National Court of PNG Opens Inquiry Into Treatment of Refugees

This could get interesting, the National Court of PNG has invoked a section of the PNG Constitution that permits it to investigate possible breaches of basic rights on its own initiative.

The National Court, having taken judicial notice of the alleged detention at the regional processing centre at Lombrum Naval Base, Manus Province, of a considerable number of persons seeking refugee status or asylum in Australia, who have been transferred to Manus pursuant to memoranda of agreement between the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia, known generally as “asylum seekers” or “transferees”, and reports of alleged human rights violations and complaints about the conditions of detention and disturbances resulting in injuries to such persons, decided on its own initiative to inquire into such matters by invoking Section 57(1) of the Constitution.

The full opening statement by Justice Cannings is currently on Scribd, but Justice Cannings makes it clear that the intention is to visit the detention centre and talk to refugees:

The third stage of the hearing I anticipate will be in Lorengau, in the week commencing Monday 10 March. Evidence will be received at this hearing. The Court will inspect the regional processing centre. Transferees will be invited to give evidence. It is anticipated that this process will take at least three days.

The questions that he has set are:

  1. What human rights do the transferees have under the Constitution, if any?
  2. Have those rights, if any, been or are they now being, administered to them?
  3. If not, what orders and declarations should the Court make to protect and enforce those rights?

I suspect that the first one is the real substantial question, my guess is that if the court finds that they do have human rights then the rest will flow pretty simply from that. You can read the PNG Constitution online as a PDF.

Hat tip to Humanitarian Research Partners for mentioning this on Twitter (see below).

Australian Government says Australian law doesn’t include a right to seek asylum

In a supplemental answer to a question taken on notice (PDF) in the Senate Estimates Committee regarding the forced repatriation of 12 and 14 year old Sri Lankan refugees the Australian “Department of Immigration and Border Protection” (formerly DIMIA, etc) said (my emphasis):

In relation to question 2, no, the unaccompanied Sri Lankan minors were not advised of their rights to seek asylum. Australian law does not contain a right to seek asylum, and therefore, departmental practice does not involve advising unauthorised arrivals that they have such a right.

In other words, Australia’s own “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, except this time in defiance of international agreements Australia itself helped forge.

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

You’d have thought the Australian government would have heard of that because their own Human Rights Commission website points out:

Australia was a founding member of the UN and played a prominent role in the negotiation of the UN Charter in 1945. Australia was also one of eight nations involved in drafting the Universal Declaration.

This was largely due to the influential leadership of Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, the head of Australia’s delegation to the UN. In 1948, Dr HV Evatt became President of the UN General Assembly. That same year he oversaw the adoption of the Universal Declaration.

Of course that declaration was not legally binding but Australia was involved in drafting, and we are signatories to, the 1951 Refugee Convention, which in the preamble says it:

recommends Governments to take the necessary measures for the protection of the refugee’s family especially with a view to:
(1) Ensuring that the unity of the refugee’s family is maintained particularly in cases where the head of the family has fulfilled the necessary conditions for admission to a particular country,
(2) The protection of refugees who are minors, in particular unaccompanied children and girls, with special reference to guardianship and adoption.

The Australian Governments own website says that the 1958 Migration Act enshrines into law the Refugee Convention definition of a refugee as one:

owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

The Australian Government site then goes on to say:

The Migration Act incorporates art 1A(2) into Australian domestic law, and gives effect to Australia’s obligation of non-refoulement—not to return a person in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where the person’s life or freedom would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Section 36(2) provides for the grant of a protection visa to a ‘non-citizen in Australia to whom the Minister is satisfied Australia has protection obligations under the Refugees Convention as amended by the Refugees Protocol’.

Now the Migration Act itself doesn’t include a right to ask for “asylum”, but it does include the right to ask for a “protection visa” on grounds of being a refugee. To me that’s exactly what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights means when it talks about asylum, not to mention the fact that the Refugee Convention talks about asylum all the time. For instance when talking about not penalising refugees for their method of arrival it says:

The Convention further stipulates that, subject to specific exceptions, refugees should not be penalized for their illegal entry or stay. This recognizes that the seeking of asylum can require refugees to breach immigration rules.

