The Romanov family - the clan that ran Russia until a century ago - has a website in which it keeps its fans up to date with all the latest news. Its members make it clear that, should the Russian people invite them, they are ready and willing to clamber back on their throne. But any Russian will tell you this is most unlikely given the country already has an absolute monarch.

I was not one of those expecting John Key, at the Apec summit, to have a quiet word in Vladimir Putin's ear about the fate of Pussy Riot, but perhaps he could talk some sense into commentators nearer home. More than one of these has been heard to say the trio deserved to go to jail because their protest violated the rights of those worshipping in the church where they made their anti-Putin stand. Whether the Russian president rests easier knowing Leighton Smith and Bob Jones have his back we may never know.

We do know that anyone wanting a precedent for Pussy Riot's actions needs look no further than Matthew 21:12 and the actions of the Good Lord Himself, who went famously berserk in Jerusalem's temple when he found moneychangers going about their business there. He did not pause to consider whether he was infringing the religious rights of those who were quietly trying to get on with their worship. He did what was right.

To say that because Pussy Riot did the crime they should do the time is to say that human rights abuses can be signed off if they are the law of the land. That is the first step on a path that ends with the Taleban and fatwas. This is indefensible in a country which prides itself on supporting freedom of expression.


SOME TIME IN the 1980s the real estate industry was changed forever when the real estate display ad was born. Hitherto houses had been sold by putting a photo in the real estate agent's window and a single-column ad (double if you had pretensions) in the classifieds. Total cost - next to nothing.

But in the 80s vendors were told they had to market their properties aggressively and expensively. Entire fortunes in publishing were born as specialist real estate publications came into being. None of this was necessary - 100 per cent of houses were sold before and after the change.

Now someone has come up with a new way of extracting money from real estate transactions. For a price nudging the business end of $20,000 a "buyers' agent" will do the buying for you. Proponents will say that the beauty of this is that it's the buyers who pay, whereas vendors do all the forking out on the other side of the sale.

Nice try.

All the money in a house sale comes from the buyer. Ultimately they are funding the ads, the agent's fees, the legal costs and now the price of the buyer's agent.

LIKE YOU, I had been worried that a delay in the asset sales programme might mean we would not get to watch TV commercials promoting the sales. After all, without television advertising, how would anyone know there were assets to be had?

Fortunately, Frank Aldridge, managing director of Craigs Investment Partners, has moved quickly to assure a nervous nation that his company's ads will continue even though at the moment there is nothing to sell. Who is paying for this absurdity? The investment company's investors, presumably.

It's hard to see this as the best way to maintain confidence in an industry whose image has been severely dented in recent years.