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Defence expansion would break the budget if Australia ditches US alliance: Angus Houston

Scrapping the US alliance would force Australia to meet its own defence costs, hammering the federal budget, former chief of defence Angus Houston has warned, while also counselling the Turnbull government against over-reacting to China’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea. He said Australia should not contemplate naval exercises close to the recently constructed islands, and should instead focus on diplomatic representations designed to halt further militarisation.

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Tillerson talks tough about Russia, China

At his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson says Russia “poses a danger” and that China should be denied access to islands it has built in the South China Sea. Sir Angus, arguably Australia’s pre-eminent defence elder, said the US-Australia and New Zealand defence pact known as ANZUS, had been the institutional key to Australia’s national security since the blackest days of World War II.

“It has been the cornerstone of our defence policy ever since,” he said during an address to the National Press Club on the topic of Australia’s US alliance.

Picking up the tab for defences provided as an alliance obligation by Washington, would see pressure put on already stretched health and education commitments. He estimated the replacement cost of the US alliance would cause a virtual doubling of the current spending on defence to as high as 4 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.

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In 2016-17, Australia will spend $33.931 billion on defence, which constitutes 1.94 per cent of GDP. If Australia were to increase to 4 per cent, its projected defence spend in 2017-18 would go from just over $35 billion to more than $72 billion – a jump of $37.3 billion. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is currently in Washington to strengthen the relationship with Trump administration officials, and is expected to discuss a possible request for an increased Australian contribution in Iraq in the fight against IS, and the refugee resettlement agreement.

Defence Expansion Would Break The Budget If Australia Ditches US Alliance: Angus Houston Sir Angus Houston addresses the National Press Club in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares

Australian concerns over the reliability of the alliance have increased in recent months, fuelled by the volatility of policy emanating from President Donald Trump, who has railed against alliance partner countries that duck the full costs of their own protection. Speaking in Munich on Monday, US Vice-President Mike Pence, pointedly stopped short of withdrawing his boss’s warning that the failure of NATO member states to meet their obligations could see the US refuse to to come to their aid under the terms on that agreement.

Defence Expansion Would Break The Budget If Australia Ditches US Alliance: Angus Houston Illustration: Ron Tandberg.

“We vowed in that treaty to contribute our fair share to our common defence,” Mr Pence said.

“The promise to share the burden of our defence has gone unfulfilled for too many for too long and it erodes the very foundation of our alliance. When even one ally fails to do their part, it undermines all of our ability to come to each other’s aid.”

Asked about China’s creation of artificial islands, Mr Houston said a diplomatic course was required, warning that engaging in direct freedom of navigation voyages within the 12-mile zone would be counter-productive.

“Frankly, I don’t see a need to put a ship in close proximity to an artificial island claimed by China, I thinks that’s something that may result in consequences that we’d rather avoid,” he said. Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating has proposed a more independent stance for Australia, arguing our security should be more rooted within the region than it has been in the past.

“Our future is basically in the region around us in South-East Asia,” he told the ABC’s 7.30.

“It’s time to cut the tag. It’s time to get out of it.”

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JFK Airport Security Breach: 11 Stroll Through Deserted TSA Checkpoint, Board Planes

JOHN F. KENNEDY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, NY Eleven airline passengers strolled through a Terminal 5 security checkpoint at JFK Airport that had been deserted by federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents in the early-morning hours of the Presidents Day holiday, and are believed to have boarded their flights without proper screening, airport officials told Patch. At least three of the passengers set off the metal detector, but were not screened afterward, according to the TSA. Only three of the 11 improperly screened passengers had been identified as of Monday afternoon. These three boarded a plane to California, and will be screened once their plane touches down, according to the Port Authority (the state agency that runs JFK Airport).

It was unknown by 4 p.m. Monday if any of the passengers posed a security threat to others aboard their flights. Despite all this uncertainty, TSA officials insisted: “We are confident this incident presents minimal risk to the aviation transportation system.”

