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GE: it’s our right to decide – GE Free NZ

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Communities should have the right to decide whether or not genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are released or field-trialled in their regions and, if so, whether any conditions should be placed on them, say the Soil & Health Association and GE Free Northland.

The two organisations again joined forces with Taitokerau mana whenua and others in court this week, responding to another case on the GMO issue brought by Federated Farmers, this time to the High Court in Whangarei. The judge’s decision is expected within a month.

“New Zealand has already seen inadequately contained GE field trials, in breach of the conditions of approval,” said Zelka Grammer, GE Free Northland chairperson. “We stand in support of the member councils of the Northland/Auckland Inter Council Working Party on GMOs, who are acting responsibly on their duty of care to the environment and constituents.”

“Federated Farmers claims to represent farmers, but many primary producers – organic and non-organic – are selling to high-value national and international markets that have zero tolerance for GE contamination,” said Marion Thomson, co-chair of Soil & Health.

Federated Farmers appealed the Environment Court decision in May 2015 that regional councils have the power under the Resource Management Act (RMA) to control the use of GMOs via regional planning instruments.

The Environment Court decision came about after Federated Farmers opposed Northland Regional Council’s proposed Regional Policy Statement, which included provisions relating to the use of GMOs in the region, and specifically included a policy requiring that a precautionary approach be taken to the introduction of GMOs.

Federated Farmers’ lawyer Richard Gardner argued in the High Court that central government passed the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) Act specifically for the purpose of controlling GMOs, and that parliament could not have intended for councils to duplicate that role under the RMA.

Soil & Health, GE Free Northland, Taitokerau mana whenua, Far North District Council and several other groups and individuals joined the appeal as section 274 (interested) parties pursuant to the RMA, in support of appellant Whangarei District Council. They were represented by Dr Royden Somerville, QC (senior counsel), and Robert Makgill (legal counsel).

Dr Somerville argued that Environment Court Judge Newhook was correct in his decision that the RMA and HSNO Act hold complementary and not overlapping roles. The two Acts offer different purposes and functional responses to the regulation of GMOs in New Zealand. Thus, regional planning documents can control the use of GMOs as part of promoting sustainable management under the RMA, taking account of regional needs.

The HSNO Act has a more confined role of regulating the granting (by the Environmental Protection Authority – EPA) of approvals to import, develop, field test or release new organisms as a ‘one-off’ regulatory transaction. The regulatory functions of the EPA under the HSNO Act do not allow for the provision of a regional approach to GMOs. That can only be dealt with under the RMA by regional councils and unitary authorities through policy statements and plans.

Closing the Gap in Education – Closing the Gap

The usual suspects reacted in their usual curmudgeonly ways to Labour’s recently announced policy of three free years of tertiary education.

“It was no surprise to see the Herald ‘s editorial talking about this return to universal education as a move for political gain,” says Peter Malcolm of advocacy group Closing the Gap. “Nor to see letters to the editor bemoaning the cost.

“It’s highly likely those that oppose such a policy are comfortably middle class and I wouldn’t be surprised if they benefited from the tertiary system before the introduction of fees in the 1990s.

“Closing the Gap is right in behind Labour’s proposal, and, in fact, would prefer it go further ie have all tertiary education free—depending on success—, like many of the Scandinavian countries, and implemented sooner.

“We know that education is one of the main tools by which societies can close the gap between rich and poor. It is an investment in our economic future as a country as well as the individual who undertakes it. You only need to look at the Scandinavian countries like Finland where university education is free to all to see what investing in education can do for a country and its people.

“The naysayers who bleat on about student loans levelling the playing field as far as access to education goes are out of touch. The prospective student from a comfortably well off family who can live in relative luxury at home for the duration of their degree, and maybe even expect Mum and Dad help them out financially, has less fear about taking on debt and better prospects of paying it off than someone who has been raised in poverty.
“The 18 year old who has been working after school to contribute to the family coffers so the household can afford to eat and have power and pay the rent has to think twice about the luxury of post secondary education. That youth will consider whether they can afford the transport to the institution, the technology required, and all the associated costs – there will be no hand outs from Mum and Dad. The decision to take on debt for fees when you live in a household worried about where the next dollar is going to come from is not an easy one.

“Free education is a path out of poverty for that person, not a way deep into debt like the current student loan system.”

Closing the Gap encourages New Zealanders to support any party proposing free education as creates the opportunity for a more equal society.

