Human Rights?

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Category Archives: AIM Extra

Human Rights?

By Bert Hetebry

The term Genocide was first used in 1945 to describe the deliberate, targeted killing of Jews by the German Nazi regime. It was a very specific term coined to describe the Nazi policies of systematic murder during the Holocaust combining the Greek word for race or tribe (geno) with the Latin word for killing (cide).

The word was first used in a legal setting during the Nuremberg Trials by a young lawyer, Benjamin Ferencz who was a chief prosecutor at those trials. A fresh faced young lawyer, just 27 years old, a small man, 5ft 2inches or just short of 1.6metres tall had to stand on a pile of books when he addressed the court so he could look over the lectern. Apart from using the word genocide, the phrase ‘crimes against humanity’ was used to place the actions of 22 men who oversaw and commandeered the Holocaust were seen to be tried not just as war criminals but criminals in a far deeper sense. War crimes happen in war, soldiers kill soldiers and bomb places where there may be ‘collateral damage’, but the Holocaust was an action aimed at eliminating people based on their race, their religion and their ideologies.

The German military, including the SS under the control of the Nazis were thorough in documenting their activities and reporting to the various government agencies including the ‘elimination of Jews, Gypsies and enemies of the Reich’, and these records were carefully archived and then used as evidence in prosecuting the case against those senior figures who were still alive and able to face the court.

As a result of the Second World War and the exposure of the inhumanity, the organised slaughter of about 13million people who were not soldiers fighting a war, as evidenced in the aftermath of the war, the opening of the death camps, the written records of those who reported their work to their superiors and the conducting of the Nuremberg Trial, a criminal trial, not a war crimes trial before impartial judges, the newly formed United Nations Organisation commissioned the Declaration of Human Rights which was presented to the General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948.

A further flow on from the Nuremberg Trials and the work of Ben Ferencz was the International Criminal Court in The Hague which recently heard charges against the State of Israel from South Africa over the devastation of Gaza and the treatment of the Palestinians who live in that enclave.

Unfortunately, crimes against humanity have continued despite the Declaration of Human Rights that all nations have signed up to. We witnessed the horrors of the Vietnam war with indiscriminate poisoning using Agent Orange, a defoliant and poison that caused birth defects spina bifida, cleft palate, limb deformities, structural heart disease and hypothyroidism, the murderous Pol Pot regime in the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Cultural Revolution in China with its re-education camps, Biafra, and so many more post-colonial wars, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. and on and on goes the list.

And most recently, the ongoing conflict in Israel.

The catalyst for the devastation being wrought on Gaza and the Palestinian people was a brutal attack on a Kibbutz and Music Festival which saw about 1200 Israelis killed and 240 taken as hostages by the armed militia, Hamas. An unspeakable act of terrorism.

Rarely however is there mention of the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government, the virtual imprisonment of two and a half million people in the most densely populated area in the world, the Gaza Strip, an area of 365 square kilometres. (The Perth Metropolitan area of over 6,300 square kilometres has a similar population.) Nor of the treatment of Palestinians who live on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem and the intimidation they are subjected to from settler communities who are building new settlements as the Palestinians are forced or bullied off their lands. Nor the intimidation of multiple security checks, sometimes a matter of a few metres apart, the constant sense of surveillance with soldiers, fully armed in battle fatigues patrolling the streets of positioned on rooftops. The buildup of frustration in both areas have since the Nakbah, or ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 which saw over 700,000 people displaced, and the taking of the West Bank in 1967’s Six day War led to various skirmishes and attacks on Israel people, like the suicide bombers who were active in 1989 and from 2002 to 2005, the First and Second Intifada.

Both attacks, the Hamas attack that was the catalyst for the current conflict and the suicide bombings which targeted Israeli civilians are illegal under international law and are rightly condemned. That said, the frustration of living in such oppressive conditions as in Gaza where all services, water, food, sewerage, electricity are imported from Israel and can be cut off at the drop of a hat, or the frustration of the constant harassment the people on the West Bank and East Jerusalem are subjected to leads to retaliatory actions.

As we get the news flow from Israel and Gaza we are told that it is mainly women and children who are dying. Supplies of food and drinking water are in short supply and apart from people dying because the building they lived in are being blown to smithereens, they are dying of starvation and diseases that come from unsanitary living as over a million people are camping out in a cramped area without sanitation.

Women and children featured in the evidence and defence of the Nuremberg criminals. where the justification for killing children was that they would grow up to be enemies. And women give birth to children.

The Declaration of Human Rights was written as a response to the inhumanity of the Holocaust which saw the killing of 13 million people because of their race, their religion, their ideologies were not acceptable to the Nazi regime in Germany. The races targeted were Jews and Gypsies, two marginalised groups, marginalised not just in Germany, but in much of Europe, and marginalised for centuries, Jews for their religious beliefs, Gypsies were ‘the wandering spirits of the earth’. On ideologies, these included homosexuals and people with disabilities.

Palestinians are marginalised in Israel, but not just in Israel, also in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Egypt where they are placed in Refugee camps, denied employment, treated as second class people and have really nowhere to go.

It seems those who ignore history are likely to repeat it while those who know history can only look on in wondrous amazement.

 

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Desperation grows in Ukraine war, two years on

Australia for UNHCR Media Release

Australia for UNHCR is appealing for renewed support for Ukrainians as conditions worsen two years on from Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Since the war began on 24 February 2022, two million homes have been bombed, at least 70,000 people have been killed, and millions have been forced to flee.

“Fierce attacks continue, destroying homes, hospitals and energy infrastructure,” Australia for UNHCR CEO Trudi Mitchell said.

“Families are sheltering in crowded accommodation centres or badly damaged houses with no piped water, gas or electricity, while a bitter winter increases the need for life-saving aid.”

More than 14 million people need humanitarian assistance in Ukraine, a staggering 40 per cent of the population.

In frontline areas such as Donetsk and Kharkiv, constant bombardment means people are forced to spend their days in basements. Children cannot play outside, let alone attend school.

“The fighting has escalated and the humanitarian situation in the country is dramatic and urgent,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said during a recent visit to the country.

“Millions have been forced to flee the war and Russian attacks, and they are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.”

The United Nations Refugee Agency and its partners are providing cash assistance so people can buy food, fuel, medicine and warm clothing.

Teams are also providing repairs to homes, legal aid to help people obtain civil documents damaged or lost in the war, and counselling to help families deal with trauma.

UNHCR’s dedicated teams have been on the ground since the beginning. We will stay and deliver for the people of Ukraine for as long as is needed – but we can’t do it alone,” Ms Mitchell said.

“When the war first broke out, Australia for UNHCR received record donations. I’m asking Australians once again to think of the people of Ukraine and to donate what they can.

 

Donations welcome at Ukraine Crisis Appeal.

 

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Israel/oPt: UN experts appalled by reported human rights violations against Palestinian women and girls

United Nations Media Release

UN experts* today expressed alarm over credible allegations of egregious human rights violations to which Palestinian women and girls continue to be subjected in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Palestinian women and girls have reportedly been arbitrarily executed in Gaza, often together with family members, including their children, according to information received. “We are shocked by reports of the deliberate targeting and extrajudicial killing of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge, or while fleeing. Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces,” the experts said.

The experts expressed serious concern about the arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinian women and girls, including human rights defenders, journalists and humanitarian workers, in Gaza and the West Bank since 7 October. Many have reportedly been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, denied menstruation pads, food and medicine, and severely beaten. On at least one occasion, Palestinian women detained in Gaza were allegedly kept in a cage in the rain and cold, without food.

“We are particularly distressed by reports that Palestinian women and girls in detention have also been subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault, such as being stripped naked and searched by male Israeli army officers. At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence,” the experts said. They also noted that photos of female detainees in degrading circumstances were also reportedly taken by the Israeli army and uploaded online.

The experts expressed concern that an unknown number of Palestinian women and children, including girls, have reportedly gone missing after contact with the Israeli army in Gaza. “There are disturbing reports of at least one female infant forcibly transferred by the Israeli army into Israel, and of children being separated from their parents, whose whereabouts remain unknown,” they said.

“We remind the Government of Israel of its obligation to uphold the right to life, safety, health, and dignity of Palestinian women and girls and to ensure that no one is subjected to violence, torture, ill-treatment or degrading treatment, including sexual violence,” the experts said.

They called for an independent, impartial, prompt, thorough and effective investigation into the allegations and for Israel to cooperate with such investigations.

“Taken together, these alleged acts may constitute grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and amount to serious crimes under international criminal law that could be prosecuted under the Rome Statute,” the experts said. “Those responsible for these apparent crimes must be held accountable and victims and their families are entitled to full redress and justice,” they added.

* The experts: Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstić, Haina Lu, and Laura Nyirinkindi, Working group on discrimination against women and girls.

The experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

 

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Urgent call for Australian Centre for Disease Control to reconcile COVID-19 health advice

Public Health Association of Australia Media Release

Public health experts are calling for the Federal Government to urgently implement and properly resource the proposed Australian Centre for Disease Control (ACDC) to ensure COVID-19 advice is consistent across Australia.

The call from the Public Health Association of Australia comes as public health experts await further details of the ACDC promised by the Albanese Government during the 2022 federal election. The ACDC was set up as a $90m interim body on 1 January 2024, but is yet to be formally established or receive ongoing funds.

Professor Simone Pettigrew, health communication expert from the George Institute for Global Health, says the current situation could be negatively impacting public health outcomes as COVID-19 continues to spread across the country.

“The current COVID-19 messaging differs in complexity, priority and content between the states and territories,” Prof Pettigrew said. “That makes it harder for Australians to interpret health advice.

“Residents of some states may be receiving more or less effective guidance compared to others.

“A single, clear and consistent source of truth would undoubtedly improve public health outcomes.”

Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, CEO, Public Health Association Australia, says that the current situation points to the pressing need for quick action to get the ACDC up and running and well resourced.

“We appreciate the excellent work of the states and territories to provide thorough and reliable guidance on COVID-19, and acknowledge the efforts of each health department,” he said.

“We learned during the peak of the pandemic that clear, consistent and accessible information was paramount.

“But the simple truth is that people around Australia are receiving varying advice on how to best protect themselves when it comes to COVID-19.

“Inconsistencies around emphasis, priority and language used underscore the urgent need for the full and proper establishment of the ACDC. This is exactly why this body was promised by the Australian Government.

“Australians deserve a consistent, credible, carefully researched and framed nationwide set of public health information.

“The time is now for the Government to enact its commitment, to fund the ACDC to the level necessary to fulfil its entire remit – including Chronic Disease Prevention – to ensure that all people in Australia have the best possible information at hand to protect their health.

