The cargo handler, the former MP and ‘the Shining Light’ plot

Two men accused in a terrorist plot hoped to cause a spectacular explosion that would kill thousands at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport and avenge US oppression of Muslims, a prosecutor said on Monday at the men’s trial.The defendants wanted to blow up jet fuel tanks at the sprawling airport, causing an explosion “so massive … that it could be seen from far, far away”, Assistant US Attorney Zainab Ahmad said in closing arguments in federal court in Brooklyn.Their vision prompted them to code name the plot “The Shining Light”, the prosecutor said.Russell Defreitas, 66, a former JFK cargo handler, and Abdul Kadir, 58, once a member of parliament in Guyana, were arrested in 2007 after an informant infiltrated the plot and made a series of secret recordings.Prosecutors say Defreitas did reconnaissance on the airport, sought the help of a militant Muslim group in Trinidad along with Kadir and dreamt of delivering a devastating economic blow to the United States.Defreitas, a naturalised US citizen from Guyana, “is a classic homegrown extremist”, Ahmad said.Defence lawyers have denied their clients are militants and claim they were framed by a shady informant. The lawyers were to give their closing arguments later on Monday.At trial, the government’s evidence included tapes of Defreitas that showed he was determined to avenge the mistreatment of Muslims in the United States and abroad with an attack that would “dwarf 9/11″, Ahmad said on Monday. He also told the informant that his US citizenship gave him cover, the prosecutor added.”The don’t expect nobody in this country to do something like this,” she quoted him as saying. “They have their eyes on foreigners, not me.”As part of the plot, Defreitas and the informant travelled to Guyana to meet with Kadir and show him homemade surveillance videotapes of the airport’s so-called fuel farms, the prosecutor said.The plotters also discussed reaching out to Adnam Shukrijumah, an al-Qaeda operative and explosives expert who was believed to be hiding out in the Caribbean at the time, she added.Shukrijumah, an FBI most-wanted terrorist, was indicted in federal court in Brooklyn this month on charges he was involved in a failed plot to attack the New York City subway system with suicide bombers.AP
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Bathurst fire crews save homes

FIRE crews from Bathurst saved four homes at Medlow Bath in the Blue Mountains on Thursday night as bushfires raged across the mountains and in Sydney.
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Members of the local Rural Fire Service, together with a contingent of Bathurst NSW Fire Brigade fire fighters were rushed to Sydney earlier in the day, but they didn’t get further than Medlow Bath.

They fought a series of fires until relieved in the early hours of yesterday morning, said Chifley Rural Fire Service task force leader Maurice McMillen, who described the situation as the worst he had seen in 25 years.

“We were originally supposed to be heading for Penrith before being deployed to Glenorie, but a fire blew up at Medlow Bath and that’s as far as we got,” he said.

“We backed into one home’s yard to save it and there, right next to us, was unit 216 from the Bathurst Fire Brigade.

“With 25 NSW Brigades and more than 50 Rural Fire Service tankers in the action, the chances of that happening would be 1000-1.”

Mr McMillen said local friefighters were responsible for saving at least four homes at Medlow Bath, their owners overwhelmed by the job done they did.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

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Firies do it tough in the mountains

A crew of 16 local firefighters returned to Bathurst late yesterday after a weekend of fighting horrendous fires in the Blue Mountains., The Chifley zone crew was called at urgent request on Thursday, arriving at the mountains at around 2pm., They were immediately thrown into the blaze, both fighting fires and performing backburning operations to prevent fires from worsening., Deputy group captain for the Chifley zone Maurice McMillen said the fires still burning are unlike anything he has seen in his vast career of firefighting., “Although the operation is quite organised, I’ve been doing this for 25 years now and the fires in the mountains are the toughest I’ve ever done it,” he said., “It’s really full-on and quite intense.”, Mr McMillen said the Chifley crew was first posted to Meadlow Bath for property protection, and was then moved to Katoomba and Leura for backburning., “The volatile weather conditions meant we were constantly switching from defense mode to attack within a matter of 15 minutes,” Mr McMillen said., “There was a lot of tough decision making because the winds were so unpredictable.”, Full story in the Western Advocate.
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‘Satanists’ jailed for cannibalism ritual

Six young Russians who declared themselves to be Satanists have been handed jail sentences of up to 20 years for ritually killing and then dismembering four teenagers in a forest.The six, who were all teenagers at the time of the crime, reportedly also ate the body parts of their victims in a wooded area outside the city of Yaroslavl north-east of Moscow.The six were found guilty of “murdering four people with the aim of carrying out an initiation ritual into a sect and of desecrating the bodies of the dead”, the Yaroslavl regional court said.The group, four of whom were minors at the time, killed the four teenagers in June 2008, prosecutors said. They then desecrated the bodies and stole their possessions.The dismembered bodies of the teenagers were found buried in the forest in August that year.The accused were found guilty of murder, while four were found guilty of desecrating the victims’ bodies. The longest sentence of 20 years went to the man named as the group’s leader, Nikolai Ogolobnyak.The members of the gang called themselves Satanists and earlier carried out animal sacrifices, Komsomolskaya Pravda daily reported, citing investigators.They stabbed the victims and then dismembered their bodies and cooked and ate some body parts, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.The four minors received the maximum possible sentence for murder, 10 years, a prosecutor, Tatyana Rachinskaya, said after the sentencing.The crimes were “revolting” and “inhumane”, Rachinskaya said.Another member was convicted of murder but pronounced insane and sentenced to compulsory psychiatric treatment.The court hearings were held behind closed doors due to the horrific nature of the crimes and because of the involvement of minors.AFP
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Khmer Rouge jailer gets 30 years for war crimes

