Nationals hit the campagn trail

NATIONAL Party member Ann Thompson’s rise has been rapid indeed.
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Ten days after joining the party which she says looks out for the interests of country people she was chosen to carry its colours in the March State election. The Lithgow city councillor, former deputy mayor, business owner and mother

could not say whether there were any other candidates in a pre-selection process which began in July.

But ever since she began considering running for Parliament last year, and stood aside in the mayoral elections, she faced a stark choice between standing as an independent or joining a party.

She wanted to send a message to the Sydney-based Labor Government which had failed to deliver quality jobs, better road access and two high profile industries to the Central Tablelands.

“My decision to join the Nationals was based mainly on where I could make the most difference and the answer was in a party.”

And so it was after some discussion with the chairman of the Nationals’ Bathurst electoral council, Peter Pilbeam, who in July mooted a high profile Bathurst businessman as the Nationals’ ideal candidate, that Mrs Thompson got the nod.

Currently a TAFE teacher with work, family and sporting connections in Bathurst she said she was far from unknown west of Lithgow.

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Matchmaker reform after wife’s murder

SEOUL: South Korea will set up a taskforce to reform the international matchmaking business following the fatal stabbing of a Vietnamese woman by her mentally ill husband, officials said.The taskforce will be staffed by officials from the ministries of justice, gender equality, culture and foreign affairs, the prime minister’s office said.It will discuss measures ranging from changing how international marriage brokerage businesses are run to helping foreign spouses settle in Korea.Thach Thi Hoang Ngoc, 20, was beaten and stabbed to death by her 47-year-old husband on July 8, eight days after she arrived in the southern port city of Busan.The man told police he had heard a ”ghost’s voice” urging him to kill her when they quarrelled. He had been treated 57 times for schizophrenia since July 2005.The Prime Minister, Chung Un-chan, called for tighter control over international marriage brokerages and a budget increase for facilities supporting multicultural families.Ms Ngoc’s family will receive 30 million won ($28,000) in compensation, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.More than a third of South Korea’s fishermen and farmers who married last year chose foreign brides, some because they were unable to find local women happy to live a rural lifestyle.Official figures show that of 1987 marriages to farmers and fishermen in 2009, 35 per cent of the brides were immigrants: 47 per cent from Vietnam, 26 per cent from China and 10 per cent from Cambodia.Activists say some foreign brides, coaxed by false promises or deceptive advertising, end up with spouses who are poor, ill, alcoholic or just difficult.Agence France-Presse
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Editor’s response

BEFORE responding to Mr Perram’s comments, it is important to stress that the Western Advocate raised the questions in response to very serious claims made by neighbours of the woman believed to have been killed by a dog.
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The neighbours claimed that they had complained to Bathurst City Council because the dogs had attacked other pets and created a sense of fear in the neighbourhood.

The Western Advocate fully expected council officers to be sensitive to questioning because of the seriousness of the claims and the fact that Mr Perram was not in Bathurst

when the tragedy took place but, even allowing for this, there seemed to be a deliberate attempt not to directly answer questions.

When a reporter first contacted a council officer he was told the officer could not comment.

The reporter then went to this officer’s superior, Mr Sherley, who told the reporter he had instructed the first officer not to comment on the issue.

It is the right of council’s senior staff to implement whatever policies they deem appropriate in relation to their staff.

We simply reported the fact of the matter, that staff had been instructed not to talk to the media. I fail to see how this is misleading.

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Liberals, Labor vie to be tougher on crime

