Wednesday, 11 December 2019

What a backburn looked like in one section of a northern NSW mega fire, 8 December 2019:

2:26 pm December 8, 2019 

Photo perfectly captures firefighters' bravery 

Ally Foster 

A photo of three firefighters battling a blaze in NSW's north has earned praise from hundreds of social media users.
The picture shows National Parks and Wildlife Service fire fighters Matt McClelland, Ray Dayman and George Barrott-Brown working to backburn a fire in Washpool, near Grafton.

The men appear to be surrounded by flames as they face the blaze in front of them.

"Back burns are conducted as part of fire containment strategies, at the direction of the incident controller," the National Parks and Wildlife Service wrote on Facebook.
Picture: Kyle Gibson 
"While the photo gives the impression they are surrounded by fire, they are highly trained staff, working within safer burnt ground, with a clear path of retreat."
The incredible photo gained hundreds of comments, with many people thanking the men for their bravery.
"Just looks so overwhelming. You all do an amazing job, putting your own lives on the line to keep everyone else safe," one person said.
"You are all incredible and brave. Thanks for all your efforts," another wrote.
One added: "This photo taken by Kyle Gibson of a fire near Grafton NSW gets me choked up. The bravery of firefighters is unmeasurable."

165,000 “fake news” posts with 14.3 million interactions on 21 co-ordinated accounts that Facebook Inc. let slip by without close scrutiny

The Guardian, 6 December 2019:

The message from Israel arrived on an otherwise unremarkable afternoon for 36-year-old Beau Villereal.

At his family’s sprawling 42-acre property outside Live Oak in Florida’s rural north, Villereal sat alone in his bedroom trawling for news about Donald Trump to share on the rightwing Facebook  page he runs with his mother and father.

The messenger, who gave her name as Rochale, asked Villereal to make her an editor of Pissed off Deplorables, a self-described “pro-America page” that feeds its thousands of followers a steady diet of pro-Trump, anti-Islam content.

I totally understand you,” she wrote. “I’m from Israel and this is ... really important to me to share the truth.

Please give me a chance for a day.”

About 1,000 miles north in Staten Island, New York City, Ron Devito was tapping away on his laptop to the 20,000 followers of his pro-Trump Facebook page, Making America 1st, when he received a similar message, this time from someone using the name Tehila.

She pitched to me that she was a good editor, she could provide some good content to increase likes and views on the page,” Devito told the Guardian. “Could I just give her a chance and let her post her stuff, right? So I figured, ‘What the heck, give it a shot’.”

Villereal and Devito weren’t the only ones. Over the past two years, a group of mysterious Israel-based accounts has delivered similar messages to the heads of at least 19 other far-right Facebook pages across the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, Austria, Israel and Nigeria.

A Guardian investigation  can reveal those messages were part of a covert plot to control some of Facebook’s largest far-right pages, including one linked to a rightwing terror group, and create a commercial enterprise that harvests Islamophobic hate for profit.

This group is now using its 21-page network to churn out more than 1,000 coordinated faked news posts per week to more than 1 million followers, funnelling audiences to a cluster of 10 ad-heavy websites and milking the traffic for profit.

The posts stoke deep hatred of Islam across the western world and influence politics in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US by amplifying far-right parties such as Australia’s One Nation and vilifying Muslim politicians such as the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, and the US congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

The network has also targeted leftwing politicians at critical points in national election campaigns. It posted false stories claiming the UK Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said Jews were “the source of global terrorism” and accused the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, of allowing “Isis to invade Canada”.

The revelations show Facebook has failed to stop clandestine actors from using its platform to run coordinated disinformation and hate campaigns. The network has operated with relative impunity even since Mark Zuckerberg’s apology to the US Senate following the Cambridge Analytica and Russian interference scandals.

When the Guardian notified Facebook of its investigation, the company removed several pages and accounts “that appeared to be financially motivated”, a spokesperson said in a statement.

These pages and accounts violated our policy against spam and fake accounts by posting clickbait content to drive people to off-platform sites,” the spokesperson said. “We don’t allow people to misrepresent themselves on Facebook and we’ve updated our inauthentic behaviour policy to further improve our ability to counter new tactics.”

But this comes too late for some of the network’s victims. Australia’s first female Muslim senator, Mehreen Faruqi, felt the full force of the network in August last year, when 10 of its pages launched coordinated posts inciting their 546,000 followers to attack her for speaking in parliament against racism….

It begins with a single post, curated by Israel-based administrators.
The post typically has an attention-grabbing headline and links to an article that mimics the style of a legitimate news story.

It employs a blend of distorted news and total fabrication to paint Muslims as sharia-imposing terrorists and child abusers, whose existence poses a threat to white culture and western civilisation.

It is then published almost simultaneously to the network’s 21 Facebook pages, which have a combined 1 million followers across the globe….

The Guardian conducted an analysis to confirm the extent of coordination across the network, checking where posts were identical in content and similar in publication time across different pages.

The network published 5,695 coordinated posts at its height in October 2019, receiving 846,424 likes, shares or comments in that month alone.

In total, the network has published at least 165,000 posts and attracted 14.3 million likes, shares or comments. The content is amplified further by other far-right Facebook pages, including those run by the rightwing UK Independence party (UKIP), who share it organically.

The posts link back to one of 10 near-identical websites masquerading as news sites with generic titles like “The Politics Online” and “Free Press Front”. Ad-heavy and poorly designed, the websites feature “stories” that usually combine slabs of copied text intermingled with unsourced opinion and graphic imagery.

