One week closer to the pit. Hoorah. The week that was, featured some CIA secrets, the passing of a cartoonist and Pizza Hut bringing the ’90s back. Again.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had Wikileaks launching another attack on the CIA, a game-changing Twitter bet from a couple of tech Billionaires and the death of a free speech advocate.
WikiLeaks were back in the headlines this week, with the CIA being their latest target. The group released 8,761 documents dating from 2013-2016 reportedly taken from an “isolated high-security network” in the CIA’s Washington headquarters.
The leaks detail how the CIA can take control of mobile phones, computer operating systems and smart TVs to spy on targets. The leaks also reportedly suggest that the CIA were aware of flaws in Apple, Google and Samsung software which they did not bring to the attention of the companies so that they could continue to utilise them for spying.
WikiLeaks have justified the leak as an important catalyst for “urgent” public debate over whether the spying technology available to the CIA exceeds the powers mandated to it by law as well as the lack of public oversight over the agency.
A terrifying ability allegedly confirmed by the leaks is the apparent capacity for the agency to take remote control of device microphones on smartphones, computers and smart TVs without the users’ knowledge. Smart TVs can allegedly be placed into “fake-off” mode while continuing to monitor and record conversations in the room which are then sent over the Internet to a covert CIA server. Infected phones too can be instructed to the send the CIA users’ geolocation, audio and text communications as well as activate a phone’s camera and microphone without the user being aware.
Whilst the CIA are refusing to comment on the authenticity of the leaked documents, the techniques and technology alleged within them are completely within the realms of possibility and would arguable surprise no-one at this stage. WikiLeaks is also alleging that not only are the CIA using these techniques, but they have also lost control of them, with their ready availability on the black market. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has pledged to assist the various software and hardware developers affected with developing fixes to prevent further exploitation.
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- Current Affairs Wrap: The week where the temperature rose significantly
A South African man and his Ukrainian fiancée have been detained for questioning following the discovery that the bride-to-be is pregnant. Iryna Nohai, 27, was rushed to Medeor Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi after complaining of stomach cramps. The cause of the cramps was discovered to be pregnancy which led the treating physician to report the couple to the authorities leading to their immediate detainment for breaching a UAE law which prohibits sexual intercourse outside of marriage.
The couple had only been engaged for two days prior to the detainment and have not been officially charged yet. It is expected that charges will be laid once paternity has been confirmed and authorities investigate how long the couple have been having sex. The South African Government have been made aware of the case however have indicated they are unable to get involved in the matter as it relates to domestic UAE law.
That little electricity problem South Australia has been experiencing of late appears to have garnered some international attention with Tesla founder, Elon Musk, weighing in on the debate.
During a launch of one of the company’s battery products in a former power substation in Melbourne’s west, vice-president of the company’s energy products department, Lyndon Rive, claimed the company could provide a fix within 100 days.
The Aussie founder of Atlassian, Mike Cannon-Brookes, jumped in and called Musk out directly on Twitter:
— Mike Cannon-Brookes (@mcannonbrookes) March 9, 2017
Musk himself jumped on to reply:
@mcannonbrookes Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 10, 2017
The conversation continued for the world to see with Cannon asking for “mates rates” from Musk and asked him to DM a quote. While our politicians squabble and bicker, a private Aussie may have just negotiated one of the most prolific and game changing deals for this country over Twitter.
Just let that sink in for a minute…
SA Premier Jay Weatherill was obviously taking it seriously, jumping into the conversation telling the billionaires that he had “already reached out” and was “looking forward to our discussion”. Cannon-Brookes has indicated that his team has already started investigating the proposal, and whilst admitting that securing the funds and wading through the bureaucracy makes the deal a long shot, it’s still completely possible. He has also confirmed via Twitter that he’s not sure that he could “100% fund it” but would certainly be a “big contributor”. He continued the discussion online the next day, tweeting:
We don’t need more gas peaker plants or ridiculous “clean coal”. Let’s solve it with software and innovation. https://t.co/mh3o3MqWTO
— Mike Cannon-Brookes (@mcannonbrookes) March 9, 2017
If the funding and bureaucratic hurdles could be sidestepped, the move could not only solve South Australia’s ongoing energy issues, but could also do it whilst maintaining their lofty commitment to renewable energy sources. It would also represent a huge thorn in the side of the Federal Government who have been pushing “clean” coal and taking every opportunity possible to admonish the South Australian Government for their ideological crusade to use renewables. Put simply, it could assure victory in the next election for the SA State Government and all but guarantee that the Libs would be on life support Federally.
