Thursday, February 28, 2019

Former ATO official Michael Cranston says being charged was 'blackest day of my life'

Former deputy commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office, Michael Cranston, has spoken out for the first time to 7.30 about the "blackest day" of his life when he was charged with misusing his position.

Key points:

  • Michael Cranston was deputy commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office
  • He was found not guilty of criminal offences for misusing his position to benefit his son
  • A separate ATO code of conduct investigation found he did not behave with honesty and integrity

He also defended himself against the findings of a separate ATO code of conduct review, never before made public, that found he failed to act with integrity and honesty.

The charges brought against him were in relation to two conversations he had with his subordinates in the ATO about matters his son had raised with him.

Former ATO official Michael Cranston says being charged was 'blackest day of my life'

Former ATO veteran Michael Cranston joins law firm - Lawyers Weekly

Whistleblower facing 161 years in jail had his claims rejected by ATO

Nancy Pelosi: The Rolling Stone Interview

Nancy Pelosi: The Rolling Stone Interview - RollingStone – article and video: “Pelosi is at the height of her power, having recaptured the House, dispatched an attempted coup of her leadership, and faced down the president in a very public, extremely high-stakes fight. Her approval rating has risen eight points since November, and now sits higher than it has been in more than a decade. Nancy Pelosi has waited a long time for this. Born 78 years ago, she was the youngest of Baltimore Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro Jr.’s seven children, and the only girl. While her elder brother was groomed to follow in their father’s footsteps, Pelosi got married, moved to San Francisco, and raised five children before she seriously considered a run for office. 
When she arrived in Congress, after winning a special election in 1987, women made up just five percent of the House of Representatives. Pelosi served for two decades before she was elected the first female speaker of the House, in 2007, the highest-ranking woman in the U.S. government, and second in line to the presidency…”

The wisdom of our founders was that we would have co-equal branches of government. I think in a large sense, my responsibility now — and it seems to be having an impact — is to impress upon the other branches of government, the executive and the judiciary, the role of the legislative branch. That means to not only pass laws — the Constitution gives us the power of the purse, it gives us the responsibility for oversight, and we will exercise that power. And if we don’t, we would be delinquent in our duties. As speaker of the House, I see my responsibility to honor the Constitution — separation of powers as a co-equal branch of government…”

Exploring the causes and consequences of abusive supervision in work organizations - Abusive Supervision. Annual Review of Organizational 

Psychology and Organizational Behavior Vol. 4:123-152 (Volume publication date March 2017)  First published online as a Review in Advance on January 11, 2017 “The overarching purpose of this article is to review and synthesize the accumulated evidence that explores the causes and consequences of abusive supervision in work organizations. Our review is organized in three sections. In the first section, we discuss research trends and provide clarification  regarding the pressing and not-so-pressing problems with the way that abusive supervision is ordinarily conceptualized and studied. In the second section, we highlight problems and prospects in research on the consequences of abusive supervision. In the third section, we turn our attention to the growing body of research that explores the antecedent conditions and processes that explain when abusive supervision is more or less likely to occur. Throughout the article, we offer an overview of what has been learned over the past 15-plus years and highlight unanswered questions that warrant examination in future studies.”
  • See also The New York Times – When the Bully Is the Boss – “The presumption that tough bosses get results — and fast — compared with gentler leaders is widespread, and rooted partly in the published life stories of successful C.E.O.s. Bobby  Knight, the Indiana University basketball coach and author of “The Power of Negative Thinking,” was notoriously harsh, and enormously successful. So was Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. But researchers who study organizations, productivity and leadership styles attribute the achievements of such figures to exceptional ability. The research thus far has found no evidence to support the axiom that tougher bosses get better results. “We’ve been looking for it,” said Rebecca Greenbaum, a professor in Rutgers University’s school of management and labor relations, who formerly worked in the insurance industry. “We’d love to find out if there are good aspects of abusive leadership. There’s been a lot of research. We just can’t find any upside…”  

A barrage of fake images in Kashmir

I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake. 
~ overhead at TA context

Kashmir tensions explained

The conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir has escalated dramatically and the rivals are both armed with nuclear weapons — what is going on and what might happen?

