Sunday, December 30, 2012

Whale Rider

NOT the stuff of movies...
In USA, Miami authorities are trying to find a man, let's be straight up about this...a bloody IDIOT photographed off the Florida coast riding on the back of a female sperm whale, an endangered species.
The marine mammal, which is distinguished from other types of whale by its enormous head, was found dead a few days later on a beach north of Miami. Authorities are investigating the causes of its death.
The sperm whale, 9m long and weighing 30 tonnes, was still alive when the as-yet-unidentified man was photographed sitting on its back. The pictures also show another swimmer trying to climb up on it.
Experts believe the whale could have been sick and dying as it swam, which may explain why it had come so close to land, and why the man was able to clamber onto its back. However the experts are not ruling out the possibility that the two men tormented it, raising its stress level to the point of contributing to its death.
US federal law bans tormenting marine mammals, as well as interfering with any animal in danger of extinction, alive or dead.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Defence Spending Going Down Hole #9

I spied this article recently - thought it may give you food for thought (have edited it for ease of reading)...
US golf course right beside
the Korean DMZ!!!
When American politicians talk about budget cuts, you just know its military will be under the spotlight.
I never agree with cuts that jeopardise the safety and effectiveness of troops at the sharp end, but lately there've been reports showing plenty of fat still to be sliced off the US defence budget. For example, 234 golf courses maintained by the US Dept of Defence around the world! Imagine the expense!
Unfortunately, the exact cost remains undisclosed by the Pentagon, but here's a general idea of how much the US spends on golf courses that are in some cases closed to the very taxpayers who fund them. The US Golf Association (USGA) says the average cost of maintaining a golf course was between $384K and $686K in 1998, the most recent year it had figures for. In 2008, golf consulting firm GolfMAK Inc. estimated annual course maintenance expenditures at between $500K and $1m, and that did not include food and drink, building maintenance, and staff and management fees. So a very conservative estimate is that the US Govt spends about $600,000pa managing each military golf course...a total of over US$140m every year!
Sure, the courses generate revenue through greens fees, but the courses routinely charge cut rates. With below-market revenue coming in, and outlays at full market rates, it's hard to imagine those courses turning much of a profit, if any...leaving USGA's claim that the military's golf courses receive "little to no federal funding" in serious doubt. Mind you, that entire $140m could easily qualify as "little" funding - because the Govt spends about $6.85m per minute, so $140m is less than 21 minutes' worth!
Even if the courses are breaking even or turning a profit, many sit on prime land that the govt could sell/lease for a profit, rather than maintain to charge below-market greens fees.
US artillery practice???
And the military even has valuable golfing properties overseas: three in Germany totalling $36.4m, another in Sth Korea worth $26m, and let's not forget Saudi Arabia and Kuwait among many others. Moreover, by being located on military bases, there're also security costs to consider, as well as the cost of maintaining the electrical lines, water services, and roads.
Golf may be an good morale-builder for the military, but with fiscal strangulation gripping America, this type of expenditure is indefensible. Instead, the good ol' US of A should focus on things its military actually needs to carry out its missions. How golfing really helps achieve this is beyond me...
[Click here for more on this subject...]

Friday, December 28, 2012

Maru Marooned?

+Wondering where the whalers are?
Sea Shepherd's Captain Paul Watson wrote this on Facebook yesterday...and sounded ever so slightly happy!
"I love it when a plan comes together!
The entire Japanese whaling fleet is still in Japan. The Nisshin Maru has some serious mechanical issues. Gee, I wonder what could have possibly gone wrong! We may never know, but what counts are results and this year the prospects are looking super good for the whales...
Operation Zero Tolerance is on target for zero kills. No whales killed in December and it now looks like there will be no possibility of whales dying in January...
This is my ninth Christmas in the Southern Ocean. Victories are not won without patience."
An eye on the prize
+Meanwhile, in response to recent reports of concern by Oz, NZ, the Netherlands and the US over potential conflicts in the Southern Ocean between SS and the nasty Nippons, SS has invited said concerned nations to have a representative aboard the SS ships, to witness first-hand any such 'incidents'.
These countries claim to oppose whaling in the Sthrn Ocean Whale Sanctuary - a sanctuary they themselves voted into existence - but none is actively protecting the sanctuary.
+With that in mind, the Australian Opposition has called on the Oz Govt to send a vessel to the Sthrn Ocean to monitor the annual whale hunt.
Environment spokesman Greg Hunt has written to PM Julia Gillard saying it's vital an Australian vessel be present in case of any clashes down there. I'd say it's a safe bet that nothing will be sent...

