Sunday, August 17, 2014

An Apple a day keeps the tech-heads in pay

So the long-promised education post became an onerous task after the hacking of my computer and iPhone in mid-July - hence the delays. While my iPhone is still working, it is clear that problems remain and they have curbed my indulgence in podcasts (sadly, I am a retro girl - but podcasts are a really time-effective way of catching up on news, latest education materials, & other info)
The incident brought to a head issues that have existed on and off since I commenced using Apple products for my journalism work. Faraday shields are a worthwhile cause, and it is true that removing the sim temporarily, is relatively easy with Apple products.
I think Apple security issues are an important aspect for working journalists. Some would say that I'm shooting myself in the foot here, but TDM's all about education and reform. So... it's important to note that while the functionality of iPhones makes them an awesome, handy device to work with, they can also be a liability to your security. There, I said it. 

Ultimately, this could then have a flow-on effect on other aspects of security, whether you carry an iPhone thereafter or not. Mine had been immediately replaced with an android unit prior to any physical confrontations.
The persistent security issues that are subsequently - now - under my microscope (thanks baddies, for leaving such a lot of invaluable evidence), seem to revolve around cyber exploitation of the same device's IMEI number - like Assange says, "a mobile tracking device, that also has a phone function" (forgive the paraphrasing).
Most people are conditioned to the simple good-guy, bad-guy myth that the mainstream media has, of course, propagated for centuries.

The reality is that security threats can originate from a variety of sources and, increasingly so as time goes on and technology expands. So this type of very basic good-guy, bad-guy myth, may be helpful to the govt for reaffirming a 'developmental' PR-boosting image. However, mainly and more significantly, it obscures the real plethora of risks involved in reporting on important issues that protect the quality of our society's democracy (that is, the 'Fourth Estate' journalism mandate, for all you non-journo readers). The risks come from a wide spectrum of sources, governmental and non-govt.
Plus, most mainstream journos (and others) just don't have access to tech support of the calibre that will ensure their security and privacy. Staff techs may know how to do any number of tasks - play with a graphic or run an anti-virus, but cyber threats can come from people with myriad resources. Intrusions can be every bit as subtle, persistent and penetrating as... investigative journalism. Luckily for me, I have brilliant tech support & learnt very early on from terrific journalism experts, to back everything up in multiple ways.

Despite hackers' malicious intent, they surreptitiously exercise their misconceived idea of entitlement over information. This extends to not just what they as hackers can have, but who else can have it, read it, learn from it, and know it. At the heart of all attacks, is an endeavour to control society. In my case, a great deal of damage, loss & disruption were caused seemingly just to delete two folders of photographs to prevent the public from having free access to those images and the knowledge/power that would have come with them. 

In a global context, the same restrictions are placed on education - who can access knowledge, who can have power and what oppressed groups must serve an elite after being deprived of information and opportunity. 
Almost daily, court reporters diligently catalogue the incidence of data breaches by public officials giving important, private and powerful information to unauthorized parties. Regularly, money is the impetus.

This apparent routine exploitation of the public's confidential data is the tip of the iceburg in view of:
  • The ridiculous numbers of agencies entitled to invade an individual's privacy (as divulged in Senate Estimates 2 years ago - even the most irrelevant of non-govt goups can obtain basic email data and subject lines);
  • Inherent government corruption with limited safeguards; 
  • Terrible public sector and contracted agency recruitment practices;
  • Rapidly advancing communications and social media technologies and
  • Security overload for the average punter, unable to keep up.
= hackers' field day.

Though govt propaganda depicts evolving groups people like Anonymous, as Public Enemy Number 1, not all hackers are socially-minded activists with lofty ideals trying to emancipate society.  The dark net evidences this fact, with ratted webcams, mobile cameras and other surveillance equipment captures, a marketable commodity that few know about - including govt law makers.

Now, about that education post... Where's that back-up...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Quick note

Desperate times call for desperate measures. It would seem that there is not much levity around at the moment, so excuse Junior (to the right).

There are some concerning issues in the news currently and it is hard to blog about upbeat topics when there are such dreadful events suddenly springing up around the globe - ebola outbreaks, war, civil unrest, religious persecution, etc., etc.

