Minister for Main Roads, Fisheries and Marine Infrastructure [1/6/11]:

Premier announces massive project for Queensland

Premier Anna Bligh today announced that proponents are being sought for a massive $6.2 billion expansion of the Abbot Point coal port.

The Premier said that up to four additional coal terminals would be built with a combined
capacity of 120 million tonnes per annum.

“Queensland has the richest coal deposits in the world with the Bowen and Galilee Basins and this upgrade will help us meet world demand for our coal,” Ms Bligh said.

“These expansions will further cement Queensland as the world’s largest exporter of coal and are critical to the economy and wealth of Queensland.

“Combined with other planned expansions this upgrade would position Abbot Point as one of the world’s largest coal ports with seven coal terminals and a capacity of close to 300 million tonnes per annum.

“This would mean flow on jobs for Townsville and Mackay as major service centres in regional Queensland.

“Coal exports create thousands of jobs and help pay for our schools, hospitals and roads,” she said.

Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace said that North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation Limited (NQBP) is seeking proponents interested in developing the additional coal terminal infrastructure at Abbot Point.

“This would help make North Queensland the power house it deserves to be and Bowen would take its rightful place as one of Australia’s leading export centres,” Mr Wallace said.

“We are advertising an Expression of Interest both locally and nationally inviting companies to notify of their interest for the right to develop potentially four more coal terminals at the Port of Abbot Point.

Minister Wallace said this Expressions of Interest process provided a unique opportunity for private industry to develop coal terminals in accordance with the overall port plan.

Each terminal would provide a nominal capacity of 30 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), and be located within the Abbot Point State Development area in close proximity to a deep water port.

Allowing for the Expressions of Interest process, planning and design work, and if environmental approvals are gained construction could start in 2015 with the first coal exports from Terminal 4 in 2017.

The most recent expansion of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal (APCT) to take export capacity to 50 Mtpa, delivered its first coal through the new shiploader earlier this month.

This Terminal has been leased for 99 years to Mundra Ports, under the State Government’s Renewing Queensland Plan.

The $1.8 billion proceeds will be directed to Queensland's natural disaster recovery.

Preliminary studies are already underway to further expand coal export facilities at the port.

Preferred Developers for Terminals 2 and 3, BHP Billiton and Hancock Coal, were announced in 2010 and are well underway with the design and necessary environmental approvals for the terminals.

“However, demand for high quality Queensland coal continues to grow, and the State Government is proactively planning for additional port infrastructure to ensure this demand can be satisfied,” said Mr Wallace.

Known as Terminals 4, 5, 6 and 7 (T4-7), they will utilise the proposed Multi Cargo Facility which is a key piece of infrastructure for the long term future for the Abbot Point State Development Area.

The T4-7 Terminals are one part of the critical infrastructure required to accommodate coal exports from the Bowen Basin and from the Galilee Basin.

Further information on the T4-7 Coal Terminals and the Expressions of Interest document is available on NQBP’s website at www.nqbp.com.au.

Bye Bye Dugongs

Marine scientists are catching dugongs in Moreton Bay off Brisbane to assess how they are coping with changes in their habitat.

Up to 20 researchers from Queensland and New South Wales are capturing up to 20 dugongs in the bay over the next five days.

The process involves researchers wearing football helmets holding the dugong in the water before it is winched on board the research boat in a stretcher.

They then take blood, urine and stool samples, heart rate and weight measurements before letting them go.

The dugongs can only be out of the water for a maximum of 40 minutes.

Trevor Long from Sea World says about 1,000 wild dugongs are still in Moreton Bay but concerns for them are growing because Brisbane has one of the fastest growing ports in Australia.

Kingston Allegedly Speeding Before Jetski Crash

Nine MSN [1/6/11]:

Sean Kingston's female passenger said she yelled at the singer to slow down moments before he crashed the jetski into a bridge in Miami on the weekend.

Cassandra Sanchez, 23, believes Kingston lost control as he tried to steer the jetski away from the Palm Island Bridge.

Ms Sanchez recalled screaming: "We can't fit under there! Are we going to try and go under there? Sean stop!" as they approached the bridge, celebrity website TMZ reports.

Ms Sanchez escaped with just a sore jaw and ribs, while the 21-year-old R&B star is now recovering at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in a "critical but stable condition".

Kingston's publicist told MTV.com the singer is "sedated but fully conscious" and has asked for privacy.

While it is not known what injuries he has, Ms Sanchez said Kingston will remain in hospital for a few weeks.

"They have a tube done his throat so he can't talk, but he is lucid and understands what's going on," she said.

Photographs obtained by TMZ show the crashed jetski with the left handlebar missing, although it's not clear whether it broke off on impact or sometime afterwards.

TMZ spoke to an off-duty coast guard who came to the aid of the singer and said he was "throwing up blood" while another witness said they noticed a gash on his chin.

There are no official details as to what caused the crash, but Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission spokesman Jorge Pino said alcohol has been ruled out as a factor.

Kingston, who was born Kisean Anderson, became famous with the release of his single Beautiful Girls in 2007.

Justin Bieber, Rhianna and other celebrities have since expressed their support for Kingston on Twitter.

Australia Stays Mum On FIFA Graft Claims

Monsters And Critics [31/5/11]:

Sydney - Australia's sports minister and its football federation have both fought shy of joining the clamour for change within FIFA.

'We're taking it step-by-step,' Sports Minister Mark Arbib said Tuesday in response to allegations of corruption within FIFA's World Cup bidding process. 'At the moment it's ensuring that FIFA undertake a thorough inquiry into the matter.'

Football Federation Australia was equally reticent, refusing comment on FIFA President Sepp Blatter's declaration that the body was not in crisis.

But independent Member of Parliament Nick Xenophon was outspoken, demanding FIFA reimburse Australia for the 45.6 million Australian dollars (48.7 million US dollars) spent on a lobbying effort to win the 2022 World Cup that garnered just a single vote.

'It appears corrupt and highly questionable behaviour goes to the core of FIFA,' Xenophon said in a statement. 'The fact that corruption appears to be so pervasive in FIFA makes you wonder whether we should continue to invest millions of dollars in bids for events we'll never even be in the running to win.'

Xenophon compared Blatter's media performance to the famous scene in the Monty Python film where the Black Knight dismisses the amputation of his arms and legs as a 'flesh wound.'

Xenophon said FIFA was 'on the ground bleeding profusely.'

Did The Queensand Government Ever Have Any Intention Of Holding IBM To Account?

IT News [30/6/10]:

Government could seek damages for payroll implementation.

The Queensland Government has issued IBM with a Show Cause Notice following a damning audit of its recent payroll system implementation.

The court order requires IBM to justify the continuation of its role as the prime contractor of Queensland Health's SAP HR payroll system implementation.

Queensland Health also has reserved its legal right to withhold final payment of $3.3 million and seek damages for the project, which has been blamed for more than 35,000 payroll anomalies.

"We have sought Crown Law advice in relation to options for terminating the payroll contract with IBM and it's only fair that we seek to reserve our legal rights," Premier Anna Bligh said in a statement yesterday.

"The Government has issued IBM a Show Cause Notice as to why the contract should not be terminated."

IBM was contracted in December 2007 to replace Queensland Health's LATTICE payroll system by August 2008 for $6.19 million.

By the time the system went live in March this year, IBM had made 47 changes to the original specifications, and been paid $21 million.

In a report tabled yesterday, the Queensland Auditor-General highlighted poor project management and a lack of clearly defined business requirements in the payroll system implementation.

"The governance structure for the system implementation by [whole-of-Government IT provider] CorpTech and IBM, the prime contractor and Queensland Health was not clear, causing confusion over the roles and responsibilities of the various parties," the Auditor-General wrote.

"Inadequate documentation and agreement of business requirements contributed to the significant increase in the system development costs and timeframe."

The State Government responded by accepting all seven of the report's recommendations, to review and improve change management, Queensland Health's business model, and ICT frameworks, and to ensure all employees are correctly paid.

However, the State Government also noted: "The Auditor General's report clearly identifies failings on the part of contracted provider, IBM."

IBM defended its work in a statement provided to iTnews this morning, noting that it was "not responsible for many key aspects of the systems implementation as confirmed in the Auditor General's report."

"As a global company with deep expertise in dealing with highly complex systems implementations, we vigorously defend the quality of the system we delivered to Queensland Government," the company stated.

"We delivered within the governance structure established by Queensland Health and outlined in the Auditor General's report.

"IBM has relentlessly and consistently delivered above and beyond the scope of the contract to assist Queensland Health identify and address concerns with its payroll process.

"Our commitment to supporting the Queensland Government in its mission to provide quality services to employees remains unchanged."

Karzai Warns NATO Against Air Attacks on Afghan Homes

'New York Times' [1/6/11]:

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai warned NATO on Tuesday that Afghans would no longer tolerate airstrikes that result in civilian casualties. If they continue, he said, “we will be forced to take unilateral action in this regard.”

Speaking at a news conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Mr. Karzai declined to offer specifics on what actions the government would take, saying only that Afghanistan “has a lot of ways of stopping it.”

In an admonishment that carried an air of threat, he said NATO forces were on the verge of being considered occupiers rather than allies.

“If they continue their attacks on our houses, then their presence will change from a force that is fighting against terrorism to a force that is fighting against the people of Afghanistan,” he said. “And in that case, history shows what Afghans do with trespassers and with occupiers.”

Mr. Karzai has used similar language before, but taken with other recent statements, his comments could further threaten a relationship with his Western backers that has been strained over issues like night raids, corruption and the continuing scandal surrounding questionable loans and huge losses at Kabul Bank.

NATO officials responded diplomatically, saying they would continue to work with the Afghan government to reduce civilian casualties.

“General Petraeus has repeatedly noted that every liberation force has to be very conscious that it can, over time, become seen as an occupation force,” Rear Adm. Vic Beck of the Navy, a spokesman for the NATO-led military coalition, said in a statement, referring to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top coalition commander in Afghanistan. He added, “We are in agreement with President Karzai on the importance of constantly examining our actions in light of that reality — and we are doing just that.”

The American Embassy referred comment to NATO.

Civilian casualties, as well as the night raids and airstrikes that often lead to them, have been a bitter source of contention between NATO forces and the Afghan president for years. Mr. Karzai has repeatedly called for an end to night raids unless they are planned and led by Afghan forces. But his latest statements, coming both before and after an airstrike on Saturday that killed at least nine civilians in Helmand Province, most of them women and children, have been laced with more definitive terms.

On Saturday, Mr. Karzai ordered his Defense Ministry to take charge of the nighttime raids from the coalition forces in his most aggressive attempt yet to stem the use of such operations, which have angered Afghans for years for their intrusiveness and the civilian casualties they frequently cause.

Then after an airstrike Saturday night that killed several civilians in the Now Zad district of Helmand Province, the president issued a “last” warning to NATO forces that airstrikes that end in civilian casualties must stop. NATO, in an apologetic statement after the attack, acknowledged that nine civilians had been killed. The strike was aimed at a group of five insurgents who had ambushed a Marine foot patrol, killing one of them, and then continued to fire on the patrol from inside a compound.

“Unfortunately, the compound the insurgents purposefully occupied was later discovered to house innocent civilians,” the official, Maj. Gen. John Toolan, commander of NATO forces in the southwest region, said in the statement.

Images of grieving friends and relatives carrying the bruised and bloodied bodies of dead children were broadcast on television the morning after the attack, inflaming passions.

Mr. Karzai called the deaths “shocking” and said in a statement that “NATO and American forces have been warned repeatedly that their arbitrary and improper operations are the causes of killing of innocent people.”

He added that he was warning “NATO, American forces and American officials for the last time on behalf of Afghanistan’s people.”

Talking to reporters Tuesday, he said the dead in the Helmand strike included 11 children, ages 2 to 7. The Afghan people were suffering, he said, from both the “terrorists and in the war against terrorism.”

NATO has increasingly turned to the use of night raids in recent months, calling them one of the most effective weapons they have in capturing and killing insurgent leaders. But coalition forces in recent years have also taken steps to protect civilians. A United Nations report said that 2,777 civilians died last year, the worst since the war began, but that the number of those killed by NATO forces had fallen to 16 percent. Insurgents accounted for 75 percent of the deaths, while responsible parties for the remaining deaths could not be identified.

Reacting to a recent spate of high-profile NATO attacks that resulted in civilian casualties, General Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, issued a reminder to his troops about “the need to balance tactical aggressiveness with tactical patience.”

“Every loss of innocent civilian life is a tragedy for the family involved and diminishes our cause,” he said in a May 15 memo.

Mr. Karzai on Tuesday also condemned the insurgents who have stepped up their campaign this spring, including a bombing in Takhar Province on Saturday that killed the senior police commander for the northern region, Gen. Daoud Daoud, and five others. But the president added that “when NATO forces kill and wound Afghan people, the Afghan people will not accept this, because NATO came to protect this country.”

The president has over the years been known to use erratic, sometimes hyperbolic language in reference to his Western allies. In a closed-door session of Parliament last month, he reportedly threatened to join the Taliban over international pressure to stem corruption inside his government.

In an emotional speech in March, Mr. Karzai angered Western officials after he appeared to call for an end to NATO combat operations in the country during a memorial service for civilian casualties in Kunar Province. He later issued a clarification saying he was referring only to operations that cause civilian casualties.

The Afghan president said he intended to meet with top NATO leaders soon, possibly next Sunday, to spell out what actions the government intended to take if the airstrikes do not end. Not heeding his warnings, he said, is a threat to the country’s sovereignty, saying Afghanistan must be treated as an ally, not an occupied country.

“If it turns out to be the other,” he said, “to the behavior of an occupation, then of course the Afghan people know how to deal with that.”

What Is The Point Of Having The World's Best Medical Facilities If Citizens Don't Have The Money To Access Healthcare?

Aljazeera [24/5/11]:

When Stan Brock started Remote Area Medical (RAM) in 1985, never in his wildest dreams did he think his services would be needed in the United States, the wealthiest country in the world.

RAM began as an all-volunteer mobile medical clinic that provided free and immediate health care to people living in remote areas of the Amazon rainforest. In 1992, he was asked to bring the clinic to Knoxville, Tennessee. He was shocked by what he saw.

"People were in desperate need of the most basic care," he said at RAM's most recent expedition in Oakland, California last month. "It didn't occur to me when I first came to this country, but it wasn't long before I could see there were similarities between people who don't have access to healthcare in a place like the Amazon and people who have access but can't afford it in America - and they're all in the same boat."

An estimated 50 million Americans are uninsured and another 25 million are underinsured, meaning they can't pay the difference between what their insurance will cover and the total cost of their medical bills. Someone files for bankruptcy every 30 seconds in the US because of a serious health problem, according to a Harvard University study.

Since 1992, RAM has conducted 640 expeditions in the US. When the travelling medical clinic comes to town, the lines begin forming at around midnight. An average of 3,000 people are treated at a typical four-day event. Over 90 per cent of the patients are in desperate need of basic dental and vision care. Each clinic costs roughly $100,000 to run, requires over 1,000 volunteers, and takes an entire year to organise.

When patients entered the clinic at the Oakland Coliseum, they were greeted by smiling volunteers, rows upon rows of dental chairs, optometric stations, and tables covered with medical tools, gloves, and equipment.

When Milka Guiterrez heard that free healthcare was being offered, she moved her schedule around to get a good place in line. On Sunday night, long after her three kids were sound asleep, she left her house at 1am. She was number 474 in line.

Shortly before patients began entering the makeshift clinic five hours later, Guiterrez ran home, grabbed her kids, and returned with her fingers crossed. She got lucky.

She and her kids had eye exams and dental work. Her eight-year-old daughter Paloma was in pain from the drilling, but managed to crack a smile. "When I used to smile, there was yellow stuff everywhere," she said wiping away tears. "I was so embarrassed. I stopped smiling when I was six. It hurts, but now I'm happy."

After 12 years with the US Postal Service, Anita Moore was hurt on the job and lost her health insurance. She got in line at 3:30am. By 6pm, she had her eyes checked, her teeth cleaned, two fillings, and four extractions.

Six months ago, she had an injury and hasn't been able to lift her arms above her shoulders. The pain went away after 15 minutes of acupuncture at the clinic. "I was so happy because I couldn't lift. I was just shocked. Now I can move them around," she said. "It's a blessing."

Les Kuller, an unemployed construction worker who got in line at 5:30am, lost his health insurance when his wife passed away two years ago. He got a molar fixed, had his blood pressure checked, was given a pair of eyeglasses, and had chiropractic and physical therapy work. He was so touched by the care he received and the volunteers he met, he came back the next day to join them.

"The least I could do is give back," he said. "On one hand, this is so incredibly amazing that all these volunteers can pull this together. On the other hand, it's a sad commentary about what the hell is going on in Washington and why the hell these knuckleheads can't walk across the aisle and shake hands and figure this thing out."

Kuller says he hopes people standing in overnight lines for basic medical care "embarrasses the hell" out of politicians. I heard similar sentiments from several people receiving care at the clinic.

When profit comes before care

Democratic politicians proudly point to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the bill that was signed by President Obama in March 2010, as real progress, but Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), an organisation of doctors who support healthcare for all, say the bill is nothing more than a false promise of reform.

Instead of eliminating the real problem, the new legislation will enrich and further entrench the profit-driven, private health insurance industry, and leave 23 million people still uninsured in 2019, according to PNHP.

If Republicans have their way, the 45 million seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare will see their out-of-pocket costs double - or do without treatment altogether.

RAM founder Stan Brock doesn't like to talk about politics. He's too busy making sure people get treated. RAM's next stop is in Pikeville, Kentucky. From there, he and his team will head to Cocke County, Tennessee, Wise County, Virginia, and Chicago, Illinois. Because he's has had so many requests from all over the country, he sees no end in sight.

This is what happens when profit comes before care.

UnitedHealth's first quarter profits this year rose 13 per cent to $1.35 billion from $1.19 billion last year. UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley's total compensation of $101.96 million last year made him the highest paid executive in the country.

The US is the only major country in the industrialised world that doesn't guarantee healthcare to all of its citizens. It's unconscionable that 45,000 people in the US die every year because they can't afford care.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who believes that the US should put patients over profits, recently re-introduced the American Health Security Act, which would provide every citizen with healthcare coverage through a state-administered, single payer program.

Here's a fact from the PNHP that never made its way through the noise machine during the so-called healthcare debate - which was shaped by the insurance industry from the beginning. It should be repeated over and over again. the bureaucracy and paperwork of the profit-making health insurance industry consume one-third of every healthcare dollar.

Streamlining payment through a single-payer system would save more than $400 billion per year - which is enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all.

RAM's Stan Brock says a single-payer system, as long as it covers dental and vision, would put him out of business in the US. "That would allow us to go back to the Amazon, Central America, Haiti - and other places where we belong."

Rose Aguilar is the host of Your Call, a daily call-in radio show on KALW in San Francisco. She's the author of "Red Highways: A Liberal's Journey into the Heartland".

Something Stinks

... NAOMI WOODLEY: It was another rowdy Question Time, where the patience of the Speaker Harry Jenkins was again tested. But it almost saw a serious question mark over his future.

After issuing a general warning to MPs for their behaviour, he named the Opposition frontbencher Bob Baldwin, an action which normally leads to an MP being ejected from the House for 24 hours. But the Government lost that vote and acting on precedence the Speaker said he'd have to consider his position.

The Opposition leader Tony Abbott immediately moved a motion expressing confidence in the Speaker.

TONY ABBOTT: I don't think anyone on this side of the House has anything other than respect for the job you do under difficult circumstances and the last thing any of us would want to see is you feel that you have been compromised in your ability to discharge your office by the vote that has just been taken.

NAOMI WOODLEY: It was seconded by the Prime Minister but she also had a warning for the Opposition and Independent MPs who voted against the Speaker's ruling.

JULIA GILLARD: To provide continuing confidence in the Speaker you need to provide continuing confidence in the Speaker's rulings.

NAOMI WOODLEY: The confidence motion was passed unanimously.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Naomi Woodley reporting.

If It Was A Normal Contract, There Is No Reason Why The Government Can't Sue The Contractor For Damages

Under the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 - Section 10, surely the Queensland Government has 6 six years to bring its action claiming damages? Unless of course your Government was stupid enough to sign a contract which excluded the right to claim damages in the event that the payroll system was crap!:

Qld Health seeks to recover overpaid wages

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Queensland's Health Minister is under fire yet again for a new payroll system that is continuing to overpay some employees and underpay others.

Geoff Wilson says that in the past year there have been almost 40,000 workers who've been overpaid. But he won't guarantee the payroll system will ever be perfect. The state Opposition says the Government has missed the deadline to sue the company responsible for the software.

Matt Wordsworth has the story.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Queensland Health is the state's largest single employer with a wages bill of about $6.5 billion. But when a new payroll system was introduced in March last year things went haywire.

The problem persists to this day and some people are still being underpaid. And what's more costly to the taxpayer is that, according to the deputy director-general for Human Resource Services John Cairns, almost 40,000 workers have been overpaid.

JOHN CAIRNS: There's enormous variation. The biggest amount that's outstanding is just less than $100,000 but that is an outlier. As I said, the average is between $1,100 and $1,500.

MATT WORDSWORTH: The mistaken overpayments total about $62 million for the year and now a team of about 50 people is beginning the process of clawing it back, and the Health Minister Geoff Wilson offered an abject apology.

GEOFF WILSON: I want to say that I sincerely regret that Queensland Health have to take this position and I apologise to staff that this now has to take place. I have directed Queensland Health that they must undertake this exercise with sensitivity and caring and consideration for the individual circumstances of every member of staff.

MATT WORDSWORTH: He says the Government won't bother with overpayments of less than $200, which affected about 22,000 workers.

Beth Mohle is state secretary of the Nursing Union. She says it's not known how long the recovery process will take.

BETH MOHLE: Absolutely everybody is well and truly over this payroll disaster but it does highlight the extreme risks involved in any IT system, in any system and it really does underscore the importance of appropriate risk management and planning. That's what really does have to happen before any new system is introduced and we know that this didn't happen in this instance.

MATT WORDSWORTH: The costs of this flawed payroll system are mounting.

Not chasing amounts under $200 writes off about $1.6 million and the Opposition's health spokesman Mark McArdle says there's also the cost of employing a 50-strong recovery team.

MARK MCARDLE: Put it this way, you're going to have to have a process in place whereby people will be contacted to say come and talk to us about what we think is an overpayment. Who's going to do that? Who's going to pay that?

Is there a mediation process to be put in place in relation to disputes? Who is going to pay that? Legal action being taken against doctors and nurses; who's going to pay that? This could build into more millions of dollars because this Government did not get the basics right on day one.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Mr McArdle says the Government cannot even sue for damages.

MARK MCARDLE: I think this government has missed the date by which they could commence proceedings to sue the initial contractor. Now that's a situation no future government can recover those funds but that could well have been an avenue they should have taken at the time.

Is it a question the Government didn't look at properly? I think it is. I think they missed a date because, again, they were negligent and the long term costs will be borne by the taxpayer because of that problem.

MATT WORDSWORTH: The Health Minister repeatedly dodged the question of if the payroll system will ever be fixed.

GEOFF WILSON: The problems that have been identified are in the process of being fixed. A payroll system such as this will never be perfect.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Queensland Health Minister Geoff Wilson ending that report from Matt Wordsworth.

Police Release Details On Shooting

'Coffs Coast Advocate' [31/5/11]:

The Victorian woman, 24, shot by a police officer during an early morning scuffle in Coffs Harbour has undergone surgery and remains in a stable condition.

Police have released details of the incident to the media, stating that the woman and a 24-year-old male were in the process of being arrested after allegedly stealing a car from a transporter unloading vehicles to local car yards.

Coffs Clarence Local Area Commander Superintendent Mark Holahan said a cricial investigation team is investigating the incident and the two officers involved, a constable and a probationary constable are being counselled over the incident.

Mr Holahan said police believe the man and woman were travelling through the region when their car broke down.

An off duty police officer allegedly observed them acting suspiciously around a car transporter in Tolhurst St around 12.30am.

"He contacted the police station and asked for assistance, shortly after that a vehicle was removed from the transporter and went into the Halls Rd area of Coffs Harbour," Mr Holahan said.

"The on-duty police attended shortly after and located the vehicle in Mikinos St, Coffs Harbour.

"One of the officers approached the passenger side of the vehicle and removed the passenger and a short scuffle ensued, the second officer went to the driver's side of the vehicle and a shot was heard and a 24-year-old female from Victoria was struck (by a bullet) to the jaw area.

"We now know that that shot came from a police firearm.

"A critical incident has been declared and that is now under investigation by police for the Tweed Local Area Command," he said.

Greek Opposition Sets Demands As EU/IMF Verdict Nears

ATHENS (Reuters) [30/5/11]:

Greece's conservative opposition demanded tax cuts on Monday as the price for a consensus deal with the Socialist government on imposing yet more austerity, a major condition for getting further aid from the EU and IMF.

Conservative leader Antonis Samaras called for a flat 15 percent corporate tax and rejected government plans for hiking taxes to tackle Greece's budget deficit and please fiscal inspectors mulling the next, key tranche of a 110 billion euro bailout. ...

Officials from the European Union, ECB and International Monetary Fund -- known as "the Troika" -- are expected to deliver their verdict soon on Greece's faltering drive to bring its budget deficit under control.

Their progress report will probably be presented by the end of this week, "possibly a bit later," a spokesman for the German finance ministry said in Berlin.

The biggest EU contributor to the bailouts, which Ireland and Portugal have also taken, is Germany, and public opinion there is hostile to extending yet more loans to any country which fails to get a grip on its finances.

Financial markets are anxious for the Troika report which will determine whether Greece receives the next 12 billion euro bailout tranche, key to meeting 13.7 billion of imminent funding needs.

Athens has struggled to meet its deficit reduction targets, heightening the risk of a default on its 327 billion euro debt -- equivalent to 150 percent of economic output. ...

Greek public patience is wearing thin. About 400 workers at Hellenic Postbank (TT), which the government wants to privatize, marched to parliament on Monday, chanting "Hands off TT" and "Never, Never, Never!."

The night before, tens of thousands packed a central Athens square to denounce politicians and vent their anger at the IMF and its demands for yet more belt-tightening.

Mobilised by Facebook rather than opposition parties or unions, they booed, whistled and chanted "Thieves! Thieves!" as they pointed at the parliament building.

"The IMF should get out. There are other solutions without them," said Ifigenia Argyrou, a 57-year-old insurance consultant.

Under the bailout plan, Greece would return to bond markets next year but that now seems improbable, so the EU is preparing a new aid plan to cover Greece's 2012-2013 funding needs in exchange for yet more austerity, reforms and privatizations.

German weekly magazine Der Spiegel fanned fears over the weekend Greece might not get the money, saying it might have missed all fiscal targets set by its lenders.

Both Greece and the IMF denied the report.

GPY&R Staffer Accuses Journalist Of Defaming Her Over ‘Porn Posts’ Story

mUmbrella [30/5/11]:

One of the GPY&R staffers targeted in a story linking the agency to the Defence Force Skype sex scandal has accused the journalist who wrote the story of misinformation and dragging her reputation through “through a 1950s rectitude filter”.

In a blog posting published today, Tiphereth Gloria fired back at News Ltd’s defence writer Ian McPhedran who broke the original story.

In the story, McPhedran alleged that Gloria’s Tumblr blog “features images of women in compromising situations, pornographic photos and other material”

Gloria has today republished all of those postings, along with their context. She said that, as with much Tumblr content, she was reposting material first created elsewhere and that none of it was actually pornographic in nature anyway.

After the news story was posted a week ago it was also picked up by TV news.

Gloria said the press “intentionally omitted the images and commentary that accompanied the blog posts in question”.

She said: “In summary, my blog posts were taken out of context described inaccurately, with deliberate intent to mislead the public, defaming me in the process.”

At the time of posting McPhedran was not answering calls to his office line.

Police Protect Politicians And CSG Industry From The Citizenry

Mining Australia [31/5/11]:

Police have formed a line to protect coal seam gas miners in Brisbane from angry protestors.

Close to 100 protestors blocked the CSG 2011 conference at the Sofitel Hotel this morning, forcing police to create a line across the hotel’s driveway to stop activists from entering the building. ...

Queensland environment minister Kate Jones also became trapped in the building due to safety concerns.

Security reportedly told the minister protestors would assault her car when she attempted to leave.

The conference is focused on the growth of CSG and the outlook for the industry across the eastern seaboard.

Coal seam gas exploration and drilling has been under increased scrutiny following a number of incidents involving well explosions and claims of water contamination and dubious extraction methods.

Protest leader Drew Hutton, who is also head of the Lock the Gate Alliance which is focused at keeping CSG drillers from farming land, said not enough is being done to ensure the industry is safe.

These claims were echoed by NSW Resources Commission chief John Williams, who said “Australia needs to establish more sustainable land use planning before coal seam gas (CSG) mining is permitted.”

Today is the first day of the two day 9th Annual CSG 2011 conference, which sees the likes of Metgasco, Westside Corporation and LNG Limited and others gather together to discuss the future of the industry.

MP Baffled By Fish Deaths

The Member for Keppel, Paul Hoolihan, says he is puzzled by fish deaths on central Queensland's Capricorn Coast.

Dead fish have been found washed up on beaches and Mr Hoolihan says he has been told they are all one species.

Mr Hoolihan says it is unlikely that bycatch from commercial trawler operators would be responsible for the deaths.

"The commercial fishing trawlers have got exclusion devices on their nets for smaller fish and for turtles and different marine life," he said.

"If it is only one species - as was reported to me - I can't understand why it would just be that species that would have been part of bycatch."

Mr Hoolihan says there have also been dead turtles and dolphins found in the Gladstone area.

"If they're caused by the same thing then it's very concerning, because there is obviously either some toxin that's been put in the water or something that's got in the water that is in fact affecting our marine life," he said.

"That is very concerning because we eat fish and people go out and swim in the ocean."

Super Funds Chief Urges Support For Clean Energy

Industry Funds Management chairman Garry Weaven has urged others in the superannuation industry to support the clean energy industry. ...

TICKY FULLERTON: You say it's hard. I mean, it is particularly hard for the way that we've set up superannuation funds in terms of their quarterly requirements of reporting, their pressure from investors to create their own returns, and indeed the alternatives that they've got, ironically, in the mining industry boom, the opposite end of the spectrum, where they're going to get those big returns.

GARRY WEAVEN: Oh, yes, look, I think you need to have both a short-term and a long-term view in superannuation. My argument is you can't be only short term in your outlook. And I think many of the commodity stories are pretty healthy and strong in the short term. In the longer term, some of the commodities, particularly those based around fossil fuels and particularly those where the values are attached to fossil fuels that are still in the ground and not due to be dug up and used for five, 10 years or even longer, I think there are very real - serious doubts about some of that ever being capable of being used, because at some point in time, governments will actually take action to look after future generations. They will act. They might not reach a global agreement. That's not important. What is important is that governments will act, as many governments right now are acting around the world. We really are laggards in this, and we're being sold a bit of a false story about that.

TICKY FULLERTON: Industry Funds Management of course is a very different beast from the super funds. Your - you've got five-year investment terms and one of your key philosophies, I know, is a focus on environmental issues. Shouldn't you in a way be the leader in this area?

GARRY WEAVEN: Well we do have to lead and we're happy and proud to lead. And we're owned by a whole bunch of industry super funds who are our clients and also owners. And, they have done something. I don't think they have done a root-and-branch approach to their portfolios, but they certainly have taken a leadership position. We have done a number of things over the last five or seven or even longer years, including taking 100 per cent position in renewable energy company Pacific Hydro. We've got a significant commitment to wind and small hydro in Australia, to run-of-river hydro in Chile, to wind in Brazil - very solid investment performing very well and very, very prospective for the future. And a number of other things we've done and our client super funds, industry funds, have followed that lead.

TICKY FULLERTON: Now you say you're putting - indeed you're putting your money where your mouth is, really, but let me just take those two areas of hydro and wind. I mean, your big returns presumably are still coming from hydro in those investments.

GARRY WEAVEN: Well, it's all a geographic issue. It depends on the local economy and the politics. Much of the world is moving ahead at a rapid rate on renewable energy. So it's true that, for example, in Chile, our returns are entirely based around run-of-river Hydro. In Australia we've had good results from wind, but the best is yet to come because there's been a very stop/start policy environment in Australia. There's been considerable political risk. First of all we had the Howard Government reversing its policy. It introduced a renewable energy target and then went cold on it. And then we had a period where there's been a lot of mistakes made in terms of the policy direction.

Now, however, we've got a bipartisan policy. People overlook this. While there's a lot of argument about the carbon price, there is actually a bipartisan policy on renewable energy targets in this country and that will produce a lot of investment in wind and then later solar in this country.

TICKY FULLERTON: A lot of people are saying that bipartisan target is almost more important than the price, but we've got calls now from business for a start at $10 a tonne. If that does happen, is that likely to make any difference to our emissions, do you think?

GARRY WEAVEN: I think on its own, not, but it would be the signal that there is a stable policy environment into the future. I'm not advocating such a low price, because the price needed is probably higher than that, but I do think that making a start is important. And I do think that we need to clear away the incredible - the incredibly ignorant political debate that's currently emanating from Canberra and actually get focused on getting some sort of bipartisan policy around carbon, as we eventually did around renewable energy targets.

TICKY FULLERTON: Garry Weaven, I thank you very much for joining us tonight.

GARRY WEAVEN: It's my pleasure.

Q & A Delivers Another 1% Of Australian Voters To The Greens

On the ABC's Q & A tonight [30/5/11], Guy Rundle decried the disconnect between the two major parties and the electorate.

He pointed out that the major parties have far more common with each other than they do with the general populace.

Rundle went on to say that the only party in Australia at the moment that seems to have any connection to the Australian people is The Greens.

At this point, the rest of the panel - the usual mix of News Ltd. and major party cronies (with Guy Rundle obviously thrown in as token town freak) - erupted into forced, unconvincing and offputting laughter. Even the partisan hacks in the audience did not laugh as forcefully and derisively as the panel did.

You could literally feel another 1% of voters racing away from News Ltd. and the two major parties to the Greens.

Why Is My 8 Cents A Day (Or Whatever It Is Now) Being Used By The National Broadcaster To Continually Belittle And Fetishise The Legal Profession?

Barrister Cleaver Greene's life continues to spiral out of control - the latest blow being the beating he's just received from Mick Corella's stand-over man Col for unpaid gambling debts. As usual, Cleaver retreats to the arms of his lover/friend/confidant Missy, a high class call girl who works at a brothel also frequented by Cleaver's friend, Attorney General, Joe Sandilands.

... With shooting commencing in Sydney on Friday, Crownies follows five young solicitors, fresh out of law school, as they face the pressures and endearing madness of modern single life - in a fast-paced workplace that highlights the moral dilemmas and big issues facing an apparently civilised society.

In a world that exists solely to see ‘wrong-doers’ brought to justice, and where the average age of the solicitors is 27, there is a big divide between these young solicitors and the barristers at the top. Yet they are the initial point of contact with the police, and it is they who do most of the liaising with the victims and the witnesses - and recommend what goes to court. They are hungry, committed, idealistic and hard-working, but their lives away from the office are riddled with aspirations, explorations, fragile relationships and partying. ...

We have pointed this out several times in the past. Wherever you live in this country, you will have a local court house. If you want to see the daily workings of our justice system for yourself, in most cases you are able to sit in the back of the court room and see the entire process.

There are very good reasons why we do not allow filming and recording in our court rooms.

The proper functioning of our courts is a serious business that takes place in the real world. It is not fodder for entertainment or American-style spectacle:

On Trial - Doomed from the Start (Part 1) covers the trial of Anthony Evans, a 34-year-old mechanic, accused of murdering his girlfriend, Alana Dakin. The producers are given unprecedented access to film the controversial case in the Supreme Court of Western Australia. This is the first murder trial filmed in Australian history. ...

Some People Must Think Democracy Is A Bit Of A Joke

Gee Dick Smith, while you're whipping up a faux controversy by feigning criticism of News Ltd. editors so you can sell copies of your latest book, many Australians live in one paper towns and are well aware that the Murdoch press use smear and other tactics to destroy their enemies.

If you genuinely care about the future of this country, why don't you put your money where your mouth is, and start a newspaper in a Murdoch monopoly town such as Brisbane, the Gold Coast or Adelaide?

Govt To Be Rebuffed On Asylum Swap Deal

Nine MSN [30/5/11]:

The Gillard government is facing embarrassing parliamentary defeats over key elements of its asylum-seeker policy.

Two crossbenchers who usually back Labor are spearheading a motion, supported by the opposition, condemning the still-incomplete swap deal with Malaysia on asylum seekers.

The pair, Australian Greens Adam Bandt and independent Andrew Wilkie, also back an opposition motion for a parliamentary inquiry into Christmas Island and Villawood detention centre riots.

Debate on the motions was adjourned on Monday but the combination makes it highly likely they will pass.

The Senate already has passed the Greens motion condemning the Malaysia deal, put to the lower house by Mr Bandt on Monday.

If also passed in the lower house, it will be the first time in the new parliament both houses have condemned a government policy, Mr Bandt said, noting his decision was not taken "lightly".

"The government ... will have received a very clear message from parliament rejecting the Malaysia deal, and a very strong request the deal be abandoned," he told parliament.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie backed the Greens motion, describing the swap deal as a "shameful public policy".

"(Malaysia) forcibly returns them (asylum seekers) to danger, routinely relies on the lash of the cane and even resorts to the barbaric death penalty," he said.

The two MPs indicated they would also support the opposition's motion to scrutinise the "chaos and misery" of Australia's immigration detention network.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who moved the motion, agreed to crossbench calls for the inquiry's terms of reference to be broadened.

That included consideration of "any reforms needed to the current immigration detention network in Australia".

Mr Wilkie says it is obvious the system is in crisis, noting recent riots, suicides and the deadly Christmas Island wreckage in December 2010.

He slammed the "failed" and costly mandatory detention system, saying an inquiry was needed.

"I trust that it will not be a political circus, but instead the first step to Australia adopting a more humane and affective approach."

Mr Bandt says mandatory detention treats asylum seekers "worse than criminals" who know when they are due to be released.

"Anything we can do to shed a light on the (policy) is something that I welcome," he said, urging that the inquiry be conducted by a committee made up with MPs from both houses.

Liberal backbencher Judi Moylan, who has previously crossed the floor against the policy of mandatory detention, again slammed the practice.

"I support this motion (for inquiry) in the hope that it will publicly air and stop the cruel and odious practice of indefinite arbitrary detention of asylum seekers."

Typhoon Songda Churns Toward Tokyo

Taipei Times [30/5/11]:

Typhoon Songda churned northeast along Pacific coasts in southern Japan yesterday, bringing with it heavy rains and staying on course to hit Tokyo as it weakened, weather officials said.

It was expected to be downgraded to a depression late yesterday, but could still dump torrential rain on the northeast coast, which was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

A total of 57 people suffered storm-related injuries on the southern Ryukyu Islands, police said. Of those, five were seriously hurt.

The typhoon, packing winds of up to 160 kph, was located about 100km off the southwestern tip of Shikoku island at noon, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Agency official Takeo Tanaka said the storm, losing strength, could reach Tokyo at around 9am today.

It was not clear whether it would directly hit the disaster-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, more than 200km northeast of the capital.

However, the typhoon has already brought heavy rain to the Fukushima region, prompting fears that run-off water may wash away radioactive materials from land into the Pacific Ocean.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has been pouring synthetic resins over the complex to prevent radioactive deposits from being swept away by winds or rain.

Meanwhile, emergency workers at the crippled Fukushima plant yesterday restored the cooling system of a reactor, which had come to a halt after escaping major damage from earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

The water pump to cool the reactor and the pool for spent nuclear fuel at the facility’s No. 5 unit was found to be at a standstill late on Saturday, TEPCO said.

The work began at 8am yesterday to replace the pump and it was completed in four-and-a-half hours.

“There was a motor problem in the pump and we replaced it with a backup pump which is operating now,” TEPCO official Ryoko Sakai said.

The temperature of water in the reactor, which was 68°C when the trouble was found, reached 93.7°C before the backup pump was activated, the official said.

Of the plant’s six reactors, the No.1, No. 2 and No. 3 units are presumed to have suffered a meltdown, TEPCO has said.

The No. 5 and No. 6 reactors were in a cold shutdown for regular checkups at the time of the disaster. They have remained stable as an emergency power generator continued supplying electricity to them.

Better Late Than Never

'The Economic Times' [30/5/11]:

BERLIN: Germany will shut all its nuclear reactors by 2022, parties in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government agreed on Monday, in a reaction to Japan's Fukushima disaster that marks a drastic policy reversal.

As expected, the coalition wants to keep the eight oldest of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors permanently shut. Seven were closed temporarily in March, just after the earthquake and tsunami hit Fukushima. One has been off the grid for years.

Another six will be taken offline by 2021 , Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said early on Monday after late-night talks in the chancellor's office between leaders of the centre-right coalition.

The remaining three reactors, Germany's newest, will stay open for another year until 2022 as a safety buffer to ensure no disruption to power supply, he said.

Merkel backtracked in March on an unpopular decision just months earlier to extend the life of ageing nuclear stations in Germany, where the majority of voters oppose atomic energy.

Her Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and junior coalition partner the Free Democrats (FDP) met on Sunday after an ethics commission ended its deliberations this weekend.

"It's definite: the latest end for the last three nuclear power plants is 2022," Roettgen said after the meeting. "There will be no clause for revision."

Some politicians had wanted a clause allowing for the agreement to be revised in future. The FDP had wanted no firm date but rather a flexible window for the exit, plus the option of bringing back at least one of the seven oldest nuclear reactors in case of emergency.

The coalition agreed to keep one of the older reactors as a "cold reserve" for 2013, if the transition to renewable energies cannot meet winter demand and if fossil fuels do not suffice to make up for a potential shortfall. ...

Breaking Point

SBS Dateline [29/5/11]:

What would drive an asylum seeker, who feared for his life in his home country of Iraq, to take his own life inside an Australian detention centre?

Ahmad Al Akabi left behind a grief-stricken widow and three children after hanging himself at Villawood in Sydney in November last year.

In a special investigation by Dateline, video journalist Fouad Hady travels around Iraq and Australia searching for answers.

He hears from Al Akabi’s family and friends about the dangers that forced him to take a boat to Australia, and analyses his Australian immigration records, which show his concerns about returning to Iraq were not considered credible.

Thousands Protest NSW Coal Seam Gas

'Daily Examiner' [29/5/11]:

Up to 6000 people protesting against the mining of coal seam gas (CSG) have teamed up to form human signs at two NSW coastal towns.

