Monthly Archives:February 2019

New Zealand military releases UFO files

admin post on February 4th, 2019
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The New Zealand military has released hundreds of previously classified reports detailing claims of unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings and alien encounters.


The reports, dating from 1954 to 2009, were released on Wednesday under freedom of information laws after the New Zealand Defence Force removed names and other identifying material.

In about 2000 pages of documents, members of the public, military personnel and commercial pilots outline close encounters, mostly involving moving lights in the sky.

Some of the accounts include drawings of flying saucers, descriptions of aliens wearing “pharaoh masks” and alleged examples of extraterrestrial writing.

Before their release, Air Force squadron leader Kavae Tamariki said the Defence Force did not have the resources to investigate UFO sightings and would not be commenting on the files’ contents.

“We’ve just been a collection point for the information. We don’t investigate or make reports, we haven’t substantiated anything in them,” he told the Dominion Post.

One of the most comprehensive files concerns two sightings of strange lights off the South Island town of Kaikoura in 1978, one of which was captured by a television crew aboard a plane in the area.

The incident made international headlines at the time, but a contemporary Air Force report found it could be explained by natural phenomena such as lights from boats being reflected off clouds or an unusual view of the planet Venus.

The original documents on which the reports released on Wednesday were based will remain sealed in the national archive, some until 2080.

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Food shortages loom after Pakistan bombing

admin post on February 4th, 2019
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About 300,000 villagers, impoverished by fighting in Pakistan’s tribal belt, face food shortages after a female suicide bomber killed 45 people outside a World Food Program distribution centre, triggering a suspension of the relief project.


Pakistan says the attack is a sign of insurgent desperation, but the bombing and ongoing battles challenge Islamabad’s claims of victory over al-Qaeda and the Taliban in this part of the porous northwest border.

WFP district coordinator Shahab Khan said on Sunday that all four food relief centres run by the United Nations agency in the Bajur district had been shut indefinitely since Saturday’s bombing in the area’s main town of Khar.

The WFP project in Bajur feeds 41,000 families – or 300,000 people – who returned to the district from camps for the displaced elsewhere in the country, even though their livelihoods having been ruined by fighting between Pakistan troops and insurgents.

Painda Khan, a 48-year-old farmer who abandoned his crops months ago, said his family of 11 was now desperate for their rations of rice, flour, lentils, cooking oil and high-energy biscuits that he had been going to pick up on Monday.

“We have been borrowing food from neighbours for the last five days,” said Khan, adding that his family last received supplies on November 25.

Gul Karim Khan, a 53-year-old who provides for a family of 10, had also found himself robbed of options by the closing of the supply centres.

“We are getting into very tough times,” he said.

“We don’t have any idea what we will do in the days ahead if we don’t get aid.”

While food relief centres outside Bajur are still functional, WFP official Amjad Jamal said the displaced villagers were not eligible for food rations from outside the district.

“We are trying to resume supplies at the earliest possible opportunity,” said Jamal, adding that it was too early to suggest a date.

“We are most concerned for the children in these areas because the majority are already malnourished.”

Bajur and other parts of the tribal regions are of major concern to the US because they have been safe havens for militants fighting NATO and American troops across the border in Afghanistan. The US has long pressured Pakistan to clear the area of insurgents.

The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, told The Associated Press that Pakistan’s “impressive” counterinsurgency efforts against armed groups must be recognised.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday still maintained that Pakistan’s military had routed al-Qaeda and Taliban from their strongholds in the area despite the bombing and running gun battles in recent days.

Co-ordinated attacks by 150 Islamic militants on five security posts in the Mohmand tribal region on Bajur’s southern boundary sparked two days of fighting that officials say claimed the lives of 11 soldiers and 64 insurgents.

Gilani said the Bajur bombing demonstrated the militants’ weakened state.

“As far as terrorism is concerned, their strongholds are finished and they have escaped from there and they are on the run,” Gilani told reporters in the central city of Multan.

“They are now turning toward soft targets like you have seen.”

