Growing warnings about world economic outlook

In general the world economy has recovered and prospered since the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008, but there are growing warnings that the bubble might at least slow down. There is always a risk of it bursting.

International Monetary Fund:  World Economic Outlook, April 2019 Growth Slowdown, Precarious Recovery

After strong growth in 2017 and early 2018, global economic activity slowed notably in the second half of last year, reflecting a confluence of factors affecting major economies.

China’s growth declined following a combination of needed regulatory tightening to rein in shadow banking and an increase in trade tensions with the United States.

The euro area economy lost more momentum than expected as consumer and business confidence weakened and car production in Germany was disrupted by the introduction of new emission standards; investment dropped in Italy as sovereign spreads widened; and external demand, especially from emerging Asia, softened.

Elsewhere, natural disasters hurt activity in Japan. Trade tensions increasingly took a toll on business confidence and, so, financial market sentiment worsened, with financial conditions tightening for vulnerable emerging markets in the spring of 2018 and then in advanced economies later in the year, weighing on global demand.

Conditions have eased in 2019 as the US Federal Reserve signalled a more accommodative monetary policy stance and markets became more optimistic about a US–China trade deal, but they remain slightly more restrictive than in the fall.

Greg Jericho (Guardian Australia): The outlook for the global economy goes from bright to precarious

At the start of last year things were looking almost upbeat. The title of the IMF’s January update, Brighter Prospects, Optimistic Markets, Challenges Ahead, is economic speak for “cripes, aren’t we all a bit unusually happy!”. By April 2018 the title had become “Cyclical Upswing, Structural Change”, which again spoke of economic sunshine, even if it did warn of the need to adjust to the post-GFC world.

By the middle of last year the July update was warning “Less Even Expansion, Rising Trade Tensions”, and the October outlook was a decidedly measured if still somewhat neutral, “Challenges to Steady Growth”.

But with this new year, all neutrality has disappeared. The January update stated it plain: “A Weakening Global Expansion”. And just in case you had not caught their drift, the latest outlook, released this week, was headed, “Growth Slowdown, Precarious Recovery

From brighter prospect to precarious recovery in less than two years. Hope you enjoyed that moment of economic joy while it lasted.

The decline is across roughly 70% of the world’s economies, with the IMF blaming the “escalation of US–China trade tensions”, troubles in the “auto sector in Germany” plus “tighter credit policies in China, and financial tightening alongside the normalization of monetary policy in the larger advanced economies.”

In effect the structural changes and rising trade tensions warned in previous outlooks all came to pass.

Financial Times:  US consumer sentiment misses view as economic outlook softens

US consumer sentiment dipped in April as consumers’ economic outlook weakened and as they thought “stimulative impact” of the tax overhaul “has run its course”.

The University of Michigan’s preliminary consumer sentiment survey slid to 96.9 in April, from 98.4 the previous month. That missed analysts’ expectations for a drop to 98, according to a Thomson Reuters survey of economists.

Despite the modest decline, sentiment over the past 30 months remains higher than any other time since the 1997-2000 US economic expansion, as consumer confidence “continued its sideways shuffle in early April”, the report noted.

The report also showed the impact of the 2018 US tax overhaul on consumer sentiment has “all but disappeared”. The decline in consumer confidence follows the best first quarter for the S&P 500 in 21 years but comes amid uncertainty about the US economic outlook. The report showed the index of consumer expectations about the future fell to 85.8 — its lowest level in more than a year — from 88.8 the previous month.

Officials at the Federal Reserve have outlined “significant uncertainties” over the US and global economic outlook, according to the minutes of the central bank’s latest meeting, with some officials stressing their outlook could “shift in either direction”.

The Newyorker: The High-Stakes Battle Between Donald Trump and the Federal Reserve

For months now, Trump has been publicly railing against the Fed. In private, Bloomberg reported, he has been asking his aides if he can fire Powell, a sixty-six-year-old Republican banker who was confirmed at the start of last year. (According to legal experts, the question is a murky one.) On Friday, Trump again defied the convention that the President stays out of monetary policy, calling on Powell and his colleagues to cut interest rates in order to boost the economy.

Referring to the rate hikes that the Fed introduced last year, which were the source of his animus toward Powell, Trump said, “I think they really slowed us down.” Trump’s senior economic adviser in the White House, Larry Kudlow, has also called for a rate cut.

In addition to jawboning the Fed, Trump has moved to exert more control over its deliberations by announcing his intention to nominate two of his ardent political supporters to its board of directors: Stephen Moore, a conservative commentator who served as an economic adviser to the Trump campaign in 2016, and Herman Cain, a Republican businessman who ran for President, in 2012.

Ignoring widespread criticism that neither Moore nor Cain is remotely qualified to sit on the Fed’s board, Kudlow said on Sunday that Trump is standing behind both of them. “We have two open seats,” he told CNN. “The President has every right in the world to nominate people who share his economic philosophy.”

Business Insider: Trump’s pick of former pizza-chain CEO Herman Cain for the Federal Reserve already looks like it could crash and burn

It’s been less than a week since President Donald Trump announced the selection of Herman Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, for the Federal Reserve Board. The outlook already doesn’t look good for the potential nomination.

