Daily Archives: June 13, 2008

John McCain backs Asian Union Plan

Related: McCain backs Rudd’s ‘Asian Union’ plan

“I am appreciative of the leadership role that Australia has played in the region, they have even sent troops to various parts of the region when there’s been political and civil unrest,” Mr McCain told reporters.

In the United States, Republican Presidential nominee John McCain has given the thumbs up to Australia’s push for closer regional co-operation in the Asia Pacific.

Radio Australia | Jun 13, 2008

Presenter: Michael Rowland

Speakers: Michael Fullilove, The Lowy Instuitute; John McCain, Republican Presidential Nominee; Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister

MICHAEL ROWLAND: John McCain has always had a soft spot for Australia.

He’s a Vietnam veteran and his naval officer father spent a lot of time in Perth during World War Two.

So when asked a question about Australia during a Boston media conference overnight, the Republican nominee didn’t hold back.

JOHN MCCAIN: I am appreciative of the leadership role that Australia has played in the region. They have even sent troops to various parts of the region when there has been political and civil unrest.

I believe that the relationship between Australia and China is a developing one.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Senator McCain was specifically asked for his views on Kevin Rudd’s ambitious plan for an Asia-Pacific community.

The body would be a forum for discussion on security and political matters as well as a vehicle for introducing free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Senator McCain agrees there needs to be stronger regional ties.

JOHN MCCAIN: I believe that the more and closer that the countries in the region work together, free and open trade and more agreements with the United States of America, I am greatly in support of.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Michael Fullilove of the Lowy Institute, who’s now in Washington as a visiting fellow with the Brookings Institution, believes there’ll be broad US support for Mr Rudd’s idea.

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: There is interest in Washington in Mr Rudd’s idea for an Asia-Pacific community although I don’t think there is a complete understanding here about exactly what Mr Rudd proposes. What would be its remit, its membership and its organisational structure, but I think the default position in Washington is they agree that Asia needs stronger regional institutions and they know that Australia can be trusted to develop institutions that include the United States.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: How important is it that the US is on board for this concept to work?

MICHAEL FULLILOVE: Oh, it is critically important for our interests. I mean, it is a core national interest of ours that any regional institution that develops include the United States because the US presence in the region keeps a lid on interstate friction that otherwise could be very dangerous, so it is very important for us that the US is involved.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Kevin Rudd will also be pleased with the free character reference he’s received from John McCain:

JOHN MCCAIN: Prime Minister Rudd is a very talented individual and I had the pleasure of meeting with him in Washington.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Mr Rudd believes Australia will be well served regardless of who wins the race for the White House.

Puppy-throwing soldier expelled from Marine Corps

livenews.com.au | Jun 11, 2008

by Richard Maxton

The US Marine who was filmed throwing a puppy off a cliff while on patrol in Iraq has been kicked out of the Marine Corps.

The 17-second video sparked outrage among animal rights groups when it was posted on YouTube in March.

The clip shows two Marines joking before one hurls the puppy into a steep rocky gully.

According to a Marine Corps press release, Lance Cpl. David Motari is “being processed for separation” as well as receiving an unspecified “non-judicial” punishment.

“The actions seen in the Internet video are contrary to the high standards we expect of every Marine and will not be tolerated,” Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where Lance Cpl. Motari is stationed, said in a news release.

“The vast majority of Marines conduct their duties with honor and compassion that makes American people proud.”

The second Marine, Sgt. Crismarvin Banez Encarnacion, who is heard snickering off-camera as the puppy hits the gorund, also received an unspecified “non-judicial” punishment.

The Marine Corps declined to specify details about the disciplinary measures taken against the Marines as the matter is still under investigation.

Mother plans suit against Department of Child Services over baby’s death

Destiny was at least the fourth child to die in Marion County since November while under the supervision of DCS.

