Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dickhead DJ To Appear At Inquest

Mel Greig, one of the pillick Aussie DJs behind a prank call to a hospital treating the Duchess of Cambridge, is to appear at the upcoming inquest into the death of UK nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who took her life after the call went to air.
...and YES, she IS blonde!
Grieg was working for 2Day FM Sydney at the time. Her lawyers say: "Ms Saldanha's suicide was a devastating tragedy and Ms Greig's thoughts have been with the family ever since." Hmmm...sure.
Greig decided to appear at the inquest after it came to light that in one of three (!!!) suicide notes, Saldanha directly blamed Greig and her colleague Michael Christian for her death - and asked her bosses to make them pay her mortgage! In the note, she clears the hospital of any blame: "Please accept my apologies. I am truly sorry. Thank you for all your support. I hold the Radio Australians Mel Greig and Michael Christian responsible for this act. Please make them pay my mortgage. I am sorry. Jacintha."
Dec.2012: Saldanha was on the hospital switchboard when the DJs, impersonating the Queen and Prince Charles, were transferred by her to the Duchess of Cambridge's ward. A second nurse then told the DJs that the duchess, in the early stages of pregnancy, was suffering from acute morning sickness. The call was recorded and broadcast by the station later, received global media attention, and days later Jacintha's body was discovered.
As I wrote at the time, it was a pathetic attempt at humour which backfired terribly, BUT...even though these embarrassing excuses for broadcasters were responsible for the call, they were not responsible for the end result. No-one in their right mind kills themselves over a radio prank. And that's the crux of it all: was Jacintha Saldanha "in her right mind" at the time? 
Oh, and BTW, has anyone checked the handwriting on that note (coz it sounds like a very neatly tied-off loose end to me...).

Monday, April 29, 2013

Faroese Ferry Food Fraudulent

Recently, tales of woe from the UK about horsemeat found in products labelled 'beef'... now THIS!
Over the past few weeks, Faroe Islands pilot whale blubber has been served on the ferry Norrona, on the crossing between Denmark and Iceland. And travellers were not told what they were eating!
Lunch, anyone?
Andreas Morlok, CEO of the European dolphin and whale protection organisation ProWal is disgusted: "The pilot whale blubber is not labelled, guests have no idea what's being offered. The chef only gives information verbally when asked, that the dish is actually pilot whale blubber. This was confirmed by a scientist from the Faroe Islands. Furthermore, there's no warning sign that pilot whale blubber is highly contaminated with environmental poisons as PCBs and methyl-mercury, which can be very dangerous to human health."
Scientists have proved that Faroese children have high levels of learning deficiencies, as well as disorders in the development of motor skills and the central nervous system, because of their consumption of pilot whale meat. As infants, they already absorb PCB poisons through their mothers' milk, which is showing the highest toxic saturation worldwide. The percentage of Faroese afflicted with the nervous disorder Parkinsons Disease is double that on the Danish mainland, and the quality of male semen is also heavily affected by these toxins. It is not surprising that the World Health Organization (WHO) is urgently trying to dissuade people from consuming whale products. In the EU, these products are regarded as 'hazardous material'.
The Faroese shipping company Smyril-Line's ferry Norrona sails regularly between the Danish harbour town Hirtshals and Thorshaven, capital of the Faroe Islands. Hirtshals and its surrounding waters fall under the jurisdiction of Denmark, an EU member. The importation and commercial marketing of dolphin and whale products is strictly forbidden in the EU.
ProWal has denounced Smyril-Line to the Danish authorities, who were urged to confiscate any remaining pilot whale product at the ferry's next arrival, to denounce Smyril-Line for violations against European laws and to start legal action. Danish animal rights organisations have informed the Danish FDA and the EU Commission, and urged them to hold Smyril-Line accountable.
The Faroes pilot whale hunt not only supplies the islanders but has an obvious commercial aspect, a fact denied by the Faroe Islands and Denmark: "Oh, it's just traditional hunting..." and "We only take enough to sustain our families..." Really??!!
One wonders where else that blubber is being sent. What's to stop this toxic crap being added to beef products too?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pet Or Pest?

In absurd animal news, a retired man in Argentina has discovered that his toy poodle pets...are actually two large ferrets pumped with steroids.
The man paid just NZ$90 for the two ferrets at La Salada, Argentina's largest bazaar, in Buenos Aires. The going rate for two toy poodle pups in Argentina would have been closer to NZ$1,200. Hmmm, ya know what they say: if the deal seems too good to be true, then it probably IS!
Which one's which...?
Well, this chump only found out that the beady-eyed 'puppies' were in fact large ferrets stuffed with steroids when he took them to his local vet. The veterinarian told him the ferrets had been given steroids at birth to increase their size, and then had some extra grooming to make their coats resemble a fluffy toy poodle!
And this isn't the only time someone's been suckered by drugged-up ferrets in Argentina either. A woman says she suffered from the same scam when buying a Chihuahua at the very same market.
It's unknown what these duped pet owners did with their freaked-up ferrets...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