“To continue our ACDC rock band references, we’ve only a few metres worth of funding for a Highway to Health. We can’t accept Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”

 

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New research highlights the growing prevalence and economic impact of non-competes

New research by the e61 Institute presents five facts on the use of non-competes and other post-employment restraints in Australia based on new ABS survey data.

New research by the e61 Institute presents five facts on the use of non-competes and other post-employment restraints in Australia. These facts highlight the economic relevance of restraint clauses, detail how firms deploy them and present preliminary evidence on the consequences of their proliferation.

“For the first time we have data from the employer side on the prevalence of non-competes and other post-employment restraint clauses. This is important because employers likely have a better awareness about the prevalence of these clauses than workers. It also allows us to better understand how firms of different sizes and in different industries deploy these restraints.” e61 Institute Senior Policy Fellow Dan Andrews said.

The e61 Institute research used data from a new ABS survey of firms, developed in collaboration with e61, to examine the use of restraint clauses. Combining this data with employment data, the e61 research found that a large share of Australian workers are subject to restraint clauses.

“Roughly one-fifth of the Australian workforce are currently subject to a non-compete. No-poach agreements are even more widespread, with almost a third of workers subject to a clause that restricts their ability to ‘poach’ former clients and almost a quarter subject to no-poach of co-workers agreement.” e61 Institute Senior Research Economist Jack Buckley said.

“Firms are also planning to increase their use of these restraints. Roughly 1-in-5 firms who do not currently use non-competes say that they will likely do so in the future.” Mr Buckley said.

There are large differences in the use of employment restraints between industries. The use of non-competes and other restraint clauses is particularly prevalent in knowledge-based service industries, where high-skilled labour is a key determinant of firm success.

“Restraint clauses likely provide a lot of private value to individual firms in these industries, but their use may be hurting the efficient allocation of talent and the diffusion of knowledge.” e61 Institute CEO Michael Brennan said.

Many firms appear to be deploying restraint clauses indiscriminately. Of firms who use non-competes and no-poach clauses, almost 80% are applying them to more than three-quarters of their workforce.

“This blanket application of non-competes and other restraints has the potential to adversely affect low wage workers who lack the bargaining power to negotiate over these terms.” Mr Andrews said.

The widespread use of post-employment restraints could be having a negative effect on job mobility and competition. Preliminary analysis conducted as part of the e61 research found that job mobility and firm entry rates were lower in industries with a higher prevalence of employment restraints.

However, Mr Buckey added that “this analysis comes with some important caveats, including the fact that it does not account for a range of omitted variables that could affect the relationship between restraint clause use, job mobility and firm entry rates.”

“More research is needed to understand the extent to which the use of restraint clauses has contributed to the decline in job mobility and competition. But our analysis adds support to the hypothesis that non-compete clauses and no-poach agreements act as a barrier to labour mobility and competition.” Mr Brennan said.

Key findings:

This note presents five new facts based on a new, high-quality firm-side survey to help policy makers better understand the prevalence, use and economic consequences of non-competes and other post-employment constraints in the Australian economy.

Fact1: A large share of Australian workers are subject to restraint clauses.

  • Non-disclosure clauses cover between one-half and two-thirds of the Australian workforce with a central estimate of 58%.
  • Between one-quarter and one-third of workers have clauses restricting their ability to poach former clients with a central estimate of 29%.
  • Roughly one-fifth to one-quarter of the Australian workforce are subject to non-compete and no-poach of co-workers agreements with a central estimate of 21% and 23% respectively.

Fact 2: Firms’ use of restraint clauses has increased over the past 5 years and is expected to increase further absent policy intervention.

Fact 3: Restraints are highly prevalent in knowledge-based service industries, potentially jeopardising the allocation of talent.

Fact 4: Many firms are deploying restraint clauses indiscriminately, potentially adversely affecting low wage workers who lack bargaining power.

Fact 5: Firm entry and job mobility rates appear to be lower in industries where restraint clauses are more prevalent.

 

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Where the Palestine laboratory takes us all

By Antony Loewenstein

Israel’s war on Gaza since 7 October has caused the biggest number of Palestinian deaths and largest displacement since the 1948 Nakba.

Nearly five months after the brutal Hamas attacks on 7 October and Israel’s unrelenting response against the people and societal fabric of Gaza, there’s no end in sight. Every day I see images and videos of dead Palestinian children, Israeli soldiers desecrating Palestinian lives and homes in Gaza and failure of the so-called international community, namely the US, Europe and Australia, to apply any pressure on the Jewish state to cease its unrelenting war crimes in Gaza.

Why? Because Palestinian lives don’t matter the way that Israeli Jews do. In just one example, US President Joe Biden released a statement on 100 days after 7 October and while mentioning the kidnapped Israelis in Gaza, who should be released immediately, he couldn’t bring himself to even acknowledge the more than 30,000 dead Palestinians in Gaza.

They. Don’t. Really. Matter.

The scale of Israeli killing of civilians is unprecedented in the 21st century. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) genocide case, brought by South Africa against Israel, has many interesting historical echoes. Not least the fact, as I document in my book, The Palestine Laboratory, that Israel was one of the last remaining nations in the world to support the apartheid regime in South Africa until its very end in 1994:

 

 

For Jews who oppose the carnage in Gaza, we’re accused by some of siding with the enemy. Apparently, our responsibility is to uncritically back the Israeli government despite it being filled with far-right fanatics. The Jerusalem Post recently editorialised that there was only a ‘“shocking sliver of Jews” who condemned Israel and accused it of human rights abuses and war crimes.

Perish the thought.

Tribalism and jingoism are ascendant in parts of the global Jewish community despite Israeli actions (including its endless colonisation of the West Bank) making all Jews far less safe in Israel and around the world.

Enough.

Since my last newsletter in early December, it’s been an incredibly hectic and intense time. I remain in constant contact with friends from Gaza, some still trapped there and others who have escaped, and the sentiment is always the same; we’re scared and fear that we’ll die any moment. There are no adequate words when responding, beyond what feels like empty platitudes of support and care.

I think of Gaza often and my various trips there since 2009. Here are a few photos from that first visit in mid-2009 (six months after Israel’s devastating Operation Cast Lead):

 

 

 

Now onto my recent work.

The following are the major TV interviews I’ve conducted in the last while on CNN, Al Jazeera English, The Real News Network, Breaking Points and TRT World:

 

In October, I spoke at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali, Indonesia, one of the leading literary festivals in Asia, and one of my sessions is now online, a timely conversation about Israel/Palestine:

 

My interview with Pakistani outlet Dawn:

The reach of my book, The Palestine Laboratory, continues to astound me.

Here’s just one new example.

India Nile, according to an online bio, is a “drag artist & filmmaker. Palestinian/Lebanese. Born in Italy. Raised in Dubai. Living in Amsterdam. Drag Therapy is what I do.”

Their latest video has gone viral, with close to one million views on YouTube. Titled “The Psychology of Israeli Propaganda“, it’s a wild, funny, witty but also serious look at the ways in which Israel tries to defend its actions in Gaza and beyond.

At around 1:01:14, there’s a mention of my book and how Israel’s intelligence services routinely try to blackmail gay Palestinians to potentially spy for them.

Following my book winning the 2023 Walkley Best Book Award in late 2023, the Australian Pulitzer for best book of the year, it recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, one of Australia’s leading writing prizes. This detail, reported in The Guardian, was heartening:

This year’s people’s choice award went to The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World by Antony Loewenstein. The book received 39% of all votes cast, with this year’s total tally of 1,567 public votes more than double that of last year.

Here’s my acceptance speech.

My book was also picked as one of the top books of 2023 by the US magazinesNew Republicand Wired, theLos Angeles Timesand Australian outlet, Australian Book Review.

Last, and certainly not least, my book secured an honourable mention in the Moore Literary Award, an international literary and human rights award based in the UK.

In a sign of the times, my publishers in multiple territories can’t keep up with the demand for my book, re-printing many times.

If you haven’t yet bought your copy, please do so at your nearest independent bookstore or online shop.

I recently spoke at the Jaipur Literature Festival in India, the biggest writer’s event in the world (in 2023 there were around 440k in attendance).

It was an overwhelming experience with huge crowds and engagement. I talked about Israel/Palestine, Gaza, Indian repression in Kashmir and the country’s increasingly Hindu fundamentalist turn.

The response was extraordinary (including in the localmedia + the Gujarati language). I was literally mobbed during my time there, in a positive way, by Indians who felt disillusioned with Prime Minister’s Modi’s exclusionist “vision”.

 

 

I also spoke to a large group of high-school students in Jaipur:

It was encouraging that despite India’s far-right turn, many Indians I met wanted to resist the country’s increasingly intolerant direction. They have a monumental struggle on their hands.

What the Palestine laboratory means in practice. This is from a major Indian newspaper in mid-February this year.

 

 

Back in 2012, I co-edited a collection of essays, After Zionism, with Palestinian writer Ahmed Mood (who was born in a refugee camp in Rafah, Gaza). It featured a range of Palestinian and Jewish voices articulating how a truly democratic state could exist in the Middle East with all peoples living equally. This wasn’t some utopian and unrealistic vision but a considered and sober assessment of the status-quo and how to change it.

We toured the book around the world, from Palestine to Israel and London to the US.

Then 7 October, 2023 happened. After this momentous event and the Israeli response, my London-based publisher, Saqi, thought that it was timely to re-issue the book with a new, long preface by Ahmed and me to reflect on this precarious period.

 

 

Naomi Klein has endorsed the book:

‘Nothing will change until we are capable of imagining a radically different future. By bringing together many of the clearest and most ethical thinkers about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, this book gives us the intellectual tools we need to do just that. Courageous and exciting.’

I was interviewed about the book on global broadcaster TRT World’s The Newsmakers program (starting at 17:06):

 

 

Buy your copy here.

My book, The Palestine Laboratory, is being translated into a range of languages across the globe. Some have been released but many more are coming this year and next.

Here’s the latest releases.

The South Korean edition:

 

 

It’s received solid media coverage in South Korea including this positive review.

The South African edition:

 

 

The Spanish edition:

 

 

There’s been a huge amount of interest from the Spanish media and here’s my interviews with El Pais (Spanish and English), El Diario and El Confidencial.

In late December, the legendary journalist and old friend, John Pilger, died. His work was often a beacon for me, on Palestine, challenging power and going against the mainstream journalism grain, so his passing is a loss.

Back in 2017, I was asked to write and film a piece when the Melbourne Press Club inducted him into its Hall of Fame.

