Friday, 13 April 2018

Don't check the calendar, ignore the date, just look into my eyes.......



Alleged irrigator water theft heading for the courts?


A cousin by marriage of the current Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud, John Norman, finds his agricultural business practices under scrutiny.....

The Guardian, 9 April 2018:

Fraud charges are expected to be laid against one of Queensland’s biggest cotton irrigators, John Norman, within a matter of weeks.

If the trial of the owner-operator of Norman Farming, and former cotton farmer of the year goes ahead, it is likely to draw attention to the links between the irrigator’s family and that of the federal minister for agriculture and water resources, David Littleproud.

If the charges are laid, they will also throw the spotlight on the Queensland government’s failure in administering a key plank of the $13bn Murray-Darling basin plan, how it withheld critical information about the alleged crimes, and how it raises queries as to whether it lied about its own investigation.

For the past 18 months, an expanding team of undercover detectives, cybercrime experts and forensic accountants have been investigating Norman’s business on the Queensland/New South Wales border, an irrigated cotton aggregate stretching 45km north from the McIntyre river.

The investigation has focused on whether Norman Farming misused upwards of $25m in Murray-Darling basin infrastructure funds that were supposed to make the irrigator more efficient and deliver water back to the ailing river system downstream.
The plan for the basin is funded by the commonwealth and administered by state governments. But allegations that the $150m Healthy Headwaters Water Use Efficiency projects in Queensland, part of the MDB plan, lacked any genuinely independent checks on projects, means it may have been left open to corruption.

“It’s been a loosey-goosey slush fund helping irrigators get richer,” according to Chris Lamey, a dry-land farmer who’s seeking compensation from Norman, his neighbour. “It’s achieved the opposite of what was intended. There’s a lot of water not getting into NSW now and it’s backed up in dams next door to me.”

Queensland’s covert police investigation into Norman Farming went public in October 2017, when dozens of major crime squad detectives holding multiple subpoenas fanned out from Goondiwindi in early-morning high-speed convoys, heading across the floodplain to the irrigator’s properties and several of its contractors in and around the border river town…..

No wonder I don’t buy Japanese goods – including those now 100% Japanese-owned well-known Australian brands



The Strait Times, 31 March 2018:

This undated file picture released on February 7, 2008, by the Australian Customs Services shows a mother whale and her calf being dragged on board a Japanese ship after being harpooned in Antarctic waters .PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese whaling vessels returned to port on Saturday (March 31) after catching more than 300 of the mammals in the Antarctic Ocean without facing any protests by anti-whaling groups, officials said.

A fleet of five whalers set sail for the Southern Ocean in November, as Tokyo pursues its "research whaling" in defiance of global criticism….

The fleet caught 333 minke whales as planned without any interruption by anti-whaling campaigners, the Fisheries Agency said in a statement…..

Japan is a signatory to the International Whaling Commission moratorium on hunting, but exploits a loophole that allows whales to be killed for scientific research.

Tokyo says the slaughter is necessary for in-depth knowledge of whale behaviour and biology, but it makes no secret of the fact that whales killed in the hunts often end up on dinner plates.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Ultimately allowing live animal exports and cruelty to livestock is the responsibility of the Australian general public and we should not turn away from our part in this trade


It would appear that live animal exporters are still ignoring the health and well-being of livestock.

Take Emanuel Exports Pty Limited, first incorporated in Western Australia in 1955..... 



ABC News, 9 March 2018:   

A scandal-plagued live export ship slated to take 65,000 sheep to the Middle East has failed to satisfy an inspection and must provide evidence of improvements before maritime officials will allow it to set sail with livestock on board.

The concerns relate to airflow in pens where sheep will travel.

Inspectors from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spent hours inspecting the Awassi Express after it docked in Fremantle, Western Australia, on Sunday.

"AMSA has advised the master and ship operator that they will have to arrange a third party air flow verification report to prove compliance with air flow standards before an Australian Certificate for the Carriage of Livestock can be issued," an AMSA statement reads.

To carry livestock, a ship must have a certificate for the carriage of livestock.

The inspected ship, used by Emanuel Exports, is the same vessel linked to 2,400 sheep deaths during a voyage to the Middle East last August.

The Department of Agriculture investigated that incident but scandal erupted after footage of the sheep surfaced, reportedly showing livestock being mistreated.
The vision, broadcast on Channel Nine on Sunday night, showed hundreds of sheep crowded into a small space, workers throwing dead sheep overboard, and faeces-covered pens where animals stood panting or collapsed on the ground.

