Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Suicide Bombings: Too Easy?

going out with a bang!
Terrorism experts agree that suicide bombers are virtually impossible to defend against. This week’s twin suicide bombings in Moscow show how easy it is...
No-one argues against more security, if for no other reason than the 'feel-safe' factor, but even an entire army could not have stopped the Moscow attacks, or those on the London Underground in 2005. Just a few well-placed suicide bombers in a public arena (a Rugby World Cup event for example) and a city grinds to a halt for days. We’ve seen what happens after just one bad traffic accident on the Auckland Harbour Bridge: the city is in total grindlock for hours!
There's a naivety that claims attacks like this won’t happen in NZ: it’s harder to blend into the crowd here than in Europe or the Middle East...we’re geographically isolated from trouble...we don’t have "people like that". But conventional wisdom also said women would not become suicide bombers... well, that's just gone out the window! And let's not forget the Maori activists' "terror training camp" incident of 2007. So it would be foolish to think that suicide bombers would never attack in NZ.
Just this month, reporters highlighted gaps in *yawn* Rugby World Cup stadium security. During next year's event, extra security will be added but in the end, if someone is determined, it probably won't matter much: armed officers could not stop Moscow's brazen suicide bombings. But maybe that’s the point: news stories called the attacks "brazen", yet the sad reality is that such attacks today are not really brazen at all. They seem fairly easy to pull off...

Monday, March 29, 2010

James Bond on Facebook?

007 movie introHaving battled Islamic extremists, Irish Republican terrorists and Russian agents, some veteran spies are being defeated by a foe they cannot master: information technology.
Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, Craig: Bond...James Bond!The fictional James Bond kept up-to-date with the latest gadgets, but older real-life spies have been warned they face redundancy if they fall behind with technology. Britain's MI5 Security Service is launching a round of redundancies to improve the overall level of computer skills among its staff. It is instead hiring new intelligence officers with a better grasp of information technology and other "deployable" skills: 007 on Facebook perhaps?
MI5 is concerned its overall IT skills are not up to scratch, leading to the redundancy of some employees. Only a small proportion will be affected, but redundancies will be across the board and not just with IT specialists.
With a move back towards on-the-ground eyes-and-ears human intelligence-gathering, MI5's current 3,500 officers will grow to 4,100 by next year, double its 2001 size. Many of the new recruits are in their 20s and 30s attracted by high-profile advertising campaigns and – in part – the excellent BBC drama Spooks.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Google On The Gigglebox

Now with control of the web's largest video library YouTube, Google is setting its sights on another new frontier: television. It's teaming up with Intel and Sony to access the web's most popular services through TVs.
For Intel, it's a way to get more of it's low-end chips into more TVs...for Google, the money's in the advertising potential...and naturally it'll be a Sony TV bringing this into your living room.
Many of the newest TVs on the market do have internet connectivity and built-in Web-based programming. Sony's latest HDTV, for example, comes with access to YouTube (owned by Google) as well as a variety of websites. But streaming internet-based media has been hampered by regional restrictions and licensing agreements - many popular sites can't be accessed outside USA.
Google TV plans to make the Web as accessible on TV as it is on computer, giving users everywhere access to sites across the spectrum, from social marketing to media content.
Nick NegroponteWhat's interesting to me is that this concept was first floated back in 1995 by Nicholas Negroponte who foresaw how the interactive, entertainment and information worlds would eventually merge, conceptually and technologically.
(See? I have remembered something from uni!)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Upsizing The Last Supper...

In the Bible, you'll discover several examples of "upsizing" miracles: the five loaves and two fish feeding 5000, the Cana wedding feast running low on wine suddenly awash in it...
Now in a bizarre attempt to discover the roots of super-sized American fare, two scholars have turned to the New Testament's Last Supper. Their findings, in the International Journal of Obesity, indicate that serving sizes have been heading heavenward for 1,000 years.
da Vinci's masterpiece, Pass The Ketchup, Peter They analysed 52 different versions of the Last Supper, painted over the last thousand years. Using the size of the diners' heads for comparison, they checked the sizes of the plates in front of the apostles, the food servings and the bread on the table. Assuming the heads did not increase in size during the second millennium AD, the pair gauged how much the servings had increased.
Seems the apostles painted in the Middle Ages are the ascetics they're said to have been. But by 1498, when da Vinci completed his masterpiece, the party was in full swing!
Over the centuries, the food on the plates has grown by 70%, and the bread by 23%. As food portions grew, so did the size of the plates - by 65%.
How this can be "spun" to reveal the origins of American overeating is anyone's guess...but it no doubt justified someone's research grant!
PS: 18 April 2011 - Meanwhile, have Christians been celebrating Easter on the wrong date?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Price of Admission

I was alerted recently to this clip of Dan Savage (American sex advice columnist and author), answering a question in a seminar about expectations and "deal-breakers" in a relationship.
His opinion is that what the other person in your long-term relationship does/doesn't do are not "deal-breakers", but rather the price of admission to that relationship.

Dan Savage has a witty way of making his points. He believes that relationships suffer - even though the participants have accepted "the price of admission" - when that price changes or when those participants are no longer willing to pay the price. The thrill of the ride is no longer worth the price agreed to. Perhaps the ride itself has changed. Or as Dan put it so well, the parties are not living up to the lie, not striving to achieve the facade that they sold to their partner in the beginning.
An interesting analogy: one worthy of discussion and thought, especially for those seeking the "lie" of The One, or those who have their ticket and are already on the ride.
(...thanks to for the heads-up)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spy Base: For The "Greater Good"?

Are these the faces of urban terrorists or social freedom fighters?Three activists, who breached the Waihopai spy base, Blenheim in 2008 and slashed a plastic weather cover on a satellite dish, have walked free.
Their defence? They were driven by a belief that the satellite caused human suffering and so their actions to shut it down were lawful. This has been successfully used by Iraq-war protesters overseas, but is a New Zealand first. In acquitting them, the jury would have considered whether the men genuinely believed their actions would save lives and, if so, whether the force they used was reasonable.
What am I missing here? They admitted wilful trespass and NZ$1-million damage to government property... but they're free because they believed their actions would save people and so were lawful!
Let's follow that "logic". I currently drive an old car (borderline road-safe)... so could I legally steal a Volvo car because it has a great safety record and would therefore be for "the greater good" of my family?
Then there're those who claim NZ gains nothing from supporting the US with this spy base. Well, we don't know WHAT information is being gleaned. We'll NEVER be told if information from this spy base has averted threats in the Asia/Pacific region – or if lives were lost BECAUSE of it. That's the very nature of spying: it's clandestine – and for the most part, it serves "the greater good" of the community.
So which example of servitude provides more benefit? Temporarily closing a spy base because of a self-righteous belief...or maintaining surveillance over a volatile region on our back doorstep?
Which is the greater "greater good"?
PS: 31 Aug.2011 - FINALLY! The High Court has awarded the Crown the right to sue these three idiots for damages to the tune of $1.2m!

Monday, March 15, 2010

NZ: Non-Lethal Now A Non-Event?

International scientists are back in New Zealand from the Southern Ocean, with data showing (as we all knew) that whales can be researched without being killed.
The 6-week NZ-OZ Antarctic Whale Expedition achieved significant milestones, collected more than 60 biopsy samples, photo-IDs of humpback whales and acoustics data. They also placed 30 satellite tags on humpback whales to plot data on feeding grounds and migration routes back to the tropical breeding areas in winter.
It was the world's largest, non-lethal whale research expedition and it returned with a range of new information that will help future marine mammal conservation. The expedition also set out to disprove Japan's claim whales had to be killed for research. Its research will be presented to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in June in Morocco...
Fred the whale, bathing in the afterglow
...which begs the question of our government: knowing this non-lethal study was underway, and knowing the research would be presented in just a few weeks...why has NZ sided with countries supporting Japan's demands for continued whale kills?????

