Chief Justice called for jury duty

April 18th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

CNN reports:

Most Americans often seek ways to avoid jury duty. But one potential juror in Maryland on Wednesday morning had quite the excuse.

Chief Justice John Roberts was seen at a Montgomery County courthouse performing his civic duty as a prospective juror for a car crash case, according to a report first published by The Washington Post.

Although Roberts ultimately was not chosen to serve on a jury, that’s probably just as well, because oral arguments before the Supreme Court are scheduled to last through April 29.

The Post reported that Roberts answered questions regarding his relatives, and told the local court that his sister is a nurse in Indiana and his brother-in-law is with the Indiana State Police.

This could never happen in New Zealand. Lawyers (and judges) can not be jurors. But fascinating that in the US even the Chief Justice could be picked as a juror.

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Kids, don’t try flakka

April 18th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

A MAN high on the drug flakka attacked a police officer after running naked through the streets shouting “I am God” and having sex with a tree, police said.

Kenneth Crowder, 41, was arrested in Melbourne, Florida, on Friday following a dangerous, drug-fuelled bender.

According to a police report obtained by Click Orlando, witnesses called cops after spotting Crowder having intercourse with a tree.

Ouch, that could hurt. I wonder how was he actually attempting sex with the tree?

When approached by an officer, Crowder acted aggressively and identified himself as God.

Police said Crowder was Tasered twice, but pulled out the electric probes before punching the officer.

The unhinged man also allegedly tried to stab the cop with his badge while screaming that he was Thor.

Thor is a god, not the God. He would knwo that if he hadn’t been high on flakka.

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Maybe it was Hamburglar?

April 18th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Laptops containing contact details of union members have been stolen in a break-in at Unite Union’s Auckland office.

Files with names of members, business documents and a union credit card were taken, along with thousands of dollars of electronic equipment in a robbery believed to have happened about 3am Thursday.

Staff arrived on Thursday morning to find the doors smashed in and the office ransacked, senior union organiser Joe Carolan said.

He said he was outraged thieves had not only targeted expensive items, including a TV and a camera, but also rifled through cabinets and taken paperwork, supermarket vouchers and cinema tickets.

“It’s a low blow,” he said.

“I’m furious.”

Carolan said the timing of the robbery – that followed union-organised rallies against zero-hour contracts – raised suspicion that it was politically motivated.

But he said it was more likely opportunistic.

The prime suspects are Hamburglar and the IRD!

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How not to apologise

April 18th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

John Drinnan writes in the Herald:

A source said another option canvassed was the notion of a show in the style ofJono and Ben, or Hard Copy. In this column last week – based on a conversation that looked at the review of Campbell Live, I mistakenly attributed this idea to a TV3 document.

So the column was wrong. So is this an apology for the column being wrong? Nope, don’t apologise – just attack.

My source said this was not the case, but that such ideas had been discussed. MediaWorks responded with vigour, accusing me, and the Herald, of “fabricating” the story. That would be unethical behaviour that I have not been, and will not be, involved in.

“The statement in John Drinnan’s articles in relation to the Jono and Ben show, which is attributed to ‘TV3 bosses’, is a complete fabrication and is not based on fact.

“Jono and Ben has never once been mentioned in any MediaWorks management forum, discussion or document as a possible replacement for Campbell Live.”

While I made, and corrected, an error about where the idea came from – it was actually from a discussion, not in a document as I believed – that statement implies dishonesty. The allegation represents the aggressive approach at MediaWorks since the middle of last year, which a source say represents a paranoia about other media. There is an increasingly tense relationship between that company and NZME., publisher of the Herald, which is a direct competitor with MediaWorks.

So attack Mediaworks for pointing out that the column was wrong.

There is a huge difference between something being in a formal document, and someone saying this came up in a conversation. A world of difference. One is provable, and one is not. A document has been formally signed off by a number of people. A conversation could be a couple of people in the staff room thinking aloud.

