General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted

General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted

Trump ‘campaign spy’ claim refuted

As has become normal, Donald Trump made a big claim via Twitter on Friday based on what appear to be nothing more than vague rumours.

And as usual, this seems to have been somewhat embellished.

NY Times: F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims

President Trump accused the F.B.I. on Friday, without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign “for political purposes” even before the bureau had any inkling of the “phony Russia hoax.”

In fact, F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign. The informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, made contact late that summer with one campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, according to people familiar with the matter. He also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page, who was also under F.B.I. scrutiny for his ties to Russia.

No evidence has emerged that the informant acted improperly when the F.B.I. asked for help in gathering information on the former campaign advisers, or that agents veered from the F.B.I.’s investigative guidelines and began a politically motivated inquiry, which would be illegal.

Trump has never been bothered much about evidence when making accusations and claims, but he is demanding an investigation

Fox News: Trump to ‘demand’ Justice probe whether feds spied on campaign for political purposes

Promoting a theory that is circulating, Trump quoted Fox Business anchor David Asman and tweeted Friday: “Apparently the DOJ put a Spy in the Trump Campaign. This has never been done before and by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn’t commit.”

But Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani cast some doubt on that.

On whether there was an “informant” in the 2016 presidential campaign, Giuliani told CNN, “I don’t know for sure, nor does the president, if there really was one,” though he said they have long been told there was “some kind of infiltration.”

Perhaps another investigation would clarify the extent of the FBI attention given the trump campaign, but it would also add another ring to the Trump circus.

Waikeria ‘mega prison’ won’t be built but Government remains vague

Decisions on what to do about an escalating New Zealand prison population are still pending, but the government has revealed it has ruled out building a 2.500 bed prison expansion at Waikeria. other options are being considered.

Limited measures were announced in the Budget. Grant Robertson:

Our goal is to stop the spiralling prison population and reduce it by 30 percent over the next 15 years.

To respond to unavoidable short-term pressures, this Budget will fund accommodation for 600 more prisoner places in rapid-build modular units. Meanwhile, initiatives are being developed to reduce the number of people in prison, while keeping New Zealanders safe.

Three days later the Waikeria expansion was raised by Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta in a TVNZ Marae discussion – Questions surround prison after Maori Development Minister says they won’t throw ‘$1 billion at a prison Waikeria’

Appearing on TVNZ1’s Marae, Nanaia Mahuta was answering a question from National MP Jami-Lee Ross about what the budget meant for struggling families.

“We aren’t going to throw 1 billion dollars at a prison in Waikeria. We want to put it into the regional economy,” Ms Mahuta said today.

Broadcaster Miriama Kamo asked Ms Mahuta directly if that meant the prison was a no-go.

“Let’s clarify, did you just say there will not be a mega prison in Waikeria?”

Ms Mahuta said it was a matter for the Corrections minister to decide.

“I think if you build bigger prisons, they’ll get filled.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson was quick to respond:

This prompted more questions. Stuff: Government says Waikeria won’t be ‘mega prison’, but a wider decision is pending

Asked for further comment Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said the wider decision was still pending but confirmed the “mega-prison” plans would not go ahead. However, he left the option open to expand the prison more moderately.

“We are looking at all the options to deal with the rising prison population and our current capacity crisis,” Davis said.

“I can confirm, we will not be building a mega prison with 2500 beds as proposed by the National government.

“But that decision alone does not deal with the challenges I have mentioned. And we will take action, but it will be considered and not reactive.”

Davis said he would be taking his time to make the right decision, looking at “all the options across the board”. He said he would be working with Justice Minister Andrew Little and Police Minister Stuart Nash.

The 600 prison beds announced in the budget will help address the problem, but only partially.

On Friday…

 …the union representing prison workers was calling on the Government to make a decision soon.

“All prison staff, including Community Corrections staff working in prisons, are under constant pressure, because prisons are so overcrowded they can’t do the rehabilitation work inmates need,” Public Services Association organiser Willie Cochrane said.

“600 beds will not be enough to ease the current crisis, because so many of the current prison areas are not fit to house inmates.

“If that expansion isn’t going ahead, we want to hear what more he’ll do to expand the capacity of our prisons in the short term and keep our members safe in the workplace.”

Cochrane said on Sunday…

…his members wanted a clearer response.

“Frankly, this comment from the Minister leaves us none the wiser,” Cochrane said.

“Our members welcome Labour’s commitment to cut the number of people in prison. But right now, the system is close to breaking point, and our members are getting frustrated at the time the government is taking to reach a decision.”

