NZ troops to be withdrawn from Iraq

Beehive:  New Zealand to withdraw from Iraq in June 2020:


New Zealand will conclude its non-combat Building Partner Capacity (BPC) mission at Taji Military Complex in Iraq in June 2020, when full responsibility for basic training will be handed over to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark announced today.

New Zealand currently deploys up to 95 personnel to the BPC at Taji. Following recent Cabinet decisions this will reduce to a maximum of 75 from July 2019 and 45 from January 2020, before the mission’s completion by June 2020.

New Zealand and Australia have been jointly delivering training to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) at Taji since 2015, when New Zealand first deployed to Iraq as part of the multinational Defeat-ISIS Coalition. Over 44,000 ISF personnel have been trained at Taji since 2015.

“Four years ago New Zealand made a commitment to the Iraqi Government and to the Coalition to train the ISF at Taji and lift their capability to defeat and prevent the resurgence of ISIS. Over the next 12 months, New Zealand will be able to wind down and conclude that commitment,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The New Zealand and Australian troops at Taji have worked hard, not only to provide training, but also to ensure that the ISF are well placed to take over this commitment at Taji in the near future. The goal of any training mission is to ensure that it becomes a sustainable programme.”

“Significant progress has been made in this area, which will allow the mission to reduce in numbers and conclude within the next year, having successfully achieved what we went in to do. This is an encouraging evolution and a success not only for us but also for the ISF personnel who have trained hard to gain the skills to become a modern military force,” said Ron Mark.

Alongside the deployment to Taji, the New Zealand Defence Force will continue in a reduced number of support roles within the Defeat-ISIS Coalition in the region. Cabinet will consider these positions again by next June.

New Zealand will however increase its stabilisation funding contribution to Iraq to approximately NZ$3 million per annum for the next three years (from NZ$2.4m in 2018-19) to help affected communities recover and rebuild following the conflict with ISIS.

Stabilisation funding will come from within MFAT’s overseas aid and development fund, and will contribute to what has been estimated to be a US$87 billion rebuild of Iraq.

“Despite its territorial defeat in Iraq in December 2017 and Syria in March 2019, it is clear that ISIS remains a threat and Iraq requires ongoing international support as it moves towards recovery and stabilisation,” said Winston Peters.

“As large numbers of Iraqi people return home and begin to rebuild their lives and communities, New Zealand’s targeted funding support can make a meaningful contribution towards this.”


National have sort of supported this – with a catch.

RNZ: National supports troop withdrawal – if partners do same

The National Party is on board with the government pulling Kiwi troops out of Iraq next year – on the condition Australia and the United States also withdraw.

National Party defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell said the decision to leave was the right one, providing everyone went at the same time.

“It looks okay with us, it would be dependent on whether it’s in line with what our partners are doing – especially the Americans and the Australians,” he said.

Australia is yet to make a formal announcement but Mr Mark told media yesterday the New Zealand decision was part of a carefully planned exit strategy alongside partners.

“We took a role of about a third/two-thirds contribution in partnership with Australia. This reduces down to a quarter/three-quarters and we will be downsizing alongside them and working with them, not just walking away from the mission,” Mr Mark said.

In a statement Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said Australia and New Zealand “consult closely on their respective deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

“Australia is proud to support the Iraqi Security Forces, alongside its New Zealand counterparts. We will continue to work closely with New Zealand as it gradually draws down its footprint in Iraq,” she said.

“Australia regularly reviews its overseas operations, taking into account the needs of the Iraqi Government and the operational context on the ground.”

Whether National backs the withdrawal probably won’t make any difference, as the drawdown will have largely happened by next year’s election.

I doubt there is much public support for staying in Iraq, and there will be much stronger support for a withdrawal.

 

Populism falters in Australia, threatens Europe

Populism seems to be the latest political term in favour, but it is being applied across the political spectrum.

The unexpected defeat of Labor in the election Australia, after promoting  ‘populist’ type policies (like in dealing with climate change), has been seen as a setback for populism.

Washington Times: A populist surprise down under

Political trends, like the common cold, are contagious. Revolutions are often not confined to one country. The Communist revolution in Russia soon spread across the first half of the 20th century. The rise of fascism occurred in tandem across wide swaths of the world.

The period beginning in our own century might loosely be called the Age of Populism.

Gallup now says 4 in 10 Americans have embraced populism, perhaps not knowing everything about populism. The list of nations that have seen the birth of populist movements is a long one, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Israel, Hungary, the Philippines, Mexico, India, and Brazil. Ten thousand miles away from America, a populist revolution has exploded in Australia.

Scott Morrison won his first full term as prime minister of Australia, confounding expectations that the country’s voters were ready for a change after six years of tumultuous leadership.

But Australia’s “quiet voters,” as the prime minister called them, had a different idea. Mr. Morrison’s victory — his Liberal party is in fact the small-c conservative party in Australia — took an outright majority in parliament.

Australian voters rallied to the prime minister’s bold, Trump-like message.

I thought that lack of boldness was a feature of Morrison’s campaign, compared to Labor who thought the time was right for left wing populism. Bill Shorten was seen by voters as a threat to middle Australia’s future.

I don’t think that Scott Morrison is generally seen as a populist leader. He won more because he was the least unpopular.

