UK Government’s own watchdog critical of Plain Packaging


As the UK government has launched yet another consultation on plain packaging, its own independent regulatory watchdog has made his views on plain packaging known:

In an assessment of the plan, the independent regulatory policy committee (RPC) said that the impact on business, the effect on profits and the costs of switching to the policy all had to be fleshed out in more detail. Read more »

Man slut Gable Tostee denies involvement in Warriena Wright balcony fall

1407721121083.jpg-300x0Mr Tostee, 28, was questioned by police on Friday and released without charge. He has since been staying at his parents’ house, which police visited over the weekend when they collected CCTV footage.

Fairfax Media revealed on Monday that Mr Tostee had taken to an online bodybuilding forum to insist he had nothing to do with Ms Wright’s sudden death.

“I’ve been advised not to go into details but all I will say is that I absolutely did NOT cause this girl to fall and that I am devastated about what happened to her,” he wrote.

“Fact is I’ve taken home probably about 150 girls from clubs over the last few years. When you go out often to the same places and get drunk and talk to girls you’re bound to get noticed and hated on, and people gossip.

“Eventually it turns into Chinese whispers where people have a completely false impression of you.

How’s that Gable?  You go out with lots of girls and that makes you the sort of person that people immediately  think of when a girl is suspected to have been thrown over a balcony?    Read more »

A Maori woman stands with Israel

A fine speech by Sheree Trotter.

Sheree Trotter is the interviewer and researcher for Shadows of Shoah. She is a Maori New Zealander. On August 10 2014 a rally was held in central Auckland, NZ, to affirm Israel’s right to exist, her right to defend herself against Hamas’ aggression, and to respond to the worldwide surge of antisemitic expression. The event was attended by about 800 supporters. Sheree was invited to give a speech.



Another one gone too soon: Robin Williams, 63, suspected suicide


Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead on [today] from an apparent suicide at his home in Northern California, Marin County Sheriff’s Office said. He was 63.

The sheriff’s coroner’s division said it suspects the death was a suicide due to asphyxia, but the cause of death is still under investigation.

Last month, the “Good Will Hunting” actor, who has struggled with addiction in the past, entered a Minnesota rehabilitation center to help him maintain sobriety.

His representatives at the time said Williams was not using drugs or alcohol but had gone to the center to “fine-tune and focus” his sobriety after working a longer-than-usual schedule.



- Reuters

Will Fiji’s elections be free & fair?


Supervisor of Elections at Fiji Elections Office, Mohammed Saneem Photo/ Cam Slater, Whaleoil Media

I am in Suva at the moment investigating Fiji’s path to democracy.

Today I visited the Fiji Elections Office, their Electoral Commission, and had an in-depth discussion with the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem.

My questions and discussion focused on whether or not Fiji would be having free and fair elections on September 17.

In past elections there have been several incidences of vote tampering, ballot box stacking and in one particular example more votes cast than registered electors in a constituency.

Despite international observers in the past declaring elections free and fair it is obvious to all that Fiji’s past elections have been far from that.

Independence of Fiji Elections Office

The Fiji Elections Office is independent, just like New Zealand’s Electoral Commission. They are charged with overseeing the election and electoral law, which at present is by decree, but it is the law nonetheless.

I spent quite a bit of time understanding their voting processes and there are some quite innovative techniques they are utilising to combat voter fraud and vote rigging.

Voter Registration

The first step has been a comprehensive voter education and registration process that has been running for two years. Registered voters have a voter id card, this is not at all like the Easy Vote card that is so easily rorted in NZ.  The Fijian voter registration card is a photo id, it also contains biometric data (fingerprints) which require a match of at least 8 points.

The Fijian registered voters carry these cards everywhere. When I asked my cab diver last night, when I arrived in Suva, if he was registered to vote, he reached into his pocket and flourished it with obvious pride. Everyone eligible and registered to vote has one of these and a random sample on the streets shows that everyone without fail carries it. What this means is that only registered voters will be able to vote, and they require the photo and biometric identification in order to vote. This is a significant advancement over our voter registration processes in NZ. I should know as I have just watched my 18 year old son register to vote in NZ and our processes are farcical to say the least compared to what Fiji has initiated.    Read more »

EXCLUSIVE: An interview with Frank Bainimarama


Photo/ Whaleoil Media, Steve Cook

On Saturday morning I was invited to an interview with Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

Other NZ media other than Venkat Raman from Indian NewsLink were refused interviews.

