Apple court battle could have been avoided

  • 04/19/2019

The county government that owns the iPhone in a high-profile legal battle between Apple Inc and the Justice Department paid for but never installed a feature that would have allowed the FBI to easily unlock the phone as part of the terrorism investigation into the San Bernardino shootings.

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If the technology, known as mobile device management, had been installed, San Bernardino officials would have been able to remotely unlock the iPhone for the FBI without the theatrics of a court battle that is now pitting digital privacy rights against national security concerns.

The service costs $US4 ($A5.59) per month per phone.

Instead, the only person who knew the unlocking passcode for the phone is the dead gunman, Syed Farook, who worked as an inspector in the county’s public health department.

The iPhone assigned to Farook also lacked a Touch ID feature, meaning the FBI cannot use the dead gunman’s thumbprint to unlock it now. The FBI found the phone in a car after the shootings.

A US magistrate last week ordered Apple to provide the FBI with highly specialised software that could be loaded onto the work-issued iPhone 5C used by Farook. He died with his wife in a gun battle with police after killing 14 people in December.

The software would help the FBI hack into the phone by bypassing a security time delay and feature that erases all data after 10 consecutive, unsuccessful attempts to guess the unlocking passcode. This would allow the FBI to use technology to rapidly and repeatedly test numbers in what’s known as a brute force attack.

The FBI said it wants to determine whether Farook had used his phone to communicate with others about the attack.

Apple has said it will protest the ruling and has until Friday to intervene in court.

San Bernardino had an existing contract with a technology provider, MobileIron Inc, but did not install it on any inspectors’ iPhones, county spokesman David Wert said. There is no countywide policy on the matter and departments make their own decisions, he said.

Apple executives said Friday that the company had worked hard to help federal investigators get information off the locked iPhone, suggesting they use an iCloud workaround while the phone was connected to a familiar wireless network so that it would begin automatically backing up and provide access to data. The executives spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing legal process.

Bank swap rate needs to be trusted: RBA

  • 04/19/2019

A Reserve Bank official has refused to comment about any alleged manipulation of the rate at which banks lend money to each other, but says markets need to have confidence in their integrity.

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RBA assistant governor for financial markets Guy Debelle wouldn’t to be drawn on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s three-year investigation into alleged interest rate rigging by the big banks.

The corporate watchdog’s investigation into the bank bill swap rate (BBSW) is nearing the finish line, and ANZ also won’t comment on speculation that it could soon face legal action.

“I will not talk about the investigations that ASIC is currently undertaking into conduct around BBSW,” Dr Debelle said.

The BBSW is the daily interest rate set by banks for day-to-day inter-bank business and is the basis for pricing commercial loans.

Dr Debelle said interest rate benchmarks such as the BBSW are a critical part of the plumbing of the financial system.

“Market participants need to have confidence in their robustness and integrity,” he told the KangaNews DCM Summit in Sydney on Monday.

“Without that, we have a serious problem, given its integral role in the infrastructure of domestic financial markets.”

In recent months, the Council of Financial Regulators (CFR) has been looking into possible reforms to the BBSW to ensure it is trustworthy and reliable.

Plans are also under way to introduce a risk-free interest rate for the domestic market, as a complement to the BBSW.

Dr Debelle said he’s in favour of a benchmark risk-free rate, because the BBSW embodies perceptions of credit risk.

How will Turnbull get the money needed to govern if he calls a double dissolution?

  • 04/19/2019

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

He is waving around the possibility of a double dissolution in early July, a course that would carry both dangers and potential high gains for him, although how they’d balance out is unpredictable.

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Turnbull has repeatedly said that he expects the election at the normal time – between August and October – which would mean only half the Senate would face the people with the House of Representatives.

But he has also declared a double dissolution – taking out the whole Senate – a “live option”, and recently the odds on this have shortened, especially as the government looks to a deal with the Greens to change the Senate voting system to squeeze out “micro” players in future elections.

On Sunday night the government was expressing confidence that agreement would be secured early this week, removing a major obstacle to a double dissolution.

Without an agreement, a double dissolution would be counterproductive – another lot of small players would likely appear, perhaps more than now.

On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said if the Senate became “inoperable, then … we have a right, a constitutional right, to go to a double dissolution and we’ll always keep that option up our sleeve.”

The government denies it is just raising a double dissolution as a threat, but you might wonder when you look at that pathway. It’s rather like investing a million or two in an attractive but not entirely secure start-up venture.

