Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The future of David Tua

The future of David Tua is in limbo following his underwhelming performance, and controversial draw against Monte Barrett last month. This fight was intended to propel Tua back onto the US boxing scene with the ultimate goal being a second shot at the heavyweight title. However, Tua failed to impress suffering the first knockdown of his career and clinching a contentious draw on the scorecards. This unexpected drawback on his road to glory has left many critics speculating about the future of New Zealand's boxing hero.

3 News ran a story on Friday (27.08.10) stating that negotiations were underway for Tua to fight four-time world champion Evander Holyfield in November. High-profile boxing commentator, and longstanding Tua supporter Colonel Bob Sheridan said in an interview - "It's in the negotiation stages right now, and I'm right in the middle of it... Holyfield and David Tua [are] two guys in similar stages of their careers. The winner of the bout will meet Vladamir Klitscho for the heavyweight championship - this is hot off the press stuff."

However, it was reported on Sunday (29.08.10) that Tua's global promoter Cedric Kushner, and the Tua camp in New Zealand have heard nothing of these negotiations. Kushner said, "I was just as surprised as everyone else. I don't know where that comes from", and claims that Bob Sheridan was "misquoted."

Tua is currently back in New Zealand determined to get his career back on track following his disappointing performance against Barrett. Kushner said - "I want to get David back into action. We have to work out a date and go from there". But, he was skeptical about the value of fighting Holyfield.

Should the fight go ahead at the speculated date of November 5, Holyfield will be 48 - 11 years older than Tua. However, despite his age Holyfield has remained active defeating South African boxer Francois Botha in April for the WBF heavyweight title. He now has the Klitscho brothers in his sights, and has even expressed interest in taking on David Haye for the WBA heavyweight championship.

When Tua got out-boxed and knocked down in the 12th round by Barrett, Bob Sheridan said what we were all thinking - "Are we seeing the end of the career of David Tua?" He did not box like a future world champion. He was frustrated and sloppy, and although he was battling a shoulder injury he did not perform with the conviction Tua is known for. He claims he is in the best shape of his life - his passion is revived, he's training hard, and he's in good physical condition. But, even if Tua upsets Holyfield, his promise of a title fight is likely to be against a much taller, much faster, much younger Vladamir Klitscho who has the most effective jab in heavyweight boxing since... Lennox Lewis.

There are currently conflicting stories surrounding the prospect of a Holyfield - Tua match-up, which is not unusual in the world of international fight promotion. Whether or not there has been any official discussion between the two camps is unclear, but the fact that the idea has even arisen suggests that it is a possibility.

Should the fight go ahead there will be a lot on the line for both men.  For Tua, it is his personal mission to have another shot at the world title - beating Holyfield will give him this opportunity. Losing to Holyfield will likely diminish Tua's hopes of ever competing at the top again. Holyfield is a man at the end of his career with an impressive legacy to uphold. He won't want to go out on a low and therefore, like Monte Barrett, will fight with the heart of a lion.

Two men with everything to fight for, and everything to lose. It may not be the safest path to glory for either either man, but who said boxing was supposed to be safe?

Credit to 3news.co.nz & stuff.co.nz for this story.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

NZ name suppression laws challenged

Cameron Slater looking confident outside the Auckland District Court today

Controversial blogger Cameron Slater (of whaleoil.gotcha.co.nz), is on trial today facing multiple charges of breaching name suppression orders.

Earlier in the year Mr Slater published suggestive images and encrypted posts on his site revealing the identities of suppressed defendants in high profile cases. Those identified include a former MP, a well known entertainer and a former Olympian.

Slater is known to be a staunch opponent of New Zealand's suppression laws and founded the anti-suppression group 'S.H.A.M.E' (Suppression Helps Abusers Make Excuses) with the purpose of making presentations to parliament to change our laws for more openness in our court system and advocating for better protection for victims.

The underlying consensus among anti-suppression supporters is that the New Zealand legal system favours offenders. Particularly when the offender is well-known with a reputation to uphold.