To me this seems to show that the Australian Government itself is either ignorant of its own legislation or just being deliberately misleading. Or both. None of which would surprise me at the moment.

A hat tip to RISE for pointing this out on Twitter:

IBM Finally Leaving the Intel Server Market

After selling off the consumer side of their PC business to Lenovo the other shoe has dropped for IBMs x86 business, they are going to (try and) sell the rest of the x86 offerings (and the BNT network switches they bought recently) to Lenovo as well.

The Lenovo announcement is here here: http://www.lenovo.com/ww/lenovo/pdf/announcement/E_099220140123a.pdf (the IBM website is silent on the matter at the moment) but basically it boils down to:

Subject to the terms and conditions of the Master Asset Purchase Agreement, the Company will acquire certain assets (the “Transferred Assets”) which include, among other things, the following assets at the Initial Closing and Subsequent Closings:

  1. certain enumerated hardware products (including “System x”, “BladeCenter”, “Blade”, “Flex System”, “Pure Flex” products and system networking products including “Blade Network Technology” and certain other related tangible properties);
  2. certain intellectual property rights in connection with the Business;
  3. certain transferred contracts that are related to the Business; and
  4. inventory of the Business consisting of System x products, including the “System x”, “BladeCenter”, “Blade”, “Flex System” and “Pure Flex” products and certain other system networking products including “Blade Network Technology”.

By my reckoning that’s all their Intel related gear (and the network switches they recently bought when they acquired BNT).

So with no more BlueGene series and now no x86 that really leaves IBM with just Power for HPC workloads. I wonder how that will work out for them?

News Corporation – the new face of piracy

According to Panorama from the BBC in the UK it appears Sky TV in the UK had a subsidiary involved with people cracking On Digital’s smartcards and also with people running a website to share the keys from those smartcards.

Of course News Corporation is a multinational, so it wouldn’t surprise you to know that there are now allegations that they were involved in similar antics here in Australia:

News Corporation is alleged to have used a security division known as Operational Security to encourage hackers to pirate the smart cards of rival pay TV operators including Austar and Optus, thereby draining them of revenue and devaluing the businesses.

Perhaps FACT, AFACT. MPAA, etc should adjust their “piracy funds terrorism” to warn that by supporting piracy you will be supporting Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation, Sky, Fox News, etc.. That would put a lot more people off..

Facilitated Communication

In response to an ABC 7:30 report on Facilitated Communication (FC) the ABC disability website “Ramp Up” has posted an article entitled “Facilitated Communication; from the inside” by Marlena Katene, who herself uses both FC and independent typing (FC is faster for her, which is why she still uses it). In it she tells of her own battles against prejudice that it could be her communicating when she is assisted.

In high school I recall the frustration of sitting an exam three times with results getting worse each time. The first time the teacher (who was special education trained) did not believe I could do so well. After the third time however, she was convinced it reflected my true abilities as I failed the exam. I wonder if I had passed ten times; would they have kept making me do the same exam until I failed?

She also raises an important human rights issue; if you cannot communicate just how reliable are others assesments of your intelligence ?

The ABC 7.30 report mentioned, more than once, that those using facilitated communication in the story had the intellectual capacity of three-year-olds. Without access to appropriate communication, I wonder how the testers came to this conclusion.

If I took you and dumped you in a country where you could not converse in the language or use their writing system just how well would you do on their intelligence test? The concern always mentioned is “how do we know it is them communicating?” – but if you take away this then surely the same question applies to people trying to interpret their behaviour and signs – the observers there will be putting their own spin on things, conciously or unconciously.

One of my fears is that if able-bodied people prevent people with communication disorders from accessing FC then they will never get the opportunity to progress to becoming independent communicators. There are plenty of such people out there but I suspect mentioning their existence would be rather inconvenient for those opposing FC – how on earth could you justify campaigning against them developing their own, independent, personal and uncontrolled communication. In my wife’s blog around this report called “The ABC of valid facilitated communication” she mentions the people she’s known who have taken this path.

I could talk about the many non-verbal people I’ve known who progressed through supported communication to independent typing… Birger Sellin, Tito Mukhopadhyay, Richard Attfield, Kayla Takeuchi, Larry Bissonnette, Sue Rubin, Carley Fleishman, Heather Barratt, Sydney Edmond, Lucy Blackman, to name just a few of the most well known.

