Archive for: ‘August 2019’

Manning faces 136 years for espionage

12/08/2019 Posted by admin

25 year old Bradley Manning has been convicted on 20 charges – but not of aiding the enemy, a charge which could have led to the death sentence.

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Private Manning has admitted leaking the documents to try to trigger a debate about U-S foreign policy.

 

Reacting to the verdict from inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has described Manning as the quintessential whistleblower.

 

Manning, 22 years old at the time, leaked more than 700,000 secret documents.

 

They included a graphic video of a helicopter attack in 2007 that killed a dozen people in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, including two from the Reuters news organisation.

 

The 20 offences he was convicted of include multiple espionage charges, which could amount to up to 136 years in jail.

 

Julian Assange says the verdict amounts to what he calls dangerous national-security extremism on the part of the U-S government, claiming the trial was never going to be fair.

 

“It is a short-sighted judgment that cannot be tolerated, and it must be reversed. The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to break him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations special rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial, and it has not been a fair trial.”

 

Amnesty International’s Widney Brown says the case highlights something odd about the United States.

 

She told the BBC the government is prepared to pursue a whistleblower but not former president George W Bush, whose administration faced allegations it tortured prisoners.

 

“The military prosecutor went after Bradley Manning, but, in the meantime, even when a former president of the United States (George W Bush) has published an autobiography acknowledging that he ordered the torture of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, there’s been no investigation into allegations of torture. So you go after a whistleblower, but you don’t go after somebody who has acknowledged actually ordering torture. So there’s something a little bit backwards when all the credible claims about torture that have been made over the last 12 years are not being investigated, let alone prosecuted, but somebody who tries to reveal information about actions that may have been unlawful gets the book thrown at them.”*

 

In a joint statement, Democratic and Republican leaders of the intelligence committee say justice has been served.

 

They say Manning has harmed the country’s national security and violated the public’s trust.

 

Former Defense Department spokesman J D Gordon, who served under Donald Rumsfeld, told Al-Jazeera television Manning is a traitor and a criminal, not a whistleblower.

 

“I think he’s involved in this 21st-century type of warfare, and he’s basically become a special-forces soldier in the war of ideas. I think that, like Edward Snowden, he’s trying to attack the United States, he’s trying to tarnish our image and make things difficult for us. So, instead of a whistleblower, I think he’s really more like a criminal. I think he basically decided he was going to be the judge, the jury and the executioner to, basically, give Wikileaks 700,000 classified documents. We’re talking military-intelligence reports, diplomatic cables, videos that were taken out of context and used for enemy propaganda. So I’m pleased with the judge’s decision today.”

 

JD Gordon says Manning could have gone to his superiors with his concerns rather than WikiLeaks.

 

But Michael Ratner, a lawyer who acts for Julian Assange in the United States, says Bradley Manning had no other option but to do what he did.

 

“Going through your chain of command in the US military is probably the end of your career, if not the end of your life. That’s absurd. Going to your Congressman doesn’t do anything. Congressmen, as we have seen from the Ed Snowden revelations, are afraid to speak out about one thing. Bradley Manning took, I think, the only course he could as a matter of conscience. He saw mass crimes being committed in front of him when he saw pictures of the murder of the two Reuters journalists on the video, when he read documents about a torture centre being set up in Iraq and more. So he acted on principle. He’s no criminal. He shouldn’t have been prosecuted. The people who should be prosecuted should have been the people who were carrying out the crimes that he revealed.”

 

Manning’s sentencing hearing is set to begin later this week.

 

 

 

Abbott tries comedy after ‘boring’ debate

12/08/2019 Posted by admin

First-time voter Sanaya Sabavala is collecting senior Liberals and now she’s added Tony Abbott to her stash.

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The 20-year-old Melbourne resident was among a contingent of younger supporters at Monday’s campaign launch for Michael Sukkar, Liberal candidate for the marginal seat of Deakin.

“Mr Abbott is a wonderful man,” an excited Ms Sabavala told AAP after having a photo taken with the leader.

He’s the fourth addition to her portfolio of photos with senior Liberals, following John Howard, Joe Hockey and Victorian party president Tony Snell.

The crowd at the campaign launch was as buoyant as the helium balloons lining the room after Mr Abbott’s performance in the leaders’ debate on Sunday night.

“He’s always so stiff on TV and he’s so much more relaxed and human in person, and I told him that,” Pamela O’Connor told AAP after meeting the leader for the first time on Monday.

Referring to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s use of notes during his first election debate with Mr Abbott on Sunday, the opposition leader said he didn’t blame anyone for needing to read notes.

The problem was the notes weren’t worth reading, he added.

Earlier at Melbourne’s main traffic control centre Mr Abbott was asked to promise the next debate would be less boring.

