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.

The North Coast Public Health Unit is urging people in Yamba NSW to look out for measles symptoms, after a resident contracted the infectious disease

Northern NSW Health District, community announcement, 6 December 2019:

Measles on the NSW North Coast – Yamba

The North Coast Public Health Unit is urging people in Yamba to look out for measles symptoms, after a resident contracted the infectious disease.
People who visited the following areas on these dates may have been exposed:
  • Thursday 28 November, Friday 29 November, Monday 2 December or Tuesday 3 December – anyone who travelled on bus routes 1, 2, or 4 in Yamba
  • Saturday, 30 November – Maclean Golf Course between 8.00am to 1.15pm
  • Saturday, 30 November – Yamba Fair Shopping Centre, including Coles, butchers, newsagent between 2.00pm to 3.00pm
  • Sunday, 1 December – Yamba Bowling Club between 5.30pm to 7.00pm
  • Tuesday, 3 December – Yamba Fair Shopping Centre around 4.00pm.
Acting Director of North Coast Public Health Unit, Greg Bell, said measles is highly infectious among people who are not fully immunised.
“Measles symptoms include fever; sore eyes, a cough, and a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head to the rest of the body,” Mr Bell said.
“Anyone who was in or has visited the locations listed should watch for symptoms until 21 December. These locations pose no ongoing risk to the public.
“It can take up to 18 days for symptoms to appear following exposure to a person with measles.
“If you develop symptoms of measles, please arrange to see your GP and phone ahead to alert them before arriving at the GP clinic.
Measles is highly contagious and is spread in the air through coughing or sneezing by someone who is unwell with the disease. Vaccination is your best protection against this extremely contagious disease.
The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is a safe and highly effective protection against measles, and is available for free for those born during and after 1966 from your GP.
“If you are unsure whether you have had two doses, it is safe to have another dose,” Mr Bell said.
Protecting children from potentially deadly diseases is a key priority for the NSW Government, which has invested approximately $130 million in the 2019-20 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.
For more information on measles, visit: 
[my yellow highlighting]

Friday, 6 December 2019

As major fires across the Clarence Valley drag on into the fourth month, Harwood Hotel is offering a free community breakfast for locals on Saturday, 7 December 2019

The Daily Examiner, 5 December 2019:

For more details phone Harwood Hotel on (02) 6646.4223.

When going straight to source documents when doing research applies to critics as well as authors

This article below demonstrates the advisability of going straight to source documents when doing research on a particular subject.

Not what an author 'quoted' or 'attributed' but to the actual extant documents.

Then go to other reliable contemporary accounts from the era in question, before deciding if the modern historian, amatuer historian, journalist, commentator or blogger has accurately conveyed facts.

Something Andrew Bolt appears not to have done.

When it comes to ancestry a good many people do not know the real whens and wheres of their family history, some know part of their family story and a very lucky few can count their line back by name across many generations.

In Australia finding out about your ancestry is as complicated by missing documents, unexplained name changes, unregistered births, unrecorded burials, adoption or removal by the state, divorce and family silences, as anywhere else in the world.

It is not uncommon to only find out some facts about your family once you are an adult.

If Bruce Pascoe says that on doing family research he discovered he has a forebear or forebears who were traditional owners/custodians of land in Australia why would I not take him at his word?

The Saturday Paper, 30 November 2019:

There is one particular question Andrew Bolt does not wish to answer.
In correspondence with The Saturday Paper, the News Corp columnist was asked three times whether he has read Bruce Pascoe’s best-selling history of Aboriginal Australia, Dark Emu. Each time, he evaded the question.
It is useful, then, to start an examination of his attacks on the author with this in mind.
A more inconvenient truth is that Bolt’s dislike of Pascoe began at least two years before the publication of the book, which has now become the focus of a minor culture war led by Bolt and others.
Bolt’s efforts to “fact-check” Pascoe’s book are based largely around a website called Dark Emu Exposed.
The site’s contributors cast doubt on Pascoe’s account of an Indigenous history different from the one allowed by colonial interpretation. They also doubt his Aboriginal heritage.
As one prominent Indigenous leader tells The Saturday Paper, on the condition of anonymity, the argument against Pascoe’s work is an extension of “19th-century race theory”, which once espoused the view that race is the major indicator of a person’s character and behaviour.
“Any suggestion that Aborigines are anything other than furtive rock apes has to be destroyed by these people,” the leader says.

