Drones, drones, everywhere: UN ramping up peacekeeper surveillance flights (1)

October 18th, 2014

Drone Warfare – Killing by remote control
Medea Bejamin, p98
Drone pilot Matt Martin recalled how, after months and months of long days staring at monitors, he became bored, cynical and suspicious of everyone he was watching. And, as military are wont to do, he found himself hoping that the targets he was following would prove themselves to be insurgents so he could “get some action.”
One day, he spotted a group of men at a park in Iraq’s Sadr City, and wondered if it was a terrorist cell meeting or just a bunch of men smoking and dancing. He watched them for hours.
“One of the men eventually got up off the ground and walked over to a nearby shack.
I thought I finally had them. He was going for weapons,” Martin wrote. Alas, the man returned with folding chairs. Martin was disappointed.
“I kept hoping somebody would pull out a rocket launcher,” he admitted.
“At least it would mean I was making good use of the Predator’s time and resources. Beside, blowing up things was much more interesting than watching men sit around in the dark smoking cigarettes, dancing and holding hands.”
(This book is available in Australian and New Zealand bookshops, Verso publication)


Investigation: Only 4% of Drone Victims in Pakistan Named as al Qaeda Members (2)
17/10/14 Jack Serle, Bureau of Investigative Journalism;

As the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan hits 400, research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds that fewer than 4% of the people killed have been identified by available records as named members of al Qaeda. This calls in to question US Secretary of State John Kerry’s claim last year that only “confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level” were fired at.
The Bureau’s Naming the Dead project has gathered the names and, where possible, the details of people killed by CIA drones in Pakistan since June 2004. On October 11 an attack brought the total number of drone strikes in Pakistan up to 400.
The names of the dead have been collected over a year of research in and outside Pakistan, using a multitude of sources. These include both Pakistani government records leaked to the Bureau, and hundreds of open source reports in English, Pashtun and Urdu.
Naming the Dead has also drawn on field investigations conducted by the Bureau’s researchers in Pakistan and other organisations, including Amnesty International, Reprieve and the Centre for Civilians in Conflict.
Only 704 of the 2,379 dead have been identified, and only 295 of these were reported to be members of some kind of armed group. Few corroborating details were available for those who were just described as militants. More than a third of them were not designated a rank, and almost 30% are not even linked to a specific group. Only 84 are identified as members of al Qaeda – less than 4% of the total number of people killed.
These findings “demonstrate the continuing complete lack of transparency surrounding US drone operations,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher for Amnesty International
When asked for a comment on the Bureau’s investigation, US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that strikes were only carried out when there was “near-certainty” that no civilians would be killed.
“The death of innocent civilians is something that the U.S. Government seeks to avoid if at all possible. In those rare instances in which it appears non-combatants may have been killed or injured, after-action reviews have been conducted to determine why, and to ensure that we are taking the most effective steps to minimise such risk to non-combatants in the future,” said Hayden.
“Associated forces”
The Obama administration’s stated legal justification for such strikes is based partly on the right to self-defence in response to an imminent threat. This has proved controversial as leaked documents show the US believes determining if a terrorist is an imminent threat “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
The legal basis for the strikes also stems from the Authorisation for the Use of Military Force (Aumf) – a law signed by Congress three days after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. It gives the president the right to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those behind the attacks on the US, wherever they are.
The text of Aumf does not name any particular group. But the president, in a major foreign policy speech in May 2013, said this includes “al Qaeda, the Taliban and its associated forces”.
It is not clear who is deemed to be “associated” with the Taliban. Hayden told the Bureau that “an associated force is an organised armed group that has entered the fight alongside al Qaeda and is a co-belligerent with al Qaeda in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”
The CIA itself does not seem to know the affiliation of everyone they kill.
Secret CIA documents recording the identity, rank and affiliation of people targeted and killed in strikes between 2006 to 2008 and 2010 to 2011 were leaked to the McClatchy news agency in April 2013.
They identified hundreds of those killed as simply Afghan or Pakistani fighters, or as “unknown”.
Determining the affiliation even of those deemed to be “Taliban” is problematic.
The movement has two branches: one, the Afghan Taliban, is fighting US and allied forces, and trying to re-establish the ousted Taliban government of Mullah Omar in Kabul. The other, the Pakistani Taliban or the TTP, is mainly focused on toppling the Pakistani state, putting an end to democracy and establishing a theocracy based on extreme ideology. Although the US did not designate the TTP as a foreign terrorist organisation until September 2010, the group and its precursors are known to have worked with the Afghan Taliban.
According to media reports, the choice of targets has not always reflected the priorities of the US alone. In April last year the McClatchy news agency reported the US used its drones to kill militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas in exchange for Pakistani help in targeting al Qaeda members.
Three days before the McClatchy report, the New York Times revealed the first known US drone strike in Pakistan, on June 17 2004, was part of a secret deal with Pakistan to gain access to its airspace. The CIA agreed to kill the target, Nek Mohammed, in exchange for permission for its drones to go after the US’s enemies.
“Judging by the sheer volume of strikes and the reliable estimates of total casualties, it is very unlikely that the majority of victims are senior commanders.” —Mustafa Qadri Amnesty International
The “butcher of Swat”
Senior militants have been killed in the CIA’s 10-year drone campaign in Pakistan. But as the Bureau’s work indicates, it is far from clear that they constitute the only or even the majority of people killed in these strikes.
“Judging by the sheer volume of strikes and the reliable estimates of total casualties, it is very unlikely that the majority of victims are senior commanders,” says Amnesty’s Qadri.
The Bureau has only found 111 of those killed in Pakistan since 2004 described as a senior commander of any armed group – just 5% of the total. Research by the New America Foundation estimated the proportion of senior commanders to be even lower, at just 2%.
Among them are men linked to serious crimes. Men such as Ibne Amin, known as the “butcher of Swat” for the barbaric treatment he and his men meted out on the residents of the Swat valley in 2008 and 2009.
Others include Abu Khabab al Masri, an al Qaeda chemical weapons expert. Drones also killed Hakimullah and Baitullah Mehsud, and Wali Ur Rehman – all senior leaders of the TTP.
There are 73 more people recorded in Naming the Dead who are described as mid-ranking members of armed groups. However someone’s rank is not necessarily a reliable guide to their importance in the organisation.
“I think it really depends on what they are,” Rez Jan, a senior Pakistan analyst at the American Enterprise Institute think tank told the Bureau. “You can be a mid-level guy who is involved in [improvised explosive device] production or training in bomb making or planting, or combat techniques and have a fairly lethal impact in that manner.”
Rashid Rauf, a British citizen killed in a November 2008 drone strike in Pakistan, is one al Qaeda member who appears to have had an impact despite not rising to the organisation’s highest echelons.
He acted as a point of contact between the perpetrators of the July 7 2005 attacks on the London Underground and their al Qaeda controllers. He also filled a similar role linking al Qaeda central with the men planning to bring down several airliners flying from London to the US in the 2006 “liquid bomb plot”.
The Bureau has only been able to establish information about the alleged roles of just 21 of those killed. Even this mostly consists of basic descriptions such as “logistician” or “the equivalent of a colonel.”
Note: This story contains a clarification. 4% of people who have been killed by CIA drone strikes have been named and positively identified as members of al Qaeda by available records. Of the drone strike victims who have been named, 12% are identified as al Qaeda.

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/10/17/in.vestigation-only-4-drone-victims-pakistan-named-al-qaeda-members © 2014 Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Drone Warfare, USA

Drones, drones, everywhere: UN ramping up peacekeeper surveillance flights (1)

October 18th, 2014

27/8/14; Samuel Oakford

In mid-afternoon on May 5, a naval crew of Uruguayan peacekeepers carrying out a routine exercise on the Congolese side of Lake Kivu picked up a faint call on their radio from another vessel. Already that month, two ships ferrying passengers across the lake had sunk, but the men were too far from any stricken boat to see anything.
But they had another option: a drone.
The Uruguayans sent word to their base in Goma to direct a drone buzzing above them to inspect the signal’s origin. A surveillance team watching through the drone’s camera confirmed that a boat had capsized, and 15 minutes later, several speedboats were on the scene, soon joined by two helicopters. Rescuers pulled 14 survivors from the water, and hours later a helicopter crew saved one more.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where war has claimed millions of lives over the past two decades, it was a small act. For the U.N., however, it was validation of its nascent drone program, launched only months before in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
Eastern Congo is a testing ground of sorts, as the U.N. tries to streamline its global forces of nearly 100,000 deployed personnel who are grappling with increasingly intractable missions in over a dozen countries.
In November 2013, one year after Rwandan-backed M23 rebels dealt U.N. and Congolese soldiers a terrible blow by capturing Goma, the U.N.’s novel attack-minded Force Intervention Brigade retook the city and forced the remaining rebels to surrender. A month later, the first U.N. drone went airborne.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as the U.N. calls them to distinguish them from weaponized drones, have since been deployed consistently, even though their 125-mile range is a limitation in the DRC, which is the size of Western Europe.
“If you understand the geographic dimensions of this country and the difficulty to move around, you can understand why UAVs are very useful,” said Col. Félix Basse, a military spokesman with MONUSCO, the U.N. stabilization mission in the DRC. “With drones we can observe all armed groups’ movements and their activity, and we can track them down. All these things can be done without deploying troops.” Col. Félix Basse MONUSCO spokesman

