Israeli Information Minister says Hezbollah creating humanitarian crisis
Sunday July 30th 2006, 12:24 am
Israel has rejected a call by the United Nations for a 72-hour pause in fighting in southern Lebanon to allow humanitarian aid to get to trapped civilians.
The UN says the temporary cease-fire is also needed to enable relief workers to evacuate elderly, young and wounded people.
But Israeli Government spokesman Avi Pazner says the halt is not necessary because Israel has opened a humanitarian corridor to and from Lebanon
Mr Pazner says Israel is not blocking aid from reaching south Lebanon.
“The problem is completely different,” he said.
“It is Hezbollah which is deliberately preventing the transfer of medical aid and food to the population of southern Lebanon in order to create a humanitarian crisis, which they want to blame Israel for.”
Whoever said that the first casualty of war is truth?
mgk Podcast: Workers facing $28,000 fine, jail for industrial action
Saturday July 29th 2006, 2:38 pm
John Howard’s WorkChoices has criminalised collective bargaining and union representation. Union busting is now not just strictly legal in Australia but has a goal of turning honest workers who want a safe and fair workplace into prison inmates- or forcing them and their families into bankruptcy. Worse, John Howard’s secret industrial relations police force has a $96 million war chest to help put them there.
Mal Peters is a construction worker from WA. When the site steward and safety officer was unfairly sacked from Mal’s jobsite, it was tools down and out on the grass.
Now John Howard’s Building Industry Commission ‘Star Chamber’ wants to fine Mal and 106 other construction workers up to $28,700 or put them in jail for 6 months for alleged violation of WorkChoices laws.
Mal Peters is touring Australia, speaking about his experience with WorkChoices. Peters and Andrew Ferguson, General Secretary of the NSW branch of the CFMEU, appeared last Tuesday, 25 July 2006, at the Cricketers Arms Hotel at Surrey Hills, Sydney, as part of the Cricks Lecture Series podcasts carried on Fourth Estate Radio.
An excerpt of that talk is downloadable from mgk (Podcast: MP3, 10Mb, 21:08). You can listen to the entire talk this coming Sunday, 29 July 2006 on Fourth Estate Radio.
Most frightening in WorkChoices is the removal of common civil liberties from labor law. If workers are approached by investigators from John Howard’s secret labor police squad, the Building Industry Commission (BIC), they may not even refuse to give evidence for any reason, including avoidance of self-incrimination. Failing to give evidence to the BIC sets up the worker for a $6,600 fine. BIC investigators have been tailing Mal Peters on his Australian speaking tour, asking if union meetings were held on company time, on company premises without permission and so on.
These removals of basic human rights are in direct defiance of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Howard seeks nothing short of a return to the days of the Master and Servant Act.
Beazley has to do better than merely dispose of AWAs. The whole of WorkChoices must be repealed for Labor to get my vote.
Dumped syringes ‘stunt’ to discredit safe injecting room
Thursday July 27th 2006, 5:08 pm
The Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) on Darlinghurst Road in Sydney provides a sterile environment where users can obtain clean equipment and medical treatment as well as be supervised while using. The MSIC has saved hundreds of lives in the last 5 years, demonstrating its purpose. You can’t offer drug cessation treatment to a dead junkie. There is no evidence to support claims of a ‘honeypot’ effect; KX has been a central point of heroin use in Australia for the last 50 years. The MSIC shifts the problem out of the doorways and footpaths and into the care of medical professionals.
A number of agents, including the NSW Liberal Party and the Kings Cross Merchants Association, have been trying to shut down the MSIC for the last five years, citing loss of trade. Mysteriously, on the night before NSW Liberal Party leader Peter Debnam made a media statement denouncing the MSIC, a large number of uncapped syringes were dumped in a public rubbish bin in The Cross.
The Daily Telegraph says:
THESE are the photographs that shame the so-called “safe” injecting room in Kings Cross – dozens of syringes spilling from a bin in a public street.
At best, the photographs prove critics’ claims that the taxpayer-funded centre is a honeypot that attracts and keeps drug addicts in the area.
At worst, they show that centre staff are exposing the public to potentially deadly blood-tainted needles by showing no care in their disposal
MSIC manager Dr Ingrid van Beek inspected the syringes and commented:
“It would appear likely to be a stunt,” Dr van Beek said.
“None of the many syringes had actually been used. They had been taken out of their packets, the caps were removed, and they were strewn on top of a garbage bin.
“There were no traces of blood or drugs in any of the syringes. They were most certainly not syringes used by drug users.
“They were also not the brand of syringes distributed in this area.”
Trade is certainly down in KX as evidenced by the number of empty shopfronts along Darlinghurst Road of late. However, in my conversations with folk who once went to The Cross for a bit of horseplay, it’s not the junkies keeping customers away- it’s the police sniffer dogs being used in pubs, restaurants and clubs. People are afraid of getting sniffed, even if they were merely in the vicinity of someone smoking some pot, if not doing so themselves.
KX has long been known as Sydney’s vice central, be it sex, drug or drink- and has built its commercial reputation on such for decades. It’s no surprise that when draconian policing is applied, the party atmosphere fairly well croaks. The KX Merchants Association can’t have it both ways.
