Monthly Archives: September 2019

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IS spreading influence in region

Islamic State is seeking to establish a presence in Southeast Asia and has a growing presence in Australia, a new study warns.


Between 100 and 250 Australians have joined ISIL and other Sunni militant groups in Iraq and Syria, most recruited from the radical al-Rasalah salafist centre in Sydney, says RAND Corporation senior political scientist Peter Chalk.

The study, released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says ISIL’s prime focus has been on establishing its caliphate but it has also sought to establish a presence beyond the Middle East.

Most concern has centred on Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

In Australia, several terrorist attacks planned in ISIL’s name have been thwarted but others have occurred.

The government has responded by toughening up terror legislation with authorities able to strip some IS recruits of their citizenship.

Mr Chalk said Australia was one of the United States’ closest allies, which played an active part in the downfall of Saddam Hussein and was now contributing troops and combat aircraft to the war against ISIL.

“All of this makes Australia a logical magnet for ISIL aggression,” he said.

Mr Chalk said up to 150 Malaysians and possibly more than 500 Indonesians had travelled to the Middle East to fight with ISIL. Some Malaysians had returned and were encouraging heightened domestic militancy.

Malaysia, generally regarded as the main focal point for ISIL activity in Southeast Asia, has admitted at least 71 soldiers have some connection with ISIL. More than 2000 Indonesians are thought to have declared their support for ISIL.

Mr Chalk said most of the Malaysians with ISIL are thought to be fighting alongside Indonesia volunteers, with growing concerns of a trans-national force able to operate across the region.

Germany to set climate plan by mid-2016

Germany will lay out a climate action plan for 2050 by the middle of next year and is talking to industry groups and trade unions about ways to end coal-fired power generation, the country’s environment minister says.


Global leaders clinched a breakthrough deal in Paris on Saturday to transform the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.

While Germany’s green energy campaign has earned it the reputation of a leader in environmental policy, critics say it needs to set a timetable to scrap coal power if it is to meet its own ambitious long-term climate targets.

“It is completely clear that we need to exit fossil energy sources by the middle of the century,” Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said on Monday, adding Germany needed to find a way to cushion the social impact in some regions.

The German government is due to decide on a climate action plan for 2050 by the summer of 2016 and will give more concrete details on a coal exit then, Hendricks told a news conference.

Europe’s largest and most dynamic economy generated more than a quarter of its electricity from renewable sources – such as wind and solar power – last year.

But at the same time the phase-out of nuclear power has increased its reliance on brown coal, the dirtiest of all energy sources, which is cheaper than low-emission gas-powered plants.

The coal sector accounted for around 44 per cent of electricity generated in Germany in 2014.

Faced with opposition from unions in coal-producing states, Germany dropped a proposal to impose penalties on the oldest and most polluting coal-fired power plants in July.

Instead, it will set up a coal-fired electricity reserve.

Green groups say Germany needs to do more if it is to meet its goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80-95 per cent by 2050.

SA set for a heatwave

South Australians are bracing for a week-long heatwave with temperatures set to peak in Adelaide at 42C on Saturday.


The hot blast also has authorities on high alert across the state.

Country Fire Service Chief officer Greg Nettleton says the high temperatures are a concern although winds are not expected to be a serious issue until later in the week.

Adelaide is tipped to reach 37C on Tuesday, 38C on Wednesday, 39C on Thursday and 41C on Friday.

The hot run will give the city an average maximum nine degrees above the long-term norm and its hottest December week in 13 years.

Despite the forecast conditions for Tuesday, total fire bans have been issued for just two districts with the risk rated severe in the northwest pastoral and Flinders.

But Mr Nettleton said the biggest worry for fire crews was the extent of the fire season remaining.

“It’s very early in December, we’ve already had a major fire and until we have decent rainfall we’ve got a number of months ahead of us,” he said on Monday.

Premier Jay Weatherill has urged people living in Adelaide outer suburbs to be wary of the risks posed by fast moving bushfires.

He said those residents should prepare a bushfire survival plan and be ready to act.

“We only need a handful of people to make a really bad decision in the middle of a fire and we could be talking about a handful of deaths,” he said.

“That’s something we simply cannot contemplate.”

The premier also expressed confidence in SA’s ability to fight another major blaze after the fire in late November which claimed two lives and burnt through more than 82,000 hectares north of Adelaide.

“If it is the case that we get another bushfire, I’m sure we’ll have enough firefighters to respond,” he said.