Locked out Wairoa Talley workers finally get justice – MWU

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Yesterday’s Employment Court decision should see AFFCO Talley’s Wairoa locked out workers back at work in the next two weeks, says the NZ Meat Workers Union.

“After five months of lock out and significant suffering for whanau and the small community of Wairoa, the Employment Court yesterday issued a judgement requiring the company to respect rights around seniority and re-engage these workers on the shift they would have been employed on had it not been for the Company’s misconduct” says Darien Fenton, Meat Workers Union Organising Director.

“The Court also ruled that the company is breaching section 97 of the Employment Relations Act by employing replacement workers during a lockout.

“After a Full Bench decision of the Employment Court in November 2015 found that AFFCO Talleys had unlawfully locked out workers and breached good faith, Wairoa workers were hopeful of a return to work.

“However, the company’s remedy was to have the entire Wairoa union membership consigned to the night shift, regardless of the workers’ employment agreement rights, previous shifts and seniority provisions.

“This decision is a strong one and has given heart to Wairoa Meat Workers Union members who have bravely stood up for their rights.

“It also reinforces that seniority systems in the meat industry is an important form of protection for workers” says Ms Fenton.

The Court has provided for a return to Court for compliance on 23rd February should these workers not be back at work by then.

Activists convicted but receive no punishment – Greenpeace

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Greenpeace activists convicted but receive no further punishment over 10-hour occupation of the Tangaroa

The five Greenpeace activists who stormed on board a New Zealand Government climate research ship that was found to be searching for oil have been discharged – and will receive no punishment – after being convicted at the Auckland District Court today.

The five were convicted of being unlawfully on a vessel.

Last November Siana Fitzjohn, Kailas Wild, Adrian Sanders, Genevieve Toop and Niamh O’Flynn locked themselves on board the NIWA taxpayer-funded climate and ocean research boat, Tangaroa, which had been chartered by petroleum giant Chevron to survey for oil in New Zealand waters.

After two initial arrests, three of the Greenpeace group managed to remain up the gantry of the boat for more than 10 hours, and used social media to connect with people around the country. They also unfurled a sail-shaped banner, reading: “Climb it Change”.

The Tangaroa had been preparing to leave Wellington Harbour, where it had made a pit stop, to continue oil exploration.

Its oil and gas capabilities come from a $24 million taxpayer-funded refit it was given in 2010.

Activist Siana Fitzjohn says she locked herself to the boat to highlight the Government’s “absolutely dishonest” agenda.

“The Tangaroa should be conducting science in the public’s interest, not serving the agenda of the oil industries that are destroying our climate,” she says. “It is sadly ironic that this vessel is enabling oil companies to threaten our ocean, when ‘Tangaroa’ means ‘God of the Sea’.”

“While John Key assured the world at the Paris Climate Conference that we would take real action on climate change, he continues to push a deep sea oil agenda that endangers our communities. Further exploration for fossil fuels should be seen as an act of violence against humanity.”

TheDailyBlog.nz Top 5 News Headlines Sunday 14th February 2016

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5: Sanders Campaign Raises $6 Million in 24 Hours After NH Primary

The debate comes as the Sanders campaign says it has broken its own fundraising record by raising more than $6 million in just one day. The campaign says it brought in more than $6 million in the 24 hours after the New Hampshire primary polls closed. The campaign says the average donation amount for the period was $34.

Democracy Now

4: Would you bet against sex robots? AI ‘could leave half of world unemployed’

Machines could put more than half the world’s population out of a job in the next 30 years, according to a computer scientist who said on Saturday that artificial intelligence’s threat to the economy should not be understated.

Expert Moshe Vardi told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): “We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task.

“I believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: if machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?”

Physicist Stephen Hawking and the tech billionaires Bill Gates and Elon Musk issued a similar warning last year. Hawking warned that AI “could spell the end of the human race” and Musk said it represents “our biggest existential threat”.

The Guardian

3: Syrian Rebels Say a Ceasefire Is ‘Not Realistic, Objective, or Logical’

Plans for the world power-brokered cessation of hostilities in Syria next week appear to be on shaky ground, amid little indication that rebel groups plan to adhere to it, low confidence from the international community, Saudi Arabia preparing to put boots on the ground, and no suggestion that Syrian president Bashar al Assad is willing to step down.