Regardless, the success of commercial trade in a tiny Australian suburb will never morally trump putting injecting drug users into the care of medical professionals. Worse, dirty media charades definitely don’t help prove the case for closure of the MSIC.
US Air Force to bomb NT, test JORN radar
Monday July 24th 2006, 11:44 am
According to journalist Brendan Nicholson in The Age, the US Air Force is scheduled to practise bombing on a gunnery range in the Northern Territory, using B-1 and B-2 stealth bombers and B-52 heavy bomber aircraft. The Jindalee over-the-horizon radar system (Jindalee Operational Radar Network or JORN) is also to be tested during the exercise to see how well it performs detecting steath bomber aircraft.
Unfortunately, Nicholson fails to ask some important questions about this cooperative military exercise.
* Will the USAF be testing munitions containing depleted uranium (DU)? If so, how will they clean up the radioactive debris?
* Nicholson writes, “This week’s exercise will also give Australia the opportunity to see how effectively its revolutionary Jindalee over-the-horizon radar (JORN) system picks up stealth aircraft.” JORN has been known for some time to be flawed and massively over-budget. There was a big scandal in the media about this some years ago. Why did Nicholson refer to the radar system as “revolutionary” without questioning the known problems with JORN?
Normal radar systems operate at UHF through to microwave frequencies. Radio signals above about 30MHz pass directly through the ionosphere into space, limiting the range of conventional radar to line-of-sight to the horizon. JORN relies upon lower frequency signals which, under certain conditions, can bounce off of the ionosphere to detect objects beyond the horizon.
Antennas are tuned to the frequency of operation by way of the length of the conductive elements in the antenna. The lower the frequency, the bigger the antenna. The massive JORN system installations, some with curtain-array antennas up to 10 kilometres long, are visible from space in Google Maps satellite photos here
Despite having some of the largest antennas ever constructed, JORN goes blind at certain times of day, particularly in pre-dawn hours. This insensitivity is most likely related to normal changes in radio wave reflectivity characteristics in the ionosphere, which occur every day. The ionosphere is more or less reflective of radio signals depending upon whether it is exposed to solar radiation at the time. At night, longer wavelengths repeatedly bounce off the ionosphere and back to the surface of the earth, travelling thousands of kilometres before the signals diminish in strength below the level of usability. In the daytime, long waves travel straight through the ionosphere into space. This is why you can often hear distant stations on AM broadcast radio late at night but not during the daytime. If JORN has blindness problems just before sunrise, most likely to the east of the radar, it will also have problems seeing to the west just after sunset.
JORN was the subject of a Channel Nine Sunday story on huge military cost overruns back in 1997. The project was awarded to the UK’s GEC Marconi and Telstra, depsite the fact that neither Marconi nor Telstra had any expertise in over-the-horizon radar systems. Telstra is reported to have written down up to $1.2 billion in losses related to their participation in the project.
The US military uses depleted uranium (DU) both in armour plating in tanks and in armour-piercing munitions due to the extreme hardness and density of the material. The World Health Orgaisation describes the hazards of human exposure to DU, particularly in cases where the material has been fragmented or pulverised, as might happen in discharge of DU munitions or in a crash of an aircraft carrying the material. Inhalation of radioactive dust (from any source) can cause a much higher than normal incidence of lung cancers in particular. The ‘Poison DUst‘ project describes these hazards as well as contamination of Iraqi cities which have come under fire by the US military. See also the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU).
The Australian Defence Forces should be more forthcoming about effects on public health related to the use of DU in live-fire military exercises in Australia. A bit of realism from the Defence Department regarding the billions dumped into the flawed JORN system would be nice, too. Not going to hold my breath while I’m waiting for such clarity from the Government, but journalists at least should be poking them with some harder questions on these topics.
Parkin challenge to secret evidence meets court
Sunday July 23rd 2006, 10:36 am
Peace activist Scott Parkin was arrested without cause and deported from Australia nearly 10 months ago. The only reason given by the Australian Government for Parkin’s removal was an ‘adverse security assessment’ by ASIO, of which the Government will provide no detail, on national security grounds.
No negative assessment could have existed prior to Parkin coming to Australia as he was granted a visitor’s visa, which requires a background check. However, ASIO is on record as stating that Parkin was not violent while in Australia. ASIO also denies claiming Parkin advocated violent protest in the form of suggesting ‘throwing marbles under police horses’ hooves,’ a claim leaked to The Australian.
Parkin’s activities in Australia are well documented. According to the Friends of Scott Parkin website:
Scott signed up for the Willing Workers On Organic Farms program, working for room and board on several organic farms. And while travelling down the east coast of Australia, Scott shared his experiences as a peace activist, speaking at the Brisbane and Sydney Social Forums and teaming up with local nonviolence trainers to organise workshops on peaceful protest techniques, or “nonviolent direct action”.
He also participated in a protest in Sydney during the Forbes Global CEO conference, organising a piece of street theatre outside the Australian headquarters of Kellog Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton. Halliburton is the giant oil services company with the bulk of the contracts to rebuild Iraq, and was the focus of Scott’s anti-war activism in Houston.