I will add to that that I have also met Richard, Sydney and Lucy and note that Sue Rubin wrote a documentary film about her life called “Autism is a World” which was nominated for the “Best Documentary Short Subject” Oscar in the 2004 Academy Awards. Donna also interviewed Richard for her blog back in 2007.

Google to acquire Motorola Mobility (Updated x1)

Very interesting news, especially given Motorola’s recent sabre rattling about going after patent victims^W income – hopefully this will put the end to that nonsense.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. & LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. – Aug. 15, 2011 – Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: MMI) today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Google will acquire Motorola Mobility for $40.00 per share in cash, or a total of about $12.5 billion, a premium of 63% to the closing price of Motorola Mobility shares on Friday, August 12, 2011. The transaction was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies.

The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.

I hope with Google in control we’ll see some better Android devices out there – can we get a real keyboard please ?!?

Update 1:

It appears that patents are part of the reason for Google buying Motorola, but looks like they’re being trailed as defensive according to this TechCrunch article:

During today’s conference call explaining the deal, Page noted that Motorola’s “strong patent portfolio” will help Google defend Android against “Microsoft, Apple, and other companies.” The first two questions on the call went right to the patent issue as well. With Android under attack on the patent front by Apple, Microsoft, Oracle and others, buying Motorola is very much a defensive move as well.

Japan knocks China off the #1 spot of the Top500 by 3X – a GRAPE machine ?

According to the NYT the new Top500 list (due out in the next few hours) will list the Japanese ‘K’ machine at the #1 spot of the Top500 at 8.2 PF.

The computer, known as “K Computer”, is three times faster than a Chinese rival that previously held the top position, said Jack Dongarra, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville who keeps the official rankings of computer performance.
[...]
K is made up of 672 cabinets filled with system boards. Although considered energy-efficient, it still uses enough electricity to power nearly 10,000 homes at a cost of around $10 million annually, Mr. Dongarra said.

The research lab that houses K plans to increase the computer?s size to 800 cabinets. That will raise its speed, which already exceeds that of its five closest competitors combined, Mr. Dongarra said.

The excellent @HPC_Guru on Twitter said:

K Supercomputer Technical details: 80k+ SPARC64 VIIIfx CPUs, 640K+ cores, 1PB+ RAM, 6-dimensional Mesh/Torus interconnect

But I have a reliable source who claims that this is using GRAPE cards as APUs to reach its performance without causing (another) meltdown in Japan..

The press release for the new Top500 says:

Unlike the Chinese system it displaced from the No. 1 slot and other recent very large system, the K Computer does not use graphics processors or other accelerators.

PPP Dialup’s for People in Egypt #Egypt #Jan25 – Updated x 6

I’ve noticed two PPP dialups being published for people in Egypt who are struggling to get online due to the cutting of many Internet links into the country.

They are this one seen on a blog on the Internet blackout:

by Anon on January 28th, 2011 10:30 pm
“free” PPP dial-up access on Madrid, Spain:
+34 912910230
user:internetforegypt@trovator.com
pass:internetforegypt
We are Legion.

and this seen on Michael Moore’s twitter feed:

People of Egypt! Use this dial-up provided by friends in France 2 go online: +33172890150 (login 'toto' password 'toto') #egypt #jan25

Update #1 – a massive list of dialups listed here – http://werebuild.eu/wiki/Egypt/Main_Page#Internet_Access

Update #2 – instructions on dialup and more numbers are here – http://manalaa.net/dialup

Update #3seen on the telecomix Twitter feed:

One more modem dialup account on Swedish number for #Egypt user/pass tcx/tcx +46850009990 #Jan25 #Jan26

Update #4 – Again via the telecomix Twitter feed:

Another modem dialup number (unconfirmed if works) +46187000800, user: flashback pass: flashback #Egypt #Jan25 #Jan26

Update #5 – Not dialup related, but SMS info from the telecomix Twitter feed:

Vodafone users in Egypt: change your Message Ctr to +20105996713 able to send SMS pls spread #Egypt #Jan25 #Jan26

Update #6 – another dialup number via telecomix feed:

Anonymous dialup service provided by #FDN on +33172890150 login/pasword toto/toto #JAN25 #Egypte |Please RT

If you know of others please leave a comment here with the details!

