An interesting site popped up near the end of last year called YouHaveDownloaded.com. You might not have visited it, or even heard of it, but if you’ve been using torrents, it might have heard of you.
The site is quite simple, it tracks torrents and the people (IP addresses) downloading them, much like copyright holders do (or hire companies to do for them). They claim to be tracking roughly 4%-6% of all torrent downloads and 20% of torrents from public trackers, like The Pirate Bay.
The difference to the copyright holders is that this site makes the information is collects public. You can see what it thinks the IP address you’re using has been used to torrent, or any other IP address you can think of. It might not be right, or it might be spot on.
This site just highlights what is going on all the time. Torrenting is a very public activity unless you’re making an effort to protect your privacy (like using a proxy or VPN from a reputable provider). Privacy is not the default on the interwebs.
IP addresses are more like PO Boxes than physical addresses — most people have dynamic IP addresses that regularly change, and add in the fact that some people have insecure Wi-Fi, the results on the site aren’t that accurate.
The site brings up an interesting statistic, especially if it’s true: “About 10% of all online shoppers, in the US, are torrent users as well.” In the future will advertisers link an IPs torrenting history to an advertising profile. Is this already happening?
The removal form
The site provides a form that supposedly enables people to request removal from the site. Don’t use it.
Previously it asked people to sign in using their Facebook accounts, and the CAPTCHA to get to the non-Facebook removal form didn’t work (ie. they wanted to link your data with a real name, cue warning bells). Now it seems like Facebook has revoked their access to use Facebook logins (they say Facebook logins are “Temporarily disabled due problems with Facebook”), so it brings up the removal form, which asks for a name and an email address.
I’m not saying this is what the people behind the site are doing, but this would be all the information they would need, in addition to the information they have on torrents associated with your IP address, to send an extortionate email your way. Or sell your data (probably not to copyright holders, because they hire people to do this for them already).
Here’s what their removal terms are (and yeah, the rest of the site is worded like this too):
“Removal Terms The Details: By submitting a request to have your download activity removed from our database, you are acknowledging that the activity was, in fact, carried out by yourself. This means that you are only submitting a request to have the details of your own personal activity deleted. Any unrecognized activity, such as files you did not download or do not remember downloading, are not — I repeat, are not to be included in your removal request. Why is this imperative? Well, we actually don’t have to explain ourselves…sorry.
The important part is that you understand these terms and conditions before hitting that beautiful button that will erase your criminal back ground, at least for now. Wait, you did remember to read these terms before making the decision to submit a removal request, right? Of course you did, everyone reads the fine print.
Other Important Things to Consider: We make no guarantees that your information will not appear on any other databases. We may have erased your bad behavior but, keep in mind that your data on this site is aggregated public domain. So, if by chance, another sadistic group of people decides to open a similar web site, we have no control over what they do with your information. Furthermore, if you continue to involve yourself in activity like this, your future download history will, without a doubt, appear in our database again and we may not be as nice about it next time.
If any part of these terms is still unclear, please visit your local elementary school and ask to repeat grades 3 through 5.”
Giving the people or company behind the site any more information about yourself is not a good idea, even if they claim that the site is a joke and you shouldn’t take it seriously.
And anyway, if your IP address is listed on the site, it must be because of the person that used it previously. Right?
Update 28 September 2012: This post was written before I started working for a bank (who I love dearly), and at least some views expressed in this post have changed since then (eg. case-insensitive passwords (and ASB isn’t the only bank that does this) are irrelevant when users are locked out after three incorrect login attempts–Facebook does something similar to this, accepting the actual password, the password with the first letter capitalized (to account for automatic capitalization on mobile devices), and the password with the case of letters reversed (to account for the caps lock key being on), and that a charge for a bank cheque is not so unreasonable in the context of a lot of bank cheques being for a large amount). Also some bank policies have changed since this post was published (eg. ASB no longer charges $2 for automatic payments added/amended online–progress!) There is, however, no way of getting around ASB’s $0.20 fee for a Netcode over-$500-transfer-authorization if you don’t have a token–it is charged even if you call the 0800 number and ask them to release the payment. Except for a note regarding the previous sentence, this post hasn’t been edited from the original form.
And useful (see: next day bank transfers).
I’m with ASB and they are great, however no one is perfect. Here’s some things that I hate about banks in New Zealand. Many of these problems are shared by the entire industry.
Or the fact that ASB keeps trying to convert me to one even though I’m not allowed one.
Here’s mailer number one, received the week of my 17th birthday:
And mailer two, from today:
Irrelevant: check. Impersonal: check. You know how to make a guy feel special ASB. (Case in point: I’m not 18 so they couldn’t give me my own credit card even if they really really wanted to).
This is upsetting because I have a feeling tertiary accounts have less fees than youth accounts. At least, it isn’t emphasized that service fees apply to tertiary accounts like it is for youth accounts on ASB’s fee exemption page. Service fees apply for everyone, see comment from ASB below.
Stupid bank fees
ASB isn’t the only bank that charges stupid fees, but here are some examples of theirs:
$2 to set up or amend an automatic payment or add a person you might want to transfer money to again (like the power company, or mum). Online. On the internet. Changing an entry in a database. By yourself.