Khar administrator Sohail Khan said authorities have yet to identify the bomber.

The suicide attack may be the first by a woman in Pakistan.

Previous reports of female suicide bombers were disproved when a victim was mistaken for the perpetrator or in another case when the bomber proved to be a man concealing himself in an all enveloping burqa.

Brigadier Mahmood Shah, a defence analyst and former federal official responsible for security in the tribal region, said the recruitment of women as suicide bombers could be a dangerous development because of the cultural reluctance on the part of male security officers to search females.

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Qantas cancels flight as Europe freezes

admin post on February 4th, 2019
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Qantas has cancelled another flight from London, as chaos reigns at Heathrow airport with arctic conditions and extensive flight delay.


Three flights from London were expected to arrive in Australia today, while four services are to depart this evening.

However QF0030, due to leave Heathrow Airport after midday UK time, has now been cancelled, trhe ABC reported.

With temperatures dipping to minus-10 degrees in London and snow forcing runway closures, scores of flights out of Heathrow have been cancelled or delayed, creating a backlog of passengers days before Christmas.

Some lucky few travellers from the UK arriving in Sydney this morning spoke of their relief at being back home.

“It was like a scene from a film,” said Stephanie Lake of the chaos at Heathrow on her arrival in Sydney on Wednesday morning.

“I’m one of the lucky ones.

So many people were turned away … you couldn’t actually get into the airport unless your flight was confirmed, so there were people outside in that freezing cold, wrapped in silver foil sheets,” she told AAP.

A fellow British Airways passenger, who gave his name as Todd, said he couldn’t wait for some warmth and a beer after spending two days “juggling” bookings from Heathrow to anywhere in Australia after three of his flights with other airlines were cancelled due to the freezing British weather.

“It’s such a bloody relief to be home,” he told AAP.

Passengers aboard Virgin flight VS200 into Sydney said “media hype” had made them worried about the chances of getting away from Heathrow, but they were delayed only 90 minutes.

“I guess we are the most extremely fortunate to actually be able to get onto a flight,” said Alex Horton, 19, who returned from a gap-year spent in the southern county of Hampshire. “I’d heard before we got to (Heathrow) that it was pretty chaotic, and they weren’t wrong.”

Happy to have escaped Heathrow and arrived in Sydney, travellers said the best advice they could give those still in London and bound for Australia, was to check airline and airport websites before leaving home.

Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, is operating only about one third of its usual number of flights. Some passengers have been stranded at the airport since Saturday, camping on temporary mattresses.

Others have been forced to queue outside in the freezing cold.

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Militants killed as Gaza violence rises

admin post on February 4th, 2019
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Two rockets fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel on Sunday following a firefight in which two militants were killed, as Hamas said it was “ready” for another war.


The increase in violence comes just ahead of the second anniversary of Israel’s offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and follows weeks of rocket fire from Gaza and a string of retaliatory Israeli air raids.

Late Sunday morning, the Israeli military said two rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Eshkol region in the southern Negev desert, causing no injuries.

The rocket fire came after Israeli tanks launched at least 10 shells towards Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza, damaging three homes but causing no casualties.

Earlier Sunday, two Islamic militants were killed during an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers on the border of Gaza, according to witnesses and the Al-Quds brigade, a militant Islamist group.

Israeli officials confirmed the clash, which took place east of Khan Yunis.

“Soldiers opened fire on members of a terrorist cell which was trying to place an explosive charge in the immediate vicinity of the security barrier (which separates Israel from the Gaza Strip),” an Israeli army spokeswoman told AFP.

“The incident happened in the south of the Gaza Strip and helicopters backed up the fire of the soldiers.”

After a similar incident a month earlier, in which there were no casualties, “soldiers received instructions not to hesitate to open fire when they saw terrorists placing booby-trap devices near the barrier”, the spokeswoman said.

Tension has been rising on the Gaza border, where armed Islamist groups have fired dozens of mortars and rockets into southern Israel.