It's a gloomy period, for sure. And, I note, that there are many of my readers at present, who are logging in from these very troubled places.

If that's you - I hope that today's post finds you & yours safe and well, and that these troubling times will soon be over.

I'm pulling together a post about education and equality and plan to have that ready over the next two or three days.

I have had a few setbacks over the last couple of months & subsequent delays in posting, with some very persistent persons (I was considering a slightly different 'P' word there) - apparently - endeavouring to delete photos that they no longer want to potentially be in the public domain.

I am speculating about this because the reporting from that very specific period relates to racism-oriented human rights matters - I can only assume which issues were at play and who was behind the hacking & deleting of two folders of photographs from a very narrow window of time. Those of you who read my twitter feed will have read about this some weeks ago. If you want to pick up my daily tweets, you can follow The Daily Magnet @magnetticism

Back up and running, now, anyway. Hooray!

Thanks to those of you who have helped re-build and replace the damaged data and equipment, and to all you readers from all over the world who have hung in there and just keep on visiting and patiently re-reading the archives - new post very soon. Take care.
x Mags.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Media brandings, spin, propaganda & other mischief

So this post is re-visiting the US Guantanamo debate, which is very complex but important insofar as it is a robust examination of detention conditions, torture and human rights - and, moreover, it is an examination that is being openly conducted by the public (& world media), based on the highest expectations of that public about democratic standards, humaneness and judicial independence. However, the focus on Guantanamo Bay conditions in this post, is merely to illustrate their parallel to the human rights conditions for detainees in Australia, and, in other places of custody. 

Australia has three main media monopolies, one of which is so powerful & pervasive that it, effectively, rules the governments around the world. Hence, these vast, modern day authoritarian institutions, dictate a type of censorship by trivia that gags all reasonable and balanced discussions of human rights in Australia. So, the Guantanamo Bay discourse on torture lends vital analysis that just isn't available here for discussion by any columnists and reporters willing and brave enough to talk about the 't' word, and all aspects of post-'t' word-life. (Even on the rare occasion that the 't' word- torture - is proven in Australian courts, it almost invariably is never mentioned as such, by journalists - who usually opt for the warmer, fuzzier & heavily-spun, govt-pleasing -term, 'mistreatment'.) 

It is important to note, that while there are vast numbers of Aussie reporters who are really more like spin doctors, there are some fantastic mainstream journalists around. If Australia defends its media industry and improves workplace conditions and the diversity of media ownership, these journos may stand a fighting chance of doing a reasonable job that holds the powerful to account & protects the public - without bias.

The intent behind the collaborative approach to stigmatizing suspects/accused/detainees, is inseparable from the conditions they experience afterwards - whether guilty, verballed or innocent. There is a flow-on effect for friends and relatives of accused persons. Generally, the law officers involved in the initial investigation relating to a named suspect, will create the building blocks of discrimination upon which, that stigmatization & 'public fear' can develop. This is evident in their media statements and the strategies behind their timing and content. The same approach is applied by all government agencies, and as such, it is applied to suspects of all varieties - not just those of the ilk that have ended up in GTMO. 

At a local micro-level, this practice is able to be seen in the work of some amazingly ethically-flexible journalists, who I term the Three Stooges. For the salary of a check-out operator, these 3 persons guarantee the success of corrupt police verbals, sure thing, every time - usually accompanied by cover-page placement, huge photos of the faces of the accused, and defamatory story titles that run prominently and in large font. If those accused don't end up convicted, then that fuels further public sensationalism & shaming of honest justice employees.