20 cents for each time you use Netcode, ASB’s text verification service, which you can choose to happen on login. Google, who isn’t even in New Zealand doesn’t charge for this (see below). Probably get charged 20 cents again by your mobile service provider for receiving the text. Some sort of verification is required for some transactions that take you over a $500 daily transfer limit, or if you’re sending money overseas. Alternatively, you can ring their call center to get transactions verified for [email protected]!! I wonder if the time of the person you speak to on the phone is worth less than 20 cents?See update at top of post–20 cents is charged even if you call the 0800 number.
Alternatively you can pay $12 a year for a physical Netcode token, which you’d need if you are regularly out of cellphone reception and probably if you travel overseas. RaboDirect provides these for free. BNZ provides the NetGuard card for free.
5 cents for each email alert. For the virtual stamp. Or the person who licks it. Or something.
20 cents for text alerts and text banking. I think they charge you when they receive a text banking message from you. Plus you probably get charged to send texts to them by your service provider. In contrast, Westpac provides a certain number of text alerts free per month as long as you log in to online banking that month.
$5 for bank cheques. Plus because you probably have an “electronic” account, and if you’re not a youth/student, a fee of $3 because that’s a manual transaction.
“Please note, your password must be eight characters long, and contain at least two letters (a-z) and at least two numbers (0-9). For example, redbus73 and 8cube224 are valid passwords.”
This is ASB’s. I assume other banks are as ridiculous. Would you like a nine character password? YOU CAN’T. MUST BE EIGHT.
Microsoft’s (now defunct) password checker says both of their examples are weak. ASB lets you use both of their examples as real passwords, because security.
Here’s an entry form I picked up from BNZ’s tent at The Show:
Note the classy clause at the bottom: “By providing your details, you consent to use contacting you about our products, services and promotions, from time to time (including via text message without an unsubscribe facility).”
Once you’re in, they have you.
I guess if you rang them they’d remove you from their text messaging scheme, but really, why not let people unsubscribe via text using common keywords like stop, or unsubscribe?
Visa Debit cards
And their annual fees. $10 a year for having the card. National Bank got half of the memo and isn’t charging the annual fee if you have their Freedom account. But you have to be earning $30k+ a year and pumping it into that account. Anyway, I like the image they’re using in their ads for it (see top image).
Sure, debit cards are great if you are under 18 or don’t trust yourself with a credit card. But really, if you can, you should just get a credit card.
Banks (looking at you Westpac and BNZ) seem to love converting people to these debit cards, even if the person already has a credit card with the bank. I don’t understand. Family members have received Visa Debit cards in the mail from Westpac, even though they have a credit card with Westpac. If you already have a Visa or credit card, why would you want a Visa Debit?
It’s a bit of a have, because people naturally think this is their replacement EFTPOS card and start using it, probably not realizing that once they start using it they’re going to be charged an annual fee. If they’re lucky, maybe the fee will be waived for a year or two!
When you go into BNZ to request an EFTPOS card, the tellers like to order you in a Visa Debit card instead*, because, you know, they know best.
*May have happened just once.
Lack of security
That’s Google’s 2-step verification programme.
There’s a number of ways to use it. I have the Google Authenticator application on a couple of devices (it works without needing an internet connection), I can get a code sent to me by text (for [email protected]@) if the application isn’t working, I can use the backup codes if I have to, and I can tell Google that it doesn’t need to ask me for a verification code on the computer I’m using for another 30 days if I trust it.
It works, it’s good, it’s free. And it’s not even protecting my money.
Side note: security has to actually be built-in by design and be compulsory for it to be useful. Kerry Thompson points out that security conscious people probably have limited use for 2-factor authentication systems, because they already take precautions. The people who aren’t security conscious are also the people who don’t think they need 2-factor authentication, they think they’ll be covered by the bank, or won’t use it because of the cost (hi ASB’s 20 cent per text charge).
See also: Google doesn’t have an eight character password policy and Google gives a detailed account of recent account activity (ASB shows the last time I logged in, but I rarely look at it, and out of context it’s kind of useless).
How about encouraging people to set up an automatic payment to a savings account every pay period and sign up for Kiwisaver?
Also, you would think an application that consists of one button would be easy to set up, but Westpac’s Impulse Saver requires you to apply to use it, and makes you wait for a callback from a customer service person.
Phone banking on mobiles
Westpac and BNZ seem to be the only two banks who try to ban calls from mobile phones to their phone banking numbers. It’s trivial to get around this with Westpac, just call their main 0800 number and press one to get to phone banking. On BNZ it seems like that works too, at least after their call center hours.
Visa and MasterCard undermining credit card PINs
Visa and MasterCard aren’t banks, but whatever.
McDonald’s, in association with Visa and MasterCard has the policy of not requiring a PIN or signature for credit card transactions under $35.
How they can guarantee security, I’m not sure, because they just took away the only security of a PIN or signature. I’m not sure why Visa and MasterCard don’t make this opt-in or opt-out.
