Thursday, January 31, 2013

Starvation Nation Invites Families For Dinner

A famine in at least two North Korean farming regions has killed up to 10,000 people and there're fears of rising cannibalism! One starving man has been executed after murdering his two children for food.
This is just one of many horrendous stories, as locals battle starvation after severe droughts, and food shortages were compounded by party officials confiscating food.
"There's NO poverty! Just look
at tonight's dinner party menu!"
Democratic People's Republic of Korea leader and fat boy Kim Jong Un has recently spent vast sums of money on two rocket launches, despite reports of desperate food shortages and thousands of famine deaths.
Undercover reporters say one man dug up his grandchild's corpse and ate it. Another, boiled his own child for food. One informant said: "In my village a man killed his own two children and tried to eat them. He was executed by a firing squad." The informant said the father killed his eldest daughter while his wife was away on business, and then killed his son because he had witnessed the murder. When his wife returned, the man told her they had 'meat' but she became suspicious and contacted officials who discovered part of the children's bodies.
There're reports that food has been confiscated from the farmers and given to the residents of the capital Pyongyang. UN officials visited the area during a state-sponsored trip but it's unlikely they were shown the famine-hit areas.
It's not the first time reports of cannibalism have come out of DPRK. In May last year, the South Korean state-run Korean Institute for National Unification said one man was executed after eating part of a colleague and then trying to sell the remains as mutton. One man killed and ate a girl, and a third report of cannibalism was recorded from 2011.Another man was executed last May after murdering 11 people and selling the bodies as pork. There were also reports of cannibalism in the country's vast network of prison camps.
DPRK was hit by a terrible famine between 1994 and1998 - known as the "Arduous March" - which killed between 240K and 3.5million people.
Yet Fat Boy is still talking about another wasteful missile launch...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Slash And Burn At NZ Post

New Zealand Post may be soon slashing its services back to just three days a week...and WE get the blame!
In a new proposal released yesterday by Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams, NZ Post wants "greater flexibility" in its postal services. This could also mean some of NZ Post's 880 outlets may end up as just self-service kiosks.
It's all down to a severe decline in mail demand: "During the last 10 years mail volumes have dropped considerably, with 265 million fewer items being posted each year compared to 2002. Within five years, mail volumes are forecast to be nearly half what they were in 2002," says Adams.
In order to cope with its plummeting fortunes, NZ Post wants to make changes to the Universal Service Obligations it's bound by. This would include reducing the number of days mail is delivered to a minimum of three days a week and bringing in self-service kiosks.
Adams: "Any change would require Govt approval and...the public (will have) the opportunity to comment on the proposals. I will look to balance the interests of postal users with the need to ensure a financially-viable postal service." NZ Post's core postal service lost $11.17m in the last financial year.
[Last year NZ Post (a state-owned enterprise) requested to change the deed of understanding it signed with the Crown in 1998. The current deed has a minimum six days per week delivery to 95% of addresses, five days pw delivery to 99.88% of addresses and 1-4 days pw delivery to other 0.12% of addresses. NZ Post wants that changed to not less than three days pw delivery to 99.88% of addresses and one day pw delivery to other 0.12% of delivery points.] 
I suggest if NZ Post wants more public support, it actually fulfills its current targets! Paying for FastPost (supposedly for next-day delivery), then being told they can't actually GUARANTEE that, and -  surprise! - having that same FastPost delivery take a week to travel 50km, does not auger well for customer satisfaction or support.
Little wonder many now only use emails!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Hurry Up And Die

One of Japan's most senior MPs has insulted tens of millions of voters by suggesting the elderly are an unnecessary drain!
Taro Aso, finance minister and former PM, said the elderly should be allowed to "hurry up and die" to relieve pressure on the state to pay for their medical care!
Taro Asshole-san
Aso's comments have caused offence in Japan, where almost a quarter of the 128 million population is aged over 60. That'll hit 40% over the next 50yrs...the 72yr.old is already in that number.
To compound the insult, he referred to elderly patients no longer able to feed themselves as "tube people".And this ain't the first time Aso has questioned Japan's duty towards its elderly. In 2008, while PM, he described "doddering" pensioners as tax burdens who should take better care of their health : "Why should I have to pay for people who just eat and drink and make no effort?"
He angered the country's doctors by telling them they lacked common sense, made a joke about Alzheimer's patients, and pronounced "penniless young men" unfit for marriage. In 2001, he said he wanted Japan to become the kind of successful country in which "the richest Jews would want to live". He once likened an opposition party to the Nazis, praised Japan's colonial rule in Taiwan and, as foreign minister, told US diplomats they would never be trusted in Middle East peace negotiations because they have "blue eyes and blonde hair".
While figures show a record 2.14m Japanese on welfare (Oct.2012), Aso has led a life of privilege few of his compatriots could match. He's the grandson of an influential postwar PM, is married to the daughter of another former premier, and has ties to the Japanese royals.
While campaigning for the premiership in 2008, Aso denied that his family's coal mine, Aso Mining, forced 300 Allied POWs into work in 1945 without pay. In addition, 10,000 Korean conscripts worked in the mine between 1939-45 under severe, brutal conditions in which many of them died or were injured while receiving little pay.
Hmmm...methinx Aso is pronounced like "asshole"!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Reflecting On Christchurch Demolition

With so many empty walls exposed by human or natural destruction, the Christchurch CBD is a veritable blank canvas for many artists.
The "Gap Filler" Artists' Collective has livened many a demolition site with short-term art. Now, another Christchurch artist - Mike Hewson - has been driven up the wall...
He's created a reflection of the old Government Life building on Gloucester Street. If you stand at the corner of Gloucester Street and Oxford Terrace, right by the traffic lights there, his work on the building wall in front neatly lines up as a reflection of the Govt Life building behind...even though it is painted on a surface that's not flat!
Hewson had an art studio in the Govt Life building for many years, but was never able to see that side of the building before the EQs, so for him it's a new perspective. Thanx for your creative juices, Mike!
Both buildings will be demolished in the next six months or so.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Final Frontier For Free?