She May Be Ugly, But She's Still A Loving Mum

Sadness last week at Hamilton Zoo, when its southern white rhino, Kito, gave birth to a dead calf.
A post-mortem examination found the little female rhino had bled
Mum Kito with baby Ubuntu
internally as a result of a ruptured liver.
The birth was Kito's second: the first was a male, Ubuntu, in March 2010. He had complications as well, initially born blind due to bleeding into the eyes. But after initial careful hand-raising he recovered and went on to become a normal healthy calf.
Hamilton Zoo Curator Samantha Kudeweh, also coordinator for the Australasian region's white rhino breeding programme, says the loss of the female calf is upsetting for both staff and Kito: ''We found it probably within 20 minutes of the birth, but she was trying to rouse it and get it to stand up. Rhinos have an emotional response to their babies. If a calf is out of their sight, they'll call them and want to know where they are and they'll get anxious if separated.''
Kito remained anxious for the day after being separated from her still-born baby, but has now returned to normal.
Almost extinct 100 years ago, the southern white rhino is now relatively secure thanks to successful conservation efforts. After more than a century of protection, southern white rhinos now number about 20,000. Classified as 'Near Threatened', they're now the only non-endangered rhinos.
Hamilton Zoo is one of the most successful breeding institutions in the Australasian region. Kito will remain part of the breeding herd and should successfully breed again.

Friday, April 26, 2013

19: Remember When...

While veterans remember ALL the warriors from ALL wars, I get the impression at Anzac Day Dawn Parades that many youthful speakers from local schools think Anzac Day is ONLY about Gallipoli.
True, Winston Churchill's Turkish debacle did serve as the starting point for the ANZAC spirit, but it is by far not the sole focus of remembrance on Anzac Day...
One war that's almost bypassed at many a service is Vietnam. Thinking about that campaign - in which we were unnecessarily embroiled through a nebulous tie to our Yank 'friends' - I sought out that classic Aussie song Only Nineteen (A Walk in the Light Green) by Redgum...
This 1983 song is a first-person account of a typical Aussie grunt's (infantryman's) experience in Vietnam, from his training to first-hand combat, and ultimately his return home disillusioned, psychologically scarred and suffering after-effects of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange. It calls a spade a spade, and the lyrics are pretty powerful: no 'Glorious Dead' here, this is "...mud and blood and tears..."
Royalties for the song go to the Vietnam Veterans Assn of Australia, and it's in the Australasian Performing Right Association's Top 30 Australian Songs of all time.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Anzac Day 2013

"Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well."

- Kemal Atatürk, 1934

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Anorexia Fashionista

How ironic! Only last weekend, I was thinking there seemed to be more healthy 'normal'-sized women in magazines these days...and then this story surfaces.
Modeling scouts have been prowling outside Sweden's largest eating disorder clinic, trying to lure critically thin patients into the fashion world!
Naturally! Where else would you find such a pool of perilously skinny young women who're unlikely to put on weight? Anna-Maria af Sandeberg, chief doctor at the 1,700-bed Stockholm Centre for Eating Disorders: "People have stood outside our clinic trying to pick up our girls because they know they are very thin. It sends the wrong signals." 
The clinic's had to change its patients' routines, because girls kept getting approached. One 14yr.old was handed a business card, and an agent interviewed another girl who was so emaciated she was in a wheelchair. When a caregiver tried to explain that her charges suffered from a serious illness, the scouts claimed they only approach healthy, normally slim young people and that they never urge anyone to lose weight...riiiiigghhtt!
If you're looking for "healthy, normally slim young people", you would NOT start at a medical centre treating women whose low weights have resulted in hospitalisation. However, if you're committed to "never urging anyone to lose weight", then gathering a stable of anorexic models is probably a good move - after all, their eating disorder will do all the urging instead!
Of course, scouts know all this, because up to 40% of models suffer from some kind of eating disorder. What's shocking is not so much what it reveals about the fashion industry's definitions of beauty - although the notion that agents are raiding hospitals for 'stick insects' is very disturbing - but how little people in the fashion business seem to respect the health of the women who're making them rich. Or of women in general. A fifth of girls and women diagnosed with anorexia die a premature death. 60-70% never fully recover.
How confusing and harmful it must be for an eating-disordered teenager, trying to recover, to hear praise for her rail-thin frame, to hear that it might start a glamorous career.
Heartless, perverse, exploitative crap like this makes the world a more toxic place...
 [...with thanx to Katy Waldman in Slate]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Norway Says FU To The World!

