If the U.S. followed Canada and Australia’s example, it would allow in more, not fewer, immigrants

Alex Nowrasteh writes: President Trump stated that he wanted to create a merit or skills-based immigration system like in Canada or Australia, but the Cotton-Perdue bill would not come close to achieving that goal. The immigration systems in Canada and Australia do emphasize skilled immigrants over family members but their immigration systems allow in far more immigrants, as a percentage of the population in both countries, than the United States. It is important to control for the population of the destination country when comparing the relative openness of different immigration systems.

New immigrants to Canada who arrived in 2013 were equal to 0.74 percent of that country’s population. New immigrants to Australia in 2013 were equal to a whopping 1.1 percent of their population. By contrast, immigrants to the United States in the same year equaled just 0.31 percent of our population. The only OECD countries that allow in fewer immigrants relative to their populations than the United States are Portugal, Korea, Mexico, and Japan. Seventeen other OECD countries allow in more immigrants than the United States as a percentage of their populations. [Continue reading…]

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South Koreans more scared of Trump than North Korea, says Australia’s former foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans

ABC News (AU) reports: Despite North Korea announcing it has successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, South Koreans consider Donald Trump to be a bigger threat to their security than Kim Jong-un, according to former foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans.

“Kim Jong-un’s behaviour is often rather idiosyncratic, it’s also often very ugly but I don’t think anybody thinks he’s nuts,” he told 7.30.

“It’s very clear that South Koreans are more worried about Donald Trump than they are about the North Koreans in terms of what might trigger an actual conflict in which they’d be caught up and devastated.”

While he believes a deliberate nuclear strike by either the US or North Korea is unlikely, Mr Evans said he was worried about how the US President may respond to future provocations. [Continue reading…]

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Great Barrier Reef valued at A$56bn as report warns it’s ‘too big to fail’

The Guardian reports: A new report has valued the Great Barrier Reef at A$56bn and warns of vast economic consequences for Australia unless more is done to protect it.

The Deloitte Access Economics report says the world heritage-listed reef underpins 64,000 direct and indirect jobs, and contributes $6.4bn to the national economy each year.

But without ramped-up protection efforts, it warns much of that could be at risk as the reef suffers from repeated mass coral bleaching events, poor water quality and climate change.

“The reef is critical to supporting economic activity and jobs in Australia,” says the report, prepared for the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. “The livelihoods and businesses it supports across Australia far exceeds the numbers supported by many industries we would consider too big to fail.”

Of the 64,000 jobs linked to the reef, 39,000 are direct jobs – making the reef a bigger “employer” than the likes of Telstra, the Qantas Group, National Australia Bank and the oil and gas extraction industry. [Continue reading…]

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North Korea warns Australia of possible nuclear strike if it ‘blindly toes US line’

The Australian Associated Press reports: North Korea has bluntly warned Australia of a possible nuclear strike if Canberra persists in “blindly and zealously toeing the US line”.

North Korea’s state new agency (KCNA) quoted a foreign ministry spokesman castigating Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, after she said the rogue nation would be subject to further Australian sanctions and for “spouting a string of rubbish against the DPRK over its entirely just steps for self-defence”.

“If Australia persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK and remains a shock brigade of the US master, this will be a suicidal act of coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK,” the report said.

“The Australian foreign minister had better think twice about the consequences to be entailed by her reckless tongue-lashing before flattering the US.”

Bishop had said this week on the ABC’s AM program that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program posed a “serious threat” to Australia unless it was stopped by the international community. [Continue reading…]

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In the battle for the planet’s climate future, Australia’s Adani mine is the line in the sand

Bill McKibben writes: There is nowhere else on the planet right now where the dichotomy between two potential futures – one where we address the climate change crisis, one where we ignore this momentous threat and continue with business as usual – is playing out in such a dramatic and explosive way as Australia.

In the US, Donald Trump is decimating decades of hard-fought environmental and climate standards – it’s all 18th century all the time. But the ageing fossil fuel assets and recent “market failure” of the Australian electricity grid is pushing political leaders to all-out brawling, pitting conservative inaction against the demand for solution-focused action.

A recent wave of blackouts and near misses and the proposal of the biggest coalmine in the world – the Adani Carmichael mine in Queensland – has created tinder-dry conditions that only needed one spark to go up in flames.

The spark finally came recently, via Twitter, from renewable energy entrepreneur Elon Musk who offered to sell the batteries that would remove the last argument against renewable power.