North Coast residents have been calling for a moratorium on CSG exploration in the region, and about 3000 people gathered at Byron Bay beach on Sunday morning to form the words "No CSG".

A spokeswoman for the organisers said they had expected only about 600 people to turn up but the increased roll-up was the result of "word of mouth and the Facebook site".

"We need to let (Prime Minister) Julia Gillard know that we don't want this and we want her to know that it's war and we're going to win it," she said.

Another 3000 people got together at Austinmer Beach in the Illawarra to form the words "Stop Coal Seam Gas!".

Most of those attending had turned up to take part and were joined by a busload of tourists who decided to become involved in the protest.

Fifteen CSG wells have been approved for development in the northern Illawarra and more wells are being discussed and applied for in the region.

Last week the NSW government introduced a 60-day moratorium on new coal, petroleum and coal seam gas exploration licences in the state and follows weeks of protests in Queensland over exploration.

Following the moratorium all proposals would be exhibited for public comment and applications for extraction licences must be accompanied by an agricultural impact statement.

NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham is pushing to extend the moratorium to 12 months.

Looking Forward To The Queensland Branch Of The Sex Party Tackling The Exploitative Aspects Of The Sex Industry And Lobbying For Accessible Sex Education And The Decriminalisation Of Abortion

'Gold Coast Mail' [29/5/11]:

Thousands of people have turned out for Australia's first "SlutWalk", rallying for women to be able to wear whatever they like without fear of being sexually assaulted.

SlutWalk began in Canada in April after a Toronto police official said that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised".

Lauren Clair, one of the organisers of the Melbourne event, said about 2500 people showed up to march through the city's streets on Saturday.

"I think that's because it's a global issue, it's not just something that happens in Canada; it's something we see in our society every day of our lives," Ms Clair, 27, told AFP.

A similar but smaller event was held on Saturday in Brisbane, organised by the Australian Sex Party's Queensland branch which used Facebook to attract participants.

While women were often judged on how they dressed, it was wrong to suggest that only those who wore provocative clothes were the victims of sexual assault, Ms Clair said.

"It's a big myth that women can protect themselves against sexual assault and rape by dressing modestly," she said.

Ms Clair said the majority of marchers, chanting slogans such as "However we dress, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no", were women but there were also men in attendance.

"Yes, there was anger and frustration that we still live in a culture where this is permitted," she said, adding there was also joy and a sense of empowerment.

SlutWalks have already spread to the US, and thousands registered for events in Australia after notices were posted on Facebook this month.

Prior to the Melbourne event, Ms Clair had said she was keen to reclaim the word "slut" as a source of pride, not shame.

"I've spent my entire life being judged for my appearance and sexuality. I'm sexual, I have sex, I enjoy sex. I'm not going to be ashamed," she told Fairfax newspapers.

SlutWalks are planned for Sydney and Adelaide next month.

Free Public Transport For All Students In Trinidad & Tobago

STABROEK NEWS [25/5/11]:

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night came to the People’s Partnership Government’s first anniversary celebrations bearing gifts.

In the bag are free Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) bus travel for all students wearing uniform as well as persons over 60, the extension of the TT$1,000 monthly duty allowance (originally given only to police officers) to all members of the Protective Services and Defence Force, a minimum TT$3,000 pension for members of the Defence Force and Protective Services and a plan for a new airport located in Camden, Couva.

The abandoned airstrip at Camden was used for crop-dusting aircraft in the days of Caroni Ltd.

As she was introduced to the cheering crowd at Mid Centre Mall, Chaguanas, in an atmosphere reminiscent of the People’s Partnership 2010 general election campaign (which included the appearance of Percy Villafana), Persad-Bissessar declared: “I am alive. We are alive…The People’s Partnership is alive and kicking. One year later, we are stronger than ever.”

She said the Partnership had confounded the naysayers and prophets of doom and gloom who predicted that it would collapse.

Persad-Bissessar conceded that the Government had weathered some storms during this year. The weeks leading up to yesterday’s celebration witnessed the firing of one minister, Mary King, and controversy over the PM’s decision to stay at a private residence of her friends. “My hands are clear and my heart is pure. And I am not afraid, ” the Prime Minister stated.

“I am proud that following the election of the People’s Partnership that standards have changed in this country…I am proud that we are held to account in the way we see today, even when in the full face of disclosure there is nothing…We are held up by a higher standards than any government has ever been in the history of our land. And I say to you, ‘so should it be’. That is the change you wanted,” she said.

She added she was glad that Government was being held to account in the way it was today because she would not want to return to what happened before May 24, 2010, where there was a government in office “which felt it could do anything and get away with it”.

“Not in the Government I lead,” she promised.

Persad-Bissessar slammed the PNM. She said “this man” who made all these “scurrilous lies” in the Parliament, was now saying he wanted to walk “from wherever to wherever”.

“Let him walk! Because he would get rejection from the East, rejection from the South, rejection from the North and the West,” she said, turning Manning’s mantra “We would beat them in the East…” against him. She told her audience that they must never forget where they were before May 24.

On the Camden Airport, she said Government was looking at the feasibility of constructing and developing at Camden, Couva a domestic airport for Trinidad and Tobago. It would form part of the link between Trinidad and Tobago. She said it would relieve the traffic since the people of South could use it.

“In the future we would move to the development of an international airport in Central Trinidad,” she said. She added that many countries had more than two airports. “Under your Government we would create a third airport,” she said, noting that Tobago had the ANR Robinson airport.

She added that the airport would form part of the cluster of development, it would support the Point Lisas Estate, the golf course at Sevilla, the Heritage Village at Brechin Castle and bring hotel construction. She said jobs would also be created for small businesses.

Persad-Bissessar said she was asking the Minister of Science and Tertiary Education to commence immediately a feasibility study to explore the commencement of an aviation complex at UTT in Point Lisas and at Camden to support a training programme to deal with this initiative.

She said he would explore discussions with the world-famous Embry-Riddle (Aeronautical) University, Florida to address this initiative. (This is the world’s largest fully accredited university specialising in aviation and aerospace).

On the issue of crime, Persad-Bissessar said the Government would double the training capacity at the Police Academy. She reiterated that her Government would revise the Crime Compensation Act to increase the sums payable to police, soldiers and fire officers who die in the line of duty. The sum currently given is TT$50,000.

Persad-Bissessar said the broadening of the TT$1,000 duty allowance to include 5,000 officers in the Defence Force and 2,500 workers in the Fire Services, would take the total persons benefitting from it to 13,500. This would be implemented in the coming Budget. She said the money for this would be obtained from the money available as a result of the shutting down of SAUTT where 15 foreigners were taking home TT$70 million and where selected officers were taking home TT$5,000 duty allowance. She added that she intended to raise a matter of establishing a special Police National Recognition Programme through which police officers who excel can be publicly honoured and acknowledged.

As she spoke about the entitlement to travel free on PTSC buses for all persons from 60 years and older, the Prime Minister returned to San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning’s proposed protest walk, saying: “I understand that tomorrow one elderly citizen intends to walk from Port of Spain to San Fernando. Our commitment can now help him so that he can get a free bus ride and may I remind him that under his administration the PTSC did not allow our elderly citizens this privilege which we now allow to him and other senior citizens.”

The Prime Minister reinforced statements made earlier by United National Congress chairman Jack Warner, in which she compared Manning to “Mahal, a bus driver… who started to walk all over the country like a crazy man but while he was walking all about, he was thinking he was driving a PTSC bus” .

Anti-Government Protests Injure 100 In Spain

The European Union Times [28/5/11]:

At least 100 people have been injured after police clashed with demonstrators in Barcelona amid protests against the economic crisis and sky-high jobless rate in Spain.

Policemen swiped at protesters with batons, dragged them on the ground and even fired rubber bullets on Friday as they sought to disperse demonstrators and also dismantle their camp in the city’s Catalunya square, AFP reported.

Police said they had to clear the square for the celebrations that will spark if Barcelona beats Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League’s final match on Saturday.

This is while activists say cleaning the square was only a pretext to violate their democratic rights and have vowed to come back.

“They are making us leave because of the match but we will come back again here or somewhere else because our match is more important,” 42-year-old Albert Bonet, who took part in the protest, said.

The situation remains tense and some 200 people are still at the square and hundreds in the surroundings.

Since mid-May, Spain has been witnessing nationwide demonstrations against the government’s austerity measures and economic policies.

The protesters form part of the M-15 movement, which brought thousands of people to the streets ahead of Sunday’s local and regional elections.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s ruling Socialist Party suffered heavy losses in the elections.

Massive protests sparked across Spain after the government of Zapatero introduced a slew of drastic austerity measures, including the cutting of civil servant wages, as part of its plan to curb the budget deficit from 11 percent a year earlier to within three percent of the GDP by 2013.

Spain has the highest jobless rate in the eurozone with 21.3 percent and is saddled with a record 4.9 million people unemployed.

Although Spain has so far managed to stave off a bailout, economists expect that the eurozone’s fourth largest economy will inevitably follow Portugal, Ireland and Greece, and will be forced to accept a financial rescue package.

ALP, Coalition & Mainstream Media vs The Lucky Country!

Senator Nick Xenophon's response to a question from Barrie Cassidy about a recent assessment of political leadership in Australia in 'The Economist' magazine hits the nail on the head [ABC 'Insiders' 29/5/11]:

... It's almost like an episode of 'The Twilight Zone', there's a surreal vibe to Canberra at the moment. The feedback I'm getting just from talking to my friends, to constituents all over the place is that there's a sense of disappointment ...

I think we're going to have an unexpected twist at the end and I'm not sure what that'll be. ...

People are actually hungry for some leadership and the point 'The Economist' made was that we're still the lucky country despite our political leadership, and I thought that was quite telling.

Queensland Government Funding Climate Deniers?

Three Queensland Government advertisements were screened during today's [29/5/11] 'Bolt Report' on Channel 10.

Two were "Nothing Beats Queensland" tourism advertisements, and one was a Queensland Health "rockmelon and kiwi fruit ice block" advertisement.

How many doctors and nurses could the Queensland Government have employed with the public money wasted propping up this climate denialist?

Anti-Cuts Groups Descend On Banks In NHS Protest

'The Guardian' [28/5/11]:

Protesters have been holding demonstrations outside high street banks around the UK and have succeeded in occupying a number of branches in the biggest direct action to date against proposed changes to the NHS.

The national protest, designed to draw attention to the banks' role in creating the deficit, is being spearheaded by the anti-austerity campaigning group UK Uncut, which has been were joined by trade unionists and others.

Activists dressed in doctors' coats and armed with fake blood had planned to enter branches and set up mock hospitals and "operating theatres". Instead they mostly staged their protests on the streets outside when branches were closed or police kept them out.

After assembling shortly before midday in London, close to 100 protesters staged actions outside three banks in Camden and held a mock trial of the health secretary, Andrew Lansley. Other groups were able to enter a Natwest bank in Brixton and a branch of RBS in Islington and stage protests inside.

"The NHS did not cause the financial crisis – the banks did and are continuing to make billions in profits. And yet it is the NHS which is being cut," said Candy Udwin of the Camden Keep Our NHS Public campaign, which took part in north London.

"Here in Camden there are hundreds of jobs under threat and that is why protests like this are being strongly supported."

Activists said they had occupied a number of banks in Brighton while actions also took place in Plymouth, Oxford, Leeds Liverpool, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Ipswich, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. Protesters outside a branch of HSBC in Newcastle were joined by the musician and activist Billy Bragg, who addressed them by megaphone. Other high-profile supporters included the comedian Josie Long who protested at Homerton hospital in Hackney, east London. As well as banks, UK Uncut activists returned to branches of companies they had targetted in the past, including a branch of Vodafone in London and a Topshop in Cardiff.

The only reports of arrests were in Manchester, where nine protestors who entered a branch of Santander in Market street were arrested.

"The protest was entirely peaceful and yet the police felt that they needed to do this. The public reaction to the police making the arrests was overwhelmingly negative" said David Hoyle, a UK Uncut activist who was outside the bank.

Sarah Richardson, a social worker who took part in protests in Newcastle, said: "This coalition government is breaking its election promises to protect the NHS – 50,000 staff are set to lose their jobs and vital services are being cut. Today we've shown that there are alternative to the cuts – the government could cut the massive subsidies to the banks that caused the crisis and use this to protect vital services."

In Oxford, Helen McCarthy said: "I took part in today's protest because I wanted to show that I will not be deterred by the mass arrests that outrageously took place on the TUC march at Fortnum and Mason. It was simply an example of political policing to deter protesters from taking action against these brutal cuts. Instead of making us weaker we are just growing bigger and stronger."

UK Uncut said that as many as 40 banks across the country were closed, sometimes with activists inside, adding that the reaction from bank staff had been good-natured.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) had encouraged members to attend.

Dubbed "the emergency operation", the day of protests is the first big action organised by UK Uncut since the arrests of 145 protesters during a sit-in at Fortnum and Mason in London on 26 March, when more than 250,000 people who took to the streets to protest against government spending cuts.

UK Uncut has staged a series of campaigns against tax avoidance and public spending reductions since it was formed in October. ...

Fires In Ibiza

Euro Residentes [27/5/11]:

The most serious forest fires ever seen on the island of Ibiza have been raging out of control since Wednesday - 2000 hectares have already been completely destoyed. The worst affected area is Morna, en Sant Joan de Llabritja. It is believed that the fire was started accidentally by a beekeeper.

According to the regional interior minister for the Balearic Islands fire fighters have been unable to bring the fire under control and cannot say when they might be able to gain control due to the terrain where the fire has taken hold which means that it is spreading rapidly. According to information given in a press conference fire fighters are now trying to prevent the fire crossing the old Portinatx road and a security zone between this area and Sant Vicent de sa Cala has been established with the aim of preventing the fire reaching the local population. However strong winds are hampering efforts to extinguish the fire and helping it to spread quickly.

Yesterday a school in Sant Joan was evacuated although according to the regional government there was no real threat to students and the measure was taken purely as a preventative step. In addition around 200 people have been evacuated from around 80 homes in the areas bordering Portinatx as well as 700 tourists staying in the ‘Paradise’ hotel.

Over 250 people are taking part in the efforts to put out the fire including 30 pilots and 50 technical experts. In addition over 200 personnel from the Emergency Military Unit are helping fire fighting teams today in order to increase efforts to gain control of the fire.

In a press conference the president of the regional government of the Balearic Islands, Francesc Antich, said that the fire has burnt 2000 hectares of forest in 24 hours but that everything possible was being done to prevent the fire spreading further. He said that numerous aerial measures were being implemented as an integrated part of the efforts to extinguish the fire including 8 planes and 8 helicopters.

Nevertheless he said that a large natural area had already been lost to the fire and a lot depended on meteorological conditions which with intense heat, strong south-easterly winds and low humidity were not helping. Antich could not give any indication of when he thought that the fire would be brought under control.

China Drought Ignites Global Grain Supply Concerns

Reuters [26/5/11]:

SINGAPORE/BEIJING (Reuters) - A prolonged drought in China could hit grains output in key growing regions, further squeezing global supplies and putting upward pressure on prices, but plentiful domestic wheat stocks will act as a cushion and keep import volumes low.

Analysts are closely watching the weather in China, warning any further supply shocks in the grain markets would fuel a further rally in U.S. corn and wheat futures, already stoked by harsh crop weather in the United States and Europe.

"Parts of China have been too dry and if we did see crop failures in that part of the world they are going to look to the global market for supplies," said Luke Mathews, a commodity strategist with Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney.

"They are going to be looking to North America and Europe and there is significant amount of concern whether those particular countries will be able to satisfy those needs."

Chicago Board of Trade corn has climbed 80 percent since the start of May last year, while wheat has risen around 50 percent. Last week alone corn and wheat jumped more than 10 percent on expectations of a global squeeze in supplies.

CROP CONCERNS & TIGHT GLOBAL SUPPLIES

Timely corn seeding is crucial for optimal yields needed to replenish U.S. supplies that are projected at the lowest level in 15 years amid strong demand from livestock feeders, ethanol makers and exporters.

About 80 percent of the U.S. corn crop has been planted, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department, but showers this week are expected to bring the final corn seedings to a standstill.

Rains in the northern U.S. Plains have put spring wheat plantings behind schedule, with seeding only 34 percent complete in the top wheat state of North Dakota, down from the normal pace of 85 percent.

CORN FORECAST, INFLATION

A Chinese government think tank has forecast 2011 corn output will rise to a record 181.50 million tonnes due to increasing acreage, but analysts said it would be a tough target to achieve.

"The 180 million tonnes level is a bottleneck, and the general market forecast, which is yet to come, should be lower than the forecast," said an analyst with consultancy China Corn.

China's corn prices hit an all-time high in March. That, coupled with low state corn reserves, made it difficult for Beijing to cool food price rises, driving up the country's overall inflation rate to a 32-month high in March.

Food prices fell 0.4 percent in April from March but were 11.5 percent higher than a year earlier.

"Global corn supplies are extremely tight and the world is banking on sharp increases in production," said Mathews. "Chinese authorities were suggesting a lift in local production and they will need every bit of that."

Barclays Capital warned that recent extreme weather incidents have created upside risks to food inflation for the second half of 2011, citing China as one of the areas of concerns.

"Drought-like conditions in the Yangtze River basin and eastern Shandong are likely to weigh on Chinese food production and increase import demand," the bank said in a report.

"Shandong has received just 12 millimeters of rain since September 2010, with some reports indicating that around 40 percent of the province's wheat crop has been lost."

China's total wheat output stood at 115 million tonnes last year, official figures showed.

However, Hai Yang, a wheat analyst with Esunny Information & Technology Co., said China is likely to see a slight wheat output increase this year.

Water levels on the Yangtze midstream are 6 meters lower than they were the same time last year, with rainfall only a fifth of the levels seen in 2010, according to the China Daily newspaper, quoting local drought relief agencies.

China's meteorological administration said on Wednesday that average rainfall in Anhui, Jiangsu, Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Shanghai, which are China's major rice producing areas, is the lowest since 1954.

STOCKS, IRRIGATION

The market is not overly concerned about wheat supplies in China with closing stocks at the end of crop year 2010/11 estimated at 60 million tonnes by the USDA.

"The weather this year is likely to be abnormal, with northern China likely experiencing floods while southern China likely sees drought," said Gao Yanrong, an analyst with Dalu Futures.

Officials in China said irrigation facilities will limit the risk to the corn crop even if there is drought later on in the main growing areas.

"We have wells, and we can irrigate (the corn) even if there is a drought," said a farm ministry official in Shandong province.

China turned corn importer last year, buying 1.57 million tonnes, the most in 15 years, and almost all came from the United States. In March, China Grains Reserve Corp (Sinograin), which manages China's central government reserves, bought 1.0 million tonnes of U.S. corn.

The country is also seeking other origins and developing new sources for supply. Argentina's deputy agriculture minister, Oscar Solis, said in April that the country hopes to work out a health protocol and export up to 2 million tonnes of corn to China this year.

Analysts say the weather in July-August, which is the crucial growing period, will be the deciding factor to final output.

(Editing by Ed Lane)

Danish Warship Sails Into Greenpeace Arctic Oil Protest

'The Guardian' [24/5/11]:

Armed Danish commandoe are thought to have been landed on a giant oil rig by helicopter to prevent environmentalists interfering with a British oil company's controversial exploration of deep Arctic waters. In a stand-off in the Davis Strait, west of Greenland, the Danish navy has been shadowing the Greenpeace ship Esperanza as it tracked the 53,000 tonne Leiv Eiriksson in iceberg-strewn sea to the site where it plans to search for oil at depths of up to 5,000ft.

The confrontation between Denmark and Greenpeace, which argues that it is dangerous to drill for oil in pristine Arctic waters, follows the decision by Scottish oil company Cairn Energy to explore for oil and gas in Baffin Sea this summer.

There were conflicting reports over whether the commandos had landed on the rig, with Greenpeace believing they had, a senior police source saying he could not confirm whether commandos were on the helicopter flights taking place between the Danish ship and the rig, and the navy denying commandos had landed.

Fears that an Arctic spill would be difficult if not impossible to clean up were confirmed in an email exchange between the British Foreign Office and the energy secretary, Chris Huhne, that was obtained by Greenpeace under freedom of information legislation. Officials briefed Huhne, saying: "It is difficult to get assistance in case of pollution problems in such areas, and near impossible to make good damage caused."

They warned of "significant" environmental challenges and the potential for a Gulf of Mexico-type spill. "The impact of such a spill in the Arctic would be proportionately higher due to the lower temperatures and (in winter) lack of sunlight that will inhibit oil eating bacteria (which played a large role in cleaning up the Macondo spill). The Arctic ecosystem is particularly vulnerable, and emergency responses would be slower and harder than the Gulf of Mexico due to the areas remoteness and the difficulty of operating in sub-zero temperatures. A situation compounded by response lag resulting from the vast distances between points of habitations and at certain times, winter ice."

Ruth Davis, chief policy adviser at Greenpeace UK said: "These documents make it clear that companies like Cairn are playing Russian roulette with one of the most important environments in the world. When even the UK government recognises the huge risks associated with the oil drilling in the Arctic then it must be time to halt the rush for oil in one of the most delicate ecosystems in the in the world."

Cairn says it has prepared comprehensive oil spill plans, and has put up a bond of $2bn. Last month it said in a statement: "Wherever it is active, Cairn seeks to operate in a safe and prudent manner. The Greenlandic Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum has established some of the most stringent operating regulations anywhere globally, which mirror those applied in the Norwegian North Sea. Cairn respects the rights of individuals and organisations to express their views in a safe manner."

Seven major oil companies have licenses to explore off Greenland but Cairn will be the only one to begin operations in the short July-October "summer window" when the ice has retreated. Cairn holds 11 licences covering over 80,000 square kilometres and plans to drill four exploratory wells to depths of around 5,000ft, the deepest ever attempted in the Arctic.

Fears that Greenpeace plan to prevent work have been heightened since the group occupied one of Cairn's drilling ships working in shallower Arctic waters last years, and 11 climbers also boarded the Leiv Eiriksson, when it left Turkey for Greenland last month. Greenpeace also tried to stop the rig as it passed Greece and Italy last month but was prevented by storms.

"We are in the Davis Straits doing 10 knots in big seas. There are icebergs everywhere. We're getting very close to where Cairn intends to drill," said the Greenpeace campaigner Ben Ayliffe aboard the Esperanza.

Denmark is believed to have sent two warships to protect Cairn from Greenpeace, which in turn has sent two ships to monitor Cairn. Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.

Egypt Eases Blockade At Gaza's Rafah Border

BBC [28/5/11]:

Egypt has relaxed restrictions at its border with the Gaza Strip, allowing many Palestinians to cross freely for the first time in four years.

Women, children and men over 40 are now allowed to pass freely. Men aged between 18 and 40 will still require a permit, and trade is prohibited.

The move - strongly opposed by Israel - comes some three months after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak lost power.

Egypt and Israel closed borders with Gaza when Hamas seized power in 2007.

Israel retains concerns that weapons will be imported into Gaza through the Egyptian frontier, but Egypt insists it will conduct thorough searches of all those crossing.

The BBC's Jon Donnison, in Gaza, says the decision to ease the border controls is symbolically important.

It is another sign that the new leadership in Egypt is shifting the dynamics of the Middle East.

Israel has criticised the border move, saying it raised security concerns.

But with elections coming up in Egypt, our correspondent says the change in policy is likely to be popular with a public sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Although the border will still be closed for trade, the opening of the Rafah crossing is expected to provide a major economic boost to Gaza.

Previously, only about 300 Palestinians were allowed out every day.

Some attempted to use the border crossing as soon as it opened Gaza resident Ali Nahallah, who has not left the Strip for four years, told the BBC the changes would be welcome.

"Of course this is our only entry point from Gaza to the external world," he said.

"We feel that we live in a big jail in Gaza so now we feel a little bit more comfortable and life is easier now. My kids are willing to travel to see other places other than Gaza."

The latest move comes a month after Egypt pushed through a unity deal between the two main Palestinian factions - Fatah and Hamas - something Israel also opposed.

Fatah runs the West Bank, while Hamas governs Gaza.

Analysts say that with elections looming in Egypt the new policy is likely be popular with a public largely sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Egypt's co-operation in blockading Gaza was one of President Mubarak's most unpopular policies.

Egypt says the crossing will be open from 0900 to 2100 every day except Fridays and holidays.

Last year, Israel eased restrictions on goods entering Gaza, but severe shortages in the territory remain.

In 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the blockade was a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

Hundreds of smuggling tunnels run under the Egyptian border with Gaza.

Musician, Poet Scott-Heron Dies

Detroit Free Press [28/5/11]:

Poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron died Friday at age 62 in New York, NPR reported, citing his book publisher.

He is best known for his spoken-word piece "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," but he also recorded the seminal "We Almost Lost Detroit." He is considered a progenitor of hip-hop and inspired a generation of rappers with his no-nonsense street poetry.

Scott's first record was 1970's "Small Talk at 125th and Lenox," and he continued to release albums until 1982. He didn't return to the studio until 1994, for "Spirits." On that record, "Scott-Heron cautions the hip-hop generation that arose in his absence to use its newfound power responsibly," NPR said.

A cause of death was not immediately reported.

Scott-Heron had struggled with substance abuse and was jailed in the 2000s for cocaine possession. His 2010 album, "I'm New Here," was released to praise from critics....

The Patriot Act: When Truth Becomes Treason

Susan Lindauer, "The Peoples Voice" [23/5/11]:

Many Americans think they understand the dangers of the Patriot Act, which Congress has vowed to extend 4 more years in a vote later this week. Trust me when I say, Americans are not nearly frightened enough.

Ever wonder why the truth about 9/11 never got exposed? Why Americans don't have a clue about leadership fraud surrounding the War on Terror? Why Americans don't know if the 9/11 investigation was really successful? Why the Iraqi Peace Option draws a blank? Somebody has known the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden--- or his grave—for the past 10 years. But nobody's talking to the people.

In significant part, that's because of the Patriot Act--- a law that equates free speech with sedition. It's got a big agenda, with 7,000 pages of Machiavellian code designed to interrupt individual questioning of government policy. In this brave new world, free speech under the Bill of Rights effectively has been declared a threat to government controls for maintaining stability. And the Patriot Act has become the premiere weapon to attack whistle blowers and dissidents who challenge the comfort of political leaders hiding inconvenient truths from the public. It's all the rage on Capitol Hill, as leaders strive to score TV ratings, while demogauging their "outstanding leadership performance" on everything from national security to environmental policy.

Truth has Become Treason

But wait---Congress assures us the Patriot Act only targets foreigners, who come to our shores seeking to destroy our way of life through violent, criminal acts. Good, law abiding Americans have nothing to fear. The Patriot Act restricts its powers of "roving wiretaps" and warrantless searches to international communications among "bad guys." Congress has sworn, with hand on heart, it's only purpose is breaking down terrorist cells and hunting out "lone wolf" mad men.

That's what they told you, right? And you believed them? You trust the government. Well, that was your first mistake. With regards to the Patriot Act, it's a fatal one. Would the government lie to you? You betcha! And they have.

The Patriot Act reaches far beyond terrorism prevention. In my home state of Maryland, State Police invoked the Patriot Act to run surveillance on the Chesapeake Climate Action Network dedicated to wind power, recycling and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. They infiltrated the DC Anti War Network, suggesting the group might be a front for "white supremacists," and Amnesty International, claiming to investigate "civil rights abuses." Opponents of the death penalty also got targeted (in case they got violent).

Bottom line: truth tellers who give Americans too much insight on any number of issues are vulnerable to a vast arsenal of judicial weapons typically associated with China or Mynamar. In the Patriot Act, the government has created a powerful tool to hunt out free thinking on the left or right. It doesn't discriminate. Anyone who opposes government policy is at risk

How do I know all this? Because I was the second non-Arab American ever indicted on the Patriot Act. My arrest defied all expectations about the law. I was no terrorist plotting to explode the Washington Monument. Quite the opposite, I had worked in anti-terrorism for almost a decade, covering Iraq and Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Malaysia at the United Nations. At the instruction of my CIA handler, I had delivered advance warnings about the 9/11 attack to the private staff of Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Office of Counter-Terrorism in August, 2001. FBI wire taps prove that I carried details of a comprehensive peace framework with Iraq up and down the hallowed corridors of Capitol Hill for months before the invasion, arguing that War was totally unnecessary.

I delivered those papers to Democrats and Republicans alike; to my own second cousin, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card; and to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who lived next door to my CIA handler. Gratis of the Patriot Act, we had the manila envelope and my hand written notes to Secretary Powell, dated a week before his infamous speech at the United Nations. My papers argued that no WMDs would be found inside Iraq, and that the peace framework could achieve all U.S. objectives without firing a shot.

In short, I was an Asset who loudly opposed War with Iraq, and made every effort to correct the mistakes in assumptions on Capitol Hill.

Then I did the unthinkable. I phoned the offices of Senator Trent Lott and Senator John McCain, requesting to testify before a brand new, blue ribbon Commission investigating Pre-War Intelligence. Proud and confident of my efforts, I had no idea Congress was planning to blame "bad intelligence" for the unpopular War.

Over night I became Public Enemy Number One on Capitol Hill.

Thirty days later I awoke to hear FBI agents pounding on my door. My nightmare on the Patriot Act lasted 5 years--- Four years after my arrest, the Court granted me one morning of evidentiary testimony by two supremely credible witnesses. Parke Godfrey verified my 9/11 warnings under oath. Otherwise, I never got my day in Court.

The Patriot Act's Arsenal to Stop Free Speech

If you care about America and the traditions of freedom, whether you're progressive or conservative, you should be angry about this law.

First come the warrantless searches and FBI tracking surveillance. My work in anti-terrorism gave me no protection. I got my first warrantless search after meeting an undercover FBI agent to discuss my support for free elections in Iraq and my opposition to torture and sexual humiliation of Iraqi detainees. (Sorry guys, body wires don't lie.)

If truth tellers don't get the message to shut their mouths, the Justice Department ratchets up the pressure. Defendants face secret charges, secret evidence and secret grand jury testimony. Throughout five years of indictment, my attorneys and I never got to read a single FBI interview or grand jury statement. Under the Patriot Act, the whistleblower/defendant has no right to know who has accused him or her of what criminal activities, or the dates of the alleged offenses, or what laws got broken.

Of course, I was able to piece together my activities. I knew that "sometime in October, 2001" an Iraqi diplomat gave me the English translation of a book on depleted uranium, which showed how cancer rates and birth defects had spiked in Iraqi children.

And I was quite certain that on October 14, 1999, an Iraqi diplomat asked me how to channel major financial contributions to the Presidential Campaign of George Bush and Dick Cheney. The Justice Department got the date from me, since I reported my conversation immediately to my Defense Intelligence handler, Paul Hoven.

It's unlikely the grand jury knew that, since the Justice Department has the prerogative to keep a grand jury in the dark. In this brave new world, a grand jury can be compelled to consider indictments carrying 10 years or more in prison, without the right to review evidence, or otherwise determine whether an individual's actions rise to the level of criminal activity at all.

That's just the beginning. Once Congress scores an indictment against a political opponent, the Justice Department can force Defense attorneys to undergo protracted security clearances, while the whistle blower cum defendant waits in prison--- usually in solitary confinement or the SHU. After the security clearance, prosecutors have an ironclad right to bar attorneys from communicating communications from the prosecution to the defendant, on threat of disbarment, stiff fines or prison sentence.

Scared yet? Once you get to trial, the situation gets much worse. The Patriot Act declares that a prosecutor has no obligation to show evidence of criminal activity to a jury at all. And the Defense can be denied the right to argue a rebuttal to those secret charges, because it requires speculation that might mislead the jury—or might expose issues that the government considers, well, secret. After all that a Judge can instruct a jury that the prosecution regards the secret evidence as sufficient to merit conviction on the secret charges. The Jury can be barred from considering the lack of evidence in weighing whether to convict.

Think I'm exaggerating? You would be wrong. That's what happened to me. All of it—with one major glitch. All of this presumes the whistle blower's lucky enough to get a trial. I was denied mine, though I fought vigorously for my rights. Instead, citing the Patriot Act, I got thrown in prison on a Texas military base without so much as a hearing—and threatened with indefinite detention and forcible drugging, to boot.

Americans are not nearly afraid enough.

Neither is Congress. As of this week, members of Congress should be very afraid. Anyone who votes to extend the Patriot Act should expect to pack their bags in 2012. They will be targeted for defeat. Above all, the words "freedom" and "Constitution" will never appear in their campaigns without suffering extreme public scorn—never, ever again.

Susan Lindauer is the author of "Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq," which describes her work as an Asset covering Iraq and Libya, and her arrest on the Patriot Act shortly after requesting to testify before Congress about the CIA's advance warnings about 9/11 and a peace option in Iraq

About Bloody Time!

Nine MSN [27/5/11]:

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib says his Australian passport has been returned to him.

The Sydney father-of-four's passport was cancelled after his 2005 release from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he'd been held without charge.

"I have received money, I have received a passport, I have received everything, my dignity back," Mr Habib told AAP on Friday.

Mr Habib said he could not make any further comment because he had an exclusive media deal with a television channel, believed to be Ten Network.

In January, Prime Minister Julia Gillard ordered an inquiry into Australia's role in Mr Habib's arrest, amid claims Australia had been complicit in his 2001 CIA rendition to Egypt, where he was detained and tortured.

Ms Gillard's move also followed a secret federal payout to Mr Habib, reportedly triggered by witness statements implicating Australian officials in his detention in a Cairo military prison.

Mr Habib was detained in Pakistan as a suspected terrorist in October 2001, before being held in Egypt, Afghanistan and then Guantanamo Bay.

In 2006, the then foreign minister Alexander Downer refused to issue Mr Habib a new passport, based on an adverse security assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Despite never having being charged, Mr Habib was unable to travel because ASIO continued to maintain he was a threat to national security.

International Law On Refugees And The Moti Case

'Solomon Star' [27/4/11]:

Since 2006, the most powerful nation in the Pacific, Australia, has been baying for the blood of Julian Moti.

In Australia’s desperation to repatriate Moti to Australia to face dubious criminal charges, international refugee conventions have been breached, ignored and manipulated both in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 2006 and just over a year later in the Solomon Islands.

As a result of Moti’s reported ‘escape’ to the Solomon Islands from the hands of the Australians in PNG in 2006 there has been a Commission of Inquiry in PNG, called the ‘Defence Inquiry’ presided over by Judge Salika and also an ‘Ombudsman’s Report’ into the incident.

These inquiries concerned themselves with allocating blame. They’ve progressed from the underlying assumption that what happened was wrong and someone’s head has to roll.

It’s an assumption that needs to be challenged.

For while it’s true that, in 2006, the situation of Moti’s arrest (including his proposed extradition to Australia) was before the PNG courts when he was flown out to the Solomon Islands by the PNG defence forces, the question was not who jumped the gun and gave the order to have Moti removed from PNG before the judgment was handed down, but, if the courts were the correct place for the matter to be dealt with? More so considering the PNG courts seemed to be highly influenced by Australia – the state from which Moti had sought refuge.

As for Moti’s deportation from the Solomon Islands in late 2007, the High Court of Australia will be examining the issues surrounding the case later this year where I’m sure Moti’s lawyers will remind the learned judges of international law and convention that applied to Moti’s status as a refugee at the time.

Political persecution

In 2006, Australia had a warrant for Moti’s arrest on charges of the rape of a 13-year-old girl in Vanuatu. But when considering how urgently or genuinely concerned Australia was for the alleged victim, it is first necessary to consider that the charges were brought against Mr. Moti in 1997 in the jurisdiction of the alleged commission of the crime - Vanuatu.

There, the allegations were found to be so specious that they were dropped before the case went to trial.

The case had been satisfactorily settled for all concerned for almost a full decade before the Australian authorities, under the Australian Child-Sex Tourism Act, repackaged and revived the charges (unbeknown to the alleged victim until a year after the investigation commenced – in other words there was no complainant).

The motivation for the charges was particularly suspect if we take into account the intention of the Child-Sex Tourism Act. On the website of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) an article states: “The philosophy underpinning the [child-sex tourism] legislation is that countries are principally responsible for sexual abuse in that country. Laws…such as the Australian child sex tourism offences are intended to fill the gap when countries are unwilling or unable to take action against known offenders.”

In Moti’s case, the Vanuatu authorities had taken responsibility and investigated the sexual abuse allegation.

There was no discernible ‘gap’ that Australia needed to step into. Besides, Moti was not a ‘tourist’ he was resident in Vanuatu at the time.

So what made the Australian authorities resurrect this case?

According to the alleged victims father, Mr. Ariipaea Salmon, in a video interview recorded last month, just three days before he died, it was the “mighty Australian government” who had used his daughter as a pawn to effect their political goals in the Solomon Islands. Asked how that made him feel; he replied, “disgusted.”

For the charges were resurrected at the exact same time that it became a possibility that Moti would be appointed attorney general of the Solomon Islands.

An extraordinary coincidence? No –it was grubby political ploy to remove Moti from political influence in the Pacific – and the evidence for this contention comes straight from the horse’s mouth – the AFP and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in documents supplied to the courts.

It was no secret that Moti did not share with Australia the same political vision for the Solomon Islands and was seen as an impediment to the continued deployment of the RAMSI troops amongst other things.

The political motivations behind the prosecution of Moti was why, when arrested in Papua New Guinea in 2006, Moti had every right to assert a claim for political asylum.

Political Asylum in PNG

The convention on the status of refugees 1951 (revised in 1967) defines a refugee as someone who has a “…well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Moti, when arrested in PNG had every reason to believe that he was being prosecuted and persecuted for his politicals.

It was Mr. Robson Djokovic and Mr. Chris Hapa who delivered the Solomon Islands Prime Ministerial notification to the government of PNG (through the Solomon Islands High Commissioner and copied to the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and External trade, the PNG High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands and Mr. Julian Moti QC, Attorney general) establishing the refugee status of Moti and informing them that the Solomon Islands government had granted diplomatic asylum to him taking into account the relevant international and humanitarian law. This was standard diplomatic procedure, followed to the letter.

The then Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare stated what he expected of the PNG government.

“…Mr. Moti must be given diplomatic protection and offered sanctuary on our sovereign soil [the Solomon Islands Chancellery in Port Moresby]. I trust that you will do the needful for him while we secure judicial orders for his release and safe transit from Papua New Guinea to Solomon Islands”

But, were the judicial orders were even necessary?

Article 33 of the Convention on the Status of Refugees clearly states and establishes the principle of ‘non-refoulement’ whereby “no contracting state [in this case PNG and the Solomon Islands] shall expel or return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his…political opinion.”

So, why were the courts even contemplating the extradition of Moti to Australia? Could it have been under the undue influence of Australia on the PNG courts?

Consider: the morning of the day that Moti was flown out of PNG, Justice Cathy Davani had decided to adjourn the court case for two weeks in order to apprise herself of the appropriate law. Well, she’s either very busy, a really slow learner or there was another imperative.

Certainly, had Moti been in PNG for those extra two weeks he would have been unable to advise Sogavare on the upcoming vote of no confidence in the Solomon Islands parliament. This would have suited the Australian authorities who had been doing their utmost to destabilize this government that was so openly antagonistic toward them. How convenient for them.

Moti’s asylum and safe passage to the Solomon Islands could easily have by-passed the courts and been handled at an executive level – government to government and diplomatically.

And, that’s exactly what happened in PNG, according to the two enquiries. Both found the orders to have Moti removed from PNG to the Solomon Islands in a Defence Force plane came from directly the PNG executive, the Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare.

And quite rightly so - surely, as Prime Minister of PNG, the onus was on him to manage the situation.

Furthermore, the use of the PNG Defence Force to carry out such an operation is in direct accordance with the Constitution of PNG where one of the functions of the Defence Force is “…the fulfilment by Papua New Guinea of its international obligations.” As PNG is an accedent to the 1951 Convention to the Status of Refugees (amended in 1967) since 1986, they had obligations to Moti as a diplomatic asylee.

Indeed, if anything, PNG did not go far enough in helping Moti. Rather than in the clandestine and dangerous manner in which he was transported to the Solomon Islands, Moti should have been afforded “ safe conduct by the territorial state [PNG],” according to the Convention.

Why did the Prime Minister of PNG need to sneak around in this manner? Did he, in this instance, have misgivings about the independence of his judiciary – a judiciary pregnant with Australian aid. Sir Michael certainly had misgivings over who was commanding his agencies.

“Police goes and does this,” he said in the press at the time about Moti’s arrest, “who are they listening to, who is commanding them?”

PNG is a sovereign nation, a Prime Minister shouldn’t have to ask that question.

Was it the force of Australian insistence that was making the tail wag the dog?

The Moti case has highlighted for PNG how the sovereignty of their nation is compromised when Australian aid is used (and abused) to exert Australian influence.

Equally, it’s brought up the same issues for the Solomon Islands ...

Wotton Makes High Court Bid Against Parole Conditions

Yahoo 7 News [27/5/11]:

The man jailed in relation to the Palm Island riots in north Queensland in 2004, Lex Wotton, has lodged a claim in the High Court over his right to freedom of political communication.

He was jailed for inciting a riot on the island off Townsville after the death of 36-year-old Cameron Doomadgee while in police custody.

Mr Wotton was sentenced to six years in jail for his involvement in the riots and was released on parole after two years.

As part of his parole conditions, Mr Wotton is prevented from speaking to the media.

He also has to get approval from his Corrective Services officer to attend public meetings on Palm Island.

In his claim, Mr Wotton says he applied to attend a youth crime and juvenile justice meeting but was denied permission.

Mr Wotton is asking the High Court to determine if that section of the Queensland Corrective Services Act infringes on his right to freedom of political communication.

The hearing goes before the court in August.

Pornography Is "Acceptable", Prostitution is Legal, Fundamentalist Christians Proselytize In Our Schools About The Virtues Of Abstinence And Homophobia, And In Queensland, Women Can Only Access Abortion Services If They Can Find A Doctor Who Will Certify That They Have Lost Their Mind

So Why Are We Having This Pointless, Chauvanist, Backward, Faux Discussion?

A new study by La Trobe University finds most teachers feel unprepared to teach sexual education in class. Researchers say the problem stems back to education courses at university, where nearly 20 per cent of institutions don't include sexual education in teaching degrees.

If teachers aren't comfortable teaching sex education they shouldn't have to. Teachers are paid to teach their area of specialisation.

Our governments should be providing experts in sex education to deliver appropriate programs in our schools, or elsewhere in the community.

