Monthly Archives: July 2019

Jul
17
  • ‘I just witnessed an abduction in Thailand’

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    It’s 1am dead of night deep in the jungle at Pak Chong Military Camp in remote Thailand.

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    A rude awakening from gunfire nearby the bunker I’m staying in.

     

    Then in a cloud of shouting and gunfire… an abduction. But it’s not what it looks like.

     

    Shaun Filer and his colleagues are security and military experts working across the globe to prevent kidnap and ransom situations. It’s just one part of intense hostile environment training they’ve designed to equip journalists, aid workers, and those travelling to high-risk destinations with the skills to stay alive.

     

    “Nothing can prepare you for that situation,” says Filer. “We try to make it somewhat intense just to make some of the decision points, take away some of the learnings from the course so people are focusing on what are they supposed to do next, what should they be communicating, how should they be acting.”

     

    There were up to 35,000 kidnappings for ransom globally in 2012. That’s not counting the estimated 70 per cent of kidnappings that go unreported.

     

    So far in 2013… 92 journalists and media crew have been killed on the frontline and 96 aid workers have lost their lives while working to save others

     

    That makes hostile environment training even more important to survival. And if participants expect to sit in a cosy conference room and discuss tactics – they should think again.

     

    “I am trembling with fear,” says one participant in the program. “I was genuinely scared and it was not nice having a bag over my head and being kidnapped is full on.”

     

    Kidnappings are never fun and Filer’s training program is designed to help keep people alive – not to make them feel safe.

     

    “We have 20 people from literally all corners of the globe here attending, this course, and they’ll be going through a series of challenging exercises and when I say challenge I mean quite challenging exercises from out here in the jungle into urban terrain,” says Ken one of the trainers. “We keep them out for seven days and we do test them quite rigorously.”

     

    There’s no exact formula for working out if you will be kidnapped but Filer says usually there is a financial motive.

     

    “Kidnappings can happen anywhere but there are trouble spots or hotspots and you see trends,” says Filer. “There’s a lot of places where it is a business and people make money.”

     

    “It’s all about money…”

     

    More than 90% of kidnappings are resolved with a payment.

     

    In the past 3 years, G8 countries paid $70 million US dollars in ransoms – an average of $2.5 million per victim.

     

    Australia paid around $5 million dollars in ransoms. Much of which ends up in the hands of terrorist groups.

     

    Australian journalist Nigel Brennan was kidnapped in Somalia and held captive for 462 days. Since his escape he’s been working with Shaun, Ken and veteran Foreign Correspondent Peter Cave on designing these courses so they’re as ‘real-life’ as possible.

     

    “I fell to the ground and was kicked and punched and dragged through the mosque and out into a courtyard and believed within the next 60 seconds I was about to take a bullet to the head,” Brennan told ABC’s 7:30 report in 2008. “It was like an out of body experience watching myself being dragged to my death.”

     

    Most of the participants here are experiencing this training for the first time. Many could be deployed to warzones or high-risk situations at any time.

     

    The need for the training is real, and as Cave says, sometimes you don’t know what will happen.

     

    “Probably the scariest personal incident was in the 1987 coup in Fuji when along with the BBC correspondent Red Harrison I was arrested by the army, I was taken to the basement of a hotel,” says Peter Cave. “I was put up against a wall. The soldiers basically discussed whether they were going to shoot us or not, and I can remember standing up against that wall thinking if they start shooting, will I have enough strength to throw myself against the cinder block wall beside me and possibly burst through it and runaway. It was that desperate.”

     

    Over the seven day program participants are subjects to hardcore training, from weapons, to dealing with dead bodies on the job, getting out of civil unrest and riots, a 101 in identifying explosives and landmines, evasive driving techniques to get you through militia roadblocks or checkpoints, and how to cross-risky borders safely.

     

    Participants are also given comprehensive first aid and medical training.

     

    “The way we’ve perceived safety and security when you travelling into international locations or really remote locations is, is kind of a game of one per cents,” says Filler. “If you make good decisions that’s one per cent more safe, if you make bad decisions that’s one per cent less safe.”

     

    “The reason I do this is to help people…. to make people safer, and to probably avoid making some of the mistakes that we have.”

    The Feed airs weeknights at 19:30 on SBS 2. You can also follow The Feed on Twitter at @TheFeedSBS2, or ‘LIKE’ SBS 2 on Facebook to stay in the loop.