New Zealand contrasts with this, as popular leader Jacinda Ardern is widely praised, even though her government keeps watering down or avoiding dealing with populist policies.

Blomberg editorial: The Populist Threat to Europe’s Future

The European Union is under siege. In elections from Sweden to Spain, right-wing populists continue to gain strength, while support for traditional parties withers. Populist groups expect to make sizable gains in this week’s elections for the European parliament — giving them more power than ever before over the institutions at the heart of the EU.

Europe’s cohesion hangs in the balance. Though the Brexit fiasco has diminished the appeal of leaving the EU, populists remain determined to undermine it from within. They want to halt the momentum of European integration, curtail the authority of Brussels and limit the EU’s ability to force member states to adhere to democratic norms.

European leaders need a coherent strategy for fighting back. That requires they come to grips with the scale of the populist surge and address the legitimate grievances populists have exploited for electoral gain. At the same time, they must resist the urge to placate the demands of agitators on both the right and the left.

But Europe consists of many countries. While operating under the EU umbrella there a a variety of issues in different countries.

The landscape of populism is as diverse and cacophonous as Europe itself — from the yellow-vest protesters in France to the far-right Alternative for Germany to Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement — but common threads help to explain its appeal.

Populist leaders harness public frustration with political elites, who they cast as corrupt and indifferent to the daily struggles of voters. They draw support from citizens with low levels of formal education and those living in regions that have suffered from globalization. And populists play on cultural anxieties, blaming the loss of national identity on immigrants, asylum seekers and the faceless bureaucrats of the EU.

Both right wing and left wing activists think they can tap the support of ordinary citizens, assuming they will support their ideals. This is often flawed thinking.

Political insurgents have also benefited from the erosion of voters’ loyaltiesto traditional parties. In countries with fractured electorates, like Belgium and Sweden, the mere process of forming a government can take months, and sometimes years. As ruling coalitions become more ideologically diverse, their ability to govern effectively declines — which only strengthens the populists’ anti-establishment message.

This isn’t happening here. One of the biggest criticisms in New Zealand is that the two major parties, Labour and National, are barely distinguishable with what the do in government, especially on economic policy.

If pursued at both national and pan-European levels, political and economic reform can restore confidence in mainstream parties and blunt the appeal of populism. That work won’t be easy, nor yield results overnight. But for the sake of Europe’s future, it needs to start now.

That’s as unlikely as what is proposed is idealistic.And it’s vague – the left and the right are trying to pull economic and social reform in different directions, while governments are getting more messed up in the middle – Britain’s attempt at reform via Brexit is a continuing disaster.

Donald Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’, but hasn’t achieved much, especially what could be called reform. His biggest claim to fame is reshuffling the swamp monsters, and tweeting nonsense.

Australia has just chosen more of the same politically and economically, with no sign of anything looking like reform. Australians voted for the status quo.

New Zealand is continuing largely the same, with even modest tax reform and social reform both being rejected by the government this year.

Populism is more popular in social media than in politics, but it is amplified by small minorities who keep getting disappointed by voters and governments.

A simplistic label like populism doesn’t fit the real world, which is far more diverse than simplistic reforms can deal with.

Independent Review reveals bullying and harassment in Parliament

The ‘Francis report’, the final report of the External Independent Review into Bullying and Harassment in Parliament, has been released. I think that it was well known that there were some serious problems with behaviour in Parliament. This report confirms it.

Reviewer Debbie Francis:

This Report traverses sensitive matters within one of the most complex and demanding workplaces in New Zealand. The story goes as much to the health of our democracy and New Zealanders’ pride in their Parliament as it does to matters of employment, health, safety and workplace culture.

My findings need to be addressed with care and the solutions recommended here are complex and wide-ranging. For these reasons I encourage readers to take the time to read the Report in its entirety.

The Story in a Nutshell

  • Bullying and harassment are systemic in the parliamentary workplace.
  • The story is complex, involving harmful behaviour by and between staff, managers, Members,
    media and the public.
  • There are unique features of the workplace that create risk factors for bullying and harassment,
    including:
    – A high-intensity culture
    – Lack of investment in leadership development
    – Unusual and complex employment arrangements
    – Largely operational, rather than strategic, workforce management
    – Health, safety and wellbeing policies and systems that are not yet mature
    – Barriers to making complaints; and
    – Inadequate pastoral care.
  • Unacceptable conduct is too often tolerated or normalised.
  • The identities of many accused are an open secret, and there are alleged serial offenders.
  • A core perceived problem is low accountability, particularly for Members, who face few sanctions
    for harmful behaviour.
  • The leadership roles and profiles of Members, Ministers and chief executives provide them
    opportunities to be important role models by:
    – Setting and modeling expectations for dignified and respectful conduct
    – Holding colleagues and staff to account for their conduct
    – Investing further in the development of leaders and managers
    – Reforming the employment model, professionalising the workforce and further investing in
    strategic human resource management
    – Establishing new independent bodies and processes for complaints and investigations; and
    – Extending the provision of pastoral care.
  • The changes needed to the culture of the parliamentary workplace are comprehensive and
    complex. They will require skilled implementation and must be sustained and monitored over a
    period of years.