In Goma the U.N. leases five Falco UAVs from Selex, an Italian contractor. The UAVs, about 20 feet long, are capable of flying in darkness and can detect fires with infrared sensors. International crews and drone consultants, some of them American veterans, have moved to Goma to work as contractors.
The UAVs pinpoint illegal mining operations and weapon smugglers and been used along with Congolese forces to attempt to neutralize Ugandan ADF rebels and Mai Mai groups that have been terrorizing North Kivu. MONUSCO is also using them to track Hutu FDLR rebels.
‘With drones we can observe all armed groups’ movements and their activity, and we can track them down. All these things can be done without deploying troops.’ Col. Félix Basse MONUSCO spokesman
Peacekeepers have found that flying the drones unmuffled — so they can be heard better — deters militias and offers civilians a feeling of security from killing and rape.
Though the incident on Lake Kivu did not involve armed groups, it showed the speed with which drones can change the calculus when civilians are in danger.
“Our experience so far has confirmed that it is a flexible system,” said Edmond Mulet, assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations. UAVs “would unquestionably be an asset in other theaters of operations.”
In Mali, Dutch peacekeepers are already using short-range hand-launched drones. Swedish troops are expected to do the same there later in the year, and Mali’s government has indicated its willingness to allow long-range UAVs.
When the U.N.’s mission in the Central African Republic begins officially in September, acquiring drones is among the first orders of business. There is talk of implementing them officially in West Africa as well.
The technology is relatively cheap, costing in the DRC $15 million this year, a minuscule fraction of the U.N.’s annual peacekeeping budget of nearly $8 billion — a point peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous repeatedly made in pushing for their deployment.
Ladsous came under fire this year after leaked documents from the U.N. mission in Darfur raised a controversy over a lack of U.N. reaction to government attacks on civilians. UAV surveillance likely would have made it more difficult for the mission to plead ignorance of Khartoum’s airstrikes. In this light, human rights groups have not only applauded their use but also urged that the data they collect be shared with investigators.
“When it comes to tracking down armed groups who burn villages, terrorize entire regions and kill civilians, as we see in places like CAR, DRC or Sudan and South Sudan, observation drones can come very handy, and we see no clear reason why the U.N. should not use them,” said Philippe Bolopion, U.N. director at Human Rights Watch.
But not everyone is welcoming the U.N.’s use of drones.The data the machines can collect is already a point of contention among some member states. On the Security Council, Russia and China have raised privacy concerns, as has Rwanda, over UAVs in the DRC.
Rwanda, in particular, has reason to worry. Lake Kivu, where the drone in May was flying, is on the Rwanda-DRC border. The question will rear its head again in the Central African Republic, which borders South Sudan, Sudan and Chad, which has been accused of fomenting rebellion in the CAR.
Despite UAVs’ capacity to do so, MONUSCO officials insist they are not peering into Rwanda, a source of many of the illicit arms in the DRC. Before the defeat of M23, the Congolese repeatedly accused Rwanda of replenishing the rebel group’s ranks and even equipping its fighters with night vision goggles.
“Our policy is clear. We don’t fly them to look into our neighbors’ countries. We strictly use them within the DRC,” said Basse. “The cameras will not be directed into Rwanda.”
Bolopion is skeptical about critics’ concerns. “Opponents of U.N. observation drones often fail to make a convincing case against their use or in some cases may have things to hide,” he said.
However, there are no limits on how long the U.N. may retain surveillance data or guidelines preventing it from sharing sensitive information with human rights investigators or with the Security Council to, for example, buttress a case for sanctions. Classified data will be stored in U.N. archives.
The U.N. says centralizing the data at a secure location like the one in Goma that directs the drones makes it less likely member states will be able to feed information through back channels. But the U.N. is porous, if nothing else.
“How they are going to convince people that they can manage this data in a way that is safe and secure — when the CIA sometimes can’t even manage it — is a big unanswered question that they haven’t sufficiently addressed yet,” said Trudy Fraser, a U.N.-based researcher and consultant on peacekeeping.
Much has changed since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, when Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire told a reporter, “We were blind and deaf in the field.” New concepts like the Responsibility to Protect doctrine and clear protection of civilian mandates mean U.N. interventions are more robust than in the past. But they are only as strong as its ability to move troops — a bottleneck that observers say drones can ease but not eliminate.
“The drones issue at present is only a halfway tool,” says David Curran, a lecturer in peacekeeping at Bradford University. “Bringing a UAV to a mission is one thing. Backing it up with effective support and reaction capabilities is another. If U.N. drones are watching massacres, then it is already too late in many ways.”

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/8/27/united-nations-drones.html; http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/inside-story/articles/2014/6/24/drones-memo-releasewastheobamaadministrationjustified.html; http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/5/drone-memo-secrecysurveillancedemocracytransparency.html; http://america.aljazeera.com/topics/topic/issue/drones.html?page=3 http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/21/ny-court-us-mustreleasetargetedkillingsmemo.html http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/2/20/rights-group-weddingstrikeviolatedlawsofwar.html http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/the-stream/the-stream-officialblog/2014/1/23/marking-the-fiveyearanniversaryofobamasdronewars.html http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight/america-tonight-blog/2014/1/17/what-really-happenedwhenausdronehitayemeniweddingconvoy.html
USA, Drones

U.S Announces Humanitarian Assistance for Palestinians (4)

October 18th, 2014

13/10/14; U.S. Department of State

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry announced $414 million in U.S. assistance to the Palestinians.
This includes more than $212 million that will be delivered through USAID. Of this, approximately $75 million will support critically needed relief and early recovery efforts in Gaza; $100 million will support the Palestinian Authority’s budgetary needs, including through financial support to the East Jerusalem Hospital Network; and $37 million will further strengthen the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, support economic growth, provide health and humanitarian assistance, and build the infrastructure and water resources of the West Bank.
Secretary Kerry’s announcement also includes $118 million in humanitarian assistance to Gaza announced by Secretary Kerry in July and September, which provided critical humanitarian aid, including food, water, shelter and medical supplies to the population of Gaza. This included a $74 million contribution to UNRWA’s Gaza Flash Appeal, $36.4 in USAID assistance, and $7.7 million to other international partners.
It further includes $84 million provided to UNRWA to address other emergency needs in the West Bank and Gaza. The United States remains committed to continuing to address the needs of the Palestinian people.


USA, Palestine

Israeli public figures for the recognition of Palestine (3)

October 18th, 2014

13/10/14 Gush Shalom

Hundreds of Israeli public figures call upon Members of the British Parliament to vote in favor of recognizing the State of Palestine
363 Israeli public figures have signed a letter to the Members of the British Parliament, calling upon them to vote in favor of British recognition of a Palestinian State, to be created side-by-side with Israel.
The letter was handed on Sunday noon to representatives of the British MP’s supporting the motion, due to be voted tomorrow (Monday). The Israeli letter was initiated by Dr. Alon Liel, former Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry; Prof. Amiram Goldblum, a founder of the Peace Now movement; and Yehuda Shaul of “Breaking the Silence”.
The letter reads: “We, Israelis who worry and care for the well-being of the state of Israel, believe that the long-term existence and security of Israel depends on the long-term existence and security of a Palestinian state. For this reason we, the undersigned, urge members of the UK Parliament to vote in favor of the motion to be debated on Monday 13th October 2014, calling on the British Government to recognize the State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel13/12/14″.
Signatories include:
– Nobel Prize Laureate (Economics) Daniel Kahneman
– Six Laureates of the Israel Prize – Professors Alice Levy, David Har’el, Shimon Sandbank, Yehoshua Kolodny, Yona Rosenfeld and Yoram Bilu;
– Two former ministers – Ran Cohen and Yossi Sarid, as well as four former Knesset Members – Uri Avnery, Yael Dayan, Mossi Raz and Naomi Chazan;
– Former Ambassador and Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Dr. Alon Liel, as well as former Ambassador Ilan Baruch;
– Gen. (ret.) Emanuel Shaked, former of the Paratooper Corps;
– Former Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair;
– Four writers – Yehoshua Sobol, Yehudit Kafri, Savyon Liebrecht and Amos Mokadi;
– Professor Rafi Walden, Deputy Ditector of the Shiba Hospital and Chair of “Physicians for Human Rights”
– Yuval Rahamim, Co-Chair of “Bereaved Families for Palestinian-Israeli Peace” and the grouop’s founder Yitzhak Frankenthal;
– As well as many residents of Gaza border communities and other peace and social rights activists.


Israel, Palestine

Gaza: Unity Needed to Build One Palestine (2)

October 18th, 2014

15/10/14; UN News

Two days after donors pledged $5.4 billion in aid for Gaza reconstruction, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the war-ravaged enclave, where he viewed destruction wrought by the most recent conflict that was “beyond description”, and also met with the ministers of the National Consensus Government calling on them to focus all efforts on “building one Palestine.”
“We stand by you. The international community supports your government’s efforts to assume the security and governance responsibilities in Gaza,” the UN Chief said in remarksfollowing his meeting with the top officials of the government including its Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu.
Mr. Ban said that while he was deeply moved by the destruction he had seen in Gaza, there are signs of hope. The Government of National Consensus has brought together Palestinian factions that have “too long” been divided. And the agreement between Israel, the United Nations and the Palestine government has facilitated the arrival today of the first truck bringing in cement and other construction material. “This is a great opportunity to unite the West Bank and Gaza under one Palestinian leadership,” he added.
He also highlighted several important developments that “should facilitate your government performing its functions in Gaza” including the management by the Palestinian Authority of the Gaza crossings, in enabling the flow of materials and restoring trade between the West Bank and Gaza.
Mr. Ban’s Gaza visit comes on the heels of a weekend conference held in Cairo in support of the UN-backed plan on reconstruction of the enclave following a 51-day conflict in which entire neighbourhoods were flattened and almost one-third of Gaza’s population was uprooted.
The violence killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including more than 500 children, and more than 70 Israelis. Mr. Ban talked with several people who have been deeply affected by the conflict. “I just met a man who lost his legs. He lost his brothers and sisters. It is very sad and heart-breaking,” said the UN chief.
He also talked about his visit today to the Jabalia school and meeting the children of Gaza, saying that being born in Gaza should not be a crime.
“My visit today to the school and to Gaza has reinforced my conviction that there is no time to lose. There can be no peace in the Middle East, no security for Israel, while the crisis in Gaza festers,” the UN chief said, declaring that the “build-destroy, build-destroy cycle must be broken”.
“The mindless pattern of blockade, rockets and destruction must stop. I repeat here in Gaza: the rockets fired by Hamas and other armed groups must end,” said Mr. Ban.
He said that all the details relating to the location of UN facilities were shared with the Israeli military authorities again and again. Yet the shells fell where innocent civilians were seeking shelter. The Secretary-General reiterated his call for a full and independent investigation into the matter.
Mr. Ban is also expected to visit several other sites destroyed during last summer’s conflict, including a compound belonging to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and a UN Development Programme (UNDP) Fishing Project. Later in the day in Gaza, the Secretary-General held a town hall meeting with UN Staff today and salute the sacrifice made by those who had died during the conflict.
Before leaving Israel to travel back to New York, Mr. Ban visited the Ein Hash Losa kibbutz and met with about a dozen family members who were affected by rocket fire and tunnel activity from Gaza.
Speaking later to the press, the Secretary-General said that he had been “shocked and alarmed by the underground tunnels which have been used for penetration for terrorist purposes.” “I have been particularly condemning these rocket attacks by Hamas from the air and also attacks through leftover tunnels, underground tunnels. This is unacceptable,” the UN chief declared, reiterating that rocket attacks killing the civilian population is not acceptable and should be condemned. “Nobody should live under constant threat or fear by these rockets and the penetrating alarming underground tunnels.”
He went on to say that during his trip through the region, he has been urging leaders on both sides to address the underlying issues. “For that, they should sit down together and resume their peace talks. That is the only way – a viable option, so that the two peoples can enjoy peace and harmony and security.”
The Secretary-General said that he had met in southern Israel the grandparents and uncle of Daniel – a four year old boy. “What has he done wrong? Why has he to die? Even without knowing anything, even without being able to grow up at the age of four years. This is very sad. I conveyed my deepest condolences to the family.”
The UN chief said that he could only hope his words “helped…even a little bit [in] healing their wounds. But that may not be enough. For that, I urge again – the two parties should, must address all the underlying issues to bring peace and harmony and security to the two peoples.”
In recent days, the UN chief has met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minster Rami Hamdullah. Mr. Ban also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin while in Jerusalem yesterday.
Following today’s meeting with Palestinian ministers, Mr. Ban reiterated his support for the National Consensus on the basis of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) commitments.
“You have sent a strong message to the world by forging the government of national consensus and by convening the first historic meeting of the Unity Government under the leadership of President Abbas and chaired by Prime Minister Hamdullah,” said Mr. Ban.
“You are building one Palestine which is essential…By having another meeting with cabinet ministers in Gaza, I am seeing one united Palestinian government,” he added.
In the wake of the donor conference over the previous weekend, the World Health Organization (WHO) has appealed for $8.7 million in order to improve Gaza’s health system. That would be part of a $45.1 million project to repair and enhance Gaza’s health care system.
According to a preliminary survey, 67 health facilities had been damaged and the stock of essential medicine and the health staff has been exhausted.
It has been estimate that up to 20 per cent of Gaza’s population, or some 360,000 people, could need treatment for mental-health disorders in the wake of the hostilities. There was a shortage of health services before the conflict, which was even more urgent now.


