Excessive burden? USA not contributing to NZ’s $5.8m Dotcom case costs

Kim Dotcom outside New Zealand's Parliament

Crown Law has provided figures under the Official Information Act on the money and time spent in relation to legal work completed in respect of Kim Dotcom and his associates which amounts to more than $5.8 million.

Crown Law writes that the United States Department of Justice is not reimbursing New Zealand for any of these expenses, even though the cases largely relate to charges that they wish to bring against Mr Dotcom and his associates.

Crown Law hours spent

The figures:

  • are as at 8 February 2017;
  • include work on both domestic and mutual assistance (United States initiated extradition) legal proceedings;
  • exclude work completed to provide advice to other Government Departments, for example the Police or the GCSB who respectively picked up the bill for Crown Law’s advice to them; and
  • include most Crown Law legal staff time and some support staff time.

2011: 432.10
2012: 7,356.67
2013: 4,087.50
2014: 5,742.27
2015: 4,911.80
2016: 3,207.26
2017: 4.77
Total: 25,742.37

25,000 hours.

Using a conservative estimate of the value of the time spent ($140 per hour,1 which is the rate a Crown Law junior prosecutor would be billed out as – senior solicitors’ time is likely worth more, support staffs’ likely less), this comes to around NZD $3.6 million.

Disbursements

New Zealand has also covered the bill for work completed by external counsel on Crown Law’s behalf and expenses paid by Crown Law in relation to the Dotcom/Megaupload matters – another NZD $2.2 million.

This includes: $1.98 million on external barrister/solicitor fees, $171,800 on travel and accommodation, $23,151 on Court filing fees, $20,125 on photocopying, and $17,356 on professional fees including research material.

An excessive burden?

At least NZD $5.8 million has been spent on Kim Dotcom et al. by New Zealand so far, and it begs the question: was it worth it?

Should we have refused the United States’ mutual assistance request when it was made? Section 27(g)(i) of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992 allows New Zealand to refuse a request made by a foreign country if “in the opinion of the Attorney-General, the provision of assistance would impose an excessive burden on the resources of New Zealand”.

Kim Dotcom had hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets before the raid on his home and it’s not a shock that he has aggressively defended the cases brought against him.

If spending $5.8 million+ has not been an excessive burden on New Zealand, what amount would be?

1 This is a lower rate to that used by David Fisher in his September 2015 article of $198/hour.

Image credit: Sarah-Rose


The full response from Crown Law, including the breakdown of expenses incurred is embedded below.

Peter Thiel’s New Zealand Citizenship File

Peter Thiel

At around 5:15pm today the Department of Internal Affairs released some of the information they hold on Peter Thiel’s application for New Zealand citizenship, emailed on mass to those who had made requests under the Official Information Act.

Peter Thiel has never lived in New Zealand and doesn’t plan to live in New Zealand. He’s a controversial figure. We looked past that because of a few New Zealand business investments, public speaking engagements, and a donation to the Canterbury earthquake relief fund.

Neil Strauss wrote a book in 2009 called Emergency about disaster preparedness. In one part he investigates the trend of the super rich applying for secondary citizenship in another country. They wanted to be prepared when “the shit hits the fan” by having a Plan B country to retreat to if there was some sort of disaster. Strauss said New Zealand would be a great country to have citizenship in but that our requirements are so strict. He settled for Saint Kitts and Nevis.

When you’re Peter Thiel and are worth US$2.7 billion, I guess you don’t need to settle.

Thiel has his Plan B, New Zealand, but don’t expect to see him around unless the world is falling apart.

Highlights and the full documents are embedded below:


DIA’s PDF document released 1 February 2017

Image credit: Heisenberg Media CC-BY-2.0

What happens when a salaried YouTuber goes solo: the Daily Grace story

Grace Helbig

You might have heard of Daily Grace, or Grace Helbig. She’s a 28-year-old actress-comedian who uploads videos on YouTube Monday to Friday. DailyGrace has 2 million+ subscribers and 227 million video views, and Forbes listed Grace on their 30 Under 30 Hollywood & Entertainment list for 2014 along with Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Lawrence, Kelly Osbourne and Anna Kendrick saying “Helbig is one of the sharpest, funniest voices on YouTube”.