PS: 30 Dec.2012 - Let battle commence! The nasty Nippons are on their way!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I'd have liked to have been there, to witness this news event...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

*sigh* What Can I Say...?

From the land of kiwifruit and kowhai; barbeques and bloody good beer; sun, sea and surf; Santa on a skidoo; slappin' on sunblock before opening pressies out on the deck...
to all those celebrating on the other side of the globe, knee-deep in snow; shivering in traditional cold festive weather; chipping icicles off the sleigh; having the car battery drain flat again etc etc.
Sincere Season's Greetings from the Middle Of Middle-Earth!

Monday, December 24, 2012

As If This'll Help...

Four governments, including New Zealand's, have issued a warning to both the Sea Shepherd Society and the Japanese whalers to behave in the Southern Ocean this whaling season.
This statement was issued just days after a US appeals court issued an injunction, ordering Sea Shepherd and Paul Watson not to physically attack or endanger the whaling ships, and to remain at least 450m from them at all times. That order was sought by the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), which undertakes the Japanese govt's illegal commercial whale-killing programme through a loophole in International Whaling Commission rules that allows whales to be killed for research.
"Research" for sale...
In a joint statement, the NZ, Australian, US and Netherlands governments condemned "any actions that imperil human life at sea", calling for the masters of all vessels to ensure their crews' safety and follow international rules to avoid collisions: "We respect the right to peaceful protest, including on the high seas. We condemn dangerous or unlawful behaviour at sea by any party in the Southern Ocean or elsewhere," said the governments, warning that they were prepared to prosecute anyone engaging in unlawful behaviour.
Well, what a damn shame our government couldn't have grown a spine when the nasty Nippon whalers "engaged in unlawful behaviour" by deliberately steering right through the Ady Gil!!
The NZ Government says it is "resolutely opposed" to commercial whaling, including Japan's so-called scientific whaling. But of course we've yet to see Womble McCully and Co put their money where their respective gobs are, and exercise some naval vessels in the immediate vacinity of the whale sanctuary...
In the meantime, anyone who really thinks this joint statement - or indeed the injunction - will have ANY bearing whatsoever on the behaviour of either party to this impending battle, probably also believes that the Japanese ARE engaging ONLY in research! Riiiiight...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Well, WAS He?

St Matthew in the City in Auckland never fears controversy, esp. at Xmastime, when it erects its eagerly-awaited billboard.
In the past, its billboard images've attracted a lot of response from staunch elements of the community. This year, it depicts the baby Jesus in his crib surrounded by a halo of rainbow colours, and reads: "It's Christmas. It's time for Jesus to come out."
Rev.Glynn Cardy says the sign is about trying to lift the humanity of Jesus: "The fact is we don't know what his sexual orientation was." Cardy says homosexuality was not even a word until the C19th. Any mention of it would therefore have been a mistranslation. More importantly, he says, the billboard is meant to ask whether Jesus' desires in the bedroom would make a difference for those of faith: "Would it make a difference if he was gay? Would that change the picture for you? Would it mean what we revere about him changes?"
St Matthew in the City was one of the first churches to openly welcome the gay community, and has worked tirelessly to knock down society's sexual orientation barriers.
Its billboards have an international reputation. Last year its Facebook exposure reached over 21 million, brought 30K visits to St Matthew's website in a week and was featured internationally in blogs and internet news sites.
But the fringe elements are also attracted to the billboards - with destructive intent. Last year a poster portraying the Virgin Mary holding a pregnancy test was ripped in half in a protest.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

G'day, Cobber, It's The Queen Calling!

