Officials say separate from the corruption probe, some of the suspects charged today were also connected to an illegal human organ-selling ring. Investigators say some charged would take cash payments to help find organs for sick patients in need of transplants. It’s unclear where the body parts might have come from or how many surgeries may have been done.
The body parts scheme involved kidney transplants, authorities said. Patients in need would pay middle-men to find willing donors in Israel. Investigators said the suspects would then have the donor and patient lie to hospitals that they were related. Hospitals would then do the operation unaware that cash payments were part of the deal. Officials say Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore were allegedly contacted by the suspects for these procedures.
Corruption, money laundering and now a human organ ring. Sorry Jerseyites but your town’s crazzy.
The one that has annoyed me most of all is the talk of abolishing the provocation defence.
Basically, in NZ, successfully arguing that one was provoked turns what otherwise would be murder into manslaughter.
Now there are many argument both for and against it, and I am not a big fan of the defence, but the idea of just abolishing it with no other changes made seems short sighted and populist. The problem is, there are circumstances where the defence does make sense. Equally, however, there are circumstances where raising provocation as a defence can be both shocking o any sensibilities but ultimately successful. I do not think it should be able to be used in cases of spousal murder or in cases of ‘gay panic’ (where men have successfully used the defence in cases where the overt sexuality of the victim was the provocation).
The trouble is, by simply abolishing it, the ability of judges to fairly and justly hand down a sentence may be limited since murder carries with it a mandatory life sentence. There are situations where the defence is warranted, and strange or extraordinary as the circumstances may be, a life sentence may simply be unjust.
I think we can abolish it, perhaps if the mandatory life sentence is only in cases where there was no provocation (albeit with a curtailed statutory definition) or perhaps if we introduce degrees of murder.
It’s probably worth having a look, if you haven’t already, at the Law Commission’s 2007 report on provocation. They recommended that part of the Crimes Act allowing for the defence be repealed and that provocation issues should be dealt with in sentencing.
The report deals with your concern about judges handing out a just sentence. If I’m reading the report right, god knows I’m not a lawyer so correct me if I’m wrong, the Sentencing Act states, as you said, that murder carries with it a presumption of ife imprisonment. According to the Act though:
" … the presumption can only be displaced if a sentence of life imprisonment would be manifestly unjust; the burden of displacing the presumption rests on the defendant; and the court of appeal has consistently held that the standard for rebutting the presumption is high."
The report goes on to say that the Court of Appeal ruled that this would only happen in exceptional cases such as mercy killings or if prolonged or severe abuse has happened. There’s also room for cases where the defendant is mentally or intellectually impaired, but again this is considered exceptional, so not not all cases like this would allow for the displacement of that life sentence.
The Law Commission suggest that, yes, something like degrees of murder could be introduced, but considers it a different issue and no doubt outside their purview at the time.
But to my untrained eyes it looks like that flexibility that would allow judges to adjust sentencing (decide against life imprisonment for murder) on mitigating factors already exists. Like always, your kind of trusting that person handing out the sentence knows what they’re doing. This is all in the report which can be found here. Most of what I’m talking about here is towards the end of Chapter 6.
So to cut a long story short; your concern is warranted, but I think its covered. :)
One of the bright nooks of the internet is Editing The Herald by James Coe. James is a semi regular on Sunday Breakfast and describes himself as a ‘news-rage’ journalist. Basically he reads the New Zealand Herald from start to finish everyday and points out what’s rubbish about that day’s copy. Unsurprisingly he can find noteworthy examples nearly every day. At least it keeps him off the streets.
Take this effective smackdown of the paper’s columnist Garth George commending the Government for holding back a plan to introduce folic acid to bread. As James notes most of the debte around the issue hasn’t been focused on what the health effects of adding the stuff to our diet are, but if the Government has a right to screw with our bread, and therefore our lives.
Of note too is this little find via the comments section for David Slack’s blog Island Life on Public Address as noted by PA reader B Jones.
It’s a 2004 National Party press release from then associate health minister Paul Hutchison slamming the government for failing to act on birth defect prevention.