Interestingly, despite what the public knows about private military contractors, like Blackwater, involved in the seizure of individuals later sent to GTMO - namely, that the apprehension was ad hoc and run by commission per person (more suspects = more $); and, despite most of those detainees being found innocent and repatriated; any contact with that highly publicized controversial environment taints their public image and their security profile, and those of their relatives and friends. This is also true for detainees and accused persons from other types of security and custodial environments, as well. This tainting effects the employment prospects, potential stability of accommodation, and the financial security of an accused individual, and his/her friends, relatives and dependants. 
'Thirty-four of our respondents said they were unemployed...' (Fletcher & Stover, 2009, The Guantanamo Effect, p.104).  Six had jobs, one reported optimism about job prospects, some were in training. Seven reported unsuccessful efforts to get a job. One reported that employers noticed a three-year gap & their interest waned when he divulged he had been held in custody. 
The stigma of Guantanamo interfered with the ability of several Afghan former detainees to regain their former positions. Those who were government employees found they could not reclaim their jobs. "The government authorities think we are terrorists," said one respondent. "I want my job back," exclaimed another. "I want my rights like the salaries I was supposed to receive..." [...] Another respondent, a highly educated man, expressed frustration that his time in Guantanamo indelibly marred his reputation and career. He was a a practicing physician, who had operated a clinic before his arrest. Now he had to "start again from a drugstore so that people can trust me." (Fletcher & Stover, 2009, pp.104-105)
Additionally, former detainees complained about the effects of the bad detention conditions & torture-related injuries on their health and mental wellbeing, which were averse to them holding down permanent employment or operating at the same capacity that they had, before they were allegedly wrongly seized and renditioned (Fletcher & Stover, 2009, p.105-106). An Australian former GTMO detainee, David Hicks, described in his biography, post-torture "baggage" that was virtually a "full-time job" to cope with. Said baggage included: physical damage to teeth, bones, & spine and kidney function, and severe, difficult to manage, post-trauma (PTSD) and anxiety (Hicks, My Journey, pp.404-405). However, several detainees did not even survive the mental anguish of their (likely - no one will ever know) wrongful GTMO imprisonment, & there is quite a bit of information about the facility's deaths in custody, which I'll discuss at some later point. As mentioned - there are some close parallels to other countries' detention regimes.  
{Interestingly, last year the US prison system trialled wall-mounted heart rate and vital signs sensors, to reduce their rate of deaths in prison custody. The sensor was found to be 86% accurate (Rutkin, New Scientist, May 31, 2014, p22). Nonetheless, in most custodial death inquests data shows staff fail, or, in court they claim to have failed, to monitor the equipment provided to reduce prison deaths. So the helpfulness of such a device hinges on the attitudes and willingness of custodial staff to reduce harm. Regularly, those witness claims are debunked by evidence (or general lack thereof), or investigations that fail to call key witnesses or gather appropriate evidence - with no penalties or systemic & internal pressure for reform.}
The Australian media is affluent and powerful and has the resources to scrutinize the credibility of government spin about a suspect (but seldom does). Keep in mind, however, that mostly, Australia's journalists are so poorly treated and overworked that realistically they have no capacity to function in a legally or ethically defensible manner. Such poor OHS conditions further strengthen govt 'propaganda', which can stay unchallenged & unquestioned for decades - sometimes, forever. 

Now I know those of my readers who are big-media-naysayers will be thinking that 'propaganda' seems like a lofty, grandiose, inaccessible term - 'spin' is used more frequently. But, 'spin' doesn't really convey the life-shattering impact of untruths when they're propelled from official mouths for the purposes of gaining political mileage. {If you need it explained in accessible terms MSM ppl, then read Richard Flanagan.} 'Propaganda'/'spin' can take the micro-form of an unofficial comment from a detective, speaking out of turn to a favoured police-rounds-reporter to bias a court; or, at the other end of the scale, it can take the form of powerful official policies and statements providing strategic misinformation/disinformation. Either way, the negative impact of this is not just on one individual scapegoat - some poor sucker who has his/her life turned upside down - the considerably more serious and insidious impact, is on the public & the safeguards we have, to ensure just outcomes & an independent judiciary. 

Government resistance to accurate truths empowering media consumers and the public, can be seen in the unduly harsh punishments and witchhunts aimed at whistleblowers. One of the methods commonly used to gag whistleblowers, is detention. Whistleblower legislation in Australia, jails journalists for equal/longer than classified government whistleblowers - presenting another example of a govt agenda that manipulates the type of information made available to the public. 

