Kill-or-capture unit revealed

The NATO coalition in Afghanistan has been using an undisclosed ”black” unit of special forces, Task Force 373, to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial. Details of more than 2000 senior figures from the Taliban and al-Qaeda are held on a ”kill or capture” list, known as Jpel, the joint prioritised effects list.In many cases, the unit has set out to seize a target for internment, but in others it has simply killed them without attempting to capture. The logs reveal that TF 373 has also killed civilian men, women and children and even Afghan police officers who have strayed into its path.Now, for the first time, the leaked war logs reveal details of deadly missions by TF 373 and other units hunting down Jpel targets that were previously hidden behind a screen of misinformation.On June 17, 2007, TF 373 launched a mission in Paktika province. The target was a Libyan fighter, Abu Laith al-Libi. The unit was armed with a new weapon, known as Himars – high-mobility artillery rocket system – a pod of six missiles on the back of a small truck.The plan was to launch five rockets at targets in the village of Nangar Khel where TF 373 believed Libi was hiding and then to send in ground troops. The result was that they failed to find Libi but killed six Taliban fighters and then, when they approached the rubble of a madrasa, they found ”initial assessment of 7 x NC KIA” which translates as seven non-combatants killed in action. All of them were children.The coalition made a press statement which owned up to the death of the children and claimed that troops ”had surveillance on the compound all day and saw no indications there were children inside the building”. That claim is consistent with the leaked log. A press release also claimed that Taliban fighters, who undoubtedly were in the compound, had used the children as a shield.The log refers to an unnamed ”elder” said to have ”stated that the children were held against their will” but, against that, there is no suggestion that there were any Taliban in the madrasa where the children died.The rest of the press release was misleading. It suggested that coalition forces had attacked the compound because of ”nefarious activity” there, when the reality was that they had gone there to kill or capture Libi. It made no mention at all of Libi, nor of the failure of the mission. Crucially, it failed to record that TF 373 had fired five rockets, destroying the madrasa and other buildings and killing seven children, before anybody had fired on them – that this looked like a mission to kill and not to capture. Indeed, this was clearly deliberately suppressed.The concealment of TF 373’s role is a constant theme.The pursuit of ”high-value targets” is evidently embedded deep in coalition tactics. The Jpel list assigns an individual serial number to each of those targeted for kill or capture and by October 2009 this had reached 2058.Among those who are listed as being located and killed by TF 373 are Shah Agha, described as an intelligence officer for an improvised explosive device cell, Amir Jan Mutaki, described as a Taliban sub-commander who had organised ambushes on coalition forces, who was shot dead from the air in a TF 373 mission on June 24, 2009; and a target codenamed Ballentine, who was killed on November 16, 2009 during an attack in the village of Lewani, in which a local woman also died.Guardian News & Media
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Push to maintain Walang water supply

WALANG residents turned out en masse to tell Evans Shire Council they want it to continue maintaining their raw water supply.
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Councillors agreed in November to hold a meeting at Walang to address the community’s short-term water supply.

The non-drinking supply is connected to 30 properties at Hillview Estate, Walang.

Council general manager Graeme Taylor said the meeting was well attended, with about 45 residents and seven councillors.

“The general thrust from the residents was they want the council to continue with and improve the [water] supply,” Mr Taylor said. “The big issue for them was emergency arrangements in the event the supply looks like failing.”

Water restrictions are in place in Walang.

Mr Taylor said residents were co-operating with restrictions and there was no immediate risk to the water supply.

However, this could change in January or February.

Now that the council has heard from residents it is expected to make a decision on what to do in the event the water runs out.

The council had been presented with options at its November meeting to supply water via a tanker or turn the supply off.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Weight of pages, but the best is yet to come