Not so long ago name suppression at any stage of a court proceeding was uncommon. The courts were more open to the media believing that they should operate in public and their activities should be freely reported on. Now, almost by habit, judges grant name suppression with little or no justification.

Perhaps the media have closed the doors on themselves by abusing the privilege in the past, or bringing the legal system into disrepute. But there is nothing defamatory about simply naming a defendant in a court case. It is only if they are found guilty of their crime that their name is tainted, and then it is only right for them to be held accountable for their actions.

Protecting defendants rights is a very kiwi 'PC' thing to do. We cling tightly to the notion of 'innocent until proven guilty' and celebrate the freedom of once convicted killer David Bain due to 'inconclusive' evidence.

However, the ones who deserve protection, and our patriotism are the victims of crime. Name suppression, whether automatic or requested, should not be withheld from victims. They are entitled to a normal life outside of the public eye. Cameron Slater proposes we "change the law to better tighten up protection for the victims".

It is convicted offenders that should be held liable for their crime. They do not deserve anonymity or to slip back into society like nothing ever happened. The retributive justice of crime is that the offender lives with the consequences of their actions, and it is the role of the courts to uphold this.

Cameron Slater will be defending his charges on the grounds that a blog is an online public forum. It is conversational, therefore the human right of freedom of speech applies.

As the issue of name suppression is blown out in the open it will be interesting to see where our justice systems' loyalties lie.

Credit to 3news.co.nz & stuff.co.nz for this story.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New liquor laws target youth

The government has unveiled its liquor law reform package with an obvious focus on youth drinking. Justice Minister Simon Power announced the plans this afternoon that cover - partially or completely - 126 of the 153 of the recommendations of the Law Commission's report on liquor laws.

Key changes include: (from stuff.co.nz)

  • A split alcohol purchase age of 18 for bars and 20 for off-licences.
  • Banning the sale of pre-mixed RTDs that have more than 5 per cent alcohol or that contain more than 1.5 standard drinks.
  • Making it an offence for anyone other than a parent or guardian to provide alcohol to an under-18-year-old without a parent's or guardian's consent.
  • Allowing the Minister of Justice to ban alcohol products which are particularly appealing to minors or particularly dangerous to health. This is expected to apply to things like milk-based alcohol drinks or alcoholic ice-blocks.
  • Allowing local communities to decide on their own "alcohol plan" with details about the concentration, location, and opening hours of alcohol outlets to be included.
  • Default national opening hours of 7am - 11pm for off-licences and 8am - 4am for bars and clubs. Local alcohol plans can over-ride the hours, however, with longer or shorter hours if they wish.
  • Changing the definition of "a grocery store" to make it very hard for a dairy to get a liquor licence. 

There is a clear and deliberate focus on the problem of youth drinking with the assumption that limiting alcohol access and appeal is going to change the drinking culture. Whether the Government is naive, or this is simply a public spectacle to make it seem as though they are being proactive, it fails to address the issue at the heart of the problem - New Zealand culture.

Limited access to alcohol has never been a problem for minors before and new legislation is unlikely to change this. In my opinion there are four main factors that influence youth culture the most and they are:
  • Money
  • Media
  • Consequences
  • Adults
All of which the government have failed to address in the new liquor law reform package.

The package makes no mention of the Law Commission's proposals to increase liquor tax, as was done for tobacco in April, but it does state that the Government will investigate a minimum price regime. A rise in the purchase price of alcohol is going to hit youth where it hurts the most - in the pocket. The appeal of 'cheap n nasty' alcohol could be solved by eliminating the 'cheap' factor. Green Party MP Sue Kledgey said, "While we support the steps the Government is proposing to take and will be voting for the legislation, we will be fighting tooth and nail to amend and strengthen it - particularly around advertising and price - to make it more comprehensive." The main issue with this, of course, is that it also affects responsible drinkers who are destined to become innocent victims in any instance of liquor reform.

Advertising and popular media representations of alcohol consumption are also decidedly influential in shaping the mindset and behavior of youth culture. Currently, mainstream advertising glorifies alcohol associating it with sex, excitement and rebellion - particularly those targeted at a youth demographic. In the same way that skinny, air-brushed models on magazine covers create self-esteem and self-image issues among females, alcohol advertising contributes to the thinking and behaviour of our youth. In order for this to change, alcohol advertising needs to be regulated and new standards need to be implemented to counteract the damage that has already been done.