PHNOM PENH: The Khmer Rouge’s top prison chief was yesterday sentenced to 30 years in jail by a United Nations-backed war crimes court for his role in Cambodia’s mass killings and other atrocities in the late 1970s.Kaing Guek Eav – better known as Duch – is the first member of the regime to be convicted in an international tribunal over the deaths of up to 2 million people through starvation, overwork and execution.The 67-year-old was initially given 35 years but the court reduced the sentence after ruling that he had been detained illegally for years before the UN-backed tribunal was established.Duch apologised during his trial for overseeing the murders of about 15,000 men, women and children at Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21, but shocked the court in November by finally asking to be acquitted.The maths teacher-turned-revolutionary was convicted of charges including crimes against humanity and war crimes.”The role of the accused as the undisputed head of S-21 is confirmed by the accused’s own admission, the testimony of witnesses and civil parties,” the head judge, Nil Nonn, said as he read out the verdict yesterday.”Every individual detained within S-21 was destined for execution in accordance with the Communist Party of Kampuchea policy to smash all enemies.”Tuol Sleng was the centre of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus and thousands of inmates were taken from there for execution in a nearby orchard that served as a ”Killing Field”.Crowds of Cambodians, including regime survivors and Buddhist monks, turned up at the specially built court on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, hoping to finally see justice for the Khmer Rouge’s crimes during its rule from 1975 to 1979.Prosecutors had asked for a 40-year prison sentence from the tribunal, which did not have the power to impose the death penalty. Duch, wearing a blue shirt, slumped in his chair as the tribunal read out the verdict in a courtroom shielded by a huge bullet-proof screen.Led by ”Brother Number One”, Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge were responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, wiping out nearly a quarter of the Cambodian population.Rising to power as a tragic spin-off of the US war in Vietnam, the movement emptied Cambodia’s cities to take society back to a rural ”Year Zero”, purging city dwellers, intellectuals and even people who wore glasses.Fifty-five witnesses testified at the trial, including 22 victims who talked about how prison officials tortured them with electric shocks, suffocation and beatings.”I could never forget the suffering that I received until the day that I die,” Chum Mey, who had his toenails ripped out at the prison, told the court. ”Once justice can be done, then I would feel better.”The Khmer Rouge were ousted by Vietnamese-backed forces in 1979 but continued to fight a civil war until 1998. Pol Pot died in the same year.Duch has been detained since 1999, when he was found working as a Christian aid worker in the jungle, and was formally arrested by the tribunal in July 2007.The joint trial of four more senior Khmer Rouge leaders charged with genocide is expected to start next year.Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg
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Document deluge throws US war effort into damage-control

The US has restated emphatically its mission in Afghanistan while condemning the disclosure of a trove of secret military field reports that lay bare the grim reality of the nine-year conflict, including the apparent duplicity of its ally Pakistan.A statement by the National Security Adviser, James Jones, implied the leaked material was out of date and had been overtaken by President Barack Obama’s ”surge” strategy.But the statement did not deny key judgments drawn from the 92,000 documents released by the website WikiLeaks: namely, that the Pakistani military has been aiding insurgent groups and that coalition forces were struggling alongside Afghan allies of dubious loyalty and competence.General Jones said that while the stakes were great, the US was ”committed to a strong, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan”.”If Afghanistan is permitted to slide backwards, we will again face a threat from violent extremist groups like al-Qaeda who will have more space to plot and train.”The secret documents are a diary of a US-led force often stretched for resources as it struggles against an insurgency that grows larger and more deadly.The New York Times, The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the records several weeks ago. They span January 2004 to December 2009, when the Obama administration decided to ramp up its war effort.The war logs reveal civilian killings by coalition forces and secret efforts to eliminate Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders, and discuss the involvement of Iran and Pakistan in supporting insurgents. But much of the information is composed by low-level field officers and is uncorroborated.Nevertheless, the material will add to mounting concern that the coalition is making little headway as the war exacts an escalating toll. Last month was the deadliest for coalition troops since October 2001, with 102 soldiers killed. Almost 2000 coalition troops have died in Afghanistan, including more than 1200 Americans.John Kerry, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said the documents raised serious questions about the reality of US policy towards Pakistan and Afghanistan.The copious material portrays a Pakistani military that appears at best unco-operative and at worst to be aiding Taliban attacks against coalition forces. The New York Times said it appeared Pakistan was playing a ”double game”, allowing its spy service to meet the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organise networks of militant groups that fight against US soldiers in Afghanistan ”and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders”.The papers lacked ”credible proof” about Pakistan-Taliban links, a spokesman for Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, said.The US also sought to deflect concerns, insisting recent co-operation with Pakistan had led to blows being levelled against al-Qaeda’s leadership.In its investigation of the documents, The New York Times concluded: ”The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed.”The Obama administration had been expecting the leak for several weeks after it learned a US soldier who reportedly passed to WikiLeaks classified video of a US army helicopter gunning down civilians in Iraq in 2007 might also have leaked reams of classified documents to the site.However, there was no confirmation that Bradley Manning, 22, of Maryland, who has been charged and faces up to 50 years’ jail, was responsible for this week’s data deluge.The Australian founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, defended publication of the material in the face of US anger.
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All aboard picnic race train