Beginning next year, the Space Expedition Corporation will offer daily commercial flights into space on its two-seater Lynx reusable spaceplane.
Customers will get to view the planet from over 100km up. For US$95K, the plane - which can operate from normal airports - offers people the chance to become astronauts. So far, 200 tickets have been sold.
However, if you feel the price is a little out of your budget, Lynx is launching a competition to give one lucky person an opportunity to go where few have gone before. The company is offering the chance to win an ultimate out-of-this-world experience: a trip to space. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the 2nd man ever to set foot on the moon, and deodorant brand Lynx, have launched a competition, with the first prize a once-in-a-lifetime chance to blast into orbit, on the Lynx SXC (Space Expedition Corporation) space shuttle's inaugural launch in 2014.
Top-voted candidates will qualify for the Lynx Space Academy challenge weekend, held this Northern summer, where they'll face physical and mental NASA-style tests. The four strongest candidates will then be flown to Orlando, Florida, to experience what it's really like to be an astronaut in the final series of challenges.
One lucky winner will secure their place to go to space in 2014!!! (Check out the promo below...)
The Lynx rocketplane is a suborbital horizontal-takeoff, horizontal-landing rocket-powered spaceplane developed by California-based XCOR to compete in the emerging suborbital space flight market. The Lynx will carry a pilot, a ticketed passenger (maybe you?), and/or a payload or small satellites above 100km altitude, on flights of 30-45min.duration. Those aboard will experience up to 3min.of weightlessness.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The 'Luminarias': Outdated Cruelty?

Happy horse??? Methinx NOT!!!
Every year on 17th Jan., the righteous people of San Bartolome de Pinares in Spain celebrate St.Anthony the Abbott, patron saint of domestic animals.
They don't don their best bib and tucker, head to church and pray. Instead, they ride their horses, donkeys and mules through piles of burning branches! As you do.
This hamlet has a population of 627 but its numbers swell as riders descend upon it to take part in what is known as the 'Luminarias'. This traditional festival dating back 500 years is supposed to purify the animals with the smoke of bonfires. Yes, the horses are actually riden through the flames as well as the smoke. It is believed to protect them against illnesses for the year to come.
The men and women of San Bartolome de Pinares gather all the branches they find in the days leading up to the festivities, and when dusk falls on the eve of Saint Anthony's, they set them ablaze. Riders lead their mounts through the burning piles, accompanied by the sounds of drums and Spanish bagpipes.
Animal rights activists don't buy the whole purification deal, but in a country like Spain, where barbaric traditions like bullfighting and Toro Jubilo still persist, they don't have high hopes of putting an end to it. Plus, the owners say their animals remain unharmed by the flames... riiiiiggghhhttt!!!
With St Anthony being one of the patron saints of animals, I can't
The REAL motivation...
somehow imagine the sainted gentleman seeing any spiritual merit in subjecting horses to this fearful ritual.
Perhaps in the Middle Ages, the 'smoke purification' idea may have had some validity, smoking any mites and ticks off the horses - who knows? But in the modern world, there surely must be a way to modify the tradition so horses are perhaps blessed by a priest, without being abused like this..?

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Secret To Happiness

Your local newspaper may carry a wee story about - say - Mrs Cecilia Snagglebothom, who lives in the local rest home and has just turned 100.
"What's your secret to happiness, Cecilia?" asks an eager young journalist. And Cecilia may cite a litre of sherry every evening, loving grand-children...anything relevant that she feels may have prolonged her life.
You will never hear a centenarian say: "Well, deary, my century of happiness is all due to Facebook!"
Real people do NOT spend every waking moment on Facebook. And those who DO live vicariously are now suffering from the latest modern malady: social media envy.
Yeup, it's a real thing! German researchers report that Facebook can create negative feelings in envious users - especially over holiday pix!
Researchers from two German universities found that looking at Facebook may cause you to see green. "Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users' Life Satisfaction?" is based on a survey of 600 people in Germany. The study says one in three people feel less satisfied with their lives after browsing Facebook. People who don't post at all, but still read about their friends' lives, fare the worst.
The No.1 culprit of Facebook envy? Friends sharing vacation and travel photos. The second most common cause of upset is social interaction, which includes birthday greetings, and likes and comments on photos and posts. Other things that bring out the green-eyed monster: family happiness (which is most resented by people in their mid-30s) and physical attractiveness (which tends to bug women).
Will the real people please stand up?
The study also found people react to these feelings of jealousy by posting about achievements. Wow. People trying to make themselves look better on Facebook? No shit, Sherlock!
When blowing their own horns, men are more likely to brag about their accomplishments while women raved about their looks and social lives.
The good news: there IS a solution. If you wish to avoid social media envy in your life, simply switch off Facebook. Talk to REAL people. Maybe even read about the life of Mrs Cecilia Snagglebothom? It'd be more REAL than those of the 5,327 'friends' on Facebook...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Harawira Tries It On

