Al Jazeera “doing a sterling job covering the situation” in Sudan

We get little coverage in New Zealand of the ongoing civil war in Sudan. To follow what is happening you have to look overseas, and Al Jazeera provides some of the best coverage of what is happening in the Middle East.

Al Jazeera Arabic, which was kicked out of Sudan a couple of weeks ago, is still doing a sterling job covering the situation in Khartoum – no mean feat given that the military have all but shut down internet services in the country.

Smuggled footage taken from moving vehicles show largely deserted streets in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Al Jazeera Arabic broadcasts the footage while interviewing activists and analysts out of Khartoum on scratchy phone lines.

Sudan is yet another country which has shut down Al Jazeera Arabic’s offices, in addition to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain. Al Jazeera also seems to be at least heavily restricted in Algeria, which is also in a state of unrest.

Some of the bans have to do with the ongoing split between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and given the Saudi financial backing of the military council in Sudan, it comes as no surprise that Al Jazeera has been banned there.

However, it’s more than that, and a glance at the Wikipedia page for AJA () gives a long list of countries in which Al Jazeera has been declared unwelcome at one point or another, including Israel, Iraq and even India.

As George Orwell said, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.” Twenty-three years after its launch, Al Jazeera continues to make itself unpopular with regimes throughout the Middle East. That’s a good thing.

Thanks to and the many other Al Jazeera Arabic presenters, journalists, producers, camera operators and others who continue to work in very trying conditions to show and tell us what is going on.

Media and journalism get a bad rap these days, not helped by frequent attacks by one of the most prominent world leaders, Donald Trump, who does his best to discredit what he doesn’t want printed or broadcast.

This isn’t as bad as countries in the Middle East, but his aims seem chillingly similar, to promote his own (often nonsense) narrative and turn people against media reporting things he doesn’t want broadcast.

Being dumped on and shunned by draconian governments is a sign that Al Jazeera is doing some very good work reporting on what is happening.

Al Jazeera website Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera

“News, analysis from the Middle East & worldwide, multimedia & interactives, opinions, documentaries, podcasts, long reads and broadcast schedule.”

Sky TV in New Zealand broadcast Al Jazeera on channel 90.

Alpine fault quake, Geonet issue swarning

@Geonet:

M5.5 quake north-east of Milford Sound, 5 km deep at 3.24am. This quake was largely felt in the Queenstown and Wanaka areas, with over 600 felt reports submitted. Our duty seismologist can confirm that this quake looks to have occurred on the Alpine Fault

This fault system has the potential for larger events and we would like to make sure that you are prepared for a large earthquake at all times. Follow ‘s advice for preparing yourself, ‘s advice for preparing your home and for more

There were three quakes recorded this morning:

  • 5.5 – 3:24 am, 40 km north-east of Milford Sound
  • 3.9 – 3:33 am, 40 km north-east of Milford Sound
  • 3.9 – 3:35 am, 40 km north of Milford Sound

The depth of all three was 5 km – that’s shallow.

When I woke up to feel the first Christchurch earthquake (4 September 2010) my first thought after WTF was whether it was ‘the big one’ expected some time on the Alpine Fault.

I felt the next Christchurch quake (22 February) while at work, and a few aftershocks as well. Even from a distance they are quite disconcerting. Best to be prepared for them, as in many parts of New Zealand Earthquakes are inevitable.

Civil Defence: Preparing for an earthquake

Before an earthquake

During an earthquake

After an earthquake

New Zealand lies on the boundary of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. Most earthquakes occur at faults, which are breaks extending deep within the earth, caused by movements of these plates. There are thousands of earthquakes in New Zealand every year, but most of them are not felt because they are either small, or very deep within the earth. Each year there are about 150 – 200 quakes that are big enough to be felt. A large, damaging earthquake could occur at any time, and can be followed by aftershocks that continue for days or weeks.

GNS details on the Alpine Fault

The Alpine Fault, which runs for about 600km up the spine of the South Island, is one of the world’s major geological features. It’s the “on-land” boundary of the Pacific and Australian Plates.