In response, Israel has launched a series of air raids, including most recently early Saturday, that it said targeted training facilities and smuggling tunnels.

It has also launched targeted assassinations of several top members of the Army of Islam, a jihadist group accused by Israel of planning new attacks.

Meanwhile, the Hamas militant group that controls Gaza has said it plans to continue observing a truce with Israel, but also warned it was ready to resume fighting if there is an Israeli attack on the territory.

“There is a truce in effect in the field. It is real if Israel stops its aggression and ends its siege. But if there is any Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip we will respond strongly,” said a masked spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, who identified himself as Abu Obeideh.

“We are completely ready to answer any Israeli aggression,” he said, speaking at a press conference on Saturday in Gaza City with three guards, who were all masked and armed.

Abu Obeideh also hinted that the group possessed a secret weapon.

“Our weapons are few compared to those of the Israeli occupation, but we have something that will worry the occupation,” he said without giving details.

Israel’s military said this week that one of its tanks patrolling the Gaza border had been hit by a Russian-made Kornet anti-tank rocket, the first time such a weapon had been encountered there.

At least 23 mortars and four rockets have been launched at Israel from Gaza in the past week, the army said, including a Qassam rocket that struck near a kindergarten in a southern Israeli kibbutz, wounding a teenage girl.

While most of the rockets fired have been by other groups, Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for maintaining calm in Gaza.

On December 27, 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, in response to hundreds of rockets fired into the Jewish state.

The war, which ended in a ceasefire on January 18, 2009, killed 1400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.

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No end soon for Guantanamo: White House

admin post on February 4th, 2019
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Nearly a year has passed since President Barack Obama’s self-imposed deadline to shutter the camp, but his spokesman said legal and legislative hurdles would prevent reaching that goal any time soon.


“It’s certainly not going to close in the next month. I think it’s going to be a while before that prison closes,” Robert Gibbs told CNN’s State of the Union program on Sunday.

Obama views Guantanamo, which conjures up images of water-boarding and other alleged torture, as a prime symbol of Bush-era war on terror excess that only serves as a recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda.

But his efforts to shut down the prison camp on the southern tip of Cuba have struggled as allies baulk at taking in higher-risk inmates and prosecutions become bogged down in a legal quagmire.

Only three of the remaining 174 detainees have been formally tried and found guilty. Dozens have been cleared but no foreign ally will accept them and there is strong American opposition to any being allowed on US soil.

US lawmakers effectively blocked one avenue this week by approving a Pentagon budget that forbids funding for an alternate prison, relocating prisoners to the United States or sending detainees to certain countries.

Gibbs called for help from Obama’s Republican foes, who in January will gain control of the House of Representatives and trim the Democrats’ Senate majority after landslide mid-term election gains.

“I think part of this depends on the Republicans’ willingness to work with the administration on this,” he said.

“Are they willing to listen to others in the national security arena that have told us and will tell them and have, quite frankly, told the public that Al-Qaeda recruits young people to do harm, to try to blow up airplanes, to blow up themselves and kill others, they use that as a recruiting tool?”

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, was in talks that eventually broke off with the White House for a negotiated solution.

Gibbs appeared to acknowledge a draft executive order — previously only mentioned anonymously by officials — to formalise the indefinite detention of some Guantanamo detainees but allow them to challenge their incarceration.

“Some would be tried in federal courts, as we’ve seen done in the past. Some would be tried in military commissions, likely spending the rest of their lives in a maximum security prison that nobody, including terrorists, have ever escaped from,” he said.

“And some, regrettably, will have to be indefinitely detained.”

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AFL photo girl agrees to destroy pictures

admin post on February 4th, 2019
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The teenage girl who posted lewd photos of St Kilda AFL players on the internet appears to have stepped back from the confrontation she was promoting on the internet, agreeing to surrender all the images she lifted from a computer.


The 17-year-old made her much-anticipated appearance in court in Melbourne on Friday where she agreed through her lawyer the images would be deleted from her computer and destroyed.

Justice Shane Marshall ordered both sides to engage in mediation before January 28.

