Monday, November 29, 2010

What's In A Name? #2

W - T - F??!! Ze roadsign for zis quaint little hamlet in northern Austria (population 107) - right up by ze German border - says it all really!
Achtung! Ze newspaper clip below is even funnier zan ze sign - ja?
So, some burning questions:
+Are the town residents called Fuckers?
+What are the mothers called?
+What would you be learning at the Fucking High School?
+Does the Fucking Hospital help you with anything else?
+And I guess if your friend came from another town, he wouldn't be your Fucking friend then, would he!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Korean War II?

It's THE Asian flashpoint: the UN-imposed border between Nth.and Sth.Korea, a dotted line on a map after a war that never ended. Much more volatile than China's territorial tiff with Taiwan, the Korean War is still being fought nearly 60 years on - socially, psychologically, idealogically, economically... and every now and then, physically.
There've been many clashes over the years between Nth and Sth: border incursions, snipers, fishing boats sunk or confiscated, a naval vessel torpedoed earlier this year. And now this week, just after a pep-talk visit by He-Who-Shall-Be-Obeyed, the Nth.Korean artillery rained down fire on a disputed island. The South responded in kind, nations condemned, the world held its breath...
Living peacefully (albeit nervously) on a disputed island and fishing in its disputed waters is not provocation enough for an hour-long barrage. However, USA and Sth.Korea start playing wargames in that disputed sea today, saying to the North: "Do ya really wanna mess with us?". Now that show of brute strength and solidarity is surely nothing else but provocation. If no response comes from the North over those military exercises, I'd be surprised.
And yet, is there really that much to fear? After all, Nth.Korea had years to target their weaponry. And in one hour of intense fire, they only managed to kill four people and destroy some lightweight construction. I would have expected such a planned attack to have caused near obliteration!
This smells merely like noisy northern sabre-rattling. And knowing full well that USA is bound by agreement to back the South right up to and even into Korean War II, would the North be stupid enough to push things to the brink for the sake of principle?
The answer's probably "yes"...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Who Is "Ginza Glenn"?

Anti-whaling activists Sea Shepherd call him "Ginza Glenn".
To his clients he's Wellington-based Omeka Communications, voicepiece for the tobacco industry and the Institute of Cetacean Research, lobbying on behalf of the nasty Nippon whalers.
Glenn Inwood is an award-winning kiwi PR specialist. He's been a journo, radio producer, communications manager for the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. He worked in politics but, after ex-PM Helen Clark had called his whaling connections "distasteful", he resigned.
Wikipedia has quite a bit of detail on him actually...Inwood works for Te Ohu Kaimoana, the sole voting shareholder in Aotearoa Fisheries, which owns 50% of Sealord (the other half is owned by Japanese company Nissui, a major shareholder in Japan's Antarctic whaling fleet).
Inwood also works for Imperial Tobacco NZ, Japan Fisheries Agency, Japan Whaling Association, Species Management Specialists, and the World Council of Whalers.
As you may assume, Glenn Inwood is not a friend of whale conservators.
Various news agencies have had their eyes on Glenn too. They reported that back in Dec.2009/Jan.2010 someone chartered several 'spy flights' out of Tasmania: that was "Ginza Glenn". Paid for by Omeka, they tried to find Sea Shepherd's vessels en route to the Southern Ocean. SS claims Inwood lied by saying he was a NZ Govt employee monitoring the ships for search and rescue purposes. This led to a bill in the Oz Parliament, to ban nasty Nippon whalers from using Aussie planes to spy on protesters.
Now, on one hand, Glenn was just been doing his job and, in his controversial customers' craniums, doing it well. Consumer-killers and whale butchers would not feature highly on many PR firms' "preferred client" lists, so as long as Glenn beats the drum as hard as he does, he gets guaranteed good income!
But on the other hand, blood money does leave a stain...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Kokako Return to Auckland Hills