There're calls for the US to blast Norway big time, after an export of whale meat to Japan.
A surprise shipment of 4,250 kg of frozen whale products from Norwegian company Myklebust Trading arrived in Tokyo a week ago. International commercial trade in whale products is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Norway - unlike Iceland - has not successfully exported whale meat commercially to Asia since the 1980s, although attempts have been made. In 2008, a five metric ton shipment of minke whale meat from Myklebust Trading was rejected by the Japanese govt due to "contamination concerns".
When Norway resumed commercial whaling in 1993 in defiance of the International Whaling Commission (IWC)'s ban, the US certified Norway under legislation called the Pelly Amendment. Then-President Clinton refrained from imposing trade sanctions, in part because Norway wasn't exporting whale products at that time.
This export of Norwegian whale meat to Japan was confirmed by Statistics Norway, which also said Norway received 14 metric tons of whale products from Iceland that same month. It's known that Myklebust Trading recently sought guidance from the Norwegian government on imports of whale meat from Iceland.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tourism Icon For Sale Again

Vintage steam train the Kingston Flyer is on the market...
The iconic train, which runs between Kingston and Fairlight, has been put up for sale by owner David Bryce for $2.5m. For that, you'll get the two locomotives and carriages, the café and bar businesses, 10 land titles, plant and machinery, and the rail licence. Sounds likes a good deal, given how much Bryce has spent on restoration (and at that price, you've gotta wonder why the NZ govt doesn't snaffle it up!!!).
Bryce saved the Flyer in 2011, buying the mothballed 130yr.old train on Trade Me while recovering from a stroke: "I've completed all the major locomotive repairs, investing heavily in restoration of the main locomotive AB795's boiler, required to maintain its twice-daily excursions for the next decade or two. The train's in good nick, more efficient than it's ever been, and it remains a living icon of the region and of New Zealand's rail history."
The Kingston Flyer operates at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu, on 14km of preserved track that once formed a part of the Kingston Branch. The history of the service dates back to the 1870s.
The Flyer makes its last run of the summer season tomorrow, before winter maintenance work.
Let's hope it's not the Flyer's final stop...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What Would Kermit Think?

Thousands of gay Australians are expected to frolick to New Zealand for their very own Rainbow Connection, now we've passed laws approving same-sex marriage.
NZ this week became the 13th country to approve same-sex marriage, and the first in the Asia-Pacific region.
Rainbow Connections ain't a happening thang over in Oz – and it's estimated the country could miss out on a A$700 million boost to its economy, with much of that money instead skipping joyfully across to Godzone. When same-sex marriage was recognised in the US state of New York in 2011, it brought US$259m of economic benefits in the first year, through travel, hotel and reception arrangements, catering, sightseeing etc.
Our legislation comes into effect in August but Australian law doesn't recognise same-sex marriages entered into overseas. Tourism NZ's GM for Australia, Tim Burgess, thinks however that ''…it'll bring a positive impact in visitor numbers from Australia. NZ is already the No.1 holiday choice for Australians going overseas [1.15 million visited last year], so why not the No.1 same-sex marriage destination?''
What I want to know is: would Kermit approve???

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Americans, Hang Your Heads In Shame!

April 17 2013: a date that will live in infamy!
The late US President Roosevelt's Pearl Harbour line perfectly describes last Wednesday's incomprehensible decision by the US Senate, to reject expanding background checks for gun buyers.
The plan to extend checks to on-line and gun-show sales was shot down like a clay bird. And other measures, including a ban on assault weapons and a limit on ammunition magazines, are also expected to fail.
This was despite emotional pleas from families of shooting victims, and broad public support - polls show more than 80% of Americans support expanded background checks. And recently, nine out of ten voters in a Washington Post/ABC News poll backed universal background checks. There was no party-political divide, nor was it gun haters going after gun owners. These checks were supported by more than 90% of gun-owning households.
So if there is such overwhelming backing, why did this not become law in the blink of an eye? Surely the National Rifle Assn and Gun Owners Of America don't hold a gun to the head of every politician in America?
US citizens, if you truly want this change, it is YOU who 'holds the gun to the head of politicians' - it's called your vote. You must deal to those who do not truly represent your desires, who do not support such obvious and common-sense legislative changes.
Otherwise you too are responsible for the next schoolyard shooting, movie theatre massacre and drive-by death. Your grief will seem like crocodile tears, if your country's sick obsession with weapon ownership and outdated irresponsible gun laws doesn't end.
Can YOU look your children in the eye, and tell them that tomorrow - when they go to school - they'll be perfectly safe? That no gunman will mow them down too?
Or must you hang your head in shame?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Australia Will Have Its Day...Then What?

At last, dates have been set!
In a legal run-up that's taken three bloody years already, Australia and Japan finally head to court.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) holds public hearings in the case over Japan's Antarctic whaling from 26th June. Australia's lawyers fire the first shots on the opening day of the hearing in the UN's highest court, followed a week later by Japan. But a ruling may not be handed down for several months (possibly not early enough to stop the next season of whaling).
Australia took Japan to the Hague-based ICJ in May 2010 alleging Japan's continued pursuit of a large-scale whaling programme put Japan in breach of international conventions, and its obligation to preserve marine mammals and the marine environment. Of course the nasty Nippons maintain the programme is for scientific research!
Yum! 'Research' results for dinner!
Australia has asked the ICJ to order Japan to stop its research programme in Antarctica. It also wants the ICJ to get guarantees that Japan will not undertake any further research until it conforms to its obligations under international law.
However Oz says this won't affect bilateral ties with Japan...after all, Japan is Oz's 2nd-largest trading partner after China! Hell no! Never let a dispute of such importance stand in the way of good old fashioned money-making!
Of course, should the ICJ find in favour of Oz, that means it'll have to send its navy down into the Sthrn Ocean to ensure Japan complies. And that's a whole new ball-game!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chch Heritage Saves Chch Heritage