Zero liability can’t apply if you don’t realize there’s a fraudulent charge on your statement, so good luck everyone.
Next day bank transfers
Or please stop relying on a cron job for transfers.
10 years after one-off payments were introduced, they still take up to the next business day to go through to accounts at other banks. I realize this might require some consultation with the People In Charge Of The Money, but can we please get rid of this? Thanks. Also, could we please do transfers on non-business days to accounts at other banks and get rid of the 10pm cut off for not-my-bank transfers?
Look what I found at the end of the Hoyts ticket counter:
It contains some interesting content.
“Remove unauthorised material from your computers”
“While not required under the new law, illegally obtained copyright protected material may still be file shared and therefore should be removed.”
Read: buy the files you downloaded illegally in the past. Helpful advice would be to remove peer-to-peer software from your computer if you’re not using it, or to stop sharing illegally obtained material if you’re doing so (eg. stop seeding).
“What are the risks of P2P file sharing?”
“P2P file sharing can expose your computer to harmful viruses, worms and trojan horses as well as annoying pop-up advertisements. There is also a real danger that private information on your computer may be accessible to others on P2P networks.”
Finding files through moderated sites (which can remove harmful torrents), reading the comments on torrents and having up-to-date anti-malware software all reduce this small risk of harm.
The “real danger” of private information being inadvertently shared is practically impossible with torrenting. LimeWire, FrostWire and friends were possibly deceptive about what user’s folders were actually being shared in the past, but now LimeWire is dead and FrostWire exclusively uses torrents, so it shouldn’t be a problem anymore.
But points for including the relatively unbiased URL of NetSafe’s The Copyright Law, albeit in tiny print down the very bottom on the back page.
This site is interesting, especially when you compare its list of legitimate places to buy movies and TV shows to the US version‘s list.
Our list for TV shows is basically the On Demand sites for the free-to-air TV stations, plus iSky. On the movies side we have iSky, the console networks and iTunes, which is also listed as having TV shows, but that’s not the case in New Zealand.
In comparison, the US site lists 43 legal alternatives, including iTunes (which you can actually get TV shows from in the US, or by using a US iTunes account), Hulu and Netflix.
And the MPAA wonder why people illegally download movies and TV shows in New Zealand?
Good news on the music front though. Music streaming subscription service Spotify is coming to Australia and New Zealand, possibly around February next year. The downside is that they’re now in bed with Facebook, so you’ll need a Facebook account to use it.
Jonathan Hunt and Lance Wiggs illustrate how inadequate the sites MPAA lists are. MPAA, NZFACT and friends love harping on how people pirating movies like Boy are harming our movie industry in New Zealand.
But you still can’t download it legally from iTunes.
On August 1st changes were made to the graduated driver licensing system in New Zealand. The minimum age to apply for a driver licence changed from 15 to 16. That change and that the restricted age was going up with it was fairly well publicized, but what wasn’t was that the age to get a full licence also changed. This Nelson Mail/Stuff article [now offline] doesn’t mention changes to the full licence age at all. This Timaru Herald article stops at the restricted changes too. The latest AA magazine, the Winter 2011 edition of AA Directions, only talks about the changes to the learner age. Not surprisingly, people are confused. I’ve written about the NZTA being unclear before.
However, if someone already paid for their licence test before August 1st, they get around the changes. If you missed out by ~10 days, you have to apply for an exemption to get your licence in the previous time frame, which seems simple at first. The NZTA says they “will grant you an exemption,” basically if you would have been able to get your licence under the guidelines before the changes and if you have a “clean driving record.”
You have to pay a non-refundable $27.20 fee, which covers the processing(???) of the application.
Not everyone is a lawyer
The exemption form (PDF) contains some complicated questions. It seems unfair to expect teenagers to be able to competently answer them.
What have you done to mitigate the risks to road safety? and
How has the legislative requirement been substantially complied with and why is further compliance unnecessary? or What action have you taken or provision have you made that is as effective or more effective than actual compliance with the legislative requirement? or How are the legislated requirements clearly unreasonable or inappropriate in your case? or What events have occurred to make the legislated requirements unnecessary or inappropriate in your case?
Can someone just write “I have a clean driving record?”
With the texting ban there were advertisements in newspapers, plus it was covered well by the media. A couple of days ago I saw a Facebook ad about the new blood alcohol limit for young drivers. Excellent. But I had no idea that the changes to the driving age could affect people on their restricted licence from moving to their full licence until after the changes came into effect, and I’m in that target audience.
“The NZTA issued a media statement and launched a new web page with information when the changes were announced, followed up by reminder statements over the past couple of weeks – the changes were flagged as one of the main news stories on our website homepage for several weeks.”
The media didn’t seem to pick up on the affect the changes have on restricted drivers until after the changes. I think the new web page meant is Safe Teen Driver, which is a site for the parents of restricted drivers. Unless that site has been modified since the changes, it doesn’t seem like, after a quick browse, there is any mention of the changes. Teenagers aren’t checking the NZTA website. The Practice website is for learner drivers and my issue is the with lack of communication to restricted drivers about changes that affect them.
