Category - Oceania

Including Australia and New Zealand

Jehovah’s Witnesses Church Accused Of Hiding More Than 1,000 Child Sex Abuse Cases In Australia

Reuters, By Matt Siegel, July 27

Sydney – The Jehovah’s Witnesses Church in Australia failed to report to police more than 1,000 cases of child sexual abuse going back more than 60 years, a government investigation into abuse and its aftermath heard on Monday.

Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was launched in 2013 amid allegations of serial child abuse inside the Catholic Church in Australia, has a broad mandate to examine religious and secular organizations.

At the opening hearing into the Jehovah’s Witnesses on Monday, Angus Stewart, senior council assisting the commission, described the church as an insular sect with rules designed to stem the reporting of sexual abuse.

“Evidence will be put before the Royal Commission that of the 1,006 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse identified by the Jehovah’s Witness Church since 1950, not one was reported by the church to secular authorities,” he said.

Guards at Nauru paid for and taped sex with refugees – former case manager

Charlotte Wilson, Save the Children case manager at detention centre until February 2015, alleges ‘bartering and trading, including of sexual favours’

The Guardian, By Paul Farrell, June 19

Guards at the Nauru detention centre may have paid for sex with refugees in the community and circulated sex tapes of their encounters, a former case manager on the island has alleged.

The shocking allegations are contained in a submission by Charlotte Wilson, a former Save the Children case manager at the Nauru detention centre from January 2014 to February 2015.

A Senate inquiry is investigating conditions and serious allegations at the Australian-run facility on the island.

Wilson alleged that both Australian and Nauruan guards on the island – who work for the company Wilson Security, subcontracted by Transfield Services – “frequently abused their positions of power” at the centre. She said it was “common knowledge” there was “bartering and trading, including of sexual favours, within the camp”.

Some of the allegations about trading sexual favours for showers and drugs were substantiated in a report by the former integrity commissioner Philip Moss.

Storm of the century batters Sydney and the Hunter, leaving three dead and homes destroyed

Sydney Morning-Herald, By Nick Ralston, Peter Hannam, Lucy Cormack & Ella Rubeli, April 21

The biggest storm to hit Sydney and the Hunter region this century swept along the coast, leaving at least three people dead, dozens of others needing rescue and entire homes washed away in floodwaters.

Heavy rain and cyclonic winds saw power cut to hundreds of thousands of homes, as well as three hospitals, and the closure of 100 schools.

It also caused chaos on the roads and public transport, with felled trees, blown over power lines and slippery conditions making it a nightmare commute in the morning and afternoon peaks.

The destructive winds, which topped 130km/h, dumped blankets of sand from Sydney’s beaches onto nearby streets and carparks. The storm also forced the closure of the Sydney Harbour port, leaving passengers on board the Carnival Spirit cruise ship stranded in swells of up to nine metres outside Sydney Heads.
RT: 3 killed, 200,000 homes without power as ‘worst in decade’ storm rages in Australia
RT: Aftermath video.

Mandatory data retention passes Australian parliament

The government and Labor have jointly ensured that the telecommunications data of all Australians will be retained for two years for warrantless access by law-enforcement agencies.

ZDNet, By Josh Taylor, March 26

The Australian government has relied on the votes of the Labor opposition to pass legislation on Thursday that will force telecommunications companies to retain customer data for two years for warrantless access by law enforcement.

The legislation — which will see call records, assigned IP addresses, location information, billing information, and other customer data stored for two years — passed the Senate on Thursday with the support of Labor senators.

The government and Labor shot down over a dozen amendments from the Greens, and several amendments from crossbench senators including those from David Leyonhjelm, Dio Wang, and Nick Xenophon.

The amendments would have forced the data to be held in Australia, would have required warrants for all accessing of the data, and would have limited the storage to three months — bringing Australia closer into line with international standards.

World’s largest asteroid impact zone believed uncovered by ANU researchers in central Australia

Australian scientists have uncovered what is believed to be the largest asteroid impact zone ever found on Earth, in central Australia.

ABC (AU), By Clarissa Thorpe, March 24

A team lead by Dr Andrew Glikson from the Australian National University (ANU) said two ancient craters found in central Australia were believed to have been caused by one meteorite that broke in two.

“They appear to be two large structures, with each of them approximately 200 kilometres,” Dr Glikson said.

“So together, jointly they would form a 400 kilometre structure which is the biggest we know of anywhere in the world.

“The consequences are that it could have caused a large mass extinction event at the time, but we still don’t know the age of this asteroid impact and we are still working on it.”

‘People had no idea’: Pam devastates Vanuatu

The Australian, By Pia Akerman & Rachel Baxendale, March 16

Aid has begun arriving on the cyclone battered Vanuatu archipelago but early reports of damage from category five Cyclone Pam are bad, as aid workers say their efforts are being hampered by the scale of the disaster.

A pilot who flew over Erromango island and landed on Tanna, told the Red Cross that residents were worried about access to clean drinking water, that all communications were out, and that their communities looked “flattened”.

“What he told me is that he could land – that was the first positive,” said Aurelia Balpe, Head of the Pacific office for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “But as they flew in and out they saw lots of trees uprooted and, what was most striking, all corrugated iron structures were destroyed as far as they eye could see.

“And all concrete structures that he saw no longer had a roof.”