Assuming satirical guise as “The Coalition of the Billing”, Scott and his friends dressed in business suits, held banners reading “More Blood for Oil” and chanted “Four more wars!” to passers-by.
Since his forcible return to the USA, Parkin has found that he was a target of ‘TALON,’ a Pentagon surveillance program which focused on anti-war groups within the USA. Such practices appear to be a repeat of the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO actions against anti-Vietnam war protesters in the 1970s. TALON records released via Freedom of Information requests contain a notation of Parkin participating in a non-violent ‘street-theatre’ action against Halliburton. Parkin and a protest group wore pig-snout masks and handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to Halliburton employees, to highlight the excesses of the no-bid Defense Department contracts being awarded to ‘Hallibacon.’ US Vice President Dick Cheney was a full employee of Halliburton before taking office and remains financially connected to the company.
Via barrister Julian Burnside QC, Parkin filed a case in Melbourne in December 2005 which seeks to quash the adverse security assessment issued by ASIO and reveal its true nature. The insult of deportation was complicated by the injury of the Australian Government issuing Parkin a bill for $11,700 for the cost of security agents to escort him by air to Los Angeles. Opening statements have been made in the case, in which Burnside filed a motion of discovery, which seeks to force ASIO to disclose the specific information used to remove Parkin from Australia.
The Parkin suit has become a class action, involving two asylum seekers imprisoned on Nauru for approaching 5 years These asylum seekers have been denied entry to Australia, also on the basis of secret adverse security assessments by ASIO. These secret negative assessments mean that no other country will accept the detainees, leaving them in a permanent Catch-22.
Unquestionable secret evidence and arbitrary, politically motivated arrests are not characters of a free and democratic society. Absent a Bill of Rights in Australia and with draconian terror laws which allow the Government to act without accountability, any visitor can be detained and deported without just cause- perhaps, as NSW Liberal Party leader Peter Debnam suggests, “for anything.”
If Scott Parkin had indeed been a provable threat to national security, he would have been remanded, awaiting trial for terrorism or rioting offences, not deported and freed in his homeland. The official refusal to explain the true nature of Parkin’s alleged offence is all but an admission by the Howard Government that this action was wholly indefensible.
The Australian Government alone must not be allowed to be judge, jury and executioner.
Schiavo Part Deux
Thursday July 20th 2006, 1:28 pm
King George can’t get enough of mucking about in places he just doesn’t belong.
The only upside is that if Shrubya’s stem-cell ban sticks, the research won’t stop- it just won’t be done in the USA. Eventually, quite a number of debilitating diseases will become as distant a memory as polio.
However, you have to admire the selfless ethical commitment of the Christian right to the stem-cell research ban. Let’s see just how committed they are: I want all of Shrubya’s fundamentalist Christian ‘base’ to sign binding agreements pledging never to use any treatments which derive from stem-cell research.
Darwin will sort out anyone who doesn’t think stem-cell research is a good idea.
Astroturfâ„˘ Rent-A-Shillâ„˘ Inc.
Thursday July 20th 2006, 11:50 am
You too can participate in a literal marketplace of ideas.
Forum (and presumably also blog) commenters are being hired to drive various agendae. Enterprising souls are offering their opinions for hire as well. The rates vary from about 5 cents to a dollar for a paragraph in support of a sponsor.
Cash-for-comment certainly has worked well over time for Alan Jones. There’s lots of unpopular industries and issues in Australia in dire need of some sincere sounding support. No reason why you shouldn’t get on the gravy train.
Disclaimer: This message proudly not brought to you by corporate sponsors.
Australi Information Minister Al-Downer says detainees ‘doing peachy’
Friday July 14th 2006, 5:39 pm
Australi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Downer reports that not only have detainees held at Guantanamo Bay always had their rights protected under the Geneva Conventions, but they’re actually having a jolly good time.
“Why they’re all having a wonderful holiday down there in sunny, island Cuba! Why would they want trials or silly things like that, dahlink?” mused the Minister. “I tried to speak to David Hicks the other day and unfortunately must have interrupted a rather well contested card game!” said Al-Downer. “He really couldn’t be bothered with little old me,” giggled the Minister.
Al-Downer would not be drawn upon whether the card game Hicks was playing was in fact solitaire, due to approximately 4 years of Hicks being held in solitary confinement, without charge or trial.
“It could have been solitaire, it could have been Michigan Rummy, Mr Hicks was otherwise occupied and did not care to elaborate,” fumed Minister Al-Downer, who then minced away to catch a sale on fishnets down at Frederick’s of Baghdad.
He who controls the past controls the future
Wednesday July 12th 2006, 10:04 pm
The Americans have always complied with the Geneva Conventions against prisoner torture.
Only traitorous leftie wowsers would suggest otherwise.
Costello turkeyslapped- again
Wednesday July 12th 2006, 9:48 am
And you thought all the turkeyslapping was on Big Bogan.
When will Petey realise that it really isn’t a microphone?