Kids in US compound trained for shootings

Two men charged in the abuse of 11 children found malnourished at a ramshackle compound in New Mexico were training the children with firearms to commit school shootings, prosecutors say in court documents.

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One of the suspects, identified as Huraj Wahhaj, is the father of a young boy whose disappearance from his home near Atlanta months ago prompted the investigation that led authorities to raid the compound, located north of Taos, New Mexico, last week.

Remains believed to be that of the boy, who was three years old when his mother reported him missing, were found at the property on Monday but have not yet been positively identified, authorities say.

Wahhaj, a second man accused of harbouring him as a fugitive, Lucas Morton, and three women presumed to be the mothers of the 11 children, who were taken into protective custody, were each charged with 11 counts of felony child abuse.

The five defendants made their initial court appearance before a local magistrate on Wednesday. They were due to be arraigned later in the day.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe told reporters on Tuesday that investigators found a shooting range built at one end of the squalid compound, located on the outskirts of the community of Amalia in northern New Mexico, near the Colorado border.

Wahhaj, 39, whose first name is alternately presented in some court documents as Siraj and is the person described as being “in control” of the compound, was heavily armed when taken into custody, the sheriff said.

A foster parent of one of the 11 children told authorities that Wahhaj “had trained the child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings”, prosecutors alleged in an expedited motion for pretrial detention.

The document further stated that Wahhaj was “under investigation for the death” of a 12th child at the compound, as well as for “training of children with weapons in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit school shootings”.

The court filing also states he “transported children across state lines for the purpose of children receiving advanced weapons training to commit future acts of violence”.

Similar allegations were levelled in a motion prosecutors filed seeking expedited pretrial detention of Morton.

No mention was made of ideology or motive in initial court filings. The sheriff in comments over the weekend referred to the suspects as “extremists of Muslim belief” but he declined to elaborate on that characterisation when asked about it by reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.

According to CNN, Wahhaj is himself the son of a prominent Muslim cleric in New York.

Dylan sings but doesn’t speak at WA show

Bob Dylan chose to let his music do the talking as he kicked off his Australian tour at Perth Arena.Bob Dylan’s eloquent lyricism may have earned him a Nobel Prize in literature but he had nothing to say to his fans as he began his Australian tour in Perth.

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Instead, the famed musician let his meaningful songs do all the talking during his almost two-hour concert at Perth Arena on Wednesday night.

Dylan’s excellent band was not even introduced and the show overall lacked any spectacle at all.

There wasn’t even a screen for fans at the back of the venue to see him clearly.

But the 77-year-old has never been much of a showman compared to rock stars like Mick Jagger or Bruce Springsteen.

It has always been about the powerful message of Dylan’s lyrics, many of which remain as relevant today as they were when he penned them decades ago.

Some fans were probably disappointed that a few of his biggest hits did not make the setlist.

But there were some favourites including Blowin’ In The Wind, It Ain’t Me Babe, Simple Twist of Fate, Highway 61 Revisited and Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.

Dylan barely sold out half the arena but it hardly seemed to matter as the audience cheered at the end of each song.

They were especially vocal when Dylan played his harmonica, but he spent most of his time behind the piano.

The Pulitzer Prize winner last toured Australia in 2014.

Given his age, and the fact that some of his contemporaries are embarking on farewell tours, this may well be the final time Australian fans will have a chance to see him perform live.

But for now, Dylan clearly still enjoys playing music in front of thousands of fans.

* Dylan will also visit Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle and Brisbane.

Labor wants faster drought aid for farmers

The federal opposition wants the government to get cash help to drought-stricken farmers faster.Labor has called on the federal government to deliver its cash support payments to drought-stricken farmers faster.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Sunday up to $12,000 for eligible households spread across two payments on September 1 and March 1.

But with a dry spring and summer forecast, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten believes farmers should have the option of bringing the entire payment forward to next month.

“We support this package but it needs to be rolled out faster – farmers need immediate financial support,” Mr Shorten said.

The lump sum payments are on top of the Farm Household Allowance, which totals about $16,000 a year.

But the allowance’s application process has been criticised, with the government urging about 19,000 potentially eligible farmers to speak to rural financial counsellors.

Mr Shorten said he was deeply concerned government cuts to Centrelink would cause delays in processing applications.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the entire state of NSW is affected by drought, as is 57 per cent of Queensland.

There are severe rain deficiencies in Victoria and South Australia.

Mr Shorten will kick off a tour of some of the worst-affected areas of Queensland on Thursday, alongside his wife Chloe and the opposition’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon.

Labor also plans to implement a $20 million regional economic development fund which invests in projects to stimulate country economies.

“The regions have a bright future and Labor wants to ensure they have all the help they need to get back on track,” Mr Shorten said.

The Labor leader will travel to Longreach and Barcaldine on Thursday before going to Emerald in Queensland’s Central Highlands on Friday.

Victorian Auditor-General’s Office critical of youth justice system

The audit findings were based on a sample of young people incarcerated in the first half of 2017, some of whom were at Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct. Picture: DARREN HOWETHE Victorian Auditor-General’s Office has found the state’s youth justice systemlacking in its efforts to rehabilitate young people and reduce re-offending.

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“Young people in detention have not been receiving the rehabilitation services they are entitled to and that are necessary to meet their needs,” the public sector watchdog concluded.

“Asaresult, youthdetentionhasnotbeeneffectivelypromotingreducedre-offending.”