Some complaints have been classified as ‘extremely serious’. Francis on about what complainants can do now:

This Report is based on the patterns and themes that emerged from these submissions, interviews and discussions. I am reporting here on the perceptions of participants, where I found consistent patterns in their responses.

As will become clear, I received many accusations of harmful behaviour made against individuals, staff, managers and Members, some of whom were regarded by complainants as serial offenders.

My role as reviewer was not to investigate any new or historic complaints – as per the Terms of Reference. However, any such new or historic complaints are not prevented from being progressed by complainants in the appropriate avenues open to them.

I have ensured that any respondents who indicated they wished to take steps outside the Review process regarding any such concerns were provided with information about the avenues for that, and the support available to them, in order to do so.

Full report: Independent External Review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace – Final Report

Speaker Trevor Mallard:

The Speaker said today “This review was commissioned to establish if the parliamentary workplace is a place where harmful behaviour occurs, and in some cases is supported by the system. The report confirms this harmful behaviour occurs, and recommends changes that can be made to ensure the system does not enable or support this behaviour.”

“Together with the agencies and all political parties, I am committed to making changes to ensure the parliamentary workplace is free from harmful behaviour. We will now consider the report’s recommendations. The issues in the report will not be a quick fix and any solutions will need to have input from those affected and address the systemic issues.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

“The findings of this report are rightly being taken very seriously. Parliament, like any other workplace, should be free from bullying and harassment and we need to make improvements.

“In response to the report, I have asked to receive regular reports from the Department of Internal Affairs and Parliamentary Services on how offices are working generally as well as any exceptional reports where an issue needs to be raised with me promptly.

“I will also share this information with the Labour Party to ensure a joined-up approach in any action that may be taken as a result of these reports.

“While I acknowledge we work in an environment of long hours and pressure, excuses won’t be tolerated.

“At Cabinet and Caucus I have reiterated my expectation that we treat one another with dignity and respect”.

Parliament has set a very poor example of behaviour. It won’t be easy to change what has too often been an abusive and toxic environment.

 

History of ‘white power’ in New Zealand

Sad idiots, or potentially dangerous?

Do a small number of people with extreme views raise the risks that one person will get encouragement to do go beyond extreme rhetoric and do something violent?

Patrick Gower and Newshub have been investigating ‘;white supremacy’ in New Zealand.

Gover’s latest report – Revealed: How white supremacists terrorised New Zealand for decades

Gang expert Jarrod Gilbert says up until now, much of the far-right has often been viewed here as sad idiots.

“They were more sort of bumbling, no one took them particularly seriously,” he told Newhsub.

But there has always been a dangerous element to the white power movement here. Gilbert describes them as “hard-as-nails skinhead street-gang kind of guys” who thrived in the South Island.

The most notorious was the Fourth Reich, which terrorised Nelson and the West Coast.

They were responsible for the murders of young Māori man Hemi Hutley, gay man James ‘Janis’ Bamborough, Korean tourist Jae Hyeon Kim and Christchurch woman Vanessa Pickering.

Like the Nazis they emulated, most of the skinheads’ venom was aimed at Jews. But then, in 2001, 9/11 happened and the extreme far-right added a new ‘enemy’ to the list. Sociologist Paul Spoonley says this led to new followers.

“They were much more online and they were much more Islamophobic than anti-Semitic. And they were much more internationally connected,” he told Newshub.

It only takes a small number of people reinforcing each others hate and amplifying claimed threats to lead to terrorism.

Joris De Bres was the Race Relations Commissioner from 2002 until 2013.

Alarmed at an increase in threats against Muslims, he repeatedly asked the Government and police to start recording crimes motivated by hatred and racism.

“I don’t think we’re sufficiently aware that we do have people among us who do those things and who have a real and worrying hatred,” he told Newshub.

But when they wouldn’t collect the data, De Bres started collecting it himself. During his time as Commissioner there were more than 100 race-related crimes reported in the media.

“I always had the sense that it was only the tip of the iceberg,” he says.

I’m not sure that it’s the tip of an iceberg type scenario. It only takes a few violent extremists to harass and to kill – Brenton Tarrant has demonstrated that it takes just to one to go as far as a violent massacre.

Aliya Danzeisen from the Islamic Women’s Council has been abused many times for her religion and the clothes she wears.

“I’ve had a car drive up on the curb towards me and then swing by laughing,” she told Newshub.

She says the rise of the Islamic State saw a rise in Islamophobia here. So five years ago the Women’s Council wrote a report about the increasing discrimination and sent it to the Ministry of Social Development. She says nothing happened.

She says regular pleas for the police and the SIS to monitor the rise of alt-right groups followed – and were also ignored.

The police had a sudden wake-up call in Christchurch in 15 March. Now they are being proactive.

It’s Sunday morning, and armed police are visiting New Zealanders’ homes as part of the response to the Christchurch terror attack.

“The reason we’re here, it’s basically down to the recent events in Christchurch,” a police officer tells one man.

“A number of people have been identified that we’ve been tasked to go and speak to. You are one of those people.”

But while there have been 13 arrests for sharing the video, when it comes to white supremacy or people linked to it, police say they have made zero arrests. They say the response is about “community reassurance” instead.