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira is trying to force the door open for a return to the Maori Party.
This follows Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia's decision to step down at the next election. She's urged co-leader Pita Sharples to do the same, but he refuses. And so the cat-fight begins...with Te Ururoa Flavell ready to challenge Sharples for leadership.
Flavell fights...
Back into the political limelight steps ol' Hone Bro, who's barely been heard from in months. Shame the peace has been shattered: he says he'll consider a Prodigal Son return to the Maori Party, BUT ONLY AS ITS LEADER!!! And as if that's not enough, there'd be other conditions attached too!! One would be no more kissing National's butt...well, sorry to disillusion you, HH, but that's the only reason the Maori Party is actually IN Parliament! Sharples may also have to go: "Pita needs to signal his willingness to work with me to heal the wounds of the past."
Hone Bro: dreamer?
Harawira says he's been approached by various elders to come back because of divisions among the leadership: "It's nice to be wanted but being the leader right now is like being the captain of the Titanic just before it smacks into the iceberg." The Bro makes the astonishing claim that the Maori Party's membership had fallen from 24,000 when he was in it to just 600 today. OBVIOUSLY the membership has missed him SOOOOO much! Riiiight! Watch this space...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Greedy Bird Catches Te Worm?

The word from te marae is that Te Bro Nation is negotiating with the govt for a slice of hundreds of millions of dollars' of radio spectrum.
Back in Nov.2012, maori claimants planned to reactivate a 2009 Waitangi Tribunal for a portion of the country's "digital dividend" spectrum, but that was put on hold. Instead, in behind closed doors they go, closeted with the National govt.
Communications Minister Amy Adams won't confirm these talks are actually taking place but says that the govt has engaged with a number of parties, including Maori spectrum claimants, over the past few years. Proposals regarding the spectrum are currently before Cabinet and announcements will follow in due course.
Successive govts have rejected the bro suggestion that radio spectrum is "taonga". After all, radio was not even  invented when Rangi was roaming Noo Zild in grass skirt, wiping out moa and moriori. And anyway, what precisely IS taonga? Well, I'm glad you asked. Wikipedia (the font of all highly accurate information... ahem...) says that a taonga in maori culture is a treasured thing, whether tangible or intangible. Tangible examples are all sorts of heirlooms and artefacts, land, fisheries, natural resources such as geothermal springs and access to natural resources. Intangible examples may include language, spiritual beliefs and...wait for it! frequencies! (One must of course remember that Wikipedia info can be supplied by ANYone with ANY vested interest of ANY sort, and thus should be treated with a certain amount of caution).
Part of the current problem is that back in 2000, the then Labour govt set a precedent by giving iwi cash and the right to purchase some 3G spectrum at a discount. Gee. Great. Thanks for that.
The govt had originally hoped to allocate licences for the radio spectrum by the end of last year. However, it's yet to announce the spectrum allocation rules. The spectrum will be used by telcos to support 4G mobile networks. Vodafone NZ has said the deployment of 4G could be delayed if the spectrum isn't allocated by April.
And now...drumroll!'s the rub: the spectrum will be worth at least several hundred million dollars, if it sold for the per capita going rate established by similar auctions overseas.
So just to clarify once and for all, the bro negotiations are not in any way to protect's to greedily grab a slice of the pie that should be for all NZers, regardless of skin colour or ethnicity. If Te Bro Nation wants its own piece of the pie, it can bid for it like all other major players, using dosh from its Te Tiriti slush-fund.
Let's not dress this up as any sort of taonga protection, puh-leez!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rare Whales And Green Pals In Strife

+ A rare beaked whale calf that stranded and then refloated at Omaui (in Southland) last weekend after an all-night community effort to save it, was shot Sunday afternoon.
It had beached again and was deemed to be suffering too much to survive a second rescue attempt.
Department of Conservation (DOC) Southland area manager Andy Roberts said it would have been cruel to wait until the next high tide to try to refloat the whale calf again. He said the calf appeared to have been attacked by a shark and might have come close to shore to find safety - a second whale nearly beached on Saturday afternoon. Roberts speculated the second whale might have been the calf's mother.
The 8m whale calf was believed to be a beaked whale Arnoux sub-species, which was relatively rare. It had not been determined if it was male or female because it was difficult to do so without an internal autopsy.
Unlike the recent sperm whale stranding at Paraparaumu, the carcass will be left on the beach where it stranded the second time. It is in an inaccessible place, and nature would be able to take its course.
 + And yesterday afternoon, a second beaked whale was euthanised by DOC after beaching itself at Sandy Point in Southland.It's highly likely the whale was from the same family pod.
+ ...meanwhile the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior III has cancelled its visit to Southland amid difficulties over negotiations to use the Lyttelton dry-dock for maintenance.
GP cancelled next week's visit to Stewart Island and Bluff, because of maintenance it needs before visiting the Sub-Antarctic Islands. The group has said the preferred port for the work would be Lyttelton, but it has not been confirmed the ship can use the dry dock there.
Negotiations over using the dry dock have been complicated by GP's blockade of the port in March 2008. Activists on Rainbow Warrior II prevented the ship Hellenic Sea, carrying 60,000 tonnes of coal, from leaving port on March 25, 2008.
The Port of Lyttelton confirmed it was in talks with GP over using the port, but would not comment further.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Macca's Food Fluffs