Another issue that was left out of the package was a proposal for harsher and stricter penalties for drunk and disorderly behaviour. On-the-spot fines, curfews, bans from clubs, medical bills and community service are all serious consequences that will eventually deter irresponsible drinking. Some 70 percent of accident and emergency hospital admissions are alcohol related. If the patient, rather than the taxpayer, was to foot the bill, not only would we save over $1 billion a year, but we may just see a shift towards a more responsible drinking culture.

Perhaps the most discernible influence on youth culture is that of the ones who raised it - adults. They have escaped remarkably unscathed from this proposed liquor reform, but they have a lot to answer for. Culture is something that is passed down from generation to generation, it doesn't evolve overnight, so the insinuation that New Zealand's drinking culture is primarily a 'youth' issue is unjustified. Our youth learned how to drink from their parents, their guardians - the various adults of influence in their life, and more often than not it is these same adults that supply our youth with alcohol. Until the older generation alter their attitude towards alcohol, we can more or less consider our youth a lost cause.

I agree that youth culture needs to be fiercely targeted in regards to liquor reform. They are the future adults, leaders and people of influence in our society. However, in order for significant cultural change to occur we require more than flimsy legislation enforced by smacks on the hand. 'Alcohol Action' spokesman Professor Doug Sellman, who is a National Addiction Centre director, said New Zealand is facing an alcohol crisis, and he likens the current response to "treating cancer with a couple of aspirin".

It is promising that the Government is making moves to combat our nations alcohol problem. However, the liquor law reform package as it stands is inadequate and is in need of serious reevaluation. Youth are just as much a problem as they are the solution.

Credit to stuff.co.nz, nzherald.co.nz & 3news.co.nz for this story.
Related articles - Drink Driving - An Issue Of Conscience 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

First New Zealand arrest for child sex tourism

In New Zealand the subject of 'child sex tourism' is swept so far under the carpet to the point that we have almost convinced ourselves it doesn't even exist. But, now that this issue has been exposed on our own back doorstep we are forced to confront the harrowing possibility that it is not an isolated case.

A 46 year old man was arrested in Auckland today facing charges relating to a child sex tourism operation. The arrest is the result of an eight month investigation into the man's activities co-ordinated by the Police Online Child Exploitation Across New Zealand (OCEANZ) unit, a specialist team set up in 2009 as part of a global task force focused on online child sexual exploitation. The man, who has interim name suppression, appeared in the Manakau district court today charged with organising and promoting child sex tours to South East Asia, and dealing in children for sexual exploitation - the first charges of this kind in New Zealand.

Child sex tourism is part of a multi-billion dollar global sex tourism industry and victimizes approximately 2 million children worldwide (over twice the child population of New Zealand). It involves 'tourists' who travel from their own country to another to engage in commercial sex acts with children. The crime is commonly fueled by weak law enforcement, corruption, the Internet, ease of travel, and poverty. Prospective holidays makers target CST (Child Sex Tourism) 'hotspots' such as Thailand, Cambodia, India, Brazil, Mexico and Kenya, where the exploitation of children is made easy by turbulent politics, unstable economies and high illiteracy / unemployment rates. Children are often lured away from broken homes by 'recruiters' who promise them jobs in a city and are then forced into prostitution. Sometimes, in sheer desperation for money, families will prostitute or even sell their own children into the sex trade.

Note: This video contains disturbing themes and content.

Commercially facilitated child abuse is a global tragedy. However, if there wasn't a global demand for organised pedophilia the problem wouldn't exist.

Given the choice, it is fair to assume most children would not sell their bodies, their innocence and their livelihood for the sexual gratification of a stranger (Of course there are exceptions when children volunteer themselves as a last resort source of income). But, the child sex 'tourists' actively pursue opportunities to engage in the sexual abuse of children. They choose to participate. It is highly illegal, strictly policed and severely punished in most of the developed world where a majority of these 'tourists' come from. But, somehow they think it's acceptable, a part of culture; but most importantly, they think they can get away with it in other countries - and they are.

