Monthly Archives:January 2019

Gunmen ‘kill more than 30 in attack on Nigeria wedding convoy’ ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

The attack happened on Saturday on the notorious Bama-Banki road when the wedding party, including friends and relatives of the groom, was making its way back to the state capital Maiduguri after the ceremony in Michika, in nearby in Adamawa State, they said.

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“It was a gory scene,” said a driver, who said he had seen the dead bodies on the highway.

The driver, who did not wish to be named, told AFP that many of the victims appeared to have suffered gunshot wounds.

“All the victims were brutally murdered by the attackers. My passengers and I were visibly shocked when we met the dead bodies lying by the highway,” he said.

The fate of the bride and her family members was still unknown.

Army and police officials in the area were not immediately available for comment. But a security source who described the incident as “brutal and callous” said the bodies had been transferred to a hospital in Maiduguri.

Violent attacks are not uncommon in northeastern Nigeria, where the army launched an offensive in May to end a deadly insurgency by Boko Haram Islamists.

Boko Haram has said it is fighting to create an Islamic state but the group is believed to made up of different factions with varying aims.

A string of attacks in recent months has cast doubt on the success of the military’s campaign. Some of the violence has targeted vigilante groups which have formed to help the military.

Boko Haram is known to have in the past staged attacks along the Bama-Banki road, a key traffic artery in the region.

The Saturday ambush came just over a week after suspected Boko Haram fighters launched a coordinated assault on security forces in nearby Damaturu, state capital of Yobe.

Thirty-five bodies in military uniform were brought to a morgue following the October 24 attack, a hospital source told AFP.

It was the first raid in a major urban centre in several weeks by the group in their four-year Islamist uprising.

Boko Haram has repeatedly worn military uniforms as a disguise during attacks and it was not yet clear whether the corpses were those of insurgents or troops.

Figures released earlier this year said the Boko Haram conflict had cost more than 3,600 lives, including killings by the security forces. The current toll is certainly much higher.

Boko Haram has attacked Christians, Muslims, students, politicians and a range of other groups seen as opposed to the creation of a state governed by strict Islamic law.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and top oil producer, where the northern half is mostly Muslim and the more prosperous south is predominately Christian.

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Premier brushes off threats, presses ahead ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is standing firm on his tough new bikie laws, despite being threatened in an online video and having his personal contact details plastered across social media.

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Mr Newman says the views expressed in the video represent a minority and he will push on with his crackdown on criminal motorcycle gangs which the majority of Queenslanders support.

“These laws stand,” he said.

“They are not changing because we are determined to deal with criminal gangs.”

The four-and-a-half minute clip, which has attracted more than 200,000 hits, was purportedly posted by activist group Anonymous Australia who say Mr Newman’s anti-bikie laws have gone too far.

In the video, a person wearing the trademark Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask warns: “We do not forgive, we do not forget, Campbell Newman expect us”.

But the young Brisbane activist linked to the video, Daniel Walker, says Mr Newman’s staff and the media have turned those words, which are the group’s motto, into a threat.

“Okay, so what did we threaten to do? lol,” Mr Walker wrote on his YouTube account.

“I have never hurt anyone nor has anyone I associate with but we are watching and he can expect his lies to be made public.”

Police are probing the clip but won’t say whether they are investigating Mr Walker.

They are also examining how Mr Newman’s home address and personal mobile number was shared on social media by opponents of his tough new bikie gang laws.

While Mr Newman has been attacked, there have been no known threats made to police who are demanding extra protection in the wake of the new legislation.

Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart says he has no knowledge of threats against individual officers or the service in general.

“I’m not currently seeing any evidence of a heightened risk,” he said.

The police union wants officers to have access to extra body armour and the ability to take their weapons home amid the bikie crackdown.

Mr Stewart says police can already apply to have a covert protective vest and for permission to take guns home.

He admits there are few covert vests readily available but says the police service will be able to fund a mass rollout of the gear if required.

However, he said very few officers had put in requests for the hot and heavy vests in recent years.

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Pets on Prozac ‘a growing trend’ ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

Every morning eight-year-old Zac has his regular breakfast.

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For the last three months his meal has come with one small addition – Prozac. 

Zac is an English cocker spaniel, and when his owner David Wilson adopted him, he didn’t quite know what to expect. Zac’s personal ad came with the headline “Senior dog with special needs”.