I think it is also about putting warnings out. It may seem (and may be) draconian for innocent people to be approached by a number of armed police, it serves a useful purpose – it sends a signal that the police are now looking for signs of extreme views becoming a violent act.

Globally, white supremacy was on the up: the march on Charlottesville was just one symbol of a global movement linked by everyday social media platforms and darker sites like 8Chan.

“They are part of a big international network and that’s a big challenge here in New Zealand, just not realising that we’re now hooked into this conspiratorial, racial vilification, white supremacist network,” Spoonley says.

Of the Christchurch victims, the Prime Minister said: “They are us. This person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not.”

But he is part of a growing movement in New Zealand.

Blenheim man Joseph Ward has a swastika tattoo and the email handle “Nazi New Zealand”.

“I’ve been told I am you for 30 years.  And now I’m not you… I’m exiled,” he says. “We need to have a national conversation.”

We can start by saying that Ward was getting a false impression that ‘I am you’, probably from within a small bubble – I think most New Zealanders would want his sort of views exiled from New Zealand.  All that has changed is that now he is getting that message.

So the warning signs about white supremacy have always been there – year after year.

But as a nation, we ignored them.

Tarrant has ensured that people who express extreme white supremacy views will be viewed with more suspicion. As they should be.


More on white supremacy from Newshub:

 

 

Regulatory regime key to cannabis law reform

New Zealand has had a virtual illegal free-for-all for cannabis for decades. It has proven impossible to restrict use via policing and imprisonment. Being illegal it has also deterred people with drug problems from seeking help.

So the Government is looking at a different approach – removing the illegality in part, regulating it’s availability, and promoting a health care approach.

Newsroom:  Regulatory regime the key to cannabis reform

If Chris Wilkins has his way, New Zealanders will vote yes to legalising recreational cannabis in next year’s referendum – and the money raised from sales would go to local communities, sports and arts groups and drug treatment programmes.

Dr Wilkins is an associate professor at Massey University, heading the drug research unit. He’s been looking at the drug market, drug use and drug policy for 20 years.

“I think its pretty huge. Its a new wave of cannabis law reform and you can see it around the world. The United States, Canada, Uruguay and lots of other countries are having debates about how to better address the issue of cannabis use.”

What’s unique about New Zealand is that it will be decided by a national referendum. If the majority of voters say ‘no’ in the referendum that means the status quo and prohibition continues. ‘Yes’ means legalisation.

Wilkins says the current prohibition laws don’t work for many reasons, including a thriving black market, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the involvement of organised crime and the effect of arrest and conviction.

“We have this discrimination in terms of arrest and conviction, particularly for Maori but also questions about the lifetime impact of arrest and conviction for something that a lot of people think is fairly minor behaviours,” he says.

Because it’s a crime, it has stopped users from getting treatment and health services. Because it’s an unregulated market, there are also questions about the levels of pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers in cannabis.

Polls suggest there is popular support for cannabis law reform – a majority of people have used cannabis, and will see through the scaremongering on the ill effects of some occasional recreational use. As with any drug there are problem users, but they are a minority.

According to Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, people barely used or even knew about cannabis before the mid 1960s.

“The first significant smoking of the drug occurred among a few beats and jazz enthusiasts frequenting nightclubs and coffee lounges in Wellington and Auckland in the late 1950s and early 1960s. However, annual drug arrests did not reach 50 before 1964,” it says.

But things changed quickly after that and during the 1990s about 200,000 plants were seized each year, with the main areas of cultivation being in Northland, Bay of Plenty and Tasman.

By the 2000s surveys showed about half of those aged 15-45 had tried the drug, about a fifth had used it in the last year and about 15 percent were current users.

The Ministry of Health’s most recent 2017/2018 health survey shows that 11.9 percent of respondents had used cannabis that last year.

A significant but not a huge proportion of people are recent users. Will relaxing the laws increase the number of people using cannabis? Probably, in the short term at least.

Canada legalised cannabis on October 17 last year. Benedikt Fischer was in Vancouver with colleagues at the time.

“It was interesting how anti-climactic it was. We were sitting there and there was nothing discernibly different, no grandiose event, no smoke in the air because we had de-facto legalisation for a long time already.”

Dr Fischer, who worked with the Canadian government on the new legalisation framework, is now a professor at Auckland University’s faculty of medical and health sciences, specialising in addiction research.

He says there’ve been some early rollout hiccups in Canada such as a shortage of supply and users resorting to mail order in Ontario because cannabis shops haven’t yet opened.

The first survey since legalisation showing a rise in users is no surprise, he says.

The National Cannabis Survey says about 5.3 million or 18 percent of Canadians aged 15 years and older reported using cannabis in the last three months. This was higher than the 12-14 percent who reported using just one year earlier, before legalisation.

That doesn’t say what sort of use. It is likely that casual use increased, but problem cannabis users will already be getting what they want so are unlikely to be affected – except that if they can source their supplies legally that will reduce their contact with criminal pushers who seem intent on moving users onto more dangerous (and more profitable) drugs like P.

But Wilkins doesn’t support legalisation based on the Sale of Liquor model.

“The importance from now on is talking about the detail of what the regulatory regime is going to look like, because it isn’t just a binary choice between prohibition and an alcohol-style market. There are lots of different variations of a more controlled market, a more regulated market, a market that benefits communities and also takes care of vulnerable people.”