The 46 year old Auckland motel manager arrested for his involvement in this industry is only the first to be uncovered in New Zealand. He was arrested only shortly before he was due to leave the country for Thailand - the #1 international hotspot for child sex tourism - where he would have likely participated in or helped facilitate the sexual exploitation of children even further. To the credit of New Zealand law enforcement, they implemented a thorough eight month investigation to gather sufficient evidence on this man, which shows they are taking this issue seriously. However, it is unlikely this is an isolated incident.

Awareness is the most effective tool we have in the prevention of this criminal activity and I feel as though the New Zealand media have failed to capitalise on the opportunity. With summer approaching travel plans are set in motion so now is the best time to give this issue attention. Child Sex Tourism is a growing industry because holiday makers think they can get away with it, they think it's underground and out of sight from the rest of society. However, if the media step up and shed some light on this stigmatised issue it just might, at the very least, lead one potential 'tourist' to question their actions. Even if that's all increased awareness ever achieves - one less 'tourist' equals at least one less case of child sex abuse. It's a vast improvement on doing nothing.

Credit to nzherald.co.nz & stuff.co.nz for this story.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Aid Agencies reject NZ donation - "Too Hard" to organise food aid for Pakistan

New Zealand organic baby food exporter 'Green Monkey Organics' are frustrated that their donation of food aid to Pakistan has been rejected due to what aid agencies are calling a 'logistical' issue.

The company has just pulled out of the US market and instead of selling leftover stock cheaply they decided to divert hundreds of thousands of dollars of product to help the crisis in Pakistan. However, aid agencies here, and abroad, are unable to assist.

Business owner Charlotte Rebbeck has contacted the UN, Unicef, and Red Cross, but all have said it is simply "too hard" to organise.

Her US freight forwarder even offered to get the product there free of charge and clear customs, but no-one is prepared to help distribute the product or offer any further assistance.

Pakistan faces the greatest humanitarian crisis of the decade. So far, over 1, 600 people have died, 2 million have been forced from their homes, and over 14 million lives have been affected by the disaster. Aid is both 'not enough' and 'too slow' as the international community has barely pledged a quarter of the UN's $650 million appeal.

It bemuses me that in one breath aid agencies say they are not receiving enough aid, and in the next they can reject a donation of one hundred thousand small meals of non-perishable organic fruit and vegetables due to 'logistical' problems.

The people of Pakistan are dying. Children are starving and suffering from malnutrition and disease. 'Logistics' is hardly a valid excuse for denying these people the aid that is due to them.

Perhaps I'm being naive, but I can't imagine it would take more than a few phone calls to coordinate the delivery and distribution of this product to the people of Pakistan. Aid agencies insist the process is "too hard" to organise, but it raises the obvious question - are they trying hard enough?

Credit to 3news.co.nz for this story.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Drink Driving - An issue of 'Conscience'

'When it comes to drinking and driving, you don't need the conscience of a saint to know it's not a good idea. However, nothing is black and white in the world of politics.'

John Key announced today that the issue of lowering the drink driving limit in New Zealand is likely to come down to a conscience vote - "I imagine it would be a conscience vote, that's generally how we deal with drink-driving issues - and I know there's a wide range of views in our caucus" (3news.co.nz)

Labour MP Darren Hughes has drafted a Private Member's Bill to lower the adult blood alcohol limit from 80 (almost twice the limit of Australia) to 60 micrograms. If this bill goes before Parliament it will be up to individual MP's to decide which way to vote.

Hughes says the government is "dithering" and that there is considerable public support for change. In April a Research NZ poll of 500 people found 63 percent support lowering the adult blood-alcohol limit and a staggering 84 percent were in favour of a zero blood-alcohol limit for under 20s.


The question that really needs to be asked is - do we condone drunk drivers on our roads? 

