Thursday, October 17, 2019

Crown high-roller smuggled weapons to war criminal

A businessman blacklisted by the United Nations over smuggling arms to a war criminal gambled millions at Crown Resorts in Australia, according to confidential gambling records. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald report that Joseph Wong lost more than $6 million in Crown VIP gambling rooms, despite being named on a UN Security Council sanctions blacklist for selling weapons to Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, who was later indicted at The Hague for crimes including murder, terror and rape. The news comes days after video footage showed hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash being handed over from a shopping bag in a high-rollers’ room at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, sparking calls for a Royal Commission. Crown is also under pressure over the wages of staff, with about 1000 Crown staff and their supporters marching on the Melbourne casino on Tuesday. Workers are fighting for better pay and job security.

Fish under threat: Numbers of endangered sawfish in the Gulf of Carpentaria are plummeting, according to Guardian Australia. Dr Barbara Wueringer, founder and principal scientist at Sharks and Rays Australia, said: “Because they have this saw, people like to take a trophy and that’s something that we want to stop. Nobody should remove the saw.” Three conservation groups have written to the Department of Environment asking for a suite of rules and restrictions to be imposed on the Queensland-managed Gulf of Carpentaria Inshore Fin Fish Fishery. Filmmaker Rory McLeod has confirmed to SBS  reports of another mass fish kill in far western New South Wales. McLeod, who is shooting a documentary about fish kills, said the dead fish numbered in the thousands, and were largely introduced carp species that had died when the waterway had dried up. 

ASIO warnings: The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation’s 2018-19 annual report warns that rightwing terrorist groups are “more cohesive and organised than they have been in previous years”. In the report the organisation also notes that it had issued advice about “hostile intelligence services” using social media platforms including LinkedIn to target people across business and government.

Brexit deal close: The BBC reports that European Union say the outcome of talks with the British negotiating team regarding Brexit should be known imminently. European council President Donald Tusk said he would have “bet” on a deal 24 hours ago, but that the UK side was no longer so sure. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to get Democratic Unionists from Northern Ireland to support a plan for a regulatory and customs border down the Irish Sea. Johnson said the negotiations were like climbing Mount Everest, and that the summit was “not far” but still covered by “cloud”.

Prime Minister’s science awards: A record five women have recognised at the Prime Minister’s science awards, with Emeritus Professor Cheryl Praeger awarded the top honour of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. Praeger’s work includes fundamental contributions to group theory, permutation groups, and combinatorics, and pioneering research into the mathematics of symmetry which has applications in improving search engine efficiency. 


Cash and the black economy
New legislation will restrict the way Australians use cash. But there are concerns the laws could jail people for using legal tender.


“Rachel Ka Yin Leung, a 21-year-old who spent the summer in Hong Kong during a break in her psychology studies at Oxford, says the protests stemmed from frustration at the Beijing-backed policies but have broadened into a show of opposition to totalitarianism. The people are protesting, she says, not only for the rights of Hong Kong but also for those of their compatriots on the mainland.”


“Scott Silven tells us that his favourite time of day is dusk, when the light is neither one thing nor another. In this liminal hour, he says, the mind lets down its barriers, and we become more receptive to each other and to the world. It’s when he usually chooses to perform his show Wonders.”


“The logic of the reform, for the nation’s future, is irrepressible. Substantive, concrete reform is the only thing the nation has not tried. Reconciliation action plans won’t do it, a symbolic statement of recognition won’t do it, the Closing the Gap report demonstrably cannot do it, a legislated ‘voice’ won’t achieve it, state-based treaties can’t do it, the Productivity Commission can’t do it. The conventional parliamentary system and its ancillary mechanisms have failed us. Yet we require that very system to endorse this change.”


“Ardern said the online world must be a force for good where users can ‘exchange ideas, share technology, and maintain civil liberties’ but ‘we need to meet that challenge as a country and as a global community’ ... More than 50 companies and countries have signed the Christchurch Call, including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Twitter. The pledge does not contain any enforcement or regulatory measures, and it is up to each individual country and company to decide how it would honour its voluntary commitments.”


“Reports of Facebook moderators’ appalling working conditions have been making headlines worldwide. Workers say they are burning out as they moderate vast flows of violent content under pressure, with vague, ever-changing guidelines. They describe unclean, dangerous contractor workplaces. Moderators battle depression, addiction, and even post-traumatic stress disorder from the endless parade of horrors they consume.”


“‘Those are your emergency exits in case of a sudden slump in the halite,’ says Christopher, mimicking the hand gestures of a flight attendant explaining the safety protocols, and pointing to the doorways marked with warning tape, ‘here, here ... and here. If the lab begins to collapse, you grab an axe, hack your way through the lab wall, then hack your way out through the salt to safety.’ He pauses, smiles. ‘Well, that’s the theory, at least.’”

Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.