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Jul
17
  • I’m fighting Choc for fitness: Mosley

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    Shane Mosley has laughed of suggestions Anthony Mundine could be in for a big pay day should he win their fight next Wednesday, saying he’s only taking on the Australian champ to stay fit.

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    A loss to Mosley would be another nail in Mundine’s career, while the fast-talking 38-year-old hopes a win could elevate his standing on the world stage – and further his chance of landing a dream fight with the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jnr.

    But Mosley, who will bank $1 million for next Wednesday’s fight, thinks that is unlikely.

    In fact, while he expects to knock Mundine out, he doesn’t think many people will take much notice.

    “This fight has just got to keep me in shape, keep me going, keep me fighting,” Mosley said.

    “I’m not sure if it’s going to help me with any of the other fights.

    “They’re not going to say ‘oh, ok, you beat Anthony Mundine so now you can fight for the world title or you could fight (Manny) Pacquiao’.

    “I don’t know if it’s going to trigger people like that.

    “They don’t really see Anthony as a superstar in America.

    “It’s going to keep me busy, no doubt. And I think it will be a hard fight.

    “But I don’t know about making a difference or an impact in America.”

    When asked if Mundine had already attempted to set up a bout with Mayweather, Mosley confirmed that he had.

    And the result?

    “Nothing,” he said.

    “It is what it is. I’m telling the truth.”

    The pair had been due to fight last month, before Mosley fled the country when money which he’d been promised wasn’t delivered on time.

    Mundine and manager Khoder Nasser flew to meet with Mosley’s representatives in the United States to smooth things over, which is what triggered the veteran’s quick change of mind.

    But even with the financial side of the fight sorted, Mosley revealed he’d still attempted to push it back another month in order to find another fight in the US.

    “(My management) were already looking for other fights,” he said.

    “(Mexico’s rising lightweight fighter) Carlos Molina for the world title or some other fights.

    “I was (pushing for) December 20th or something. I was trying to wait for some of the other fights to happen.

    “But they wanted to do it November, and I was like ‘alright, I’m in shape, let’s go.'”

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Jul
17
  • Rally over deaths of 3 Aboriginal children

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    Protesters have rallied outside NSW parliament to demand justice over the unsolved murders of three Aboriginal children in northern NSW 23 years ago.

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    Around 100 people marched from Hyde Park to parliament house on Thursday, stopping traffic as they called on Attorney-General Greg Smith to reopen the cases and for a judicial inquiry.

    Colleen Walker, 16, Clinton Speedy, 16, and four-year-old Evelyn Greenup disappeared from the Bowraville community over a five-month period in 1990.

    In 1991, local man Jay Hart was charged with the murder of Clinton and Evelyn, but was acquitted of murdering Clinton in 1994.

    Soon afterwards prosecutors also dropped the charges relating to Evelyn.

    After an inquest into her death in 2004, Mr Hart was once more charged with Evelyn’s murder and again acquitted.

    The families of the victims continued to push for a retrial, prompting Mr Smith to agree to review the case in 2011.

    But in February this year he announced his decision not to consider new charges.

    Ronella Jerome, Clinton Speedy’s aunt, said on Thursday that the initial police investigation was mismanaged, highlighted by a subsequent coroner’s inquest.

    “Police failed our children, the legal system failed our children … we deserve our day in court and we will never give up,” she told reporters.

    Clinton’s nephew, Elijah Duroux, said the case was part of an Australia-wide pattern where Aboriginal deaths were not subjected to the same rigorous legal investigation.

    “I guarantee if it were three white kids on the North Shore or some other posh place around Sydney, justice would have been served on a silver platter,” the 15-year-old told reporters.

    Greens MP David Shoebridge has a motion before parliament calling for the families to be heard by a parliamentary committee.

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Jul
17
  • Spies like us: How you can become like the NSA

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    In the 1985 comedy classic Spies Like Us, loose cannons Dan Akroyd and Chevy Chase are given all the weapons and technology given top secret spies.

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    They embark on a hair-brained spy mission to Russia with hilarious consequences.

     

    But times have changed and spying is not all about cool watches and James Bond gadgets anymore.

     

    And if you thought that NSA-style cyber-snooping, data-logging, phone-hacking and camera-stalking technology can’t get into the hands of loose cannons – think again.

     

    The global mass surveillance industry is worth about 14 billion dollars. Not bad for an industry that has sprung up in the past few decades.

     

    Watchdog group Privacy International spent the last four years trudging around trade shows and private conventions from Dubai to Prague, compiling an index of exactly what’s on offer from these covert firms if you know where to look.