The column that stated Mediaworks had a document which proposed possibly replacing Campbell Live with Jono and Ben did huge damage to Mediaworks. They were attacked for it, and ridiculed. Until I read this column today, I did not realise the claim was false. It is a very grudging back down.

When I make mistakes (which can be often), I’ll generally quickly apologise and correct.

I accept that Drinnan made a mistake, and did not deliberately get it wrong. But it was a serious mistake, and as Mediaworks knows for 100% certainty there is no document that mooted Jono & Ben as a replacement, it is no surprise they would denounce a story that claimed there was.

I am a regular reader of John Drinnan’s columns as they often provide great insight into the media, which you don’t get elsewhere. But a media commentator who takes to task other sections of the media when they get it wrong, should perhaps live by the standard they set for others.

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General Debate 18 April 2015

April 18th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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How UK voters are moving

April 18th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

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An interesting graphic from the UK.

You can see how Conservatives are losing most of their support to UKIP. A wee bit to Labour.

Labour has lost support to UKIP, Conservatives and Greens.

Lib Dems are bleeding everywhere.

All the polls are still predicting a hung Parliament, with the SNP, Lib Dems and Irish possibly being needed to govern.

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Helensville electoral petition struck out

April 17th, 2015 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

Arthur Taylor’s electoral petition for Helensville has been struck down by the courts, as they has found he has not standing to bring a petition. This is not a huge surprise.

The court ruling is below.

Helensville Electoral Petition

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Iran elected to executive board of the UN’s Entity for Empowerment of Women.

April 17th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tim Blair reports:

The UN recently decided that Israel was the number one violator of women’s rights in the world today. And then the UN appointed the Islamic Republic of Iran to the executive board of the UN’s Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

The US pointed out:

“In Iran, women are legally barred from holding some government positions, there are no laws against domestic violence, and adultery is punishable by stoning, making it wholly inappropriate that Iran assume a leadership role on women’s rights and welfare at the U.N,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, in criticizing the decision to make Iran a member of the women’s rights body.

This is why I take very few pronouncements from the UN seriously.

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Should Dotcom have residency cancelled for his driving conviction?

April 17th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has a tough decision to make.

He’s the man who’ll make the call whether to kick Kim Dotcom out of the country for lying about a dangerous driving conviction.

Thirty seven other people have been extradited for similar reasons.

Auckland University law professor Bill Hodge says the minister could look to those cases for precedent.

He says by lying about the incident, Dotcom has affected his ability to be trusted.

“Those are what goes to the heart of trust and confidence. At the very beginning of our relationship you (Dotcom) breached our trust and confidence by deceiving us.”

Bill Hodge says Mr Woodhouse needs to separate all the political turmoil around Dotcom from his decision.

I’d be interested in whether the 37 other cases were for similar convictions?

As Hodge says, the decision needs to ignore all the political stuff. Dotcom needs to be treated the same as if he was John Smith.

If the court rules the extradition request from the US is valid, then he should be extradited to stand trial.

But his failure to not declare his driving conviction should not be seen as a way to get around that process.

Not disclosing a conviction is a serious matter, but a driving conviction is different to say a violent or sexual conviction.

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Jennicam

April 17th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

JENNIFER Ringley was the first person to broadcast her life online.

In 1996, the 19-year-old bought a webcam and set it up in her room to take a photo every 15 minutes and post it to her website: JenniCam.

Her experiment offered the world a glimpse into our digital future long before Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the Kardashians.

I remember Jennicam. 1996 was the year I first went online. Hadn’t thought of the site for a long long time, but it was the pioneer of the “sharing” which was to come.

Who else remembers Jennicam? Did you watch it often? I would check it out occasionally, but wasn’t a regular.

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Passport Memorandum Account surplus all gone?

April 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I blogged last week:

The key is that the Passport Memorandum Account should not build up a large surplus again. It went up to $27 million three years ago and is now down to $20 million. It really should end up close to zero.

