Thursday, June 15, 2017

In Parliament, incompetence goes bipartisan

The federal government and its contractors will pay more than $70 million plus costs to 1905 asylum seekers and refugees. The landmark out-of-court agreement, believed to be Australia’s largest ever in a human rights case, settles a class action brought by Slater and Gordon on behalf of current and former Manus Island detainees. The government denies responsibility for mistreating and falsely imprisoning the plaintiffs as part of the settlement, as well as the group’s claims the government deliberately denied them their rights and failed to provide basic care. Immigration minister Peter Dutton christened the settlement “Labor’s border bill”, denied the settlement entailed an admission and lashed out at “ambulance-chasing legal firm Slater and Gordon”.

Continuing a horror day for the government, three federal ministers have been ordered to appear before the Victorian Court of Appeal tomorrow to explain why they should not be charged with contempt of court. Health minister Greg Hunt, human services minister Alan Tudge and assistant to the treasury Michael Sukkar will face court after criticising the Victorian judiciary for what they called “soft” sentences for people convicted of terror-related offences. Foreign minister Julie Bishop was also forced to deny knowledge of a company – set up by a prominent Chinese donor to the Liberal Party – called the “Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation”. Chinese businessmen have donated more than $500,000 to the Western Australian Liberals in the last three years, and Chinese mining boss Sally Zou, who set up the foundation, donated $460,000 to the Liberals in the 2015-16 financial year.

While Labor had fun at Bishop’s expense in Question Time, the opposition also had a highly forgettable day. The “Glorious Bishop” revelations arose as Bishop attempted to grill Labor over former agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s extensive ties to property mogul and suspected foreign intelligence operative Helen Liu. In a stirring show of bipartisanship, Labor briefly joined the Liberals in opposing calls for a transparent probe into parliamentary corruption. While attention was focused on the unfolding Chinese donations scandal, Labor also voted for the so-called “Adani bill”, watering down provisions in the Native Title Act that require mining companies to secure Indigenous Land Use Agreements from traditional owners.

Television network Channel Ten has gone into voluntary administration. Administrators were appointed and Ten secured a 48-hour trading halt after media billionaires Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch refused to provide the network with a $200 million line of credit to finance a restructure. Gordon and Murdoch joined their holdings in Ten hours after the announcement, leaving them in a strong position to take over the network if proposed changes to media ownership laws are passed. Media experts Cory Bernardi, the Reverend Fred Nile and Reclaim Australia blamed Ten’s ailing fortunes on The Project host Waleed Aly.

Overseas, at least 12 people have died in a fire that engulfed a London public housing tower block. The 24-storey building in Notting Hill’s Lancaster West housing estate had been the subject of petitions from residents concerned for years about the tower’s fire safety, while witnesses and firefighters noted that cladding added last year to improve its outside appearance may have contributed to the fire’s intensity.

And in the United States, several Republican lawmakers and political staffers have been shot ahead of an early morning congressional baseball game. Republican majority whip Steve Scalise has undergone surgery and is in a critical condition, as is lobbyist Matt Mika, while two Capitol police officers were also injured. The gunman, a 66-year-old Illinois man, reportedly volunteered for the presidential campaign of Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, who said he was “sickened” by the news.

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We’ve got a judiciary that takes the side of the so-called victim rather than the side of common sense.

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The long, lonely road of Chelsea Manning

“At Starbucks, she ordered a white-chocolate mocha and retreated to a nearby stool. Manning has always been small (5 foot 4), but in her last few months at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, she jogged religiously, outside in the prison yard and around the track of the prison gym, and her body had taken on a lithe sharpness, apparent in the definition of her arms and cheekbones. She looked healthy and fit, if a little uneasy, as people who have served long spells in prison often do. She had been released only eight days earlier, after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence.” the new york times magazine

Roxane Gay is the hardest-working woman in letters

“By now, the release of a new book by Roxane Gay has become a cultural event. The New York Times bestselling author is a rare mainstream crossover, both incisive and remarkably prolific, producing boundary-pushing work across a range of genres. She is a novelist, critic, essayist, comic-book author, screenwriter, and memoirist who has proved unafraid to explore and expose even the most upsetting parts of her personal history in writing. In that latter sense, the 42-year-old Gay’s latest effort might very well be her rawest and most revealing.” the village voice

How Hollywood came to fear and loathe Rotten Tomatoes

“Launched on a lark in 1998 by Web designer Senh Duong to catalogue reviews for Jackie Chan kung-fu flicks, Rotten Tomatoes has come to dominate the cultural conversation surrounding new movies and fundamentally change the calculus of putting butts in seats. It’s particularly, terrifyingly powerful among teens and 20-somethings who, as recently as five years ago, relied more often than not on ‘Bro, you gotta see this’-style word of mouth than any sort of professional critic appraisals to make their multiplex picks.” vanity fair



According to the new version of Australian Monopoly, what are the country’s two most desirable locations?

“35,000 Australian Monopoly players were asked to pick from 40 different areas in a three-week election last November ... Players have the opportunity to get ahead by selling their State of Origin tickets on an online auction or winning a Melbourne Cup sweep. There is an Australian flavour to the player tokens, which include a meat pie, a barbecue, a cricket bat, a kookaburra and a kangaroo.”   fairfax


Sydney Harbour and Orange.

“Orange is the new blue for Australian Monopoly players with the NSW country town voted as one of Australia's most prestigious areas along with Sydney Harbour ... Ritika Gray, associate brand manager with Hasbro Australia, which is distributing the game, said the strong polling for Orange led to a surprise result. ‘The people of Orange backed their town quite heavily’, she said. ‘They are clearly very passionate about what they have to offer and they voted very consistently. Their passion is pretty clear from the results.’ ”  fairfax


and finally:

The history of the secret code that printers put on all your documents

“Microdots aren’t some super sophisticated spy technology used exclusively by agencies like the NSA or the CIA to stop leakers, but a common feature in just about every commercial printer. In fact, your printer is probably printing its own unique set of microdots into the corners of your documents without you even realizing it. Privacy advocates say the technology, pushed by the Secret Service, has negative privacy implications, and have been researching the technology for over a decade.” the outline