Bikie gangs, knives and violent crime in local neighbourhoods – issues that worry state leaders – moved to the federal arena yesterday as both major parties outlined tough on crime policies.Citing last year’s bikie gang attack at Sydney Airport as evidence of a growing threat, the Coalition pledged to make ”disturbingly high” knife crime and bikie activity a national issue.A US-style violent gangs database would be set up to track gangs across state borders, and a violent gangs squad set up within the Australian Crime Commission, the Coalition said. In a $179 million package, more weapons would be outlawed, more metal detectors issued to police and minimum penalties imposed an anyone found carrying a knife.The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said the rise of major gangs associated with drug distribution rackets and ”horrific outbreaks of violence” required federal government intervention in a policing area traditionally dealt with by the states.”Gangs are responsible for a significant and growing percentage of crime in Australia, and the gangs operate on a national basis,” he said in Melbourne.Across town, Labor said it was moving to restrict the weapons that can be imported, and had agreed with state police ministers to move to uniform knife laws.The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said on radio: ”We want to crack down on knife crime … and we will work with police around the country.”The Home Affairs Minister, Brendan O’Connor, said customs stopped 16,700 knives at the border last year but the government could ”always … be tougher”.Mr Abbott accused the federal government of stripping the Australian Crime Commission of investigating officers who could make arrests, and failing to deliver a promised 500 extra Australian Federal Police positions. The Coalition said it would shift 200 state and federal police into the ACC.Labor said the commission already maintained a register of gang members as part of its intelligence operations. Mr O’Connor said the Labor government would spend $200 million to fund 500 more AFP places by 2012, and had put another 280 police ”on the ground”.”Mr Abbott is planning to take front-line police off the streets of Australian cities and towns and put them behind desks in Canberra,” Mr O’Connor said.The chief executive of the Australian Federal Police Association, Jim Torr, attended the Coalition’s policy launch and said he supported the plan but it was imperative that the boost to the crime commission didn’t leave the federal police with fewer officers.”It shouldn’t divert a single police officer from what they are currently doing,” he said. POLICY POINTSCOALITION- Uniform knife laws with minimum community-order penalties for first offences- Crime commission boosted with state 200 officers- Commonwealth to fund training of replacement officers- $33 million violent gangs database- $1 million for hand-held metal detectors- Customs laws amended to restrict hunting knivesLABOR- Uniform knife laws- Customs laws amended to restrict weapons
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Pledge of $12,000 for early intervention among children

A re-elected Gillard government would offer families of every child with a disability under the age of six $12,000 to help pay for early intervention services.The plan is part of a $182 million package of promises to improve disability services. he rebate would help 7800 children in the first year of the scheme and could be spent on speech pathology, occupational therapy and psychology.The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced the package, to be paid for by cuts that are yet to be made public, in Melbourne. She said she wanted people with disabilities to have equal opportunities..The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, Bill Shorten, and the Community Services Minister, Jenny Macklin, also attended the launch.Mr Shorten said disability issues had to be put on the political agenda.”Disability is an invisible issue in Australia politics but it affects far more people, either directly or through people they know who are carers, people who are caught up in the trauma of car injury, right through those early-onset diseases that affect people as they get older,” he said.Under the package Labor would also give 20,000 children up to the age of 15 access to Medicare cover for diagnosis and treatment of disabilities through allied health services. Ms Gillard said Labor would spend $60 million to create 150 extra places in supported accommodation and respite facilities, with the first of the money to be spent next year.The extra places would be created by offering grants to community organisations for work such as home renovations, pooling resources to build care centres for overnight stays, or expanding an existing centre.Ms Gillard released a 10-year draft disabilities plan, which Labor would put to the Council of Australian Governments.The plan would seek to improve access to mainstream government services for people with disabilities and create a more coherent policy across all levels of government.The National Disability Services alliance welcomed the announcement but said much more was needed to support the thousands of individuals with disabilities and their families.Recently the alliance said the present arrangements were ”unsustainable and indefensible” and ”chronically underfunded, inefficient, inequitable and, most seriously, fails to meet the needs of Australians with a disability, their families and carers”.But the opposition spokesman on disabilities, Mick Fifield, said Labor could not be trusted to deliver the extra supported accommodation places.Ms Gillard’s promise to lift spending on disability services by $182 million has reignited calls for the next government, Labor or Coalition, to introduce a multibillion-dollar disability insurance scheme.The inequities confronting Australians with a disability and their families is one of at least four health-related issues that loom as areas of growing cost and sensitivity. Mental and dental care drew attention this week.Today it will be aged care with the release of a report by the Aged Care Association Australia calling for urgent reform of the highly subsidised and regulated aged-care sector.”If government does not act now, quite simply there will not be sufficient aged-care beds to meet demand,” said Rod Young the chief executive. LABOR’S PROMISES – From July 2011 children under six with a disability can get up to $12,000 for early intervention services.- About 20,000 children under 13 will have access to new Medicare services for diagnosis and treatment.- Up to 150 new supported accommodation and respite places for people with disability.- Total cost of policies: $182 million over four years.
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Gillard vows to dismiss traitors