Pascoe’s book is based on close reading of the original journals of Australia’s explorers. In these journals, he has found new evidence of Indigenous agriculture and development. As the Indigenous leader notes: “He’s gone to the records and said, ‘Hang on, what does this really mean?’ While some historians with their PhDs have gone to the same original documents and came to the conclusion that we were all backward.”
In Dark Emu, which has sold more than 100,000 copies, Pascoe mounts a convincing argument that Aboriginal people actively managed and cultivated the landscape, harvested seeds for milling into cakes at an astonishing scale, took part in complex aquaculture and built “towns” of up to 1000 people.
That word, by the way – “town” – is not Pascoe’s. That is how one such settlement was referred to by a man in the exploration party of Thomas Mitchell in the mid-1800s.
What some have found so astonishing about Pascoe’s claimed developments is not that they happened – they are right there in Charles Sturt’s and Mitchell’s journals, among many others – but that we, as a nation, could have been so ignorant to their existence.
As Pascoe wrote last year in Meanjin: “Almost no Australians know anything about the Aboriginal civilisation because our educators, emboldened by historians, politicians and the clergy, have refused to mention it for 230 years.
“Think for a moment about the extent of that fraud. Imagine the excellence of the advocacy required to get our most intelligent people today to believe it.”
It is Pascoe’s attempt to shout down this conspiracy of silence that has primed the culture war machine. But why should a successful race of First Nations peoples be such a threat to modern Australians?
The most compelling answer to this question is that it removes a psychological shunt in the mind of European settlers and their descendants that this occupation, this invasion of land unceded, was to save Indigenous people from themselves, to bring civilisation to them.
Of course, it is uncomfortable to later ask: What if this race of First Australians were civilised all along? Maybe we were the barbarians?
Pascoe achieves this questioning with a somewhat controversial manoeuvre. He takes the European ideal of farming and architecture, and thoroughly white notions of success, and applies them, through the primary evidence, to Indigenous Australians.
Asked why he is offended by Pascoe’s assertion of complex farming and settlements built by First Nations peoples, Bolt said he is not.
“So, to answer your insult: I am not ‘offended’ by the thought of Aborigines being ‘well-adapted’ or ‘sophisticated’. How on earth would that be offensive to me? I in fact am determined to change policies and thinking that hold back so many Aboriginal communities that are now in poverty,” he said in a lengthy correspondence with The Saturday Paper.
“I am simply interested in the truth, and opposed to falsehoods … If I’m ‘offended’ by anything it is frauds......