RIP Anne McDonald, 1961 – 2010 – obituary from a friend

Painting of Anne McDonald as Mona Lisa in a wheelchair Last night Donna had a phone call from our friends Chris & Rosemary telling us the sad news that our friend Anne McDonald, who lived with them as family and for whom they cared for, had passed away suddenly on Friday 22nd October.

Anne was an amazing woman who touched many peoples lives deeply – she had severe athetoid cerebral palsy and was institutionalised at the age of three. Many years later she came into contact with Rosemary, a new staff member who saw her intelligence and together they found a way to communicate via facilitated communication. With Rosemary & Chris she fought in the Supreme Court of Victoria to escape from the institution by proving that her communication was her own; then she had to fight to win the right to manage her own affairs and she fought for disability rights – and won all the battles. She got a degree, she co-authored a book which became an award winning film (Annie’s Coming Out). Her tenacity was ferocious, she later wrote of her time in the institution:

Dying was dependent on the way you felt. Jobs in mental hospitals do not attract the best doctors, and there was no supervision. The patients could not complain. If you wanted to die you had every opportunity. Many short-stay kids took their chance. Death never appealed to me; I wanted revenge. Now that does not seem to matter. What is important is stopping other kids going through what we went through.

Anne had a great sense of humour, a love of reverse bungy jumping (she wrote that some recent trips to New Zealand were “officially to present at conferences, but really so I can go reverse bungy-jumping”) and an addiction to anything to do with the Mona Lisa.

I’ll leave the last words to Anne, this is her acceptance speech from winning the Personal Achievement Award in the Australian 2008 National Disability Awards which she kindly gave me permission to reproduce. Vale Anne, we will miss you. Our hearts go out to Chris & Rosemary.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’d like to thank the judging panel for choosing me, and I’d also like to thank the many people who’ve helped me along the way and made it possible for me to be here in Parliament House tonight.

I spent my childhood and adolescence in a state institution for severely disabled children. I was starved and neglected. A hundred and sixty of my friends died there. I am a survivor. That isn’t a heroic achievement. Anyone who was put into a large institution in the times when large institutions were sugarcoated concentration camps was as much a hero as I was. They stayed alive when they could and they died when they couldn’t. Such heroism is easy to achieve in giant barracks where the prisoners stay alive through being cheery enough to attract a staff member to give them that vital extra spoonful of food.

I wasn’t exceptional in anything other than my good luck. I was selected for an experiment. Rosemary Crossley wanted a subject for her Bachelor of Education literacy project. She chose me. The aim of the experiment was to see if I could make gains in my tight-armed pointing to blocks with different colours on them. Rosemary found I could point to colours, then to words, and then to letters.

She taught me to spell and to make my wishes known.

I made known my wish to leave the institution, and then all hell broke loose.

I went to the Supreme Court and won the right to manage my own affairs. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean that the institution offered the other residents the right to manage their own affairs. I was an exception. Through no desire of my own, I was out front in the struggle to get rights for people without speech. I tried to show the world that when people without speech were given the opportunity to participate in education we could succeed. I went to Deakin University and got myself a degree. That, too, was seen as an exception. I gave papers and wrote articles on the right to communicate. I set up a website to show that there was hope for people without speech. People thanked me for being an inspiration; however, they didn’t understand why there weren’t more like me. They continued to act as if speech was the same thing as intelligence, and to pretend that you can tell a person’s capacity by whether or not they can speak.

Please listen to me now.

The worst thing about being an inspiration is that you have to be perfect. I am a normal person with only normal courage. Some people who should know better have tried to give me a halo. Anybody could have done what I have done if they too had been taken out of hell as I was. If you let other people without speech be helped as I was helped they will say more than I can say.

They will tell you that the humanity we share is not dependent on speech.

They will tell you that the power of literacy lies within us all.

They will tell you that I am not an exception, only a bad example.

Many are left behind. We still neglect people without speech. We still leave them without a means of communication. It should be impossible to miss out on literacy training, but thousands of Australians still do.

As Stephen Jay Gould wrote,

We pass through this world but once. Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of a life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, but falsely identified as lying within.