One of Christchurch's oldest stone churches could be fully restored after a new buyer has come forward.
The former Trinity Congregational Church, corner of Manchester and Worcester Sts, was put up for sale this month after a potential buyer, businessman Richard Lloyd, couldn't raise $1.5m of restoration funds.
Owner Alan Slade has now found a buyer who plans to completely restore the historic building and rebuild the earthquake-shattered tower too. Christchurch Heritage, a charity that aims to restore historic buildings in the city, has made a conditional offer on the former church.
Restoration's been estimated at $3 million, with $1m of that granted by the Christchurch City Council. Christchurch Heritage chairman Derek Anderson: "It'll be quite a battle. There's a lot of money to be spent on it. It is a very damaged building." The organisation is investigating how the building could be used once it was restored. "You can't just have it sit there. It's a waste of time to restore it, if it's not used."
The church was bought in 1993 by Alan and Lorraine Slade, who opened restaurant and concert venue Octagon Live.
That Christchurch Heritage has stepped in front of any potential CERA wrecking ball is wonderful news! I just hope its budget doesn't blow out, thus stranding another of Chch's classics to the whim of Gerry "Who Ate All The Pies?" Brownlee. The church, built between 1873-1875, has a NZ Historic Place Trust Cat.1 listing...not that that's stopped CERA before!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Goodbye Sailor (1)

Dave McArtney, founding member of legendary NZ band Hello Sailor, has died at his home in Auckland.
Former Hello Sailor manager David Gapes: "In the business of rough and tough people, he was one of the gentlemen. He could write, sing, he was an instrumentalist. He's written some of New Zealand's most memorable songs."
McArtney founded Hello Sailor in the 1970s with musicians Graham Brazier and Harry Lyon. In 1977, he wrote and sang the group's classic tune Gutter Black (which was used more than two decades later as the theme song to the NZ tv series Outrageous Fortune).
McArtney later formed the '80s band Pink Flamingos. I remember seeing McArtney and the Flamingos perform in London in the early '90s, at an open-air NZ Day concert. Damn, he got the gig jumpin'!
He was twice nominated for the prestigious NZ songwriting award the Silver Scroll, and also had success as a music producer.
You may have been smart enough to catch him on the Hello Sailor reunion tour. If not, here's a retro clip of Hello Sailor performing Gutter Black live. Smooth sailing, Dave.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Bank That Gave Out Forgeries

It's the time-honoured whinge: the banks are ripping us off...
How would you feel then, if your bank gave you forged notes??!!
The Remuera branch of one of New Zealand's biggest banks, the ANZ, recently gave a customer fake Canadian currency to take on holiday.
The woman only found this out when she got all the way to Canada...where a restaurant refused to take one of her $100 notes. Worried, she went to a Canadian bank where the remaining $220 was confiscated as counterfeit. The bank said it had never seen such a professional forgery.
Banks use high-speed note-processing machines to authenticate bank notes. However, the ANZ can't explain how these fakes slipped through, and is urgently reviewing its security systems. Oh yea, it's also apologised to the customer and refunded her money.
WHOSE world???
Counterfeit US, Oz, UK and Euro notes are less likely to slip into bank systems because they're more recognisable. The Bank of Canada says the number of counterfeit Canadian notes has decreased in recent years. In 2012, about 45K counterfeit notes with a value of $1.5m were picked up. That's a plummet from 550K+ fake notes in 2004.
Should you face such a situation, hold on to the note if possible, and return it to the issuing bank. If - as in this case - the note is seized, get a receipt proving the loss and take it back to a NZ bank for a refund.
Then tell the media...so we can all laugh at the banks that normally laugh 'all the way to the bank' at our expense!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Who Needs Robo-Cop?

Dubai's police force has lifted the covers on its latest weapon in the fight against crime - a $700,000 Lamborghini Aventador!
Dubai isn't the first police force to roll out a Lamborghini patrol car - but this is the definitely among the fastest of the world's crime-fighting supercars.
The specially modified Italian-crafted Aventador is painted in the Dubai force's green and white livery, and is the start of a major upgrade to its fleet, which already includes some US-made Chevy Camaro muscle cars.
The Lambo-Cop is capable of hitting 100km/h in around three seconds and screams its way to an impressive top speed of 350km/h. Recent police figures show 15% of traffic fines issued in Dubai every day are for driving at speeds in excess of 210kmph (130mph), so expect more speedsters to be nabbed by this new addition. However, as it's only a two-seater, I can't see it ferrying too many suspects off to jail.
Dubai, on the Persian Gulf coast of the United Arab Emirates, is one of the wealthiest and most glitzy cities in the world, and the most expensive city in the Middle East. It's reknowned for visible affluence and some stunning architecture.
The police say the car - bearing the customised number plate '8' - will be working mostly in tourist areas of the bling-bling city, as a way of underlining to visitors "how classy Dubai is."
Mind you, I think visitors may be more impressed by a zero crime rate, as an illustration of "how classy" the show-off city really is!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Since When Could The Ancients FLY???