I’ve been advised me that the surplus in the account is in fact now very close to zero.  I understand the Minister, Peter Dunne, has written to a newspaper and said:

That surplus has now been expended.

Hopefully the surplus has been expended due to the reduction in fees, rather than an increase in costs!

I have to say though that the extra security features that allow me to use Smart Gate in Australia and New Zealand are very valuable to me as a frequent traveler. Previously I would wait between 5 and 45 minutes to get through passport control. Now in these two countries I generally get through in around 30 seconds. Never had to wait more than say three minutes.

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The Greens’ vision for the UK

April 17th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

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This is from Tim Blair.  I love how they talk about nursery now being “free”, along with social care and school dinners.

Also of interest is that they regard it as a good thing that 90% of kids will now turn up to school without a packed lunch, because the taxpayer is providing free dinners.

Guido Fawkes has also highlighted some of their policies:

  • “a complete ban on cages for hens and rabbits”
  • “end the use of the whip in horse racing and conduct a full review of the sport”
  • “end the practice of grouse shooting”
  • “ensure UK taxpayers’ money is not used for bullfighting”
  • “ban the import of fur products”
  • “ensure that all schools, hospitals and other public buildings have solar panels by 2020″
  • “closure of all coal-fired power stations”
  • “make equality and diversity lessons mandatory in all schools”
  • “progressively introduce anonymised CVs
  • “strengthen Travellers’ rights”
  • “cancelling student debt”
  • “revive the role of trade unions”
  • “phase in a 35 hours week”
  • “work for the abolition of the City of London Corporation”
  • “introduce a wealth tax of 2% on the top 1%”
  • “raise the additional top rate of income tax to 60%”
  • “increase corporation tax from 20% to 30%”
  • “introduce new taxes on the use of water”
  • “ensure that no company owns more than 20% of a media market”
  • “state funding of political parties”
  • “pursue a policy of defensive defence, which threatens no one”
  • “a ban on the production and sale of fois gras”

Why stop at anonymised CVs? How about anonymised job interviews where you sit behind a screen so they can’t work out your age or race, and they use a Darth Vader type voice synthesizer so they can’t work out your gender also?

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New Zealander of the Year calls for compulsory vaccinations

April 17th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A leading New Zealand doctor has called on the Government to follow Australia’s example to cut child welfare payments to families who do not vaccinate their children, saying the policy would help protect the most vulnerable in our society.

Dr Lance O’Sullivan, who was named New Zealander of the Year 2014, said all parents – no matter their income – should be compelled to vaccinate their children.

“I think the bottom line for me is we need to have strategies and initiatives that will protect our children, and in particular vulnerable children, and by definition that would be children living in welfare homes,” he said.

“This is not and shouldn’t be seen as a welfare benefit bashing sort of idea, I would see this as a proactive idea to ensure those very vulnerable children are protected by a best practice decision, which is immunising children. We know that if you have children immunised they’re going to have reduced disease and burden of disease.

“The vaccine preventable diseases that I see in my practice and in my community are worrying. We see children with pneumonia, and other serious infections that we know should be non-existent, or at least very rare, in our communities and in our country.”

His comments come after Australia announced a new policy to be introduced next year that would cut a number of child and family benefits from parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. The legislation – dubbed ‘no jab, no pay’ – has been met with a mixed response.

I don’t support compulsion, but I do think parents should bear the financial consequences of their decisions.

It is worth noting the immunisation rate for two year olds has increased from 76% in 2008 to 93.5% today,which is a massive increase. And very pleasing is the fact the Maori and Pacific rates are the same or higher at the European rates – as they are groups that used to have much lower rates. Maori rate has gone from 73% to 93% and Pacific from 81% to 97%.

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Star Wars Episode 7 Trailer II

April 17th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

December can’t come quickly enough!

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General Debate 17 April 2015

April 17th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Murphy the bigger loss to journalism?