Israel. Palestine

Man to be extradited over sex abuse claims (3)

October 18th, 2014


An elderly Catholic priest will be extradited from Queensland to Victoria, where he is expected to be charged over historical sexual assault offences against seven victims.
Roger Melville Mount, 72, who has been living in Papua New Guinea, was arrested in Cairns by detectives from a Victorian task force dealing with sex abuse complaints against members of the clergy. On Friday, he appeared in the Cairns Magistrates Court where an extradition application by Victorian police was granted, a court official told AAP.
The official couldn’t say when Mount would be extradited, but confirmed he is in custody and is due to face the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday.
He is expected to be charged with 62 sexual assault offences against seven victims allegedly committed in Greensborough between 1968 and 1974, Victorian police said. His arrest follows an investigation by the Sano task force which was established by police to investigate historic and new allegations arising from the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse.


Australia, Pedophilia

800 Million Undernourished People Worldwide
17/10/14 Norwegian Refugee Council
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and cuts in the food aid provided by the United Nations may increase the number of people affected by hunger dramatically. “We must not end up in a situation where people who have survived Ebola end up dying of hunger instead,” says Jan Egeland, Secretary General of Norwegian Refugee Council.
In Liberia, one million people are threatened by potential food shortages and according to the United Nations 85% of the households in Sierra Leona do not have enough food. In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone the UN now distributes food to one million people.
“Our fear is that that food shortage can cause people to flee their homes, gather in larger groups and thus expose themselves to Ebola infection. We must avoid that at all cost,” Egeland says.
Several reports have documented that food production in the Ebola-hit areas are paralyzed as a result of the epidemic. Because of the Ebola outbreak many farmers have not been able to harvest the year’s last crop. The UN is now planning food distribution to larger parts of the Ebola-affected areas. However, a large-scale food distribution can affect the local markets negatively. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) fears that local food production can be brought to a halt.
“We must act now in order to forestall a famine. It is essential that we try to keep local food production going to avoid that Ebola survivors in the Months to come will be facing the threat of starvation,” Egeland states.
UN cuts food aid
The World Food Programme (WFP) is cutting the food aid it provides to 4.2 million Syrians ravaged by war because of a shortfall in funding. As a result food baskets to Syrian beneficiaries are expected to be significantly reduced to just 825 kilocalories per person per day from the beginning of November, compared to the 2,100 kilocalories which is recommended in emergency contexts.
In Jordan, which is housing more than 619,000 registered Syrian refugees, WFP also indicates that they will have to cut the value of its food voucher by half in November and December for Syrian refugees in host communities. A recent NRC informal assessment found that faced with decreasing assistance 34% of Syrian refugees in Jordan indicated that they would be forced to return to Syria.
“This documents the desperate situation many Syrian Refugees find themselves in. Many Syrian refugees in Jordan are totally dependent on help from the international community. Our fear is that they are about to lose all hope, Egeland says.
In Afghanistan WFP is also facing cuts. The US$40 million deficit has already decreased the size of food packages for hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries. The shortfall is further making it difficult for WFP to pre-position food for life-saving activities in districts difficult to access before the onset of winter. The WFP has stated that one million food insecure people will be negatively affected during the cuts in October and November.
Norwegian Refugee Council is extremely concerned about the effect the cuts will have on hundreds of thousands of food-aid dependent Afghans. If the WFP is unable to pre-position enough live-saving food rations prior to winter setting in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Afghans will be at serious risk.
“Winter is coming and Afghanistan remains in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. Cutting food rations due to lack of donor funding is a devastating blow for Afghan people already pushed to the brink,” Egeland says.
The World’s most serious food crisis
After the conflict broke out in December last year, South Sudan is facing the World’s most severe food crisis. 1.7 million people have fled their homes because of the fighting between the military forces of President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar. In some of the hardest hit areas one in two children is malnourished. More than two million South Sudanese are facing severe food insecurity and 30% of the population is dependent on aid to survive.
Famine has so far been narrowly avoided, but as the dry season begins the disaster is about to get worse.
In a report by 36 charities – including the NRC, it is estimated that the number of severely hungry people will rise by 1 million between January and March 2015.
We have no time to lose in order to prevent a famine. If we fail to act, millions of people could starve within Months. The international community has an obligation to prevent that people die of hunger, but money alone will not solve the problem. This is a man made disaster – the parties to the conflict have to stop the violence, Egeland ends.


Global Hunger

Israeli Settlers Set Fire to Abu Baker Al-Siddiq Mosque (1)

17/10/14; Palestinian Centre For Human Rights
The Palestinian Center for Human rights (PCHR) condemns the crime committed by Israeli settlers on Tuesday, 14 October 2014, when they set fire to Abu Baker al-Siddiq Mosque in ‘Aqraba village, southeast of Nablus, and painted slogans on its walls.
PCHR believes that Israeli occupation forces’ connivance, support and protection for the settlers encourage them to commit more organized crimes against the Palestinian civilians, and these crimes are the outcome of Israeli governments’ persistent incitements against the Palestinians, which drive the settlers into more hatred and extremism.
PCHR condemns such attacks and Israeli government’s complicity and encouragement for them. Moreover, PCHR calls upon the international community to act immediately to provide protection for the Palestinian civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).
According to investigations conducted by PCHR and eyewitness’ testimonies, at approximately 06:15 on Tuesday, 14 October 2014, after al-Fajer (dawn) prayer in Abu Baker al-Siddiq Mosque in ‘Aqraba village, southeast of Nablus, a civilian saw smoke coming out of the southern window of women’s section on the first floor of the mosque.
He immediately informed the worshippers on the second floor who started leaving the mosque through its eastern exit. They rushed to the women’s section through the western entrance and tried to extinguish fire. Twenty minutes later, they managed to extinguish the fire.
After examining the place, they found that the southern window of the women’s section had been shattered and flammable substances were poured on the carpets. The bottles of the flammable substances were left at the window. Later, the Palestinian police arrived at the place and collected the evidence. At approximately 10:30, the Israeli liaison and police arrived at the place and opened an investigation into the attack.
It should be noted that the mosque is located in Ras Karkas quarter in the southern side of ‘Aqraba village, which is less than 400 meters from Trans-Samaria road. The settlers wrote a slogan in Hebrew on walls of the mosque and signed it ‘Price Tag in Taffoah settlement’.
The slogan further says that this attack was in revenge for Kahana, a settler from the aforementioned settlement, who was killed several years ago by a Palestinian from ‘Aqraba on the same date.
PCHR has constantly warned of the escalation of attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and property. PCHR strongly condemns escalated attacks by Israeli forces and settlers in the oPt, in particular attacks by settlers in the West Bank, and:
1. Calls upon the international community to pressurize Israeli authorities to refrain from providing protection and connivance to settlers in regards to crimes committed by them and demands the Israeli government to prosecute settlers who perpetrate such attacks;
2. Calls upon the international community to pressurize Israel to comply with its obligations under the international law and end all settlement activities in the oPt;
3. Reminds the international community that settlement is a war crime according to the international law, so the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, individually or jointly, must comply with their legal and moral obligations, and ensure Israel’s respect for the Convention in the oPt, in accordance with Article 1 of the Convention.


Israel, Palestine

Professor accused of sending racist, sexually abusive emails suspended by University of Sydney

October 18th, 2014


A professor accused of sending racist and sexually abusive emails has been suspended by the University of Sydney. University of Sydney Professor Barry Spurr, consultant to the Federal Government’s national English curriculum review, referred to Prime Minister Tony Abbott as an “Abo-lover” and Nelson Mandela as a “darky”.
He also described Aboriginal people as “human rubbish tips” and reminisced about the 1950s, when there were not so many “bogans”, “fatsoes”, “Mussies” and “Chinky-poos” around.
“Professor Spurr is suspended, effective immediately, from teaching and engaging in any other university business and is precluded from attending any university campus while the matter is investigated and dealt with,” the University of Sydney said in a statement. “Racist, sexist or offensive language is not tolerated at the University of Sydney.”
In his review, Professor Spurr advised the Government to focus less on teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature and place greater emphasis on western Judeo-Christian culture.
Professor Spurr, a specialist in poetry and poetics who has been at the university for 38 years, defended the emails, telling news website New Matilda they were mainly to one recipient and were part of a “whimsical” game to outdo one another in extreme statements. He said they were in no way a reflection of his views.
Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Professor Spurr’s remarks were disgusting. “It’s got to be a matter for Sydney University, but someone who’s a professor, should be above making the sort of remarks that we’ve seen attributed to them,” he said. “These are not the remarks of an educated person.”
Mr Shorten said there should have been a stronger reaction from the Government. “I noticed the Education Minister basically disowned this person’s conduct … but the question is, how much of the conduct has influenced the review of the curriculum?”
Asked this morning about the emails prior to the suspension, Mr Abbott said he had not had a chance to read the media reports.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne released a statement saying the emails were a matter for Professor Spurr. However, he said he utterly rejected the denigration of any minority, calling it “repugnant”. He said the decision to appoint Professor Spurr as a special consultant for the review of the national English curriculum was not made by the Government.
The Government appointed Professor Ken Wiltshire and Dr Kevin Donnelly to helm its review of the national curriculum in January. Professor Spurr was one of the specialist advisers brought onboard to advise the review.
Opposition spokeswoman on multiculturalism Michelle Rowland said it was not enough for Mr Pyne to distance himself from the comments.”The buck must surely stop with someone, and it must stop with the minister,” she said.