Indy Star | Jun 11, 2008

By Tim Evans

The mother of Destiny Linden, a 7-week-old Indianapolis girl who died April 29 while in the state foster care system, has notified the Indiana Department of Child Services that she plans to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against the agency. At the heart of Randi Linden’s claim: Destiny was improperly removed from her by DCS, which led to the baby’s death.

In a separate action, Michael Carter Love, Destiny’s father, has filed a suit against Destiny’s foster parents, alleging their negligence led to the child’s death.

Susan Tielking, DCS spokeswoman, acknowledged the agency received the tort claim notice but said she could not talk about specifics of the case. She said the agency is about halfway through its internal investigation of how it handled the matter, a process that could take another month or two.

Destiny died eight days after a DCS caseworker removed her from Linden on April 21.

In court records, DCS officials claimed they had to remove Destiny because Linden failed to protect the child when she refused to go to a domestic violence shelter or press criminal charges against Love for an alleged assault in early April.

Indianapolis attorney David B. Wilson, who is representing Love in the suit against the foster parents, said his client “vigorously denies the allegations” that he assaulted Linden. Linden and Love were not married, did not live together or have a relationship at the time of the incident or Destiny’s death.

Three days after DCS placed Destiny in the home of Indianapolis foster parents Everett and Kim Coleman, she was found unconscious in an adult bed. Destiny never regained consciousness and was kept on life support systems for five days before she was pronounced dead.

The exact cause of her death remains undetermined, pending results of toxicology and other tests, but Marion County Chief Deputy Coroner Alfarena Ballew has said it appeared to be the result of an unsafe sleeping situation.

Destiny was at least the fourth child to die in Marion County since November while under the supervision of DCS.

Indianapolis attorney Nathaniel Lee filed Linden’s tort claim notice with DCS in late May. Doing so is the first step required to file a lawsuit against the government agency. If the state does not approve the claim within 90 days, the complaining party has two years to file a lawsuit.

The notice states: “Due to the improper actions of CPS, Destiny Linden expired. We are hereby seeking damages against CPS for the wrongful taking of the child, which led to the wrongful death.”

Lee also has asked Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi to look into several aspects of the case.

In a letter to the prosecutor, Lee said he thinks Love should have been criminally charged in the alleged assault of Linden — which would have eliminated the need for Destiny to be removed from her mother. The letter states Linden refused to press charges because Love threatened her if she cooperated with police or prosecutors, but that investigators never made an attempt to determine why she was refusing to move forward with charges after filing an initial police report.

Matthew Symons, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said both the alleged assault and Destiny’s death are under investigation by police and the prosecutor’s staff. Until those investigations are completed, Symons said, he could not comment further on either matter.

In his suit against the Colemans, who were licensed foster parents in good standing with the state at the time of Destiny’s placement, Love contends they had “a duty to use reasonable care for Destiny’s safety.” The couple breached that responsibility, the suit says, by placing Destiny in an adult bed, rather than a crib, and failed to properly monitor the infant.

As a result, Love states, he incurred medical expenses, emotional distress and the loss of love and companionship of his daughter. The suit asks for “a fair and reasonable amount” of damages from the couple.

No attorney was listed in court records for the Colemans, and a telephone number for the couple in a police report filed when Destiny was found unconscious has been disconnected.

Pope Benedict XVI sets up anti-terrorist squad

The Swiss Guards have been given anti-terrorism training, and now carry SIG P75 pistols and Heckler-Koch MP5 sub-machine guns, as well as their traditional halberds.

Telegraph | Jun 11, 2008

By Malcolm Moore in Rome

The Vatican has created an anti-terrorist unit in order to guard the Holy See and the pope from a possible attack.

Vatican security forces now include an anti-bomb squad and a rapid response team, according to Domenico Giani, the head of the Holy See’s 130-man gendarmerie.

The Vatican will also work more closely with Interpol to gather information on any threats, he said.

The deal with Interpol, the pan-European police agency, will give the Vatican access to a large data bank of suspects and information on the latest anti-terrorism techniques.