The agitation surrounding Dark Emu, renewed by the announcement of an ABC documentary, has quickly driven a stake through the recently formed advisory group on the co-design for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. The group is chaired by Indigenous academic Marcia Langton, a defender of Pascoe’s, and counts Chris Kenny as a member.
Last week, Ken Wyatt, who established the group as minister for Indigenous Australians, backed Pascoe against the conservative onslaught and noted that Australians tend to “question if you are Indigenous”.
“If Bruce tells me he’s Indigenous, then I know that he’s Indigenous,” Wyatt told Kenny on Sky News.
This week, Wyatt told ABC’s Radio National that his office has been receiving calls where staff have been threatened and called “cunts” because he dared defend Pascoe.
“I’ve had one of my staff resign because she can’t cope with being abused over the issue,” he said.
Another of the co-design group’s members, Indigenous lawyer Josephine Cashman, has publicly questioned Pascoe’s ancestry. On Twitter, she stated that her former partner is a Yuin man who says he has never heard of Pascoe. Other Yuin people responded on Twitter, cautioning Cashman for relying on a single man’s testimony.
A week ago, Kenny wrote in The Australian: “Many claims in Dark Emu have been debunked by forensic reference to primary sources.”
But this week The Saturday Paper spent two days at the National Library of Australia reviewing the original documents and explorer accounts in question. They are – at every instance – quoted verbatim and cited accordingly in an extensive bibliography at the end of Pascoe’s book.
Bolt alleges: “They even overlooked the fact that his big hit – Dark Emu – included incredible misquotations of its sources.
“How else could Pascoe have argued that the historians had been wrong. Aborigines had not been hunter-gatherers but sophisticated farmers, living in ‘towns’ of up to 1000 people, in ‘houses’ with ‘pens’ for animals. (Koalas, perhaps?)”
It would take many thousands of words to address all of Bolt’s claims, but it is useful to highlight a few of them. The Saturday Paper put these claims to Bolt.
For example, he says that Pascoe tells the story of Sturt stumbling onto a town of 1000 people on the edge of the Cooper Creek. Dark Emu does not claim this; it instead quotes Sturt correctly on this front, when his party is taken in by “3 or 400 natives” in the area. Bolt says he was referring to a speech Pascoe made where he said there were 1000 people in the town.
Thomas Mitchell also noted a town of 1000 people in his journals, and the quote is attributed to Mitchell in Dark Emu at the bottom of page 15.
Bolt, when he does reference Mitchell, gets the date of that quotation wrong, too. He says it is from Mitchell’s 1848 journal when, in fact, the quote is from his 1839 journal. This, too, is recorded faithfully in Dark Emu.
Bolt has twice scoffed at the idea of animal yards being found by these explorers.
But Dark Emu records the firsthand account of David Lindsay on his 1883 survey of Arnhem Land, where he says he “came on the site of a large native encampment, quite a quarter of a mile across. Framework of several large humpies, one having been 12ft high: small enclosures as if some small game had been yarded and kept alive … This camp must have contained quite 500 natives.”
In reply, Bolt says: “Maybe they were animal pens, who knows?
“Arnhem Land has, after all, more game than Cooper Creek that might at a stretch be kept in a pen, although it is difficult to imagine what animals might have been kept. Wallabies?”
Again, Bolt says he is not so much quoting from Pascoe’s book as from his lectures, of which the author has done hundreds since Dark Emu’s 2014 release.
However, Bolt frequently conflates the two.
While Bolt mocks Pascoe for speaking at a lecture about a well that was made by Indigenous people and was “70 feet deep”, there are, in fact, a litany of accounts of incredibly sophisticated wells in the journals. Of one, Sturt writes: “… we arrived at a native well of unusual dimensions. It was about eight feet wide at the top and 22ft deep, and it was a work that must have taken the joint strength of a powerful tribe to perform.”
In his rebuttal, the Herald Sun columnist has been forced to accept there were incredibly sophisticated settlements and seed-milling operations, and that Aboriginal people really did give cake and honey and roast ducks to Sturt and his party. The debate has now been reduced to minutiae – questioning how many mills were going and the different depth of various wells.
Bolt responds: “Trust you to attempt to make this about me and not his incredible claims.”
But Pascoe is not alone in his assessments.
Writing in Inside Story this week, Australian National University professor of history Tom Griffiths lauded the book and its addition to a long trajectory of scholarly work.
“My point is that the blindnesses and complacencies that Pascoe rails against are the same silences and lies that Australian historians have been collaboratively challenging for decades now,” he says.
“It’s a job that will never finish. Pascoe is primarily bridling at an older form of history, the history he learnt at school and university 50 years ago.”
Edie Wright, the chair of Magabala Books, which published Dark Emu, told The Saturday Paper: “We unequivocally support our outstanding author Bruce Pascoe, and celebrate the contribution that Dark Emu has made to bringing a fuller understanding of our history to so many Australians of all ages.”
On Wednesday, Marcia Langton replied to Josephine Cashman on Twitter. The two were previously close.
“The critique of Dark Emu is a job for actual historians not Andrew Bolt & others who benefit financially from tearing apart the lives of people looking for family,” she said.
Looking for family has taken on a mournful quality this week, as Pascoe’s kin went to libraries around the country to find the name of their Aboriginal ancestor. But how to proceed, one must ask, when so much of their story and the story of a people has been destroyed to protect the last excuse for colonisation?
Read the full article here.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 30, 2019 as "Bolt, Pascoe and the culture wars". Subscribe to The Saturday Paper here.


The website Dark Emu Exposed appears to be hosted by, was created on 2019-06-01 and registered to Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 0154877432 as the creator/owner/administrator of the website apparently wishes to remain anonymous. However Roger Karge is reportedly the person who initiallly floated the idea for the site.

One has to wonder if the website is also the work of aquaintances of Keith Windshuttle, Chris Kenny, Peter O'Brien or even Andrew Bolt himself.