This fault has ruptured four times in the past 900 years, each time producing an earthquake of about magnitude 8. Approximate rupture dates are 1717AD, 1620 AD, 1450 AD, and 1100 AD. Recent research (published in 2012) by GNS Science has extended our knowledge of the Alpine fault earthquake record back through the past 8000 years. Click here for more details of these findings.

 

 

Alcohol links with crime and suicide

“You drink too much and bad things will happen”.

Drinking rates amongst young is declining, but is still high in older age groups.

Half of suicides and half of crime is linked to alcohol.

Blomfield may benefit from Craig costs v Slater

Here’s a possible twist to Cameron Slater’s defamation cases – he has been awarded substantial costs in the Craig v Slater defamation case, but as I understand it those will be paid to the administrators of Slater’s bankruptcy and company liquidation. And part of available funds from them could end up being paid to Matt Blomfield, who is likely to be a major creditor for both.

While Blomfield has won substantial costs in various court proceedings, Slater appeared to negate all of that by declaring himself bankrupt in February.

This week the a High Court judge awarded costs to Slater in the defamation and counter defamation trial versus Colin Craig – see Slater awarded costs v Craig, but well short of actual costs.

These costs amount to several hundred thousand dollars. It’s a good bet that Craig will appeal the costs, but there are very limited options with that, costs are at the discretion of the trial judge and are difficult to overturn unless an error of law is made.

So where do these costs go? I believe not, as I had initially presumed, directly to Slater’s lawyers. Slater has been billed (indemnity costs according to the judgment) $564,730. That is substantially more than the costs awarded, but presuming that Slater has paid not paid all of his legal bills, that is a debt incurred by his lawyers.

Costs are not paid to the lawyers, they are paid to, in this case, the first defendant Slater, and the second defendant Social Media Consultants Limited (Slater’s company).

But with Slater being bankrupt any costs will go to the Official Assignee, and with Social Media Consultants being in liquidation costs related to the company will be under control of the liquidator.

Slater’s lawyers will have to line up with all other creditors to seek their share of what is available to be paid out. Blomfield is already a creditor as well.

But there could be another substantial debt to be added, incurred before bankruptcy and liquidation, but yet to be quantified.

An award of damages in the Blomfield versus Slater defamation is yet to be made. Despite the case already taking nearly seven years, I understand that the hearing on an award of damages won’t take place until next year, and it could take some time after that for the judge to make a decision.

The judgment on defamation between Craig and Slater was made on 19 October 2018, but the judgment on costs has just been made (6 June 2019).

The award of damages in Blomfield v Slater may not be known until 1-2 years from now. But as they were incurred before the bankruptcy and liquidation, and funds available will be apportioned to Blomfield and any other creditors like Slater’s lawyers. Even if Craig appeals costs that should be decided on by then.

The cost of clearing his name has been expensive. Blomfield’s legal battles with Slater have cost him many hundreds of thousands of dollars. It may turn out that costs awarded to Slater in Craig v Slater may pay some of that back via through costs and damages incurred in Blomfield v Slater & Social Media Consultants.

But this may be even more complicated. Slater is still facing defamation in the action bought against him by Sellman, Swinburn and Bradbrook. If costs (either way) or damages are awarded there it could also affect things.

Note – I’m not a lawyer or debt expert, I’m just trying to get my head around how this all works.

A weak of headlines for the real leader of the Opposition

James Elliot at Newsroom – Yesterdaze: And the gong goes to …

And with Simon Bridges resolutely fixated on trying to wring as much political capital as possible out of Budget-hack, it fell to the leader of the opposition, Mike Hosking, to take the Government to task on the more substantive issues of the day. If you synthesised his editorial headlines this week you’d be forgiven for thinking we have a car-hating, out of touch Government of bullies led by a weak Prime Minister that is butchering both motorists and the economy.

I don’t usually take much notice of Mike Hosking, but decided to have a look at his weak in headlines.

Mike Hosking: Labour Government in danger of plunging into deficit

Already the doubts over what Grant Robertson was telling us last Friday are spreading.

If you missed it last week, what I was trying to explain to him (and he wasn’t accepting) is that he is running his books dangerously close to the margin, that the forecasts are optimistic, and that it would take next to nothing for them to be out – and his $1.3 billion surplus would be gone.