Since 'Cablegate' 'high-profile' mainstream journalists are targeted by defamation, intimidation & jail, whereas previously, that flak had been mostly reserved for independent journalists, who had refused to tow the government propaganda line. When freelance journalist, Avon Lovell, unearthed tax documents proving numerous prostitutes were paying money to the state's chief detective - presumably as part of a protection racket - those documents were subsequently supplied by a journalist at The West Australian, to the local police. The police protected the corrupt police chief, but facilitated the jailing of Lovell, by colleagues from the Australian Federal Police. Eventually, he was released and compensated (Litany of Lies, 2011). He is not the only journo to be jailed in Australia, and history proves that scrutinizing corrupt police is yet another OHS hazard for media.

Negative, defamatory or prejudicial media depictions create a reactionary response. The resultant 'fear of crime', in turn, creates a public need that has to be addressed, politically, and then, politicians benefit from this media circus by appearing to be 'tough on crime' - all of which, probably, did not exist in the first place, or was exaggerated to sell news. Each generation of media consumers has its bad guys, or a small range of stereotyped 'baddies'. To make it easier for readers to recognize - this type of everyday, common 'propaganda' will use sexy, marketable catch phrases that are chronically simplified, shameful or fear inducing, and they are streamlined to create a permanent public 'branding' of an individual, minority or group. 

As the dollar is king in the media market, the best way to stop unethical, corrupt media practices that hurt and divide the community, is simply by not buying or consuming news from a media outlet that you think is manipulating their content, being racist, or not treating people fairly. People who are labelled as 'bad guys' and suspects in the news - in fact, all people named in news, have a legal right to comment in that story - so, if you see a story that trash talks someone, & shows their photo, or says they're bad people, etc, etc, but then does NOT allow them to have a say, or defend themselves, then readers can be pretty sure that they're reading 'spin', or 'propaganda'.  ###

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Reconciliation week: Echoes of Stolen Generations

Having researched contemporary and past historic cases of unlawful child removal by the government - past and present, one of the things that remains consistent in that data, is the complete lack of transparency of individual workers, who can act unlawfully, with total impunity.

DCP's claims of 'neglect' can be flexuously wielded as means of racial dominance, in what is the equivalent of authoritarian napalm.

Racism is an ugly, vile thing to witness and it is the very last thing that should ever slip through, in shortfalls in government accountability measures.

Historically, In Australia, documents were systematically destroyed to protect the criminal and sadistic actions of government workers. This occurred even though paedophiles were knowingly embedded within government departments like the Department of Child Welfare. Thus, this renders even the non-offending executives of DCW , accomplices via complicity & inaction.

Through researching cases from more recent times, I have been privy to the bureaucratic side-stepping of media enquiries relating to the placement of ATSI children with non-indigenous carers - which is, contrary to the law.

Pursuant to the Stolen Generations and Forgotten Australians eras, strict policy dictates that Aboriginal children must be placed with Indigenous carers, if they must be removed from their families.

In the case that no Indigenous carers are available then equally strict protocols require the children to be educated and socialized in relation to their heritage.

Despite easily demonstrated cases of the Department of Children Protection (a tragically ironic title, all things considered) not complying with its own policy in this regard, and, in doing so causing evident physical suffering in children subsequently neglected in care - DCP point-blank refuses to account for their non-adherence to the laws that govern their own actions.

Repeatedly in WA a lack of internal and independent disciplinary measures facilitate human rights abuses against black minorities. There is no pressure for reform from Australia's mainstream media, and so no reform results and people continue to suffer.

This authoritarian response (in the clip below) to Indigenous protest on the national day of reconciliation with Indigenous people, clearly demonstrates the unique political dichotomy that exists here between the public, and unaccountable government departments.

One of the few constitutional rights Australians do have is a right to protest.

The police in this You Tube clip and possibly those who ordered them to storm in and arrest mothers and grandmothers, are perhaps not so aware of Australia's constitution.

Is it an unreasonable expectation on the part of the voting public, that people employed to work in government positions actually know the laws and policies that they are meant to abide by? Or that they are familiar with those rules they're meant to use to govern? They should at least know what is private and public property, shouldn't they?

Just as usual, really excellent & challenging independent journalism work here from GLW & Alex Bainbridge.