the North Island kokako
photo: Matt Binns
Great news for conservationists: threatened North Island kokako have been discovered nesting in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges...for the first time in 80 years!
Forest and Bird staff found the nest this week. The nesting birds, named Maurice and Kowhai, are among 22 kokako transferred to the Waitakeres from the King Country in September 2009. The female, Kowhai, is incubating eggs which are expected to hatch in the second week of December. Forest and Bird staff and volunteers are now searching for other kokako.
The kokako belongs to the ancient family of New Zealand wattlebirds, which includes the North and South Island saddleback and the extinct huia. A dark bluish-grey bird with a long tail and short wings, it has a pair of brightly coloured, fleshy "wattles" extending from either side of its gape to meet below the neck. The North Island kokako has blue wattles, while the South Island kokako has orange or yellow wattles. The bird is not particularly good at flying and prefers to use its powerful legs to leap and run through the forest...which puts it at risk from predators.
In 1999, kokako had dwindled to only 350 pairs - now thanks to much hard work and dedication by Forest and Bird, numbers have risen to 750 pairs, with a 2020 target of a thousand pairs due to be achieved as early as 2013.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pike River Coal Mine: On The Front Line

The fate of "The Pike 29" has gripped NZ. Every development was instantly beamed around the world. And every day, the man in front of the cameras was Pike River Coal boss Peter Whittall.
Peter Whittall, the man in the spotlightSome of the hard questions he's faced would goad a lesser man to anger. Yet Whittall never raised his voice, never showed any emotion on his face other than concern for his missing team. His inner strength must have been as tough as the conditions his miners work in. The only sign of strain was the dark bags under his eyes - and the occasional well-hidden tear when he was caught in an unguarded moment. I doubt he slept much at all since this tragedy began last Friday...
In contrast, shoulder-to-shoulder at the press conferences was Superintendent Gary Knowles, in charge of the rescue operation. He too presented a professional - if more clinical - appearance.
However Peter Whittall personally knew the conditions, the risks and every one of those trapped miners. He's "walked the walk" through 30 years' experience in the coal business. He only stepped into the CEO role a month or so ago, and still has coaldust in his pores.
The pressure on him over this week must have been immense: not just desperately hoping he could get his men out, but also knowing full well that he will inevitably find himself in the heat at any post-disaster inquiry. Pike River's website says Whittall was GM Mines before his appointment as CEO and in this role was "...responsible for all operational aspects of the business including mine design and development, and the essential areas of safety and environment".
The pressure of being the sole public face of the company will surely have put a physical and psychological effect on Peter Whittall. So spare a thought for him too, when you think of the lost "Pike 29" tonight...
(...thanks to Fran O'Sullivan/NZHerald)
PS: A TVNZ video clip last night paid tribute to his strength.
PS: 25 Nov.2010 - Flags flew at half-mast across NZ, as the Prime minister called today a national day of mourning for "The Pike 29".

Monday, November 22, 2010

Whale Rider/Whale Killer Tag Team

Sealord has welcomed last week's decision that labelled the commercial fishing of Antarctic toothfish as "sustainable".
Sealord's one of three NZ companies that have caught the deep-water toothfish in the Ross Sea since 1996, grabbing its share of $18-million annually. The fishery got a thumbs-up from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which means the fish now has an eco-label and can fetch premium prices.
But the MSC decision contradicts the opinion of the international body which manages all fishing in the waters surrounding Antarctica. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources considers toothfish an exploratory fishery, meaning not enough is known for it to be considered commercially sustainable.
Sealord says it's a good well managed fishery, and adds toothfish is very popular in the USA ( this means what exactly?).
It should be noted that toothfish are slow-growing and live to about 24 years. Females don't reach breeding maturity until around the 10yr. mark. If Sealord goes in hard with its longlines, the next generation of toothfish may not even make it to maturity.
Conservation groups strongly opposed the toothfish fishery being declared sustainable. In 2010 Greenpeace added the species to its seafood 'red list'. This is a list of fish commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries. It considers toothfish to be threatened and says it makes no sense for it to be MSC-certified. Greenpeace feels this signals the beginning of the end for the species.
A maori consortium, Aotearoa Fisheries, owns a 50% shareholding in Sealord (you may know some of their other trading brands like Moana Pacific, Kia Ora Seafoods and Pacific Marine Farms). The other half of Sealord is owned by Japanese company Nissui, a major shareholder in Japan's Antarctic whaling fleet!
Antarctic toothfish - an ugly lil suckerBy logical extension, you may very well think that the Japanese are doing all they can to completely rape the Southern Ocean, by -
(1) illegal hunting in waters where all commercial whaling is banned (ahhhh, but of course it's not commercial whaling - it's only "lethal research" with meat being sold to fund more research! Silly me!).
(2) preparing to strip-mine the antarctic toothfish via Sealord.
You may also very well think that it's a little incongruous for maori, supposed self-appointed guardians of the environment, to be working in partnership with whale butchers.
You may very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cheese Birthday Cake?