Here are my reflections about John and his legacy:

 

 

The following is the work and interviews I’ve been doing over the last months:

  • Interview with journalist Jeremy Scahill on the Intercepted podcast.
  • Interview with Middle East Eye on India building drones for Israeli use in Gaza.
  • Two American teachers talk about books that interest and inspire them and they recently featured The Palestine Laboratory.
  • The Victorian government in Australia is increasingly close to the Israeli defence sector and I ask questions on ABC News Australia.
  • Interview with the Carnegie Middle East Centre on my book.
  • Interview with a leading Norwegian newspaper on Israel’s use/abuse of AI in Gaza.
  • News Beat is a New York-based investigative podcast.
  • Interview with Al Jazeera English on the dangers of Israel’s use of AI.
  • Interview with French activist and author Frank Barat on the “allure” of the Israeli arms industry:

 

 

  • Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspaper seemingly exists to love Israel 24/7. One of its former editors isn’t happy with me talking about a one-state solution in the Middle East.
  • A comprehensive review of my book in the Sydney Review of Books.
  • The former Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has invested huge amounts of $ into Israeli military tech. My comments about it to the Canadian outlet, The Breach.
  • Interesting review of my book in the pan-Arab outlet, Daraj Media.
  • An extract of my book, with a few new words post 7 October, in the great publication, The Markaz Review.
  • How the Palestinian laboratory has deeply influenced Africa.
  • My book and its reporting has been extensively covered across the Turkish media.
  • A strong review of my book in Middle East Monitor.
  • Advice for young writers who want to cause trouble.
  • Interview alongside the former Attorney General of Australia on ABC Australia where we discuss Israel, Gaza, the death of war criminal Henry Kissinger and Wikileaks.
  • How should newsrooms report on Israel/Palestine. I recently spoke about this at a university forum in Sydney and ABC Australia broadcast the comments.
  • I was honoured to join a wonderful forum late last year about how Big Tech routinely works with Israel:

 

 

 

Declassified Australia, the news website that I co-founded and co-edit with journalist Peter Cronau, continues to publish important work.

Our latest story is about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and fears of his extradition to the US to potentially face the death penalty.

A timely story on the new President of Indonesia, a man with a shocking record of war crimes, a final essay by the late, great journalist John Pilger, questions around Australia’s relative silence on the ICJ case against Israel and the extraordinary number of Palestinian journalists murdered by Israel since 7 October.

As an independent website, we rely on public support for our work. Please donate if you can.

 

 

This is my first book, My Israel Question, published in 2006. It attracted a massive response, became a best-seller, was condemned in the Australian parliament and the pro-Israel lobby tried to get it banned + pulped. In many ways, it set the path for a lot of my life and work ever since.

Now, 18 years after its initial release, the publisher has re-printed it once again due to public interest. You can order it here.

It hasn’t really dated at all.

You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter for constantly updated content. My website has information about all my work, books and documentary films stretching back to 2003.

I’m an independent journalist without any institutional backing. If you’re able to support me financially, by donating money to continue this work, I’d hugely appreciate it. You can find donating options in the menu bar at the top of my website.

Stay strong in these dark times.

Thanks for reading.

Antony.

 

This article was originally published on Antony Loewenstein

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Rafah, Gaza: Urgent Statement from CEOs of Humanitarian and Human Rights Organisations

Oxfam Media Release

We are appalled by the harrowing developments in Rafah, Gaza’s most populated area where 1.5 million people are sheltering as their last resort – over half a million of them children. If Israel launches its proposed ground offensive, thousands more civilians will be killed and the current trickle of humanitarian aid risks coming to a complete halt. If this military plan is not stopped immediately, the consequences will be catastrophic.

With significant damage to over 70 per cent of civilian infrastructure, many areas in Gaza have been reduced to rubble and are uninhabitable. Most hospitals are non-functional or only partially operational and are completely overwhelmed. There is little food, clean water, shelter, or sanitation. People are living in the most inhumane conditions, many of them out in the open. It defies belief that the Israeli military has forcibly displaced the majority of the population from their homes into Rafah – with six times as many people than before now squeezed into the area – and then announced plans to attack it.

The Israeli government’s strategy of systematic and repeated forcible transfer of the civilian population has led to the forced displacement of more than three quarters of the population, many of whom left without adequate shelter or homes to return to. Collectively punishing civilians by denying them adequate shelter, food, clean water and other essentials needed for their survival and obstructing humanitarian relief consignments destined to alleviate starvation may amount to grave breaches of the obligations of an occupying power under International Humanitarian Law, constituting war crimes.

Last month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, mandated Israel to take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance in Gaza. Not only has this not happened, the situation on the ground has deteriorated further. Israel’s airstrikes in Rafah killed at least 100 Palestinians in a single day, defying both international calls for moderation and potentially the ICJ order. Over 1.5 million people trapped in Rafah have nowhere safe to go, and many have already been displaced multiple times. All of the Israeli supposed-safe spaces have been compromised, without exception, further proof that there was never truly anywhere safe in Gaza.

Our call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire is more urgent than ever as Israel’s relentless bombardment and siege have decimated Gaza and left the Palestinian civilian population starving, facing famine, and with diseases rife while obstructing attempts to alleviate their suffering. The Israeli military offensive has made it virtually impossible for our collective agencies to meaningfully and effectively deliver humanitarian work, compromising not only safety but also the very principles guiding our humanitarian efforts. Rafah has been the primary entry point for aid and bombardment will then prevent any assistance from getting through.

The silence, and at times material support of Israel’s military by powerful nations, signals distressing complicity in Gaza’s deepening crisis. Whether through the transfer of weapons, or diplomatic obstruction of resolutions, such actions have effectively granted Israel impunity. The harrowing situation in Gaza underscores the urgent need for governments worldwide to stop the supply of arms and ammunition used in these atrocities. We also call for a permanent ceasefire to protect civilian lives and release of hostages and unlawfully detained Palestinians, and full, unhindered access for humanitarian aid and workers.

States bear legal and moral responsibilities to protect civilians, prevent war crimes and uphold international law. We urge all States to consider that their inaction or continued support not only deepens the tragedy but also implicates them. We call upon them to do everything in their power to prevent further military offensives and forge a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Gaza.

SIGNATORIES

Ana Alcalde, Acting Secretary General, ActionAid International

Dr Agnès Callamard, Secretary General, Amnesty International

Faris Arouri, Director, Association for International Development Agencies (AIDA)

Charlotte Slente, Secretary General, Danish Refugee Council

Manuel Patrouillard, CEO, Handicap International-Humanity & Inclusion

Amitabh Behar, Executive Director, Oxfam International

Rob Williams, CEO, War Child Alliance

 

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Outbound Train

By James Moore

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” – Leo Tolstoy

The water from atop the bridge was a cold and steely blue and even though I was barely an hour from home I felt as if I were abandoning all I had known. The emotional response was uncontrollable and I looked back over my shoulder at the skyline of Detroit beginning to shimmer and fade in the December snow flurries. When I turned back to stare through the windshield, little Windsor was rising up to fill the glass with shadows and red taillights as we rolled into the border customs checkpoint on the Canadian side of the Ambassador Bridge.

“You act like you’re going away forever,” Mike said. “I doubt that will be the case.”

“Not on this trip,” I said. “But it could happen if they come for me. I’m just not going. I don’t know why anyone would.”

“Me neither. But I can’t leave behind my family. And my life. Not forever.”

“You could leave everything behind if you end up dead over there,” I said. “Your choices would be made for you.”

“Oh Christ. Shut up. You’re always so goddamned melodramatic.”

“Because war is serious, especially to guys our age.”

“Yeah, that’s profound.” Mike’s sarcasm was usually not so blunt and I assumed he, too, was tired of having to think about the draft and politics.

“Look, think of this as a serious scouting trip,” I said. “I’ve been up there once before but I was on vacation with my sister and brother-in-law and I was still young enough to think the war would be over before my turn came up.”

 

1970s Windsor, Ontario, Canada

 

Mike and I had spent uncountable hours talking about the War in Vietnam between breaths as we ran the gravel roads winding around the lakes and through the hills and forests of Michigan. We had both earned college scholarships with our performances as high school distance runners and were formulating plans for our lives that did not include Vietnam or our home state, which is why he had agreed to drive me to the Canadian National Train station in Windsor, Ontario. We had crossed over the narrow stretch of the Detroit River and I was immediately bound for North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to catch an overnight ferry to Newfoundland, the island home of my mother.

My motivation had much to do with my fear of premature death in combat. The threat to my life had become more than existential. Body counts shown on the TV news in daily reports never seemed to abate and Americans were still believing the former president’s nonsensical rhetoric about stopping communism “over there before it gets here.” The previous year, my birthdate had been included in the lottery for the military draft and the fact that I drew number 36 meant that I was certain to be conscripted into service. I remember gathering in the basement of my dormitory at the university with other male students to watch the surreal horror of our lives being submitted to a game of chance conducted by men in suits spinning a tumbler filled with plastic capsules containing dates of the year written on slips of paper. Before I left the room, even more fearful of dying in a remote tropical jungle, I heard several students scream, and one had passed out with fright. Vietnam was accomplishing nothing but destruction and death and most of my generation wanted no participation in its great lie.

 

1970 Draft Lottery Tumbler with Birthdates Written Inside Plastic Capsules

 

After I bought my ticket, I went through the passenger gate and examined the train, which seemed to me an improbable mechanical beast that had come from the Pacific Ocean and Vancouver, over the Canadian Rockies, across seemingly endless plains and then north of Lake Superior to turn south and skirt Lake Huron before arriving in Windsor. I found a window seat on the southward facing side of a passenger car, hoping to catch glimpses of Lake Erie as we tracked to the northeast toward London and Toronto. I did not see big water, though, until we had reached Hamilton and passed through the industrial sections of town and the train had climbed up on the Niagara Escarpment and began trundling through the residential communities south of Toronto.

 

1970s Era Canadian National Passenger Car

 

Along the St. Lawrence Seaway as we approached Montreal in the night, I looked out across the river and saw solitary lights of isolated homes set upon the American side and tried to envision viewing my country as though I were a foreigner. I felt like something inside of me had cracked, but was not yet broken, and I knew I did not understand all the complications, emotional and intellectual, of becoming an ex-patriot of the United States. Although I had Canadian birthright citizenship from my mother, I was still in my teens and my short years had been spent saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag every morning before school classwork began and getting dewey-eyed with each singing of the National Anthem. I believed I had been fortunate to be born on American soil and I was part of something special, even if rote performance of a pledge was also a kind of indoctrination to the notion we were the greatest land of all. Perhaps, I thought, we all ought to gather our own evidence, and race riots, disease, adventurous wars, and poverty were institutional contradictions.