Just saw a tv ad for a major food outlet.
Did a double-take.
Thought #1: "You gotta be kidding!"
It was for a Mexican Whopper: a sort of bizarre taco/burger hybrid, with the usual Mex salsa etc...but with crunchy nachos stuffed in as well!
Thought #2: "No way!That'll never fly!"
Thought #3: "Wonder what other food faux pas the various major international food chains have made?" Well, according to's has made quite a few!
All around the world, McD's food experts come up with new tastes. Some are big hits - the Angus beef burger was one of the most successful new products in the chain's history and is now a permanent menu item. Macca's both in NZ and Oz also offers lamb burgers, and Oz will trial a fish-and-chips burger for Australia Day in February.
But a McVegie burger with a chickpea patty failed to take off. CEO Catriona Noble: "People always ask: 'Why don't you have a vegetarian product?' Well, we just don't sell enough. In our type of business, when you don't sell enough, you can't maintain quality. I'd love to have a vegetarian burger but we've got to find one that's not just for vegetarians."
Failures are part of Macca's history. To help sales on Fridays (when Catholics supposedly don't eat meat), McDee's founder Ray Kroc proposed a Hula burger, featuring pineapple and cheese on a bun. It failed, but another franchisee's idea, the Filet-O-Fish, became a resounding success. Here's a quick Macca's crash-and-burn list:
Actually, I've had a falafel-filled McD's in Egypt - it was not the best...!
[...thanx to]

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tubular Bells

Construction of Christchurch's cardboard cathedral is rollin' on after the Xmas break.
Anglican Rev.Craig Dixon says the six-storey A-frame is drawing a lot of attention: "I think people are impressed with the size of the structure in terms of its height. People are very interested in it."
The project is about 3mths behind schedule, and the Anglican Church is $1m short but, with the help of public donations, construction is in full swing: "We've put the concrete pad down and some of the structural steel up. Now there's something on site, people are getting an idea of what it's going to be like."
The temporary cathedral will be about the same size as the nave of the old cathedral in the square, with enough seating for 700. It's being built with dozens of cardboard tubes made from recycled paper. Its Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has made temporary paper structures in Kobe, Turkey, China and Haiti, but his work on the Christchurch cathedral is different. Dixon: "This one is being built as a permanent structure, so it will last 50 years plus." He expects the cathedral will make a significant contribution towards rebuilding the city: "It's going to help the economy. It's also going to give the city somewhere to go for special civic services and special events."
Around 320 of the 120kg tubes, measuring 83cm in diameter and up to 22 metres long, will complete the cathedral - that's about 2km in total! They're remarkably strong yet have the flexibility to make them EQ-resistant. A polycarbonate roof will go over the top of the tubes once they're installed.
Dixon says the cathedral is on schedule for completion in very early April - far more realistic than the Xmas 2012 target, which was overly-optimistically stated early last year.
The new structure is rolling out on the cnr of Hereford and Madras Sts. Christchurch, site of the destroyed St. John's Church at Latimer Square, two blocks to the east of Cathedral Square.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Snakes On A Plane

Samuel L Jackson can stand down.
WTF???!!! (1)
This was not a scene from a Hollywood blockbuster: this was real.
Passengers on a recent Qantas flight from Cairns (Oz) to Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) looked out the window...and saw a 3m python clinging to the wing! But unlike in Snakes on a Plane (that oh-so- forgettable C-grade 2006 movie), there was no danger to anyone.
A passenger saw the snake flapping in the slipstream and raised the alarm. The snake's tail was whipped against the plane, creating a blood trail (part of which in pic 2 looks like a tear in the plane's fuselage). Altitude, freezing temperatures and the high speed of the aircraft all took their toll: the python was dead on arrival.
WTF???!!! (2)
Qantas assures us hitchhiking snakes are not an everyday occurrence: "We've never heard of this happening before. The python must have taken refuge on the exterior of the aircraft at Cairns Airport overnight before take-off.''
Quarantine officials in Port Moresby identified it as an amethystine python. These occur in an area directly opposite Cairns airport and probably also in the mangroves that surround it. Reaching 8.5m, they're Aussie's largest snake.
If this stowaway had been that size, maybe Mr Jackson would have been required after all!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sperm In The Surf

A sperm whale washed up on Paraparaumu Beach, north of Wgtn, was buried yesterday.
The 15m, 40-tonne whale was believed to be a older adult male that had died of natural causes before it washed up on the beach in front of the Kapiti Boating Club on Wednesday morning.
A large crowd of onlookers gathered on the beach to touch and have photographs taken with the creature, before the carcass was cordoned off for health reasons. The Conservation Department later moved the whale using diggers. It was buried in a public-excluded site south of the beach near Queen Elizabeth Park for health reasons, because the body would soon start to decompose...on a public site there was a risk dogs would attempt to dig up the carcass.
Local maori took the jaw bone using knives, saws and hooks before the whale was buried: the jaw removal took some time and caused anger among some onlookers.
Museum of NZ's marine mammal collection manager Anton van Helden believed the whale was an older adult male: "There is considerable wear on the teeth and a lot of white scarring on the skin. It probably died of suffocation due to being stranded, but what caused it to come in is another question. They may suffer the same old age conditions as we do such as heart disease and arthritis, which could contribute to the cause of death." A local fisherman said he'd seen a whale thrashing around between the shore and Kapiti Island over the past few days.
Adult male sperm whales weigh up to 57 tonnes, can be up to 20m long and can live for 65 years. They are found in all oceans and are classified as vulnerable.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Landmark Land Movement

This afternoon's 3.3 shake that was felt in Christchurch could be the 11,000th tremor since the 7.1 biggie early on 04 Sept.2010. 
The quake hit at 12.55pm, 15km E of Chch at 6km depth.
GNS Science geological hazard modeller Matt Gerstenberger says 11,000 quakes was a significant but expected number for the region to have experienced: "Anyone living here knows what it's been like. However, it is in the range of what we would have expected for a region that's had a large earthquake." He says many of those quakes would not have been felt.
He did not expect the number of quakes to go up greatly because, looking at the aftershock sequence, they will now be further apart and so the number will climb only slowly over time.

What's The Time, Mr Wolfy? Seven Sharp!

TV One has unveiled details of its Close Up replacement.
To be called Seven Sharp, it'll roll at 7pm sharp every weeknight from Monday 04 Feb.
TVNZ says the format of the show will change with events, but a marketing source says the show will be built around short-sharp segments and be heavily oriented toward social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Seven Sharp will be fronted by three main presenters - Greg Boyed, Alison Mau and Jesse Mulligan. Boyed and Mau have journalistic backgrounds, but Mulligan (best known as a comedian)??? Behind the scenes however is experienced former New York correspondent Tim Wilson as co-producer, and the show will also feature well-skilled reporters like Heather Du Plessis-Allan.
TVNZ's head of news and current affairs Ross Dagan says Seven Sharp's format would not be formulaic and would change according to events. While Close Up was broken up into three segments, Seven Sharp might have up to eight short "bites" or segments with up to five people on the panel.
The new show rolls out a fortnight after its TV3 competitor Campbell Live. A key sponsor, Korean car company Kia Motors, has decided not to be linked to Seven Sharp because of the format - which is more fast-paced and youth-oriented than Close Up. New car buyers are traditionally older and Kia is looking at another sponsorship deal with TVNZ.
Aiming at a short sharp show linked to social media is ambitious for TVNZ - which has been trying to attract a younger audience for TV One. However, the marketeers will be watching how the new fast-paced show goes down with older demographics, who have traditionally watched Close Up. TVNZ is hoping Seven Sharp lures people away from Campbell Live. And if Seven Sharp is successful with the younger viewers, there's a danger it could take viewers away from Shortland Street on TV2 as well.
+ Meanwhile TVNZ's aforementioned head of news and current affairs Ross Dagan has resigned after less than 9mths in the job. He's heading back to Brisbane to take up a job at Seven Network. There's also speculation that TVNZ is reviewing the way it uses international consultants to influence the format of its news and current affairs shows.The search for a replacement for the man who replaced Close Up is ongoing.
PS: 29 Jan.2013 - Seven Sharp hosts defend the prog...before it's even begun!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ady Gil Sues Over Ady Gil

Ady Gil
US businessman and conservationist Ady Gil is suing Sea Shepherd, claiming it deliberately sank his boat in the Antarctic.
Gil filed the US$5 million lawsuit last week, almost three years to the day since the state-of-the-art trimaran Ady Gil sank. You'll recall it was rammed by Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru 2 in the Southern Ocean in January 2010. The crash sliced off Ady Gil's prow, and it sank hours later.
At the time, SS's then-president Paul Watson said his crew had tried all day to salvage the NZ$1.5 million trimaran, but were unable to keep it afloat. But ten months later Ady Gil's skipper, kiwi Pete Bethune, claimed Watson had ordered the vessel deliberately scuttled to increase public sympathy.
Ady Gil, with the REAL
guilty party in the background.
That claim's also the basis of Mr Gil's legal action. He believes the collision was "an opportunity to spin the incident into a major publicity and moneymaker" for SS. Gil claims he let SS use his boat on the understanding they take care of it. He was not consulted by Watson before the scuttling. Gil believes the damage to his boat was repairable, and the crew only pretended to tow it back towards port.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We Are Not Amused

Kate Middleton, now-Duchess of Cambridge, ain't looking too great these days.
Well, at least, not in her new portrait!
The painting by Paul Emsley was unveiled at the UK's National Portrait Gallery last week may not necessarily know much about art, but most of The Great Unwashed know they don't like the way the Duchess is portrayed. "She looks like the head bouncer in a security firm," one commenter posted on The Daily Telegraph's website. Someone on The Guardian's website posted: "It's really tragically awful."
The gallery commissioned Paul Emsley to produce the the head-and-shoulders portrait. The biggest complaint is that it puts about 20yrs, and possibly 20 pounds, on the duchess, who's 31 and as slender as they come (despite being pregnant). It's somewhat hazy, as if it's a photograph that's heavily airbrushed to disguise the subject's age wrinkles.
David Lee, former editor of Art Review magazine: "It is perfectly adequate for the boardroom of a supermarket but entirely inadequate for a national collection."
Waldemar Januszczak, art critic for The Times of London, said it's the boring type of royal painting "we've been churning out for the last few hundred years in Britain."
In The Guardian, Charlotte Higgins said: "If Kim Jong-un, supreme leader of North Korea, had a portrait painted of himself in a similar idiom, we'd all be crowing about the pitiful taste of foreign despots."
So the general feeling? It's no Mona Lisa. On the other hand, it provided a fine opportunity for the public to engage in one of its favourite activities: ridiculing anything connected to the Royals.
So...what do YOU think? The Duchess herself called it "absolutely brilliant"..and I guess her opinion is all that really matters.
Kate's portrait and artist Paul Emsley (with beard)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sanford's Shame

