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Australian civil servants ordered to fink on colleagues who criticize gov't online

Australia's far-right crybaby government is so terrified of civil servants criticizing its policies that it has ordered government employees to snitch on any colleagues who breathe an unhappy word about the politicians of the day online, even if the criticism is anonymous, because it is "unprofessional." Civil servants are also banned from editing Wikipedia in ways that make politicians and their policies look bad.

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Chinese censor prosecuted for taking bribes to censor remarks companies and government officials disliked

Censorship invites abuse. In China, the widespread practice of Internet censorship means that lots of people are authorized to hand down censorship orders and lots more people naturally turn to censorship when something on the Internet bugs them. This week, Chinese authorities prosecuted an "Internet policeman" who took payments from companies in return for censoring unfavorable remarks about them on social media. He's accused of censoring more than 2,500 posts in return for over $300K in payments. He also collaborated with another official to censor critical remarks about government officials. It seems unlikely that Gu, the Internet policeman who was arrested, and Liu, his collaborator, were the only two censors-for-hire in the Chinese system.

Lest you think that this problem is uniquely Chinese, consider that when Wikileaks leaked the Great Firewall of Australia's blacklist, we learned that more the half the sites on the list didn't meet the censorship criteria. And when the Danish and Swedish blacklists were analyzed, it emerged that more than 98 percent of the sites blocked did not meet the official criteria for censorship. And in the UK, the national firewall once blocked all of Wikipedia.

China Prosecuted Internet Policeman In Paid Deletion Cases

Julia Gillard's epic anti-sexist Parliamentary speech set to music

In this video, Australian Voices, a choral group, sets former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's epic anti-misogynist Parliamentary speech to music, doing a rather beautiful job of it.

"Not Now, Not Ever!" (Gillard Misogyny Speech) (Thanks, Karen!)

Australian attorney general wants the power to launch man-in-the-middle attacks on secure Internet connections


The Australian attorney general has mooted a proposal to require service providers to compromise their cryptographic security in order to assist in wiretaps. The proposal is given passing mention in a senate submission from the AG's office, where it is referenced as "intelligibility orders" that would allow "law enforcement, anti-corruption and national security agencies" to secure orders under which providers like Google, Facebook and Yahoo would have to escrow their cryptographic keys with the state in order to facilitate mass surveillance.

Edward Snowden referenced this possibility in his SXSW remarks, pointing out that any communications that are decrypted by service providers are vulnerable to government surveillance, because governments can order providers to reveal their keys. This is why Snowden recommended the use of "end-to-end" security, where only the parties in the discussion -- and not the software vendor -- have the ability to spy on users.

The "intelligibility order" is the same kind of order that led to the shutdown of Lavabit, the secure email provider used by Snowden, whose creator shut the service down rather than compromising his users' security.

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Australian Green Senator tears Tony Abbott and neoliberalism a new one

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a terrible world leader among terrible world leaders: a xenophobic bigot and homophobe, committed to resource extraction economies and the destruction of social programs, who denies climate change. He's planning a visit to the state of Western Australia, and to send him off, WA Green Party Senator Scott Ludlam gave him some campaign advice -- and hope for people who despair of a world grounded in something other than kleptocratic corporatism. This is no Julia Gillard rant, but it's in the same league. Say what you will about Australian politics, they do love a fine rant.

Neoliberalism Dressing-Down: Australian Senator Ludlam on Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Surfing crocodile

Enjoying the crest of a wave, this crocodile shut down Cable Beach near Broome, Western Australia, one of the country's most popular tourist hotspots. The animal has been slated for removal to the nearby Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Park. [Perth Now via Abroath]

NSA authorized Australian wiretapping of US law firms in trade-dispute

A new Snowden leak, "SUSLOC (Special US Liaison Office Canberra) Facilitates Sensitive DSD Reporting on Trade Talks," details how the NSA mentored and oversaw Australian spies, and sanctioned their surveillance a of US law firm representing the nation of Indonesia in a trade dispute with Australia. The NSA and their Australian counterparts have captured the master keys for Telkomsel, the Indonesian carrier, and have total access to its communications. It's more evidence that mass surveillance and Internet wiretaps are about economic espionage more than national security -- and more evidence that the NSA is a lawless organization with no respect for foundational principles like attorney-client privilege. Cory 17

Australian government to dump 3,000,000 cubic meters of dredged sea-bottom on the Great Barrier Reef


In December, the Australian government approved a plan by India's Adani Group to expand a coal port, and now the government's given the go-ahead to dump the 3,000,000 cubic meters of muck that will be dredged for the project onto the struggling Great Barrier Reef. The GBR, which is a World Heritage Site, is already officially classed in "poor" health, and the ocean floor around it will now be smothered with vast amounts of waste, destroying fragile habitats and crippling a key player in the world's ocean ecology. The Australian government says that the reef will not suffer as a result, but independent scientists who investigated the question firmly disagree.