Daily Grace died on December 31 2013.

Not the person, it’s just DailyGrace isn’t Grace’s channel anymore and since the start of 2014 no new content has been uploaded. The videos being uploaded Monday to Friday on that channel are reruns (first reruns on YouTube?) and presumably Grace isn’t receiving any of the ad revenue from them. Until recently, Grace had a contract with a company called My Damn Channel, who are going through an identity crisis and rebranding as Omnivision Entertainment. She made videos on the YouTube channel DailyGrace and they paid her a salary and maybe a commission based on YouTube views.

“Grace leaving Daily Grace is kinda like a Pokemon evolving. You’re sad because you liked how cute it looked before, but you’re also excited because it can shoot lasers out of its eyes now.” –killmeeko

After five years, Grace and My Damn Channel have chosen to part ways which, as VideoInk says, is probably the hardest decision Grace has made in her career. My Damn Channel owns the content and intellectual property Grace created while in their employment, including the YouTube channel DailyGrace, 2 million+ subscribers, themed days (Sexy Friday etc.), catch phrases (you’ve been hazed, new viewser alert…), and Facebook page–her Tumblr and Twitter are still hers, presumably because they aren’t under the Daily Grace brand.

How do you deal with suddenly not being able to use any of the intellectual property you came up with? Compare a 2013 ‘commenting on your comments’ video with a 2014 one:

“Here’s the lesson: Many corporations think that by owning YouTube channels, they’ll have something valuable. But the value is not in the channel or in the number of subscribers. On YouTube, despite the corporatization of everything, the value is in people.” –Tim Helbig

The brand that My Damn Channel is asserting ownership over is effectively a person. People subscribed to DailyGrace for Grace, and have been steadily unsubscribing because of the new content drought and My Damn Channel/Grace drama. Grace is continuing to upload videos daily on her used-to-be-second-but-is-now-main channel ItsGrace, something she wasn’t allowed to talk about while she was still in charge of the DailyGrace accounts. Viewers were left with a cryptic goodbye on December 27 where Grace said she would be back making videos from January 6 after a break. She couldn’t say that these new videos wouldn’t be on the DailyGrace channel.

Is it fair enough that My Damn Channel is enforcing their rights under a mutually agreed contract which Grace would have either received legal advice over or had the opportunity to seek legal advice over? Probably. An arrangement that guaranteed an income for making YouTube videos would have looked pretty great five years ago, but as time goes on you’d start to realise that perhaps you could be earning more without the middleman taking a cut… and for doing what exactly? My Damn Channel is a business and they’ll want to get all the ad revenue they can from the old DailyGrace videos which they’re rerunning on YouTube. Grace is going independent, at least for the time being, and will have full ownership over the content she creates from now on. And at least 1.7 million subscribers have found their way to ItsGrace.

The sad thing is that some fans might never find Grace’s new channel (My Damn Channel hasn’t changed the about page for DailyGrace from “I vlog everyday! Five days a week!”, except for the removal of her social media links and stripping the themed days from the header image), Grace was faced with rebuilding her subscriber base from the 100,000 she had on her second channel, and that the day has come where My Damn Channel is exercising the control they have over a whole vault of content Grace made in an intimate setting–inside her home–by reuploading it in an attempt to keep up the appearance that Daily Grace is still alive.

But Grace still has herself, and maybe that’s all the matters.

“DailyGrace is Grace Helbig, which is me. DailyGrace [the channel] was a concept owned by My Damn Channel, but Grace Helbig is my personality, owned by myself…so that’s what I’m moving forward with and that’s what, to me, is priceless.” –Grace Helbig

Image credit: Grace Helbig

When an internet forum solves a crime before the police

Hotel

“Seriously lacking hotel. Staff seems overwhelmed. Rooms are marginal at best. And then there’s the dead body in the water tower.” – Christopher Karwowski, Google Review

Elisa Lam went missing at the end of January 2013 and around February 19 was found in one of her hotel building’s water tanks, used by guests and residents for drinking and bathing. The hotel has a little history, like of serial killers staying there. To add to the weirdness her death was ruled an accident and the footage police released in an attempt to find her after she went missing was, well bizarre:

The police had searched the roof with dogs and either missed her body or it wasn’t there yet. A thread on Web Sleuth’s about the case makes eerie reading (look at the timestamps).

