Billfish White Marlin, Blue Marlin And Swordfish

By John C. Banks

Virginia is known for its billfishing, including white marlin, blue marlin and swordfish. These three magnificent fish are found in practically the same areas and it’s even possible to catch all three fish on the same trip, although triple headers of billfish are rare events.

White marlin tend to weigh around 30-60 pounds and feed on a variety of smaller baits. They are very intelligent fish. When hunting prey, white marlin display neon colors and change to an aggressive posture. A hungry or agitated marlin will charge and bat its bill at a baitfish or trolled lure.

Blue marlin are much larger, up to 1000 lbs, feeding on larger baits. Blue marlin are brightly colored and are known for their dramatic leaps and deep runs. Most local blue marlin are over 100 pounds and feed on fish such as small yellowfin tuna, false albacore, mahi mahi and other fish. A sign of potential for blue marlin fishing are pods of skipjack tuna. Skipjack tuna are the smallest of the Virginia tuna, ranging from about 3 to 18 pounds. The fish are sought after by fishermen because they are among the favorite prey of blue marlin.

Marlin migrate into Virginia waters in early summer with peak fishing usually occurring in late summer through early fall. The fish may be widely scattered but when conditions are right, marlin congregate around sources of food. Ideal conditions occur when Gulf stream water moves into the area, bringing weedlines, temperature breaks and pods of small fish on which marlin feed.

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Virginia anglers fish out of Chincoteague Island, Wachapreague, Oyster, Norfolk or Virginia Beach. Chincoteague Island charter boats may travel about 40-70 nautical miles to reach marlin, While boats from more distant ports may travel as far as 100 miles to reach the fish. Anglers search for marlin and swordfish in deepwater areas such as the Baltimore, Poor Man’s, Washington or Norfolk Canyons.

These structures have amazing features which produce conditions that attract several types of fish and other ocean life. West of the canyon walls are shallower but still productive areas. Near the canyon walls, the bottom becomes steeper and rockier. Fish congregate along the dropoffs to catch food that is caught in the hard running current. Along the edges are lobster traps which are marked by orange buoys or “lobster balls”. The buoys attract mahi-mahi, also known as dolphin fish. Not only are the mahi-mahi excellent fish to catch, but they also attract the larger marlin which feed on them heavily. A trip by a buoy can be uneventful, or one or more lines might be attacked by mahi mahi, tuna, marlin or other fish.

Swordfish complete the trio of billfish that swim off the coast of Virginia. These fish have tremendous strength and stamina, testing the limits of the most experienced anglers. Swordfish may vary from perhaps 4-10 feet in length, reaching weights of several hundred pounds and rarely exceeding 1000 pounds. Swordfish are found in the deeper offshore waters, feeding in extreme depths during the day and coming near the surface at night. Like marlin, swordfish move with temperature changes, becoming most common in late summer and fall.

One of the only predators of swordfish are large mako sharks. Several cases of shark attacks on swordfish have been documented of the Virginia coast. Makos seem to be skilled at catching swordfish basking on the surface. The shark attacks from behind, biting off the tail which leaves the swordfish disabled. The shark then eats its fill and leaves the rest of the fish to scavengers.

Swordfish are caught mostly at night, in the deeper areas of the Virginia offshore canyons. On overnight trips, anglers typically set one or more lines at various depths. Nighttime swordfish rigs usually consist of a large circle or Southern tuna hook on a cable leader. Swordfish baits include whole squid, mackerel or other small fish. A glow stick is added to the leader a few feet above the bait. Inline weights may also be added on the line to control the depth of the bait.

Anglers fishing the waters off the coast of Virginia almost always release both blue and white marlin. In fact in some areas the arrival of a dead marlin to the dock is considered highly offensive. As for swordfish, the decision to kill or release a legal sized swordfish is usually a matter of personal preference. The American swordfish fishery is one of the few fishery management success stories, with a recent comeback of the fish after their stocks plummeted due to overfishing. Hopefully future harvests will remain within reason and Virginia will enjoy good fishing for all 3 species of billfish.