This week saw the end of a bizarre and disturbing incident that
Troubled soul?
spanned the globe.
Jacinda Saldanha, the Indian nurse who killed herself after being duped by a hoax phone call, was buried in India.
But IS this the end? With around 2000 mourners on-hand, and millions more voyeuristically following the story via internet news, this sad tale has grown much larger than itself. The incidents leading to it are being investigated by the London Metropolitan Police.
In a nutshell...2DayFM's Michael Christian and Mel Greig try their luck posing as the Queen and Prince Charles, placing a prank call to a private London hospital on December 7th. Jacinda answers the phone. They can't believe their luck, when she transfers them to the ward where Duchess Catherine is being treated for acute morning sickness. At that point, another nurse releases a few details. A few days later, Jacinda is found dead - she leaves three suicide notes, one criticising her employers.
Reports have claimed she felt under pressure from the hospital after the prank, and that she'd been in a separate "personal disagreement" with a colleague, which she felt had not been handled appropriately by management.
The hospital has defended itself, saying it offered her support. It stressed she had not been disciplined for transferring the call, which it called a "cruel trick".
*sob* We...never...thought...*sob*
EXACTLY! You never thought!!!!!!
Radio station 2DayFM suspended the DJs and announced it would be donating all the profits from its advertising to a fund set up to assist the Saldanha family. It even cancelled its Christmas party. The two hosts tearfully appeared on Ozzie TV current affairs shows, saying they'd never imagined their hoax would result in this.
Every old wireless man and his dog, from their own glory days, pontificated that of course THEY would never have done such a heinous thing! The UK media didn't buy into the tears at all, instead milking hard the 'sympathy-for-the-family' angle.
The Brit PM expressed sympathy and condolences to the Saldanha family in Parliament and a UK Labour MP called for a full inquiry.
Conversely, a Brit anti-royalist singer slammed the Royals, saying they didn't give a damn about Jacinda Saldanha's death.
Please excuse my shovelful of cynicism, but let's wipe away all the crocodile tears and take a closer look here.
(1) Unless 2DayFM controls every breath its DJs take (and I know from experience that no station can!), then the station is not to blame.
(2) Michael Christian and Mel Greig started this snowball rolling all by their own pin-brained selves, and thus... (more to come).
(3) Jacinda, who transferred the call, is not to blame for the original incident either, but... (yes, a proviso is coming).
(4) Nor is the nurse who released some info.
(5) The Royals' decision to have low-key security, instead of a bodyguard to screen every call, contributed to the info release...but was in no way to blame for the call in the first place.
(6) It also appears the hospital is not guilty, Your Honour.
So, this kangaroo court rules that:
(Proviso 1) ...Christian and Greig were responsible for the Ground Zero incident. Radio announcers are there to 'inform and entertain'. Had they gathered the juicy (*yawn*) details of the Royal morning vomit and delivered it as information, that may have been ok. Of no particular value, but maybe ok. But to make a hoax call over this particular subject was a waste of time and hardly entertainment.
(Proviso 2) ...Jacinda Saldanha was responsible for her own death. With three suicide notes written, she sure had some issues goin' on, one of which sounds unrelated to this fiasco. No-one pulls their own plug for simply saying "Putting you through now." That's taking job dedication to a whole new level!
Given half a chance, this story would have been just another Andy Warhol 15-minute wonder. Seems the demons inside Jacinda's head couldn't let this go...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Soundtrack For The End Of The World

According to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to end this Friday, December 21. Yeup, that's right: TOMORROW!
Which, if you believe it, is a real bummer - basically you slave for one last day at work and don’t even get rewarded with Christmas!
The Mayans reckoned the world would end or experience drastic changes on Dec.21, 2012 at 11:11 p.m. This is the end date of a 5,125-year long cycle.
Somewhat inconsiderately, the oh-so-wise Mayans didn't give us a heads-up on what's a-comin', and a lot of scientists around the world have been having a field day burning up research dollars on idle speculation. Some think there'll be a polar shift (north and south poles switching positions), the world burns up, a black hole, or perhaps an alien invasion will occur. Ok, so some words of advice:
In the event of a polar shift, avoid tidal waves. Stay in the middle of your country.
World burns up? Sorry, no-one can dodge THAT bullet, not even the Pope or ol' Harold Camping!
Black hole? Like the sinking sands of the Wild West movies, the harder you struggle the tougher it is to get out.
Aliens: unless you're Drew Barrymore, ET's punched your ticket.
So instead do a few limbering-up exercises...flex that body...bend over to touch your toes...spread those legs...head between 'em.... and kiss your arse goodbye!
Mind you, if the Mayans ARE right, at least we won't have to repay our Christmas credit card bills!
And if the global full-stop DOES happen, why not play us all out with a few appropriate hits? The world's musicmakers over the years have penned quite a few end-of-world scenarios (admittedly mainly post-nuke. I don't recall a major hit involving the Mayan calandar, though perhaps there was a chart-topper released in the Andes!). How about...
Prince - 1999 (from 1982); David Bowie - Five Years (1972); Nena - 99 Red Balloons (1983); Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around (2002); REM - It's The End Of The World As We Know It (1987)
Of course, if you DON'T believe in the Mayan Haymaker and/or you're reading this the day AFTER the "end of the world", then you can thoroughly look forward to an enjoyable Christmas...(with a slight sigh of relief perhaps?...)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sadly, No Real Surprise