“Do you suppose LE physically checked every room (nook & cranny) in the hotel/hostel…??? or would they require a search warrant to do that…???”

tarabull at 02-09-2013, 03:56PM

“Ok, is there anywhere she may have gone into the water, or fallen off something?”

Wolf Dreamer at 02-14-2013, 04:29PM

“in my opinion i think it is very probable she got herself
stuck somewhere while hiding,
i really hope they have searched every mouse hole in that ***** hole”

Catchy kitty at 02-15-2013, 01:08AM

“Gotta ask the dumb question.

Do you think the police searched every room in the building?

Maybe she hasn’t left the building”

jetsetsam at 02-15-2013, 01:19 AM

“I have a hard time believing every nook and cranny has been searched – I feel like there’s a good chance she’s still in the building.”

tarabull at 02-16-2013, 12:01 PM

“There are other places in the hotel they could search without having to get a warrant, though… dumpsters, kitchen area, storage areas, the basement, to name a few. I’m sure the hotel managers would gladly allow it without a warrant.”

TxLady2 at 02-16-2013, 12:28 PM

“I really want to know if they have searched the WHOLE building. I think it is necessary.”

ahlang1226 at 02-16-2013, 03:50 PM

“Hoping that the roof and furnace room have been checked… Watched the video many times now and it really is freaky, wonder if Elisa’s friends can interpret any of her gestures?”

dotr at 02-17-2013, 01:14 AM

“Can the police just search the whole hotel please………Someone on facebook wrote this, bascically saying Elisa is still in the building:

‘I’m with Ken. She is still in the hotel. Either she was take to another hotel room, the roof, basement or… But I don’t believe she left. … I wish the police would check all the rooms and fire escapes and storage areas. I think she is still there.’”

ahlang1226 at 02-17-2013, 02:22 AM

Image credit: John Stavely

FIVE TIPS FOR GRINDR SUCCESS

If you:

  • re-download the app to get around someone’s block
  • detail a sexual fantasy (involving that person) after they say “I just want to chat”
  • repeatedly ask to meet someone after they say “I just want to chat”
  • re-download the app to get around a block and repeatedly ask to meet someone after they’ve said “I just want to chat”
  • feel it’s appropriate to chat to someone once, wait months, then send a naked selfie

Please stopPlease stopPlease stopPlease stop

12th & Delaware: Every Day A Battle Is Born

You might want to skip this post (about abortion). Need help? In New Zealand, you can call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or Youthline on 0800 37 66 33.

12th & Delaware documentary poster

Click here to watch the documentary. You can make the video full-screen to avoid the advert.

The two sides of the abortion debate in America literally face one another in this documentary from filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady.

In Fort Pierce, Florida, a women’s heath care center is located at the corner of 12th and Delaware. On the same corner, across the street, is another women’s heath care center.

However, the two centers are not in the same business; one provides abortions along with a variety of other health services, while the other primarily offers counseling to women considering abortion, urging them to keep their babies.

In 12th and Delaware, Ewing and Grady offer a look inside both offices, as pro-life counselors give women a mixture of concern and disinformation about terminating their pregnancies and the pro-choice medical staff struggles to work under the frequent threat of violence against them.

The film also examines the handful of protesters who stand outside the abortion clinic, confronting both patients and staff as they enter and exit. (via)

In Florida there are two street corners, both 12th & Delaware. An abortion clinic, run by a husband and wife, and an anti-abortion crisis pregnancy care center, run by Father Tom sit across the street from each other.

“We still get women coming in who think they’re going there [to the abortion clinic].”

Women aren’t sure which one they’re calling or visiting. The pregnancy care center does nothing to clarify that they don’t actually offer abortions. What they do offer is “counseling” to actively try to persuade women from choosing abortion, graphic photographs, free ultrasounds (with ‘HI DADDY!’ typed in the corner of the print out), models of fetuses, DVDs of anti-abortion propaganda playing in the waiting room, flip books of the abortion process, graphic DVDs of the procedure, and brochures stating that abortion causes breast cancer.

