An America where the free markets regulate themselves

Some of you will shudder at this next line, and some of you will applaud. I want you to picture an America without government regulations on the private sector. An America where companies of all stripes, from the smallest hardware store to the biggest oil conglomerate, were given completely free reign to run their businesses however they wanted, making up their own rules along the way. I want you to imagine a world where the markets regulated themselves, wholly and fully, without any intervention whatsoever from local, State, or Federal government. If your imagination is struggling to draw a picture here, allow me to paint one for you — via

DNS Filtering Bill Riles Tech Experts, Hacktivists

A bill moving through the US Senate that would grant the government greater power to shutter Web sites that host copyright-infringing content is under fire from security researchers, who say the legislation raises serious technical and security concerns. Meanwhile, hacktivists protested by attacking the Web site of the industry group that most actively supports the proposal

Live cattle exports to some abattoirs suspended

The federal government has suspended exports of live cattle to a number of killing facilities in Indonesia following last night’s exposure of brutal practices in some of the country’s abattoirs.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said the decision was based on footage collected by Animals Australia that showed cattle being mistreated before slaughter.

I have decided to halt the trade of live animals to the facilities identified by the footage, he said in a statement today — via

Tortured youngster becomes rallying point for Syrians

His head was swollen, purple and disfigured. His body was a mess of welts, cigarette burns and wounds from bullets fired to injure, not kill. His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off.

What finally killed him was not clear, but it appeared painfully, shockingly clear that he had suffered terribly during the month he spent in Syrian custody.

Hamza Ali al-Khateeb was only 13 years old — via

Google’s Wallet won’t open for Australia

Google Wallet is currently in a field test in the US only, a spokesperson from Google Australia said. We don’t have specific dates to announce today but will keep you posted as we make progress.

Now sure, we know this is only a trial, but as we’ve previously noted several times, Google’s continual US focus — and the fact that some of the products and services which it launches never end up coming to Australia, where the search giant has a large presence — has started to grate a bit. And as we’ve been discussing this week, Australia is a very enthusiastic early adopter of both smartphones with nice NFC chips, as well as the Mastercard PayPass system which Google is using for Wallet — via

Against Learned Helplessness

Unemployment is a terrible scourge across much of the Western world. Almost 14 million Americans are jobless, and millions more are stuck with part-time work or jobs that fail to use their skills. Some European countries have it even worse: 21 percent of Spanish workers are unemployed.

Nor is the situation showing rapid improvement. This is a continuing tragedy, and in a rational world bringing an end to this tragedy would be our top economic priority.

Yet a strange thing has happened to policy discussion: on both sides of the Atlantic, a consensus has emerged among movers and shakers that nothing can or should be done about jobs. Instead of a determination to do something about the ongoing suffering and economic waste, one sees a proliferation of excuses for inaction, garbed in the language of wisdom and responsibility.

So someone needs to say the obvious: inventing reasons not to put the unemployed back to work is neither wise nor responsible. It is, instead, a grotesque abdication of responsibility — via

Salvadoran officers indicted over 1989 Jesuit killings

A judge in Spain has ordered the arrest of 20 military officers from El Salvador for the 1989 killing of six Jesuit priests and two women.

The priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were shot dead by soldiers during El Salvador’s civil war.

The case was filed using Spain’s universal jurisdiction law, which holds that some crimes are so grave that they can be tried anywhere.

Among those indicted are two former defence ministers — via

Top Scientologist accused of perverting course of justice

One of the Church of Scientology’s most senior figures, Jan Eastgate, has been arrested and charged in Sydney.

She has been charged with perverting the course of justice in relation to allegations she coached an 11-year-old girl to lie to police and community services about the sexual abuse she suffered from her stepfather who was a member of the Church of Scientology — via

Logical punctuation: Should we start placing commas outside quotation marks?

For at least two centuries, it has been standard practice in the United States to place commas and periods inside of quotation marks. This rule still holds for professionally edited prose: what you’ll find in Slate, the New York Times, the Washington Post—almost any place adhering to Modern Language Association (MLA) or AP guidelines. But in copy-editor-free zones—the Web and emails, student papers, business memos—with increasing frequency, commas and periods find themselves on the outside of quotation marks, looking in. A punctuation paradigm is shifting.

Indeed, unless you associate exclusively with editors and prescriptivists, you can find copious examples of the “outside” technique—which readers of Virginia Woolf and The Guardian will recognize as the British style—no further away than your Twitter or Facebook feed. I certainly can — via

Slagging and bagging Blanchett

These days the pretence of fair play is all but gone. The default position of the Opposition is to smear and traduce anyone who has the temerity to disagree with them or express any sympathy with a government policy. One wonders what Joyce would have said if Blanchett’s name was Gina Hancock. You suspect her free enterprise spirit and entrepreneurial flair would have been proclaimed loudly and long.