The Government could have helped prevent approximately 100 cases of neurological defects in babies if it had acted more vigorously four years ago, says National’s Associate Health spokesman, Dr Paul Hutchison. “The Government missed an opportunity four years ago to sign up the Bakers and Millers Association to fortify flour with folate.”
Back then it was OK to interfere with bread, but now it’s not? Sigh, when commercial space flights to the moon finally happen I’ll be first in line for a one way ticket.
An intensely awesome cover of In The Garage by Weezer made using orginal video game hardware. It’s by OxygenStar and is part of a Weezer tribute album put out for free by netlabel Pterodactyl Squad.
It’s worth downloading and listening to the whole thing and looking around their website. All the artists have albums up for free download. This track by Spamtron makes me feel like buying guns and cleaning them naked infront of a full length mirror.
The marvelous Politifact.com keeps taps on all the promises Obama made during his campaign. Some of this is stuff still in progress and obviously things down the list, but there’s some dubious things going on here.
Take his promise to make sure those working for him in the executive branch will not be able to work on matters or for agencies if they were lobbyists before entering the White House. Hell, he even signed the Executive Order on his first day.
There is, however, a waiver which according to Politifact.com Angie Drobnic Holan says:
"a waiver may be granted if "the literal application of the restriction is inconsistent with the purposes of the restriction" or "it is in the public interest. … The public interest shall include, but not be limited to, exigent circumstances relating to national security or to the economy."
Read Holan’s original piece and her updates and you’ll see why this means that waivers are handed out if the Administration thinks they’re OK. Sure, William Lynn was a Rayethon lobbyist for six, but, y’know, he’s cool. Let’s make him deputy defense secretary.
Meanwhile back home former National leader Don Brash is appointed to the chairman position of a taskforce whose goal is to make sure New Zealanders make as much money as Australians by 2025. OK, whatever. I can take the Government’s obvious march towards the creation of a country that looks a hell of lot like New Zealand before Labour took power in 1999. They’re basically (with a few exceptions) putting it back the way it was.
With that goal in mind the Government does what it thinks it needs to do to make it a reality. Including throwing away any original or innovative ideas. National cycleway? It wouldn’t magically solve every problem in the country, not even close. But I bet it would reinvigorate towns along its path by bringing tourists on their cycles. Those are the kind of people who spend a good bit of money while they’re away on a biking holiday. It was a different idea and not a bad one (albeit an expensive one) , yet somehow it’s floundered and doesn’t look like it’s on the agenda.
And now John Key says he won’t accept any hardline or unpalatable ideas from the taskforce: this he says at a time when innovation and looking at different ideas is needed. Of course, by unpalatable he means anything that might cost them votes.
The conspiracy theorist in me can’t help but think its a move designed to placate ACT. Key can now reject anything Brash, the ideologue, throws up. Key has after all, just told us he will. That’s a pretty expensive rubber bone.
P.S. Russell “It’s just a wee dram” Brown has whacked up a post about the taskforce and who might be a good addition.
Differences of Opinion Among the Pro-Euthanasia Crowd
Like most issues of its ilk voluntary euthanasia has been voted down in parliament. In 1995 the Death With Dignity private members bill failed by 61 votes against and 29 for. In 2003 a private members bill was shot down, although it had a few more votes go its way.
It’s an issue that pops up from time to time and in the past few years it’s been thrust above the water by visits from Dr Philip Nitschke, an Australian doctor who supports and campaigns for voluntary euthanasia to be made legal. In fact, he and others were successful in getting a legal euthanasia law passed in the Northern Territory only to have it over turned by the Federal government.
Since then he’s been holding workshops showing the ill, elderly and the curious how to end their lives. I attended a presentation he made in Auckland a few years ago where, without specific details, he went through how one can successfully kill themselves with the least amount of discomfort. He showed a video of some elderly people at a euthanasia camp where they all chipped in, chatting away furious and having a great time mixing chemicals to instructions on how to make a pill designed to kill in ingestion. If you were squinting you’d probably think they were at a work bee putting the final touches on a new deck.
The presentation was a curious mix of morbidity and black humor, people tend to cope best by joking about death. There were visibly ill people in the audience, still mobile but clearly interested in clawing back some dignity that their illness had taken from them.