It turned out each time Zac was left alone for longer than five minutes he became distressed and destructive.

“I think it was my second or third weekend with Zac and I had him in the wagon part of my station wagon and I popped into the supermarket for about 20 minutes and I came back and saw that he had pulled up all the leather upholstery from my seat and had pulled up all the plastic housing down the side of my car,” Wilson says.

Zac was soon diagnosed with separation anxiety and prescribed anti-depressants. The first being Trazodone, a short acting anti-anxiety capsule and the second being Fluoxetine, more commonly known as Prozac.

The vet treating Zac, Dr Gabrielle Carter, says she sees an increasing amount of pets with mental illness.

“We’re talking about mental illness in the same concept or the same way we would talk about mental health issues in people,” Dr Carter says. “We’re talking about animals that might have anxiety problems, perhaps depression, some phobias.”

And much like the case with humans, she says pets should have a range of medication available to them.

“If you had a dog that had a broken leg and it was in pain, you would give it a pain killer and if I’ve got a dog that is suffering from separation anxiety and is really distressed then I think we have a welfare right to relieve that distress and anti-anxiety medication can do that,” she says. 

Since being on medication, Wilson says Zac has calmed down considerably.

“The destructive behaviour that we’ve seen in the first few weeks, we haven’t seen that for a couple of months,” he says. “We’re still seeing him bark or howl if left alone for longer than an hour but compared to what it was in the first few weeks the longest we could leave him alone was for five minutes.”

“I’ve got friends who roll their eyes at how much I’ve had to adjust my life to accommodate Zac’s needs. It’s just one of those things that you commit to doing and I can’t stop now.”

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Mounting anger in Pakistan over US drones ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Pakistan is said to be reviewing its relationship with the United States following the killing of a leader of the Pakistani Taliban over the weekend.

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His killing, under the controversial US drone program, appears likely to further heighten tensions between the two countries.

It comes just weeks after Pakistan’s Prime Minister called on the US to halt its unmanned aircraft strikes, already under scrutiny over civilian casualties.

Santilla Chingaipe has the details.

(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

Hakimullah Mehsud and three others were killed on Friday in the militant stronghold of Miranshah, in northwest Pakistan, by a US drone aircraft.

His death comes just weeks after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief took the risky and unusual step of granting an interview to the BBC.

During that interview, Hakimullah Mehsud said he was still open to peace talks with the Pakistan government.

But he reiterated his demand that any ceasefire in Pakistan had to include an end to U-S drone strikes and the imposition of Sharia law.

(translated) “The withdrawal of the Americans from Afghanistan will have no impact on the Pakistani Taliban. The government’s friendship with America is just one reason why we are conducting a jihad here. We also want to see Sharia law imposed in Pakistan because the current system is unIslamic. We will continue with this demand and with our fight even after the Americans have left.”

The killing of its young leader represents a major setback for the TTP, a coalition of factions that has claimed some of the most high-profile attacks in Pakistan in recent years.

The TTP was behind the 2008 bombing of the Islamabad Marriott hotel and the attempt to kill schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai last year.

Hakimullah Mehsud’s death comes at a crucial moment in Pakistan’s efforts to end the TTP’s bloody six-year insurgency that has left thousands of soldiers, police and civilians dead.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been expected to send a delegation to open contacts with the militants, after winning backing for dialogue from political parties last month.

No formal talks have begun and opposition parties have accused the US of using the drone strike to obstruct the process before it had even started.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has also sharply criticised the United States for carrying out the deadly drone strike.

“The government of Pakistan does not see this drone attack as an attack on an individual, but as an attack on the peace process. It is absolutely irrelevant to indulge in a discussion or a debate on who the individual was, or who the other individuals were who were with him. The essence of the matter is that Pakistan on the eve of 9/11 was a peaceful country. We had our problems, we had our economic problems, we had our political problems, we had other problems. But terrorism was definitely not one of the problems. Of those nine or ten individuals who carried out the attack on the Twin Towers, not one was from Pakistan; not one of them had set foot in Pakistan. And yet, the blowback from the reaction of the United States has turned this country upside down.”

Mr Khan and says this latest drone attack has scuttled a peace process that was about to begin with the Taliban.

“Brick by brick, in the last seven weeks we tried to evolve a process through which we can bring peace to Pakistan and what have you done? You have scuttled it on the eve of the day, one day before, 18 hours before a formal delegation of respected ‘ulema’, or religious leaders, was to fly out to Miranshah and hand over this formal invitation, both as far as the venue is concerned and also as far as certain other issues were concerned.”

Former cricketer Imran Khan is the leader of the Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaaf party that rules in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Mr Khan also believes the strike has sabotaged peace talks.

And he says he plans to block NATO supply convoys to Afghanistan in retaliation for the US drone strikes.

(translated) “I will raise the issue on Monday in the National Assembly. The NATO supply lines should be blocked until drone attacks stop. We will not allow NATO supply lines to enter Khyber Pakhtunkhwa until they stop the drone attacks.”

Hakimullah Mehsud took over as leader of the al Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban in 2009.

The group’s two previous leaders were killed in attacks by US missile-firing drones.

 

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Queensland police probe ‘Anonymous’ video warning ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Queensland police are investigating a video posted online by an activist, claiming links to international group Anonymous, in protest against the state government’s anti-bikie laws.

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The video says the new laws, which apply mandatory sentences for members of organisations the government deems as criminal, have gone too far.

The government says the laws are aimed only at criminal bikie gangs and actual criminals.

Kerri Worthington reports.

(Click on audio tab above to listen to this item)

“We are Anonymous Australia, and today we would like to speak to you about Campbell Newman’s push for the new anti-bikie laws which could likely spread Australia-wide.”

The YouTube video criticises the Queensland government’s anti-bikie laws, saying they impinge on the right to freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to a fair trial before an independent judge and the right to free speech and association.

A figure disguised in a mask and whose voice is digitally generated says the laws will have far wider effects than just on outlaw bikie gangs and their associates.

“By knowing, condoning or associating with a person or persons who are committing crimes or just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could be jailed for up to 15 years, facing a mandatory minimum of six months. The laws are so stringent even fictional bikies face being outlawed. A man was harshly questioned and almost arrested at a legal protest for wearing a Sons of Anarchy t-shirt, which is a television show.”

The activist describes the laws as a “creeping fascism”.

“Campbell Newman’s bill has come with a slew of propaganda suggesting normal people won’t be targeted. But along with his broken election promises, this is not the first time he has lied. These laws make no mention whatsoever of bikies. They apply to any association.”

Digital security expert Mark Gregory, from RMIT, says Anonymous is a loose grouping of people from around the world that carries out hacking attacks to highlight government activities it disagrees with.

Dr Gregory says this message to the Queensland government appears different and may be from someone not normally associated with Anonymous.

“The circumstances surrounding the video about the new laws in Queensland is unusual in that normally Anonymous announces some hacking or breach of an organisation’s database or digital information before the videos are made. In this case the videos come first and they’re saying that they’re thinking of carrying out some kind of action. So we don’t know that this is actually Anonymous. The video is definitely not following the normal modus operandi of Anonymous.”

Dr Gregory points to a weekend attack on more than 200 Australian websites by what appear to be Indonesian hackers – protesting against allegations Australia has helped the United States to spy on its Asian neighbours – as more in line with what Anonymous does.

“The way that they’ve gone about it, that is the normal methodology. They’ve carried out some attacks and then they’ve made a video. They’ve made their point in the video but at the same time indicated what they’ve done — the hacking attacks and the information that’s been released.”

The YouTube clip that criticises the Queensland government’s laws aimed at reducing the power of bikie gangs ends with the words: Expect us.

It’s unclear what “expect us” will mean in this case, but the video does point out that it’s a slogan, not a threat.

But the Queensland government has been vocal in its criticism.

One minister, Scott Emerson, has described the video as “disturbing”.

Police minister Jack Dempsey warns police are investigating the clip, which he says was made by gutless cowards who have to hide behind a mask.

RMIT’s Mark Gregory says that reaction is hardly surprising and releasing the clip under the banner of Anonymous may backfire.

“So ultimately, the way that Anonymous works – by hacking and breaking into databases – this is ultimately an illegal activity. So in this case the government in Queensland and the Premier will be able to take the moral high ground and indicate, quite rightly, that they are subject to attack by this lawless group.”