About the Author: For more on Virginia offshore fishing, visit

Tools of the Trade Charters


Shammy Sportfishing


Chincoteague Island Virginia



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Cheapest Lax Airport Shuttle In San Diego

By Houston Dennis

Impressing your boss can be beneficial for you for more than a single reason. How about that all paid trip to a beautiful beach with your loved ones, or that much awaited promotion? You may wonder what special I can do for my boss that no one else can even think about. Well a lax airport shuttle in San Diego can be your answer, if he is coming down to the city for a meeting this weekend. Sounds cheesy, but imagine how your boss will feel when you arrange a five star, luxurious lax limo as soon as he steps down from the aircraft!

Lax services at San Diego are already famous for its fine receptions, and what makes it special is their sense of time. Whether you are busy or in a mood of leisure, you never want to miss the moments on road or at the airport you can instead relax and enjoy in. These transportation services provide professional chauffeured airport shuttles, and help your boss reach his hotel or place of meeting in total comfort. Traveling is very stressful, and makes people anxious about reaching their destination as soon as possible as soon as they land. Time is money, they say. The prompt lax airport shuttle services of San Diego takes out your headache related to reaching your destination, or reaching the airport, parking, and reaching the terminal. They make sure that all the mess at the airport is dealt with without you having to think about anything.

Airport lax services are really affordable, and even cheap, especially during peak times. So it will always be a good idea to book a service ahead of time to avoid the rush. And if you are lucky enough, you may enjoy a special discount or other special price offers that are often offered by the companies. The chauffeurs reach the airport ahead of time, and as soon as you reach the airport, they welcome you with a sign. You won’t even have to carry your baggage, as you are helped by them throughout the trip. Imagine the smile on the face of your boss if he gets this type of luxury. Do you still think that there are no promotions on the cards right now?

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The airport shuttle services also offer an option of the meet and greet option. If you wish to greet your guests in style, they greet them with flowers and wine as soon as they reach the airport. There are also some extra services under this scheme which are sure to blow your guest’s mind. Even if you need their services in a hurry, there is nothing to fear about. You just give them a call, and they will take care of the rest. However, the price may be a little higher than normal. But in times of emergency, who cares?

The rates and terms of these services are all available online, and you can book them at your convenience. What makes lax shuttle a first grade choice is the safety and comfort it provides, and its perfect organized and coordinated services.

About the Author: Quick Recap: Cheapest

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in San Diego Make sure you have all these features before selecting a transport service. Comfortable, luxurious and affordable limousine cars and sedans for Prom, Airport, cruise terminals, and wedding services. Click here for smart and affordable

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to all major Southern California airports and cruise terminals.


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Bank of America leads Consumer Financial Protection Bureau complaints about mortgages

Thursday, October 3, 2013 

A review this week by Wikinews of US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) complaints about mortgages in the United States shows Bank of America leads all lending institutions in complaints.

Since mortgages complaints were recorded in December 2011, 77,622 total have been added to CFPB’s database. 29.2% of these complaints involved Bank of America, with the second most received by Wells Fargo, accounting for 15.5% of all complaints. JPMorgan Chase ranked third by volume of complaints with 9.8%. Ocwen was fourth with 8.7% and Citibank was fifth with 4.8%. Nationstar Mortgage; Green Tree Servicing, LLC; HSBC; PNC Bank; U.S. Bancorp; OneWest Bank; SunTrust Bank; Flagstar Bank; and Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. each had between 1.0 and 3.8% of total complaints. The remaining 14.4% of all complaints about consumer mortgages were divided between about 530 other lending institutions.

The Motley Fool reported last month that for the past fiscal quarter, the biggest US based mortgage lenders were from first to fifth Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Quicken Loans and U.S. Bancorp.