Australia, Racism


Bishop child sex offence case adjourned (1)
The case against the head of the Catholic Church’s military diocese, who is accused of child sex offences dating back 45 years, has been deferred until next year. Bishop Max Leroy Davis, 68, has been charged with three counts of indecently dealing with a 13-year-old boy in 1969 when he was teaching at St Benedict’s College in New Norcia, northeast of Perth.
The matter was heard briefly in Perth Magistrates Court on Friday, but was adjourned until January 23. Davis, who now lives in the ACT, was not required to appear in person. His lawyer, Seamus Rafferty, has previously said Davis would plead not guilty.
It is understood Davis is the first Australian bishop and the most senior Australian church official to be charged with a child sex offence. However, he was not an ordained priest at the time of the alleged offences. Davis must continue to report to Belconnen Police Station in the ACT


Australia, Pedophilia


Police officer weeps for blind reports (2)
Eoin Blackwell; 17/10/14

A police inspector who sat on a church child abuse body didn’t pass on information to her superiors. A senior police officer at the centre of hearings into the force’s relationship with the Catholic Church has broken down in tears while defending the practice of “blind reporting” sex abuse.
But Inspector Elizabeth Cullen told the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) it was not her role to make direct reports to her superiors at the child protection squad about incidents of abuse being handled by the church’s Professional Standards Office (PSO).
Counsel assisting, Kristina Stern, on Friday asked Insp Cullen if sex abuse victims whose cases were brought before the PSO should have been encouraged to talk to police so they could make an informed choice about making a criminal complaint. “There was an over-arching factor that their wishes be respected,” she said, referring to abuse sufferers who requested privacy while detailing allegations.
Insp Cullen started to cry. “What right do we have to presume that they can’t make an informed choice on their own,” she said. Insp Cullen, a police officer for 28 years, was a member of the Professional Standards Resources Group (PSRG) between 1999 and 2005, a body that supported the PSO in its role.
Using a system called “blind reporting”, the information about abuse incidents would be given to police without victims’ details. In some cases, the blind report said the victim did not want police involvement when in fact they did. Insp Cullen, who attended the PSRG meetings on a monthly basis, said she didn’t see it as her role to be a conduit of information to police.
Insp Cullen prepared the pro-forma “blind reporting” forms that were used by the PSO to pass information to police. But she told the inquiry she was never present when a complaint was taken down. Ms Stern asked whether as a police officer she should have taken steps to ensure all information was being given about cases, Insp Cullen replied: “No. I don’t think so.
“It was my understanding that information was given to police on all relevant matters.”
Insp Cullen was shown details of a 2001 case seen by the PSRG that contained information about a serial sex offender. Asked if she advised the group that more details should be given to police, she replied that just because the PSRG meeting minutes did not reflect her advice, it didn’t mean it wasn’t given. The process of blind reporting worked, she said, and it wasn’t sensible for her to assess every piece of information brought before the PSRG.
If she had information that should be given to police, Insp Cullen said she would advise PSO members, Michael Salmon and John Davoren. “(Mr Davoren) was a man of integrity and so when he said certain things were being done, I had no reason to believe they weren’t,” Insp Cullen said.


Australia, Pedophilia

AMA formally notifies NT Government of harm to asylum children at Wickham Point detention facility (2)

October 18th, 2014

Jane Bardon – 18/10/14

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has made formal notifications to the Northern Territory Government that federal immigration detention is harming children. The AMA said their members were legally required to report damage being caused to children under the Territory’s mandatory child abuse reporting legislation.
Dr Peter Morris from the AMA NT said two detainees who attempted suicide at the Wickham Point detention centre were among the steady stream of depressed and traumatised asylum seekers who have been brought through the doors of Royal Darwin Hospital, despite some medical and mental health services being available in detention centres.
“Unfortunately the situation’s not getting any better and we’re particularly concerned about the very negative impact on children,” he said.
The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network community group’s Peter Robson said among those who have harmed themselves at Wickham Point was an Iranian man. “There was also a case where there was a young Iranian woman who was there with her family who attempted to kill herself,” he said. “She broke her pelvis and had to get serious medical assistance at the Royal Darwin Hospital.”
Doctors have officially concluded that federal immigration detention is harming children. Under the Northern Territory’s mandatory child abuse reporting laws, they are legally obliged to report any harm they become aware of to the Office of Children and Families.
Dr Morris said medical staff have referred seven cases to the office. “We’re waiting for the results of the investigation, but we do believe that, even though detention is regarded as a federal issue, we think in the Northern Territory we have local responsibility to ensure that children are not being harmed unnecessarily,” he said.
Federal Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was asked to respond to the suicide attempts and the child abuse notifications by doctors.
In a statement he said: “The Government’s strong border protection policies are working and our proposals before the Parliament will ensure that even more children are removed from immigration detention.
“The only thing standing in the way of this are Labor and the Greens who oppose our legislation to resolve the backlog of some 30,000 cases they left behind. “We will continue to reduce the detention population by proceeding to process peoples claims consistent with legislation currently before the Parliament. “When the legislation is passed we will be able to further reduce the detention population.”


University of Sydney ‘disturbed’ by professor’s emails, dubbed racist and sexist

October 18th, 2014


The University of Sydney says it is “deeply disturbed” by a series of emails sent by one of its professors, and dubbed racially and sexually abusive.
A story on the New Matilda website accused Professor Barry Spurr, who contributed to the Federal Government’s national English curriculum review, of referring to Prime Minister Tony Abbott as an “Abo-lover” and Nelson Mandela as a “darky”. The website’s editor, Chris Graham, described the emails as extreme hate-speech.
“He doesn’t just object to Aboriginal people who he calls Abos and human garbage, he makes references to mussies; tinky-poos is a word that he uses frequently; he’s very dismissive of women,” he told the ABC’s PM program. “He calls Nelson Mandela a darky.”
Professor Spurr defended the emails and told New Matilda, they were mainly to one recipient and were part of a game to outdo one another in extreme statements. He said they were in no way a reflection of his views.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne released a statement saying the alleged private emails were a matter for Professor Spurr. However, he said he utterly rejected the denigration of any minority, calling it repugnant. He said the decision to appoint Professor Spurr a special consultant for the review of the national English curriculum was not made by the Government.


Australia, Racism


New Indonesian president warns Abbott (1)

Indonesia’s incoming president has issued a blunt warning to Tony Abbott that it’s unacceptable for the Australian navy to enter Indonesian waters uninvited while turning back asylum seeker boats.
President-elect Joko Widodo has told Fairfax Media that Australia and Indonesia have closely overlapping strategic interests but he promised a tough approach to issues of sovereignty. The former Jakarta governor outlined plans to strengthen ties, including boosting military and intelligence links. But he warned he would be “stronger” on questions of sovereignty even than his army-general election opponent, Prabowo Subianto.
Mr Joko raised concerns about Australia’s asylum seeker policies and warned against Australian naval vessels venturing into Indonesian waters without permission as they did on five occasions last year. “We will give a warning that this is not acceptable,” he said. “We have international law, you must respect international law.”
Bilateral relations were damaged by revelations of Australia’s naval incursions and its spies tapping the phone of outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s wife. But Mr Joko said he would rebuild security ties, including cooperation to combat terrorism


Australia, Indonesia, Migrants & Refugees

October 18th, 2014

Catholic Church offered MOU on child abuse despite mandatory reporting laws, Police Integrity Commission hears (5)
October 15, 2014, 7:51 pm
The Catholic Church drafted a Memorandum of Understanding to share information with the NSW Police Force in 2004 despite being told a year earlier that the agreement breached child abuse mandatory reporting laws, an inquiry has heard.
The Police Integrity Commission had previously heard the MOU was designed to open up lines of communication between the church’s Professional Standards Office and the Child Protection Enforcement Agency, to facilitate the sharing of information relating to allegations of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
But a 2003 letter from Commander Kim McKay from the Child Protection Squad to Michael McDonald, who was the head of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations, advised that the unsigned MOU breached section 316 of the Crimes Act.
In the letter, Ms McKay said “the draft MOU has not been approved by the NSW Police Service, and the arrangements proposed by the MOU are not currently in place”.
She went on to state that “the arrangements proposed by the draft MOU appear to be in direct conflict with the explicit legislative requirement of section 316 of the Crimes Act”. Section 316 of the Crimes Act states that a person who knows or believes a serious indictable offence has been committed and fails to pass that information onto police is liable and could be imprisoned for two years.
Commander McKay’s letter was in response to a request from Mr McDonald, seeking confirmation that the unsigned MOU remained in place. But evidence Mr McDonald gave to the commission on Wednesday appeared to be at odds with his letter from 2003.
Catholic body unaware if MOU is in place
Under questioning from counsel assisting the commission, Kristina Stern, Mr McDonald said he did not know if the MOU was in place or not. “I wouldn’t be able to tell you wether it was in place or not, other than it existed,” Mr McDonald told the inquiry.”It was never a headline issue for the Professional Standards Resource Group, but I was aware in the background that some work had been done on an MOU.”
Meanwhile, the first Commander of the Child Protection Enforcement Agency, which sits within the NSW Police Force, told the commission on Wednesday he sought to establish an “arrangement” or “process” with the Catholic Church’s Professional Standards Office to facilitate the provision of information relating to allegations of sexual abuse. Detective Superintendent John Heslop (retired) became the agency’s first commander when it was set up in 1997. He told the commission he met with Father Brian Lucas, who drafted several versions of a MOU.
Counsel assisting Kristina Stern asked what they discussed at the meeting and whether they developed a protocol between the Professional Standards Office and the police. “I don’t think we ever got that far, our meeting was a meet and greet,” he said.
Former commander cannot recall MOU
On further questioning, Mr Heslop said he could not recall ever submitting a draft MOU to the church. “I don’t [recall] yet I don’t dispute it might have taken place but I have no recollection,” he said. The commission is also investigating whether the appointment of then-senior sergeant Elizabeth Cullen to the Church’s Professional Standards Resource Group, set up to investigate allegations of sexual abuse, amounted to police misconduct.
Mr Heslop told the commission he was aware Senior Sergeant Cullen sat on the internal church panel and said he would have expected her to report any allegations of sexual abuse she became aware of. “I would have expected her to convey to the police service any information she became aware of,” Mr Heslop said.
He was asked if he ever told her that she was to relay any information to the CRPA. “I don’t remember specifically but I can’t say that I couldn’t,” Mr Heslop replied.
Mr Heslop said he was unaware the Professional Standards Office shared its information with police through the use of blind reports, where police are only told that an allegation has been made and the victim’s name is suppressed. “I would have thought having as much information as possible to entail to police would have been beneficial,” he said.
Intelligence sharing due to “great frustration”
Mr Heslop said the intelligence-sharing process was set set up due to the “great frustration” obtaining information on alleged sexual offenders in the wake of the 1996 Wood Royal Commission. He said police became aware of allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy as a result of evidence tabled in the Wood Royal Commission but the accused were often relocated within the church before police could interview them.
“It was extremely frustrating,” Mr Heslop said. “Often they were recalled to the Vatican or deployed elsewhere before we could talk to them.” Mr Heslop described the arrangement as “a process rather than a system” and said Father Brian Lucas acted as a point of contact for officers with the CPEA.