He proposes a not-for-profit public health model where cannabis would be sold by philanthropic societies and local communities, and drug treatment facilities would benefit.

“You’d have a community trust that has people elected from the communities – I’m thinking about the alcohol licensing trusts where people from the community are elected to these trusts and the trusts have obligations to return money back to the community for community purposes, like sports, arts, recreation centres.”

New Zealanders should look at Uruguay and Canada as legalisation models, rather than the United States, Wilkins says.

People are looking at what has happened in other countries, seeing what has worked and what hasn’t worked. They should also be looking at Portugal.

There is some strong opposition to relaxing drug laws – there is a small but determined conservative nanny state lobby.

We will no doubt keep debating the pros and cons of drug law reform, until we see what Parliament puts forwards for us to vote on. Then the real battle will begin.

 

Searchable database of homicides in New Zealand

Stuff has put a searchable database of homicides in New Zealand online in The Homicide Report:

It encompases 1068 cases involving 591 men, 283 women and 194 young people from January 2004 to March 2019.

The project, which has been years in the making, aims to provide the public with a greater insight into the issue of homicide in New Zealand.

The Homicide Report asks: why do New Zealanders kill one another? Our unprecedented database yields some answers.

In many ways it illuminates the worst impact of some of New Zealand’s biggest social problems.

It shows there is a clear relationship between a neighbourhood’s homicide rate and the level of social and economic deprivation.

And it reveals the extent to which family violence, alcohol and drug abuse contribute to homicidal death in New Zealand.

The Homicide Report  relies on information from more than 800 coronial findings, hundreds of court documents, police sources and news stories from Stuff’s archives.

We categorised each case according to the victim’s age and gender, their relationship to the killer, cause of death, location and a host of others.

We then analysed them to look for significant groupings of homicides with similar characteristics that might reveal some underlying problem or cause.

The analysis reveals stark differences in the way men, women and children who are victims of homicide die and who kills them.

Being from 2004 only it does not include some of the most high profile murders, some of which keep coming up in the news and discussions.

The database search engine is here.

 

Jacinda Ardern ‘opinion’ in NY Times

An opinion piece from Jacinda Ardern has been published in the New York Times. This isn’t available from the official Beehive news release website, so I presume it’s intended as a message to the world rather than to the people of New Zealand.

Her aim (as stated) is not as some people claim, to shut down free speech or to stop critics from speaking. There is absolutely no evidence as some claim that Ardern is fronting some sort of UN conspiracy to take over the world and subjugate the world population.

She says:

Our aim may not be simple, but it is clearly focused: to end terrorist and violent extremist content online. This can succeed only if we collaborate.

The vast majority of us, nearly all of us, are not terrorists or violent extremists, so we hopefully have little to fear from what she is trying to achieve internationally.

A terrorist attack like the one in Christchurch could happen again unless we change. New Zealand could reform its gun laws, and we did. We can tackle racism and discrimination, which we must. We can review our security and intelligence settings, and we are. But we can’t fix the proliferation of violent content online by ourselves. We need to ensure that an attack like this never happens again in our country or anywhere else.

Of course it is up to us here in New Zealand to engage with discussions over free speech and hate speech and terrorism and extremism and attempts to promote violence online, to help ensure that social media regulations are intended for the extreme minority and shouldn’t affect the rest of us.


Social media needs reform. No one should be able to broadcast mass murder.

By Jacinda Ardern
Ms. Ardern is the prime minister of New Zealand.

At 1:40 p.m. on Friday, March 15, a gunman entered a mosque in the city of Christchurch and shot dead 41 people as they worshiped.

He then drove for six minutes to another mosque where, at 1:52 p.m., he entered and took the lives of another seven worshipers in just three minutes. Three more people died of their injuries after the attack.

For New Zealand this was an unprecedented act of terror. It shattered our small country on what was otherwise an ordinary Friday afternoon. I was on my way to visit a new school, people were preparing for the weekend, and Kiwi Muslims were answering their call to prayer. Fifty men, women and children were killed that day. Thirty-nine others were injured; one died in the hospital weeks later, and some will never recover.

This attack was part of a horrifying new trend that seems to be spreading around the world: It was designed to be broadcast on the internet.

The entire event was live-streamed — for 16 minutes and 55 seconds — by the terrorist on social media. Original footage of the live stream was viewed some 4,000 times before being removed from Facebook. Within the first 24 hours, 1.5 million copies of the video had been taken down from the platform. There was one upload per second to YouTube in the first 24 hours.

The scale of this horrific video’s reach was staggering. Many people report seeing it autoplay on their social media feeds and not realizing what it was — after all, how could something so heinous be so available? I use and manage my social media just like anyone else. I know the reach of this video was vast, because I too inadvertently saw it.

We can quantify the reach of this act of terror online, but we cannot quantify its impact. What we do know is that in the first week and a half after the attack, 8,000 people who saw it called mental health support lines here in New Zealand.

My job in the immediate aftermath was to ensure the safety of all New Zealanders and to provide whatever assistance and comfort I could to those affected. The world grieved with us. The outpouring of sorrow and support from New Zealanders and from around the globe was immense. But we didn’t just want grief; we wanted action.