According to the US Federal Reserve, debt for family residences stands at US$10.706 trillion for the second quarter of 2013. As of the end of June of this year, Bank of America is the United States’s second largest commercial bank with US$1.343 trillion in domestic assets. Wells Fargo is the fourth largest commercial bank with US$1.251 trillion in domestic assets. JPMorgan Chase is the largest US commercial bank with US$1.329 trillion in domestic assets and US$1.947 trillion in total assets.

The mortgage complaints in the CFPB report include several subproducts. Conventional fixed mortgages account for 27.1% of all complaints. Conventional adjustable mortgages account for 10.0%. FHA mortgages account for 7.7% of all complaints. Home equity loans or lines of credit account for 3.8% of all complaints. VA mortgages are 1.4% of all complaints. Second mortgages and reverse mortgages each account for 0.6% of complaints. The remaining 48.7% of complaints are about other mortgages or other mortgage issues. A few years ago, FHA loans accounted for about 10% of all US mortgages while VA loans accounted for about 3%. Prime loans accounted for over 75% of the market and the rest were subprime mortgages.

California leads all states by volume of complaints with 14768. It is followed by Florida, New York, Georgia and Texas. When complaints are divided by a state’s total population, New Hampshire leads. The state is followed by Washington D.C., Maryland, Georgia and Florida. Complaints do not correlate with national rankings for August’s foreclosure rate by state where Nevada topped the list, followed by Florida, Ohio, Maryland and Delaware.

Two zip codes account for over 1,000 total complaints between them. 565 complaints originated in the 48382 zip code, which is in Commerce Township, Michigan, located in suburban Detroit. 553 complaints originated in the 33071 zip code, in Coral Springs, Florida. According to real estate website Zillow, there are currently 1,033 properties in foreclosure in Coral Springs while Commerce Township only has 131 properties currently in foreclosure. Four other zip codes have 100 plus complaints originating from them. 91730, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, had 158 complaints. 33409, in West Palm Beach, Florida, had 132. 92626, in Costa Mesa, California, had 125 complaints. 92660, in Newport Beach, California, had 122 complaints. Respectively, the towns had 534, 1,068, 153, and 134 properties currently in foreclosure. These numbers are higher than for the cities of a few sampled zip codes where there was only one complaint, such as Gold Hill, Oregon which has 4 properties in foreclosure, and Decatur, Illinois which has 6 properties in foreclosure.

The CFPB categorizes complaints into six categories: “Loan modification, collection,foreclosure” or problems when a person is unable to pay; “Loan servicing, payments, escrow account” or problems with making a payment; “Application, originator, mortgage broker”; “Credit decision / Underwriting”; “Settlement process and costs”, and “Other”. The CFPB says the complaint types indicate consumers “appear to be driven by a desire to seek agreement with their companies on foreclosure alternatives. The complaints indicate that consumer confusion persists around the process and requirements for obtaining loan modifications and refinancing, especially regarding document submission timeframes, payment trial periods, allocation of payments, treatment of income in eligibility calculations, and credit bureau reporting during the evaluation period.” Currently, 59.6% of all complaints against lenders deal with being unable to pay. 25.1% deal with problems in making a payment. 7.0% have to do with the application process.

Of the complaint-heavy zip codes, for 48382 in Commerce Township, Michigan, 98.9% of all complaints have to deal with being unable to pay. Accounting for 23.4% of all mortgage complaints in Commerce Township, 132 of the complaints for being unable to pay were made regarding Bank of America, accounting for 97.8% or all but 3 complaints against them from the zip. 121 of the Bank of America responses in Commerce Township were closed with explanation and 12 were closed with non-monetary relief. 33071 in Coral Springs is different, with 537 of the 553 complaints being categorized under other. Only 11 complaints relate to foreclosure and issues with being able to pay. 92626 in Costa Mesa, where 32% of the mortgage complaints were about Bank of America and 26.4% were about Wells Fargo, had 93.6% of its complaints dealing with being unable to pay. 5 total complaints dealt with payment issues and 3 dealt with applications.