Beaten and bloodied Indian pilot becomes human face of Kashmir crisis

What Netflix Has Discovered About International Tastes In An Era Of Nationalism

Netflix’s strategy is fundamentally different. Instead of trying to sell American ideas to a foreign audience, it’s aiming to sell international ideas to a global audience. A list of Netflix’s most watched and most culturally significant recent productions looks like a Model United Nations. – The New York Times

MICHAEL WALSH: If These Stones Could Talk. “A stunning archaeological find from the Neolithic period in Scotland helps us understand the way we were.”

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Making Sense of Hyperbaric Chambers.

The Market (And There Is One) For Hitler’s Paintings

It’s a niche market, to be sure, and one that major auction houses and dealers stay far away from. But there’s enough demand to make it worthwhile for a few to sell Hitler’s handiwork — or to forge it. And, according to one auctioneer, that demand doesn’t come from right-wing extremists. – The Art Newspaper

A barrage of fake images in Kashmir

Jency Jacob had never seen anything like it.

“We have been fact checking since November 2016,” the Boom Live managing editor tweeted on Monday. “Never before has one incident taught us so many things about new forms of #fakeimages.”

The incident Jacob referred to was a Feb. 14 terrorist attack in Kashmir, a region in northern India and ground zero for the country’s ongoing conflict with Pakistan. The Washington Post reported 40 Indian paramilitary police were killed in the suicide bombing, which was carried out by a local teenager who had joined a Pakistan-based militant group.

After the attack, misinformation ballooned on social media, as it almost always does following big breaking news events. False posts, images and videos spread on platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.

Indian fact-checking project Boom Live quickly sprang into action. Within 24 hours of the attack, it debunked a photoshopped image of politician Rahul Gandhi standing next to the suicide bomber. Two Twitter handles spread deliberate misinformation about the attack. And an old WhatsApp chain message asking people to donate to an army welfare fund resurfaced.

“(What an) eye-opener this has been,” Jacob told Daniel in a WhatsApp message. “(We’ve) never seen this kind of a flood of images and videos.”

Hoaxes on social media about violent attacks are one thing. But after last week’s suicide bombing, mainstream media outlets in India started publishing false photos, too.

Several journalists tweeted a photo which purported to show the terrorist in a combat uniform. The Economic Times and India Today — which has its own fact-checking project — published the photo both in print and in a video. Boom reported that it wasn’t clear how those news organizations first obtained the photo.

Using a reverse image search, Boom debunked the image. The outlet found that it was strikingly similar to other images that were created using an app that lets users superimpose people’s heads onto bodies wearing police uniforms.

The popularity of false images following the Kashmir attack, which Boom debunked in a thread of 25 stories on Twitter, is in line with what other journalists around the world have found: Photo misinformation is often more viral than text.

Hannah Guy wrote for First Draft in 2017 that false or misleading images were among the most popular hoaxes following the terrorist attack in London that year. She also wrote that we don’t know much about how false images spread and what their effects on users are, since researchers have mostly focused on studying text misinformation.

One of the most popular hoaxes following the London attack was a fake photo of a tube sign that displayed a “very British response to the attack.” It was created with an image generator. And two years later, hoaxers are still using readily accessible web tools to trick thousands of people on social media.

So what should journalists do?

“This was pure breaking news madness,” Jacob said. “No image can be taken on face value — even the ones that come from government sources.”

… technology

  • Google published a comprehensive paper explaining how the company — including YouTube, which it owns — tackles misinformation. Its actions include surfacing quality sources higher up in search results and giving users more context by partnering with nonprofits (including the IFCN). While the report didn’t have much news, it’s a good summary of how Google is thinking about misinformation.

