Stopping genocide

March 6th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Liam Hehir writes in the Manawatu Standard:

What do you know about Rwanda, aside from the fact that it was the scene of an infamous genocide?

Not much, I’d wager. I’d be surprised if you could name the capital city, the principal religion and the languages spoken or point to the country’s position on a map of Africa.

Well I was in Kigali in January so can name it!

Rwanda is only famous because up to a million people were murdered there in a killing spree of such barbaric ferocity that it shocked the entire world in 1994.

The most charitable interpretation of the West’s involvement in the matter is that it was caught unawares and so could not take any substantive measures to stop it from happening. Bill Clinton cites this as the biggest regret of his presidency (and, remember, he once had the chance to take out Osama bin Laden).

But let’s imagine that a Western coalition had deployed to Rwanda and averted the butchering. Would that action now be held up as a great vindication of liberal interventionism in foreign affairs? I have my doubts.

The things that do not happen do not tend to command our attention.

The building that didn’t catch fire yesterday isn’t front-page news. Nobody sees the jobs not created when businesses can’t afford the investment. The murder that doesn’t happen leaves no victims to weep over.

Had genocide been averted, the reality is we could never actually be sure we had prevented anything at all. There are no controlled experiments when it comes to human events.

Who could say for certain that the tensions would not have otherwise de-escalated?

That’s not to say that coverage of the intervention would have been neutral. You can bet your bottom dollar that there would have been plenty of grumbling and criticism about the West’s involving itself in the troubled region. After all, the presence of foreign troops would not have resolved the deep divisions in Rwandan society. There would have been no quick fix.

So there would be claims from some quarters about the whole mess being caused by Western colonialism in the first place – and that further intervention was only making things worse.

Some would question why Rwanda was being singled out for this imperialist adventure when there were so many other ethnic conflicts in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Balkans going on at the same time. Others would claim that the Tutsis were as bad as the Hutus and that, since the Rwandan Patriotic Front was hardly perfect, we had no business dirtying our hands by getting involved.

Had New Zealand got involved, you can be sure there would have been accusations that the prime minister was toadying to the United States in the hopes of winning some elusive trade deal, as if any contribution we could make would be sufficient to exact any meaningful concessions from the protectionist US Congress.

In other words, there would have been all the same objections we hear about Western intervention in the fight against the Islamic State (Isis) today.

A good point that we rarely know the counter factual. In Kosovo though it is safe to conclude intervention saved tens of thousands of lives.

So in such a situation, what can one do? I know that political columnists are supposed to effect an air of world-weary cynicism – but there is always the option of trying to do the right thing.

Isis makes no secret of its plans for the Christians, Jews and moderate Muslims who fall into its clutches. Every day brings more news that the organisation’s deeds are more than a match for its words.

However morally corrupt and compromised the Iraqi regime is, it cannot be worse than the satanic caliphate banging on its door.

Those who claim we should do nothing because it means some of our allies are less than perfect ignore history. Was it wrong for the UK and US to ally with Stalin to defeat Hitler? Of course not.

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2014 election results

March 6th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Parliamentary Library has published an interesting analysis of the 2014 election results.

A couple of graphs from it:

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Some big changes over time.

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Interesting that the proportion of female electorate MPs is increasing, while decreasing for List MPs. Electorate seats tend to be longer lasting for MPs than list seats, so that is a good thing.

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Parliament actually has a great proportion of Maori as MPs, than the overall population does. It’s good to see the House of Representatives is quite representative.

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$122,000 for a lame video

March 6th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News reports:

The [Internet] party spent more than $1 million on election related advertising, including $122,000 for a YouTube parody of Prime Minister John Key and US President Barack Obama.

$122,000 for that lam parody video? My God – someone did well out of it.

The election returns reveal the party’s explosive press secretary Pam Corkery was paid $15,000 for her 15 weeks’ work – that’s $1000 a week.

Worth every cent!

Party Leader Laila Harre was paid $66,000 – more than $4000 a week.

$4,000 a week. I guess that makes you the 1%, not the 99%. The Greens obviously couldn’t match that pay scale.

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Could the IRD do a test case on property speculation

March 6th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader e-mails:

I’ve been thinking about the overheated Auckland property market, which must be driven by to some extent by speculation, and the intent of the tax law. I reckon IRD could take a test case along the following lines: 

Mr and Mrs X purchased a two flat property in central Onehunga in 2009 for $480,000 to add to their rental property portfolio. They borrowed 100% of the purchase price so therefore the rent was well short of the required mortgage repayments and the property always made a loss for tax purposes. They had to ‘top up’ the mortgage payments with around $100 a week of their own money (they privately told their friends they were happy to do this because the property was well located and would give a good capital gain). In 2014 they decided to restructure their portfolio and sold the property for $680,000. They declared no taxable capital gain because they considered the property was held for rental purposes and they had no history of buying and subsequently selling rental properties. 