Beyond regional variance in complaint types lodged, the top five mortgage lenders by volume of complaints all had being unable to pay as their top complaint category, ranging between 55.8% for Citibank and 69.4% for Bank of America. Problems with payment accounted for the second largest area of complaints, with Ocwen having the largest percentage of complaints at 31.9% and Bank of America having the smallest at 18.8%. Foreclosure was the top area of complaints for a number of other lending institutions including 1st Alliance Lending, OneWest Bank, Ally Bank, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, Bank of the West, BMO Harris, BOK Financial Corp, Caliber Home Loans, Inc, Capital One, Deutsche Bank and EverBank.

Nationally, complaints reached a high of 5,840 for January 2013, 1,107 more than the next highest month of April 2013. The total emerging for September is the second lowest since records were first kept in December 2011. On a state by state level, this pattern largely repeats with a major exception for Florida which saw a peak of 849 complaints in June 2012. Then, as now, Florida was one of the top five states in the nation in its foreclosure rate. The national January spike came as the Qualified Mortgage standard required by the The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 came into play. It required mortgage lenders to take steps to insure borrowers could repay their mortgages.

Bank of America’s complaint volume follows the national trend, with a spike in January 2013 with 1,925 total complaints. Unlike nationally, the next month by volume of complaints was February of this year with 1,598 complaints. Prior to that, the highest month was May 2012 with 1,418 complaints. The lowest volume of complaints is September this year with 334.

Wells Fargo matched national trends for volume of complaints by month, with the exception of the current month being the lowest on record for number of complaints with 197 compared to the next lowest month, December 2011, when they had 221. JPMorgan’s complaint volume by month spiked in January and March of this year with 504 complaints. April of this year was the next highest month with 493 complaints, edging out May of last year with 488 complaints. September this year is on track to be the lowest month by complaint volume.

The federal government shutdown is unlikely to impact the current mortgage situation in the United States directly for most consumers, though mortgage processing by the Federal Housing Administration could be slower, resulting in fewer mortgages processed.

California judge disqualified from predatory lending case

Thursday, December 27, 2012 

Judge James A. Stoelker of Santa Clara County, California Superior Court was disqualified from hearing a case on predatory lending practices the day before Christmas, on a technicality. The case was filed by David and Salma Merritt of Santa Clara County against multiple defendants, including Countrywide, Bank of America, and First American Title, among others.

The Merritts had challenged Judge Stoelker’s involvement in the case, claiming many of his rulings had favored his former clients even when law would have indicated otherwise. Some of the defendants are Judge Stoelker’s former clients.

The events leading to this case began in 2006 when the Merritts accepted a home loan from Countrywide. At that time, Countrywide was advertising 30-year mortgages at between 1 and 3 percent interest. The Merritts received a “good faith estimate” consistent with those advertisements. They claim that Countrywide representatives tricked them into signing loan documents that were subsequently altered to appear to commit them to an obligation they had not agreed to.

A review of similar predatory lending cases filed by individuals in California found that all had been settled in at most 9 months, usually in favor of the banks. Merritt v. Mozilo has continued in the courts for much longer, celebrating its third anniversary last Saturday. The Merritts’ claims are consistent with published statements by Eileen Foster, former Executive Vice President of Fraud Risk Management at Countrywide, that fraud was endemic to certain parts of Countrywide.

Theirs was the only case heard in Department 9 that morning in recognition of Christmas. That hearing was scheduled, because the Sixth District of the California Court of Appeals (case number H038883) required the Santa Clara County Superior Court to (a) give all parties an opportunity to be heard regarding the possible disqualification of Judge Stoelker and (b) reply to the appellate court by December 26. This appellate ruling was only issued on November 26, and Judge Mark H. Pierce did not schedule the required hearing until December 12. The notice for this hearing required parties to file responses ten days before, which meant that the parties only had two days to prepare their replies.

