All Black selections

The All Black Rugby World Cup squad is announced tonight at 6.30 pm.

Media are hyping it up as a big event. 3 News is having a half hour special on it.

Most of the squad is already picked. There might be a small number of minor surprises – for the players involved it’s a big deal but in the whole scheme of things it’s fairly trivial.

With three weeks to go until the World Cup starts the hype will continue to exceed the newsworthiness.

The Ashley Madison scam

So it turns out the Ashley Madison website was a scam.

Annalee Newitz at Gizmodo reports in The Fembots of Ashley Madison.

Yesterday I published the results of my analysis of the Ashley Madison member database, which contained 37 million profiles of people seeking discreet affairs. What I discovered was that, at most, about 12 thousand of these profiles seemed to belong to women who were active on the site. The rest of the 5.5 million women had profiles that appeared to have been abandoned directly after they were created.

How could this have happened? To find out more, I searched the data dump of Ashley Madison corporate emails that hacker group Impact Team released last week.

There are many reasons to call fraud on Ashley Madison’s parent company Avid Life Media, including the fact that they forced men to pay to delete their profiles—and then kept their personal data anyway. But I would argue that Ashley Madison’s fraud goes beyond the paid delete scam. The real scam is false advertising. In commercials and on the site itself, the company promises men that they will meet real women who want to have affairs.

Men can even pay a premium rate for a “guaranteed affair.” To email women, men have to pay extra, and then they have to pay more still if they want to send a “gift” of a silly gif or picture. Using the site as a man is a little bit like playing Farmville, except instead of blowing your money on fake cow upgrades, you’re blowing it on messages to fake women. At least Farmville is up front about the fact that you’re burning money for a dumb fantasy.

Of course, the “custom message” costs money. When he hits reply, the man is redirected to this page, below.

The Fembots of Ashley Madison

So the man has to pay to send a message to what is undoubtedly a dead profile. At which point the cycle starts again, with another robo-message from another inactive profile.

So it looks liike a deliberate rip off.

Newitz goes on to detail how AM generated fake female identities around the world.

I was very surprised whe it was reported that their were 4,000 AM members in Dunedin. It adds up if many of them were fake.

The Ashley Madison CEO has just resigned. It looks like the whole caboodle needs to resign.

Flu vaccinations

I’ve been feeling crap all week. I’ve avoided flu vaccinations until now but might reassess that next year. This is the worst dose I’ve had and it’s not over yet. Makes me wonder if I should try and avoid it in the future.

Has anyone had good or bad experiences with flu vaccinations?

Is Freed starting to happen?

After silence fropm Freed for most of the year there was a sign that somethig may be happening. Posted on their Facebook page on August 19:

Rehearsing traffic reports in the Freed chopper

Are they going to be Auckland-centric or national?

The Freed Media Group image was also posted on Twitter, the first sign of activity since February.

Their webpage has also changed at some stage but offers no hints about their plans.

Freed was first announced in July 2014.

Children’s Commissioner’s State of Care Report

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russel Wills has just released the first of what will be an annual report. It’s damning of the poor quality of State care of children and notes grave concerns about the safety of children in Sate care.

Radio NZ report: ‘Dump and run’ culture at CYF

The Children’s Commissioner’s first annual report has strongly criticised Child, Youth and Family for what it calls a dump and run culture of neglect

In his first annual report, State of Care 2015, commissioner Russell Wills finds systemic failures in the service and says it is doubtful children are better off in state care.

“We don’t know if children are any better off as a result of state intervention, but the indications are not good,” it said.

The report said too many children were bounced from one placement to the next.

“In the course of our preparation for this report, we heard of children who had had upwards of 20, 40, and in one case over 60 care placements in their short lives,” it said.

Supervisors and social workers did not understand their roles and responsibilities, and there was often very little supervision of children.

“Some providers went so far as to characterise CYF’s attitude to these placements as ‘dump and run’.”

Many workers lacked the right qualifications or experience, and were not properly supervised.

Dr Wills told Morning Report other ministries, such as justice, health and education, ministries must work with CYF, to get the changes needed. “I think we’ve got a culture where the other agencies expect CYFs to do all the work, that’s not right and that’s not fair.”