It's not unusual for folk to have personal rituals when flying on planes, like wearing a St Christopher chain or keeping their eyes closed during take-off.
But recently a passenger on an Israeli airline El Al flight took his beliefs to new heights, by covering himself in a plastic bag for the whole journey!
This Orthodox Jewish man is a kohein, a religious descendant of the priests of ancient Israel, banned from flying over cemeteries and having contact with the dead (that includes no visiting cemeteries except for the funerals of close relatives)! Some mid-eastern flights go to great lengths to avoid flying over cemeteries. And Orthodox passengers can also be made aware in advance if a body will be aboard the plane in cargo.
Kohanim (that's the plural) reckon the plastic bag is a barrier against the impurities of the deceased. But how do they breathe? And this also raises security issues: even if bag-wrapped passengers can be secured by a seat belt, they can't reach an oxygen mask or quickly escape the plane in the event of an emergency.
In 2001, El Al decided not to allow ultra-Orthodox Jews to cover themselves in plastic. A year later, flight crew got into an argument with a passenger who attempted to fly in plastic: eventually the pilot turned the plane around!
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and women aren't allowed to mix in public, and El Al reports an increase in the number of religious men demanding to be reseated away from women. One woman even sued El Al, after she was moved to the back of a plane when an ultra-Orthodox man refused to sit next to her!
So, if this man is following a strict teaching from ancient Israel, tell me: when and how did these ancient priests come up with this bizarre flying rule in the first place?
And, hello: priests who can't visit cemeteries – what's with THAT?!

[...see also my blog post of 14 Dec.2010!]

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Thatcher Opps!

All Westerners look alike, right?
A Taiwanese news station cocked up big time this week, by showing footage of Queen Elizabeth II while reporting the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher!
CTi Cable flashed a headline of 'Margaret Thatcher Dies of Stroke' and showed two clips of the Queen shaking hands with the public. The station publically apologised, after viewers pinged it for failing to distinguish between the two women.
But the Taiwanese station was not alone: news producers for Thailand's army-owned Channel 5 mixed up the dearly departed Maggie with actress Meryl Streep the very next day! It displayed Lady Thatcher's biography for nearly two minutes alongside a picture of Streep in character for the movie The Iron Lady.
Mrs Thatcher died last Monday in London, aged 87.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Maori Upset By Annoying Fly

A chopper that hovered above Mt Cook on Xmas Eve 2011 has been labelled disrespectful by maori.
This week in the Timaru District Court, a pilot was fined $3750 for what Judge Joanna Maze described as the "gravely offensive" act of hovering above the peak, an offence under the Mt Cook National Park bylaws.
Arowhenua Marae spokesman Terewa King said the chopper hovering up there was very disrespectful as the mountain is *gasp!* sacred: "It is considered tapu, especially the head at the top; the head is considered the most sacred part of the body. The helicopter is like an annoying fly buzzing around your head. The belief is when you break a tapu you are inviting something bad to you, especially when it is something of high standing like the mountain." (irrelevant) He added there's a safety issue too: "At that height it only takes one down- draught and there is going to be loss of life." (relevant)
Ok, so - once again! - let's get realistic here. The mountain is a hunk of inanimate rock, high, steep, dangerous. Downdraughts at any height don't take prisoners. And yeup, standing on the very tip of any mountain is big-time risky.
But Mt Cook is NOT a living person. Maori may believe that, and that's fine, they're welcome to that belief among themselves. If a climber goes to the very tip of any mountain, he does so at his own risk - he is not facing the wrath of a malevolent maori mountain monster, but rather the dangers of the extreme environment.
If a chopper does the same, not only is it risking the weather, but also any aviation rules applicable in that area.
Our courts - Judge Joanna Maze, take note - are not the place for maoridom's hoodoo ideas to be imposed on the majority of NZ. For the learned judge to describe the chopper pilot's action as "gravely offensive" is letting her PC emotions get the better of the legislation. By all means, if the pilot broke applicable laws, then sting him...but puuh-leez! Keep the voodoo away from common sense.
Would a maori tramper, stranded on a mountain slope, turn a rescue helicopter away because it was a "fly buzzing around the head" of a living breathing peak? Hmmmm, let me think...er...um...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

DPRK, What ARE You Doing?!