IRD could propose that when they bought the property they did so with the clear knowledge that the rental income was less than even the interest on the mortgage used to fund the purchase, and with rent rises in Auckland averaging about 5% a year they would be required to top up the mortgage repayments from their own money for the foreseeable future. The purchase was therefore only a viable proposition if the property was to be sold at a later date for a substantial capital gain. It therefore must have been purchased with the purpose or one of the purposes being resale. The $200,000 gain on sale should therefore be treated as taxable income.

There are various provisions in the income tax act relating to the sale of land – the one related to the business of dealing in land is CB 7 and the one related to buying land with the intention of resale is CB 6. The tax law does not say landlords have to have the intention of trading in property to get caught. Case law has limited the circumstances in which CB 6 or predecessor section have applied but judges can create new precedent, and judges’ interpretation of tax avoidance provisions has moved to a more purposive approach in the last 10 years or so.

It would be an interesting test case,if the IRD went this way. It could have a big impact, if successful.

My personal preference is for NZ to have a land tax, with reductions in income tax rates to make it overall fiscally neutral.

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Greens still against cell phone towers

March 6th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Thousands more cellphone antennas and roadside cabinets could be installed without community consultation under a proposed environmental rule change.

Telecommunications firms would be allowed to install 3.5 metre-high cellphone antennas on street lights, power poles, multi-storey buildings and on any rural structure without resource consent, the Government has proposed.

Excellent. The safety issues have been proved 1,000 times over, and just adding them onto existing structures shouldn’t need a resource consent.

Green Party environment spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said the Government appeared to have little regard for environmental outcomes or community input.

“We support National Environmental Standards but they need to be used to protect the environment, not to override the right of local communities to have a say,” she said.

Do they want their cellphones to work, and to have Internet access?

This is basic essential infrastructure. If a tower is going to block someone’s view etc, then they should have a say. But this is just about adding them to existing structures.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said they would “reduce by thousands” the number of resource consents required to install wi-fi panels, street cabinets, light pole antennas and cabling.

Tens of millions are spent on an entirely wasteful process, as they inevitably gain the consent.

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Who created the vigilantes?

March 6th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

New Zealanders are not vigilantes by nature. When they start taking the law into their own hands, something is seriously wrong. A spate of accidents involving tourist drivers this summer has led to several incidents in which South Island residents have stopped drivers and confiscated their keys. The first two, at Franz Josef on Monday of last week and near Lindis Pass last month, were relatively innocuous and the vigilantes feel they did the responsible thing, handing in the keys at the nearest police station.

But the police expressed concern at where this sort of citizens’ arrest could lead and last Friday in Greymouth, their concerns were realised. A motorist signalled the visitor to pull over on the town’s Main South Rd and punched him in the face as he seized the keys of the rental car. Police said the tourist had moved to the right and moved back left in a manoeuvre that did not amount to dangerous driving.

The driver suffered bruising to his eye, his female passenger was shaken and police are seeking their assailant.

If every citizen could be trusted to act only when they had good cause and to do so with restraint, such actions could be applauded. But any unauthorised infringement of the rights of others is likely to give people of poor judgment the idea that they have a licence to do so. That is why observers of dangerous driving should confine their actions to a *555 call to the police.

While the authorities warn against vigilantism though, they must be concerned that it reflects a real problem on our roads.

Or maybe the vigilantism is because some media have spent the last few months running high profile stories about every driving accident involving a tourist, while giving almost no publicity to those that do not. Is it a surprise that after months of media scare-mongering, that some NZers become vigilantes?

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Union says don’t pay principals more

March 6th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Principals’ Federation president Denise Torrey has criticised the Principal Recruitment Allowance scheme through which five schools have received a $50,000 boost to their principal’s salary.

Torrey warned that “more money in a principal’s pocket” would not help kids learn better, or make a better principal. 

Excellent. I look forward to the Principals’ Federation accepting a zero pay rise for the next five years or so.

