Monday 25th of May 2020

keeping busy now that you've watched all the episodes of dad's army on your tablet...


As it looks we’re going to stay home for the long haul, until the Trumpo/Scomo cavalry sounds the all clear, we oldies, have to borrow games designed for the yoofs to keep our mind young.


Published in 1912, by the Religious Tract Society, an edifying book has amusements for many hours of pleasure. From boat model-making to paper-planes and fake real ones with strings, bamboo chopsticks and cheese cloth, we can peruse — and make — a million fiddling thingsters for adventures that can prevent us looking at our navel-fluff all day or drinking too much.


Imagine building your own ship in a bottle! Or make a diorama of WW1, Verdun, which of course happened after publication of this 440 pages door-stop.

All you need is some glue, some paper, an old clock, matches, a sharp knife, shoe boxes, crates, cloths, a chessboard, pencils, any old rubbish "that could be useful one day" and a good dose of imagination — and of course, your glasses, so you can read the instructions. Stand aside those modern inanities such as computers and tablets, and smart-phones, and clear a space on the dining table. Your new life, back in the time of your grandparents’ fun and wallpaper, starts now. 

Today I have picked an easy one. You have mice and rats in your place (they usually hold rowdy political meetings in your attic when you try to sleep) and they drive you nuts. Time to put them to work. Read the instructions in figure 1 above and figure 2 will show you how to make a spinning wheel out of an old lampshade which you can connect to a mechanism that will stir your coffee or, with a bit of gearing down, can be used to power your drill to make holes in the dining table.

Next we will show you how to become a ventriloquist as you roam the attic with double speak, to spook the spooks so to speak, since you are alone. This is great fun. Hey! We’re doing our best here...


the british justice shadow boxes...



Viral injustice

By Dr Alison Broinowski

Julian Assange’s extradition trial continues as an attack on journalism 

A collective shudder goes round the world as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. Effectively locked up for 10 years, Julian Assange has been living under the threat of a different pathogen.

“Spreading like a virus”, is how a WikiLeaks tweet described the “crack down on national security journalism” after Australian Federal Police raids on the media in June 2019. For exercising national security journalism, Assange has recently been shuttling between Belmarsh prison and Woolwich Crown Court in the United Kingdom, fighting extradition to the United States to face espionage charges.

On March 26 his legal team applied for Assange’s bail, citing his poor health. This was briskly refused by the same district judge who sat on his extradition case, Vanessa Baraitser, who asserted that he would be likely to abscond again, and dismissed the “high risk” posed to him in Belmarsh by COVID-19.

We find it easy to criticise foreign governments when we witness their bungles and cover-ups. But what about when the authorities perverting the truth are our own – in Australia – or those of our allies, the UK and the US? When they include banks, pharmaceutical companies, politicians, police and even judges? To what threat does that expose to us all?

In all three “rule of law” countries we hear of mismanaged investigations, mistrials, proceedings in closed courts, and prejudgement and vilification of whistleblowers. In Australia, telling the truth about an internal security operation, or even knowing about one, is now a criminal offence. At least four Australians who told the truth face secretive trials, all in Canberra.

The cases of former military lawyer David McBride, lawyer Bernard Collaery and his client, Witness K, are each before a closed court. Annika Smethurst, a News Corp journalist, may be charged too. Another, an unnamed serviceman, is imprisoned in the ACT without the public knowing what for or under whose orders.

In the US, embarrassing the authorities by revealing the truth is what Chelsea Manning was jailed for – more than once – what Edward Snowden is exiled in Russia for, and what the editor of news site The Grayzone, Max Blumenthal, was arrested for in October 2019 after reporting on opposition violence outside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington.

American expatriate journalist Glenn Greenwald was charged in January 2020 with cybercrimes in Brazil for allegedly assisting a group of hackers who intercepted the mobile phones of public officials and prosecutors. Greenwald, co-founder of online news site The Intercept, allegedly helped spread leaked messages, embarrassing a task force that was supposed to investigate corruption. It was Greenwald, remember, who in 2013 helped Edward Snowden deliver his mega-leak on American intelligence-gathering. Remember too that hacking public officials’ phones was what WikiLeaks revealed Hillary Clinton did as Secretary of State.

To expose official lies requires a courageous whistleblower and a willing publisher. The example being made of Assange and WikiLeaks is designed to deter anyone harbouring such ideas. Having published US secrets in 2010–11, Assange has been in London evading extradition ever since. He was in diplomatic exile for seven years and is now in Belmarsh prison, and in bad shape, as a result of what UN Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer describes as psychological torture.