It remains unclear what will happen to the sheep and 250 cattle Emanuel Exports plans to send to Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar in the coming days.
Emanuel Exports was also responsible for a July 2016 consignment, in which an estimated 3,000 sheep died from heat stress during a voyage to the Middle East….

Governments and farming bodies will react after the event when particular instances of animal cruelty or poor shipping conditions make the news. However such reaction frequently makes a claim that the incident in question is a 'one-off' occurrence.

There appears to be a general lack of will to address the fundamental failure of the live export industry to protect livestock from harm or to turn and face the fact that live export in itself is a cruel practice.

Responsibility for animal welfare lies in the last instance with the Australian general public and it will not be until tens of thousands of everyday citizens pick up the phone or write/email federal ministers, MPs and senators that the public's voice will begin outweigh the political influence of farmer-grazier lobby groups.

Contact details for all members of the federal parliament be found at List of Senators - (PDF 163KB) and List of Members - (PDF 145KB)   if readers want to have their say on the subject of live animal export.    

BACKGROUND

ABC News, 5 February 2017:

WA's largest live exporting company, Emanuel Exports, is back in court today to defend itself against charges of animal cruelty brought against it under the state's Animal Welfare Act. The case harks back to 2003 when he animal rights group, Animals Australia, won a Supreme Court order which forced the state to investigate alleged breaches of the Act during a shipment of 100,000 sheep on the Al Kuwait in November of that year. The livestock industry and animal rights groups say the outcome could set a precedent for the future of live exports. Natacha Hammond spoke with Tim D'Arcy from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association who has been at the opening morning of the case.

8 February 2008, DLGD v Emanuel Exports judgement.

beefcentral.com, 1 March 2012:

The export licence of one of Western Australia’s oldest livestock exporters, International Livestock Exports, the South East Asian export arm of Emanuel Exports, could be under threat as a result of footage released by Animals Australia this week.

The footage, showing mistreatment of cattle inside Indonesian abattoirs, aired on ABC Lateline on Tuesday.

ILE is believed to be the exporter responsible for at least one of the animals shown in the footage.

The Federal Government’s Export Supply Chain Accreditation System, introduced to improve animal welfare standards in the wake of televised footage of cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs last year, places the onus of responsibility for the welfare of all exported animals through until the point of slaughter on exporters.

Penalties for breaches of the ESCAS include conditions being placed on licenses, or the suspension or cancellation of a licence.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is currently investigating the footage supplied by Animals Australia last Friday, and will decide on penalties if it confirms that an Australian exporter has breached the ESCAS rules.

Emanuel Exports director Mike Stanton told Beef Central this afternoon that the company has suspended the operations of one abattoir within its accredited supply chain in Indonesia whilst the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry investigation is underway…..

The only Australians who do not recognise the cruel farce that is 'robo-debt' are right-wing politicians, ideologues and the just plain ignorant


“It is trite maths that statistical averages (whether means or medians) tell nothing about the variability or otherwise of the underlying numbers from which averages are calculated. Only if those underlying numbers do not vary at all is it possible to extrapolate from the average a figure for any one of the component periods to which the average relates. Otherwise the true underlying pattern may be as diverse as the experience of Australia’s highly variable drought/flood pattern in the face of knowledge of ‘average’ yearly rainfall figures. Yet precisely such a mathematical fault lies at the heart of the introduction from July 2016 of the OCI machine-learning method for raising and recovering social security overpayment debts. This extrapolates Australian Taxation Office (‘ATO’) data matching information about the total amount and period over which employment income was earned, and applies that average to each and every separate fortnightly rate calculation period for working-age payments.”  [Terry Carney AO, UNSW Law Journal, Vol 42 No 2, THE NEW DIGITAL FUTURE FOR WELFARE: DEBTS WITHOUT LEGAL PROOFS OR MORAL AUTHORITY?, p2]

The Canberra Times, 5 April 2018:

The Coalition government's "robo-debt" program has been unlawfully raising debts with welfare recipients, wreaking "legal and moral injustice", a former administrative appeals tribunal member has said.

Emeritus professor of law at the University of Sydney Terry Carney, who was on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for 40 years and was its longest serving member until finishing in September, has weighed into the debate over the controversial debt collection method saying the Department of Human Services has no legal basis to raise debts when a client fails to ‘disprove’ they owe money.