Washington Post: Four Senate Republicans signal opposition to Trump’s plan to put Herman Cain on Federal Reserve Board, all but sinking nomination

A swift defection of at least four Senate Republicans has all but doomed Herman Cain’s chances of winning a seat on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, a striking rebuke to President Trump in his drive to remake the powerful U.S. central bank.

The rapid rejection of Cain — a 2012 GOP presidential candidate — pauses Trump’s effort to remold the central bank into a more political body with outspoken individuals who share his views. It also reflects a growing unease among Senate Republicans with the way Trump has tried to bend the institution to his will in the past six months.

Trump has jawboned Fed officials and pushed them to slash interest rates and flood the economy with cheap money, even though during his presidential campaign he accused the central bank of creating a “big, fat, ugly bubble.”

So uncertainty in the US doesn’t help.

RNZ Robertson: NZ economy well placed to handle impact of global downturn

The IMF is predicting New Zealand’s growth rates will be well ahead of other OECD countries in the face of a delicate moment for the global economy, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

Two days ago the International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for world economic growth this year as the global economy slowed more than expected, raising risks of a sharp downturn.

The impact of trade tensions between the United States and China and issues in Europe, including Brexit and some poorer performing economies among EU member countries, were among key risks contributing to a “delicate moment” for the global economy, IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said.

In its third downgrade since October, the IMF said the global economy will likely grow 3.3 percent this year, the slowest expansion since 2016. The forecast cut 0.2 percentage points from the IMF’s outlook in January.

The projected growth rate for next year was unchanged at 3.6 percent.

Mr Robertson, who is at IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington, told Morning Report the IMF was predicting New Zealand’s growth rates will be well ahead of other OECD countries.

However, with economies slowing down in other parts of the world, there would be an impact for New Zealand as a small trading nation. The economy remained strong with sound fundamentals, including relatively low debt, low unemployment, and surpluses in the 2018 Budget.

So while the New Zealand outlook is relatively good any slowdown elsewhere in the world, especially the US, Australia (which is looking shaky) and China, will have a negative impact here.

Harassment of Muslims continues

While there has been a huge amount of sympathy and support shown for the Muslim community in New Zealand, there are claims of continued harassment of Muslims, especially Muslim women. And attacks on Muslims continue online.

Newshub:  Jacinda Ardern ‘devastated’ as anti-Muslim attacks continue after Christchurch shooting

Most of what we’ve seen so far from the public toward the Muslim community has been love. But Anjum Rahman from the Islamic Council of Women told Newshub hatred is around as Muslims are reporting being threatened even since the terror attack.

“People are having people pretend to shoot them – ripping hijab off women,” Manning said.

When confronted with this on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “I think it’s devastating to know that when a community has been the subject of a direct attack like this that they would then be subject to threats.”

The Guardian has reported a 593 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK in the aftermath of the Christchurch shooting.

That’s an alarming reaction to the Christchurch attacks in the UK, I think it’s reasonable to assume that that is in part fed by online abuse.

Police couldn’t give Newshub data on any potential increase in New Zealand, but the Prime Minister is urging anyone who has experienced attacks or threats to report them.

“Please report it – they are taking them seriously, they are following them up,” she said.

It seems every single threat is now being treated that much more seriously.

As they should be.

There have been positive changes. NZ Herald:  A changed world after Christchurch mosque attacks

An Auckland Muslim woman has described how her world has changed since the Christchurch terror attacks, which have helped unite the country and counter racial hatred.

Fijian-born mother-of-three Neelufah Hannif was once called a “curry muncher” and for years felt too uncomfortable to wear her hijab to work.

But the 40-year-old public servant has sensed a shift in attitudes towards inclusiveness and racial harmony since an extremist gunman killed 50 Muslim worshippers in two mosque attacks on March 15.

“I think the last few days have shown that people are compassionate, they’ve shown empathy and they have grieved with the Muslim community. I think this is who we are, this is who we have always been and I hope this will continue.”

“New Zealanders have shown solidarity and it’s comforting to know we are ‘one’ and people are there for us,” she said.

But also from NZH – Trevor Richards: NZ in denial about its anti-Muslim racism

In France following the January 2015 attack, the catchphrase heard and seen everywhere in Paris had been “Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie)”.

Here, it was not an Islamic terrorist attack against citizens of a Western country, but an attack by a white nationalist extremist against Muslims at prayer. This difference is important in determining the responses of the two countries.

France’s response to both attacks contained an ugly underbelly. Islamic terrorists had been the attackers. In the week following the Charlie Hebdo attack, a total of 60 anti-Muslim incidents were reported.

In New Zealand, Muslims had been the victims. The immediate nationwide response was to support and embrace Muslim communities.

On the Sunday following the attack, two young Muslim women at an Auckland railway station were told to “go back to your f****** country”. For some in this country, they are not us.

Unlike France, such horrific events are new to us. It has been widely claimed that New Zealand will never be the same again. The good news is that life will “get back to normal”, as Norway seems to have after Breivik. But our image of ourselves as a small country at the bottom of the world, happily immune from extremist right-wing political psychopaths and the more vicious edges of world politics, has gone. That will inevitably change us in ways yet to be realised.