Julia Gillard took her campaign to Perth last night after reasserting her authority by vowing to sack from her cabinet anyone caught leaking information.Labor is clinging to four of the 15 seats in Western Australia, which rivals Queensland in hostility towards the government.In her first visit to the west since calling the election, Ms Gillard is expected to confront anger from mid-sized mining companies about the mineral resources rent tax.Responding to a damaging leak about statements on pensions and the maternity leave scheme, Ms Gillard said that if re-elected she would not tolerate such disloyalty from within cabinet.”I will, as Prime Minister, have a proper system of cabinet government and that means that when you are in the cabinet room, you should have free and frank discussions,” she said.”If there is anybody in my cabinet that does not respect the confidentiality of cabinet, then they will no longer be a cabinet minister.”Andrew Robb, the Coalition’s campaign spokesman, said this was an admission the cabinet was already dysfunctional.”She’s lost control of the cabinet and therefore the party,” Mr Robb said.The leak, which has been generally blamed on the former leader Kevin Rudd but which Mr Rudd denied, alleged Ms Gillard argued in a cabinet session against Labor’s paid parental leave policy and an increase to the aged pension.Ms Gillard rejected the assertions, saying her concerns were to ensure the programs, worth collectively more than $50 billion over 10 years, were affordable.Ms Gillard was in Melbourne yesterday to unveil a policy to support people with disabilities. During her speech she broke away and appealed to voters to focus on the bigger picture.”Today is July 29 and that means we are just 23 days out from a federal election,” she said. Key issues were at stake, she said, listing programs that the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, had vowed to abolish including the national broadband network and trade training centres.Drawing attention to the 1.7 per cent increase in company tax that Mr Abbott has proposed to fund his $2.7 billion paid parental leave scheme, Ms Gillard said: ”They want to impose a new tax on business that will push up the cost of milk, petrol and other everyday items for disability pensioners and their carers.”Mr Abbott is to relaunch his parental leave scheme and the Herald understands the 1.7 percentage point increase in company tax will be trimmed to 1.5 points and abolished sooner than the original target of 2017-18 when debt is scheduled to be repaid. A source said it would be abolished when debt was deemed as ”manageable”.While promising the increase in company tax for the nation’s biggest companies, Mr Abbott has also promised to decrease the tax by 1.5 points for all companies in 2013, at a cost of $2.1 billion.
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Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation may not save more lives

Chest compressions performed by bystanders work just as well to save the lives of unconscious people compared with the better known combined technique of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with heart massage, new studies show.The findings are likely to influence a revision of international guidelines this year.They are the best evidence yet that untrained people’s attempts at resuscitation are at least as effective if they exclude breathing into the collapsed person’s lungs – probably because this distracts them from working on the heart. In the studies, of nearly 2000 people in Washington state in the US and and 1300 people in Sweden, bystanders called ambulance dispatchers who were randomly assigned to instruct them how to carry out one of the two techniques.Neither found any significant difference in the likelihood the person would survive.The research is the first to compare how people fare when their revival attempt is made according to specific instructions for one method or the other.Previous studies have measured the survival of those resuscitated using the techniques, but the results could have been skewed, for example, if people attempting mouth-to-mouth felt more confident about their resuscitation skills.Ian Jacobs, the chairman of the Australian Resuscitation Council, said the results were consistent with national guidelines that people who do not feel able or willing to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation should consider doing chest compressions alone – at a rate of 100 per minute and to a depth of about 5 centimetres.”Only 40 per cent of people who collapse receive any resuscitation. Sixty per cent have nothing done,” said Professor Jacobs. It was important to reassure the public that chest compressions could not harm an unconscious person, even if they had a pulse, he said.Professor Jacobs called for resuscitation to become part of the school curriculum. ”These are life-saving skills and would take half an hour of the school term,” he said.The new Australian and New Zealand guidelines, to be released in December, are expected to follow those of the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation, of which the council is a member.
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After drought, farmers must now face a plague of locusts