 

 

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Gmail, Yahoo caught in phishing trip ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

Google and Yahoo! have joined a growing roster of Web-based email service providers with users duped by hackers into betraying passwords to accounts.

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A day after Microsoft blocked access to thousands of Hotmail accounts in response to hackers plundering password information and posting it online, the list of victims was growing to include users of an array of email services.

In an email to SBS, Google Australia said this wasn’t a breach of Gmail’s security system.

“This is not a breach of Gmail security, but rather a scam to get users to give away their personal information to hackers. Once the attackers gain user credentials, they can easily access and modify the affected accounts as they desire. This may include changing a user’s contact list, altering the inbox, or even deleting the account”.

Google Austrlaia would not comment on how many accounts had been tampered with and weren’t able to provide anyone for comment.

“We recently became aware of a phishing scheme through which hackers gained user credentials for Web-based mail accounts including a small number of Gmail accounts,” Google said in its statement.

Cyber-crooks evidently used “phishing” tactics to trick users of free Web-based email service into revealing account and access information.

“We are aware that a limited number of Yahoo! IDs may have been made public,” Yahoo! said in a statement. “Online scams and phishing attacks are an ongoing and industry-wide issue.”

In an email to SBS, Google Australia recommends only entering your sign-in credentials at the sign in stage only.

“To keep your Google account secure online, we recommend you only ever enter your Gmail sign-in credentials to web addresses starting with 上海性息,www.google.com/accounts, and never click-through any warnings your browser may raise about certificates”.

Time Warner subsidiary AOL, in response to an AFP inquiry, said it is “closely monitoring the situation.”

“Our guidance to users is to keep your wits about you: do not click on live links, or insert any details into input fields in emails, pop-ups or Web pages if you are not sure where they come from.”

Hotmail hit

Microsoft said Monday that it learned of the latest problem during the weekend after Hotmail account information of “several thousand” users, many of them reportedly in Europe, was posted at a website.

The unconfirmed list of Hotmail accounts compromised by “phishing” has grown into the tens of thousands.

“We are aware that some Windows Live Hotmail customers’ credentials were acquired illegally by a phishing scheme and exposed on a website,” Microsoft said. “We have taken measures to block access to all of the accounts that were exposed and have resources in place to help those users reclaim their accounts.”

Phishing is an Internet bane and involves using what hackers refer to as “social engineering” to trick people into revealing information online or downloading malicious software onto computers.

What is phishing?

Phishing tactics include sending people tainted email attachments that promise enticing content such as sexy photos of celebrities and luring people to bogus log-in pages that are convincing replicas of legitimate websites.

Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo! stressed that hackers did not breach their databases, but rather email users were conned into revealing information.

“Phishing is an industry-wide problem… exercise extreme caution when opening unsolicited attachments and links from both known and unknown sources, and install and regularly update anti-virus software,” Microsoft said.

Google advises Gmail users not to “click through” on warnings browsers may raise about certificates nor sign in at Web addresses that don’t start with google.com/accounts.

Web-based email users who suspect their accounts have been compromised should change passwords and check to make certain any secondary email or texting options in accounts have not been changed.

“We encourage users to be very careful when asked to share their personal information,” Google said.

The email service providers urged people to visit pages at their websites with advice and tools for protecting accounts.

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China sentences Hu to ten years’ jail ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

A Chinese court has convicted four employees of mining giant Rio Tinto including Australian national Stern Hu on bribery and trade secrets charges, handing down jail terms ranging from seven to 14 years.

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Hu was sentenced to 10 years in jail in the case, which also involved three Chinese employees of the company .

Rio Tinto sacked the four, and voiced hope the case wouldn’t affect its vital trade with China.

Analysts said Hu had the right of appeal, but stressed that only one per cent of appeals are successful in China.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith branded it a ‘tough sentence’ on any measure.

Stealing trade secrets

The four were found guilty of stealing trade secrets including the minutes of a China Iron and Steel Association meeting and information on China steel giant Shougang’s output, the court said.

It marked the first time that details on the trade secrets charges had been publicly revealed.

The court in Shanghai also said Hu, who heads Rio’s Shanghai office, took bribes totalling 6.46 million yuan (950,000 dollars).

It handed down jail terms of 14 years to Wang Yong, eight years to Ge Minqiang and seven years to Liu Caikui.