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Victorian Transport Department calls cops on 16 year old for reporting bug that exposed customers' personal data

Last month, around Christmas, a sixteen-year-old Australian named Joshua Rogers living in Victoria told the Transport Department that its Metlink website was exposing the sensitive details of over 600,000 transit users, including "full names, addresses, home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, and a nine-digit extract of credit card numbers."

He waited two weeks, but after he had not heard from Metlink -- and as the data exposure was ongoing -- he went to the national newspaper The Age, who called the Transport Department for comment. Whereupon the Transport Department called the police, who arrested the teenager.

It may be that the mistake that exposed all this sensitive data was an "honest" one -- after all, there's no experimental methodology for verifying security apart from telling people what you're doing and asking them to poke holes in it. Security is a process, not a product.

But that means that anyone who keeps sensitive public information on hand has a duty to take bug reports about vulnerabilities seriously, and to act on them quickly. Killing (or arresting) the messenger is absolutely unforgivable, not merely because of the injustice to this one person, but because it creates a chilling effect on all future bug-reporters, and not just for your service, but for all of them.

The Transport Department hasn't only unjustly punished an innocent person; it hasn't only weakened its own security; it hasn't only failed in its duty to its customers -- it has struck a blow against the very idea of security itself, and harmed us all.

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Australians ask their government for humane refugee treatment for Christmas


Australian Asher Wolf's taken to the Guardian to explain why her family is spending Christmas petitioning for humane refugee treatment from the Australian government. Wolf enumerates the conditions under which Australia keeps refugees in its off-shore camps -- conditions that Amenesty considers to be torture, conditions where basic sanitation and health-care are denied to families fleeing war, torture and death threats. Deprived of the shoes, hearing aids, and medicine they managed to smuggle out of their own countries, these refugees, including children, are denied sufficient water, exposed to malaria and TB, and are brutalized into suicide attempts. Gay detainees are sent to camps in PNG, where homosexuality is illegal. Orphans get it even worse -- though the immigration minister Scott Morrison is their legal guardian, these children are left with no one to advocate for them.

According to the UN High Commission on Refugees, the Australian government is spending 1000% more torturing and detaining migrants than it would spend on "community processing" on the mainland. But wasting money on cruelty curries favour with racist voters, so it is the preferred option. For now. But, perhaps, not if Australians in great number write to the minister to explain that his cynical games with innocent human lives will cost him more votes than they win.

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Cory coming to Melbourne next week for four events

I'm heading to Melbourne, Australia next week to do a series of events with the Center for Youth Literature of the State Library of Victoria. I'm doing four events: The science of fiction, Creative versus Commons, Digital fiction masterclass, and Future fiction with teens. I hope you'll come out to them!

Police sued after horse drools on protestor

So goes the story, as Australia's tabloids have it, in their outrage-fueled denunciation of a frivolous lawsuit. Turns out, though, that the horse also crushed the guy's foot and kept him out of work for six weeks. How about that! [Adelaide Now] Rob 19

Dinosauric knit mitts


These dinosauric knit mittens were made by Etsy seller HotScones, who ships from Australia. $43.61 (US) a pair, plus shipping.

HotScones (via Laughing Squid)

Yip-Yip-Yip leggings


Australian tights makers Black Milk continue to plumb the depths of weird juxtaposition and tessellation with these Sesame Street Yip-Yip-Yip leggings, which retail for AUD85 plus S&H.

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Obit for a prolific newspaper site commenter

David sends us "An obituary for a prolific commenter on the Brisbanetimes.com.au news website. This nonagenarian only took to the internet in the last year or so and was prolific in the comments on the site. A touching tribute to a respected member of a community."

The person who commented under "Bob Menzies" was "a lifelong Queensland public servant" who been a member of the Liberal Party since 1950, and who wore a black suit to work every day of his working life.

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