Campbell Live recently conducted an experiment to find out how much you can drink and still legally drive. The results were frightening. Journalist Tristram Clayton and four volunteers chose a common 5 percent lager beer and began drinking at roughly the same pace. After two beers everyone is well below the limit. After four drinks, despite obvious signs of intoxication, everyone is still under the adult limit. Five beers and everyone is still legal despite one volunteer admitting she is "Really, really drunk". By six drinks the female volunteers are finally over the limit. However, one male volunteer downed twelve drinks and was still below the adult blood-alcohol limit. Granted, he was 116kgs. But, so are a number of adult males in New Zealand - (watch the video here).

What concerns me about this information is that it not only reinforces the fact that there are a high number of drunk drivers on our roads in New Zealand, but they are legally within their rights to be there. The current blood-alcohol limit allows not only drink drivers, but drunk drivers - the law is essentially condoning what our Police and Transport Agency spend millions of dollars each year to prevent.

Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with drinking. If the law was amended and the limit was dropped to 50 or 60 micrograms you could still go out after work, have a drink or two with friends and safely drive home. The new law is there to ensure that those who are impaired by their alcohol consumption after four or five drinks are not able to lawfully drive. The purpose is to decrease the number of inebriated drivers on our roads and, in turn, the number of road deaths with alcohol as a contributing factor.

So far, the government has refrained from making a decision in relation to lowering the blood-alcohol level as they want to see more research on the level of risk posed by drivers with a blood alcohol limit between 50 and 80 micrograms, and that a change would be effective in bringing down road deaths.

There's your research Mr. Key

Science and statistics should serve to reinforce the argument to lower the blood-alcohol level in New Zealand. However, this is not an issue of sufficient research. It is an issue of conscience. Whether or not our government has one is yet to be seen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spanish Bullfighting - Culture or Torture?

Anti bullfighting demonstrators in Madrid, 2009

Alan Clendenning published an interesting article on the contentious issue of bull-fighting in Spain (Read the article here at 3news.co.nz). Spain's leading opposition party have proposed to preserve the art of bullfighting as an important part of their nation's cultural heritage.

This follows a ban of bullfighting in the Spanish community of Catalonia when its regional parliament voted in favour of amending animal protection legislation to include the protection of bulls.

What is considered a historic victory for animal rights activists is understood as cultural treason by bullfighting supporters. Both sides raise valid arguments, but where do we draw the line between torture and tradition?

It is worth noting that unlike similar animal rights issues (Whaling in Japan, for instance) there is strong opposition to bullfighting from within Spanish culture. In March of this year thousands of anti-bullfighting demonstrators marched on Madrid condemning the practice as a form of torture.  It is reported that over 70 percent of the population in Madrid reject these acts of barbarism, describing it as a 'national shame', and the ban in Catalonia was supported by a petition signed by over 180, 000 voters.

Bullfighting is an important part of Spanish culture. Its origins date back to 711AD, and has since become the iconic entertainment of Spain, and a must-see tourist attraction. Approximately 24, 000 bulls are killed each year in front of an audience of 30 million. Outlawing this tradition is going to cost Spain thousands of jobs, millions of dollars, and of course, the ultimate sacrifice of its cultural heritage.

However, tradition is often sacrificed to serve the greater good. If the Romans were still slaughtering people in the Gladiator arena, would that be accepted as simply, 'a valuable part of their cultural heritage?' Somehow, I don't think so. If the locals of Mississippi, USA still burned alive innocent African Americans in a 'socially acceptable racist ritual', would we, today, turn a blind eye? I believe not. While human rights are generally more protected than animal rights, the severity of bullfighting compared with these historical examples is not the point I am trying to make. The point is - culture evolves. Historically, when people realise that something is wrong, something no longer works, or something violates the rights of a sentient being, people bring change to ensure this 'something' is resolved, repaired, or removed.

It is natural for some Spaniards to cling to their heritage. Cultural preservation is usually in a country's best interests. But, people are culture. When a high percentage of the population voice a disinterest or opposition to this ancient tradition this voice deserves to be heard, and the idea of change needs to be considered. It is, and should remain, a Spanish issue. Bullfighting is in their blood - but just how much more blood needs to be spilled?
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