The Beat, CT Scan and Checkpoint

More than one thousand French farmers obstructed roads from Spain and Germany trying to stop livestock and dairy products from entering France amid claims foreign competition has fuelled plunging food prices.

The Beat

Stopping the pirates

Australians take out the dubious honour of being some of the top illegal downloaders of film and television content. A study commissioned by the Department of Communications reveals the top three factors which would discourage pirating are cheaper legitimate services, easier access to desired content, and content available locally at the same time as overseas. Changes in entertainment content business models could curb piracy, although efforts to reduce illegal downloading of Game of Thrones were only partially successful.

Tough on drugs?

Police in Durham, England have announced that they’ll no longer actively pursue small-scale cannabis growers, claiming this will divert resources to bigger priorities. But it’s unclear if this is actually a step towards decriminalisation of drugs, with Policing Minister Mike Penning reaffirming that growing cannabis can lead to imprisonment.

Closer to home, ABC2’s Australians on Drugs provides some raw perspectives on drug use, its impacts and what law enforcement and health professional are doing.

Canine colleagues on the Beat

One year ago, Australian sniffer dogs were assisting the AFP in the recovery of remains from the MH17 crash site in Ukraine. For their efforts, congratulations are in order for Bertie, Larry and Prue who have been sworn as Human Remains Detection Specialist Dogs with Queensland Police. Here’s to our four-legged friends playing a vital role in some very difficult policing work!


CT Scan

The death of Mullah Omar

Yesterday, Afghanistan confirmed that the Taliban leader Mullah Omar died two years ago in Pakistan. The announcement ends years of speculation about the Omar’s death, who hasn’t been publicly seen since the Taliban fell in 2001. See here for background to the man who’s making global headlines. As for his role in the extremist group, journalist Bette Dam, says that he was more of a figurehead: ‘there was no military strategy coming from Mullar Omar, not in 2001, not in 2005, not in 2010’.

Counter-Terrorism Strategy released

The Australian Government launched its new five-point Counter-Terrorism Strategy last week. Justice Minister Michael Keenan discusses the Strategy here (48 mins). While there has been some scholarly support, other experts argue that the document is a framework, not a strategy; it lacks clear priorities and directions for how its goals can be achieved.

Schoolyard extremism

While the UK’s drawn global attention for its strategy to prevent extremism in schools, Australia and the US have also made moves along this path. Responding to revelations that Islamist extremism was preached at lunchtimes in a Sydney school, the NSW Government’s announced an audit of all prayer groups in public schools. In the US, a software company is trialling a monitoring system that allows officials to pick up key words on school computers, including the acronym ‘YODO’ (You Only Die Once).

Facing the Bali bombers

SBS aired the first instalment of its two-part special, ‘Meet the Terrorists’, in which Jan Laczynski, a man who lost five friends in the Bali Bombings, sits down with perpetrators and victims of the attack. In explaining his involvement, Laczynski explains that ‘meeting a terrorist is the hardest thing you’ll ever do’.



Maritime piracy escalates in Southeast Asia

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported a nearly 50% increase of piracy activity in Southeast Asia during the first half this year. This year’s incidents represent two thirds of the entire global piracy activity, which amounted to 134 attacks. As IMB’s data gives no sign of piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia, the Strait of Malacca emerges as the most concerning cross point for ships in Southeast Asia and the world.

Food prices in France sparked border roadblocks

More than one thousand French farmers obstructed roads from Spain and Germany trying to stop livestock and dairy products from entering France amid claims foreign competition has fuelled plunging food prices. The roadblocks also sparked tensions in the EU as Spanish and German unions urged Paris and Brussels to ensure goods could flow freely through Europe.

Thailand called to enhance response against human trafficking

The US Department of State Human Trafficking Report (PDF) rated Thailand yet again in Tier 3, that is, countries ‘whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards’ and ‘are not making significant efforts’ to comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards. Amidst the shortcoming, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the country expects to be removed from the ‘black list’ next year. Malaysia, on the other hand, was upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2, drawing accusations of ‘politicisation’ of the rankings, amid trade talks between Kuala Lumpur and Washington.