Now I understand why articles end up saying something along the lines of “there was no response after repeated requests for comment.”
Questions I asked via email on whether the NZTA thought the exemption questions were reasonable to be asking young people, whether having a clean driving record is a good enough reason for getting an exemption, whether information about changes was advertised in newspapers, on TV and through social media, and what the money from the fee for applying for an exemption actually goes towards remain unanswered. I was directed to the NZTA website for full information on applying for exemptions.
I did, however, get sent statistics that in July there were around 17,500 learner licence tests conducted compared to around 10,000 in “a normal month” and that there was a 15% increase in 15-year-olds applying to sit learner licences since May when the change was announced. I’m not sure if this takes into account the fact that there were school holidays in July. The pass rate was also up from “the recent average of around 60%” to 67%. I asked for statistics on restricted and full licenses because I think there was a lack of attention given to those age changes, not the learner licence age change. I am yet to have been sent those statistics.
I have to apply for an exemption to get my full licence. What should I write, and what second question should I choose?
Last Saturday, Canada played the USA in an ice hockey match in Christchurch. Calendar Girls, a strip club, sponsored the event. They also paid $500 to All Star Cheerleaders to have them perform at the event, a team made up of mainly underage girls, including a nine-year-old (disclaimer: I know someone on the team.)
‘“They were announced as All Star Cheerleaders brought to you by Calendar Girls,” [Jacqui Le Prou, Calendar Girls owner] said.’
I’ve been told that the team was referred to as the “Calendar Girls Cheerleaders” throughout the night. Online comments from those attending on the night support this too:
“We were at the Ice Hockey – and did think it was rather strange to be introducing the obviously young girls as ‘calendar girls’ – it was never mentioned that they were from a cheer leading club (although it was obvious they were trained in cheerleading) It wasnt just once they said it either – all night!!! If that was my daughter – i’d be FUMING.”—MT
“Did find it a little strange to have the young girls announced as Calender Girls Cheerleaders.”—Michael
I’ve also been told that someone, I’m assuming from Calendar Girls, got a caption for a photo changed from the All Stars Cheerleaders to Calendar Girls Cheerleaders, that someone at The Press picked up on that caption for a photo of obviously young girls and that’s why a reporter started investigating.
Above, Jacqui implies that the girls weren’t referred to as “Calendar Girls Cheerleaders”. However Calendar Girls’ social networking pages tell a different story.
Even more concerning is a photo of the Christchurch cheerleading team, including the nine-year-old girl, and I’m told Jacqui Le Prou’s young daughter, that was posted on Calendar Girls’ Auckland Facebook page. Faces blurred by me because they and their parents didn’t know where this photo was going to end up.
“They don’t sign up for other people to pass them off as Calendar Girls, but then again their parents were all there and they didn’t pull them from their performance.”—The team’s coach, Claire Stackhouse.
The frustration is understandable. I’d say the reason why teams do events like this is to show that they actually have to put in work to pull off a performance, and to raise the profile of cheerleading to be more like a sport and less like something seedy. A comment on the Yahoo article hits the nail on the head on why the girls don’t have horrible parents:
“…cheerleading here bears little resemblance to the US or rugby style cheerleaders. Here it has morphed into something quite different, involving agility, skills, strength…”—Judy
I understand there was a second part to Claire’s quote that wasn’t included in the article (probably due to space constraints, understandable): during a performance that is supposed to be professional, it is very unprofessional to walk out half way through.
The same match was also played in Auckland and an All Star Cheerleading team performed there also.
“[Jacqui] Le Prou said the cheerleaders at the Auckland event were between 18 and 24.”
I’ve been told there were cheerleaders as young as 14 12 on the Auckland team. This also prompts the question: if Calendar Girls is really against using underage girls to promote their club (“she sent me a nine-year-old, which I wasn’t very happy about”) why did they not pull the Christchurch performance when they became aware that there were people on the team under 18, including a nine-year-old?
People familiar with cheerleading have said that cheerleading teams always have members of varying ages and that it would be near impossible to find a cheerleading team that only has people aged 18 and over in it. I question why Calendar Girls didn’t hire 18+ models, promo girls or use some of their own staff if they wanted to promote their club.
Whether someone involved was aware of what Calendar Girls wanted to introduce the team as or not still leaves the question as to why the team was referred to as the Calendar Girls Cheerleaders when the team was clearly made up of underage girls.
A van was crushed by rubble following the February Canterbury earthquake, containing Israeli tourists. One of them, Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, was killed instantly. Michal Friedman, Liron Sadeh and Guy Yurdan escaped. It’s been revealed that Israeli involvement after the quake has been investigated by the SIS and the police.
What appears to be the original Southland Times article that broke the investigation seems to have been poorly fact checked and shows a lack of editorial oversight. Shemi Tzur, Israeli’s ambassador in the South Pacific is said to have flown from Australia, where he is based, except a quick Google search shows that he is actually based in Wellington.