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Five things to remember re Winston and Northland

March 6th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar
  1. If Winston wins, then NZ First will have their Invercargill candidate enter Parliament which will effectively mean one fewer MP in Northland and one more MP in Invercargill.
  2. NZ First care so much for Northland they failed to stand a candidate there not only in 2014,but also in 2011 and 2008. Winston was list only for the last two and could have stood there but chose not to.
  3. If Winston did win the seat, Parliament would lose the proportionality it had on the general election results, and United Future (which got 0.22% of the vote) would then hold the balance of power in Parliament.
  4. NZ First policy is to remove $300 million funding from roads of national significance (such as Puhoi to Wellsford) and spending it on trains.
  5. Winston doesn’t even know the boundaries of the electorate. He said on Q+A the Puhoi to Wellsford road of national significance “doesn’t get to the Northland electorate at all” but Wellsford is in Northland, not Rodney.
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General Debate 6 March 2015

March 6th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Just No

March 6th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Customs are seeking the power to require people to disclose passwords to their electronic devices when entering New Zealand.

Failing to do so without reasonable excuse should be an offence punishable with three months prison, it has suggested.

No, no and no.

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3 News Northland poll

March 5th, 2015 at 9:21 pm by David Farrar

The details of the Northland poll are at Curiablog.

They show Peters 5% ahead of Osborne with 19% undecided. Obviously a very good result for Peters. The key will be what do the undecided voters do.

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Should staged photos win a journalism award?

March 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Dark Heart of Europe is a series of photographs taken by Giovanni Troilo which won the contemporary issues category at World Press Photo 2015. However, Troilo has been accused of misrepresenting the town of Charleroi in which the images were taken. The mayor of the industrial Belgian town has described the study as a serious distortion of reality. Troilo has since admitted that some of his images were staged in order to recreate issues or scenes which he says typify Charlerloi, but he argues this does not affect the journalistic integrity of his work

Taking a photo is journalism and reporting news. Staging a photo is creating news – not reporting it.

The World Press Photos will have damaged credibility if they allow the award to remain for what were staged photos.

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The limit to free speech

March 5th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

A RADICAL Islamic preacher has been arrested in Norway after praising last month’s deadly attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly in Paris.

The Iraqi Kurd preacher known as Mullah Krekar said in a television interview broadcast on Wednesday that “those who draw caricatures of Mohammed must die”.

Krekar, who was only freed from prison late last month, was arrested on Thursday night on accusations of inciting crime, police said.

“I am obviously happy with what happened in Paris,” the 58-year-old said in the interview with Norwegian channel NRK.

Krekar also responded “yes” when asked if he believed those who carried out the attack were heroes.

When a cartoonist “tramples on our dignity, our principles and our faith, he must die,” he said.

“Those who do not respect 30 per cent of the Earth’s population do not deserve to live.”

I’m a proponent of free speech, but there are limits. Advocating and inciting death to those who don’t subscribe to your religious beliefs is that limit.

While courts have upheld the ruling, Norwegian law bars him from being deported to Iraq, where he risks the death penalty.

A pity.

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What people will pay for a top level domain

March 5th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Most will be aware that over the last couple of years companies can apply to be the registry for new top level domains. The application fee is around US$250,000, which provides a minimum level that applicants will think they are worth.

A couple of dozen strings have competing applicants, and if they can’t agree between themselves on who gets the string, then ICANN auctions it off. We have the results of 10 auctions to date, which provides an interesting insight into how valuable different TLDs are seen to be. The winning auction bids were:

  1. .app $25,001,000
  2. .tech $6,760,000
  3. .realty $5,588,888
  4. .salon $5,100,575
  5. .buy $4,588,888
  6. .mls $3,359,000
  7. .baby $3,088,888
  8. .vip $3,000,888
  9. .spot $2,200,000
  10. .dot $700,000

I can see .app doing very well. Not so sure about some of the others.

For those wondering .mls stands for multiple listing service, a common term in the US real estate industry.

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Only individual bribery is illegal

March 5th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Andrew Rawnsley writes in The Guardian:

Canvassing for Votes, one of a series of four wonderful paintings by William Hogarth about the corruption of parliamentary elections in the 18th century, depicts agents for the Tories and the Whigs flourishing banknotes at an innkeeper in an attempt to bribe him. Would never happen today, of course. Payment in cash or kind in exchange for a vote – the practice that used to be called “treating”– is strictly illegal. Anyone caught doing it will likely wind up in jail.

That’s an obstacle for vote-hunting politicians at election time. Fortunately for them, the law has a loophole. And that loophole is massive. There is nothing on the statute book that says a politician can’t offer a bribe so long as it is directed at lots of voters. Individual bribery is a crime; mass bribery is entirely legal. Which is a good thing for David Cameron and Ed Miliband. If mass bribery were not allowed, both would be facing prosecution for the promises they have been making in the past few days.

Bribe one person and you go to jail. Bribe 100,000 and you get to be in Parliament.