It’s a purely practical aim, if you’re going to kill yourself best to make sure what you’ve got won’t leave you alive and possibly in worse condition than you were before. Curious then is Lesley Martin’s opposition to Nitschke’s methods.
“What we’re seeing now with Dr Nitschke’s methods is a continued re-packaging of suicide methods. What people need to understand is that they are illegitimate, backyard, amateurish efforts.”
I’m pretty sure Nitschke’s trying to help people avoid “amateurish efforts” (and charging a reasonable amount for it, 75 bucks for the kit) by providing them with information and tools to make a considered decision. Something Martin’s Dignity NZ Trust aims to do as well. The Trust is all about palliative care administered by professionals in Trust “Havens.” That’s under a presumed future where this is all legal. I think the counter-argument is that in an environment where its not sanctioned by the state, people who want to end their life because of illness and lack of dignity don’t have access to information on how to do that. They’ll do it anyway, regardless of what the law says, so isn’t it a good thing that they can have tools that will help them to do it right and not extend their suffering through a botched suicide?
Just because one of the actors from GI Joe is black, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is from ‘the hood.’
You make me feel awkward when the focus of your story is the fact that he was poor growing up and couldn’t afford a GI Joe. You make me feel more awkward when you ask him ‘do you go back to your hood and show them the doll?’
Oh geez. Who was this?
Amanda Gillies. There’s actually a video on the three news website of the interview, and as it turns out I got the wording of the question wrong, so that has been corrected. It’s still a bit shocking though.
Just because one of the actors from GI Joe is black, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is from ‘the hood.’
You make me feel awkward when the focus of your story is the fact that he was poor growing up and couldn’t afford a GI Joe. You make me feel more awkward when you ask him ‘will all the kids down in the hood be jealous now you have your own action figurine?’
retropolitics thought bubble: If there is a God like they say will He help? If this list in Proverbs 6 is any indication - I seriously doubt that. “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
Haughty eyes? Really? Just having snide eyes means you’re going to hell? Why not include anyone who has or ever had a mullet? Come on God, prioritise a little.
Please excuse the lack of posts. I was in Lisbon over the weekend with some new friends catching up with some old ones. After Comibra, Lisbon is my favourite Portuguese city. European cities have a tendancy to evolve into photocopies of themselves (Paris, are you listening?) but Comibra and Lisbon seem to have side stepped that.
Hopefully I will be able to post some photos soon. I neglected to take my camera and used Joe’s amazing digitial SLR that appears to make every shot look like a winner.
For getting drunk and talking to random people in the street head to the Barrio Alto after sun down at the end of the week. It’s basically a huge pub crawl in tiny cobblestone streets with everyone drinking in the streets because the bars are too small.
“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second in when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, some time in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”—David Eagleman (via Bat-Bean-Beam)
They discuss giving “advisor shares” to entertainer Diddy, a big Tweeter, but also see him as a distraction. “Diddy values his contribution higher than we do,” read the meeting minutes. In an earlier meeting on April 2, other potential advisors discussed included Shaq and Al Gore (presumably both would receive advisor shares as well).
If Diddy was a distraction, Google product chief Marissa Mayer was a “huge distraction” who kept asking for stats on Twitter’s growth. Twitter management decided to give her “a constrained version of growth.” Finally, Microsoft wanted to talk about a deep infrastructure deal (”we don’t want to talk about this right now”) and a “secret project with the x-box.”
"When the book first came out I happened to be at Sylvia Park and there was a huge stack of the books and lots of excited kids. I walked up, grabbed a book, read the last page (pretended to) and then said WHAT? HARRY DIES?
It was a wonderful day.”
”—My friend Silke on the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (Spoilers)
The rumors are true – Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones are currently holed up in a Los Angeles recording studio, working on an album that’s been the biggest secret in rock for what seems like years now.
Furthermore, in what appears to be news of an entirely separate Homme project, Ipecac Records co-owner Greg Werckman told Rock-a-Rolla magazine that his label’s other co-owner – Mike Patton (Faith No More, Tomahawk, Fantomas, etc) – has been approached about joining Homme on some new material.
God knows how many university textbook covers, notebooks, telephone note pads and top corners of newspaper front pages I’ve used to sketch Batman ala Bruce Timm. Everytime my hands were left to do their own thing while the brain was concentrating, I’d practice drawing that square jaw and white eye slits.
