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.”

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

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Canadian punk rockers D.O.A. tour Australia


This is a music video of the D.O.A. song Police Brutality.

By Chris Peterson in Australia:

Canadian punk veterans DOA hit Australia one last time

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Veteran Canadian punk band DOA have set sail for Australia for one final tour this month. Formed in 1978, Henry Rollins described the band as “live they were monumental, change your life, blow away time … They came to town and we were like WOW!”

DOA’s slogan has been “Talk minus Action equals Zero” and the band has been active on many issues, including anti-racism, anti-globalisation, freedom of speech, and the environment.

In 2003, founding member Joe “Shithead” Keithley released his autobiography, I, Shithead: A Life in Punk.

The tour starts on April 24, the day before ANZAC Day when Australia commemorates invading another nation. Much of DOA’s work is about ending war and militarism. Keithley told Green Left Weekly: “It’s always important for artists to stand up against violence. I would rather talk to somebody for an endless amount up time than start up some sort of violent action.”

DOA have been touring for more than 35 years and survived a number of pretty nasty US governments, such as Ronald Reagan and two Bushs. Keithley says the secret is “a lot of gaffer tape and beer!”

“But seriously,” he added, “it’s been a spirit of camaraderie and purpose and that purpose is trying to change the world into a better place. TALK minus ACTION equals ZERO.”

More recently, Keithley has run for office: “My mandate is to try and get people to have a lot more to say in our political system. That and education for all — education should be a right not a privilege.”

DOA has been very influential and often helped other bands to get a start, especially via their record company, Sudden Death Records.

Keithley offers this advice to musicians on swimming against the stream: “It’s real basic. Stick to your guns, play what you want to play, don’t worry about what is perceived as being popular. If you stay together long enough and you’re any good, people will eventually figure it out!”

Tour dates:
– Thursday April 24th
The Evelyn, Fitzroy
– Friday April 25th
The Basement, Belconnen (Canberra)
– Saturday April 26th
Hermann’s Bar, Sydney
– Sunday April 27th
Prince of Wales, Brisbane

Visit thedrunkpromoter.com for further information.

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Fort Hood shooting and mental illness in the United States military


This video is called Australian Army PTSD Documentary – Casualties Of War – Part 1.

And here is Part 2.

And here is Part 3.

By Jerry White in the USA:

Ft. Hood shooting highlights mental illness crisis in US military

4 April 2014

In the latest outburst of violence in the US, an army soldier who had been deployed to Iraq and was under psychiatric care for possible post-traumatic stress shot and killed three military personnel at the Fort Hood post in Texas and wounded 16 others Wednesday before turning the gun on himself.

According to law enforcement and military sources, the gunman was 34-year-old Army Specialist Ivan Lopez. A native of Puerto Rico, Lopez was a member of the island’s National Guard from 1999 to 2008. He was deployed in 2007 as part of a multinational force in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula for 13 months before joining the active duty Army in 2008 as an infantry soldier. According to a military spokesman, Lopez was sent on his second deployment to Iraq as a truck driver for four months in 2011.

Lopez reportedly arrived at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas in February after transferring from Ft. Bliss in El Paso. He moved into an apartment with his wife and young daughter a little more than a week before the shooting.

In a press briefing Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said the soldier suffered from “mental issues,” was on medication and was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “He was undergoing behavioral health, psychiatric treatment for depression and anxiety and a variety of other psychological and psychiatric issues,” Milley said. “He was not diagnosed, as of today, with PTSD, he was undergoing a diagnosis process to determine if he had PTSD. That is a lengthy process.”

Describing what was known about the shooting, Milley said at around 4 p.m. local time the gunman “walked into one of the unit buildings, opened fire, got into a vehicle, fired from [the] vehicle, got out of the vehicle, walked into another building, opened fire again and was engaged by local law enforcement here at Fort Hood.”

Milley said a female officer confronted Lopez in a parking lot near the second building. He approached the officer but stopped about 20 feet from her and put his hands up. Then, Milley said, the gunman reached into his jacket and pulled out his weapon. As the officer opened fire, the man shot himself in the head.

A soldier told local news outlet KENS 5 that Lopez fired about 20 rounds outside near the transportation motor pool and then went into the medical brigade building, where more bursts of gunshots were fired after an apparent standoff. Milley said there was no indication of an argument at the WTU, the so-called Warrior Transition Command where wounded, ill and injured soldiers are “taught resilience skills,” according to CNN.

Authorities say there is no indication that Lopez was targeting specific soldiers. The wounded include eight men and one woman, according to local news reports, ranging in ages from their early 20s to mid 40s. Most have gunshot wounds or injuries from shrapnel debris.

The military was quick to announce that Lopez did not see combat in Iraq. His records “show no wounds, no direct involvement in combat … or any injury that might lead us to further investigate battle-related TBI (traumatic brain injury),” Army Secretary John McHugh told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. However, Lt. Gen. Milley said Lopez “self-reported” suffering a traumatic brain injury while deployed, according to a CNN report.