The same article talks about a piece of suspected Russian malware named “agent.btz” and says that “attempts to remove the malware have so far been unsuccessful”, which gives the impression that the computers of the United States Military are still infected. The next part of the sentence states that “new, more potent variations of agent.btz are still appearing”, so what is probably meant is that attempts to eliminate the malware out of existence have been unsuccessful, which isn’t surprising considering the nature of malware and software in general.
The Southland Times article says that Ofer Mizrahi “was reportedly found to be carrying at least five passports.” John Key said “according to his information, Mizrahi was found with only one passport”, of European origin.
The group of three that left Christchurch gave Israeli representatives his Israeli passport. So that makes at least two passports.
Shemi Tzur says that he was handed Ofer’s effects and they contained “more than one passport.” Does that makes at least three passports or does this include the Israeli passport handed off at the airport?
He says it’s common for Israelis to have dual citizenship because Israeli passports aren’t welcome in some countries, which is understandable. However that doesn’t explain why Ofer was traveling with both/multiple passports—I am an expert thanks to watching Border Security on TV and conclude that less eyebrows would be raised at an airport if, when searched, someone wasn’t in the possession of more than one passport.
Within 12 hours of the quake the three remaining Israelis had evacuated Christchurch, driven to the airport by Shemi Tzur himself.
This raised eyebrows because they left Ofer behind in the van, but in their defense there was nothing they could have done and it wasn’t like they were leaving someone injured behind. Guy Yurdan, one of the three, said that Ofer was killed instantly.
The advice from many countries to citizens in Christchurch would have been to get out of there as soon as possible. The potential lack of accommodation, food, and water, plus the risk of further aftershocks would have supported their decision to leave as quickly as possible.
A mysterious seventh Israeli
Concerns were raised about a “mysterious seventh Israeli” who was in New Zealand illegally and was reported missing after the earthquake, but weeks later was reported to have left the country. Not sure whether there was anything suspicious about the person apart from their visa situation.
Five Facebook likes
A Facebook tribute page for Ofer came to the attention of investigators because it only had five likes over four months (now 32). Apparently many Israelis don’t have social network accounts. Perhaps those on Facebook who knew Ofer didn’t know of the page? It seems a stretch to say that this is suspicious.
Four phone calls
It’s been reported that Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned John Key four times on the day of the earthquake. John Key says that they only actually spoke once in “those first days.” It seems reasonable that a Prime Minister is hard to get hold of, especially during a state of emergency. I’m not sure what the significance of prime ministers calling each other is, I assume representatives from many countries spoke to John Key as a result of the earthquake.
Two search and rescue teams
There was reportedly one Israeli search and rescue team but then there were two? Either way it seems at least one either wasn’t allowed access to the red zone or was removed from the red zone by armed personnel. According to Shemi Tzur, a team was sent by the parents of Ofer Levy (other Ofer?) and Gabi Ingel, two Israelis who died in the earthquake.
The article says “Israeli families reacted that way when their children needed help anywhere in the world, often because it was demanded by insurance companies.” Insurance companies often demand that families hire and fly to a foreign country private search and rescue teams when search and rescue is already underway by the country?
“He served in the Israel Defence Forces in an elite paratrooper battalion specializing in special operations. He fought in the Attrition War, first lebanon war and the Yom Kippur War, remained a reserve officer for twenty years and served also in the intelligence community.”
Their team entered the red zone “accompanied by police, only to retrieve the personal effects of two people who died.” “There was only one rescue team and it was allowed inside the red zone to accompany police to retrieve backpacks belonging to Mr Levy and Mr Ingel.”
One Israel Civil Defense Chief
The Southland Times article says “In the hours after the 6.3 quake struck: Israel’s civil defence chief left Israel for Christchurch.” The New Zealand Herald reports that Matan Vilnai did visit Christchurch, but nine days later. And not from Israel, but from Australia where he was for a visit.
This doesn’t seem suspicious.
A groups of forensic analysts
An Israeli forensic analysis team sent by the Israeli government worked on victim identification in the morgue. A security audit of the national police computer database was ordered after someone connected that the analysts could have accessed it. The police say that their system is secure. Someone from the SIS says that it could be compromised with a USB drive:
“An SIS officer said it would take only moments for a USB drive to be inserted in a police computer terminal and for a program allowing remote backdoor access to be loaded.”—Stuff
It’s questionable why USB access would even be enabled on computers that have access to such confidential material.
Why New Zealand?
Gordon Thomas, who has written about Mossad says that Mossad trainees, possibly picked during compulsory military service, were usually planted overseas in groups of four. He says that the CIA and MI6 have offices in Auckland and have “held high-level meetings with New Zealand spy bosses”. They want to know what sparked the SIS investigation, what investigations were carried out and what passports the group possessed. He thinks New Zealand is a credible Mossad target because al Qaeda cells could expand into the Pacific Rim. Israel would want to know what our intelligence agencies know, what they are sharing and how good they are at getting information.
He says that Mossad has a reputation for using students as agents and that using two couples is “standard Mossad operation style. The reason they have a man and a woman … it’s easy to pass unnoticed, unchallenged, and the woman acts as back-up.”