The cessation of hostilities deal was a compromise because not all warring factions agreed to the terms of a ceasefire. A cessation of hostilities places a temporary pause on the conflict so that humanitarian aid can reach civilians.

On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was asked the assess the odds that next week’s ceasefire agreement would be met. Forty-nine percent, Lavrov responded. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is only marginally more confident, and gave it a 51 percent chance.

Vice News

2: Syrian army tightens grip on Aleppo amid peace doubts

World leaders have admitted the likely success of a plan to cease “hostilities” in Syria within a week is roughly 50-50, as Syrian government forces continued to make important advances to tighten their grip around Aleppo.

Government forces, backed by Russian air strikes and fighters loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on Saturday regained control of al-Tamoura town and several surrounding hills located in Aleppo’s northern suburbs, according to Syrian activists and the state news agency.

The offensive means that government forces are now closer to cutting off one of the main supply routes for Syrian rebels, who still control much of Aleppo city.

Syrian state news agency, SANA, said: “Army units, in cooperation with supporting forces, restored security and stability to al-Tamoura village at the northern countryside of Aleppo”.

Sami Kekhia, a Syrian activist on the Turkey-Syria border confirmed to Al Jazeera that al-Tamoura was captured, but said that rebels were fighting back in ongoing clashes.

Aljazeera

1: Henry Kissinger’s War Crimes Are Central to the Divide Between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

The sparring during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over whether Henry Kissinger is an elder statesman or a pariah has laid bare a major foreign policy divide within the Democratic Party.

Clinton and Sanders stand on opposite sides of that divide. One represents the hawkish Washington foreign policy establishment, which reveres and in some cases actually works for Kissinger. The other represents the marginalized non-interventionists, who can’t possibly forgive someone with the blood of millions of brown people on his hands.

Kissinger is an amazing and appropriate lens through which to see what’s at stake in the choice between Clinton and Sanders. But that only works, of course, if you understand who Kissinger is — which surely many of today’s voters don’t.

Some may only dimly recall that Kissinger won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the Vietnam War (comedian Tom Lehrer famously said the award made political satire obsolete), and that he played a central role in President Nixon’s opening of relations with China.

But Kissinger is reviled by many left-leaning observers of foreign policy. They consider him an amoral egotist who enabled dictators, extended the Vietnam War, laid the path to the Khmer Rouge killing fields, stage-managed a genocide in East Timor, overthrew the democratically elected left-wing government in Chile, and encouraged Nixon to wiretap his political adversaries.

The Intercept

The Daily Blog Open Mic – Sunday 14th February 2016

openmike

 

Announce protest actions, general chit chat or give your opinion on issues we haven’t covered for the day.

Moderation rules are more lenient for this section, but try and play nicely.

 

Dear NZ – let’s just send poor kids straight to jail

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Dear NZ

Why don’t we just save time and send poor kids straight to jail?

I mean, we hate poor children right? We blame their parents for being hungry (despite welfare purposely calculated so that beneficiaries are hungry), we blame parents for their kids freezing to death in cold houses (despite privatising state houses and subsidising slum lords) and we blame poor kids for underachievement (despite under resourcing public education).

Here’s the latest evidence that poverty is robbing children of a future in the country that once hilariously considered itself egalitarian…

Poverty causing children to fall behind
Children living in poverty in New Zealand are at least six times more likely to struggle with maths than students from wealthy backgrounds, a new report has found.

The ranking was one of the worst in the developed world, with only Ireland, Israel and Poland doing worse.

The report from the OECD, Low-Performing Students: Why they fall behind and how to help them succeed found students from the poorest 25 per cent of households in New Zealand were more than six times more likely to be low performers in maths compared with those in the top 25 per cent.

Our figure was five times that of Australia.

30 years of neoliberalism has destroyed talk of hegemonic structures within society, individualism trumps society and success is self generated as is failure. It’s a culture of ego, I succeed, not because the playing field is tilted in my favour, but because I’m so brilliant. The flip side of this is that if you fail, that’s also your fault.

How much denial are we in? Jamie Whyte was allowed to plagiarise a column claiming poverty doesn’t really exist in NZ in our largest daily newspaper and John  Key claimed the reason the poor fail was because they all love drugs.


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We have a political class who feed neoliberal mythology via an unquestioning mainstream media to an electorate who love the juicy taste of self congratulatory smugness while sneering at those who suffer on the periphery of society.