The Korean Peninsula is now at 'Watchcon 2'.
Following months of escalating tensions and the scrapping of a 50yr.old truce by North Korea, the Sth Korea/US Combined Forces Command has raised its 'Watchcon' status another peg.
'Watchcon 4' operates during peacetime; 'Watchcon 3' reflects indications of an important threat; 'Watchcon 1' is used in wartime. This Watchcon system relates to surveillance levels and is separate from the Defcon military preparedness system, but it still gives an idea of the current situation.
Nth Korea (aka the DPRK) has threatened to nuke the US mainland and destroy its nearby bases and allies...and is expected to test-fire some kick-arse missiles within the next few days.
The Pentagon's warned DPRK it's skating very close to the line, and says its military is ready for any possibility. The Russians too have made it clear they're on the same page as US. Even Nth Korea's ally China is advising DPRK to avoid any provocative moves (such as missile tests) at a time of soaring military tensions.
But last Tuesday the North reiterated the peninsula was headed for thermo-nuclear war, and advised foreigners to get out of Sth Korea. Nth Korea has made the nuke war threat several times in recent months despite experts believing it's nowhere near developing such an advanced nuclear device.
Ever since the change of leadership last year, the gingoistic rhetoric and military tension has risen.
And the big question is: WHY the escalation? Nth Korea is impoverished and famine-struck. It wears the global mantle of 'pariah state'. Because of its nuclear ambitions, it has incurred UN sanctions. It can not afford to bring upon itself any Western wrath of any kind, yet its wet-behind-the-ears leader, Oh Glorious One With The Bad Haircut Kim Jong-Un goose-steps closer to the edge daily!
What DOES he hope to achieve by getting his arse whipped?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On A Retail Therapy Mission

Expect many familiar retailers' faces when Christchurch's historic New Regent Street re-opens very soon.
As it was, July 2012...
The shopping street, famous for its Spanish Mission-style facades, re-opens on April 20 for the first time since the Feb.2011 EQ.
The major EQ repairs and refurbishments were originally scheduled for completion in time for last Xmas. The work's included fixing and strengthening the 38 shops, and painting the Spanish Mission-style facades upstairs while replicating decorative tiles to sit alongside original ones downstairs.
Frozen at "that time"
The street itself has also been mended, and repaving is being done now.
A couple of shops will be empty on opening day, but 14 tenants have signed leases and some're already fitting out their shops ready for the relaunch. Some familiar faces are Moko Cafe, Cafe Stir, Coffee Lovers, Youngs Jewellers, and Hot Damn! Lingerie, which is now in Re:Start mall.
Look out for new arrivals Prestige Fudge, which now sells its confectionery in supermarkets; nail salon MC for Nails; Beadz Unlimited, which had been in the Arts Centre before the EQs and is now in Cranford St; custom jeweller Polished Diamonds; The Last Word, a second bar
The famous facade
from the owners of The Darkroom in St Asaph St; Mrs Higgins Cookies, previously in Worcester St; and Caffeine Laboratory, also now in Re:Start.
I expect locals will be quick to support the new New Regent Street, as another example of a return to their 'New Normality'.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Whalers' Worst Year EVER!

The Japanese whaling fleet's had its worst-ever season in the Southern Ocean.
Sea Shepherd says the nasty Nippons only caught 103 whales in 2012-13, less than 10% of their quota. The Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) had intended to catch 50 humpback whales, 50 fin and 935 minke this season.
SS says with the costs of outfitting, fuelling and operating the Japanese whaling fleet rising and catches dwindling each year, it's economic lunacy to continue the hunt. Yet still they DO!
One of the few caught in 2012-2013
Japan's Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yoshimasa Hayashi (who earlier this year called whaling criticisms "a cultural attack, a prejudice against Japanese culture") says the low haul is down to the "unforgiveable sabotage" by SS.
In previous years, the whalers had managed to kill hundreds of whales, generally minke or fin, in some cases endangered humpback. But it was revealed last year that companies had failed to shift 908 tonnes of 2011-2012's 1,211-tonne haul and, on top of huge subsidies provided by the Japanese govt to keep the flailing whale meat business afloat, this year is the industry's worst.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Saudi Women, On Ya Bikes!

Still trapped...
A Saudi Arabian religious authority has condescended to allow women to ride buggies and bikes in public!
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice says women can now use parks, esplanades and desert areas to enjoy themselves, as long as they're dressed in the full Islamic head-to-toe abaya.
Oh BTW, a male relative must be present at all times. Why? Um...er... to provide prompt assistance in case of falls, of course.
Going nowhere fast
It adds that women on buggies or bikes should avoid assemblies of *gasp* young men, to protect themselves from harassment and possible theft.
Women can use the bikes and buggies only for recreation, not as permanent means of transport: "Our concern is the positive traffic culture, and full compliance with traffic rules by all drivers and riders. Wearing abayas and erratic driving could result in terrible accidents." (Well, here's an obvious solution - ban the damn things!)
So in other words, Saudi women can't use bikes to go shopping, to go for a job, to drive anywhere without a controlling male present...just round and round in little recreational circles. Oh, such FREEDOM!!
The Commission says it's never barred foreign women from riding buggies or bicycles..oooh goody!
So THIS won't be seen in Saudi Arabia any time soon...!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mouse Teeth For Humans?