From Chapter 6 "Hard Times: 1930-1944", A History Of The Queensland Teachers' Union' by Andrew Spaull and Martin Sullivan [Allen and Unwin, 1989]:

... On other wartime-related issues, such as the spread of venereal disease, the QTU offered the community the benefit of its informed opinion. the rise in the incidence of VD, especially among younger women and girls, prompted the Brisbane Trades and Labor Council to call a conference in mid-1943. The QTU was invited to send two representatives to discuss the general issue and that of sex instruction in schools. The executive council debated the approaches that their representatives should adopt at the conference. It was finally agreed that the QTU's position would be that it was opposed to sex instruction in schools by teachers, but that biology should be taught more widely. It qualified its position to state that teachers were not opposed to sex instruction of children, but this was the prerogative of the family and perhaps other community groups. This approach became a major recommendation of the convention. ...

Agency Stops Giving Projections Of Radioactive Substance Spread

Japan Today [25/5/11]:

TOKYO — The Japan Meteorological Agency has stopped giving projections of the spread of radioactive substances from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as the International Atomic Energy Agency is no longer asking for them, JMA officials said Wednesday. The IAEA had requested the projections to gauge the potential impact on other countries of the damage to the nuclear plant from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The projections were made up to three times a day immediately after the disaster and, recently, three times a week to report to the IAEA. The agency had made the projections available on its website since April 5 as instructed by the government.

The IAEA terminated the request Monday night without specifying any reason and noted it could make a new request if there were any developments, the JMA officials said.

The agency will not give projections unless the U.N. nuclear watchdog asks them to, they said.

The projection had been based on an assumption that 1 becquerel of iodine-131 is discharged from the nuclear plant every 72 hours. Projected concentration data did not reflect reality.

Global Warming Threatens Anthrax Cattle Burial Areas In Russian Arctic

RIA Novosti [25/5/11]:

Global warming can uncover and expose anthrax cattle burial sites in the Arctic and cause the spread of dangerous infections, Russia's Emergencies Ministry warned on Wednesday.

"Climatic anomaly impacts on permafrost zones, enhances the danger of exposing anthrax cattle burial grounds," a ministry spokesman said.

There are more than 100,000 anthrax cattle burial sites in Russia, about 400 of which are located in the Arctic region, he said.

Anthrax is an acute disease caused by Bacillus anthracis and affects both humans and animals. It can form dormant spores that are able to survive in harsh conditions for decades or even centuries, the spokesman warned.

Some Russian ministries and other government agencies are known for their tendency to issue dire warnings to ensure more federal funding, especially ahead of each new fiscal year.1

Contamination: The Totalitarian Strategy Of The GMO Crop Industry

Kurt Cobb, Energy Bulletin [22/5/11]:

Certainly, many of us know people who say (wrongly) that nowadays everything causes cancer. This view becomes a justification for making no effort to avoid carcinogens, especially in food. It is a case of learned helplessness that becomes a major public relations weapon for creating and maintaining docile populations. Make people feel powerless. Then, even if they disagree with you, they won't oppose you.

This appears to be the strategy of the genetically modified organism (GMO) crop industry. The mode of attack is the contamination of non-GMO crops through the spread of pollen and the inadvertent mixing of GMO and non-GMO seeds. Large agribusiness giants such as Monsanto claim to recognize "coexistence" with conventional and organic growers as a desirable state. But, the industry acknowledges that contamination is inevitable. In fact, the complete segregation of GMO and non-GMO crops was never on the table. Several high-profile cases of mixing have already demonstrated this. Starlink corn comes to mind as well as the virtual elimination of organic canola growing in Canada because of GMO contamination (and no effective redress in the courts available). What we now know about the spread of genes via pollen from GMO to non-GMO plants makes it all but certain no regulatory regime, no matter how comprehensive and severe, could prevent contamination.

This fact has not stopped aggressive enforcement of the GMO industry's intellectual property rights which involves threats and lawsuits designed to intimidate not just those supposedly in violation of crop patents, but the entire farming community even when the cases involve contamination by adjacent farms and passing vehicles containing GMO seeds. Here's the message: To avoid lawsuits that threaten to take away your farming livelihood, you might as well sign up to buy our seeds because contamination by us or our farmer customers will be no defense in court.

In fact, Canadian courts found that contamination is not a permissible legal defense! Lest you think that I am making this up, here is the relevant portion of a trial court finding which was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in Monsanto Canada Inc. and Monsanto Company vs Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd.:

Thus a farmer whose field contains seed or plants originating from seed spilled into them, or blown as seed, in swaths from a neighbour's land or even growing from germination by pollen carried into his field from elsewhere by insects, birds, or by the wind, may own the seed or plants on his land even if he did not set about to plant them. He does not, however, own the right to the use of the patented gene, or of the seed or plant containing the patented gene or cell.

This precedent and the aggressive enforcement behavior by the industry has led organic growers and seed distributors to file a pre-emptive lawsuit to protect themselves from the industry's legal tactics which are designed to force farmers to pay the company penalties even when the farmer is organic and must avoid all genetic contamination to market his or her crops. (Organic standards prohibit genetically engineered crops.)

I am reminded of King Henry's conversation with his counterpart King Philip of France in the play Lion in Winter. Philip is insisting that his sister, Alais, be wedded to Henry's son, as previously agreed by Henry and Philip's father, the now deceased King Louis. It's that or the return of the Vexin, a key county north of Paris given to England in exchange for the betrothal.

Philip: It's their wedding or the Vexin back. Those are the terms you made with Louis.

Henry: True, but academic, lad. The Vexin's mine.

Philip: By what authority?

Henry: It's got my troops all over it. That makes it mine.

Just substitute "crops" for "troops," and you'll see an age-old strategy at work. I am also reminded of Hitler's remilitarization of the Rhineland and the Anschluss, his occupation of Austria. Once his troops were on the ground, nobody wanted to challenge him.

The contamination strategy solves two perceived problems for the industry. First, the industry attempted to include GMO plants as acceptable in the original National Organic Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But the outcry was so great from activists that GMOs were taken out of the standards. One way, however, to overcome this resistance is through contamination. By forcing food regulators to accept GMO contamination in organic food as inevitable, the GMO industry is paving the way for eventual capitulation by the organic community and conventional growers as well. The industry wants to propagate the attitude that nothing can be done to stop it.

Second, although Europe has long had labeling requirements for GMO foods, in the United States the industry has so far been able to prevent enactment of any such requirement. The response from food activists has been to launch a campaign for voluntary labeling of non-GMO foods and that now has the GMO industry on the defensive. But, what better way to undermine such an effort than to contaminate conventional and organic crops?

What would change the calculus of the GMO industry? Perhaps it would change if some of the contamination suits (mostly outside the United States) were to result in huge verdicts, ones large enough to be financially ruinous to the industry. Nothing like that, however, is on the horizon. In the meantime, we can all look forward to the involuntary consumption of genetically modified food ingredients against our will. The GMO industry tells us that they want consumers to have a choice, that GMO foods should "coexist" with conventional and organic foods. Yet, they oppose labeling.

Meanwhile, the equivalent of the GMO industry's panzer corps is moving into our farm fields and from there into our kitchens. We may soon regret this creeping annexation of our dinner tables. Once the invasion of GMO genes around the world is complete, we may find it harder to roll back than Hitler's armies.

Why Is This Not Big News In Australia?

'New York Times' [25/5/11]:

U.S. Suit Sees Manipulation of Oil Trades

After oil prices surged past $100 a barrel in 2008, suspicions that traders had manipulated the market led to Congressional hearings and regulatory investigations. But they produced no solid cases in the record run-up in gasoline prices.

But on Tuesday, federal commodities regulators filed a civil lawsuit against two obscure traders in Australia and California and three American and international firms.

The suit says that in early 2008 they tried to hoard nearly two-thirds of the available supply of a crucial American market for crude oil, then abruptly dumped it and improperly pocketed $50 million.

The regulators from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would not say whether the agency was conducting any other investigations into oil speculation. With oil prices climbing again this year, President Obama has asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to set up a working group to look into fraud in oil and gas markets and “safeguard against unlawful consumer harm.”

In the case filed Tuesday, the defendants — James T. Dyer of Australia, Nicholas J. Wildgoose of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and three related companies, Parnon Energy of California, Arcadia Petroleum of Britain and Arcadia Energy, a Swiss company — have told regulators they deny they manipulated the market.

If the United States proves the claims, the defendants may give up $50 million in profits that were believed to be made as a result of the manipulation and also pay a penalty of up to $150 million.

The commodities agency says the case involves a complex scheme that relied on the close relationship between physical oil prices and the prices of financial futures, which move in parallel.

In a matter of a few weeks in January 2008, the defendants built up large positions in the oil futures market on exchanges in New York and London, according to the suit, filed in the Federal Court in the Southern District of New York.

At the same time, they bought millions of barrels of physical crude oil at Cushing, Okla., one of the main delivery sites for West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark for American oil, the suit says. They bought the oil even though they had no commercial need for it, giving the market the impression of a shortage, the complaint says.

At one point they had such a dominant position that they owned about 4.6 million barrels of crude oil, estimating that this represented two-thirds of the seven million barrels of excess oil then available at Cushing, according to lawsuits.

This type of oil is also the main driver of prices of the futures contracts, and their actions caused futures prices to rise, the authorities say. “They wanted to lull market participants into believing that supply would remain tight,” the agency said. “They knew that as long as the market believed that supply was tight and getting even tighter, there would be upward pressure on the prices of W.T.I. for February delivery relative to March delivery, which was their goal.”

The traders in mid-January cashed out their futures position, and then a few days later began to bet on a decline in oil futures, with Mr. Wildgoose remarking in an e-mail about the “inevitable puking” of their position on an unsuspecting market, the federal lawsuit says.

In one day, Jan. 25, they then dumped most of their holdings of West Texas Intermediate oil, and profited by the drop in futures.

The traders repeated the buying and selling in March 2008, and were preparing to do it again in April but stopped when investigators contacted them for information, the suit says.

Between January and April, average gas prices rose roughly to $3.50 a gallon, from $3. It was not until later in 2008, after the defendants had ceased their reported actions, that oil prices soared higher — reaching $145 that July. By the end of the year, prices had fallen to about $44. The Texas oil is now around $100.

Many other factors were at work, including tight oil supplies in the Middle East and fears that a growing global economy would consume more oil. Yet the enforcement action by the commodities regulator was the first credible evidence that a small group of traders also played a role in manipulating prices.

“This will help to satisfy the desire to find a culprit and throw them under the wheels of justice,” said Michael Lynch, an oil market specialist at Strategic Energy and Economic Research, a consulting firm.

Calls to Arcadia Petroleum in London were not immediately returned. A person who answered the phone at Arcadia Energy in Switzerland said that he was unaware of the complaints and that Mr. Dyer and Mr. Wildgoose were on vacation and unavailable for comment.

In the last few years, the commission has settled a handful of cases of manipulation in the natural gas market.

In 2007, it settled charges for $1 million against the Marathon Petroleum Company for trying to manipulate West Texas Intermediate crude oil in 2003.

The agency brought an action similar to its latest case in 2008, asserting that Optiver Holding, a proprietary trading fund based in the Netherlands with a Chicago affiliate, used a trading program in 2007 to issue orders to manipulate the crude oil market. The case is pending. It involved claims of manipulation of futures contracts for light sweet crude, New York Harbor heating oil and New York Harbor gasoline.

Nothing Beats Queensland!

'Gladstone Observer' [27/5/11]:

Marine Deaths

- In April, 22 dead turtles found washed up at mouth of Boyne River.

- May 9, dead dolphin found on Boyne Island.

- May 15, dead dolphin found on Turtle Island.

People are encouraged to report all marine stranding and deaths to DERM on 1300 130 372.

Is This The Only Commentary We're Going To Get On Foxtel's Latest Takeover Bid?

Where are Australia's media commentators, bloggers, analysts, experts and academics? Have they given up, or have they always been a bunch of pissweak, gutless, sellouts hanging off the coat tails of the establishment?:

SHAREHOLDER: I think it's probably a bit of a problem with regards to monopolies, but otherwise it's good for the shareholders, I think, as far as the share price goes.

It’s Official: Australian Government Happy For Serco To Do What It Pleases

Loewenstein [26/5/11]:

The glories of unaccountable privatisation in action (via New Matilda):

Not only is the $1 billion contract awarded to detention centre operator Serco beyond the reach of public scrutiny, but Senate Estimates hearings today revealed that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship collects scant data on breaches and has limited knowledge and oversight of staff training levels.

In what was a stellar confirmation of the Greens’ reputation as Senate watchdogs, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young doggedly pressed DIAC assistant secretary Fiona Lynch-Magor over allegations that Serco has been posting untrained and inexperienced guards to Australia’s overcrowded detention centres, with surprising results.

When asked by Hanson-Young, the DIAC official was unable to list the number of times Serco had breached the “management and service” provision of the contract, relating to detention centre operations, because the contract “doesn’t record specific breaches per incident”, instead measuring Serco’s performance under a “series of abatements that apply to certain metrics”.

The abatements, issued as retrospective fines, have been occurring on Lynch-Magor’s admission “since the beginning of the contract”, but are “not recorded in a recordable number”. “Systemic” breaches trigger “continuous failure” under the contract, which has a multiplier effect on the abatement issued.

Senator Hanson-Young appeared increasingly frustrated with Lynch-Magor’s answers, which became more circuitous as the questioning continued. When asked whether a failure to train staff properly could be considered a breach, she replied that Serco was “required to undertake all the training we require them to do”, and listed Certificate 2 requirements for centre chefs and guards.

Lynch-Magor told the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs that DIAC had requested Serco prove their staff were properly trained “earlier this week”, and had received an immediate response. When Senator Hanson-Young asked the number of staff who “were asked to leave”, she was told that wasn’t information the department usually requested from Serco.

“So the department doesn’t know how many untrained staff have been on the ground… as of earlier this week?” the Senator replied.

And more evidence this week of a culture in the Immigration Department which rather likes a system whereby private companies can allegedly take responsibility for vulnerable people and yet still stuff it up:

BARBARA MILLER: The report commissioned by the Department of Immigration found refugees were paying through the roof for accommodation that was in some cases wholly inadequate. The accommodation provider, Resolve FM, a subcontractor of Navitas, has been put on notice.

The findings came as no surprise to Sister Diana Santleben. She was one of a number of community members who raised allegations that refugees were being exploited and mistreated. Sister Diana says she constantly hears of and witnesses such cases.

DIANA SANTLEBEN: Daily, daily. I mean I have taken hundreds of tonnes of Navitas issue furniture to a rubbish tip and sourced from the people of Newcastle thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars worth in replacement furniture, all at our own expense.

You know I’m a pensioner, and we’ve done it voluntarily. Basically we’ve done Navitas’s job for them voluntarily for the past five years so that the refugees did not endure having no beds, for example, because the beds they were given only lasted a week or two.

BARBARA MILLER: Do you think this report goes far enough?

DIANA SANTLEBEN: No, no, no. The report basically is into Resolve FM and Resolve FM were a sub-contractor for Navitas. The report did not under its guidelines study the work of Navitas really.

BARBARA MILLER: So what do you think should happen?

DIANA SANTLEBEN: Well my personal opinion, if I had my way I would just dismiss Navitas.

And there is something decidedly stinky about News Ltd's supposed "scoop" [27/5/11] that Serco are going to run Australia's army bases in the Middle East.

If You Missed Inside Job (2010), You Can Watch It Here

'Inside Job' provides a comprehensive analysis of the global financial crisis of 2008, which at a cost over $20 trillion, caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and nearly resulted in a global financial collapse. The film traces the rise of a rogue industry which has corrupted politics, regulation, and academia. It was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China.

Vic Ombudsman's Report Slams Worksafe Payout Agencies

... LIZ HOBDAY: For the more than 50,000 Victorian workers with active claims for workplace injuries, the report will make interesting reading.

It describes how six major insurance companies contracted to WorkSafe have mismanaged files, causing a litany of problems, including delayed payouts and privacy breaches.

Personal injury lawyer Shaun Marcus says the report comes as no surprise.

SHAUN MARCUS: I would say every client would have a story to tell about their WorkCover agent it would be that wide.

LIZ HOBDAY: He says delays in medical payments are a daily problem for his clients.

SHAUN MARCUS: Medical and life expenses often workers have to pay for them out of their own pocket and will send these receipts to the WorkCover insurer for payment and all too regularly they either go missing, are not processed, or are processed in part for no apparent reason other than poor record keeping.

LIZ HOBDAY: The ombudsman found problems at Allianz, CGU, Gallagher Bassett, GIO, QBE, and Xchanging, which between them were paid more than $200 million by WorkSafe last financial year.

In one of the worst examples, the report found staff at CGU had hidden 10,000 files in a locked cupboard and manipulated invoices to make the company to the tune of $2.5 million.

But WorkSafe chief executive, Greg Tweedly, says despite the findings, most claims are well managed.

GREG TWEEDLY: They've got to look at the percentage of cases where things go right and there's a large, large, large percentage where people are looked after and looked after well and these circumstances are small in number; they are regrettable and we're doing everything possible to minimise that in the future.

LIZ HOBDAY: The Minister responsible for WorkSafe, Gordon Rich-Phillips, says he's told WorkSafe he wants the problems fixed.

GORDON RICH-PHILLIPS: These concerns that are being raised by the ombudsman are significant and are of concern to the new government and we expect WorkCover to work diligently to address them.

LIZ HOBDAY: WorkSafe has just awarded tenders to its agents for the next five years but only one of the companies named in the report, GIO, hasn't signed another contract.

Lawyer Shaun Marcus says there's little injured workers can do, if they are struggling to deal with insurance companies.

SHAUN MARCUS: There is just nearly no accountability for the WorkCover agent or for an injured worker to get that money out of the WorkCover agent more importantly and the appeal mechanisms or the resolution mechanisms are just timely and cumbersome.

LIZ HOBDAY: Most of the agencies contacted by the ABC did not return calls, while GIO declined to comment.

CGU has repaid $2.5 million to WorkSafe, plus a fine of $2.8 million. A spokesman told the ABC the company had improved file management and injured workers had not been affected. ...

Patel Lodges High Court Appeal

A Brisbane lawyer has lodged a High Court appeal on behalf of jailed former Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel.

Patel was convicted of three counts of manslaughter relating to operations he performed on Gerry Kemps, 77, Mervyn Morris, 75, and James Phillips, 46.

He was also convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to Ian Vowles, 62, and sentenced to seven years in jail.

Patel's appeal to the Queensland Court of Appeal was dismissed.

Speaking outside the Federal Court building in Brisbane this afternoon, Patel's lawyer Kerry Smith-Douglas, said she was confident the High Court would grant special leave to hear the appeal.

"We're actually one week late and that's why we're putting in special leave so that we can get permission," she said.

"I've been told by Queen's Counsels and former judges that it shouldn't be a problem."

She said lawyers are interested in joining their legal team.

"Ken Fleming will be leading the charge. He's the head of the legal team," she said.

"There are other former judges that are interested in joining our group. There's a lot of lawyers, Queen's Counsels. It's a large group and it's growing by the minute."

Driver Who Hit Elderly Couple Jailed

A Gold Coast driver who struck an elderly couple two years ago has been jailed for 18 months.

Daniel Bryant Horton, 21, has pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving in the District Court at Southport.

The court heard witnesses estimated he was driving at 100 kilometres per hour in a 50kph zone shortly before hitting Victorian tourists Grazia and Giuseppe Tumino as they crossed a road in Elanora.

Mrs Tumino bore the brunt of the crash and suffered more than six broken bones.

The judge said Horton had an "appalling traffic history" and demonstrated arrogance and selfish disregard towards road rules.

He will be eligible for parole in November.

Thousands Attend French Protest Ahead Of G8 Summit

France 24 [24/5/11]:

Several thousand anti-globalisation demonstrators protested in the northern French city of Le Havre Saturday, ahead of the G8 summit starting next week just a few kilometres down the coast.

Leaders of the Group of Eight nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- will meet on Thursday and Friday in the nearby coastal resort of Deauville.

The city's commercial district was largely deserted and many shops were closed, as some 7,000 protesters, according to the organisers -- 4,000 according to local officials -- denounced the G8 leaders.

Through a megaphone, one speaker said people "were fed up with the eight puppets who close our plants and close our schools," referring to the G8 heads of government.

Leaders from the Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States have also put "the old in misery (and) the youth in a mess," he added.

"We think that the decisions that affect the entire world should be made by all the citizens of the earth and not by the most rich," said Davide Rossi, from Italy -- one of the few foreigners at Saturday's march.

Christian Pigeon, one of the demonstration's organisers, said police had visited various businesses on Friday, advising them to remain shut on Saturday. They had cited concerns about the violence triggered by radical German activists during a NATO summit in Strasbourg in 2009.

By Saturday morning, security forces were discreetly deployed around the city centre.

Pierre Ory, a local government official, said they had received no indication that the demonstration could turn violent, and in the event the march passed off without any major incidents.

March stewards intervened quickly when about a hundred masked youths threw paint and bricks and office buildings, breaking the windows of a few office buildings near the station, including that of a bank.

The organisers of the protest had made it clear they would not tolerate anything that might reflect badly on the demonstrators.

French security services are on heightened alert ahead of the G8 meeting, with the authorities concerned about radical fringe groups staging violent protests.

More than 12,000 police and military personel have been mobilized around Deauville. Marine surveillance units are also monitoring access routes to the coastal town.

On Saturday morning, checkpoints were in place on the roads leading to Havre, including at the Normandy bridge, which was closed to pedestrians and cyclists, according to AFP correspondent.

Buses chartered by anti-G8 groups from Paris and Caen were stopped and the identity of each passenger checked, said protest organisers, who complained that the checks had delayed the start of their march.

Murdoch Keeps Australia's Dirty Secret

John Pilger, 'Green Left Weekly' [25/5/11]:

... Political power in Australia often rests in the control of resource-rich land. Most of the uranium, iron ore, gold, oil and natural gas is in Western Australia and the Northern Territory — on Aboriginal land.

Indeed, Aboriginal “progress” is all but defined by the mining industry and its political guardians in both Labor and Coalition governments.

Their faithful, strident voice is the Murdoch press. The exceptional, reformist Labor government of Gough Whitlam in the 1970s set up a royal commission that made clear that social justice for Australia’s first people would only be achieved with universal land rights and a share in the national wealth with dignity.

In 1975, Whitlam was sacked by the governor-general in a “constitutional coup”. The Murdoch press had turned on Whitlam with such venom that rebellious journalists on The Australian burned their newspaper in the street.

In 1984, the Labor Party “solemnly pledged” to finish what Whitlam had begun and legislate Aboriginal land rights. This was opposed by the then Labor prime minister, Bob Hawke, a “mate” of Murdoch.

Hawke blamed the public for being “less compassionate”; but a secret 64-page report to the party revealed that most Australians supported land rights. This was leaked to The Australian, whose front page declared, “Few support Aboriginal land rights”, the opposite of the truth, thus feeding an atmosphere of self-fulfilling distrust, “backlash” and rejection of rights that would distinguish Australia from South Africa.

In 1988, an editorial in Murdoch’s London tabloid, The Sun, described “the Abos” as “treacherous and brutal”. This was condemned by the British Press Council as “unacceptably racist”.

The Australian publishes long articles that present Aboriginal people not unsympathetically but as perennial victims of each other, “an entire culture committing suicide”, or as noble primitives requiring firm direction: the eugenicist’s view.

It promotes Aboriginal “leaders” who, by blaming their own people for their poverty, tell the white elite what it wants to hear. The writer Michael Brull parodied this: “Oh White man, please save us. Take away our rights because we are so backward.”

This is also the government’s view. In railing against what it called the “black armband view” of Australia’s past, the conservative government of John Howard encouraged and absorbed the views of white supremacists — that there was no genocide, no Stolen Generation, no racism; indeed, whites are the victims of “liberal racism”.

A collection of far-right journalists, minor academics and hangers-on became the antipodean equivalent of David Irving Holocaust deniers. Their platform has been the Murdoch press. ...

UN Rights Chief Attacks 'Disturbing' Policies

The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, today launched a wide-ranging attack on Federal Government policies, criticising mandatory detention of asylum seekers and the Northern Territory intervention.

She told Prime Minister Julia Gillard that Australia's mandatory detention policy was in breach of international law and that Aborigines suffered "deep hurt and pain" because of policies imposed upon them.

Ms Pillay said Australia's "arbitrary" mandatory detention policy had "for many years cast a shadow over Australia's human rights record". And she said the practice had led to suicide.

"Thousands of men, women and - most disturbingly of all - children have been held in Australian detention centres for prolonged periods, even though they have committed no crime," Ms Pillay told a press conference in Canberra.

"When detention is mandatory and does not take into account individual circumstances, it can be considered arbitrary and therefore in breach of international law."

Conceding there had been "some improvements in recent years", Ms Pillay said she told Ms Gillard and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen that asylum seekers were being detained for too long.

"Mandatory detention is also a practice that can - and has - led to suicides, self-harming and deep trauma," she said.

Ms Pillay spoke of the "grim despondency" of asylum seekers she met in Darwin's detention centres as they waited "for months, or in some cases well over a year, to be released".

"These people, who arrive with such relief and hope after experiencing trauma in their home countries, should not be treated in this way," she said.

Ms Pillay said she told Ms Gillard and Mr Bowen "Australia's mandatory immigration detention regime is in breach of Australia's international human rights obligations".

She slammed the "constant political refrain" that Australia was being "flooded" by "queue jumpers".

"It has resulted in a stigmatisation of an entire group of people, irrespective of where they have come from or what dangers they may have fled.

"I urge the leaders of all Australia's political parties to take a principled and courageous stand to break this ingrained political habit of demonising asylum seekers."

She was also critical of the pending asylum seeker deal with Malaysia, saying there must be adequate safeguards to guard against torture.

"These include ensuring that there is no real risk of breach of the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention against Torture - which Australia has ratified but Malaysia has not," she said.

"In my experience, assurances of compliance with these standards are not sufficient and should be legally entrenched."

'Deep hurt'

Ms Pillay said the United Nations welcomed the apology to the Stolen Generations delivered by then-prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2008 and investment in Aboriginal education.

But she said when she spoke to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, she could "sense the deep hurt and pain that they have suffered because of government policies that are imposed on them".

She said "inappropriate and inflexible" policies were stifling efforts by Indigenous people to improve their communities with effective local solutions and urged a rethink of the intervention.

"There should be a major effort to ensure not just consultation with the communities concerned in any future measures, but also their consent and active participation," she said. ...

Good Riddance

After seven years, thousands of questions, and more than 150 special guests, ABC1's music quiz show Spicks and Specks is coming to an end. ...

'Gold Coast Mail' [24/5/11]:

Aussie actress Toni Collette is out of a job after her comedy series United States of Tara was cancelled due to poor ratings.

US network Showtime has pulled the plug on the series, about a mum (Collette) who struggles with dissociative identity disorder, after three seasons.

The series finale will air in the US on June 20, E! online reports. ...

Northern Germany Hit By Bacterial Infections, Bild Reports

Bloomberg [23/5/11]:

Bacterial infections have caused at least 70 people to become ill in northern Germany, Bild Zeitung reported, citing health ministries in Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Bremen and Schleswig-Holstein.

The infections are caused by E. coli, bacteria usually found in the lower intestine, which can lead to hemolytic-uremic syndrome or HUS. HUS can damage the brain and kidneys, and is fatal in 5 to 10 percent of cases, the newspaper said.

Vale Comrade Harry Black

The Guardian [25/5/11]:

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia honours and mourns Comrade Harry Black, who died recently at the age of 92. Harry was a leading Australian communist and is described by the Maritime Union of Australia as "Sydney's most loved wharfie".

One of 11 children born at Rylstone in country New South Wales, Harry left school at 14. He worked in a grocery store but then, aged 19, he moved to Sydney and joined the army. He fought against fascism in the Middle East, Palestine and Syria, was injured and repatriated to Australia.

After recovering, he returned to the battle-front in Borneo and New Guinea and was again wounded and repatriated to Australia.

After the war he did a variety of jobs but then in 1951 he became a wharfie and joined the Waterside Workers Federation. In 1954 he joined the Communist Party of Australia.

Harry was an exemplary communist active, committed, disciplined, and principled. And he was intensely proud that there had been a Communist Party branch on the waterfront continuously since the 1930s.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s he took a principled stand against the decay of the old Communist Party and its eventual liquidation. He and the CPA Maritime Branch were important in the formation of the Socialist Party of Australia (SPA) which eventually became the new Communist Party of Australia.

Harry was active in his CPA Branch and its struggles. He faced whatever the ruling class threw at him - suspension, arrest, police violence without flinching or losing his sense of humour.

He held many leading positions over a long period of time, including as a member of the SPA Central Committee and as Sydney District Secretary.

He was a great orator and was a well known and admired regular speaker in the Domain during the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

He stood for the Party in elections at all levels including, for example, as a CPA candidate for Phillip in the 1962 municipal election and as a Socialist Party of Australia candidate in the 1980 federal election.

From 1951, Harry worked on the Sydney waterfront, mainly in Sussex Street and along the Hungry Mile. He served in the union as a rank and file wharfie, a delegate, a vigilance officer, vice-president, senior vice-president Sydney branch and as a rank and file representative on the Federal Council of the Waterside Worker's Federation (WWF), then as a union elder leading the MUA National Veterans Association as Secretary from 2002 - 2009.

Harry played a leading role in both the 1954 and 1956 national waterfront strikes. He was immensely proud of this period of his life and of the union's success in those strikes. He was involved in the 1967 battles which won permanency for wharfies.

Harry retired in 1981 but he did not give up the fight. He joined the retired members association and served as its secretary for many years from 1983 onwards. In 1998, Harry was active in the fight when Patricks locked 3,000 workers out the gates. He spent most of his days and many nights at No 5 Darling Harbour, with other community protestors, facing down trucks trying to break the picket and enter the gates.

Like many war veterans, Harry became a peace activist. He was the delegate when wharfies voted to ban loading bombs onto the Jeparit during the Vietnam War. He was suspended for a month for his stance and activities in solidarity with Vietnam.

Harry described himself as an internationalist. He took pride in being part of the union's rolling bans against South African shipping during the apartheid years. He participated in solidarity with the Liverpool dockers, to save the lives of the Rosenberg's, and to win back a passport for Paul Robeson. He was arrested and fined for protests during the Petrov conspiracy.

Harry's stand against nuclear weapons, his support for the Palestinian people, Chile, South Africa, Latin America, Aboriginal land rights were some of the many issues he took up as a communist and a unionist. He remained a committed activist for peace, justice and human rights to the end of his long life.

Harry was a leading member of the WWF cultural unit set up by Tom Nelson and the Sydney branch in 1954. At that time, it housed the New Theatre and ran the film unit.

Harry recalled the political climate of the era - the Cold War, the attempts by PM Bob Menzies to outlaw the Communist Party; the ASIO raids on the union rooms in both Sydney and Melbourne and the 1954 national strike.

But he also remembered it as a time of flourishing activism and culture, a time when Paul Robeson performed in the union hall and when the first film Pensions for Veterans was screened in Leichhardt Stadium at a stopwork meeting of 6,000 wharfies.

"These were the golden years of the maritime industry,"he said. "Movies were screened to members at midday; we had book and art exhibitions, piano recitals, ballet, opera and a performance of the Sydney Civic Orchestra; the songs, music and drama of New Theatre and the magnificent mural. All of these rich and exciting events formed a vital part in the development of a high social, industrial and political consciousness in maritime workers."

Speaking last year at the 90th anniversary of the Communist movement in Australia, Harry proudly declared: "I've been a communist for 58 years and I hope to remain one for a few more years.

"And I've enjoyed every minute of being a Communist!"

The Communist Party of Australia sends its deepest sympathy and condolences to Harry's family, his CPA comrades, his union brothers and sisters and his many friends.

A Link Between Climate Change And Joplin Tornadoes? Never!

Bill McKibben, 'Washington Post' [23/5/11]:

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?

Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.

Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign 350.org and a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Manifesto Of Popular Assembly In Rossio Square, Lisbon

Roar Mag [23/1/11]:

First Manifesto of the Rossio Square camp

The protesters, assembled in the Rossio Square, conscious that what is set in march is an act of resistance, hereby agree to state the following:

We, citizens, women and men, workers, migrants, students, unemployed and retired people, united by our indignation in front of a situation that we refuse to accept as inevitable, have taken our streets. We thus join those that around the world today fight for their rights against the constant oppression of the ruling economical-financial system.

From Reykjavik to Cairo, from Wisconsin to Madrid, a popular wave sweeps the world. This wave is silenced and twisted with disinformation by the media, the same media that doesn’t question the permanent injustices in every country, only proclaiming the inevitability of austerity, the end of rights, the funeral of democracy.

Real democracy will never exist as long as the world is managed by a financial dictatorship. The ransom signed behind our backs with the IMF and the EU has abducted democracy and our lives. The countries in which the IMF intervenes see a brutal drop in the average live expectancy. The IMF kills! We can only reject it. We refuse to have our wages, our pensions and social supports cut, while simultaneously the culprits for this crisis are spared and recapitalized. Why do we have to choose between unemployment and precarious labour? Why do they want to take away our public services, stealing us, through privatizations, of what we payed for all our lives? Our answer is no. We defend the withdrawal of the troika (IMF, EU, BC) plan. Following the example of many countries around the world, such as Iceland, we will not accept to bury our future for a debt that isn’t ours.

We refuse to accept the theft of our future. We intend to assume control of our lives and intervene effectively in each and every process of political, social and economical life. We are doing it, today, in the popular assemblies gathered all around. We appeal to all the people to join, in the streets, in the squares, in each corner, under the shade of every statue so that, united, we may change once and for all the rules of this crooked game.

This is just the beginning. The streets are ours.

UN Questions Legality Of Malaysia Refugee Swap

The United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights has questioned Australia's asylum seeker deal with Malaysia, saying the plan could violate international law.

Earlier this month the Government agreed on an in-principle refugee swap with Malaysia that would see Australia resettle 4,000 Malaysian-based refugees in return for Malaysia accepting 800 asylum seekers.

UN high commissioner Navi Pillay used her speech at a forum in Sydney last night to remind the Australian Government about its human rights obligations to asylum seekers.

She told the forum of her concerns about the deal with Malaysia, a country that has not ratified conventions on torture or refugees.

Ms Pillay appealed for Australians to be more humane to asylum seekers, who she said were still entitled to human rights.

She says the deal may violate international law.

"If Australia is serious about this policy of sending 800 people out to Malaysia, then I think it violates refugee law," she said.

"They cannot send individuals to a country that has not ratified the torture convention, the convention on refugees.

"So there are no protections for individuals in Malaysia. And if Australia, of all people, that upholds [international standards], should not collaborate with these kinds of schemes."

Ms Pillay also spoke of her distress over Australia's mandatory detention policy, something she said was not effective and cost Australia too much money.

She says the Malaysia deal will be expensive and Australia would be better off concentrating on speeding up the time it takes to process asylum seekers.

Ms Pillay says there is no date on when people can expect to enter Australia having gone through a process.

"The process should be legal and it should be expedited," she said.

"Resources should be spent on speeding up the process rather than investing these huge amounts of money on detention centres and shipping people out to Malaysia and having them join a queue and offering them the possibility of 'I don't know when it will happen'."

Refugee advocates have welcomed Ms Pillay's comments.

Obligation

Human Rights Law Centre executive director Phil Lynch says the Government should abandon the deal with Malaysia.

"I would say that Australia's obligation is to provide protection to those people who lawfully seek asylum under the Refugees Convention," he said.

"That is Australia's international obligation, it is our moral obligation, it is our human obligation."

Ms Pillay is likely to raise her concerns when she meets Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Canberra today.

The Government says it is certain its plan to process refugees in Malaysia is lawful, but nonetheless is expecting legal challenges.

It was left to Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe to explain the strategy during Senate estimates last night.

"The Australian Government is quite confident, very confident of the lawfulness of this policy and this approach," he told the hearing.

"We've seen that this is a contested area of public policy, not only at the political level but... between the Government and various advocacy groups."

This Recent Bashing Up On Refugees Is A Curiously International Phenomenon

Next time someone tries to tell you Australia's cruel refugee policies are being driven by the "rednecks in marginal electorates" or that Tony Abbott is pushing policy to the right, keep the following in mind (from a UNHCR summary of asylum and refugee-related stories in Baltic and Nordic media,19-20 May 2011):

Leave Denmark and get money

As part of the ongoing 2020 Economic Plan negotiations, the Danish People´s Party has proposed to reinforce Denmark´s repatriation policy. It is aimed at immigrants from non-Western countries who have failed to integrate into Danish society. Peter Skaarup, Integration Spokesperson for the Danish People's Party, explains that the arrangement has been a success and that the number of immigrants who have participated in the Danish Repatriation Scheme has tripled. – But we want to go further and we will provide an incentive for municipalities so as they use this system more. The Party has suggested to financially reward municipalities with an amount of 25, 000 Danish crowns every time they get one of their foreign residents to repatriate. Politiken 19 May 2011 http://politiken.dk/politik/ECE1286887/skaarup-flere-kommuner-skal-benytte-sig-af-hjemsendelser/

And yet:

Denmark Søren Pind in favour of positive discrimination

Despite several warnings from legal experts, Søren Pind, Minister for Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs, wants to explore the possibility for positive discrimination with regards to family reunification. The proposal would entail that citizens from the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan will be exempted from taking the Danish language test. - It is a huge problem that our immigration policies are so equality-driven that it harms people who can and want to come to Denmark. The rules are full of legalisms, says Søren Pind.The Minister draws on experience from Germany and Holland where similar measures have been implemented. TV2 Nyhederne 17 May 2011 http://nyhederne.tv2.dk/article.php/id-39915049:s%C3%B8ren-pind-advaret-mod-sortering.html?rssPolitiken 17 May 2011

Bamse cartoon made for asylum-seeking children upset

A Bamse caroon magazine written in cooperation with the Swedish Migration Board for asylum-seeking minors has met criticism. The cartoon is explaining the asylum process in Sweden. In the magazine, the rejection and return to the country of origin is pictured as something positive. In debates and on social forums persons have expressed their criticism. Director General at the Swedish Migration Board Dan Eliasson meets the criticism saying there are often positive elements included in the return to the country of origin. Eliasson does not see any reason to scare children with a possible return to their home country. Ola Andreasson, owner at Bamse Forlaget AB, says he does not understand the criticism being raised. SvD 18 May 2011:1 http://www.svd.se/kultur/bamse-berattar-om-asyl_6175903.svdSvD

MSF criticizes EU

In an open letter addressed to among others Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish section of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) accuses the European Union (EU) member states for having double standards concerning their involvement in Libya. While it is claimed that their presence in Libya is to protect the civilian population, the EU also aims at closing its borders on the pretext of preventing a massive influx of illegal immigrants. –The European countries, including Sweden, which are involved in the war against Libya, are avoiding both the legal and moral obligations by neglecting the victims of the conflict, says Kristina Bolme Kuehn, President of MSF in Sweden. MSF urges the EU member states to respect the principle of non-refoulement and argue that refugees who are fleeing ongoing conflicts in Libya should have the possibility to seek asylum. The open letter has also been sent to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). My News Desk 19 May 2011 http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/pressroom/lakare_utan_granser/pressrelease/view/europa-maaste-ta-emotflyktingar-fraan-libyen-635894

Number of asylum-seekers dropped significantly

From January to April this year some 913 persons sought asylum, compared to 1,505 in 2010 - a 40 per cent decrease. The most significant drop is seen among persons from Iraq, Somalia and Russia. Esko Repo, Director of the Asylum Unit at the Finnish Immigration Service, says the number of asylum-seekers has dropped in Finland and many other European countries. Meanwhile, the number of asylum-seekers has increased in Sweden. According to Sirkku Päivärinne, Director of Immigration at the Ministry of the Interior, Sweden attracts more asylum-seekers than Finland because there already is a large foreign population there. Another factor could be that Finland has reduced the allowance for asylum-seekers, Päivärinne says. Aamulehti 15 May 2011 http://www.aamulehti.fi/cs/Satellite/Kotimaa/1194679321489/artikkeli/turvapaikanhakijoiden+maara+vaheni+suomessa+huimasti+alkuvuonna+-+ruotsin+suosio+kasvaa.html

Norwegian ambassador summoned to meeting with Sri Lankan authorities

The news that 12 Tamil refugees have been assisted in seeking asylum in Norway has caused media attention in Sri Lanka. The authorities in Sri Lanka have reacted strongly and the President has now asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to investigate this matter further. The Norway’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Hilda Haraldstad, was summoned to a meeting with the MFA. Haraldstad explained that Norway has a humanitarian asylum policy and processes all political asylum-applications according to the UN Refugee Convention. According to a recently published UN report some 40,000 civilians were killed during the last five months of the civil war in Sri Lanka. Several persons are still living in hiding due to their position during the war. Some of them have been able to escape with assistance from Norway. Aftenposten 17 May 2011 (in Norwegian) http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/uriks/article4123259.ece Dagsavisen 17 May 2011 (in Norwegian) http://www.dagsavisen.no/utenriks/article516020.ece

Sweden Hunger strike goes on

More people will join the 13 paperless Iranian asylum-seekers that are hunger striking on Gustav Adolf’s Square in Stockholm. All of them have resided in Sweden between six to twelve years, for fear of persecution upon return. Nevertheless, none have been granted a residence permit. So far, approximately 70 Iranians, both activists and political refugees, have participated in demonstrations, to show their support and to highlight the situation. Sveriges Radio 18 May 2011 (in Swedish) http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=104&artikel=4510179

EU Commission criticizes Denmark's decision to impose border controls

The European Commission has criticized the Danish authorities’ decision to impose border controls and argues that it breaches the Schengen rules. Accordingly, José Manuel Barosso, President of the European Commission, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Lars Løkke, stating that in principle European Union (EU) member states, should not systematically control its borders to other EU countries. Both Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner of Home Affairs, and José Manuel Barroso have urged Denmark not to adopt this type of unilateral action. They have, furthermore, stressed that the European Commission is prepared to use all the tools available to ensure that EU laws are followed. NB. This story was covered in Sweden. Sveriges Radio 13 May 2011 (in Swedish) http://sverigesradio.se/sida/gruppsida.aspx?programid=83&grupp=10974&artikel=4504305KT 13 May 2011 (in Swedish) http://www.kyrkanstidning.se/nyheterljusglimtar_i_amnestys_arliga_rapport_0_17302.news.aspx

Amnesty International criticizes Denmark

Amnesty International has accused the Danish authorities for undermining the international guidelines for human rights. The criticism concerned for example forcibly returning at least 62 rejected Iraqi asylum-seekers to Baghdad in 2010 despite the risk of persecution. This decision was against UNHCR’s recommendations. Furthermore, Amnesty International agrees with the Committee for Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination’s (CERD) criticism of Denmark for not providing adequate protection for Romani people. In addition, Amnesty criticizes the new points based immigration system, which has consequently led to the exclusion of vulnerable persons. Finally, Denmark has received criticism for having misused the Dublin II regulation, by returning rejected asylum-seekers to Greece, regardless of the country’s remarkably deficient asylum procedures.Politiken 13 May 2011 (in Danish) http://www.i.pol.dk/indland/article1280819.ece

Sweden Amnesty International criticizes Sweden

The Swedish authorities have received criticism from the human rights organization Amnesty International, for not taking into account UNHCR's recommendations, by forcibly returning rejected Eritrean and Iraqi asylum-seekers. Furthermore, Sweden is criticized for its poor treatment of Roma asylum-seekers from Serbia and Kosovo. - By classifying all cases as “manifestly unfounded" Sweden does not live up to the international standards for the protection of refugees, says Madelaine Seidlitz, Lawyer at Amnesty International. Oskar Ekblad, Head of Unit at the Swedish Migration Board, does not share Madelaine Seidlitz’s judgment and argues that the Swedish Migration Board always makes an individual assessment of all cases. He does, nevertheless, agree that asylum application cases with regard to Roma from Kosovo should not be deemed as “manifestly unfounded”. Sveriges Radion 13 May 2011 (in Swedish) http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=3993&artikel=4504022 KT 13 May 2011 (in Swedish) http://www.kyrkanstidning.se/nyheterljusglimtar_i_amnestys_arliga_rapport_0_17302.news.aspx UNICEF requires legal changes Danish) http://www.i.pol.dk/udland/article1278428.ece

UNHCR appeals for help

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) calls on all European countries to help the refugees who are fleeing ongoing conflicts in Libya in small unseaworthy and overcrowded boats. It has in fact become nearly as dangerous to escape the violence in Libya as it is to stay behind and engage in the armed conflict. Most of the people who are trying to leave Libya are migrant workers with origins in the Sub-Saharan countries, says UNHCR. There are no exact figures as to how many lives have been lost while attempting to flee from Libya, but it is most probably thousands. Melissa Fleming, Head of the Media Relation and Information Service Unit at UNHCR in Geneva, urges European countries to take immediate action and carry out effective rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea. According to the UN Refugee Agency, sea-related deaths can be reduced if more lifeboats are made available. - Those at sea who do not rescue people in distress cannot go unpunished, says Laura Boldrini, Senior Regional Public Information Officer at UNHCR’s office in Rome. Folketidende 10 May 2011

Norway Gaddafi’s nurse fled to Norway

The Ukrainian Galyna Kolotnytska, who has worked as Muammar al-Gaddafi’s nurse for 8 years, has sought asylum is in Norway. The Ukraine nurse got world famous because of leaks from Wikileaks documents, where she was referred to as Gaddafi’s “luxuriant blonde”. The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) has confirmed that she is in Norway, but neither the PST, the Ministry of Justice and the Police nor the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) want to give any further information about her case. A representative for UNHCR in Ukraine has told the news bureau Interfax that Kolotnytska might have a right for asylum in Norway if she can demonstrate the connection to Gaddafi and that she cannot receive protection from the Ukraine authorities. According to Norwegian authorities persons originating from Ukraine are normally not granted asylum, but the situation for Kolotnytska might differ. Kolotnytska fled to Kiev in February and came to Norway in beginning of this week. Dagbladet 5 May 2011 (in Norwegian) http://www.dagbladet.no/2011/05/05/nyheter/innenriks/libya/16421069/ NRK 5 May 2011

The Swedish Migration Board criticized for jeopardizing children’s safety

The Swedish Migration Board’s decision to deport two parents and their Sweden-born children to separate countries has been strongly criticized by, amongst other, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, as well as Child and Youth Psychiatry (BUP). The mother who suffers from severe mental illness is to be sent with her sons to Uzbekistan, whereas the father is to be deported to Azerbaijan. It is documented that the mother cannot take care of the kids, says the children’s psychiatrist Ann-Mari Appelberg. Christine Bertline, psychologist at BUP, argues accordingly that Sweden has not lived up to the principles of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, Maria Hammarberg, judge at the Migration Court of Appeal, claims that all aspects of the case have been looked into and that the decision cannot be overruled. Tobias Billström, Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, has not been available for comments. Sveriges Radio 2 May 2011:1 (in Swedish)

Rolling Convoy A Response To Dodgy Contracts

MYGC [24/5/11]:

Queensland's Industrial Relations Minister has slammed Gold Coast university hospital construction workers after they walked off the job last week and then staged a rolling convoy on the M1 this morning.