The dumbed-down populism of the tabloid press is nothing new but it has about it now a vehemence and viciousness that can still surprise, especially in its casual, off-hand dismissal of an Australian citizen’s right to speak her mind — via

Policeman shot in face fighting for life

A police officer is fighting for his life in hospital after being shot in the face during an armed hold-up on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Senior Constable Damian Leeding, 34, from Coomera was responding to a triple-0 call at the Pacific Pines Tavern when he was shot in the face as he approached the tavern — via

SKA bid looks to SkyNet for computing

Key players behind the Australian-New Zealand joint bid to host the $2.1 billion Square Kilometre Array radio telescope will launch a grid Cloud computing initiative by September with the aim of potentially harvesting the computing and storage power of desktops worldwide.

The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), along with iVEC, the company running the $80 million high performance computing Pawsey Centre at CSIRO in Western Australia, are set to launch a citizen science application this year based on the open source Nereus V Cloud computing technology developed at Oxford University. The application, dubbed theskynet by Australian researchers, would grant anyone not affiliated with the global telescope project access to the datasets formed out of the array’s work — via

US enables Chinese hacking of Google

Google made headlines when it went public with the fact that Chinese hackers had penetrated some of its services, such as Gmail, in a politically motivated attempt at intelligence gathering. The news here isn’t that Chinese hackers engage in these activities or that their attempts are technically sophisticated — we knew that already — it’s that the US government inadvertently aided the hackers.

In order to comply with government search warrants on user data, Google created a backdoor access system into Gmail accounts. This feature is what the Chinese hackers exploited to gain access — via

China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work

As a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp, Liu Dali would slog through tough days breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. By night, he would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells.

Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for illegally petitioning the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do — via

UN rights chief slams racist Australia

The United Nations’s top human rights watchdog has attacked Australia’s tough refugee policies and the treatment of outback Aborigines, saying there was a strong undercurrent of racism in the country.

Long-standing policies of locking up asylum seekers had cast a shadow over Australia’s human rights record, and appeared to be completely arbitrary, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said — via

Brazilian Amazon activist and wife ambushed and killed

A prominent Brazilian conservationist and his wife have been killed in the Amazon region, police have said.

They said Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espirito Santo were ambushed in Para state, near the city of Maraba.

The environmentalist had repeatedly warned of death threats against him by loggers and cattle ranchers — via

30,000 Twitter users could face legal action over gag breaches

The attempt to use super-injunctions to gag the media in the internet age reached new levels of absurdity yesterday.

A Scottish newspaper became the first mainstream British publication to identify the Premier League footballer who is attempting to prevent discussion on Twitter about his affair with the former Big Brother star Imogen Thomas. Meanwhile it was reported that a High Court judge had referred an unidentified journalist to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, to consider a criminal prosecution for breaching a privacy injunction with a tweet about another footballer.

The move could potentially mean that criminal proceedings would be brought against 30,000 people who have broken one or other of the contested injunctions by tweeting in recent days the identities of those involved — via

Pay ruling a milestone for women

In the most significant women’s pay decision in nearly 40 years, the workplace tribunal has ruled that gender was a key factor in the low pay of tens of thousands of social and community workers.

But the decision by the full bench of Fair Work Australia held off in giving large pay rises, saying it wanted further submissions into how much gender had inhibited wages growth’ among the mostly female workforce of about 150,000 people, who include mental health, social and youth workers employed by non-government groups such as UnitingCare, Mission Australia and the Salvation Army — via

Counting the cost of immigration detention

Next year (2011-12) the Government will spend $709 million in asylum seeker detention and related costs. This is up $147 million on this year (2010-11) and amounts to about $90,000 for every asylum seeker that comes to Australia.

The abolition of mandatory detention of asylum seekers, which means mainly boat people, could save between $150 and $425 million per annum.

In chiding the Chinese about their human rights, Julia Gillard said that we believe (in human rights) … it is us. It’s an Australian value. How can she say this when we have 6,819 asylum seekers in detention in Australia who are entitled to our legal protection and hopefully, our compassion? — via

Fairfax journalist Ben Grubb arrested after reporting on Facebook privacy flaw

Police have admitted arresting a technology journalist covering an IT security conference after yesterday denying it.

The Queensland Police Media Unit last night flatly denied a claim by Fairfax journalist Ben Grubb that he was arrested at AusCERT in Surfers Paradise.

@bengrubb was not arrested. He was interviewed briefly by police, the unit said on Twitter, referencing Grubb’s handle on the website.

This morning the unit posted another update saying it had made a mistake.

“Our bad @bengrubb was arrested for questioning briefly Our tweet last night was based on information provided at the time Apologies (sic), it said — via

Twitter users track power outages in India

Electric power cuts in India are frequent and all over the country. But information on the extent of the problem has been largely anecdotal.

