Pistols made of bones


Bruce Mahalski, an artist in New Zealand, created a set of sculptural "dueling pistols" out of bone. Bidding opens at NZD1500.

Two bone dueling pistols (with spare bullets) mounted in a custom altered case which has been counter-sunk into a specially made rimu table. All of the bones have been found locally by the artist. The head on the bottom gun is from a ferret and the top one is from a black-backed gull. Both have barrels made from cat’s vertebrae. This archival quality work by Wellington artist, Bruce Mahalski (with assistance from local jeweler, Vaune Mason) has not yet been exhibited and this is the first time it is being offered for sale.

Bone Pistol Set #1 Brand new item

New Zealand's spies illegally bugged Kim Dotcom, complicity may go all the way to the prime minister's office

New Zealand's foreign intelligence spy body, the Government Communications Security Bureau spied on Kim Dotcom at the behest of the US government, despite the fact that they are legally prohibited from conducting domestic surveillance. The NZ prime minister has ordered an inquiry, stating that the GCSB acted "unlawfully" in spying on Dotcom and his associates. Opposition leaders point out that only the PM's office could have authorized the spying, and suggest that the PM is saving face by ordering the inquiry now that the facts have come to light. More from TorrentFreak's enimgax:

Key says that he learned of the unlawful activity after speaking with the head of the GCSB last Monday and then took action to refer the issue to the Inspector-General, Hon Paul Neazor, who has the power to investigate matters related to the GCSB’s compliance with the law.

“I expect our intelligence agencies to operate always within the law. Their operations depend on public trust,” Key said.

“I look forward to the Inspector-General’s inquiry getting to the heart of what took place and what can be done about it. Because this is also a matter for the High Court in its consideration of the Megaupload litigation, I am unable to comment further,” Key added.

While the GCSB acting illegally is clearly an embarrassment for the government, Prime Minister Key now has some serious explaining to do. GCSB is a department that is responsible directly to him, a point not lost on Labour leader David Shearer.

“This is a shocking breach of New Zealand’s very strict laws restricting the ability of our spy agencies to snoop on people,” Shearer said in a statement this morning.

Government Spies Illegally Bugged Kim Dotcom, Prime Minister Admits

Joe Biden put a hit out on MegaUpload, and Chris Dodd put him up to it

Kim Dotcom, proprietor of the legally embroiled file-locker service MegaUpload, says that Joe Biden personally ordered the illegal raid on his business and his house in New Zealand. Biden's an old pal of Chris Dodd, the former senator who now runs the MPAA, and a TorrentFreak investigation shows that Biden met with Dodd and the execs from MPA Pacific-Asia, Sony Pictures, Universal, and Disney a shortly before the raid. Cory

Kiwi ISP offers "global mode" for circumventing regional blocks

Scorchio75 sez, "Having just moved to NZ from the UK, I'd love to be able to access BBC iPlayer, 4 on Demand, etc., but unless I cough-up for a VPN I'm out of luck. 'Fyx' have just launched in NZ and offer a 'Global Mode' that will allegedly allow their customers to access region-locked services such as iPlayer, 4oD, Hulu, etc. They don't guarantee that you'll be able to access these services (and couldn't the content providers block this?), but if it works..." Cory

Megaupload founder will likely never go to trial, says US judge

Remember earlier this year when the New Zealand government and the US government conspired to send a SWAT team to arrest Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload, shut down the service, make 220 people unemployed, seize Dotcom's assets, and deprive millions of users of access to their files? Well now a US judge says that the trial against Dotcom will probably never proceed, because the US government didn't ever formally charge Dotcom. This wasn't a mere oversight, either. They were not legally allowed to charge him. TorrentFreak reports:

“I frankly don’t know that we are ever going to have a trial in this matter,” Judge O’Grady said as reported by the NZ Herald.

Judge O’Grady informed the FBI that Megaupload was never served with criminal charges, which is a requirement to start the trial. The origin of this problem is not merely a matter of oversight. Megaupload’s lawyer Ira Rothken says that unlike people, companies can’t be served outside US jurisdiction.

“My understanding as to why they haven’t done that is because they can’t. We don’t believe Megaupload can be served in a criminal matter because it is not located within the jurisdiction of the United States,” Rothken says.

Megaupload’s lawyer adds that he doesn’t understand why the US authorities weren’t aware of this problem before. As a result Judge O’Grady noted that Megaupload is “kind of hanging out there.”