The abortion clinic claims the pregnancy care center gives incorrect information to women–among spreading myths about abortion and medical disinformation, they say the center tells women they are earlier in their pregnancy than they actually are, so if they think they have a few weeks to make a decision and then decide to have an abortion they either won’t be able to get an one or will have to travel to another state to get one.

Choice quotes from one of the crisis pregnancy center counselors

“She’s abortion-minded.”

“She had an abortion in December. She might do it again.”

[to ultrasound technician (likely the only person in the building with any sort of medical training)] “Maybe we can get a heartbeat.”

”Yus, yus, yus, two [“saved”] in one day.”

The efforts the pregnancy counselors go to push their agenda have no bounds

A woman comes in. She already has two kids. She says she wants what is best for herself and the children she already has. Her position is entirely understandable.

The counselor goes to her office and sends an email out to a prayer mailing list: “Please pray for Victoria, she is in our counseling room at this very moment, and her only option is abortion…”

She buys McDonald’s for the woman, thinking that if the woman leaves before having an ultrasound that she might “lose her”. They eat together.

She tells the woman that her verbally abusive partner might change if she has this baby.

“I’m gonna step outside and make a phone call.”

“[on phone] Man this bitch is getting on my fucking nerve.”

 

The crew follow-up with a 15-year-old who was convinced she should continue with her pregnancy by the care center. She tells the crew that she tried to end the pregnancy herself. She hopes that everything will turn out alright.

The protestors and the doctors

The same counselor from above makes her way across the street to talk to the protesters. They’re friends. She shares news from an anti-abortion website.

She comes out a second time after the police are called and defends the protesters’ use of graphic signs.

The doctors who perform abortions are picked up by the clinic owner, and, with a sheet covering their heads, are taken into the clinic’s closed garage to protect their identities.

“I’ve discovered, thanks through God that I know where the owner of the abortion clinic meets the abortionists.”

One of the protesters from outside the abortion clinic leads the documentary crew to a Wal-Mart parking lot. He’s found where the doctors and clinic owner meet and swap cars. He, as well as others try to find out names and addresses of the abortion doctors. They want to out the doctors, using methods like displaying their photo on billboards; and visiting their homes, churches, and workplaces, to deter them from performing abortions.

The abortion clinic

“I just wanna make sure that this is definitely what you need to do, not want to do, nobody ever wants to do this… It’s your decision only.”

In strong contrast with the pregnancy care center, the abortion clinic is truly about choice.

“Yeah… they got a replacement and that doctor was killed too.”

The main fear is that they will lose their doctors. Their abortionists are in their 50s and 60s. “Where is the next doctor coming from” if a doctor retires or is outed?

Watch an interview with the co-directors of the documentary, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady.

Here’s a new Tumblr sharing New Zealand women’s stories of abortion.

Click here to watch the documentary. You can make the video full-screen to avoid the advert.

“WHY DO I HAVE TO TAKE MY HAT OFF?”

“In Massachusetts many banks agreed that their customers must remove their hats and sunglasses once they crossed a bank’s threshold. Of these branches, only 3% were robbed.” – The Economist

Perhaps the bank version of the “please turn off your digital devices” policy on planes is the no hats (or hoodies, or helmets, or sunglasses) policy.

Mr Delancaster-Swinbank-Slack is annoyed that the staff at his local ANZ branch continually ask him to remove his hat when he visits.

The sign at the door clearly indicates the policy, but Mr Delancaster-Swinbank-Slack is 83 and is no “young thug”, so he chooses to ignore it.

He puts ANZ staff into a difficult position because they can’t apply the policy discriminately to just the people they think look a bit dodge.

He notes that staff “usually relented because of his age and non-menacing appearance”. He puts the other staff working in the branch into an even more difficult position. Say someone else comes into the branch. Maybe they look dodgy, maybe they don’t. They’re also wearing a hat.

How do you explain to them that you’d like them to remove their hat when a couple of metres away Anthony is over there rocking his sports hat? Do you choose to ask the person who just walked in, potentially really offending one of your customers with the insinuation that they look suspect? Or do you not ask, knowing that the large majority of bank robbers cover their face/head in some way?

 This post represents my views, not my employer’s.