Assange knew he would be in danger for sharing Chelsea Manning’s cache of more than 700,000 classified US documents with five news organisations in 2010. When he mentioned the risk he was taking, his critics said he was paranoid. Some were jealous of his instant celebrity. Others were fascinated.

The leaked US cables revealed American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the infamous Collateral Murder video of a helicopter crew joking while killing unarmed civilians and two Reuters journalists in Baghdad. They revealed that Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, ordered spying on UN officials and diplomats. They confirmed that the US tortured prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere, that the military knew the war in Afghanistan was a disaster, and that successive administrations lied to Americans and the world about it.

When Guardian journalists Luke Harding and David Leigh revealed the encryption key to the US State Department’s cable database in their 2011 book, they were not arrested. The Guardian, Harding and Leigh blamed WikiLeaks for not adequately protecting its data. Mark Davis, an Australian journalist who was sometimes present in the Guardian “bunker” at the time, confirmed last year that Assange himself redacted 10,000 names. Journalists from The Guardian and The New York Times then published the story about the cables two days before WikiLeaks did. Eight months later, Der Freitag published them in full, and was not prosecuted.

For 10 years, the US, the UK and Australia made Assange the scapegoat, with the help of compliant media. As prime minister, Julia Gillard declared that the acts of Assange and WikiLeaks were “illegal” but could not say under what law. Senator Joe Biden called Assange a “hi-tech terrorist”, and in 2010, the now US president, Donald Trump called for the “death penalty, or something”. His administration declared WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service”.

In 2018, Britain’s then minister of state for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan, called Assange a “miserable little worm”, and the district judge in his bail case in 2019, Michael Snow, said he was a narcissist. Some in the media, such as former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, helped manufacture the narrative. Rusbridger claimed that most people fell out with Assange, and said he found him “mercurial, untrustworthy and dislikable”. He half-changed his view in May 2019, realising that press freedom was at risk.

For seven years, a Spanish agency is alleged to have surveilled Assange while he lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and passed the results to the CIA. That included communications with and between his lawyers. It didn’t prevent lies being published about those who visited him, and smears about how he treated his cat. Gradually, Assange was denied his public appearances on the balcony, his internet access and, finally, his shaving kit.

Australian governments, which have gone to great lengths for arrested journalists and convicted drug smugglers, and for soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi, would do little or nothing for Assange. Al-Araibi feared extradition to Bahrain, a country with a record of vicious human rights abuses and a punitive penal culture. Assange fears facing a similar fate.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne is doing her utmost with the Chinese government on behalf of Dr Yang Hengjun, an Australian academic who has been imprisoned on espionage charges for just over a year, in arduous conditions, and in poor health. Assange’s situation is the same, except he’s been locked up for longer, and it’s the US that wants to jail him – for up to 175 years. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Australian government’s view of such cases depends on who the accuser is.

The British legal system has been grinding slowly towards extraditing Assange to the US, or having Sweden do so, to face trial under America’s Espionage Act for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, and of receiving, obtaining and disclosing national defence information without authorisation. A further indictment also accuses Assange and WikiLeaks, by revealing sources’ names, of creating “a grave and imminent risk to human life”.

Yet an American brigadier-general confirmed in 2013 what a Pentagon spokesperson said in 2010, that there was no evidence that WikiLeaks’ revelations caused the death of any named person. An Australian Defence Department task force concluded similarly that WikiLeaks revealed no “significant details about operational incidents”. In May last year , the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention restated its 2015 opinion that Assange was arbitrarily detained.

Assange has often asserted, as has his Australian barrister, Jennifer Robinson, that “individuals have the right to privacy. The state does not.” It’s a contention that was echoed in 2013 by more than 500 writers around the world as signatories to a statement that: “A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy.”

In November last year, Australian MPs Andrew Wilkie and George Christensen mustered the non-partisan Parliamentary Friends of the Bring Julian Assange Home Group. Wilkie, who was in London before Assange’s extradition hearing opened in February, said Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison, and Donald Trump have made Assange their “political plaything”. But if the legal process takes several years, and if public pressure mounts, it’s yet possible that Morrison will seek to bring the Australian “ratbag” home. Should the US demand his extradition from Australia, that will be another story. The ambiguities between UK law and the UK/US extradition treaty don’t exist in Australia, and extradition may be easier. Still, the politics would be fraught.