I was free to ask anything and everything in a wide ranging interview. Some of the insights are very interesting. For reader who don’t know, I was born in Fiji, I am a Kaiviti.

My apologies in advance for the audio, I was using borrowed equipment and lacked a proper mic (which is now on my shopping list)

Read more »

A glimmer of hope

As I read the below article I did not expect to be surprised, just sickened.Yet again I readied myself to read of the horrific acts of Islamic fundamentalists. What I read made me sick to my stomach but I did glimpse a tiny ray of hope.
Twice in the article it mentioned the local population refusing to do what the Islamic fundamentalists demanded.It was a passive protest but it was a protest nevertheless. A protest in the face of armed men. It made me think of this verse in the bible

They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”


 A cleric read the verdict before the truck came and dumped a large pile of stones near the municipal garden. Jihadi fighters then brought in the woman, clad head to toe in black, and put her in a small hole in the ground. When residents gathered, the fighters told them to carry out the sentence: Stoning to death for the alleged adulteress.

None in the crowd stepped forward, said a witness to the event in a northern Syrian city. So the jihadi fighters, mostly foreign extremists, did it themselves, pelting Faddah Ahmad with stones until her body was dragged away.

“Even when she was hit with stones she did not scream or move,” said an opposition activist who said he witnessed the stoning near the football stadium and the Bajaa garden in the city of Raqqa, the main Syrian stronghold of the Islamic State group.

The July 18 stoning was the second in a span of 24 hours. A day earlier, 26-year-old Shamseh Abdullah was killed in a similar way in the nearby town of Tabqa by Islamic State fighters. Both were accused of having sex outside marriage.

The killings were the first of their kind in rebel-held northern Syria, where jihadis from the Islamic State group have seized large swaths of territory, terrorizing residents with their strict interpretation of Islamic law, including beheadings and cutting off the hands of thieves.

The jihadis recently tied a 14-year-old boy to a cross-like structure and left him for several hours in the scorching summer sun before bringing him down — punishment for not fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The group has also brutalized Shiite Muslims and others whom it views as apostates. In neighboring Iraq, Islamic State militants have driven members of the Yazidi religious minority out of a string of towns and villages. Thousands of the fleeing Yazidis have been stranded on a mountaintop for days, a humanitarian crisis that prompted the U.S. to airlift aid to them this week.

On Friday, Kamil Amin, the spokesman for Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry, said hundreds of Yazidi women under the age of 35 are being held by the Islamic State group in schools in Iraq’s second largest city Mosul, which the militants captured in June.

The stonings in Syria last month were not widely publicized at the time, but in the following days three photographs appeared online which appeared to document the grisly spectacle and were consistent with other AP reporting.

The pictures posted on a newly-created Twitter account showed dozens of people gathered in a square, a cleric reading a verdict through a loudspeaker and several bearded men with automatic rifles either carrying or collecting stones.

“A married woman being stoned in the presence of some believers,” read the caption of the photographs on the Twitter account, which has since been suspended.

Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, the activist who witnessed Ahmad’s stoning, said locals where angry to see foreign fighters impose their will on the community.

“People were shocked and couldn’t understand what was going on. Many were disturbed by the idea that Saudis and Tunisians were issuing (such) orders,” he said in an interview via Skype. Ahmad, he said, appeared unconscious, and he had overheard that she was earlier taken to a hospital where she was given anesthesia.

The stoning took place after dark, he said, at about 11 p.m. He could not see blood on the body because of the black clothes she was wearing. Ahmad did not scream or shake, and died silently. “They then took the dead body in one of their cars and left,” he said.

The two cases were first reported by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information through a network of activists around the country. Bassam Al-Ahmad, a spokesman for the Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian group that tracks human rights violations, also confirmed the stoning.