From State of Care 2015: At a glance:

What do we expect from Child, Youth and Family?

CYF is the statutory service charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect, providing secure care to those who need it, and the care of children who have committed an offence.

New Zealanders expect CYF to keep children safe from immediate harm and hold children who have committed offences accountable, but more than that, we expect CYF and other government agencies to take good care of children and improve their life outcomes.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner expects best practice

Our independent monitoring of CYF provides a tool to ensure CYF, as the primary service responsible for the care of vulnerable children, provides high quality services that improve children’s lives. We examine CYF’s policies and assess its practices, and consider how well these meet the needs of children. Our expectations of CYF are set out in our monitoring framework.

We expect CYF to deliver high quality services, plan for the future, make good decisions, learn from mistakes, work effectively with other agencies, seek children’s views, and improve children’s lives. Part 1 summarises the findings of our monitoring of selected CYF sites and residences against these expectations between January 2014 and June 2015.

Children expect to be treated with care and respect

Children also have expectations of CYF. They expect CYF to tell them what they are entitled to, provide them with high quality social workers and caregivers, help them maintain relationships with their birth family/whānau, give them a voice in decisions about their care, and, crucially, listen to what they say.

Children can tell us a lot about whether CYF is meeting its objective of putting children at the centre of everything it does. Part 2 summarises what children told us about their experiences with CYF between January 2014 and June 2015.

Children should be better off as a result of state intervention

A fundamental expectation we have is that children who come into contact with CYF should be better off as a result. Part of our monitoring function is to consider the outcomes CYF is achieving for children in care.

CYF’s practice framework talks about keeping children safe from abuse and neglect, providing them with secure care, addressing the effects of any harm they have already suffered, and restoring and improving their wellbeing.

CYF has recently developed an outcomes framework that will require CYF and other agencies to ensure that children are safe, healthy, achieving, belong, participate, and have improved life outcomes. As CYF develops indicators to measure these outcomes, we thought it would be timely to provide an assessment of how well CYF is currently doing at improving children’s outcomes.

Part 3 attempts to do this, based on the available data, our overall findings, and feedback we received in our engagement with key stakeholders.

Is CYF meeting these expectations?

CYF’s practice is not consistent

Some of the CYF sites and residences we monitored in the past 18 months met or exceeded our expectations. CYF generally has strong frontend systems and processes for investigating and making decisions about cases of potential abuse and neglect, which means it generally does well at keeping children safe from immediate risk of abuse and neglect.

However, CYF’s overall performance against our monitoring framework was highly variable. Across most of the sites and residences we monitored, we found inconsistent vision and direction, variable social work and care practice, and insufficient priority given to cultural capability. Underpinning these findings was a core issue with workforce capacity and capability.

CYF does not put children at the centre of everything it does

Some children report positive and life-changing experiences with CYF, but others report negative and harmful experiences. Generally speaking, the longer a child spends in CYF care, the more likely they are to experience harmful consequences.

The feedback we received from children suggested a system that is not centred on their needs, and that does not take into account the potential negative consequences of CYF’s actions and decisions on children. We have a number of suggestions to help CYF ensure children are at the centre of everything it does.

We don’t know if children are better off as a result of state intervention

Accessing data about children’s outcomes is core to our monitoring framework. Yet there is little reliable or easily accessible data available about the outcomes of children in the care system. In our view, CYF and MSD’s systems are not set up to measure and record the information that matters, and the integration of data between MSD and other government agencies is poor.

Better collection and analysis of data is essential for CYF to improve its services and for the Government and the public to have confidence that CYF and other state agencies are improving outcomes for vulnerable children. We don’t have enough information to say conclusively whether children are better off as a result of state intervention, but the limited data we do have about health, education, and justice outcomes is concerning.

CYF focuses more on keeping children safe, and less on improving their long-term outcomes

CYF has become oriented towards front-end processes for investigating and making decisions about cases of potential abuse and neglect, at the expense of on-going support for children in all types of care placements.

We make this observation based on our monitoring findings, which found strong intake and assessment practices in most of the CYF sites we monitored, but poor case management and oversight of young people in specialist care placements. It is supported by what children and other key stakeholders told us about their experiences with CYF.