Peter Hammond cradles the tiny white eggs in his hand that could ruin his 2200-hectare sheep and cattle property near Lake Cowal when they hatch in spring.”When you squash them, they create moisture, so you know that they’re actually alive, that there’s grasshoppers in them,” he said.Farmers are on alert across the four Murray Darling Basin states to watch for the first hatchings from egg beds laid so extensively and in conditions so kind to locusts that a massive plague potentially costing billions of dollars has been predicted this year.And now the senior ranger at the Lachlan Livestock Health and Pest Authority, Craig Ridley, said the predicted hatching date of mid-September for central western NSW may be brought forward because of mild weather.”It’s going to be a war of some note and we can’t let the locusts win,” said Graham Falconer, an agronomist and the deputy mayor of Forbes Shire Council, who has calculated a ”little plague” in autumn wiped out 35,000 hectares of crops worth about $40 million there.Planting methods perfected during the drought, in which farmers directly drill seed into the ground without disturbing surrounding soil, have made it harder to see hatchlings when they emerge so aerial surveillance is essential, he said.A sheep farmer, Andrew Gartner, believes that if the coming hatchlings cannot be killed, more lamb producers will be forced to leave the land and the price of the meat will rise because it will only be available from feedlots.His neighbours asked if he was hallucinating when he said he had planted an oat crop which disappeared from his property at Bogan Gate, 45 kilometres north-west of Forbes, this autumn.”It was a terrific germination. I could see the oats there all in rows, and over a week, it looked less and less,” he said.On his hands and knees, he discovered locust hatchlings, munching the $7000 crop.He lost more than 120 of his 450 hectares planted for feed and has had to send 1000 ewes and lambs to Warren and Coonamble on agistment at $5000 a month.Having run a 140,000 acre property near Wilcannia solo, Mr Gartner said he fears a plague will descend from the western division, where locusts are predicted to hatch next month, but where there are fewer people to spot and kill them.”Out there, they’re a bit uncontrollable,” he said.Mr Ridley is confident that with chemicals at the ready and egg beds mapped using GPS, hatchlings can be contained in his region. But he also worries that locusts on the wing could arrive from western NSW in October, wrecking wheat crops by eating the juicy heads which will be ripening then.Mr Falconer says locusts’ preferences are first for wheat, then barley, then oats.Mr Hammond’s father, James, aged 95, remembers a 1930s plague so bad that the locusts ate the farmhouse’s green blinds.The son, Peter Hammond, said that after running an irrigation property for 10 years without water, if locusts eat his crops and pasture, he will have to quit, but wonders by how much it will devalue his land. ”Even worse, if we wanted to get out we probably couldn’t,” he said.
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Restaurant manager asked for cash to fake residency papers, court told

The Department of Immigration is investigating the owner of two Indian restaurants in western Sydney over claims he repeatedly accepted large payments to falsify documents for migrant workers seeking permanent residency.In an unfair dismissal case before Fair Work Australia, a former chef at the Tribeni and Kashi Indian restaurants, Nandalcumaran Krishnakanth, claimed his employer, Saai Bose Pty Ltd, had asked staff to pay between $1300 and $12,000 for help in gaining permanent residency.In return for the money the company’s director at the time, Arun Bose, would fill out fake skills certificates showing that the staff had completed the 900 hours of work experience needed to apply for permanent residency, the commission was told.Mr Krishnakanth said Mr Bose also asked for money to provide glowing work references to assist in the application process.”Mr Bose would say, ‘Pay me $1300 and I’ll give you the certificate that you worked as a chef and performed certain duties’,” Mr Krishnakanth told the tribunal.The certificate would be provided whether the person had worked for the restaurant or not, he said.The commission was also shown an extract of Mr Bose’s time and wages record in which four months of records appeared to have been filled out at the same time.The commissioner, deputy president Peter Sams, said the entries were ”most suspicious” and appeared to have been back-dated.Mr Bose denied the allegations, stating that nothing was falsified and all legal requirements were met during his time as director.He sold the company last year and it is now in liquidation.”There was one 457 [visa] employee who claimed unfair dismissal,” Mr Bose said. ”He was making stories.”Fair Work Australia has referred the matter to the Department of Immigration, which has mobilised staff from a number of different units to investigate. The investigation will also include allegations that staff were underpaid and denied some entitlements.”These are allegations which the department takes very seriously,” a spokeswoman said. ”In the case of alleged criminal activity we would bring any allegations we find through the appropriate courts.”The department revealed it had already been investigating Saai Bose’s involvement in the operation of the 457 visa program. Issues under review included the payment of superannuation and providing sufficient time for learning and development.This month a former student of the now-defunct Sydney International College of Business was found guilty on two counts of supplying false documents and sentenced to 200 hours community service.A migration agent, Maher Itani, said that rorting of the system was common until the laws were tightened recently.”People just find a restaurant, give them a few bucks and get a certificate,” said Mr Itani, who owns the migration agency Access Australia.
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Organiser blamed for deadly Love Parade

