US spends $US1.1bn in Iraq, Syria strikes

The Pentagon has spent as much as $US1.

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1 billion ($A1.19 billion) on US military operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria since the mission began in mid-June, including more than $US62 million alone in navy airstrikes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

US Central Command said the navy has dropped about 185 munitions, including 47 cruise missiles launched from ships in the region.

Central Command, in data released on Monday, said US air force fighter jets have far exceeded those numbers, launching close to 1000 munitions.

The $US62 million is only for navy munitions.

No costs were provided for air force munitions.

Arab and other allied countries have carried out only about 10 per cent of the nearly 2000 air raids against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria since early August, US defence officials also said on Monday.

US warplanes have conducted 1768 air strikes since August 8 while other coalition aircraft have carried about 195 air raids against the IS jihadists, according to the latest tally through Sunday, defence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

The numbers, which for the first time shed light on the participation of Arab coalition partners, reflect the dominant role of the US military in the air campaign.

But Pentagon officials have insisted the role for Arab and European partners is likely to grow over time.

The Arab states involved in the operation in Syria – Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – have been reluctant to divulge details of their participation in the air strikes.

France, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia have committed aircraft for the effort in Iraq.

The Pentagon has struggled to come up with specific cost figures for the Iraq and Syria operations.

Officials said it has cost an average of $US7 million to $US10 million daily since June.

The costs of the operations began at a much lower rate in June then escalated as airstrikes began in northern Iraq on August 8.

In late August, the Pentagon said the cost was an average of $US7.5 million daily.

The airstrikes were expanded to Syria in September, prompting the latest, higher average estimates.

There are currently more than 1300 US troops in Iraq, including security personnel, staff at two joint operations centres in Baghdad and Erbil, and advisory teams that are working with Iraqi brigades and headquarters units.

Abbott promises no Iraq tax

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised not to raise taxes to fund increased national security and Australia’s involvement in Iraq.

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Finance Minister Mathias Cormann refused over the weekend to rule out hitting taxpayers for the estimated $500 million a year in extra costs.

But Mr Abbott says it is manageable in the total budget of some $400 billion.

“This is a government that believes in lower taxes not higher taxes,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

“We will pay what we must to do our duty by our country and by the wider world.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott does not have a good track record when making promises on tax increases.

“Labor will support the intervention in Iraq. But we will not support you slugging people because the government hasn’t got any other ideas what to do,” Mr Shorten said in Sydney.

With the additional burden of national security costs coming on top of several budget measures being held in limbo in the Senate, Mr Abbott was asked if the budget was in a worse position than when he came into government.

“It’s honest today in a way that it was fundamentally dishonest when we came into government,” Mr Abbott replied.

He aims to get the budget back in “broad balance” in 2017/18 with “careful and cautious” predictions and not inflated and optimistic predictions.

The budget papers forecast a deficit of $2.8 billion in 2017/18.

“We want the fiscal consolidation that needs to be achieved to be a real fiscal consolidation not a fantastical one,” he said.

Mr Shorten believes the government’s decisions had worsened the budget bottom line.

The government is still pushing policies like the paid parental leave scheme which everyone in Australia thinks is a stupid idea, Mr Shorten said.

“This government is out of touch with real Australia,” he said.

However, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss Kate Carnell said squabbling over the budget is undermining business confidence in the broad economy.

“I think they are concerned that what is happening in the Senate at the moment with the budget where a lot of the saving measures are not going through,” she told reporters in Canberra.

Government drops planned changes to job search requirements

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

The federal government has dropped its plan to force unemployed people to apply for a minimum of 40 jobs per month.

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The decision follows a furious backlash from business groups and particularly small business who said they would not be able to process a massive increase in job applications.

Job searches will now be kept at the current requirement of 20 applications a month.

The backdown is part of a $5 billion shake up of employment services, which will apply from July next year

Amanda Cavill reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

The federal government is defending its decision to abandon plans to force jobseekers to apply for 40 positions a month.