April 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Transtasman writes:

In the same week, there was a much more significant event in NZ journalism, with the editor-in-chief of the NZ Herald Tim Murphy announcing he is stepping down. The question might well be asked why somebody in his prime (Murphy is just 51) is leaving what many in the trade believe is the top journalistic post in the country. While the John Campbell story got a front-page lead in the Weekend Herald with another full page devoted to it inside, the Murphy departure rated a single column on page three of the paper. Murphy, who took the helm at the Herald when he was 37, is the youngest person to edit the paper, the 18th editor in a publication 151 years old and for long enough with the largest circulation in the country.

I do think Tim Murphy leaving is a big blow to journalism, but hopefully he will pop up elsewhere in the media world.

Murphy is very very popular with the Herald staff, and under his reign the Herald has significantly boosted their investigative journalism capacity, and also expanded well into data journalism.

He’s also very approachable, and interacts well on Twitter, in a way few other major editors do.

He’s as impartial as any media figure I know. Couldn’t even guess how he votes. He took a principled stand to campaign against the Electoral Finance Act in 2007 and 2008, but has also not held back in holding this Government to account.

His departure is a loss, but also an opportunity for others to step up.

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Stanley

April 16th, 2015 at 4:19 pm by David Farrar

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This is one of the views from the top of The Nut in Stanley. We only popped in there to grab a bite on the way to Smithton, but were very glad we did. They have a chairlift up to the top of The Nut, which is basically a flat mountain. You can then do a two km loop around the top, getting great views in every direction.

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A very tranquil area.

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Can just see some of Stanley below. It is a small 500 population tourist town – a few souvenir shops and cafes.

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The lobster at the Stanley Hotel attracted us in. Very reasonably priced, and very nice for lunch.

 

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Cancer survival rates

April 16th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Ministry of Health has published data on cancer survival rates in NZ. They show survival rates are increasing over time (which is good), and have a huge amount of data on survival rates for different cancers, including demographic breakdowns.

People may be interested in which cancers have the best and worst survival rates, so I have charted them below. Note these are averages, and a lot depends on how early a cancer is diagnosed.

cancer1

The survival rate after one year for all adult cancers is 78%. The only ones below 50% after one year are Pancreas, Lung, Oesophagus and Liver.

The least lethal cancer after one year is testis cancer. Still rather not have it!

cancer5

 

More grim looking five years out, but still a 63% survival rate after five years for all adult cancers.  For five cancers the survival rate is below 20% – pancreas, lung, oesophagus, liver and brain.

Seven cancers have a survival rate of over 80% after five years – testis, thyroid, prostate, melanoma, breast, Hodgkin Lymphoma and Childhood.

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Chess cheating

April 16th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental.

On Saturday (NZT Sunday), Nigalidze, the 25-year-old reigning Georgian champion, was competing in the 17th annual Dubai Open Chess Tournament when his opponent spotted something strange.

“Nigalidze would promptly reply to my moves and then literally run to the toilet,” Armenian grandmaster Tigran Petrosian said.

“I noticed that he would always visit the same toilet partition, which was strange, since two other partitions weren’t occupied.”

Petrosian complained to the officials. After Nigalidze left the bathroom once more, officials inspected the interior and say they found an iPhone wrapped in toilet paper and hidden behind the toilet.

“When confronted, Nigalidze denied he owned the device,” according to the tournament’s website.

“But officials opened the smart device and found it was logged into a social networking site under Nigalidze’s account. They also found his game being analysed in one of the chess applications.”

Sadly this is going to get harder to prevent and detect. Imagine Google Glass built into your normal glasses. Or someone in the audience having a smart phone and communicating through blinking or some sort of code.

Future tournaments may have to be in glass cubicles with one way glass, and sweeps for technology.

“The basic problem is that it’s incredibly easy to cheat with a phone,” says Nigel Short, an English chess grandmaster who once was ranked third in the world and is now 60th.

“You can have some application running on your phone, and it’s quite easy to conceal… my dog could win a major tournament using one of these devices. Or my grandmother. Anybody could do this.”