Like everywhere in the world New Zealand will never be free of racism, of religious animosity, of prejudice and of fear.

But we can all play a part making things better than they were before the attacks in Christchurch.

 

 

 

Sharia, Canon, New Zealand law

There is a lack of understanding and a lot of misinformation about Islam and Sharia law.

Some Muslim countries have awful (to me) legal systems and practices. So do some Christian based countries, and also countries not associated with a specific religion, like China and Russia – see Insulting Putin May Now Land You in Jail Under a New Russian Law.

New Zealand lawyer Felix Geiringer (who studied Sharia at University and has worked as a lawyer in the field of Islamic finance) has written An attempt at demystifying Sharia.

Sharia is a legal system which seeks to extend the religious principles of Islam into a legal structure applicable to daily life.  You could think of it as the Islamic counterpart to Judaism’s Halakha or Catholicism’s Canon Law.  However, there are differences between them.

Catholicism has a well-defined hierarchy, and senior office holders have the power to make law.  Sharia doesn’t work that way.  I’ve also heard it said that Sharia and Halakha seek to extend into every part of a devotee’s life in a way that Canon does not.   There are also significant differences between Sharia and Halakha, but that seems to be a particularly controversial topic and I do not address it here.

Sharia law is mostly derived by analogy from the two foundation texts: the Quran (God’s revelations to Muhammad) and the Sunnah (a record of Muhammad’s life).

Like common law judges, there are people in the Islamic world who are respected as being able to apply this reasoning and make decisions on new issues as they arise.  And, like the common law, there is scope for different people to reach different conclusions.  The decisions such people reach can have authoritative weight outside of the issues before them – more so if a consensus has arisen between multiple such decisions from different jurists.

There are acts of violence described in the foundation texts which are antithetical to modern civilised society – just like there are in the Bible.  But, also just like the Bible, there are many passages extolling virtues like love and kindness, and urging people to look after their neighbours and those less fortunate than them.

Supporters of Islam often promote the “love and kindness” parts (this had been prevalent in New Zealand in the wake of the Christchurch mosque terror attacks). Opponents of Islam promote “acts of violence described in the foundation texts” (while ignoring similar in Christian foundation texts).

Modern Muslims living in accordance with Sharia derive workable rules for living in the modern world from fundamental principles taken from the foundation texts.  Modern Muslims do not think Sharia requires them to pretend it is still the 7th Century in the same way that modern Christians do not kill all people who work on Sundays (Exodus 35:2).

There are Islamic states that have, for example, criminal justice systems that do not conform to New Zealand’s standards of fairness or proportionality.  They implement those systems in the name of Sharia. Yet, there are other people who consider themselves devout Muslims and who argue that that is a misapplication of Sharia.

Remember that there are about 1.8 billion Muslims in many countries around the world, living under a wide variety of legal systems. Some are not as good as others.

In Islamic finance, I dealt, in particular, with two fundamental principles: the prohibition of usury; and the prohibition of gambling.

That is usury in its original meaning – charging interest.  You know, the thing that annoyed Jesus so much he drove everyone out of a Temple with whips.  Despite Jesus’ low opinion of money lenders, usury in the Christian world went from prohibiting any interest, to prohibiting too much interest, to payday lenders advertising on television.

Equally, the problems with gambling are well known in our society.  At one end, it persuades some of our least well paid to put everything they earn into pokies.  At the other, it crashed the world economy in 2007.

Islamic finance finds ways to allow financing that depend on neither interest nor speculation.  It is a difficult, but not impossible, task.  The financing structures that are created are, at the least, useful alternatives to mainstream finance.  For example, contracts have been devised which enable someone to buy a house without unaffordable mortgage payments by instead sharing the house value growth.

That sounds similar to shared equity type mortgages that have been proposed in New Zealand recently to try to overcome the difficulties of buying a first property here.

Should we fear the arrival of Sharia?  Actually, it is already here and has been for a very long time.  It will have arrived with the first Muslims to settle here in the middle of the 19thCentury.  It is still here with those who chose to arrange their affairs in accordance with it.  Just like there are people in New Zealand who follow Halakha or Canon.

What about Sharia becoming part of the mainstream law of New Zealand?  Again, arguably it already is to at least a limited extent.  In recognising the applicability of principles of tikanga, our courts have noted that the common law method has always taken account of the common traditions of subcultures within society.   I am not aware of a case that has done this, but, notwithstanding the relative importance of tikanga to New Zealand, I would expect that weight would also be given to Sharia in a case that appropriately raised it.

That won’t include applying the most brutal examples of Sharia law to the Christchurch terrorist, as some people have suggested. He is likely to have to contemplate his crimes (alleged to have committed 50 murders and 42 attempted murders) for the rest of his life in a confined space, possibly alone to protect him.

While there is plenty of room to improve, I would also argue that our general laws, public institutions, and major private institutions, have been steadily moving away from an assumption that we are all Pakeha Christians.  Gradually our laws have been shifting to ones that seek to genuinely accommodate people of all cultural backgrounds, including Islam.