On August 16, the Merritts learned Judge Stoelker had represented defendants in this case on numerous occasions before he was appointed to the bench in December 2010 and had not disclosed this fact to the Merritts. The next day they filed a Verified Statement of Disqualification asking Stoekler to recuse himself. The California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) 170.3(c)(3) and (4) [confirmed in the 1988 appellate decision in Lewis v. Superior Court] give a judge ten days to respond to to such a motion. Stoelker replied on the eleventh day.

“All Rise” was heard at 9:04 AM local time Monday morning, whereupon Judge Pierce entered the courtroom. Attending by phone were attorneys James Goldberg representing Bank of America and Brian Craft representing First American Title. David Merritt was present representing himself. Goldberg had filed a brief asserting that the Merritts’ Verified Statement of Disqualification was served upon Judge Stoelker on August 17 but was not filed, as witnessed by the fact that it was not listed on the docket. Judge Pierce reported that he had checked the files and found that this Statement had indeed been filed, and he didn’t know why it was not on the docket. Attorney Goldberg suggested that the fact that the Statement was not on the docket may have contributed to Judge Stoelker’s failure to respond within the ten day limit. Judge Pierce replied, “That’s a stretch.”

Attorney Craft asked about next steps, since all action in this case had been stayed by the appellate court pending resolution of this issue. Judge Pierce then replied that Judge Manoukian would be handling discovery in this case, replacing Judge Stoelker in that capacity. He further stated that a reply to the appellate court had been prepared concurring with the appellate court’s disqualification of Judge Stoelker and asked Mr. Merritt to retrieve that order from the clerk in the courtroom and file it as usual with the clerk’s office. He also noted that this action would lift the stay. Other actions in this case could now proceed with the next steps being scheduled January 22, 2013, or later.

This is the second appellate reversal of decisions by this superior court in this case. The first reversal came on December 19, 2011, when the appellate court reinstated Wells Fargo as a defendant.

IMF approves US$1.13 billion loan to Pakistan

Saturday, May 15, 2010 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said yesterday that its board has approved a loan package worth US$1.13 billion to be granted to Pakistan.

The move came after the IMF reviewed Pakistan’s economic performance with a standby arrangment worth $11.3 billion aimed at improving the country’s balance of payments. According to a statement by the fund, disbursements have reached $7.27 billion from the plan.

The IMF described Pakistan’s economic situation as having improved in spite of “adverse security developments and a rapidly changing political environment”, although saying the economy was still vulnerable.

The board also noted that it would grant waivers for several performance criteria Pakistan did not meet, namely overrunning the budget deficit and surpassing State Bank of Pakistan borrowing limits.

Pakistan requested a bailout package two years ago from the IMF, as it was struggling with three-decade-high inflation rates; the country has also seen much violence from rebel groups, with bombings having killed over 3,200 people since July of 2007.

Fannie Mae forgives mortgage debt of 90-year-old woman who shot herself

Sunday, October 5, 2008 

Fannie Mae, a housing mortgage lender, has forgiven the mortgage debt of Addie Polk, a 90-year-old woman from Akron, Ohio who attempted to kill herself when she was being evicted from her home on Wednesday.

Polk had lived in her home since 1970, and refinanced her mortgage numerous times since 1997 when she first got a loan taken out against her home. When authorities tried to evict her, she shot herself once in the chest. Fannie Mae took over Polk’s home in 2007 after the loan company filed for foreclosure. One report from Reuters states that authorities tried to evict Polk more than 30 other times in the past.

“Just given the circumstances, we think it’s appropriate,” said Brian Faith, a spokesman for Fannie Mae who also said that the incident was almost immediately “on [their] radar screen”.

Polk is currently undergoing treatment at Akron General Medical Center and is expected to make a full recovery. She can return to her home as soon as she recovers from her injuries.

Polk was recognized on Friday when Dennis Kucinich, who is a democratic representative for Ohio, spoke of her incident during debates on a 700 billion USD bailout bill that the United States House of Representatives passed on Friday. He states that the bill does not focus on people in situations like Polk.

