Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Never Whistle At A Whale

You may not have heard of marine biologist Nancy Black.
But in America, her harrassment by officialdom has reached leviathan proportions, with no end in sight...and no logic either!
The farce begins in 2005, when Black was out on the water in her whalewatching boat. One of her crew whistled at a humpback that had come near. Some stickybeak phoned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to ask if the whistling constituted harassment of a marine mammal, which is an environmental crime. NOAA requested a video of the episode, which Black supplied after editing it slightly to highlight the whistling. NOAA found no harassment - but instead charged her for editing the tape, calling this a "material false statement" (which breaks a Civil War law dating back to 1863)!
A year after this charge - that she supposedly lied about the interaction with the humpback that produced no charges - more than a dozen federal agents, led by one from NOAA, raided her home, taking away her scientific photos, business files and computers!
Nancy Black has also been charged with another crime: feeding killer whales. This time, she and two aides were in a dinghy observing orca feeding on strips of blubber torn from a dead grey whale. To help in photographing the orcas' feeding habits, she cut a hole in one of the floating slabs of blubber, and through the hole attached a rope to stabilise the slab while a camera on a pole recorded the whales' underwater eating. She's now charged with "feeding" the orca...which were already devouring the gray whale they'd killed!
NOAA agents have told Black’s scientific colleagues not to talk to her, and to inform them if they were contacted by her or her lawyers. Since then, she has not spoken with one of her best friends. To finance her legal bills she's had to cash in her life savings.
Meanwhile the govt has probably spent millions. It's even delivered a subpoena to her accountant, although no charge against her has anything to do with finances! Maybe it thinks if it buries Black under enough pressure, she'll roll over and plead guilty, just to get them off her back!
A most bizarre case, which has crippled Nancy's scientific career, cost her more than $100,000 in legal fees - so far - and might yet sentence her to 20 years in prison!
Lessons: beware of the whistleblowers among your friends, and never...EVER...whistle at a whale!

PS: 24 April 2013 -  Nine years later, Nancy Black gets probation!

Monday, July 30, 2012

We OWE Our War Vets!

Here's yet another chance to screw our war vets over!
Veterans who served in the Malayan Emergency 50 years ago say NZ soldiers exposed to a toxic insecticide should be compensated for their children's health problems.
A study has found the veterans' children had a higher incidence of genital deformities and breast cancer. NZ Malayan Veterans Assn sec. Hiro Hamilton says soldiers were ordered to smear DBP (or dibutylphthalate) on the seams of their clothes to stop ticks, leeches and other insects from attacking them. It had long been known that the chemical could lead to feminisation in male laboratory animals, but it wasn't known what effect it had on humans, because exposure to it had been rare.
But the study found exposure could mess with metabolic production or destruction of hormones in people. It found the risk of genital deformities in soldiers' sons was up to 8X higher than the rest of the population, and their daughters were more than 8X more likely to develop breast cancer.
The NZ Malayan Veterans Assn would be lobbying the govt, for compensation for soldiers who had children affected by the insecticide. But the shameful thing is, if NZ's track record is anything to go by, these vets are likely to get the cold shoulder! Look at how the NZ govt handled the case of ex-Viet Nam vet Sam Christie, or ignored the services of Nancy Wake (one of the most highly decorated Allied secret agents of WWII), or the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Kap'yong, or the ex-military who are suffering from the after-effects of Agent Orange, or the last of our Battle of Crete veterans wishing to pay their respects to their fallen comrades...
By the time NZ wakes up to the huge debt of gratitude we owe these veterans, they'll all be DEAD!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Israel's Countdown

Speculation grows that Israel may launch its long-anticipated preventive strike against Iran’s nuclear programme before November's US election.
The current sanctions have not persuaded Iran to stop enriching uranium (in fact, it's escalated its production), and as usual the UN Security Council is pissing in the wind.
Lately Israel's talk has intensified. Defence minister Ehud Barak says while he's well aware of the difficulties in thwarting Iran’s attempts, he believes that "dealing with the threat itself will be far more complicated, far more dangerous and far more costly in resources and human life." In other words, pay now - rather than pay much MORE later.
He also doesn't want any attack on Iran to be carried out by the good ol' US of A, believing any protection of Israel should be by Israel. But US wants the brakes put on until after its election, and certainly - if the scene must be played as per the Israeli script - Obama would like it written with US ink.
Mitt Romney, the other US presidential wannabee makes similar noises: "A clear line must be drawn with Iran: there must be a full suspension of any enrichment, period. And at every turn, Iran must know that the US and our allies stand as one in these critical objectives...If I become commander-in-chief, I will use every means necessary to protect ourselves and the region, and to prevent the worst from happening while there is still time."
But Romney has no experience in this deadly game, whereas Obama is well-blooded (literally). That's not to say Obama would do any better, but he does have more working knowledge.
Whoever calls the ultimate shots, from whatever country, faces a terrible dilemma. Attacking Iran may well remove an immediate threat, but will most certainly open multiple cans of worms. Are they prepared to pay the price that will surely be visited upon multiple countries?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Gimme Moore! Gimme Moore!

The cougar's hunting in our back yard.
Seems Demi Moore and NZ D-grade actor Martin Henderson are an item - at least for now.
There's a 12yr.age gap between them, but that appears to be all that's between them! They've been seen doing scandalous things like... *gasp* ...grocery-shopping, hiking, attending a bbq and having dinner. *shock*horror*probe* Onlookers even described Demi as being "flirty"! OMG!
Cynics (as they do) question the timing of this story, following recent reports that Moore is "devastated" over estranged husband Ashton Kutcher romancing his That '70s Show co-star Mila Kunis.
It's also been reported that Demi's three daughters are finding it difficult coping with mum, following her "emotional breakdown" after the marriage break-up. They're supposedly embarrassed by her infatuation with younger men. (Actually, ever wondered about the strange names given to her girls - Scout, Tallulah and Rumer? Well, their mother is from Roswell, after all! Just sayin'...)
Yeup, you've gotta wonder what's goin' on. Is this a 'get-back-at-Ashton' move for Demi? She sure could do with an image overhaul, but is a two-bit kiwi actor the answer? Henderson's career also needs a rocket up the bum! One Auckland talent scout described it politely as "ailing."
But really, Martin: Demi??? Is she even rated as an A-lister any Moore? When was the last time she had a hit - apart from slapping Ashton? She may have looked searing-hot back in the days of Ghost and A Few Good Men, but seriously now...
Marty may be screaming "Gimme Moore!"...but does he realise she's surgically enhanced???

Friday, July 27, 2012

Removing Rena's Remains

It's a dirty job - but someone's gotta do it.
That 'someone' is a US salvage company called Resolve, appointed by the owners of wrecked container ship Rena to break up and remove her bow.
Resolve will be responsible for reduction of the bow section, using helicopters to lift pieces away as they are cut out. McDermott Aviation's Bell 214B - 2950HP 'Heavy-Lifter' helicopter was used during container recovery operations, so may well be used again (it's the world's largest, most powerful single-engine helicopter, with max.lift capacity of up to 3000kg, and a hr endurance).
A spokesman warns there'll be difficulties because it is a very substantial bulk of steel, and putting divers and salvage personnel into a surf zone is very hazardous. He says there'll still be something left there because of the practicalities of the task, but they're investigating how those remnants could be removed.
Work will begin in the next two weeks: cutting the bow section down to 1m below the low tide mark is expected to take six months, depending on the weather. A spokesman for Rena's owners and insurers says the owners have spent $200 million on the clean-up so far - this next stage is set to add a further $50m.
Greece-based Rena owner Daina Shipping Co is being prosecuted by the Crown under the Resource Management Act, while two NZ legal firms have been preparing a class action lawsuit against the ship's owners which could end up being the country's biggest environmental claim.
Legal beagles have identified 150 claimants affected by the grounding - and more are expected to come out of the woodwork in the coming weeks (even though they've had over 8mths to put their hands out!). The claimants, all business owners, will be part of a joint lawsuit to bring proceedings against the shipping company.
Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef in October last year: the captain, Mauro Balomaga and navigational officer Leonil Relon are serving very light 7mth. prison terms (!!!), and are due for release towards the end of September...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Goat Man Cometh

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a goat!
Or rather, a man scurrying around on hands and knees in a goat suit among a herd of wild goats in the Utah mountains, USA.
Sir David Attenborough researches his next documentary
A hiker spotted the man dressed like a goat among a herd of real goats. He seemed to be acting like a goat while wearing a crudely-made costume, which had fake horns and a cloth mask with cut-out eye holes. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has examined some photographs, and said they did not appear to have been altered.
While he's doing nothing illegal, they'd like to talk to the goat-man to ensure he is aware of the dangers. Sixty permits will be issued for goat hunting season in that area, which starts in September. The worry is that Goat Man might be accidentally shot or could be attacked by a real goat.
Wildlife Resources believes he could just be an extreme wildlife enthusiast. A spokesman says: "People do some pretty out there things in the name of enjoying wildlife. There's a saying among biologists: you don't go far enough, you don't get the data. You go too far, you don't go home. The same is true with some wildlife enthusiasts."
Once the story was released to local media, wildlife officials received an anonymous call from an agitated man urging them to leave Goat Man alone: "He's done nothing wrong."
*sigh* Only in America...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

We're Baaaaaaaaaaaaaccckkk!!!

Yesterday's headline screamed:
'Iraq attacks raise specter (sic) of al-Qaeda’s return'.
The Washington Post: 'For Iraqis, bombings and shootings like those that killed more than 100 people on Monday have become a grim part of daily life following the departure of US troops last December. The question facing US officials is whether the mass killings, which have accelerated throughout the summer, represent a return to sectarian war or a resurgence of al-Qaeda.'
A retired US general was quoted as saying that al-Qaeda is returning and re-establishing networks: "Things in Iraq are definitely not fine."
But should the US still be overly concerned about "things in Iraq"? It is after all NOT the 51st state.
Yes, Team USA went in all hi-tech guns ablaze to push Iraq out of Kuwait, and again to remove Saddam Hussein (the oil resources had nothing to do with those decisions at all - no, no , NO!!!). It did a reasonable job...at first anyway. But ask most commentators, and a large number of Americans, and you'll hear that US (and its allies)
No! The bullets come out THIS end!
stayed far too long.
The White House stresses that Iraq’s army and police forces really DO "have the capacity to handle their own security". Then LET them do it. If after all the input of time, training and resources, Iraq still doesn't have a cohesive government or an effective counterterrorism force, surely it's now it's OWN problem. It's sink-or-swim time for Iraq's internal security.
As I wrote this, the fact that this was yesterday's headline was not lost on me. Yesterday's headline, yesterday's news...by all means, keep an eyeball on the country from a distance, in terms of terrorist attacks reaching out beyond its borders, but it's well past due date for US to put down Iraq and step away from Iraq.
After all, it's what Iraq has wanted for many many moons.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Working Too Hard?

Q: When is a kiwi NOT a kiwi?
A: When he works overseas too long, promoting NZ!
The percussionist of Wellington's progressive indie rock band The Phoenix Foundation - Will Ricketts - ain't welcome to be 'one of us'...even though he's lived here virtually his whole life.
Ricketts moved to NZ from UK with his family in 1981, when he was just two. Wind the clock forward a few decades, and he's co-writer, percussionist and keyboardist for The Phoenix Foundation...
The band took its name from a fictional organisation on the popular '80s tv show MacGyver, which may or may not be a claim to fame. LOL If the band's not familiar to you, its sound may be: it performed the score to the 2010 NZ film Boy. On its mantelpiece are also two gold albums and a NZ Music Award for Best Group.
In order to survive, The Phoenix Foundation regularly plays overseas, as far afield as Europe and the UK. But Internal Affairs says Ricketts' application for citizenship will be denied because he spends too much time out of the country. A spokesman says recommendations are made to the minister on set criteria, including that applicants had to have spent 240 days in NZ for each of the past five years.
Ironically, those overseas gigs were often with support from the NZ Music Commission to showcase Kiwi music to the world! Go figure.
It's shades of Richard O'Brien's case all over again! If there's one consolation, at least (after a lot of public noise) the Rocky Horror Show's creator eventually got his wish.
Perhaps there's hope for Will Ricketts yet...?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Railroading The Media

Some workers may say "good riddance"...
but Mediaworks will be wondering precisely where it can go to!
It's $11 million TV3/C4/Four premises on Eden Terrace is right in the way of Auckland's planned $2.8 billion Central Rail Link. Mediaworks recently got a letter from Auckland Transport (AT) saying the property had been identified as one that would be directly affected and may require purchase.
The building's on a steep site off New North Rd where AT has said it'll build its Newton Station, 42m underground. The station will allow more direct centre access, enabling cross-city travel without changing trains and providing a Britomart to Eden Terrace line.
Mercury Theatre: at risk?
Early days yet, but if Mediaworks' building is needed for the link, it'll be AT's largest owner/occupier purchase, said to be worth around $20m. Letters have been sent to many property owners on the planned route, rocking some to their cores. Even places like the historic Mercury Theatre may be at risk. But AT won't say which properties are being selected yet because negotiations are at early stages...
Meanwhile, back in the TV3 newroom, cheers broke out when the new rail route was announced. Many hate working in what they regard as outdated premises - from my visits there, I can confirm the 'rat hole' status of many parts of it, and access is cramped. There's no comparison to opposition TVNZ's grand inner-city Auckland home on Nelson Street.
This could however be a golden opportunity for Mediaworks to construct purpose-built studios, and treat its staff with the respect their professionalism deserves...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

From High Risk To High Wire

Apiata: operational security
was blown by NZ Herald...
Willie has handed his MP5 back to the quartermaster.
I was surprised at the news that our Victoria Cross recipient Cpl.Willie Apiata of the NZSAS has left the Green Machine.
I was also surprised at how quiet it all was. Willie had become almost a superhero, a staunch but modest VC winner in the style of legendary Charles Upham, a posterboy for the military...so I'd have expected a lot more hoohah. NZ has in the past made much more noise over much less. One commentator mused that he "can't see the NZRFU acting like this when Richie McCaw finally calls it a day" - yeup, that's a good illustration of 'much less'!
So why did Willie leave? Well, he's 39, been in the Defence Force for 23 years, 10 years in the elite SAS. He's recently married, so maybe he felt his priorities lay in other areas.
He'll work with youth charity High Wire Trust, an Auckland outdoor pursuits centre that helps at-risk young people. Prime Minister John Key says Willie would be a fantastic role model, but his departure is a great loss.
Kia kaha, Willie!
Certainly will be right now: the NZ Defence Force is hemorrhaging servicemen and women, morale is low, there's a pay freeze and the Govt is cost-cutting left right and centre. The rumour mill (as is often the case in a rushed exit) is hinting at deeper issues to Apiata's departure - which if untrue is very unfair to the Big Man.
At the very least, the Army should have given him some sort of hi-profile send-off where he could extol the virtues of a career as a soldier. One more PR 'bite of the cherry' for Brand Apiata.
Perhaps his retirement from active service was an inevitability. Since being awarded the VC in 2007, Apiata's been public property - not good for a man who needed to keep a low profile in his job. Once NZ Herald decided in its dubious wisdom to publish photos of him in combat "for the public good", he became too well-known for his own safety.
The fact that Willie's staying on as an SAS reserve shows he still loves the military. But with no post-combat role planned for him, no co-ordinated media de-brief, a messy press release, no worthy send-off, does the military still love him?
The way this entire business was handled raises some doubts...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Paul Henry In The Poo-Poo

Are we surprised?
Are we sad?
Are we just a little smug?
Paul Henry's OZ tv adventure is on ever shakier ground, with his Channel Ten Breakfast show attracting only a thousand viewers across the entire Great Southern Land on one day recently! It scored an average daily national audience of around 28,000 in recent weeks, with NO viewers at ALL in Perth on two occasions.
Sydney's Sunday Telegraph calls the show an unmitigated disaster, with producers and hosts desperate to leave. Tension between Henry and his co-hosts lead to the departure of presenter Andrew Rochford last month, and the show's executive producer. Henry himself makes no secret of problems on-set, but they don't seem to worry him: "It's so nice to get the entire Breakfast audience in one room at one time."
His abrasive flippant style hasn't changed since crossing The Ditch - on Bastille Day he couldn't resist telling his handful of viewers that he hated the French!
He seems happy to play the role of captain on the doomed Titanic, and doesn't seem to care less what people think. So is this simply a supreme confidence in his own abilities? A bullet-proof narcissism? Is he like the proverbial survivalist cockroach in a post-nuke scenario: when his show is destroyed and the people working on it gone, will he be the only one still standing, happily giggling puerily (as he does)? Or does he know something we don't?
In my headline, I used the word "poo-poo" deliberately. It's the sort of childish term Paul Henry oft employed in his days debasing NZ's tv screens. But the problems he faces on Australian breakfast tv require a far more adult approach to solve...

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Mt Eden Prison Riots

It was 2am on 20 July 1965.
An escape attempt was underway in Auckland's Mt.Eden maximum security prison...
the prison in Lauder Road is one of NZ's oldest prisons, dating back to the 1880s. An imposing, castle-like structure of basalt rock, it was based on English models and a belief that prison life should be unpleasant. By the 1960s, things had progressed from the floggings and dark cells of the previous century. But not at Mt Eden: prisoners still languished in solitary confinement with no access to hobbies or recreation. Recent clamp-downs on
conditions, along with problems of overcrowding, contributed to what happened next...
The two masked escapees were discovered by a warder who was clubbed to the ground. The men took two hostages, and started unlocking other cells. Chaos ensued as the liberated inmates lit fires and fuelled them with oil, furniture and their own personal effects. Firemen who arrived to quench the flames had to retreat under a barrage of bricks and other missiles (one of the rioters' ringleaders was 'Diamond' Jim Shepherd, later involved in the Mr Asia drug syndicate)...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Big Bang Theory

Thar she blows!
The 14-storey Radio Network building will be the first major structure in Christchurch to be demolished by implosion. The Worcester St building - once home to Newstalk ZB - is set to be demolished just after sunrise on Sunday August 5th. Radio Network House was badly damaged in the 6.3mag Feb.2011 EQ and engineers ruled it unsafe.
Imploding a building involves detonating explosives within its structural connections, so that the building collapses on itself within a few seconds. This'll be the first of its kind in Chch...though NOT, as TV3 and some papers wrongly reported, the first implosion in NZ. That honour goes to the felling of the twin 120m chimneys at Marsden Point Oil Refinery, Northland in 1997.
How it's done...
Until now, most Chch buildings have been demolished through deconstruction, allowing materials to be reused. They've been brought down slowly floor-by-floor, mainly because demolition contractors are working in confined city spaces.
The US company doing the deed, Controlled Demolition, already has 9000+ implosions under its belt, and holds records for such events as the world's largest structure by volume to be demolished by explosives; the world's tallest building and tallest structural steel building ever imploded; the most buildings shot in a single implosion sequence; the tallest manmade structure ever felled with explosives. So I'm pickin' it knows what it's doin'...
This potentially spectacular event will draw a huge crowd, many of whom no doubt camping overnight in the bitter cold to get a good vantage point. Safety fences will halt viewers about a block back.
Put it in your diary NOW - unless you suffer from PE, this could be the most memorable 7.7sec of your life!!
NZ's first building implosion: dawn, Sun., 05 Aug.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Was This In Tolkien's Original Manuscript?

Air New Zealand - never backward in coming forward - has signed a deal with New Line Cinema and MGM, that links it very nicely indeed thank you very much to the upcoming Hobbit movies.
Air NZ - which has dubbed itself "the official airline of Middle Earth" (a pleasant change to all the rugby gingoism) - will throw millions of marketing dollars behind Peter Jackson's two Hobbit films, to promote itself globally, including rolling out a couple of hippity-Hobbity aircraft.
There'll be two Hobbit-branded Boeing 777s as flying billboards on UK-USA routes, and a new safety video, adding to the carrier's existing set of quirky in-flight videos. This'll be supported by promotions and competitions via social media channels.
This is not greenfields territory for our national carrier: it had a similar deal with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, cashing in on the international fan base that came to see our awesome countryside which was the setting for Middle Earth.
JRR Tolkien's prequel to The Lord of the Rings - The Hobbit - has
A vulcan in disguise on Elf NZ
been adapted into two new films, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again. An Unexpected Journey is due for release this December.
Break out the elven hostess costumes! I just knew my Spock ears would get some more use at some stage...
PS: 16 July 2012 - ...meanwhile Peter Jackson is considering making The Hobbit into a trilogy!
PS: 24 Nov.2012 - The Hobbit jet is revealed!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

South Korean Backpedalling

Being offline for a few weeks, I've missed out on a lot of interesting news.
For example, South Korea announcing at the IWC (International Whaling Commission) in Panama that it would exploit a loophole in the whaling moratorium (just like Japan), and hunt minkes in the Sea of Japan. Korea did a similar "scientific" hunt of minke whales in 1986 which was found by IWC to yield no relevant scientific data (again, just like Japan's!!).
No sooner had the world strongly condemned this recent decision, then South Korea kicked the "scientific whaling" idea into touch, after getting a verbal taste of what might be in store from more
enlightened nations.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan is now side-stepping responsibility by saying the views expressed by his people in Panama weren't those of the government as a whole! Hmmm, either S.Korea was "testing the waters" at IWC and is backpedalling fast after overwhelming reaction, or it had loose cannons pushing their own agenda.
Shades of our own Sir Geoffrey Palmer methinx! You'll recall back in 2010 he told the world that NZ wanted US nuke ships back in its harbours. Say what??!! He also said he supported a resumption in commercial whaling!
Once a country's official representative gives his own opinion, it's perceived - rightly or wrongly - as the official stance of that country. The risks are so self-evident that one has to question the intent of the representative. The onus must be on the government to only select representatives who will faithfully adhere to policy, and fight the good fight on our behalf - not theirs. If they stray into personal agendas, they should be immediately recalled and dismissed. Foreign policy must be a no-second-chances field.
South Korea's "people in Panama" may yet be grateful they hail from a more civilised nation than, say, China... there, if they digressed from the party line, they may well never be seen again!
By the way, anyone seen Sir Geoffrey lately?