How big is big? Attempting to give the Afghan War Logs their place in history requires that this explosion of top secret documentation in the public domain be measured against the yardstick of the sensational 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers, which changed the course of the Vietnam War.That effort, which prompted Henry Kissinger to dub Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the papers, as the most dangerous man in America, was a paltry 7000 pages. But apart from revealing how badly the war in Vietnam was going, it also revealed one of Washington’s dirtiest secrets: the US was carpet-bombing neighbouring Cambodia and Laos.By comparison, the logs are enormous – a mind-boggling 92,201 military, intelligence and diplomatic documents – but a first skim by teams from The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel has revealed more of the grinding detail of Barack Obama’s unwinnable war than it has uncovered unknown dimensions of the conflict.That said, Washington is sweating, because WikiLeaks is preparing another tranche of 15,000 documents for release that reportedly include up to 10,000 cable messages from US embassies around the world on fraught issues such as arms deals, trade talks, covert meetings and unvarnished assessments of governments.But already it can be said that the logs will be to Afghanistan what the Pentagon Papers were to Vietnam.To date, the logs’ single new revelation on the conduct of the war is that the Taliban appears to have heat-seeking, surface-to-air missiles – one of which brought down a US helicopter.However, the logs’ greater service to disclosure and transparency is the extent to which they reveal how the governments with troops in Afghanistan sanitise their public account of how badly the war has been going.These are the raw accounts, soaked in the blood and sweat of combat, before they have been prettied up by the triage teams in the Washington and allied PR clinics. We knew there were civilian casualties, but not this many; we had heard of the secret CIA ground missions to assassinate Taliban leaders, now it is confirmed; we have had guarded reports on the use of unmanned drone aircraft in attacks on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, now the picture is fleshed out.With US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week dropping another $US500 million ($A558 million) on Washington’s ally Pakistan, there is enough new dirt in the logs on Islamabad’s two-timing with the Taliban to make Americans wonder who is getting the bang for their buck.Washington and its forces on the ground are still recovering from the shock sacking in June of their Afghanistan commander, General Stanley McChrystal – and now this.It makes no difference to the public understanding of the progress of the war that the most recent of the logs is dated December 2009. Their sheer weight on being dumped in the public arena will cement the sense of a war being lost and give rise to further demands that the troops be brought home.President Obama has been trying to wriggle out of the words he uttered last year, which were read as a promise to start bringing troops home from Afghanistan in July next year.With the release of the logs, he has just lost a lot of wriggle room.Ellsberg, a strategic analyst with the Rand Corp, famously concluded in his decision to leak the classified history of the Vietnam War: ”We weren’t on the wrong side, we were the wrong side.”At a February screening in Washington of the film The Most Dangerous Man in America, the now grandfatherly whistle-blower appealed for his contemporary equivalent in the US security establishment to take courage and hit the send button.It seems his call was answered.
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Nuclear waste may be coming our way

AS many as 130 truckloads of radioactive waste could be transported through Bathurst over 12 months on its way to a waste repository in Woomera.
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Friends of the Earth brought their “Nuclear Free Ways” campaign to Bathurst yesterday, aimed at stopping the transport and dumping of nuclear waste in NSW.

The Federal Government is planning to establish a National Radioactive Waste Repository at one of three sites near Woomera.

The repository would accommodate low-level radioactive waste from defence, industrial and medical sources across Australia.

However, the bulk of materials requiring transportation would be existing stockpiled waste from the Lucas Heights nuclear facility in Sydney.

Friends of the Earth nuclear campaigner Loretta O’Brien said the decision to move the waste had been a political one to appease Sutherland Shire residents opposing the construction of a new reactor.

She said the Friends’ were concerned about the risk of an accident along the route and whether emergency services were prepared to cope with radioactive materials. She said this presented risks of radioactive exposure to people and agricultural land, yet the the Federal Government had failed to tell communities on the transport corridor.

Ms O’Brien said burying the waste would contaminate soils and waterways.

But former director of the Australian Radiation Laboratory, Dr Keith Lokan, said 30,000 packages of radioactive materials were transported in Australia every year and there had never been a mishap.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Armstrong riles Tour officials on his final day