“This bill does nothing for the Addie Polks of the world. This bill fails to address the fact that millions of homeowners are facing foreclosure, are facing the loss of their home. This bill will take care of Wall Street, and the market may go up for a few days, but democracy is going downhill,” said Kucinich on Friday.

Wife of missing soldier receives green card

Saturday, June 30, 2007 

Yaderlin (Hiraldo) Jimenez, the wife of missing US soldier Spc. Alex Jimenez, who was due to be deported has been granted a Green Card by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Mrs. Jimenez’s Immigration troubles began shortly after her wedding to Spc. Jimenez on June 14, 2004, at Fort Drum, NY where his U.S. Army unit was stationed. When the couple attempted to cross the border between the U.S. and Canada on their honeymoon, the newlyweds were detained, held for several hours and released.

In 2006, the couple were granted a deferment of immigration proceedings until Spc. Jimenez returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq. However on June 20 the government announced its intent to deport Yaderlin Jimenez, despite the fact that her husband was declared missing along with two other soldiers, last month.

The case quickly received national attention and the involvement of influential U.S. Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Two days later, Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff announced that he had instructed immigration authorities to take immediate action to resolve the case of Yaderlin Jimenez.

Yesterday, while standing victorious with his client on the steps of Citizenship and Naturalization Services building in downtown Buffalo, NY, Jimenez’s attorney Matthew Kolken said now that this ordeal is behind her, she can return to “using all of her focus and energies to hope and pray that her husband’s going to come home alive.”

Wikinews talk:Requests for permissions/Archive 1

OK… should probably have brought this here first… sorry!

anyways I propose adding a template simpler to the following on the page:

similar to what we have on other pages (like Requests for Interview and Request for accreditation), any comments? terinjokes User Page / Talk 22:11, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

I do; there’s no need for one, so why introduce one. Dan100 (Talk) 17:39, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Just under half of all administrators are inactive. –Nzgabriel | Talk 09:35, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

I rewrote it to make everyone happy. Nyarlathotep 06:58, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

I was given this temporarily when I became an admin, and no one has taken it since. I’ll park it here for anyone’s use. — Zanimum 16:14, 11 September 2007 (UTC)

I think it should exist, it is still at the descretion of the beaurecrat.–Ryan524 – (talk) 22:50, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

Well I’m more neatural than anything on it, nobody else has voice an opionion in favor of keeping it…–Ryan524 (talk) 00:23, 14 May 2008 (UTC)

Hello, could someone please fix the interwikilink to the nl-Wikinews page? Changing the old link from nl:Wikinews:Sysop to the new one: nl:Wikinews:Moderator. Thank you!! Greetings from the nl-wiki! NL-Romaine (talk) 23:58, 20 May 2008 (UTC)

Who are the two sysops that are included in the total on WN:RC, but not listed on this page? —Brian McNeil / talk 12:39, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Here is a neat page on Meta-Wiki, perhaps we should add a link to it on WN:A.

Cirt (talk) 00:28, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

Since there are no current RfA or other requests, do you guys think we should start migrating over to that page for the requests? Thunderhead 20:07, 23 August 2008 (UTC)

There does not appear to be objection to this so I will make the changes soon if we have unanimous support for this change. Cirt (talk) 21:01, 24 August 2008 (UTC)

Done. Cirt (talk) 18:05, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

Now that we have two more user rights, in addition to the four that were already available, I propose a single page for all of the rights, that is more clear than Wikinews:Administrators. Most of this page was blatantly copied borrowed from meta, but it’s certainly a start, and I hope it will generate some discussion.