     

    And it’s not just data capturing vehicles, biometric cameras and mobile phone trackers – it’s a lot scarier than that.

     

    Surveillance corporations are selling some of the most powerful, invasive, and dangerous technologies. And it’s all perfectly legal.

     

    Systems that are keeping pace with the capabilities of the NSA and the UK’s GCHQ.

     

    About 338 companies across 36 countries are offering a total of 97 different technologies. And their selling them to whoever has the cash.

     

    One Dubai-based firm called Advanced Middle East Systems taps information from fibre-optic cables carrying internet traffic.

     

    Their products can record billions of real time calls, text, billing data, emails, conversations, webmail, chat and social data.

     

    Attaching probes to internet cables the company says that “no co-operation with the providers is required,”

     

    The index even lists three Australia-based companies:

     

    Geonautics who do covert technical surveillance systems, FFT Secure link which monitors fibre optic cables, and Harris Technologies, whose not so subtle brochure shows off their range of concealed cameras.

     

    Some say this kind of tech, while not illegal, is moving faster than the law.

     

    The UK is leading a clampdown on tech that may be used by criminals to conduct espionage.

     

    So what if these systems fall into the wrong hands?

     

    Well, in all likelihood, it already has.

     

    According to Privacy International, some of the firms on the list maintain relationships with the repressive regimes they sell to. Servicing their systems and providing 24/7 tech support for dictators and their cronies.

     

    They don’t specify which firms work with which regimes and there’s no suggestion that any Australian firms are doing it.

     

    Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi was known to use off-the-shelf surveillance equipment to clamp down on opposition.

     

    We live in a time where even our own government has excused cyber privacy breaches by saying that everyone does it.

     

    It’s not just so-called oppressive regimes. It’s the goodies, the baddies and everyone in between. Anyone who knows where to look and has the cash to pay for it can become their own NSA.

     

    The Feed airs weeknights at 19:30 on SBS 2. You can also follow The Feed on Twitter at @TheFeedSBS2, or ‘LIKE’ SBS 2 on Facebook to stay in the loop.

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Jul
17
  • Cheika backs his Waratahs leader

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    NSW coach Michael Cheika is backing berated skipper Dave Dennis to lead the Waratahs to the 2014 Super Rugby title.

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    Dennis was one of eight so-called Waratahs `booze brothers’ reprimanded for breaking curfew before Australia’s Test win over Ireland in Dublin last week and Cheika said the NSW captain would no doubt feel disappointed.

    Cheika, though, has no plans to pull out the big stick or deliver any pep talks when Dennis and his chastened teammates return next month from the five-Test spring tour.

    Instead, he will reward his Wallabies tourists with five weeks off before moving on with the business of trying to end NSW’s 17-year wait for Super glory.

    “Dave Dennis is an excellent captain here. An excellent player, an excellent man,” Cheika said on Wednesday.

    “The punishment is relative to the coach. Every coach has his ways.

    “(Wallabies coach) Ewen (McKenzie) has decided to make a punishment. That’s fair enough. That’s what he decides. The players have to wear that because they’re in that environment.

    “But for me Dave Dennis is an example of wanting to give for your team, a well respected captain and I expect when he comes back here he’s going to be an even better captain for the experiences that he’s had.”

    Far from concerned by the distraction in Europe, Cheika is convinced the Waratahs have the artillery and maturity to seize the title in his second year at the helm.

    “We don’t need to keep saying it over and over again – we want to win,” he said.

    “We’re preparing to have that type of finish.”

    Even in the absence of his Test stars and with the likes of marquee recruit Kurtley Beale still to resume contact work following shoulder surgery, Cheika is adamant the Waratahs are well ahead of where they were in their pre-season preparation last year.

    “Obviously because we know how I operate, at the team’s training we’re at a much higher level of intensity earlier,” he said.

    The former European Cup-winning coach said he was excited by the prospect of Beale and superstar convert Israel Folau linking up in the Waratahs backline in 2014.

    “It’s going to be great to see those guys playing together,” Cheika said.

    “Kurtley’s charting well and he’s doing a lot of good work. He’s come back into the football side of things a lot earlier actually than we thought he would.

    “So, all going well, come December he’ll be fully integrated into the skills work and by January he’ll be into the contact side of the game.”

    And by February 1, Beale will be on deck for the Waratahs’ first pre-season trial against the Melbourne Rebels in Albury-Wodonga.

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