They've driven slowly from the Gold Coast to Brisbane, claiming they're the victims of sham contracting.

They've reportedly reached the capital and are staging rallies on Roma Street in Brisbane's CBD. They've been joined by workers from other state government building sites.

The action has caused major delays with the construction of the $1.7 billion dollar uni hospital project.

Around an hour after the group of protestors set out Minister Cameron Dick announced an immediate review of contracting arrangements in the construction industry.

But he's denied the announcement had anything to do with the rally, saying just that "employers who use dodgy contracts to avoid paying their workers' compensation premiums have no place in Queensland".

New Zealanders To Join Second Aid Flotilla To Gaza

Scoop News [24/5/11]:

Press Release: Harmeet Sooden

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – Towards the end of June 2011, a humanitarian flotilla will set sail to break the illegal and inhumane siege of Gaza. New Zealand has joined with initiatives from 14 national groups and international coalitions who have united to form the Freedom Flotilla II (FF2). FF2 will consist of at least 10 vessels carrying humanitarian aid and approximately 1,000 passengers, including journalists, politicians, humanitarian aid workers, dignitaries, doctors, professors, artists and human rights activists.

The international community, which includes the New Zealand Government, is failing in its obligations to condemn Israel’s violations of international law and work towards a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. FF2 aims to raise public awareness about Israel’s military occupation of Palestine by challenging Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza directly.

New Zealander Harmeet Sooden will be participating in the FF2 aboard the 25-metre Canadian boat *Tahrir*. The name ‘Tahrir’, meaning ‘Liberation’ in Arabic, was chosen to honour those who gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo seeking democratic change and spreading hope across the Middle East. The Tahrir will also host delegations from Australia, Belgium and Denmark.

Mr Sooden has undertaken other human rights assignments with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq. In 2005, he was kidnapped together with three colleagues while participating in an international CPT delegation in Iraq and held for four months. One member of the group, Tom Fox, was murdered. He returned to Iraq with CPT in 2009. In 2008, Mr Sooden attempted to travel to the OPT via Israel to work with ISM, but was denied entry, detained, assaulted and removed by Israeli authorities on the pretext of being a ‘threat to the security of the State of Israel’.

Vivienne Porzsolt, born in New Zealand in 1941 to a secular Jewish family that fled Czechoslovakia during World War II, is part of the Australian delegation on the *Tahrir*. She is a member of Jews Against the Occupation – Sydney and has been active in several social justice causes, including the anti-apartheid movement.

In May 2010, an attack on the original Freedom Flotilla by the Israeli Navy resulted in the deaths of nine passengers on the *Mavi Marmara* and the wounding of over 50. The Israeli Government continues to threaten the use of force against the FF2. “Israeli naval forces fired shots towards a Malaysian aid ship just last week,” says Mr Sooden, “so it’s imperative that New Zealanders join with us in demanding that the New Zealand Government take concrete steps to guarantee the safety of all participants in this non-violent, legal action to challenge the US-supported Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.” Ms Porzsolt adds, “We hope to shame all those governments who are complicit with this injustice and lawlessness. Ordinary people must act when their governments won’t.”

The Tahrir campaign in New Zealand is supported by the Palestine Human Rights Campaign and Global Peace and Justice Auckland.

Labor Entered 'Crisis Mode' Before Leaks

'Sydney Morning Herald' [23/5/11]:

The department of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has revealed that WikiLeaks and its Australian founder, Julian Assange, were the subject of Australian intelligence reporting last year as the government anticipated the whistleblower website would spill "highly sensitive and politically embarrassing" Australian secrets.

Officials also feared that WikiLeaks could publish information from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

However declassified official briefings do not support Ms Gillard's public assertion that Mr Assange broke Australian law by publishing leaked US government secrets.

Confirmation of Australian intelligence reporting on WikiLeaks comes as the government moves to broaden ASIO's ability to spy on Australians involved with activities outside Australia.

Last December the Herald published a series of stories based on leaked US embassy cables provided by WikiLeaks that revealed highly critical US assessments of former prime minister Kevin Rudd, Senator Mark Arbib's confidential contacts with the US embassy, secret Australian government concerns about the war in Afghanistan and other issues.

The Herald has secured the release under freedom of information legislation of more than 260 pages of secret AUSTEO (Australian Eyes Only) prime ministerial briefs, situation reports and other papers.

The papers show the government went into crisis mode after the US government alerted Australian officials on November 24 about WikiLeaks's prospective publication of US cables.

The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, subsequently contacted Mr Rudd on November 25 to express her deep regret that the material had been leaked.

The first meeting of a top level interdepartmental committee on WikiLeaks chaired by the deputy National Security Adviser, Margot McCarthy, took place on the morning of November 25. Senior officials immediately noted the potential for disclosure of "highly sensitive and politically embarrassing matters".

Later that day Ms Gillard was told that efforts were being made to "gain firsthand access to the cables to conduct our own analysis". However the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dennis Richardson, told a Senate estimates committee in February that it took "a frustrating amount of time" before US officials provided a detailed briefing and that Australia was ''spectacularly unsuccessful'' in obtaining copies of the cables from the State Department.

Ms Gillard was briefed by her department at least eight times before the first exclusive publication of Australia-related cables by the Herald on December 8.

Nuclear Renaissance Meets Age of Discovery

Geoffrey Sea's Nuclear Bulletin #23 [23/5/11]:

Personification of the Atom would not be quite the correct term. Since Walt Disney’s Our Friend the Atom (which I once produced in response to an idiotic witness subpoena requesting all of my “documents pertaining to atomic energy”) we have deified the Atom, bestowing it with the attributes not only of a living being, but of an immortal one, a god. (In the Disney version, the Atom is a magic genie granting wishes, minus the evil curse of authentic genie legends.)

Thus, the stubborn talk about “reviving” atomic energy, as if it is an organism starved for oxygen. This is entirely a linguistic artifact of our Indo-European mental prison. If Native American languages had predominated, with their gender distinction between animate and inanimate subjects, much of the catastrophe might have been avoided.

Speaking as we do, let’s review the atomic industry’s long-sought revival:

Germany is in process of shuttering seven reactors immediately, with the other ten to follow within a decade. Italy and Switzerland, the latter among the five most nuclear-dependent countries, have canceled all future nuclear reactor plans. Japan, with the third largest nuclear fleet, has also canceled all future reactors, in addition to permanent shutdown of the six reactors at Fukushima. Prime minister Naoto Kan sounds eerily like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Kan seeks immediate shutdown of the two reactors at Hamaoka, in an earthquake-prone region near Tokyo. Cuomo seeks immediate shutdown of the two reactors at Indian Point, on an earthquake fault north of New York City.

China, while not going so far as to cancel all future projects, has diverted its energy investments from nuclear to solar and wind. India appears to be following China so as to avoid competitive disadvantage.

These actions, taken together, define a new technological race toward supremacy in solar and wind technology, led by a discrete pack of countries that includes Germany, Japan, India, China, Italy, Denmark, and Israel. Germany’s Merkel has become spokeswoman for the group, sounding increasingly like Bonnie Raitt: “We want to end the use of nuclear energy and reach the age of renewable energy as fast as possible.”

A 28-page report by a Merkel-appointed commission makes the industrial policy decision even more clear: “A withdrawal from nuclear power will spur growth, offer enormous technical, economic and social opportunities to position Germany even further as an exporter of sustainable products and services…Germany could show that a withdrawal from nuclear energy is the chance to create a high-powered economy.” Germany’s Unlikely Champion Of a Radical Green Energy Path by Christian Schwägerl: Yale Environment 360

For every winner, there’s a loser. The French, with caffeinated edginess, are caught in a Cul-de-Sac Atomique, or CSA, to coin a term. The Russians are saying to hell with all of it, as they remain contentedly awash in oil and natural gas. Russian satellites like Kazakhstan, which has quietly surpassed Canada and Australia to become the world’s largest supplier of uranium, by far, are also banking on the technics of a bygone age.

That leaves, of course, the United States, energy consumer below par excellence. All rational thought in the USA has been suspended by consensus, since this is the year before the year of a presidential election. American industrial policy will be established on the stump in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Sandusky, Ohio, as contingencies require, and as determined by the local phone-banking union operatives and assorted party hacks.

Nuclear loan guarantees will come up for a vote in the non-Olympus-like House Appropriations Committee in June, and the irony is that labor-led Democrats are pushing hardest for the industry bailouts, while budget-minded Tea Partiers are trying to get the corporate welfare canned. We may yet see bumper-stickers in New Hampshire that read “No Nukes! Vote Republican!” Though to be fair, the constellations in states like Vermont and New York are precisely the reverse.

Americans have just not had a knack for industrial policy, unless the playing field has first been leveled by aerial bombardment. Redevelopment from anything but ground level confuses us.

Geoffrey Sea holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Science from Harvard. He did graduate work in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT and in radiological health physics at San Jose State University. He is co-founder of Southern Ohio Neighbors Group, which successfully defeated plans for the centralized storage of spent nuclear fuel at Piketon, Ohio. He has published in the American Scholar, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and many newspapers. He can be contacted via email at SargentsPigeon@aol.com

Media, Industry And Cops Baffled As Qld Police Return Hack’s iPad

'The Register' [22/5/11]:

A leading Australian computer law and privacy researcher says Queensland Police’s “daft” decision to confiscate a journalist’s iPad last week could be a blessing in disguise.

Visiting Professor at the University of NSW's Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre Roger Clarke said: “On the surface of it, the plods who did the arresting may have done the rest of us a favour, by bringing focus to bear on a daft law, or a daft interpretation of a law.”

The iPad at the centre of the controversy was returned by Queensland Police at the end of last week.

Police had decided to seize the iPad, belonging to tech hack Ben Grubb, because he had used it to prepare coverage of a security presentation at the BSidesAU conference. The presentation by Christian Heinrich showed how content distribution networks can expose privacy-protected Facebook content. However, Heinrich decided to use the demo to target another researcher, Chris Gatford, with whom he has a long-running feud.

At the time, Queensland Police justified the confiscation by stating they believed it contained evidence of an alleged offence. However, Heinrich – who committed the alleged offence – has yet to be questioned.

The chairman of Electronic Frontiers Australia Colin Jacobs said that the group would be watching closely how the investigation unfolds to see if a crime was really committed.

“This case certainly shows there are shades of gray when it comes to ‘hacking’. A security professional demonstrating a privacy flaw in Facebook is not a hardened cyber-criminal. At what point does the effort required to exploit a bug cross the line into "hacking"? Are the police really able to make a determination of that so quickly?” Jacobs questioned. He added that Heinrich’s presentation, exposing such security holes, and Grubb’s reporting of it should be viewed as a warning to the public and a public service.

“Surely there's room for some nuance in this area as far as law enforcement goes. Sending police to a security conference, especially to arrest a journalist covering the event, seems to me a questionable allocation of resources,” Jacobs says.

Security specialist Stephen Gillies, who was a delegate at the conference, said that incident illustrates the need for security researchers to follow protocol when exposing vulnerabilities.

“There are specific and well understood ways to alert an organisation that security issues exist within their environment. Most large web based organisations have teams of engineers who respond to security threats and advisories,” he said.

He adds however that "the security industry has known for a long time that security by obscurity isn't security at all. Applications which allow an end user to guess information such as a URL string to access otherwise privileged information is, at best, ignorant of standard security practice.”

It is unclear whether Facebook was told of the security flaw prior to the presentation.

The Queensland Police action against Grubb was tinged with further irony as the detective in charge of the investigation is Detective Superintendent Brian Hay, was also presenting at the conference in what’s described as a bid to reach out to the security community and build stronger relationships with security professionals.

“It was disappointing that the Queensland police would then act in such a heavy handed and intimidating way towards someone reporting on information which had already been shared with a large number of people," Gillies said.

Journalist Unveils FIFA's 'Dirty Secrets'

$45 million is a lot of public money:

... ALI MOORE: Well, indeed it raises the question what does happen next and what needs to happen, because as you just indicated the FIFA presidential election is being held on 1st June.

Sepp Blatter is up against the Qatari Mohamed bin Hamam. Is it likely that Blatter will get back in, and if so, it seems fairly clear you have no faith that he will be able to do the job of investigation and restoration?

ANDREW JENNINGS [Freelance Investigative Journalist]: He has no interest in doing it. He has no interest in doing it at all. Why should he? These are people who keep him in power.

Sadly Mohammed bin Hamam, who I know quite well and I can chat to, is quite clear when I talk to him, and I talk to him in tonight's film, he doesn't accept there's any corruption at FIFA. I mean, we have the documents. He doesn't accept it, so there's going to be no change.

So what it is to be done? Well, we have started to move very slowly, very late, very late in the day, but at least in the British Parliament things are now happening and we have - we are now as a public putting pressure on the dimwits at the English Football Association.

They've now agreed that they're going to abstain in this election. And what the next thing they should do is call for: Sports minister shall speak unto sports minister.

They're furious in America. You guys are furious. You got totally ripped off and deluded in Australia. The Dutch are also angry. You start having an interdepartmental, intergovernmental congress and FIFA will collapse, because the sponsors will say "ah-ah", as they said to the international Olympic committee and clean-up time will come.

So what you have to do is Mr Arbib, your Sports Minister, should be on the phone tomorrow to the British sports minister, Robertson. I don't know who does the job in Washington, but there'll be somebody, or somebody in the Senate.

You start ringing around and say, "We've had enough of these bums." And that way, the sponsors would instantly withdraw support. They've already started talking about it. Sony Europe spokesman said last year just before our last round of disclosures, he said to a conference, "Let's make clear: we're not sponsors of FIFA, we're sponsors of the football World Cup." So the crack is going in.

Will you help us in Australia, please, get rid of these bums. And by the way, why aren't the coppers round, why aren't your fraud squad round FFA headquarters looking at the money that went to Hargitay and the dubious people he bought in to Australia that took your money?

ALI MOORE: Well let me ask you that - though there's two, Peter Hargitay and Fedor Radmann, who Australia hired to help with their bid. It seems unclear how much they were paid, but it looks like it could be in the millions. Tell us about them.

ANDREW JENNINGS: It is, it's more. Look, England only got one thing wrong - one thing right, I'm sorry. Because I do label both countries' sports officials in this sense as being stupid.

England - Lord David Triesman arrived at the English FA to find the buffoons there had fallen for Hargitay's glib talk. "You know I know president Blatter. I'm very close." Oh, yes, Peter, will you work for us? Triesman walked in the door and said, "What's that bum doing here?," and threw him out. He fired him.

The buffoons from Australia listened to this and Les Murray joined in, it's the 1956 Hungarian nexus, I'm afraid, which is, "Oh, well, Peter Hargitay's a wonderful person, very well-connected and we're lucky to get him."

Lucky? How much did it cost? You're looking at millions of dollars. Because don't just look at the fees that went to him and Fedor Radmann. Don't just look at their first-class travel around the world, the way most Australians will never travel. Look also at the dirty - I mean there's something very dirty at the heart of your bid and you ought to know about it.

ALI MOORE: But if you have hard evidence that those two are involved ...

ANDREW JENNINGS: Yeah, of course we've got hard evidence! Ali, we've got massive hard evidence! You guys don't listen. Sports officials don't listen.

Why do you think we've done four major programs for BBC Television, our blue-ribbon current affairs show, and still I hear sports reporters going, "Well I think president Blatter wants to reform." And you just think what are they smoking? What are they smoking?

ALI MOORE: It does seem extraordinary looking at the evidence that is on your website and that you have regarding Hargitay and Radmann; how do you explain that someone like Frank Lowy, who heads the Football Federation of Australia, also runs a multibillion dollar business, is clearly no fool, what happened? Not appropriate due diligence?

ANDREW JENNINGS: Look, I can only guess with Frank Lowy. I think he's been very busy with Westfield's problems in America fighting off the recession. That's a lot of work for him and his family, massive amount of work.

He hasn't had the time that maybe he should've had to look at the A League and its problems, and he had a chief executive, Ben Buckley, who's not fit to clean our shoes, who's just a buffoon.

And at the heart of it you have to know the terrible thing that happened. Hargitay turned up glibly selling his dubious wares, right? Ben Buckley fell for it, backed up by Les Murray talking gibberish at SBS. Why Lowy fell for it I don't know. I can only think he was too busy, OK?

What happened? One of the employees in your Federation office, a woman, spotted what Hargitay was. She'd read the international press, she read what was happening in Germany, what I'd written about him unchallenged in Britain.

Hargitay said to Buckley, "Fire that woman. Fire that person. Get her out." And big, brave, ballsy Ben Buckley said, "Yes, Peter." You know, imagine: six foot four, Rules player, tough as they come, should've booted Hargitay into the harbour, fired this five foot five inch-high smart, good, decent Australian employee who's never worked since.

You got conned out of lots of money and now you're still running this crap that somehow Australia nearly got it.

America would've got it if certain things, which we'll not say because there's a lot of lawyers watching what's being said at the moment about Qatar. Let's say we were very, very, very, very, very surprised that Qatar got it. Well I wasn't so, but most people were.

America should have got it. Australia never had a hope, and it's not your fault. You're not bad people. I'm a friend. ...

Protests Continue In Spain As Ruling Socialist Party Suffers Electoral Defeat

wsws.org [23/5/11]:

Tens of thousands of protestors continued to occupy Madrid’s Puerta del Sol and other centres in numerous cities and towns across Spain through the weekend, despite a government ban. Spain held regional and municipal elections on Sunday, which returned a big defeat for the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government of José Luis Zapatero.

The main driving force behind the PSOE’s defeat was the massive austerity measures imposed by the government, which have compounded the economic crisis. Early results showed the PSOE won less than 28 percent of the vote.

The biggest beneficiary of the collapse in support for the PSOE was its main rival, the right-wing Popular Party, which won 38 percent. The PP also supports the attack on the working class. The PSOE also lost control of the country’s second largest city, Barcelona, for the first time in more than 30 years, with a coalition including Catalan nationalists taking power.

“The results show that the Socialist Party has clearly lost today’s elections”, Zapatero said on Sunday. He blamed the economic crisis for the defeat, as if the policies of the PSOE government had nothing to do with the disastrous conditions facing Spanish workers and youth.

The elections were overshadowed by the protests, known as the M-15 movement, the day they were first called by social network and Internet groups. They have drawn a big response from younger workers, students, the unemployed and broad sectors of Spanish working people. Organisers have indicated that they will continue the protests past the election.

The protests were banned by various local electoral boards and the central election commission ahead of yesterday’s elections. Spanish law prohibits party political activity on election day and the preceding 24 hours, which are designated a “day of reflection”. This does not cover the M-15 protests, but has been the pretext for the ban. So far, the PSOE government has refrained from sending in police to enforce the ban, although there have been reports of police intimidation and violence.

The opposition right-wing Popular Party (PP) is demanding tough action to break up the “illegal” encampments that protesters have said will continue past the elections.

The majority of the demonstrators, dubbed “los indignados” [the angry ones], have been young people who have been hit especially hard hit by the crisis. Almost half of 18 to 25-year-old Spaniards are out of work, more than double the European Union average. Most of those that are able to find work end up on temporary contracts.

However, increasing numbers of families and older workers have joined the occupations in Madrid and other cities including Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Zaragoza and Bilbao, in protest over unemployment, government austerity measures and a political system that serves only the banks and big business.

Those participating in the protests have said that they are hostile to all of Spain’s major political parties. Over the weekend, they urged people not to vote for either of Spain’s two main parties, the PSOE or the PP.

Puerta del Sol serves as one large assembly, with many discussions taking place over what to do after the elections. Some have called for the occupation to become permanent, and that the movement should be broadened by creating popular assemblies throughout Madrid. Several committees have been set up looking after food supplies, legal matters and communications.

The Puerta del Sol assembly has adopted a list of 16 demands, including the democratisation of the election process; the proclamation of basic rights, such as housing, health care and education; greater government control over banks and businesses; reduced military spending; and the renationalisation of privatised public enterprises.

One protester, Alejandro, told the BBC, “I hope this changes our situation. We have a right to regular jobs, a future and a decent salary, to more opportunities in life, the chance to get a house, to pay for that house without being enslaved, but especially a better quality of life”.

Carlos Gomez said, “We have no option but to vote for the two biggest parties in Spain, who are more or less the same. They are unable to solve any problem; it is just a nest of corruption. We are tired. In short, we want a working democracy. We want a change”.

Milena Almagro García added, “These protests are not only about unemployment. They are about the unfair political situation that exists in Spain. We protest against the political situation that allows more than 100 people who are accused of corruption across the country to stand in the next elections.

The demonstrations and the election results expose the vast gulf between the interests and sentiments of the majority of the population and the policies dictated by the financial elite and supported by all the official parties?in Spain and throughout Europe.

While the organising forces behind the protests have claimed to be apolitical, they do have a political perspective, namely that mass demonstrations by themselves can force the political system to change. This is false. As the European debt crisis enters a new stage, the ruling class is determined to enforce even more brutal austerity measures, which will increasingly require the abrogation of the most basic democratic rights.

The PSOE government has already imposed one of the most brutal programmes in all of Europe, introducing a €15 billion package of spending cuts that includes 5 to 15 percent cuts in civil servants’ salaries, attacks on pensions and reformed labour protection laws.

As part of the campaign to force deeper cuts, financial markets have sent Spanish interests rates to their highest level since January. Regional governments, which are responsible for one third of public spending, have carried out cuts in healthcare, education and other essential public services. There are indications that this week newly-elected regional governments will begin to reveal debts much higher than previously published, which will only escalate the pressure for more austerity.

To combat this drive, the working class needs its own organisations of struggle. Noticeably absent in the protests over the past week have been the official trade unions, which have worked closely with the PSOE in enforcing cuts and demobilising the mass resistance that erupted last year. These unions represent barely 14 percent of the workforce according to data from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

To carry forward a struggle, workers must build independent rank-and-file committees to unite all sections of the working class with unemployed youth.

Above all, a new political party must be built–on the basis of an uncompromising revolutionary and internationalist perspective. It is not only a question of protest, but of building a new leadership to fight for the socialist transformation of the economy in Spain, throughout Europe and internationally.

David Hicks Cheered At First Public Appearance

Oh-Yay.com [22/5/11]:

David Hicks received a standing ovation at his first public appearance, at the Sydney Writers Festival today.

Hicks is the Australian who was branded a terrorist by the US Government and spent five and a half years in Guantanamo Bay, after he was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, and sold to the Americans.

Hicks was being interviewed by journalist Donna Mulhearn following the publication of his book Guantanamo: My Journey about his experiences as a freedom fighter and then enemy of the United States.

The audience of 900 were people of all ages, most of whom clapped during his talk and gave him a standing ovation at the end.

At times, the quietly-spoken Hicks found it difficult to recount some of his experiences of torture inside Guantanamo.

During the interview, Hicks repeated his assertion that not only was he not fighting for al-Qaeda but had not even heard of the terrorist group until his American interrogators mentioned the name.

Hicks, who grew up in Adelaide and was a high school drop-out, said he had converted to Islam to gain a sense of belonging. He travelled to Kosovo and Kashmir to help suffering civilians after he had worked in Japan as a horse trainer.

While he trained in Afghanistan, it was not at a terrorist camp, Hicks said.

“There weren’t al-Qaeda training camps where I was. I spent only a small amount of time in Afghanistan but the media made it out to be the main part of my story,” Hicks said.

“I never hurt anyone, I never intended to hurt anyone. I condemn terror. I was over there to help people.”

He admitted that what he did would seem strange to most people.

His father Terry Hicks, who campaigned for the Australian Government to intervene and have him released, also received a standing ovation and was by his son’s side as David Hicks autographed copies of his book.

After being released from Guantanamo and returned to Australia, he had to serve nine months in an Adelaide prison before being released in December 2007. But Hicks, who has married, is still receiving therapy for his physical and psychological scars.

The book signing at the end of his talk took more than an hour as hundreds of people queued patiently to shake his hand and pass on their good wishes.

Pedestrian Hit By Car In City's North

'Brisbane Times' [23/5/11]:

A pedestrian is in a serious condition in hospital after being struck by a car north of Brisbane.

The 21-year-old woman suffered head injuries and a fractured ankle when she was hit by a car on Lawton Pocket Road, Lawnton, about 5.15am.

Paramedics treated the woman at the scene before taking her to the Royal Brisbane Hospital.

Experts Try To Fix Gas Well Leak

Engineers are trying to stem a leak from a gas well west of Dalby on southern Queensland's Darling Downs.

Arrow Energy [owned by Shell] says contractors were yesterday working to install a pump into a new well at the Daandine field when water and gas flowed to the surface.

The company says it could take two to three days to resolve the problem.

Queensland Mining Minister Stirling Hinchliffe says the situation is being closely monitored.

"Ensure that all the regulations are in place and if there's any concern that that's not been the case or there is some failure in those we certainly need to be ready to act, but first off, we need to know the information," he said.

This Would Be Violent Extremism, Wouldn't It?

The real story is why these religious extremists are allowed to harass citizens holding peaceful rally?

'Brisbane Times' [23/5/11]:

A Brisbane march in favour of same-sex marriage was interrupted by violence at the weekend when religious protesters addressed the crowd saying: ‘‘Homosexuality is a sin, you will all go to hell.’’

The Saturday afternoon Equal Love event was momentarily disturbed when a small group of evangelicals used a microphone to yell abuse at marchers gathered in Queens Park, near the Treasury Casino in the CBD, while waving anti-gay placards.

A scuffle between the two groups broke out, allegedly when members of the small Christian minority tried to snatch same-sex marriage placards and flags from marchers’ hands.

‘‘They were bigots. They were using a PA to say ‘You must repent now. You’re going to hell’,’’ said Equal Love march organiser Kat Henderson.

‘‘It was obvious they came specifically to verbally abuse us and provoke us. They had anti-homosexual placards and arrived just as we were getting ready for our march.’’

The smaller group, of four people, were wearing shirts printed with a website for Operation Five Thirteen.

The site describes its members as evangelists who are Christians from all denominations and whose mission is to ‘‘see God glorified through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ’’.

‘‘We will dare to be radical in our obedience and follow the command of Christ to the end,’’ the website reads. ...

Bear in mind your government is funding extremists like these to peddle their fanaticism at your children's school (an extra $200 million in this year's federal budget) to the exclusion of providing properly qualified guidance counsellors and adequate funding for other professional support staff such as teacher librarians.

This Would Be Religious Extremism, Wouldn't It?

TV Tonight [19/5/11]:

Pure Hate

Right now, on the other side of the world, there is a bunch of people who hate you and we mean absolutely despise you. But don’t worry; they hate everyone else in Australia. The folk of the Westboro Baptist Church hate us so much that they actually rejoice in our suffering. The tragic bushfires of 2009? This year’s devastating floods? Apparently, we deserved it all. And the US Supreme Court lets them say it and more. Under Freedom of Speech, these so-called Christians can damn us all to Hell and right at the front of the queue, is that wayward Liz Hayes.

"Pure Hate' indeed. Just like the viewer letters (which do not represent the majority Australian point of view) read out by Peter Harvey in response to refugees.

Did You Think We Had Democracy?

Bruce Guthrie writes in the 'Sun Herald' [22/5/11]:

... Certainly there's a growing paranoia within Labor circles and elsewhere that the Murdoch press is against them and there's little or nothing that can be done to change that. Given News controls about 70 per cent of Australian newspapers, which, in turn, feed talkback radio and evening news bulletins, that's a fight most politicians want to avoid.

Not Bob Brown though, it seems. The Greens leader last week took aim at the Murdoch press, in particular The Australian. ''I think the Murdoch media is doing a great disservice to this nation in perhaps the most important debate of the century so far, which is how we tackle climate change,'' Brown said. ''Its negativity and its scepticism do need to be tackled because, you know, we need news in our papers but we're getting opinion far too much.''

Brown and other conspiracy theorists might have a point, particularly when they consider this: just days before the overwhelmingly negative coverage of the budget by News outlets, Murdoch and his most senior Australian editors and columnists gathered in California for one of his semi-regular confabs on the state of his media business.

The 80-year-old News Corp mogul keeps a weekender just outside the millionaires' coastal enclave of Carmel, which once elected Clint Eastwood as its mayor. The Murdoch estate, roughly the size of a small European principality, stretches through rolling hills and valleys.

If the conspiracy theorists are right, it would have been here or at a local resort he sometimes uses for such conferences that the word went out - it's Tony's time now. This is not entirely fanciful. Indeed, Murdoch let it be known within News after dining with Abbott late last year that he liked the Liberal leader and what he represented. Perhaps he merely amplified this in California. Maybe he went further and that, in turn, fuelled the budget and carbon tax coverage.

Either way, it certainly wouldn't have been a direction. That's not Murdoch's style. It would more likely have been an observation expressed by him or a lieutenant during or after dinner or at a coffee break between sessions. His editors, better than most at reading the wind, would have noted the boss's latest leanings and applied this knowledge at the first opportunity - many of them would have arrived back in Australia the morning of the budget lock-up. Of course, it would be open to an editor to ignore the boss's preferences, but as I discovered, that can sometimes come at a cost. ...

Surge In Chinese Christian Converts A Boon For Some And A Disaster For Others

Yeah, nothing else happening in China right now.

CNBC [22/5/11]:

BEIJING - North Korean leader Kim Jong Il headed for eastern China by train Sunday during a mystery-shrouded visit to his country's most important ally and source of aid, South Korean news reports said.

Kim was traveling to Yangzhou, west of Shanghai, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing diplomatic sources. South Korean broadcaster YTN said Kim would visit sites linked to the solar power business in Yangzhou, which is promoting itself as a center for China's growing renewable energy industry.

Kim apparently entered China on Friday and visited an industrial city in the northeast on what is believed to be his third trip to the country in 13 months. Such visits are seen as a means to shore up support for his isolated government and faltering economy.

Details were not known and there was no official Chinese confirmation that Kim was visiting. His foreign trips are cloaked in secrecy and China has confirmed his official visits — most recently in May and August of last year — only after his departure.

Employees who answered the phone at the Yangzhou and Shanghai railway stations and the Yangzhou city hall said they had no information about a possible visit by Kim. They refused to give their names.

A visit to Yangzhou, a tourist spot on the Yangtze River, could have special symbolism for Kim. It would come 20 years after Chinese state media say his father, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, visited the city in 1991 and held talks there with China's then-president, Jiang Zeming.

YTN said Kim also plans to travel to Shanghai, which he visited in 2001 to look at China's economic reforms.

On Saturday, Kim visited the industrial center of Changchun, Yonhap said. He met there in August with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Kim is believed to fear flying and travels in armored trains within North Korea and on trips across Russia and into China.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK obtained a grainy video appearing to show Kim in the northeastern Chinese city of Mudanjiang on Friday. He was shown shaking hands and waving to Chinese officials before climbing into a limousine. ...

If This Event Had Been An Attempt To Break A Pole Dancing, Burlesque Or Zumba Record, It Would Have Appeared On The ABC's 7 pm News Bulletin

It was a sea of tu-tus and tights at the State Library of Queensland as hundreds gathered to challenge the world record for the largest ballet class.

Generations of ballerina's donned the ballet slippers, leggings and leotards on Sunday to challenge the record, previously set by 1,055 participants in Hannover in Germany.

Organised by the Queensland Ballet Company, as part of Brisbane's Ideas Festival, the event drew 1,359 people to beat the previous record (pending verification by Guinness World Record).

The event was to be held on the Kurilpa Bridge, South Brisbane, but due to the wet weather, a quick relocation, to the State Library of Queensland saw five levels of young and old undertake a 30 minute bar Class.

... It is always the poor who pay ...

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 'Inside Job'

Referring to the previous night's ABC 7 pm news bulletin and a story about Malcolm Turnbull, last Friday morning [20/5/11] Peter Dick (who was once an ABC announcer) told 4BC listeners that if they listen or watch the ABC, they should give themselves an uppercut.

"Can you believe how left-wing they are?" he asked.

And yet, who at the national broadcaster is accountable for this irresponsible, ideologically driven crap?:

Welfare cheat tip-offs hit record high

Public tip-offs about welfare cheats have reached record numbers and are being driven higher by rorting of flood relief funds.

A record 97,000 complaints have been made by members of the public about potential fraud among Centrelink customers this financial year.

In the wake of Queensland's flood and cyclone disasters the Government offered a number of payments to those affected.

Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen says 9,000 payments made after the floods are being investigated.

"The numbers that we're investigating currently have been lifted somewhat by the Queensland floods and bushfires across other parts of the country," he said.

"People accepted that it was important that anyone affected by floods received immediate assistance.

"If people picked up on the fact that they felt people were rorting the system, there's no doubt that we received quite accurate and useful information as a result.

"But in many instances, those cases are a result of genuine error and certainly we will be recovering the money."

The Government is chasing about $40 million in fraudulent payments.

Mr Jongen says Australians do not like to see welfare money going to waste.

"The reports that we're receiving are from the average Australian. There's no question about that," he said.

"People believe and support Australia's welfare system. However, if people are double-dipping, that's when people start to react.

"That's what we're witnessing in terms of the tip-offs that we're receiving."

This is not journalism, it's propaganda - part of the relentless negative media pushing the "flood fraud" meme.

Where does Mr Jongen offer any precise evidence of flood relief payment rorting?

A journalist would ask for evidence to support this suggestion:

"How many successful prosecutions?"

"What percentage of overall relief payments?"

"What is the 'usual' percentage of fraudulent claims on welfare?" etc.

Speaking of fraud, did you happen to catch the excellent documentary 'Inside Job' - all about the causes of the GFC?

Of all the people in that film who desperately need to be investigated, not one has been brought to account and all of them are still being richly rewarded and/or hold positions of influence.

Former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn appeared in the film as a critic of the runaway, deregulated, neoliberal idiocy that caused the whole meltdown.

This morning [22/5/11] this headline appeared on the ABC online:

Strauss-Kahn plots defence in house arrest

After several hours, the headline was changed:

Strauss-Kahn plans defence in house arrest

Fallen IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is plotting his defence against sexual assault charges from a New York apartment where he is under house arrest following release from jail.

It was the former International Monetary Fund chief's first day out from behind bars since his May 14 arrest on charges that he made a brutal attempt to rape a maid cleaning his suite in a luxury Manhattan hotel.

Under strict bail conditions, Strauss-Kahn, 62, is not allowed to step outside the apartment at 71 Broadway, in the heart of New York's financial district.

The building itself has been besieged by US camera crews with satellite TV trucks and a contingent of French journalists.

The impressive tower - a stone's throw from New York's oldest church and the New York Stock Exchange - has quickly made it onto the New York tourist route.

Guides on open-top double deck buses could be heard highlighting "on your right is the building where the IMF chief is now under house arrest" as they cruised by.

At the entrance, a single policeman stood on guard duty. There was no visible sign of security at the back entrance. However, the bail terms require an armed guard shadow Strauss-Kahn at all times.

Strauss-Kahn, who denies the accusations against him, was freed on Friday from Rikers Island prison after posting a $6 million bail package.

In addition to having an armed guard, he must live under 24-hour watch. The apartment, believed to be in the name of the security company managing his detention, has video surveillance at the exits.

In addition, Strauss-Kahn has had to give up travel documents and wear a GPS tracking device.

The measures were ordered by Judge Michael Obus in New York state court to ensure that Strauss-Kahn - until recently considered a serious contender for the French presidency - cannot flee to France, which does not extradite its citizens to the United States.

While on bail, the once globe-trotting VIP will prepare with his high-priced legal team for a June 6 hearing at which he is expected to enter a plea to felony charges approved by a grand jury this week.

Unless he pleads guilty, which seems unlikely, preparations will begin for a trial that may still be months away. ...

The Heinemann Australian Dictionary defines plot thus:

A secret plan, often with unlawful purpose.

These are just small examples of how the ABC has become a branch of destructive neoliberal ideology.

Flood Victims In Limbo

Margaret de Silva, 'b mag' [10/5/11]:

It's been four months since the Brisbane River broke its banks and waters swept through 20,000 homes and businesses across the city. Insurers have received more than 50,000 claims from the Queensland floods to a value of $2.6 billion and paid out $820 million across the state - but thousands of victims are still waiting to receive their money or hear whether they will even be paid at all.

The strain of waiting has proved too much for some. Legal Aid Queensland has already provided free advice for 170 flood insurance-related cases in Brisbane and 380 in South East Queensland - including a handful of bankruptcy claims.

Calls to Lifeline Queensland's Financial First Aid line doubled in February and are now steady at 40 flood-related calls every week. Lifeline's counsellors spoke face-to-face to 25,000 people in Brisbane alone after the flood.

The Salvos and Brisbane Homelessness Services Centre also experienced a spike in enquries due to a shortage of affordable rental properties and increased living costs. Lifeline's Sue Hough expects the financial and emotional fall-out to continue for years - and she says the uncertainty of insurance pay-outs is contributing to the strain.

Natalie and Warren Crowther are among the thousands of flood victims who are still waiting to hear whether they will receive any money from their insurer. The couple lost nearly everything when a metre of water flooded their home at Pinjarra Hills in January.

Natalie called her insurer in December already concerned about a season of heavy rains and a policy clause that referred only to "flash flooding". But when she called AAMI to check her cover she was assured they were covered for all scenarios. "They assured me I was covered for all types of flood ... you don't go looking elsewhere for insurance if you assume you are covered."

The Crowthers lodged their insurance claim on 15 January but the claim is still in limbo. The couple can't demolish or rebuild until their claim is approved and they are yet to find out if they are eligible for any government assistance in round three of grants from the Premier's Disaster Relief Fund, after missing out on funding in round two. They have lived in rental accommodation and between relatives' homes since January and are currently staying with Warren's parents at Fairfield. "It's extremely difficult," she says. "you're living out of your bags all the time ... we're at a standstill and we don't know when we'll hear anything."

Natalie Crowther's situation is a stark contrast to her colleague, Nonee Stiles. Stiles, who like Crowther is a teacher at Christ the King Primary School at Graceville, also became homeless after the flood but her insurer, Suncorp, has agreed to pay up - although it took three months to receive a confirmation in writing. Stiles says 38 families and five teachers at the school were affected by the flood, including six students in her class. Many have still not returned home. "We call outselves the flood club," she says. "It's had a big impact on the school ... I had one little girl in my class who didn't sleep through the night for two and a half months. It's been tough."

Some flood victims are so worried about their claims they are afraid to speak out. Neil Johnson* and his wife lost everything in the flood and their insurer, NRMA, initially rejected their claim. It is currently under review through the company's internal dispute resolution process and Neil does not want to reveal his real name as he is concerned NRMA may reject the claim again if he is seen as a "troublemaker".