Australia, Pedophilia, Catholic Church


Pastor ‘blind’ to son-in-law’s abuse (6)
Annette Blackwell; 15/10/14

A senior Pentecostal pastor whose son-in-law ran his church’s youth program had no idea he was sexually abusing a 13-year old boy, an inquiry has been told.
Ian Lehmann, who led a small Queensland church where Jonathan Baldwin took sexual advantage of the boy between 2004 and 2006, says he still struggles to accept his son-in-law’s guilt. Baldwin, who had charge of a 200-strong youth congregation, was jailed in 2009 for eight years, with a non-parole period of four years, for indecent treatment of a child under 16 and for one count of sodomy. He is no longer in jail.
Pastor Lehmann on Wednesday told a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearing he found “pedophilia and homosexuality” repulsive, but when he sits down to have a meal with Baldwin “I don’t think I am doing this with a pedophile”. He says his son-in-law made errors of judgment “but I have two grandsons by him, a third one about to be born and if I believed he was a pedophile, then I’ve got to face the reality that our three grandsons are at great risk.”
Pastor Lehmann said during his time at the church he never believed “anything deviant” was happening, even though there were three complaints about the intensity of 25-year-old Baldwin’s relationship with the 13-year-old boy, given the pseudonym ALA.The pastor denied ever being told Baldwin and the semi-naked boy were seen in a locked office with a mattress on the floor.
Baldwin was hired after a recommendation from an Adelaide church and Pastor Lehmann said he assumed he had working with children credentials. He said there were no written child protection policies at the church and Australian Christian Churches (ACC) – the umbrella body for Pentecostal churches – never made state and national policies available. Pastor Lehmann left the Queensland church in 2006.
Earlier the commission heard from ALA’s father, who said the Pentecostal church shunned his son and offered no pastoral help. He emailed in 2011 pleading for help for his son, who was still suffering, and was asked by the ACC if his email was spam. The father said he was unhappy about how his son was treated during civil proceedings.
He thought the church would offer pastoral and associated care, but instead they “start reshuffling the deck chairs” to protect their assets. In a brief statement, ALA said: “Pain, thoughts and considerable suffering haunt me every day. People say it gets easier with time, no. That’s a lie. It never goes away.” This is the third case study by the commission into how ACC dealt with complaints of child molestation.


Australia, Pedophilia


Church policy on child protection read as ‘don’t get caught’, inquiry told (7)
theguardian.com, 16/10/14
A Pentecostal church’s child protection policy was based on a biblical reference which could be interpreted as “don’t get caught”, an inquiry has heard. The training manual for workers at the Queensland church where a 13-year-old boy was sexually abused by the youth pastor for two years advised “the bible says to avoid the appearance of evil”.
The manual said the child abuse policy was formed on the basis that the enemy would try to destroy the ministry of the Lord and “shuts down opportunity for anyone to falsely accuse you … Satan is the enemy of the brethren … leave no door open for him”.
Chris Peterson, who took over as senior pastor at the church in 2006 – a year before a former youth pastor, Jonathan Baldwin, was charged and later jailed for child sexual abuse – said in hindsight the policy read as if it was saying “don’t get caught”.
Peterson was giving evidence to a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse hearing into how his church and the umbrella body for Pentecostal churches – Australian Christian Churches – responded to the Baldwin case. Baldwin was jailed in 2009 for eight years, with a four-year non-parole period, for indecent treatment of a child under 16 and for one count of sodomy.
Counsel assisting the commission, Simeon Beckett, asked why the manual referred to “the appearance of evil” instead of simply evil. Peterson said the manual was prepared by two church volunteers – one of whom was a teacher in training – and neither had had specific training in child protection. “I don’t think they viewed the document with that critical analysis,” he told the hearing on Thursday.
He also said that during his six years at the church he could not remember any specific child protection training but he had faith the people running the youth program were competent.
Beckett asked if the document was saying “Don’t get caught.” “I see it, I hear it … Obviously its intent is genuine; the legal analysis may not have been very insightful,” Peterson said. “Evil is what we’re really trying to avoid, not just the appearance, but evil,” he added. Peterson said he would have applied a state policy of mandatory reporting of child abuse to police when it was introduced in Queensland.
He also told Beckett there was no written policy on mandatory reporting circulated to church workers.
On Wednesday the father of the boy abused by Baldwin told the commission the Pentecostal movement shunned his son, who was still suffering the effects of the abuse. Peterson said Baldwin had left the church by the time he took over but he had offered pastoral and spiritual help to the boy’s parents when the offences became known.


Australia, Pedophilia


Women from ethnic minorities ignored by domestic violence strategy
Bridie Jabour; theguardian.com, 15/10/14
Senate inquiry told government failed to consult Australia’s peak body for culturally and linguistically diverse women in the creation of its domestic violence plan
Australian women from culturally diverse backgrounds face a number of barriers to accessing domestic violence services, including language and social stigma.
The peak body for culturally and linguistically diverse Australians was not directly consulted by the federal government in the creation of a national plan to reduce violence against women and their children, an inquiry has heard.
Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (Fecca) women’s advisory committee chair Pallavi Sinha and Casta Tungaraza from the New and Emerging Policy Advisory Committee, appeared before the Senate inquiry into domestic violence on Wednesday to speak about the barriers some women face in accessing domestic violence services.
Sinha revealed the council had not been invited by the government to roundtable discussions during the consultation stage for the second action plan, which was established by the previous Labor government and is being continued by the current government.
“We welcome the plan and are happy it mentions the Cald [culturally and linguistically diverse] women and the community, but [when it comes to] that emphasis on the how and engaging with the right organisation, we really do think the peak body for the culturally and linguistically diverse communities should be engaged in the implementations stage, in the development stage,” she said.
Sinha said there were several barriers to culturally diverse women accessing domestic violence services, including language, a lack of culturally appropriate housing, social stigma around domestic violence in their culture and a lack of knowledge that the services even exist.
Tungaraza said gaps in funding meant organisations could only help women to a certain degree, with the “next step” in domestic violence support missing because of a lack of funding.
“On the ground, different women’s organisations from Cald communities collaborate with other bodies and we’ve had small, small funding to do some work in this area, but it’s not sustainable … all of a sudden we are left with women who are more aware [of domestic violence issues] but we are not able to continue with the good work,” she said.
Both women said there was a severe lack of data on the impact of domestic violence on Cald women in Australia and said that they worked from international statistics. For example, 65% of women from sub-Saharan Africa will experience some type of intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
“One of the issues is there are different understandings and perceptions of what domestic violence is in new and emerging communities. In some communities domestic violence excludes emotional, psychological and sexual abuse,” Tungaraza said.
She said the people in the immigrant and refugee communities were sometimes dealing with role reversal within relationships when arriving in Australia and that there could be an aversion to therapy.
“It’s not a concept, ‘I give you my stories and my private life and I pay you?’ It doesn’t comprehend. It’s almost seen as a betrayal, all these secrets … we have a lot of work to do to ensure the women feel confident. It’s happening, but we need to remove that stigma,” Tungaraza said.
Public servants from the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the office for women inside the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet also faced the inquiry, answering questions about how the national plan for prevention of violence against women and their children impacted upon policy.
Cate McKenzie, the group manager at the multicultural, settlement services and communities group within DSS said while the plan was considered when it was “directly relevant” to policy, including budget initiatives, it was not a factor in every single decision.
“There are many, many things that could be actioned under the national plan that would assist either men to stop their violence or women to escape their violence or the community to no longer accept violence,” she said. “It’s a question of what combination of actions are the ones to be seen to be the higher priority at the time.”
Liberal senator Dean Smith asked if enough attention was being given to “positive male role models”, particularly for perpetrators of domestic violence.
McKenzie cited white ribbon day as one of the initiatives men could get involved in to help combat violence against women.
“You are right, the majority of men aren’t violent towards women … there is a risk, I suppose, of men being vilified as a gender and this is something that we are very aware of and we need to make sure doesn’t happen,” she said.


Australia, Womens’ Rights.


Mass Surveillance Programs Threaten Privacy Rights, International Law: UN Report
15/10/14 Common Dreams; Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Mass electronic surveillance by intelligence agencies violates “the very essence of the right to privacy” and threatens international law, according to the official report released Wednesday by the United Nations counter-terrorism investigator.
“The hard truth is that the use of mass surveillance technology effectively does away with the right to privacy of communications on the Internet altogether,” Ben Emmerson, UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, concluded in the report, entitled Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism.
In fact, the programs are so “corrosive of online privacy” that their targets—the whole of internet users—should be able to protect their rights in court, Emmerson states.
“[A]ny Internet user,” Emmerson writes, “should have standing to challenge the legality, necessity and proportionality of the measures.”
The report is a response to leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, which revealed the agency’s invasive and widespread surveillance tactics that included monitoring telecommunications data and metadata of virtually all U.S. citizens and people around the world.
Those techniques endanger the privacy rights of “literally every Internet user,” Emmerson writes. Merely claiming that they can help suppress or prosecute terrorist acts is not “an adequate human rights law justification.”
While “targeted surveillance” requires prior suspicion of an individual or organization to conduct spying operations, mass surveillance programs like Prism—one of the NSA systems exposed by Snowden in 2013—collect vast swaths of telecommunications data across the board. Its methods are “incompatible with existing concepts of privacy,” the report states.
Much of the report focuses on how mass surveillance violates articles of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, a treaty signed and ratified by all member states of the Five Eyes alliance—the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, several of which have recently come under fire for their secretive data collection programs.
The violation of Article 17 is particularly egregious, as the article guarantees that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home and correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.”
“[I]ndividuals have the right to share information and ideas with one another without interference by the State, secure in the knowledge that their communication will reach and be read by the intended recipients alone,” Article 17 states.
Without a “a meaningful public account” of the benefits of mass surveillance, and with no “explicit domestic legislation to authorize its use,” the program’s disregard for Article 17 “presents a serious challenge to an established norm of international law,” Emmerson finds.
The report also highlights the NSA’s newer, ever-more-intrusive Quantum program, which enables the agency to take “secret control… over servers in key locations” and impersonate websites in order to hack into suspects’ computers and spy on them remotely.
“By impersonating chosen websites (including such common sites as the Google search page), Quantum is able to inject unauthorized remote control software into the computers and Wi-Fi-enabled devices of those who visit the clone site (who will, of course, have no reason to doubt the clone site’s authenticity),” the report states.
Emmerson’s report bolsters findings in a report released earlier this year by Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Mass surveillance is “emerging as a dangerous habit rather than an exceptional measure,” Pillay said in July. A “disturbing” lack of transparency by governments over their mass surveillance programs are “severely hindering efforts to ensure accountability for any resulting human rights violations, or even to make us aware that such violations are taking place, despite a clear international legal framework laying down governments’ obligations to protect our right to privacy, and other related human rights.”
Snowden still faces espionage charges in the U.S. He was granted a three-year residency permit in Moscow on August 1, where he had been staying in temporary asylum since the summer of 2013.
“The prevention and suppression of terrorism is a public interest imperative of the highest importance and may in principle form the basis of an arguable justification for mass surveillance of the internet,” Emmerson’s report concludes. “However, the technical reach of the programmes currently in operation is so wide that they could be compatible with article 17 of the covenant only if relevant States are in a position to justify as proportionate the systematic interference with the internet privacy rights of a potentially unlimited number of innocent people located in any part of the world.”


