Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ex-SAS soldier reveals executions

An investigation has uncovered explosive evidence of potential war crimes committed by Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment in Afghanistan. Ahead of a major inquiry soon to report on concerns about the SAS, ABC’s Four Corners team has revealed video of an SAS soldier executing a cowering unarmed man at point blank range, and accounts of other killings of unarmed people. Former SAS operative Braden Chapman told the ABC that SAS soldiers would cover up killings by planting weapons and radios on corpses. “I did see plenty that were planted,” Chapman said. “They definitely got them off somebody else and walked over and sat it next to a body.” Former Australian Defence Force lawyer Glenn Kolomeitz said charges could be laid under the war crime murder provisions of the Commonwealth criminal code.

Mass gathering limit review: Prime Minister Scott Morrison and all state and territory leaders are expected to make a decision today on whether to further reduce the number of people allowed to gather together down from the current cap of 500. The issue was expected to be discussed at a six-hour meeting of all Australia's chief medical officers in Canberra on Monday night. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said ahead of the meeting they would debate whether there should be different restrictions on a "football stadium versus a pub". Up to 150,000 Australians could die from the coronavirus under the Morrison government's worst-case scenario. Almost a fifth of all 368 coronavirus cases reported in Australia were recorded on Monday.

States act on COVID-19: The NSW Government is to release a $2.3 billion COVID-19 assistance package, including boosting intensive care units and the purchase of ventilators. Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has announced a $607 million assistance package, including a freeze on increases to household fees and charges, COVID-19 sick leave for public servants, and the fast-tracking of payroll tax relief.

More travel bans: The World Health Organization called for countries to test every case of suspected COVID-19, as the global death toll rises past 7000. The European Union is considering closing its borders to all non-essential travel “for an initial period of 30 days”, while Canada and Russia have enacted travel bans, and Malaysia is denying entry to all visitors as it enters a complete lockdown. The United States released guidelines instructing Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people for the next 15 days.


“Assessing the package, independent economist Saul Eslake says the government has done ‘about as much as could be expected’ to avoid a technical recession … Eslake notes there is little information about how the regional community coronavirus support fund will work. ‘Hopefully they won’t have a colour-coded spreadsheet to work out where it goes,’ he says, referring to the way sports grants were approved.”


“The knowledge that the virus has infected someone at the innermost workings of the government is a grim reminder of just how pervasive it is, and how hard it will be to contain and combat ... And unless there are truly draconian measures to control it – a solution that Dutton would instinctively embrace – there is no remedy except trying to balance the requirements of the health authorities and the demands of a public unwilling to accept the laws.”


“Craig Linn ... travelled all the way to Mount Coolon and chained himself to a cattle grid in an attempt to block workers heading to the Adani mine site. For his troubles, he got a 12-month good behaviour bond with a $450 recognisance ... Much worse was the lecture from magistrate James Morton delivering justice at the Bowen Courthouse. He told Linn that he needs to ‘look at the economy around here … Those big mines, that’s what’s keeping the economy going up here.’”


“The request to consider gifting ticket sales rather than asking for refunds is one that is echoing around the arts industry, while the peak body Live Performance Australia has called for the government to confirm a timeframe for the ban on mass gatherings, as well as calling on an emergency support package for the performing arts industry.”


“This general concept of slowing the virus’s spread has been termed ‘flattening the curve’ by epidemiologists – experts who study how often diseases occur in different populations, and why. The term has become widespread on social media as the public is encouraged to practise ‘social distancing’. But how does social distancing help to flatten the curve?”


“ISIS has adopted a safety-first approach to the coronavirus pandemic … in the terrorist group’s al-Naba newsletter, the editors who normally urge followers to carry out attacks on the West instead ask them to ‘stay away from the land of the epidemic’ for the time being. In a full-page infographic on the back cover, a list of pro-tips instructs militants on how to stop the pandemic's spread. ISIS members are advised to ‘put trust in God and seek refuge in Him from illnesses,’ but to also ‘cover the mouth when yawning and sneezing’.”

Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.