A US court last Friday fined New Zealand fishing company Sanford almost NZ$2.3 million for dumping oil waste in waters off American Samoa.
The company was sentenced after being convicted last August, over an incident involving its biggest tuna fishing vessel San Nikunau. Criminal charges filed in Jan.2012 alleged the crew of San Nikunau repeatedly illegally dumped bilge water contaminated with oil into the ocean near American Samoa, and then tried to cover it up. The oil was never spotted, but US authorities discovered falsified records on board.
Besides the $US1.9m fine, the court ordered Sanford to pay a $US500K Community Service Payment to the National Fisheries Foundation. And a probationary period of three years has been set, meaning the Sanford fleet can't enter US ports or fish in American waters in that time, until approved audits of the Company's
The San Nikunau - busted!
Environmental Compliance Plan have been completed. The first audit is this February.
Managing director Eric Barratt says the company will now concentrate on improving environmental compliance. It was found guilty on six of seven counts, relating to failure to properly maintain San Nikunau's oil record book and the obstruction of port state control inspections by the US Coast Guard. Sanford's had two previous convictions for discharging contaminants, the most recent in 2006.
Last week, San Nikunau's former chief engineer James Pogue was sentenced to one month in prison, 5mths' home detention and 18mths' probation for falsifying records.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

You Can't Sink A Rainbow

The third incarnation of Greenpeace's campaign ship Rainbow Warrior arrived in New Zealand this week for the first time.
The environmentally-friendly, purpose-built vessel entered Matauri Bay in Northland, and paid its respects above the watery final resting place of its original namesake.
It's now on a 6wk.tour stopping in Akld, Stewart Island, Bluff, Dunedin and Wgtn, and will be open for public viewing.
The visit is significant because of the RW's historical connection with NZ. Executive director Bunny McDiarmid: "The Rainbow Warrior has been the heart and soul of Greenpeace global campaigning for over 30 years. She's been raided, rammed, shot at and bombed but the spirit of the Rainbow Warrior is as strong as ever". The original RW was treacherously sunk in Auckland Harbour in 1985 by French intelligence agents. Its wreck now rests in Matauri Bay and is a popular dive site.
GP says the vessel heralds a new direction for the organisation: "This ship is the embodiment of the direction we need to move in. Her design is innovative, intelligent and stylish." The new RW, built in Poland and Germany, is better equipped than its ancestors to meet its requirements, with a helicopter landing pad, scientific research facilities and satellite comms. It's also designed to be more energy-efficient and sails primarily using wind power, with diesel-electric engines for backup.
One thing that's obvious - this is not a confrontational vessel. GP's direction has morphed into being 'silent witnesses of environmental crimes'. A vessel powered by sail (although staying true to GP's core values) has no possibility of tackling whaling or poaching vessels.
In this age, is 'being silent witness' enough for an environmental watchdog group?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Learner Drivers Piss Off The Govt

Yea, yea, yea, blah, blah, blah...
Party tonight! Take the girls out!

The NZ Government is about to crack down on drivers who fail to progress from a learner licence to a full licence.
Assoc.Transport Minister Simon Bridges has labelled learner and restricted drivers "complacent", saying they "lacked respect" for the conditions of their licences. He says too many novice drivers are failing to show they're capable drivers by progressing to a full licence.
The current of learner and restricted licences will be reduced to five years, so that progressing to a full licence will not be seen as 'optional'. At the moment, nearly 40% of learner drivers and 32% of restricted drivers have their licences for more than six years.
Bridges says the current law never intended drivers to stay on learner and restricted licences indefinitely: "What these drivers need to do is demonstrate their skills and competence and graduate to a full licence in a reasonable time." He says motorists who linger on their learner or restricted licences are responsible for a large proportion of driving infringements, such as carrying unauthorised passengers, driving alone at night or failing to display "L" plates. Around 70% of learner licence breaches are from drivers who've had their licence for more than two years.
Changes to the life-span of learner and restricted licences will come into effect by 2015.
70% of learner licences held for more than 2yrs.
37% of learner licences held for more than 6yrs.
56% of restricted licences held for more than 3yrs.
32% of restricted licences held for more than 6yrs.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What A Mad Enterprise!