Mickey Mouse is one old rodent! This week Walt Disney's most famous cartoon creation turned 82.
Mickey’s first appearance with sound - and the first of his films to be distributed - was in Steamboat Willie on Nov. 18, 1928. (The falsetto-speaking mouse had appeared in Plane Crazy six months prior, alongside Minnie, but in that feature he was as quiet as a...well, mouse! )
Walt Disney provided the vocals for Mickey for the first 20 years and once quipped: "I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I've ever known." (Hmmmmm...yes, well...there's no good answer to that, is there!). And if you really wanna know, the mouse first spoke actual words in The Karnival Kid in 1929.
In 1978, Mickey became the first cartoon to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In an effort to bring the famous mouse back into the modern spotlight, last year the Walt Disney Company announced they would be rebranding Mickey as a more mischievous mouse, starting with a new video game Epic Mickey, which is due for release at the end of this month.
If you're interested in seeing the entire 7min. Steamboat Willie, click here...
PS: 29 Nov.2011 - Life before Mickey Mouse! A lost Disney mouse cartoon that pre-dates Mickey has been discovered!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NZ Mine Explosion: "The Pike 29"

Emergency services will today assess whether it's safe enough to begin a rescue mission for 29 miners trapped in the Pike River Coal mine, 46km NE of Greymouth, Sth.Island yesterday afternoon.
There are 16 mine employees and 13 contractors unaccounted for, following the explosion at the isolated underground mine.Where is Pike River Coal mine? [UPDATE: two Australians, two Scots and a Sth.African are among the 29.]
An electrician checking a power outage went into the mine and found a driver who had been blown off his machine about 1500m inside the shaft. The two were able to clamber to safety through an escape route, but have no idea of the whereabouts of the others.
Last night the official word was that there was no evidence of any fatalities, but all underground communication was severed by the explosion. Amid concerns about ventilation, PRC says everyone inside has a self-rescue device which generates oxygen from their own breath. There are also refuges at regular intervals where people can get fresh supplies.
An explosion of this size certainly doesn't auger well but thoughts automatically return to the successful rescue of the Chilean miners last month - they were trapped 700m down. The NZ workers are about 120m beneath the surface, but about 2.5km into the mine. The Pike River Coal mine is the country's largest underground coalmine.
[UPDATE: Australia is sending a technical expert and six mine rescue experts to assist.]
[UPDATE, 8am Mon: drilling continues on a bore hole to gain air samples, to determine whether air is safe enough to send rescuers into the mine. One has to wonder, if it's too risky for fully-equipped rescue teams to enter, what hope is there for the "Pike 29"? Family frustration is growing over the pace of efforts.]
[UPDATE, 6pm Mon: mine officials bracing for loss of life...]
[UPDATE, 6am Tue: scientist hypothesises about a fireball in the mine...]
[UPDATE, 1pm Tue: a military robot, sent down the mine for reconnaissance, malfunctions...because it was not waterproof!
W - T - F???!!! This mission is rapidly degrading into Greek tragedy! Robots are on the way from Oz and USA.]
[UPDATE, 8pm Tue: a camera inserted into a place of safety shows no sign of activity...]
[UPDATE, 5pm Wed: second explosion: authorities now say there's "no chance of survivors"]
PS: 25 Nov.2010 - Flags flew at half-mast across NZ, as the Prime minister called today a national day of mourning.
[Just last Monday 15th at its AGM, Pike River Coal revised its targets downwards, advising shareholders of more realistic timeframes and production scenarios. After the explosion, the Australian-listed shares of PRC were put on a 'trading halt' but not before shares had slumped by 10c or 14%, to close at 61c. Trading resumes Tuesday or following an announcement from the company. The NZ share market had already closed at the time of the explosion.]