As they should in a multi-cultural multi religion secular society.

No doubt there are people who think that (their interpretation of) Sharia should be universally imposed, just as there will be people who think that way about Halakha and Canon and many other ideologies.

…Muslims are no different to the rest of us.  The vast majority either just want to be left alone or are happy to argue for the social changes they believe in through our political process.

I presume that most Muslims are similar to most non-Muslims in New Zealand, wanting to avoid having to do with criminal law.

In 2008, the then Archbishop of Canterbury gave a speech about how this inclusion of parts of Sharia in our mainstream legal structures was a good thing.  This was for two reasons.  First, Muslims in our society would be grateful of the availability of Sharia compliant alternatives that allow them to both follow their faith and fully participate in society.

And secondly, the rest of us might find that some of those Sharia compliant alternatives are good alternatives for us regardless of our faith (bring on more availability of interest free home loans!).

Or at least different mortgage structures to enable more people to buy their own houses.

It is a cheap (but frighteningly ubiquitous) trick for people to compare the best of their preferred system with the worst of someone else’s.

There will be some hard core Muslims and some hard core Christians who will probably always do this, though in New Zealand over the past week Christians, Muslims and other people of other religions have been coming together promoting the best of their faiths.

The truth, of course, is that the world is diverse.  Islam is no more inherently bad than Christianity.

There are plenty of examples of bad practitioners of Islam and bad practitioners of Christianity (and non religious bad practitioners), but the vast majority of religious and non religious practitioners want peace and harmony in their lives, and understand that this means living alongside 9and sometimes with) people with different faiths and practices.

I am not advocating for New Zealand to become an Islamic state, far from it.

No one is seriously advocating that. The only suggestions of that possibility are from scaremongerers.

New Zealand must remain a free and democratic country. But an essential component of that is pluralism.  We need not fear people expressing views merely because those views are drawn from Sharia.  Indeed, there are fundamental principles of Sharia to which we would all relate.

There’s a lot of overlap between fundamental principles of Sharia and fundamental principles of Canon and Halakha.

We should look for the best of that, and not fear the worst.

 

 

 

The US “Deserves a Leader as Good as Jacinda Ardern”

Jacinda Ardern has been widely praised around New Zealand for how she has handled the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque terror attacks – with a lot of dignity, compassion and understanding.

At the vigil in Dunedin on Thursday night the large crowd was receptive to good speeches and a series of prayers from different religious leaders.

One of the most noticeable reactions was when Otago Muslim Association chairman Mohammed Rizwan mentioned Ardern – there was an immediate buzz that quickly swelled into a round of spontaneous applause.

Ardern has also had very positive coverage from around the world. For good reason.

She has featured in a NY Times editorial:  America Deserves a Leader as Good as Jacinda Ardern

The murder of 50 Muslim worshipers in New Zealand, allegedly by a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist, will be long scrutinized for the way violent hatreds are spawned and staged on social media and the internet. But now the world should learn from the way Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has responded to the horror.

Almost immediately after last Friday’s killings, Ms. Ardern listened to her constituents’ outrage and declared that within days her government would introduce new controls on the military-style weapons that the Christchurch shooter and many of the mass killers in the United States have used on their rampages. And she delivered.

On Thursday, Ms. Ardern announced a ban on all military-style semiautomatic and automatic weapons, parts that can be used to turn other rifles into such weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. “It’s about all of us,” she said, “it’s in the national interest and it’s about safety.”

Earlier in the week, she told Parliament that social media sites must address the ease with which the internet can be used to spew hate and images of violence. “We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published,” she said. “It cannot be a case of all profit, no responsibility.”

…the display of what one deranged man can do with weapons designed for combat seemed to persuade a majority of New Zealanders, and a strong majority in Parliament, of the need to ban rapid-firing weapons.

That attitude stood in stark contrast to the way the National Rifle Association and its political allies in the United States have resisted any restrictions on weapons like the AR-15, the semiautomatic rifle used in several mass killings.

I have seen this point made time and again on Twitter, often highlighting the contrast between the usual ‘thoughts and prayers’  repeated after each major mass shooting in the US, followed by the NRA runing a campaign against change, and nothing changing apart from the identity of the next mass murderer.

In New Zealand, it took one mass shooting to awaken the government. In the United States, even a string of mass killings — 26 dead in a school in Newtown, Conn.; 49 in a nightclub in Orlando; 58 at a concert in Las Vegas; 17 in a school in Parkland, Fla. — has not been enough. Nor has the fact that 73 percent of Americans say that more needs to be done to curb gun violence, according to recent polling.

The ban on terrorists’ weapon of choice was only one of the areas in which Ms. Ardern showed what leadership looks like in time of crisis. In lieu of trite messages, she donned a black head scarf and led a group of politicians to visit victims’ families; speaking without a script to a school some of the victims attended, she urged the pupils to “let New Zealand be a place where there is no tolerance for racism. Ever.”

She told grieving families, “We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage.”