Like Natalie and Warren Crowther, Johnson checked his policy over the phone prior to the flood and was assured he was covered - only to be told in late January that NRMA does not cover flood damage in Queensland.

Legal Aid Queensland senior solicitor and consumer advocate Loretta Keet says Neil Johnson's experience is not unusual.

"I would say possibly as many as one in four of our clients experienced some level of misrepresentation when they have taken out their insurance," she says, adding that it is up to the insurer to provide appropriate advice. "Most people who take out insurance think they are going to be covered if there is a major catastrophe."

Keet is concerned many flood victims gave up too quickly after their claim was rejected and encourages them to seek advice or ask their insurer to review their claim again. Customers usually have six months to appeal and she says there is a risk that more people will file for bankruptcy unless they receive assistance.

Last month Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten set out a draft standardised definition for riverine flooding; however, Keet warns that a definition must not exlude vulnerable consumers. "Whatever happens we need to make sure we have insurance policies that are appropriate for where people live and that they're affordable," she says.

*Name has been changed

Need help?

If you disagree with your insurer's decision, you can lodge a complaint directly with them or contact the Financial Ombudsman Service on 1800 337 444 or FOSdisaster@fos.org.au. For free legal information and flood-related legal advice, call Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88 or see www.floodlegalhelp.qld.gov.au.

UN Goodwill Ambassador Outlines Benefits Of Biodiversity

Scoop News [21/5/11]:

Press Release: United Nations UN Goodwill Ambassador Edward Norton Outlines Benefits Of Biodiversity [http://www.un.org/en/events/biodiversityday/]

New York, May 20 2011

Humanity is wreaking havoc with Earth’s capacity to sustain life through destructive exploitation of natural resources and decimation of the planet’s biodiversity, the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, acclaimed actor and conservationist Edward Norton said today.

“We are disrupting the natural systems of our planet in ways that will cause havoc for our way of life,” Mr. Norton told the UN News Centre in an interview on the eve of the International Day for Biological Diversity, which falls on 22 May each year.

“The UN is providing a forum for countries big and small to work together on how we can put into policy issues like environmental sustainability, protection of biodiversity, protection of forests, combating desertification,” he said.

He said his commitment to promoting the principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was spurred by the realization that many people considered biodiversity an abstract concept.

“I think there is a very important communication challenge – it’s very important to find ways to articulate to people why biodiversity should matter to them. I am a storyteller by profession. I spent a lot of years working on conservation issues. I feel it is something that I can talk to people about. That’s why it was a privilege and responsibility,” said Mr. Norton.

Stressing the importance of forests in preserving biodiversity, mitigating the consequences of climate change and alleviating poverty, Mr. Norton deplored the fact that forests are being cleared to make way for commercial activities that benefit a few at the expense of the majority, mostly the poor.

“We are cutting them [forests] down to make room for the production of beef, the production of soy, the production of palm oil.”

“Forest ecosystems represent an enormous uncalculated GDP [Gross Domestic Product], especially for poor people around the world, so when we clear a forest to create ‘economic gain’ of a certain kind of industry, you actually wipe out an enormous GDP that poor people are extracting in sustainable way from the forests. In pursuit of short-term economic gains, we can see more and more clearly we are creating a certain kind of impoverishment when we clear forests.”

He pointed out that deforestation is responsible for more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions into atmosphere. Destroying forests was also responsible for loss of biodiversity, which he described as “this enormous treasury of species that has lots of specific values to us. It is a genetic database we are losing.”

Referring to a three-day trip he made to Rwanda with CBD Executive Director Ahmed Djoghlaf in February, Mr. Norton praised the African country’s “pioneering” conservation efforts.

“Rwanda, a very small and densely-populated country – from studies, they concluded that it was economically long-term much better for the country to protect watersheds, lakeshores and they instituted a policy of 50- to 150-metre buffer zones of no development on any watersheds, on any wetlands, rivers, lakeshores and they implemented that policy within a year,” he said.

Mr. Norton also attended the Governing Council meeting of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, and visited a rural renewable energy project in central Kenya, intended to provide a community with an alternative to the use of firewood.

“This biogas project with small dairy farmers around the slopes of Mount Kenya [is] reducing, even eliminating, their use of fuel wood from forests by taking these digesters, putting the waste from their dairy cows, and producing so much methane that they power their whole houses, their farms and everything.

“There was a guy, the project manager – you could see his face shining as he talked about how they developed these systems to become very efficient providers of waste energy.”

Mr. Norton’s family has long been involved in sustainable development issues, with his father being a conservation advocate and his maternal grandparents having founded an organization to help provide affordable housing in the United States.

He has been active in garnering support for conservation efforts, serving as a board member of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust in Kenya, and took part in the launch of an innovative social networking platform called Crowdrise to boost participation in charitable work.

Spain Bans Young Protesters Ahead Of Elections

'The Guardian' [20/5/11]:

Police and tens of thousands of young protesters camped out in dozens of Spanish cities are heading for a clash after the country's electoral authorities effectively ordered the government to dissolve the protests.

The committee declared that the protests contravened Spain's election laws, which ban campaigning the day before a vote. Municipal and regional government elections are to be held on Sunday amid a climate of growing anger over government austerity, spending cuts and 21% unemployment.

"They [the protests] are against electoral legislation ... and cannot happen," the committee ruled.

More than 10,000 people gathered in support of the protesters camped out at a makeshift tent city in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square in the early hours of Friday morning, greeting with boos and whistles the decision that they must leave.

The peaceful protesters, who called another of their four or five hour open assemblies on Friday to debate the issue, looked unlikely to shift after thousands settled down to spend a fifth night in the Puerta del Sol.

"On Saturday 21 May we will continue with the exercise of collective reflection between all those attending the spontaneous meetings to have emerged in recent days," a statement from the Madrid protesters said on Friday morning.

"This is the most people we have had so far," said Jero, one of the spokesmen who have become part of the increasingly sophisticated infrastructure of an otherwise chaotic protest movement with disparate demands and united only by mistrust of the country's political elites.

Similar protests were being held in Barcelona's Plaza de Catalunya and 60 cities across the country.

As rightwing commentators accused the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's socialist government of allowing "extremists" to take over the streets, the government this week faced a serious dilemma.

It had previously indicated that, having moved protesters out of the Puerta del Sol earlier this week, it was unlikely to act against them again. But that was before the electoral commission banned the protests. "We have to listen and be sensitive, because there are reasons why they are expressing their unhappiness and their criticism," Zapatero said on Thursday.

Parkway Drive Rock Byron High

'Gold Coast Mail' [20/5/11]:

Local heroes Parkway Drive rocked the stage at Byron Bay High School on Thursday night.

What began as a compilation of heavy acts and international pop-punk bands ended as a typical hardcore show of which Byron fans just can’t seem to get enough.

Parkway Drive’s homecoming attracted a massive turnout and, with the second Parkway Drive DVD being filmed on this tour, the crowd went crazy in for a show unlikely to be forgotten.

Byron Bay hardcore has always been known as being different from the rest but this stunning visual performance took it to the next level.

From the usual rubber boats and surfboard stage dives to shark suits and the odd streaker, it was a show well worth capturing on film.

Also on the all-star bill were Ohio’s heaviest Miss May, who exceeded everyone’s expectations and pumped up the crowd for the main act.

The odd band out was supposedly Philadelphia punk rockers, The Wonder Years. However, they put on an amazing show that gave the night a different flavour, as well as everything the punk rockers wanted.

Although this is likely the final Parkway Drive homecoming date for the year as they head over to Europe in the coming months, it was an unforgettable night for every single person there.

The crowd gave it everything they had and brought a new level of madness to the high school, with some of the biggest stage dives around, leaving everyone looking forward to the release of the DVD, where they can relive all the memories over and over.

You Cannot Kill An Ideology With A Gun

Media Lens [19/511]:

Writing in the New York Times, Jonathan Haidt, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, commented:

'Although Americans are in full agreement that the demise of Osama bin Laden is a good thing, many are disturbed by the revelry.' (Haidt, 'Why We Celebrate a Killing,' New York Times, May 7, 2011)

Haidt thereby dismissed the many Americans who reject extrajudicial killing and capital punishment. American lawyer, Benjamin Ferencz, a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, pointed out:

'Assassination is specifically prohibited under American law. It hadn't been that way all the time. The CIA had always had at the top of its list the possibility of assassination as a technique until the Congress said, "No way, we don't do business that way."'

There is much discussion about the legality or illegality of the West's many wars. Ferencz explained the real relationship between war and law:

'End war-making and go back to what the law is. And that is that you cannot use armed force to settle disputes, you can use only lawful and peaceful means to do that.'

Law is intended to be an alternative to war, not a way of justifying war.

But wouldn't resort to the rule of law in the form of a trial have allowed bin Laden to spread propaganda, to present himself as a martyr for a noble cause? Did killing him not protect American lives? Ferencz pointed out the naivety of imagining that violence is the most potent resort:

'You apprehend him, if you can without danger to yourself. Put him on trial. Let him make his case. Let him say to the world why they killed 3,000 people in New York City and many thousands elsewhere. And see how the public and the judges react to it. There will be, of course, some extreme elements on both sides which will say, 'No, kill him at once. He's a dirty dog and he deserves to be shot.' And there will be others who will say that 'No matter what you do, he is our holy man and he is carrying out noble goals.' But these will be the extreme cases. The vast majority of the people will say, when the evidence is in, that this is a form of madness!

'You cannot kill an ideology with a gun. You can only come with a better ideology and let them explain it and see what the facts are. We did that at Nuremberg. I had mass killers there; I was chief prosecutor in a trial where our lead defendant admitted killing 90,000 Jews because they were Jews, including their children, and their grandchildren, and anybody else. Well, when they explained their motivation - that this was a pre-emptive attempt to avoid attack by Russia and to secure German security [and] for the rest of the world forever - that argument was rejected, and rejected correctly by honest judges who explained why that position cannot be tolerated if you want to have a civilised world. If everybody can go out and decide he's threatened by his neighbour, in his opinion, and therefore kill him and everybody around him, what kind of a world would we have?'

Haidt took a very different view. 'As a social psychologist,' he opined, he was aware that careless thinking on moral issues could have negative consequences, namely: 'you'll miss all that was good, healthy and even altruistic about last week's celebrations'.

We wrote on May 7:

Dear Jonathan Haidt

I was interested to read your New York Times piece on "collective effervescence". Can you think of any examples when it has been "good, healthy and even altruistic" for people to cheer the killing of Americans? I have to admit I can't think of any examples.

Best wishes

David Edwards

As the email suggests, we can politically reverse any given argument, apply it to official enemies, and ask ourselves if the author would ever be willing to make such a comment. In this case, the reversal would involve Haidt warning people against missing 'all that was good, healthy and even altruistic' about celebrating the killing of US military leaders, US soldiers, or New Yorkers on September 11, 2001. Can we imagine Haidt or anyone else in the media ever saying such a thing? If the answer is 'No,' it can be for one of two reasons:

1) The United States is morally superior to its official enemies, such that it is acceptable for the American public to celebrate the demise of their inferior foes, but immoral for those enemies to celebrate the death of Americans.

2) The US is not morally superior. Rather, US commentators conform to the 'necessary illusion' that different standards should be applied to US and enemy actions. In other words, US opinion is biased by the ability of power to shape the debate – technical term: propaganda.

Of course, commentators and readers can be blind to this propaganda component. Thus Haidt actually declares:

'Many social psychologists distinguish patriotism — a love of one's own country — from nationalism, which is the view that one's own country is superior to other countries and should therefore be dominant.'

But he added:

'This is why I believe that last week's celebrations were good and healthy. America achieved its goal — bravely and decisively — after 10 painful years. People who love their country sought out one another to share collective effervescence. They stepped out of their petty and partisan selves and became, briefly, just Americans rejoicing together.'

Would Haidt argue that Iraqi celebrations were 'good and healthy' if Iraqi commandos somehow managed to execute George W. Bush? As Noam Chomsky commented recently:

'Uncontroversially, [Bush's] crimes vastly exceed bin Laden's, and he is not a "suspect" but uncontroversially the "decider" who gave the orders to commit the "supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole" (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.'

We received a reply from Haidt to our email on May 18:

Dear Mr. Edwards:

when America is led by a man whose direct goal is to kill as many innocent civilians as possible, e.g., a man with the moral status of Bin Laden or Hitler, then the world will be quite justified in celebrating.

Thankfully, that has never happened.

Jh

And yet in his article, Haidt focused, not on the justice of the cause Americans were celebrating, but on the simple fact that they were celebrating as a group:

'We have all the old selfish programming of other primates, but we also have a more recent overlay that makes us able to become, briefly, hive creatures like bees.'

He wrote:

'This hive-ish moment won't last long. But in the communal joy of last week, many of us felt, for an instant, that Americans might still be capable of working together to meet threats and challenges far greater than Osama bin Laden.'

It is unclear why Haidt would not also laud the 'hive-ish' behaviour of non-Americans. ...

Do You Like Who You See In The Mirror?

by Mark Bode, 'Sunshine Coast Daily' [19/5/11]:

What will your legacy be? What will mine be?

It’s a question I often ask myself because, as someone put it the other day with casual bluntness, I have a self-involved nature.

The remark led to a bout of self-examination. And in doing so, I also ended up probing who we are as a people.

I look in the mirror and the reflection is unflattering and painful to see because, as things currently stand, I’ll leave my children very little.

They’ll get no money and property, and it is highly likely that their last – perhaps lasting – image of me will be that of a rotten husk straining for breath on a hospital bed, the victim of emphysema like my father and his father before him.

What makes my existence even sorrier is that I’ve been given every chance to be successful, both in manner and material. Raised in a loving family in a prosperous country. Exposed to God’s Word. Handed the key to a dream job at a young age. I was given all this, yet chose to fill myself with helpings of nothingness. A skinny man who is fat on self-indulgence. Unlike me, the immigrants who came to Australia in search of a better life for their children – and at the same time helped fashion this land of plenty – didn’t take it for granted.

Their toil is our riches. Their worthy legacy is our worthy legacy as a nation. So why are we treating asylum-seekers so poorly? Why are we being so selfish?

Based on our general attitude on this issue, if we were to look in the mirror and were truly honest with ourselves, it would be a case of show me a magnanimous Australian and I’ll show you five who were not.

Even someone like me knows that generosity of spirit is not something you turn on like a tap. You either have it or you don’t. You’re not necessarily a good person just because you donate money to noble causes.

In fact, if you do that, while at the same time calling for asylum-seekers to be extricated from our land, you are attempting to deceive yourself.

The prevailing public attitude on this matter has shown the Gillard Government to be centre-left only when the climate suits.

In betraying its core principles in one battle in an attempt to win the war and remain in power, the government has turned into a giant billboard advertising our selfishness.

As a writer, I’m compelled to be brutally honest when assessing myself. It’s time many Australians did the same when it comes to their views on asylum-seekers.

Our legacy depends on it.

Russia Sabotaged Iran Nuclear Programme: Report

By AFP

May 20, 2011 "AFP" -- -JERUSALEM (AFP) – Then Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the sabotage of Iran's nuclear programme in 2006, according to WikiLeaks documents published by Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot on Thursday.

The leaked documents, which were not immediately available on either the Yediot or Wikileaks websites, purportedly detail talks between the head of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission and then-US ambassador to Israel Richard Jones.

During a February 2006 meeting, Gideon Frank told Jones "at length about the results of his secret meetings with top figures in the Russian security establishment and intelligence community," Yediot reported.

Among the officials he met were then defence minister Sergei Ivanov, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and the chairman of the Russian Atomic Energy Commission, Sergei Kiriyenko.

He told Jones Putin had personally ordered measures to delay progress at Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant. Under a 1995 deal, Russia agreed to complete the plant and provide the fuel, with Iran committing to return the spent fuel.

"Frank said that Kiriyenko had told him that he intended to delay the process of sending the nuclear rods to the reactor in Bushehr for an extended period of time and that he had no intention of supplying the reactor with 'fresh fuel' at the current stage," Yediot reported.

Kiriyenko told the Israelis "the Russians intended to explain the deliberate delay by means of 'technical problems,'" adding that "Putin had personally ordered that deliberate delay in delivery," the newspaper said.

Frank also said the Russians had told him "they had made changes to the hardware that they were supposed to send to the Bushehr reactor so as to slow down the Iranian nuclear program even further."

Russia, which has been a long-standing nuclear partner of Iran, voted in favour of UN sanctions against the Islamic republic last June.

Israel and much of the international community fear that Iran's nuclear programme masks a push to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge, saying the programme is for civilian energy purposes only.

Andrew Blot Interviewed On Steaming Toad

Murder-Suicide Family Deny Custody Battle

The family of a Gold Coast woman who was murdered, along with her five-year-old daughter and a male friend, say there was no custody battle with her former partner.

Tania Simpson and Anthony Way were fatally stabbed at Robina last Sunday night.

Ms Simpson's daughter, five-year-old Kyla Rogers, and her father Paul were found dead the following day.

Police say a custody battle was behind the tragic murder-suicide, but Ms Simpson's family say both parents had access to the children.

In a statement issued last night, the Simpson family spoke of a "loving mother who had her children's best interests at heart".

They say she was moving on with her life after separating from Rogers and was "happier than she'd ever been".

The family have released a statement thanking people for their support.

They say they cannot comprehend what happened and have asked for privacy while they grieve.

Villagers Clean Up Swell Mess

Radio Fiji [21/5/11]:

Villagers and hotel workers along the Coral Coast embarked on a major clean-up exercise yesterday afternoon following the high swells that hit the area in the morning.

The waves – threw debris, logs, coconuts, corals and even fish onto the Queen’s Highway by Malevu, Korotogo and Vatuakarasa villages.

Korotogo resident Jay Whyte says they are thankful no major waves hit last night – during the high tide.

“By late afternoon – majority of it has been cleared by residents and made it easier for cars to get through. People were – I guess – were on tenterhooks waiting for what would happen last night and also this morning. But – we have received report that the worst has happened yesterday morning and that nothing major had occurred this morning.”

Whyte - the owner of the Sigatoka River Safari - was also part of the Bula Fiji Tourism Exchange that was held at the Naviti Resort - which was hit by the swells.

“The BFTE was affected in a way that a lot of water entered the event venue which was the Naviti Resort. The restaurant area which has been hosting the morning tea and lunches had water in it – so they has to relocate it upstairs by thankfully they cleaned it up by early afternoon.”

Most of the resorts along the Coral coast suffered damage – with some rooms reported to be under water and tourists moved relocated to other rooms.

Authorities are still trying to ascertain the cost of damage.

Kiwi, Aussies Held In Philippine Trafficking Sweep

Philippine News [20/5/11]:

MANILA, (AFP) - Two Australians and a New Zealander have been arrested after a raid on a suspected brothel as the Philippines stepped up a campaign against trafficking of women and children for sex, police said Friday.

Investigators said they have yet to establish whether detained Australians Barry Burston, 69, and Raymond Anderson, 57, and Michael Watt, 59, from New Zealand, owned, operated or were customers at the suspected brothel.

Police raided the night club in the northern city of Angeles late Thursday and found 42 alleged sex workers, including a 17-year-old girl that had earlier been reported missing by an aunt, chief investigator Samuel Pagdilao told AFP.

"They (detained suspects) are being investigated by our women and children's protection section. We should be filing cases against them shortly," said Chief Superintendent Pagdilao, head of the police criminal investigation division.

Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, Asia's Roman Catholic outpost, but the sex trade flourishes openly in many urban areas including Manila and Angeles, which until 1992 had hosted a US military base.

Police said they raided the Angeles club after an aunt alleged the 17-year-old girl was being held against her will and was being forced by one of the women suspects to serve a customer looking for paid sex. The girl had left home a week earlier to look for a job but later contacted the aunt by phone alleging one of the women suspects was forcing her to sell sex to pay for her club uniform, Pagdilao said.

President Benigno Aquino has been stepping up efforts to curb human trafficking, which the US State Department said remains a serious problem in the impoverished former American colony.

Earlier this month, a lower court in the south sentenced two Swedish men to life in prison after their arrest in 2009 for operating a cybersex shop where 17 adult Filipinas performed naked on web cameras for paying Internet clients.

Trafficking in people aged below 18 is punishable by life in prison, while trafficking in adults is punishable by up to 20 years in jail under a 2003 Philippine law. Paying a trafficked person for sex is punishable by community service at the first offence, with a year-long prison term for repeat offenders.

The Murdoch Media Is Doing A Great Disservice To The Nation

Bob Brown press conference [19/5/11]:

Australian Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown held a press conference to discuss the Senate koala inquiry currently underway, the need to put a price on pollution and the debasing of the public debate by the News Limited press.

What Custody Battle?

There was no "custody battle".

What possible twisted agenda could this police officer (and the ABC) be pushing, without any evidence - the implication that somehow this multiple murder suicide was a two-sided affair? As if the victims played some part of it?:

Custody battle behind Gold Coast murders

Gold Coast police say a custody battle was at the centre of the murder-suicide on the Gold Coast that left four people dead.

Acting Superintendent Tim Trezise says Paul Rogers "wasn't coping" with the separation from his partner Tania Simpson when he killed her, their five-year-old daughter Kyla and family friend Antony Way earlier this week.

He says Mr Rogers did not leave a suicide note, which has complicated the investigation. "It certainly does [complicate things] in as much as a suicide note would help in some small way to explain what was going through his mind when he did what we believe he has done," he said.

"The information we have received in interviewing a number of witnesses is that Mr Rogers is understandably upset and concerned about not having access to his children." ...

ASIO Gets More Power To Snoop

'The Age' [19/5/11]:

ASIO will be able to engage in industrial and economic espionage as well as spying on groups such as WikiLeaks on behalf of Australia's two foreign spy outfits, under one of the most significant widening of its powers in a decade.

According to Attorney-General Robert McClelland, the changes are being made to allow ASIO to work better with Australia's two overseas spy agencies, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Defence Signals Directorate. Legal experts and the Greens have expressed concerns that the changes are not needed and fundamentally change the way the main domestic spy outfit operates.

''I think [the ASIO amendments] are dangerous,'' Greens spokesman on national security Senator Scott Ludlam said, adding that the legislation needed ''genuine scrutiny''.

The amendments, now before a Senate committee, are expected to pass Parliament in June. They will widen ASIO's ability to work for ASIS and the DSD in collecting ''foreign intelligence''. Such collection can only be made when approved by the Attorney-General. His approval depends on the matter being in ''defence of the Commonwealth or the conduct of the Commonwealth's international affairs''.

The amendments will provide a far broader definition, involving national security, foreign relations or national economic well-being.

In a written submission, the Law Council of Australia's Bill Grant wrote:

''[This] will afford the minister and the agency almost unfettered discretion to determine when and how ASIO's powers may be used to gather information about people's activities, communications and relationships abroad''.

And by changing the meaning of ''foreign'' from ''a foreign power'' to ''people, organisations and governments outside Australia'', ASIO will be able to monitor a whole new range of people and entities.

An expert on anti-terrorism law from Monash University, Patrick Emerton, says the new definition legally allows ASIO, when requested by ASIS or the DSD, to monitor people in Australia associated with groups such as WikiLeaks.

''Currently there is no basis under which ASIO could, say, take letters between Julian Assange and his [Queensland-based] mother out of her letter box,'' Dr Emerton said.

''My view is under the amendments it seems plausible that they could, because it is intelligence relevant to Australia's foreign relations connected to a person overseas.''

He also said the amendments would allow ASIO to monitor Australians working for non-Australian firms that are major rivals to key Australian industries. The Attorney-General's Department said the amendments reflect the changing nature of global threats.

''This concept of foreign intelligence reflects that modern national security threats come from both state and non-state sponsored threats,'' it submitted to the Senate committee.

Queensland Sour At NZ Pork Move

'Queensland Country Life' [19/5/11]:

Queensland pork producers are as shocked as their counterparts around the country about a New Zealand decision to open its doors to fresh pork products, fearing the Austrailan pig industry is threatened by an AIDS-like disease on our doorstep.

Australia and NZ are among the few remaining countries where Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) is not endemic in pig herds with the issue certain to top the agenda of this week's Adelaide meeting of Australian pork producers. ...

UK Holds Lessons For Australia

'Queensland Country Life' [19/5/11]:

The visit this week by the director - general of Dairy UK Jim Begg was an opportunity for farmers and other industry members to hear how supermarket pricing strategies have impacted the dairy supply chain and farmers' bottom lines in the United Kingdom.

Mr Begg brought his message direct to farmers on Monday, at Wally Holcombe's farm near Beaudesert.

Proving how important this issue is to farmers, there were more than 75 farmers in attendance, including young families and their children.

British and European dairy farmers have faced a similar cost squeeze from the major supermarkets as that facing Australian farmers from the Coles-led $1/litre price war.

A Dairy UK white paper said that because of the sheer volume of milk purchased by Tesco, the farm-gate price set by this retailer set a benchmark for the whole industry. With even less supermarket competition in Australia, this should ring alarm bells for local farmers and consumers. ...

CSG Stalemate Continues

'Queensland Country Life' [19/5/11]:

Dongas are being placed on the accommodation site across from his home, yet Nev Stiller is no closer to an outcome with Queensland Gas Company (QGC).

For more than two months, the Gulugaba producer has been in negotiations with the mining company, which he accuses of breaching their own code of conduct by constructing a 600-man accommodation site for mining workers less than 200m from his front door.

Mr Stiller was originally concerned the constant noise and dust from the construction would cause disruption to his farming operation and family life.

Despite these concerns, QGC has ploughed on with construction of the site while holding intermittent talks with the producer. ...

Old Remedy Finds Environmental Use

'Queensland Country Life' [19/5/11]:

An old remedy has created a new environmentally friendly use for coarse crossbred wool in the hands of an enterprising Italian engineering firm.

The wool equipment engineering company Tecnomeccanica Biellese in Biella, has helped develop a process using coarse wool to efficiently recover oil from ocean spills. ...

Greener Mulch Film Trialled In North Queensland

'Queensland Country Life' [19/5/11]:

Biodegradable mulch plastics are being trialled in the Bowen district with promising results.

The trials are being conducted by the Bowen research station of Agri-Science Queensland.

Denise Kreymborg, Industry Development Officer with the Bowen District Growers Association says most vegetable crops grown in the Bowen district are grown using plastic film.

This includes tomatoes, capsicums, melons, pumpkins, zucchinis and cucumbers.

Plastic film is used primarily for week control, but also has benefits for water retention as well as maintaining warmth in cooler areas.

However, there are significant costs with disposing of the plastics once they have reached their useful life.

A medium-sized grower can speed up to $20,000 a year getting rid of their plastic," Ms Kreymbord said.

The more environmentally friendly bio-degradable option offers some significant benefits.

"You can plough it in and it disappears over two months.

"This provides potential cost savings including reduced labour and fewer passes over the ground." ...

AIATSIS Collection Under Threat

'Koori Mail' [18/5/11]:

The Federal Government will spend $526 million to improve the future for Indigenous Australians, but could not find $3.5 million to protect their past.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra was left reeling last week when the Federal Government failed to deliver hoped for funding in the Budget.

The Institute had requested an additional $3.5 million a year over four years to continue its work preserving its extensive archives of Indigenous material.

AIATSIS Chairman Mick Dodson said other services provided by the Institute would now have to be cut in order to continue the digitisation project. He warned that the funding crisis placed the Institute's priceless collection at risk, as we as the jobs of up to 30 staff. ...

Dump Vote Deferred

'Koori Mail' [18/5/11]:

The Federal Government's National Radioactive Wast Management Bill, expected to be voted on last Tuesday has been deferred until the Senate sittings next month.

It means a decision on the future of the proposed Muckaty nuclear waste dump in the NT is now several more weeks away.

Anti-nuclear campaigners welcomed the delay, saying 'every day without a bad law is a good day'.

The deferral followed protests in Darwin and Tennant Creek and calls from the Nightcliff Uniting Church for the Federal Government to listen to the views of traditional owners and other Australians.

In Tennant Creek, Muckaty traditional owner Dianne Stokes said people had not been consulted, and she urged the Government to take Muckaty off the list. ...

Sign Removal Move Welcomed By CLC

'Koori Mail' [18/5/11]:

The Central Land Council has welcomed a plan to remove the large blue signs put up on Aboriginal land and community living areas by the Federal Government during the intervention in 2007.

CLC Director David Ross said Aboriginal people in Central Australia were deeply offended by the references to pornography and the size of the signs in general. Most communities already had their own signs prohibiting alcohol in their communities and on Aboriginal land.

"This issue has been a running sore since the Territory intervention. People felt it criminalised them and it made them feel deeply ashamed," Mr Ross said.

"The signs negatively affected Aboriginal people's morale and were counter productive.

"If a symbol of blatant racism was needed, surely these signs are it."

Recently, after inquiries by the Australian Greens, the Federal Government announced the signs were no longer necessary. ...

Genocide? It Didn't Happen In Tasmania

'Koori Mail' [18/5/11]:

I write about the Rohan Wilson Vogel Award report regarding his novel 'The Roving Party' (KM, Edition 500).

I never get surprised when, yet another white so-called academic tries to make money, or indeed get awards or publicity, for their interpretation of white settlement in what is now known as Tasmania.

Genocide is a strong word and it did not happen in Tasmania, for we have survived all political experimental policies. We are still enduring racism on a daily basis, and yet another nut is trying to say we don't exist.

Rohan Wilson, you are totally ignorant and misinformed.

Trudy Maluga
State Secretary

Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre

Fight For Qld Pay Goes On

'Koori Mail' [18/5/11]:

Payment of outstanding stolen wages to Indigenous claimants by the Queensland Government was highlighted during a Labour Day street march in Townsville.

Patrick Neliman, a member of the Maritime Union of Australia and a member of the Queensland Indigenous committee of the ACTU, carried the banner during the march as thousands lined the street.

"We want the State Government to pay all of the outstanding stolen wages claims as many of the people are old and some die before they get any money," he said.

Indigenous people from the Torres Strait Islands, Cape York, Hopevale, Wujal Wujal, Lockhart River, Palm Island, Mapoon, Napranum, Woorabinda, Cherbourg, NPA communities and others as far west as Camooweal and south to the NSW border have outstanding claims for stolen wages.

Mr Neliman said it was important to keep up the pressure and push for payments.

"We have to keep this campaign going to help people get what is rightfully theirs," he said.

In 2002, then Queensland Premier Peter Beattie estimated that up to $500 million in wages could have been stolen from Indigenous workers over the years.

He offered just $55 million in reparations.

Mr Nelima said that so far only $22 million had been paid to claimants and the rest had been budgeted to go to other things.

I know of two twin brothers from the Torres Strait. One has been paid stolen wages and the other has not," he said. ...

Bob Irwin Ready To Break Law Again

'Sunshine Coast Daily' [19/5/11]:

Bob Irwin has made it clear he is willing to again break the law in his fight against coal seam gas.

The wildlife campaigner, the father of Steven Irwin, was fined $300 in Chinchilla Magistrates Court, on the Darling Downs yesterday for refusing to comply with a police direction.

However, he refused to sign a good behaviour bond, making it clear that he was prepared to be arrested again.

The 72-year-old was arrested along with Green Party leader Libby Connors and Sea Shepherd member Thomas Brookes at QGC's Kenya Plant on Tuesday, April 12.

Ms Connor and Mr Brookes also appeared in court yesterday and were released on 12-month good behaviour bonds.

Alongside the three arrested on April 12, Western Downs Alliance leader Drew Hutton appeared in court charged with obstructing a mining company without reasonable excuse.

Mr Hutton's case was adjourned until August 25. he said he would plead not guilty. "I was there with the landholder's approval," he said.

Soldiers On Charges

'Sunshine Coast Daily' [19/5/11]:

Evidence shows two Army Reserve soldiers charged with manslaughter in Afghanistan knew civilians were present during an operation, a judge advocate has been told. The two had a duty of care to civilians during the February 2009 operation, Lieutenant Colonel Tom Berkley for the prosecution told a pre-trial hearing in Sydney yesterday. - AAP

In Japan Reactor Failings, Danger Sign

'New York Times' [18/511]:

TOKYO - Emergency vents that American officials have said would prevent devastating hydrogen explosions at nuclear plants in the United States were put to the test in Japan - and failed to work, according to experts and officials with the company that operates the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The failure of the vents calls into question the safety of similar nuclear power plants in the United States and Japan. After venting failed at the Fukushima plant, the hydrogen gas fueled explosions that spewed radioactive materials into the atmosphere, reaching levels about 10 per cent of estimated emissions at Chernobyl, according to Japan's nuclear regulatory agency.

Venting was critical to relieving pressure that was building up inside several reactors after the March 11 tsunami knocked out the plant's crucial cooling systems. Without flowing water to cool the reactor's cores, they had begun to dangerously overheat.

American officials had said early on that reactors in the United States would be safe from such disasters because they were equipped with new, stronger venting systems. But Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, now says that Fukushima Daiichi had installed the same vents years ago. ...

Sixth Soldier Charged In Afghan Killings

'New York Times' [18/5/11]:

SEATTLE - A sixth soldier was charged Tuesday in connection with what Army prosecutors have described as the sport killings of three Afghan civilians last year; officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near here said.

The soldier, Staff Sgt. David D. Bram, was charged with solicitation to commit premeditated murder, engaging in murder scenario conversations with subordinates, aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, planting evidence near the body of an Afghan national and failng to report crimes including murder.

The Army did not release more details, but Sergeant Bram has often been mentioned in testimony by witnesses in the case, including other soldiers who have been charged with murder. ...

Curtains For Elaines, A Legendary New York Hangout

'New York Times' [18/5/11]:

When the restauranteur Elaine Kaufman died last year, the manager who inherited her legendary restaurant on the Upper East Side said, "We're going to try to run it as usual."

On Tuesday, less than six months later, the manager, Iane Becker, announced she was giving up because Elaine's "was not a viable business" anymore. She said the restaurant's last night would be May 26, with the final last call arriving about 4 am the following morning. ...

Fears Mining Threat Escalating

'Queensland Times' [18/5/11]:

Hundreds of concerned residents living in the fertile Somerset Region have slammed plans for coal exploration in their rural townships.

At a public meeting on Monday night in Toogoolawah residents spoke of their concerns after Brisbane company Loadstone Energy was granted coal exploration permits for areas in Toogoolawah and Esk.

Toogoolawah resident John Leach said the main reason for the meeting was to highlight the dangers of coal mining.

"Any consideration of granting mining permits here is outrageous and potentially catastrophic for us and the 1.5 million people of Brisbane," Mr Leach said.

"Everyone needs to be award that a coal mine anywhere in this region would destroy the clean, quiet, rural amenity enjoyed by some thousands of residents here and it would put at great risk the pristine, clean water supply for residents of Brisbane and in the south-east Queensland water grid." ...

Journalist Arrested At IT Security Conference

'Sydney Morning Herald' [18/5/11]:.

A Fairfax journalist was arrested by Queensland Police yesterday after an article he wrote about vulnerabilities in Facebook's privacy controls was published on smh.com.au.

He was later released without charge but police retained custody of his iPad.

Ben Grubb, the deputy technology editor of the Herald website, was attending an IT security conference at a resort on the Gold Coast where a security expert, Christian Heinrich, demonstrated how he had gained access to the privacy-protected Facebook photos of the wife of the HackLabs director, Chris Gatford.

Mr Heinrich told Fairfax Digital he gained access to the photos to show that people who use social networking sites should not trust their privacy settings.

Grubb reported that it was well-known in the IT security community that the two security experts did not get along.

He was arrested at the AusCERT conference venue after his article about the session was published.

The police told Grubb they were acting on a complaint from a person whose Facebook photo had been accessed without a password.

Darren Burden, the general manager for news at Fairfax Digital, said:

''Ben was a guest of AusCERT at the conference at the Gold Coast. He was at a conference, reporting on something actually said and presented at that conference. It's fundamental for journalists to be able to report these events.''

A spokeswoman for Queensland Police denied Grubb was arrested, saying he may have voluntarily gone with police for questioning.

''There was no arrest. He was interviewed briefly by police and the iPad will be returned as soon as possible,'' she said.

Queensland Police Media also posted a denial that Grubb was arrested on Twitter last night. ''No, police talk to people for a range of reasons.

We interview witnesses all the time,'' the media unit tweeted.

This morning, the Queensland Police media unit confirmed that Grubb had been arrested yesterday afternoon.

"Our bad @bengrubb was arrested for questioning briefly Our tweet last night was based on information provided at the time Apologies," it said on Twitter.

Mr Heinrich's session was given on Sunday at the resort to an audience of about 20 at an event called BSides Australia. The 10th annual AusCERT conference is billed as the ''premier IT security event for IT security professionals''.

Brisbane Updates Flood Maps

'Australian Financial Review' [18/5/11]:

New flood mapping of more than 60,000 homes has been released by Brisbane City Council. The new maps will now record the exact level the water reached in every home during the January floods. They will also include the flood level required for living areas to avoid inundation in the event of a similar flood.

Disney Application

'Australian Financial Review' [18/5/11]:

The Walt Disney Company has applied for a trademark on the name "Seal Team 6", the name of the unit of US Navy SEALS that killed Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan. ...

AP

Wheat Production Down

'Australian Financial Review' [18/5/11]:

Production of wheat crops in the US Great Plains may plunge even more than the government forecast last week as hot weather and a lack of rain erode plant quality and force farmers to harvest early.

Bloomberg.

Singo, Dixon To Pitch For Sydney Ferries

'Australian Financial Review' [18/5/11]:

They already invest together in pubs and the nation's second largest aviation leasing business - the $2 billion Global Aviation Asset Management (GAAM).

Now drinking mates Geoff Dixon and John Singleton have their sights set on Sydney ferries. The NSW government has called for expressions of interest by May 31 to run a franchised Sydney Ferries, with plans to contract out the ferries by the end of next year.

It is believed investment banker Mark Carnegie had been besieged by people urging him to round up a consortium that would include Dixon and make a pitch for the ferries.

Now Street Talk can reveal that the GAAM consortium - including Dixon, Singleton, GAAM founding chairman Greg Woolley and former Qantas chief financial officer Peter Gregg - is in the process of putting together its expression of interest. ...

Coal-Fired Plans For Kooralbyn

'Australian Financial Review' [18/5/11]:

Gold Coast businessman Murray Bailey has forked out $22 million to acquire the Kooralbyn Resort in South-East Queensland's hinterland.

Mr Bailey, who made his fortune from Queensland's coal industry, is planning to transform the resort - which was sold by Wellington Capital as mortgagee in possession - into a five-star, 100-room property.

The 350-hectare resort will be carved up into residential housing lots given one of the consortium's key backers is Springfield Land Corporation. Finance is being obtained from coal industry sources. ...

Stokes Junior Buys Up Seven Shares

'Australian Financial Review' [18/5/11]:

It might have been a difficult week for the broader sharemarket but that hasn't dissuaded directors of Australian listed companies from boosting their equity exposures over a wide range of industries.

Shares in media, internet, used car sales, resources and pharmaceutical companies have all featured in directors' trading over the past week.

Among the more interesting trades last week were purchases of shares in Seven West Media by non-executive director Ryan Stokes and commercial director Bruce McWilliam worth about $50,000 and $45,000 respectively.

On Monday this week, the company downgraded its expectations for full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to between $610 million and $620 million, compared to a previous forecast of $630 million citing a weak advertising market. ...

Detainees Used Lighter In Bid To Prevent Suicide

ABC [18/5/11]:

Detainees at Sydney's Villawood detention centre say an inadequate response from guards forced them to use a cigarette lighter to try to save the life of a man who had attempted suicide.

Detainees say they tried to burn through the rope 41-year-old Ahmed Al Akabi had used to take his own life. They say they have borne witness to a string of suicides at the centre in the past year, including that of Iraqi-born teacher Mr Akabi.

The detainees, mostly of Kurdish origin, relayed numerous concerns over their indefinite detention, with several afflicted by illnesses related to stress and depression.

Tensions at the centre came to a head last month when riot police were called in during a night of rioting that saw several buildings destroyed by fire.

One of the men who found Mr Akabi says guards employed by Villawood's privately owned operator, Serco, were ill-equipped and not adequately trained to respond appropriately to the suicide attempt. The man says the guards did not have a sharp instrument available to cut Mr Akabi down and did not know how to respond.

The detainee, who did not want to be identified, says he and others tried to hold Mr Akabi aloft in a bid to save him from suffocation until help arrived. He says they were forced to use the cigarette lighter to try to save the father of three, but were too late; he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Serco declined to comment on specific allegations, but in a statement to the ABC said it runs a comprehensive staff training program that goes beyond its contractual obligations.

"Serco is committed to doing everything we can to prevent those in our care from coming to harm," the statement said.

"Our staff take this commitment extremely seriously and work hard to keep those in our care safe and secure."

A spokesman for the Immigration Department told the ABC that no comment could be made about the incident while a coronial inquiry was ongoing. The coronial inquiry into Mr Akabi's death is due to be held from June 27 until July 1, but the findings will not be released publicly because it was a suicide.

Mr Akabi is understood to have fled Iraq after death threats from the feared Shiite militia commanded by anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

No counselling

The asylum seeker who recounted the events surrounding Mr Akabi's death was also witness to the suicide of British detainee David Saunders, 29, who was discovered dead in a bathroom at the detention centre in December.

He recalled seeing an unusual amount of steam coming from the showers before discovering the body. The man said he and other detainees who found Mr Akabi and Mr Saunders had not received counselling for either incident.

The detainees interviewed were mostly Kurds and members of other ethnic minorities who fled the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following Iran's failed green revolution of 2009.

"Even before the protests, life was difficult for Kurds and other minority groups in Iran. After the unrest, it became impossible," one of the detainees said through a translator.

Members of Iran's Kurdish minority are subject to systemic persecution, according to human rights groups. Denied access to the education system and formal economy, many are forced to engage in roadside commerce and other precarious occupations to survive. A long-standing separatist struggle for a Kurdish homeland puts them at odds with the regime in Tehran.

"Kurds in Iran have long suffered deep-rooted discrimination," a 2009 Amnesty International report reads.

"Their social, political and cultural rights have been repressed, as have their economic aspirations."

The men being held at Villawood told of living in constant fear of the Iranian secret police and state-sponsored Basij militias. Several of them bore visible scars of torture, including one man who was raped while in custody in Iran.

Lack of information

A number of the detainees said that once in Australia they had received infrequent and vague information relating to their asylum claims, and would often wait for months without correspondence from Australian immigration authorities. They expressed frustration with immigration officials, interpreters and lawyers appointed to act on their behalf. In one instance, a detainee was assigned a translator who spoke the wrong dialect during an interview to assess his claim for asylum.