Now a volunteer group is working with a large number of Indian users of Twitter to create an infographic based on Twitter messages from various parts of the country, reporting power failures from various cities and towns — via

GSMA Slams Euro Call For Ban On Wireless In Schools

The ongoing debate over the supposed dangers posed by mobile phone usage and wireless signals has exploded once again. An influential European committee has called for a ban on mobile phones and Wi-Fi networks in schools – but industry body the GSM Association (GSMA) has denounced the report as an unbalanced political assessment, not a scientific report — via

Conversation with my daughter

Watching a report on asylum seekers on 7.30 tonight, one of our daughters spoke up unexpectedly: I don’t understand. Shouldn’t we help them? Why do they keep talking about how they should stop the boats?

Yes, we should help them, I said.

Then why do they want to stop the boats? What’s wrong with the boat people?

We tried to explain that there was nothing wrong with asylum seekers, that they were scared people who couldn’t live in their home countries any longer because of war or not being allowed to practise their religion. That sometimes they needed to leave so urgently that they made a risky trip in a boat halfway across the world to look for a country that would let them live there.

So we should help them, but why don’t people want them to come here? — via

God help the children

Enter the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union, that on Friday called for all monies going to ACCESS Ministries to be withdrawn. Citing ACCESS volunteers who taught their young charges gems like, Buddha is Satan’s friend, the union said that Paddison’s comments were an affront to students in a our secular government schools and a clear breach of the federal guidelines for the national school chaplaincy program [that prohibit proselytising].

The AEU’s stance follows that take by Professor Gary Bouma, an Anglican Priest and the UNESCO chairman of Interreligious and Intercultural Relations. Denouncing the ACCESS curriculum as crap, Bouma bemoaned an education department ill equipped to stand up to religious bullies like ACCESS. Several days later, he signed an open letter with a handful of other religious and social inclusion experts. Addressed to Federal and State decision-makers, including the Prime Minister, it called for the replacement of scripture with general religious education taught by trained teachers, not evangelical Christian volunteers — via

Donkeys Take Over From DSL as Syria Shuts Down Internet

The Facebook revolution has retreated from this dusty Jordanian town on the Syrian border.

In a bid to quash a rebellion now entering its third month, the Syrian government, perhaps one of the world’s most Internet-unfriendly, has shut down pretty much all electronic communications inside the country and to overseas. Cut off from the World Wide Web, protestors, journalists and human rights activists have resorted to communications networks from another era.

And for that, Ramtha, a Jordanian town of about 100,000 people 80 kilometres north of the capital of Amman, has become a virtual switchboard for news coming out of Syria, not to mention a swarm of refugees seeking to flee the carnage that has taken some 800 lives across the country, according to a United Nations estimate released last Friday — via

French Hadopi 3 Strikes Anti-Piracy Company Hacked

The private company entrusted to carry out file-sharing network monitoring for the French government has been hacked. Trident Media Guard, which is responsible for gathering data for so-called 3 strikes warnings, now has some of its scripts and secrets out in the wild, an event which has the potential to upset the smooth of Hadopi — via

Gays and Christians clash in street rally

Police have been forced to intervene during a clash between the gay and lesbian community and a group of street preachers in Adelaide.

The violence broke out during a rally to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on Saturday.

The protest began peacefully with 150 members of the gay and lesbian community gathering to stage a mass wedding, calling for equal rights for gay marriage.

But when members of the Christian Street Church crashed the rally, tension escalated — via

School religion classes probed

The Christian group that provides religious education and chaplains in Victorian government schools will be investigated after its chief executive told a conference: We need to go and make disciples.

The remarks appear to breach guidelines governing school religious programs, which ban trying to convert students to any one religion — via

China cracks down on VPN use

Chinese internet users suspect that their government is interfering with the method they have been using to tunnel under the Great Firewall to prevent them connecting with the outside world.

Sites such as search engine Google and news site MSN have become difficult to access, they say. And a number of universities and businesses have begun warning their users not to try to evade the firewall.

Since 6 May, a number of users says that internet connections via China Telecom, the largest telephone company, and China Unicom have become unstable, with intermittent access when trying to access sites in foreign countries using a virtual private network (VPN) – a preferred method of evading the blocks put up by China’s censors to external sites. Even Apple’s app store has been put off-limits by the new blocks, according to reports — via

For Chinese, kidney donation is a click away

In China, where a growing demand for organ transplants coupled with a dramatic shortage of donors has fuelled a rampant black market trade, selling your organs for cash is a mouse click away.

An internet search reveals a website offering kidneys for sale and the contact information of those able to procure them. A young woman, posing as a migrant worker from Hebei province, calls a man who has advertised on the website, identified as Mr He.

I need money, she says over the phone. Do you want a woman’s kidney?

Mr He asks her age. Twenty-five, she replies.

Of course we want your kidney — via

Mike Rowe Senate Testimony

Mike Rowe’s Testimony Before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of higher education to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled alternative. Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as vocational consolation prizes, best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of shovel ready jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel — via