Monday, May 31, 2010

Curtain Down

After five decades of hard living, two Oscar nominations and a hundred films, US actor Dennis Hopper has died of prostate cancer at 74. Hopper's career – in such movies as Apocalypse Now, Easy Rider and Speed – was one of the longest in an industry notorious for chewing up its stars. His private life was at times as chaotic as the wild-eyed mad villains he specialised in portraying. He married five times - one of those lasting just eight days! He received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame last March.
...and on the eve of the launch of TVNZ's Heartland (revisiting classic old kiwi tv shows), one of New Zealand's best known actresses Dame Pat Evison OBE has died after a long illness at 85. She trained at London's Old Vic Theatre, returned to NZ to direct, before acting on stage, radio and TV in Oz and NZ. She is probably best known for her roles in the Australian TV series Prisoner and The Flying Doctors. She was in the landmark 1970s NZ drama Pukemanu, and the Close to Home series. Her film appearances included Grampire and Bad Blood.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Fix-It Faith

"If we've learned anything so far about the Gulf of Mexico, it's that it contains surprises. An operator needs to create the capability to respond to the unexpected." Prophetic words in 2005 from David Eyton, then vice president for BP's deepwater developments in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil companies "did somewhat underestimate the full nature of the challenges we were taking on in the deep waters of the gulf."
BP - Bloody Pathetic!
BP - Bloody Pathetic!
Still, he was optimistic that BP's risk management expertise and new technologies would play a "critical role" in allowing the company to triumph over nature’s daunting obstacles. As we now know, it did not turn out that way.
As BP struggles with the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, it's clear that the pressure to dig deeper and faster has outpaced the knowledge about how to do that safely.
Americans have long held a solid belief that technology will save them. A US survey in 1999 found 81% believed there would be a cure for cancer, 76% felt they would put men on Mars. And yet, as they watch this latest drama unfold, it's obvious their blind faith in technology is perhaps misplaced.
Indeed, think of all the planes grounded in northern Europe last month, after the Icelandic volcano eruption. Many passengers couldn't believe there was no 'fix-it'. There was widespread outrage over something completely out of Man's hands.
Sometimes the cavalry just doesn't make it in time...
( Elisabeth Rosenthal's full article in the NY Times.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Whale Watch: The Gloves Come Off

Its bluff has been called – Australia goes to the International Court of Justice in The Hague next week, to stop Japan's Southern Ocean whaling.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1986, with just a few native groups permitted to hunt whales for food. Norway and Iceland have since objected to the ban and continue to hunt whales, and of course Japan stretched the "scientific" loophole to this breakpoint.
Japan maintains its annual "scientific" hunts are permitted under international law and accuses Oz of political gameplaying. Although both countries call the legal battle a 'dispute between friends', Japan describes it as "extremely regrettable".
Meanwhile New Zealand – once the flagship of environmentally-concerned nations – has a problem with erectile dyfunction: our limp-dick government still says all avenues will be looked at before maybe... possibly... thinking about... standing strong with big brother Oz. Gee, the government must be using a vastly different roadmap to the majority of NZers – who think the avenues, roads and streets have all been revealed as dead-ends.
Last Thursday, kiwi Sea Shepherd campaigner Peter Bethune pleaded guilty in a Tokyo court to charges including trespassing and the destruction of property, after boarding a Japanese whaler in February to give its captain a $3 million bill for damages caused when it rammed and sank Ady Gil. Bethune faces up to 15 years in prison... yet our government has been conspicuous by its whimperings on this issue too: it continues "diplomatic dialogue".
W – T – F is the point, if nothing is achieved? Oh, that's right: NZ$3.6-billion of international trade: Nasty Nippon is our 4th.largest export market.
Silly could I forget?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What's Fishy About Whiskas Catfood?

Yum yum, mum, and what's for tomorrow: Penguin Platter?Recently the Whiskas catfood parent group Mars gleefully told Britain how committed they were to sustainability, saving the oceans, and other such buzzwords - so committed that they're working with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and - by the end of 2010 - the MSC logo will be adorning fishy-flavoured packs of Whiskas catfood, offering "consumers a choice of sustainable petfood products for the first time".
Wow! Cat lovers will be purring with joy at this development. So with eyebrow raised quizzically a la Mr.Spock, I note some new Whiskas products. Maybe the mood swing didn't filter through to Marketing: if it had, I doubt they’d think BLUEFIN TUNA-Flavoured Catfood was a very smart move!!
Yeup, a new flavour featuring a species synonymous with overfishing and imminent extinction, now available in a handy sachet! Made with genuine "natural bluefin tuna flavor (sic)"... whatever that is. And even offering a 'buy-one-get-one-free' endangered species! Seriously. Endangered species flavored (sic) petfood? What’s next: Roast Tiger flavour? Grilled Gorilla? Kebab Kiwi?
Thankfully the line was quickly removed, "due to public concerns". Just as well: wouldn’t want Tiddles getting a taste for something that may not be around in a few years...
PS: See also my posts of 1 May 2010 and 14 March 2010, regarding the near-extinction plight of the bluefin tuna.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gunners Day: Fire Mission Battery

Artillery badgeToday in New Zealand is Gunners Day: the 294th.anniversary of the formation of the first artillery unit.
On 26 May 1716, King George I formed the first regular artillery force in Britain. The Royal Regiment of Artillery (RA) marks 26 May as its birthday and celebrates it in true Gunner fashion. As a Commonwealth Artillery Regiment allied to the RA, the Royal New Zealand Artillery (RNZA) recognises their traditions as its own.
NZ Gunners have served with distinction and valour around the world in the true spirit of their motto. Traditionally, the places where units have served gallantly are given as 'Battle Honours'. In 1883, units of the Royal Artillery were given two distinct privileges, the first an official 'overall' motto: "Quo Fas et Gloria Ducunt". The traditional translation, "Whither Duty and Glory Lead", these days translates as “Where Duty And Glory Lead”. The second privilege, unique in the Armed Services, is the Battle Honour: "Ubique" (seen above the cannon on the badge) - "Everywhere". This symbolically links the Gunners with the Battle Honours of all major engagements they've fought in.
Dad in action, Korean War, April 1952 - he's the gunlayer sitting down...
Dad in action, Korean War:
April 1952 - he's the
gunlayer, sitting down...
I'm normally reminded of Gunners Day every year by an ex-Artillery colleague who invites me to the evening function at his local Papakura RSA. Ian Hitchener served in Vietnam, and I was with him in 1st.Locating Troop, 16th.Field Regt., RNZA. Sadly "Hitch" passed away in June 2009.
My father served with the RA in France during WWII and also with 161 Bty., 16 Fld.Regt., RNZA during the Korean War. We recently discovered a picture of his gun crew in action (April 1952): I proudly post it here to mark Gunners Day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Orca Refloated

A happy ending for Orca expert Ingrid Visser today, as she successfully rescued an orca she's studied for years.
The adult male orca had been beached for 2½ hours on Ruakaka Beach (30km south of Whangarei in Northland), and an anxious crowd watched as two other orcas, responding to his distress calls, surfed in waves perilously close to shore.
Miss Visser, familiar with the local orcas, knew the stranded mammal as Putita and the nearby orcas as Putita's mother Yin and his older brother Rua. She said it was not the first time Putita had stranded: he'd previously been rescued at Mangawhai. He may have been catching stingrays in the surf when he got into the shallow water and struck trouble.
The experienced whale watcher was very relieved: "I know all of these whales...they're my family. It doesn't get any better than this."
The total NZ orca population is quite small - less than 200. If you see orca anywhere around NZ, the Orca Research Trust would like to hear from you on 0800 SEE ORCA.

Monday, May 24, 2010

TVNZ: Tugging Heart-strings Or Purse-strings?