Do most New Zealanders or voters care about deficits or surpluses? Do they care about being in the red? Do they join the dots between a government’s books, economic growth, the tax take, jobs, and their stability? If they don’t, then Labour might get away with this.

But if they do, which is my bet, and they do because since Roger Douglas in 1984, we have woken up to simple economics, the value of efficiency, common sense, not to mention success, and we like it.

Roger Douglas is a real hero of the people, second only to Hosking.

So if that’s the case and Robertson and Co are leading us into an election in the red for the first time in years then they’re getting rightfully punished.

The election is next year.

Mike Hosking: AT is dangerous, inept and out of control

Auckland Transport must be the most hated of all organisations in the region.

They have earned their reputation by basically running roughshod over communities, councils, councillors, mayors – and anyone else who dared ask questions about just what it is they’re up to in their seemingly systematic plan to wreck the country’s biggest city.

From parking, or a lack of it, to pedestrian crossings by the thousands enraging locals, to closures of endless streets for months on end for seemingly pointless reshaping and realigning, to their obsession with buses and bike lanes – in my opinion they are dangerous, inept and out of control.

Here’s my top tip: find the councillor or mayoral candidate that’s going to stop this, and vote for them.

Mike’s Minute: Car-hating Govt is out of touch with the public

Most people are reasonable, most people see logic, most people want to help, but in the war on cars and speed, this is ideology, this is car hate, fossil fuel hate, and it’s driven by a tiny minority that think bikes are a multipurpose means of transport, if you can’t get a train.

Meantime, in the real world, we are behind the wheel in record numbers.

Hosking is the spokesperson for the real world. His world, anyway.

Mike’s Minute: Cabinet reshuffle will expose Ardern’s weakness

Turns out we can expect, in the reshuffle, basically nothing.

Turns out, yet again, the Cabinet reshuffle is a classic example of the Labour Party – or in this specific case, yet again, the Prime Minister – saying something will happen, then it doesn’t.

How do you reshuffle when your greatest fear is actually making a decision, and you can’t send it off to a working party?

Turns out, the reshuffle announcement isn’t until next week. Mike can have another minute acting like leader of the opposition again then.

I wonder if Newstalk ZB are going to have a reshuffle.

Reserve Bank Governor ’embattled’

Michael Reddell isn’t a fan of the performance of Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr.

Croaking Cassandra: An embattled Orr

And then there was the press conference.   I’ve seen some pretty poor performances from Governors over the years –  early ones by Alan Bollard were often awkward, and as Graeme Wheeler became more embattled the defensive introvert, never comfortable with the media, took over.     But this one was the worst I’ve seen, and from someone who has many talents in communications.  But just not, so it is confirmed again, in coping with challenge, disagreement, or finding himself on the back foot.  I doubt a senior politician would have got away with it, and it isn’t obvious why an unelected bureaucrat, uncomfortable at facing serious scrutiny, should do so.

The Governor and Deputy Governor faced several questions about the possible impact of the Bank’s capital proposals on farm lending –  various commentators have suggested such borrowers will be among the hardest hit.  The Bank attempted to push back claiming that any sectoral impacts were nothing to do with them, and all about banks’ own choices.  But they seemed blind to the fact that banks will have more ability to pass on the additional costs of the higher capital requirements to some sectors, some borrowers, than others.  And that is because of a point the Bank never addresses: their capital requirements don’t apply to all lenders.

The Governor came across as embattled from start to finish –  embattled at best, at times prickly, rude, and behaving in a manner quite inappropriate for a senior unelected public official exercising a great deal of discretionary power, with few formal checks and balances.   BusinessDesk’s Jenny Ruth – who often asks particularly pointed questions about the exercise of the Bank’s regulatory powers, and the lack of transparency around its use of those powers – was the particular target of his ire, and at one point he tried to refuse to take further questions from her.

The press conference deterioriated further as it got towards the end.  Without specific further prompting, the Governor noted a certain frostiness in the room, and then launched off again in his own defence.

A couple of articles in the Herald in recent days tells us some more of the story.   The first was from Liam Dann, who has in the past provided a trusty outlet for the views of successive Governors, and the second was a column from Pattrick Smellie, under the heading “Bunker mentality returns to the RBNZ?”, evoking unwelcome memories of the Wheeler governorship.