German state authorities on Wednesday accused the organiser of last weekend’s Love Parade techno festival of major security breaches which may have led to the crush that killed 21 people and injured more than 500.The organiser’s security officials failed to properly control the entrance area where the victims were crushed, according to North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Ralf Jaeger and the state’s chief police controller Dieter Wehe.”Security did not fulfill its duty,” Wehe said while presenting the key findings of a preliminary police investigation at a news conference.It was unclear if 150 staffers who were supposed to be posted at the entrance area were really present, Wehe said, adding: “But it is a fact that the existing security detail was insufficient.”When the organisers couldn’t control the flow of tens of thousands pouring into the event area in Duisburg, they eventually turned to the police for help, he said.Interior Minister Jaeger said the organiser, Rainer Schaller, failed to stop the flow of people into the tunnel when the situation was already tense at the entrance to the festival grounds.”The organiser did not fulfill the requirements of his security concept,” Jaeger told journalists.Schaller, for his part, has fought back against the accusations of wrongdoing, noting that his security concept received official city approval.”Without the official stamp of approval we never would have let the Love Parade take place,” he was quoted as saying in the Bild daily on Wednesday.The preliminary report also left many unanswered questions regarding the responsibility of the Duisburg municipality, who was responsible for overseeing the event.Wehe said the final authorisation providing all organisational details was only passed on to police on Saturday after it repeatedly requested it. The authorisation allowed a maximum of 250,000 people in the area, even though organisers expected many more.German media estimated that as many as 1.4 million people attended the event.Prosecutors have opened an investigation into negligent manslaughter, but have not yet identified suspects.The death toll, meanwhile, rose to 21 on Wednesday after a 25-year-old German woman died overnight from her injuries, Duisburg prosecutors’ spokesman Rolf Haferkamp said.Sydneysider Clancie Ridley, 27, was among the people killed.More than 500 people also were injured in the crush at a jammed tunnel that was the lone entrance to the festival grounds.A memorial service for the victims will be held on Saturday with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff attending.AP
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Nazi suspect indicted over murder of 430,000 Jews

A suspected former Nazi death camp guard has been charged with participating in the murder of 430,000 Jews and other crimes during the Third Reich, German prosecutors said on Wednesday.Samuel Kunz, 88, was informed last week of his indictment on charges including participation in the murder of 430,000 Jews at the Belzec death camp in occupied Poland, where he allegedly served as a guard from January 1942 to July 1943, prosecutor Christoph Goeke in Dortmund said.Kunz is also charged with murder over “personal excesses” in which he allegedly shot a total of 10 Jews in two other incidents, Mr Goeke said.Kunz, who is No.3 on the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s list of most-wanted Nazi suspects, lives near the western German city of Bonn. When reached by phone, he said he did not want to talk about the allegations and hung up.Kunz was not detained because officials who interviewed him think that he will not try to flee the country, a person familiar with the case said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to reveal details of the investigation.Mr Goeke said the case has been sent to the state court in Bonn, where officials were considering whether and when to hold a trial – a standard procedural step in Germany.Bonn court spokesman Matthias Nordmeyer said the court did not want to comment now on the case.Efraim Zuroff, the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said Kunz participated in the so-called Operation Reinhard to eliminate Polish Jewry.”The indictment of Samuel Kunz is a very positive development,” Mr Zuroff said from Jerusalem.”It reflects recent changes in the German prosecution policy, which have significantly enlarged the number of suspects who will be brought to justice.”Mr Zuroff said Kunz had never previously been on trial over his alleged Nazi-era past and that his name first came up in investigations connected to the trial of John Demjanjuk.Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk, 90, is on trial in Munich on charges of being an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland. He denies he was ever a camp guard.Prosecutors allege that both Kunz and Demjanjuk, a retired Ohio car worker who was deported to Germany from the US last year, trained as guards at the Trawniki SS camp.AP
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Wikileaks: we don’t know source of leaked data