TorrentFreak followed up their coverage with a furious interview with Dotcom:

If Judge O’Grady is to be believed all this damage could very well have been for nothing because the authorities simply can’t serve foreign companies. This could lead one to wonder whether the whole setup was to simply destroy Mega’s businesses.

This is certainly a theory Dotcom subscribes to, and it’s not the only dirty trick Megaupload’s founder believes the US Government is playing. The US is structurally denying Megaupload the chance to put up a fair fight.

“We are refused access to the evidence that clears us, we are refused funds to pay our lawyers, we are refused to pick the lawyers we want to represent us and have any chance for a fair trial,” Dotcom says.

For Megaupload the worst part is that the damage can’t be undone. The site has been completely destroyed as well as the plans to become a publicly traded company.

“We have already been served a death sentence without trial and even if we are found ‘not guilty’ which we will, the damage can never be repaired,” Dotcom says.

Megaupload Trial May Never Happen, Judge Says

Yachting team uses staple-gun to fix up slashed sailor, completes race

Nat sez, "You're on a racing yacht, 650 miles from the finish line of the fifth leg of an around-the-world race. Your mast breaks, you send a team member up to cut free the sail. He slashes at the rigging but also himself, and blood drips down the mast. He comes down white with blood loss and with a massive wound. What do you do? 'After talking to our team doctor we decided to staple him together. We took out the staple gun and put five staples in him and now he's as good as new, I think.' Nope, that's not what I would have reached for either. I wonder whether the team doctor is also the ship's carpenter?"

Groupama completed leg 5 last night with 20 points for third place, ensuring they remain in contention for the overall prize.

The French boat leapfrogged leg 5 winners Puma into second place overall, 20 points behind Telefonica, who are facing a hearing into allegations they carried an extra sail on leg 4 into Auckland.

Yachting: NZ sailor aboard Groupama seriously injured

Here's the utterly inconsequential recording that resulted in NZ PM John Key ordering raids on the free press

Juha Saarinen sez,

2Johns2Cups by goldenturkey

New Zealand media were raided by police last November just before the general election, after the incumbent centre-right Prime Minister John Key made a criminal complaint over a recording of a conversation in a cafe between him and far right-wing politician John Banks during a staged media event. The country's biggest broadcasters and newspaper were raided by police, who requested unpublished material and sources for interviews as well as the recording itself. Radio New Zealand covered the "Teapot Tapes" scandal and was raided too even though it didn't have a copy of the recording.

The recording has now leaked out onto the Internet. It reveals little of consequence, but police are continuing the investigation and are seeking witnesses who were in the cafe at the time. Police are also warning people that disclosing private conversations unlawfully intercepted can be punished by up to two years' in jail. PM Key is aware the recording is now online, but has told National Business Review that he won't seek to remove it from YouTube and other sites.

Meanwhile, Bradley Ambrose, the cameraman who recorded the conversation - accidentally he says - has been issued with a NZ$14,000 demand for legal costs by the NZ government. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for up to two years. Ambrose had given a copy of the recording to the New Zealand Herald who in turn asked Key for permission to publish it. Before this week's Internet leak, the recording has never been made public.

Key's National party won the election.

(Thanks, Juha!)

Honeybees can smell TB


New Zealand biologists believe that honeybees can sense the faint floral odor on the breath of people infected with tuberculosis, and are trying to find a way to train bees to help them diagnose TB:

“When we tested them with the tuberculosis odours we found the bees can still smell it down to parts per billion,” says Max Suckling.

Christchurch zoologists are training bees to associate the smell of the disease with a sweet treat and to stick out their tongues when it's present.

Worldwide new TB infections occur at a rate of one per second. Right now it's diagnosed medically by expensive tests and with the disease being most common in poverty stricken areas, using bees instead could make a real difference.

Bees help in the battle against tuberculosis (Thanks, Gnat!)

(Image: Honeybee on Snakeroot, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from dendroica's photostream)

New Zealand Prime Minister sends police to raid major news outlets over covert recording of negotiations with far-right party

Juha writes,

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, is angry that a conversation between him and a rightwing candidate for Parliament was recorded by a cameraman - so angry that he's reported the matter to the police which is now going to raid TVNZ, Radio NZ, TV3 and another, unnamed media organisation.

Key set up a stage-managed meeting between him and John Banks from the rightwing ACT Party, with media in attendance. The meeting over a cup of tea was to discuss the candidate from Key's centre-right National Party folding in the wealthy electorate of Epsom, Auckland, in favour of Banks. National needs Banks to win Epsom, to form a coalition with ACT.

