United States drones kill Australian, New Zealander in Yemen


This video is called Drone attacks in Yemen mostly hit civilians.

By Tom Peters:

Australian, New Zealand citizens killed by US drone strike in Yemen

17 April 2014

The Australian reported yesterday that five people, including Australian citizen Christopher Harvard and dual Australian-New Zealand citizen Muslim bin John, were the victims of an extra-judicial killing by a US Predator drone in Yemen on November 19 last year. This is the first reported instance of Australians and New Zealanders being murdered by a drone.

According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 504 people have been killed since 2002 by American drone strikes in Yemen. This includes at least three US citizens: Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. The Obama administration has greatly expanded the “targeted killing” program and asserted the right to kill anyone, in any part of the world, including US citizens.

Following yesterday’s revelations, Washington’s close allies in Canberra and Wellington both indicated their full support for the assassination of their own citizens. This sets a dangerous new precedent in the assault on democratic rights by Australian and New Zealand governments, both outside and within their own countries.

The Australian’s report stated that the primary targets were three “militants,” including Abu Habib, allegedly a leading figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and former associate of Osama bin Laden.

A “senior counter-terrorism source” told the paper that US authorities notified Australian officials after the drone strike, saying the Australian and NZ citizens were “collateral damage.” The same source described the men as “foot soldiers” for AQAP and said there was “a suggestion they were involved in kidnapping Westerners for ransom.” No evidence has been produced to substantiate these claims.

Harvard’s stepfather Neil Dowrick told the paper that his son went to Yemen in 2011 “to teach English.” The family was only informed of his assassination in December. His grandmother, Jeanette Harvard, said she had “heard three different stories” from government agencies about how her grandson was killed. She said the government told the family they would have to pay $40,000 to repatriate her grandson’s remains.

A spokesperson for Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the paper that she was “briefed on the situation last year” but so far no government minister has commented in public….

Bishop’s Department of Foreign Affairs today defended the drone strike. A spokesperson told Fairfax Media that being an Australian citizen was “not a protection” for people “engaging in potentially criminal activity overseas.”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key described the assassination as “legitimate … given that three of the people killed were well known al-Qaeda operatives.” In other words, both governments accept and are complicit in Washington’s lawless operations—killing anyone it likes, without any semblance of due legal process, on mere suspicion of criminality.

In a chilling editorial today, the Australian fully endorsed the drone strike program, brushing aside the deaths of bin John and Harvard as “regrettable.” It admitted that “many” of the 3,300 people killed by drones in Pakistan and Yemen were “non-combatant civilians” but justified the murders on the basis that they prevented “the terrorists from committing even more atrocities.”

The Australian and New Zealand governments have not explained why the drone strike was kept secret from the public until now. Both claim that they had no prior knowledge of, or involvement in the strike, but this is highly unlikely. Australian and New Zealand intelligence agencies were undoubtedly informed, if not directly involved.

Last July, Fairfax Media revealed that Washington was “critically dependent” on the joint US-Australian spy base Pine Gap to pinpoint targets for drone assassinations in the Middle East. According to the reports, based on leaked information, there were “personnel sitting in airconditioned offices in central Australia directly linked, on a minute-by-minute basis, to US and allied military operations in Afghanistan and, indeed, anywhere else across the eastern hemisphere.”

Key yesterday told the media he was aware of bin John’s presence in Yemen last year and had personally signed a warrant for NZ’s spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), to monitor him. Key claimed—without providing any evidence—that bin John had attended “some sort of terrorist training camp.”

The revelation that the GCSB was monitoring bin John before he was killed raises the question of whether they provided intelligence to their US counterparts, thus making the Key government an accomplice in the murder of its own citizen. Australia and New Zealand are part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance, which includes the US, Britain and Canada.

Until last August it was illegal for the GCSB to spy on NZ citizens and residents, but the law was changed—in the face of overwhelming public opposition—after a government-ordered review found that the agency had illegally spied on more than 85 people. The government can now lawfully spy on anyone it likes. It is not clear whether bin John was monitored before or after the law change.

Key used the revelations of the drone assassination to justify broadening the intelligence agency’s powers, telling reporters that it “shows … the things that I have been saying for quite some time—that we need our intelligence agencies to track our people, that there are New Zealanders who go and put themselves in harm’s way—have all been proven to be correct.”

New Zealand Green Party co-leader Russel Norman criticised Key for “saying it’s OK for foreign governments to execute New Zealanders offshore if they have beliefs about those New Zealand citizens holding views the US government doesn’t like.”

US drone strike kills 3 civilians in Yemen: here.

Here’s What Drone Attacks in America Would Look Like: here.

Over 400 American drones have crashed since 2001, according to a Washington Post expose.