This is also the main reason why Ed Miliband is treating for votes at the other end of the age spectrum by promising to cut student tuition fees to £6,000. One way of thinking about the Labour leader’s pledge is to ask what problem this is supposed to fix. Since tuition fees were raised to £9,000, applications for university places have not gone down; they have gone up. Applications from students with less advantaged backgrounds have not gone down; they have also gone up. No one starts repaying the loan until they are earning more than £21,000 a year and any debt outstanding after 30 years is written off. Of course, when I talk to students I hear complaints about them being burdened with debt. But it is often a greater source of irritation to them that they don’t think the teaching they are getting is value for the money. Some of the sharpest complaints about that are from students at universities with the more prestigious names. That might have been a useful area for Labour’s attentions. The upshot of Mr Miliband’s policy is that the greatest beneficiaries will be the highest earning graduates. Who knew that the Labour leader came into politics to redistribute money to future bankers?

Just as interest free student loans transfer wealth from those who didn’t go to university to those who do.

 

 

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Apple case shows need for patent reform

March 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Apple has been ordered to pay nearly $US533 million by a federal jury that found the company’s iTunes music store uses software that infringes on patents held by a Texas company.

An attorney for plaintiff Smartflash LLC praised the verdict. Apple immediately announced plans to appeal and said the case shows the need for Congress to reform the US patent system.

The case involves three patents that Smartflash holds for software used in storing data files and managing access through an online payment system. The outcome will likely add fuel to a broader debate over the federal patent system and complaints that it’s easily abused by companies that make most of their revenue through patent lawsuits.

“Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no US presence and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented,” Apple said in a printed statement.

The statement added: “We rely on the patent system to protect real innovation and this case is one more example of why we feel so strongly Congress should enact meaningful patent reform.”

I agree with Apple.The US should follow NZ and not allow patents for software. You have scores of companies that file patents on as much software as possible, just so they can then sue someone who comes along with a similar idea. As in this case, they never produce anything with their patents – they just use them for lawsuits.

It is likely the decision will be overturned on appeal, but it is a shame so much money is wasted on endless patent lawsuits between IT companies.

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Hughes standing for co-leader

March 5th, 2015 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

One News reports:

Fifth-ranked Green MP Gareth Hughes has confirmed he’s standing to become the Green’s male co-leader.

The 33-year-old who’s in his third term as an MP says his candidacy is for a generational shift in New Zealand politics .

West Coast based list MP Kevin Hague has already put his hat in the ring and is considered by some to be the front runner.

The party will decide on who the male co-leader is at its conference in late May.

It’s good Green members will get a choice.

I don’t agree with Gareth on most environmental issues, but he has done a lot of good work in the Comms/ICT sector and has built up a lot of respect for his approach to issues in this sector – even by those who disagree with him. If there had been a change of Government, many said he would be a good Comms/ICT Minister.

It is hard to see him beating Hague, but the fact that Hague is seven years older than the retiring Norman may be a factor – hence why Hughes is talking generational shift.

Not sure if James Shaw has totally ruled out standing, but it seems unlikely. Kennedy Graham is talking about it, but I think the real contest is likely to be between Hague and Hughes.

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Whenuapai – Wellington flights?

March 5th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has clipped the wings of a fledgling regional airline before it can get off the ground, rejecting plans to operate domestic flights from Whenuapai airbase, northwest of Auckland, to Wellington.

Kiwi Regional Airlines (KRA) chief executive Ewan Wilson has responded by accusing the Government of bias, questioning its role in who uses the military airbase given the government’s major shareholding in competitor Air New Zealand.

Selling our remaining shares in Air NZ would solve that problem.

The airline, backed by Sir George Seymour National College director Nicole Domett and used car dealer Eugene Williams of 2 Cheap Cars, was in the process of buying three aircraft for the new services with plans to launch at the end of the year at the earliest.

An airline backed by a used car company called “2 Cheap Cars”. Hmmmn. Not sure I’ll be rushing to book a flight.

Two SAAB 34-seat planes would begin flights with a third to be added, but the Civil Aviation Authority must authorise an air operating certificate before KRA can launch.

The SAABs would take around two hour to fly to Wellington. So overall transit time from the North Shore may not vary a lot.

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This is the big revelation?

March 5th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Documents released today with NZHerald.co.nz refer to the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu, Nauru and Samoa as targets of the Government Communications Security Bureau.

What a stunning revelation. An agency whose mandate is primarily to collection foreign intelligence, collects foreign intelligence.