Friday, November 19, 2010

High Seas Responsibilities

The word's come down from on high... if you play with matches, expect to be burnt.
As I speculated back in January, the Maritime NZ investigation has now blamed both Sea Shepherd's protest vessel Ady Gil and the Japanese whaler Shonan Maru 2 for their Sthrn.Ocean collision earlier this year.
Yesterday's report says both vessels disobeyed international anti-collision rules for "close quarters" encounters: "The collision resulted from a failure on the part of both masters and crews to appreciate and react appropriately to the potential for collision."
The report says SM2 kept at an unsafe speed and turned starboard to put itself in a collision course with AG. As the overtaking vessel, SM2 was responsible for avoiding a collision and had sufficient room to do so - the report says it's near certain the ship's captain knew AG was there and did not adjust his course despite having ample opportunity.
But the report also criticises Pete Bethune and the AG crew for not keeping a good lookout and thus contributing to the collision. It says the AG helmsman did not monitor the ship's radar and left himself little time to take evasive action.
Although Bethune accepts the report's findings, he is adamant the ship turning in "the last 10 seconds" to adopt a collision course was a deliberate attempt to damage AG: "In many regards the sinking of Ady Gil has done more for stopping whaling than anything else we could have done there. Whaling is a big issue in Japan now. It's put the spotlight on (it)."

Maritime NZ says the incident shows the need for all vessels to act responsibly in the Southern Ocean. With Sea Shepherd departing for Antarctic waters before the end of this month, it's anyone's guess as to how the action will play out this season...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tie Me Aeroplane Down, Sport!

You gotta feel sorry for Qantas!
It's run of bad luck continued this week when a 747 en route to Sydney returned to Johannesburg, after bird strike caused minor damage to an engine. That same jet earlier this week had to abandon a Sydney-Buenos Aires flight after a blown fuse sent smoke into the cockpit. They'll be calling that one "jinxed" soon...
That makes No.5 on Qantas's "air turn backs" list in two weeks! You'll recall a Qantas A380 superjumbo made an emergency landing in Singapore after one of its engines broke up and damaged the wing, undercarriage, fuselage and hydraulic system. Qantas grounded it's six A380s since then. And yesterday an Alice Springs-Darwin Qantas flight had its tail damaged by lightning.
Of course, these problems haven't gone unnoticed on the stock exchange, with Qantas shares losing nearly 7% in a fortnight.
Qantas has not suffered a fatal accident in the jet age (as attested to by Dustin Hoffman's autistic savant character Raymond Babbitt in the movie Rain Man!) and jealously guards its reputation as one of the world’s safest airlines.
But the joke going around now is that, because Qantas has had so many returned flights lately, they'll be changing their 'flying kangaroo' tail a boomerang!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Paul Henry: I Was TVNZ's Performing Snake

An appropriate phrase springs to mind: "It's no use crying over spilt milk".
Disgraced ex-Breakfast host Paul Henry seems to be doing just that, accusing TVNZ of hanging him out to dry! He says they encouraged him to be controversial, and then let him take the rap for his on-air slurs (well, you made 'em, son!).
In an exclusive interview with New Idea magazine, Henry says TVNZ accepted his entertainment value and capitalised on him: "I was the performing snake with the sting in its tail. The better the performance, the greater the encouragement. And then when I turned around and bit someone's head off, they were happy to see the demise of the snake." He doesn't think it was reasonable. He says he was surprised how fast the mood changed, and that he'd turned from an asset into a liability...
Oh, come now! When you're a tv "talking head", you're just one of your employer's many assets to draw in advertising dollars. To be brutally blunt, you are there solely to drag the viewer from one ad break to the next: that's the harsh reality of working on television (and it's the same on radio).
If Henry now claims he didn't understand that reality, or that he hadn't felt the public mood shifting (after his myriad immature and irresponsible flippancies), then he's more naive than even his childish giggling on-camera would indicate. He was becoming a liability in the public eye for quite some time...
Yet even now, he says he has nothing to be sorry about (as he pockets a speculated $20,000+ for this New Idea article). I hope some of that money gets spent on his lovely mum - you remember, the one he featured regularly on tv, the one we all grew to like so much, the one who probably suffered far more embarrassment over this fiasco than even her son. She would have been mortified. He seems to not give a damn.
Meanwhile, New Idea will reveal Henry's future plans next week.
Can't wait.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Two Wongs Don't Make A Right