"How can I make a claim for asylum if the person I'm speaking to doesn't understand me?" he said.

Other detainees said government-appointed lawyers did not communicate with them and were habitually absent.

"In the 14 months I've been here, I've never sat down with my lawyer for longer than 20 minutes," one said.

Immigration officials declined to comment on the complaints. A spokesperson said the Privacy Act prevented the department from discussing individual claims.

Among the detainees is a mechanical engineer from Iran who was forced to flee that country after attempting to resign from a state-run company that made riot-control weaponry. As a non-Kurd, he worked for an Iranian state venture run by the feared Revolutionary Guards, and was trained to build vehicles for the regime. It was not until two months into the job that he realised exactly what he was helping construct.

"They wanted us to help build riot-control vehicles that could shoot boiling water cannon at protesters. When I realised this, I knew I had to resign," the detainee said.

The man, who wished for his identity to be protected, said subsequent harassment from the security services forced him to flee the country on a fake passport. At the time of the interviews, he had been in immigration detention for more than a year and had been hospitalised numerous times as a result of an anxiety-related eating disorder.

'Certain death'

A common theme raised by the Kurds was the difficulty of interacting with case managers and other immigration officials responsible for handling their claims. They say many of the officials cannot locate Kurdistan on a map, let alone comprehend the complexities of life for persecuted minorities in Iran. A number of those interviewed were taking medication for depression and anxiety-related disorders. One of the men described losing all sense of time and was often confused about where he was.

"Three times, I've put my mobile [phone] in the fridge. I'm not sure why. I can't think straight," he said.

The detainees said their main source of anxiety was the uncertainty of indefinite detention, and the lingering possibility of being returned to Iran. They say the Iranian security services are aware of the fact they have fled the country, and are apparently tracking their family members.

"I can't go back," one man said. "It would mean certain death for me. If I'm going to die, I might as well die here."

Editor's note: In January and February, a freelance journalist posed as a visitor to gain a series of interviews with detainees at Villawood detention centre, which form the basis of this story.

In Philippine Newsrooms, Women Rule

'New York Times' [16/5/11]:

MANILA — When a panel of executives from the Philippines’ top broadcasting networks defended their industry last September before legislators examining the news media’s conduct during a botched hostage rescue, the fact that four of the five executives were women attracted little comment. But it spoke volumes about the change the country’s journalism has undergone in recent decades, from an overwhelmingly male-dominated profession to one where women now hold sway.

The watershed came in the last few years of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled for nearly two decades and was toppled in a popular revolt in 1986. When Mr. Marcos imposed martial law in 1972, many of the mostly male editors and reporters who were critical of him were imprisoned or went underground to join the resistance. The men who remained in the newsrooms were often co-opted by the government or operated clandestinely to put out opposition publications.

Into the breach came the women, who up to then had been largely sidelined in feature supplements or less consequential jobs. For the first time, they took over key positions in news organizations. In several instances, they directly challenged the government with reports and commentaries that contributed to the groundswell of opposition against Mr. Marcos.

Today, these women and the ones they hired and promoted dominate the country’s largest broadcast networks, its most influential newspapers and magazines, and investigative journalism nonprofit organizations.

“You cannot explain the rise of the women journalists without talking about martial law,” said Inday Espina-Varona, a journalist since the Marcos era who now runs the citizen-journalism program of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest broadcast network. “When the men were struggling back into journalism, the women were already there.”

The Marcos dictatorship had a “radicalizing effect” on many women in the Philippines, especially journalists, Belinda A. Aquino, a historian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, wrote in the 1994 book “Women and Politics Worldwide.”

Lourdes Molina-Fernandez, managing editor of the Web site Interaksyon and the former editor in chief of Business Mirror, a Manila paper, said: “That period a few years right before Marcos fell — that was the time when women gained ascendancy in the newsroom because of the sheer preponderance of women writing very critical articles against the dictatorship.” She herself was fresh out of college at the height of the dictatorship and worked for anti-Marcos and leftist publications.

To be sure, women in the Philippines had advanced faster than their counterparts elsewhere in Southeast Asia, one reason perhaps that the U.N. Global Gender Gap Report last year called the Philippines a model for the region. Women were represented in the Senate before World War II, for instance, and many schools were run by women.

But somehow this was not reflected in newsrooms during these periods, said Luis V. Teodoro, a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication. While there had certainly been some female journalists, the Filipino newsroom was dominated by men well into the Marcos years, he said.

The women who have since taken over advanced under the most arduous circumstances, when censorship was widespread and journalists were routinely arrested and tortured, a trial by fire that may have contributed to the assertiveness of the women-led news organizations to this day.

“It took a woman to test the limits of press censorship under Marcos,” said Ms. Aquino, the historian (and no relation to President Benigno S. Aquino III).

That woman was Maria Ceres Doyo, a human rights advocate who in 1980 wrote an article about a tribal chieftain, Macli-ing Dulag, who led his people in resisting a dam project and was killed by the military.

“Nobody was writing about it, so I wrote it, took my own pictures and sent it to the editor of Panorama, whom I did not know,” Ms. Doyo said. In hindsight, she said, “Maybe I was half stupid or half brave.” ...

Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder

'New York Times' [15/5/11]:

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said. The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls laced with barbed wire. Photographs show rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and fuel trucks.

The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

The United Arab Emirates — an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state — are closely allied with the United States, and American officials indicated that the battalion program had some support in Washington.

“The gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help,” said one Obama administration official who knew of the operation.

“They might want to show that they are not to be messed with.”

Still, it is not clear whether the project has the United States’ official blessing. Legal experts and government officials said some of those involved with the battalion might be breaking federal laws that prohibit American citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the State Department.

Mark C. Toner, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Mr. Prince’s company had obtained such a license, but he said the department was investigating to see if the training effort was in violation of American laws. Mr. Toner pointed out that Blackwater (which renamed itself Xe Services ) paid $42 million in fines last year for training foreign troops in Jordan and other countries over the years.

The U.A.E.’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for Mr. Prince also did not comment.

For Mr. Prince, the foreign battalion is a bold attempt at reinvention. He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, Congressional investigators and Justice Department officials he is convinced worked in league to portray Blackwater as reckless. He sold the company last year, but in April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

To help fulfill his ambitions, Mr. Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, obtained another multimillion-dollar contract to protect a string of planned nuclear power plants and to provide cybersecurity. He hopes to earn billions more, the former employees said, by assembling additional battalions of Latin American troops for the Emiratis and opening a giant complex where his company can train troops for other governments.

Knowing that his ventures are magnets for controversy, Mr. Prince has masked his involvement with the mercenary battalion. His name is not included on contracts and most other corporate documents, and company insiders have at times tried to hide his identity by referring to him by the code name “Kingfish.” But three former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, and two people involved in security contracting described Mr. Prince’s central role.

The former employees said that in recruiting the Colombians and others from halfway around the world, Mr. Prince’s subordinates were following his strict rule: hire no Muslims.

Muslim soldiers, Mr. Prince warned, could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.

A Lucrative Deal

Last spring, as waiters in the lobby of the Park Arjaan by Rotana Hotel passed by carrying cups of Turkish coffee, a small team of Blackwater and American military veterans huddled over plans for the foreign battalion. Armed with a black suitcase stuffed with several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of dirhams, the local currency, they began paying the first bills.

The company, often called R2, was licensed last March with 51 percent local ownership, a typical arrangement in the Emirates. It received about $21 million in start-up capital from the U.A.E., the former employees said.

Mr. Prince made the deal with Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The two men had known each other for several years, and it was the prince’s idea to build a foreign commando force for his country.

Savvy and pro-Western, the prince was educated at the Sandhurst military academy in Britain and formed close ties with American military officials. He is also one of the region’s staunchest hawks on Iran and is skeptical that his giant neighbor across the Strait of Hormuz will give up its nuclear program.

“He sees the logic of war dominating the region, and this thinking explains his near-obsessive efforts to build up his armed forces,” said a November 2009 cable from the American Embassy in Abu Dhabi that was obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

For Mr. Prince, a 41-year-old former member of the Navy Seals, the battalion was an opportunity to turn vision into reality. At Blackwater, which had collected billions of dollars in security contracts from the United States government, he had hoped to build an army for hire that could be deployed to crisis zones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He even had proposed that the Central Intelligence Agency use his company for special operations missions around the globe, but to no avail. In Abu Dhabi, which he praised in an Emirati newspaper interview last year for its “pro-business” climate, he got another chance. ...

Qantas Announces Optus Partnership

Lateline Business [17/5/11]:

... ANDREW ROBERTSON: There are reports that the carbon tax could be as high as $40 when it comes in, and of course that will flow on to the price of carbon and the trading scheme that's going to follow. Alan Joyce says Qantas is prepared for whatever price is put on carbon. It's been negotiating with the Government over that. The bottom line, though, according to Mr Joyce is that any cost of carbon will be passed on in full to Qantas passengers, which many other industries won't be able to do.

TICKY FULLERTON: Forty dollars sounds quite a lot, doesn't it, in the scheme of things. But look, you also heard some insights from Qantas's low-cost subsidiary Jetstar on how it actually drives profit growth despite continuously slashing fares.

ANDREW ROBERTSON: Jetstar's announced today it's slashing fares even further. Its basic fare from Sydney to Melbourne, for example, is going to become $59. And many people will be wondering, how does the airline survive with fares that low? Well, Jetstar boss, Bruce Buchanan, said it's because of all the extras people buy once they get onboard the plane.

BRUCE BUCHANAN, CEO, JETSTAR: By unbundling parts of the product, we've been able to give them even lower fares. And that helps us because it helps us get our ancillary revenues up by selling other things like iPads and Mastercards and a variety of things now - and we're leading in world in terms of ancillary collection. And that helps us still maintain profitability and invest back in the airline and growth, which enables it to deliver lower fares.

ANDREW ROBERTSON: And Bruce Buchanan told me after that news conference that in fact all Jetstar's profit comes from that ancillary revenue, which means Jetstar is a bit like the petrol station that doesn't earn much from petrol but earns a lot from what it sells in its shop. ...

African Barrick Mine Raid Leaves Seven Dead

'The Telegraph' [17/5/11]:

Seven "criminal intruders" have been killed by police at one of African Barrick Gold's mines in Tanzania after 800 people raided the operation in an attempt to steal gold.

African Barrick was spun off from Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold miner, in March 2010 at 575p a share. The shares hit at an all time low of 476.2p on Tuesday.

"A number of the Tanzanian police came under sustained attack by approximately 800 criminal intruders who illegally entered the North Mara mine site and attempted to remove ore," the FTSE 100 miner said.

The intruders attacked police with machetes, rocks and hammers. The mining company said there had been no material impact on the mine's operation or production.

A senior Tanzanian police officer told Reuters that this was the third attack on the mine in a week, however, "security personnel at the mine, with the help of police officers, managed to keep the invaders at bay," said Tarime-Rorya regional police commander, Constantine Massawe.

African Barrick was spun off from Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold miner, in March 2010 at 575p a share. The shares hit at an all time low of 476.2p on Tuesday, after falling 21.4.

The company had more bad news earlier this week when it said that a malfunction in a mill motor at its Buzwagi mine would hit production in the quarter. Last year, the company downgraded its 2010 production forecast after it suspended 40pc of its workforce at Buzwagi on suspicion of participation in a fuel theft ring.

Ulrika Jonsson To Sue News of the World Over Alleged Phone Hacking

'The Guardian' [17/5/11]:

Ulrika Jonsson has become the latest high-profile figure to announce their intention to take legal proceedings against the News of the World over alleged phone hacking.

Making the announcement, the law firm Mishcon de Reya confirmed that the television presenter will be represented by media law specialist Charlotte Harris, who is also acting for Sky Sports commentator Sky Andrew, actor Leslie Ash, and several MPs.

The announcement comes three days after actor Sienna Miller accepted £100,000 in damages and an unconditional admission from the News of the World that it had used information from eavesdropped voicemails to publish articles on her relationship with Jude Law.

Last month News International, which owns the News of the World, admitted liability over a number of phone-hacking cases involving the paper, and set up a compensation scheme to deal with "justifiable claims". It is estimated that £20m has been earmarked for payouts.

A number of other high-profile names, including former culture secretary Tessa Jowell, have received apologies from the paper.

Since January, when the Metropolitan police reopened its inquiry into claims that staff hacked into the messages of celebrities and politicians, three News of the World journalists have been arrested.

Scotland Yard has endured repeated criticism over its handling of the original phone-hacking inquiry, which led to the conviction of News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in 2007.

Bahrain Accepts 7 MPs Resignations

Iran English Radio [17/5/11]:

Bahrain's parliament has voted to accept the resignations of seven opposition lawmakers who protested against the violence of the ruling government.

Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said the parliament announced "accepting the resignation of the remaining members” of Bahrain's main opposition party, al-Wefaq, AFP reported on Tuesday.

On February 27, the 18 members of al-Wefaq officially resigned from the parliament, with the legislature approving 11 of the resignation notices.

On September 24, Bahrain's by-elections will be held to replace the resigned lawmakers.

Earlier in May, plainclothes Bahraini forces kidnapped two of the party's members, Mattar Ibrahim Mattar and Jawad Fairooz.

The anti-government protesters in Bahrain have been calling for political reforms since February 14, originally demanding a constitutional monarchy and an end to widespread state corruption and discrimination.

Bahraini Activist Threatened With Rape

Coastal Digest [17/5/11]:

Manama, May 17: A detained senior Bahraini anti-government activist has been threatened with rape by the security guards after he refused to apologize to the king on camera.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) issued a statement on Monday, obtained by Press TV, saying Abdulhadi al-Khawaja addressed the court in the third session of his trial that Bahraini “security forces had tried to force him to make a videotaped apology to the king.”

Abudulhadi's daughter, Maryam al-Khawaja, who heads the Foreign Relations Office of BCHR, stated that while her father “tried to explain how they attempted to rape him, the security forces forcefully removed him from the courtroom.”

Abdulhadi told his wife during a ten-minute meeting that the security forces then “took him into another room,” and said “they were going to rape him.” He added that the Saudi-led Bahraini security forces even threatened that they were going to “rape” his daughter.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a former president of BCHR, was arrested on April 9 and put on trial with 20 other detained activists on alleged charges of attempting to topple the Bahraini government. The anti-government protesters in Bahrain have been calling for political reforms since February 14, originally demanding a constitutional monarchy and an end to widespread state corruption and discrimination.

Following brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters by Bahraini and invading Saudi Arabian and UAE forces, the popular protests also demand an end to the rule of the US-backed Al Khalifa family, which has ruled the country for over 40 years.

However, the deadly crackdown on Bahrain's popular movement has so far left dozens of people dead, with many still listed as missing. Hundreds of people, including medical doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals, have been detained, harassed and even tortured for helping or sympathizing with protesters.

Despite the brutal state violence against protesters, which has been widely verified and reported by international human rights organizations and media, the United States and its Western allies have kept silent on the major rights violations of the oil-rich Bahrain.

Observers widely attribute the silence of Western 'democracies' towards the dictatorial practices and foreign military interference in Bahrain to the presence of the huge military base of the US Fifth Naval Fleet in the country as well as their vast oil interests in Saudi Arabia, which has a dominating influence on the Bahraini regime.

Fairfax To Sell Radio Stations

Yahoo News [17/5/11]:

Fairfax Media Ltd says it may sell its portfolio of radio stations, following "strong expressions of interest" from prospective buyers.

Fairfax said in a statement a decision to consider selling its radio assets was subject to achieving an acceptable price and consideration of all options for maximising value from the portfolio.

Proceeds would be used to pay down debt and increase corporate flexibility.

A sale process would begin in the next few weeks and conclude "later this calendar year".

Fairfax lists a portfolio of metropolitan newstalk stations in Sydney (2UE), Melbourne (3AW), Brisbane (4BC) and Perth (6PR), and three metropolitan music stations in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, and nine regional radio licences in Queensland and South Australia. ...

There is no heaven! We shall not meet again. Make thy heaven here and thou shalt not have lived in vain.

'Gold Coast Mail' [16/5/11]:

Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking finds no room for heaven in his vision of the cosmos.

In an interview published today in The Guardian newspaper, the 69-year-old says the human brain is a like a computer that will stop working when its components fail.

He says: "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

In Grand Design, a book published last year, Hawking had declared that it was "not necessary to invoke God... to get the universe going".

Hawking is nearly totally paralyzed by motor neurone disease, diagnosed when he was 21.

Hawking says he is not afraid of death, but adds: "I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first."

More Aussie Films At Cannes

Urban Cinefile [12/5/11]:

As well as four films in the main program at Festival de Cannes this year, 10 Australian films, including the new feature, Blame, will screen in the Cinema des Antipodes sidebar (May 11 – 22), reports Andrew L. Urban.

As part of the Cannes Cinephiles sidebar to the Festival de Cannes, Cinema des Antipodes is screening 11 features, 10 of them Australian and 12 shorts, 8 of them Australian, including Stone Bros, Birthday - and Matching Jack, which screened (May 5) to a lengthy ovation at the Australian Embassy in Paris on the eve of the Festival, followed by a Q&A with director Nadia Tass.

"Other Aussie films screening in the sidebar"

Other Aussie films screening in the sidebar include the new thriller, Blame (Australian release June 16), written and directed by Michael Henry, starring Damian De Montemas, Sophie Lowe, Kestie Morassi, Simon Stone, Mark Leonard Winter and Ashley Zukerman. “We are extremely excited to be screening in Cannes and nothing would please us more now than seeing the audience in France respond as favourably as the audiences in Melbourne, Toronto, Chicago and more recently in Buenos Aires,” says producer Melissa Kelly.

Sophie Lowe also stars in Rachel Ward’s feature, Beautiful Kate, which is part of the sidebar, along with Michael Bond’s Passengers, which stars Cameron Daddo and Angie Milliken, and had its world premiere at the 2010 Dungog Film Festival.

Cannes Cinephiles is organized by the city of Cannes (through Cannes Cinema) in partnership with the Festival, and re-screens films from the Official Competition, Un Certain Regard, Critic's Week and Director's Fortnight but it also programs a competitive section for young audience 'Ecran Junior' (it's a jury of 13-15 years old children presided over by a professional), the ACID section (independent cinema), Cinema des Antipodes section and Vision social section.

The screenings are open to festival guests with the Cannes Cinephiles badge, but also for the Market buyers and invited guests. The screenings are held in the cinemas owned by the City: Studio 13, La Licorne and Le Raimu.

"The audience is mainly the cinephiles from the city"

The audience is mainly the cinephiles from the city but is also attend by some professionals who hope to discover new films in the atmosphere of a general audience (a better indication of the response of an audience than a Market screening where there are only buyers).

“The Cinema des Antipodes section in this great year for Australian cinema in Cannes breaks the record in having 30 screenings,” says Bernard Bories, organiser of Cinema des Antipodes. It's a great year for AUS in Cannes this year and I am impatient to discover them.”

And he adds, “So it will be also a great year for the Saint-Tropez Antipodes Film Festival 2011 (10-16 October 2011),” which Bories also organises.

What's This?

From Premier Bligh's "column" in the latest 'Life Gold Coast' magazine [18/5/11]:

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World's Largest Company That You Know Nothing About

Kevin Davie, Mail and Guardian Online [14/5/11]:

Back in the day I was in Switzerland and decided to take a closer look at Marc Rich's operation. I took the train from Zurich to Zug where he had set up his headquarters in a glass building.

There was a coffee shop on the ground floor which served public and staff. I had a coffee and croissant. The price of the coffee and croissant was about the only information you could get out of Rich then. He was on the run from the United States authorities, on their top 10 most wanted list for fraud, racketeering, trading with the enemy (Iran) and tax evasion (the biggest case ever).

Rich never gave interviews and one of the business journals reported that he walked around with four Israeli-trained security staff carrying Uzzi machine guns just in case someone tried to grab him. He had made a ton of money as an apartheid sanctions buster, supplying oil to South Africa.

Founded in 1974, Marc Rich & Co became Glencore in 1994 after he was reportedly forced out by a management buyout after misreading the zinc market. But the secretive culture of the company that Rich created has prevailed. Very, very little information has been publicly available about what had, in the meantime, grown to be the world's largest privately owned company. Much of the information available about Glencore, dubbed the largest company you've never heard of, has been anecdotal or even from the realm of lore.

But now Glencore is out in the open. The world's most secretive company has released a 1 600-page prospectus as part of a joint listing of the company in London and Hong Kong. It is a company like no other. Owned by 480 or so of its employees, Glencore owns industrial assets and is a significant trader of metals and minerals, energy and agricultural products.

The prospectus says that Glencore's management has more than 200 years of experience at Glencore, even though the average Glencorian is only 46 years old. The company trades or produces 90 distinct commodities through its own production or through contracts with third-party suppliers, being a significant player in many of these markets.

Its market share internationally for key products in its metals and minerals portfolio includes zinc (60%), copper (50%), alumina (38%), cobalt (16%), nickel (14%), ferrochrome (16%) and lead (45%). Its energy products division is active in coal (24%) and oil (3%). Glencore's agricultural division has market shares that include rapeseed (26%), sunflower oil (20%), soybean oil (9%), barley (11%), wheat (11%), corn (4%) and sugar (1%).

Glencore, which is headquartered in Baar, Switzerland, recorded revenues of $145-billion in 2010 from operations in 40 countries. It directly employs 2 700 people and 54 000 indirectly. It uses a fleet of 203 ships to move its commodities and holds equity interests in 41 of these ships. Glencore famously invests where others fear to tread, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kazakhstan and Colombia.

Its South African connections are greater than the role played by its founder -- three of its key executives are South African, including Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore's chief executive [see sidebar]. He has played a leading role since the management buyout and will be worth $9-billion when the company lists, making him the richest South African.

Glencore's listing is said to be creating more billionaires and millionaires than even that of Google. Every one of Glencore's 480 employee-shareholders will, on average, be worth $100-million. They will have to stay employed for five years to get this payout, at which time many are expected to leave.

One of Glencore's challenges as it converts to a public company will be to ensure that new, capable people are hired and trained to replace those who are departing.

Glencore SA and Xstrata

Glencore's South African interests are housed mostly in Xstrata, one of the world's largest commodity companies, in which it has a 34% interest and which contributed $1,7-billion in income in 2010. Xstrata's investments in South Africa include the mining and smelting of ferrochrome and the mining of platinum group metals and coal. Glencore also has a 70% interest in Shanduka Coal.

Observers believe that it is only a matter of time before Glencore and Xstrata merge. Xstrata proposed a merger of equals with Anglo American in June 2009, an approach that was rebuffed by Anglo. With Xstrata bedded down it can be expected that Glencore will bid for Anglo, a point noted by Anglo chairperson John Parker in an address to shareholders last month in London.

According to Reuters, he told the meeting: "I was brought into Anglo to defend it against a takeover on the cheap. I did everything to drive their tanks off our lawn and if someone else comes and parks their tank, they will get the same treatment."

The report noted that analysts and investors have speculated that Glencore's planned market debut next month could lead to a merger with Xstrata, with the enlarged group then turning its eye to rivals, including Anglo -- a deal that could be the largest to date in the sector.

Glencore's prospectus insists that it should not be compared with other commodity companies such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Anglo because it is less vulnerable to commodity cycles as its trading activities make a greater contribution to revenues than its industrial businesses.

The prospectus says that, although the Thomson Reuters Equal Weight Index fell 20% in the second half of 2008 following worldwide recessionary conditions, Glencore's marketing arm produced positive net income for the same period. ...

IMF Chief Strauss-Kahn Caught In "Honey Trap"

Mike Whitney, 'Information Clearing House' [15/5/11]:

... Check this out from World Campaign and judge for yourself whether Strauss-Kahn had become a "liability" that had to be eliminated so the business of extracting wealth from the poorest people on earth could continue apace:

"For decades, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been associated among anti-poverty, hunger and development activists as the poster child of everything wrong with the rich world's fiscal management of the rest of the world, particularly of poor nations, with its seemingly one-dimensional focus on belt-tightening fiscal policies as the price of its loans, and a trickle-down economic philosophy that has helped traditional wealthy elites maintain the status quo while the majority stayed poor and powerless. With a world increasingly in revolution because of such realities, and after the global financial crisis in the wake of regulatory and other policies that had worked after the Great Depression being largely abandoned, IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has made nothing less than stunning observations about how the IMF and the world need to change policies.

In an article today in the Washington Post, Howard Schneider writes that after the 2008 crash led toward regulation again of financial companies and government involvement in the economy, for Strauss-Khan "the job is only half done, as he has been leading the fund through a fundamental rethinking of its economic theory. In recent remarks, he has provided a broad summary of the conclusions: State regulation of markets needs to be more extensive; global policies need to create a more even distribution of income; central banks need to do more to prevent lending and asset prices from expanding too fast. 'The pendulum will swing from the market to the state,' Strauss-Kahn said in an address at George Washington University last week. 'Globalization has delivered a lot .?.?. but it also has a dark side, a large and growing chasm between the rich and the poor. Clearly we need a new form of globalization' to prevent the 'invisible hand' of loosely regulated markets from becoming 'an invisible fist.'" (Link---http://wcampaign.org/issue.php?mid=625&v=y)

Repeat: "...a fundamental rethinking of economic theory".... (a greater) "distribution of income"...(more) "regulation of financial companies", "central banks need to do more to prevent lending and asset prices from expanding too fast".

Are you kidding me? Read that passage again and I think you'll agree with me that Strauss-Kahn had signed his own death warrant. There's not going to be any revolution at the IMF. That's baloney. The institution was created with the clear intention of ripping people off and it's done an impressive job in that regard.

There's not going to be any change of policy either. Why would there be? Have the bankers and corporate bilge-rats suddenly grown a conscience and decided to lend a helping hand to long-suffering humanity?

Get real. Strauss-Kahn broke ranks and ventured into no man's land. That's why he was set up and then crushed like a bug.

(Note: Strauss-Kahn has been replaced by the IMF's number 2 guy, John Lipsky, former Vice Chairman of the JPMorgan Investment Bank. How's that for "change you can believe in"?)

Radioactive 'Pond' Found At Fukushima

'The Independent' [16/5/11]:

Japanese officials have found an Olympic swimming pool-sized pond of radioactive water in the basement of a unit at the Fukushima nuclear plant crippled by the March earthquake and tsunami.

The discovery has forced officials to abandon their original plan to bring the No 1 reactor under control. Now they will focus on how to deal with the rising pool that some experts see as a threat to groundwater and the Pacific coast.

Despite the setback, safety officials and the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power, hope to stabilise the plant by January.

A Democratic Arab World Would Welcome Peace With Israel

'The Daily Star' [16/5/11]:


One could reasonably argue that the golden opportunity for peace in the Middle East was blown away when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on Nov. 4, 1995.

He was the only Israeli leader capable of making peace with the Palestinians, and was about to do so had it not been for the bullets of Yigal Amir, the right-wing religious zealot who believed in the “winner takes all” principle.

One could also claim that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its global ramifications are responsible for agitating religious extremism in the Muslim world as a whole, and among Palestinians in particular. Prior to 1987, there was hardly any Islamic factor in Palestinian resistance. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups were established after the 1987 intifada. From this we deduce that extremism on the Israeli side led to the same on the Palestinian side, and consequently in other Muslim countries, which manifests in popular opposition to traditional and despotic regimes.

The Arab world is currently going through a social and political revolution that has so far claimed two “entrenched” regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. At least three other regimes in the region are fighting for their lives, and are not expected to survive. There will soon be different styles of government in Libya, Yemen and Syria. This much is certain.

Will there be a different policy toward Israel? Certainly. But this will take time to take shape, since there are more pressing national priorities, such as political and economic reforms. Israel has long branded the Arab world as tribal and undemocratic, in order to brand itself the only democracy in the Middle East. Well, soon enough it won’t be. Many of its neighbors will soon join the democratic world as demands for democracy grow. Democracy will mean more development, prosperity and people’s power. It means more popular participation in decision making and awareness of the possibilities of the nation and what it can and cannot do. It may not mean more hostility toward Israel if the latter knows how to deal with it. But there will be tension if Israel continues to follow extreme policies, which it will under the current leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Palestinians must achieve their right to establish their own state on their land. This right has been recognized by almost everyone except a minority of extremists in Israel, led by Netanyahu. Free and democratic Arab countries won’t shrink from supporting this Palestinian right under any circumstances. Muslims will not give up on East Jerusalem, either. Arab regimes have been weak in the past. Democracy will strengthen them, but also add reason to Arab governance. Most Arabs have accepted Israel’s right to exist, and accepted U.N. resolutions 242 and 338, but Israeli intransigence is not helping them formulate a unified position.

Democratic Egypt won’t be a threat to Israel as the Egyptian military, which will continue to be highly influential in Egypt’s politics in the foreseeable future, will not risk another war with Israel. Egyptians under a democratic regime will be seeking better living standards, better laws to govern the country and more rights as citizens. They won’t be pressing their government to fight Israel; on the contrary, they want a stable economy where things will be better for future generations. But Israel may aggravate the situation by electing extremists and following extreme policies. This will strengthen the hands of the hawks in the Arab world. Moderate Israel under reasonable and realistic leaders should have nothing to fear from Egypt, with which it has an enduring peace treaty.

The situation with Syria may not be exactly the same, however, especially when the two countries are still officially in a state of war. The regime of Bashar Assad, and his father before him, would have never started a war with Israel unilaterally. It also suited them not to have a peace treaty. Any new Syrian leader is not likely (for a considerable period of time) to initiate a move toward a peace agreement with Israel as this will weaken his position domestically. Nor will he launch a war, however, since such a war will not result in victory. A democratic regime in Syria, or any other Arab country for that matter, will need a good 10 years to build democratic institutions and stabilize a modern market economy needed in any democracy. So, war won’t be on the agenda in the near future.

Prosperity increases the public’s stake in a stable economy, and this will make people want to compromise to make their country more prosperous and stable. However, everything will depend on how prepared the free world is to help new democracies in the Middle East survive and prosper. Small Islamic groups, organized and armed with religious zeal, could hijack power from the moderates. This would lead to a disaster for the whole region. Therefore, it is imperative for the free world, Israel included, not to leave matters to chance. A proactive stance is needed to nurture democracy and help moderate forces organize themselves in order to govern the region

Hamid Alkifaey is a writer and journalist. He was the first government spokesman in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and is founder-leader of the Movement for Democratic Society. Currently he is researching democratization at the University of Exeter in the U.K. This commentary first appeared at bitterlemons-international.org, an online newsletter.

Bligh Government's Privatisation Project Continues

Nine MSN [16/5/11]:

Ambulance officers in Queensland claim the state government is moving towards the privatisation of ambulance services.

"Ambulance officers are deeply concerned that Queensland's patient transport services are in danger of being privatised by stealth," said Gary Bullock, general secretary of United Voice, the ambulance officers' union.

"A private operator on the Sunshine Coast has recently been given approval to operate a service to transport patients to and from medical appointments," Mr Bullock said.

The union called on Queensland Health to reassure the public and union that privatisation of patient transport is not happening.

"All the signs point to a plan to sell off patient transport," Mr Bullock said.

"It's little wonder that the government is keeping it cloak and dagger when you look at the record of privatised ambulance services in Victoria and the ongoing tragedy that is the American private ambulance system.

"Allowing this private operator into this service is a foot on the slippery slope toward privatising more ambulance services," he said.

A meeting of ambulance officers in Brisbane on Monday night will discuss risks to patient care and possible industrial action to force the government to tell the truth about its plans.

Regional meetings will follow, the union said in a statement.

Do You Get It?

Before you whinge about money, remember that the Government just gave about $1 billion of your money to a foreign company to run private jails in your country.

From 'Global capitalism and 21st century fascism' by William I. Robinson, Al Jazeera [8/5/11]:

... By the late 1990s, the system entered into chronic crisis. Sharp social polarisation and escalating inequality helped generate a deep crisis of over-accumulation. The extreme concentration of the planet's wealth in the hands of the few and the accelerated impoverishment, and dispossession of the majority, even forced participants in the 2011 World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos to acknowledge that the gap between the rich and the poor worldwide is "the most serious challenge in the world" and is "raising the spectre of worldwide instability and civil wars."

Global inequalities and the impoverishment of broad majorities mean that transnational capitals cannot find productive outlets to unload the enormous amounts of surplus it has accumulated. By the 21st century, the TCC turned to several mechanisms to sustain global accumulation, or profit making, in the face of this crisis.

One is militarised accumulation; waging wars and interventions that unleash cycles of destruction and reconstruction and generate enormous profits for an ever-expanding military-prison-industrial-security-financial complex. We are now living in a global war economy that goes well beyond such "hot wars" in Iraq or Afghanistan.

For instance, the war on immigrants in the United States and elsewhere, and more generally, repression of social movements and vulnerable populations, is an accumulation strategy independent of any political objectives. This war on immigrants is extremely profitable for transnational corporations. In the United States, the private immigrant prison-industrial complex is a boom industry. Undocumented immigrants constitute the fastest growing sector of the US prison population and are detained in private detention centres and deported by private companies contracted out by the US state.

It is no surprise that William Andrews, the CEO of the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA - the largest private US contractor for immigrant detention centres - declared in 2008 that: "The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts … or through decriminalisation [of immigrants]." Nor is it any surprise that CCA and other corporations have financed the spate of neo-fascist anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and other US states. ...

Quote Of The Week

Meet The Press [15/5/11]:

... PAUL BONGIORNO: Do you think that this [refugees] is an issue which is gripping the electorate? What about in regional Australia? Are they as concerned as our Opposition seems to be?

TONY WINDSOR: Not as much as News Limited makes out, Paul. No, I think the reaction that country people have had in relation to refugees in the past shows that they are much more embracing in terms of those sorts of issues and particularly where there's been employment issues in the past. You know, if you know an Afghan down the road is not the threat that Bin Laden was, and I think that country people are a lot more sociable in that regard. ...

Aboriginal Elder In London To Protest Intervention

An Aboriginal elder from Arnhem Land has taken to the streets of London to call for world support to end the federal intervention in Northern Territory Indigenous communities.

Dr Djiniyini Gondarra hails from Elcho Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land. Standing outside the Australian High Commission in London, Dr Gondarra has sung a traditional song and read a statement calling for the federal intervention to end immediately.

"We are asking all people today to stand with us, fight with us," he said.

Dr Gondarra also wants the support of the United Nations and has come to London from Geneva, where he met with the UN high commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay. He says he invited Ms Pillay to visit the Territory during her upcoming visit to Australia.

"I have shared with her the concern what the Australian Government is doing to our people and we are going to continue to fight until we get back our right as in our people," he said.

Dr Gondarra says he wants people across the globe to put pressure on the Australian Government to end a system he describes as "racist".

"I am now calling upon all global communities to look at the country that is so rich by minerals, rich by spirituality and everything that belongs to us. We are the poor people living in our own, we are the foreigners in our own country because of the system," he said.

Andrew Lansley's NHS Reforms Unworkable, Says Review Chief

'The Guardian' [13/5/11]:

The senior doctor called in by David Cameron to review the government's health reforms has dismissed them as unworkable and "destabilising" in provisional conclusions that could fatally undermine the plans.

Prof Steve Field, chairman of the NHS Future Forum – set up last month to undertake the coalition's "listening exercise" – flatly rejects the health secretary's plan to compel hospitals to compete for patients and income, which he says could "destroy key services". The proposal, contained in Andrew Lansley's health and social care bill, has led key medical organisations to warn that it will lead to the breakup of the NHS and betray the service's founding principles.

In an interview with the Guardian, Field says Lansley's plan to make the NHS regulator Monitor's primary duty to enforce competition between healthcare providers should be scrapped. Instead it should be obliged to do the opposite, by promoting co-operation and collaboration and the integration of health services.

"If you had a free market, that would destroy essential services in very big hospitals but also might destroy the services that need to be provided in small hospitals," says Field.

"The risk in going forward [with the bill] as it is, is [of] destabilising the NHS at a local level. It would lead to some hospitals not being able to continue as they are. If you were to say 'we're going to go out to competition for vascular surgery services', University Hospital Birmingham wouldn't be able to run their own trauma centre, for example, because you wouldn't have the staff and the skills on site to do things and the volume of procedures needed to ensure clinical standards remain high."

UHB is one of England's best-regarded hospitals and its trauma service, which treats injured military personnel from Afghanistan and Iraq, is widely admired.

"We need some significant changes in how the role of Monitor is described and enacted in order to reassure patients and doctors and nurses", Field says.

The prime minister has become concerned that the bill's promotion of competition has allowed its many critics to claim that the health service will be privatised, undermining Tory attempts to detoxify their reputation on the NHS.

In a series of policy suggestions that will help Cameron deliver the "significant and substantial" changes to the bill he promised this week, Field suggests that there should be agreed lists of "designated" – protected – core services that each hospital in England had to provide to ensure the NHS remained a truly national service. For example, each smaller hospital should have to have an A&E and maternity unit, unless there was another close by, he said. Smaller hospitals could be given subsidies to ensure their long-term future.

Field's group of 44 health experts will deliver its final report to Cameron, Nick Clegg and Lansley at the end of the month.

Fields comments should help neutralise the anxieties on competition raised by key medical organisations such as the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians, and reassure sceptics that his review is meaningful.

This is the first time he has publicly aired the initial conclusions he has reached after weeks of discussions with scores of NHS stakeholder organisations, health professionals and patients. His intervention will increase the pressure on Lansley, whose hold on his job has become the subject of speculation among MPs and within the NHS. If Field's suggestions help persuade Cameron and Clegg to stage a U-turn then Lansley, who has become increasingly isolated during the listening exercise, may not survive. ...

Kelvin Thomson. If You Want To Be Taken Seriously, Quit The ALP

Federal Labor MP Kelvin Thomson has broken party ranks and criticised his government's population strategy.

Population Minister Tony Burke yesterday released a new strategy setting no target for population growth at all - a dramatic move away from the Rudd government's vision of a big Australia.

But Mr Thomson says the current rate of population growth is not sustainable and the Government has missed an opportunity to curb growth. ...

I'll Give You A Hint, It Starts With "F"

On last night's [14/5/11] television news bulletin, the ABC reported that police had arrested many people who had never been in trouble with law before.

What does that say about this totally bogus and provocative exercise?

Nine MSN [14/5/11]:

A 27-year-old man armed with a knife has been shot by police patrolling the streets in Perth during a crackdown on drunkenness and violence.

Two officers, on duty as part of Operation Unite, had stopped to speak to a man in Applecross just before 11pm (WST) on Friday when he produced the weapon, police said.

Operation Unite is a two-night campaign across Australia and New Zealand in which police target alcohol misuse, violence and anti-social behaviour. ...

Defacto Government Still Disgracing Itself

Why are these children locked up? Well. There may be a reason to keep them locked up?

The Northern Territory Supreme Court has been asked to decide if a dozen Indonesian juveniles are being held unlawfully at an immigration detention centre in Darwin.

The 12 Indonesian juveniles have been classed as illegal non-citizens after arriving in Australia as crew on boats.
They have been held in detention by the Immigration Department for up to 10 months.

The juveniles have been brought before the Supreme Court after a writ of habeas corpus was issued.

The writ requires the Immigration Minister to explain why they are being detained.

A lawyer for the minister told the court the group's detention meets the requirements of the Migration Act because federal police may still be investigating their cases.

A lawyer acting for the juveniles told the court it was not justifiable to hold them indefinitely without charge.

The lawyer said the Immigration Department had also failed to properly nurture, control and educate the children while in detention.

The hearing continues.

Government Blunder Sees Groves Beat Unlicensed Driving Charge

'Brisbane Times' [13/5/11]:

Failed ABC Learning childcare boss Eddy Groves has won a traffic court case because of a paperwork bungle by Queensland Transport.

The win has prompted him and his lawyer to criticise the way the government department issues driver's licence suspension notices.

Mr Groves faced Southport Magistrates Court today accused of driving on the Gold Coast in November last year while subject to a six-month suspension after being caught driving more than 40km/h over the limit.

He was pulled over after police spotted him driving a black Mercedes in a bus lane on the Gold Coast Highway at Broadbeach.

But 44-year-old, who was one of Queensland's most colourful millionaires when he headed the child care giant and owned basketball team the Brisbane Bullets, claimed he was unaware of the suspension and contested the matter.

This afternoon, a magistrate dismissed the charge after Mr Groves' lawyer argued Queensland Transport had sent his client a three-month suspension notice rather than the six-month suspension notice, which their records showed he was under.

Lawyer Mick Purcell also argued the government department had used the wrong section of law on a certificate it provided to the court to support the police case.

Magistrate Terry Duroux ruled the certificate was inadmissible, leaving the prosecution unable to prove its case.

Mr Duroux dismissed the charge and then ordered the Queensland Police Service pay costs of $2250 to Mr Groves to cover part of his legal fees.

Outside court, Mr Groves told media Queensland Transport had never advised him of a six-month suspension for a high-speed offence.

Instead, they wrote to him in May last year to advise him he was subject to a three-month suspension.
That suspension period had expired by the time he was intercepted in November last year.

Mr Groves said he was pleased to have had "a win" but was disappointed police had wasted his and the court's time.

"I think it’s a very good thing I'm happy about it. It's good to actually have a win," he said.

Mr Purcell told media the case had shown the poor state of Queensland Transport records.

"There are a lot of people out there who are driving around who don't know they've been suspended, who don't know they shouldn't have a driver's licence, and this case highlights that," he said.

"The government needs to make sure Queensland Transport lets people know if they're going to be suspended, to let them know in a proper way. This hasn't happened here, and the court has reflected that."

Mr Groves refused to comment on how his business interests were going.

"I take it one step at a time, I try not to think too far ahead because I never know what's around the corner,” he said.

“I'm just going to keep working through it as vigorously as I can.”

Qld Farmers Lock The Gate On Bauxite Miner

'The West Australian' [12/5/11]:

Farmers around Kingaroy in southeast Queensland are refusing to give a bauxite mining company access to their land.

A meeting of 150 farmers on Wednesday confirmed they would join others in eastern Australia in the Lock the Gate campaign by an alliance of groups seeking to preserve their enterprises against exploration and extraction of fossil fuels.

Queensland Bauxite (QBL) is proposing to prospect for bauxite on the fertile red soils of the South Burnett and was recently granted an Exploration Permit for Minerals (EPM) by the Queensland government.

QBL has been contacting local landholders seeking access to begin exploration drilling.

"As a result of the meeting, local residents have resolved to lock the gate and not to co-operate with QBL requests for access to discuss exploration or begin drilling," said John Dalton, secretary of the Kingaroy Concerned Citizens Group (KCCG).

"If the government of the day considers it a good idea to consider transforming rare fertile farms into a bauxite mine, then they should come up here and explain, because most people at tonight's meeting believe it unthinkable," he said.