Orr very much needs to be pulled into line, for his own sake and that of the country (as single decisionmaker he still wields huge untrammelled power).

At present, he is displaying none of the qualities that we should expect to find in powerful unelected official –  nothing calm, nothing judicious, nothing open and engaging, just embattled, defensive, aggressive, playing the man rather than the ball, all around troubles of his own making (poor process around radical proposals made without any robust shared analysis, all while he is prosecutor, judge, and jury in his own case).

He also notes something odd – “when we have no idea who will even be Secretary to the Treasury –  lead economic adviser to the government –  three weeks from now”. That’s if Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf stays in the job that long.

Is there really no replacement for him yet?

Slater awarded costs v Craig, but well short of actual costs

Cameron Slater has been awarded substantial costs in the defamation case between him and Colin Craig, but the amount awarded is well short of actual costs claimed. As Slater is now bankrupt his lawyers may be the ones to suffer the shortfall. Craig will also be substantially out of pocket.

Slater had been found to have defamed Craig, but as Craig had been found to have then ruined his only reputation no damages were awarded.

Summary

Costs judgment in defamation proceeding Craig v Slater [2018] NZHC 2712. 3B costs allocated to Slater as the successful party. Craig succeeded only in proving that he did not place his press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, under financial pressure to sleep with him and that he did not sexually harass another woman. Craig failed on all other significant pleaded causes of action, including particularly the principal allegation that he had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor. Costs award to Slater reduced by 10 percent to reflect Craig’s limited success.
The Court held that costs should lie where they fall in respect of the counterclaim. Craig protected by response to an attack privilege, but Slater succeeded in proving the statements about his journalistic integrity were not true. Because it is difficult to identify precisely those costs incurred by Slater in respect of the counterclaim, a discount of 10 percent applied to reflect those costs lying where they fall.

Mr Slater’s claim for indemnity costs failed because the Court accepted that Mr Craig did not know he had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor when bringing the proceeding, due largely to his oblivious and self-involved perception of their professional and personal relationship. He therefore did not bring the proceeding vexatiously or frivolously.

Final disposition of costs awards as follows: first, Slater shall not receive costs for any interlocutory steps taken in respect of the counterclaim; costs in respect of pretrial preparation and trial appearances reduced by 10 percent to reflect the aspect of those costs expended in relation to the counterclaim lying where they fall; 90 percent of the remaining sum payable by Mr Craig to reflect the limited success he had on the substantive claim.

The judgment details who succeeded and who failed in the defamation claim and counter claim, and then explained the costs calculations.

Claim for indemnity costs

[56] Mr Slater seeks indemnity costs of $564,730 or, in the alternative, scale costs of $356,400 on a category 3C basis.

Indemnity costs were turned down because Craig didn’t think he was guilty of harassing MacGregor.

[75] It follows that I do not consider Mr Slater is entitled to indemnity costs against Mr Craig. Regardless of what I have said about his relative lack of success in the proceeding overall, I do not think Mr Craig acted vexatiously or improperly in pursuing his claims or resisting the counterclaim. He did not believe that he was guilty of sexually harassing Ms MacGregor. That position may seem wholly unreasonable to many, but it needs to be considered in the light of Ms MacGregor’s failure to protest, as explicable as that may have been.

Category C scale costs are the largest scale costs that can be awarded, although substantially less than indemnity ()actual) costs. But the judge awarded category 2 costs, which are about two thirds of category 3 – because of the lack of detail given in the lawyers’ invoices.

[83] For Mr Slater, Mr Henry has not explained why each, or indeed any, of the steps involved in the proceeding took a comparatively large amount of time. Rather, he asks the Court to undertake a blanket assessment for banding. As has been made clear by the Court of Appeal, that approach is not desirable. Mr Slater has provided the Court with the monthly invoices charged to him by Mr Henry. However, the invoices simply set out the total hours of work completed by Mr Henry (and Ms Foster) in each month. They do not specify how much time was spent on which steps in the proceeding. I am unable, therefore, to assess whether the time allocated to a particular step by band C might be reasonable by reference to the actual time spent by counsel for Mr Slater on that step.

So due to invoicing laxness that cuts the scale costs back by something like a hundred thousand dollars.