A nineteen-year-old is not prepared to make decisions like avoiding the draft by moving to another country. The implications were beyond my ability to assess, but I was self-aware and determined enough to know that I was not going to war. Too many boys become soldiers from my factory town were pictured in the local paper as casualties and I stared at their faces wondering what else they might have been rather than KIA. One of them had been found dead of a heroin overdose while holding onto the grips of a large gun in the back of an armored vehicle as it entered battle. The overwhelming majority were from economically disadvantaged families, disproportionately Black, and did not have a chance to attend college. Being unable to enroll in a full credit load at a college or university automatically exposed you to the draft. Only a physical problem or a college student deferment kept them from the almost certain odds of landing in Vietnam, and carrying an M-16 into the jungle.

I went to the dining car, hoping that a meal might ease the draft and war obsession on my mind and found the only empty seat to be across from a man who appeared to be in his sixties. He smiled and seemed to welcome the company.

“May I?”

“Of course.” He gestured at the seat.

The waiter came and I quickly ordered, hoping to avoid small talk with a stranger. A book was next to his silverware as he waited for his food but I was unable to discern a title, and he made no move to pick it up and read. I felt like he was taking my measure, though, for some reason and I was almost instantly uncomfortable, which increased when he finally spoke.

“I suppose you are one of them,” he said.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what you mean.”

“Oh, I think you do.” His voice was more conspiratorial than confrontational. “We get a lot of you boys over here these days. We understand, too.”

“I’m just on vacation to visit family,” I said.

“You know, you don’t need to try so hard to assimilate. I’d lose the watch cap, if I were you, and the plaid flannel. You appearance looks a little contrived. We aren’t all lumberjacks.”

“I dressed for the weather.” I took off the knitted cap. “I don’t usually sit to my meals wearing a cap, though, so thanks for reminding me.”

“It’s a big decision,” he said, after a long pause. “I don’t envy you the choices. Can’t say what I’d do, either. Nobody wants to die or go to war, but they both happen.”

“They don’t have to happen to me,” I said. “At least not right now. There might be things worth fighting and dying for, but the lost cause in Vietnam sure as hell isn’t one of them. I’m not going to waste my only life over there.”

I had gotten emotional and he did not respond as his food was served. He smiled at me, quickly, and picked up his fork to have a go at the pasta dish. I noticed he was several days unshaved and his nose was straight and narrow above thin lips that made me think he was urbane and educated, assumptions that immediately seemed foolish. He finished his first few bites and turned his attention back to me.

“I hope you enjoy your vacation, or whatever it is,” he said. “Look around closely. Canada is a lovely place to build a happy life.”

Presently, my grilled cheese and chips arrived and we did not talk further as we ate. After his meal, he got up and left with a quick, “Good night,” and I finished and returned to my recliner seat next to the window to sleep. Snow had begun swirling in thick flakes and I saw accumulations along the tracks when we passed over grade separations from roads. When I awoke after a restless night, the train had stopped and snow appeared to have drifted up the sides of our passenger car. When I raised my seat out of the reclined position, a conductor walked into the car and made an announcement.

“Attention everyone. If you haven’t noticed, we are stuck in snowdrifts on a siding just outside Rivière-du-Loup, in Quebec, just north of the U.S. state of Maine. We don’t know how long we will be here but a plow train is working its way toward us from the south, which is the direction we were about to turn when the snow became too much for us to overcome. We have plenty of fuel and electrical power to keep you warm and although this is no fault of our own, Canadian National Railway will accommodate your food and drink until we start moving again. I will update you with any information when it becomes available to me.”

 

Present Day Canadian National Route Map

 

In the dim morning light of a blizzard, I noticed more people moving in the direction of the bar car than the dining room. I lost a full day waiting for the snow to be cleared and my trip had been planned for a narrow window of time. My unease increased over the course of the rest of my journey. The 24-hour passage across the Gulf of Newfoundland from North Sydney, Nova Scotia was marked by inordinately large swells coming across the Atlantic and the giant ferry felt as though it kept slipping sideways and away from the port of Argentia. My nausea made sleep impossible and when my Uncle Brian picked me up at the bus station in St. John’s, I wanted only a nap.

“What are you doin’ up here this time of year, b’y?” he asked. “No time to be after visitin’ this rock.”

“I know. But I just wanted to look around on my own, not as a tourist. See what winter’s like, ya know?”

“Seen enough?” He waved his hand out the front of the windshield at the huge drifts of snow and cars buried curbside in spoiler piles from graders trying to make way.

“Looks pretty tough,” I said.

“Yes, me son. Let me show you a bit.”

We drove up a hill, tires spinning and losing traction, and finally parked in a narrow, cleared space before walking a few blocks. Brian stopped and made a dramatic swing of his arm again, and pointed to a tunnel through a mountain of white.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Our business district, b’y. Go ahead on in.”

“What do you mean? Looks like a tunnel into the snow.”

“Z’it, b’y. Walk down through there and you can turn into other tunnels that reach the doors of the businesses. Gotta know which one ya needs, though.”

I stepped inside what looked like a long, white hallway, and saw dozens of other people walking in the dark passage, carrying bags and ushering along children. They were so heavily garbed many of them appeared almost as creatures lost in an Arctic wilderness. Faces were barely distinguishable under hoods and hats and scarves. I looked in a few doorways and saw weak illumination cast out onto the footprints of shoppers but I grew quickly claustrophobic and sought comfort back out in the wan light of a Maritime midday.

 

“God Guard Thee, Newfoundland.”

 

“What now, me son?”

“Can we go down to the Southside, and have a look before we go home?”

“Yes, a quick one, but first I has to make me a stop. Only be a minute.”

My mother’s youngest brother parked near an old brownstone, told me he would be right out, and left me sitting with the engine and the heater running. When he finally returned, about a half an hour later, the car filled with the smell of alcohol when he grabbed the wheel. I thought of asking if I could drive but we had only been together on one other trip and I worried as much about offending him as I did my safety. The ride to the Southside of St. John’s Harbor was uneventful, though, and I got out and walked along the docks my father had patrolled as an MP before being shipped to the European Theater of World War II. He had met my mother there in a house nearby the wharves where she lived with her three siblings and my widowed grandmother. The house was no longer standing and I did not know what I expected to see but there was a dizzying feeling of disorientation to think a chance meeting on a palisade of this remote North American port city was the encounter that led to my existence.

My two uncles, aunts, and cousins had no idea what had brought me to Newfoundland in the hard heart of winter and they were as surprised by my abrupt departure after less than a week as they were by my arrival. By the time I had returned to Michigan, I was certain Canada’s cold did not offer the life I had dreamed, though I would choose it if necessary to avoid the war. I had already hitchhiked to my first protest march in Washington and I intended to remain active in the movement to end the tragedy of Vietnam while awaiting a decision on my conscientious objector status before my hometown draft board. During my last year at the university, I ignored three induction notices to get my draft physical, and worried constantly about legal consequences.

A CO status never came in the mail from my draft board despite the fact that I felt I had built a solid case of moral, philosophical, and political resistance to the war. My best friend Gary and I, during our high school years, had been walking our factory worker neighborhood handing out anti-war pamphlets to displaced Southerners who were not exactly receptive to hearing troubling facts about their president enriching himself and his consorts as boys came home in metal caskets. My good fortune held out, though, when peace talks began in Paris and the draft ended as Henry Kissinger and representatives of Ho Chi Minh bickered over their seating assignments around a conference table. Young Americans continued dying in the rice paddies and villages were being blown up by ordnance and Vietnamese lives obliterated as the diplomats fretted over language. I was due to graduate and become draft eligible less than two months after the peace process had launched.

My goals were modest because I knew so little about the way the world truly works and I began a career as a broadcast journalist wandering between small town radio and television stations. Eventually, I made my way to major market outlets and my work gained more exposure, which led, ultimately, to time with a cable network as an on-air political analyst. My nature had always been to ask questions and that never changed from the time a Texas governor stuck his finger in my chest to lecture me after I inquired if he should not be more concerned about his drilling platforms spilling oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or to the TV debate where I confronted a future president about how he got into the National Guard and avoided combat in Vietnam. I wanted my country to be better, more honest, transparent in a manner that voters would be motivated and informed enough to make the right decisions.

We cannot ever accurately measure the value that journalism affords a democracy. While I traveled on presidential campaigns and reported on scandals like Iran-Contra, I wondered if I or any reporter ever truly reached the public. Who really listens to us? If people were processing information, and making wise choices, would America presently be confronting the potential of authoritarianism? I have written books about a deceptive president lying us into war over non-existent weapons of mass destruction and his Svengali-like political consultant who would sacrifice his country’s blood and treasure on the altar of political victory and power; I have frequently provided analyses and opinion pieces for cable news networks and national and international publications, and stood before network cameras to explain what the facts are and how they might be spun to deceive, but I have never sensed any impact from my work. I am sure other reporters experience at least some frustration from lack of perceived value to their endeavors.

The cumulative effort of journalists must surely serve to inform at least a portion of the American electorate but deception has now become a part of the craft. One network simply manufactures stories from rumors and threads of overheard conversations and delivers them to its audience as a form of political gospel. When they are ultimately challenged, their response is to shrug their editorial shoulders and say, “Never mind,” then move on to their next fantasy of pedophilic pizza joints and people waiting in downtown Dallas for a dead president to return and lead us out of the wilderness. The loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in a lawsuit seems not to have even slightly chastened these people who desire ratings and money more than a stable and prospering country in which to live.

I do not know where it stops, unless it is November of this year, but lies have destroyed confidence in the integrity of our electoral system and half the country no longer believes in the validity of the outcomes. There is likely to be more raging on the right and a level of discontent and agitation that may prompt the kind of violence that makes the January 6th insurrection look like a dust up between bullies in a schoolyard. I can write and watch and think and analyze and publish like others of my ilk, but I have no sustaining confidence any perspective I offer will make an impact. I have felt for the last decades of my writing and reporting career that I and other journalists are shouting into a howling wind that will inevitably blow us all down. Maybe too much is broken and cannot be fixed.

But is now the time to quit?

This article was originally published on Texas to the world.

James Moore is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential,” three other books on Bush and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as two novels, and a biography entitled, “Give Back the Light,” on a famed eye surgeon and inventor. His newest book will be released mid- 2023. Mr. Moore has been honored with an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his documentary work and is a former TV news correspondent who has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976.

He has been a retained on-air political analyst for MSNBC and has appeared on Morning Edition on National Public Radio, NBC Nightly News, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, CBS Evening News, CNN, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Hardball with Chris Matthews, among numerous other programs. Mr. Moore’s written political and media analyses have been published at CNN, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Guardian of London, Sunday Independent of London, Salon, Financial Times of London, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also appeared as an expert on presidential politics in the highest-grossing documentary film of all time, Fahrenheit 911, (not related to the film’s producer Michael Moore).