"The rest of the world is concerned about securing future food sources, and our government is thinking of trading it in so we can buy cheap mag wheels from China."

He said affected people need an objective source of information about mining projects "and most people do not consider a mining company a fully transparent and objective source".

QBL's chief operating officer Mark Derriman, who attended the meeting, sought to reassure landholders.

He said the company was only attempting to gauge the extent of bauxite deposits.

"Once we've completed our preliminary exploration ourselves, the government, the landowners are all in a better position to make a call on what the next stage will be," Mr Derriman told AAP on Thursday.

He said exploration would be confined to public roads and spaces, and land where the company had been given permission to enter.

"I can say categorically that the only time at the moment that we'll enter onto anybody's land is if we have permission.

"That's just the right thing to do."

He said exploration could find that bauxite deposits were not economically viable.

One farmer at Wednesday night's meeting decided to withdraw permission he had already given the company to enter his land.

"KCCG member Keith Jessen publicly informed QBL that he is reversing his previous consent for access for exploration to begin, and that QBL was not to begin drilling on his property on Monday as previously planned," Mr Dalton said.

Friends of the Earth organiser and acting president of the national Lock the Gate Alliance, Drew Hutton, told the meeting that farmers hold the winning cards in any legal dispute over access.

"Private property rights are paramount in Australian constitutional law and the mining companies know it," he said.

Thousands Attend Boston’s “SlutWalk” March

CBS Boston [7/5/11]:

BOSTON (AP) — Chanting “We love sluts!” and holding signs like “Jesus loves sluts,” approximately 2,000 protesters marched Saturday around the Boston Common as the city officially became the latest to join an international series of protests known as “SlutWalks.”

The protest movement, sparked by a Toronto police officer’s remark that women could avoid being raped by not dressing like “sluts,” came to Boston after advocates saw similar events — largely organized through Facebook and Twitter — pop up in Canada, England and other parts of the U.S.

“We wanted to do something to show our support,” said Siobhan Connors, 20, of Lynn, Mass., a Boston organizer.

“We originally planned for a small event and expected about 30 people.” But by the time the march began Saturday, about 2,000 people — some dressed in lingerie with the words “slut” written across their stomachs — were in attendance.

In January, a Toronto police officer told a group of university students that women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to avoid being raped. He later apologized. The officer who made the comments, Constable Michael Sanguinetti, was disciplined but remained on duty, said Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash.

However, advocates in Toronto held a “SlutWalk” to protest the officer’s remarks and to highlight what they saw as problems in blaming sexual assault victims. Since then, SlutWalks, organized mainly through social media, have been held in Dallas, Asheville, N.C., and Ottawa, Ontario. Organizers say the events also were held to bring attention to “slut-shaming,” or shaming women for being sexual, and the treatment of sexual assault victims.

“I had watched the Toronto walk happen from afar,” said Jaclyn Friedman, author of “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape” and resident of Medford, Mass.

“When I heard it was coming to Boston I just emailed the organizers and said, `How can I help?”‘ Organizers invited Friedman to speak. Vanessa White, 33, of Somerville, Mass., also heard about the event through Facebook and showed up for the Boston event dressed in a pink jacket and fishnet stockings.

“For me … it’s an attempt to reclaim the word `slut’ itself,” said White.

“Because once you reclaim it, you take the power away from it.”

Before the march, a small group of counter protesters, wearing colorful cowboy hats with feathers and holding a boom box that played hip-hop and 1970s funk, walked around the gathering. Dubbed the “PimpWalk,” organizer Samuel Bilowski, 23, of Salem, N.H., said his group wanted to “get some numbers” and talk to attractive women.

“This is a pathetic attempt at a joke,” admitted Bilowski.

“We’re just having fun.” Still, White and a group of other advocates surrounded Bilowski and his group and yelled the word “slut” repeatedly. Others verbally attacked Bilowski for glorifying violence against women. Bilowski’s group eventually joined the SlutWalk march around the Common.

Following Boston, SlutWalk marches are planned in cities including Seattle; New York; Chicago; Philadelphia; Reno, Nev.; and Austin, Texas.

SlutWalk Hits Australia

... Throughout this month and next, women from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide will stand together in satellite SlutWalk events spearheaded by event organizer and Melbourne writer Clem Bastow. "Having seen the brilliant response to the international SlutWalks, it made sense to have one in Melbourne." Bastow says of her involvement. "We did a search and when we could find nothing planned for Melbourne, we got the ball rolling. The collective unconscious is obviously going full steam ahead, as Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth events are all being planned currently, too."

The event is expected to attract women in the thousands but Bastow says anyone can walk for any reason: "Hopefully SlutWalk will lead people to think a little more deeply about the way they use language; do they call people "slut", and if so, why?" she says. "Some people are walking to reclaim the word slut, some are walking for the right not to be called "slut" no matter what they do, but everyone who is walking is dedicated to the radical idea that nobody who experiences sexual assault or rape is at fault, no matter what they do or how they dress."

Melbourne SlutWalk - Saturday, May 28: 1:00pm - 4:00pm

Brisbane SlutWalk - Saturday, May 28: 2:00pm - 5:00pm

Adelaide SlutWalk - Saturday, June 11: 12:00pm - 3:00pm

Sydney SlutWalk - Monday, June 13: 2:00pm - 4:00pm

Locals Open Hearts, Homes To Grantham

'Tweed Coast Weekly' [13/5/11]:

Families from flood ravaged Grantham were given a chance to sit back, relax and take a short break away, thanks to some Casuarina residents.

The weekend break was a much-needed reprieve for the group of residents who are still battling to rebuild their lives and homes almost four months after the inland Tsunami which decimated their tiny town on January 10.

The break was organised by local residents and supported by Tweed businesses.

They were brought down by JB bus services from Tweed and returned home by the Gatton Bus Company.

One of the organisers, Linda Pennalligen, said the group was welcomed into the homes of local Ebony Court residents.

"They were welcomed into the homes of local residents who quickly embraced and forged new friendships together," she said.

"The Grantham folk not only included those who had lost homes and all possessions but also some who have been volunteering tirelessly since the devastating flood.

"Their weekend began with pizza for all on their arrival on Friday night to get acquainted, followed by a fun-filled Saturday.

"Despite some uncertain weather, the young and young at heart headed to Dreamworld for a day of adventure, while others spent the day at Tropical Fruit World.

"A street BBQ was organised for Saturday night, with many locals coming together to enjoy a scrumptious dinner cooked by the Tweed Rotary volunteers.

"Kingscliff turned on the weather on Sunday and newly opened Jakes Restaurant cooked up a sensational breakfast for everyone before they all headed to Macadamia Castle for another day of adventure."

Linda said, in between the organised trips, the families spent time taking in the beauty of the Tweed Coast.

She said they all left Sunday evening tired but refreshed after experiencing true generouslity and community spirit, taking with them an amazing hamper each, with wonderful treats courtesy of our Northern NSW neighbours, goodies and produce donated by the Byron Bay Farmers markets and lots of other locals suppliers.

"It is easy for us to forget that these folk are still doing it extremely tough. There are many who are unable to move on with any kind of resemblance to their lives before the devastation of January 10," Linda said.

"Stories of insurance claims being denied, of flood appeal money not being accessed by all, are just a couple of sad realities.

"The kindness shown by the Tweed Community goes a long way in giving these people a glimmer of hope that they have not been forgotten."

The weekend was organised by Ebony Court resident Linda Pennalligen-Hansen and Noni Yates from Salt, who have both been volunteering and helping out in Grantham. ...

Interesting Bits

'Time Off' [11/5/11]:

Brisbane lost another venue last week with the news that Rosies Live would be discontinuing live music at the end of May. James Geekie, the promoter of one of the venue's main nights Monstrothic and who helped develop the venue into a live music venue from a nightclub said it was "very disappointing ... in the CBD and even The Valley, alternative music is being pushed further away". He also claimed there is a negative misconception of the alternative and metal scenes within the Brisbane public that is hurting their cause. The group who own the renovated Fox Hotel have bought Rosies and changed the policy. Outgoing owner Tony McLeod told the Daily SPA newsletter "they buy old, tired evenues and return them to their former glory, they make them beautiful." Music will continue at Rosies, but not in a live format.

After a fierce month of final bidding a deal it has been announced that Warner Music Group has been bought by Access Industries, a conglomerate controlled by Russian billionaire Len Blavatnik. The sale process had taken three months in which a number of other private equity firms, companies and other music labels had been involved. In the end the deal is worth a reported USD$3.3 billion. ...

'3D World' [11/5/11]:

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

Hoping to draw attention to the plight of coral reefs, the LA based Australian artist and scientist combo of Christine Wertheim and Margaret Wertheim decided to crochet some as a "woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world". Apparently helpful things to have in order to crochet a coral reef: "Knowledge of non-euclidean geometry*, Interest in embodied forms of reasoning, and a global sewing bee of serious science communication". (*More at Believer magazine.)

Jason Decaies Taylor's Underwatersculpture.com

Hoping to draw attention to the plight of coral reefs, and actually make some in the process, Jason has made an amazing (incredible!) series of concrete sculptures for the ocean floor. By themselves the statues are great but forgettable, but when viewed half covered in coral, with fish swimming past and starting to age with the ocean, they transform into enchanting otherworldly creatures. In other, otherworldly news - did you hear the lost city of Atlantis may have been found?! The legendary metropolis believed swamped by a tsunami thousands of years ago might've been found in mud flats of Southern Spain according to Reuters.

Coral Work

Artists at Aphids have begun creative development for a planned underwater concert created and performed on the Great Barrier Reef. Recent filming tests utilised the 62,000 litre tank the Artrage complex has in downtown Perth.

'Rave' Magazine ' [10/5/11]:

A row has broken out over an application by the Halse Lodge Guest House in Noosa Hills to hold amplified music in its outdoor courtyard. There were 25 objections and a petition.

Gold Coast Parklands could be worth $100 million a year to the region if it became an arts event area and not closed down, says the Save Parklands Action Group. It could double the present 300 events which bring $56 million.

The Arena in Fortitude Valley (210 Brunswick St) is returning as a live music space for Qld and national acts.

Arrested: Sydneysider Matthew Komljenovic, 17, on charges of throwing eggs at Justin Bieber during his Sydney show after climbing up on the roof.

Record labels and commercial radio went to the High Court this week over 1% cap imposed by the Commonwealth government in 1968. It means radio does not have to pay more than 1% of its annual revenues to labels in royalties. Labels say that the figure is 4% in Europe, radio squeaks it'll go broke.

Chaplains Investigated Over Student 'Disciples'

The religious organisation that provides chaplains to Victorian schools appears to have breached federal guidelines that forbid it from trying to convert children.

Access Ministries provides chaplains to 280 Victorian schools and 96 per cent of special religious education classes. The group received extra funding in this week's federal budget.

The national school chaplaincy code of conduct, which every chaplain must sign, stipulates they should not take advantage of their privileged position to try to convert children to their religious belief or denomination. But on its website, the boss of Access Ministries outlines a strategy to "make students disciples."

Last month, Dr Evonne Paddison strenuously denied Access Ministries' religious teachers or chaplains sought to convert students in state schools.

"We instruct our people not to proselytise, we're not there to convert children," she said. But that is not what she told a group of Anglican Evangelicals in 2008.

"In Australia, we have a God-given open door to children and young people," she said.

"Our Federal and State Governments allow us to take the Christian faith into schools.

"We need to go and make disciples."

The speech she gave the Anglican Evangelical fellowship is posted on the group's website.

That missionary aim flies in the face of federal guidelines, and federal Education Minister Peter Garrett intends to investigate the matter.

Mr Garrett says it is absolutely crystal clear in the guidelines that it is not about proselytising. "So if there is any indication or examples of that happening, then my expectation is that that ought to be looked into and investigated by my department," he said.

Mary Bluett from the Australian Education Union is urging the Victorian Education Minister to spend the money elsewhere.

"We'd urge [Education Minister] Martin Dixon here in Victoria to immediately cut the additional $800,000 of funding for Access Ministries that he's put through in this latest budget," she said. ...

Bikies Fund Hospitals, Pollies Fund Churches? WTF?

Backburner 'Tweed Shire Echo' [12/5/11]:

Motorcycle clubs in Australia tend to get some bad press from time to time so it's good to record that last month members of the local chapter of the Finks Motorcycle Club made an impressive donation of $1,500 to the children's ward of Murwillumbah District Hospital. The deputy director of nursing at the hospital, Mark Davies, said 'despite their sometimes colourful character and reputations, motorcycle clubs such as the Finks have traditionally supported hospitals, with children's wards a particular focus.' Mr Davies said it was the fifth donation by the club and thanked them on behalf of the hospital and community.

****

Speaking of the hospital, a longtime campaigner against its downgrading, Murwillumbah journalist Bob Dow, died there last Thursday night after a long illness. Bob, the 76-year old former editor of the local daily, was passionate about the hospital and his hometown. In the mid-1990s, Bob helped organise the biggest public protest in the town's history to save the hospital when it was feared the government would close it down. He was a board member of the hospital and chairman of the Murwillumbah Bowls Club for 18 years. His funeral was held on Wednesday at All Saints Anglican Church in Murwillumbah. A big hats off to Bob, who as a retired former local journalist wished The Echo well when it launched almost three years go.

It's A Gas

'Queensland Country Life' [12/5/11]:

Thousands from the Western Downs enjoyed the Drama at the Gasfields community event held by natural gas company QGC at the weekend.

About 3000 people travelled to Chinchilla showgrounds for the event.

The biggest crowd in its five-year history sat under brilliant blue skies and enjoyed a day's entertainment headlined by the theatre production 'The Spirit of the Land' [written especially for the event and directed by Sean Mee, former artistic director of La Boite Theatre Company]. ...

The musical told of the strength and resilience of the people of the outback through poetry, theatre, and country music from some of Australia's most popular artists including Lee Kernagan, Hank Williams and Kasey Chambers. ...

Cane Processor Scores US Patent

'Queensland Country Life' [12/5/11]:

Affected by the state's summer of sorrows, the pioneering Queensland cane-processing system that uses crushing devices to process crops via a series of shredding, mincing and spinning actions has gained a full U.S. patent.

It's a huge boost for the venture, being championed by Biomass Technology which says its pilot plant at Inkerman near Ayr, last year found it difficult to source quality cane from sodden paddocks, delaying trials.

Invented and patented more than a decade ago by Townsville marine engineer Trevor Cullinger, a partnership with lawyer Mark Diamond, the organistion's chairman, maintains their "high end" technology eventually will see its BTIO Processor unit became a commercial reality. ...

Packer Family Sells Share In Teys Bros

'Queensland Country Life' [12/5/11]:

Months of speculation in the beef industry ended yesterday with confirmation meat processing giants Teys Bros and Cargill Beef Australia will form a 50 - 50 joint venture company providing capacity to process 1.5 million head of cattle annually.

While the proposed joint venture is subject to regulatory approvals, the new company will trade under the name of "Teys Australia - A Cargill Joint Venture" and further consolidate Teys' position as the second largest beef processor and exporter in Australia.

It will include the assets of both companies existing beef processing and cattle feeding businesses as well as Teys' tannery and value adding facilities, and Teys' share of its wholesalde divisions.

Cargill Beef Australia was established in Australia in 1991 as part of the privately held global food industry giant Cargill.

The Australian arm has processing operations in NSW at Wagga Wagga and Tamworth, a feedlot at Stockinbingal.

Teys Bros. established in 1946, processes about 1 million cattle and turns over more than A$1.2 billion per annum, with its assets including four beef processing facilities and 30,000 - head feedlot. ...

Social Security?

'The Chronicle' [12/5/11]:

Australia and India have vowed to double two-way trade flows within five years and agreed to work out a far-reaching free trade deal to underpin further growth.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson said the goal of the negotiations would be a "comprehensive economic cooperation agreement".

"A truly liberalising CECA would assist in broadening the base of merchandise trade, removing non-tariff barriers that impede trade in services, facilitating and encouraging investment, and addressing behind-the-border restrictions to trade," Dr Emerson said in a joint statement with Indian Trade Minister Anand Sharma.

Social security, film co-production and taxation are all on the agenda. ...

Woodside Names ExxonMobil Veteran To Succeed Voelte

'Brisbane Times' [12/5/11]:

Woodside Petroleum as appointed long-time petroleum executive Peter Coleman, from US energy giant ExxonMobil, to be the successor to chief executive Don Voelte.

Mr Coleman's last position was as the vice president of ExxonMobil Development Company, with responsibility for oil and gas developments around the world. Mr Coleman, 51, will take the helm of Woodside on May 30.

Mr Coleman, an Australian, also served as ExxonMobil’s head of the Americas as part of his 27 years with the company.

Woodside chairman Michael Chaney said Mr Coleman brought a wealth of experience in the oil and gas industry.

The new CEO will take control of a company that’s been the subject of persistent takeover speculation. Mr Coleman must unite Woodside’s partners in the proposed $30 billion Browse LNG project in Western Australia and resolve a dispute with East Timor over the development of the Sunrise gas fields.

Mr Voelte “was quite aggressive - that was probably needed by Woodside to jolt them into activity,” said Peter Rudd, mining and resources research manager at Armytage Private, a Melbourne-based investment firm that oversees $420 million in assets and owns Woodside shares.

“Now they need a man who has a good production background to bring projects on stream and manage costs. Coleman has the appropriate background.”

Woodside, which has a $36 billion market value, dropped 1.9 per cent to $45.31 in early afternoon trading, compared with a 1.4 percent decline in the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index. ....

Wilkie Unhappy With 'Cruel' Welfare Work Rules

'Australian Financial Review' [12/5/11]:

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, whose support is crucial to the federal government, plans to raise with Prime Minister Julia Gillard concerns about welfare-to-work measures in the budget.

Although he is supportive of many of the budget measures, Mr Wilkie sounded a warning about the government's "tough love" plan to encourage people on disabilty pensions to return to work.

"Many of these people are among the most disadvantaged members of our community and to target them for a short-term political fix is cruel," he said.

He accused the government of being preoccupied with returning the budget to surplus by 2012-13 and called for a delay of 12 months.

"This is patently a political decision and one that ignores the strong public interest case for running the deficit out an extra 12 months," he told The Australian Financial Review.

"I intend to raise with the Prime Minister my concerns about some aspects of the welfare-to-work reforms." ...

The AFR also reported Mr Wilkie:

... condemned the Gillard government's moves to reopen a Howard-era asylum seeker centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and do an asylum-seeker swap deals with Malaysia. ...

O'Farrell Launches Ferry Privatisation

'Australian Financial Review' [12/5/11]:

The NSW Coalition government is facing the first test of its ability to mix public ownership with private management as it pushes ahead with its plan to privatise the running of Sydney ferries.

Premier Barry O'Farrell and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian announced yesterday that registrations of interest in operating the ferries would be sought by the government from next week. ...

France Turns Against Fracking

'Australian Financial Review' [12/5/11]:

French law makers opened debate yesterday on proposals to ban a method of extracting oil and gas deposits from shale because of environmental concerns, throwing up the first serious stumbling block to companies that want to use the practice.

Looking with alarm at the experience in the US, where shale gas is booming, even members of President Nicolas Sarkozy's governing conservative party have come out against the practice, known as hydraulic fracturing, in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped deep underground under high pressure to free scattered pockets of oil and gas from dense rock formations.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, "is not something we want to use in France," said Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, who in February announced a halt in all exploration pending a study. ...

Macarthur Upgrades

'Australian Financial Review' [12/5/11]:

Macarthur Coal said its coal resource has increased by 38 per cent to 2.26 billion tonnes after significant upgrades at the West Rolleston and Vermont East/Wilunga deposits.

BHP Exercises Option

'Australian Financial Review' [12/5/11]:

BHP Billiton exercised an option to invest in Otto Energy's Service contract 55 licence area in the Philippines, where a deep-water offshore exploration well is to be drilled by 2012. ...

Barrick Approval

'Australian Financial Review [12/5/11]:

Canadian goldmine Barrick Gold Corporation has received approval from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board for its $C7.3 billion ($7.6 billion) takeover of Perth-based copper miner Equinox minerals.

Top Honour For Assange

'Australian Financial Review' [12/5/11]:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation's top honour for "exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights", joining the likes of Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. ...

G20 Protest Victim Was Unlawfully Killed By PC

'International Express' [10/5/11]:

A newspaper seller who died after a police officer pushed him to the ground was unlawfully killed, an inquest jury ruled last week.

Jurors said PC Simon Harwood had acted illegally, recklessly and dangerously when he shoved Ian Tomlinson 47, to the ground during the G20 protest in London on April 1, 2009. They also ruled that he had used "excessive and unreasonable" force by using a baton to hit the homeless victim, who was not part of the protest and posed no threat to officers.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has launched a review into an earlier decision not to prosecute PC Harwood for manslaughter. But experts last week said the inquest verdict was unlikely to result in a prosecution. ...

Cat With A Camera Gets Her Snaps Into A Top Exhibition

'International Express' [10/5/11]:

The finest images from top photographers are set to be outshone by a more homely series of pictures - taken by a camera toting tabby.

As part of a project set up by her owner, student Christian Allen, the cat named Nancy Bean captured 400 shots with a lightweight camera sling around her neck.

The camera was timed to take an image every minute as Nancy prowled her favourite haunts around her home in Plymouth. Now the snaps have so impressed experts that they are to be included in an international photography exhibition in the south of France.

The cat, who has only three legs following a car accident, captured pictures of her hiding places and encounters with neighbours. ...

Antipsychotic Drugs Called Hazardous For The Elderly

'New York Times' [10/5/11]:

Nearly one in seven elderly nursing home residents, nearly all of them with dementia, are given powerful atypical antipsychotic drugs even though the medicines increase the risks of death and are not approved for such treatments, a government audit found.

More than half of the antipsychotics [including Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon] paid for by the federal Medicare program in the first half of 2007 were "erroneous," the audit found, costing the program $116 million for those six months. ...

West Bank: Tax Withholding By Israel Will Delay Paychecks For Palestinians

'New York Times' [10/5/11]:

The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, said Monday that the Palestinian Authority could not pay the salaries of its employees on time this month because of Israel's decision to withhold the transfer of tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinians.

Israel delayed the transfer of almost $90 million after the reconciliation last week between fatah, the party that dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza. ...

Lag In Closing A Japanese Nuclear Plant Reflects Erosion Of A Culture Of Consensus

'New York Times' [10/5/11]:

TOKYO - Last week, Prime Minister Naoto Kan surprised many here when he suddenly moved to suspend the Hamaoka nuclear plant, long criticized as one of the most vulnerable and potentially dangerous nuclear power stations in Japan.

Just as surprising was the response of the plant's operator, the Chubu Electric Power Compan. It hemmed and hawed and dragged its feet for three days before finally accepting the prime minister's request on Monday.

This test of wills over the weekend pitted Japan's leader against one of its most entrenched and coddled interest groups, a nuclear power industry that retains enormous clout even after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

While Mr. Kan prevailed, experts say the daily in his decision to shut the plant, and the company's subsequent indecision over whether to follow his recommendation, underscore the obstacles to decisive leadership in Japan's consensus-driven political culture. ...

Gunfight In Mexico Leaves 13 Dead

'New York Times' [10/5/11]:

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexican marines patrolling a lake along the border with Texas discovered a drug gang's island camp, provoking a gun battle that left 13 people dead, the Mexican Navy said Monday.

And in a different northern state, investigators reported finding 11 decapitated bodies. ...

Chinese Crackdown On Domestic Critics Extends To Writer Barred From Travelling

'New York Times' [10/5/11]:

HONG KONG - In the latest sign of China's continuing crackdown on domestic critics, a prominent Chinese writer has been barred from leaving China to attend a literary festival next week in Australia, the writer and festival officials said Monday.

The writer, Liao Yiwu, is a poet, author and musician who went to prison for four years after the Tiananmen Square killings in 1989 for composing a strongly worded eulogy for the fallen. Some of his more recent writings on people at the margins of life in China, including a professional funeral mourner and a grave robber, have been compiled in a translated book, "The Corpse Walker." ...

Mr. Liao had been scheduled to appear at the Sydney festival as part of a panel to discuss China's rising political influence in Australia. ...

Mr. Liao said that he had been denied permission 14 times to leave China from 1999 until last autumn, when he received permission to travel to Germany after literary acclaim for "The Corpse Walker." ...

Fukushima Evacuees Visit Homes

'New Zealand Herald' [11/5/11]:

About 100 evacuees were allowed into the exclusion zone around Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant yesterday for a brief visit to gather belongings from their homes.

It is the first time the Government has felt confident enough in the safety of the area to sanction short trips there.

The evacuees - just a fraction of the tens of thousands forced to flee - were given protective suits, goggles and face masks as well as plastic bags to put their belongings in.

They were also given dosimeters to monitor radiation levels and were screened for radiation contamination afterwards.

FIFA Dogged By More Corruption Claims

Nine MSN [11/5/11]:

More allegations have emerged that Australia unwittingly threw away $45 million on a World Cup bid it never had a chance of winning.

Explosive claims of corruption in FIFA's 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding processes have been aired in a British parliamentary inquiry, alleging votes were for sale.

And it is claimed Qatar - who trumped Australia for the 2022 hosting rights - were prepared to pay.

The inquiry received evidence FIFA vice-president Issa Hayatou from Cameroon and Ivory Coast delegate Jacques Anouma received bribes of $US1.5 million to vote for Qatar's bid instead of Australia.

They were among six FIFA executive committee (ExCo) members accused of receiving or asking for bribes during the bidding - Paraguayan Nicolas Leoz allegedly going as far as to demand a knighthood in exchange for voting for England.

Australia only received one vote in last December's ballot.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) chairman Frank Lowy had publicly insisted on running a clean bid without offering any financial inducement to ExCo members to garner support.

The FFA declined to comment on the corruption allegations on Wednesday, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Australian government - which funded the World Cup bid - was unlikely to pursue FIFA over the bribery claims.

"We were very disappointed," she said. "We put in a bid which was impressive and we pursued that bid in an ethical and impressive way."

Qatar officials have released a statement saying allegations they bought votes were "baseless" and that the claims would "remain unproven because they are false".

Allegations of FIFA ExCO delegates taking bribes were raised before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons, which is looking at England's failed World Cup bid as part of a wider inquiry into football governance.

Lord David Triesman, the chairman of England's bid until his resignation in May last year, accused four FIFA officials of "improper and unethical" behaviour ahead of the ballot.

He said the conduct of Leoz, Jack Warner, Ricardo Terra Teixeira and Worawi Makudi in the 2018 contest was "improper and unethical".

Two other FIFA ExCO members were barred from voting prior to last December's ballot over similar corruption claims.

In Zurich, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he would ask for evidence of the claims heard at the inquiry and forward any allegations to the organisation's ethics committee.

"I cannot say they are all angels or they are all devils," he told The Associated Press of the executive members.

"We must have the evidence and then we will act immediately against all those who would be in breach of the ethical code rules."

Blatter is seeking re-election next month against Qatar's Mohamed bin Hammam - the Asian Football Confederation president.

Blindfolded, Beaten And Tortured: Grim New Testimony Reveals Fate Of Bahrain's Persecuted Doctors

'The Independent' [10/5/11]:

Harrowing testimony of torture, intimidation and humiliation from a doctor arrested in the crackdown on medical staff in Bahrain has revealed the lengths to which the regime's security forces are prepared to go to quash pro-democracy protests.

Interviews obtained by The Independent from inside Bahrain tell of ransacked hospitals and of terrified medical staff beaten, interrogated and forced into signing false confessions. Many have been detained, their fate unknown.

Inspired by the pro-democracy protests which swept Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year, Bahrainis took to the streets in their thousands in February, demanding greater political rights and more equality for the Shia Muslim majority, ruled over for decades by a Sunni monarchy.

The state launched a fierce counter-offensive in mid-March, swiftly and brutally crushing the uprising with the backing of Saudi security forces. The campaign of intimidation against the doctors and nurses who bore witness to the bloody crackdown began two months ago at Salmaniya Medical Complex, the main hospital in the capital Manama.

It has since been extended to at least nine health centres which have been systematically attacked by the security forces over the past month, an activist cataloguing the abuses says.

Each incident follows the same pattern: police jeeps surround the centre, before armed men and women in masks close the gates and line all those caught inside up against the wall. Police dogs are also used to spread fear among the staff.

Though it is impossible to corroborate the accounts, they correspond with others emerging from Bahrain and from reports by international monitoring groups. The latest crackdown followed protests by doctors at the refusal by the regime to allow ambulances from Salmaniya Hospital to attend to those injured in the protests.

Details of the assaults, collected by the families of those detained and passed to The Independent, show that at least 40 medical staff were arrested in nine health centres between 10 April and 27 April. Dr Ahmed Jamal, president of the Bahrain Medical Society, was arrested at his clinic on 2 May. Among 11 female doctors and nurses arrested, eight were released on 4 May but three remain detained, including Rula Jasim al-Saffar, 49, president of the Bahrain Nursing Society who has been held in custody for five weeks. ...

Vivienne Nathanson, head of ethics at the British Medical Association, said the attacks on medical staff in Bahrain were unprecedented.

"I don't think we have seen it on this scale before. It is very worrying because doctors and health workers have an ethical duty to treat people regardless of what they have been doing and the state has an obligation to protect them. All the doctors have been doing is saying these people need care and they have got to give care. They are not saying the protesters are right," she said.

"The UK Government should be doing everything it can to bring pressure on any government, whether Bahraini or not, to ensure healthcare can be provided in safety."

Lord Eric Avebury, a Liberal Democrat peer and expert on Bahrain, condemned the British Government's response to the crisis, and called for sanctions against the Sunni government and the ruling family of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

"The Foreign Secretary has made some pretty anodyne statements that are not commensurate with the scale of the problem. The whole medical and nursing profession, journalists and all Shia professionals including MPs have been targeted," he said.

"I would like to see a ban on entry to the UK of some of the leading perpetrators of the Khalifa family and the sequestration of their assets.

"These are crimes against humanity which I hope will be subject to criminal proceedings and their assets used to compensate the victims, subject to court proceedings."

Brisbane Woman Pinned Between Two Cars

'Brisbane Times' [11/5/11]:

A woman and young boy were seriously injured when a car lost control in a shopping centre carpark and pinned them against another car, police say.

The 37-year-old woman and the two-year-old boy became pinned between a sedan and a four-wheel-drive in the Highpoint Shopping Centre carpark on Waterworks Road, Ashgrove, about 9.30am.

Police said initial investigations suggested the sedan lost control in the carpark, collided with a concrete pillar and then struck the woman and child, trapping them against the four-wheel-drive.

The pair was freed by firefighters and the woman was taken by ambulance to the Royal Brisbane Hospital in a critical condition.

A Department of Community Safety spokeswoman said the woman suffered a severe leg injury in the crash. The spokeswoman said the young boy also suffered a leg injury and was taken by ambulance to the Royal Children's Hospital in a stable condition.

Indonesian Supreme Court Commutes Rush Death Sentence

Nine MSN [10/5/11]:

Bali Nine drug mule Scott Rush has escaped the death penalty after winning a judicial review of his case, reducing his sentence to life in prison.

Rush, 24, had been facing execution for his part in a 2005 plot to smuggle more than eight kilograms of heroin from Bali to Australia. But the Supreme Court, which published the decision on Tuesday, instead commuted his sentence to life, citing the fact that Rush had shown remorse for his actions while also taking into account his age.

The court also cited the fact that he was only a courier, and not considered a ringleader of the group. Rush, from Brisbane, was only 19 and on his first trip to Bali when he was arrested at Ngurah Rai Airport with 1.3kg of heroin strapped to his legs underneath his clothing.

His lawyer Frans Hendra Winata said Rush had been informed of the decision.

"Yes. The sentence has been changed to life," Mr Winata told AAP.

"This is also really good news for the family. Thank God for this."

It is understood the Supreme Court voted 2-1 in favour of granting the judicial review. If it had failed, it would have left Rush's life depending on clemency from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"The reasons they gave is that he's still young, he's been repentant and his role was only as a courier," Mr Winata said.

In Canberra, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said Australians would greet the decision with relief.

"The Australian government welcomes this decision by the Supreme Court," he told parliament.

He said the federal government remained in close touch with Rush's parents, who had been informed of the decision. Mr Rudd said Rush's parents had shouldered a heavy burden, with years of waiting for the decision.

The so-called ringleaders of the Bali Nine - Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - are also waiting for the outcome of judicial reviews in the hope they will escape the firing squad. If their appeals fail, they must also rely on President Yudhoyono granting them clemency.

Rush now joins a number of other members of the drug smuggling plot who are also serving life sentences in Bali's Kerobokan Prison, including Martin Stephens, Matthew Norman, Si Yi Chen, Tan Duc Than Nguyen and Michael Czugaj.

Stephens had his final appeal against a life sentence rejected in January. The final member of the drug ring, Renae Lawrence, is serving a 20-year sentence, which has already been reduced by almost two years.

Did You Say Porn?

Notice that rather than assuring McLindon he would look into his claims, the Minister accused him of fabrication:

Queensland Parliament Hansard [10/5/11]:

Mr McLINDON: My question without notice is to the Minister for Police and Corrective Services. Given the amount of porn I saw during a room inspection in the men’s Townsville Correctional Centre, will the minister commit to enforcing a ban on all porn in Queensland prisons?

Mr ROBERTS: The member has been in the public arena this morning making a series of outrageous and unsubstantiated claims about a four-hour visit that he made to the Townsville Correctional Centre which made him an expert on prisons. This morning he put out a policy whereby he is going to cut off electricity to prison cells. The only things missing from the member for Beaudesert’s policy announcement this morning were daily public floggings and a return to gruel for breakfast.

This member made some dishonest claims this morning about access to pornography. He made misleading claims--

Mr McLINDON: I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. I had five prison guards with me by my side and I take offence at that statement. Everything I have said is true and correct.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a point of view but not a point of order.

Mr ROBERTS: One of the claims the member made was that he saw stockpiles of pornos in prison. Pornography is a contraband item in prisons and there are not stockpiles of porno in prisons. Any person who brings in any offensive material of that nature, whether it be through visitors or through anyone else, such as an employee, is potentially committing a criminal offence. Prisoners who are caught with any such material--whether it be that or other contraband--face either further criminal offences or indeed internal discipline.

One of the other claims the member made this morning about the Townsville prison--about which he is now an expert after four hours of walking around it--was that there is a 70 per cent reoffending rate in Townsville. The Queensland average for prisoners returning to prison is around 33.5 per cent, so I do not know where the member gets this figure that 70 per cent of prisoners return to prison in Townsville.

A government member: He made it up.

Mr ROBERTS: He made it up. The member has also claimed that prison officers are in fear of their lives. I woke up to the 5.30 news this morning to hear the member claiming that prison officers are in fear of their lives because of the conditions at Townsville.

Before we get too far into this, I will give some information. The member did visit the prison on 13 April, as I understand it, and he has been out there undermining confidence in the management of the Townsville Correctional Centre by these claims. We have a first-class manager at the Townsville Correctional Centre. I want to quote for the record a letter that Mr McLindon wrote to the manager following his visit.

He wrote--

Dear Mr Pike,
I just wanted to drop you a quick line to thank you for accommodating my visit to your facility on the 13th April, 2011.
It was certainly very informative.
Keep up the great work you are doing.

When the member for Beaudesert goes into the public arena making these claims and basing his policy on them, he needs to be held accountable for the claims he is making. I challenge him--

Mr McLINDON: I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. The minister has misled the parliament in saying that none of my statements are true and correct. I ask him to withdraw those statements. I find them offensive because they are true and correct and I have numerous prison guards who are willing to testify.

Mr SPEAKER: Do you claim to be personally offended by those?

Mr McLINDON: Yes, Mr Speaker. I take offence at them and I ask him to withdraw those statements.

Mr SPEAKER: Can you withdraw?

Mr ROBERTS: I withdraw. But to put the claims that the member has made into context, I do invite people to read again the letter that he wrote to the manager of the centre following his visit. (Time expired)

And notice how Queensland's media leapt upon this as a story, whereas the following event was obviously deemed not newsworthy:

International Conservation Activist Throws Support Behind The Queensland Party

Today, Peter Bethune, internationally acclaimed conservation activist and world record holder for the fastest trip around the world in the powerboat ‘Ady Gil’ (formerly ‘Earthrace’), will join Queensland Party Leader, Aidan McLindon and Kevin Brown, TQP candidate for Southport, to support the party’s call for a moratorium on the flawed coal seam gas industry which is being steamrolled across Queensland.

What: Press Conference
When: 11am, Thurs 28 April
Where: Marina Mirage, 74 Sea World Drive

“Whether we like it or not, the CSG industry will have dire consequences for all Queenslanders in terms of food security, environmental damage and reduced economic prosperity into the future,” Mr McLindon stated.

The ALP/LNP rejected The Queensland Party’s call for a moratorium on coal seam gas which was debated in the Queensland Parliament on 24 November 2010 and media outlets have since sighted vested interests within LNP ranks.

“Future generations will look back on this impending era of greed and destruction and wonder why we, as a collective, did not do anything to prevent it from destroying our quality land for hundreds of years to come,” said Mr McLindon.

“When you violate mother nature to this extent it will always come back to bite you.”

“The next state election will be a clear choice between The Queensland Party which only exists to serve Queenslanders or the ALP/LNP which are there to serve themselves.”

Another high profile advocate to support The Queensland Party’s call for a moratorium, Bob Irwin, was arrested in Tara on 12 April 2011.

British Gas is currently the largest company involved in the $66 billion industry.

The Unoriginal Christine Wallace Vilifies People Who Care About Refugees

Brookfarm muesli

Q & A [9/5/11]:

... VERONICA PIATKOV: Thanks, Tony. For several years now Labor has been adamant that there is no such thing as a queue when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers. But now the PM and other Labor ministers are supporting the Malaysia solution as a deterrent because it will force people to the back of the queue. By embracing off-shore processing in a country that is not signatory to the United Nations refugee convention, re-opening the Howard government's Manus Island detention centre and acknowledging the existence of a queue, is Labor slowly re-embracing the Pacific Solution?

TONY JONES: Christine Wallace, we'll start with you on this.

CHRISTINE WALLACE: Gee, thanks.

LINDSAY TANNER: How'd I miss that?

CHRISTINE WALLACE: I think, yeah, you really dodged a bullet there, Tanner.

NAZEEM HUSSAIN: You jumped ship years ago, didn't you?

CHRISTINE WALLACE: Look, we have been conducting a real-time experiment in immigration policy for how long now? A very long time and I think part of the problem in what's happening is the historical analysis only goes back to the Howard era. It doesn't go back to the Fraser Vietnamese regional processing era where there was quite an orderly move of a large number of Vietnamese refugees through countries like Malaysia to Australia. I think it's pretty clear that Prime Minister Gillard is trying to hark back to that fairly agreed, fairly stable, fairly broadly accepted kind of style of people movement and she had to. Let's face it, the current softening of policy was counter-productive. Lots more people have been coming. It's the choice for Labor between this: either come up with a policy that works or - well, works more comprehensively or there's going to be a coalition government. That's what the polling is telling Labor so I think everyone needs to just drink a cold glass of water, calm down and look for some common ground.

TONY JONES: Okay, can I just get you very briefly to address this question. How did a queue suddenly form in Malaysia if there was no such thing as a queue before, which goes to the heart of the question?

CHRISTINE WALLACE: Look, there's argument about whether queue's formally exist or not. You're quite right. The distinguishing thing about the Malaysian Centre that is a plus is that it's oversighted by the UNHCR and the UNHCR came out today and said, look, it's not perfect what Gillard is proposing but it's pretty - you know, it's an improvement on the current situation so I think people are casting around for things that work short of the Pacific Solution. I asked someone today whether they'd rather be banged up for a long time on Nauru or Malaysia and they said no question, Malaysia. Nauru is just a hell hole. So, look, not perfect but I think Gillard is trying to find a practical solution that is broadly acceptable. That's neither, you know, the muesli-munching end of the argument nor the lock them out forever end. ...

Meanwhile:

... WENDY CARLISLE: In 2008 a US State Department report documented allegations of women being sold into sex slavery on the Thai/Malaysian border.

The UN High Commission for Refugees in Malaysia had also been hearing the same things.

Spokeswoman Yante Ismail.

YANTE ISMAIL: We did hear those reports a few years ago that there was some alleged involvement of officials in the movement of refugees across the border, deportation, you know some allegations of trafficking as well.

What we understand is that there are investigations had been done by the Malaysian government on this and generally this is something that Malaysia has viewed very, very seriously.

What we have learned is that from the refugee communities and from UNHCR's own monitoring, this practice has ceased since mid-2009.

WENDY CARLISLE: And while the UNHCR has no presence at the Thai/Malaysian border where these alleged corrupt practices were taking place they were hearing that things had improved.

YANTE ISMAIL: Well the UNHCR isn't present at the border so of course we don't have the personal eyewitness accounts of what's happening. What we know are from what refugees tell us.

In the incident that was reported in 2008/2009 the refugees themselves told us about these instances.

We're confident that Malaysia is very, very keen to reduce these kinds of corrupt practices and we maintain open dialogue with the government and with refugee communities so that this issue can still be monitored.

WENDY CARLISLE: But Dr Irene Fernandez from the watchdog group on human trafficking Tenaganita is not comforted.

IRENE FERNANDEZ: We documented a number of cases and testimonies that came through where women had claimed that they were sold to prostitution rings at the Thai/Malaysia border.

Others, men were sold to fishing boats so to, as a form of labour recruiters. And this happened when they could not find the money to buy their freedom.

WENDY CARLISLE: Who was actually trafficking these refugees?

IRENE FERNANDEZ: The immigration officials who took them to the border to, basically to deport them.

WENDY CARLISLE: And were any of these immigration officials ever brought to justice?

IRENE FERNANDEZ: Not that I know of as yet. ...

Libyan Migrants' Boat Deaths To Be Investigated By Council Of Europe

'The Guardian' [9/5/11]:

Europe's paramount human rights body, the Council of Europe, has called for an inquiry into the deaths of 61 migrants in the Mediterranean, claiming an apparent failure of military units to rescue them marked a "dark day" for the continent.

Mevlüt Çavusoglu, president of the council's parliamentary assembly, demanded an "immediate and comprehensive inquiry" into the fate of the migrants' boat which ran into trouble in late March en route to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Yesterday, the Guardian reported that the boat encountered a number of European military units including a helicopter and an aircraft carrier after losing fuel and drifting, but no rescue attempt was made and most of the 72 people on board eventually died of thirst and hunger.

