The cost of the civil war in South Sudan headlines our wrap of the week, which also involves crimes of other matters, especially against taste.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had some damning information come out of the South Sudan, the fall of a tennis icon and the rebirth of a Hollywood siren.
The United Nations has thrust the South Sudanese government into the headlines this week with the release of a damning report surrounding the local government’s “scorched earth policy” during the 2015 civil war.
The report includes disturbing details of deliberately ordered rapes, pillaging and killing of civilians during the conflict by the government. Whilst the allegations are all disturbing, the most disturbing surrounds the apparent permission given to groups allied to the South Sudanese government to rape women in lieu of wages.
The timing of the release in the same week as International Women’s Day illustrates very clearly how far we still have to go in tackling violence against women globally.
According to the UN, between April and September 2015, there were more than 1,300 reports of rape recorded. However, UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein indicated that the number of rapes would only be a “snapshot of the real total.” In addition to the rapes, in the 12 months to November 2015, there were an estimated 10,553 civilian deaths in the Unity State region of the South Sudan; 7,165 of which were due to violence and 829 caused by drowning. The report indicates that the victims were selected deliberately and systematically based on their ethnicity.
The conflict that began in December 2013 has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced more than 2 million and plunged at least 40,000 people into famine. This is an absolutely abhorrent situation that deserves far more attention from the global community than it is currently getting, as is the case with a variety of long-standing conflicts in the region.
The international tennis world was shocked this week with the announcement from former world number 1, Maria Sharapova, that she had failed a drugs test during the Australian Open earlier this year.
Sharapova was found to have a drug called Meldonium in her system, a substance which WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) had reportedly added to the banned list on January 1st this year. Sharapova claims that she has been taking a medicine called Mildronate prescribed by her doctor for the past ten years to treat a magnesium deficiency and early symptoms of diabetes.
The jury is till very much out on the validity of Sharapova’s story although it appears that her sponsors have no interest in waiting for the verdict with Porsche, Nike and Tag Heuer severing ties with the five-time Grand Slam champion not long after the announcement.
Former WADA president, believes that Sharapova’s claim of ignorance isn’t good enough, revealing that Sharapova was contacted five times by the International Tennis Federation and the Women’s Tennis Association to advise that the drug was being added to the banned list from January 1. Guilty or not, this will likely represent the end of the Russian’s illustrious career.
Finally, it seems like 2016 is firmly entrenched as the year that we lost some of the greatest contributors to the music industry with the announcement this week that Sir George Martin passed away at the age of 90.
That neighbour/uncle/workmate we all have who wears a tinfoil hat and refuses to buy a mobile phone may not be so crazy, with an increasing number of Australians falling victim to cyber attacks.
The first is the discovery of malware specifically targeting Android handsets that has put millions of customers of Australia’s largest banks at risk.
This particular malware (known as Android/Spy.Agent.SI) mimics mobile banking apps from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey as well as mimicking the login screens for PayPal, Skype, eBay and WhatsApp. If a user is infected, they will think they are logging into their banking app in the normal manner, but the information is transmitted to cyber crims. While this strategy isn’t new, this malware goes one step further by then intercepting tokens sent by the user’s bank via SMS as part of two-factor authentication and providing that information to the hackers, effectively giving them complete access to the user’s online banking.
A spokesperson from Google has advised users that these attacks can be circumvented by strictly installing apps from trusted Android stores. Nick Fitzgerald from ESET, has indicated the importance of built-in security on their devices. According to Fitzgerald, the malware normally can’t get on to your phone unless you have disabled the security feature that prevents you from installing apps from third party app stores (commonly known as jailbreaking).
This week also saw the discovery of a virus called “Locky” which is being used in an Australia Post email scam. Victims will receive an email which appears to be a legitimate communication from Australia Post regarding a delivery issue, which instructs the user to then print an attachment which will allow them to collect their item from an Australia Post depot.
The attachment contains the Locky virus.