Our first move was to pass a law banning the military-style semiautomatic guns the terrorist used. That was the tangible weapon.

But the terrorist’s other weapon was live-streaming the attack on social media to spread his hateful vision and inspire fear. He wanted his chilling beliefs and actions to attract attention, and he chose social media as his tool.

We need to address this, too, to ensure that a terrorist attack like this never happens anywhere else. That is why I am leading, with President Emmanuel Macron of France, a gathering in Paris on Wednesday not just for politicians and heads of state but also the leaders of technology companies. We may have our differences, but none of us wants to see digital platforms used for terrorism.

Our aim may not be simple, but it is clearly focused: to end terrorist and violent extremist content online. This can succeed only if we collaborate.

Numerous world leaders have committed to going to Paris, and the tech industry says it is open to working more closely with us on this issue — and I hope they do. This is not about undermining or limiting freedom of speech. It is about these companies and how they operate.

I use Facebook, Instagram and occasionally Twitter. There’s no denying the power they have and the value they can provide. I’ll never forget a few days after the March 15 attack a group of high school students telling me how they had used social media to organize and gather in a public park in Christchurch to support their school friends who had been affected by the massacre.

Social media connects people. And so we must ensure that in our attempts to prevent harm that we do not compromise the integral pillar of society that is freedom of expression.

But that right does not include the freedom to broadcast mass murder.

And so, New Zealand will present a call to action in the name of Christchurch, asking both nations and private corporations to make changes to prevent the posting of terrorist content online, to ensure its efficient and fast removal and to prevent the use of live-streaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attacks. We also hope to see more investment in research into technology that can help address these issues.

The Christchurch call to action will build on work already being undertaken around the world by other international organizations. It will be a voluntary framework that commits signatories to counter the drivers of terrorism and put in place specific measures to prevent the uploading of terrorist content.

A terrorist attack like the one in Christchurch could happen again unless we change. New Zealand could reform its gun laws, and we did. We can tackle racism and discrimination, which we must. We can review our security and intelligence settings, and we are. But we can’t fix the proliferation of violent content online by ourselves. We need to ensure that an attack like this never happens again in our country or anywhere else.

 

 

Inside New Zealand’s meth crisis

NZ Herald has a 40 minute documentary on the ongoing meth (P) epidemic:


Fighting the Demon

Inside New Zealand’s Meth Crisis

After failing to fix its 20-year methamphetamine crisis, New Zealand is gripped by the second wave of a devastating epidemic. The Herald spent six months with users, recovering addicts and those trying to save them.

In June 12, 2016 police seized almost 500kg of methamphetamine at a remote beach in Northland.

That single find, with a street value of $450 million, was bigger than the total seizures of the previous two years combined.

It signalled the beginning of a new wave of New Zealand’s meth epidemic.

For 20 years, law enforcement had fought to eradicate the drug and lost. Now meth is purer and more available than ever before.

Fighting the Demon is an unflinching investigation from deep within the crisis, created by a team of investigative reporters who spent six months in communities ravaged by meth.

In towns across the country, the journalists met users desperate for help, former addicts still struggling years after giving up and families forever ripped apart by the impact of the drug.

They followed law enforcement hunting traffickers, frontline police working to stop dealers and health professionals picking up the pieces left behind.

They found a country targeted by the world’s most sophisticated organised crime groups.

The meth they traffic is stronger than ever and shipments are growing larger. Ten years ago, 100kg was a record bust for law enforcement. Now, it’s almost routine.

And while smugglers once sent cold medicine to be “cooked” into meth, they now send the finished product. It’s easy to distribute, and easy to sell.

In many places meth is easier to buy than marijuana. Most users can score within an hour. Deals are brazen. The latest Illicit Drug Monitoring System report, from 2016, reported addicts more frequently buying on street corners, in parks, even at work.

The price of a point, around $100 for 0.1g, is unchanged from a decade ago. But where “P” was once a party drug for the middle classes, in this second wave, its victims are most likely to be the poor.

The documentary Fighting The Demon takes you inside their world.


In yesterday’s news (TVNZ): Four people charged as 22 kilos of meth and cocaine seized at Auckland Airport

Government considering mandatory classifications for streaming services

This looks like being too late and impractical, especially for overseas streaming services .

NZ Herald: NZ Government mulling mandatory classification rules for Netflix and other streaming services

The Government is exploring the possibility of making classifications for on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Lightbox, mandatory.

What about Youtube? Facebook?

What about live streaming? That’s where one of the biggest problems is with objectionable material.

Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin said this would bring streaming services in line with other forms of media in New Zealand.

The Government today started consultation on options on classifying content that is available online.

“The way in which New Zealanders access entertainment has changed and New Zealand’s classifications system is not keeping pace.”

It is nowhere near the mark and it’s hard to see how it could keep pace, with the amount of content that becomes available.

She said the current classification system was built around traditional platforms, such as cinema-released films and broadcast television programmes.

The Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act was passed in 1993.

But the media landscape has changed significantly since then.

“Many commercial video-on-demand services do self-classify content under a voluntary scheme provided by the New Zealand Media Council,” Martin said.

But, she added, those classifications had not always been consistent with New Zealand’s regime and some streaming service providers chose not to participate in the voluntary scheme.