"If this grave accusation is true – that, despite the alarm being raised, and despite the fact that this boat, fleeing Libya, had been located by armed forces operating in the Mediterranean, no attempt was made to rescue the 72 passengers aboard, then it is a dark day for Europe as a whole," Çavusoglu declared. "I call for an immediate and comprehensive inquiry into the circumstances of the deaths of the 61 people who perished, including babies, children and women who – one by one – died of starvation and thirst while Europe looked on," he added.

Çavusoglu's intervention came as news emerged of another migrant boat which sank last Friday, according to the UN's refugee agency. Up to 600 were on board the overcrowded vessel as it fled the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Witnesses who left on another boat shortly afterwards reported seeing remnants of the ship and the bodies of passengers in the sea. The International Organisation for Migration, which has staff on Lampedusa, said it had spoken to a Somali woman who lost her four-month-old baby in the tragedy, and said that it was unclear how many passengers had managed to swim to safety.

According to testimony collected by UNHCR workers in Lampedusa, migrants on the second boat setting sail from Tripoli attempted to disembark when they saw the first boat sink, but were prevented from doing so by armed men.

The UNHCR has insisted that more communication is needed between coastguards, military and commercial ships to minimise migrant deaths at sea.

"We need to take heed of a situation that is very much evolving. We have to cooperate much more closely," said a spokesperson, Laura Boldrini, adding that ships should not wait for a problem to arise before attempting to help migrant boats. "Rescue should be automatic, without waiting for the boat to break apart or the engine to stop running," she said.

Following the Guardian report into the plight of the migrant boat left to drift in the Mediterranean after suffering mechanical problems, Nato rejected suggestions that any of its units were involved in apparently ignoring the vessel. Officials pointed out that the Charles De Gaulle, a French aircraft carrier identified as having possibly encountered the boat, was not under direct Nato command at the time – although it was involved in the Nato-led operations in Libya.

"Nato vessels are fully aware of their responsibilities with regard to international maritime law regarding safety of life at sea," said a spokesman.

French defence officials denied that any of their ships were involved. "The [Charles De Gaulle] was never less than 200km (160 miles) from the Libyan coast," read a statement. "It is therefore not possible that it could have crossed the path of this drifting vessel which came from the Misrata region. If this was the case, it would have obviously come to the rescue of these people, in some way or another."

In 2010, the statement added, French naval vessels intercepted around 40 refugee boats and came to the assistance of more than 800 people.

Campaigners believe that calls for European ships to be more active in assisting migrants are now becoming more urgent. "All of these migrant boats are incredibly overcrowded and these are desperate people," said Professor Niels Frenzen, a refugee law specialist at the University of Southern California. "Given the hundreds of deaths we know about – and many more we probably aren't aware of – any migrant boat that's being observed right now is by definition a vessel that is in distress, and one which needs rescue."

Frenzen added that with Nato, the EU border agency Frontex, national coastguards and other unilateral forces all operating simultaneously in the Mediterranean, there was an "incredible mess of overlapping missions and jurisdictional confusion over the boundaries of different search and rescue regions".

"We've got this incredible concentration of ships and aircraft in that sea, many of which are there under security council resolution 1973 [which authorises military operations in Libya], the primary purpose of which is to protect civilian life," he said.

The UN refugee agency issued a warning for all vessels to keep an eye out for unseaworthy migrant boats in the Mediterranean.

China Reportedly Wanted Spy Base In East Timor

WikiLeaks has reportedly revealed China tried to set up a spy base in Australia's near neighbour, East Timor.

Leaked US diplomatic cables show China offered to construct and operate a surveillance radar facility on East Timor's north coast in 2007.

US nuclear submarines reportedly use the area to move between the Pacific and Indian oceans. But while East Timorese officials were keen for help to crack down on illegal fishing in their waters, they became suspicious when China's offer was made free of charge.

Fairfax newspapers report that East Timorese officials consulted the US and Australia before declining China's offer.

They were concerned the radars could be used to extend China's spy capabilities deep into South-East Asia.

The Chinese offer is described in the cables as a "strategic threat".

The Fairfax report says Australian officials knew of the proposal and described it as "China trying to grow its intelligence activity through Asia and beyond".

The cables also refer to Chinese bids to expand intelligence activities in the Philippines and East Timor's purchase of two patrol boats from China.

Cyclist Struck By Car In Valley

'Brisbane Times' [10/5/11]:

A female cyclist has been struck by a car in Brisbane's inner-city.

The collision happened on the corner of Wickham and Gipps streets about 6am.

The female cyclist suffered serious head injuries and has been taken by ambulance to the Royal Brisbane Hospital. ...

What Happened To The Headline?

Now it's: Bligh boosts disaster relief fund grants

Under the new headline the story still contains the following:

"Earlier, Ms Bligh said insurance companies are slowing the rollout of payments from the State's disaster relief appeal."

Didn't Beattie Promise Cyclone Shelters After Larry?

What stopped the Queensland government from building these shelters years ago?

The only thing they appear capable of is looking after their big bizzo, construction, media and mining mates.

Expect the political class to play the insured off against the uninsured next.

'Gold Coast Mail' [9/5/11]:

Ten cyclone shelters will be built in north Queensland after a $30 million donation from the Emirati state of Abu Dhabi.

United Arab Emirates Minister of State Reem Al-Hashimy announced the donation while visiting Brisbane on Monday.

It was immediately matched by Premier Anna Bligh, who said the $60 million would be used for multi-purpose shelters along the north Queensland coast.

She said the exact locations had yet to be finalised, but would likely include Cairns, Townsville, the Cassowary Coast, Proserpine/Airlie Beach, Mackay, Rockhampton and Weipa.

Ms Bligh said the gesture was an extremely generous and unsolicited gift.

"This is what friends do for each other," she told reporters.

The premier said work would begin by the year's end, with shelters being completed in the next 18 months to two years.

The lack of category five cyclone shelters became an issue when Cyclone Yasi hit the state in January.

Dairy Farmers 'Need Floor Price'

'Gold Coast Mail' [9/5/11]:

Independent senator Nick Xenophon has broken ranks with his fellow committee members examining the supermarket milk war and called for a minimum farmgate price to be introduced immediately.

A parliamentary committee investigating $1-a-litre milk says it can't make any recommendations until it knows if the current low prices are permanent.

Today it said it wanted to wait and see what impact the discounting had on contracts with processors and farmgate prices before taking action.

But Senator Xenophon isn't so patient.

"A floor price should be implemented for domestic drinking milk supply as an urgent interim measure," he said in additional comments attached to the committee's interim report, which was released today.

Senator Xenophon's comments were endorsed by Liberal senator Bill Heffernan, Nationals senator John Williams and Greens senator Christine Milne.

They are not members of the Senate economics committee conducting the inquiry but are participating in it.

Senator Xenophon says he believes a minimum price is needed to protect farmers "given the disparity of the bargaining powers between the dairy farmers and processors on the one hand, and the major supermarket chains on the other".

The South Australian senator slammed the competition regulator for not doing more to help farmers.

"The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) seems to have taken a wait-and-see approach to the milk price war and its immediate and potential long-term impacts," Senator Xenophon said.

"It is a matter of urgency that the ACCC act on this issue and prevent any further devastation to the local dairy industry."

The Senate inquiry is examining the impact $1-a-litre milk has on the dairy industry and market competitiveness.

Dairy farmers have been up in arms since Coles started a price war in January, drawing in its rivals including Woolworths. ...

Protesting The Murdoch Deal

Free Press UK Campaign Action News [9/5/11]:

There is still no indication that the current silence is any evidence that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is having second thoughts. But pressure is mounting to stop the planned News International takeover of BSkyB, following the media giant's admission of phone hacking at the News of the World.

Jeremy Hunt has said he hopes to make his controversial announcement about the BSkyB deal soon after parliament returns from the Easter recess on 26 April. So there will be a demonstration at 12 noon outside DCMS HQ in London on the day of the announcement.

The decision is expected to be announced soon - perhaps as soon as this week.

Please promote and attend this event if you can, it's been organised by the CPBF, NUJ, Avaaz, and 38 Degrees. Updates will be on the CPBF and NUJ web sites.

The DCMS Public Enquiries phone number is: 020 7211 6000. Location - is just round the corner from Trafalgar Square and at 2-4 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5DH

UN Chief Urges Men To Champion The Cause For Gender Equality

Scoop [8/5/11]:

Press Release: United Nations UN Chief Urges Men To Champion The Cause For Gender Equality

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today challenged men to champion the cause for the empowerment of women, saying they remained "second-class citizens", often subjected to violence in many societies, despite the important gains made in improving their participation in social, economic and political affairs.

"I believe that unless you change mentality and behaviour of men, it will be very difficult to change this situation," said Mr. Ban in an address to the Global Summit of Women in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was honoured with the Women''s Leadership Award in recognition of his efforts to promote gender equality.

He noted that he was the first man to receive the award in its 21-year history.

"So, beginning from me as the first man to receive this, I sincerely hope that there will be many more men who will receive this award," said the Secretary-General, recalling that he had in 2009 launched the Network of Men Leaders to combat the scourge of gender-based violence.

The Network brings together current and former politicians, activists, religious and community figures -- including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho -- to combat the global pandemic.

He said the UN has, during his tenure as Secretary-General, focused on health care, especially through a global strategy for women's and children's health to save at least 16 million lives by 2015, recognizing that access to health care remains inadequate or unavailable even though it is critical for building stable, peaceful and productive societies.

On the empowerment of women within the UN system, Mr. Ban told the summit that the number of women in senior management positions had risen by 40 per cent over the past four years.

"I am working hard to break down barriers for the advancement of women by tearing down this glass ceiling at the United Nations," he said.

On the latest developments in North Africa and the Middle East, the Secretary-General told the summit that he has been urging leaders there to listen to the voices of women and the youth when they engage in dialogue with those calling for political reform.

"I never failed to mention women in the Arab world because I know that women in the Arab World must be emancipated, and they must be given equal rights. Women who have fought for gender equality know that the battle does not end there. The battle does not end until there is no discrimination, against any human being, on any grounds. The battle does not end until all people can enjoy a life of dignity," said Mr. Ban.

"I am counting on you, women leaders from around the world and from all walks of life, to work with me to realize this goal. I am asking world leaders, and I am asking business leaders, and I am asking women leaders to work together to achieve that goal where everybody, men and women, without any fear of violence, without any fear of discrimination can work in harmony and in dignity as human beings," he added.

A Delicate Operation

'Brisbane's Child' magazine [May 2011]:

The devastation caused by the recent floods throughout Brisbane's South Bank precinct has not dampened progress on the new Queensland Children's Hospital (QCH) development in South Brisbane.

Despite claims that the new hospital is being built on a flood plain, the adjacent Mater Hospital remained accessible and fully operational during the Brisbane floods, indicating that the QCH will also remain high and dry in any similar future scenarios.

Dr Peter Steer, chief executive officer of Children's Health Services for Queensland Health, believes the central location is the prime choice for what will soon be Queensland's major specialist children's hospital. "I would like to reassure the community that, when open, the QCH will have a helipad to provide fast and direct transporation of patients," he says.

The new $1.4-billion facility, due to open in 2014, will combine the services of the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) and the Mater Children's Hospital (MCH), creating a single, highly specialised facility. The QCH will accommodate 359 beds - 71 more than the total beds currently provided by the RCH and MCH hospitals combined. Most of those beds will be in single rooms that private ensuites.

The focus of the ACH is family. In-hospital accommodation will be available for families, and single rooms will have sleeping facilities for parents and carers to stay with their children overnight. The existing services available at the RCH and MCH will be maintained in the QCH, and in many cases expanded. There will be new clinics for treating children who are obese, or who have ongoing issues assocated with pain and allergies.

However, the QCH project is not progressing without controversy beyond that relating to accessibility during floods. Retired paediatric haematologist Dr Harry Smith heads up a group of more than 100 respected specialists who oppose the development, which will ultimately see the RCH close.

"Many people don't actually realise that this isn't an additional hospital for Brisbane's children - it is in place of the Royal Children's at Herston. The closure of the Royal Children's is devastating for many reasons, and if this plan goes ahead, it will set back paediatrics in Queensland for generations," says Smith.

Herston currently boasts an outstanding medical support structure with three hospitals, research and training facilities all co-located. Smith believes that the closure of the RCH will affect training and research, and cause "irreparable damage" to the Royal Women's Hospital's (RWH) neonatal units.

The president of the Australian Medical Association Queensland, Dr Gino Pecoraro, has also expressed concern that the State Government's proposal has serious flaws. "The AMA is prepared to work where and when we are needed, with what is being built. However, ultimately we want the best possible outcome for parents and patients, and the best working incentives for paediatric and obstetric specialists. I have many reasons to believe this current proposal will not fulfil either promise," he says.

Nevertheless, the Queensland Government backs its decision to replace the RCH with the QCH to accommodate south-east Queensland's growing population Extensions to the RCH site were deemed unfeasible, with several buildings in the RCH precinct listed on the Queensland Heritage Register. [like that's ever stopped them before!] ...

Groups Must Encourage Diversity

'The Senior' [Queensland, May 2011]:

Australian governments need to invest more in seniors groups to help them better represent an increasingly diverse older population.

A Queensland University of Technology study also found that key seniors organisations needed to invest in more comprehensive training for leaders so they had the skills required to hear and convey the concerns of a broader cross-section of members.

Dr Andrea Petriwskyj's The Voice of Seniors study looked at five seniors organisations through interviews and an analysis of documents, including policy documents and websites, to see how they engaged with the people they represented.

She said as policymakers relied increasingly on seniors groups to represent seniors, it was important organisations represent the broadest cross-section possible of the older community.

"An increasing proportion of the Australian population aged 65 and over means a growing constituency for seniors organisations in Australia, however it doesn't just mean more seniors but a more diverse group," she said.

"There are going to be many and varied issues of relevance to the groups known as seniors, and many different perspectives to be considered on these."

While most of the organisations saw themselves as representing seniors on a broader scale, not just their members, the diversity of membership within the organisations was limited when it came to rural or urban residents, cultural and lingustic background, and to some extent age.

Typically group members were of Anglo-European descent, lived in urban areas and were aged in their 70s or 80s, although groups had expressed an awareness of the need to attract younger seniors and raise issues affecting regional members.

"One interviewee highlighted the differences in transport issues between seniors in capital cities and those in regional Queensland, and the lack of understanding by those city-dwelling members of issues for their regional counterparts," Dr Petriwskyj said.

Often, the same people attended meetings and the same opinions were heard, with others who might disagree staying quiet and not expressing their views.

This was where leaders who were able to encourage expression of diverse opinions and lead discussion to come up with representative conclusions were important.

Dr Petriwskyj found leaders often did not understand the importance of their role in making sure the communication chain from branch to higher levels function most effectively, with many lacking confidence or the necessary negotiation skills.

People who took on these important volunteer roles would benefit from training to help them balance the needs of a membership that was increasingly diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, urban or rural residence and other factors.

While most organisations had policies to handle conflict, none had polices aimed at creating processes which were senstive to, and encouraged, diversity.

A Question For Lindsay Tanner

Seems like you're just copying what your former boss Barney Cooney did when he left politics.

If you want Australians to take you seriously, why don't you quit the ALP?

This Is Bullshit

After a week of copping daily vilification and insults courtesy the defacto federal government (including today's attack on long term unemployed people), do the voters of western Sydney really support this cruel and unusual punishment of refugees?

This interview doesn't prove anything about support for the goverment's latest policy. The only thing it does is attempt to perpetuate the myth that the voters of western Sydney are "rednecks" who drive refugee policy.

Western Sydney MP cites positive voter feedback on refugee plan

A federal Labor MP for western Sydney -- the heart of concern about the flow of asylum seeker boats -- says voters are waiting to see how the plan to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in return for accepting 4,000 refugees pans out. David Bradbury says, though, the early indications are people do support a regional solution to the problem. ...

Since When Do Aussies "Cuss"?

Is this historically relevant mural as doomed as 4ZzZ's "radical" raison d'être?

Training Exercise 'Traumatised' Detainees

A refugee advocate says asylum seekers at a detention centre in Queensland's Gulf Country have been traumatised after witnessing a staff training exercise.

Pamela Curr says detainees at the Scherger Detention Centre near Weipa on Cape York say they saw a worker playing the role of an asylum seeker begging not to be sent home.

She says the exercise simulated a confrontation between immigration officials, guards and a detainee whose claim had been rejected.

"The men were just so distressed they didn't know what was going on," she said.

"There were men there that have been waiting eight months who still don't have a date for that review, there are others who had the review after six, 10... months for a review who are still waiting for a decision."

How Other Countries And Their Media Treat Refugees

UNIVISION.com [8/5/11]:

A boat carrying some 500 refugees from Libya ran aground as it neared an Italian port on Sunday, forcing many of those on board to jump into the sea, officials said after all were successfully rescued.

The boat hit some rocks on the approach to the island of Lampedusa in southern Italy, sparking panic among those on board -- most of them migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia who had been living in Libya.

Coast guards immediately intervened, plucking dozens from the water including women and children and rescuing those still on board.

Television images showed chaotic scenes as refugees clung on to ropes cast between the shoreline and the fishing boat and officers dived in to help.

"There were about 500 people on board. It was a difficult situation. Our patrol boats couldn't come close because of the shallow water," Antonio Morana, a coast guard spokesman, said after the pre-dawn incident.

Another coast guard official, Vittorio Alessandro, told AFP: "We managed to save all the passengers. We believe there were no victims."

Alessandro said the boat had been headed for Malta escorted by the Maltese coast guard but then changed route and went towards Lampedusa.

"As it was coming towards the port of Lampedusa, it suddenly veered towards some rocks. There was major panic on board," he said.

A few of the refugees suffered slight injuries and have been hospitalised.

Asked what went wrong, Morana said an investigation was underway but he believed there had been "a malfunctioning of the rudder" on the vessel.

In the images broadcast on Italian news channel SkyTG24 the rusty boat could be seen listing badly, with some refugees gripping its sides.

Also on Sunday another boat carrying 800 refugees from Libya arrived in Lampedusa, a day after two boats with 842 refugees including 101 women and 22 children also fleeing from the North African state landed on the island.

Lampedusa has seen more than 30,000 migrant and refugee arrivals since the start of the year, most of them Tunisians in search of a better life in Europe amid continued upheaval in their homeland in the wake of a revolt in January.

Official: Japan Won't Abandon Nukes Despite Crisis

PHILLY.com [8/5/11]:

TOKYO - A top Japanese official said Sunday that Japan would maintain atomic power as a major part of its energy policy despite the country's ongoing nuclear crisis.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku also said the government has no plans to halt nuclear reactors other than three at the Hamaoka power plant in central Japan. The plant was asked last week to halt the units until a seawall is built and backup systems are improved.

"Our energy policy is to stick to nuclear power," Sengoku said on a weekly talk show on public broadcaster NHK.

He said Hamaoka was an exception and that the government's closure request Friday did not mean a departure from its nuclear-reliant policy.

Chubu Electric Power Co., which runs the three Hamaoka reactors, postponed its decision Saturday on the government's shutdown request.

The main concern is that shutting down the reactors would likely worsen power shortages expected this summer.

The government has been reviewing the safety of the country's 54 atomic reactors since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in the north. The disaster left more than 25,000 people dead or missing on the northeast coast and triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

The Hamaoka plant, which is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of Tokyo, in an area where a major quake is expected within decades, has been a major concern for years.

However, Sengoku said there is "no need to worry" about other plants in the country. "Scientifically, that's our conclusion at the moment," he said.

Chubu Electric executives failed to reach a decision Saturday over the shutdown request and will meet again after the weekend, company official Mikio Inomata said.

At issue is how to make up for the power shortages that would result from the shutdown of the three reactors. Inomata said they account for more than 10 percent of the company's power supply.

Chubu Electric has estimated maximum output of about 30 million kilowatts this summer with the three Hamaoka reactors running, with estimated demand of about 26 million kilowatts.

"It would be tight," Inomata said, adding that officials are discussing the possibility of boosting output from gas, oil and coal-fueled power plants and purchasing power from other utility companies.

The Hamaoka plant is a key power provider in central Japan, including nearby Aichi, home of Toyota Motor Corp.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Friday that the closure request was for the "people's safety."

He noted that experts estimate there is a 90 percent chance that a quake with a magnitude of 8.0 or higher will strike the region within 30 years.

Residents of Shizuoka prefecture, where Hamaoka is located, have long demanded a shutdown of the plant's reactors. About 79,800 people live within a 6-mile (10-kilometer) radius of the complex.

Since the March 11 disasters, Chubu Electric has drawn up safety measures that include building a 40-foot-high (12-meter-high) seawall nearly a mile (1.5 kilometers) long over the next two to three years, company officials said. Chubu also promised to install additional emergency backup generators and other equipment and improve the water tightness of the reactor buildings.

The Hamaoka plant lacks a concrete sea barrier now. Sand hills between the ocean and the plant are about 32 to 50 feet (10 to 15 meters) high, deemed enough to defend against a tsunami around 26 feet (8 meters) high, officials said. The operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co., has said the tsunami that wrecked critical power and cooling systems there was at least 46 feet (14 meters) high.

On Saturday, TEPCO said that radioactivity inside Fukushima Dai-ichi's No. 1 reactor building had fallen to levels deemed safe for people wearing protective suits to enter after workers rapidly installed air filtering equipment Thursday , their first entry since shortly after the tsunami.

TEPCO said it was awaiting permission from Japan's nuclear safety agency to leave the door to the building open for the operation, and that workers could begin installing a new cooling system at the reactor as early as Sunday. TEPCO has said some air may escape through the entrance but that radioactivity is low enough to cause no danger to health.

Teenager Tasered By Police In Backyard

Police have defended the use of a Taser on a teenage boy at Kingaroy, north-west of Brisbane in southern Queensland.

Police say a 16-year-old boy was tasered when he confronted a lone officer in a poorly lit backyard on Friday night.

They say the boy had been chased after handing over drugs and a knife and the officer feared he may have additional weapons.

Police say his age was only discovered after he was taken into custody as he originally provided them with a false identity.

He was given first aid as a precaution but was not hurt.

He will be dealt with under the Youth Justices Act for offences including possessing a knife and possessing dangerous drugs.

A Crime and Misconduct Commission report handed down a week before this incident found some signs of improvement in how police officers are using Tasers and no evidence of widespread misuse.

Perhaps It's Time To Have A Designated Road Lane For Cyclists, Mobility And Motorised Scooters Etc?

There are calls for state governments to address emerging safety issues with mobility scooters after a woman died when her scooter collided with a train in Brisbane yesterday.

Last month a man drowned when his scooter ran into a swollen creek on the central Queensland coast.

An increasing number of older Australians are turning to mobility scooters when walking or driving becomes difficult.

Mark Tucker-Evans, from the Council on the Ageing, says that is creating new road safety issues that governments need to address.

"We would be encouraging all state governments to take this up," he said.

"We're very keen that operators of mobility scooters are properly trained."

Val French, from the group Older People Speak Out, says scooters are increasingly becoming the transport of choice for the elderly because they help them to stay active.

"Otherwise you've got problems with social isolation and all the physical problems that seem to get linked with it," she said.

"We need to look at the safety issues and make sure there are compulsory things that can be put in place."

Both groups say they want scooter use to continue with more education and awareness.

Unilever Gets China Fine Over Price Warning

'The Telegraph' [6/5/11]:

Unilever has been fined 2m yuan (£187,000) by China's pricing authority after the Chinese worked themselves into a lather when the consumer goods group warned rising raw material costs could force it to raise the price of detergent and soaps.

A spokesman for Unilever's Chinese business said that the company accepted the authority's decision and would pay the fine.

The country's central planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said that Unilever's comments about possible price rises had "seriously distorted market order" and "intensified inflationary pressure" among consumers.

The comments caused panic buying and China's pricing authority intervened.

A spokesman for Unilever's Chinese business said that the company accepted the authority's decision and would pay the fine.

"Unilever today closed a case with Shanghai Price Bureau. As a company with a long term commitment to China, we continue to be sensitive to the local environment. Therefore, we accept the decision of NDRC and Shanghai Price Bureau.

"As a responsible company we abide by laws and regulations in China and our global code of business principles. Consumers are our top priority and we will continue to provide high quality products to serve their needs".

Last Survivor Of Dutch Massacre Dies

RNW.nl [7/5/11]:

In Indonesia, the last survivor of the Rawagedeh massacre has died aged 88. Saih bin Sakam survived the 1947 massacre which was perpetrated by Dutch soldiers.

Nearly all the male population of Rawagedeh, a village on Java which has been renamed Balongsari, were shot dead. It is estimated that between 150 and 400 people were killed. Saih bin Sakam manage to survive by pretending to be dead.

Last year, relatives of those killed launched a case against the Dutch state, claiming damages. The Netherlands has admitted that war crimes were committed but says the case is statute barred. Saih bin Sakam came to the Netherlands last year to lobby Dutch MPs about the case.

Another Reason Why Public Transport Ought To Be Free All The Time

Dutch News [6/5/11]:

Students are more likely than any other sort of train user to forget to check out using their public transport smart cards, a Dutch Rail (NS) spokesman told newspaper Spits on Friday.

Between 0.5% and 0.7% of daily commuters forget to check out, but 2% of less frequent travellers forget to do so, the spokesman said. And 4% of student users make the same mistake.

Students can choose between two sorts of cards – one offering free travel in the week and the other at weekends. When students use their cards outside these periods, they do have to pay, which means checking in and out. This is why so many forget.

People who forget to check out, pay a €10 charge and relatively few students remember to claim it back, the NS said.

Noam Chomsky: My Reaction To Osama bin Laden’s Death

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

By Noam Chomsky

May 07, 2011 "Guernica" --- It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.

In Wake Of Bin Laden Killing: US Targets American Citizen In Yemen

WSWS.org [7/5/11]:

By Bill Van Auken

Barely five days after the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the US launched a Predator drone strike aimed at assassinating an American citizen in Yemen.

The May 5 drone attack, which took place in Yemen’s Shabwa province, was planned as a targeted assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born Islamic cleric with US citizenship, according to US and Yemeni officials cited Friday evening by the Wall Street Journal.

According to media reports last year, Obama placed Al-Awlaki on a “targeting list” after his administration asserted a right not even claimed by the Bush White House—to carry out the extra-judicial execution of any US citizen deemed by the president to be a “specially designated global terrorist”, without presenting any evidence or securing any judicial sanction. Al-Awlaki—who has made anti-American videos and tapes justifying Islamist terrorism—has never been indicted for any crime in the United States.

The missile fired with the intent of killing Al-Awlaki instead took the lives of two brothers, identified by the Yemeni defense ministry as Musaid Mubarak and Abdullah al Daghari. The car they were driving was struck by a Hellfire missile, killing them instantly and wounding a bystander.

“We knew the government would allow the US to attack our areas after the death of Bin Laden,” a local tribal leader told the National, a United Arab Emirates daily.

The killings came on the eve of one of the largest demonstrations yet in the three-month-old Yemeni popular uprising against the US-backed government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In the capital of Sana’a, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators turned out in a steady rain, filling the main thoroughfare with a crowd that stretched for miles.

Saleh, who has ruled for nearly 33 years, has defied the demands for his ouster, unleashing brutal repression that has killed at least 140 Yemenis. The dictatorial president has balked at signing an agreement, brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council, calling for his resignation within 30 days. Oppositionists have charged that Washington is backing his regime and political analysts have warned that, in the wake of the Osama bin Laden killing, they expect the US administration to increase its support.

It was the first known missile attack on Yemen since May 2010, when a US strike killed one of Yemen President Saleh’s envoys and a number of other people. Another strike, with a cruise missile, claimed the lives of more than 40 civilians in December 2009.

Also late on Thursday, the US launched its first drone missile attack in Pakistan since the killing of bin Laden. The attack killed at least 15 people in North Waziristan. A hail of eight missiles struck a hotel, a seminary and a vehicle in the village of Watio in the Datta Khel area.

The strike came immediately after warnings by the Pakistani government and military against any further unilateral American military operations on its soil, and demands for the US to drastically reduce the number of American military and CIA operatives deployed in the country.

Meanwhile, there are growing indications that Washington is preparing to escalate its military intervention in Libya. Speaking in Rome, where the US and its NATO allies held their second summit on the Libyan operation, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi cease all military operations against the so-called rebels that are backed by the US, Britain, France and Italy and give up power, vowing “we will continue to strike his forces,” until he complies.

Utilizing the upheavals in the Middle East as cover, the US and the Western European powers have fomented a civil war in Libya with the aim of installing a more pliant regime in Tripoli that would guarantee unfettered control of the country’s oil wealth to the major Western energy conglomerates.

With the military effort on the ground stalled, there are increasing demands for the use of greater force. The New York Times published an editorial Friday demanding that NATO “summon the unity and will” to “tip the balance” in the civil war. It called on the Pentagon to send A-10 and AC-130 flying gunships back into Libya and advocated more “bombing strikes against military command centers, including Gaddafi compounds,” such as the one last week that murdered the Libyan leader’s son and three of his grandchildren.

What emerges is a global escalation of US imperialist criminality, with the ongoing wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq spreading to country after country. ...

Refugee Hurt Resisting Transfer

'The Age' [7/5/11]:

An asylum seeker has split his head open in a Melbourne immigration detention centre while resisting an attempt to transfer him to a centre in Darwin, refugee advocates say.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre's Pamela Curr said 23 men from the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre were woken by staff early this morning to board flights to Darwin's Northern Immigration Detention Centre.

She said 26 men were scheduled to be transferred but one split his head open, while another two resisted removal.

She said 25 of those men had been transferred from other centres to Melbourne in March and were now being forced to move again.

"One man split his head open and was unable to be taken," Ms Curr said.

"He bashed it against a wall because he was desperate not to go.

"Among this group, many have lawyers in Melbourne and court cases.

"The judge has asked that they be present during those cases and now they are being taken to Darwin.

"Others have just been connected with trauma services."

An Immigration Department spokesman confirmed 22 detainees were moved from Maribyrnong to Darwin this morning during a routine transfer.

One man was unable to be transferred because he suffered minor injuries, the spokesman said.

"One person received a minor injury during the operation and he was treated on site and they decided to keep him there and he's receiving appropriate medical treatment," he said.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she would question Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and his department about why the men were removed.

"My understanding is that there was community accommodation available for them and as they are very vulnerable individuals, that community accommodation should have been made accessible," she said.

"There is clearly a crisis within immigration detention facilities across the country, people are being pushed to breaking point and the point of self destruction."

It's Not The Multiple Reports To Government We Are Worried About

It's the self-perpetuating nature of some of these charities and the Government abdication of responsibility to provide social services and a safety net:

An independent regulator for Australia's not-for-profit sector will be set up in next week's budget, with the aim of cutting the red tape that burdens the sector.

The sector has long been burdened by rules at state and federal levels that require them to write numerous reports for different government departments.

The new independent body will seek to streamline reporting requirements and is expected to review the rules that govern the sector.

The new body will also take over some duties from the Tax Office in deciding whether a group qualifies as a charity.

The chairman of the Community Council for Australia, Tim Costello, says the changes will save time and money.

"We will make sure your dollar is actually going to the purpose you gave it to, rather than on overheads for government departments and multiple reports," he said.

"The community benefits - they just want to see the not-for-profit do good and the not-for-profit is not besieged."

The CEO of the Community Council, David Crosbie, says the reform has been a long time coming.

"These changes have been recommended for over 20 years," he said.

The not-for-profit sector employs around 900,000 people and contributes $43 billion to the Australian economy.

Japan PM Orders Nuclear Shutdown

'Gold Coast Mail' [6/5/11]:

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he had ordered the shutdown of a nuclear power plant southwest of Tokyo because it is located close to a dangerous tectonic faultline.

The news comes eight weeks after a massive quake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo, sparking the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl a quarter-century ago.

Seismologists have long warned that a major quake is long overdue in the Tokai region southwest of Tokyo where the Hamaoka plant is located, about 200km from Tokyo in Shizuoka prefecture.

"As prime minister, I have ordered, through trade minister (Banri) Kaieda, that Chubu Electric Power halt operations of all the reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant," Kan said at a televised press conference today.

Two reactors, numbers four and five, are operating at Hamaoka.

"The relevant authorities, including the science ministry, have shown that the possibility of a magnitude-8.0 earthquake hitting the area of the Hamaoka plant within the next 30 years is 87 per cent," he said.

"This is a decision made for the safety of the people when I consider the special conditions of the Hamaoka plant."

Japanese anti-nuclear campaigners have long argued that the seismically unstable area, where two continental plates meet, makes the plant the most dangerous atomic facility in the country.

Military Convoy Joins Quebec Flood Effort

Ottawa Sun [5/5/11]

St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que. - Premier Jean Charest says it could be weeks before life returns to normal in southern Quebec following the worst flooding the region has seen in 130 years.

"It's probably the biggest disaster we have had in Quebec (at least) since the floods in Saguenay," Charest said from the flood zone, recalling the deadly 1996 disaster that struck a large area north of Quebec City.

A convoy of 12 light-armoured vehicles from CFB Valcartier arrived in southern Quebec on Thursday to help waterlogged residents deal with five days of rain and a spring thaw that has left many communities under water.

A total of 650 soldiers will be deployed throughout more than a dozen municipalities in a 150 km zone that extends from Montreal's south shore to the U.S. border.

Water levels on the Richelieu River are at least one metre higher than normal and levels are expected to rise at least 20 cm by the weekend.

A total of 2,400 homes have been flooded, another 500 homes are threatened and 2,000 people have been asked to leave.

The soldiers will secure municipal infrastructure, remove debris and help to provide safe passage along flooded roads, federal Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis told reporters in Ottawa.

A military helicopter will fly over the area to provide reconnaissance.

Front loaders brought sandbags into St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the largest city affected by the flooding. Some residents are at their wit's end.

"(The soldiers are) a little late, and what will they do?" said one woman. "I've been in the water for 14 days and the houses are all flooded. Everything is floating."

Charest says residents will be eligible for compensation, but he added only "essential" possessions will be covered. A building inspector tells QMI Agency that some homes might have to be demolished if there's a buildup of mould.

High water levels have also caused flooding across the border in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Rivers have also overflowed in Quebec City, hundreds of kilometres to the northeast, and in the Lac-St-Jean area north of the provincial capital.

Labor Attaché In Kuwait Involved In Trafficking?

abs-cbnNEWS.com [6/5/11]:

MANILA, Philippines - Runaway overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait now living at a halfway home have accused a Philippine assistant labor attaché in the Kuwait of engaging in human trafficking.

Jenny (not her real name), an OFW who sought shelter at the halfway home run by Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), accused assistant labor attaché Ofelia Castro Hudson of "selling" them to agencies there in exchange for "cash and gifts." ...

Hudson is reportedly in a rift with welfare officer in Kuwait Atty. William Mergenio, whom the runaways believe is protecting their interests and is fighting for their repatriation. ...

Ana, another runaway OFW, said labor officers were allegedly forcing her to stay and work for another employer despite her traumatic experience with her former employer. ...

Jenny said employers conjure cases against them, which make their situation more dire. ...

Jenny, Anna and other runaway OFWs bared their complaints in affidavits.

Administrator Carmelita Dimzon said most OFWs stay longer in Kuwait because they could not secure exit passes from their employers.

"The moment they leave, they are violating the laws of the country. The employers won't secure exit passes and maybe file a case against the OFW. Minsan imbento talaga, but that's the case. Our welfare officer is espousing their repatriation and sue the agencies," she added.

Dimzon, meanwhile, said she has yet to verify reports of alleged human trafficking and political bickering between its welfare and labor officers.

Bank Moves To Stockland

'Gold Coast Mail' [5/5/11]:

Commonwealth Bank customers from Burleigh Waters are shcoked about news the Treetops Plaza branch will cose its doors for good on June 20.

The branch is relocating to Stockland Burleigh next month.

Several customers said the bank had not informed them about the proposed closure and claimed it would have a significant impact on them.

Elderly customer, Sam Stewart, said he was "extremely disappointed".

"I use the bank at least twice a week and travelling to Stockland Burleigh is a huge inconvenience for me," he said.

"Stockland Burleigh is a five-minute drive from Treetops but for elderly people with no vehicle, it is an unreasonable distance to walk."

Edward Trimble, 85, has similar concerns.

"I know many elderly people who use the bank and can't drive," he said.

"The move will make banking very difficult and stressful for them.

"They are not computer savvy, so can't use online banking."

"Life is getting very hard for old people like me and it's very scary."

Chris Carter said his grandchildren use the bank.

"They cycle to Treetops at present, but the prospect of them riding through heavy traffic to Stockland Burleigh is daunting," he said.

Some plaza businesses claimed the closure would impact on trade.

"The closure of the branch will take customers away from the centre," one business owner said.

Another business operator said she felt the bank had a responsibility to its customers.

"At the very least, they owe customers the courtesy of informing them of the closure," she said. ...

Another Death In Custody

'Green Left Weekly' [30/4/11]:

The family of an Aboriginal man, Herbert Mitchell, who died after being taken to Townsville’s police watchhouse on April 18, is calling for answers from the current police investigation and coroner's report.

Aboriginal activist and Townsville resident Gracelyn Smallwood said: “The Mitchell family is in a state of shock and mourning at the sudden and unexpected death of their family member.

“The family has no clear information except that he was picked up by police for public drunkenness and within four hours he was on life support in hospital.”

Mitchell, 50, was initially taken to a halfway house, but was later transferred to the police watch-house at about midday, after allegedly becoming aggressive.

Three-and-a-half hours later he was rushed to hospital where he spent 8.5 hours on life support.

Halfway houses, or diversionary centres, were set up around the country in response to one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991. The aim was to keep intoxicated persons out of police cells.

Mitchell’s death brings the number of Aboriginal people who have died in police custody since the commission to 270.

Smallwood said Mitchell’s family is concerned that, despite the growing numbers of Aboriginal people dying in police custody, there has never been anyone held accountable for their deaths.

Hundreds Rally For Refugees In Maribyrnong

'Green Left Weekly' [30/4/11]:

As part of a National Day of Action for refugee rights, about 250 protesters turned out to Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Detention centre on April 25 to show solidarity with refugees in detention and to oppose the mandatory detention of asylum seekers.

The human rights activists gathered at the detention centre entrance. They were addressed by speakers from the Greens, Students for Palestine and two former detainees including Ali Bakhtiavandi from the Socialist Alliance, who had been held in Maribyrnong for 16 months in 2001 and 2002.

Bakhtiavandi said that he will keep on speaking out and will not rest until the Australian department of immigration stops treating people who are fleeing exile and oppression like invaders or “terrorists”.

Bakhtiavandi also said that when he was released from detention he was shocked at the treatment of Aboriginal people.

Protesters were disgusted when it was announced that a 17-year-old Iranian refugee was removed from his room at about 1pm on April 24 and made to sign documents authorising his deportation, possibly to Iraq.

More than 40 police watched as the protesters tied ribbons with the message “free the refugees” to the fence of the facility.

Some police then responded with irrational force as they pushed demonstrators away from the fence using capsicum spray, batons and horses.

At the entrance to the detention centre demonstrators chanted, “we will be back”. This was a reference to the ongoing rallies planned to support the right of refugees to find refuge in Australia, instead of being locked up like criminals.

More Controversy Over Religion In Schools

'The Age' [6/5/11]:

A comic strip that tells children who are bullied to pray, because teachers are too lazy and callous to help them unless God intervenes, was advertised as a ''resource'' by the group that teaches Christian education classes in primary schools.

The cartoon has enraged teachers, who claim they have been vilified by Christian education provider Access Ministries, and reignited debate over the controversial special religious instruction program.

Experts also warn it sends the wrong message to children and undermines the education department's anti-bullying guidelines, which urge students to seek help from teachers.

The comic strip, You're Asking for It, features a brutish teacher who is indifferent to the suffering of a student whose head was flushed down a toilet by school bullies. The teacher only reluctantly punishes the bully after God intervenes.

The comic strip, by Rene Pfitzner, says ''Luke 18: Jesus told them all a story to show they should keep praying to God.''

Until mid this week it was available to download for $2 from the ''resource shop'' on the website of Access Ministries, which runs 96 per cent of special religious instruction classes in Victorian primary schools.

The comic strip was pulled from the website after Melbourne teacher Mike Stuchbery described it as ''offensive to hard-working teachers'', ''anti-educational'' and ''dangerous'' on a high-profile blog.

''It tells children that the adults around them are not to be trusted and that the only way to save themselves from persecution is a prayer,'' he wrote.

''What other destructive messages are being imparted to our children? This rubbish demonstrates that Access Ministries need to have their funding revoked.''

The state government - which announced in this week's budget it would provide an extra $200,000 a year to Access Ministries for chaplaincy services in government schools - said it did not endorse use of the cartoon.

''I believe the cartoon is a regrettable error of judgment on the part of Access Ministries,'' Education Minister Martin Dixon said. ''I appreciate just how hard-working and dedicated our teachers are and how committed they are to stamping out bullying.''

A spokeswoman said the Education Department had contacted Access Ministries with its concerns and was assured the cartoon had not been used by any teachers or instructors in schools.''

The department says schools, by law, must offer special religious instruction classes - which are taught by volunteers - if approached by accredited course providers.

Students must attend the classes unless their parents choose to opt them out.

Academics, parents and religious leaders have called for an urgent review of the special religious instruction program. They say teachers should be educating students about all religions, rather than volunteers instructing them in a single belief system.

Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive officer Joe Tucci said the comic strip was irresponsible and undermined children's confidence in teachers.

''It's unbelievable,'' Dr Tucci said. ''It places responsibility on the child for their own protection, and it doesn't reflect the commitments schools make to try to deal positively with bullying.''

Access Ministries CEO Evonne Paddison did not return calls from The Age.

Serco Awarded WA Prisoner Transport Contract

The State Government has come under fire for plans to award another private company the contract to take over prisoner transport in Western Australia.

Serco been criticized for its management of Sydney's Villawood detention centre and the facility on Christmas Island, both of which have experienced violent protests.

It will replace another private company, G 4S, which has plead guilty to charges over the death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward in the Goldfields.

Simone McGurk from Unions WA says it is time for the government to take back control of prisoner transport.

"Really we just need governments running these sort of services, running all of our prison services, running our prison transport services, we don't need companies who just want to make a buck out of it," she said.

Ms McGurk says the new contract raises questions about Serco's relationship with the State Government.

"It does raise questions about exactly what relationship Serco has with this State Government - is there some sort of incentive for the government to be giving them work?"

APN To Close Mackay, Bundaberg Print Sites

About 40 jobs are expected to be lost in Mackay and Bundaberg following a decision to close two newspaper printing sites.

APN News and Media has announced both printing sites will be shut down later this year, with the Mackay site to close in July.

The ABC understands all Mackay publications will be printed in Rockhampton.

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