We are a soulless tiny minded nation with all the maturity of a can of coke and intellectual depth of a Mike Hosking rant.

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Denying Helen Kelly justice

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I’m fucking disgusted…

Helen Kelly’s medical marijuana bid rejected
Helen Kelly’s application to use so-called medical marijuana has been rejected by the Ministry of Health.

..what a shallow, baseless society we have become when the war on drugs trumps basic reason. Cannabis IS NOT the horror drug the cops and right wing politicians have made it out to be. It has huge medical properties and denying a social justice hero like Helen Kelly pain relief and dooming her to pharmaceutically crippling alternatives is a slap not only to her face, but to all educated and reasoned NZers.

Our Government would prefer Helen Kelly suffers in pain rather than acknowledge cannabis could help. They would see her in the grave before they admit they have lied all these years about cannabis.

We have a debate about the right to kill yourself – but we won’t allow a terminally ill person take cannabis???

Disgusting decision!

Tourettes – No Losers @ Winz

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Over the last year Tourettes aka Dominic Hoey and his flatmate Abraham Kunin (The Means) have been toiling away on a new album “Feel Like Shit, Looking Great!”

The pair worked together to produce last summers feel good hit John Key’s Son’s A DJ.

No Losers @ Winz, an objective and rational critique of New Zealand’s welfare system, will be the first single off the album.

As a poem, Dominic has been performing it up and down the country to the delight of tax payers everywhere.

The video was directed by Dominic and wonder child Joel Taco who also filmed, edited and did all the hard stuff.

Why we need an alternative to Story and Seven Sharp at 7pm weeknights

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The appalling way Story and Seven Sharp covered the TPPA protests is just the latest example of why we desperately need an alternative to these right wing propaganda shows masquerading as current affairs.

Story was created because TV3 management killed off Campbell Live for political reasons and the vicious rants against Amanda Bailey and Waitangi Day highlight the privileged world view of Mike Hosking, a man so in love with himself he defines narcism.

The 4th estate has died. It has capitulated to corporate interests over holding the powerful to account. That most NZers think the TPPA is a trade deal is an example of this wilful ignorance. That most NZers think the repeal of section 59 was an ‘anti-smacking’ law is an example of this wilful ignorance. That most NZers think hungry children is the blame of the parent is an example of this wilful ignorance. That Most NZers think Maori get special privilege is an example of this wilful ignorance. That most NZers don’t think rape culture is a real and definable threat to our society is an example of this wilful ignorance. That so many NZers think climate change isn’t man made is an example of this wilful ignorance. That so many NZers thought Dirty Politics wasn’t much of an issue or that mass surveillance isn’t really happening are also examples of this wilful ignorance.

All of which feeds back into a mainstream media who are propagating this crap rather than challenge it.

Where the 4th estate has failed, the 5th estate must succeed. Next week a new current affairs show to go up against Story and Seven Sharp at 7pm will be announced. If you want to help this new endeavour – spread it on social media.

Details next week.

Defending Free Tertiary Education: Chris Trotter responds to Dr Oliver Hartwich’s defence to the user-pays university

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WHEN DR OLIVER HARTWICH departed his native Germany for the Anglo-Saxon lands it was in high dudgeon. In spite of the fact that German taxpayers had paid for his entire education – from primary school to university – there wasn’t much evidence of gratitude. Meeting the cost of young Germans’ education out of the public purse was, in the newly-minted economist’s opinion, a dangerous policy relic of Germany’s social-democratic past. The British and the Americans had long since dispensed with the notion of publicly-provided tertiary education. It was, therefore, to the English-speaking world that this eager young neoliberal foot-soldier took his publicly-funded doctorate.

New Zealand is, of course, very much a part of that world. Hartwich arrived here via England and Australia, where he was a major force at the Sydney-based Centre for Independent Studies (an extreme right-wing think tank). When the notorious Business Roundtable joined forces with the NZ Institute in 2012, Hartwich was the corporate bosses’ pick for Executive Director.

Moved to contribute an opinion piece to Interest.co.nz on Labour’s re-commitment to the principle of universal social entitlement in tertiary education, Hartwich has usefully rehearsed all the familiar neoliberal excuses for making young people pay for their education.

“The first thing I would say about free education is that it suffers from a basic flaw:” writes Hartwich, “If something does not cost anything, it is not valued much either.”

This observation, Hartwich tells us, is born of his “personal reflections of free tertiary education”, and is not to be confused with rigorous policy analysis.