This observation is consistent with the conclusions in the recent Workload and Casework Review undertaken by the Office of the Chief Social Worker within CYF.

The reasons for this focus on front-end services are complex and historical, and we have not attempted to analyse them here. Rather, we have focused on ways to support CYF to maintain its focus on initial safety, and to expand this to include the on-going support necessary to improve children’s outcomes in the long term. This will require a greater level of investment in children in all types of care placement.

CYF can’t do this on its own. Some changes are within CYF’s power to effect, but some will rely on other state agencies, service providers, and NGOs working effectively in partnership with CYF. It is our view that all the participants in the wider care
and protection and youth justice systems need to work together much better to deliver effective, high quality services to vulnerable children.

Health and education services in particular need to support children in care to achieve better outcomes. This will require leadership from the Ministries of Health and Education to be accountable for achieving better outcomes for these children, and for ensuring local providers in their sectors are supported to meet explicit expectations about what they deliver to children in care.

Recommendations

We made 53 recommendations to help CYF lift its performance and improve outcomes for children in our monitoring reports between January 2014 and June 2015. Some were directed at individual sites or residences, while others were changes CYF national office could make to improve policies and practice across multiple sites and residences.

The 53 recommendations were aligned to the key themes that recurred in our monitoring findings, and can be grouped in the following categories:
• Clarity of purpose, direction, and strategy (nine recommendations);
• Ensuring child-centred practice (11 recommendations);
• Improving the quality of social work practice across all types of care placement (nine recommendations);
• Building workforce capacity and capability (eight recommendations);
• Building cultural capability (five recommendations);
• Improving integration of services between CYF and other agencies (three recommendations);
• Strengthening partnerships and networks (four recommendations);
• Improving the physical environment in residences (two recommendations); and

Other recommendations relating to operational systems and processes (11 recommendations).

For this report, we have reviewed all our individual recommendations within the context of the themes emerging from our monitoring findings, our engagement with children, and the available data about children’s outcomes. From this review, we have developed a set of seven aggregated, future-oriented recommendations that we believe will help address shortcomings in the current system and improve children’s outcomes in future.

Aggregated recommendations, in brief, are:
1. Set clear expectations about CYF’s core purpose and the outcomes it needs to achieve;
2. Ensure CYF is fully child-centred in all its activities;
3. Invest more in on-going support for children in all types of care placements;
4. Address capacity and capability issues across the CYF workforce;
5. Improve cultural capability across the organisation;
6. Collect and analyse relevant data to drive improved outcomes for children; and
7. Set clear expectations for other state agencies responsible for improving the outcomes of children in care.

PDF: State of Care

Something in common

SpringWOLFInCommon

Release of the National Drug Policy

Peter Dunne released the 2015-2020 National Drug Policy today. Here is his speech.

Good afternoon and welcome to the launch of the new National Drug Policy.

I am very pleased to be here with you all today, and it is great to see so many familiar faces in the audience.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of what has been a lengthy process.

Many of you or your organisations are among the 120 individuals and organisations who submitted on the discussion document.  Some of you are also signatories to the Wellington Declaration on reshaping New Zealand’s alcohol and other drug policy.

Thank you for your input – it has shaped this Policy, and your ongoing involvement will give life to the Policy and its actions.

A National Drug Policy cannot be contained within just one government portfolio.

This policy reflects a cross-government commitment, and I would therefore like to acknowledge my Ministerial colleagues whose portfolios will also contribute to achieving its vision.

This includes the Ministers of Health, Justice, Education, Social Development, Police, Corrections and Customs.

I would particularly like to acknowledge the Chair of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, Tuari Potiki, and Executive Director Ross Bell.  The Foundation has been a long-time advocate of reducing drug harm in New Zealand and has been a valuable source of feedback in the Policy’s development.

Finally, I would like to thank the officials who have overseen the development of the Policy and ensured it reflects a coordinated cross-government approach.

The development of such a significant piece of work, particularly on what can be a challenging issue, is quite an undertaking and brings with it certain challenges – so I thank all involved for their patience and perseverance.