A train service from Dubbo to Trangie for the Macquarie Picnic races on Saturday, December 28 is likely to be immensely popular and could gain a cult following over future years.
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The demise of many rail lines and stations has been a sad part of recent history.

When our vast continent was opened up the arrival of the railway in country towns was a significant event.

Now on many branch lines the rusted tracks and rotting sleepers are overgrown with weeds and railway stations are the roosting places for sparrows and pigeons.

Much of the blame for the downgrading of cessation of rail services is attributable to members of the public like myself who failed to utilise the facility.

As a teenager, train travel was regarded as “uncool” with a decided preference to be choked in traffic driving the FB Holden to Sydney and back.

In later years the joys of train trips was discovered but like many others came the disappointment the only way to link with a train service was to firstly travel hundreds of kilometres by bus due to past poor patronage of the railway.

David Duggan (past president), James Hamilton (president), Amber Dimond (secretary) and the committee of Macquarie Picnic Race Club began organising the unique travel service to Trangie earlier this year and the train has now been booked.

The train leaves Dubbo at 10.30am, stops at Narromine and will arrive at Trangie by 12.30pm in time for luncheon before the races.

MORE: Read today’s Western Advocate.

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Teamwork keeps bushfires at bay

QUICK response from both Rural Fire Service volunteers and staff from the State Forests has saved the central tablelands from suffering the same bushfire damage as the Blue Mountains and metropolitan area.
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Spotters perched high in towers across local state forests pounced on spot fires which broke out yesterday, one near Thompson’s Creek (near Mt Lambie) and two just south of Blayney believed to be caused by lightning strikes.

State Forests regional manager Dean Anderson said yesterday staff were on full alert because of the seriousness of the bushfire situation.

With 68,000 hectares of softwood plantations across the Central Tablelands, Mr Anderson admits it is a matter of being on the ball and keeping his fingers crossed.

“We have spotters in all our towers at the moment and thankfully they picked up these outbreaks before they became too serious,” he said.

“As well we have air patrols operating across the district to ensure quick response should there be any trouble.

“One reason we haven’t had the same problems as those being experienced in the Blue Mountains and across the metropolitan area is the teamwork between State Forests and Rural Fire Service volunteers.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

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A big day for chief leaker

LONDON: The Australian founder of WikiLeaks has described the release of 92,000 classifed documents on the Afghan War as ”the most comprehensive history of a war ever to be printed”.In a press conference in London, Julian Assange likened the release of the documents to the opening of the archives of the East German secret police, the Stasi, following the reunification of Germany.He said the documents released so far had ”just scratched the surface”.The release of the reports has attracted criticism from both the US and British governments, with the White House saying the leaks ”could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security”.Mr Assange has claimed previously that the Pentagon is intent on shutting down WikiLeaks.He said yesterday that the US government had asked the Australian government to put him and other WikiLeaks staff under surveillance. He said he believed ”most of those requests” had been denied.
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No memory of break and enter

A MAN who spent two years “dosed up to his eyeballs” on prescription drugs has pleaded guilty to a break and enter offence he has no memory of committing., Jason Patrick Logan, 28, was sentenced in Bathurst Local Court last week to 20 months’ imprisonment for breaking into a Lorimer Street house in January 2000, and stealing two bathroom light/heater units and a shower head., The law finally caught up with Logan in August, 2002, when police computers matched Logan’s fingerprints to the unsolved crime., Logan’s prison sentence also applied to two charges of driving whilst being disqualified from holding a licence and followed an extensive history of similar offences., Magistrate Elizabeth Corbett remarked she had “never seen so many drive while disqualified” offences on a person’s record and had no option other than a prison sentence., Ms Corbett also added four years to Logan’s existing driving disqualifications – making him ineligible to obtain a licence until 2034. , Logan was declared a habitual offender, automatically adding another five years to his disqualification – meaning he must not get behind the wheel until at least 2039., Logan, formerly of Seymour Street, had earlier pleaded not guilty to the break and enter charge but changed this to a guilty plea in court on Wednesday., His solicitor, Emma Mason, said her client had used marijuana “to excess” and became addicted to prescription drugs., She said he had a two-year “black period” in his life he could not remember, during which he had been “dosed up to his eyeballs” on Rohypnol., Ms Mason said the drive disqualified offences began as a juvenile and had culminated from that time., Logan worked as a farm hand and sought work as soon as he was out of prison, sometimes getting stopped by police a number of times on the way to a job interstate, she said., Full story in the Western Advocate.
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