The problems hinge on dates, and they are tight.

Given the government is committed to bringing down a budget on May 10, the double dissolution would have to be called on May 11, for July 2, 9 or 16 (the last possible date). The July date is needed to avoid cutting the next parliamentary term very short.

This means Turnbull would be taking a big gamble on his and Scott Morrison’s budget. This will contain income tax cuts, but with the GST off the table these can no longer be mega. Some other taxes will have to be adjusted to pay for them.

Presumably the government would avoid the nasties being a surprise via early leaks or announcements.

Still, launching an election before the reaction to the budget plays out – and the opposition leader has even had a chance to give his parliamentary reply – would take a certain chutzpah.

And there are some practical issues. Once the end of the financial year ticks over the government needs a fresh appropriation of money. It’s not that all the cash instantly runs out but it would be impossible to get by because it would be weeks before the new parliament convened.

Passing some appropriation would need Senate co-operation. ABC election analyst Antony Green says: “If they need to pass supply and Labor says ‘not on your nelly, Bill Shorten hasn’t given his speech’, it’s all over”.

If Turnbull wanted to call an election on May 11, he might have to seek supply funds earlier, during the current parliamentary session which ends in mid-March.

That would put the Senate in an interesting dilemma – no-one wants to revisit the blocking of supply. But the government would also be flagging its double-dissolution plan, effectively starting the campaign many weeks before parliament was dissolved.

Green also says that given the brief window in May for calling the double dissolution, Turnbull would need to avoid surprising Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove on the question of “trigger” bills.

The government has undisputed “triggers” for a double dissolution – bills rejected twice with the required period in between. But it would also want to make the legislation, already rejected once, for the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) a trigger, so it could raise a storm about industrial thuggery. However the Senate has voted to send this legislation to a committee that doesn’t report until March 15, just before the parliament rises on March 17 for its pre-budget break.

If the Senate doesn’t deal with that legislation – which on present indications it would reject – in those couple of days, there would be no opportunity for it to do so before the double dissolution was called.

The government would argue this was a “failure to pass” under the constitution and so the ABCC was a trigger bill. But Turnbull would have to be confident this argument was acceptable to Cosgrove – it would be embarrassing to be sent back by the Governor-General to redo the paperwork at the last moment.

A double dissolution after a deal on Senate reform would clear away annoying micro players, and likely though not automatically produce an easier Senate for a re-elected Turnbull government. It would allow that government to pass “trigger” bills at a subsequent joint sitting.

But the complications, including and especially the one about getting the money, would make jumping out of the double-dissolution starting blocks a messy process. The campaign itself would be very long – the longest since 1984, one that became very hard going for then-prime minister Bob Hawke.

Who would benefit from an extended campaign can’t be foreseen but it would certainly be more difficult for either side to control than a conventional one.

Abbott calls for defence spend boost

  • 04/19/2019

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has challenged Malcolm Turnbull to stick with plans to increase defence spending to two per cent of national income and buy new frigates and submarines.

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Mr Abbott’s comments come amid speculation the government will release the long-awaited Defence white paper while parliament sits this week.

“No government can be economically responsible at the expense of national security,” Mr Abbott wrote in an opinion piece for The Australian.

The white paper should “confirm the Abbott government’s commitment to giving our armed forces global reach … and above all else the spending needed to sustain armed forces that can defend Australia”.

Defence spending in last year’s budget was $32 billion, or about 1.9 per cent of GDP.

Mr Abbott says tension in the South China Sea, the Middle East crisis and the growing threat of cyber warfare all point to the need for more defence spending.

The white paper is expected to outline how many new submarines will be ordered to replace the existing Collins class, but not who will supply them.

A competitive evaluation is under way involving Japan, Germany and France.

Mr Abbott said the decision on the next generation of submarines, as well as the future frigates, will be a “real test of the Turnbull government’s seriousness”.

The government has declined to confirm the release date for the white paper, which is a year overdue.

“Consistent with what the defence minister has said, the Defence white paper will be released in the first quarter of this year,” a spokeswoman for Mr Turnbull told AAP.

Mixed race cancer sufferers turn to social media in desperate bid for donors

  • 04/19/2019

Zara Al Shaikh needs a bone marrow transplant to save her life, but doctors have been unable to find a donor with her rare tissue type due to her mixed ethnicity.