Compassion. Innovation. Proportion.

Three words that I consider to be of the utmost importance when developing drug policy, and three words that are reflected in the contents of this new Policy.

Alcohol and other drug issues are above all health issues, and this Policy recognises that.  Alcohol and other drugs have the potential to cause significant harm when misused.  About 12% of New Zealanders will develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives.

The social cost of alcohol and other drugs is significant.

I’ve been working in the drug policy space for some time, and as we all know there is no quick fix.  Help needs to be available for those who need it, interventions need to happen early and the stigma that acts as a barrier to help seeking and recovery needs to be addressed.

We also have to be prepared to challenge traditional approaches and ways of thinking about these issues. Innovation is essential in a world where a new psychoactive drug is discovered every week and the black market has gone digital.

But we are making progress.

The psychoactive substances regime was introduced because existing legislation could not keep up with the array of new substances.  Mechanisms are now in place for substances proven as low risk to be legitimately sold, and all others have been removed from retail sale.

New Zealand was recognised around the world for this bold and innovative piece of law.

Through the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, the Government has tightened the rules on the sale of alcohol and put more control in the hands of local communities.

We have also reduced the blood-alcohol limit for driving and increased alcohol screening and brief interventions in primary care.  These measures are working: the number of people who drink hazardously has decreased from 18 per cent to 16 per cent over the last several years.

We have made extraordinary progress on reducing the rates of smoking, but tobacco remains the biggest preventable cause of death. It requires an approach commensurate with the magnitude of the problem.

As a result the Government is developing a separate tobacco control plan which will sit alongside the National Drug Policy.  The new National Drug Policy seeks to build on this progress by carrying over fundamental principles of the previous policy while also providing a clear focus for improvement over the next five years.

The Policy’s overarching goal remains to minimise the harm from alcohol and drug use.

This has been expanded to also include the promotion of health and wellbeing.

This takes a more holistic view of harm minimisation and is more inclusive of families, whānau and communities.

This will help us strive towards the wider social sector goals of reducing welfare dependency, supporting vulnerable children, boosting skills and employment, and reducing crime. The Policy carries over the same three strategies in order to achieve this: problem limitation, demand reduction and supply control.

But unlike the previous Policy, it focuses on five new Priority Areas in order to guide action.

These are:

  1. 1creating a people-centred intervention system
  2. 2shifting thinking and behaviour
  3. 3getting the legal balance right
  4. 4disrupting organised crime
  5. 5improving information flow.

First, our system for dealing with alcohol and drugs must be people-centred.

We need to make sure that services are better joined up so that ‘no door is the wrong door’.

Interventions need to be tailored to different populations and needs.  In order to do this, we will develop a map of potential intervention points across a person’s life course, and create common tools to foster system change.

Services need to respond to people as early, efficiently and effectively as possible to achieve the best outcomes.  Second, the Policy aims to shift people’s thinking and behaviour about alcohol and drugs.

We need to build new ways of thinking about alcohol and drugs, particularly around New Zealand’s drinking culture.  We also need to encourage people to seek help, and make the right support available at the right time.

Change in this area will require a sustained effort over a long period of time. But it is achievable.

Third, the Policy emphasises the need to get the legal balance right.

This responds to the recommendations made by the Law Commission in their 2011 review of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The laws we make need to be reasonable, and it is crucial that our enforcement response is proportionate. We want to make sure that drug use is deterred where possible, but also that the laws are actually working for individuals, communities and society.

We are trying to minimise harm, not create more. The Law Commission recommended that we repeal the Act and replace it with a whole new one.

We thought carefully about this recommendation.  But we have now decided that a complete revision of the Act is not required at this time.

Instead we want to dig deeper.

We want to understand how the legislation is operating on the ground.  Is the legislation allowing appropriate access to controlled drugs for medical reasons, while protecting communities from their misuse?

Does it allow Police to make appropriate decisions to stop drug harm?

The Act only sets the boundaries for us to work within.  We can still make changes within that.

So a number of actions in the new Policy respond explicitly to the Law Commission recommendations. The Ministry of Health will work with the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs to make sure that drug classification decisions are focused on harm.