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bluefin Tuna On The UN Menu

school of bluefin tunaAn East-West clash over Atlantic bluefin tuna dominates a UN conference this week in the Gulf state of Qatar. On the agenda at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are issues from elephant ivory poaching to the polar bear skin trade. But tuna is proving the most contentious...
tuna is much prized as a great gamefishSeafood-mad Japan strongly opposes a total ban on the export of Atlantic bluefin. Raw tuna is a key ingredient in traditional Japanese dishes, bluefin particularly prized. But as global stocks dwindle, governments around the world increasingly support a complete trade ban to let the fish recover. Japan, consuming about 80% of the species, has already vowed to ignore any bluefin ban and, if other key fishing countries join it, that would allow them to sell tuna to Japan.
And there's the major glitch in the whole system: organisations such as the International Whaling Commission (IWC) with 84 member-nations, CITES with 175, and the UN with 192 (virtually the entire world!), have no teeth! If a country wants to catch a particular species, it knows it can do so without fear. Japan's done it for years with whales, and intends doing it with Atlantic bluefin tuna until stocks are gone.
Somehow the United Nations has to toughen up. Does it need to be recreated as something more relevant, more active, more of an 'enforcer'?
PS: 19 March 2010 - Japanese sushi fans can rest easy. Moves to protect the dwindling tuna stocks have been voted out, due to heavy lobbying by the fishing industry. And when the tuna stocks are wiped out, I wonder if they'll shoulder any responsibility...

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Lord Works In Nigerian Ways...

I've posted a few times about "Nigerian money scams" - they're laughingly obvious and seem to follow a standard template. Here's a variation that I received recently...
"My Dear Beloved,
My name is Rev.Fr.Adam Coffin. I am 74 years old now. I have been suffering in the sick bed for the past 7 years at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolworth. Now I believe that my time has come to join my ancestors in heaven. I got your email address from the Internet, as the spirit of Almighty God directed me to contact you for this charity work. I have US$11.1M deposited in a safe location in Europe, which I want you to claim on my behalf for an important charitable project.
Can you honestly do this for me?
Remain bless in the Lord.
Rev.Fr.Adam Coffin."
I'll give the scamsters a few marks for reworking their script, but they fail miserably at credibility e.g.:
+He got my "email address from the Internet"...but does not address me by name?
+He's on his death bed and his surname is COFFIN???
+He's been "in the sick bed for the past 7 years"??? Enough said!
+I can't find ANY hospital in Woolworth called Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
+How would a 'man-of-the-cloth' have accumulated US$11.1 million?
+If such a man did exist, wouldn't he donate his money directly to a worthy cause or his own church, rather than involving anyone else and paying them commission?
Oh puh-leez!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Whaling Now A NZ Political Football

Many New Zealanders were stunned when, at the recent meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), NZ seemed to modify its long-held position...and support an idea to allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to openly hunt whales, but aim to reduce the total catch over the next 10 years.
Our government feels closing the "scientific research" loophole via a trade-off is a good diplomatic solution! Hello!! The only people who'd be joyous over this would be the whalers themselves!
Our IWC representative, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, calls it "enormous progress" if Japan was stopped from using the scientific whaling loophole. The only acceptable progress on this issue would be complete ceasation of commercial whaling [note that a 'gradual reduction' of kill numbers over the next ten years is not 'guaranteed ceasation' at the end of those ten years...].
Now the Labour Opposition's Foreign Affairs Spokesman Chris Carter has started an on-line petition, urging people to oppose a restart of commercial whaling. In a country that prides itself as clean-and-green and has always held the ocean and its contents in high regard, strong support for this petition will send a very clear message to PM John Key and Foreign Affairs monkey Murray McCully that a return to commercial whaling is not an option.
The online petition is at or [click here]. And please...pass the word around.
PS: 22 March 2010 - Prime Minister John Key agrees killing whales is akin to murder but he is supportive of reaching an agreement to allow some whaling if it reduces the numbers taken. He is still hopeful of a diplomatic solution which will basically give the Japanese exactly what they want...and that's called "diplomacy"?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

All Over Bar The Shouting...

