What Would Jesus Do?

On Friday I went to the Canterbury A&P Show. The usual mix of anti-abortion and Christian stalls were there.

Pro-choicer

Voice for Life

This is the description the anti-abortion people (Voice for Life – Canterbury) gave the Show organizers:

“Recapture the wonder: an educational stall focusing on the amazing development of the child in the womb using pictures and life sized models.”

Read: ABORTION IS MURDERRRRRRRR!!@@@@

Opposing viewpoints

The lack of stalls with balancing viewpoints (pro-abortion1 or agnostic/atheist) concerns me. This isn’t the case of having the choice of whether to buy a tractor or not. It’s “buy this tractor or burn in hell for eternity”. This is what was in one of the booklets we were given (Are You a Ewe?) from the Christian stall:

“Rebellion against God deserves death and punishment forever in hell.”

They also had Atheism is definitely wrong leaflets.

Agnostics, atheists and pro-abortionists: where you at?

1: I’m pro-abortion (and not pro-choice) because all woman should have access to abortion services. That doesn’t mean I want to abort everyone’s children.

Image credit: Steve Rhodes

Red Zone Secrets

Here is something I don’t get. If it is safe for demolition workers to go through the contents of earthquaked buildings before/while/after they’re demolished, why is it not safe for the occupiers?

“Safes found during demolition – there had been only half a dozen – were either opened under police or security firm supervision, or, if they were attached to concrete, dumped.”

Why is this even necessary? Is it that hard to work out that a safe found in the rubble of building X maybe belongs to someone occupying building X? Could we build on that and guess that someone occupying building X would be able to open the safe themselves, without force, even if it is attached to concrete?

ConfidentialScarier, is that computers and files containing confidential information, in this case mental health records are 1) being “thrown out” at all and 2) if they are “water-damaged”, which doesn’t fly with me, aren’t being disposed of securely.

“The items she was most concerned about included files and computer hard drives containing personal information. Securities House, a seven-level building in Gloucester St near Latimer Square, was demolished by March Construction and Shilton and Brown in May. It housed at least nine mental health agencies.

Tenants, tipped off about the demolition, managed to stop a truck leaving the site in the rain and divert it to an empty section where the contents were tipped.

Tenants then spent the next two days retrieving files from the rubbish. The files had been in locked metal cabinets which had been emptied.

Office manager Mark Petrie said he had contacted a project manager at the time of the demolition to be told no chance existed for any records or personal effects to be salvaged.

He was told all records were water-damaged and filing cabinets rusted.

A former Shilton and Brown worker who worked on the Securities House demolition told The Press workers were told to throw files, many of which appeared to him to be in good order, in the rubbish.”

Where have some files gone? Who knows.

“Canterbury Muscular Dystrophy Association office manager Eris Le Compte, whose office was on the first floor of Community House, said she had gone to look for the 230 personal medical files she had in her office.”

Hopefully other businesses are doing better, because it’s not just a couple of buildings in the red zone that are housing sensitive information.

CERA feigns ignorance. Clearly some demolition contractors have no idea what they’re doing (or every idea of what they’re doing). If CERA has no knowledge of specific cases of important belongings going missing inside the red zone they’re obviously not doing a very good job.

“A CERA spokeswoman said CERA regularly and actively engaged with contractors who had a clear understanding of their obligations within contracts and the law.

‘We have no knowledge of the specific cases you refer to and we can’t comment on whether any allegations of loss of goods within the CBD Red Zone are attributed to contractors’ staff or some other person,’ the spokeswoman said.”

What’s been going on inside the red zone raises a number of issues businesses need to be planning for. After an event like the Canterbury Earthquake, how effective will locks, safes, and filing cabinets be at protecting valuable and confidential information through demolition and when 930+ people are left roaming in and around your building for a significant period of time?

Image credit: Jeremy Keith

TEDxEQChCh Salon #1

A week ago, Christchurchians braved the aftermath of the snow and met at the Bush Bar for the first TEDxEQChCh Salon*. Previous TED talks were shown, and people were invited to share what they were involved in post-quake, or something else the audience would be interested in. Someone I talked to summed up the difference between May’s TEDxEQChCh well: this was more about the people than the buildings.

Cathedral made out of #eqnz tweets made by Kunst Buzz on display in the TEDxEQChCh lobby

Kunst Buzz‘s tweet cathedral, the ChristChurch Cathedral made of a random selection of almost 1000 #eqnz tweets (approximately 98,000 characters) which was on display in the TEDxEQChCh lobby, among other TEDxEQChCh memorabilia that has been given to Te Papa.