His other honors include the Dartmouth College National Media Award for Economic Understanding, the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television News Directors’ Association, the Individual Broadcast Achievement Award from the Texas Headliners Foundation, and a Gold Medal for Script Writing from the Houston International Film Festival. He was frequently named best reporter in Texas by the AP, UPI, and the Houston Press Club. The film produced from his book “Bush’s Brain” premiered at The Cannes Film Festival prior to a successful 30-city theater run in the U.S.

Mr. Moore has reported on the major stories and historical events of our time, which have ranged from Iran-Contra to the Waco standoff, the Oklahoma City bombing, the border immigration crisis, and other headlining events. His journalism has put him in Cuba, Central America, Mexico, Australia, Canada, the UK, and most of Europe, interviewing figures as diverse as Fidel Castro and Willie Nelson. He has been writing about Texas politics, culture, and history since 1975, and continues with political opinion pieces for CNN and regularly at his Substack newsletter: “Texas to the World.”

 

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Here Come the Steroid Games

To attribute weighty moral codes to athletes has always been a silly pastime of the judging classes and flesh admiring voyeurs. But sporting bodies, in a manner similar to the clergy, demand something called the level playing field. Fairness and fair play imply that sports people will follow various principles and rules in competition. They will, for instance, do nothing to unravel and disturb this understanding of détente between the supremely talented. We are all gifted on Olympus; may the best athlete behave in accordance with accepted practices. No need for superior sporting machinery, superior equipment, enhanced biceps, steroid-boosted bodies. To do so would upset the balance.

The historical record suggests otherwise. Spectators who barrack for an athlete or a team will not mind the odd tinkering with rules, a streak of sharp practice. The same for those playing the sports. The Fair Play principle, revered and cherished by officials and gatekeepers noisy about equitable performance on pitch and field, has become a ritualised and abused fetish, the comical effigy one salutes at big sporting carnivals even as it is being burned.

Organisations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) exist to defend these principles through drug testing, but they operate unevenly and tyrannically. They are also of questionable effect; in the undergrowth of performance is always the nagging suggestion that many athletes do participate undetected. WADA’s own estimate is that anywhere up to 40% of athletes may have taken performance-enhancing substances at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021.

Countries, seeing their sporting figures as extensions of the State and its values, have also been loose with their manipulation of fair play, subverting rules using their athletes as surrogates for national glory. To win gold at the Olympics, for instance, is to win credit with the home audience and favour for politicians and grey officials. All must therefore be done to get the result: doping, meddling, cheating. It’s all a matter of degree.

With such standards of hypocrisy at play, it is little wonder that the concept of an Enhanced Games has taken so long to make it to the planning stage. The figures involved should make participants wary, but PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel and its creator Aron D’Souza have expressed a desire to finance drug dabbling and experimentation, featuring heavily doped bipeds performing to the fullest of their juiced abilities. Five events in Australia are planned to feature the body beautiful, and the body potentially ruined: swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting, track and field, and combat.

As the site hails, “Backed by the world’s top venture capitalists, the Enhanced Games is the Olympics of the future. When 44% of athletes already use performance enhancements, it is time to safely celebrate science.” The project is adamant in stating, tersely, that, “Sports can be safer without drug testing.” That leaves the athletes free to partake in experimentation, where science can be used “for the pursuit of human excellence.”

D’Souza, an Australian, London-based lawyerly entrepreneur, knows what appeals. He derides the organisers of the Olympics, the corrupted fat cats who bag huge salaries while most athletes participate for a barely manageable pittance. “The IOC (International Olympic Committee) has effectively been a one-party state running the world of sport for 100 years,” he reasons. “And now the opposition party is here. We are ready for a fight.” He suggests a profit-sharing model for drug taking participants, with cash incentives for those breaking records.

The games sound like a pharmaceutical free for all, lubricated by venture capital, and it is by no means clear how informed consent will work in this regard. Keen to break records, and keen to avoid being institutionally excoriated and publicly shamed for doing so, is hardly a recipe for sober judgment. This is despite D’Souza’s assertion that athletes are adults with “a right to do with their body what they wish – my body, my choice; your body, your choice.” The one-party state becomes substituted by a cadre of investors, doctors and advisors, all keen on getting their results from the bodies on show.

The games proposal, argue two University of Canberra academics in the often sterile columns of The Conversation, “does not set out how the increased risk to athletes exploited for commercial gain will be managed. The games also propose to include events in which the burgeoning elite competitors are young and vulnerable, such as gymnastics and swimming, which may have serious implications for these children and their carers.”

Publicity for the events has already seen over 500 registered athletes, along with a sprinkling of Olympians. Canadian bobsledder Christina Smith, who participated in the 2002 Winter games, is a member of the event’s Athlete Commission.

James Magnussen, an Australian swimmer, Olympian, and two-time world champion in the 100m freestyle has made a very public declaration that he will “juice up”. And why not? His brain turned mushy after being told that he was the golden boy at the London Olympics in 2012. Australian sporting commentators were convinced that the swimming events he participated in were his, absurdly declaring him victorious in advance of the events. As things turned out, he was silvered and bronzed.

Formerly known as The Missile, Magnussen is keen to spend six months on a regime to “juice to the gills” in order to compete for A$1.5 million if he breaks the 50m world record. Things are already starting to sound hazy for the aspirant: “I’m going to need one of those super suits to float me, because if I get unbelievably jacked, then I’ll sink.”

Some of the critics may sound like spoilsports (well, anti-doping ones), but the relevant dangers are substantial. Are athletes in their right mind in saying yes to such a distorting diet, becoming, effectively taut assets of body and matter for venture capitalism? Given the babbling from Magnussen, distinctly not.

 

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The ballad of Julian Assange in Belmarsh Gaol starts with corrupt Interpol Red Notice

By guest columnist and longtime Assange supporter, Tess Lawrence

Interpol’s Red Notice warrant issued for Julian Assange was bloated with corruption.

One of its presidents was the notorious Jackie Selebi, former Ambassador to the United Nations for South Africa. He reigned over Interpol for the usual four years, from 2004 to 2008.

Three years later Selebi was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Interpol’s corrupt Jackie Selebi died at home. Assange may not. Oz gutless

Typically, he was out within a year, released on medical grounds. In 2015 he died at home, a luxury that might not be afforded to Assange now incarcerated in Belmarsh Prison – if America and its gutless servile client nation, Australia, have their way.

The thing is, the investigation into Selebi’s corrupt activities conducted by the since disbanded (of course) elite Scorpions Unit within the National Prosecuting Agency had already started when Selebi received the Interpol gong. That says it all.

If Interpol didn’t know Selebi was corrupt, it should have, but I happen to know they did know.

Interpol. A case of known knowns

It was not a case of known unknowns. No sirree, it was a known known.

Interpol’s Red Notices are supposed to be inviolate of political motive but in Assange’s case, it was. It continues to be thus.

In the Janusian reality of two American presidents, one of them the incumbent, staggering and swaggering into the crosshairs of criminality, breaching and compromising the nation’s security and intelligence, Uncle Sam’s espionage charges against Assange appear even more ludicrous, farcical and spurious, as well as an oblique attack on innocent Iraqi victims to divert attention from American perpetrators of murder.

Assange ‘crime’ was to expose US war crimes

Especially when Assange/Wikileaks’ only ‘crime’ was to expose US war crimes and atrocities, providing the world with categoric visual evidence and forensic proof, damning audio.

US military goons and WikiLeaks Collateral Murder video

It was as if these US military goons were down in the local downtown mall playing violent animated video games, instead of innocent human beings who they were about to deprive of both heartbeat and life itself, flouting the Geneva Convention on a number of body counts.

We witnessed for ourselves the depravity of the US war machine is all its gory, courtesy of the Apache gunsights. What did you do in the war Daddy? Why kids, I shot at innocent little children like you! But hey, don’t cry, they were only Arabs.

On July 12, 2007 in New Baghdad’s Al-Amin al-Thaniyah, during the so-called Iraqi insurgency, there was murder most foul.

Were it not for WikiLeaks or Assange, and his journalistic courage in publishing the video, we may not have ever known of the horror that visited this little village on that day; a day that still haunts those left behind to mourn and who are still trying to live with the after effects of such state sanctioned brutalism by those who once purported to be their liberators.

And yes, whither goest the United States, we go too. Australia remains a member of the Coalition of the Willing; the coalition of the killing.

Apache crew doped up on white supremacy! And meth?

Thanks to Assange, the world saw the thrill killings of mostly unarmed civilians including Reuters journalists and a good Samaritan bystander (killed whilst going to their rescue) and the severe wounding of two innocent children by a merciless army AH-64 Apache chopper crew clearly doped up on a deadly cocktail of white supremacy, racism, propaganda, testosterone and most likely psychoactive military prescribed drugs like meth and amphetamines, the latter a fave for pilots.

US Soldiers laughing as they kill

To hear the soldiers laugh as they kill is beyond macabre or any fog of war excuse. It was as if these guys were on a gang rape, jerking off together, brothers in arms as well as between the thighs. They behaved like psychopaths on a killing spree.

Collateral Murder

WikiLeaks leaked video of Civilians killed in Baghdad

 

The video humiliated the States and exposed their war crimes. It is the real reason the US wants to take out Assange, by legal means or other. It can’t handle the truth or any exposing of its hypocrisy and duplicity; especially by the likes of an Australian maverick like Assange.

The silly espionage charges against Assange for publishing the Collateral Murder video, should equally apply to ALL of us who published the video and did so voluntarily and in a considered fashion, in the public interest and for freedom of speech.

We all have our finger on Assange’s keyboard, surely. The world has a right to know. Families of victims have the right to know; just as those who are victims of the heinous Gaza-Israel war, have a right to know.

On April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released the Collateral Murder video at the US National Press Club. Why wasn’t the Club indicted?

Assange is not the criminal here. Don’t shoot the Messenger. The individuals who fired on the civilians and shot them down in cold blood – their military masters – and the government that despatched them to Iraq are the real criminals here.

What of Biden and Trump and classified documents breaches?

The facile US pursuit of Assange is particularly galling given two American presidents, one of them the incumbent, have themselves been accused of breaching security and intelligence protocols in relation to harbouring secret White House only classified documents.

Truthout’s Marjorie Cohn points out one of the may peculiarities of the Assange case:

This is the first time a publisher has been prosecuted under the Espionage Act for disclosing government secrets. In December 2022, The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel signed a joint open letter calling on the U.S. government to dismiss the Espionage Act charges against Assange for publishing classified military and diplomatic secrets. “Publishing is not a crime,” the letter says. “This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press.”