Liu’s lawyer, Tao Wuping, said his client was likely to appeal. It was not immediately clear whether Hu and the other defendants planned to appeal.

The defendants were accused last week of accepting about 13 million dollars in bribes, according to their lawyers.

The four Rio employees were arrested last July during contentious iron ore contract talks between top mining companies and the steel industry in China, the world’s largest consumer of the raw material. The talks collapsed.

The four defendants appeared before the court in civilian clothing, with Hu wearing a blue wind-breaker. His normally black hair was white.

Hu also was fined 500,000 yuan and had another 500,000 yuan worth of personal assets confiscated, the court said.

Trial watched globally

The trial has been closely watched as a test of the rule of law in China and has sparked concerns about doing business in the world’s third-largest economy.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told the ABC’s 7.30 Report he felt there were serious implications for how the business community views operations in China, but that as far as the bilateral relationship is concerned, ‘I dont believe there’ll be any adverse effects’, he said.

A prosecutor recommended Hu be given a lenient sentence after he apologised to the court and to Rio, saying he took more than $US900,000 ($A991,954) to help friends, his lawyer Jin Chunqing said.

Prime Minister Rudd had earlier said the world would be watching the trial – seen as a test of Chinese law for mining companies and others observering the stability of operating in China.

Eight months before sentencing

The four were arrested last July during contentious iron ore contract talks between top mining companies and the steel industry in China, the world’s largest consumer of the raw material. The talks collapsed.

At the three-day trial, the court heard evidence that millions of yuan in bribes had been stuffed into bags and boxes for the accused, according to state media.

Hu took money from small private steel companies, which before the global financial crisis were locked out of buying iron ore from Rio because the Anglo-Australian miner prioritised large state-run steel giants, Jin said.

When the global economic crisis hit in September 2008 demand for iron ore plummeted and the smaller players paid bribes “to squeeze into the club and join the buyers”, he said.

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Japan frees Chinese fishing crew ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

Japan has freed the crew of a Chinese trawler it seized last week.

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Beijing demanded that Tokyo free the captain of the Chinese fishing trawler, who was arrested after his vessel collided with two Japan Coast Guard vessels in disputed waters.

In a diplomatic row between the Asian giants, China summoned Japan’s ambassador for a second time since the incident last Tuesday, near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea.

China “demanded that the Japanese side immediately release the ship and crew members on board and guarantee their safety”, assistant foreign minister Hu Zhengyue told Japan’s ambassador Uichiro Niwa, the ministry said.

Japan said it suspected the captain hit its patrol ships deliberately in the confrontation, and was holding the captain on suspicion of obstructing officers on duty, which carries a maximum three years’ jail.

Japan’s 1,300-ton patrol boat Yonakuni last Tuesday ordered the trawler to cease operations in the disputed waters.

In the ensuing confrontation, the Chinese boat’s bow hit the Yonakuni’s stern before it sailed off. About 40 minutes later it collided with another Japanese patrol boat, the Mizuki, the Coast Guard said.

Four Japanese patrol ships then pursued the Chinese vessel, and Coast Guard personnel later boarded it to question the captain and crew over the incident and on suspicion of violating Japan’s fisheries law.

The incident happened near a disputed string of five small islands – known as Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu in China, and Diaoyutai in Taiwan – which lies between Japan’s far-southern Okinawa island and Taiwan.

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Amnesty condemns Iran ahead of UN vote ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

More than 5,000 people were detained in a campaign of “severe repression” following last year’s Iranian elections, according to an Amnesty International report.

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The reports records “widespread abuses” and “suppressing freedom of expression to an unprecedented level”.

“Compelling evidence emerged that a number of detainees, both women and men, had been raped and otherwise tortured in detention,” the human rights watchdog said in the annual report released in London, echoing controversial allegations made by Karroubi.

The condemnation comes ahead of a UN Security Council vote on a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Iran over its suspected nuclear activites.

Iranian authorities reacted furiously to the charges, but were forced to admit abuses at south Tehran’s notorious Kahrizak detention centre, which was closed after at least three protesters died of injuries inflicted in custody.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s main rivals,including Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubirivals, remain vocal in rejecting his government and its hardline “cult” following.

Terming the current Iranian year a “year of perseverance”, Mousavi, who as a former prime minister under revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was once a pillar of the regime, issued his harshest criticism yet of the “tyrant” government on February 2.