Yea, I know - the story was just crying out for that headline!Dui bu qi!
Pansy Wong resigns from cabinet, over hubby using her parliamentary travel perk last year for business. Spankings all round, and a revival of calls to overhaul the rules surrounding MPs' holiday travel. The wheels have been very shaky on this particular wagon for some time (think Rodney Hide, Chris Carter, Hone Harawira...) and Pansy must have been quaking in her kimono for months! This is what happens when you make an ex-game show host the Speaker!
However Speaker of The House Lockwood Smith seems intent on blocking any overhaul. He's long defended the discount because it's now taken into account when MPs' salaries are set, and also because it is one of the few measures that recognises years of experience.
I don't have a problem with MPs getting cheap flights as long as it's directly work-related ie: the public work that we taxpayers get done for us, by our elected public servants. But they must never forget that they work - for - us. There is no excuse for abuse of the system. At least Pansy was fully aware she was wong and ceremonially fell on her chopsticks.
As for MPs getting ridiculously cheap travel for long servitude, I'd suggest they're paid well enough during our employment of them, so why should they get endless freebees once they are no longer benefiting the voters? That may sound uncharitable but this is an age of cost-cutting. When teachers, nurses, the military don't get enough money to fulfill their roles, why should MPs swan around the globe at our expense?
Further, today we demand transparency in public expenditure. So why is Parliamentary Service and its spending( discounts) not subject to the Official Information Act? It's a cliche, I know...but it's our money being spent: we'd like to know how.
What's needed is some sort of independent body to develop a more transparent system that clearly separates personal expenses from remuneration and legitimate work expenses. Of course that'll mean even more expense...but an independent system is the only way to restore public confidence.
As it stands currently:
* After a term in Parliament, MPs and their spouses qualify for 25% discount on any trip, rising to 90% after four terms.
* Ex-MPs get between 50-90% discount depending on their service.
* Ex-MPs elected after 1999 do not get it after they retire, but can get it as sitting MPs.
* It can't be used for business, but can be used by MPs for parliamentary-related work.
PS: 17 Nov.2010 - Thanks for listening, Lockwood! MPs' travel perks have finally got the chop!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Smile, You're On Sea Shepherd Camera!

After some success during the northern summer - keeping pilot whales away from the Faroe Islands by using underwater noise - Sea Shepherd is planning to return there next summer.
As well as a ship loaded with accoustic devices, SS will also be documenting the conflict with the Faroese for tv. “We'll have crew on the beaches, on the water, under the water and in the air,” says Captain Paul Watson. “It's time to blow this horror show out of the water once and for all.”
SS CEO Steve Roest says: “What the Faroese do is even more cruel than the slaughter of the dolphins in Taiji, Japan. What SS began in Taiji led to the...Academy award-winning film The Cove. We need to put a similar spotlight on the Faroes.”
But somehow I don't think it'll be that easy: to physically confront locals intent on preserving what they consider the very essence of their islands is bound to get nasty...
...speaking of nasty, one "grind" incident - which should've generated more global publicity than it did - was a mistake that caused even more suffering to already traumatised pilot whales.
It happened during the killings in Klaksvik in July (that was the "grind" filmed covertly by SS), and even some locals were appalled by it. What made this particular kill more vicious than usual was that the Klaksvík bay had been changed by stone fillings on one side of it. It was harder for the whalers to herd all the whales onto the sandy beach. Some of the whales were caught in deep water, so whalers dragged them over sharp rocks for the kill, not easy when an adult pilot whale weighs 1-4 tonnes.
But one wonders why they didn't just let them go, using boats to herd them out to the open sea? They would not have been attracted back by the cries of their family members... because but then they'd all been butchered. Managed carefully, the good publicity generated by such a release might have gone some way towards alleviating the negativity of the SS film!
If the grindadráp war is to be decided via tv, then the Faroese will have to wise up very quickly, because SS is masterful at this game of "hearts and minds". It has a full agenda over the next year, opposing the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, battling the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, and fighting the grindadráp...
all - on - camera.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

$42.6 Million? Ohhh, Alright Then...