“The teams report directly to the head of the Gendarmerie,” said Mr Giani in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper.

“The rapid response team will carry out investigations across the spread of information channels and will be supported by a sophisticated technical team. It will be able to intervene immediately in case of danger,” said Mr Gianni.

“The second group is made up of highly-specialised experts, armed with sophisticated and innovative technology,” he added.

He said the two teams would not be confined to the Vatican, but would also travel with the pope.

The Swiss Guards have also been given anti-terrorism training, and now carry SIG P75 pistols and Heckler-Koch MP5 sub-machine guns, as well as their traditional halberds.

Earlier this year, Osama bin Laden repeated threats against Pope Benedict, who he accused of “leading a crusade against Islam”.

The pope has been the subject of a series of attacks since 2006, when he used a quotation in a speech at Regensburg University that said Islam was an “evil and inhuman” religion.

Pope John Paul II was shot and wounded in St Peter’s Square in 1983 by a Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca.

Pakistan attacks US for ‘cowardly’ killing of 11 soldiers

Independent | Jun 12, 2008

By Omar Waraich

Relations between Washington and the new government in Islamabad have been dealt a severe blow after Pakistan angrily denounced the “unprovoked and cowardly” killing of 11 soldiers in a US air strike near the Afghan border.

The attack, which took place in the volatile tribal areas and is believed to have been carried out by a pilotless drone, is likely to sour ties between the Pakistani and American military and deepen public resentment of Pakistan’s role in the so-called war on terror.

In its most vocal protest yet, Pakistan’s military said the strike in Mohmand, which killed members of a paramilitary border force “had hit at the very basis of co-operation” in the fight against terrorism. It said it reserved “the right to protect our citizens and soldiers against aggression”.

Yousaf Raza Gillani, the recently elected prime minister who leads a fragile coalition government, told Pakistan’s parliament: “We will take a stand for sovereignty, integrity and self-respect, and we will not allow our soil [to be attacked].”

The government has been pursuing peace deals with tribal leaders and militants on the border and in the Swat valley, a move that has upset Kabul and Nato commanders in Afghanistan, who say it will lead to a surge in cross-border attacks.

While it is widely believed that previous US air strikes have killed Pakistani civilians, and possibly troops, only for responsibility to be taken by the Pakistanis themselves for political reasons, yesterday’s condemnation by Islamabad broke new ground.

Precise details are still emerging. The soldiers killed, including one officer, were members of the Frontier Constabulary force manning a border post in the village of Gora Prai. The attack is reported to have taken place late on Tuesday, amid clashes between US coalition forces and militants from the Pakistani Taliban.

“Every indication we have is that this was a legitimate strike against forces that had attacked members of the coalition,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

In a statement issued from Afghanistan, the US-led coalition said it fired artillery and deployed pilotless drones in response to an attack. A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban said eight of its fighters had been killed after they launched an attack.

Talat Masood, a retired general turned liberal analyst, said the soldiers’ deaths would “help the militants’ propaganda” and were certain to “deepen the already existing public ill will towards the United States”.

“For Pakistan, it represents a loss of sovereignty and shows helplessness,” he added. “Despite all the public co-operation between the two countries, it reflects a level of distrust and lack of confidence. It shows that the US does not trust Pakistanis with their intelligence, insisting that they will strike instead of letting you strike.”

Mr Masood said the US was more interested in the stability of the border region than the stability of Pakistan as a whole.

On Tuesday, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that al-Qa’ida leaders in the tribal areas were plotting fresh attacks on American targets and criticised Pakistan for failing to wipe them out. His comments came as the Rand Corporation, a US-based think-tank funded by the Defence Department, claimed Pakistani agents and members of the Frontier Constabulary were helping the Taliban – a charge Pakistan denies.

Pakistan’s involvement in the effort to defeat al-Qa’ida and Taliban militants within its territory, which has cost the lives of over 1,000 Pakistani soldiers, has become deeply unpopular with the public. Opponents of President Musharraf argue that it has led to the spread of terrorist attacks into major cities.