##NB In Australia, 'sorry' not only speaks of reconciliation (that is the context it was used in, when the National Apology to the Stolen Generations occurred) 'sorry', also relates to sadness, loss and grieving. It's a term that is used among Aboriginal First Nation Peoples here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

'Sorry' seems to be the hardest word - ##NB Warning - there are images of deceased persons at the end of this post

Why is 'sorry' more relevant today than every before? 'Sorry' really isn't about just yesterday. It isn't just about the Stolen Generations anymore. It is quite a complex thing to understand - it's about today, & what we allow to happen in our society, today.

##NB Warning - be aware if you scroll down the page, that there are names and images of deceased persons, towards the end of this post

Today, poor mental health, anxiety, depression and self-harm are very prevalent. But instead of paying for appropriate Aboriginal organizations to administer support and healing services, the government channels its funds into non-indigenous bodies that alienate people from their understanding of their own identities. Groups that can help, don't get the funds. This leads to escapism through a variety of measures and imprisonment instead of getting help to get sorted out.

This is a photo from Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation, which provides help for those in crisis

In a court case last year the WA Supreme Court sided with the government, and refused to compensate a family who was tortured and traumatized by government racists who stole the children.

Most Stolen Generation documentation was destroyed by the government, but it is needed if you want to go through the non-indigenous court process, successfully.

Glenys Collard fought a long hard battle to
have injustices that were committed to her family,
recognized in the WA Supreme Court
- image copyright
The government offered $45k to children who had been abducted and abused by its staff, via the Redress WA Scheme. When the government changed hands however, they halved the amount of compensation. The application process was traumatic, and the revocation of promised funds was demeaning and a shock to those who had already disclosed their worst nightmares, in trust.
Redress WA protest 2011 - image copyright

Like so many before him, Kevin Spratt, was tortured in both police and prison custody.
The mentally-ill man has continually struggled with homelessness.Though he has been
rearrested twice since the Corruption and Crime Commission proved he was tortured
and wrongfully convicted, poverty and mental illness have been ongoing factors in his 
re-imprisonment. The media, and the police hierarchy, have raised repeatedly that
because he has a record, it lessens his right to safe treatment in custody.
This is contrary to the law.

Taser torture victim, Kevin Spratt, at the Rally for Humaneness, 2011 -image copyright

An Aboriginal mines worker was stabbed to death by a non-indigenous man, in a back alley, in Perth's nightclub district. Though the man had three dozen outstanding charges for theft (held over for more than two years), he alleged the black mines worker was robbing him. He was found not guilty of manslaughter. The three dozen theft charges were only heard after the manslaughter trial. Under Australian law, the Supreme Court that was hearing the manslaughter trial was not permitted to know that the man had given a statement to police stating that he had a condition that made him steal. No other journalists followed up the theft charges, but a story I wrote, got cut to ribbons by a non-indigenous media boss, and prevented adequate transparency of the matter.

'Uncle' Ben Taylor addresses the CHOGM Rally, 2011, image copyright
The office of the Inspector of Custodial Services of WA told the WA Parliament that the state's only juvenile detention centre needed fixing, in every possible way. It cost too much to fix and nothing was done to make the place more inhabitable. When the children got angry and rioted, they were punished by being sent to an adult men's prison. To make it safe, Corrective Services put up a wire fence between the units. Media who reported fairly on the case were hounded, those who reported favourably were given on-site press access to say how good the arrangement was for the kids. When it went to court for a judicial review, Corrections said the kids had 'kids stuff' to keep them distracted from being in an adult jail. It later emerged that none of those distractions were available & the courts began shortening sentences to compensate for the inappropriate detention facilities.

Protesters lost a brother, uncle, dad and friend in police
presence. He had no record of violence but died covered in bruises.
Evidence contradicted police testimony,
but nothing was done about it
- image copyright

Veronnica died in prison custody. Police didn't even know how long she was in their lock-up cells, and neither police nor corrections cared that she had special medical needs when they locked her up in a men's jail. She was found hanging, but the last four people to see her alive, who entered her cell late at night, never had to give evidence at her inquest.