Thursday, September 03, 2020

Soldiers mock war crime allegations

Australian special forces soldiers are operating an Instagram account that celebrates war crimes allegedly committed in Afghanistan and sells bumper stickers reading “Make Diggers Violent Again”. The ABC reports that the account, titled State Sanctioned Violence, promotes a range of merchandise to its thousands of followers, including T-shirts bearing the slogan “High Velocity Atrocities”. One post features footage of people being killed by missiles, guns and drone strikes, while some posts joke about making lampshades out of the skins of Taliban members and hacking off the ears of village elders. Others refer to concerns in the defence community that an ongoing inquiry into war crimes will only target rank-and-file soldiers and let officers walk free. In a statement, Defence said it knew about the account but was “not aware of any connection” with serving Australian Defence Force personnel. When the ABC provided the name of a serving soldier linked to the account, the ADF said it would investigate. 

A draft plan leaked to The Herald Sun indicates the Victorian government may extend Melbourne’s stage four lockdown for an additional fortnight with limited tweaks. The changes under consideration after September 14 include allowing two hours of exercise per day, split up into two sessions, and giving single people and single parents the right to have a nominated visitor at home. The evening curfew would remain in place and widespread business restrictions would continue. The road map indicates bigger changes from September 28, when Melbourne’s curfew would be lifted and people would be allowed to socialise outdoors with five people from a maximum of two households. Childcare would reopen and a phased return to school would begin in Term 4. Similar changes would be made in regional Victoria with the same timeline.

The lower house of federal parliament has passed proposed changes to the Migration Act that would allow Home Affairs Minster Peter Dutton and acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge to declare certain items prohibited and grant Australian Border Force officials additional powers to search detainees. Refugee advocates, Amnesty International and the Law Council of Australia have criticised the bill, which could see mobile phones stripped from detainees, arguing it could lead to human rights breaches against detainees. The legislation, opposed by Labor, will now to go the Senate, where independent Jacqui Lambie is likely to hold the crucial vote deciding its future. The Greens and crossbench senators Stirling Griff from the Centre Alliance and independent Rex Patrick have voiced their opposition to the bill.

Germany has claimed to have found “unequivocal proof” that Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a novichok nerve agent. Navalny was evacuated to Berlin after falling ill in Siberia last month and remains in a coma. German chancellor Angela Merkel said Navalny was a victim of attempted murder and called for Russia to provide answers. Navalny’s team maintains he was poisoned on Russian President Vladimir Putin's orders but the Kremlin has dismissed the allegation.


“Face masks, for example, are a barrier to communication for deaf people who rely on lip-reading, while others are unable to follow the advice to avoid touching surfaces, whether for physical support or in order to read braille signage. People with intellectual disabilities may have difficulty comprehending the need for physical distancing, while it is difficult or impossible for many disabled people to avoid close physical contact with support workers who may be working with many other clients across multiple sites.”


“With the support and guidance of family and teachers Jaymee Wolff studied hard and achieved her goal – to get into a double degree in outdoor recreation and teaching. But the sensitive straight-A student and former sports captain from Victoria found the social isolation and academic pressure of university life crippling. Midway through her final year she made an attempt on her life. She was 21.” Lifeline 13 11 14


“Unfortunately, the federal government’s new foreign relations bill appears to reflect its long-running discontent with universities and political battles with Labor state governments as much as it does genuine concern about foreign interference. This is not the way to reduce tensions with China.”


“A fiery showdown will explode on Friday as the Morrison Government turns up the pressure on state premiers over ‘inconsistent and disproportionate’ border restrictions, with one senior figure putting the cost at a whopping $33 billion … Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham will seize on new research, to be released today, which predicts devastating losses for the industry.”


“While the Morrison government rails at the states to end border closures and pressures Daniel Andrews to reopen Victoria, its own international border closure is costing hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in lost export revenue. The economic damage inflicted by Morrison's international border closure is invariably absent from the extensive media commentary on and reporting of yet more efforts by the federal government to ‘ramp up’ pressure and ‘turn up the heat’ on state governments over border closures, but is far greater.”


“An interactive map lets you see how far your hometown has moved over 750 million years of continental drift.”

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