While Professor Carney urged it be made to comply with the law, the DHS rejected his comments, saying its Online Compliance Intervention program was consistent with legislation.

"Robo-debt" - the subject of a Commonwealth Ombudsman report and a Senate inquiry recommending sweeping reforms to the program - was at the centre of a maelstrom of controversy last year and remains loathed by critics calling for change….

Writing in the UNSW Law Journal last month, he said that despite the DHS' stance it remained responsible for calculating debts based on actual earnings, not assumed averages.

“Centrelink’s OCI radically changed the way overpayment debts are raised  by purporting to absolve Centrelink from its legal obligation to obtain sufficient information to found a debt in the event that its ‘first instance’ contact with the recipient is unable to unearth information about actual fortnightly earnings. As noted by the Ombudsman, the major change was that Centrelink would ‘no longer’ exercise its statutory powers to obtain wage records and that the ‘responsibility’ to obtain such information now lies with applicants seeking to challenge a debt. Writing a little later, the Senate Community Affairs References Committee challenged this, contending that
6.13 It is a basic legal principle that in order to claim a debt, a debt must be proven to be owed. The onus of proving a debt must remain with the department. This would include verifying income data in order to calculate a debt. Where appropriate, verification can be done with the assistance of income support payment recipients, but the final responsibility must lie with the department. This would also preclude the practice of averaging income data to manufacture a fortnightly income for the purposes of retrospectively calculating a debt. …”  [Terry Carney AO, UNSW Law Journal, Vol 42 No 2, THE NEW DIGITAL FUTURE FOR WELFARE: DEBTS WITHOUT LEGAL PROOFS OR MORAL AUTHORITY?, pp3-4]

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Almost right from its very beginning Facebook Inc was not the benign Internet presence it pretended to be


Facebook Inc. - incorporated in July 2004 and headquartered at 1 Hacker Way (so named by Facebook management), Menlo Park, California 94025 - has at least twelve data centres around the world which collect, transmit, collate, store and monetise data drawn from an est. 2 billion active Facebook accounts. 

In May 2017 this social media company was worth est. US$407.3 billion according to Forbes.com.

Now that the social media giant finds itself being officially investigated to varying degrees by the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States on matters of user data collection, data retention, privacy and safety - as well as being the object of a number of lawsuits - here is a timeline indicating how Mark Zuckerberg brought Facebook to this low point......


FACEBOOK INC
2005

Facebook Privacy Policy states that Thefacebook takes appropriate precautions to protect our users' information. Your account information is located on a secured server behind a firewall. However it also states When you visit the Web Site you may provide us with two types of information: personal information you knowingly choose to disclose that is collected by us and Web Site use information collected by us on an aggregate basis as you and others browse our Web Site.
When you register on the Web Site, you provide us with certain personal information, such as your name, your email address, your telephone number, your address, your gender, schools attended and any other personal or preference information that you provide to us.
When you enter our Web Site, we collect the user's browser type and IP address. This information is gathered for all users to the Web Site. In addition, we store certain information from your browser using "cookies." A cookie is a piece of data stored on the user's computer tied to information about the user. We use session ID cookies to confirm that users are logged in. These cookies terminate once the users close the browser. We do not use cookies to collect private information from any user.
Thefacebook also collects information about you from other sources, such as newspapers and instant messaging services. This information is gathered regardless of your use of the Web Site. 

2006

Facebook’s privacy policy is now expressing this sentiment; We understand you may not want everyone in the world to have the information you share on Facebook; that is why we give you control of your information. Our default privacy settings limit the information displayed in your profile to your school, your specified local area, and other reasonable community limitations that we tell you about….

However the company is still collecting as much information about Facebook users that it can, as well as informing account holders that; Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service through the operation of the service (e.g., photo tags) in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalized experience. By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States.

2007

Facebook Platform  - app developers can now access the “’social graph’ ie., tracked connections between users and their friends.

Beacon - shares what users are doing on other websites with their Facebook friends without specific consent.

2008

Facebook Connect - corrects Beacon’s mistakes by requiring users to take deliberate action before they share activity from other websites when logged in using Facebook.

2009


Beacon officially shut down after at least one lawsuit commenced over privacy issue.

Facebook hosts the Farmville game which was later revealed as a data miner.

2010

Facebook’s privacy policy states; When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. ... The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” ... Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile page. If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection.