It turned the deadlocked debate over how to fix Australia’s fossil fuel-ladenand often failing energy “market” into an open war between those backing the dying coal industry with those set on using the moment to transition to renewable energy. [Continue reading…]

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Despite Trump’s hissy fit during conversation with Australian PM, U.S. will still honor refugee agreement

The Washington Post reports: It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.

“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.

Trump, who one day earlier had signed an executive order temporarily barring the admission of refugees, complained that he was “going to get killed” politically and accused Australia of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers.” [Continue reading…]

In an interview on Australia’s ABC 7.30, former foreign minister Bob Carr said that none of America’s allies should remain under any illusions about having a “special relationship” with the U.S. while it is led by a president whose only interest is to put “America first.”

 

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‘Abu Ghraib’-style images of children in detention in Australia trigger public inquiry

The Guardian reports: Australia’s prime minister has launched a public inquiry following the broadcast of footage of children in detention being abused, hooded and bound in a manner likened to Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay.

Malcolm Turnbull announced a royal commission hours after the national broadcaster aired shocking footage showing children in detention at the Don Dale facility outside Darwin in the Northern Territory.

Footage aired on the ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday showed one youth being stripped and physically held down by guards.

In another scene that the program compared with images from Guantánamo Bay or the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad, 17-year-old Dylan Voller was shown hooded and tied in a restraint chair for two hours. [Continue reading…]

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Tough gun laws in Australia eliminate mass shootings

Science News reports: Australia has seen zero mass shootings in the 20 years since it enacted strict gun control laws and a mandatory gun buyback program, researchers report June 22 in JAMA.

Key to this success is probably the reduction in people’s exposure to semiautomatic weapons, Johns Hopkins University health policy researcher Daniel Webster writes in an accompanying editorial.

“Here’s a society that recognized a public safety threat, found it unacceptable, and took measures to address the problem,” Webster says.

In April 1996, a man with two semiautomatic rifles shot and killed 35 people in Tasmania and wounded at least 18 others. Two months after the shooting, known as the Port Arthur massacre, Australia began implementing a comprehensive set of gun regulations, called the National Firearms Agreement.

The NFA is famous for banning semiautomatic long guns (including the ones used by the Port Arthur shooter), but, as Webster points out, it also made buying other guns a lot harder too. People have to document a “genuine need,” pass a safety test, wait a minimum of 28 days, have no restraining orders for violence and demonstrate good moral character, among other restrictions, Webster writes.

“In Australia, they look at someone’s full record and ask, ‘Is this a good idea to let this person have a firearm?’” Webster says. In the United States, “we do pretty much the opposite. The burden is on the government to show that you are too dangerous to have a firearm.” [Continue reading…]

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The new coal frontier

The Guardian reports: Around 27bn tonnes of coal are thought to be locked under the ground of the Galilee Basin in the outback of Queensland. A huge proposed complex of coal mines is planned here, including the world’s largest thermal coal project.

So are railway lines and a massive expansion of the Abbot Point port on the Great Barrier Reef.

What will this mean for the Aboriginal community, the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s climate?

Adrian Burragubba is a strong man. His people, the Wangan and Jagalingou, have called this flat, arid outback in central Queensland home for tens of thousands of years, but now all that is under threat.

When the white man first came here in his great-grandfather’s time, Adrian, 54, a tribal elder and ‘law man’, says they were thought of as ghosts – strange, but welcome enough. But later generations were to bear the brunt of the interlopers’ greed. His grandfather and his father were both removed from the land and put on church-run properties to make way for a gold rush.

“Those places were like concentration camps,” he explains. “They wanted Aboriginal people out of the way, so you couldn’t leave them. The police would take you back if you did.”

Now the rapacious outsiders are back. Massive mining operations are looking to plunder a gigantic new coal frontier in the Galilee Basin. There are 247,000 sq km (95,400 sq miles) of coal: a land mass the size of Britain. [Continue reading…]

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Iran and Australia pledge cooperation on fighting ISIS

Reuters: Australia and Iran have reached a tentative intelligence sharing agreement to combat Islamic State militants fighting in the Middle East, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Monday.

Australia has sent hundreds of soldiers to Iraq to help train forces fighting the Islamic State group, heightening concerns about reprisal attacks at home.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop this week became the first top diplomat from Australia to visit Iran in a decade. She said the two countries had a common purpose in defeating Islamic State extremists.

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230 suspected jihadis prevented from leaving Australia in March

The Associated Press reports: Counterterrorism squads have prevented 230 suspected jihadis from departing Australian airports for the Middle East this month, including at least three teenage boys, officials said Wednesday.