The talks

Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

Brene Brown hacks into lives for a living. She talks about banana nut muffins, worthiness, being imperfect, her office supply addiction and human connection, which led her on a quest that sent her to therapy, but changed the way she lived.

Something she said seemed very relevant post-quake: “they had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others.” Very similar to advice given in a pamphlet dropped in our letterbox yesterday.

Tony Robbins asks why we do what we do

Tony Robbins usually runs 50+ hour coaching seminars over weekends. He talks about patterns, resources, needs and describes what happened in one of his seminars of 2000 people from 45 different countries in Hawaii on the day of 9/11.

Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter

Mark Bezos usually fights poverty, but also volunteers as a firefighter. He talks about his first fire, and that we shouldn’t wait for something to happen before we try to make a difference.

Dave Meslin: The antidote to apathy

Dave Meslin tries to make local issues engaging. He talks about barriers that keep people from getting involved.

The people

Tim Taylor

Tim Taylor talked about Project Regenerate a subsection on the Rebuild Christchurch site which shares visions for a future Christchurch in video form and lets people vote and comment on them.

Trent Hiles

Trent Hiles talked about the creation of a multi-purpose arts complex in Lyttelton and Lyttelton’s Act of Art, a Gap Filler project whose first installation, a tribute to James K Baxter and the town, is up.

Grace Duyndam

Grace Duyndam talked about the 350.org Moving Planet September 24th worldwide rally against fossil fuels.

* TEDx Salon’s are intended to engage the community between larger events through small recurring events, keeping the spirit of TED alive—ideas worth spreading.

Calendar Girls Cheerleaders

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.)

Announcements

‘“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

Youth Olympic Games CheerleadingI’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.

Whoops

Above, Jacqui implies that the girls weren’t referred to as “Calendar Girls Cheerleaders”. However Calendar Girls’ social networking pages tell a different story.

Calendar Girls TwitterCalendar Girls TwitterEven 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.

Calendar Girls Cheerleaders Facebook

Parents

“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.

Auckland event

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?

Why cheerleaders?

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.

Image credit: Eustaquio Santimano

The National Interest of Foreign Espionage

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.

Fact checking

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.

Red flags

9000 passports!James Bond cameras

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.

12 hours

Passport stamps

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 teamsMission control

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?

Strange.

Perhaps stranger is Hilik Magnus, who runs the search and rescue company in question, Magnus International Search & Rescue:

“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.”

Stranger?

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?

Intelligence

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.”Passport

Passports

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.

Image credits: Ian Rutherford, Ludovic Bertron, J Aaron Farr, Tom Raftery

“So how do you feel about your light bulbs being stolen?”

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 looters!12@@#%^## Facebook groups. Shame on the looters! There is no excuse. Who are they to pick on the poor people of Christchurch?

The loot

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.

Asperger’sEarthquake Damaged Building

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.

Sunday programme

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.”

The victims

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?

Image credit: Me

A Bad Flyer: NZ TV Is Going Digital… Sometime

Going Digital DogNew Zealand’s analog television is being turned off from 2012 so an advertising campaign has been set up to encourage people to switch over to digital. We were sent the following flyer in the mail (click for a bigger version), with good intentions, but it is perhaps quite unhelpful.

Going Digital Flyer Front

Going Digital Flyer Back

When?

It does not contain any mention of when the switch is happening. The statement “You need to go digital to keep watching TV” makes it sound like that could be very soon. But for us in Christchurch and most of the South Island it is happening in 2013, quite a while away. It would have been helpful to include a map from one of Going Digital‘s other leaflets, which shows when each area is switching.

Going Digital Map

Options?

The options table could be helpful, but contains little information that consumers care about—what is the cost of options, upfront and ongoing, and what is the difference between them? Eg. installation cost and quality of cable versus satellite versus UHF, what options let me rent box office movies and have extra channels available, are there options within options—of HD (what is HD?) and being able to record/play with live TV?

The text that is different on each of the Freeview logos (HD and satellite) is tiny.

Terminology between advertising materials differs. Freeview set-top box is used instead of satellite digital receiver, SKY decoder changes to SKY set-top box, and Freeview set-top box gets the fancy name of HD digital receiver when used in the context of Freeview HD.

Where?

The above map could also be used to show where the different services are available—86% of New Zealand is a frustratingly vague “where” (the 86% of New Zealand that can get Freeview HD includes: Auckland, Waikato, Tauranga, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. It is going to be, or has been, expanded over 2011 into Invercargill, Timaru, Nelson, Wairarapa, Whanganui, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Taupo, Rotorua and Whangarei.)

The flyer looks good, but needs more detail to be more useful than just a reminder of something that people should get around to doing.

Have you, or do you know someone who has recently switched to digital or has yet to make the switch? How helpful has the advertising material been?