Lomu ‘broke’ at time of death

Rugby great Jonah Lomu was effectively broke when he died suddenly last month, it has been revealed.


The news has come to light as a trust fund is established for his two sons by friends concerned the family doesn’t have enough money to support them.

New Zealand Rugby Players Association has launched the Jonah Lomu Legacy Trust, to provide for Dhyreille, 6, and Brayley, 5, following Lomu’s death aged 40 last month.

Chief executive Rob Nichol said it was formed after close friends realised the family’s financial situation was not good.

“While the probate of the estate will take some time, we know enough to realise that the family will not be able to rely on any financial proceeds or ongoing financial benefit,” he said.

Mr Nichol said its own advisers had dealt with those helping the family to assess their financial situation.

He said it appeared that because of Jonah’s well-known generosity, he had taken on obligations, financial and otherwise, to support others at the expense of himself, wife Nadene and the children.

“It is also apparent that his 20-year illness and long dialysis sessions, multiple times a week affected him far more than people realised, including his ability to work and earn the type of money people probably assumed he was capable of earning.”

The trust, not set up at the request of the family, will solely benefit Lomu’s two boys, providing the education and pastoral care that Lomu would have wanted for them.

The association is urging the public to get behind the cause and donate to the trust.

Former All Black Michael Jones, one of four trustees, said it was time to give back to Lomu, who did a lot to promote the All Black brand to the world.

“He superseded anything we had seen before, and it is unlikely we will ever see the likes of again,” Jones said.

“He was an absolute rugby phenomenon.”

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Typhoon threatens central Philippines, 750,000 evacuated

Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated from the central Philippines on Monday as a typhoon with winds of up to 150 kph (95 mph) made landfall, dumping heavy rain that could cause flooding, landslides and storm surges, authorities warned.


About 40 domestic flights were grounded, while 73 ferries and hundreds of fishing boats were ordered to remain in port as typhoon Melor hit the village of Batag on the northern tip of Samar island.

Known locally as typhoon Nona, it was expected to roll across nearby islands before making landfall later on Monday close to Sorsogon, about 385 km (240 miles) southeast of the capital, Manila, on the heavily populated main island of Luzon.

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Melor was plotting a similar path to Haiyan, a category 5 typhoon that struck the central Philippines in 2013. Almost 8,000 people were killed or left missing by Haiyan.

Disaster authorities have temporarily closed schools and some offices and evacuated about 750,000 people in three provinces. About 8,000 people were stranded after the coast guard stopped ferries and fishing boats from leaving ports in the central Philippines.

“Melor is a very compact typhoon, so that will prevent its most devastating impacts from extending too far from its centre,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Adam Douty.

He said the typhoon had weakened a little as it encountered drier air early on Monday. “While Melor will not slam onshore as a super typhoon as once feared, it still poses dangers to lives and property,” Douty said.

Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said typhoon Melor was expected to cause flooding, landslides and storm surges of up to 4 metres (13 feet) and disrupt power and communications.

About 20 provinces, some around Manila, are under public storm alert due to strong winds and torrential rains of up to 300 mm (12 inches) within a 300 km (185 miles) radius.

About 20 major typhoons pass through the Philippines each year.


Bergdahl charges referred to trial

Military charges against US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a former prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan charged with desertion, have been referred for trial by general court-martial.


Bergdahl, 29, was charged earlier this year with desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy.

He faces up to life in prison if convicted of the more serious offence of misbehaviour.

The date of the arraignment hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be announced at a later date, the US Army Forces Command said in a statement on Monday.

US military prosecutors said in September at a preliminary hearing to establish probable cause that Bergdahl, held for five years before being swapped in 2014 for five Taliban leaders, deliberately left his post.

The prosecutors said at the preliminary hearing, held at the military post in San Antonio where Bergdahl has been stationed since his return, that he launched a plan weeks in the making.

They said there was sufficient evidence to hold him for trial on charges of desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy.

Major General Kenneth Dahl, who led the military’s investigation of Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture, testified at the hearing in September that Bergdahl was not a Taliban sympathiser and recommended that he serve no prison time.

Dahl characterised Bergdahl as an unrealistically idealistic soldier who left his post to report concerns about his unit’s leadership to a general at another base.

“I do not believe that there is a jail sentence at the end of this process,” said Dahl, who led 22 people in the two-month investigation and interviewed Bergdahl for a day and a half.