On 28 April 2010 Electronic Frontiers Foundation reported that: Facebook announced a plan to transform most of the bits in your profile (including your hometown, education, work, activities, interests, and more) into connections, which are public information. If you refuse to make these items into a Connection, Facebook will remove all unlinked information.

2011

Social reporting tool – allows Facebook users to directly contact other users to request a post or image takedown if either relates directly to them. Any takedown is voluntary if content doesn't breach Facebook rules.

Facebook Inc initially refuses to take down a defamatory site invading the privacy of Clarence Valley highschool students. It only does so after direct pressure is applied by a community member.

2012

In February the Parliament of Australia invites the Australian public to connect with it via Facebook.

Facebook begins roll out Facebook Camera for iOS to English-speaking countries - a standalone photos app where users can shoot, filter, and share single or sets of photos and scroll through a feed of photos uploaded to Facebook by friends.


2013

Facebook begins collaboration with Dr. Alexandr Kogan eventually supplying him with data on 57 million Facebook friendships by 2015. User data supplied to Kogan for his research was later sent to Cambridge Analytica without Facebook users knowledge or consent.

Facebook hosts Hangouts - live video.

2014

Facebook Groups - app for iOS and Android introduced and then deleted some months later.

Facebook buys WhatsAppMessaging.

Facebook conducts a number of psychological experiments on users without their knowledge or consent. It is reported that 689,000 users had their home pages manipulated.


2015

Security Checkup - new tool to simplifying privacy controls.

Head of Research at Facebook Inc, Peter Fleming, and one of the company’s  contract researchers are listed as co-authors of Alexander Kogan’s published research on the relationship of social class and international friendships. 


2016


2017

Privacy Basics - new tool to simplify privacy controls.

Becomes public knowledge that Facebook revealed to one Australian advertiser that it had a database of young users – 1.9 million high schoolers, 1.5 million tertiary students and 3 million young workers – and that it could tell advertisers when young workers were particularly vulnerable.

Facebook reported to be planning $750 million data center in New Albany, Ohio employing only 50 permanent staff.

Facebook admits to US Securities and Exchange Commission that 1.5% of its 2.01 billion accounts worldwide are “undesirable” - that is likely to be fake accounts. Yahoo Finance calculates that to be upwards of 30 million accounts.

In December Germany’s Federal Cartel Office released preliminary investigation findings and stated: The Bundeskartellamt has informed the company Facebook in writing of its preliminary legal assessment in the abuse of dominance proceeding which the authority is conducting against Facebook. Based on the current stage of the proceedings, the authority assumes that Facebook is dominant on the German market for social networks. The authority holds the view that Facebook is abusing this dominant position by making the use of its social network conditional on its being allowed to limitlessly amass every kind of data generated by using third-party websites and merge it with the user's Facebook account. These third-party sites include firstly services owned by Facebook such as WhatsApp or Instagram, and secondly websites and apps of other operators with embedded Facebook APIs.

Google search engines now host multiple Facebook apps.

By 2017 numerous government departments and agencies in Australia have Facebook accounts, from which the company can harvest visitor data whether or not the visitor has a Facebook account.

Included on the long list of government departments/agencies is the federal Dept. of Human Services (DHS)DHS states that it posts on its Facebook page about payments and services, answers questions, gives useful tips, shares news, and give updates on relevant issues. This means that anyone who visits or interacts with the five DHS Facebook pages will have their Internet usage data scraped, information contained in any questions asked retained and collated with any other information Facebook holds on that visitor. DHS appears to be aware of privacy vulnerabilities in its use of Facebook as it is at pains to point out that The department is not responsible for the privacy practices or content of Facebook.......

Australian federal and state electoral commissions also have active Facebook pages.

In December 2017 Facebook rolled out Messenger Kids app which is installed via an adult's Facebook account. This app offers video and text chats for children using their own digital devices. Although Messenger Kids displays no ads it does not appear to be exempt from Facebook's user data collection.

Facebook Inc initially refuses to remove a scam account attempting to raise money and only does so after media pressure

2018

On 16 March Facebook Inc. announces it has suspended the accounts of Aleksandr Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Strategic Communication Laboratries Group on the basis they had misused Facebook user data,  

In late March it was revealed that Facebook's Android app is capable of hoovering up extensive call data without users knowledge or consent.

Facebook-created VR app like Spaces obtain information about what users doing there, much in the same way that any third-party app developer would. Facebook also records a “heatmap” of viewer data for 360-degree videos, for instance, flagging which parts of a video people find most interesting.