Next week, on the 20th February, there will be a two day hearing in the UK High Court to ‘determine whether Julian Assange will have further opportunities to argue his case before the UK courts or if he will have exhausted all appeals in the UK, leading to the extradition process or an application to the European Court of Human Rights.

“It’s not just Julian Assange in the dock.

Silence Assange and others will be gagged” (Julia Hall)

This week, Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter terrorism and justice in Europe wrote that:

… If Julian Assange loses the permission to appeal, he will be at risk of extradition to the US and prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917, a wartime law never intended to target the legitimate work of publishers and journalists. He could face up to 175 years in jail. On the less serious charge of computer fraud, he could receive a maximum of five years…

… If Julian Assange is extradited, it will establish a dangerous precedent wherein the US government could target for extradition publishers and journalists around the world. Other countries could take the US example and follow suit…

Australia’s political fellatio with US

No matter how appallingly the United States treats our Australian brother and citizen Julian Assange, special mention must be made of the reprehensible behaviour of successive Australian national governments, particularly Labor governments, specifically the current Labor Government led by the professed Assange empathiser, Prime Minister Anthony ‘Albo’ Albanese.

Political cowardice of Albanese

The political cowardice of the Albanese government and its continuation of the Coalition’s foreign policy of political fellatio with the US is sickening.

Australia’s diffidence to its nationals abroad is notorious. Include in that, Australians incarcerated or taken hostage overseas.

Our moral authority is non-existent. Any international standing we may have once had has long been squandered. There are few remnants. Our leaders lack leadership and political courage. The early promise of the Albanese government is fast waning.

There have been ample opportunities for the Prime Minister to consult with the US President about Assange, let alone successive UK prime ministers.

We have again become slaves to the frayed masters of the punyverse and now we are ungrown but frolic with men in long trousers, the secret Five Eyes Club. You scratch my back, I scratch your scrotum.

All these clubs, all these strategic alliances and yet Australia remains unwilling and unable to help Assange.

Time we saw Interpol Red Notice cables

It is time we saw the cables between Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States and Interpol in relation the the Assange Red Notice. Can you believe, Interpol did not post a photo of Assange on Red Notice billboard at the time?

To give you an ‘in the moment’ sense of the Red Notice, AIM Network publishes in full Lawrence’s article headlined Investigation: Interpol and Julian Assange’s Red Notice, as it was published in the US based Truthout: Investigation: Interpol and Julian Assange’s Red Notice:

Why did Julian Assange receive an Interpol Red Notice, but Gaddafi only an Orange? Tess Lawrence investigates the murky world of Interpol exclusively for IA, asking some troubling questions and uncovering some startling facts.

  • Why was Julian Assange – who has not yet been charged – given the most severe Red Notice by Interpol, when brutal dictator Muammar Gaddafi only received an Orange Notice?
  • Do senior Interpol officials have a vendetta against Wikileaks and Julian Assange?
  • Is the organisation and its Notice System fatally compromised?

What’s with the Interpol Colour Chart for the world’s most wanted?

 

 

Recidivist mass murderer Muammar Gaddafi – he of the all-girl vestal virgin Clit Squad – cops a mere clockwork Orange Notice whilst our Julian Assange of WikiLeaks – exposer of state-sanctioned killers and war crimes and who is fighting extradition to Sweden for uncharged sexual allegations – is king hit with the big ticket Red Notice. Go figure.

There’s something shonky going on in the shady world of Interpolitics. Let’s move in for a closer shufti.

Have you checked out the profiles of alleged crims who normally make the Red Notice billboard? We’re talking big-time kahuna felons here. Terrorists, mass murderers, people traffickers, drug barons and their ilk. Got the picture?

Try as I did, I just couldn’t find anyone else in the entire of Red Notice history as far down the criminal dude chain as our Julian. And, apparently, never before has Sweden requested a Red Notice based on similar circumstances and allegations. What’s more, Interpol sources say that the Red Notice posting of Julian Assange is the first and only case of its kind. Is that true Interpol?

Interpol is such a funny little secretive and paradoxical clubbette – always going on about how worthy and important it is to data sharing, preserving international security, the ongoing tumultuous fight against terrorism and corruption and the eradication of international crime by enabling all of their 188 members with the power to fight organised crime – including that well known bastion of human rights, justice and democratic egalitarianism, Libya.

Ipso facto Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the Philippines, Morocco, Sudan, Australia, Britain, the United States, Russia, India, Indonesia, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan and all of the rest of us who are guilty of hypocrisy and political expediency and who wallpaper our economies with banknotes sullied with the sweat and blood of the disenfranchised, the bullied, the defeated and the enslaved.

We dance naked before our fully clothed despotic masters and do their bidding on the pretext they do ours. Ahhh… political fellatio – a higher art form when conducted between consenting countries rather than desperate homo sapiens.

Only a matter of weeks ago, the West and its subordinates were extolling the virtues of the important geopolitical positions and posturings of the likes of dictatorial psychopaths Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gadaffi – Libya’s self-proclaimed ‘King of Africa’.

The facts that these two share the same incompetent hair colourist as Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and appear to have been dipped in formaldehyde should have given us a few clues. They’ve had so much cosmetic surgery they probably haven’t any tear ducts left. That’s why they can’t cry, for pity’s sake, and why they didn’t need all those tear gas canisters we authorised and branded with our logo.

What do we care about their peoples; our brothers and sisters; our kith and kin? Other tribes they may be – but of our own species? Well, sort of. Just. But hey, they were really losers weren’t they? Big time. They deserved the Governments they didn’t vote for. Like us.

 

Julian Assange Interpol Red Notice

 

Former Interpol President Jackie Selebi Convicted of Corruption

Just like Interpol deserved its former President… who was done for corruption, fraud and racketeering and such things. True dinks, I kid you not. Yes, the President of Interpol!

While we’re at it, I’m puzzled as to how an international agency such as Interpol could be so incompetent that it couldn’t even find a photo of Julian Assange to go with his Red Notice posting (see above). C’mon, fair suck of the fellatio sav, haven’t they heard of Google or in-your-Facebook?

Interpol remains publicly contemptuous of – and unaccountable – to the world it purports to serve.

For a start, they’re supposed to be the top guns, the crème de la crème, of information gathering sleuths, data merging, analyses and people tracking. Well, I’d like to see a group like Transparency International investigate Interpol. You know that Interpol is not supposed to do any political favours?

But I’m not convinced. Call me churlish… perhaps I’ve been inhaling too much tear gas. Or not enough!

Take the way Interpol crisis managed their corrupt President, Jackie Selebi.

In 2002, the then National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, was elected as Interpol’s Vice President – and a couple of years later, in 2004 he was voted President.

I’m assuming that Interpol would practice normal HR due diligence and conduct background checks not only on its thousands of employees worldwide but also on its elected officers.

After all, doing these checks is their forte. Surely no-one would be exempt from these basic policing protocols and security checks?

Of course, on the surface of it, Mr Selebi’s credentials were impeccable, no question. As were his connections…well, most of them. After all, he was a former head of the ANC Youth League, an MP, South Africa’s representative to the United Nations and Chair of an Anti-Landmine Conference, Chair of Justice, Crime Prevention and Security and all of that. Goodness, the man even won a Human Rights Award! (What a co-incidence, Julian Assange has won several of those too…).

On September 10, 2007, South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority issued a warrant for Selebi’s arrest. Did Interpol post a Red Notice on their President? Course not. How come he didn’t resign as President of Interpol until months later, on January 13, 2008?

And why is my feverish mind and feint heart suddenly darting over the Kenyan border and thinking of the tragic murders of human rights activists-lawyer Oscar Kamau Kingara and his assistant John Paul Oulu? Both men were gunned down in their car whilst stuck in a traffic jam near the University of Nairobi on their way to a human rights meeting. These courageous whistleblowers had refused to cower before corrupt police and political thugs—and the report they helped produce in 2008 was to result in that courage being met with even greater cowardice by their killers on March 5, 2009 and indifference by the rest of the world.

Like their brutal executions, the report The Cry of Blood – Report on Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances – and there were thousands of killings attributed to the Kenyan police – was largely ignored by Western and mainstream media. Still is. But Julian Assange and WikiLeaks grasped the significance of the Report and published it and were damned, earning Amnesty International’s New Media Award for 2009.

So, a kangaroo hop and a carjacking skip from Kenya back to South Africa. Both Interpol members. We shan’t bother joining any dots.

On July 2, 2010, after being subjected to a scathing dressing down by the Judge in South Africa’s High Court, Selebi was found guilty of corruption. He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and has since been given leave to appeal.

From the evidence submitted to the Court, it was obvious that Selebi abused his privileged position – like alerting people that they were under police surveillance—not a good look for a President of Interpol – and made preposterous assertions that he was unaware of the criminal activities of his longstanding decidedly criminal civilian associates. This from a man who was his country’s Police Commissioner and the head of Interpol. Our Interpol. The World’s Interpol.

And let us not forget that while holding dual office, Selebi was the dude who first suggested legalising prostitution—but only for the duration of the 2010 World Soccer Cup, mind you.

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Nice one Jackie. Your heart was in the right place – right behind your trouser zip. You can see why he was elected head of Interpol.

Now let’s be fair about this. Just because a President of Interpol turns out to be corrupt does not mean we should condemn the whole organisation. After all, excreta (it’s the lapsed Catholic in me) happens, to misquote Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

Interpol’s Nazi Past

And nor can you blame today’s Interpolsters for what happened years ago either. There is the Hitler connection of course. Yep. SS Excreta happened there. The organization that was the forerunner of Interpol, the International Criminal Police Commission, had a succession of four Nazi Presidents because of Germany’s annexing of Austria in 1938, though we must remember that for two of the gang of four SS Generals who headed the ICPC the Fates intervened. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, a lawyer and war criminal who replaced Richard Heydrich after he was assassinated by Patriots, was actually executed after the Nuremberg Trials for war crimes.

Not sure if this is all on the Interpol website; maybe it is, but then again, if the Assange Red Notice is anything to go by, Interpol is capable of a bit of revisionist history.

The Singaporean Connection

My sources confirm that the Lyon-based organisation is not a happy place to work in these days.

Here are just a few reasons why so, according to informants:

  • There continues to be great disquiet within Interpol about the Assange Red Notice.
  • The Assange Red Notice was distributed to all 188 Interpol member countries on November 20, 2010 – a mere 10 days after a remarkably short speech was delivered to the 79th Interpol General Assembly in Doha, Qatar by the current President of Interpol and Singapore’s former Commissioner of Police, Khoo Boon Hui. (Interpol’s bio on Khoo yet to be updated). Mr Khoo is also an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia and has a number of other international gongs, including from Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.
  • In December last year, Fairfax Media (and others) published sections of a WikiLeaks US State Department cable relating to former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim under the explosive headline in The Sunday Age: ‘Sodomy charges were a set-up’.