Television New Zealand launches its new channel on Sky's pay platform June 1st.
TVNZ Heartland will feature 100% local content - classic kiwi shows as well as more recent content. With 50 years of local tv being marked soon, TVNZ has heaps of content and Heartland will bring that to life again. Mind you, revisiting series like Close To Home for example may not necessarily be a good thing!
But when you cut through the spin about "giving NZers more opportunity to see themselves", this is being launched to create another TVNZ revenue stream. And God knows it needs all it can get, given the parent company of the TiVo technology it purchased lost 730,000 consumers this past year (that's a 22% drop!). With speculation TVNZ spent $19 million of our money for the rights, this no doubt helped TiVo's bottom line, whereas TVNZ has only managed to sell about 2,000 units. So it's no surprise that TVNZ is developing deals with Sky.
It's easy to criticise, but these days TVNZ struggles to stay relevant in the digital world, by spending heaps of taxpayers' cash on flash-in-the-pan acquisitions and partnership deals that go nowhere: Bebo, TVNZ Sports Extra, TelstraSaturnDTV...
Don't get me wrong - TVNZ does some great things...on television. Its news service is unbeatable, it has some excellent current affairs programmes, some even claim Shortland Street is good viewing (though I'll debate this 'til doomsday!). But perhaps it needs to decide exactly what it's doing digitally, and stick to it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rugby: Sorry Is So Hard

Why is "sorry" so hard to accept?
Earlier this month the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) officially apologised to players omitted from past All Black teams to tour South Africa… because of their maori ethnicity.
Back then, the desire to play against the Springboks over-rode the racist bigotry of its apartheid regime. This apology coincided with one from the South African Rugby Union, noting that apartheid also denied thousands of non-white South Africans the chance to represent their nation: a shared disgrace for both nations' rugby administrators of the time.
For good measure, the NZRU apologised for the 1981 Springbok Tour of NZ (that tour split the country and caused violent clashes between police and protesters), and vindicated those non-Maori rugby players whose consciences did not permit them to tour apartheid SA.
It would have been poor if this year's Maori Rugby centenary had passed without the NZRU saying sorry for bowing to SA back then, so one might think such a wide-ranging apology would comprehensively clear the air.
Unfortunately not. Now Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples has slammed the NZRU's maori members, for advising against this apology so as to avoid condemning past maori administrators.
But just how far back should any group or country have to make retrospective apologies for? And why should current NZRU members have to berate themselves in the public eye for 'sins of the past'?
It doesn't stop there: maori now want the NZRU to repeat its apology on marae around the country – particularly to families whose players were deprived of the rugby experience of a lifetime.
But wait: there's more! There're even mutterings that the NZRU should award retrospective test caps to slighted players, even posthumously. But hold on: there was no guarantee these men would have been selected for tests in SA!
If that's not enough, some even query if the 1928, 1949 and 1960 tours could be called "official" test matches, asking how they could be "representative" when significant segments of both populations were denied the chance of selection on racial grounds.
Then it gets really silly, with some calling the NZ Maori rugby team "racist" (maori only)… while others point to the bias of the NZ Silver Ferns women's team (no men), the NZ Universities team (only for students) and the NZ Deaf squad (aurally-impaired only).
Yardy yardy yardy. Enough is enough. Game over. Move on.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blanket Man: What's His Story?

Walking through Wellington's Cuba Mall, you may see a sinewy, dreadlocked, maori vagrant sitting on the kerb, wearing only a loincloth: Blanket Man is one of the city's most recognisable characters.
With only a blanket and an iPod, he does not beg or scavenge in rubbish bins, he does not roll his eyes in mute helplessness. He'll smile back if you smile at him. He'll greet you and accept your cigarettes.
His name is Ben Hana, and he's lived this way since 2001. He believes modern social pressures are damaging, and individuals are undervalued. Ben believes in the supremacy and healing power of nature, which is why he's often found sunning himself on traffic islands. He claims that wearing as few clothes as legally allowable is an act of religious observance. He believes no one should hold power, that power is the earth's alone, that all men are free to be free.
Ben is often regarded as the face of Wellington's homeless and yet, if being in Wikipedia is a measure of one's success, then Blanket Man is higher up the social ladder than many. He's been the subject of an academic case study, his image is on t-shirts, he's even attracted urban myths, such as that:
+...he's an esteemed psychology professor engaged in an extended social experiment.
+...he's the son of a reclusive Wellington millionaire.
+...he has enough money from social benefits but chooses to live rough.
Whatever the truth about Blanket Man, he adds colour to our capitol city. He reminds me of the theme of Arrested Development's 1992 hit, Mr.Wendal: its lyrics are worth thinking about...