FINAL TOUR RESULTSLance Armstrong riled Tour de France officials on his final day on the race after appearing on the podium in black-coloured team strips.RadioShack’s team colours are red and grey.——————————————————-Contador seals Tour victory as Armstrong waves goodbyeSpanish press hail ‘king’ Contador——————————————————-However, seven-time champion Armstrong and his teammates showed up for the 20th and final stage wearing black outfits emblazoned with the number 28.That is a reference to the 28 million people Armstrong’s Livestrong foundation estimates are living with cancer.The American famously battled cancer in 1998 to return to racing and win the Tour seven times consecutively.In recent years his Livestrong foundation has been involved in raising awareness, and funds, in a bid to beat the disease.But his latest bid was kept in check by International Cycling Union (UCI) officials on Sunday.After turning up wearing black for the 20th and final stage from Longjumeau to the Champs Elysees in Paris, the rest of the peloton had to wait while they were forced to change back to red and grey.”It is forbidden to change jersey in a stage race without an authorisation from the UCI,” race jury president Franceso Cenere told French TV.”They had to change jersey otherwise they would have been excluded from the race.”Armstrong decided to try again after the stage, when he and his team turned up at the podium to receive their prize for dominating the teams’ classification wearing black.”In the end, I think the fact we had to change the jerseys (before the stage) gave us some publicity,” Armstrong told France Televisions.On what was his final Tour campaign, Armstrong finished the race nearly 40 minutes behind Spain’s three-time winner Alberto Contador, his former teammate at Astana in 2009.The 38-year-old American is at the centre of serious doping allegations levelled recently by former teammate Floyd Landis.Landis’s accusations have led to the launching of a federal investigation into alleged doping practices of Armstrong and other riders at his former team, US Postal.AFP
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Firefighters’ mercy dash

MORE than 30 firefighters from the Bathurst district were rushed to Blackheath yesterday to help tackle a fire which was threatening homes.
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A team of Rural Fire Service volunteers heading for Penrith had to be redeployed when a blaze, which started in the Megalong Valley near the Shipley Plateau, closed the Great Western Highway and threatened homes in Blackheath.

About 4pm an additional four RFS tankers from the Bathurst/Oberon area and a unit each from Bathurst Fire Brigade and Kelso Fire Brigade were sent to assist as conditions worsened in the Blue Mountains.

At 6pm one house was lost at Medlow Bath and properties were under threat at Blackheath, Evans Lookout Road and Medlow Bath.

Firefighters from Chifley Command including volunteers from Raglan, Evans, Eglinton, Yetholme and Norway (Oberon) received the initial call for help early yesterday morning from Penrith Fire Control headquarters.

Local Rural Fire Service chief Keith Meehan said the Chifley Task Force was deployed at lunchtime, including 16 firefighters, four tankers and a command vehicle.

“They expected to arrive at Penrith by about 3pm and from there were going to be sent to various hot spots to start relieving others for the afternoon and night shifts,” he said.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Alonso wins, Webber sixth

Spaniard Fernando Alonso led Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa to a one-two victory in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim on Sunday.Australia’s Red Bull driver Mark Webber was sixth.—————————————————-‘Cheating’ Ferrari fined $110,000—————————————————-But the race was shrouded in controversy as Massa was in front of Alonso until a call from Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali saw Massa hand the lead to Alonso.Ferrari chief engineer Rob Smedley said to Massa on the team radio: “Alonso is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand?”With 18 laps remaining, the Brazilian gave way to his team-mate.Following the controversial move, Smedley added: “Good lad — just stick with it now, sorry.”Asked to comment on the call afterwards, Massa, who was denied a potential win a year to the day after he fractured his skull in the Hungarian GP, said simply: “I don’t need to say anything about that. He passed me.”Alonso preferred to dwell on the strong team showing.”Sometimes you are quick, sometimes you are slow,” he said.”It’s a very strong result for the team. I think it was a good weekend overall, we improved the car a lot.”Ferrari led from start to finish as both Massa and Alonso passed pole-sitter German Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull in an exciting start at the Hockenheimring.Vettel, 23, who has still to win a race after starting in pole position, finished in third place ahead of McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button of Great Britain.Webber was sixth in the second Red Bull ahead of Pole Robert Kubica of Renault.Mercedes drivers and fellow Germans Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher were eighth and ninth respectively, followed by Russian Vitaly Petrov in the second Renault, who was tenth.Alonso’s win took him to within 34 points of drivers’ championship leader Hamilton, who has 157 points.Defending champion Button is second with 143 points, while Webber and Vettel are equal third with 136 points.AFP
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New CSU Chancellor to carry on tradition

IF CSU’s new Chancellor, businessman and former senior bureaucrat Lawrence Willett, OA, has his way a veterinary science school would be opened in Wagga, even if that meant closing one at a metropolitan university.
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In his first public statement after being formally elected yesterday, Mr Willett said regional Australia’s future turned on training the professionals the regions need in centres like Bathurst.