  • YouTube shares some blame for spreading flat-earth conspiracy theories, a new study from Texas Tech University concluded. The Guardian unpacked why. And in his column for The New York Times, Kevin Roose wrote about why it will be hard for YouTube — which has fostered the growth of personalities who dabble in “viral stunts and baseless rumor-mongering” — to eliminate conspiracies from its algorithm.

  • That push in the U.K. for Facebook to rein in closed groups pushing anti-vaccination propaganda has moved to the U.S., leading the company to consider removing the content from its recommendations. Pressure included a letter from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), The Washington Post reported. But anti-vaccine conspiracies are still getting a lot of engagement on the platform — even after they’re debunked by the company’s fact-checking partners. Meanwhile, Pinterest has banned vaccination searches.

… politics

  • President Trump again this week sought to cast fact-checkers as partisans, saying the Washington Post’s Fact Checker is “only for the Democrats.” The Post’s Glenn Kessler’s responded with a reminder that Trump cites fact checks in which Democrats are found to be misleading.

  • Facebook said it disrupted attempts to influence voters in Moldova ahead of its elections later this month, CNBC reported, including some pages designed to look like local fact-checking. It’s the second time a disinformation campaign has been linked to government officials this month; A Macedonian military official was behind a network of fake news sites exposed by Lead Stories and Nieuwscheckers.

  • After 18 months, the U.K. House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published the final version of its report on disinformation. The document is overwhelmingly anti-Facebook, calling the platform “digital gangsters,” and contains several provisions calling for more algorithmic transparency. It also called for the government to put pressure on the platforms to publicize any instances of disinformation.

… the future of news

  • The text-generator created by Elon Musk-backed nonprofit OpenAI can write pretty well, it turns out. And that’s what makes it dangerous — enough so that OpenAI decided not to publish the full research. “It could be that someone who has malicious intent would be able to generate high-quality fake news,” David Luan, vice president of engineering, told Wired.

  • Speaking of AI, an Uber software engineer has created a website that generates an endless stream of fake faces. His motive, explained here, was to raise public awareness of the power of the technology. Writing for The Verge, James Vincent lays out the potential creative applications — as well as the obvious nefarious ones.  

  • Writing for Wired, Zeynep Tufekci dug into how we can develop a verification system that ensures authenticity in an era where nearly every platform can be gamed. Verification practices like blue checkmarks on Twitter and photo evidence are easily spoofed. That’s where blockchain (*insert hesitant sigh here*) could come in handy.


Each week, we analyze five of the top-performing fact checks on Facebook to see how their reach compares to the hoaxes they debunked. Here are this week’s numbers.

  1. Liputan 6: “Jokowi Accused of Using Communication Tools during Debate. Fact?” (Fact: 13.6K engagements // Fake: 9.4K engagements)
  2. “O’Rourke Didn’t Trash Seniors and Veterans” (Fact: 2.4K engagements // Fake: 1.2K engagements)
  3. Full Fact: “You can’t be exempt from council tax if your home is used as a place of worship” (Fact: 2K engagements // Fake: 631 engagements)
  4. Agence France-Presse: “No, US courts have not “confirmed” that the measles vaccine ‘causes autism’”(Fact: 645 engagements // Fake: 6.8K engagements)
  5. PolitiFact: “Did Kurt Cobain predict and express approval of a Donald Trump presidency? No.” (Fact: 362 engagements // Fake: 932 engagements)

It may not always be news when a politician tells the truth, but a fact check highlighting a true statement can be a service to readers if done well, especially when the claim seems like exaggeration in the first place.

During his State of the State address, California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, said: “Just this morning, more than a million Californians woke up without clean water to bathe in or drink.”

That sounds like a lot, but PolitiFact California found it’s actually true. The number may even be understated, experts told Capital Public Radio reporter Chris Nichols.

What we Liked: Californians might have dismissed Newsom’s big number as just more hyperbole from a politician. Nichols’ fact check told them why they shouldn’t. Such fact checks give politicians credit when they do their homework, while also making clear that fact-checkers are not just playing “gotcha” to politicians’ false claims.