“Stifling the media, filling the prisons and brutally killing people who peacefully demand their rights in the streets indicate that the roots of tyranny and dictatorship remain from the monarchist era… I don’t believe that the revolution achieved its goals,” he said on his website Kaleme.com.

Ahmadinejad’s main rivals, and eight other opposition groups are seeking to hold new anti-government demonstrations over the “fraudulent” official results.

Such criticism has stoked a furious war of words with the regime over who represents the true legacy of Khomeini’s revolutionary leadership.

Khamenei, who has openly defended Ahmadinejad, warned opposition leaders on Friday that former closeness to Khomeini was no guarantee of loyalty to his teachings.

The cleric recalled that some of Khomeini’s earliest supporters had betrayed the regime and been punished accordingly.

“Some came with the Imam from Paris and, after a while, due to treason, were hanged,” he said, referring to Khomeini’s return from exile in the French capital which triggered the revolution.

Iran’s hardline regime crushed public protests against Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election last year, but 12 months on his rivals remain vocal in opposing his “cult” government.

Resorting to deadly violence and mass arrests, the authorities snuffed out the wave of huge street demonstrations that followed the announcement of the official results of the June 12 2009 vote.

But opposition leaders continue to challenge the regime’s claim to be the true followers of the Islamic revolution which overthrew the Western-backed shah in 1979 and advocate a change of leadership and direction.

Street protests against Ahmadinejad and chants of “Death to Dictator!” are no longer seen or heard but fresh clashes between pro- and anti-regime elements could erupt on the anniversary of the election on Saturday.

Bloody protests first broke out immediately after the hardline incumbent was declared the winner and intensified after he described his opponents as “dust and dirt” at a Tehran victory rally.

In the following days and weeks, running street battles between security forces and anti-Ahmadinejad protesters in what came to be known as the Green Movement erupted in the capital and other cities leaving dozens dead.

The political turbulence split the nation’s clerical elite, dragged all-powerful supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei into the crisis and left authorities grappling with bloodshed and international condemnation.

The intense cat and mouse chase between protesters and security forces lasted through the summer into the winter.

The regime reacted with an iron fist, rounding up politicians and journalists close to Mousavi and Karroubi and unleashing its feared Basij Islamic militia on anyone prepared to demonstrate in the streets.

Iran also sentenced 10 protesters to death and hanged seven people on security charges unrelated to the election but seen as a warning to opposition groups.

The sustained assault on regime opponents and the massive deployment of security forces at public events have kept protesters off the streets in recent months.

The turning point was the February 11 anniversary of the 1979 revolution, a cornerstone public event for the regime and one which the opposition had planned to hijack.

Hundreds of thousands of regime supporters backed by thousands of militiamen and security personnel spread across Tehran and quelled all attempts by the opposition to stage demonstrations of its own.

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Rudd announces National Hospital fund ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has unveiled a new health plan which will see the creation of a National Hospital Fund that allows hospitals to be “funded nationally, but run locally”.

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The PM says the federal takeover of state and territory-based hospital funding will end the blame game and ensure greater outcomes for patients.

“This action will permanently reverse the decline in commonwealth funding for public hospitals,” he says.

Mr Rudd says the new funding model would create a single national network of hospitals, rather than the current model of eight separate systems.

The federal goverment would become the major stakeholder, but would require states and territories to give a certain percentage of their budget to hospitals.

One-third of the states and territories’ GST allocations will be required to fund the healthcare changes.

The Commonwealth will also skim back the amount given to state and territory governments and give this money to the National Hospital Fund.

Mr Rudd outlined his blueprint at the National Press Club in Canberra this afternoon.

Speculation surrounding the plan mounted even before details of the announcement were released, with states and territories vowing to fight mismanagement of the traditionally state-based portfolio.

The states and territories have yet to agree on the plan, but Mr Rudd says if they do not, the federal government will take it directly to the people via a referendum, possibly at the next election.

The PM says he has discussed the changes with Premiers and Chief Ministers, and the reaction from them has been ‘mixed’.

Also as part of the reforms, the federal government announced it would take over the funding and policy responsibility for General Practitioners and frontline healthcare services.

Mr Rudd called the changes “the biggest single reform since the introduction of Medicare”.

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