A former director general of the Commonwealth Department of Health and one of Australia’s most experienced and senior public servants, Mr Willett said

the “Sydney and metro-centric” view of tertiary education had to change.

“If regional Australia is to maintain any sort of semblence of relevance in relation to the total Australian scene we must have the people who are the leaders in regional and rural Australia trained in the areas in which they are going to work.”

He sat beneath a portrait of his predecessor David Asimus at CSU’s Grange as Vice Chancellor Ian Goulter described him as the perfect replacement.

Prof Goulter said Mr Willett, who is mayor of Gunning Shire and runs properties in the Southern Tablelands with his wife Helen, understood the region.

“The other aspect of Mr Willett’s background is that he has a reach beyond the region into metropolitan Australia and into the highest levels of government which gives us the capacity to get our message across.”

Mr Willet is a former CEO of the Commonwealth Superannuation Investment Trust, Commissioner of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and sits on numerous boards.

MORE: Read today’s Western Advocate.

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Contador seals Tour victory as Armstrong waves goodbye

FINAL TOUR RESULTSAlberto Contador’s joy on winning the 2010 Tour de France must have been matched on the Champs Elysees on Sunday by the fastest man in the 3642km race.Mark Cavendish won the 102.5km last stage from Longjumeau to Paris more devastatingly than in Bordeaux two days ago.———————————————————-Armstrong riles Tour officials on his final daySpanish press hail ‘king’ Contador———————————————————-He finishes this year’s Tour with five wins, bringing his overall total to 15.Second on the line was Alessandro Petacchi, followed by New Zealand’s Julian Dean. Australia’s Robbie McEwen was ninth.The day was trouble free for Contador, who finished in the middle of the pack, easily defending his yellow race leader’s jersey to secure his third Tour victory.Near him in the bunch were Andy Schleck, second overall at 39 seconds and Denis Menchov, third at 2 minutes 1 second.Petacchi’s second place on the stage secured him the overall green points jersey. He finished on 243 points, ahead of Cavendish’s 232 and Thor Hushovd’s 222.The day began controversially for Lance Armstrong and his RadioShack team, who signed on in their regulation team kit but then turned up at the start line in custom-made black jerseys bearing the number 28, for the 28 million people around the world suffering from cancer.The commissaires forced them to change along the roadside and they had to then chase to rejoin the peloton.It was the last appearance at the race for the seven-time Tour champion, but Armstrong got to stand on the podium one more time when RadioShack went up to collect the overall team classification award at the end.Later, he said: “This race has been good to me, I hope I have been good for the race. But I can’t lie … I am ready to retire Part II.”Three weeks of suffering is over. Great to go home. Don’t have to stress about racing every day. Time to go home …”Australian hope Cadel Evans finished 26th at 50 minutes 27 seconds to Contador.His team remained committed to him. “There is much to celebrate,” BMC sports director John Lelangue said.”We proved that Cadel – until his crash – was here to be a contender. He took the yellow jersey and unfortunately, he crashed. But the whole team was there to fight and be around their leader.”Once we finish the party tonight, Monday we will begin planning for next season and our next Tour.”
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Subdivision plan angers residents

SWANBROOKE Street residents fear their peaceful, rural outlook will be destroyed if a plan to allow houses on the northern side of the road proceeds.
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Bathurst City Council has notified residents they have until December 13 to make submissions on proposed amendments to Bathurst Development Control Plan relating to the Llanarth/Windradyne area.

The proposals which have upset residents are the rearrangement of open space areas, the realignment of roads and the deletion of a school/church site.

Under existing plans there is a designated road with reserves on either side next to Swanbrooke Street.

But council is looking at removing this from the plan and allowing a new subdivision to front the northern side of Swanbrooke Street.

Resident Ralph Hammond said he and his wife spent more than a year looking for a quiet area with an open outlook, and were told about the reserve.

“We were assured it would be left as is, which is why we came to live here,” Mr Hammond said. “If houses are built on the reserve opposite us, the view will be cut off and accordingly our property will lose value.”

Full story in the Western Advocate.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.