Officials had previously announced that two Sydney-born brothers, aged 16 and 17, were intercepted at Sydney International Airport on March 8 attempting to board a flight for Turkey without their parents’ knowledge. The siblings were returned to their families and were to be charged.

Within a week, a 17-year-old boy was intercepted at the same airport on suspicion that he was headed for a Middle Eastern battle, Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said Wednesday.

The boy was also returned to his family, but remains under investigation, Dutton said.

Since counterterrorism units were attached to eight Australian airports in August, 86,000 travelers have been questioned and 230 people prevented from flying on suspicion that they were headed for the battlefields of Iraq and Syria to fight with groups including Islamic State, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Parliament.

Experts disagree about why Islamic State had been so effective recruiting in Australia, which is widely regarded as a multicultural success story, with an economy in an enviable 24th straight year of continuous growth.

The London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence reports that between 100 and 250 Australians have joined Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria. The center estimates that about 100 fighters came from the United States, which has more than 13 times as many people as Australia. [Continue reading…]

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Australia a puzzling hotbed of ISIS recruiting

The Associated Press reports: A nightclub bouncer who reportedly became a terror group leader. A man who tweeted a photo of his young son clutching a severed head. A teenager who is believed to have turned suicide bomber, and others suspected of attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State movement. All of them, Australian.

The London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence reports that between 100 and 250 Australians have joined Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria. Given Australia’s vast distance from the region and its population of just 24 million, it is a remarkable number. The center estimates that about 100 fighters came from the United States, which has more than 13 times as many people as Australia.

Experts disagree about why Islamic State has been so effective recruiting in Australia, which is widely regarded as a multicultural success story, with an economy in an enviable 24th year of continuous growth.

Possible explanations include that some Australian Muslims are poorly integrated with the rest of the country, and that Islamic State recruiters have given Australia particular attention. In addition, the Australian government failed to keep tabs on some citizens who had been radicalized, and moderate Muslims have been put off by some of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments about their community.

Greg Barton, a global terrorism expert at Monash University in Melbourne, said Australia and some other countries underestimated Islamic State’s “pull factor.”

“We’re all coming to terms with the fact that this is a formidable targeter and predatory recruiter that goes after individuals one by one with a very masterful use of technology, and our sense of confidence that because we’ve got society working well makes us secure misses the point,” Barton said.

Muslims make up about 2.2 percent of the population in Australia, compared to just 1 percent in the United States. And while many U.S. Muslims are from families who migrated in pursuit of the American economic dream, a larger proportion of Australian Muslims are from families who fled Lebanon’s civil war in the 1970s and ’80s. [Continue reading…]

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Anti-terror operation in Australia ‘thwarted’ beheading plot

ABC (AU) reports: Police say a large-scale anti-terrorism raid in Sydney this morning has foiled a plot to “commit violent acts” in Australia, including a plan to behead a member of the public.

More than 800 officers launched the raids as part of Operation Appleby in suburbs across Sydney’s west and north-west, with a further 70 police involved in raids on properties in Brisbane’s south.

Police said 15 people had been detained in Sydney as part of the operation between NSW officers, the Australian Federal Police and ASIO.

Court documents are expected to reveal that the raids, at 25 different properties, were aimed at a cell which planned to behead a member of the public in Sydney.

The documents are expected to say that the plan involved snatching a random member of the public in Sydney, draping them in an Islamic State group (IS) flag and beheading them on camera. [Continue reading…]

There is a ruthless logic in terrorism: it always aims to produce the maximum effect from the minimum amount of resources.

At a time when increased security measures have made international plots aimed at bombing or hijacking aircraft especially difficult, it is easy to see why beheading is becoming the preferred technique through which an organization such as ISIS can terrorize its enemies.

No need for any expertise or hard-to-acquire materials — all that is required is a knife, a camera, a YouTube account, and someone willing to murder a helpless victim.

Up until recently, we might have imagined that executioners of this kind would be hard to find, but unfortunately we are learning otherwise.

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U.S. mobilizes allies to widen assault on ISIS

The New York Times reports: The United States has begun to mobilize a broad coalition of allies behind potential American military action in Syria and is moving toward expanded airstrikes in northern Iraq, administration officials said on Tuesday.

President Obama, the officials said, was broadening his campaign against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and nearing a decision to authorize airstrikes and airdrops of food and water around the northern Iraqi town of Amerli, home to members of Iraq’s Turkmen minority. The town of 12,000 has been under siege for more than two months by the militants.

“Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick,” Mr. Obama said in a speech on Tuesday to the American Legion in Charlotte, N.C., using an alternative name for ISIS. He said that the United States was building a coalition to “take the fight to these barbaric terrorists,” and that the militants would be “no match” for a united international community.

Administration officials characterized the dangers facing the Turkmen, who are Shiite Muslims considered infidels by ISIS, as similar to the threat faced by thousands of Yazidis, who were driven to Mount Sinjar in Iraq after attacks by the militants. The United Nations special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said in a statement three days ago that the situation in Amerli “demands immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens.”

As Mr. Obama considered new strikes, the White House began its diplomatic campaign to enlist allies and neighbors in the region to increase their support for Syria’s moderate opposition and, in some cases, to provide support for possible American military operations. The countries likely to be enlisted include Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, officials said. [Continue reading…]

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Australians killed in U.S. drone strike in Yemen

The Australian reports: Two Australian citizens have been killed in a US airstrike in Yemen in what is the first known example of Australian extremists dying as a result of Washington’s highly controversial use of predator drones.

The Australian has been told the two men, believed to be in their 20s, were killed in a Predator drone strike on five al-Qa’ida militants travelling in a convoy of cars in Hadramout, in eastern Yemen, on November 19.

The men were Christopher Harvard of Townsville and a New Zealand dual citizen who went by the name “Muslim bin John” and fought under the alias “Abu ­Suhaib al-Australi.”

The Australian government, which insists it was given no ­advance warning of the strike, has positively identified the remains of the men using DNA analysis, with samples taken from families of the two men.

It is understood at least one of the men, Harvard, was buried in Yemen, possibly as recently as last week, following prolonged discussions with his family, which hoped to repatriate his remains.

A senior counter-terrorism source told The Australian the men were “foot soldiers” for al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qa’ida’s regional franchise based in Yemen.

It is understood US authorities notified Australian officials about the possibility Australian citizens might have been “collateral damage” in the strike, part of an ongoing campaign by the US and Yemeni governments to wipe out AQAP militants. [Continue reading…]

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Australian spy agency offered to share data about ordinary citizens

The Guardian reports: Australia’s surveillance agency offered to share information collected about ordinary Australian citizens with its major intelligence partners, according to a secret 2008 document leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share “medical, legal or religious information”, and increases concern that the agency could be operating outside its legal mandate, according to the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC.

The Australian intelligence agency, then known as the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), indicated it could share bulk material without some of the privacy restraints imposed by other countries, such as Canada.

“DSD can share bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national,” notes from an intelligence conference say. “Unintentional collection is not viewed as a significant issue.” [Continue reading…]

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NSA: Australia and U.S. used climate change conference to spy on Indonesia

The Guardian reports: Australian spy agency the Defence Signals Directorate worked alongside America’s National Security Agency in mounting a massive surveillance operation on Indonesia during the United Nations climate change conference in Bali in 2007.

The newly-elected prime minister Kevin Rudd was making his first high-profile international foray at the conference, at the personal invitation of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

A new document from whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals the intelligence agencies were trying to collect the phone numbers of Indonesian security officials.

It was not a particularly successful mission – the only tangible outcome the NSA and the DSD could boast of for all the expenditure of time, staff and other resources was the mobile phone number of Bali’s chief of police.

But its revelation is likely to exacerbate tensions between Australia and Indonesia, which flared after Fairfax newspapers revealed last week that Australian diplomatic posts across Asia were being used to intercept phone calls and data. [Continue reading…]

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Australia does not see Iran as “rogue state”; fears Israel could trigger nuclear war

Australia’s The Age, reports

Australia’s intelligence agencies fear that Israel may launch military strikes against Iran and Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities could draw the US and Australia into a potential nuclear war in the Middle East.

Australia’s peak intelligence agency has also privately undercut the hardline stance towards Tehran of the US, Israeli and Australian governments, saying its nuclear program is intended to deter attack and it is a mistake to regard Iran as a rogue state.

The warnings about the dangers of nuclear conflict in the Middle East are given in a secret US embassy cable obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to The Age. They reflect views obtained by US intelligence liaison officers in Canberra from Australian intelligence agencies.

”The AIC’s [Australian intelligence community’s] leading concerns with respect to Iran’s nuclear ambitions centre on understanding the time frame of a possible weapons capability, and working with the United States to prevent Israel from independently launching unco-ordinated military strikes against Iran,” the US embassy in Canberra reported to Washington in March last year.

”They are immediately concerned that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities would lead to a conventional war – or even nuclear exchange – in the Middle East involving the United States that would draw Australia into a conflict.”

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