An activist based in the northern province of Idlib, who collects information from other activists in northern Syria, said Ahmad was a widow. A man who asked to be identified as Asad for fear of repercussions, said that in the other stoning, in Tabqa, residents also refused to take part, and that the act was carried out by Islamic State members.
The Islamic State group has “imposed incredibly restrictive rules on the civilian population which have served to make women and girls particularly vulnerable and to quite clearly discriminate against them,” she said, adding that the reports of the stoning were the first the group had received out of Syria.

“This is just a more sort of extreme manifestation of those restrictive rules which are all in violation of international” human rights law, she said.

Such acts have alarmed members of mainstream Syrian opposition groups fighting to remove President Bashar Assad from power since 2011.

These behaviors have nothing to do with the nature and mentality of Syrian society,” said Abdelbaset Sieda, a senior member of the main Western-backed Syrian National Coalition. He said the group had no official confirmation of the stoning cases although he did not rule it out. “We expect such acts to be carried out by the Islamic State,” he said.

Face of the day

Next time you complain about life being too hard spare a thought for this remarkable woman.

A mother left unable to walk or talk after suffering a massive stroke has defied the odds to complete a university degree – by blinking.

Dawn Faizey Webster was left with locked-in syndrome after the attack in 2003, two weeks after her son Alexander was born.

The condition is where a patient is fully-aware and awake – but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all muscles in the body, except for the eyes.

Incredibly, the former teacher, then 30, discovered she could still communicate through her eyes and tiny head movements.

Dawn Faizey Webster (pictured here in 2000)

Dawn Faizey Webster (pictured here in 2000

Read more »

Muhammed Rizalman bin Ismail still coming back


Jan Jogie, Tania Billingsley and her friends are going to be ecstatic that the diplomat assaulter will return.  All the better to create a big media circus from it.  Bevan Hurley has been reading the Malaysian papers

Malaysia will send a lawyer to advise a disgraced diplomat when he stands trial in New Zealand, the country’s attorney-general said.

Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said sending the lawyer was part of an agreement struck between the two governments.

He told the Rakyak Post that New Zealand has promised the accused will receive proper legal representation, and he will select his own lawyer in New Zealand.

There is no doubt in my mind we can provide any number of capable lawyers that will take this case to the hilt on behalf of their client.   The problem will be finding 12 jurors that haven’t already made up their minds.   Read more »

Anti-semitism: racism so specific, it has its own name

In half a century on this planet, including a fair chunk in Europe, I have yet to experience a single negative event that makes me understand why Jews are, supposedly, to be feared, loathed and… done away with.

Did I dodge a bullet?

Over the last few days I’ve asked people:  “Tell me your worst personal experience you have ever had with a Jew?”

So far I’ve had a 100% “blanks stare” response.  Nobody I know can pin down a personal experience of being at the wrong end of a Jew.

Yet anti-semitism has exploded all over the world.   We’ve recently seen it on the political hoardings that are being defaced.

Of course, none of this is fun if you are a Jew.  Apparently out of he blue, the world hates you and wants you dead.

Imagine what that’s like…

UK based Hillary Freeman shares her story

Last week, one of my oldest friends was walking with her young daughter in a north London suburb when she was approached by four Asian youths.

Guessing that she was Jewish — they saw her leave a bagel bakery and, like me, she has a mop of dark, curly hair — they began to make Hitler salutes at her.

When she crossed the road to get away, they followed her up the street, shouting the Nazi salute ‘Sieg Heil’ and mimicking the sound of hissing gas canisters, like those used in concentration camps. She was, not surprisingly, petrified.

While it was the first time that she had experienced such overt anti-semitism, this was not, unfortunately, an isolated incident. Only yesterday, another friend, also a North London resident, awoke to find a swastika painted on her front door.

Until recently I would not have believed such shocking events could happen here in Britain, in our tolerant, multicultural society. In all 43 years of my life, most of which have been spent in London, I have witnessed or heard of only a handful of examples of anti-Semitism.

My only personal experience — an assault by a neo-Nazi who told me ‘Hitler didn’t finish his job properly’ — occurred in the south of France, where the far-Right exerts a much greater influence.

Haven’t we all kind of agreed that what Hitler did was wrong?   I mean, extremely wrong?   Something we would never want to see repeated?

How did we end up here, again?    Read more »