Wikileaks’ editor-in-chief claims his organisation doesn’t know who sent it some 91,000 secret US military documents, telling journalists that the website was set up to hide the source of its data from those who receive it.Julian Assange didn’t say whether he meant he had no idea who leaked the documents or whether his organisation simply could not be sure. But he did say the added layer of secrecy helps protect the site’s sources from spy agencies and hostile corporations.”We never know the source of the leak,” he told journalists gathered at London’s Frontline Club. “Our whole system is designed such that we don’t have to keep that secret.”And while Assange acknowledged that the site’s anonymous submissions raised concerns about the authenticity of its material, he said Wikileaks had yet to be fooled by a bogus document.The 39-year-old Australian was at the Frontline Club, the hub of London’s media set, for the second time in as many days to outline his site’s mission and methods – and defend it from charges that it endangered lives by putting mountains of classified information in the public domain.US officials say the massive online disclosure may have put soldiers and operatives in danger, and the Pentagon, the Justice Department, and the FBI have all stepped in to investigate.President Barack Obama said the leak of classified information from the battlefield “could potentially jeopardise individuals or operations”, while Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Baghdad that there was “a real potential threat there to put American lives at risk”.US officials are worried that the raw data may prove useful not only to the Taliban but to hostile intelligence services in countries such as China and Russia who have the resources to make sense of such vast vaults of data, said Ellen McCarthy, former US intelligence officer and president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.Former CIA director Michael Hayden described the mass release as a big gift to America’s enemies.”If I had gotten this trove on the Taliban or al-Qaida, I would have called it priceless,” he said. “If I’m head of the Russian intelligence, I’m getting my best English speakers and saying: ‘Read every document, and I want you to tell me, how good are these guys? What are their approaches, their strengths, their weaknesses and their blind spots?'”Back in London, Assange agreed that the files offered insight into US tactics.But he said that was none of his concern, and he noted that his website already carried a copy of the US Special Forces’ 2006 Southern Afghanistan Counterinsurgency Manual, among other sensitive US military documents.”We put out that stuff all the time,” he said.He seemed irritated when a member of the audience pressed him on whether he believed there were ever any legitimate national security concerns that would prevent him from publishing a leaked document.”It is not our role to play sides for states. States have national security concerns, we do not have national security concerns,” he said.”You often hear … that something may be a threat to US national security,” he went on. “This must be shot down whenever this statement is made. A threat to US national security? Is anyone serious? The security of the entire nation of the United States? It is ridiculous!”He said he wasn’t interested in the safety of states, only the safety of individual human beings.”If we are talking a threat to individual soldiers … or citizens of the United States, then that is potentially a genuine concern,” he said.Assange cast a bit of light on the way his organisation operates, describing an online submission system “like nothing else you’ve ever seen”.”We encrypt all the information, it is routed through protected legal jurisdictions, multiple servers,” he said.But, to the amusement of the audience, the former computer hacker said one of the best ways to submit classified material remained the international postal system.His comments also offered insight into his own motivation, referring to a statement he gave to German newspaper Der Spiegel in which he said he “loved crushing bastards”.He said the comment wasn’t meant in jest, describing himself as a combative person who likes “stopping people who have created victims from creating any more”.Assange also expressed disdain for the military, alluding to a statement attributed to Albert Einstein, a noted pacifist, which describes soldiers as contemptible drones and attacks patriotism as a cover for brutality and war.He scoffed when the Frontline’s moderator spoke of teenage British soldiers “giving their lives” in Afghanistan.”To what?” he asked.AP
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Schwarzenegger forces California workers to take leave

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a fiscal state of emergency, requiring most state employees to take three days of unpaid leave a month until a new budget is enacted.Mr Schwarzenegger said the state, which faces a budget deficit of $US19 billion ($21 billion), is on the verge of a “fiscal meltdown” and could be forced to issue IOUs starting next month to avert a new cash crisis.”Our cash situation leaves me no choice but to once again furlough state workers until the legislature produces a budget I can sign,” he said in a statement.He said the state had already taken “extraordinary measures to conserve cash”, such as deferring payments to schools and other local governments but that the crisis was deepening with no state budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year expected soon.The “furlough Friday” starting in August requires state employees to take three Fridays a month off without pay until the state gets a new budget and the state’s finance officials certify that it has enough cash to meet its obligations.Exempt from this are employees in agencies involving public safety, including the California Highway Patrol and Department of Fire and Forestry Protection; and in revenue generation, including the Franchise Tax Board, which collects tax receipts.With the most populous US state hit hard by the economic crisis and lower tax revenues, Mr Schwarzenegger earlier this year proposed a budget that would call for spending cuts of $US12.4 billion and sharply reduce funding for services designed to help the state’s poor.Mr Schwarzenegger said the cuts were necessary to close a huge projected deficit for the fiscal year starting July 1.The former actor-turned governor has refused to raise taxes to narrow the shortfall and described his proposed cuts to spending as “painful” but essential.A budget crisis last year pushed California, which would have the world’s eighth largest economy if it were a country, to the brink of bankruptcy, sending the state’s credit-rating plunging and forcing it to start paying bills with IOUs.Analysts and legislators say California’s seemingly eternal fiscal gridlock is a consequence of the state’s constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass a budget or raise taxes.AFP
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