“I thought every minute was full of excitement,” he quipped.

Mr Abbott had earlier spent half an hour fully absorbed in footage of Melbourne’s traffic jams.

The opposition leader is trying to convince people infrastructure isn’t boring.

He wants to be known as an “infrastructure prime minister” should he win the election on September 7.

But his funniest line of the day was probably unintentional.

Attacking Mr Rudd’s leadership style, Mr Abbott said the coalition was a strong and united team, not a “one-man band”.

“No one, however smart, however well-educated, however well experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom,” he said. The saying refers to the repository of all wisdom.

Even some of the Liberal party faithful giggled.

Optus joins move to end roaming bill shock

12/08/2019 Posted by admin

Optus has followed Vodafone’s lead in attempting to stamp out massive global roaming charges.

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The telco announced plans on Wednesday to essentially cap roaming charges at $10 a day.

From mid-November, customers on lock-in Optus plans will have the option of a daily $10 “travel pack” allowing unlimited texts, calls, and 30MB of data.

It will be available in “zone one” areas such as the UK, Europe, North America, Asia and New Zealand, but not in the “zone two” countries of Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.

Vicki Brady, managing director of customer relations at Optus, said the plan will cover 94 per cent of the countries to which customers travel.

The initiative is a response to a growing backlash against exorbitant global roaming fees.

Optus’ own research found more than half of customers who had used global roaming reported a bad experience, and a third returned to bills of more than $1000.

Brady said customers had been living “in fear of huge bills”.

The move comes three weeks after rival Vodafone announced a plan to charge customers an optional $5 daily fee to use their regular text, data, and call allowance overseas.

The plan is available only to customers who sign up to new plans expected to be announced before the end of the month.

Vodafone’s plan is available in the UK, US and New Zealand, but the company said it intends to expand it to more countries by the end of the year.

Asher Moses, a spokesman for the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), welcomed moves to end “the global roaming rip-off”.

He said charges have been too high for too long, and “do not come close to reflecting the true cost of providing the service”.

Optus’ and Vodafone’s offerings will be “significantly cheaper” than current arrangements, but buying a local SIM card is still likely to be cheaper, he said.

Telstra has not revealed any plans to alter its global roaming charges.

A spokesman said the telco offered several pre-paid international data packs.

He also pointed to SMS alerts that warn travelling customers each time they use 20MB of data.

Post-debate meltdown… should we scrap the entire campaigns?

12/08/2019 Posted by admin

That’s the outcome if you listen to some Obama supporters.

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The President’s virtual no-show on stage in Denver has his usual flag bearers in the media apoplectic in despair. The drama would be entertaining if it were not so serious for them.

Here’s Andrew Sullivan, a usually pro-Obama blogger on The Daily Beast website: “I’ve never seen a candidate self-destruct for no external reason this late in a campaign before.”

The fallout for the left-wing was so savage that Saturday Night Live felt it funny enough to parody in a sketch.

Some of the blowback was based on a poll from the Pew Research Center that now has Romney four points ahead of Obama post-debate. The hook for Pew was that a month earlier Obama had a 51 per cent to 43 per cent lead over Romney.

Gallup, meanwhile, released its own poll that claimed Obama and Romney were neck and neck at 47 per cent a piece while others still have Obama leading, if only just.

Which throws up an interesting idea. Obama was clearly off his game last weekend. He failed to fight back against Romney and never countered effectively, looking lethargic and like he wanted to be elsewhere.

Romney, meanwhile, came out so energized, he smiled as he condemned Sesame Street’s Big Bird to death in a comment related to funding public TV. Voters apparently said ‘Who cares?’ to fact checkers as Romney got a bounce. This election was done. After one debate, everyone should pack up and go home. Obama was toast.

An important factor here is that Americans are not used to a parliamentary system where Julia Gillard’s blistering attack on Tony Abbott is part of regular political engagement (if, in the Prime Minister’s case, she is fired up on an issue).

The Presidential debates, therefore, become an event, a sport, a political Superbowl. It is now possible that the fortunes of an election campaign really do swing on 90 minutes of televised stunts where you are not necessarily beholden to facts or policy (as Romney wasn’t).

Which prompts the question, why have a campaign at all? Why not just hold three debates over a month and then go to polls? When President Obama has had to raise $690 million to keep his job and Mitt Romney has $633 million in the bank to win that job, why not tip that money into something else for the common good? (That’s before you count the silly money spent by the so-called ‘Super-PACS’ on this campaign).

Set up a shaky set in front of a live audience, have cheerleaders and hot dogs, and go toe-to-toe. Done in a month. Off to the polls. Good efficiency and save on time and money.

Would anyone vote for that?