There were more deductions.

[85] The saga that is this case needs to be brought to an end. I do not think it is desirable to add more delay by requesting further information from Mr Slater. The principles I have discussed should be applied as well as they can be to the material provided. On that basis, I direct that the award of costs to Mr Slater is to be calculated as follows:

(a) Mr Slater shall not receive costs for any interlocutory step taken in pursuing the counterclaim against Mr Craig.

(b) Because of the difficulty in identifying from the information provided how much of the preparatory work for which costs are sought under item 33 in Schedule 3 related to the counterclaim, I direct that the costs claimed under item 33 shall be discounted by 10 per cent.

(d) Because of the difficulty in identifying with precision how much of the trial time was occupied by the counterclaim, I direct that the costs of both counsel under items 34 and 35 in Schedule 3 shall be discounted by 10 per cent.

(e) A further deduction is to be made to reflect the limited success that Mr Craig enjoyed on the substantive claim. On that account, the amount of costs payable by Mr Craig shall be reduced to 90 per cent of all costs and disbursements.

I don’t know how that all works out but it looks to be much less than half the $564,730 claimed.

There are still substantial costs for Craig to pay  (he could appeal them). But the shortfall from actual costs will be greater. As Slater is bankrupt that may be bills that his lawyers cannot recover (I don’t know how the timing of the award and the bankruptcy affects things).

Everyone seems have lost here, after several years of litigation after a very public online spat.

Decision

PDF document icon SCC_0.pdf — PDF document, 196 KB (201019 bytes)

 

GCSB tried to stop Treasury hack claim

NZ Herald: GCSB tried to stop Treasury boss Gabriel Makhlouf from saying website, Budget had been ‘hacked’

Political reporter Derek Cheng has uncovered new details of the hours leading up to Treasury boss Gabriel Makhlouf’s claims that his department’s website had been hacked for Budget details.

The Government’s spy agency made urgent calls to the Beehive before Makhlouf’s public statement – we reveal today what they told at least one senior Government Minister.

The new details come as Makhlouf faces a State Services Commission investigation over the way he handled claims the website had been hacked. It later transpired that Budget details could be uncovered using the Treasury’s search engine.

Matthew Hooton:

Could it have been little more than Makhlouf’s understanding (or misunderstanding) of what ‘hack’ meant?

Hack: “gain unauthorized access to data in a system or computer.”

Was whoever searched like crazy through the weekend authorised to do that? Was Simon Bridges and National authorised to release budget details two days early?

Authorise: “give official permission for or approval to (an undertaking or agent)”

Hgas: “who gives a stuff?”

D-Day 75th anniversary – jaded by war history

I must admit I have not had much interest in the 75th anniversary D-Day commemorations. I think I’m getting jaded by World War remembrances.

We have just finished five years of World War 1 centenary remembrances.

There was recent focus on the Monte Casino battle that was 75 years ago in Italy.

And we have an annual ANZAC splurge of war remembrances- media interest seems to have surged.

The media are running out of Returrned Servicemen who served in the second world war, but still manage to find someone who served and remembers the horrors and the lost comrades. Obviously it’s a big deal for them.

But, while the big wars need to be remembered so we can avoid anything like that scale of carnage and destruction again, I wonder if the commemorations are becoming a bit old hat.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful.

I realise we are going to get a string of 75 year commemorations of the end of World War 2.

But I would prefer to put more focus into what we can do to improve the world now and for the future. lessons of the past can be useful, put putting those lessons into practice now can be lost in the nostalgia.

Majority of Americans think Trump will win next year’s election

It is 17 months until the next US election, and a lot could change in that time.

What has already changed is expectations of Trump’s chances for a second term. He defeated the odds and defied many pundits by first winning the Republican nomination, and then winning the 2016 presidential election.

Next year he is unlikely to be underestimated. He is likely to rate his own chances much more than last time.

But a poll this far out from the election, with a large number of potential opponents jostling for attention and support. Until the Trump’s Democrat opponent is known, and before they show how good a candidate they are (and before Trump works out his derogatory attack lines), the polled public won’t really have much idea what Trump’s actual chances are.

Trump continues to lag in ‘approval’ polls by around 10% give or take undramatic variations.