PS: 16 June 2010 - Blanket Man's been all wrapped up: a court has ordered him into hospital as a mental health patient.
PS: 15 Jan.2012 - Blanket Man Ben Hana died today in Wellington Hospital, aged 54.
PS: 17 Jan.2012 - Wellington businessman offers to pay for Blanket Man's funeral.
PS: 19 Jan.2012 - Farewell to Ben Hana today...churr, Brother.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cell Phones: Guilty Or Not Guilty?

After ten years awaiting a study to prove a link between cell phone use and cancer... the answer is: it can't prove it. But it can't DISprove it either!blah, blah, blah, blah...
The problem: how the US$24m study was done. It was retrospective, asking about past cell phone use. "Recall bias" appears as people forget the time they spent on the phone. Also "participation bias" occurs because of the study's voluntary nature: some with brain tumours participated because they already believed the culprit was cell phones. This can warp estimations of how often they held the phone to the side of the head where their tumour appeared, rather than to the other. Awareness of media cancer coverage may distort things even more. But scientists still warn there's an "increased risk" of tumours from excessive cell phone are we any the wiser or just more confused?
A 2006 Danish study (420,000+ people over 20 years) found no mobile phone/cancer link. Yet the following year (2007) the International Journal of Cancer said regular cell phone users were nearly 40% more likely to develop brain tumours on the side of the head where they hold their phones. So now another study - about to start - will track 250,000 for the next 30 years, not retrospectively.
This seesawing mirrors the length of time before it was accepted that cigarettes DO cause cancer. In 30 years' time, if there IS a proven link between cell phones and cancer, it will be far too late.
For now, the onus is on users to decide if excessive use is worth the risk. I suggest, in this modern age, most users will not give it a second thought...
PS: 02 June 2011 - FINALLY! A study is pointing to a cancer risk in cellphones...
PS: 07 June 2012 - ...and now a study about the effects of cellphones on children's softer skulls...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Swine Flu Fever Returns

I see the scaremongerers are back – stating categorically that HALF the NZ population is still at risk of another outbreak of Swine Flu, and that 2010 could be nearly as deadly as last year!
Claims that 30% of the NZ population contracted Swine Flu/H1N1 last year are still being made…even though health statistics cannot differentiate between standard seasonal flu and Swine Flu: they only show the rise in reports.
While it was heartbreaking for those who lost family members to Swine Flu, it must be remembered that more people die here annually from normal winter ailments. There is also a lot of information globally, showing the Swine Flu inoculation delivering more ill-effects than H1N1 itself. Swine Flu did not become the global pandemic that so many panicked about...but the jab caused many illnesses and some deaths. The manufacturers made billions of dollars from that frenzy, a beat-up partly fueled by their own press and partly by scientists in the pay of those companies.
900,000 seasonal flu vaccinations have now been distributed throughout NZ to doctors' clinics but, if you normally have a flu jab and assume this year's one is just the usual anti-flu winter cocktail – think again. It's been revealed (in fact, advertised – as if this is a great selling point!!?) that this year's jab contains anti-Swine Flu components! 
Yet in December 2009, the British Medical Journal said the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza can not ward off pneumonia and other serious conditions linked to influenza. And in April 2010, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention found 99.6% of the seasonal H1N1 flu strains tested have developed resistance to Tamiflu.
So do some reading and consider which is the bigger risk: Swine Flu, which can largely be mitigated by standard personal health activities…or a jab linked to the deadly nerve disease, Gullain-Barre Syndrome. 
(...for more info, click here for all of my posts tagged "Swine Flu".)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mobiles Off While Meetings On

New Prime rules.
It's in the top drawer beside the, er, directive should be signed off by midday.One of David Cameron's first decrees as Brit PM was to ban the use of Blackberrys and mobiles in meetings.
Some say: quite right, meetings can't be interrupted by Googling, e-mails, texts, tweets, thumbs dancing across devices... you need focus. Does anyone read a newspaper during business meetings? No! So why is it seemingly acceptable to check e-mails? Or worse - receive a call, and have to leave the room to answer it? Does this sort of thing happen in your workplace meetings?
The other side maintains the 21st Century is the time of the multi-tasker. Surely one of the uses of surround-technology is to be able to do several things at once. And it's always nice to know that "if something happens", we can always be contacted, right?
One of technology's social impacts has been the blurring of the divide between work and life. As we answer e-mails in the evening and make work calls at weekends, it's no longer clear where work stops and life begins: that necessary work/life balance has tilted without serious objection. If meetings are to be protected from technological distractions, surely other parts of life should be just as sacrosanct.
Perhaps, after so many years of growing techno-intrusions into our lives, Cameron's decision is a sign that the tide may be starting to turn...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Quit Facebook" Day

Facebook members unite! And quit!
Following issues over users' privacy, a global Facebook exit is being urged for Monday May 31 2010. And momentum seems to be building: just last week, the phrase "how to quit Facebook" generated nearly 17 million Google results and "how do I delete my Facebook account?" close to 16 a one-day period! Granted, the 33 million search results do not mean all of those users will actually delete their Facebook accounts, but it indicates a lot of pissed-off people!
One of the major problems users had was new privacy settings: lengthy, confusing and many members made private information public unknowingly. Then there was the constant stream of notifications and puerile quiz results. Plus there have been tragic cases where women have gone to meet men they'd met on Facebook, only to be murdered.
There're many articles to help users delete their Facebook accounts. Of course, they need to know that, although deleting their account means they’ll never see that data again, Facebook can - and will continue to use it for data mining.
If you're going to quit Facebook, remember it takes two weeks to be fully deleted (note that 'delete' is different to 'deactivate'). If you log-in to your account within these 2 weeks (just to check you're actually deleted), the request to delete your account will be voided and you'll still be in the loop.
PS: 27 May 2010 - Facebook suddenly announces easier privacy settings! Sounds desperate to me!
PS: 30 May 2010 - ...and reviewers are saying: "Is that the best you've got for us?"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jessica Comes Home...

Aussie teen Jessica Watson sailed into Sydney and history this afternoon, ending her 7-month solo round-the-world voyage just three days before her 17th birthday. An estimated 100,000 lined the foreshore to welcome her home. Hundreds of boats were also on the water, flanking her yacht Ella's Pink Lady as it crossed the finish line at The Heads.
Watson began her 210-day trip amid controversy in October 2009. She had hoped to become the youngest person to ever sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world, but that’s unlikely after UK-based World Speed Sailing Racing Council said she had not sailed far enough north of the equator. It also said she would not be recognised as the youngest person to sail around the world… because it discontinued the category while she was out there! But Jess is unfazed: "If I haven't been sailing around the world, then it beats me what I've been doing out here all this time!"
Jessica sailed almost 23,000nm, crossing the equator twice and rounding Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. Her efforts may see her financially secure for life: already promises and contracts worth an estimated A$1 million await. And that may be just the start: a documentary is in production, a book - True Spirit - is on the way, and the movie rights bidding is still to come.
The Oz public is split on her achievement. Some talkback callers objected to spending taxpayers' money escorting her through the harbour. Others think the adulation is obscene. Some say it's wrong to cheer reckless pursuit of a selfish end, because it might encourage other young people to risk their lives unnecessarily. Most Australians however love a winner.
Put your money on Jessica Watson to be the next 'Young Australian of the Year'! [Meantime, relive her entire journey on her website and blog.]

Friday, May 14, 2010

Google Knows...

Google is now your 'Big Brother' - with all the 1984 connotations!
Google has collected personal internet data from NZ homes, including the names and unique numbers associated with residents' wireless networks...all without their knowledge or consent. How? By multi-tasking its Street View cars...
Street View involved cars travelling the world's streets with 3D cameras, capturing panoramic views to overlay with Google Maps. When that came on-stream, we all thought it was fab... and started googling images of friends' houses everywhere. So, on the one hand, the data is publicly available and being happily used but, on the other hand, consumers never dreamed their wireless points would be used for data snatching.
Google argues that, as the info is public, it's not breaking any laws but concedes the gathering "could have been better publicised". Privacy advocates want assurances that its use will not extend beyond Google Maps: after all, it's only the company's word as a guarantee it's not misusing the data. But despite ten governments (including NZ) requesting details, Google has not issued any explanation. Perhaps its PR department is still drafting a believable answer!
PS: 15 May 2010 - Google's answer..."Opps! Sorry."
PS: 07 June 2010 - "Sorry" isn't good enough! Australia launches a probe into Google's Street View.
PS: 12 July 2010 - Google found guilty by Oz of privacy breaches...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cannibal Joke Leaves Bad Taste