Two full hours passed after the 6 a.m. breach before “a TSA supervisor discovered and alerted Port Authority Police to the lapse,” the Port Authority said in a stern statement Monday that lowkey blamed federal security officials for the breach. Beginning around 8 a.m., Port Authority cops scrambled to locate the 11 people who had walked through the checkpoint while it was deserted to no avail.

“It is believed the travelers in question boarded various flights,” a Port Authority spokesman said.

“Police were able by video to identify three people who got on a flight to California, where they will be screened upon arrival,” the Port Authority spokesman said Monday afternoon. “Port Authority Police are continuing to assist federal authorities in efforts to identify and locate the other eight passengers.”

The TSA, meanwhile, would not confirm the Port Authority’s 11 count, and overall played down the security breach in a statement sent to Patch:

The Transportation Security Administration is reviewing reports of a possible security incident this morning at John F Kennedy International Airport Terminal 5.

Early reports indicate 3 passengers did not receive required secondary screening after alarming the walk through metal detector. All personal carry-on bags received required screening. A K9 team was present at the checkpoint at the time of the incident. TSA conducted security measures at the passengers’ arrival airport.

TSA works with a network of security layers both seen and unseen. We are confident this incident presents minimal risk to the aviation transportation system.Once our review is complete, TSA will take appropriate action.

Patch sent followup emails to the Port Authority and the TSA late Monday, asking for further explanation on the discrepancies between both agencies’ narratives.

Port Authority Police spokesman Joe Pentangelo did not immediately respond.

Below is TSA spokesman Bruce Anderson’s response.

Everyone who went through that checkpoint was screened. A supervisor saw 11 passengers go through and immediately sent another supervisor to review CCTV to be able to track the passengers down.Three of them should have received secondary screening because they alarmed the metal detector. We focused on those three. Based on available information we determined they presented minimal risk to aviation security.I need to emphasize that ALL of the passengers walked past an explosives detection K9 and ALL of the passengers had their carry-on bags screened.

The TSA is a federal agency run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Donald Trump administration. The Port Authority, meanwhile, is controlled by New York and New Jersey state government officials.

We’ll update this post with anything else we find out about the Presidents Day security breach at JFK.

This is a developing story. Refresh the page for the latest.

Lead photo by Kyle McCarthy[1]/Flickr

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Jewish aboriginal inmate, 12 years in solitary, claims abuse of rights at BC prison

TORONTO A Jewish aboriginal prisoner who was assaulted by other inmates alleges the authorities set up the white supremacist attack in retaliation for his complaints about treatment he says has violated his constitutional rights. Timothy Nome, 42, who is serving an indeterminate sentence for punching a guard years ago, also claims correctional officers at the prison in British Columbia deliberately poured pig lard onto his kosher food and that authorities are denying him access to the courts. The contested allegations are the latest in a protracted battle between the maximum-security inmate, who has spent a total of more than 12 years in segregation during stints at numerous institutions around the country, and prison authorities, who appear to be at a loss about how to deal with him.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote Bobbi Sandhu, the warden of Kent Institution in Agassiz, to express its concerns about Nome s most recent prolonged stretch in segregation 130 days and his abhorrent treatment by prison staff. In the December letter, obtained by The Canadian Press, the association calls on Sandhu to investigate Nome s claim that he has been unable to take several grievances to court because authorities wouldn t allow him paper, a printer, or access to the prison law library.

These are matters of utmost importance, the CCLA letter states. The association said it had not had any response to its letter. Despite repeated requests from The Canadian Press, Correctional Service Canada did not respond to Nome s assertion that it was violating his constitutional rights by denying him access to the courts.

Nome was on a rare stint out of segregation at Kent Institution hoping to be reclassified as medium security when he was attacked last month. He blames white supremacists sporting visible Nazi tattoos and says authorities were aware the newcomers to his range would be incompatibles.

They knew this and they flooded the range with these guys, Nome said in a recent interview. It s foreseeable that me, being an Orthodox Jew, is going to get into trouble with that. Prison authorities deny the allegations. Instead, they blame Nome for failing to report his concerns something he says he did in writing months ago. Jean-Paul Lorieau, a regional spokesman for Correctional Service Canada, said Nome had no listed incompatibles on the unit at the time of the assault, which left him with a scald wound on his neck.