CNN: ‘Unbelievable destruction’ reported in Tropical Cyclone Pam’s wake
News.com.au: Vanuatu: Cyclone Pam brings ‘catastrophic’ death, destruction
CNN images: Tropical Cyclone Pam hits Vanuatu
The Telegraph: Dozens feared dead after Super Cyclone Pam slams into Vanuatu, in pictures
The Atlantic: A Cyclone Destroys a Nation
ABC.net: Tropical Cyclone Pam: Death toll may rise after worst natural disaster in ‘living memory’


Cyclone Pam hits New Zealand

Stuff.co.nz, March 16

The threat of high winds, heavy rain and big seas remains as Cyclone Pam lies to the northeast of East Cape on Monday morning.

MetService said Pam was expected to lie about 150km east of East Cape by noon, then move away from the New Zealand coastline towards the Chatham Islands.

Gisborne was braced for the storm, which is expected to peak around midday.

“We’ve had a reasonable amount of rain already and the wind looks like it’s trying to pick up,” Gisborne manager emergency management Richard Steele said about 8am.

There were no reports of any damage.


Cyclone Pam slows as it hits New Zealand

3 News, March 16

A downgraded but still immensely powerful Tropical Cyclone Pam has slowed on its way to northeastern New Zealand, and forecasters now say it will hit hard around midday.

The cyclone which devastated Vanuatu has been reduced from the maximum category five to a category three storm.

But, RadioLIVE’s weatherman Richard Green says it is still likely to be packing winds up to 160km/h, which are capable of major damage.

He says winds pushed ahead of Pam have been recorded at Cape Reinga in the past few hours, gusting up to 130km/h.

“It’s seen some big gusts in the last few hours, and even though we should see it easing for parts of the Northland, it looks a little more [rough] further south – particularly in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and the eastern Bay of Plenty.”

The Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Group Emergency Coordination Centre was activated at 5am this morning to support the response to Cyclone Pam.

Australia’s prime minister has announced a huge national security crackdown

Reuters, By Matt Siegel, February 22

Sydney– Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday announced a national security crackdown that could deny welfare payments to people seen as potential threats, strip the passports of those with dual nationality and curb travel overseas.

Abbott, bruised politically and facing pressure for dramatic action after surviving a leadership challenge this month, unveiled the measures in the wake of a hostage siege in a Sydney cafe that left three dead in December.

He said some personal freedoms would have to be curtailed to fight what he called a rapidly growing threat from radical groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“For too long, we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt,” Abbott said.

Defiant Australian PM brings forward leadership challenge

AFP, By Glenda Kwek, February 7

Sydney – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday he will bring forward a party bid to oust him by 24 hours, as the country potentially faced a change in leadership for the fourth time in five years.

Abbott has been fighting for his job after poor poll ratings and a series of policy backflips spurred his own conservative Liberal Party MPs to openly attack him, calling for a leadership “spill” on Tuesday.

The motion aims to declare the positions of leader and deputy leader of the party — currently occupied by Abbott and Deputy Prime Minister Julie Bishop — vacant so the party room, or members of both houses of parliament, can vote for new candidates.

But a defiant Abbott declared on Sunday he wanted the vote over and done with as soon as possible.

“The last thing Australia needs right now is instability and uncertainty,” he told reporters.

SMH LiveBlog: Politics Live: Prime Minister Tony Abbott fights to save his job – auto-start video (and outrageous Ozzie accent) warning!

LEAKED: Secret Negotiations to Let Big Brother Go Global

The ugly ramifications of the Trade in Services Act (TiSA)

Wolf Street, By Don Quijones, December 25

Much has been written, at least in the alternative media, about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), two multilateral trade treaties being negotiated between the representatives of dozens of national governments and armies of corporate lawyers and lobbyists (on which you can read more here, here and here). However, much less is known about the decidedly more secretive Trade in Services Act (TiSA), which involves more countries than either of the other two.

At least until now, that is. Thanks to a leaked document jointly published by the Associated Whistleblowing Press and Filtrala, the potential ramifications of the treaty being hashed out behind hermetically sealed doors in Geneva are finally seeping out into the public arena.
Read More

Obama hopes to enlist GOP in push for trade pact, despite Democratic resistance

Washington Post, By David Nakamura, December 26

President Obama is preparing a major push on a vast free trade zone that seeks to enlist Republicans as partners and test his premise that Washington can still find common ground on major initiatives.

It also will test his willingness to buck his own party in pursuit of a legacy-burnishing achievement. Already, fellow Democrats are accusing him of abandoning past promises on trade and potentially undermining his domestic priority of reducing income inequality.

The dynamic, as the White House plots strategy for the new year when the GOP has full control of Congress, has scrambled traditional political alliances. In recent weeks, Obama has rallied the business community behind his trade agenda, while leading Capitol Hill progressives, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have raised objections and labor and environmental groups have mounted a public relations campaign against it.

The administration is moving aggressively in hopes of wrapping up negotiations by the middle of next year on a 12-nation free-trade pact in the Asia Pacific before the politics become even more daunting ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for the administration,” said Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), a pro-trade Democrat viewed by the administration as a key ally. “They need to get out and educate members and address the concerns they might have. I’ve been advising colleagues who are skeptical and not supportive of trade to at least engage in conversations and feedback.”

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