“This inconsistency means it can be confusing for parents trying to pick something for their kids to watch or that helps young people make informed choices.”

The only way any sort of consistency could be achieved is if all content was checked and classified by one entity, like the New Zealand Censor. A recent classification by our censor of the streamed video of the Christchurch mosque massacres was generally supported, but the classification of the killer’s manifesto was controversial.

Martin said it was the risk of children being harmed that had driven the process.

Research from the Chief Censor’s office shows 76 per cent of New Zealanders are concerned about children’s and teens’ exposure to visual media content.

Classifying material before it becomes available would be hard enough, but how do you then ensure children don’t watch restricted material. Banned content is only a small part of the problem.

Martin said the reaction to the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”, which features graphic suicide scenes and scenes of rape, was an example of the issue.

“As with many services and media that have developed from the internet, this issue of classification is one that many countries are looking at and the Censor has told me that there is international interest in what we are doing.

“Our work will also be informed by the steps being taken in Australia and the United Kingdom.”

Sydney Morning Herald: Netflix gets approval to classify own shows after two-year trial.

The Morrison government has given Netflix the green light to regulate film and television classification on its streaming platform in an unprecedented shift following a two-year trial.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield approved the ongoing use of the scheme, which allows the company to quickly rank content between G and R18+ after the review was finalised in August.

The new system removes immediate control of classifications for movies from the Classification Board for the first time since it was established in 1970.

The Classification Board will retain the power to change the ratings made under the new system, and decisions can also be appealed to the Classification Review Board.

Free-to-air stations already classify their own programming under a process administered by another organisation, the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Ratings are generated by considering the film’s themes, level of violence, sex, drug use, nudity and the language — before being given a classification of G, PG, M, MA15, R18 or being refused.

UK: BBFC Digital Age Ratings

People are concerned to know about how best to choose appropriate films, TV and music videos for their children and families to watch online, on their computers, tablets, games consoles and smartphones.

To provide you with guidance, the BBFC works with a number of on demand services to give age ratings for video content available for download and streaming.

Some of these platforms also provide parental controls, enabling parents to make films with an appropriate age rating available to their children

Using BBFC age ratings for online content helps children and families make the same informed viewing choices when they’re using digital video services, as they can when they’re going to the cinema or renting or buying DVDs and Blu-ray.

Classifications would help responsible parents who can control everything their children watch, but there are big holes in the system. This has been a problem since VCR and DVD content became available – and kids found and watched their parents’ collections.

Classifications have long been a problem. I remember wearing a coat over my school uniform and being allowed in to watch A Clockwork Orange, which in New Zealand was rated R20 until 1984.

The good old days – I don’t remember this one (from Kiwi censorship’s most infamous moments):

Then there was the bizarre decision around the 1967 film adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Little old New Zealand made worldwide headlines for its decision to segregate male and female viewers. Cinemas found their own ways to interpret the law, whether via separate sessions, the use of stalls and circle seating, or even a rope.

And who new that we had political interference?

Film could also provide inspiration for a solution should the eventual decision on Into the River not go the way of public opinion. 1942 film Love on the Dole focuses on a young woman who decides to become a rich bookmaker’s mistress in order help her family through the Great Depression.

It was initially banned, but Government MPs (including the Prime Minister Peter Fraser) pressured the censor into reviewing the decision. However, knowing that the notoriously conservative appeal board were unlikely to make a change, the Government made the simple decision to replace the entire board. Unsurprisingly, the film was passed for general exhibition.

The modern means of (attempted) interference is censorship by social media outrage or instant petition.

Classification guidance would be helpful for some, but it’s unlikely to make a lot of difference – people, including children, are resourceful in finding ways of watching forbidden content.


Taketh and giveth – a Government media release from Friday: Helping more New Zealanders access online services

More New Zealanders than ever will be able to access online services safely and securely, with today’s launch of a new Digital Inclusion Blueprint, Minister Megan Woods has announced.

“In a world where the internet impacts more and more of our lives, it’s important that all New Zealanders have the tools and skills they need to access online services and use the internet safely and securely.

“Some people can’t easily apply for jobs as many recruitment processes start online, kids may be prevented from doing their homework, and others could feel isolated from more digitally savvy friends and family who communicate using social media.  We want to ensure no one is left out or left behind as more and more of our lives move online.

“Today we are launching the Digital Inclusion Blueprint, which lays out how people can take full advantage of the internet. This will help us identify groups of New Zealanders who may struggle to access online services.

“This Blueprint will be used to coordinate the planning of different Government and community initiatives, and identify where future investment and action is needed.

“Access to online service is a key priority is one of my priorities and an area Government has already invested in. For example, the Prime Minister recently announced $21 million funding for Regional Digital Hubs (RDHs) in towns to connect local people and businesses to digital services.

 

Insights into the rise of the alt-right in the US

Some people involved in radical politics and extreme social activism can change. And repent. And good people need to stand up against those deliberately promoting bad stuff.

Katie McHugh’s story gives some insights into the rise of the alt-right white nationalist movement in the Unites States.

“Get Out While You Can” – A Former Alt-Right Member’s Message: Get Out While You Still Can

Once notorious for her racist and bigoted tweets, Katie McHugh saw the dark insides of the white nationalist movement.