In the same week Donald trump has had a running battle on Twitter with the husband of one of his advisers, and has lashed out yet again at John McCain, who is unable to respond from his grave.

After this and any such atrocity, the world’s leaders should unite in clearly condemning racism, sharing in the grief of the victims and stripping the haters of their weapons. Ms. Ardern has shown the way.

 

Ardern has been supported all the way by most of the rest of Parliament. Hopefully this cooperative approach to politics continues.

But she deserves a lot of credit herself – she has stepped up in a time of rel adversity and risk, and has got most of the country and much of the world applauding her with pride and admiration.

Also from NY Times: Why Jacinda Ardern Matters

New Zealand’s prime minister is emerging as the progressive antithesis to right-wing strongmen like Trump, Orban and Modi, whose careers thrive on illiberal, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Like any political leader she has a range of challenges ahead of her, but where it as really mattered she has been impressive.

 

“Tolerance New Zealand’s real religion”

It should be, but there are still a lot of people who don’t follow it. We should acknowledge that we can all be intolerant, but can all work towards better understanding of and tolerance of other people, other cultures, other religions.

ODT editorial:  Tolerance New Zealand’s real religion

White nationalists, Islamophobes and other hate groups openly extol a clear goal – to separate ”them” from ”us”. In the wake of Friday’s terrorist attack, it seems prudent to confront the myth some believe in: that when it comes to religion in this country, there has never been an ”us”.

Evidence indicates the first humans to set foot in Aotearoa were Eastern Polynesian settlers some 800 years ago who brought religious beliefs with them.

Those beliefs centred around the idea that, through genealogy, all things were connected – hills, rivers, animals, plants – to the Maori themselves. Yet within the several hundred years Maori lived here before European settlement, the way those beliefs were expressed was already evolving and diverging.

Europeans arrived with a variety of takes on monotheism. Catholicism and Protestantism were the major players, but there were others.

The State, of course, was an extension of the British Crown and, as such, it is easy to look back at the last hundred or so years of New Zealand history and conclude we are, and have been, a Christian country.

But the beliefs of those who have settled here, who have journeyed to one of the most far-flung land masses on Earth and made a life for themselves, are far more varied than that. In reality, we have never been a solely Christian country. Since the arrival of Europeans, we have been a nation of multiple religions.

And agnostics and atheists.

A major fallacy in the argument of those wanting New Zealand to ”remain” or ”return” to being as culturally, ethnically or religiously ”pure” as it always was is that New Zealand has never been mono-ethnic, mono-religious or mono-cultural. And it never will. Because our national genealogy is not one of ”purity”.

Far from it. we are a diverse mix of cultures, nationalities, races and religions.

Islam is an ancient religion, born from the same part of the world Christianity was, just a few hundred years later. It is widely practised around the world and has as much right to be considered ”normal” in New Zealand as any other religion does.

Yes, there are radical arms of Islam. There are radical arms of Christianity, too. And of football fans, environmentalists and many more groups besides. It takes an appalling negligence of consideration to believe only the radical arms of a large group of people define that group.

Generalising is common. Like Christians. Muslims. Maori. Asians. Europeans. Colonialists.

All are quite varied, diverse, and there are often mixes and blends.

It is absurd for any New Zealanders to believe Islam has less right to be practised freely, safely and given respect in this country than other religions. Muslim New Zealanders are simply New Zealanders who practise a religion. Religions, while culpable for many unpleasant aspects of history, also bring meaning, stability, guidance and context to billions of people.

We are not a Christian country, despite being a country of many Christians.

We are not a religious country, though we are a country of many religions.

In fact, if there was to be any ”religion” that defined New Zealand, it should be a religious devotion to inclusivity, tolerance and openness.

Let that be the New Zealand religion and, in our pursuit of it, let’s ensure Muslim New Zealanders know, feel and trust they are, now and forever, simply Kiwis.

We all have to work hard on accepting differences, and tolerance.

 

White supremacists, racism and anti-immigration rhetoric

There’s a number of things that need to be talked about more in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks, like white supremacists (including cultural and religious supremacists), racism and anti immigration rhetoric and immigrant bashing.

Richard MacManus (Newsroom):  We didn’t watch white supremacists closely enough

After the tragedy in Christchurch last Friday, serious questions are being asked of the world’s largest social media companies.

Why was the killer able to live stream this appalling act on Facebook for 17 minutes? Why couldn’t YouTube and Twitter prevent copies of the video from being propagated on their global networks? Why did Reddit have a forum named ‘watchpeopledie’ (another place where this horrendous video was posted) running on its platform for seven whole years?

To answer these questions, we need to look at the content moderation processes of Facebook, Google and others, plus examine the effectiveness of using algorithms to help police content.

The biggest issue though is that neither human nor AI moderation is much help in the case of live streams. The only viable solution, it seems to me, is to prevent people like Friday’s terrorist from live streaming in the first place.

One suspects the tech companies will need to work closely with government intelligence agencies to identify, monitor and proactively shut down people who use social media to distribute hate content.