Roy Lichtenstein's cartoon-style pop art painting "Ohhh...Alright" sold this week for a record price at Christie's NY: US$42.6 million!
The 1964 painting of a pouting redhead on the phone smashed a previous best for the artist set in 2005, when his work "In the Car" fetched $16.2 million.
Also this week, an Andy Warhol canvas of a black-and-white Coke bottle sold for US$35.4 million, far surpassing its estimate of $25 million, while his "Big Campbell's Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable)" returned a more modest US$23.9 million.
The sale capped a week of contemporary and post-war art auctions in NY that defied expectations by bringing in high prices. They say the art market has come back with real strength: I'd say those with big wads of disposable cash are just being plain stupid.
$42.6 million for something a first-year art student could produce...? Money obviously doesn't buy intelligence.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dow Didn't Do It. Yea, Right!

The latest (and probably last) official study into a possible link between dioxin and birth defects in New Plymouth...could not find anything!
Our government has acknowledged that residents near the former Ivon Watkins Dow chemical plant (in Paritutu, NP) were exposed to airborne dioxins during 245-T manufacture from 1962-1987. It's also conceded that birth defects in the families of NZ Viet Nam soldiers were caused by being sprayed with 245-T. But somehow the connection between 245-T and the innocent populace of NP officially can't be made!
The report compared birth defects at National Women's Hospital Auckland and NP's Westown Maternity Hospital in the '60s. With the limited knowledge available then, researchers could not prove what caused the defects eg: it was not known at the time about folate deficiency causing spina bifida.
NP dioxin researcher Andrew Gibbs says the report masks the cluster of birth defects in Paritutu in the '60s and early '70s because it used figures from all over the city: "The denial of birth defects is absolutely ridiculous. It's sad they didn't follow their own briefing to focus on Paritutu." Gibbs has fought for an investigation for ten years. He believes there was a six-fold rise in birth defects in Paritutu during the peak emission times in the mid '60s-early '70s!
The Green Party says government has an ongoing responsibility to take care of the affected community rather than the community having to prove what was wrong with them...that the focus should be on Dow proving it did not poison the people.
The DOW Agroscience plant in Paritutu, New Plymouth...guilty?
How obvious must guilt be?
I lived near the plant in 1984-85. Late at night, we'd often hear a roar from there (as if a holding tank was being vented) and after such an event, my partner'd always be incapacitated with a vicious migraine. Coincidence?
Meanwhile anyone who lived in Paritutu then, who had a child born with a birth defect, will always be left wondering if the exposure made a difference to their child...
The full report and earlier studies are on the ministry's website. Investigate published an article on the 245-T issue in 2000.

PS: See also who'll be paying for the down-stream damage of Agent Orange...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Parental Neglect...Or Child Abuse?

Two cases of 'parental neglect' this week...or should we up the ante and call it 'child abuse'?
(1) A two-year-old girl found alone outside a South Auckland McDonalds on Saturday. The Maori or Pacific Island toddler was unclaimed for more than 48 hours!!!
(2) A 10-year-old boy found drunk on a Dargaville street on Friday night, with two teenagers and a 22-year-old man!!!
In both cases, the first obvious and loud question is: where the hell were the parents?
In Case (1), I'm sure we'll hear the often-used excuse in that community: "I thought she was with auntie"... sorry but that just doesn't wash. Part of a parent's responsibilities is checking on their child's whereabouts and safety, not surmising that she's safely in someone else's care, regardless of whether their culture lends itself to extended family caregiving. Parents - must - check! 
In Case (2), if the parents knew their 10-year-old boy was out getting drunk, then it's an obvious case of "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!". If they did not know he was out - or in proximity to alcohol - then we're back to Case (1) again...
Definitions from Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect
'parental neglect' - "acts or omissions of a parent (including a step-parent, adoptive parent, or someone who, in practical terms, serves in a parent's role) which endangers the health and life of a child or fails to take steps necessary to the proper raising of a child. The neglect can include leaving a child alone when he or she needs protection, failure to provide food, clothing, medical attention or education to a child, or placing the child in dangerous or harmful circumstances, including exposing the child to a violent, abusive or sexually predatory person".
'child abuse' - "any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm".                         
Whatever excuses are forthcoming from both sets of parents (can't wait to hear 'em!), I hope criminal charges are laid, either by the police or Child Youth and Family. Not something that lets them off with a slap of a wet bus ticket, nor should it be "just a warning because of their downtrodden socio-economic situation".
No, it's time those parents, who don't give a damn about their kids, are taught a painful lesson!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Are ALL Sport Supporters Drunken Louts?