  1. First Draft has left its home at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, citing problems with brand control.
  2. In Brazil, an imposter fact-checking website stole Aos Fatos’ brand to publish fake news stories — and it’s part of a larger network of misinformation that has been investigated by the government.
  3. Full Fact is hiring four people: A policy officer, product manager, web developer and designer.
  4. BuzzFeed News reported on why an old fake Pope Francis quote recently went viral online. Spoiler: QAnon is involved.
  5. The 2020 presidential primary “is going to be the next battleground to divide and confuse Americans,” Brett Horvath, a founder of, which works on ways to disrupt cyberattacks, told Politico for a story about cyber propaganda. “As it relates to information warfare in the 2020 cycle, we’re not on the verge of it — we’re already in the third inning.”
  6. Good advice here from Nikki Usher, writing in Columbia Journalism Review, about what journalists should look for when reporting on academic studies.
  7. “It’s usually a bad sign when a fact-checker makes the news,” reads the lead of this story from The Week. Agreed!
  8. In Mexico, innocent civilians have been killed by lynch mobs after false rumors were spread about them on WhatsApp. The Pacific Standard profiled some of the fact-checkers working to fight those kinds of rumors.
  9. In November, Daniel wrote that Nigeria would be the next battleground for election misinformation. Prior to last weekend’s election there, CNN reported on how fake news was weaponized during the campaign.
  10. Max Read wrote a great story for New York magazine that asks the question: When it comes to disinformation, who, or what, should we all actually be afraid of?

via Daniel and Susan

A true story about MEdia Dragon and smartphone addiction

 ... Smell the roses. Smell the coffee. Whatever it is that makes you happy
One of my favorite things is to have long conversations over coffee with sound minds...
LG at Waverton

“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster,” James Baldwin wrote in a staggeringly prescient piecefrom 1953. And yet shutting our eyes is how we humans have coped, again and again, with our own discomfort and helplessness in the face of inconvenient realities — indeed, it could be said that our existential eyelids evolved precisely for this survivalist function, maladaptive and supremely adaptive at the same time. Virginia WoolF articulated the intoxicating chill of this truth: “Illusions are to the soul what atmosphere is to the earth. Roll up that tender air and the plant dies, the colour fades.”

Romanian Philosopher Emil Cioran on the Courage to Disillusion Yourself

If I traveled back in time and met younger me on the cusp of that first deanship, after expressing nostalgia for my hair, what would I say?

Wall Street Journal testing reveals how the social-media giant collects a wide range of private data from developers; ‘This is a big mess’ [paywall] “Millions of smartphone users confess their most intimate secrets to apps, including when they want to work on their belly fat or the price of the house they checked out last weekend.

A true story about smartphone addiction

The New York Times – Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain – “And if you’re anything like me — and the statistics suggest you probably are, at least where smartphones are concerned — you have one, too. I don’t love referring to what we have as an “addiction.” That seems too sterile and clinical to describe what’s happening to our brains in the smartphone era. Unlike alcohol or opioids, phones aren’t an addictive substance so much as a species-level environmental shock.

APS politicised to ‘new heights’?
VERONA BURGESS: Senators perhaps bit off more then they could chew when taking on a Treasury secretary with a long memory for political precedents.

We need to talk about ministerial control, says Glyn Davis
APS REVIEW: Ministers, decentralised pay, secretaries cloning themselves — a panel discussion on public sector reform gave an insight into what the APS Review might hold.

Former AGD secretary to review compensation for public service mistakes
UNDER REVIEW: Retired mandarin Robert Cornall is looking into ATO's decisions on compensation for small business victims of “defective administration”.

Develop a user-centric design framework to optimise service deliverability
PARTNER EVENT: Great user experiences begin with the proper frameworks. Learn how to build user-centric design from the top down at the User Centric Service Design for Government Summit 2019.

Is your agency investing enough in digital workplace innovation?
PARTNER EBOOK: Innovation is not simply a nice-to-have, it is essential to remaining relevant and responding to citizen expectations. This free ebook offers unique insights and practical advice.