Bergdahl’s story is the subject of the second season of the hit podcast Serial which launched last week.

Merkel vows to ‘noticeably reduce’ refugee influx

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised at a congress of her conservative party to reduce substantially the number of migrants entering Germany, responding to rank-and-file concerns about the influx of a million refugees this year alone.


Despite being named person of the year by both Time magazine and the Financial Times for her bold response to the crisis, Merkel faces growing opposition at home to her open-door refugee policy and has begun hardening her position.

She told her centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) on Monday that the decision in August to welcome the refugees fleeing war and deprivation in the Middle East was a “humanitarian imperative”, but she also vowed to stem the flow.

“We want to, and we will, noticeably reduce the number of refugees,” she said to rapturous applause at the congress in Karlsruhe, in the southwestern state of Baden-Wurttemberg, which holds a state election next March.

Merkel, 61, received an eight-minute standing ovation at the end of her speech to roughly 1000 CDU delegates in a vast conference centre adorned with massive posters reading “For Germany and Europe”.

Her use of the phrase “noticeably reduce” came directly from a resolution the CDU leadership hastily reworked on the eve of the congress to head off an open rebellion over her refugee policy.

In the updated resolution, the party leadership added: “A continuation of the current influx would in the long-term overwhelm the state and society, even in a country like Germany.”

Merkel defended her catchphrase of “we can do this” during the refugee crisis by saying the party must show its Christian roots, and she likened it to pledges made by former conservative chancellors Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl in troubled times.

“Germany should be a country that is open, curious, tolerant and even exciting,” Merkel said, painting an upbeat vision for the future and stressing how far the country had come since she took power a decade ago.

A poll by Emnid on Sunday put support for her conservative alliance of the CDU and their Bavarian allies at 37 per cent, down from 43 per cent in mid-August.

Nicholls called into NZ one-day squad

“Outstanding” form with the bat has led to Canterbury left-hander Henry Nicholls being named as the new face in the New Zealand one-day squad.


The 24-year-old has earned his spot through his performances at domestic level over the last 12 months and a standout series for NZ A against Sri Lanka A, says coach Mike Hesson.

Against Sri Lanka A recently, Nicholls scored 210 runs in four limited-overs matches at an average of 84.5. He also has four hundreds and a first-class average of nearly 39 from 34 matches.

“He’s a player we see has class and a player who we want to expose to the international scene sooner rather than later,” Hesson said.

Rookies George Worker (two ODIs), Mitchell Santner (five) and Ish Sodhi (six) have also been named in the squad.

“We’ve got a few new faces so it’ll be nice to expose them around some older heads,” he said. “Hopefully they can prove they ready to go.”

There are five ODIs between the two sides and coach Mike Hesson has named a 13-man squad for the first three, two of which will be played in Christchurch and one in Nelson between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.

Quick bowler Matt Henry will be in the squad for the first two matches but will be replaced by Test bowler Tim Southee, following a rest, for the third.

Trent Boult is being rested for the five matches and Grant Elliot and Nathan McCullum are out injured.

Hesson said Nathan McCullum was unlikely to be considered for one-day cricket and because of his back problems was now seen as a Twenty20 option.

Elliott, who suffered a broken wrist in training last month, would likely return for Wellington after Christmas, Hesson said.

Injured allrounders Jimmy Neesham and Corey Anderson are back batting but Hesson said selectors were being cautious about their return to bowling.

Meanwhile, Hesson said 150km/h quick bowler Adam Milne – also named in the squad – was now bowling fast and he hinted about a Test spot eventually.

“We see his batting developing nicely for us and hopefully he’ll get further opportunities there. We see Adam as really good prospect for us in all forms.”

New Zealand squad for first three matches: Brendon McCullum, Doug Bracewell, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry/Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Henry Nicolls, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, George Worker.

EU will pass the migrant crisis test: Merkel

She’s made the remarks as the European Union moves to provide shelter for thousands of new arrivals stranded in Greece.


Angela Merkel’s standing within her own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), had become so strained two months ago, there were whispers a revolt was on the cards.

Now the German Chancellor, and Time’s person of the year, has regrouped her team – commanding a standing ovation at the party’s annual conference.

The hot topic in Germany and across Europe remains the ongoing migrant and refugee crisis.

About one million people have sought asylum in Germany this year alone, prompting many conservatives – including those in the ruling party – to push for a tougher approach.