This particular virus is what is commonly referred to as ransomware. Once the user is infected, they will find their computer encrypted and locked with a ransom required to be paid in Bitcoin to the cyber crims in order to regain access to your system. Stay vigilant, dear readers.
Former independent MP Tony Windsor appears to be getting into the Easter spirit a little early this year, announcing his intention to run for the seat of New England in NSW at the next election. Mr Windsor indicated that he was concerned about his grandchildren’s future and the future of his electorate – an electorate that he held for 12 years prior to retiring.
So who is Windsor fronting up against? None other than the recently minted Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Nationals, Barnaby Joyce. Should Joyce be worried? Damn straight he should.
A recent ReachTel poll suggests that Joyce currently has 43.1% of the vote in New England versus Windsor’s 38%. While Windsor might be behind at this stage, he is expected to receive strong preference flows from Labor and Greens voters, which accounts for an estimated 10.5% of the vote. Windsor, apart from being a strong local independent member for over a decade was also one of the crossbenchers who helped Julia Gillard gain power over Tony Abbott in the infamous hung parliament in 2010.
Ol “Crazy Eyes” Joyce looks like he is going to have one hell of a battle ahead of him.
Wacky and Wonderful
Hacking, as we can see above, can be a pretty nasty part of modern life. Then again, it can be a source of endless entertainment, particularly when it involves the Twitter account of a well known, if not controversial, brand. Penthouse Australia fell victim to a prankster this week who took control of its Twitter account, replacing the normal stream of titillating material with some much-needed mirth.
Highlights included the announcement of a Lego issue, complete with a mock-up cover featuring a scantily clad Lego figurine. The timing appears to be less than coincidental given that this week saw the magazine accused of not paying wages and entitlements to journalists, which was referenced in the hack with a tweet asking for suggestions on “How to avoid paying superannuation.”
The piece de resistance was a topical reference to the publicity that a certain former PM has received this week, suggesting that the next couples shoot for the magazine will feature Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin.
Whilst we’re on Twitter, it appears that the social media platform has its new queen in Bette Midler. Kim Kardashian, presumably frustrated with the world’s attention being diverted away from the size of her derriere to issues like the impending Trumpageddon or the ongoing Syrian crisis, did what she normally does in this situation; she posted another picture of herself in the nude. The response from the public was lacklustre, however the response from Bette Midler was nothing short of epic.
The Divine Ms M responded to Kim’s tweet with the following:
“Kim Kardashian tweeted a nude selfie today. If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera.”
It turns out that Bette is quite the master of the Twitter smackdown – or Twitdown as I’m now officially dubbing it – with a few other corkers such as:
“The Oscars are today! You know, the awards show where Leonardo DiCaprio is ‘overdue’ but black people can ‘wait till next year.'”
“Kris Jenner booed at a concert while intro’ing Culture Club; that’s the last time anyone says “Kris Jenner” and “Culture” in the same sentence.”
On behalf of the human race, we love you Bette – you’re the wind beneath our wings.
Have a cracking week TBSers!
The weak in Australian politics as seen by Roger Pugh
This was the week when the rest of the world realised the US Presidential election poses a bigger threat to future generations than climate change.
Heard in church
“What was your reaction to George’s testimony from Rome”
“I was just very relieved it didn’t cause the Vatican chimney to start emitting white smoke”
Heard in the Liberal caucus room
“It must have been virtually impossible for Peta in her position to run the country successfully”
“I know, especially when she was even less popular in the party than Tony”
Heard down the Canberra corridors of power
“Do you think Scott is struggling with his first budget?”
“No I think he’s struggling with Malcolm’s first budget”
Heard at the Royal Commission
“It is interesting that so many people travelled to Rome to witness George’s testimony”
“I’ll bet they weren’t deterred by a heart condition”
Heard in the Parliament House bar
“Tony could soon become an elder statesman of the party”
“Thank goodness for that, then we won’t have to take a blind bit of notice of anything he says”
Heard at SBS
“I see that two of Europe’s leading drag queens were on the ABC this week”
“That’s because they failed auditions for The Farmer Wants a Wife”