Minke whale steaks have been found by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) society on sale commercially in Denmark.
The whale meat, sourced from Greenland, was discovered at a tourist shop in Copenhagen, thus putting Denmark in breach of European Union (EU) laws which ban EU member states from the killing and commercial sale of whales. The sale of these whale products in Denmark also contravenes International Whaling Commission (IWC) regulations and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
Ironically, this discovery comes just as Greenland threatens to impose its own quotas regarding the number of whales it'll hunt for 'local nutritional needs' in the coming year. Earlier in 2012, a separate WDC undercover investigation revealed Greenland had been "actively undermining" the IWC ban on commercial whaling, by selling whale meat to tourists visiting the country.
WDC's chief executive, Chris Butler-Stroud: "Denmark is an EU member and bound by EU law. This is clearly commercial whaling. Our investigation report shows this demand for more whale meat is driven by the commercial consumer market not by aboriginal needs."
Curiously, not EVERYONE is
happy with Denmark...
Last June, I wrote how Denmark - while holding the position of Presidency of the EU - opposed a EU pro-conservation position on whaling and, without consulting other EU members, applied for a whaling quota increase for Greenland. Its reasoning must surely include this latest commercial discovery. And back in 2010, NY Times reported Icelandic minced whale meat may be making its way into Danish pork. 
Denmark always takes a back-row seat in any discussions over Faroe Islands whaling: it continuously supports the islands' autonomy in virtually all issues, while maintaining the FIs are Danish citizens. FIs brutally massacre pilot whales on a regular basis, even though the whales are protected under the Bern Convention, which Denmark signed. Chapter 3, Article 6 of the Convention prohibits "all forms of deliberate capture and keeping and deliberate killing" as well as the "internal trade in these animals, alive or dead". As the Faroes are a territory of Denmark and the people are Danish citizens, Denmark is therefore in violation of the Bern Convention.
WDC has now presented its latest findings to the EU Commission. It is requesting the EU re-examine the legitimacy of allowing the export of whale products into the EU, and that all exports cease immediately until the IWC has granted an ASW ('aboriginal subsistence whaling') quota to Greenland.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

All Is Revealed

Having been otherwise occupied for the past weeks, I'm in serious 'catch-up' mode with global events... and more importantly, news about things that I'm personally interested in.
Like many, I'd been eagerly awaiting the unveiling of Sea Shepherd's latest vessel for its upcoming 'Zero Tolerance' anti-whaling Southern Ocean campaign. Well, after months of speculation and anticipation, the Sam Simon was wheeled out last week in Hobart, Tasmania...and ironically, she's been under the nasty Nippons' noses all along!
Her 56m hull painted bright white with a classic Sea Shepherd logo on her sides, and displaying a large S on her tall black smokestack, Sam Simon has clearly received several months of careful preparation.
Now, here's the irony: originally she was the Seifu Maru, built in 1993 to a high standard, with no expense spared by the Japanese Govt. The ice-strengthened vessel was run by the Maizuru Meteorogical Observatory, part of the Japan Meteorological Agency. She retired from service in 2010, and has been laid up in Shimonoseki, right beside the whaling fleet!
Sam Simon is the second SS vessel to have an association with whaling: Bob Barker was launched in 1950 as the Norwegian whaler Pol XIV. (Last week while in Wellington, I was escorted around BB to see first-hand the campaign prep...)
Earlier in the month SS issued a statement saying it would confront the whalers off the coast of Japan and apparently they believed it. Their Coast Guard mobilised and they went to a great deal of expense and effort to sneak quietly out of port. Of course SS had no intention of heading north at all: it was all part of 'the game'. They await them in the south, but long before they reach the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Meanwhile Steve Irwin (with escapee Capt.Paul Watson aboard) is 'somewhere at sea'...last Saturday Watson sent this:
"Posted 15 December 2012 - 07:16 AM
@SeaShepherd Update from @CaptPaulWatson- ReTweet RT
Finally the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru began moving today but is still in the Inland Sea of Japan and at least four weeks from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Sam Simon is giving tours to school children in Hobart, Tasmania. Bob Barker is conducting public tours in Wellington, NZ and Brigitte Bardot is hosting public tours in Auckland, NZ. Steve Irwin is at sea patiently waiting for the whalers to make their way towards us. This year's campaign is very much a waiting game, but the good news is that every day they delay in getting down to the Southern Ocean is a day that the whales need not fear their harpoons. The film crew on Steve Irwin filmed a pod of sperm whales and we have had numerous visits from dolphins and albatross."
This is certainly looking good for the whales. Not only are there four ships in SS's navy, but the whalers have left more than a month later than usual...

Monday, December 17, 2012