They will also commence work to examine whether the laws and enforcement around drug possession and utensil possession are still reasonable compared to the severity of these offences.

We have already made progress in reviewing how controlled drugs are used for legitimate purposes. This has identified the need to examine labelling and packaging requirements as part of the new Therapeutic Products regime.

The review did not recommend any changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act itself.

But it has identified a need to review of the Misuse of Drugs regulations in order to ensure that they are fit for purpose for current medical and pharmacy practice.

We will also re-examine the prescribing process for Sativex, New Zealand’s only approved medicinal cannabis product. When we have made progress in all of these areas, I believe that we will be in a better place to consider what a new Misuse of Drugs Act might look like.

The Policy’s fourth Priority Area is to disrupt organised crime.

We need a multiagency approach in order to break supply chains and disrupt the ability of criminal groups to sell illegal drugs. It is important that our efforts are as innovative as those of the criminals we are trying to catch.

Finally, the Policy aims to improve the way the government uses information.

This is vital if we are going to anticipate and respond to alcohol and drug issues effectively.

Greater availability of information is also crucial for people and communities to make better decisions about alcohol and drugs. The five Priority Areas will ensure that the Policy focuses on the things that matter.

But they are not the only way that this Policy improves upon its predecessor.

Another key difference with the new Policy is that it contains far more robust accountability mechanisms.  This will allow us to actually track the progress we are making, and I have required government agencies to report annually to Cabinet on their progress.

Because making promises is not enough.

We need to make sure we keep them. This new accountability system will do that. The action plan contained in the Policy runs for only two years.  This was a deliberate choice.

Some of these actions have never been tried in New Zealand, so we need to feel our way forward.

At the end of the two years there will be a chance for us to take stock and listen to input from the sector.

We can decide which actions to keep going with and also to incorporate new ideas. We may even need to respond to issues which haven’t even emerged yet. I have no doubt that Ross will be knocking on my door with some items he would like to see added.

Overall, this is a Policy I am very pleased with.  I think all of New Zealand can be pleased with it as well.  It places us on the forefront of policymaking and builds upon what we know has been working so far – without compromising our most important values.

Compassion. Innovation. Proportion.

The Policy does not shy away from the difficult issues and places people at its heart.

I am very proud to present it to you today.

Thank you all for being here, and for your continued support as we strive for a more compassionate, innovative and proportionate approach to alcohol and drugs in New Zealand.

Better Tuesday

Writing columns during significant share market upheaval has it’s risks, Tracey Watkins at Stuff yesterday (posted at 13:16):

Is New Zealand immune from the Chinese contagion?

OPINION: Here we go again.

As world share markets slide into a fresh crisis, John Key was quick to reassure on Tuesday that New Zealand has plenty of tools in the tool kit to head off a recession.

Interest rate cuts, bringing forward infrastructure spending, even tax cuts are weapons at the disposal of the Government and Reserve Bank to stimulate the economy. But with memories still raw from the Global Financial Crisis, the biggest threat facing the economy may be one the Government finds harder to head off – a loss of confidence.

Apart from China confidence appears to have recovered by the end of the day with tghe NZX recovering slightly and the Australian stock markey bouncing back by 2%.

Also at Stuff (posted at 18:20):

NZX bounces back after ‘Black Monday’ hangover

“Black Monday” is being followed by “Better Tuesday”.

The Kiwi share market shook off a hangover from “Black Monday” to closer higher on Tuesday amid signs of hope for global markets overnight.

The NZX 50 fell more than 2 per cent within seconds of trading opening on Tuesday.

But stocks staged a recovery which strengthened after the Australian share market showed resilience.

And The Dow Jones looks like in recovery mode too (about an hour until close on the US Tuesday):

DowJones150825-3days

And the five year trend shows more of a correction than a crash.

DowJones150825-5yr

For now at least.

China down again, other markets positive

The Shanghai Composite market in China closed down 7.63% which takes it to an 8 month low.

So far other markets are looking positive.

New Zealand’s NZX is up slightly by 0.11%.

Australia’s ASX had dropped further them us yesterdat but was up 2.6%

And European markets have opened over 1% higher.