Speaking to one thousand of her delegates, Ms Merkel defended her policy – but added the country will reduce the influx.

“We want to, and will, noticeably reduce the number of refugees because that is in everybody’s interest. It is in the German interest with regard to integration into society and employment. It is in the European interest with regard to our internal state and our role in the world. It is also in the interest of the refugees themselves, because nobody who leaves home, whatever their reasons may be, does so carelessly.”

The Chancellor resisted calls to set a specific limit on the number of refugees Germany can take, arguing she would not risk making a promise she cannot keep.

Ms Merkel instead stressed the importance of finding a diplomatic solution for the crisis with the rest of Europe.

She’s described it as an “historic test” she believes Europe will pass.

“We need, as we state in our Karlsruhe declaration, a solution to the refugee crisis which is sustainable and which is durable. A solution which is in the German and European interest. A solution which can only work in European solidarity and in close cooperation with the countries of origin and the transit countries of the movement of refugees. It is a global challenge, and this global challenge has to be mastered in the right fashion to achieve a permanent and sustainable solution.”

Also feeling the strain from the ongoing flow of new arrivals is Greece.

More than a quarter of a million refugees and migrants passed through the country this year, hoping to travel to central and northern Europe.

But with Macedonia and other Balkan countries recently tightening their border controls, many Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani migrants have been stranded in Greece.

Thousands are being housed in old Olympic venues from 2004 in Athens, or are sleeping in tents pitched in city squares and parks.

European Union Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Kristalina Georgieva, says the EU has signed an agreement to give them more support.

“This is an act of solidarity with Greece and with the children and women and men that are seeking refuge on Greek territory fleeing the horrors of war. Greece is striving to help. From the European Commission we are providing 80 million euros from the EU budget to help with the accommodation of 20,000 refugees through a rental support initiative implemented by UNHCR on the ground, of course working with the Greek authorities.”

A further 80,000 migrants are set to be accommodated across Greece and the Balkans, mostly in heated tents.

The United Nations says such moves are vital to continue the protect the most vulnerable of people, in the most dire of situations.



Parliamentary inquiry hears concerns over terror law changes

The Government wants to lower the age for control orders so they can apply to terrorism suspects as young as 14 years old.


But the Law Council of Australia has expressed concerns, shared by the Australian Human Rights Commission and a group of Muslim lawyers, about the impact of such laws.

They are calling for better safeguards to protect children.

The bill at the centre of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s inquiry contains several proposed changes to counterterrorism legislation.

They include allowing a control order to be imposed on children as young as 14 instead of 16, enhanced monitoring powers and a new offence of advocating genocide.

The Muslim Legal Network is voicing its concerns over the Federal Government’s proposed laws.

The New South Wales Muslim Legal Network has told the committee that moves to strengthen counterterrorism laws seem geared towards regulating potentially at-risk youths.

The network’s president, Zaahir Edries, says community intervention is more effective.

“The lowering of the age of control orders to 14 concerns us primarily because subjecting children to control orders will, in practical terms, further marginalise and alienate young people who are already feeling disconnected from society.”

Federal police say they have seen a change of behaviour in at least two people subject to anti-terrorism control orders.

Four Australians in the past 16 months have been placed under orders restricting their movements and communication in attempts to help prevent a terrorist attack.

It is one of many controls at Australian Federal Police disposal, but AFP assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan argues it is the most effective.

However, the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission are urging changes.

They say their proposed changes would ensure the courts give children’s best interests primary consideration when determining if control orders should be applied.

Commission president Gillian Triggs says the amendments raise significant human-rights concerns.

“The purpose of the counterterrorism laws is, ultimately, to protect the human rights of all Australians and those under Australian jurisdiction. We should not risk undermining democracy while purporting to defend it in these ways.”

The Law Council has also warned the revised test for granting preventative detention orders could be subject to legal challenge.

It suggests changing the wording.

And the council’s Duncan McConnel has added his voice to concerns over the potential impact of lowering the age for imposing control orders to 14.

“Control orders are a particularly intrusive form of restraint on personal liberty without there being any criminal conviction or even charge. The terms of a control order may impose significant obligations, prohibitions and restrictions on the person subject to that order.”

The bill is part of the Government’s fifth tranche of counterterrorism laws.

They were introduced following the shooting of New South Wales police worker Curtis Cheng in October in Parramatta, in western Sydney.