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The 13-year old UK citizen with Anglo-Arabic ancestry has taken to Twitter to ask for help, inspired by the #MatchForLara campaign that helped find a donor for another young woman from a mixed-race background. Her tweet has been shared more than 12,300 times.  

I urgently need a bone marrow transplant. I have a very rare tissue type due to mixed ethnicity (Arabic/British). Pls help me find a match

— Match4Zara (@Match4Z) February 11, 2016

 Zara has not found her match yet. Her story is inspiring people all over the world to try and help her, from the BBC’s appeal on social media to a medical center in Qatar. 

We have extended operating hours of our Screening Center to help find a #Match4Zara until 25 Feb, 2pm to 8pm 杭州桑拿,杭州夜生活,/pTYmNtLJfi

— Hamad Medical Corp. (@HMC_Qatar) February 21, 2016

The problem is also prevalent in Australia, where people of different ethnic backgrounds are often on the donor list for years. “It’s a complex issue,” says David Gottlieb, Professor of Haematology at the University of Sydney. “In Australia we do approximately 600 transplants a year. I would say that out of all patients, 10 to 20 per cent have trouble finding a donor, and as a result don’t make it to the standard form of transplant.”

He says it is particularly difficult for people of mixed ethnicity to find good matches in Australia. “The problem for ethnic subgroups is that the tissue types can be quite unusual. And those ethnic subgroups are often not well represented in the available registries.” 

Lara @Casalara23 cousins at #Swab4All #Match4All #mixedrace #marrow drive @Stanford! #BeatCancer! #DiversifyDonors! pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/jWWdRcgFD7

— Patricia A Fortunato (@PFortunato) February 13, 2016

This has to do with the small population of certain ethnic groups, or the awareness of this issue is not very high. For instance, Aboriginal Australians are not well represented in the Australian donor registry. “It’s probably a variety of those reasons, people either aren’t aware of the possibility to become a donor or they elect not to become one,” says Professor Gottlieb. 

‘Social media campaigns can increase the available pool of donors’

Social media campaigns encouraging people to become donors can be very successful, he says. “I think it is a great idea and it can be very helpful. It is likely to increase the available pool of donors.” 

Rajesh Sharma, 53, was born in Fiji and has an Indian background. In February 2013 he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia. He reacted badly to prescribed medication so soon after his doctors suggested a transplant. Now 18 months later, Rajesh is still waiting for a suitable match. 

“I did not think it would be this difficult to find a donor,” he says. It has been a trying time for him and his family. He and his partner have three children. Rajesh is very vocal about his situation, because he believes people should be made aware of this issue. “Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t have a clue. Now I’m taking an active role with the Leukaemia Foundation so that more people become aware of this.” 

Professor Gottlieb says they are looking into ways around getting a standard transplant. “New immune therapies for some types of leukaemia are looking very promising,” he says. Early trials have shown “extraordinary” results.

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“This is a genetic engineering technique in which the patient’s own cells are armed to be able to recognise and kill the leukaemia,” he says. Particularly in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) this looks to be “tremendously effective”. “It’s a very exciting development, and it may ultimately replace the need to take a patient to transplant. But it’s probably a little early to say that at this point,” he adds.

[email protected] = #match4all

Help us find a match 4 every1! #match4lara #beatcancersooner pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/tjJGt2hefb

— AADP (@aadp) February 16, 2016

There are also some developments in research looking into using donors that are ‘half matched’, which opens op the option of using donors that previously wouldn’t have been considered. But this treatment is still in the development stage. “The outcomes in half matched transplants look encouraging. But they are not 100 per cent curative without side effects,” says Professor Gottlieb. 

A transplant with a perfectly matching donor is still by far the most preferred treatment. “If we had a choice, we would still prefer to go to a transplant where we have a fully matched donor. The results of that are very well established.”

Rajesh just wants the word out about the difficulties people like him face. “It is vital that people understand. But because it is not something they can see, it is harder for them to comprehend. So we need to make more people aware of this,” he says. He believes social media can help raise awareness. “If we can’t get it in the conventional sense, then of course we should try this.” 

The hashtag #Match4All continues to pop up on the web. People from the UK to Canada are using it to ask for help in finding a stem cell donor. Lara has found her one-in-25-million match. In the video below she thanks everyone who was involved in the #Match4Lara campaign and urges people to sign up as a donor. Diversifying the donor registries and getting more people on the donor registry in general continues to be a struggle.