New Zealand passports are readily accepted around the world. Anyone gaining one who had nefarious purposes would likely face no contest at a border. Paul Buchanan, who has worked at the Pentagon says that it’s unlikely the four were Mossad agents because of their age and the apparent low-level task of passport fraud they were undertaking, but they might have been recruits operating as sayanins, the Hebrew word for helper. He says that after the September earthquake, Christchurch may have been seen as a good target to get names of New Zealanders to use for false passports.
The three survivors from the van gave an interview to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, days after the earthquake. It would seem unlike spies to put themselves out in the public eye like that, but maybe that’s reverse psychology. Who knows.
Arie Smith-Voorkamp was the face of Christchurch earthquake looting because of the media attention he received. He made it onto at least one of the <insert bad thing here> the [email protected]@#%^## Facebook groups. Shame on the looters! There is no excuse. Who are they to pick on the poor people of Christchurch?
The story gets interesting when you find out what he is alleged to have stolen. Two light bulbs from an untenanted and vacant building. Police describe the nature of the offending as serious and say that there is a strong public interest in the case. Arie was in jail for 11 days.
Arie has Asperger’s syndrome which fuels his obsession for all things electrical, including old light fittings. “Sometimes I get that excited about it sometimes I can’t sleep.” He had walked past the building many times, and became fixated on a switch in the shop. Once inside he found that the switch was too modern, but found two light bulbs that he thought he could clean up and display in his house. He says he was not thinking about theft, or the danger he was placing himself in.
The Sunday programme ran a story about Arie last week, which seemed to excite the Police. Canterbury Central Police Area Commander Inspector Derek Erasmus suggested to the building owners they call TVNZ to try to stop the story going to air.
“On Friday the Sunday programme received an email from Inspector Erasmus advising us that we were under criminal investigation in relation to our story. So we’ll keep you updated on that.”
Building owners Andrew and Irene Matsis didn’t even know about the “theft” until Sunday contacted them for the story. This seems to contradict the Police calling the offending serious. Surely in serious offending the victims would actually be notified.
“Well since Sunday interviewed the Matsis’ a fortnight ago, senior Police have visited the couple twice. The first time Thursday and again Friday. On Thursday in a press release Inspector Derek Erasmus, said the Matsis’ were now happy for the case to proceed to court, where the matter should be resolved. Sunday spoke to Andrew Matsis just hours ago, he’s happy for the case to go to court but hopes Arie’s name will be cleared.”
On the programme, Andrew says if he knew about the alleged looting he would’ve been angry at Arie for putting himself in danger, not for pinching anything.
Andrew and Irene say they would not have pressed charges if they were contacted by the Police. The interview resulted in the hilarious question: “So… how do you feel about your lightbulbs being stolen?” to which Irene replied: “We do not care about our lightbulbs, he’s welcome to them. And you can tell the Police, I mean we have more important things [to deal with, our] house is falling down and we’re going to worry about light bulbs? No.”
I know stealing is stealing (though is it in this case if the building owners say he is welcome to the light bulbs, abeit after the fact?), but common sense dictates there is a better use of court time and money than to make an example out of someone who offended as a result of a documented disability, who has an unblemished criminal record, and who has already served jail time just because he took a couple of lighting fixtures.
Andrew Matsis: You said you never had any other history of doing anything like that before? Arie Smith-Voorkamp: No. AM: First time with the Police? ASV: Yes. AM: And they make a court case. What a waste of money.
What do you think? Is there no excuse for looting, no matter the situation?
A book on the deaths of the Kahui Twins, written by Ian Wishart in conjunction with Macsyna King, is going to be released soon. A bookshop advisory on new titles was leaked to TVNZ and publicity around the book started earlier than intended, unfortunately directly coinciding with the inquest into the death of the twins.
A Facebook group is calling for the boycott of the book, and apparently the boycott of shops who choose to sell the book, and a couple of bookstores listened. From reading some of the comments on the page, it is clear that some commenters are misinformed. Paper Plus and The Warehouse have both said that their stores won’t be stocking the book. Whitcoulls is still considering whether it will or not. Paper Plus chief executive Rob Smith said: “The health and wellbeing of children is always front of our mind when we are faced with decisions which might impact the stores and the communities in which they operate”. It’s not clear to me how stocking a book not intended for children, and which doesn’t encourage child abuse would impact the health and wellbeing of children. There actually isn’t a clear reason why the book is harmful at all, nor is there a clear reason why it shouldn’t be stocked, apart from “we don’t like it/Macsyna”. Like Steven Price says, no one has actually read the book, how can they make an informed decision that they don’t like it?
Macsyna King cooperated with the police and was a prosecution witness, she hasn’t just decided to speak now. She isn’t profiting from the book either, Ian says: “Apart from sharing a Domino’s pizza during lunch, Macsyna has never received anything nor will she.” Ian will earn money for the book, but points out that researching and publishing a book takes time and money and that media organizations get paid for their reporting too (apologies if there’s a country block on the video): “When I worked for TVNZ, I earned a six figure salary to do investigations into cases like this one. I had the luxury of expenses being covered, helicopters at my beck and call, and lots of lovely advertising to pay for all this.”