A cameraman was stopped from retrieving his microphone that he'd left on Key and Banks' table while media was allowed inside the cafe where the meeting took place, and says he recorded the "private" conversation inadvertently. The recording itself hasn't been published by anyone yet. Key and National has refused to give permission to publish the recording, but say it was "bland". In NZ, it's a crime to record other people without their knowledge.

I'm somewhat ambivalent about covert recording, but it seems clear that this isn't merely about investigating the act of recording, or punishing someone who broke the law. This feels like a campaign of intimidation against the institution of the press itself, whose subtext is, "Cover politics with kid gloves or we will make your lives hell." Meanwhile, Key has defended his use of police time by saying his government has done so much to eliminate crime that the police have spare time they can use to pursue his vendettas.

John Key defends resources used on tape investigation (Thanks, Juha!)

New Zealand Parliament may lose Internet access due to insane new copyright law

Juha sez, "The New Zealand Green Party says the country's Parliament could face fines and even have its Internet access disconnected, after it passed the draconian copyright law that comes into effect on August 11. Speaker of the House refused to comment on the law, and the Minister in charge of enacting it, Simon Power, claims to not have heard of Netflix or legal file sharing."
"Like Parliament, schools, libraries and universities run the risk of fines or disconnection. Unitec in Auckland has even said they might cease providing internet services for students due to possible copyright liability," said Mr Hughes.

"The Government has a responsibility to ensure that public institutions can navigate around the new law and not run the risk of fines or disconnection.

"By not providing information or advice and relying on InternetNZ, Internet Service Providers, and the media, Mr Power has left schools and universities in a legal grey area."

The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act was passed through Parliament under urgency earlier this year. Only the Green Party opposed the passage of the law.

This is the copyright law that NZ's cynical media lobbyists rushed through as part of the Christchurch earthquake emergency legislation, using victims of awful tragedy as human shields in their quest to have the ultimate say over who may and may not use the Internet.

Parliament at risk of fines (Thanks, Juha!)

Why New Zealand was dumb to let the USA write its copyright laws

Juha sez, "Christopher Wood has summarised the thirteen reasons why the punitive New Zealand copyright Act as per US orders is a bad idea."
1. Presumed guilty on accusation

Despite the revision committee trying to fudge the issue, this law does work via the presumption of guilt. If the accused party has had their 3 warnings and goes to the Copyright Tribunal, they have to give reasons why the warnings were invalid. But if the accused party is innocent, what reasons can they have, apart from "I didn't do it"?

Presumption of guilt is rife for abuse, as has happened overseas under similar laws. In the digital realm evidence is often very temporary, complex, and easily fabricated, so providing evidence of your innocence could be very difficult, depending on how much is required. Providing evidence of your guilt is almost as difficult, but why should that mean an advantage should be given to accusers? New Zealand intellectual property lawyer Rick Shera says the law is grossly unfair, out of place and unnecessary in this analysis: http://lawgeeknz.posterous.com/nzs-copyright-proposal-guilty-until-you-prove When a new law contradicts the Bill of Rights it better have an extremely good reason... and protecting the entertainment industry isn't one.

13 reasons why the Infringing File Sharing Act is bad for you by Christopher Wood (Thanks, Juha!)

Wikileaks: America will foot the bill for record company enforcement in NZ if NZ will let America write its laws

Michael Geist sez, "Wikileaks has just posted hundreds of cables from U.S. personnel in New Zealand that reveal regular government lobbying on copyright, offers to draft New Zealand three-strikes and you're out legislation, and a recommendation to spend over NZ$500,000 to fund a recording industry-backed IP enforcement initiative. For example, an April 2005 cable reveals the U.S. willingness to pay over NZ$500,000 (US$386,000) to fund a recording industry enforcement initiative. The project was backed by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) and the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS). Performance metrics include:"
The project's performance will be judged by specific milestones, including increases in the number of enforcement operations and seizures, with percentages or numerical targets re-set annually. The unit also will be measured by the number of reports it submits to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) on its contributions to IP protection and enforcement methodology.

