Thursday, September 9, 2010

Minor offenders to be let off with warnings

New Zealand police announced a new policy today, which means that minor offenders may be given warnings instead of being sent to court.

Police say the new policy will free up time to focus on serious offenders, and will reduce the court backlog by tens of thousands every year.

Project leader, Superintendent Bill Searle says, "This initiative enables police officers to spend less time on paperwork, less time appearing in court and more time out on the street preventing offences and focusing on more serious offending."

When an offender is arrested, if they are over the age of 17 and the offence carries less than six months' imprisonment, it is up to the discretion of a senior officer whether to press charges, or impose a warning, which will stay on their record.

The system has been on trial in Auckland for the past 10 months, where nearly 10% of offenders were let off with a warning. So far none of those warned have re-offended.

Police believe this warning system is a "significant deterrent." Supt. Bill Searle says, "We know from similar approaches overseas a large proportion of people who receive a pre-charge warning never re-offend."

However, some people think the police are going soft. Lawyer and former ACT MP Stephen Franks says, "We know that offenders tend to be gamblers. If there's a prospect they won't pay any price, the research is very clear there's more offending."

It has been common knowledge for sometime now that New Zealand police resources are spread thin. Policy or no policy the police are required to prioritise their time based on the seriousness of an offence.

The benefits of this policy for the police force are palpable. They will have more time and resources to do their job - prevent crime and road trauma, to enhance public safety and to maintain law and order. They will invest more energy in apprehending and convicting serious offenders.

There are also benefits for our legal system. Our courts are overrun with cases involving minor offenders. The warning policy will reduce the number of court appearances by tens of thousands each year providing more time for high priority cases.

Then there are the advantages for the taxpayer. Diverting tens of thousands of offenders from court cases and short prison sentences means a reduction in court and prison costs.

The main area of concern is whether a warning will serve as a serious deterrent for crime. There is also a potential for bias in leaving the decision of whether to press charges or issue a warning to the discretion of an individual police officer. The system may become a popular scapegoat for police to avoid paperwork and court time.

The new system rolls out nationwide, from this week. It is considered a controversial, but necessary move for police to free up valuable time and resources. Whether or not it serves the vision of safer communities together, only time will tell.

Credit to for this story.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Stephen Hawking: God did not create the universe

British physicist and mathematician Stephen Hawking has revealed that God was not needed for the creation of the universe.

Excerpts from his new book The Grand Design published in the British newspaper The Times on Thursday state that the 'Big Bang' was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics. Hawking explores the possibilities of a new theoretical framework known as 'M-theory' to explain the creation of our universe and its laws of nature. He says, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist."

While M-theory attempts to whittle creation down to the laws of physics, it doesn't account for what, or who designed these laws. Nor does it explain the origins of space, time and the physical matter required for the Big Bang. If the theory is backed up by experiment it may be a scientific breakthrough, but will likely do little to disprove the existence of a creator.

It reminds me of the story about a scientist who approaches God and says, "We no longer have any need for you. We can create new life from the dust and we have a theory for every scientific phenomena, now why don't you just leave us alone." God listened patiently and when the scientist finished he said, "Alright then, how about we have a man making competition to settle this once and for all." The scientist, excited at the opportunity to prove his point agreed and reached down to grab a handful of dirt. God quickly interrupted, "No, no, no... Get your own dirt."

It's obviously intended as a joke, but the point is that science can never achieve the creation of something from nothing. We can never return to a state of 'nothingness' to even try.

Stephen Hawking's new book is the latest in a string of bestsellers with the primary objective of debunking the existence of God and the relevance of religion. The publicity surrounding the release of these controversial excerpts from The Grand Design may be nothing more than a marketing strategy to cash in on the popularity of anti-God books in recent years.

Hawking is by no means the first scientist to declare that it is unnecessary to invoke a supernatural creator to explain the Universe. It's not original, it's not certain, and even if true it should do little to shake authentic faith.

Credit to & for this story. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Obama declares an end to the war in Iraq

 ‘Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.’
-- Barack Obama

Barack Obama's presidential address on Tuesday evening brought an official end to a war that has lasted over seven years. 

Speaking from the same desk that former President George W. Bush used to declare war on Iraq in 2003, Obama announced that "Now, it is time to turn the page".

Obama pledged an end to the war as a presidential candidate in 2008, and in February 2009 outlined a strategy for the responsible removal of combat brigades from Iraq by August 31, 2010. 

The US mission in Iraq has now switched from combat to assistance with over 100, 000 troops being removed and hundreds of military bases closed or transferred to Iraqi authorities. US military numbers have been cut back to 50, 000 with the main objective of assisting Iraq's security forces and supporting its government and people. These troops are scheduled to return home at the end of 2011.

Almost a trillion dollars have been spent, and over 4,400 US troops, and at least 100, 000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the 2003 invasion. A drastic sacrifice for a war fought on false pretenses, and with no plan.

The US invaded Iraq with the objective of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. This was achieved in 21 days of major combat operations after which George Bush said - "America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished." However, the US had not made plans to re-establish political stability and as fighting escalated, a previously oppressed people enjoyed the ruined infrastructure and existential insecurity of their 'liberation.' Seven years, thousands of deaths, and billions of dollars later, not even Barrack Obama could embellish his end to the conflict with the words - 'mission accomplished.'

Perhaps this is why the sentiment towards the end of the war in Iraq is so underwhelming, and why the media have seemed to avoid paying lip-service to an event of international and historical significance. There is no symbolic 'handshake', cheer, or round of applause from the international community. It is an eerie silence. The kind of introspective stillness you get when you can't believe that 'something just happened.'

Iraq is still in an extremely fragile state. They are struggling to form a government and deadly violence remains common. The US invasion sparked civil war and the repercussions of this political and social division provide an unstable foundation on which to attempt to build democracy. Obama encourages political leaders in Iraq to - "Form an inclusive government that is just, representative, and accountable to the Iraqi people. And when that government is in place, there should be no doubt, the Iraqi people will have a strong partner in the United States." - A feat much easier said than done.

While the US combat mission in Iraq is over, the real Operation Iraqi Freedom finally has the breathing space to begin.

Credit to and for this story. 
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