Labour has been vague on how they would address the growing prison population since before the election. Last August (The Spinoff):

Labour’s policy announcements have so far been all but silent on criminal justice policy. Other than 1,000 additional frontline police – a commitment that will significantly fuel rather than stem the prison population – there is no clear plan to tackle prisons. Indeed, Davis’ announcement-not-announcement of a prison run on tikanga Māori values was quickly quashed by then Labour leader Andrew Little. Until now, a question mark has hovered over Labour’s corrections policy.

Davis and his rise to the role of deputy leader of the Labour Party may yet represent one of the most exciting developments in prison policy in decades. Backed by a leader with a similarly clear vision for a more effective and humane approach to crime and punishment, a seismic shift in corrections policy could come by way of a Labour-Greens government.

With an incumbent prime minister who famously labelled prisons as “a moral and fiscal failure” and a minister of corrections desperately seeking options to reduce the prison population, Labour can put forward a radical platform to overhaul the prison system and National will be unable to do much more than nod along in agreement. There is the very real possibility – pinch me now – that this election we could see a rational, evidence-based debate on the way forward for New Zealand’s broken prison system. Let’s do that.

There has been little sign of “a rational, evidence-based debate on the way forward for New Zealand’s broken prison system”, just vagueness and delays.

Davis, Little and Labour are going  to have to make some major decisions on prisons and imprisonment rates soon.

General chat

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We may get a bit longer to kiss our arses goodbye

Image result for kiss arse goodbye

The Spinoff: What happens to NZ after global nuclear war breaks out?

According to various experts, New Zealand would indeed likely be the best place to be in the event of a nuclear holocaust. But “best” is a relative term, and this belies just how hellish life could become on one of the world’s last inhabitable countries.

Nailing down the exact consequences of a nuclear war isn’t easy, and not just because it’s never happened. With so many variables at play – the countries involved, where they’re located, the number of weapons deployed, what time of the year it is – there’s no definitive post-war scenario.

The chances of New Zealand being a direct target are probably slim, but Australia must be a higher risk and we usually get their drift, weather wise.

Still, some have tried to map out a potential aftermath. In a 2014 paper for Earth’s Future, a team of scientists attempted to model the effects of a limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan that would see each country use 50 warheads, each with a yield of 15 kilotons, about the same as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The results weren’t pretty. Even a “limited” war like this would send five megatonnes of smoke into the stratosphere, heating it by up to 100°C and wiping out most of the earth’s ozone layer for as long as a decade. This means the average burn time in the sun would halve for humans, while the resulting surge of UV radiation would wreak havoc on the world’s vegetation and sealife, including, in the latter case, disrupting the entire food chain of the ocean and damaging marine life in its early, developmental stages.

More alarming is the fact that the colossal amount of black carbon sitting up in the stratosphere would cause a global nuclear winter, the coldest average surface temperatures in 1,000 years. That means shorter growing seasons and the destruction of crops by killing frosts, which Brian Toon, one of the authors of the report, has said would reduce yields of corn, wheat and rice by 10-40% for years afterwards.

And this is just for a “limited” war.

“After a full scale nuclear war, temperatures would plunge below Ice Age conditions,” Toon explained to a TED audience earlier this year. “No crops would grow. It’s estimated 90% of the population of the planet would starve to death.”

Not a good outlook, even in New Zealand. We produce a lot of food, and exports would likely plummet if there is a nuclear holocaust, but that probably just means surviving a bit longer than most.

Unless we get flooded by refugees. People seeking safer havens may be a huge moral issue.

Where does New Zealand fit into all this? No studies thus far have specifically examined New Zealand. But based on what several experts have told me, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is, we would likely be spared the worst consequences of all this. Experts like Toon and Brian Martin, a social scientist at the University of Wollongong who has a PhD in theoretical physics, say that we’d have little to fear from radiation drifting our way. The most harmful isotopes would decay before reaching our shores, and even fallout drifting over from a potential attack on Australia would likely be blown eastward, where it would be rained out.

We get a lot of our weather ex Australia, so we must be at risk of copping some of their fallout – unless a holocaust dramatically affects weather patterns.

Now for the bad news: even if we’re spared the worst of these effects, the impact of nuclear war would reverberate in the South Pacific thanks to trade and the economy. This wouldn’t be the case in every scenario, says Ilan Noy, Victoria University’s Professorial Chair in the Economics of Disasters, who examines economics and public policy as they relate to the management of natural disasters. In the case of a local war between India and Pakistan, which aren’t large traders, the effects would be somewhat muted.