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General Debate 5 March 2015

March 5th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Driving test success rate by regions

March 5th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff has details of the success rate for passing the restricted licence test by region. In order they are:

  1. Otago/Southland 69%
  2. Nelson/Marlborough/Tasman 65%
  3. Northland 65%
  4. Waikato/BoP 59%
  5. Manawatu/Wanganui 57%
  6. Gisborne/Hawkes Bay 56%
  7. Canterbury/West Coast 55%
  8. Wellington/Wairarapa 54%
  9. Auckland 49%
  10. Taranaki 48%

Interesting that there is such a large variation.

I’m not sure if they record this, but it would be interesting to also see the data broken down by age, gender and ethnicity. I suspect females have a higher pass rate, but could be wrong.

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Notifying STIs?

March 4th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Sexually transmitted infections should be reclassified to enable better tracking and treatment as social media influences sexual behaviour and more drug-resistant strains emerge, a health authority says.

Regional Public Health, in the greater Wellington region, has supported legislation that will place HIV, gonorrhea and syphilis on the list of notifiable diseases, meaning more information about cases would be collected by authorities.

But it also wants chlamydia – the country’s most common STI – to be notified, as well as specified antibiotic resistant bacterial infections.

But would that work in Hamilton, the STI capital of NZ? Wouldn’t it be easier for authorities to just notify when someone in Hamilton doesn’t have chlamydia? :-)

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The right to die

March 4th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Radio NZ reports:

Lecretia Seales is dying of a brain tumour, and is lobbying the government to reform the laws on assisted dying.

The 41-year-old Wellington senior public lawyer was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and is having palliative chemotherapy.

She believes it is a fundamental human right that she should be able to say goodbye to her husband and family at a time of her choosing and while she remains fully conscious.

If I had this right, I wouldn’t be going out tomorrow and exercising it, but it would be comforting to know I had that right.

The story also has audio from an extensive interview with Lecretia on Nine to Noon. If you are interested in this issue, I’d encourage you to listen to it.

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Agassi’s charter schools

March 4th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

His campaign began 14 years ago, with the establishment of the Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy in a run-down part of Las Vegas, and is still expanding.

By the end of this year, Agassi hopes to have extended his tally of charter schools (which are similar in spirit to our own free schools) to more than 100, spread from Nevada to Tennessee.”

The USA has dropped to 29th in the world when it comes to educating our children,” Agassi told The Daily Telegraph. “The demand for good schooling is huge, but the infrastructure is not there.

“Rather than wait for the government to do the job, I wanted to create a model that would be scalable and sustainable.

The idea is to find partners on each job, investors who aren’t looking to give their money away, but neither do they insist on having an annual return of 20 per cent.

I’m in an exciting place where I can raise $175 million of funding in 15 minutes of phone calls, and the total we have gathered so far is well north of $1 billion.”

Superb. And from Wikipedia:

In 2001, Agassi opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy[151] in Las Vegas, a tuition-free charter school for at-risk children in the area. He personally donated $35 million to the school.[152] In 2009, the graduating class had 100 percent graduation rate and expected a 100 percent college acceptance rate.

Also:

In 1997, Agassi donated funding to Child Haven for a six-room classroom building now named the Agassi Center for Education. His foundation also provided $720,000 to assist in the building of the Andre Agassi Cottage for Medically Fragile Children. This 20-bed facility opened in December 2001, and accommodates developmentally delayed or handicapped children and children quarantined for infectious diseases.

Those charter school funders are really evil aren’t they.

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Pora conviction quashed

March 4th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Privy Council in London has quashed Teina Pora’s convictions for the rape and murder of Susan Burdett in south Auckland in 1992.

The decision means Mr Pora is a free man. His parole conditions immediately fall away. The former star schoolboy rugby league player was released on parole last April after spending 20 years in prison.

This is no great surprise.

The decision was reached by a panel of the judicial committee of the Privy Council made up of the New Zealand Chief Justice, Dame Sian Elias, and four Law Lords, including Lord Kerr.

Lord Kerr said written submissions on whether a retrial should be held would need to be filed within four weeks. “Those convictions had to be quashed and that Mr Pora’s appeal be allowed,” he said.

I can’t see much merit in a retrial.

Labour’s justice Spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said the case should have been closed years ago.

“Teina Pora has spent more than 20 years in prison, despite overwhelming public evidence that a miscarriage of justice occurred.

“The decision of the Privy Council to uphold his appeal has come with a hefty price tag not only for all the families involved in this case, but also the justice system.

“It didn’t have to be this way.”

She said Labour had been calling for a Criminal Cases Review Commission – an independent body to deal with claims of wrongful conviction and miscarriage of justice – for several years.

I agree that NZ should have such a Commission. Many US states have them, and they have corrected some significant wrongful convictions.

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