Fort Hood was the scene of a mass shooting in November 2009 when Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 people. Hasan, the son of Palestinian immigrant parents, worked as a liaison between wounded soldiers and the psychiatric staff at the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC, where he turned hostile to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was vilified as a “terrorist” by the Obama administration and convicted and sentenced to death by a military tribunal in August.

Two years later, authorities arrested an AWOL army private, Naser Jason Abdo, after he bought gunpowder, shotgun shells and a handgun from the same gun shop outside the base where Hasan (and later Lopez) bought their weapons. The police said Abdo was plotting to attack a restaurant popular with Ft. Hood personnel.

The eruption of violence at military bases, like throughout all of American society, has become more commonplace. In September 2013, a dozen people were shot dead and at least 14 others injured when a gunman opened fire on military and civilian employees at the Washington Navy Yard, located in southeast Washington, DC. Police shot and killed the gunman, 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, a civilian contractor for the Navy from Fort Worth, Texas.

President Obama made predictable and perfunctory comments after the latest shooting, telling reporters at an impromptu appearance inside the Chicago Cut Steakhouse, “Obviously, this reopens the pain of what happened at Fort Hood five years ago,” he said. “We know these families. We know their incredible service to our country and the sacrifices that they make.”

In fact, the unceasing wars by the United States have left a large portion of the 2.2 million soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 psychologically damaged and suffering from alcohol and drug abuse, and suicidal tendencies, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. A June 2012 NAMI report on military personnel, veterans and their families states that one in five active duty service members experienced symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTS), depression and other mental health problems.

Rates of PTS in veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars range from 5 to 37 percent, while rates of depression were found to be as high as 27 percent. The Veterans Administration has treated more than 400,000 of these veterans for mental health problems, but tens of thousands of others go untreated.

The current wars have involved longer and more frequent deployments than at any other time since the military became an all-volunteer force in 1973. Military suicide is a “national crisis,” the report declares, with one active duty soldier taking his or her own life every 36 hours and one veteran every 80 minutes—or more than 20 a day.

Suicide has also increased within the National Guard and Reserve, the NAMI report notes, “even among those who have never been officially ‘activated’ and are not eligible for care through the Veterans’ Administration.”

Drug abuse, including prescription drugs, increased from 5 percent in 2005 to 12 percent in 2008. Drug or alcohol abuse was involved in one-third of the Army suicide deaths from 2003 to 2009, the report notes.

These and other malignant problems in the US military, including domestic violence and sexual abuse, are inevitable given the horrors that soldiers have witnessed or participated in. There is a vast gulf between the government and media promotion of soldiers as selfless heroes and liberators and the daily realities of the colonial-style wars and occupations, in which they are involved in the bloody suppression of hostile populations.

The mayhem at Ft. Hood is the latest and tragically will not be the last example of the collateral damage inflicted by American imperialism, which has not only perpetrated unspeakable crimes on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq but left American society itself deeply scarred.

The author also recommends:

Sexual violence and abuse in the US military
[22 March 2014]

Why the Fort Hood shooter was able to purchase a gun despite serious mental health issues: here.

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Australian Prime Minister hates national parks


This video is called Wonders of Australia’s National Parks, 1 of 3: Riches of Deserts and Wetlands.

Australian right wing Prime Minister Tony Abbott is very chummy with equally right wing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; especially when they together promote militarism.

However, while the Japanese Abe administration recently at least proclaimed one new national park, Abbott looks like he wants to out-Abe Abe in a race ever more to the extreme right.

From Wildlife Extra:

Australian PM outrages with anti national parks stance

March 2014: The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared he will not support the creation of any new national parks in Australia and that the country has quite enough, despite the fact that they cover just four per cent of Australia.

Speaking at the ForestWorks dinner in Canberra Tony Abbott said he was committed to supporting the Tasmanian logging timber industry and that too many of Australia’s forests are “locked up”.

“We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. Why should we lock up as some sort of World Heritage sanctuary, country that has been logged, degraded or planted for timber?”

Abbott also reaffirmed his commitment to removing part of Tasmania‘s forest from World Heritage listing, made under the forest peace deal. This is the first time a government has ever sought to delist a World Heritage area when its heritage values are still intact. The forest is home to areas, like the Weld, Styx and Upper Florentine Valleys, and the World Heritage Committee has already rigorously assessed these places as being of Outstanding Universal Value to all of us who inhabit the planet.

“Getting that 74,000 hectares out of World Heritage Listing, it’s still going to leave half of Tasmania protected forever,” said Abbott. “But that will be an important sign to you, to Tasmanians, to the world, that we support the timber industry.”

His attack has not surprisingly provoked anger among conservationists.

“Tony Abbott has blown it with that call,” said William Laurance, a professor at James Cook University and director of ALERT, the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers. “Australia has some of the world’s most desperately endangered ecosystems and species, which direly need better protection.“

As an example, the scientists cite the mountain ash forests of Victoria, which have been devastated by over-logging and fires, with just 1.2 per cent of the old-growth forest remaining. “The Leadbeater’s possum relies entirely on these old-growth forests and is critically endangered,” said Corey Bradshaw, a professor at the University of Adelaide. “There’s a dire need to create a new national park for this iconic species and ecosystem.”