At the late February extradition hearing in Woolwich Court, adjacent to Belmarsh prison, there were only 16 seats for the public. Four US representatives were present, one of whom made an opening statement. An Australian consular official attended for some of the time. Present throughout was former British ambassador Craig Murray, who reported in detail in his blog. Australian academic Binoy Kampmark summarised each day for the news and opinion website OffGuardian.

Every contrivable arrangement favoured the prosecution and disadvantaged Assange. He could not privately consult his lawyers, whose conversations with him had been monitored in any case. The district judge, Vanessa Baraitser, repeatedly interrupted defence counsel but not the prosecution, who had occasion to correct her on one or two points. On the final day, Baraitser read her concluding statement from a document that Murray says he saw her bring in at the start of the trial.

The defence demolished the prosecution’s case that Assange had conspired with Chelsea Manning, and that he had recklessly harmed people by releasing the documents. The prosecution argued that Assange’s actions were covered by the UK’s Extradition Act of 2003, which does not bar extradition for crimes of a political nature. The US and UK extradition treaty of 2007, which applies in all US cases, bars extradition for political offences but is not incorporated into UK law. The US representatives sought for the UK act to apply to Assange, rather the treaty.

Assange’s publications were not intended to overthrow any government, the defence said. They argued that espionage itself is a political act, and that the terms of the treaty banning extradition should apply, as should the European Convention on Human Rights.

The hearing will resume in April, for two or three more weeks. Arguments will be advanced about whether any imprisonment in the US would allow for parole, and whether Assange is fit to travel and stand trial in the first place. A long appeal process will follow, to the UK High Court and Supreme Court, with either the US or Assange as the appellant.

It is hard to see the proceedings against Assange as anything but a show trial, a long, slow process to reach a politically predetermined conclusion. If Baraitser finds for the prosecution, the Woolwich Crown Court will be widely regarded as a courtier of the United States.


Dr Alison Broinowski, a former Australian diplomat and academic, writes on terrorism and related topics.

Article in the monthly. no link available.

more (sadistic) fun with mice!...

Whether it is screwing up your face when sucking a lemon, or smiling while sitting in the sun, humans have a range of facial expressions that reflect how they feel. Now, researchers say, they have found mice do too.

“Mice exhibit facial expressions that are specific to the underlying emotions,” said Dr Nadine Gogolla, co-author of the research from Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology. She said the findings were important, as they offer researchers new ways to measure the intensity of emotional responses, which could help them probe how emotions arise in the brain.

What’s more, she said, the findings show mice have a repertoire of emotions. 

Writing in the journal Science, Gogolla and colleagues report that they exposed mice to a mixture of triggers. These included electric shocks to the tail, sweet treats, and lithium chloride injections, which induced a state akin to nausea.

While the authors say the facial movements that followed were noticeable, anyone hoping for a comical murine grimace may be disappointed.

Indeed, rather like Ben Stiller’s Zoolander, the expressions appear very similar to the human eye – albeit with subtle differences. For example, compared with a neutral expression, a mouse’s ears lay further back and the position of its lower jaw and nose shifted when it had its tail zapped.


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And the poms are doing their impressions of Doctor Mengele on Assange...

for the youth with the attention span of goldfishes...

The smartphone friendly streaming service Quibi has launched in Australia.

Wait, another one?


Quibi is the brainchild of Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former chairman of Disney and co-founder of Dreamworks Animation. 

Quibi's promise: Quick Bites. Big Stories. 

Each series — and there are more than 20 at launch — has episodes that run between five and 10 minutes, nothing longer, and they're all designed for smartphones only. You can't cast the app to your television. It doesn't matter whether you like to hold your phone upright or sideways because this is fun-size television on steroids where all the action sits at the centre of your screen. 

The launch budget is estimated at $1.1 billion with plans to make 7000 pieces of "content" in the first year. 

There are slick dramas, reality shows, cooking competitions, news, game shows and doco series.

Streaming services have shaken the traditional film and television landscape and Quibi is here to disrupt the disrupters. 

But Quibi desperately needs its smartphone-only approach to stand out in a crowded marketplace because it flops onto a big pile of streaming services in Australia.

The grand total of paid streaming services in Australia now sits at a whopping 16. More may have launched while this article was being written. Throw in free platforms like ABC iView and SBS On Demand and the figure jumps to 20.