Global, Spying

Francis: If laws don’t lead people to Jesus, they are obsolete (1)

October 18th, 2014

Carol Glatz on Monday, 13/10/14
If laws do not lead people to Christ then they are obsolete – Pope Francis said in his morning homily.
In fact, the scholars of the law in Jesus’s day were so wrapped up in doctrine as an end in itself, they were unable to see that Jesus was leading people down a new and surprising path toward his glory, the Pope said during his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae this morning.
Jesus did “strange things,” like “walk with sinners, eat with tax collectors” — things the scholars of the law “did not like; doctrine was in danger, that doctrine of the law” that they and the “theologians had created over the centuries,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.
The scholars were safeguarding the law “out of love, to be faithful to God,” the Pope said, but “they were closed up right there,” and forgot all the ways God has acted in history.
“They forgot that God is the God of the law, but is also the God of surprises,” he said.
“God is always new; he never denies himself, he never says that what he had said is wrong, but he always surprises us,” the Pope added.
The scholars of the law had forgotten how many times God surprised his people, like when he freed them from slavery in Egypt, he said. They were too wrapped up in their perfect system of laws — “a masterpiece” where everyone knew exactly what he or she was supposed to do; “it was all settled. And they felt very secure there”.
They couldn’t see beyond “this system made with lots of good will,” and they could not read the “signs of the times,” the Pope said.
They couldn’t see that what Jesus was doing was a sign indicating “that the time was ripe,” he said. This is why in the day’s Gospel reading (Lk 11:29-32) Jesus said, “This generation is an evil generation,” because it sought the wrong kind of sign, the Pope continued.
The scholars of the law also forgot that the people of God are a people on a journey, “and when you journey, you always find new things, things you never knew before,” he said. But the journey, like the law, is not an end in itself; they are a path, “a pedagogy,” toward “the ultimate manifestation of the Lord. Life is a journey toward the fullness of Jesus Christ, when he will come again.”
The law teaches the way to Christ, and “if the law does not lead to Jesus Christ,” Francis said, “and if it doesn’t get us closer to Jesus Christ, it is dead.”
Pope Francis asked people to reflect, “Am I attached to my things, my ideas. Am I closed?”
– “Am I at a standstill or am I a person on a journey?
– Do I believe in Jesus Christ, in what Jesus did,” dying for humanity’s sins and rising again?
– “Am I able to understand the signs of the times and be faithful to the voice of the Lord that is manifested in them?”
Pope Francis urged people to pray to be able to walk “toward maturity, toward the manifestation of the glory of the Lord” and to have a heart “that loves the law, because the law is God’s.”
But may people also be able to “love God’s surprises and to know that this holy law is not an end in itself,” he said.


Rome; Vatican


Peer condemns lack of active women at Rome’s Synod on the Family (2)

13/10/14 Sarah Mac Donald

A senior Catholic peer has criticised the Synod on the Family for excluding women and called for greater equality in Church decision-making.
Crossbencher Baroness Nuala O’Loan told The Tablet she was disappointed that out of a total of 253 participants at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which opened in Rome on 5 October, just 13 were married couples.
The couples are among the group of “auditors” who address the synod but do not have a vote, a right restricted to the 192 Synod Fathers.
Baroness O’Loan pointed out that female participants could only play a limited role as observers and called for them to be allowed to make a greater contribution when the synod meets a second time next year.
“Women can’t be priests, they can’t be deacons, and they can’t be bishops but they have got useful things to say, and as the conversation develops I do think it would be useful if they were permitted to contribute,” she said.
She added that Synod Fathers “need to think about how they assimilate views and formulate decisions and ask themselves are they able to access the most recent and most informative views they can”.
Her views appeared to be echoed by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin in his contribution to the synod when he told participants that listening and consulting married couples was “not simply an option which we take up on special occasions”.
“What I am saying is that the lived experience and struggle of spouses can help find more effective ways of expression of the fundamental elements of Church teaching,” he said.
The archbishop said many men and women, without making explicit reference to the teaching of the Church, actually live out the value of marital fidelity day by day, at times heroically.
“They would hardly recognise their own experience in the way we present the ideals of married life. Indeed many in genuine humility would probably feel that they are living a life which is distant from the ideal of marriage as presented by Church teaching,” he said.
In her address to a conference hosted by The Irish Catholic newspaper and the aid agency Trócaire in Dublin last weekend, Baroness O’Loan, in the presence of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, also called on the Church to consider ordaining women deacons.
The Irish Independent reported her as saying: “We need a discussion as to why we can’t, because that would take us to a place where we would want to think about how we do. It is an issue that we need to talk about soon.”
Referring to the need for more women to be involved in decision-making roles in the Church, Baroness O’Loan, who was formerly the first Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland and currently heads the governing authority of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, said the problem lies in the fact that at present, decision-making in the Church is reserved to those who are ordained.
She said the reality is that most of the Vatican congregations, councils and universities have no women members on their decision-making boards and she called for the introduction of membership targets for some of these organisations “to focus minds and to address what is a very serious problem of lack of equality”.


Rome Vatican

Is Christ’s offer of Communion limited to those worthy of receiving it? (2)

10/10/14 Anna Johnstone

As an obedient and conforming eldest child I always took church teaching on who may receive Holy Communion on trust: that you must make sure you are in a “state of grace”.
However as my journey in the Catholic Church began to hit road blocks and the pain of rejections, my heart began to open to those who might be suffering rejection or pain at the hands of the Church. I began praying for those who have been abused, and for those who feel they have been Eucharistically rejected.
The subject of whether the divorced and remarried should be allowed Communion has come into focus in recent months as bishops have been preparing for the Synod on the Family.
Jesus liked to feed people. Whether it was the 4,000, the 5,000, Judas at the Last Supper or Mary Magdalene, no one who desired to eat at his table was turned away.
And should we be in any doubt about the importance of food as a vehicle of his love, not only did Jesus commission Peter to “feed” his sheep, but he left us his presence in the form of bread.
All mothers who breastfed their babies and enjoyed doing so will know what a powerful act of love this bodily feeding is. Likewise all who have known the joys of a happy conjugal relationship know the power of loving bodily communion.
Jesus, our Saviour, our Heavenly Bridegroom, wishes to feed us with himself.
– What is this “touch” of Holy Communion?
– What sort of physical encounter is God offering us?
– Is it like a spousal union, or could it be compared to embracing?
When I stand in line, with the eyes of my soul I see Jesus standing there, open armed. When I receive the Blessed Sacrament I sense a mysterious exchange that includes Jesus physically touching me.
Frequent reception of Holy Communion is relatively recent in the history of the Church. And our understanding is coloured by the experience of celibates, for whom the act of receiving God in Holy Communion is, or tends towards, a type of spousal union.
– While that is excellent, does Jesus wish to be limited by that excellence?
– Does he only wish to touch and commune with those who are “worthy” of him?
– Or is his embrace, his touch, his giving of himself, freely offered to every soul who approaches him in the measure that they are capable of receiving him?
Consider “Anima”. She is divorced and remarried with four children, two by her new husband. By her own admission the failure of her first marriage was her fault. Jesus dies on the cross for Anima. During his crucifixion he prays for healing and resurrection for every dimension of Anima’s life. Jesus is raised from the dead, glorified and transfigured, and then they meet. Anima has searched out Jesus and comes into his presence aware she needs his love and help.
– Does Jesus say to Anima, “We can chat, but keep your distance, please”?
– Or does Jesus, the bridegroom of Anima’s soul, freely give to her as much love, and as much love conveyed through touch, as she is capable of receiving?
– Does Jesus desire, very simply, to touch all those who want and need his touch?
– Is God’s initiative, his desire to touch us, to feed us, and to love us the most important component in our relationship with Him?
My prayer for the Synod is that we will all open our hearts and minds to the lead of the Holy Spirit. Whatever the outcome, I have not lost my taste for obedience! And it is important to remember that God is not limited by his Sacraments or by his Church. Moment by moment, whether or not it may feel that way, God’s abundant love is offered to each of us.

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/blogs/1/460/is-christ-s-offer-of-communion-limited-to-those-worthy-of-receiving-it; Anna Johnstone works as a singer and in the field of care and is a parishioner of Westminster Cathedral
Rome, Vatican


Dear bishops, remember that family is messy(3)

10/10/14; Diana Russell

“Home is a holy place,” I have been told. I used to imagine that God resided in a place of peace, beautiful music, respect, tidiness, flawlessness.
To the bishops meeting in Rome to discuss the challenges facing the family, I’d say my vision of the “flawless” home was distant from my reality: when I open the front door after collecting one child from school, I trip over the rucksack dropped by another, am greeted by headache-inducing music from yet another and realise I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer and there is nothing for tea. The skies have opened, we are wet and cold and all the washing on the line has been soaked once again. But this is a fairly normal day, so we peel off the wet clothes, make a cup of tea and are grateful that there is a roof over our heads and food in the cupboard.
– Where is God in the untidiness, the noise, the general imperfection of family life?
– If home is a holy place, was God there when my teenager slammed out of the house saying it was the last place he wanted to be?
– When my tired husband returned home after 12 hours out at work to noisy children and a wife who was equally tired and barely civil?
– When my mother-in-law, in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, called out through the night and our patience snapped?
I have realised that a “holy home” does not mean everything in its place, no dust, food always on the table at the right time, clothes ironed, order, tidiness. This is an illusion: God can be very absent from the super-respectable, the gleaming surfaces, the pristine clothes.
I am reminded of God’s presence by the stains on the carpet made when we had dinner around the fire and the children dropped half of theirs. In the grime on the paintwork where small, dirty hands have touched in passing. In the line around the edge of the bath that means someone has enjoyed a long, hot soak at the end of a hard day. In the uncomfortable sofa that has held so many tired bodies. In the chipped plates that remind me of so many meals shared. Thinking of these things and so much more, I thank God for his presence in my family.
God is in our reality, not in our dreams. He delights in the mess. He rejoices in the successes, but is still present in the failures. He is the one, constant factor.
So, dear bishops and others, in your discussions, please deal with reality and not with an ideal.
Give us the hope and affirmation we need as we struggle with the demands of everyday life. Remind us that marriage and the bringing up of a family is a vocation.
Help us to believe that, as St John Paul II wrote, “The lay faithful’s duty to society primarily begins in marriage and in the family.
This duty can only be fulfilled adequately with the conviction of the unique and irreplaceable value that the family has in the development of society and the Church itself.” (Christifideles Laici #40).