Before Friday, the response to that would’ve been just two words: “free speech.” But we’re no longer talking about the trivial matter of two right-wing provocateurs being prevented from speaking in New Zealand. We’re now talking about preventing extreme terrorist violence in our country. I think our former Prime Minister Helen Clark said it best, in regards to free speech:

“We all support free speech, but when that spills over into hate speech and propagation of violence, it has gone far too far. Such content is not tolerated on traditional media; why should it be on #socialmedia?”

Why indeed. So let’s fix this, by advocating for meaningful change at companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Reddit in how they deal with hate speech.

And local websites – including the biggest political blogs, Kiwiblog and Whale Oil.

Thomas Coughlan (Newsroom):  Time to recall MPs’ anti-migrant rhetoric

Hansard, the record of parliamentary speeches, has 139 mentions of the word “Muslim”, 317 of the word “Islam”, and 238 mentions of the word “Islamic” in its searchable record, which dates back to 2003.

In that same time, only one politician — Aaron “do you know I am?” Gilmore, as fate would have it — has mentioned “white supremacy”, and none have spoken about “white nationalism”.

Other religions are mentioned too — the word “Christian” is mentioned 520 times. But look a little closer, and a distinct difference emerges. While mentions of the word “Christian” tend to be followed by words like “Social Services” more than half of the 238 times, the word “Islam” is mentioned it is followed by the word “State”.

New Zealand is not immune from the global trend of conflating Islam and its nearly two billion adherents with terrorism.

Dr Mohamed Alansari of the University of Auckland noted that when people speak about Islam “it comes with a hint of judgment or a hint of a stereotype and it comes from a place of fear rather than a place of trying to understand”.

The apparent threat of Islam is often conflated with other issues, including security and migration.

Amongst New Zealand politicians Winston Peters stands out on this.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has a longer history than most when it comes to linking concerns about terrorism to Muslims.

In a 2005 speech titled The End Of Toleranceand delivered in the wake of the London bombings, Peters singled out Muslim migrants for special attention.

He spoke about the “political correctness” in other parties:

“They say – ah yes – but New Zealand has always been a nation of immigrants. They miss a crucial point. New Zealand has never been a nation of Islamic immigrants…”

Peters also suggested that moderate Muslims were operating “hand in glove” with extremists.

His exact words are worth quoting in full:

“This two-faced approach is how radical Islam works – present the acceptable face to one audience and the militant face to another.

“In New Zealand the Muslim community have been quick to show us their more moderate face, but as some media reports have shown, there is a militant underbelly here as well.

“Underneath it all the agenda is to promote fundamentalist Islam.

“Indeed these groups are like the mythical Hydra – a serpent underbelly with multiple heads capable of striking at any time and in any direction.”

He went on to note that “in many parts of the world the Christian faith is under direct threat from radical Islam,” and said that he had sent a letter to all leaders of Islamic groups in New Zealand, calling them to name any “radicals, troublemakers and potential dangers to our society”.

Dame Anne Salmond (NZ Herald): Racist underbelly seethes just beneath surface

After this terrible tragedy, let’s be honest, for once. White supremacy is a part of us, a dark power in the land. In its soft version, it looks bland and reasonable.

The doctrine of white superiority is based on arrogance, and ignorance. Since other cultures, languages and religions are worthless, there’s no need to learn about them. The “others” are dehumanised, making their misery and suffering unreal.

In the present, let’s face it, online, on talkback, in taxis and around dinner tables, the doctrine of white superiority is still alive and well in New Zealand. It’s absolutely right that our Prime Minister should take a stand for kindness and generosity, aroha and manaakitanga in the relations among different groups in our country.

But let’s not pretend there’s not a dark underbelly in New Zealand society.

And let’s not pretend that it doesn’t happen right here.

It’s very challenging encouraging open discussion and debate on important issues while trying to moderate white supremicism and racism and religious attacks.

But these are things we should be talking about – and asking ourselves serious questions about.

And others are also asking serious questions.

 

Facebook, Google accused of inciting violence

It may be more allowing violence to be incited, but is there a difference?

Politicians have to change NZ firearm laws

When an Australian comes to New Zealand to massacre 50 people in part because of the ease of obtaining semi-automatic weapons (often referred to as ‘military style’) due to our relatively lax firearms laws, then it is fairly obvious that our politicians have to do something to tighten up our firearms laws. The Prime Minister started our laws will change. The only real question is what the changes will be.

(Note that the terms ‘firearms’ and ‘guns’ are frequently interchanged. Technically the biggest problem is with rifles, which are not guns, but they are commonly included in the general ‘gun’ term).

There have been arguments here at Your NZ against changing firearms laws, and while David Farrar supports law changes there has been a lot of opposition to changes argued at Kiwiblog – see I support gun law changes.

Some valid concerns are raised, but most arguments are similar to what has come up in debate over US gun laws, and I don’t think they stack up.

Allowing people to have easy access to firearms like in the US, and to carry arms in public (to places like schools, churches and mosques), does not prevent mass killings there. To the contrary.

There are two main things being discussed here – the availability of semi-automatic weapons, which make it easy to fire (and kill) rapidly, and the lack of a firearms ownership register or database.