Although Facebook Inc. asserts it removed several accounts it appears that only five account pages have been taken down and, even after the far-right network was outed by the newspaper a number of the “controlled” accounts are still displaying content.

The Guardian podcast with journalist who did the spadework is here.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Flashing hate symbols is not OK

Anti-Defamation League, media release, 26 September 2019:

The “OK” hand symbol – Begun as a hoax by members of the website 4chan, the OK symbol became a popular trolling tactic. By 2019, the symbol was being used in some circles as a sincere expression of white supremacy. Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant flashed the symbol during his March 2019 courtroom appearance soon after his arrest for allegedly murdering 50 people in mosques in Christchurch.

It's not just white terrorists or your garden variety right-wing racists who are flashing this hate sign - it looks suspiciously like public figures are also deciding it is fun to flash.

Here are two images and one video. A group photo which includes the Australian Prime Minister's wife on the far right (from a Liberal Party of Australia tweet), another of a Sky News broadcaster live on-air and, video of segment of Sky News program.
Twitter image

Snapshot taken from Twitter image
Image on Twitter 3 December 2019

Even the Australian Bureau of Meteorology rain radars are finding they are impacted by NSW bushfires

This tweet is from the Director of ABC News on 6 December 2019:

Monday, 9 December 2019

How brand names are faring in Australia in 2019 - best and worst list

Every year the Brand Institute releases its National Reputation Health Report which is a quantitative study of Australia’s 100 most recognisable companies, devised to measure the reputation of leading brands and companies with a presence in Australia.

The 2019 report is based on a survey of 2,000 respondents who views on brand image, operations, products and services, social responsibility, innovation, communication, financial performance and customer values are sought.

These are the overall brand rankings for 2019:
100 reputations in order of level of community respect9News, 5 December 2019

Top 10 Most Respected Company Reputations in Australia 2019

1. Google - technology
2. Bunnings - retail
3. Samsung - technology
4. Apple - technology
5. Qantas - airlines
6. Woolworths - grocery/supermarket
7. Microsoft - technology
8. Toyota - automative
9. Office Works - retail
10. RSPCA - charity/non-profit

Top 10 Least Respected Company Reputations in Australia 2019

1. Centrelink - services (at -29 this brand also comes third last when assessed for social responsibility & at -26 is considered the poorest run corporation)
2. Adani - natural resources
3. Tiger Airways - airlines
4. Monsanto - other
5. Malaysia Airways - airlines
6. Exxon - natural resources
7. EA Games - retail
8. dodo - telecommunications
9. Zara - retail
10. NBN - telecommunications

It is worth noting that media giant News Corp was the 15th least respected brand name in Australia

According to 9News, 5 December 2019:

In the battle of the retail giants, Woolworths in 6th beat Coles in 11th spot while Kmart came in at 19th ahead of Aldi in 20th......

Bendigo Bank took out 55th place before the big four was lead by Westpac in 56th, CBA 61st, ANZ 70th and NAB 73rd.

IGA was the only bank to place in the top half of the list, coming in 44th position.

But it was Centrelink who came in dead last position after a damaging year of revelations about its disastrous debt recovery program, known as robodebt.

Because the Morrison Government is dominated by closet climate change deniers Australia will soon have no friends in the South Pacific

First Prime Minister Scott Morrison's intransigent climate change denying cost Australia the goodwill of the smaller South Pacific islands.

Now his refusal to turn, face the facts of climate change and take meaningful action is highly likely to increase the severity of climate change impacts on our near neighbour and oldest regional ally, New Zealand.

The Times, 7 December 2019:

New Zealand’s retreating southern glaciers are facing a new threat: clouds of orange soot from bushfires in Australia. Scientists said that the ash which fell on the pristine snow this week from 1,200 miles away across the Tasman Sea could absorb more heat and melt snow faster this summer, as one climate disaster accelerates another.

Andrew Mackintosh, an expert on glaciers and climate at Monash University in Melbourne, said: “If it stays on the surface then it will certainly enhance melt. If fire frequency, ash and dust transport increase, there is a chance that this will hasten the demise of New Zealand glaciers.”

New Zealand has 3,173 glaciers, ranging in age from est. 18,000 years to est. 1.2 million years.

Around 8 February 2019 bushfire smoke from Tasmanian bushfires mixed with dust storm particles from the Australian mainland reached the south island of New Zealand, turning the surface area of affected glaciers pink.

By 10 November smoke was covering the entire south island and potentially dropping brown ash on up to 3,155 glaciers, with those affected glaciers now pinkish red.

On 11 November 2019 smoke from Australian bushfires potentially reached 18 glaciers in New Zealand's north island.

As the 2019 Australian east coast fire season is not expected to end before March if we are fortunate and June if we are not, in all probability New Zealand will experience more ash falls from across the Tasman Sea. 

Its citizens will be perfectly within their rights to shun Australia for its government's gross negligence.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Clarence Valley CWA branches doing their bit for firefighterd & bushfire victims

Grafton & South Grafton CWA branches are cooking for the firegrounds.

Clarence Valley Independent, 4 December 2019

The Maclean branch of the CWA has been busy sewing mittens and pouches for wildlife injured in the bushfires, using pure cotton and woollen materials donated by Clarence Valley residents.

Food Care at Good Intent Shopping Centre on Armidale Rd, South Grafton, which sells low cost food to those that need it, is also offering free of charge brand new clothing to fire victims. The store is open Wednesday, Thursday & Friday from 9am to 1pm.