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/blogs/1/461/dear-bishops-remember-that-family-is-messy; Diana Russell is married and studied for degrees in theology while bringing up her four children, who are now adult
Rome Vatican


Top cop didn’t know about blind reports (4)
Eoin Blackwell; 15/12/14

The former head of the NSW child protection squad says he was unaware of a special arrangement between the police and Catholic Church to “blind report” incidents of sexual abuse until this week. John Heslop, former commander of the Child Protection Enforcement Agency (CPEA), told the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) he didn’t know of the arrangement until the inquiry started on Monday.
The commission has heard the church and police had an arrangement of blind reporting, whereby information about abuse allegations would be given by the church to police without key details about the victim, since 1998. “Are you saying you don’t recall it either way,” asked counsel assisting Kristina Stern. “Yes,” Mr Heslop said.
The former superintendent was the first head of the CPEA when it was created in 1997 and has been cited as a central figure in the creation of the State Crime Command and the sex crimes squad. The inquiry this week has heard allegations that key information from abuse victims in blind reports was not always passed on to police. Mr Heslop couldn’t recall if the church’s reporting standards were in line with the Crimes Act.
While it was his preference that the church provide details of the victim in its reports, Mr Heslop could not recall ever checking if they did. He was also asked if he ever enquired into how the church’s Professional Standards Office (PSO), which sent the blind reports to police, looked into matters of abuse. Mr Heslop could not recall.
The PIC is investigating the existence of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between police and the church over how to handle complaints. Mr Heslop agreed he was closely involved in the drawing up of the memo. During the day the inquiry was shown numerous examples of legal advice to police and church bodies that the proposed memo may breach police responsibilities.
Michael McDonald, a former member of the PSO’s support group, the Professional Standards Resource Group (PSRG), said he could not recall a 2003 letter from the Child Protection Enforcement Agency advising that the proposed memo breached police responsibilities.
The commission heard the MOU was raised at a PSRG meeting a month later. “Do you believe there was any discussion of that matter?” Mr McDonald was asked by Ms Stern. “I cannot recall,” Mr McDonald replied.
Mr McDonald sat on the PSRG at the same time as Inspector Elizabeth Cullen, whose role is being investigated by the PIC. Mr McDonald did say there was a “general acknowledgment” by members of the PSRG to work with police and said he could recall discussions about the body’s responsibilities under the Child Protection Act.


Australia, Pedophilia


Australia is on the road to a Tea party revolution

October 18th, 2014

Antony Loewenstein; theguardian.com, 16/10/14

It’s the swaggering and unthinking bravado that hits you. Australian prime minister Tony Abbott threatens to “shirtfront” Russian leader Vladimir Putin when he arrives in Australia for the G20. Moscow responds via Pravda by comparing Abbott to Pol Pot and Hitler. Australian senator Jacqui Lambie then praises Putin as a “strong leader” with “great values”.
This is what passes for mainstream political dialogue in 2014. It’s unsurprising that a recent Griffith University study found Australians are deeply disenchanted with the political process.
“We are no longer citizens, we no longer have leaders”, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden told The New Yorker last week: “We’re subjects, and we have rulers.”
He articulates a feeling many of us have about the modern world, of the political and media elites merely shifting deck chairs on the Titanic while powerful interests consolidate power and reduce our privacy. It’s inconceivable today that a leading Australian politician would publicly condemn ubiquitous, global spying undertaken by the US through the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance. Apart from showing the effectiveness of the US lobby, it’s a sad reflection on our unquestioning subservience to US military and commercial interests.
Daily politics is often little more than theatre designed to distract us from the real issues of the day. Because parochial politicians have little power or willingness to challenge the fundamentals of our world – mass surveillance, vulture capitalism and endless war against ever-changing enemies – they prefer playing verbal games in futile attempts to protect us from the vagaries and unpredictability of the outside world. They fail because they benefit too much by maintaining the existing, unequal economic order.
Too many reporters are happy to play along, endlessly debating whether “shirtfronting” is appropriate language for a prime minister to articulate. It’s not, but what matters is how Australia celebrates ignorance on issues of truly great importance.
Take the recent discussion around the Abbott government’s changes to terrorism and surveillance laws. Apart from being supported by the Labor opposition – frontbencher Anthony Albanese’s belated and pointless disquiet over the laws was political posturing of the most transparent kind since his party had already acquiesced with them – it appeared that most politicians who heard the words terrorism and ISIS just waved the legislation through.
This week’s ABC Q&A featured Labor MP Kate Ellis and Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer and neither woman could adequately explain it. Co-panellist Julian Burnside tweeted: “Tonight’s #Qanda showed that at least two MPs had not actually read or understood the national security legislation they supported.”
In a healthy political culture, unlike ours, O’Dwyer and Ellis would be slammed for giving away our freedoms so casually. But this won’t happen because shows like Q&A elevate the art of banal conversations to an artform by expecting all guests to have opinions on issues over which they have no clue. That’s “democracy in action”.
This is not an argument for only “experts” to be heard in our media, far too often these are the same people who advocate war against any Muslim entity, but a call for public accountability of elected officials and journalists. Instead, we’re expected to believe that News Corporation’s Daily Telegraph tabloid, in a new TV ad featuring Liberal premier Mike Baird, isn’t a shameless attempt to proudly claim that Murdoch’s journalists aren’t insiders.
After all, Rupert’s great vision, expressed again recently to G20 finance ministers, is damning socialism, praising deregulation, small government and unfettered capitalism. Such thinking has helped him and his mates handsomely.
Australia is undergoing a Tea party revolution without the colourful Confederate flags. Apparently a t-shirt that reads, “if you don’t love it, leave” is a stirring paean to patriotism. Thanks, Miranda Devine. Liberal backbencher Cory Bernardi, here seen suspiciously smiling while sitting alongside real-life Muslims, is one of the most effective spear-carriers for the local movement. Like its American cousins, supporters talk of small government (except when it comes to finding money for defence and bombing Islamic nations), endorse hyper partisanship, oppose action on climate change, distrust non-Christians and non-Zionists and embrace insularity.
The past is celebrated, the future is feared and the present is up for grabs. Bernardi’s recent statements about his fear of Muslims and the supposed security threats of the niqab or burqa were a perfect Tea party tactic, allowing xenophobia out of the bottle with its message spread by reliable media courtiers. Abbott then rushed in to restore order and condemn the move while still expressing unease with the head-wear.
While some dissenters vehemently oppose Abbott’s worldview and his willingness to utilise stereotypical macho imagery, in reality this problem is bipartisan. Getting past the inconsequential rhetoric flourishes, Labor and its journalistic supporters offer a remarkably similar vision of fealty to Washington’s dictates.
One of the central ways to break this predictable cycle is resisting the dishonest and incendiary Murdoch agenda that rewards mates and celebrates a blokey, Anglosphere myopia. It’s no wonder his publications are so keen to dutifully join any conflict with a new Muslim foe.


Australia, Politics

Australia’s defining moments: a great conversation-starter for our entire nation (2)

October 18th, 2014

Paul Daley 1610/14

Tony Abbott sees the arrival of the first fleet as the Australian defining moment. Other Australians disagree: they want it to be archaeological evidence of the first people 52,000 years ago. In late August, Tony Abbott launched a National Museum of Australia initiative to identify the defining moments in this country’s history.
Predictably perhaps, and controversially, the Anglophile Abbott nominated the arrival of the first fleet on 26 January, 1788, as thedefining moment in this continent’s history.
Abbott chose Arthur Phillip’s landing in Botany Bay from 100 moments that had been collated by museum staff in consultation with a group of distinguished Australian historians. Instructively, given that the nominated events span 52,000-plus years, Abbott’s national moment of choice was, metaphorically speaking, just yesterday in terms of continental history.
Abbott’s timing coincided with his government’s faltering resolve to prosecute the case this parliamentary term to incorporate Indigenous Australians into the Constitution, and with a national curriculum review that would restore weight to the legacy of western civilization. His timing, I’d say, was as determined as his decision to nominate white settlement – invasion to this continent’s first people – as the rather than a defining moment. He said:
It was the moment this continent became part of the modern world. It determined our language, our law and our fundamental values. Yes, it did dispossess and for a long time marginalise Indigenous people. As Noel Pearson frequently reminds us, modern Australia has an important Indigenous and multicultural character. Still it’s British settlement that has most profoundly shaped the country that we are.
It has provided the foundation for Australia to become one of the freest, fairest and most prosperous societies on the face of the earth. So Arthur Phillip is as significant to modern Australia as George Washington is to the modern United States … His instructions from the British government were to build amity with the local inhabitants and Phillip tried hard and faithfully to carry these out. Most notably, he declined to order punishment after himself being speared.
Phillip’s successors – not least Lachlan Macquarie – quickly ditched the principle of amity building. That’s why I’ll nominate 17 April 1917 as another defining moment in Australian history. For that is when imperial troops, acting directly on Macquarie’s orders, conducted a punitive raid on the Dharawal near Appin, south of Sydney. Some, including children, fell to their deaths from cliffs after the troops set upon them. Others were shot. Consistent with Macquarie’s orders, some of the slain were hung from trees “to Strike the Survivors with the greater terror” before several – including warrior chiefs Kanabygal and Durell – were beheaded.
This was an early act of Australian terrorism preceding countless dozens or hundreds more that left crimson stains upon the colonial and postcolonial landscape until well into the 20th century. Important academic research continues to shed new light on the numbers of Indigenous frontier conflict deaths; even the most progressive historians seems to have dramatically underestimated the number of deaths at 20,000 when the number could be, conservatively, at least three times that.
Where to begin with Abbott’s general assertion that the first people of the continent were “for a long time” dispossessed and marginalised, made in a speech where he also insisted white settlement had transformed this country into one of the freest, fairest and most prosperous societies on the face of the earth?
Well, I’m happy to concede that the freedom, fairness and prosperity of (mostly white) Australians continues while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders remain dispossessed and marginalised. Who will deny that too many Indigenous Australians continue to dramatically overpopulate our prisons or exist, shamefully for a nation of such wealth, in third world conditions, with shocking life expectancy and infant mortality?
Which brings me back to the national museum’s Defining Moments in Australian History Project.
Of the 100 moments nominated by the institution, many carry specific Indigenous significance beginning with the archaeological evidence of first peoples’ continental presence 52,000 years ago; the earliest rock art and evidence of the boomerang (28,000 and 20,000 years ago respectively). The list goes on to include, among others, the “black line” in Tasmania (1830), the Myall Creek Massacre (1838), powers granted to the New South Wales Government to remove Indigenous children (1915) and Vincent Lingiari’s Wave Hill walk off (1966), the Aboriginal embassy (1972), Mabo (1992) and the Stolen Generations Apology (2008).
Of more general national significance are the listings of the Gallipoli landings (1915), the Bodyline Ashes tour (1932-33), the Japanese bombing of Darwin (1942), the election of the Menzies Government (1949) and the Sydney Opera House opening (1973), Cyclone Tracy (1974), the Port Arthur Massacre (1996), the Bali bombing (2002) and the apology to the Stolen Generation.
Perhaps the apology is that one in the 100 that symbolically glues the moments of special Indigenous national significance with the more general. Regardless, the list is considered and broad.
But not broad enough – as acknowledged by the museum which exposed the list to public comment and submission. New defining moments have been pouring in. Many – Nova Peris’s Olympic gold medal in 1996, Helen Minroy becoming the first Indigenous medical practitioner (improbably in just 1983), the black moratorium marches (1972) and Nicky Winmar lifting his St Kilda guernsey to declare “I’m black and I’m proud to be black” (1993) – have a distinctly Indigenous tone.
Other publicly volunteered moments include Dutch navigator Dirk Hartog landing on an island off Western Australia (1616), Australia 11’s America’s Cup win (1982), Medicare (1984), the Cronulla race riots (2005) and the swearing in of Australia’s first female prime minister by the first female governor general Quentin Bryce (2010).
The museum noted: “Many conversations about the project have revolved around support for (and against!) moments on the Museum’s initial list. The strongest support has been voiced for the first moment on the list – that which recognises archaeological evidence of the first people on the Australian continent 52,000 years ago.”
This speaks of an eagerness to define Australian identity broadly, generously and beyond the top-down historical orthodoxies that have long driven and confined such national dialogue.
The museum’s initiative here is a welcome conversation-starter in a country whose leaders persistently view nationhood through the narrow, largely masculine moments of European settlement and that other invasion – Gallipoli.
It’s precisely what our national institutions should be doing.