Bruce Timm is the brains and style god behind the fondly remembered Batman: The Animated Series. His mininalistic style reminisant of cartoons in the 1940s and 50s has infulenced just about every cartoon you can see on American television.
As good as BTAS was, I think Timm and his team really got cracking on the Justice League series. Eventually changed to Justice League Unlimited, the series got more multi-layered as it went on, involving season long story arcs, sharp characterisation and some the best choreographed fight scenes either animated or filmed.
Fanboys like myself love the final Darkseid and Superman smackdown when Supeman says: “I’ve always pulled my punches before, but I think you can take it, can’t you big man?”
The downfall of Hawkgirl who, it turns out, was preparing for a Thangarian invasion forms some of the series’ best episodes. The invasion provides the explosions and whizz-bang excitment, but the relationship between Hawkgirl and Green Lantern is expertly crafted and genuinely touching.
Lately Timm has been the producer of several straight-to-DVD adaptations of DC Comics material. While they’ve all been good to varying degrees (haven’t seen the Wonder Woman DVD yet, but I hear that’s got some pretty full on battle scenes) I can’t help but itch to see Timm work on his own property. He seems happy to be paid to work on WB stuff, but I’d love to see a horror comic drawn by him (judging by the amount of monster/horror stuff that turns up among his sketches online he seems to be a fan) or a kind of sexy noir Vargas-style book.
The story of Marwa el-Sherbini which I’ve only just heard about via The Hand Mirror where it’s framed within the headscarf issue in Europe. Intolerance breeds intolerance. What a horrible state of affairs, particularly considering the weak response from German officials.
Since the death of Robert McNamara plenty has been offered up on the internet and newspapers and other mediums too inefficient and insignificant to mention. Those commenting are concerned mostly about what the man’s life meant, or who he was, and why he did the things he did. Opinions sway between slightly resentful admiration of the man’s intellect and downright hatred for his perceived indifference to the lives he sent to war despite his repentance and acknowledgment of his mistakes in later life.
Others have used McNamara’s time as Secretary of Defence as a pure example of why statistics, numbers and the idea that human behavior can be predicted has no place in forming policy of any kind. They’re right, to a certain extent, stats have their place, but to apply them wholesale to something as intrinsically abstract and chaotic as war is the mistake of someone who believes their answer is foolproof and of the highest correctness. As Robert Fulford remembers writing in the National Post :
"On national TV early in the Kennedy administration, he explained his plans for re-inventing the Pentagon. Scratching little marks along a horizontal line (he actually used a blackboard), he showed how each level of force by the enemy would be met by a slightly superior force from the U.S. In this way he would contain wars, control them. He would abolish “brinkmanship,” the threat of nuclear weapons, that had drawn so much criticism to the Eisenhower administration. He was the priest of limited warfare."
The best, most illuminating article I’ve read in the past week is by David K. Shipler from 1997. The article covers McNamara’s attempt during a specially created summit with Vietnamese leaders to nut out the failures during the war that lead to the massive loss of life.
It’s both an admirable and strange thing to do, admirable because it shows McNamara was serious about examining his mistakes, but strange because there’s no way the summit could have ended any other way other than almost complete failure. What must the Vietnamese thought to see him across the table essentially pumping them for information and becoming visibly annoyed when he didn’t get the answers he wanted? There’s not a lot of places for naivety in this world, international relations being the least forgiving. They also must have been confused when he overtly tried to spread the blame around. Hey, buddy! You wanted to talk to us!
But in the strange inner workings of a man who prized his intellect only to see it stumped by human war, it must have seemed a good way to at least start making up for his mistakes. But the goals of the summit were never met, due to the reluctance of the Vietnamese officials he met to seriously discuss in depth their decisions during the war.
I don’t think he was haunted, or at least to the extent Shipler suggests; he was just fundamentally and horribly bewildered about people and what motivated him. Their irrationality confused him and frustrated him. Although he didn’t understand people’s motivations, he still thought he could contain and manage war.
In Hanoi in 1997 McNamara was defeated again by human nature, this time by the suspicions of men. People say he was a clever man, but a clever man doesn’t make the same mistake twice.