Anyone who can't find something to watch is a liar.


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Methinks that this Quibi streaming of episodes length is too long even at 5 minutes... And of course it could become annoying expensive. One has to consider that young people have the attention span of goldfishes, which is around 3 seconds and no disposable cash, while yawning like bored carps.

So I would suggest yet another streaming, this one FREE, called FREEE (or FRI), just streaming 15 to 30 second adverts — with interactive contests such as nominating your favourite one for 55c a call or 5c a text, with the tempting prize of a FREE holiday in a coronavirus-free tropical island in the future, or a RED car NOW.

The list of advertising quips would include old ones, those that shaped the mind of the youth's parents into docile sheep — educating the young ones into understanding the gap between generations of campers. And there would be contests of discovering the subtle changes in the repeats. The exciting bit for the advertisers is that the youth would have to watch EVERYTHING THAT IS AVAILABLE ON STREAMING in order to nominate the best, otherwise they could miss out.

As well there would be the nomination of the most annoying ones, like the Harvey Norman ads, and the most effective ones to make you buy a new bed, like the Harvey Norman ones...

There could be unravelling games, when the adverts are truncated and glued with other adverts, making no sense whatsoever, despite being hilariously funny.

Even the oldies could join for fun in reminiscing, though contestants for PRIZES must be 25 or under. A special channel for adult products would stream separately.


Meanwhile,  FREE ASSANGE TODAY............


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old and at carking it at home?...

Many older people are being "airbrushed" out of coronavirus figures in the UK, charities have warned.

The official death toll has been criticised for only covering people who die in hospital - but not those in care homes or in their own houses.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told the BBC the daily figure was based on hospital deaths because "it's accurate and quick".

Meanwhile, scientists will begin a review of the UK lockdown later.

The evaluation will be passed to the government - but ministers have said it was unlikely restrictions would change.

Industry leaders from Age UK, Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer's Society have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding a care package to support social care through the pandemic.

They have also called for a daily update on deaths in the care system.

It comes after the government confirmed there had been coronavirus outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes in England - although they did not specify the number of deaths that had occurred.

The figures prompted the charity Age UK to claim coronavirus is "running wild" in care homes for elderly people.


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Keep busy. It could be worse. Watch: only 19,857 hours since "the event".... Be a clown...

webinars for oldies who can't access the net...

Millions of elderly feel ‘cut off’ by lack of tech knowledge – and would even miss virtual GP appointment

Millions of elderly people feel cut off due to a lack of tech knowledge - and would even avoid a GP appointment if it was over a video call, a study has found.

A poll of 1,000 adults who have a relative aged over 70 found more than half believe their loved one would wait for an appointment in person rather than trying an online alternative.

And 53 per cent said their relation has already struggled to adjust to an altered lifestyle due to coronavirus.

The study, commissioned by BT Skills for Tomorrow, also found six in 10 said their elderly relatives have felt more isolated than ever before as a result of the global pandemic.

And half think it would be life-changing for their vulnerable relatives if they were able to order their own food shop online.

But more than half worry they're not capable of picking up new skills when it comes to using technology effectively.

Professor Kerensa Jennings, BT group director of digital impact, said: “Technology has become an essential lifeline for millions of people right now.

"But to combat loneliness, we must ensure that older people can take advantage of the benefits that technology provides, from accessing vital services to staying in touch with family and friends.

“We know that even picking up some relatively simple digital skills can make a huge difference to the lives of older people and those that care for them during lockdown – whether it’s doing their own online shopping, accessing health services or enjoying face-to-face calls with loved ones.

“That’s why we are working closely with leading social change charity, Good Things Foundation, to ensure people can get the skills they need to stay connected and healthy during lockdown.”

The study also found those polled feel email and WhatsApp are the digital platforms their elderly relations would be most capable of using, with one in five over 70s able to stream through Amazon Prime or Netflix.

But half also worry their kin is reluctant to learn vital new digital skills - with three quarters suspecting they would see it as ‘too complicated’.

A quarter think their loved ones see the internet as unsafe, while 29 per cent said they haven't got anyone to teach them and 35 per cent aren’t sure where they would go to learn the skills.

Three quarters of adults said their family member usually consumes their information from the television, with only one in five going online and a third relying on other people to update them on current events.

Interestingly, 41 per cent also suspected their loved one has never made an online purchase.