Books like Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (Amazon, Book Depository) are stocked not because the sellers agree with the content, or approve of the author, but because as a society we value all viewpoints, although don’t necessarily agree with them.
Booksellers New Zealand, which represents Paper Plus and many others, says such a move is rare, and dangerous.
“It would be an attack on democracy if we started banning books that some people didn’t like,” said Booksellers. “It’s a matter of personal choice and it’s something we cherish in our democracy”.
Perhaps ironically, criticism was directed towards family members who didn’t want to speak out at the time of the death of the twins. Now someone is speaking out and people don’t want to listen to her. It’s great that companies are taking feedback into consideration, but maybe this a case of the loud minority being listened to. Boycotting a book by deciding not to buy it yourself is fine, but those people shouldn’t make a decision on behalf of everyone else. Macsyna King wants to shed some light on how her lifestyle was molded, maybe we should be listening.
Do you think the book should be stocked? Will you read it?
Depending on whether you want MMP to stay or go. (Click for larger versions)
Alongside the general election this year on November 26th, voters will also be voting on whether they support the MMP voting system or would prefer to change to another system. There will be two parts to the referendum (both are optional, so someone could vote for neither parts, both parts, just the first part or just the second part):
Should New Zealand keep the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system?
I vote to keep the MMP voting system
I vote to change to another voting system
If New Zealand were to change to another voting system, which voting system would you choose?
I would choose the First Past the Post system (FPP)
I would choose the Preferential Voting system (PV)
I would choose the Single Transferable Vote system (STV)
I would choose the Supplementary Member system (SM)
If at least half of the voters vote to keep MMP, there will still be an Electoral Commission review of it in 2012. If at least half of the voters vote to change the voting system, Parliament will decide if there’s another referendum in 2014 (Stuff has reported it as 2016, but it’s 2014 on the Elections 2011 website) to choose between the most popular alternative (according to the second part of this referendum) or MMP.
STV is probably the only other roughly proportional voting system, with the number of MPs elected reflecting the total share of the party’s votes across the country. However some people might feel their STV vote is useless because if they are in an electorate that predominantly supports, say, National, their vote for a, say, Green MP won’t “count” towards the Green party at all unless the Green MP wins that electorate. MMP is still the best system and results in a proportional and representative Parliament.
It’s arguable that few people actually know how our current or past election systems work(ed), even after having them in place for years. No information explaining the different systems was included in the flowchart’s mail out, except saying that more information will be, I assume mailed out (what about the [email protected]@), closer to election day and that information is also available on the Elections website. However, most people are inherently lazy and are unlikely to seek out additional information themselves. This will probably benefit the status quo.
Tweeting on election day
The Electoral Act prohibits “electioneering” on election day (midnight-7pm), meaning it’s illegal to distribute statements likely to influence voting decisions. The fine for electioneering on election day is up to $20,000. Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden says that social networks (Twitter, Facebook…) are covered by the ban and will be checked on election day for influencing material. He says “For a long time, the law has allowed for campaign-free election days, and my sense is that New Zealanders like it that way and so it’s not really in people’s interest to do things like tweet and breach the rules.”
This is stupid.
Amanda Palmer quite accurately compares Twitter to a bar. It can be great and you can find some really interesting people using it, or sometimes you can have inane conversations about nothing. The bar analogy also works for how tweets are shared. Tweets are only “sent” to users that “opt in” to receiving them, just like someone opts in to a conversation in a bar. Maybe they overhear part of a conversation, or are aware of it because their friends are involved, but they can choose to ignore it or join in themselves. This is just like Twitter: you could be aware of a conversation or tweet because of search, through someone you’re following on Twitter, or looking at profiles, but you’re able to ignore the tweet, unfollow or block the users involved if you don’t like it.
Social networks are clearly different to someone erecting an election sign in their front yard and tweeting to a relatively small number of users who have opted in to receiving your tweets shouldn’t be considered ‘seeking to influence the public’ even if it is about who you’re supporting in the election.
In Canada, Twitter users are unhappy about a law that bans the premature transmission of election results—mentioning election results in Montreal in the east before the booths have closed in Vancouver in the west, with a fine of up to $25,000. Users of social networks realized that this applied to them and for their May 2nd election protested against the rule by tweeting the results of the election using the hashtag #tweettheresults.
It would be awesome if something like that happened here (but I obviously wouldn’t condone it).
A month ago, to the day, a new normal for all of us in Christchurch began. Tap water isn’t drinkable and now smells like bleach. The CBD is a wreck, something like one in three buildings will have to be demolished. The roads are covered with bumps, cracks and silt. And the game of guessing the magnitude of an aftershock has lost a lot of it’s charm. On the morning of the 22nd, school started later because of a teacher’s union meeting. Friends from school posted on Facebook that the school swimming sports weren’t going ahead that day because of the weather. It was looking like an average day.
At 12.51pm I don’t think anyone realized that the quake was going to be any different to the numerous other aftershocks we’ve had. But this one kept going. Everyone in the Chemistry lab we were in safely got under the tables. Maybe surprisingly, no chemicals were spilled or glass broken. After the shaking stopped, I grabbed my bag on the way out and we all went to the field.