Facebook admits that it archived unpublished and deleted user videos created using a now redundant video streaming function. 

Facebook Inc. admits that up to 87 million account holders may have had their personal information accessed by the Trump presidential campaign-linked data miner Cambridge Analytica. Either because  Facebook users accessed the thisisyourdigitallife app or because they had friended a person had done so.

Only 53 Australian Facebook users took the thisisyourdigitallife personality quiz but the app hoovered up the data on est 311,127 other users included in friendship lists once it accessed those 53 accounts. Just 10 New Zealanders used the app but data from another est. 67,000 users was collected via their friendship groups.

Facebook also admits that its software allowed reverse searching of its user pages employing only ‘phone numbers and email addresses and that “malicious actors” may have used this feature to scrap public profile data from most of its 2 billion users.

The company admits that its account recovery process can also allow these malicious actors to access user data.


In April Facebook announces a tightening of its privacy controls and states it intends to police all third party requests for access to user data. Given the company stated it had in total 215,000 staff worldwide as of December 2017 and, not all those staff would be available to personally monitor third party requests relating to Facebook’s est. 2 billion active monthly users, one wonders just how reliable this latest ‘promise’ from Facebook Inc. will be.

On 4 April 2018 USA Today reported that: Members of the House and Senate committees that will question Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about user privacy protection next week are also some of the biggest recipients of campaign contributions from company employees and the Facebook Inc. PAC.
The committee that got the most Facebook contributions is the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which announced Wednesday morning it would question Zuckerberg on April 11.

Open Secrets lists Facebook Inc PAC contributions to 2016 U.S. federal election campaigns:
Contributions from this PAC to federal candidates (list recipients)
(44% to Democrats, 55% to Republicans)
$519,500
Contributions to this PAC from individual donors of $200 or more (list donors)
 $619,240

In April Facebook admits that it has entered an unspecified number of the 1.3 billion 
Messenger accounts and, without users knowledge or consent, selectively removed messages sent to those users by Mark Zuckerberg and other unnamed Facebook Inc executives/employees

Australian Privacy Commissioner launches investigation into Facebook Inc.

Five U.S. state attorneys-general reported to have begun investigations into how Facebook Inc. collects, shares and does or doesn't protect user information.

According to the Insurance Journal on 5 April 2018: Users and investors have filed at least 18 lawsuits since last month’s revelations about Cambridge Analytica. Beyond privacy violations, they are accusing Facebook of user agreement breaches, negligence, consumer fraud, unfair competition, securities fraud and racketeering.

On 6 April Facebook Inc annouces that it has suspended the account of Canadian tech company AggregateIQ because of its involvenment in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and three days later suspends CubeYou on similar grounds while it investigates.

On 9 April TNW reports that Facebook's cryptocurrency ad filter failed.

The Washington Post  reported on 9 April:
As for Facebook itself, former FBI special agent Clinton Watts told me that, in one sense, the numbers should not be surprising since “everyone has a message to get out, and Facebook is the best place to do it. Russia, Cambridge Analytica or any campaign for that matter has to go to social media to be effective.” The problem arose in Facebook’s mode of operating. “Their motto was move fast and break things, and they did, they moved fast and in the end broke the trust of their users with the platform,” Watts said. “They didn’t do solid assessments of who was accessing data on their platforms, and they didn’t effectively scrutinize advertisements and accounts surfacing on their platforms.”

By 10 April it was being reported that a number of Facebook IT engineers were quitting or asking to change departments over ethical concerns.

On 11 April 2018 Facebook Inc. founder, CEO and controlling shareholder, 33 year-old Mark Elliot Zuckerberg appears before the US House of Representatives House Energy and Commerce Committee's Facebook: Transparency and Use of Consumer Data hearing.

The day before Zuckerberg fronted the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s  Facebook, Social Media Privacy, and the Use and Abuse of Data hearing.

Despite all of the above, as of 11 April 2018 the Australian Government Dept of Human Services retains its "Humans Services", "Student Update", "Families Update" and "Seniors Update" Facebook pages and, the departmental website still links to "How to 'Like' " instructions and shows visitors how to set up their own Facebook account with a link to its very own 'how to' YouTube video. Cenrelink's General Manager also still has an official Facebook account.

Note:
Given the federal Department of Human Services admitted that it had employed third parties to monitor social media including Facebook for information about welfare recipients that it could match with internal departmental data, one has to wonder what range of methods were used to undertake this surveillance and exactly who the contractors were.