“I don’t see world trade collapsing,” he says. “It would dent the New Zealand economy – fewer tourists, uncertainty in the world, the need to find trade replacements.”

It’s a different story when the combatants are Russia and the United States.

“I don’t really know how to think about that kind of world,” he says. “If there is an event between Russia and the US, it becomes a mess. There’s no shipping, no trade for a while, we are all down to every country surviving by itself.”

Noy says the sudden halting of global trade would create a “dramatic change in our lives.”

According to Noy, daily life would be set back a century, when most people relied on subsistence farming to survive – except in this case, most of us no longer have the rudimentary skills and knowledge needed to eke out this kind of existence.

Some people want to return to ‘the god old days’ – I’m not sure they want to do that literally though.

It’s fair to say, however, that this “best” choice is still not great. In the best case scenario, our economy will be dented, the ecosystems we depend on to live will be heavily damaged, and we’ll have far less food to pass around. At worst, we’ll experience mass starvation, be plunged backward in time and forced into lives we’re in no way prepared to live, and possibly be invaded by heavily armed ships led by an irradiated Jeff Bezos. It’s a sobering thought.

It’s a reminder that whatever happens on June 12 and at future global nuclear negotiations, New Zealand is not a disinterested bystander – and neither are those around the globe who want to treat this country like their own personal bomb shelter.

No one gets to opt out of nuclear war.

The US, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Israel et al already opt out, fortunately. But will the nuclear stand off continue indefinitely?

If not, we may simply get longer to prepare ourselves to kiss our arses goodbye.

General chat

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UN Human Rights Council votes for investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians

The UN Human Rights Council has voted strongly in favour of an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border this week.

  • For – 29 votes
  • Against – 2 votes (USA and Australia)
  • Abstained – 14

A television screen at the UN Human Rights Council shows how countries voted on a resolution approving an investigation into Israel's handling of deadly clashes on the Gaza border, on May 18, 2018. (Foreign Ministry)

New Zealand must not be on the Human Rights Council.

The Times of Israel: UN Human Rights Council votes to investigate Israel for Gaza protest deaths

The UN Human Rights Council on Friday voted to establish an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians during protests along the Gaza border, in a move Israel rejected as being an attempt to undermine Israel’s right to self-defense.

The council voted 29 in favor and two against with 14 countries abstaining. Australia and the US were the two countries to oppose the decision. The council also condemned “the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.”

The “independent, international commission of inquiry” mandated by the council will be asked to produce a final report next March.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the vote and the council as “irrelevant.”

It’s not irrelevant if there is good cause to investigate indiscriminate violence and killing – this applies to both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The investigation should look at whether either or both sides acted illegally. If Human Rights may have been breached then it is appropriate to investigate.

Next March is a long to wait for a result. A lot is likely to have happened in Gaza and Israel by then.

 

Increase in oil and gas exploration

While the Government has said they won’t issue any more oil or gas exploration permits and existing permits can still be used. With oil prices increasing there could be an increase in exploration in the short term.

Stuff: Rise in oil and gas exploration activity in Taranaki by early 2019

A flurry of oil and gas exploration is set to be unleashed in Taranaki during the next 18 to 36 months as companies make decisions on whether to ‘drill or drop’ existing permits.

The schedule will see as many as 20 wells being drilled both onshore and offshore in the region before early 2019 as the price of oil steadily rises, to US$80 from below US$40 two years ago.

A Petroleum Exploration and Production Association New Zealand (PEPANZ) spokesman said a decision would be made on a total of 31 exploration permits to be completed in Taranaki, as well as off the east coast of both the North and South Islands over the next three years.

Todd Energy is well underway with preparations to begin drilling and hydraulic fracturing six new wells at the Mangahewa G site, north Taranaki, in late 2018. Contractors are finishing off laying the 4.5 kilometre gas pipeline from the site to the Mangahewa production station in preparation for the wells being drilled and fractured.

The drilling and fracturing phase of the programme could see employment for up to 150 people.

OMV, which recently acquired Shell New Zealand assets, is planning to drill nine offshore exploration wells during the 2019/2020 summer across six permits in the Taranaki Basin.

The permits, granted to the company under the Crown Minerals Act, have a number of time-dependent exploration commitments and if successful further appraisal drilling, the step before production, would be considered, the PEPANZ spokesman said.

It takes a lot of time and money to get from permit to production, but the existing permits may become more valuable if no more are issued.

The wedding

I’m trying to avoid the wedding as much as possible, I’m just not in to royalty and celebrity stuff, but some are interested so here’s a post to comment on.