I think I should set this up locally too

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Today’s Trivia

DSC03389

Welcome to Daily Trivia.  There is a game to play here.  The photo above relates to one of the items below.  The first reader to correctly tell us in the comments what item the photo belongs to, and why, gets bragging rights.  Sometimes they are obvious, other times the obvious answer is the decoy.  Can you figure it out tonight?

In order to discover that penguins sleep more deeply in the afternoon, scientists crept up on sleeping king penguins at different times of the day and poked them with a stick until they woke up. (source)  Read more »

Labour of love

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Because… bacon!

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Daily roundup

It’s a guy thing

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Why is there no law to rein in dodgy ratbag local body politicians?

Former ARC Councillor Bill Burrill is not the first dodgy ratbag Councillor to trough from abuses of power to his own pecuniary advantage in recent years.

A few years back in 2009 Council Watch was calling for a number of Councillors from the Canterbury Regional Council to be prosecuted and sacked from their positions after an investigation by the Auditor General Lyn Provost found that four individuals had broken the law by acting in conflict with their official role.

Back then those Canterbury Councillors failed to declare a conflict on interest that lead to a financial benefit for themselves by participating in discussion and voting on proposals before Council.

Under investigation the Auditor General’s office chose not to prosecute stating that whilst the Councillors should have withdrawn as a matter of principle – they had each received and shared legal advice that they could participate.

And here in lies the problem. The Auditor General and Office of the Ombudsmen publish clear guidelines for Councillors and council staff but the reality is that the law is erroneously filled with holes that are exploited and there is precious little oversight of Local Government leading to the Auditor General loathing to bother and the Court’s uninterested.

Why this is concerning is that whilst central Government politicians are placed under the spotlight and sometimes prosecuted for their actions (think Taito Phillip Field by way of example) there appears to be virtually no scrutiny of politicians at a local level.

“A widespread and systemic lack of compliance for the law exists within Local Government” noted Council Watch back in 2009.    Read more »

News that isn’t: drug laws don’t work

The UK government’s comparison of international drug laws, published on Wednesday, represents the first official recognition since the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act that there is no direct link between being “tough on drugs” and tackling the problem.

The report, which has been signed off by both the Conservative home secretary, Theresa May, and the Liberal Democrat crime prevention minister, Norman Baker, is based on an in-depth study of drug laws in 11 countries ranging from the zero-tolerance of Japan to the legalisation of Uruguay.

The key finding of the report, written by Home Office civil servants, lies in a comparison of Portugal, where personal use is decriminalised, and the Czech Republic, where criminal penalties for possession were introduced as recently as 2010.

“We did not in our fact-finding observe any obvious relationship between the toughness of a country’s enforcement against drug possession, and levels of drug use in that country,” it says. “The Czech Republic and Portugal have similar approaches to possession, where possession of small amounts of any drug does not lead to criminal proceedings, but while levels of drug use in Portugal appear to be relatively low, reported levels of cannabis use in the Czech Republic are among the highest in Europe.

“Indicators of levels of drug use in Sweden, which has one of the toughest approaches we saw, point to relatively low levels of use, but not markedly lower than countries with different approaches.”

Endless coalition wrangling over the contents of the report, which has taken more than eight months to be published, has ensured that it does not include any conclusions.

However, reading the evidence it provides, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Home Office civil servants who wrote it seem to have been impressed that a health-based rather than a criminal justice-based approach is where effective policies lie.

The policing and criminal justice cost of chasing low-end drug manufacture, sale and use is significant.  The proof that it is bad is scant.  Yet we keep on keeping on.   Read more »

For once I agree with Russel Norman

Don’t get upset, but Russel is right.  But he doesn’t go far enough.

The Prime Minister John Key says he won’t reveal the name given to him as the identity of the hacker known as Rawshark, and won’t pass it on to police.

“In the end if the individual who told me wants to tell the police they are welcome to do that,” Mr Key said at a media conference today.

In a new chapter in John Key: Portrait of a Prime Minister, devoted to this year’s election campaign, Mr Key is quoted as saying: “Someone phoned and told me who the hacker was, but other than having a look at this person, I thought, ‘Oh well … nothing will come of it. Life goes on’.”

Mr Key said today he had learned from the Teapot Tapes scandal in 2011.

“I could spend my life worrying about people who undertake activities to try to discredit the government but at the end of the day it doesn’t take you anywhere.” Read more »

Did you know we still have convicted homosexuals running free?

Before homosexual law reform came in during the ’80s (and boy, was that a debacle), police actually prosecuted gay men for doing things that heterosexual men could do legally.  And some of them still carry such convictions on their police records.

People convicted of historical homosexual acts could have their criminal records wiped, with new Justice Minister Amy Adams saying she is open to resuming talks on the subject.

Until the Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed in 1986 – with the help of then-Wellington MP Fran Wilde – sex between men was a crime.

But although those who were convicted before 1986 do not need to declare their convictions because of the Clean Slate Act, activists say the stigma still hangs over them.

Earlier this year, former justice minister Judith Collins received advice from the Ministry of Justice about options for pardoning or expunging those convictions

But the ministry refused to provide the information to The Dominion Post, saying it needed to protect the confidentiality of advice given by officials.

It also said it did not hold information on the total number of convictions under the act, nor did it have any idea how many people might be eligible to be pardoned or have their convictions expunged.

The ministry said it could provide figures for people convicted on homosexuality-related offences between July 1, 1980, and August 8, 1986.

During that period, there were 879 convictions, including sodomy with another man aged over 16, committing an indecent act with another man, and “keeping place of resort for homosexual acts”.

Guess what?  The Green Party was working with the National party to clear this up.   Uhuh,  odd eh?  Wonder if Russel “knew”?   Read more »