But with restrictions on who over 70s can see at the moment, 57 per cent said their relative is missing face-to-face contact, with 31 per cent worrying they have become increasingly bored since the lockdown came into place - with half saying it's impacted their daily routine.

Only one in 10 are attempting to teach them new digital skills, although 39 per cent have been able to successfully have a video call with their elderly loved ones.

A third of those polled also think there have been occasions where they've put themselves at risk to care for their vulnerable relatives during the lockdown period.

And 38 per cent of those polled, via OnePoll, think their family members would be more open to improving their digital skills due to recent events - but don’t know where to start.

Helen Milner, chief executive of Good Things Foundation, added: “The research supports what we’re hearing from our network partners and our wider findings on the issue of digital isolation.

“The people left behind are disproportionately older, often with existing health issues that are being compounded by a lack of confidence in digital technology.

"This is a deeply shocking societal problem we must all address urgently.

“We know that due to the Coronavirus pandemic more people are willing to try new things online and improve their digital skills, so this is the perfect time to give them the tools and guidance to do so.”

BT Skills for Tomorrow aims to give 10 million people the skills they need to make the most of life in today’s digital world.

BT is working in partnership with leading digital skills organisations to collate the best courses, webinars and information in one easy to navigate place.


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I could not refrain from the stupid headline at top...

webinars for oldies who can't access the net...



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you're old, you're decrepit, you're a goner...

Across the world, figures reveal horrific toll of care home deaths

Statistics now coming to light show that Covid-19’s elderly victims have paid a heavy price


Sweden’s health authorities are blaming the country’s death toll – which is higher than in neighbouring Denmark, Norway and Finland – on the fatality rate in care homes.

About 90% of the 3,700 people who have died from coronavirus in Swedenwere over 70, and half were living in care homes, according to a study from Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare at the end of April.

“We failed to protect our elderly. That’s really serious, and a failure for society as a whole,” health minister Lena Hallengren told Swedish Television.


More than half of the country’s coronavirus victims have died in care homes. Care home workers say the sector was initially overlooked, and they suffered from shortages of masks and skyrocketing prices for hand sanitiser.

“Belgian society has decided that the lives of these confined elderly counted much less than those of the so-called ‘actives’,” social scientist Geoffrey Pleyers wrote in Le Soir last month.

More than three-quarters of deaths in care homes (77%) are suspected cases, leading to complaints that Belgium is over-counting coronavirus deaths. Belgium’s crisis centre, which collates the data, counters that its approach is more transparent.


The country was shocked at the end of March when the defence minister revealed that soldiers drafted in to disinfect residential homes had found some elderly people abandoned and dead in their beds.

The central government has asked the country’s 17 regional governments to send in their figures on care home deaths, but has yet to publish them. However, the regional governments of Madrid and Catalonia have been publishing their own figures on people who have died in care homes from the virus, or while exhibiting symptoms consistent with it.

In Madrid, the total for Covid, or suspected Covid, deaths since 8 March stood at 5,886 on Thursday. In Catalonia, it was 3,375. Between them, care home deaths in the two regions account for more than a third of all the coronavirus deaths in the country.


Deaths from coronavirus in Italy’s care homes came to light only when newspapers started to report on the issue in early April.

The prime focus was on a care home in Milan, which had more than 1,000 residents and where there was an unusual increase in deaths in March. An investigation began, and care home officials found that 300 residents had died between January and April.

Of the 900 residents still in the home, 34% were positive for Covid-19. Italy’s higher health institute found that between 1 February and 17 April there had been 6,773 deaths across all care homes, 40% of which were due to Covid-19.

United States

One of the first US coronavirus cases was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control in Washington state in late January. By late March, the US outbreak was centred around one care home, the Life Care Centre of Kirkland in King County, where more than three-quarters of residents fell ill and 40 people died. Staff who worked multiple jobs unwittingly carried the virus to other care homes in the area.

For a variety of reasons – including the US’s privatised healthcare system, pre-existing problems with infection-control in America’s care homes, a lack of federal leadership on the pandemic and the varying rate of spread of the virus across other states – lessons from King County have not been learned.

Residents of nursing homes have accounted for a staggering proportion of Covid-19 deaths in the US, where more than 85,000 people have died. Privately compiled data shows that such deaths now account for more than half of all fatalities in 14 states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But only 33 states report nursing home-related deaths, so the true extent of the problem across the state remains unknown.


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In Australia, the figures are similar, but the oldies were also on cruise ships...



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