Stock market plunge

World stock markets are all significantly down in Monday trading. New Zealand can do little but try and keep the fundamentals here sound. There’s nothing we can do about the world markets. The Shanghai market was down 8.4% yesterday.

NZ Herald: Wall St tumbles as China syndrome rocks world markets

The Dow was down 282 points, or 1.7 percent, to 16,176 points as of 1:54 p.m. Eastern time. The S&P 500 dropped 39 points, or 2 percent, to 1,931. The Nasdaq composite fell 72 points, or 1.5 percent, to 4,663 points. The three indexes are down for the year.

The New Zealand sharemarket was a sea of red ink yesterday as stocks were sold down in response to weakness in the global markets and investors worldwide became increasingly nervous about China’s economic prospects.

By the close of trading, the S&P NZX 50 was down 143 points, or 2.49 per cent, to 5616, with $2.25 billion shaved off the market’s total value. It was the worst day on local markets in four years.

Australia’s All Ordinaries Index fared even worse, slumping 3.66 per cent. In China, the Shanghai Composite Index was down 8.4 per cent at 3211 late yesterday.

A big blip or a slide?

From New York Times: Why Global Financial Markets Are So Turbulent

Last week, global financial markets were churning, but it really only mattered if you were an oil trader, Chinese bureaucrat or hedge fund manager.

Now it’s starting to get scary for everyone.

An 8.5 percent drop in the Shanghai Composite index in Monday’s trading session spread to financial markets across the world. In the United States, the broad Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 2.5 percent in Monday morning trading, after steeper declines in Asian and European stock markets, falling prices for oil and other commodities, and a rush of money into the safety of United States Treasury bonds.

It started in China:

The immediate trigger to the outburst of global volatility was China, where the sharp drop in stocks Monday continued a rout that has been underway — with periodic pauses thanks to government interventions — all summer.

The Chinese economy is slowing, and the 38 percent drop in the Shanghai Composite Index since June 12 is indeed a huge number. There is no question that this giant economy is struggling with a transition from the investment-and-export-led boom of the last generation toward something more sustainable.

But a few facts make China’s problems less satisfying as an explanation for the turmoil across world markets. The Chinese stock market has risen sharply over the past year as millions of middle-class Chinese citizens took to making investments. Even after its steep drop this summer, the Shanghai index is down less than 1 percent for the year and still up 43 percent from one year ago.

Other markets followed:

Some of the key evidence for the “this is about more than China” story come from other emerging markets, stretching from Malaysia to Mexico, that are also taking it on the chin. Their currencies and stock and bond prices have fallen sharply over the last week. Some of that most likely reflects exposure to the Chinese economy. But some of it reflects something bigger.

In effect, the Fed’s easy money policies led global investors to search for higher-yielding securities, which they found in many faster-growing emerging markets. Money gushed into these countries in search of better returns from 2010 until 2013, driving up prices of assets.

But as the end of the era of cheap dollars has approached, that hot money has pulled out — and created volatile spikes in interest rates and damage to those emerging economies.

And oil.

The price of a barrel of oil fell from around $60 in late June to under $40 on Monday. Over time, that will be good news for American and European energy consumers, but there are complex feedback loops that probably make the commodity sell-off both a cause and a result of the broader emerging markets panic.

Waiting for the Fed.

In the background of all of this is a crucial decision looming for the United States Federal Reserve. Fed officials have expressed confidence that the domestic economy is on track and that the time is right to raise interest rates after nearly seven years of keeping them near zero. It could make that move at its policy meeting Sept. 16 and 17.

Fed officials have indicated a determination to base interest rates on what is most appropriate given the state of the American economy and not to overreact to fluctuations in markets. The latest volatility will test that resolve.

Of course, it is the Fed’s job to set policy based on where the economy is going, not where it has been. If markets keep falling, that could endanger American growth prospects. On the other hand, the Fed’s job isn’t to try to protect investors from the risks of a downturn.

Where too from here?

The Dow Jones is currently down 4.19% (US Monday).

UPDATE: After a down and up day the Dow Jones closed significant;y higher tha it’s opening lows but still finished down 3.58%

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