St Kilda player Sam Gilbert initiated the legal action in the Federal Court on Monday after the girl, who cannot be named, posted nude photos of St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt and teammate Nick Dal Santo on her Facebook page.

In repeated appearances on other social networking sites, the teen said she would defy court orders and would publish more photos she claimed to have of other players.

She failed to deliver on that threat.

The girl said she had taken her action in response to poor treatment she claimed to have received from the AFL when she claimed last May to have been pregnant with twins to a St Kilda player.

Documents before the court allege that last September she also approached Riewoldt’s agent, Ricky Nixon, offering to give him the photo of the player if he paid her $20,000.

The girl claimed she had taken the photos herself, but Riewoldt said they had in fact been taken by Gilbert during a trip to Miami 12 months ago and had then been lifted without authority from his computer.

Her lawyer Tim Bourke told the court he had been engaged to represent her only two hours before Friday’s court appearance.

Outside the court, St Kilda vice-president Ross Levin said the club and the AFL had sought a more straightforward resolution of the matter several months ago when they learned the girl had approached the media with the photos.

“We pleaded with the woman for weeks not to release them,” Mr Levin said.

“Obviously, an injunction would have been the quickest and most efficient way to go, but we held off.”

Mr Levin, who is also a lawyer, said the girl’s parents, from whom she is now estranged, had also urged her not to go public with the photos.

He said the girl had changed her mind once she became aware of the level of media interest in the matter and had then sought legal representation.

“We are also pleased that the woman, through her lawyers, consented to the orders we were seeking that she destroy all images alleged to have been taken from Sam Gilbert’s computer,” he said.

The girl arrived in Melbourne from Queensland on Thursday night and is believed to have had accommodation provided by football administrators.

The outcome of the mediation is to remain confidential.

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Australia aim to fight back

admin post on February 4th, 2019
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Australia will try to mount a rescue mission on Monday to keep their faint hopes alive of regaining the Ashes.


England will resume their first innings in complete control of the fourth Test at the MCG after crushing the home side on Sunday.

The five-Test series is tied on one match apiece and an England win in Melbourne will mean they retain the Ashes.

The tourists will start day two on 0-157 in reply to Australia’s embarrassing 98 – their lowest-ever first-innings score against England at the MCG.

Captain Andrew Strauss is 64 not out and Alastair Cook unbeaten on 80.

But Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke said his team was determined not to give in and noted all the batsmen would have a chance to redeem themselves in the second innings.

He said the first priority was to bowl England out as quickly as possible.

“Obviously (it was) a tough day … but fortunately there’s four days left in this Test match,” Clarke said.

“It’s really important we come out tomorrow and show that intent – obviously we’ve got to take these first 10 wickets, that’s our priority.”

After the English attack performed brilliantly in overcast and moist conditions, the Australian bowlers lacked penetration.

They will have to lift noticeably to keep the tourists from batting through day two and building a lead of around 400, which would end any chance of an unlikely Australian comeback win.

Australia gambled by picking a four-man pace attack, rather than picking spinner Michael Beer for his Test debut.

That backfired when they lost the toss and batted so poorly in their first innings.

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PNG protesters taken to detention centre

admin post on February 4th, 2019
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More than 110 Papua New Guineans protesting for Australian citizenship have been intercepted in Australian waters and will be detained before they are sent packing back to PNG, the immigration department says.


More than 120 people in 12 dinghies set off from Daru Island near the Torres Strait on a 150km journey to the Australian mainland on Wednesday morning.

The group, Papua Australia Plaintiff United Affiliates (PAPUA) want Australia to recognise that Papuans were not given a choice to remain Australians when PNG gained independence in 1975.

Papua covers the southern half of the PNG mainland and the group claim they are still Australian citizens because there has never been a referendum to legally sever ties with Australia.

A Department of Immigration and Citizenship spokesman said a group of nine PNG nationals were intercepted late on Wednesday near Cape York where they were refused entry to Australia and detained.