CIA in Yemen: here.

Former Australian Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has been given prominent coverage in the Fairfax-owned press for his view that Australia should revise its interpretation of the ANZUS alliance with America, shut down US bases, including the crucial communications base at Pine Gap in central Australia, and end the stationing of US marines in Darwin: here.

Saving New Zealand skinks


This video from New Zealand is about Otago skinks.

From Wildlife Extra:

Endangered skinks collected in NZ for breeding

Eighty-five endangered grand and Otago skinks have been collected near Wanaka in New Zealand as part of a as part of a breed-for-release programme

Ongoing decline in western grand and Otago skink populations has prompted the Department of Conservation (DOC) and several other agencies to collect the skinks from their Grandview Range habitat in the Lindis. The skinks will be housed temporarily at zoos, wild life parks and eco-sanctuaries throughout New Zealand, as part of a breed-for-release programme.

“This programme aims to increase numbers of both species so they can be released back into secure sites within their former range,” Grand and Otago Skink Project Manager Gavin Udy said. “It is a great example of conservation agencies and individuals working together to ensure the ongoing survival of an iconic, unique and endangered New Zealand species,”

Grand and Otago skinks are two of New Zealand’s most distinctive and impressive lizards. Known as giant skinks, they are the country’s largest lizards, with Otago skinks growing up to 300mm in length and grand skinks 230mm.

These omnivorous lizards are diurnal, and don’t hibernate. They can live for up to 20 years in the wild, and give birth to live young – two or three a year. Both species are unique to Otago and are two of New Zealand’s rarest reptiles. They are now found in only eight percent of their former range and have the highest possible threat status, ‘Nationally Critically Endangered‘.

Enhanced by Zemanta

New Zealand Subantarctic conservation


This video says about itself:

Sail south from New Zealand on board the Spirit of Enderby and experience the beauty of the Subantarctic Islands, a birding and wildlife paradise full of unexpected delights.

From Wildlife Extra:

Subantarctic marine reserves get Parliament’s approval

February 2014: Proposed legislation protecting three large marine reserves in the Subantarctic Islands is almost complete is about to become law, the New Zealand Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith announced. It is expected the new marine reserves will then take effect at a formal ceremony on Campbell Island on 2 March.

These three marine reserves expand the proportion of New Zealand’s territorial sea that is protected from 7.1 per cent to 9.5 per cent, and almost the target of 10 per cent, set the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

“This new law, when enacted, will create 435,000 hectares of new marine reserves surrounding the Antipodes, Bounty and Campbell Islands in New Zealand’s remote Subantarctic Ocean. The significance of these three new reserves is their huge size, near pristine state and remoteness. Their marine reserve status means there can be no fishing, no mining and no petroleum exploration within the protected areas,” Dr Smith said.

WWF-NZ welcomed the creation of these marine reserves as a positive step but warned that a comprehensive plan for marine protection in New Zealand waters is needed.

“Legislation to set up a comprehensive marine spatial plan for looking after our oceans should be a priority for this Government and whoever is in power for the next term,” said WWF-NZ Head of Campaigns Peter Hardstaff.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Rare blue whales near New Zealand


This video is called BBC Planet Earth (Blue whale).

From the New Zealand Herald:

Giants of the sea: Blue whales spotted in NZ

11:51 AM Monday Feb 3, 2014

Rare blue whales have been spotted off the coast of the North Island by NIWA scientists.

The whales, the world’s largest animal, remain one of the planet’s most elusive creatures.

They were intensively hunted in the Southern Hemisphere during the whaling era, dramatically reducing their numbers.

The creatures were spotted by scientists on a research expedition in the South Taranaki Bight led by NIWA marine ecologist Dr Leigh Torres.

The group is aiming to collect data to increase understanding of the blue whale population in the region. The team has observed nearly 50 blue whales in the past week.

“It is very exciting to see these whales and start the process of collecting important data on this undescribed population and poorly understood foraging habitat,” Dr Torres said.

“In addition to finding the whales, we were able to detect their prey visually on the surface and at-depth using hydro-acoustics.”

Dr Torres last year published a scientific paper that discussed the possibility of a blue whale foraging ground in the Bight.

Her research showed the presence of blue whales in the area was greater than expected. An increase in reported sightings was also linked to a prominent upwelling system that generates large clouds of plankton – perfect for blue whales to feed on.

It was previously thought the whales were only travelling through New Zealand waters while migrating.

Blue whales need to eat vast amounts of plankton to support their energy demands. But there are just four confirmed blue whale foraging grounds in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Antarctic waters,” Dr Torres said.

Pygmy blue whales migrating from Perth to Indonesia: here.

Enhanced by Zemanta