British MP resigns speaking out against Orwellian police state

David Davis speaks against “relentless erosion of fundamental British freedoms”

David Davis stuns Westminster with resignation over 42-day terror law

I’m fighting to defend our basic freedoms, says David Davis. ‘I feel duty bound to take a personal stand’

Telegraph | Jun 12, 2008

David Davis statement

By David Davis

Yesterday, I announced my intention to resign from the House of Commons, which I have served as an MP for 21 years, and also as shadow home secretary, a position I have held for almost five years, in order to fight a by-election in my constituency of Haltemprice and Howden. Why?

On Wednesday, we witnessed a severe blow to liberal democracy in this country. On the one hand, Gordon Brown extended the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 42 days, sacrificing one of the most fundamental freedoms of every British citizen – the right not to be held in prolonged police detention without being told the charges against you. He sacrificed a fundamental liberty without a shred of evidence that it was necessary. And he did so against the advice of many security experts who warned that it may fuel the very extremism we are trying to defeat.

On the other hand, in pawning off one of the crown jewels of our democracy, the Prime Minister stooped to the lowest level, with widespread reports that he threatened and bought off just enough voices of dissent within his own party to sneak this measure through. Despite the frenetic excitement around Westminster, this was a sad day for the mother of parliaments.

We already had the longest period of detention without charge in the free world. Now it has been further increased – by half – just as we approach the anniversary of the Magna Carta, which has guaranteed the freedom of the individual from arbitrary detention for nearly 800 years. David Cameron will continue to lead our steadfast opposition to 42 days – which will now continue in the Lords – and I look forward to campaigning with him in Haltemprice and Howden. But this week we crossed a line. And I feel duty bound to take a personal stand to resist this sustained assault on the fundamental freedoms that millions in this country died defending.

For one thing, having secured 42 days based on the most generic of security arguments – technology, complexity, unpredictability – this Government will be tempted by the politics of terror to keep coming back for 56, then 70, then 90 days. That is why I believe we must draw a line now.

The truth is that, while 42 days marks a watershed, it is only the latest in the steady, insidious and relentless erosion of our freedoms over the past decade.

We will soon have the most intrusive ID card system in the world. There is a CCTV camera for every 14 citizens – despite growing evidence of their ineffectiveness as deployed. We have the largest DNA database in the world, larger than any dictatorship, with thousands of innocent children and millions of innocent citizens on it.

The Government has attacked the jury system, that historic bulwark against unfair law and the arbitrary abuse of state power. Shortcuts with our legal system have left British justice less firm and less fair. The Government hoards masses of personal data on insecure databases, opening up our private lives to the prying eyes of official snoopers, but also exposing personal data to careless civil servants and criminal hackers.

The state has security powers that clamp down on peaceful protest, and so-called hate laws that stifle legitimate debate – while those inciting violence get off scot-free. A 15-year-old boy was recently charged on the spot for holding a banner describing scientology as a “dangerous cult”, but extremists such as Abu Hamza are left free for years to incite violence and vitriol against this country.

There are now 266 state powers allowing officials to force their way into the home. Six hundred public bodies have the authority to bug phones and emails and intercept the post. Forget the security services: councils and quangos conduct 1,000 surveillance operations every month, using powers that ought to be the preserve of law enforcement agencies. Officials in Poole spied for weeks on a family taking their children to school, to check that they lived inside the catchment area. Even our rubbish can now be examined by neighbourhood spooks.

None of this has made us any safer. Violent crime has doubled in 10 years, and the Government continually briefs blood-curdling assessments of the terrorist threat. It is a myth to believe that we can defend our security by sacrificing our fundamental freedoms – one I intend to puncture over the next few weeks.