In an exclusive, journalists Philip Dorling and Nick McKenzie wrote:

A leaked US State Department cable reveals that Singaporean intelligence officials told their Australian counterparts that Mr Anwar engaged in the conduct of which he is accused, a claim he has steadfastly denied.

The journalists also wrote that “Australia’s Office of National Assessments (ONA) also states the conduct was the result of apparent entrapment by Mr Anwar’s enemies” and that the “…document says the Singaporeans told ONA they made this assessment on the basis of ‘technical intelligence’, which is likely to relate to intercepted communications”.

According to Dorling and McKenzie, the cable that “deals with Mr Anwar’s sodomy case” is dated November 2008 (a month after Mr Khoo formerly replaced the disgraced Jackie Selebi as President of Interpol) and “released to The Sunday Age by WikiLeaks”.

At the time, Mr Khoo was also Singapore’s Police Commissioner.

Many of the players in this complicated and ongoing saga, including Interpol, would have scores to settle with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Join your own dots.

  • But wait, there’s more. At last year’s General Assembly, in what Interpol Secretary General Ron Noble described as an “investment” but what Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani, Qatar’s Minister of State for Internal Affairs pointedly described as a “donation” on behalf of the Emir and his Heir Apparent (who said there was no succession planning in the Middle East!) it was announced that Singapore would be the happy recipient of US$2 million towards the fund set up to establish the Interpol Global Complex, housed in Singapore. That’s a bit of a coup for Singapore AND Singaporean born Interpol President Hui. (In truth, Qatar seems to have shouldered the financial and practical responsibilities for a number of Interpol-related initiatives.)
  • Incidentally, Australia’s Federal Police Chief, Tony Negus also attended the General Assembly and gave a short speech, quite rightly complaining that he was given only 10 minutes of airtime.

Interpol and Assange’s Red Notice

  • It should be noted that in the mere 11 paragraphs of Mr Hui’s closing speech, a precious singular paragraph was devoted to extolling the virtue of the Red Notices. Interpol insiders say President Hui’s reference was a primer for the Assange Red Notice bombshell and that in preparation Sweden withheld permission for the Assange Red Notice to be immediately posted online and ordered it to be held over.
  • Inexplicably it was not posted on Interpol’s website until December 1, 2010. Sort of defeats the whole purpose of the urgency of a Red Notice, dunnit? Unless it wasn’t really urgent…
  • I was told:
  • … there were several reasons for this. Firstly, there was an internal dispute about the posting of the Red Notice for Assange. Secondly, Sweden kept revising their requests; and, thirdly, our bosses wanted to do a bit of showing off. Julian Assange was a star chamber pin-up for us and the Red Notice program and the Pres wanted to highlight that at the Assembly.
  • The paperwork for the Assange Red Notice failed to comply with Interpol’s own regulations.
  • Sweden revised its requests on several more occasions.
  • The documents were incorrectly filed.
  • The Assange Red Notice was designed to compromise and damage the personal reputation of Julian Assange and cause him to be held in disrepute.
  • That there was a serious internal dispute between Interpol staff and Interpol Executives over the posting of the Assange Red Notice.
  • That the Assange Red Notice may, in fact, be defamatory because it breaches Interpol’s guidelines.
  • Further, that the tenuous and spurious requests made by Sweden to Interpol could be used as supportive evidence that Sweden and Interpol (and others) deliberately colluded to inhibit Assange’s chances of a fair trial and diminish his international public standing.
  • That Interpol has email correspondence, text and communication notes/recordings that confirm such discussion and collusion between Sweden, Australia, the United States and Interpol Executives and these materials attest to political interference by these countries and their representatives, in contravention and violation of Interpol’s own regulations.
  • That the current Secretary-General of Interpol, Ronald K. Noble is “too close” to US intelligence and remains partisan to preserving and protecting the legacy of the George W. Bush administration and that, despite his formidable qualifications, he has been in the position too long – he is now in his 11th year as Secretary General and his third term. Some of the other 188 member nations understandably want a stint in the high chair.
  • Interpol’s own rules and regulations allow for Julian Assange and his representatives to access and have copies of his Interpol files. These rules are available in a document entitled Operating Rules of the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files.
  • Informants within Interpol are fearful of being exposed but say they will be prepared to speak with an investigatory body such as Transparency International. They do not trust any of Interpol’s internal mechanisms or dispute resolution procedures.

Interpol’s Notice System is Compromised

Moreover, they are concerned that the Travel Document program – designed to fast track travel for Interpol operatives and preclude the need for Visas – can be easily abused by rogue member states and despotic regimes and their familial groupings and coterie, especially when trying to flee their countries and safeguard loot.

They cite the irony of the Orange Notice postings of Muammar Gadaffi and members of his family and close associates.

Said one operative on condition of anonymity:

Typically, these close family members and associates are nearly always in charge of security and intelligence. They are the last people in the world who should have unbridled access to international travel. But that places us in a diplomatic cleft. We need to revisit the eligibility criteria of the Travel Documents – and we need to subject card holders to more stringent security and character checks.

The Australian Government’s Shabby Treatment of Julian Assange

Despite Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s assertions that she will not be discussing the Julian Assange matter with US President Barack Obama, the word is that the Prime Minister will instead be discussing the matter with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It may be a long plane journey from the Opal Office in Australia to Washington’s Oval Office, but hopefully it gave our PM time to contemplate her unimpressive political performance thus far.

Gillard has to undertake some serious reparation work to restore her credibility both at home – and equally with supporters of The First Amendment and America’s many supporters of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Not everyone is baying for Assange’s blood. And let us not forget poor Bradley Manning.

Gillard’s preposterous and legally prejudicial inept remarks last year, condemning Assange’s activities as “illegal” will forever staple her to the marginalia of Australia’s political history. It immediately signalled to all Australia’s sons and daughters that at the first sign of any ‘trouble’ we are to be immediately abandoned by our Prime Minister and also by her obsequious and flaccid Attorney General, Robert McClelland.

Still, we should be getting used to it by now from our Governments. Think Hicks. Think Habib.

Think Van Nguyen. Think pensioners. Think indigenous. Think disabled. Think refugees and asylum seekers. Think little kids who watch their family members drown. Think elderly. Think homeless. Think unemployed. Think mentally distressed. Think defence personnel. Think parliamentary super packages. You’d think that the results of the last Federal election would have taught them that we, the people, have had the proverbial gutful. But they’ve already reverted to type.

It is time we learned from the children of the revolution.

 

Tess Lawrence is Contributing editor-at-large for Independent Australia and her most recent article is The night Porter and allegation of rape.

 

 

 

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Government must act on uni staff workplace health nightmare: union

National Tertiary Education Union Media Release

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has urged the Albanese Government to act on damning findings of a new study highlighting a workplace health crisis for university staff.

A four-year survey involving more than 6200 responses from Australian university staff has found unacceptable levels of stress, burnout, pressure and mental injuries.

Almost three quarters (73%) of professional and academic staff reported poor work environments in 2023.

More than two-thirds (67%) reported poor psychosocial safety, double the national average, while a similar amount (66%) reported suffering from burnout.

Some 43% reported extreme tiredness, anxiety or depression.

The research group was led by University of South Australia Professor Kurt Lushington, in collaboration with ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Maureen Dollard.

NTEU National President Dr Alison Barnes said universities must be compelled to prioritise staff wellbeing and safety.

“The damning findings of this major study highlight a sector in crisis, with lives at risk from unsafe working environments,” she said.

“The Universities Accord must address this life-and-death issue with decisive steps that put the onus back on universities to ensure safe working environments.

“Incredibly high levels of stress, exhaustion and mental distress must sound alarm bells for vice-chancellors all across Australia.

“Failures to protect staff will result in some of Australia’s most brilliant minds leaving our sector, which would put the nation’s future at risk.

“The union’s own research has explored these issues, with similar findings about the shockingly high levels of psychosocial hazards faced by university staff.

“The NTEU urges Education Minister Jason Clare to make improving staff wellbeing a core part of the government’s response to the Accord.”

 

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First report on paediatric palliative care in Australia gives snapshot of impact and need

The Paediatric Palliative Care National Action Plan Project has achieved another first in Australia’s care and support of children, young people, and their loved ones living with life-limiting illness.

“For the first time we have data on the delivery of specialist paediatric palliative care in Australia,” say Professor Meera Agar, Chair, Palliative Care Australia (PCA).

“While it’s important to acknowledge the positive impact the sector is having for families and communities, for the very first time, through collaboration and goodwill, we can clearly see the gaps and need to be addressed.”

Data from across state and territory borders has been brought together and analysed for the first time by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Drawing on the experiences of the estimated 654 children that died in 2021 with a life limiting illness.

Key findings include:

  • Only 46% of all children who died in 2021 with a life-limiting condition received specialist paediatric palliative care – 301 children.
  • 7 in 8 children died in the family’s end of life location goal.
  • Children from regional and remote areas tended to not live as long and die at a younger age than children from major cities.
  • Children with non-cancer diagnoses were more likely to be from disadvantaged areas than children with cancer diagnoses.
  • Children lived an average of 150km away from specialist palliative care.
  • One in 3 children were engaged with a palliative care team for less than 1 month.
  • Genetic and neurological conditions were more common in infants, while cancer was more common among all other children.

“To improve the accessibility and quality of paediatric palliative care in Australia, robust data is needed,” Prof Agar says.

“This new report from AIHW is so important to the next phase of the project and will help government at every level direct investment and resources in targeted ways.”

The Paediatric Palliative Care National Action Plan Project is a collaboration between Palliative Care Australia and Paediatric Palliative Care Australia and New Zealand and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.

The Action Plan itself was launched in 2023 by Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney and outlines 18 recommendations including measures that deal with quality, access, information sharing, collaboration, data, and research.

“PCA and the sector more broadly will take some time to review this AIHW report and consider next steps for the sector and our advice to government,” Prof Agar says.

“But it’s clear we have some work to do when 54% of children with a life limiting illness (2021) missed out on specialist paediatric palliative care, and one third of children were only referred one month before death.

“Palliative care is focused on making the most out of the life people have left, and when you are dealing with the tragedy of children and young people with a life limiting illness every moment is precious.”

The full report ‘Specialist paediatric palliative care delivered to children who died in 2021’ is available from the AIHW website.