Bring it on. Anything that offers solutions rather than politics is damn welcome in my book.
Also on The Big Smoke
- While you were asleep: Liberty goes dark, IS attacks hospital, Ikea gives in
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- While you were asleep: NK exposes member, Biggie and Pac’s death race, watchdog bites sad children
- While you were asleep: Hawke swoops into WA, cyclone disappoints Darwin, fighter jets stopped by rain
Controversial Australian cartoonist, Bill Leak, died this week from a suspected heart attack. Leak’s work is well known to most of us, being a fixture in the Australian media for more than 30 years. His illustrations were first published in The Bulletin in 1983. His most well known role, however, was as the editorial cartoonist for The Australian newspaper.
Leak enjoyed a host of awards including nine Walkley’s, nineteen Stanley awards and two cartoonist of the year from News Corp’s news awards. Despite numerous nominations, Leak never won the coveted Archibald Prize. He did, however, win a number of secondary Archibald awards including the Packing Room Prize and the People’s Choice Award. News Limited journalist Roger Coombs wrote in 2008 that Leak “is widely regarded by good judges as the best painter never to have won the Archibald prize.”
As a sharp witted satirist, Leak’s work often garnered controversy with Leak becoming somewhat of a figurehead in the free speech debate. In 2006, Leak published a cartoon depicting then Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as a dog mounting a Papuan while saying “Don’t take this the wrong way…” alongside a caption reading “No Offence Intended”. The cartoon was published in the midst of Australia’s decision to grant protection visas to Papuan asylum seekers.
In 2015, Leak published a cartoon depicting starving Indians chopping up and eating solar panels delivered by the United Nations. The depiction was in response to the climate deal signed in Paris that year, the insinuation being that while the international community was focussed on the climate change issue, they were ignoring that more important issue of poverty and starvation in third world nations. The depiction was condemned far and wide, particularly for the use of “racist” imagery and very old stereotypes. The cartoon triggered complaints to the Australian Press Council but Leak was cleared of any breach.
In 2016, Leak came under fire again for a cartoon he published depicting an Aboriginal man with a beer can who didn’t remember his son’s name. The Aboriginal Community were vocal in their anger, describing the cartoon as an “attack” on Indigenous Australians.
The debate over free speech and the boundaries of satire rages on but it has lost one of its most fearless advocates. Love him or hate him, Leak’s ability to draw attention to important issues is undeniable. His legacy will live on, with his portraits of Bob Hawke and Bill Hayden hanging in Parliament House in Canberra and his portraits of Sir Donald Bradman, Dick Woolcott and Robert Hughes in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.
Wacky and wonderful
A lawyer in Miami representing an accused arsonist was in the middle of his closing arguments to the jury when his pants burst into flames.
Stephen Gutierrez is believed to have been fidgeting with something in his pocket towards the end of the trial when smoke started billowing from his pocket. He quickly ran from the courtroom before returning not long after, still wearing clearly burned pants. According to Gutierrez, the spontaneous combustion was caused by a faulty e-cigarette battery. Prosecutors, however, are investigating the incident amid concerns that he may have staged the fire as part of his case.
Lucky he wasn’t defending a sex offender I suppose…
Also on The Big Smoke
- #AusPol winners and losers: Who tapped who…and where?
- The week in Media: 10th March 2017
- 10 less-known Historic women you should know about
There’s innovation that changes our life for the better. Then there’s innovation that leaves us scratching our heads with a firm “WTF” expression on our face.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide which category Pizza Hut’s latest offering fits into.
The famous chain in the US has released a limited run of sneakers appropriately named “Pie Tops”. The world changing shoewear allows the more fashion sensible out there to order their favourite pizza automatically, simply by pushing a button on the tongue of the shoes.
Those lucky enough to own one of the 64 pairs created will have to set up a profile on the Pizza Hut website to choose their favourite topping. The shoes then use Bluetooth and geolocation technology to send your order to the closest Pizza Hut store and have it delivered to wherever you are, when the button is pushed.
Well thank God for that. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve almost starved because my technologically inferior sneakers have been unable to satiate my hunger.
That’s it from me, have a cracking week, TBSers!