As USA teeters on the edge of its 'fiscal cliff', an American engineer is petitioning the White House to leap straight off it...and boldly go where no man has gone before!
This space nerd wants the good ol' USofA to look at building a real-life starship Enterprise (just like the one in tv's Star Trek)!
Revelation: Star Trek wasn't REAL!
This nutsville proposal was submitted through the White House's official "We the People" channel, which promises a response from Obama's boys to any petition gathering at least 25,000 signatures. They don't guarantee just what sort of response might be forthcoming... but hey, even a "You gotta be kidding me!" from Barak is a response, right? (Just last month, a petition to build a Death Star like the spherical spaceship in Star Wars hit the 25K mark, and so is currently awaiting its official response.)
Anyway, back to the future: the Enterprise proposal comes from a geek who goes by the name BTE Dan. This guy posted plans for constructing a life-size, flyable starship Enterprise on his website last year. He claims USA has within its technological reach the ability to build the 1st generation of the USS Enterprise inside the next 20 years. Support for his idea is currently running at around 5,000 signatures...
BTE Dan reckons this is no joke, but a practical step forward for space exploration: "This will be Earth's first gigawatt-class interplanetary spaceship with artificial gravity. It can serve as a spaceship, space station, and space port all in one. In total, one thousand crew members and visitors can be on board at once."
Some experts question certain aspects of the plan eg: no artificial gravity technology currently exists, and the largest number of people ever accommodated on any space vehicle until now has been 13.
But BTE Dan maintains its motivational benefits would match its scientific paybacks: "Few things could collectively inspire people on Earth more than seeing the Enterprise being built in space. And the ship could go on amazing missions, like taking the first humans to Mars while taking along a large load of base-building equipment for constructing the first permanent base there."
And those who authorise such expenditure, financially crippling their country and dragging the world economy down too, can then beam aboard, Scotty, and escape the global wrath...riiiiiiigghhtt!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Death Of A Wine-Abee

A second coroner in London has ruled that singer Amy Winehouse did die of alcohol poisoning, when she went on a drinking binge after a period of abstinence.
What a way to be remembered
Coroner Shirley Radcliffe's report has confirmed a ruling that'd been thrown out when it came to light that the coroner on the original inquest in 2011 lacked the proper qualifications.
Ms. Radcliffe said Winehouse died of alcohol toxicity and recorded a verdict of death by misadventure. She said the singer "voluntarily consumed alcohol - a deliberate act that took an unexpected turn and led to her death."
Winehouse was found dead in her London home in July 2011, with empty vodka bottles scattered around her body. According to The Daily Mail, she died while narcissistically watching YouTube videos of herself through an alcoholic haze.
The coroner found Winehouse's blood had five times the legal limit for alcohol for driving in Britain, a lethal level of 0.4%. A pathologist testified such a high concentration would cause respiratory arrest.
A doctor who'd treated the lush for addiction, said she had given up illicit drugs like heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana, but had struggled to stop drinking. Winehouse had begun drinking a few days before her death after two weeks of avoiding alcohol. The doctor reported that Winehouse "...said she started drinking again because she felt bored."
So let's get things clear then: Winehouse was no musical powerhouse, no misunderstood model of merit, no social saint in sullied skirt. She was an average muso with excessive indulgences, of which she died.
To those die-hard fans who sanctimoniously maintain their subject-of-worship couldn't possibly have died of her own excesses...let this second inquest be an end to it all. Time to move on now...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Captain Steps Back From The Helm

As time draws nearer for an expected clash between Sea Shepherd and the Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, a surprise statement was released on Monday from SS's Paul Watson.
He has resigned as the President of SS in the United States, as President of SS Australia, and as Executive Director of SS USA and now holds no paid position with SS anywhere the group is registered and operates as a non-profit organisation in any nation.
Further, he's stepped down as campaign leader for Operation Zero Tolerance, and as captain of the campaign vessel Steve Irwin.
In February 2012, Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) - which as we all know is a front for illegal, government-subsidised whaling - lost a preliminary injunction it brought against SS to try and prevent it from protecting whales during this year's Antarctic whale defence campaign, Operation Zero Tolerance. That decision was overturned last month and an injunction issued by the US Court of Appeals in favour of the ICR.
Paul's stepping down is to comply with that injunction, and should not be misconstrued as any sort of victory for the nasty Nippons. Indeed, competent successors are already in place, ready to defend the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. You can read all of Watson's statement [here].
Captain Watson will remain aboard SI to document the campaign...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Advertising Decision Is Such A Bummer

When does a bum crack become clever advertising? When it's in NZ!
When does a bum crack become HIGHLY offensive? When it's in NZ!
This ad was saved by Bless ya!
Oh yes, the land of milk, honey and PC bleaters strikes again. An ad on the back of a bus in Queenstown, for Franz Josef Glacier Guides - showing *shock-horror-probe* a builder’s butt crack - has been removed after a complaint.
As you see, the ad shows the classic "plumber's butt crack" as a labourer bends over. The other portion on the ad shows a man and a woman walking through a fissure (or in other words...a crack!) in the Franz Josef Glacier. The caption for the image reads: "Unlike his’ll want to explore ours."
Some might say that's a bit clever. Others might say borderline. However, some stick-in-the-mud by the name of K.Gardiner said it was offensive and in poor taste! "The graphic, which is a reproduced photo, and the comment, with sexual undertone, appears to be intended to entice people to explore a West Coast Glacier. I found being faced with the bare backside of a man and the comment to be very offensive...because it is very close to the practice of "mooning" which is meant to offend any who see it. Queenstown already has a reputation for allowing loose behaviour and this seems to reinforce that this behaviour is acceptable. In short it is in the most appalling bad taste."
Loose behaviour in Queenstown: golly gosh! 'The most appalling bad taste'? Tut! Tut! Tut!
Ngai Tahu Tourism argued to the Advertising Standards Authority that "Queenstown is an international tourism destination with a large number of sophisticated travellers...this is the only complaint or negative comment we have received. The intent is not a sexual undertone, rather making fun of a recognised fashion malfunction." The ad made no insinuation of mooning (full buttock exposure), and was clearly the globally-known "plumber's crack" phenomenon.
However, due to K.Gardiner's one - single - complaint, Ngai Tahu Tourism removed this vaguely amusing ad from the back of the bus, and thus the ASA did not act.
Methinx the ASA should instead act against K.Gardiner for being a timewasting up-tight prude! God help the complainant's moral values should he/she ever walk through Otara Town Centre on a Friday night.
Loosen up, K.G. - get a life!