Firearms database

We used to have to register firearms, but this requirement was dropped in the 1990s. It has been claimed that it is now too late to have a register, but I don’t buy that. The vast majority of firearms owners are licensed and are legally required to notify the police of any change of address. It would not be difficult to contact all license holders and require them to register all their weapons.

Arguments are made that that would not cover illegally owned firearms, which is correct, but that is not a solid argument for registering legal weapons.

Semi-automatic firearms

There are some valid arguments for retaining the use of semi-automatic weapons for some purposes, particularly pest control like goat culling and possum control. Most hunters don’t use semi-automatics – they aare a waste of time and bullets for most game shooting.

There are alternatives for controlling pests – where I live there has been a major campaign over the last two years that has significantly reduced possum numbers, without the use of firearms. As a result I have hardly used my semi-automatic .22 for some time.

Australia clamped down on semi-automatics after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, and they have survived without them, proving they are not needed.

There could be a valid argument for banning high velocity semi-automatics and still allowing the use of .22 rim fire semi-autos for pest control. But I don’t think it would cause any insurmountable problems banning all semi-automatics, and it would avoid any chance of loopholes.

Other arguments

In the Kiwiblog comments here – I support gun law changes – there are a lot of arguments that are common in US gun debates that are ridiculous.

It doesn’t take much to realise that in general more guns = more risks and more deaths.


I’d be happy to hand in my semi-automatic, and either get a .22 that requires reloading, or ditch having a a firearm and use other methods of possum and pest control.

In Australia they had a Government buy back scheme.

There has been reports here that there has been a rush on semi-automatic weapon sales in New Zealand since the Christchurch massacres due to talk of tightening the laws. Someone on Twitter suggested that in any buy-back scheme receipts proving purchase prior to the Friday murders be required.  This would unfairly penalise long time owners of semi-automatics who don’t still have receipts.

I think that we must make meaningful changes to our firearms laws. These must be carefully but quickly considered. A recent review could easily form the basis of quick firearm law reform.

Other discussions:

Stuff:  Why do members of the public even need military-style semi-automatic rifles?

Stuff: Christchurch shooting: Taking aim at gun owners

But there are changes that can and must be made.

Police, academics and others have long sought to implement a meaningful firearm register that would give us a better picture of the real number and type of the weapons in this country.

We know we have about quarter of a million firearm users; we have no idea of the weapons they own or even the numbers.

That would be a reasonable first step; a moratorium on the sale and importation of semi-automatics would also make sense.

Newsroom:  Why changing gun laws isn’t that simple

NZ Herald: Trade Me still selling hundreds of semi-automatic guns

NZ Herald:  Why PM Jacinda Ardern could follow Australia’s gun lead and ban semi-automatic weapons

ODT: Kia kaha, Christchurch

The relative ease in which Tarrant was able to legally own high-powered firearms has raised alarms, prompting Ms Ardern to promise changes to our guns laws. This cannot come soon enough.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expected to announce gun law changes following mosque shootings

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to announce a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and tighter controls on gun ownership following a Cabinet meeting tomorrow that will focus entirely on the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Ardern has been firm that the country’s gun laws will change following the attacks on two mosques on Friday in which 50 people were killed.

I think ikt will be difficult for any politicians or parties to argue against sensible changes.

It must happen. Some good must come of the Christchurch mosque massacres, and it’s hard to see any real or insurmountable down sides to banning semi-automatic weapons.

Worldwide coverage of Christchurch mosque massacres

On Saturday in Christchurch the man who is claimed to be largely or wholly responsible for the massacres in two mosques in Christchurch appeared in court, was charged with one count of murder (the police say more charges are pending), and was remanded in custody until another appearance due next month.

Otherwise there wasn’t a lot of new news from the scenes, with local media focussing on the impact on people who witnessed or affected by the killings.

But there seems have been a massive amount of international attention.

 

The use of social media platforms is under intense scrutiny.

There must be significant changes made at Facebook and other online platforms to address this issue. It is a difficult problem to deal with, but it must be.

One popular report:

The Ausies step up again: ODT:  Speaker banned from Aust after terror attack comments

Controversial far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos has been banned from entering Australia on tour after his remarks about the New Zealand terror attack.

The government had agreed to the visa after conservative MPs had put pressure on Mr Coleman to override the Department of Home Affairs’ advice to ban Mr Yiannopoulos.

“I’m banned from Australia, again, after a statement in which I said I abhor political violence,” Mr Yiannopoulos said on social media after the announcement on Saturday.

Mr Yiannopoulos had described Islam as a “barbaric, alien” religious culture on social media overnight after the terror incident, prompting the government’s change of heart.

Immigration Minister David Coleman released a statement on Saturday after backflipping on a decision to grant Mr Yiannopoulos a visa into the country.

“Milo Yiannopoulos will not be allowed to enter Australia for his proposed tour this year,” Mr Coleman said, after having granted him a visa a week ago.

“Mr Yiannopoulos’ comments on social media regarding the Christchurch terror attack are appalling and foment hatred and division.

“The terrorist attack in Christchurch was carried out on Muslims peacefully practising their religion. It was an act of pure evil.”