By the way, I’d like to say it’s amazing that I still remember all of this wiki-code 😉 Thunderhead 12:46, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

See also Wikinews:Flagged revisions/Requests for permissions. (It may make sense to have that page separate as the discussions might take a shorter period of time.) Cirt (talk) 12:51, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

I personally don’t see the need for all these pages. They are all, except for accreditation, requests for permissions. They should all take place on one page, Wikinews:Requests for permissions. Spreading them out seems to me to be unhelpful. Majorly talk 16:35, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

I think more of the consensus/approved instructions already in existence at Wikinews:Administrators should be copied over here. Cirt (talk) 13:52, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

42 West Papuan asylum seekers get temporary Australian visas

Friday, March 24, 2006 

The Australian government has granted temporary visas to 42 of the 43 West Papuan asylum seekers who arrived by boat in January. The group accuse the Indonesian military of “conducting genocide in their homeland.” The 36 adults and seven children spent five days at sea in a traditional outrigger boat before arriving in far north Queensland’s Cape York. They have been since been detained under Australia’s Mandatory Detention policy.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said the 42 West Papuans have been given temporary protection visas (TPV). “These people have completed their medical and character checks and will be moved into the community,” she said. Most of the group are being relocated by private jet from Australia’s remote immigration detention centre on Christmas Island to Melbourne. Senator Vanstone said a decision was still pending on one of the asylum seekers, as there were further specific case issues to be addressed.

However, the Indonesian government says the refugees should be sent back. Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has told Prime Minister John Howard that the group should not be given political asylum. He assures that they would not be prosecuted. Last month, Indonesia’s ambassador, Hamzah Thayeb, warned that Australia’s relationship with Indonesia would be affected if the Papuans were granted asylum.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer dismissed suggestions that the decision would cause a rift between Australia and Jakarta. “We’ve got an excellent bilateral relationship with Indonesia and we wouldn’t expect that any particular issue is going to bring that into question,” he said. Mr Downer personally informed his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda, of the decision. “It’s a matter of some significance between our two countries,” said Mr Downer.

Indonesia has insisted that there are no human rights abuses in Papua. Djoko Susilo, a member of Indonesia’s parliamentary foreign affairs commission, labelled the decision “an unfriendly gesture by the Australian Government.”

Since their arrival, the 43 West Papuans have accused the Indonesian military of “genocide in their homeland,” taken over by Indonesia in the 1960s after a widely disputed independence referendum.

Herman Wainggai, who spoke for the asylum-seekers, thanked the Australian Government and people for a fair and just decision. “We were threatened in an extremely dangerous position … We had to flee to Australia from the intimidation of the killing and the persecution inflicted by Indonesian authorities against us,” he said.

“We trust that Indonesia will act with maturity and see that the situation in West Papua is very serious and one which must be dealt with peacefully and with humanity, not by violent means,” he said.

The Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) has denounced the Australian government’s decision, urging the government to send a formal protest note to the Australian government over the visas and political asylum granted to the 42 Indonesian citizens. “We question the decision to grant visas and political asylum at a time when the security situation in Papua province is tense,” said member of the House Commission I for defence, foreign and information affairs Effendy Mara Sakti, of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDIP).

Another House Commission member, Yudy Chrisnandy of the Golkar Party, said the granting of political asylum and temporary visas was unethical and could disrupt relations between the two countries.

Amnesty International has expressed particular concern about human rights violations in Papua, but welcomed the decision. “While welcoming today’s decision … Amnesty now encourages the government to consider the plight of the Papuan refugees, as under Australia’s temporary protection regime the refugees now face isolation from their families left behind and face uncertainty about their future,” the organisation said in a statement. Amnesty reports of “extrajudicial executions, ‘disappearances,’ torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detentions in Papua Province.”

Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle also welcomed the decision. “The situation in West Papua is clearly very dangerous for those who assert their right to self-determination, so the decision to grant protection visas is a good one,” Senator Nettle said.

West Papua have been seeking sovereignty since the United Nations handed the province to Indonesia in 1969. A spokesman for the Free West Papua Campaign, Nick Chesterfield, said the decision highlights the dire situation. “What this clearly demonstrates is that the world needs to wake up to what is happening in West Papua and start to actively look at ways of ending the sickening violence that the Indonesian military continues to inflict on the people of West Papua,” Mr Chesterfield said.