That being the case, let me respond in kind by declaring that my own experience of free tertiary education threw up not one case of a recipient who did not value their opportunity to explore the life of the mind in their late teens and early twenties. Quite the reverse, actually.

University was a magical place, insulated from the charges of the workaday world, and collectively dedicated to the expansion, communication and acquisition of knowledge. If a vocation was one’s sole purpose for attending, then those skills were available. But of infinitely greater value to students than a mere “meal ticket” was the access that university afforded to the signal achievements of their culture. Young people emerged from tertiary study as both engaged and enlarged human beings.

Hartwich deplores this aspect of tertiary life:

“What it means in practice is that when university courses are free, students will think about them differently. Some students may begin their studies without much commitment because, well, it does not cost anything. They might also then take a more relaxed approach to studying since, again, it does not cost them anything (other than opportunity costs which are harder to notice). With this attitude, these students may not even bring their studies to a conclusion.”

It is clearly Hartwich’s view that the pieces of paper doled out at the end of its courses are the be-all and end-all of university life. This instrumental view of tertiary education lends itself to the notion that: “as the recipient of something free, you are not in the best position to demand better service. As a paying customer, suppliers need to treat you better if they do not want to lose you. If customers are not paying, they may well be regarded as a nuisance.”

It gets worse. “For a university to be run like any good service provider,” says Hartwich, “it should think about its students as clients. And for students to take their studies seriously, they should be paying for them. Of course, for students who cannot afford to pay the fees, there need to be financing options. But university education as such should not be free.”

Nothing here about the pernicious consequences for both academic rigor and student achievement of turning tertiary education into a commodity. Fully enmeshed in the market economy, university “providers” cannot afford to risk alienating their fee-paying “clients” by holding them to the sort of rigorous academic standards that characterised my tertiary education. If it comes to a choice between jettisoning standards or jettisoning students, the commercially-driven university will sacrifice its standards every time.

Of course no neoliberal paean to user-pays tertiary education would be complete without the ritual condemnation of publicly-provided tertiary education’s allegedly socially regressive character.

“Finally, as someone who has successfully completed a master’s and a doctorate, of course I have a much greater ability to generate income than someone without such qualifications. So the question is, why would I expect that other person to subsidise me? What right do I have to demand people with poor skills in low-wage jobs to pay for my university education that would yield me a much higher income than they would ever have? Isn’t this grossly unfair for them?”

I am always astounded at the neoliberal’s confidence that the above argument should be regarded as the clincher – against which no rational or ethical response is possible. It is only possible to make this case, however, if the concepts of citizenship and social reciprocity are first eliminated from the equation.

Access to tertiary education is every citizen’s right, and so it is also every citizen’s responsibility. The low-wage worker contributes to the cost of a wealthy person’s children’s university degrees because the wealthy person contributes to the cost of the worker’s kids’ post-school education. For the low-wage worker, this is a huge step forward, comparable in its life-enhancing effects to the provision of universal health care.

But the very notion of “middle-class welfare”, or, as Hartwich puts it, “the reverse of income redistribution” only makes sense in a neoliberal society which no longer subjects its wealthier citizens to the rigors of progressive taxation.

Of course the graduates of Law and Medical School will earn more than workers “with poor skills in a low-wage job”, but in a decent, social-democratic society, the lawyer and the doctor will also pay much higher taxes. It’s all about your fellow citizens paying you forward, and you then paying them back.

This was the socio-political environment from which Dr Oliver Hartwich fled and is ideologically committed to destroying. It is also the socio-political environment in which I was raised, and which allowed me to attend university without incurring massive debt. That Labour is pledged to restoring this environment is extremely heartening. Not only because it will make this a more just and equal country to live in, but also because any such restoration of social-democratic values in New Zealand will, almost certainly, see Dr Hartwich high-tail it for more congenial jurisdictions.

If the answer is Crusher Collins, the question must be ‘what would make things worse’

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I truly despair at the level of political debate in this country. NZ Police have an alpha male chase them to death pursuit policy backed up by an electorate who honestly believe that those who die in chases or who are hideously injured ‘deserve’ it, and what do our politicians have to say – well Crusher Collins believes crushing fleeing cars will be the solution…

Judith Collins: Crushing cars of fleeing drivers could reduce pursuits
Crushing the cars of drivers who flee from police could reduce the number of attempted getaways, Police Minister Judith Collins says.