Examples of past tweets:

“The only way to strike a balance between vigilance, discrimination, (& terror) is to end Muslim immigration.”

“Funny how Europeans assimilated, unlike Third Worlders demanding welfare while raping, killing Americans.”

“There would be no deadly terror attacks in the U.K. if Muslims didn’t live there.”

An intruduction:

I didn’t know what to make of her. This was someone whom I’d known to be a bigot, someone who freely threw around the “cuck” slur and who represented the kind of ideology I have devoted much of my career so far to explaining and exposing. It was a little over a year after Charlottesville. The bad things from the internet had started to come to life, with terrible, violent, and real consequences. It was bizarre to see in person someone who had existed for me only as an online symbol of the very worst parts of contemporary politics.

She was saying she wanted to leave it all behind: her years as a far-right media figure and tweeter, and someone who close observers of right-wing media knew was one of Breitbart’s most obvious connections to the white supremacist core of the alt-right.

McHugh had dated Kevin DeAnna, the founder of Youth for Western Civilization, a now-defunct right-wing campus youth group that billed itself as promoting “the survival of Western Civilization and pride in Western heritage,” but was entwined with the white nationalist movement; Jared Taylor, the self-described “white advocate” founder of American Renaissance, once fundraised for the group.

Her disparaging tweets about people of color and Muslims made her stand out even at Steve Bannon’s Breitbart, which had launched Milo Yiannopoulos’s career, had featured a “black crime” tag for stories, and had been described by Bannon himself as a “platform for the alt-right.”

Her story is fascinating, and sometimes frustrating. She wishes she had never said the things she’s said or did the things she’s done, but when I first met her, she still insisted that they were often jokes gone wrong and that, on some level, she’d said these things because she’d been egged on by others. She seemed unable to face her full complicity in her own behavior.

Where was McHugh radicalized? Her story is about support systems and pipelines. It’s about how an angry young conservative with reactionary views got herself involved with a small coterie of ideologues in Washington and prepped for a conservative media career in the crucial years before the rise of Donald Trump, as extremism became more popular on the right and as people could optimize themselves for success through attention on social media.

It’s about how the organizations she worked for either turned a blind eye to or were genuinely ignorant of the fact that one of their young stars was leading a double life among hardcore racist activists. And it’s about how the cultlike atmosphere of the so-called alt-right helped people make more and more harmful decisions.

Her story is also about something that has ended. The events she described to me took place mostly between 2013 and 2017, a span of time in which the alt-right rose and fell dramatically as it attempted to go mainstream.

“I take responsibility for all my actions,” McHugh says now. “Everything I said that was terrible was my fault.” She says she knows she was a racist. She says that she has changed. And she’s ready to tell everything she knows.

A lengthy insight into her alt-right involvement follows.

In conclusion:

This titillating group shame is what McHugh thinks motivated her and the rest of the alt-right. And it allowed them to keep going even in the face of overwhelming social opprobrium.

“They indulge in negative social rituals, and that’s how their ties are bound tighter and tighter together,” she said. “By repeating these negative social rituals, they build tighter bonds with each other over ideology and shared experience. That’s why it’s hard for a lot of people to break out because they mistake these people for their friends.”

I see aspects of this here in New Zealand, on Twitter and Facebook, in Whale Oil posts and comments and in Kiwiblog comments. Familiar tactics, familiar phrasing, but these are loose associations, a sort of mob effort but encouraged on Whale Oil and pushed by individuals on Twitter and Facebook.

Knowing exactly what to do with McHugh isn’t easy; but the point is more what she is able to do, not what society is supposed to do for her. She said terrible things and helped empower a destructive social and political movement. She was part of a group of people who took advantage of others’ trust and obliviousness to smuggle racists into polite society.

Now, she says, she’s changed. She knows that many people won’t believe that she has. “That’s why I’m saying I take full responsibility for everything I said, every mistake I made, anyone who I hurt in this process, period,” she told me last year.

At age 28, she has made herself unemployable in the career field she chose — even on its fringes. She perpetually struggles to support herself financially. It’s easy to see how someone in McHugh’s position might regret the path she took that got her here. Would she regret it if she still had friends, still had a writing job?

McHugh has a message for the people on a similar path, though, one that can be considered regardless of whether you believe she’s actually changed.

“People like me should be given a chance to recognize how bad this is and that the alt-right is not a replacement for any kind of liberal democracy whatsoever, any kind of system; they have no chance, and they’re just harmful,” McHugh said.

“There is forgiveness, there is redemption. You have to own up to what you did and then forcefully reject this and explain to people and tell your story and say, ‘Get out while you can.’”

Exposure by people like who have been a part of the alt-right and promoters of white nationalism like McHugh help explains what has been happening, and may deter some or prompt them to get out while they can, but it won’t stop the sort of extremism that has used alternate media and social media to try to drive up hate and division, and to try to precipitate a sort of clash of civilisations

It is mostly still a sort of an uncivil war of words, but the Christchurch mosque massacres show that it can become far more damaging through the efforts of a single person encouraged by a toxic ideology.

On a world scale at this stage it is more isolated and less of a threat than radical Islamic terrorism, but in New Zealand it is a big deal. The death toll from the Christchurch attacks has just risen to 51.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke (include good women in that).