So where ARE the Ureweras?Today the Prime Minister made a joke about cannibals. So what? Well, the "what" is the PC-woozers and certain indigenous brethren getting their knickers and/or grass skirts in a proverbial knot. That's "what"!
For those offshore who haven't heard: PM John Key mentioned he'd had dinner with Ngati Porou tribal representatives. He quipped that if he'd had a meal with the Tuhoe tribe, then HE would have been on the menu. Ha-ha-ha. Well! The PC ponces took this to be a dig that members of Tuhoe were cannibals.
W – T – F ???!!! This was so obviously just a lighthearted reference to Tuhoe's current mood towards him - after he vetoed a planned settlement with the tribe, that would have given them the entire Te Urewera National Park.
Some say the joke was in poor taste (pun intended!). Others laugh at this latest maori melodrama, saying: "Get over yourselves!" It's a fact that maori WERE cannibals: the last-known cannibal act in the South Island was on Banks Peninsula in 1839, and I found reference to a North Island chow-down in Opotiki as recently as 1868!
Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi - there's no such thing as a free lunch, bro!But let's be clear: John Key was NOT taking a tilt at traditional Tuhoe tucker time. It was simply a reference to them being slightly pissed off with him, because the 2, of land they thought they had their hands on for free... had been snatched away. Tuhoe possibly covet the Ureweras for their pipe-dream of a separatist state, as they claim their ancestors never signed the Treaty of Waitangi (that oh-so-contentious piece of parchment at the root of so much unrest since it was unrolled in 1840).
So out of this 'storm in a PC teacup' comes...what? The relevation that some folk have no sense of humour..? The shock that John Key makes such awful jokes..? Or the realisation for maori that aligning themselves politically with National will not always be a meal ticket – cannibal or KFC.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ban Burqas?

The burqa is a piece of outer clothing covering a Muslim woman from head to foot, with only an opening for the eyes. Worn over indoor clothes when leaving the home, the principle is that it maintains personal modesty, as decreed by the Qur’an (Koran).
But the burqa is not specifically mentioned in the Qur’an, so some Muslim women feel the command is adhered to by just covering the hair with a scarf. Many associate the burqa with Afghanistan's Taliban regime: not wearing it there bore the possibility of punishment. Others feel no woman should have her clothing dictated by an oppressive male-led government. However, dressing modestly is a big part of Islamic law.
Some countries with large Muslim immigrant populations have tried to outlaw burqas, so it’s now a controversial political issue. Some advocate banning to free women, others see this as an attack on religious and personal rights. Wearing burqas was banned in French public schools in 2004. This was followed mid-2009 by the French president saying burqas were "not welcome" in France: "We cannot accept women as prisoners behind a screen, cut off from social life, deprived of identity". Jan.2010: France barred public services and public transport to burqa-wearers. April 2010: Belgium proposed banning clothing obscuring the identity of the wearer in public. The Netherlands wants a burqa ban, as do liberal Canadian Muslims... and last week, calls to ban burqas in Australia too. Those supporting bans say it's in the name of liberty and equality, that burqas are an affront to female dignity.
But is there more to this? Is it xenophobia? Paranoia? Victimisation? Couple these moves with the banning of new minaret construction on Swizz mosques (Nov.2009), and there's an air of wanting to restrict Islam in these countries: there have been moves in the past to ban it as a fundamentalist, draconian, outdated and dangerous religion.
But isn't that confusing moderate Islam, with the extremists who kill and bomb in the name of their wild interpretations of the Qur’an? Yes, the memories of 9/11 will forever demonise Islam, but in reality it should only demonise those carrying out the terrorist attacks. Islam is not the enemy: its radical variants are.
PS: Check out the excellent on-going blog of an American woman living in Saudi Arabia...who wears a burqa.
See also my blog of 22 April 2010.
PS: 23 June 2010 - Spain narrowly votes to ban burqa-wearing in public.
PS: 11 April 2011 - France's burqa ban came into force today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