 

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When Courts Intervene: Halting the Transfer of F-35 Parts to Israel

Legal challenges regarding the Israel-Gaza War are starting to bulk lawyers’ briefs and courtroom proceedings. South Africa got matters underway with its December application before the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide in its campaign against the Palestinians. While determining whether genocide has taken place, the ICJ issued an interim order warning Israel to prevent genocidal acts, preserve evidence relevant to the prosecution of any such acts, and ease the crushing restrictions on humanitarian aid.

In the United States, a valiant effort was made in the US District Court for the Northern District of California to restrain the Biden administration from aiding Israel’s war efforts. The application, filed by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, argued that President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, had made genocidal conditions possible “because of unconditional support given [to Israel] by the named official-capacity defendants in this case.”

The troubled judge, while citing the convention that foreign policy could not be the subject of a court’s jurisdiction, nonetheless implored President Biden and his officials to observe the obligations of the UN Genocide Convention. As justice Jeffrey S. White declared, “the undisputed evidence before this Court comports with the finding of the ICJ and indicates that the current treatment of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military may plausibly constitute a genocide in violation of international law.”

A Dutch appeals court in The Hague has further added its name to this growing list of interventions. Judge Bas Boele, in siding with the human rights groups making the application including Oxfam Novib, had no such quibbles with questioning government policy towards Israel and the shipping of parts vital for the F-35 fighter. While the Netherlands does not assemble or produce the F-35, it houses at least one storage facility at Woensdrecht, where US-made components are stored for shipping to various countries.

Despite the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which commenced after the attacks by Hamas militants on October 7, 2023 on Israel, the Dutch government had not discontinued deliveries under a permit granted in 2016. This is despite the monumentally lethal nature of a war that has left 28,100 Palestinians dead, and the decision by the ICJ.

The lower court had, in a similar vein to their US counterparts, adopted the position that decisions regarding export permits of weapon components tended to be of a political and policy nature, warranting wide executive latitude. The judge duly held that the Minister of Foreign Trade and Cooperation had weighed up the relevant interests in the case in deciding to continue with the exports.

Such an artificial distinction – one that finds political acts that may lead to complicity in genocide armoured, if not above legal challenge – was not persuasive to the higher court. “It is undeniable that there is a clear risk that the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law,” the appeals court found. “Israel does not take sufficient account of the consequences for the civilian population when conducting its attacks.” Such attacks had “resulted in a disproportionate number of civilian casualties [in Gaza].”

It followed that, “The Netherlands is obliged to prohibit the export of military goods if there is a clear risk of serious violations of international humanitarian law.” The export and transit of all F-35 parts with Israel as their final destination would cease within seven days.

In responding to the ruling, Oxfam Novib Executive Director Michiel Servaes called it “an important step to force the Dutch government to adhere to international law, which the Netherlands has strongly advocated for in the past. Israel has just launched an attack against the city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population are sheltering, the Netherlands must take immediate steps.”

Immediate steps have been duly taken, but not along the lines advocated by Oxfam; the Dutch government is appealing to the country’s Supreme Court to return to the status quo. It was always likely to happen and was timed with the February 12 visit by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Israel and the Palestinian territories. “In the government’s view,” went the official statement, “the distribution of American F-35 parts is not unlawful. The government believes it is up to the State to its [sic] determine foreign policy.”

The statement also goes on to reveal the sheer scope of the F-35 supply program and its relevance to the Dutch defence industry. Whatever the humanitarian considerations about the devastation caused by Israel’s F-35 fighters, no participant wants to miss out. “The government will do everything it can to convince allies and partners that the Netherlands remains a reliable partner in the F-35 project and in European and international defence cooperation.”

Being part of the program was also vital to the country’s own security, and that of Israel’s “in particular with regard to threats emanating from the region, for instance from Iran, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.”

The Palestinian civilians hardly figure in these considerations, though Gaza warrants the briefest of mentions. “The Netherlands continues to call for an immediate temporary humanitarian ceasefire, and for as much humanitarian aid as possible to be allowed to reach the suffering people of Gaza. The situation is extremely serious. It is clear that international humanitarian law applies in full and Israel, too, must abide by it.” As, indeed, Israel implausibly claims to be doing so, even as the starving continues and the graves fill.

 

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Can AI write laws? Lawyer puts ChatGPT to the test

A Charles Darwin University (CDU) academic has answered one of the modern-day legal world’s most burning questions: Can Artificial Intelligence (AI) write laws?

New research by CDU Associate Professor Guzyal Hill put ChatGPT to the test by asking it to compare, analyse and produce domestic violence legislation, exploring the quality of its legal draft work alongside the Australian Law Council.

Given the complexity of domestic violence as a deeply human issue and the growing prevalence of AI, it was a natural next step for Associate Professor Hill to explore if the technology could develop successful recommendations and legislation.

“Domestic violence represents a complex human problem, with up to 50 women dying every year in Australia alone,” Associate Professor Hill said.

“The federal, state and territory governments introduced the joint National Plan to end violence against women and children within one generation. Can ChatGPT help in producing a high-quality definition of domestic violence?”

“After running several tests and comparing with the definition produced by the Australian Law Council, the answer is ‘not yet’ – human drafting is still superior. ChatGPT, however, was very useful in classifying and identifying underlying patterns of types of domestic violence.

“For non-lawyers, ChatGPT and similar LLMs should never be used for legal advice. A lot of ChatGPT references include the US law. Law in Australia is simply different, not even talking about differences between, say, Queensland and South Australia. I have noticed ChatGPT now includes a disclosure that it cannot provide legal advice.”

Associate Professor Hill, a lawyer and former legislative drafter, said given the prevalence of AI, more research was needed to explore its place in the legal profession.

“For lawyers and law students, AI is an area where we must upskill,” Associate Professor Hill said.

“Eluding or ignoring AI has many unpredictable drawbacks and at least several predictable dangers, such as making major mistakes in misuse of AI; missing an opportunity to lead the debate on the development of law with the emergence of AI; and allowing experts from other fields to develop solutions that do not consider fundamental human rights or contradict foundational principles of rule of law.

“Without any doubt, AI poses serious risks and threats if used unchecked. Lawyers and law students should treat AI in a way that is practical, cautious, and yet curious. At this point, AI systems are an augmentation of human acuity rather than an abrogation of legal analysis and reasoning. We, as lawyers, have an opportunity to inhabit this new AI domain with the potential to transform law and the way we approach law globally.”

 

Charles Darwin University legal academic Associate Professor Guzyal Hill explored if ChatGPT could write domestic violence legislation.

 

 

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Feathery Infiltrators: The Case of the Pigeon Spy

Animals have, at times, been given the same dismissively nasty treatment humans love giving themselves. Be it detention, torture, trial, and execution, the unwitting creatures can be found in the oddest situations, anthropomorphised with all the characteristics of will, thought and intention. By way of ghastly example, the Norman city of Falaise hosted the execution of a pig in 1386 for having “indulged in the evil propensity of eating infants on the streets”, and sentenced to maiming in the heat and forelegs prior to hanging.

A field where such a matter has, and continues to crop up, is espionage. Espionage, that very human, unsavoury and often dangerous endeavour, has seen a number of animals enlisted in the cause. Unasked and no doubt unbriefed, various species have been thrown into wars, conflicts and disagreements, all the cause of humankind, to provide advantage or gain for one party or another.

We know of such programs as the Central Intelligence Agency’s “Project Acoustic Kitty”, which ran for five years in the 1960s and cost $20 million without much to show for it. The feline android-hybrid, which possessed an antenna under its fur and mic in its ear, failed to perform. Acoustic Kitty, on being driven to a designated park with the task of capturing the conversation of two men on a bench, proceeded to wander into the street, where it was promptly crushed by a taxi. “Our final examination of trained cats,” concludes a CIA memo on the subject, “convinced us that the program would not lend itself in a practical sense to our highly specialized needs.”

Of all the animals featured in the intelligence inventory, one stands out. The pigeon featured heavily in both World Wars, an inconspicuous, small creature ideal in performing various tasks. Messages can be delivered surreptitiously in conditions of disrupted communications. Pictures and images can be taken by cameras affixed to the bird, unbeknownst to human agents on the ground. “Of the hundreds of thousands of carrier pigeons sent through enemy fire, 95% completed their missions,” the International Spy Museum informs us. “Pigeons continued brave service worldwide through the 1950s, earning more medals of honor than any other animal.”

Most recently, the pigeon as spy agent featured again. Reports on the bird in question imputed a degree of sentience and awareness nothing less than human. The humans in question, though, seemed positively cloddish. It began in May, when the bird was captured near a port in Mumbai. Its legs sported two rings, carrying a chip and supposedly cursive Chinese writing. Must be a case of espionage, thought the local police. A spell of detention followed, largely spent with the Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

As things transpired, suspicions of espionage proved unfounded. The three-month investigation found that the bird had escaped from Taiwan, where it had performed as an open-water racer. The activist organisation PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was outraged, as well it should have been. “A pigeon who was detained in a veterinary hospital in India for eight months on suspicion of being used for spying is flying free once more, thanks to help from PETA India.”

It would have been difficult keeping a straight face on hearing the following from PETA India’s Meet Ashar. “PETA India handles 1,000 calls a week of animal emergencies, but this was our first case of a suspected spy who needed to be freed of wrongful imprisonment.”

Despite this finding, a fellow of the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation, Sana Hashmi, thought a serious reflection was in order. “This episode underscores India’s increased efforts to counter Chinese espionage attempts. This suspicion extends to the point where even birds, reminiscent of past experiences with bird spies involving Pakistan, are perceived as potential tools of Chinese espionage.”

The subcontinental obsession with pigeon espionage is an enduring one. In October 2016, we find the Pakistani paper, The Frontier Star, reporting that three people were apprehended that month at Vikram chowk in Jammu city in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Why? They were found carrying some 150 pigeons kept in banana boxes.

Accusations of animal cruelty followed. The birds were then transferred to an NGO Save Animals Value Environment (SAVE), whose chairman, Rumpy Madan, took a deep interest into why some of the pigeons had special magnetic rings attached to them. The matter was then taken to the intelligence agencies, where intelligence seemed in short supply. “We have been told,” stated Madan at the time, “that it is a case of apprehended danger.” These birds, she went on to say, “can be easily trained for spying or messaging purposes and they have a unique quality of returning to its trainer even after covering huge distances.”

With such heaped-upon praise, and clumsy reasoning – is the pigeon really spying if ignorant of it? – we should hardly be surprised about absurd reports that same month of a grey pigeon being “arrested” by India’s border security force (BSF) in Indian Punjab. The feathered intruder was duly accused for allegedly spying for Pakistan. It had in its possession, allegedly, a small letter in Urdu with a threatening message to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “Modi, we’re not the same people from 1971. Now each and every child is ready to fight against India.” The pigeon was duly punished: its wings were clipped to prevent it returning.

 

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