The proposed budget included four salaried positions, legal costs for investigation and prosecution, and training programs. The RIANZ still runs an anti-piracy site, but does not include disclosure about the source of funding. It certainly raises the question of whether New Zealand is aware that local enforcement initiatives have been funded by the U.S. government

Wikileaks on New Zealand Copyright: US Funds IP Enforcement, Offers to Draft Legislation

NZ MP votes for anti-piracy law hours after tweeting about her love of pirated music


A reader writes, "In a beautiful twist of irony, New Zealand parliament member Melissa Lee has been caught in a copyright quagmire. It turns out that just hours before she spoke out in support of the controversial new copyright law being rushed through parliament, she tweeted how pleased she was with a compilation of K-Pop songs a friend copied for her."
Surprised by the call-out, Lee defended herself by saying that the songs were downloaded legally and paid for. But unfortunately for her that doesn't mean much. As the National Business Review points out, when a friend makes a copy of songs that were legally bought, the recipient of the 'gift' is still guilty of copyright infringement.

So it appears that Lee got her first strike already, and since the burden of proof is on the alleged infringer under the new legislation, it's up to her to prove that she's innocent. That's only fair, right?

Although it's easy to call Lee's mistake out as hypocrisy, it might be even worse than that. What if she truly believes that copying a legally bought song for a friend is okay? That would mean that even legislators who vote on copyright legislation don't fully grasp what they're doing.

Kiwi MP Called Out As Pirate After Passing Anti-Piracy Law

New Zealand's 3-strikes rule can go into effect in September

This week, New Zealand's Parliament rushed in its controversial 3-strikes Internet disconnection law, using emergency procedures invoked to help victims of the Christchurch earthquake for cover. The law allows whole families to be disconnected from the Internet if someone using their Internet connection is accused -- without proof -- of three acts of copyright infringement. The NZ government and press say that this draconian law only goes into effect if infringement doesn't decline over the next two years. But the reality is that 3-strikes can go into effect as early as September, based on consultation solely with rightsholders, with no need for public consultation.

Juha sez, "Disconnections under the new copyright law in New Zealand can in fact be activated any time after September 1 when the Act comes into force. This would happen if the notice-and-notice regime where rights holders can take infringers to the Copyright Tribunal is deemed not to be working. IP lawyers I've talked to expect the regime to fail due to the sheer volume of notices and cases, as per overseas experience. The Copyright Tribunal will be staffed by five IP lawyers. At this stage, we don't know if the government will allow public consultation and submissions, should it decide to activate the Internet Termination Penalty in the new law. It's not mentioned in the new Copyright Act. The review after two years is to see if mobile data connections should be subject to the new copyright act as well."

The majority of us recommend the new section 122PA, which would effect what we believe a workable compromise on this issue. The bill's provisions allowing for Internet suspension would be retained, with modifications, but would not be brought into effect immediately. If evidence indicated that notices alone (and the remedy through the Copyright Tribunal) were not having the desired deterrent effect, the suspension provisions could be activated by Order in Council. The majority of us believe this approach would create the right incentives, with the remedy of suspension able to be brought into effect if needed. We would expect an appropriate timetable for monitoring and review to be developed in consultation with rights holders. We note that a similar approach was recently adopted in the United Kingdom.
Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill 119-2 (2010), Government Bill (Thanks, Juha!)

New Zealand to sneak in Internet disconnection copyright law with Christchurch quake emergency legislation

The government of New Zealand is sneaking in its controversial "3-strikes" Internet disconnection law tonight as part of its emergency legislation dealing with the Christchurch earthquke. Bill 92A was passed once before and then rescinded after massive popular demonstrations, letter writing campaigns and outrage. It provided for the disconnection of entire families from the Internet after being accused -- without proof or due process -- of copyright infringement. The new law only comes into effect if copyright infringement somehow magically declines over the next two years (that is, if the Internet somehow gets worse at copying data). When it comes into effect, it means that the livelihoods, civic engagement, education, social mobility, political engagement, and other online activities will be subject to suspension without trial or evidence for anyone accused of copyright infringement.

Using the tragedy in Christchurch as a means to advance the corporate agenda of offshore entertainment giants is shameful, to say the least. It's hard to imagine the depravity at work in the mind of the big content lobbyist who decided that hitching a ride on emergency legislation to address the horrific consequences of the Christchurch quake was a good idea.

The House is currently in urgency to pass Christchurch earthquake recovery measures. But a spokesman for Simon Power, who sponsors the bill, confirmed other legislation would also be rushed through.

Green MP Gareth Hughes is opposed to any restriction of access to the web.

He was unaware the bill was coming up today and will move an amendment calling for the clause to be removed.

''It really surprised me because we haven't debated it since November,'' he said.

After a select committee heard overwhelming opposition to cutting off the internet the legislation was revised.

The penalty remains but can only be brought into force by the minister by an order in council.

The Government will oppose Hughes amendment, Power said.

Law to fight internet piracy rushed through