About an hour later, still on the field, just after replying to someone on Twitter that they should hold off trying to get in touch with friends in Christchurch via phone because it sounded like everyone was fine, I read a tweet that the quake had claimed lives. We experienced a strong aftershock while at school near the end of last year. I think we all thought that this would be the same: that there would be no deaths, not 166+. That the city centre would be accessible in a few days if it was cordoned off at all, not in months. That boiling water wouldn’t be required at all, not for longer than a month. The 166+ people dead are our people. I completely agree with Moata that it’s unlikely that someone in Christchurch doesn’t at least know someone who knows someone who has had to attend a funeral over the past few days and weeks. No one thought we would have to adjust to a new normal.
“All of my friends and family have been accounted for, though the chances that an acquaintance or a friend of a friend has not been killed is fairly low. There are only a couple of degrees of separation in Christchurch.”
A few days post-quake, I saw an article about cyberbullying in schools relating to teachers searching phones. I’m not doubting the seriousness of the problem, but one of the commenters suggesting banning cellphones altogether in schools. Without most students having a cellphone, the task of getting everyone home from school with an adult (especially for younger students), with limited access to buildings (and their landlines) until they were checked by engineers would have been made even more difficult. Technology is something that should be embraced everywhere. The uses of it post-disaster illustrate that point perfectly. Garth Bray, a TVNZ reporter, talks about how helpful smartphones were after the Japan earthquake here.
Back at home, a few hours afterward, our place was relatively untouched. The power and water were out and silt made it’s way into the garage, but they were little problems compared to the big picture. With our cellphones, mobile data and battery powered radio, we still felt connected.
In the time it took me to get home, the IT community of New Zealand and beyond already had the EQ.org.nz map up in one form or another, running Ushahidi (I love the name, it is the Swahili word for “testimony or witness”). Over the next two weeks it complemented media coverage by mapping the locations of important resources for Christchurch residents, like available ATMs, petrol stations that were open and what the restrictions on petrol there were, where water, medical treatment and showers were available…. Within a day or two they managed to arrange the short code text service for EQ.org.nz with Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees, volunteers to man the messages coming in through the website, meetings, a partnership with the Student Volunteer Army and media coverage (the map was mentioned in newspapers, on the TV news, on Teletext(!), Fair Go and by the @CEQgovtnz Twitter account)… If I was in charge of an emergency, I’d want to be working with these guys. The media were great. Fairfax, and in particular Reuben Schwarz liaised with EQ.org.nz and Stuff.co.nz switched from using their own instance of Ushahidi to the EQ.org.nz instance. Google and TradeMe, among others, set up pages to help too.
By now, my sister had walked home from the CBD with colleagues and brought with her the war stories of what town was like. What the Cathedral looked like, the chaos and the people. That the huge window beside her that she climbed out of had luckily burst outward instead of bursting in towards her.
Over the coming days we started to get into the hang of the new normal, which involved filling up bottles of water at my granddad’s house and using his shower. A couple of times we received wrong number calls from people trying to find out if their loved ones were okay. They responded with something along the lines of “oh, I thought you were x and alive”.
The two times I ventured into the cordon with Project7 as a photographer, everyone was friendly, including the army personnel and the other media. The feeling in the cordon was eerie and somber, but still hopeful. Silt that had emerged from beneath the ground had effectively buried cars parked on the streets. Shop fronts were shattered and fluro writing was spray painted on to mark that a building had been checked for people. Cars were crushed by falling masonry. Buildings had collapsed. About a month before the quake I was at the top of the Cathedral’s tower, which collapsed in the quake and near the top floor of the Forsyth Barr building, where the exit stairwells collapsed. I had a slight feeling of guilt that media were allowed in the cordon, but business owners that needed to get essential equipment and documentation out from their buildings were not. I know businesses were starting to be let in shortly after my last trip in, but there is still anger within the business community. I think many probably regret not grabbing some things on their way out.
I have mixed feelings about the memorial service that was held. I didn’t attend, or really watch it, but I have read that many people found it touching. On the other hand I read that some families couldn’t bring themselves to attend because their grief was still too raw. Businesses would have felt the effect of either having to close for another day, or paying employees time and a half plus giving them a day in lieu. Students missed out on another day of school. It sounds like it helped people, which is great, but I think it could have been held at a better time later on.
If the quake did anything, it made everyone stronger. It confirmed what I think everyone knew, that in a natural disaster there are many people who are kind and selfless. Our New Zealand spirit shined. CTV’s building was one of the most badly hit but the message on their channel was “down but not out”. The press conferences introduced foreign media to terms like buggered and munted. Our mayor, Bob Parker, in one of the press conferences talked about one of the main sign language interpreters being given the name “hot Jeremy” by a Facebook fan page. Forgotten time capsules were discovered in town. And a boulder that smashed through someone’s house was sold via a hilarious auction on TradeMe.
You can have a look at my photos of the quake here, here and here.