I am fighting this by-election as the Conservative candidate, but on vital national issues that transcend party politics. I hope to attract support from across the political spectrum, and the country at large. I look forward to taking on those who say the British public do not care about liberty – this campaign will be about leading a national debate, not pandering to polls. At stake is my own career as a Member of Parliament, but more fundamentally a long overdue debate on the preservation of liberty in this great country.

There will be those that cast aspersions on this endeavour, and those who try to suggest divisions within the Conservative Party. Yesterday, Westminster was foaming with speculation about a rift between me and David Cameron. It is nonsense. We have been united from start to finish on 42 days and wider security policy. We agreed that a Conservative government would immediately repeal 42 days, in the absence of the most compelling new evidence. And I am fully committed to David Cameron’s fine leadership of the Conservative Party, including the excellent appointment of Dominic Grieve, one of my closest friends, as shadow home secretary.

So, as I return to Haltemprice and Howden, I lay down this challenge to Gordon Brown and his Government. Labour must put up a candidate to debate and defend their draconian track record. Anything else would demonstrate supreme political cowardice and contempt for public opinion.

I challenge the Prime Minister and any other member of his Cabinet with the courage of their convictions. I will debate with any one of them – any time, anywhere – what Gordon Brown euphemistically referred to as the “next chapter of British liberty”.

Scouts refuse boy who won’t swear oath to the Queen

Disappointed: Matthew McVeigh

By Auslan Cramb

Telegraph | Jun 6, 2008

An eight-year-old boy has been told he cannot become a Cub Scout after refusing to swear allegiance to the Queen.

Matthew McVeigh objected to part of the Cub Scout Promise which includes the line, “I promise to do my duty to God and the Queen”.

His mother Tracy wanted the pledge changed on religious grounds to: “I promise to do my duty to God and my country”.

But Matthew was told by the 1st Neilston Scout Group in Renfrewshire that unless he took the official oath he could not become a fully-fledged Cub.

Mrs McVeigh, a Roman Catholic, complained the 1701 Act of Settlement specifically discriminated against her faith because it only allowed Protestants to take the throne in Britain.

She added: “Why should we make an oath to the monarchy? The monarchy actively discriminates against Catholics.

“It’s an absolute disgrace in this day and age. We are supposed to live in a multi-cultural age, but this just flies in the face of that.”

The Scout Association allows young people of different religions to replace the word “God” with other deities, and also allows people of other nationalities in the UK to swear to do their duty to “the country in which I am now living”.

But Chris Foster, spokesman for the association, said the rules stated that British nationals must pledge allegiance to the Queen.

He added: “It is simply UK Scout Association policy that all British subjects must promise that.”

Its rules state that scouting is available to all faiths and takes account of the different religions of its members.

In the case of the Scout Promise, which adds the words “On my honour,” at the start of the Cub Scout pledge, Muslims may choose to substitute the phrase with, “In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent the Most Merciful”.

Mrs McVeigh, 29, a mother-of-three, said her son was an intelligent boy and did not want to make the promise “just for the sake of saying it”.

She added: “I was gobsmacked that the Cub Scout commissioner said that if Matthew didn’t say the promise he would effectively be out the door. He said he could still go along to trips, but he would not be insured.

“The Cub Scout Promise was worded way back in 1907 and, let’s face it, times have moved on. Matthew aboslutely adores the Cub Scouts.

“I am not asking for special treatment, I would just like him to be a Cub Scout without compromising what he believes in.”

Matthew said the decision was “not fair”, adding: “I really enjoy the Cubs and don’t want to feel left out or different to everybody else.”

Fr Jim Byers, Scouting chaplain of the local Catholic diocese, said he had never heard of a case of religious objection to the promise in 20 years, but urged the Scouting authorities to look into the case.

Cubs have to recite the full promise, which states: “I promise that I will do my best, To do my duty to God and to the Queen, To help other people, And to keep the Scout Law.”

After reciting the verse they receive a badge, woggle and neckerchief and become a fully-fledged Cub Scout.