Yiannopoulos exercised his right to free speech. Australia exercised it’s right to admit or exclude whoever they like to their country. There can be consequences for saying reprehensible things.

There are other ridiculous arses around the world:

But most of the coverage i can see is horrified and sympathetic:

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush will speak to media Sunday at 9:30am to provide an update on the Christchurch terror attack.

Updates – 49 confirmed dead in Christchurch terrorist attacks

49 people have been confirmed dead as a result of two near simultaneous terrorist attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday. One Australian man has been arrested and charged with murder.  Another  man and a woman have also been apprehended. A fourth man was arrested but that was not related to the mosque massacres. Parts of a street in Dunedin has cordon off in a related investigation. Mosques around New Zealand are under police protection.

Military style rifles were used in the attacks, and two bombs were found on the vehicle of one of those who was apprehended.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush put out a number of updates on what had happened. Here is the latest from late last night.

Police continue to deal with what is an unprecedented event for New Zealand. The loss of life and the number of those who have been injured is tragic.

As the Prime Minister has stated, this has been designated a terrorist attack.

This has been an abhorrent event and my thoughts are with all of those affected in Christchurch. Be assured NZ Police stand with you all tonight.

We now know that 49 people have been killed in the attacks, 41 people at the Deans Avenue mosque, and seven at the Linwood Avenue mosque. One person died in hospital.

The number of those being treated in hospital has been updated to 48 people.

A 28-year-old man has been charged with murder and is due to appear in the Christchurch District Court tomorrow morning.

Two others remain in custody. Another person was arrested earlier today however that was not related to these events.

This is still an ongoing situation and Police has a significant number of staff on the ground in Christchurch

We are unable at this stage to provide details about matters leading up to the attacks. It is very early days and these matters will form part of the investigation.

There is an increased Police presence across Christchurch and surrounding areas. Our priority is to keep all New Zealanders safe.

There are community events planned across the country this weekend and there will be a visible Police presence at these events for safety and reassurance.

We thank the public for their ongoing co-operation and we would like to reassure members of the public that a large Police presence will remain in the city for the time being. The safety of the community is our priority.

Police wish to notify the public of the Restoring Family Links (RFL) website(link is external) where people can register missing persons or register themselves as alive. People living in New Zealand can also register missing persons on 0800 115 019.

Information will continue to be provided as it becomes available.

Our thoughts remain with all of those affected.

And:

Police are currently in attendance at a property on Somerville Street, Dunedin. This is a location of interest in relation to the serious firearms incident in Christchurch today.

Evacuations of properties in the immediate area have taken place as a precaution.

Alternative accommodation has been provided for residents requiring it and cordons are in place in the Somerville Street and Everton Road area.

There is no further information available at this time.

From the police page on Facebook:

Police are aware there is extremely distressing footage relating to the incident in Christchurch circulating online. We would strongly urge that the link not be shared. We are working to have any footage removed.

I don’t want any of this footage or links to the footage on Your NZ. One aim of the killings was to attract media attention and pub


Saturday morning: Update 9

We are continuing to make enquiries after yesterday’s tragic events in Christchurch.

As the Prime Minister stated yesterday, this has been designated a terrorist attack.

49 people have died and 42 are being treated for injuries. Two of those injured are critical and this includes a four-year-old child who is being transported to Starship Hospital this morning.

A 28-year-old man will appear in Christchurch District Court today charged with murder.

Two others remain in custody.

Our investigations are in their early stages and we will be looking closely to build a picture of any of the individuals involved and all of their activities prior to this horrific event.

There is no guarantee the risk is limited to Canterbury and we need all New Zealanders to be extra vigilant.

Our message to you is simple: if you see something suspicious, say something – call 111 immediately.

Police is aware there are distressing materials related to this event circulating widely online. We would urge anyone who has been affected by seeing these materials to seek appropriate support.

We would also like to remind the public that it is an offence to distribute an objectionable publication and that is punishable by imprisonment.

Once again I want to reassure the public that a large Police presence remains in the city for the time being.

There will be a heightened Police presence at community events today for safety and reassurance.

Dozens of officers continue to be deployed into the region today, and Police’s Eagle helicopter has flown to Christchurch to assist those on the ground.

Police and the wider government will be working with leaders and members of the Islamic Community to provide assistance, reassurance and support.

Deputy Commissioner of Māori and Ethnic Services Wally Haumaha has travelled to Christchurch alongside 15 ethnic liaison officers to support the community.

These specialists will work alongside local staff to support the families and help repatriate them with their loved ones in a way that is consistent with Muslim beliefs, while taking into account these circumstances and obligations to the coroner.

I also plan to fly to Christchurch this morning, and will be speaking to media at the earliest opportunity. More detail on that will be advised in due course.

Again I want to offer my sincere condolences to those affected, on behalf of New Zealand Police.

Presuming more updates are released they will be added to this post today.

From Update 11:

The 28-year-old man charged with murder in relation to this attack has appeared in Christchurch District Court this morning.

While the man is currently facing only one charge, further charges will be laid. Details of those charges will be communicated at the earliest possible opportunity.