“Rather than being isolated and locked up thousands of miles away on Christmas Island, these very courageous individuals can receive the support they deserve from the local community. This decision also means Australians will be able to hear first hand about the atrocities and escalating human right abuses that are unfolding in one of our closest neighbouring countries,” said Mr Chesterfield.

Meanwhile, the “Morning Star” flag of West Papua was raised in Marrickville, New South Wales, by Senator Nettle and the Mayor of Marrickville, Sam Byrne. The flag, officially unrecognised by Indonesia in the West Papuan region, was raised to “urge city citizens to support self-determination for the West Papuans people.”

Uniting Church minister Reverend John Barr, who recently returned from the area, warned of an “intensification of violence” and also recounted demands from protesters to have the Freeport mine and the Indonesian government held responsible for despoiling the Papuan environment. “We have heard one student was shot dead and many are badly wounded. I could hear people yelling and fleeing as my contact spoke to me on the phone from the grounds of the theological seminary,” he said in a statement.

The Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club has stated concern that no foreign journalist has had official access to Papua in the past eighteen months. In that period there has been “a significant build-up of troops in Papua with reports of widespread displacement of civilians, arson, and arbitrary detention in the central highlands region.”

Last week, Indonesian media showed police shooting directly at students on local university grounds. Authorities have not released details of casualties among the demonstrators. “I can’t tell you exactly how many were shot,” says Hans Magel. “In such traumatic circumstances, we ourselves are finding it difficult gathering casualty figures. The latest information we have is that 22 were seriously injured.”

Indonesia has effectively maintained a ban on access to Papua for many foreign organisations since 2003. Indonesia’s Minister of Defense, Juwono Sudarsono, said in February that the government will “maintain curbs on foreign media” reporting from Papua. He is quoted as saying, “We feel that our unity and cohesion are being threatened by the presence of foreign intrusion and concerns so there is a balance between international concerns and sovereignty that we want to strike very peacefully.”

Minister Sudarsono also stated that the curbs should “extend to foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and churches, whom he thought might create conflict in the province by encouraging Papuans to campaign on issues of human rights.” He stated that he feared reporters could be “used as a platform” by Papuans to publicize the alleged abuses.

Ken Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, is alarmed at efforts by the Indonesian government to ban or limit press coverage of human rights violations and other issues in Papua. In a letter to President Yudhoyono, Roth urged the Indonesian government to respect press freedom and to allow full press coverage of all issues affecting the province.

Senior Indonesian ministers have vehemently denied that the people of West Papua are being repressed.

US state of Arizona signs into law controversial immigration bill

Saturday, April 24, 2010 

In a move that has already ignited protests around the United States, Arizona governor Jan Brewer yesterday signed into law a bill that would crack down on immigration across the Mexican border.

Widely regarded as the harshest measure against illegal immigration in the US, the bill would allow police to legally question and detain anyone if they have “reasonable suspicion” to do so, as well as making the failure to carry immigration papers a crime. Critics say that the bill would lead to discrimination and harassment against Hispanic people, whether or not they are legal citizens. The bill will enter into effect in mid-August of this year, 90 days after the current state legislative session ends.

The bill has been widely criticized both within Arizona and across the country. The most prominent criticism has come from President Obama, who said that the bill will “threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.” The clause allowing police to demand documents was compared to Nazism by the Catholic cardinal in Los Angeles.

The law is expected to face several court challenges as soon as it enters into effect, and President Obama has already ordered the US Justice Department to determine the legality of the bill.

Speaking in support of the bill, Governor Brewer said that the law would represent “another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix.” She said that she agreed with sponsors of the bill, who said that it would be an important asset in the fight against illegal immigration, particularly as Arizona is a major crossing point on the US-Mexico border. She said that Arizona had been “more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation.”