“A friend of mine recently joked that his mobile phone will beat Magnus Carlsen,” Short said, referring to the Norwegian chess prodigy who is currently the world’s No 1 player.

“I said, ‘What are you talking about? My microwave could beat Magnus Carlsen.'” …

Short said penalties have to be even harsher than those for Olympic athletes who abuse drugs because smart phones alter the playing field even more than steroids.

“The difference is, if I were to take drugs – some sort of steroids or whatever – I will still never be able to win the 100 metres or the Tour de France because I simply don’t have the physique for this,” he said, “but any club player could win an international tournament if he’s using this sort of device.”

Yep a smart phone doesn’t just help you in chess, it basically makes you unbeatable as computer power is now so great it can analyse hundreds of moves ahead.

The cheater should have a life ban.

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NZ has lowest gender wage gap in the OECD

April 16th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Once again, NZ is one of the better places in the world for women, or men, to live.

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Why serious environmentalists should favour fracking

April 16th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Centre for Policy Studies a 15 page report on why every serious environmentalist should favour fracking. Some extracts:

  • Shale gas can not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce a deadly pollution known as PM2.5 that is currently killing over three million people each year, primarily in the developing world.
  • As both global warming and air pollution can be mitigated by the development and utilisation of shale gas, developed economies should help emerging economies switch from coal to natural gas
  • Shale gas technology should be advanced as rapidly as possible and shared freely.
  • PM2.5 is a horrific environmental problem. The Health Effects Institute estimated that air pollution in 2010 led to 3.2 million deaths that year and the pollution is getting worse as global use of coal continues to grow.
  • China will be producing more CO2 per person than the US by 2023. If the US were to disappear tomorrow, Chinese growth alone would bring worldwide emissions back to the same level in four years.
  • To mitigate global warming, it is essential to slow worldwide emissions, not just those in the developed countries. And we feel this must be done without slowing the economic growth of the emerging world.
  • PM2.5 kills more people per year than AIDS, malaria, diabetes or tuberculosis.
  • Compared to coal, shale gas results in a 400- fold reduction of PM2.5, a 4,000-fold reduction in sulphur dioxide, a 70-fold reduction in nitrous oxides (NOx), and more than a 30-fold reduction in mercury
  • The net result is that CO2 produced per kilowatt-hour of electricity from gas is only one third to one half that of coal

A very compelling case – using fracking to get shale gas, instead of coal, will save hundreds of thousands of lives, and reduce greenhouse gas emission by a half to two thirds.

Yet the Greens are trying to get fracking banned!

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Describing someone as a former hockey player is not sexism

April 16th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In her letter to Henry, Blue said female representation in Parliament had been stuck at around 30 per cent since the first MMP election in 1996, and even went backwards at the 2014 election.

In her letter to Henry, Blue said female representation in Parliament had been stuck at around 30 per cent since the first MMP election in 1996, and even went backwards at the 2014 election. 

Blue questioned whether lawyer and public servant Vicky Robertson, who is the new chief executive of the Ministry for the Environment would have been described as a “former hockey player” in a media headline if she was a man.

There was still “a lot of work to be done,” Blue said. 

There definitely is still significant sexism in NZ, where women in work get judged far more on what they wear, look like etc. However this example from Jackie Blue is not a good one, as I am sure a former NZ representative rugby player would also get a headline of “Ex All Black becomes Chief Executive”. In fact David Kirk is almost always referred to as an ex All Black, even in the context of his very successful business career.

The article I saw at Stuff said this about Vicky Robertson:

A rising star at the Treasury is quitting to head the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) as it prepares for overhaul of the Resource Management Act.

The State Services Commission on Tuesday confirmed Vicky Robertson, who is deputy chief executive at the Treasury, had been appointed chief executive of MfE, replacing Dr Paul Reynolds, who quit last November. …

The mother of two is a former national hockey (Black Sticks) representative and has competed at national level in mountain biking.