The nasty side of sport raised its ugly head last weekend at Eden Park.
Drunken behaviour marred a NZ/Oz rugby league test, considered a test-run for the ground and transport services ahead of the *yawn* 2011 Rugby World Cup....are these drunken gits the future of NZ? The crowd booed during the Aussie national anthem, bottles were thrown onto the pitch, reports say there was not enough stadium security and booze-fueled fights resulted in six arrests.
Eden Park hosts several matches during the Cup, including the opening game, the semifinals and the final. It'll now look at its rules surrounding the sale of alcohol on-site.
Local residents also say traffic management was a shambles, with barriers incorrectly placed and staff directing people the wrong way.
Sport and Recreation NZ says the crowd's behaviour at the league test is a bad look for the country and needs to be sorted out before the World Cup. No shit, Sherlock!
Hey, I'm no wowzer, but someone has to ask:
+ Is excessive alcohol consumption (and associated loutish behaviour) part of the sport psyche of NZ?
+ Is getting pissed at a game, or arriving drunk, now a tolerated aspect of sport?
+ Has the long-running controversy over Auckland's "Party Central" for the *yawn* 2011 Rugby World Cup added fuel to this fire?
+ Will central government admit that far too much emphasis in the Cup preparations has been placed on extracting money from tourists, by way of booze?
And I'll also add, for those fans feeling unjustly 'tarred by the same brush' as the weekend's louts: if you do not condone this behaviour and the growing booze culture of sport, then tell those around you who behave this bloody well grow up and cut it out! These pissheads are doing their country, sport, themselves and true sports supporters no favours whatsoever!!!
In stark contrast, police have praised the 60,000+ spectators at the Rowing World Champs at Lake Karapiro. A senior inspector says in all his years of policing, he can't recall any other event where the crowd behaviour has been so positive and the organisation so thorough. He added that rowing fans were there for the event, not as an alternative venue for drinking...
PS: 11 Nov.2010 - Martin Snedden, CEO of Rugby New Zealand 2011, has a muse.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Make The Most Of Christmas!

Kiwi workers will just have to bite the bullet next year, over the loss of not one but TWO public holidays!
It's already bad enough that New Zealand/Waitangi Day 2011 falls on Sunday, February 6th. It's what's called a non-transferable holiday, so that means no extra day off.
But suck-suck! In April for the first time in history, Anzac Day and Easter Monday fall on the same day! Anzac Day is another non-transferable holiday, which means another day off work is lost.
New Zealand has 11 public holidays legislated under the Holidays Act 2003, which can only be changed by an act of parliament. Some, like NZ/Waitangi Day and Anzac Day, are fixed, and others can be "Mondayised", such as when Christmas Day falls on a weekend (like this year) and the day off is transferred. 2010's Christmas Day holiday will be on Monday 27th and the Boxing Day holiday Tuesday 28th.
Unfortunately no sign of parliamentary generosity for the hard grafters of kiwiland: a spokesman for the Labour Minister says NZ/Waitangi Day won't be "Mondayised" and legislating for an extra day off at Easter is extremely unlikely.
The only consolation is that the Anzac Day-Easter Monday scenario won't occur again in our lifetimes (not until 2095)!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends...