CNN: Road Is Still Rocky

CNN's road to recovery: help, I'm lost!A year ago, I mentioned CNN was running a Road To Recovery segment, to highlight positive news and be motivating in the midst of recession (not that there was much positivism around at that stage!).
I revisited the segment this week, to see how CNN views the world today. As you can read in its logo, the feature's been re-positioned to be less of an optimism upper and more as a knowledge slot: "Whatever happens, you'll understand it better here". This time the headlines read:Going down...? Third floor: haberdashery...
Dow Jones plunges almost 1,000 points... Anger in Athens, Mad in Munich... Debt roulette: is Portugal next?... Sovereign debt fears pushes euro lower... Criminal probe of Goldman... BP must pay for spill... Toyota's rating cut... Time runs out for US fishing town... Spanish unemployment tops 20%... Europe's debt crisis knocks global markets...
Oh dear. A year on - has anything really changed?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Business Blunders On Our Behalf

NZ's recent trade mission to Saudi Arabia is being labelled a disaster!
A large business delegation went over to expand trade relationships: trade between the two countries was over NZ$2-billion last year... and hopes were high for substantial increases. The financial strength of the Saudis can never be underestimated: hell, they could nearly buy our whole country out of petty cash! Our delegation's imminent arrival was trumpeted in the Arab News last month... now read how it all went wrong...!
night view of the city of JeddahNZ delegates recall missed meetings and meals, late starts and embarrassing late arrivals at scheduled meetings with Arab business hosts, drivers getting lost, and poor organisation by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). It's been called an overly ambitious, logistical nightmare - one said it was "a cross between The Beverly Hillbillies and speed dating".
PM John Key failed to spearhead the delegation (although in fairness he did rush back to NZ after a helicopter crash killed three RNZAF servicemen on Anzac Day). Then Trade Minister Tim Groser (left in charge) lost his mother while heview of the city of Riyadh - see? They're not desert bunnies! was over there.
General opinion has described the plans as too big with too many events to cover in too short a time. Hindsight's a wonderful thing – but why were these cock-ups not spotted in advance? Whether there'll be another such opportunity in the near future is debatable, as it seems NZTE has made this country look quite inept. Why would Saudi Arabia want to increase trade with such blunderers?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Double Standards in the Knickers Drawer

A storm in a 38D cup in USA...over a plus-size lingerie commercial that Fox TV and ABC were reluctant to play!
Plus-size label Lane Bryant claims the channels agreed to air an ad for its new 'Cacique' lingerie line, then got cold feet. The company says ABC "restricted our airtime" and refused to air the ad during Dancing With the Stars, while Fox "demanded excessive re-edits three times before relenting to air it during the final ten minutes of American Idol, but only after we threatened to pull the schedule."
Bryant says the networks had a problem with the cleavage in the ad...
Hear what some US media are saying...
Lane Bryant suggests they have an unfair issue airing images of curvy women in lingerie, while they have no problem with Victoria's Secret's racy ads featuring much thinner models.
Sure, the voluptuous model (Ashley Graham) has a bigger bosom but, as far as raciness goes, it's no more shocking than anything else on TV. And quite frankly, she looks a damn sight better!
PS: 06 May 2010 – The people speak. Lane Bryant's ad is the No.1 most-watched viral video in the world this week: over 3-million views !

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bulletpoints on Tuesday May 4th.

Yahoo! logoIn a hot report Yahoo! and the Trade in Whale, Dolphin and Elephant Products, the non-profit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) says Yahoo! Japan is a major hub for internet trade in whale and dolphin meat, and elephant ivory products via its online shopping and auction websites...
Jessica Watson, Oz solo sailorJessica Watson aboard Ella's Pink Lady has made it around Tasmania on her solo global jaunt, and is now headed north on the final leg to Sydney for her triumphant homecoming (for more, check out her website and blog).Paul relation to Jessica
Japan's issued an arrest warrant for the leader of marine conservation group Sea Shepherd: it accuses Paul Watson of endangering the lives of whaling crews in the Antarctic. Japan is seeking Watson's arrest through Interpol on suspicion of assault and obstruction of business (Business? Hmmm, don't they maintain it's all "research"???)...
the real losers in the Amazon struggleA real-life Avatar situation is being played out in the Amazon, as exploitation of the rainforests threatens (and sometimes wipes out) whole tribes – some of which have never had contact with the Western world before..., this ain't working......and US Pres.Obama warns of an unprecedented environmental disaster, as the Gulf of Mexico oil slick hits delicate Louisiana wetlands and wildlife...and the accusations against BP gain volume.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nigerian Scams Via Text