Inmates are free to identify any incompatibles they may feel are present at any time during their sentence, Lorieau said. Staff were unaware of any safety concerns in regards to Mr. Nome prior to the assault.

Nome maintained that one manager had taken photographs of a large swastika on the wall of a cell he was moved into, but authorities denied knowing the inmate was the target of racist or anti-Semitic behaviour in his living unit. Lorieau said Nome was treated for his injuries and, for his own safety, put back in solitary confinement. Vibert Jack, an advocate with Prisoners Legal Services based in Burnaby, B.C., said Nome has spent an unreasonable time in isolation.

It s obviously a rare case but it is something that we see: The institutions don t really have any solution for (such inmates) other than segregation, and Mr. Nome is an extreme example of that.

Jack, who visited Nome at Kent after the assault, said it appears guards knowingly put him in harm s way. Jack said another Jewish inmate reported correctional officers blocked a request to be housed with Nome, citing the threat from white supremacists in the range. Nome maintains that guards have been retaliating against him for raising legitimate concerns such as freezing conditions on the range and have covered up evidence that supports his complaints something correctional authorities deny. Born to an Orthodox Jewish mother and Cree father, Nome is originally from Williams Lake, B.C. He has, however, been mostly in custody since he was 13 years old.

Authorities took him from his young alcohol and drug-abusing mother when he was just four. Placed in various foster homes, where he says he was emotionally and sexually abused, he and his three younger siblings were finally adopted as a family by the Nomes described in court documents as dysfunctional. His adoptive mother beat him badly, he said. Court records show the family broke apart when Nome was 11, and he ended up in various group homes. He became a drug abuser, was often suicidal, and got into constant trouble. As an adult, Nome has been outside prison for a mere nine months, during which time he threatened and sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl by groping her, according to the conviction. In all, he has racked up an impressive number of convictions ranging from threatening death and sexual assault, to assault with a weapon, breaching probation and vandalism. However, the vast majority more than 100 of them stem from incidents that occurred behind bars.

I m not a perfect guy and I ve retaliated on a few occasions, Nome says. But it s a very very large part in retaliation or reaction to what the guards are doing to me.

His current incarceration stems from an assault in August 2005: He punched a guard who was trying to force him into different clothes. It cost the inmate two teeth and a black eye. At sentencing in 2009, forensic reports branded Nome a psychopath with anti-social personality disorder. One assessment, however, said Nome s risk of reoffending was highest in a maximum security environment, and that any risk he posed could be managed with treatment in the community. Saskatchewan Court of Queen s Bench Justice Ellen Gunn observed the irony of Nome s situation.

When Mr. Nome is triggered by feeling disrespected or unfairly treated, he engages in a power struggle, becoming inflexible, and this results in self-sabotaging threats and intimidation, Gunn wrote in her sentencing decision. The consequence for Mr. Nome is he has further loss of control than what he had started with.

Nevertheless, Gunn decided there was no reasonable possibility of controlling him outside prison, declared him a dangerous offender, and gave him the indeterminate sentence he is now serving. Nome s supporters, however, say his behaviour is much improved in recent years and that he poses no threat to others when treated properly. Steve Fineberg, a lawyer in Montreal who jokingly describes Nome as more of an industry than a client given the many people who have taken up his cause, said the inmate has been at war with prison authorities from the get-go, but had been trying to do his time peacefully when the latest series of incidents erupted.

Nome is resourceful, persistent and unwilling to back down, Fineberg said, and some guards hate him for it and have taken that out on him.

He insists on his rights and he does it energetically and joyfully and it drives Correctional Service crazy, Fineberg said. Segregation is one of their responses. He s really driving them mad. He won t stand down.

This past week, Nome said he had been transferred to a nearby prison. He said he had been told he would soon be moved to Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba, where he said he fears he ll end up yet again in solitary.

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