At Treasury Robertson was responsible for the corporate and financial operations, as well as monitoring the Crown’s commercial investments and debt management.

Robertson, the first woman to head Treasury’s tax unit, was seconded to the United Nations Development Programme in New York in 2010, where she led a strategic and structural review of the organisation.

The sporting mention was minor, and I think of interest.

If there was anything I would criticise it is the mention of being a “mother of two”. You don’t see many male executives described by how many children they are the father of.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out that the reference to “mother of two” comes from Vicky’s own bio on the Treasury website, presumably authored by her.

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Les donates his medals

April 16th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Les Munro, the only surviving pilot from the Dam Buster raids, has presented his medals to New Zealand in a special hand-over ceremony in Auckland.

Munro, who celebrated his 96th birthday last Sunday, had originally intended to put the medals up for auction to fund the upkeep of the Bomber Command memorial in London’s Green Park.  

However, British businessman Lord Ashcroft in March made a donation to the RAF Benevolent Fund in return for Munro withdrawing his medals from auction and giving them to the Museum of Transport and Technology (Motat) in Auckland.

That presentation took place on Wednesday at Motat where the veteran squadron leader’s medals, flight logbooks and associated memorabilia will be kept.

Those in attendance included Lord Ashcroft, Prime Minister John Key, members of the RAF Bomber Command and Kevin Lynch, the British Consul General.

The ceremony took place under a lit-up Lancaster bomber aircraft, which was used by the RAF in World War II.

It was a fitting location for the medals to be kept as Munro piloted a Lancaster during the World War II raids in May 1943.

“I flew all but one of my operations in a Lancaster,” Munro said.

“So I am comforted by the thought of my medals will be situated within proximity of the plane.

“I appreciate very much indeed they will have some relationship.”

Lord Ashcroft presented Munro with the medals at Wednesday’s ceremony, after personally collecting them from a London auction house and delivering them to New Zealand.

In his speech, Lord Ashcroft talked of his personal involvement with returning the medals to Munro.

“I’m sorry if I sound a little emotional,” he said.

“I am a hard-headed business man but this is my passion.”

Key acknowledged Lord Ashcroft calling him a “true unsung hero of New Zealand”.

“Without that donation I don’t think there would have been any chance the medals would have actually stayed in New Zealand,” Key said.

Indeed, big thanks to Lord Ashcroft.

There is a video at Stuff with an interview of Les Munro.  He may be 96, but he is in fine form, and talks passionately about why he wanted to help the Bomber Command Memorial. A very fine New Zealander.

NZ Herald also reports:

Mr Munro said he had felt compelled to put his treasured war memorabilia up for auction to raise money to help with the maintenance of the Bomber Command Memorial in London after visiting the site in 2013.

“Why should I worry about this?,” he asked the gathered crowd, including 12 veterans of the RAF Bomber Command. “And then I remembered the 617 Squadron lost 130 men on the 15 and a half months that I spent with them. That’s an abnormal loss for an ordinary squadron, greatly in excess of what a normal squadron would lose.

“I then thought of the 1679 New Zealanders that travelled 12,000 miles to fight for King and country, for freedom and democracy, and gave their lives in pursuit of those objectives. I also thought of the $30,000-plus that our own Bomber Command Association donated to the erection of that memorial, and that our own veterans have an interest in the preservation of that memorial.”

It was his “underlying concern” that the memorial would suffer through lack of investment in maintenance, and that future generations, in particular Kiwi visitors to London, would not get the chance to see it in good condition.

I’ll go see it next time I am in London. I also suggest watching the video on the Herald’s site.

Also of note:

Squadron Leader Les Munro is the last remaining Dambuster from the original mission. He was last night awarded the French Legion of Honour for his bravery and commitment in World War II, adding to his list of honours.

Vive la France.

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A good quirky ad from the UK Greens

April 16th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A very good ad by the UK Greens, portraying all the other parties as a boy band. Really well done,

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General Debate 16 April 2015

April 16th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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