Steve Irwin proudly returns
Steve Irwin proudly returns
Sea Shepherd has wrapped up its 2010 campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet.
Steve Irwin and Bob Barker docked in Tasmania yesterday, greeted by a crowd of wellwishers...but also police with search warrants executed on behalf of Japan.
Onboard video material is being investigated, after a tumultuous whaling season that included a collision between another activist boat, Ady Gil, and a Japanese whaling ship, Shonan Maru 2, that led to AG sinking. AG's NZ captain Peter Bethune was later detained by Nasty Nippon after he boarded SM2 illegally.
Police also confiscated log books, charts and laptops, and interviewed some crew. They did not reveal the reason for their search, and the group has no idea what the Japanese complaints may be - guess!!! (Oz police also searched and seized evidence from SI in 2009 but there were no charges.)
Politically, the Australian Green Party is livid, saying it's "outrageous that Australian police are at the disposal of the Japanese whale killers." Meanwhile PM Kevin Rudd won't comment directly on the action but says the Government's position on Japanese whaling is clear. It will be interesting to see if Australia WILL hold true to its position - many hopes are resting on it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Is Oz The Only One With Balls?

An Australia-Japan showdown is looming, as key International Whaling Commission nations failed today to agree on a compromise allowing Antarctic whalehunting to continue for 10 years.
minke whale research...yea, right!
Whale 'research'...yeah right!
Nasty Nippon has warned the Ockers of a major diplomatic dispute by taking Japan to the International Court of Justice over whaling, but Oz PM Rudd has repeated his threat: "If necessary, we'll take it to the ICJ before the next whaling season commences. I don't think I can be plainer than that."
The Florida meeting highlights that Australia seems the only one prepared to actually hold the line. Our gutless NZ government, Australia's longtime anti-whaling ally, now backs a compromise (curious how that positional modification has not been loudly trumpeted here!). And USA may also support it, depending upon yet-unspecified catch quotas (in other words, we'll wait and see which way the wind blows first - hmmm, just like in WWII!).
humpback whale, free and breaching for sheer joyA three-quarters vote is needed to approve this cop-out deal, casting doubt on reaching a only a third of member countries are represented at the meeting (indicating perhaps that many of them don't really give a damn anyway...?)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oscars Again...*yawn*

Fred Oscar esquireThis weekend: the endless speeches, pathetic acknowledgements of every man and his auntie, dramatic tears of fake shock and awe...
the dishing-out of the 82nd.Oscar Awards... *drumroll*a hush falls over the Kodak Theatre*
The nominees are...well, here's the complete list...
Don't eat blue M&Ms!
Don't eat blue M&Ms!
Ouch, that locker hurt!The one everyone's eyeing is the intriguing 'Best Director' tussle between James Cameron (for sci-fi mega-mix Avatar) and his ex- Kathryn Bigelow (for bomb-disposal war film The Hurt Locker) those films are in the home straight for 'Best Picture' too. Both have their strong points and weaknesses: I've already posted about Avatar...stunning visuals but underwhelming storyline.
I downloaded The Hurt Locker last week (not yet released here in NZ) and y'know, it annoyed me! I'll give Bigelow high marks for tension-building but, in terms of authenticity, if the central character was under my command and behaving so recklessly, I'd have his butt in the slammer! And yet I read the character is based on one particular serving soldier – I won't be proud, if I was him! Having clocked up some years in The Green Machine myself (3rd.generation military), I know the army would never allow someone to run amok like that.
Ok, it's only a movie – yet Bigelow is being praised for her accuracy and attention to detail. So in terms of cinematography, top marks (and deserving of its awards so far) but I feel she's way off-target in the character portrayal stakes.
Find this man a razor, please!As for the actor himself (Jeremy Renner) getting 'Best Actor'? Nup, nup, nup. That'll surely go to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart. And the award for Best Picture goes to... *envelope please* screams* cheers* applause* astonishment* "I never dreamed"etc etc* ...and cut to commercials...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Graffiti: Easy Cum - Easy Go!

Ever pondered Man's impermanence on our planet?
Graffiti...images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property. Anything from simple words to elaborate paintings, it's been around since the Ancient Greeks, marking the passing of Man. These days, spray paint and marker pens are the tools of choice to communicate social and political messages.
To some, it's art: to others, vandalism.

I spotted this "interesting" graffiti on a wall in the heart of Auckland City near the university, beside the Inspiration statue...but by the very next week, it had been painted over by the Graffiti Police.
This may be the only photographic proof that it ever existed at all!
Wow! So deep and meaningful! another puff, dude...
and remember to "Vote 4 Droopy"!