The scientists say the Prime Minister’s actions will hurt Australia’s reputation. “Australia is hosting the World Park Congress this year,” said Laurance. “If a relatively wealthy country like Australia won’t protect its environment, what kind of message does that send globally?”

Tony Abbott warned anew to repeal part of Racial Discrimination Act: here.

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Australian fairy-wrens co-operative breeding study


Red-winged fairy wren male

From the Journal of Animal Ecology:

The role of social environment on parental care: offspring benefit more from the presence of female than male helpers

Summary

Investment in offspring depends on the costs and benefits to the carer, which can vary with sex and social status. Investment also depends on the effort of others by allowing for compensation (load-lightening), with biparental care studies showing that this depends on the state and type of the other carer. By contrast, studies on cooperative breeders have solely focussed on the effects of group size rather than its composition (i.e. social environment).

Here we propose and provide the first test of the ‘Social Environment’ hypothesis, that is, how the characteristics (here the sex) of other helpers present in the group affect parental care and how this in turn affects offspring fitness in cooperatively breeding red-winged fairy-wrens (Malurus elegans).

Breeders provisioned nestlings at a higher rate than helpers, but there was no sex difference in provisioning rate. Compensation to increasing group size varied little with sex and status, but strongly depended on social environment. All group members reduced their provisioning rates in response to an increasing number of male (load-lightening), but not female helpers (additive care).

As a result, nestlings received more food and grew faster in the presence of female helpers. The increased nestling growth did convey a fitness advantage due to a higher post-fledging survival to adulthood.

Our study provides the first evidence that parental care can depend on social environment. This could be an important overlooked aspect to explain variation in parental care in cooperative breeders in general and in particular the enormous variation between the sexes, which we reveal in a literature overview.

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Australian marsupial species discovered, killing itself by sex


This video from Australia is called Queensland: The suicidal mating routine of the male marsupial antechinus.

From Reuters:

Scientists Discover New Marsupial That Has Sex Until It Dies

02/21/2014 10:59 am EST

SYDNEY, Feb 20 – Australian scientists have discovered a new species of marsupial, about the size of a mouse, which conduct marathon mating sessions that often prove fatal for the male.

The Black-Tailed Antechinus has been found in the high-altitude, wet areas of far southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales.

It is identifiable by a very shaggy coat and an orangey-brown coloured rump which ends with a black tail.

But it’s their strenuous mating sessions, which can last for to 14 hours, with both the males and females romping from mate to mate, that is most striking about the animals.

“It’s frenetic, there’s no courtship, the males will just grab the females and both will mate promiscuously,” Andrew Baker, head of the research team from the Queensland University of Technology who made the discovery, told Reuters.

The mating season lasts for several weeks and the males will typically die from their exertions.

Excessive stress hormones in the males that build up during the mating season degrade their body tissue, leading to death. Females have the ability to block the production of the hormone.

The species was found at the highest peak of the World-Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforests, in Springbrook National Park in Queensland, about 900 km (560 miles) north east of Sydney.

The findings about the new species have been published in the science journal Zootaxa. (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Kangaroo evolution and climate change in Australia


This video is called Mutant Planet- The Evolution of Marsupials.

Talking about Australia and climate change

From Murdoch University in Australia today:

Kangaroo evolution maps climate change

2 hours ago

The evolution of kangaroos has given a clear picture of Australia’s changing climate, according to a new study.

Murdoch University’s Dr Natalie Warburton and Dr Gavin Prideaux from Flinders University have analysed changes to the kangaroo skeleton over time which reflect Australia’s changing environment and climate.

Dr Warburton said in this way represent a sort of barometer for .

“This is important for our understanding of historical climate change in Australia,” she said.

“Our study represents the most comprehensive anatomical analysis of the evolution of modern and fossil kangaroos on the basis of the skull, teeth and skeleton – including some of the new fossil we recently identified from caves on the Nullarbor.”

The findings, published this month in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, will be the most reliable and detailed kangaroo family tree to date.

They show how the abundance and diversity of macropods – which includes kangaroos, wallabies and tree-kangaroos – matches the spread of woodlands and grasslands in Australia as forests retreated to the coast over millions of years.

Macropods have been around for at least 30 million years, but difficulties in working out which species are related and when certain lineages evolved have hampered research for more than a century.

By comparing skeletons from 35 living and extinct macropod species, the researchers established that while early forms were adapted to the abundant soft-leaved forest plants, later macropods had to adapt to more arid conditions.

“The skull and teeth give us a good understanding of the sorts of food that was available in the environment,” Dr Warburton said.

“The , and in particular the feet, give us important clues about how far and fast the animals were moving, which in turn shows us whether the habitat was dense or open.”

The study also found that the small, endangered merrnine, or banded-hare wallaby, was much more distantly related to the other kangaroos and wallabies than previously thought.

“The merrnine is actually the sole survivor of an ancient group of kangaroos that separated from the rest of the family around 20 million years ago,” said Dr Warburton.

“It’s now only found on the islands of Shark Bay in Western Australia – this highlights that conservation for this species is a priority.”

Explore further: New DNA test on roo poo identifies species.

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