The government’s proposal to double the job application target for Newstart Allowance recipients was widely criticised as punitive for jobseekers and an administrative nightmare for businesses.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government has listened to the public feedback and the status quo of 20 applications will remain.

He denies it’s an embarrassing backdown.

“Surely the whole point of consultation is to refine and, where necessary, adjust what you are doing. Some people might like to put a pejorative on it. I would like to say isn’t this the whole point of consultation? Consultation that can’t result in any change is meaningless. The consultations that this Government has will be fair dinkum. And that is why these things are the first word not the last word from the Government.”

The Prime Minister has conceded the government has made some major changes to the practicalities of the policy.

Mr Abbott says they’re designed help both employers and job seekers benefit.

But the opposition leader Bill Shorten says it seems everyone but the government knew the plan would not help jobseekers find work and created havoc for small business.

“They’ve backed down on the stupid idea of asking people to send 40 job applications each month which was clearly going to become a beauracratic nightmare. Small business couldn’t believe it when they heard the government come up with this stupid idea. This is a government who’s already backed down on their stupid ideas to raise the working age to 70, they’ve back down on putting through some of their unfair cuts to family payments into the budget at this point.”

Employment Minister Eric Abetz says the government has acknowledged the policy would have put a burden on business and possibly diminish the value of job applications.

But he has told the ABC he believes it should be the full-time job of the unemployed to find employment.

“This is a government absolutely committed to wanting to do the very best for the employed. Because the data is overwhelming – if you are unemployed, the physical health, mental health, self-esteem, social interaction of that individual are all diminished. And therefore we do the individual and their family and the community a great service by assisting them in pursuing as many job applications as possible, which means they’ll come off unemployment that much sooner.

Greens Leader Christine Milne says she is pleased the government has changed its mind and admitted it got the plan fundamentally wrong.

She says the government must now also abandon plans to force under 30s to wait six months before they can claim the dole.

“Where they now have got it fundamentally wrong as well. is saying that unemployed people should live on nothing for six months. Well that’s the next thing that has to go. They need to recognise the real leaders in Australia are the big corporates that are not paying tax. They should get into the tax evasion issues of the big corporates rather than trying to make life harder for people that have got nothing.”

The opposition is also calling on the government to drop is plans for work for the dole.

However the government says it plans to press ahead with its plan to extend the work for the dole program.

Those under 30 will have to complete 25 hours a week of the program while older job seekers between age 30 and 50 will have to complete 15 hours a week.

People over 60 can volunteer to participate in the program.

Co-ordinators will be contracted in each employment region to source work for the dole places and work with host organisations and employment service providers.

 

 

 

Kurdish forces fighting IS on three fronts in Kobane

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Islamic State fighters appear to have penetrated parts of the key Syrian border town of Kobane amid reports of street fighting and explosions.

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A London-based monitor group says urban guerilla warfare is now raging in the town’s eastern districts and it is unclear how long Kurdish forces can hold out.

Darren Mara reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Gunfire and explosions on the streets of Kobane.

The Syrian border town has been under siege from IS for three weeks, and Kurdish forces are now facing the militants on three fronts.

Amateur video posted on a social media website purports to show an IS flag, visible from across the Turkish border, raised in a nearby village.

The video cannot be independently verified, but, if authentic, it shows just how close the fight with IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is to Turkey.

US-led forces have been conducting air strikes on the militants’ positions in the area to try to slow their advance.

But the strikes have not been able to seriously disrupt their assault on Kobane.

Kurdish soldiers, like this man speaking to Al Jazeera, have promised to continue fighting the militants.

(Translated)”We’re not terrorists. We’re fighting our killers. We’re defending ourselves. We reject sectarianism that is being represented only by the regime. Down with Bashar Al-Assad.”

Local sources inside Kobane say Kurdish forces still control the town’s centre, although, earlier, a local official in Kobane told the BBC the town would certainly fall soon.

Turkey has promised not to let Kobane fall but is yet to act on that beyond sending tanks to its side of the border.