Monday, January 7, 2013

NZ Post: Please Check Your Front Steps

The bench, as seen on Google...
Recently in Wellington, I sat on a bench beside NZ Post House, a corporate structure on Waterloo Quay.
Just a simple concrete bench, somewhere to park the bum for ten minutes. The good thing: within two metres were two 'No Smoking' signs, which meant I'd have clean air to relax in. But within two minutes, the best-laid plans of mice and men began to unwravel, to wit:
3.30pm - sat down.
3.32pm - a couple stood behind me and lit cigarettes. When the no-smoking area was pointed out to them, they moved begrudgingly away into the nearby carpark.
3.35pm - a woman lit up beside me. When I showed her the sign, she apologised and walked off.
3.39pm - a man leant on the wall behind me and lit up. When asked to move, he got rather snotty, took two paces out onto the footpath and sniped: "Is this good enough?"
3.43pm - another smoking couple arrived: their response to my enquiries was another grumpy departure.
3.45pm - Hmmm, thought I, if I'm feeling such little love, then who - if anyone - enforces these no-smoking areas? Was the answer above? Up the lift to NZ Post's office...but the receptionist could not enlighten me at all. She seemed lacking in any knowledge of who actually owned the building and thus who was administratively in charge. She did know that a no-smoking zone existed: "The zone's been there for quite a while, but we only removed the butt bin a few months ago." I must be a little slow. What's the point of a no-smoking zone, if it has a bin for cigarette butts?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

For Whom The Bell Tolls

This Christmas may have been the last for the historic St Stephen's Presbyterian Church in Ponsonby.
The Gothic-style wooden church officially opened on the corner of Jervois and Shelly Beach Roads on 28 Jan.1880 (built at a cost of £300). But dwindling congregations and large bills for earthquake-proofing may force it to close its doors, as the Presbyterian Church of NZ assesses its buildings.
Churchgoers were told that safeguarding the building would cost in excess of 500K, which the parish can't afford to pay as it only has 30-40 members.
A recent evaluation showed the church only scored 29% of the current earthquake standard for new buildings. The Building Act 2004 requires them to be no less than 34%. So as it stands, the church would be 10-25 times more at risk during an earthquake than a new building. It is considered to be legally earthquake-prone.
Northern Presbytery project manager Forbes Worn says the decision is out of the hands of the Presbyterian Church, and there're up to 30 Presbyterian churches in Auckland facing similar problems.
The church in 1898...
'Sir George Grey Special Collections,
Auckland Libraries, 4-3540'
I've walked past the church on a number of Sundays, and delighted at the beautiful singing emanating from within. If this church is lost, it will be yet another sad day for NZ's heritage levels. Christchurch's EQ losses have catapulted risk assessments to the top of the national agenda, with the result that EQ future-proofing is now a bigger gravy train than the Treaty of Waitangi!
A decision on St Stephen's future is likely by February. One hopes the decisionmakers consider how statistically low the possibility of a damaging EQ in Auckland actually is.
The value to the city and NZ of this gorgeous church must exceed the projected $500K strengthening bill! Surely the current EQ paranoia can accommodate the saving of what little heritage this young country contains...
[...many thanx for the heads-up from Timespanner]

Friday, January 4, 2013

Up, Up And Away!

What's the most popular domestic holiday spot for New Zealanders?
It's whipped last year's winner the Coromandel as our favourite NZ holiday spot. One of the biggest drawcards for Queenstown has been cheaper domestic air travel, putting the southern town - famed for its adventure sports, skiing and stunning position on the shores of Lake Wakatipu - within easier reach of Kiwis. A recent Herald-DigiPoll survey shows Q'town is the preferred domestic destination of 26%, followed by Coromandel (22%), Bay of Islands (21%), and Nelson at 13% (not surprisingly, the spectacularly wild rugged West Coast - cut off by storms over New Year - doesn't rate highly).
Q'town's pricey reputation has mellowed recently, partly due to the falling price of airfares from Akld, Wgtn and Chch. This month Q'town Airport will see a 17% increase in flights compared to January last year. Air New Zealand has increased its capacity on direct services between Akld and Q'town by 32% - that's up to five services on some days.
Visitors have also found that Q'town's range of accommodation and activities very affordable. It's a year-round destination, and marketing's focused on reinforcing its range of activities.
Q'town is home to 20,000 but has about 2 million visitors a year, about 40% of which are domestic tourists. The past 9mths saw a recovery in visitor numbers, with domestic numbers increasing fastest.
+ Australia still tops our preferred overseas destinations at 27%, followed by the Pacific Islands (24%), London (21%), and Asia at 12%.
+ But kiwis' overseas travel is tipped for a change, as more of us regard Oz as merely a long domestic flight, often visiting for long weekends or for some sort of cultural or sporting activity. It's likely Hawaii will gain popularity this year, with Hawaiian Air starting Auckland-Honolulu flights three times weekly from 14 March. The airline will offer every passenger flying from NZ a generous checked baggage allowance of two items, each weighing up to 32kg! Air NZ will be laying on more seats in anticipation. That competition will also see prices becoming more favourable for a wee jaunt into the Pacific.