Dearest friend and/or distant relative and/or etc:
I am de most venerable writer of dis here blog YardyYardyYardy. After searching my pockets, I discover a sum of $9.50. If I do not get dis money out urgently, it will be wasted on a lunch at de Golden Arches. I seek only your bank account details into which I will transfer des funds, as I know you be a personage of greatest honesty...
...and so on and so forth. Dat's de way day...opps...that's the way they go: the "seen-one-seen-'em-all" Nigerian email scam (yea, yea, not all scams originate in Nigeria; it's just a convenient blanket term). Once you understand these scams you can pick them a mile away, and yet new suckers pop up all the time. Scams succeed because, out of thousands of attempts and spam emails, if just one gullible person can be convinced, it all pays off.
Dat's right, $18-million just for you!I've received a couple over the last few years. Of course, once you open one to read it, you're likely to get more. So I occasionally post them here as a point-of-ridicule... and a warning to others. People need to educate themselves on these sorts of things. Well, be aware that your friendly international rip-off artists have begun trying scamming by text!
Now I don't wish to "big note" here, but I've added up all the money I've won or inherited or been bequeathed from Nigeria and my current total stands at NZ$4,122,713,764 – NZ$4.1-billion!!!
Quick, where're my bank account details...?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

“La Mattanza” - Traditional Tuna Massacre

For Sicilian gourmets, May and June are Tuna Heaven, but this tasty fish reaches their plates via a very brutal method...
From 29 May-3 June, the usually tranquil Egadi Islands west of Sicily, see an ancient massacre – la mattanza (happening since the 9th.century, and possibly originating in the Phoenician or Carthaginian era).
Schools of blue fin tuna pass through the Mediterranean annually to the Atlantic. These fish average 200kg+ but can reach an enormous 800kg. Local fishermen guide them via a series of nets into a final trap, where they wait in their boats, plunging spear-like weapons again and again into the frantic tuna. The sea boils with blood as dozens of tuna are captured. The bloodied water and thrashing fish create the impression of cruelty, and draws parallels with the Faroe Islands pilot whale massacres. And in Italian the term mattanza is a synonym for "massacre".
Tuna take at least 10 years to reach sexual maturity, so the species is vulnerable to overfishing. Yet the locals only take dozens each time... some for domestic consumption, the rest sold to the Japanese market – and therein lies the problem.
Tuna are known as 'floating goldmines': in Japan a single fish can fetch £20,000 / US$30,000! There's a huge demand owing to the booming trade in top-grade sushi, so industrial fishing now hammers the tuna schools long before they reach coastal areas. State-of-the-art fleets (known as purse-seiners, due to the shape of the nets trailing for miles behind them) operate in large packs, complete with spotter planes. Encircling a school of tuna (3000 at a time!) they draw the net into an oversized purse and tow it to just offshore. There, tuna are fattened in giant floating pens, increasing their weight by up to 25%, before being killed and flown on ice to Japan within 48 hours.
International rules set the total annual Mediterranean catch at 15,000 tonnes... but due to the purse-seiners' greed, it's more than double that – and many governments ignore the poaching. If these rules are not enforced, the tuna will be destroyed. Yet last March, the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) could not agree on a complete trade ban to let the fish recover. Japan, which consumes 80% of the species, vowed to ignore any ban anyway!
Again - as with whaling (and the consumption of exotic rare animal parts supposedly for virility) - Japan won't accept economic reality, world opinion or plain common sense. A hundred years ago, there were dozens of small traditional Sicilian tuna canneries: now only a few remain. Conservationists say traditional methods like la mattanza are sustainable but modern fishing is wiping out stocks: populations have fallen 85% since the industrial fishing era began. Just how long la mattanza and the bluefin tuna survive is debatable, as Japanese demand is insatiable.
Here's a link to an interesting CBS 60 Minutes programme on the subject: [The King Of Sushi in Trouble].
...meanwhile today (May 1st.), Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin sails to the Mediterranean to begin its 2010 Tuna Defence Campaign: Operation Blue Rage, aiming to stop a variety of criminal activities threatening the extinction of bluefin tuna.