“A second group of up to 110 people was intercepted at Warrior Reef and is currently being escorted to Horn Island,” the spokesman said.

A PAPUA spokesman on Wednesday said another 20 boats would make the journey in coming days.

The immigration department said the majority of the group remained in Daru after Australian and PNG authorities, including immigration officials, sought to dissuade them from making the journey.

“The Australian government’s message to these people is clear, they have shown blatant disregard for our laws by trying to enter the country despite being told on numerous occasions the correct procedures to follow when applying for citizenship and we will be resolving this situation expeditiously,” the immigration spokesman said.

“An application for citizenship by a person who does not have lawful authority to enter and remain in Australia poses no barrier to us returning them home.”

Those detained will have their boats confiscated and the department will conduct a quick assessment ofany claims presented before they are returned home at the first available opportunity.

Immigration spokesman Sandi Logan labelled the action of the group, who have been protesting for citizenship for about a decade, a waste of time.

“Frankly, this is a waste of a lot of people’s time – Customs on the water, Queensland Police on the water,” Mr Logan told the ABC.

“Immigration officials have much better things to be doing than dealing with this sort of prank that this group is trying on.”

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Terror case a joint effort: McClelland

admin post on February 4th, 2019
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The successful prosecution of a group of men on terrorist charges shows how state and federal police and the intelligence community can work together to combat the terror threat, Attorney-General Robert McClelland says.


Mr McClelland said he could not comment on the actual case as sentences had yet to be handed down.

But he said it was important to acknowledge the efforts of Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies as well as their state counterparts.

They continued to work closely together on counter-terrorism investigations, he said.

The Victorian Supreme Court on Thursday found three men guilty of planning a terrorist attack on an army base in Sydney at the conclusion of a three-month trial. Another two were found not guilty.

The court heard they planned a shootout at the Holsworthy army barracks in the belief Islam was under attack from the West.

The jury heard the men took steps to obtain a religious decree to endorse the attack at the barracks and planned to shoot as many people as possible until they were killed or overwhelmed.

Mr McClelland said the prosecution was a result of a complex and lengthy joint investigation called Operation Neath.

“The investigation was undertaken by the AFP, Victoria Police, NSW Police, NSW Crime Commission and ASIO, with the support of other agencies, including the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” he said in a statement.

“Operation Neath provides a clear example of how state and federal police and the intelligence community are working collaboratively together to combat the threat of terrorism and ensure the safety and security of the Australian public.”

Mr McClelland said the community could be assured that law enforcement and intelligence agencies would continue to work hard to keep communities safe.

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Socialising may make your brain bigger

admin post on February 4th, 2019
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Do you spend time with a lot of friends? That might mean a particular part of your brain is larger than usual.


It’s the amygdala, which lies deep inside. Brain scans of 58 volunteers in a preliminary study indicated that the bigger the amygdala, the more friends and family the volunteers reported seeing regularly.

That makes sense because the amygdala is at the centre of a brain network that’s important for socialising, says Lisa Feldman Barrett, an author of the work published online Sunday by the journal Nature Neuroscience.

For example, the network helps us recognise whether somebody is a stranger or an acquaintance, and a friend or a foe, said Barrett, of Northeastern University in Boston.

But does having a bigger amygdala lead to more friends, or does socialising with a lot of friends create a bigger amygdala? The study can’t sort that out. But Barrett said it might be a bit of both.

She said her study now must be replicated by further research.

The work, supported by the federal government, was aimed at uncovering basic knowledge rather than producing any immediate practical payoff, she said. But it might someday lead to ways to help people maintain active social lives, she said.

People have one amygdala in the left half of the brain and another in the right half. The findings of the new study held true for each one.

Arthur Toga, a brain-mapping expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, who didn’t participate in the study, called the work well done and the statistical results strong. The idea of linking a brain structure to human behaviour is “interesting and important,” he said.

Amygdala research made headlines earlier this month when researchers reported on a woman without a working amygdala. The woman felt no fear in threatening situations.

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