Inadequate service levels and facilities were named ascontributing factors, as was a ‘lack of complete and focused case management and needs assessment’.

VAGO also identified ‘a focus on security that impairs access to education and health services’.

“Failure to fully assess and provide for the needs of young people in detention misses a critical opportunity to positively intervene in the life of a young personwho, given his or her situation, clearly needs support,” it stated.

In its 95-page report, released on Wednesday, VAGO made a number ofrecommendations for the Department of Justice and Regulation, which manages Victoria’s youth justice system, and for the Department of Education and Training.

Incorporating education and program needs into case planning, andmonitoringthe development of case plans and the achievement ofgoals were among the recommendations.

Other includedadopting a performance measure for school and implementing new reporting requirements to monitor service levels and demand.

VAGO also highlighted a need toreview and facilitate young women’s equitable access to education andrecreation activities, consistent with recommendations in theyouth justice review.

Findings byPennyArmytageandProfessorJames Ogloff in July 2017 prompted a $50 million investment inyouth justice systemreforms.

VAGO’s report acknowledgedthe Department of Justice and Regulation was in the process of implementing‘necessary’ reforms.

“Substantialwork has begun to strengthen performance reporting and data collection,increase service levels, develop new service delivery models, improve caseplanning, and respond to the recommendations of the Youth Justice Review,” it read.

About 200 children and young peopleare incarcerated in youth justice centres at any time in Victoria, according to the report.

The majority –68 per cent –have been convicted of an offence, while about 32 per cent are on remand and awaiting trial.

Young people who had received a sentencespent an average of 58 days in youth detention from November 1, 2017–January 31,2018.

Young people on remand were detained for an average of 25 days in the same period.

“A key aim of youth detention is reducing young people’s risk of re-offending,” the report stated.

“Addressing the underlying causes of offending, ensuring good primary andmental health, and enabling education are all steps that can reduce re-offending.”

INFOGRAPHIC: Primary health waiting times

The auditor-general’s office investigated how wellrehabilitation services were meeting the developmental needs of children and young people in the youth detention system and reducing the risk of re-offending.

Its findingswere based on a sample of young people incarcerated in the first half of 2017, some of whom were at Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct.

The Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinctaccommodates boys and young men aged 15 –24, and isis one of two youth detention centres in the state.

ParkvilleYouth Justice Precinctaccommodates boys aged 10–17 andgirls and young women aged 10–24.

The state government plans to open a newfacility, Cherry Creek, in 2021.

INFOGRAPHIC: Issues affecting young people in detention

“While [the department]has made improvements in the short time it has been responsible for youth justice, it does not currently understand future service demand and needs, or whether outcomes are being achieved,” the report stated.

It said the department did not receive any data or other information from the Department of Health and Human Services when the responsibility was transferred in April 2017, ‘which could have assisted it to analyse service demand.’

Furthermore, VAGO wrote, gaps in the breadth of assessments completedmeant some needs might not have been identified.

“[The department]’s planned expansion may be insufficient and further resources may be required. This is because the extent of need is currently unknown,” the report said.

INFOGRAPHIC: Causes of disruptions to Psychological Rehabilitation Team sessions at Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct

The report outlined numerous instancesin which vital records about the young people in detention–from case plans to health assessments–were incomplete.

“[The department] cannot assure itself that all young people are receiving high‐quality rehabilitation services in line with case management requirements in the Youth Justice Custodial Practice Manual,” it stated.

Auditors also found numerous instances in which services were not available in a timely manner, with young people at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre Senior Site advising of difficulties accessing the Youth Health and Rehabilitation Service and feeling their health concerns were not always addressed.

VAGO’snine recommendations have been accepted, with work already underway to improve services.

Minister for Families and Children, Jenny Mikakos,welcomed the report.

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Cycling star Ewan confirms team transfer

Australian cyclist Caleb Ewan has moved teams from Mitchelton Scott to Lotto Soudal.Sprint ace Caleb Ewan has confirmed he will leave Australian team Mitchelton-Scott and join Lotto Soudal.

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It is no surprise, with speculation starting several weeks ago that Ewan would join the Dutch squad.

Mitchelton-Scott controversially left Ewan off their Tour de France team, after announcing last December that he would make his debut in the race.

Ewan said that the final decision left him devastated.

Mitchelton-Scott are adamant that the backflip on taking Ewan to the Tour was based purely on form.

They are shifting their focus to general classification goals in the Grand Tours and their No.1 focus at the Tour de France was team leader Adam Yates.

Ewan replaces German sprint ace Andre Greipel as Lotto-Soudal’s main sprinter.

The 24-year-old, one of cycling’s hottest young prospects, has signed a two-year deal.

He will continue riding for Mitchelton-Scott until the end of this season.

“The decision to take this path with Lotto Soudal has been a logical one if you take the emotion out of it, but we have much hard work ahead to make sure it becomes the perfect match,” Ewan said in a statement.

“I do feel the path Mitchelton-Scott are now on is one not suited to me, but I have nothing but appreciation and respect for the riders and entire organisation.

“I have learned and experienced so much during the past four years, I have many life-long friends there and I am sincerely grateful to them.”

Ewan’s transfer comes a day after Australian cycling star Simon Gerrans announced he would retire from competition at the end of the season.

Richie Porte is also yet to confirm that he will leave BMC and join Trek-Segafredo.