However, Collins says she backs the police and their handling of pursuits, despite a spate of crashes involving fleeing drivers.

A man, woman and 5-month-old baby were injured following a serious crash on State Highway 16, north of Auckland on Thursday afternoon – the third crash involving a police pursuit in recent weeks.

Police were pursuing the vehicle at the time it crashed after the driver failed to stop when police attempted to pull him over for speeding.

…I don’t use the word fuckwit often, but it seems the only possible response to this foolish idea. Collins claims 80% of cars chased are not stolen, meaning Police could trace the owner rather than chase people to death.

How did crushing boy racer cars go again?

No cars flattened by ‘Crusher Collins’
No cars have been crushed under a controversial two-year-old a law promising a crackdown on boy racers.

Police Minister Judith Collins was dubbed ‘Crusher Collins’ when the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill was passed in October 2009.

The options other countries have taken to not do pursuits haven’t been followed up because the local media are too lazy to investigate them and because we have a population who believe that the policy can’t be changed.

We’ll have a special report on Police Pursuit Policy next week and you will be horrified at how many loopholes are currently inside the policy Collins and the Police are holding up.

The bottom line is that all Police policy should have at its base the concept of minimising harm and protecting the public. This Police chase policy is corrupted and it’s killing people, the spineless authority worship that clouds so many NZers minds can’t see that. It’s time to confront those complacent NZers with the facts and truth.

More next week.

TheDailyBlog.nz Top 5 News Headlines Saturday 13th February 2016

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5: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Face Off in Milwaukee, WI

Last night, Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton faced off at a PBS-hosted debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was the first Democratic debate since Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ decisive victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. At the debate, Bernie Sanders drew a sharp distinction between himself and the former secretary of state on issues of foreign policy by highlighting Clinton’s close relationship with another former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.

Democracy Now

4: Syrian president Bashar al-Assad vows to retake whole country

Bashar al-Assad has dealt a swift blow to international efforts to secure a ceasefire, deliver aid and promote a negotiated solution to the war in Syria, vowing to regain control of the entire country and warning that it could still “take a long time”.

The Syrian president was speaking to the AFP news agency in Damascus on Thursday, hours before an agreement was reached in Munich on arranging a cessation of hostilities and the urgent despatch of food, medicines and other supplies to hundreds of thousands of civilians in besieged areas.

Assad said his armed forces would try to retake all of Syria but added that the involvement of regional players “means that the solution will take a long time and will incur a heavy price”. He warned of the possibility of direct intervention by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who back the rebels.

The Guardian

3: Barack Obama plans intervention in Britain’s EU referendum

Barack Obama is planning to make “a big, public reach-out” to persuade British voters to stay inside the European Union, the chair of the US Senate foreign relations committee has revealed.

The plan emerged amid fears in Washington that the UK’s EU referendum is a dangerous gamble that could unravel with disastrous consequences for the entire continent.

His “reach out” is likely to focus on the need for the EU to stick together to combat the migration crisis and the growing threat of Russian aggression in the Baltics, Ukraine and Middle East.

But there are concerns in both Washington and London that an intervention by the US president has to be handled sensitively and could backfire unless it is pitched at the right geopolitical level.

The Guardian

2: The Pentagon Is Betting Big on Space Warfare — Against China and Russia

The US Defense Department has asked Congress for $108 million to fund a new facility in Colorado dedicated to drawing up plans and running experiments for war in outer space, as anxiety grows about the possibility of extraterrestrial conflict with China or Russia.

“Potential adversaries are rapidly developing capabilities to deny the US and its allies’ use of space during a conflict,” US Air Force Major General Robert D. Rego, the US Strategic Command official responsible for the center, told VICE News.

The facility he’ll run is called the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, which goes by the awkward military handle JICSpOC. Its job, he said, will be to “better integrate our space operations in response to these threats.”

The funding request follows Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s preview last week of the Pentagon’s budget for fiscal year 2017, which he promised would enhance America’s “ability to identify, attribute, and negate all threatening actions in space.”

Vice News

1: Syria: Russian PM warns of world war if troops sent in

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the deployment of foreign ground troops in the Syrian conflict could result in a world war.

Medvedev was quoted as saying in an interview published late on Thursday by the German newspaper Handelsblatt that “a ground operation draws everyone taking part in it into a war”.