Turkey and the Kurds have historically had a deeply uneasy relationship, Turkey fearing the Kurds in the country’s east want an independent state with the Kurds across its borders.

But Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says his country will not abandon its neighbours.

“We will do everything possible to help the people of Kobane, because they are our brothers and sisters. We don’t see them as Kurds or Turkmen or Arabs. If there is a need for intervention in Kobane, we are saying that there is a need for intervention in all Syria, all of our border.”

NATO is also threatening IS with action if Turkey requires protection.

If Kobane falls, the militants would gain control over a long stretch of the Syria-Turkey border, in addition to swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

NATO’s new Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, says the Western alliance stands ready to step in.

“The main responsibility for NATO is to protect all allied counties. Turkey is a NATO ally, and our main responsibility is to protect the integrity, the borders, of Turkey. And that is the reason why we have deployed Patriot missiles in Turkey to enhance, to strengthen, the air defence of Turkey. And Turkey should know that NATO will be there if there is any spill over, any attacks on Turkey, as a consequence of the violence we see in Syria.”

But it is unclear what benefit the NATO pledge will be to the people of Kobane.

Kurdish fighters have ordered the last remaining citizens to flee the town.

Their best hopes lie across the border in Turkey in refugee camps.

More than 180,000 Syrians, mainly Kurds, have fled the siege of Kobane.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Australia is finalising the legal documentation to deploy special forces to join the fight against IS in Iraq.

“We’ve written to the Iraqis. The Iraqis have written back to us. And we now need to consider their response to finalise our considerations. And, as I said, our forces are ready to go, because it is absolutely imperative for the world that we disrupt and degrade the operations of ISIL, which is an assault not just on a country but on civilisation.”

 

 

 

Does marijuana reduce the likelihood of domestic violence in couples?

 

Should marijuana be legalised? Vote in our online pollWatch Insight tonight at 8.

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30pm on SBS ONE for the full debate and results

It’s pretty clear to most observers that marijuana use doesn’t cause aggression. And yet some studies have found correlations between marijuana use and intimate partner violence (IPV). The problem, argues a team of researchers from SUNY Buffalo and Rutgers in a new paper in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, is that these studies haven’t been thorough enough to establish anything approaching tight causal links — for example, given the data from one of them, it’s just as likely victims of IPV used marijuana to cope with the abuse they endured than that their marijuana use somehow led to it.

So the team ran a new study — one that they see as better designed to specifically suss out the effects of smoking pot — in which they examined 634 couples’ first nine years of marriage, gathering data on their alcohol and pot consumption habits, antisocial behavior, and tendencies toward IPV. They found that “more frequent marijuana use by husbands and wives predicted less frequent IPV perpetration by husbands,” and that husbands’ marijuana use alone predicted less IPV perpetrated by wives. Moreover, “the strongest protective effect [was found] among couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently.”

Basically all their data, in other words, pointed in the direction of more pot, less domestic violence, with the one exception being a statistically significant correlation between marijuana use and IPV among only those wives who had already perpetrated IPV in the year before marriage (more research would need to be done to explain why this is).

Why would there be this inverse correlation? Ask any college freshman plucked off the street. Or, if you want to get fancier about it, let’s hear from the researchers:

There are several possible reasons why we may have observed a protective association between marijuana use and IPV perpetration in the current investigation. Among experienced users, marijuana may enhance positive affect (Hart et al., 2010), which in turn could reduce the likelihood of conflict and aggression. In addition, previous research has found that chronic users exhibit blunted emotional reaction to threat stimuli, which may also decrease the likelihood of aggressive behavior (Gruber, Rogowska, & Yurgelun-Todd, 2009).

It’s unclear whether the use of “blunted” was unintentional or an example of extremely dry social-science-researcher cheekiness.

This article originally appeared on Science of Us: The More Pot Couples Smoke, The Less Likely They Are To Have Domestic-Violence Incidents. © 2014 All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.