Australia, Prime Minister, Aboriginal

Tony Abbott, Shirtfronting and Vladimir Putin (2)

October 18th, 2014

Binjoy Kampmark 15/10/14

Feminists must be laughing themselves silly. The psychologists are warming their sofas. The diplomats are getting their slop buckets ready. When the Prime Minister of Australia, the arrested-in-development Tony Abbott, starts throwing physical challenges to the President of Russia, you know that something has gone astray in the school of diplomacy. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has got Australia’s undergarments in a true twist.
“I’m going to shirtfront Mr. Putin,” huffed Abbott before journalists, referring to Russia’s position on the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, which saw the deaths of 298 individuals, 38 of whom were Australians. The term is part of the jargon of Australian Rules Football, which goes to show the limits of its relevance. A search for its equivalent in a Russian-English dictionary is bound to come up short on the subject.
Sports writer for The Age, Matt Murnane, offers an unmistakable description: ‘Shirtfront’ is an AFL term used to describe a collision between two players, where one player is hit ‘front-on’ by another player coming from the opposite direction. Murnane also suggests that the term is now “old-fashioned”, having been replaced by the even less complicated “the bump”.
– What will the form of this outmoded “shirtfront” take?
“I’m going to say that Australians were murdered. There’ll be a lot of tough conversations with Russia and I suspect the conversation I have with Mr Putin will be the toughest conversation of all.”
In a sense, such blustery lingo betrays the huge problems of leadership and public relations. Abbott thinks that surfacing from the foam of the sea in trunks termed “budgie smugglers” is tantamount to a Botticelli revelation tinged with persuasive oratory. He is proud of his two University blues in boxing. He cycles, and needs to tell everyone about it.
Putin has other preferences, and they are also larded with the physical. He is a sixth-degree black belt in judo. He fishes. He rides horses, torso exposed. He thinks that doing such mundane, yet earthy things, is bound to keep him in the electorate’s diaries as a person who matters, father of the nation who combines doing and thinking. Like Abbott, it is important that everyone knows about it.
The leader who promotes the physical as a cover for various inadequacies is not a new concept. Such orchestrated spectacles of health and physique show a good deal of borrowing from authoritarian regimes. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy was a classic example, strutting his alpha male complex during exercise routines even as his country sank. Fittingly, he collapsed whilst jogging in 2009. It is telling that leaders in supposedly democratic states have decided that a fascist physicality wins votes and keeps the voters happy – it matters that you have a six-pack set even if your mind is a sieve.
Australian leaders who have ventured into the world of the physical have ended badly – Prime Minister Harold Holt, one who excelled in the water, disappeared under the surf in December 1967, an incident that prompted a range of fabulously exotic theories.
– Was he the abductee of a Chinese submarine, lying in wait as he waded out?
John Howard, showing the originality that only comes with imitation, followed US President Bill Clinton in donning the tracksuit and running in Canberra.
This dribbling teenage scuffle is already taking shape – Australian politicians, small as they are, have decided to transform into truculent hair tugging pygmies, suggesting that the Russian President can’t attend the G20 summit, only to then claim that he can attend by “consensus”. A bad man, they have designated, though they are confused how that badness might be measured. The cranky spilt milk syndrome is bound to be more destructive than worthwhile, but the diplomats have decided to sit this one out.
Australia’s invertebrate opposition leader, Bill Shorten, showing the lack of imagination that one has come to expect from the government’s mirror in parliament, was convinced that Putin had to be given the rough treatment when coming to Brisbane in November. According to Shorten, Putin knew “more about what happened with MH17 than he’s let on”, which is tantamount to suggesting that Shorten knows even more than Putin. What’s there to talk about?
A columnist writing for Pravda, the customarily savage Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, made his charge with the retro-language of traditional East-West confrontation. Sterilize and wash your hands, he suggests to Putin, after shaking with Abbott at the G20 summit. “It is not about Ebola Virus Disease, it is about the disease called insolence and Australia’s colonial chip on its shoulder.” His advice to Putin, relayed by email to the Melbourne’s 3AW Radio Station, was to “grab the bastard”.
Leaving aside the Russophile sentiments of the piece, Bancroft-Hinchey is close enough on various points, and is bound to get a rise with his remarks about Australia’s crawling “around the legs of its colonial master, England or trying to crawl up the anatomy of London’s master, Washington”. International relations language can, in comparison, seem so dull.
Not all was plain sailing in the sea of rough rhetoric. The Tasmanian senator of the Palmer United Party, Jacqui Lambie, even found herself praising Russia’s hardest of hard men for “trying to find world peace where he possibly can”. The often unpredictable senator even went so far as to suggest that Abbott was overstepping the mark in pointing the finger of MH17’s downing. “Vladimir Putin did not pull the trigger. If Putin had had a choice, Putin would have made sure that didn’t happen.”
`She had both an observation, and a suggestion. “The PM is no longer in the school yard. I would suggest the PM start acting like a PM and extend the olive branch out.” As Abbott had treated federal politics as the continuation of student politics by other means, a carnival of sorts is bound to ensue. May it be mercifully free of anatomical suggestion.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

Australia, Prime Minister

Australians poke fun at Abbott’s threat to #shirtfront Putin (1)

October 18th, 2014

15/10/14; Dean Sewell/ SMH

Prime Minister Tony Abbott threatens to use violent Australian football tackle with Vladimir Putin over downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott raised eyebrows after he said he would “shirt-front” or tackle Russian President Putin over the “murder” of Australians in the downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. Abbott said he would use the G20 summit, hosted by Australia this year, to confront the Russian president over allegations the flight was shot down by pro-Russian separatists with missiles provided by the Kremlin.
Many outside Australia were confused about the term “shirt-front”, including Russian officials. Shirt-fronting is an illegal tactic in Australian football, where one charges an opponent from the front and knocks them to the ground.
Soon after Abbott’s statement, Australians made fun of the potential encounter between the two leaders with #shirtfront.
– What has this great country come to when the highest officer in the land threatens another with violence? #shirtfront. – Surely it’s time for the GG to #shirtfront Abbott & frog-march him out of office?
A Russian official responded to Abbott’s statement, warning the Prime Minister that Putin is a “professional judo wrestler”.
Elsewhere, he added:
Second thing I figured out is that it is illegal to shirtfront someone, so you get punishment for this, and my assessment is that this statement probably targets Australian internal politics and targets more the Australian audience. This won’t get a lot of ear abroad, and especially in Russia.
Frankly speaking, we are not expecting any physical confrontation during the upcoming Brisbane summit. So if there is bilateral contact, it most probably will be a battle of ideas, a battle of words, but nothing physical – that’s our estimate.
I imagine the guy who spent 16 years in the KGB is feeling seriously intimidated right now #shirtfront.
When Australians started making fun of Abbott, they were, in fact, criticising him.
Australia is cringing right now and it’s not for fear of Russia but the idiocy of their Prime minster.
Tony Abbott does not speak for Australia, he never has. He is a woefully unpopular Prime Minister and deservedly so. MH17, like MH370 before it, now is not about the victims or their families , it’s all about Tony Abbott and his people desperately looking for any issue to boost his popularity.
Kevin Rudd was right, Tony Abbott has neither the maturity nor the attitude needed for an office as serious as that of Prime Minister. He’s never outgrown his imbecilic, combative “look at me!” mindset. He’s a national embarrassment.
Darryl Bain – Rooty Hill High School; He is a not-so-bright, tounge- twisted fascist, Neo-con, anti worker, anti poor, anti disabled, racist, misogynist, homophobic twat!!! If its a social policy – he’ll cut it, if its public owned – he will sell it.
He won the last election continously & viciously attacking the previous PM for telling one (debatable) lie. Since he came into power he has broken virtually every promise he made prior to the last election, in the process of telling some 25 major lies and counting!!
He has brought in a tough austerity budget, and is trying to bring about savage cuts to health , education and welfare.
Yet at the same time is using Taxpayers money to subsidise the Mining Industry, as well removing a Mining Tax, and enshrining generous Tax Concessions to the industry.
As he and his government stumble over each other, and make fools of themselves in the international arena with misguided, erroneous, inflammatory statements and threats to foreign officials and governments.
He is termed by many as “a maggot”.
He is a laughing stock here in Australia in most peoples’ minds!!


Australia, Prime Minister

Settlement organisation entices Jews into Jerusalem settlement for $136 per day (7)

October 18th, 2014


With the assistance of armed guards, the Foundation seized, overnight on Monday, ten individual buildings that include 23 apartments in the Wadi Hilweh neighbourhood of Silwan, located just south of Al-Aqsa Mosque, claiming that the settlers now own them
The Ir David Foundation, known as Elad, has published an announcement on social media networks in search of Jewish settlers to live in Palestinian homes that it has captured in the town of Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem, in return for a financial reward estimated at 500 shekels ($136) per day, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Elad is known for its Judaisation projects of the city of Jerusalem. According to the association’s advertisement, an amount of 500 shekels will be given to each settler who agrees to live in one of the homes that have been seized, with the settler only required to “keep his gun loaded and ready to fire at any time”, according to the declaration.
Haaretz quoted one of the advertisements as follows: “We are looking for people who can stay in the apartments and watch them until families move into them. The work will probably take ten to 30 days (perhaps even more). The daily wage is 500 shekels gross. The workers will stay in the apartments and guard them until they are inhabited by families. Only suitable applicants will be accepted. Please pass this on to friends.”
The following day, the newspaper reported that when asked about the details on what the job entails, an Elad official said: “You’re not the security guard … There are security guards and police when needed, and there’s someone to supervise you and call to make sure everything is all right all the time. We don’t need you as a security guard. As far as we’re concerned, you live in the house, but it’s better if you have a weapon.”
The official also stressed that Elad would be the employer. “I think the payment would be by bank transfer,” she said. “You come and fill out forms.”
With the assistance of armed guards, the Foundation seized, overnight on Monday, ten individual buildings that include 23 apartments in the Wadi Hilweh neighbourhood of Silwan, located just south of Al-Aqsa Mosque, claiming that the settlers now own them.
Silwan has been witnessing continuous and tense confrontations with Israeli occupation forces ever since the seizure of the Palestinian homes, with Israeli police and armed forces present in the streets around the clock to protect the settlers.


Israel, Palestine