When asked about a recent proposal from Saudi Arabia to send in ground troops to Syria, the Russian prime minister answered that “the Americans and our Arab partners must consider whether or not they want a permanent war”.

Aljazeera

The Daily Blog Open Mic – Saturday 13th February 2016

openmike

 

Announce protest actions, general chit chat or give your opinion on issues we haven’t covered for the day.

Moderation rules are more lenient for this section, but try and play nicely.

 

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL – My love/hate relationship with Australia

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By Margaret Taylor – Activism Manager at Amnesty International

Australia – I loved you but I hate what you’ve become.

Australia – you were my adopted home – my first memory, my first love.  But now you’ve become my worst nightmare and left nothing in my heart but feelings of loathing.

At first I went along with your larrikin antics, but my growing dis-ease at your casual racism and misogyny left me no choice but to speak out; to challenge your bullying ways.

But still I loved you.

Your genocidal attitudes to your indigenous people – was and is a shame scarcely to be borne. You added insult to injury with ludicrous justifications for stealing children. The heartbreak of the Stolen Generation is a weeping wound. Your ‘terra nullius – empty earth’ claim was equally farcical.

But then came that apology.

Ahh, you almost won me over with your sweet words. I felt hope in my heart , the possibility of a fresh start.

But in reality those words promised much but delivered no more than the status quo. The lies, the games and the discrimination continued unabated. And every Australia Day since I turn away from celebrations and instead mark Invasion Day.

For too long I’ve excused your boorish behaviour because of how your golden shores were so brutally colonised. My Aboriginal brothers and sisters shot down as vermin; the torturous treatment meted out within those convict settlements  – irrespective of guilt or innocence, irrespective of youth, age or gender.

Despite your land abounding “in natures gift’s. Of beauty rich and rare”, despite owning a wealth and lifestyle most on this planet would gasp at – it is not enough. You are incapable of sharing with the world’s most vulnerable people – asylum seekers.

Rather you politically point-score at their expense – lying about who they really are – misrepresenting them as queue-jumpers, boat people, people smugglers, people who would throw their kids overboard.

You lie about asylum seekers to win elections; you prevent the truth of their off-shore detention hell from being told by gagging doctors, social workers, NGOs; you blame these innocents – these babies born on your shores, children attempting suicide as six year olds, violated women, because of the torment you’ve introduced them to. Then you hand over responsibility for their care to nations ill-equipped to manage a human rights problem of your making. What’s even more galling is that you spend billions of taxpayers dollars to deliver this obscenity. Then you advise none of this is your problem.

And throughout it all you sing your beautiful national anthem and every time you do you bring it shame –“ For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share”.

In reality, all you have shared with asylum seekers arriving by boat is pain.

In the middle of a sleepless night it’s a pain I have wished on you and all those who support you in your lying ways. But then comes the realisation that my vengeful wishes make me a little bit more like something I loathe. It makes me like YOU.

As dawn breaks, it comes with the news that protests at your callous treatment of asylum seekers have occurred nationwide, that churches are offering ‘sanctuary’, that State governments are confirming they have space for those 267 people.

As I wait to see what the good people of Australia will demand from you – I wish for you what I wish for asylum seekers. JUSTICE.

May you grant them the justice you have denied them so long.  May you also face the justice you so richly deserve for your actions to date.

 

Take Action – Call on Australia not to send 267 vulnerable people back to offshore detention.

Government boasts of benefit theft

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A government media release on January 21 boasted that:

Benefit numbers continue steady yearly decline. Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says the number of people receiving a benefit is continuing to decline year on year with a 2.5 per cent drop in the number of people receiving a main benefit between December 2014 and December 2015. “The number of people receiving a main benefit has fallen by almost 7,800, or 2.5 per cent in the last 12 months,” Mrs Tolley says.

How did the government achieve this miraculous feat when:

2015 did see an increase in the size of the working age population but this was driven principally by immigration. The number of jobs in the economy grew, but at a slower pace than the population. The unemployment rate fell, but principally driven by people giving up looking for work. That is not progress.

Around half of the increase in the number of people no longer actively seeking work may have been a consequence of an increase in the retired population who are no longer working. But a large part of the increase was the result of the systematic harassment and bullying carried out by WINZ in order to actively deny people their legal rights to access their entitlements.

This is a decade-long policy that has forced 100,000 people off benefits who should have a legal right of access and ripped a billion dollars a year out of working class communities.