New scientific breakthroughs may soon mean that losing a tooth means nothing more than firing up some mouse cells and inducing your mouth to sprout some new chompers.
UK researchers have successfully bioengineered teeth from gum tissue and cells taken from mice. By combining and transplanting two groups of cells, they were able to grow full teeth, complete with roots, dentine, and enamel! The research is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Dental Research.
The cells from the mice, known as micemesenchyme, are cultured in the lab to induce human epithelial cells to become teeth. Professor Paul Sharpe, who led the research, says the bio-tooth is "natural, with a normal root structure and connections to bone."
But before you dash off to buy multitudes of mouse traps, the big problem is finding micemesenchyme in human form, and in commercial quantities. Sharpe: "What's required is adult sources of human epithelial and mesenchymal cells that can be obtained in sufficient numbers to make biotooth formation a viable alternative to dental implants."
The aim is to produce teeth under $1,500 each. But Sharpe says this will be at least five years away, and he admits other scientists may get there first. A company Sharpe founded a few years ago to commercialise the work collapsed, when investors baulked at the timeframes involved: "This cell-based research takes lots of time and funders are impatient. If/when we get a fully working protocol that uses cells that could be used in patients, I will most likely seek out links with the large dental companies."
So, at least for now, the Tooth Fairy's job is safe!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chch Cathedral: The Options

Eeny meeny minny moe...
Three design options for a new Christ Church Cathedral were let loose on The Great Unwashed this week - rebuilding the original; building a traditional timber construction; or constructing a contemporary structure.
The Anglican Diocese and Church Property Trustees now want public feedback. And to persuade you...er, keep you better informed, they say repairing/rebuilding the original is the most expensive option, taking 6-22yrs and costing $104-221 million.
Traditional building: 5-22yrs, $85-181m.
Contemporary structure: 4-9yrs, $56-74m.
Restore Christ Church Cathedral group spokesman Mark Belton says the important thing is that the church says the building CAN be saved. But he doubts its maths - saying other estimates cost out a rebuild at $90-$120m. He says people shouldn't balk at the cost, it's less than restoring the Arts Centre and Provincial Chambers, and less than the proposed central city stadium or convention centre. "Great buildings don't come cheap, particularly cathedrals." He also reckons it'll only take about 10yrs, not 22.
Bishop Victoria Matthews however favours a new contemporary cathedral.
Me? I'm for restoring the more viable Catholic Basilica for shared use (as if that sort of common sense would ever prevail...).
Two public forums will be held this month, with your views sought until early May. When I last checked, the NZHerald opinion poll was almost neck-and-neck between a rebuild and a contemporary structure. Suddenly we're all building experts! LOL

Friday, April 5, 2013

"The Epitome Of Police Malpractice"

So the man at the epicentre of NZ's greatest whodunnit is off the hook.
Guilty conscience?

If there's one person who knew more than he ever said, it was Detective Chief Inspector Bruce Hutton. Hutton led the police inquiry into the infamous 1970 murders of Pukekawa farmers Harvey and Jeanette Crewe - the case that wrongly sent Arthur Allan Thomas to jail twice.
A Royal Commission of Inquiry later found that Hutton and another officer planted a shell case, thus framing Thomas...but that was as far as things ever went. Now the retired policeman faces his Maker: he died last weekend at 84.
The brother of Arthur Allan Thomas says it's a travesty that Hutton never faced criminal charges. Des Thomas says police had more than 30 years to charge Hutton and they failed. His death means police are now off the hook, yet "he was the most discredited police officer in NZ history." One of Arthur Thomas's former lawyers, Peter Williams QC, calls the case "the epitome of police malpractice."
Meanwhile, police have paid tribute (!!!) to Hutton, saying he was a dedicated officer who made significant contributions to many inquiries over his 20 years' service. Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush: "It is fitting that police recognise his whole career, even though it is the Crewe investigation for which his name is most often associated."
In 2010 the police launched a review of the Crewe murder case, promising a comprehensive re-examination of the evidence, following questions raised by the Crewe's daughter, Rochelle, into the original investigation. That review, involving 90,000 pages of evidence dating back 40 years, is almost done. The next step will be for the police review to be independently checked by a senior QC.
Des Thomas says the air has not been cleared. He's met the review team to discuss Hutton's conduct and fears his death will render the review redundant. He says the NZ police force will now be known throughout history for never charging their own officers.
So many questions remain: just who DID do it? And WHY did Hutton frame Thomas? Was Arthur just easy meat, or was Hutton protecting someone?
One thing's for sure: Bruce Hutton - just like the murderer - has walked away clean...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Too Fat To Fly?

Samoa Air has started calculating a passenger's fare based on their weight!
Some US airlines already make obese passengers, who can't fit in a single seat, pay for two seats, but this is the first time a per-kilo rate's been used by an airline. Samoa Air's "pay by weight" booking system means passengers type in their weight on the airline's online reservation system and pay the "pay-per-kilo" rate for that sector. They're weighed again on scales at the airport, to check they weren't fibbing online.
Rates range from $1-per-kg on the shortest domestic route to around $4.16-per-kg for travel from Samoa to American Samoa.
The airline's CEO Chris Langton says it's the concept of the future: "Anyone who travels has felt at times they've been paying for half of the passenger next to them." He believes families will be surprised by the cost of paying by weight - families travelling with small children could end up paying far less.
Samoa Tourism's Peter Sereno believes the policy will also help with safety standards: "When you're only fitting 8-12 people in these aircraft and you've got some bigger Samoans getting on, you do need to weigh them and distribute that weight evenly throughout the aircraft, to make sure everyone's safe."
Samoa Air began flying within Samoa in 2012 and has expanded to a number of other Pacific island nations, operating BN2A Islanders and Cessna 172 aircraft.
There has been no comment from OverEaters Anonymous...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

No More High Seas Protests

The NZ Government is cracking down on protesters who target offshore mining operations.
In a late amendment to oil and gas legislation, Energy Minister Simon Bridges is proposing tougher penalties and hefty fines to prevent activists from interfering with the lucrative oil industry.
In April 2011, a flotilla of activists jumped into the ocean in front of a Petrobras oil survey ship off the North Island's East Cape. The Brazilian oil giant later pulled out of NZ and, while the govt concedes that's not because of the protest, it's now planning harsh penalties to try to prevent similar "unsafe" protests.
Bridges: "We don't think it's about legitimate rights to protest, in this instance. It's actually about dangerous, reckless behaviour, which should be seen as criminal." It'll introduce changes to the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill, with a new offence of intentional damage to and interference with mining structures and vessels, and interference with their activities. This will carry a penalty of up to a year's jail; or a fine of up to $50,000 (individuals) or up to $100,000 (a body corporate). A second crime of contravening a notified minimum non-interference distance of up to 500m will carry a fine of up to $10,000. Police and Defence Force personnel will also get additional powers to board vessels and detain or arrest protesters.
But Greenpeace is crying foul, saying the govt is trying to scare away legitimate democratic protests.
Greenpeace's Steve Abel: "It's about the govt saying 'yes' to the foreign oil industry and 'no' to NZers who don't want a Gulf of Mexico oil disaster."
Bridges says there are safer ways for protestors to voice their concerns: "People can protest outside businesses, you can do it anywhere in NZ - actually you can still do it in the Exclusive Economic Zone - but where you can't is out in these rough choppy seas, as we've seen protesters do in relation to Petrobras."
Greenpeace maintains it should have the right to protest in any way it wants.
The bill was reported back to parliament by a select committee earlier this month...meaning The Great Unwashed Voting Public don't get any say on the amendments before the legislation passes.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

More Of YOUR Money Wasted On Bro TV!

It's baa-ack! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
There'll be another series of the controversial reality TV show The GC, backed by more than $400,000 in public funding.
Te Mangai Pahu (The Maori Broadcasting Funding Agency) is contributing $419,000 for eight 30-minute episodes, which follow the lives of young Maori on the Gold Coast - the same amount as supplied by NZ On Air out of the public coffers for the first series.
CEO John Bishara's confident The GC fulfils the Maori cultural components it needs to qualify for funding. Really??? He says the show attracts a large Maori audience, so it would be hard to see why the agency wouldn't grasp the opportunity. Riiiiiight! NBR suggests Te Mangai Pahu seemed not to be taking much professional pride in its decision, as it was slipped onto its website after 5pm last Thursday, heading into the Easter holiday. Production of the series begins later this year.
MediaWorks spokesman Rachel Lorimer said TV3 would also put its own money into the show: she wouldn't say how much, but less than $420,000.
The first series scored public funding, with an idea about Maori families and small business people who'd migrated to Queensland's Gold Coast (aka "The GC"). It copped flak when the show evolved into the night-clubbing lifestyle of some buff, boozed and bonking 20-somethings, with brains at half-mast and more focus on their dicks than Te Reo.
NBR reports Te Mangai Paho as saying, in making decisions, it takes into consideration the govt's long term Maori language goals. These include "that the Maori language will be widely spoken by Maori" - certainly not a description anyone could apply to The GC!

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Dream Surfer

Do you recognise this man?
Ever seen him...in your dreams?
Every night throughout the world, hundreds dream about this face. He is referred to only as 'This Man' by the people who see him.
Who IS he?
In January 2006, a patient of a New York psychiatrist described a man, who had turned up repeatedly in her dreams and given her advice on her life. The patient drew a picture of the man and was certain she'd never met him before in her waking life. The portrait sat forgotten on the pychiatrist's desk for a few days...until another patient saw it and identified the man as a frequent visitor in HIS dreams. Creepy? You ain't heard nothing yet! The psychiatrist sent the drawing to some colleagues: several of their patients also recognised the face!
According to the This Man website, from January 2006 until now, at least 2000 people claim to have seen This Man in their dreams, all over the world: Los Angeles, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Tehran, Beijing, Rome, Barcelona, Stockholm, Paris, New Delhi, Moscow etc.
Is he God? Satan? A "dream surfer" jumping from one sleeping mind to another? Or something else entirely? At the moment there is no common trait among the people who have dreamed of seeing this man. But he's caught so many people's imaginations (as well as dreams) that several songs have been written about him!
Plenty of theories abound: that this man is the image of the Creator so the words he utters should be followed by the dreamers; or the Dream Imitation theory - that people are dreaming of him only because they want to; or a really wierd one called the 'Dream Surfer' theory - that this is a REAL man who has somehow found a way to
Carlos the Jackal
intrude into our dreams.
When I saw This Man's picture, I immediately thought, if he was wearing glasses, he could be Vladimir Illich Ramirez, the terrorist known as The Jackal!
Is that just my imagination? Or a dream? Or a Vulcan mind-meld? Will we ever know...?