Global conservation groups have accused Japan of ignoring international law as its whaling fleet prepares to head off on its annual hunt.
Every November the fleet sails to the Southern Ocean for its so-called scientific research programme. This year its quota includes 935 minke and 50 fin whales. Three years ago, 50 humpbacks were added to that quota but are yet to be included in the hunt. The International Fund for Animal Welfare says humpbacks could be the target this year. "They've used the threat of killing humpbacks (as) leverage at the negotiating table." The Aussie Federal Government is taking Japan to the International Court of Justice over whaling, but formal proceedings won't be heard until next year.
...meanwhile, Sea Shepherd will continue its anti-whaling fight with three vessels, the stalwarts Bob Barker and Steve Irwin... and a new addition, the Ocean Adventurer.
Ocean Adventurer, following the wake of the Ady GilThis futuristic-looking 12-year-old 115-ft. stabilised monohull vessel will fill the role of fast interceptor, replacing the smaller Ady Gil, which the Japanese whaler Shonan Maru 2 deliberately rammed and destroyed on January 6th this year.
The 2010-2011 Antarctic Whale Defence Campaign "Operation No Compromise" will be SS's seventh campaign to oppose the activities of the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, and they hope it will be their last. During the past six campaigns, SS has saved nearly 2,000 whales and exposed illegal Japanese whaling activities to the entire world. Last season they saved 528 whales, more than what the Nippin nasties were able to kill.
+ Around the world yesterday, demonstrations marked International Anti-Whaling Day, to coincide with the start of the Japanese whaling season.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cat Got Your...Train?

When I lived in the UK, I heard a myriad reasons for delays in the train schedule - some legit, some downright bizarre - from IRA bombs and jammed signals, to leaves on the rails! An announcement even informed me once that the snowflakes falling were the wrong size! Go figure!
But I never heard anything like the story that came from KiwiRail last week...
A Wellington-bound train was delayed...after a cat sneaked onboard and did detrimental damage to the driver. This man-mauling male moggie was discovered in a closed carriage of the Masterton-to-Wellington service. When a staff member tried to catch it he was scratched so severely he required medical attention: a replacement driver had to be brought in and some rail services in Wellington were briefly disrupted!
The marauding mog was thought to have boarded the train in the Wairarapa, and was found in Wellington. KiwiRail has generously decided not to charge the cat for a fare or for damages caused. And it has also assured the owner that he/she won't be charged anything either!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Defence Shape-changers...

This week's NZ Defence Force white paper has recommended swapping up to 1400 support positions from uniformed personnel to civilians, and reallocating the money saved to front-line forces.
At least one military base - Linton near Palmerston North - could close: instead a combined air force/army hub is recommended for the Ohakea air force base near Bulls, west of Palm.North. There could also be reductions at Waiouru army camp.
These changes could free up to $400 million that can be used to revitalise tired equipment and personnel. Savings like that are vital in these tight economic conditions, but what's even more pleasing is that they won't be gobbled up by government, but actually used where long needed. One can't expect military to perform to expectations without modern gear and adequate numbers, so this is very good news indeed!
The paper foresaw a fragile outlook for the South Pacific, and said our military must be capable of carrying out lengthy deployments there. While it's unlikely we'll face a direct military threat, there're potential risks from political instability, natural disasters and humanitarian crises.
How DARE you kiwis tell ME what to do!!!Our government also wants to speed up the sale of surplus off-base housing. And while on that subject, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is here this week on her first official trip to NZ. Perhaps someone will ask her to kindly lift the veto on the sale of our mothballed Skyhawk fighters, so that we can free up some more money for our frontline troopies? Pretty please?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Making Bullfighting Look Like Child’s Play

If you thought bullfighting was cruel, you’re about to learn there're even worse ways to kill an innocent animal in the name of primitive entertainment.
Annually on the second weekend of November, an horrific show takes place in the streets of Medinaceli, a picturesque town in Spain, NE of Madrid.
After dark, bulls are brought into the town square, surrounded and restrained by the "bravest" of participants. Big balls of pitch are attached to the bull’s horns, set alight and the animal is let loose to run in terror through the town.
This savage bull run is known as Toro Jubilo, and the bull is called Toro de Fuego, translated as “Bull Of Fire”. As the pitch burns like a bonfire on the horns, it scorches the bull's eyes and face, causing unspeakable pain. Disoriented and in agony, the bull often runs into walls and hurts itself even more, while the crowd runs around it cheering.
After hours of immense pain, and eventually being blinded by the flames, the bull dies in agony. The animal’s carcass is then cut up and split among the participants. Toro Jubilo is viewed simply as entertainment by the people of Medinaceli, but this kind of animal cruelty can't possibly qualify as such! No sane rational thinker can support this cruel event.
With bullfighting under increasing pressure in Spain to cease, it's hoped that this festival too may one day be just a ghastly memory. Although the following news video is in Spanish, the images nonetheless convey the barbarism of this tradition.